Critiquing the critiquers of MCOM352

December 9, 2011

As the semester comes to a close, it occurred to me that I hadn’t really looked at anyone else’s blogs in this class, to see what they’re been saying about the topics we discuss in class. But I was happy to see an assignment where we basically got to review our peers’ work and take a look at what they’ve been up to all year. This wasn’t supposed to be an assignment where we slurp or badmouth our classmates and tell them that their work is either great or crappy, but one where we critique their blogs. This made perfect sense to me, because, well isn’t the class Media Criticism?

I thought that this would be a great way to wrap up the year and have a little fun with our classmates in the process. The following three comments are ones that I’ve posted on the blogs of three of my classmates. I tried my best to praise what they did well and point out some things I would try and improve on going forward.

Overall, they did a nice job getting their points across and convincing the readers that what they said was valid and worthy. It’s been a lot of fun to be in a class with so many intelligent students that share the same passion for critiquing the media.

Enjoy my comments and have a great winter break!

Comment #1: Stephen Middelton‘s blog post titled “OH MICKEY YOU’RE SO..hegemonic??

Stephen, I have to say, you’re one of the biggest characters that I’ve met at Towson. Your energy towards everything is both exciting and humorous and the way you go about making your points in class and through your blog is excellent. The post that you wrote, titled, “OH MICKEY YOU’RE SO…hegemonic??” really did everything necessary to get the point across in your own particular way.

Not only do you have a visually appealing blog, but the way that it’s laid out really helps the reader follow the post and stay connected to it. You made points about Ideological Criticism and political economy to strengthen your argument that the two films we watched, Consuming Kids and Mickey Mouse Monopoly were conveying bad messages to kids and adults alike. The way that you referenced outside sources, like the words of a psychologist or founder of an organization directly involved with the message being sent out really helped pound home your points as well.

To be honest with you, I don’t know how I would go about disagreeing with what you wrote in this post. Your points all made sense, I was never lost while reading and the visuals presented only helped your case. The one thing that I would suggest for the future would be to try and get some kind of cutline or caption on the photos that you post. There are five photos that I saw on this post and while some of them have words and images on them that seem self-explanatory, a one or two-sentence cutline would only add to what you’re saying about the image and why it’s important that we look at it.

Overall, I think you did a great job on this blog post and I can only say to keep up the good work going forward. You’re a personality that everyone should hear from.

Comment #2: Breyana Franklin‘s blog post titled “Putting The Analysis To Use

Breyana, knowing you from other classes before this one began, I knew that you had a way about you of making a statement and sticking to it. I had noticed that your ideas were usually filled with insights and creativity. When I clicked over to your blog, I was reaffirmed that my thoughts were correct.

While the page itself is visually appealing, the way that the posts are broken down only helps the reader know exactly what they’re looking at and how they should approach your writing. The post of yours that I looked at was the one about the particular show and how to critique it. I’ll be honest, I’ve never seen the show, The Bad Girls Club, and if you hadn’t pointed out which channel it appeared on, I wouldn’t have known that either. But I think the best thing that you did was break down the blog post into different sections that really helped me fully understand what it was that you were saying about the show and the types of criticism that you were employing.

One thing that I liked was that you compared The Bad Girls Club to other popular shows like The Jersey Shore and The Real World so that I could have a better understanding of what to think about this show that I’d never heard of. Your insights about the show helped me picture exactly what was happening before we even got to the types of criticism you’d be using.

I loved the way that you broke down the two approaches, Visualist, Aristotelian and Structuralist into separate sections with proper identification of each. Instead of just throwing them all together in three separate paragraphs, you accurately pointed out the differences in each and kept them apart from each other so nobody could be confused as to which one you were talking about.

I also really liked the way that you utilized Propp and Todorov and their contributions to the topic as to add more of a basis for a reader that might not know what they’re looking at. If I had to pick one thing to improve, it would be to break up the paragraphs a little bit and maybe add some more visuals to draw the eye away from such a long post. but overall, excellent job on the assignment!

Comment #3: Mike Nitti‘s blog post titled “Up All Night with Genre Criticism

While he and I live together and sit next to each other in class, I haven’t known what Mike has written on his blog for this class until now. I know that twice we’ve sat in the same room while finishing up these blogs as the time ticks closer and closer to the midnight due date. But I hadn’t really explored his work until this final assignment.

I know that Mike is a great writer and someone that is immensely capable of making a strong, valid point in a humorous and friendly way. This is one of his outstanding personality traits that will take him far in life.

But, back to his blog, it’s one that is easy to follow and one that I would be proud to show off. The blog post that he made about the TV show Up All Night, was the one I selected to review. I knew that a few times he’d disappear to watch something in his room while the rest of us stayed put. I would assume that he was escaping to watch this new show which debuted in the fall. I’ve never watched an episode, probably because I don’t like Will Arnett, but Mike does a great job of introducing the show and its background for dummies like me that have never seen it before.

His comparisons of the show to other, more popular ones like Law & Order: SVU and Without A Trace, helped shape the argument that he was going to make. By using bold-face words and links to outside sources, Mike does a nice job of pulling in the reader and making sure they know exactly what he’s trying to say.

A couple ways that I would have improved this particular post would be to get to the point a little quicker and try and add some more appropriate visuals. Also, the same video clip was used twice which lengthened the whole post unnecessarily. The points that you made throughout the post were all factually correct and ones I would agree with, but there are always ways to improve your writing and approaches.

Good work buddy, you’re always impressing me!

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Baltimore City Recreation Centers Map

November 29, 2011

Baltimore City Recreation Centers Map

 See the full map here>>

Idelogical Criticism of “manipulative” films

November 14, 2011

Ideological Criticism is a way to critique a media text by using cultural studies and a Marxist approach. In terms of how we’ve talked about it in class, we use ideological criticism to see how some of the ideas come to seem natural, obvious and common sensical and how certain ideas are embedded in and circulated through multiple texts. Most of the time, they go largely unnoticed and unchallenged, but ideological criticism is not just looking at the text, but seeing how things are produced and helping us understand dominant ideas and values in our world.

This approach to media is different from a lot of the others we’ve studied this semester because it focused a lot more on the way that things are produced and structured and how it interacts with our real life experiences.

Ideology refers to ones set of ideas that are related to their goals or expectations and this relates to the political economy perspective and its concerns about the hegemonic power of conglomerates by focusing on how to get someone’s attention to their product or ideas. When a company like Disney promotes a product through a commercial or advertisement, they have a particular group or demographic in mind with whom they’re trying to reach. Especially when one of the media messages comes out on a Disney owned channel or publication, the focus is on getting the person or people to buy their product or invest in it.

The two films that we viewed in class, Consuming Kids: The Commercialization of Childhood and Mickey Mouse Monopoly: Disney, Childhood & Corporate Power were both highly invested in trying to figure out how certain companies and people were trying to reach children and young people in order to “brainwash” them to liking and purchasing their items.

In Consuming Kids, a lot of the messages being sent out were ones that parents should have been afraid to see. Some of the clips that we saw in the film were basically drawing the children’s attention to the fast-moving clips of other children smiling, laughing and having fun while using or playing with the very products in the ads or messages. One of the main problems with this is that most of the messages aren’t even for the product: they show kids that if they purchase whatever is being shown, they can be happy and have friends and enjoy themselves much more than if they don’t. The message here is that the children that are watching these clips and basically being “brainwashed.” One of the main problems with our society today is that children are watching too much television and using the Internet more often than they probably should. The opportunity to be swept up in the media and all of the messages that they’re putting out is much higher than it was when most of us were children ourselves.

It’s important to view films like Consuming Children and Mickey Mouse Monopoly as ideological critics because behind every great sell is a message that can be overlooked. It is most important to note of all the messages that conglomerates and companies put out can be taken so many different ways. Adults can view something one way and children can do so in completely different ways. Just because college-aged students see something doesn’t mean that the children see the same things.

Violent video games, like Grand Theft Auto, are ones that children are being sucked into buying and playing, partly because of the media messages being shown.

Also included in the film is the relentless amount of violent images that children are finding more and more appealing as they get older. Video games that rely on violence to sell are the ones that children are more likely to buy, because they find the violence more appealing. Children don’t really want to play boring, slow-paced games anymore; they want to be entertained by shooting zombies and killing bums on the street and they want to steal cars and drive fast and get the girl.

A lot of the exposure that children are getting these days is on the Internet, a place where there are no boundaries. Every time a child clicks on a link, there’s a chance that they’ll see something that their parents probably wish they hadn’t. Pop-up ads online are the most appealing sometimes, and they’re also the ones that kids want to see. They’ll click away, seeing clips for violent games or attractive boys or girls.

Another issue that the film takes into account is that some of the media messages being sent out today are influencing the way that some children look at themselves and view others. You rarely, if ever, see a child in an advertisement or media text that is overweight or unattractive or even has something remotely wrong with them. Children are the easiest people to manipulate, because their minds are so young and will listen to just about anything. If they see happy children that are thin and well kept and don’t have baggy clothing or wear their hats perfectly straight, they will want to look like those people. If a child sees something that they want and the people using it look a certain way, they are going to do all they can to be similar.

Some things strip children of being individualistic, from being themselves and from forming their own identity. That is the biggest crime of anything that’s shown in the media today, and especially in this film about shaping the minds of children. Any kid that doesn’t want to be themselves and only wants to change who they are because of something they saw in the media is one that’s just buying into these ideas and isn’t being an individual.

Instead of playing together outside, a lot of children are being sucked into the media messages shown on television or the Internet.

That’s a difficult thing to explain, because everyone is different, but children are easier to manipulate. They’ll believe just about anything someone says, and when a message is portrayed through the media, they’re more likely to agree and buy into it.

Being a media critic, especially someone that is studying ideological criticism, it’s important to understand that there’s more than one meaning to every media message and advertisement or clip. Ideological Critics are most interested in the underlying messages being shown. They’re not just interested in the text itself, but the way that it affects people. In this case, we’re most interested in the way that things affect children.

The Walt Disney Company is one of the media conglomerates that is the most to blame for some of the messages in the media today.

Media conglomerates are at the biggest fault in this case, because they have the most say in what’s seen in the media and they have the money and means to reach out to the most people at once. Conglomerates like The Walt Disney Corporation have branched out and touched children in ways that they probably didn’t intend to, but their effects can’t be denied. As children grow older, they will undoubtedly see that some of the things that they bought into in their youth were just manipulated messages being taken the wrong way by their small minds.

Baltimore funding map

November 8, 2011

Baltimore City Funding Map

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Criticially analyzing The League

October 17, 2011

The League, a half-hour program on FX, centers around six friends that play in a fantasy football league together.

My favorite TV show that’s still on the air is The League, on FX. The show follows six friends in Chicago that play in a fantasy football league together. But the show is as much about friendship and love as it is about fantasy football. That’s probably why it has such a following on TV; because you don’t have to be a fantasy football nerd to appreciate it.

The main characters in the show were friends in high school and now live in surbaban Chicago together. Kevin is a district attorney that isn’t very good at his job and is the main focus of a lot of the jokes in the show. He’s married to Jenny, who is a stay at home mom that just recently became a home realtor. In the first season of the show, Jenny essentially “runs” Kevin’s team, making the trades, picking up players that were free agents and dictating roster moves. In season two, a spot opened up in the fantasy league and Jenny wanted her own team. Kevin, afraid to mix fantasy football and his love life, gave the spot to his friend Ruxin’s brother-in-law, Rafi.

When Rafi leaves the league three weeks into the second season, Jenny finally gets her own team and further complicates their home life. Rafi’s brother-in-law, Ruxin, is another one of the main characters. He’s also an attorney, but doesn’t take his job all that seriously. He’s very interested in how he looks and what people think of him, but he’s also afraid of his wife. Ruxin wins The League in the final episode of the second season, leading him to be even more of a mean person to his friends.

Pete, a three-time champion of the league, is Kevin’s best friend from their high school days and separated from his wife in the pilot episode in season one. He’s what would be described as a bachelor, living by himself and doing his best to pick up girls at the bars. Fantasy football means more to him than anyone else in the league, because he has nothing else to pay attention to.

Andre and Taco are the other main characters, but play very different roles. Andre is the richest of the group, coming from his plastic surgery business. He’s too much into fashion and makes decisions that his friends make fun of him for. He won The League at the end of season one but finished in last place in season two.

Taco, one of the stars of The League, is more concerned with attracting women and finding odd-ball jobs than his fantasy football team.

Taco is Kevin’s brother and the weirdest member of the group. He’s unemployed, but he picks up random jobs throughout the show. He’d much rather smoke weed than pay attention to his fantasy football team, which lead his friends to take advantage of him in trades. Taco is successful with women and is the subject of many jokes for his relationships.

While looking at The League, I will use Narrative Criticism, which has multiple approaches, including Aristotelian and Structuralist approaches.

Under the Aristotelian approach, the elements of drama are examined through narrative. In The League, the characters create their own drama based on their matchups in the fantasy football league and their personal relationships. For instance, Kevin and Jenny create drama between them because they’re married, in the same fantasy football league and care way too much about their league and not nearly enough about their family or personal lives. When the cameras find Kevin and Jenny inside their home, there’s always a computer in the frame so that one of them can make adjustments to their team. But the real problem is that Kevin doesn’t play the role of the man in the family. Jenny makes decisions, thus getting more respect from the other characters and gets viewed as the one in the family with the smarts and brains.

This goes against all of the stereotypes in media, where the man is dominant and the woman is inferior. Jenny raises her voice more, pipes up when she’s referred to and talks down to Kevin. She doesn’t allow Kevin or any of the other men in the show to boss her around, which shows how much of a manly woman she is. Andre, probably the least manly male character on the show, is highly criticized for his taste in clothing and art. He regularly wears clothing that makes him look weird, such as when he had the exact same outfit that Vin Diesel wore in XXX. He rarely speaks up, shows his manhood or critizces his friends. The only times you feel bad for Andre is when he hurts himself dancing with NFL star Chad Ochocinco. In the third season premier, the rest of the guys decide to play a prank on him and shoot a pornography movie in his condo. Andre has no idea about it and his friends find it hysterical.

NFL star Chad Ochocinco joined the stars of The League for their draft in the first episode of season two.

The structuralist approach can also be used to examine The League because there are ways that stories play out during each episode. Whether it’s the guys traveling to Las Vegas for their second season draft or Andre running a marathon, there’s always more to the story than appears on the surface. When the guys go to Las Vegas for the draft, they illegally run through airport security, as a way to determine the first overall draft pick. Upon arrival, they deal with Ochocinco and the host of characters that Vegas has. The draft itself is a complete subplot, meant to keep your attention until the end. You learn a lot about the characters when they’re in Vegas though, giving them more of an identity.

When Andre decides that he’s going to run a marathon, the guys don’t’ buy it, thinking he’s kidding, even making a mockery of the whole “marathon” idea. Ruxin deals with a woman in his office that notarizes legal documents, Taco becomes a notary himself (though he has no clue what the job entails) and Jenny and Kevin fail as parents, paying more attention to fantasy football than their daughter, who’s left alone at gymnastics. Instead of the episode just focusing on Andre running in the Chi-Town Marathon, The League has four or five different things going on over the course of 22 minutes.

The League, which airs at 10:30 on Thursday nights on FX, is currently in its third season.

All of the characters tell their own stories in their own ways, giving viewers a way to connect with them as if they’re not actors at all. It’s a show that really stresses friendship and love as well as fantasy football, but neither of them takes center stage in a show that’s really supposed to be about fantasy football. Many things happen over the course of the 22 or so minutes every Thursday evening on FX, with fantasy football serving as the subplot.

It’s important to note that The League is highly reviewed and by the ratings on IMDB, the show is successful. But before this past season, it was up in the air if it would be renewed. This writer is sure glad that it was.

Baltimore Crime Map

October 4, 2011
Crime Map, Baltimore

 The full map can be seen here>>

Cemetery photos

September 27, 2011

Media Literacy and how the Mass Media shapes us

September 19, 2011

Hello!

This class, Media Criticism, should cover a wide range of topics. As someone taking the course, you should be interested in how the media views and criticizes popular culture and the way things operate in the 21st century. The media are a powerful thing, in that its influence can stretch beyond borders and affect people in more ways than one.

Not only does the mass media affect us all, but it does so in ways that we don’t even realize. The media shapes our opinions, values and ideas to a point where we find ourselves thinking twice about what the perception of us will be if we make a decision one way or another. Think of it this way: if the media says that wearing a certain brand or type of clothing is unacceptable in 2011, and you do it anyway, wouldn’t you think about how you’re perceived? If you’re going on a date and the movie theater is your destination, wouldn’t you read a review of the film you’re about to see on a site like rottentomatoes.com or imdb.com first? If you’re considering going on a diet or attempting to lose weight, would you compare or contrast yourself against celebrities or people of interest in mass media outlets like People Magazine or GQ?

These are things that people think about every day and they’re directly affected by the mass media. Just about every decision someone makes has some kind of repercussion that can be examined and dissected by the media to the fullest extent.

There are people whose sole jobs are to find “dirt” on people and expose them through the media. Gossip tabloids like US Weekly and Star Magazine are stocked full of “writers” that scope Hollywood and wait for celebrities to slip up so that their editors will have a cover story for that week’s issue. Movie stars that want nothing to do with the limelight that is Hollywood sometimes can’t make it in L.A. because of the media.

The mass media is a harmful medium because of the way that it brings down the average citizens to a point where they feel they’re no longer accepted because of the way they look or dress or act.

It’s helpful to be “media literate,” especially in today’s world because of the way that the media shapes us. Let’s take the recently concluded HBO series Entourage as an example of how to dissect the media through a text.

Entourage was one of the rare shows that used celebrities as themselves on a consistent basis through the eight years that it was on the air. You could see the likes of Matt Damon, Mark Wahlberg, LeBron James and Jessica Simpson appearing as themselves as if the show’s cameras weren’t even rolling. But you would need to actually look deeper into how each of those celebrities was shown in the episodes they appeared in. Actors like Damon usually played a different side of themselves purely because the show demanded them do so. I can recall him being angry and hostile in his appearance to almost hide the fact that he’s been a likeable character actor for most of his career.

When athletes and other kinds of celebrities are often expected to be themselves, for a lack of a better word, because they don’t have the type of experience necessary to appear on-screen. James and other athletes like Michael Phelps and Ryan Howard usually just have cameo appearances where they say one line and smile and walk off the screen. But there are times when they play a larger role, perhaps influencing a business decision. In this past season, Turtle wanted to bring popular restaurant Don Pepe’s to Los Angeles but needed the financial means of athletes Amar’e Stoudemire, Mark Teixeira and Alex Rodriguez. All of them had a serious impact on the episode and stopped Turtle from making his business deal.

What I’m getting at is that sometimes it helps to be “media literate” because it can help you understand the underlying effect that the media has on certain programs. It’s not good enough to just watch TV shows and movies sometimes, although they are supposed to be viewed as entertainment.

In conclusion, this is one of the classes that I was most interested in attending because it’s the most relevant to the current day and how things happen on a daily basis. Not only does the media effect everything that we do, but it’s the most prevalent way to find out what is acceptable and what’s not in 2011. The mass media shapes us, whether we like it or not, and the way it does so really impacts how people live their lives. Becoming more media literate and finding out different ways to view the media are things I’d like to accomplish this semester and I hope everyone else is as interested as I am.

NFL Draft hats sizzle in NYC

May 2, 2011

As the NFL’s top prospects gathered at Radio City Music Hall in New York City last weekend for the annual first-year player draft, one couldn’t help but notice those awesome lids being worn on stage. The reebok-inspired hat debuted during the week leading up to Super Bowl XLV in February, but it made its formal introduction Thursday evening when Cam Newton was drafted by the Carolina Panthers. I have to say, these are some of the nicest draft hats in recent memory and I can see a ton of them going off the shelves quickly. Bravo reebok, what a way to mark your last draft before Nike takes over!

All-Star hats completely bland

April 25, 2011

The Major League Baseball All-Star Game is always a fun time to watch the game’s best players gather for three days in the middle of the summer and catch their collective breath. There are always players on the American League squad from the Yankees and Red Sox that don’t like each other and most always there’s a Cubs/Cardinals or Mets/Phillies rivalry on the NL team. But my favorite part of the mid-summer classic is the uniform kit that gets unveiled during the Home Run Derby. This year, the hats that the players will wear during the game are very boring, partly because the logo stinks. I don’t like anything about the hats or jerseys, so I don’t think I’ll be purchasing anything from this year’s All-Star game. Oh well, you win MLB.