February 7, 2013
(Girls Season 02, Episode 04)
February 7, 2013
(Girls Season 02, Episode 04)
April 3, 2012
- Carla, in the first episode of ‘Brooklyn 11223′ (watch the trailer here).
February 14, 2012
‘God Bless America’ is the title of a dark comedy by director Bobcat Goldthwait (you know him, it’s this guy) set to be released in Spring 2012. The movie is about a man who goes on a Boondock Saints-like killing spree targeted at America’s dumbed-down society in general, and the vain and vapid stars of reality TV that have become the icons of this society in specific.
Pop culture and television are often blamed for being the root (or cause) of evil and degeneration, while they are seen as a direct reflection of society and whatever is wrong with it at the same time. On the other hand, film, for instance, is usually considered an art form/artistic expression. A few of the premises of these perspectives on TV are that 1: (American) society is dumbing down, 2: a medium can straightforwardly and simply represent society, and 3: the relation between a medium and its users is immediate and one-on-one (television can have a direct and negative influence on viewers). TV makers often respond to the criticism of reality TV by saying that they are simply offering what the public wants, rather than challenge these assumptions.
I noticed a parody of my much-beloved The Bad Girls Club (called Tuff Gurlz) in the trailer, which leads me to recommend watching this 7-minute supercut of the best fights on The Bad Girls Club. (But be sure not to watch if you think watching it will suddenly compel you to take your clothes off and rip weaves off random people’s heads).
January 24, 2012
In anticipation of RuPaul’s Drag Race season 4 (premiering January 30th on Logo)..
January 23, 2012
Steven Tyler’s rendition of the Star-Spangled Banner at the AFC championship yesterday and all of the criticism it sparked goes to show once again how very seriously Americans take their national anthem. (I can’t even imagine Dutch people ever being outraged about a rendition of the Wilhelmus, because that would pretty much never happen.) With Tyler sounding like..well..Tyler, and him having sung the Star-Spangled Banner twice before, I do wonder just what they were expecting from him?..
Anyway, here are some of the best (I use the term ‘best’ loosely here..) renditions of the American national anthem in history (or: on YouTube).
For an excellent analysis of this performance, read Jaap Kooijman’s article ‘Bombs bursting in air: the Gulf War, 9/11, and the Super Bowl Performances of ‘The star-spangled banner’ by Whitney Houston and Mariah Carey’ (also quoted in his book ‘Fabricating the Absolute Fake’).
This one brings a tear to my eye every time.
I especially enjoy the hearing-impaired version going on in the lower left corner.
It’s the barber shop version BABY! (With a wee Nick Carter!)
December 13, 2011
Heard on R-Bil’s new show ‘Hart of Dixie’: The Lumineers
(BTW: the guy on the far left looks like Opie)
October 3, 2011
(from The X Factor S01E02)
September 22, 2011
I admit that, due to my busy schedule of The Rachel Zoe Project-Vampire Diaries-Jersey Shore-Glee-Sons of Anarchy-Breaking Bad-Bad Girls Club-watching, I haven’t seen the first episode yet, but I always judge a book by its cover/a TV show by its promo so I would say this one’s a keeper.
And, big bonus: I’m finding Zooey Deschanel not even a tad annoying in this! (Something I couldn’t really say about 500 Days of Summer..)
August 23, 2011
In lieu of anything relevant to the topic of Italianness in this episode to write about, here are some links on Guido-ism.
An overview of Time on the term (and the reaction of Italian-Americans), including mention of Donald Tricarico, a sociologist who studies Guidos. Two of his papers are available online, the first of which includes a quote on the topic of family that echoes what has been said about family in the previous episodes/seasons of Jersey Shore:
“A Guido’s family is very important to him, and the same goes for a Guidette. A Guido is always protective of his family members. They always respect and stick up for their mothers and grandmothers, who they call ma and nonna. They usually work for their father and plan to take over the family business if there is one. A Guido always watches over their sisters and never lets a guy go near them. Guidos usually live at home until they get married. [Silvio, 20, 2002]“
And: a short video made by Lou Rinaldi and Erick Kwiecien titled ‘Italian-American Identity Crisis’:
The makers interview relatives, NYC passers-by, and members of UNICO on the (not very clearly defined or demarcated) topics of Italian-Americanness, heritage, representation and stereotypes. Fear is expressed over stereotyping in the media (for instance, in Jersey Shore) possibly having an effect on the way Italian-Americans behave in real life, as well as heritage fading or somehow being lost. The idea that stereotypes could be said to be either ‘true’ or ‘untrue’ is put forth, and the distinction between Italian-Americans and American-Italians is made (while the term ‘we’ is still applied across both categories).
–Next episode: E4 - ‘Crime and Punishment’–
August 17, 2011
In this second episode of the fourth season, the main focus is put on the idea of the cast members being confused by Italy and Italian culture. This is done in a typical ‘Jersey Shore’ manner: by editing the comments and actions of the cast members to make it look like they think they’re saying something smart or true or that they know what’s really going on. The use of background music then creates a kind of slapstick effect: the viewers are in on the joke, while the ‘actors’ aren’t aware that their stupidity or ignorance creates a comical (you could almost say deadpan) effect. The main sequences where this construction is used can thus be seen as bits or skits.
The Italy as Disneyland bit
Throughout the episode, the house mates are presented as completely unaware of Florence’s cultural history. They all seem oblivious to the fact that the Vatican isn’t in Florence, and furthermore confuse Michelangelo with Da Vinci (arguably the two most famous Italians in history). In an ultimate example of delusion, they even comment on the similarity of Florence and Disneyland. While on their way to the supermarket, Vinny, Mike/The Situation, Pauly and Deena admire the Florence streets and squares. Deena patronizingly currs “Look at how cute these little places are!” Vinny then chimes in with “It looks like Beauty and the Beast or some shit. I feel like people are gonna start singing out their windows”.
(“Is this the Vatican?” “Yeah I think so. It’s so nice.”)
Instead of acknowledging the fact that Disney borrowed the scenery of European villages to construct a romantic, fairy-tale-like setting, the order is reversed and Florence becomes the copy, while Disneyland (quintessentially American, fake, and hyperreal) becomes the original. This image of the cast members as ignorant American tourists is reinforced by them messing up Italian phrases throughout the episode, as well as complaining about everything being in Italian in Florence. Altogether, this creates the impression that they have been exposed or even unmasked as true, common Americans.
(”Everything’s in another language. Like, what the hell is this? Nothing is in English.”)
The housemates are set to work in (where else?) a pizzeria (Pizzeria O’ Vesuvio) this season. Marco, the pizzeria owner, gives them a pizza-baking lesson, while they look bored and distracted, joke around, and seem altogether unable to comprehend what’s being explained to them (this again being emphasized by music). Sammi, looking vapid, makes the ambiguous comment of “It looks like a Domino’s version of Italy pizza” (subtitled so the viewers don’t miss it); Ronnie calls a pizza a ‘pizza pie’ (an exclusively American term); and there is more confusion about ingredients (pepperoni/peppers/salami). Snooki blames her inability to understand Marco’s explanation to the fact that ‘he doesn’t speak English, like, very well’, while later, she argues that she doesn’t know how to ‘cook’ pizza because she doesn’t speak Italian.
The scene becomes the equivalent of one in which either clowns or toddlers are taught about, for instance, quantum physics, if the clowns or toddlers were under the impression that they were all Einsteins. Only these are supposedly dumb Americans who think they are Italian being taught to make a pizza. (The notion that is implicitly put forward here is of course that Italians naturally know how to bake pizzas and Americans do not.)
(”I don’t speak Italian. How am I the fuck supposed to know how to cook a pizza?”)
The coffee bit
JWoww wants to make coffee with the pot she finds in the house, but is unable to find a coffee grinder. She looks around the kitchen and picks up a potato press, asking “What is this, a ravioli maker?” She looks puzzled at the thing and then continues to grind the coffee beans with it. “Probably a lot of work to make coffee,” Pauly comments from across the kitchen, to which JWoww sarcastically replies: “Yeah, we ain’t in fucking America any more.” We see an inserted clip of JWoww speaking to the camera, saying: “Making coffee is Italy is like making coffee in the 1600’s.” Back in the kitchen, Sammi, in a child-like manner says: “I never knew how to make coffee before. That’s the machine?” JWoww responds, dryly and in a low voice: “I guess. The directions are in Italian.”
The comical effect in this clip is two-layered. First of all, JWoww intentionally turns the whole coffee-making episode into a shtick, exaggerating how hard it is to make coffee in Italy and cracking jokes about it straight-faced. The second layer, created in the production phase, is then added by (once again) background music and timed editing of both the action and the dialogue. The girly tone with which Sammi utters the grammatically incorrect, overly child-like and puzzled ‘I nevva knew how ta make cawfee befowa’ draws attention to the awkward fact that a grown woman doesn’t know how to make a cup of coffee, and, furthermore, to the fact that neither of them recognizes (or seem to recognize) one of the most famous Italian designs of all time, the Bialetti percolator/Moka Express. So, in this sequence, we are partly laughing with, and partly laughing at the cast members.
The ‘real Italian ladies’ bit
Deena and Sammi decide to cook Sunday dinner: Deena suggests to Sammi: “Shall we have a glass of wine while we cook?”, to which Sammi replies: “Oh my god, yes. We’ll be like real Italian ladies cooking dinner.” We have seen before how the idea is constructed that a real Italian woman is a woman who cooks (and takes care of others). For Sammi apparently, the drinking of wine while cooking is an important part of this image. Immediately after this, we hear circus-like background music that accompany images of Sammi having trouble figuring out the difference between garlic and scallions, and between strawberries and raspberries. Confused, she asks Deena “Tell me these are strawberries. These are like weird strawberries, are they good like this?” And as if the message wasn’t clear enough already, the two girls are then shown to let the dishwasher overflow.
The music and visual material in this sequence works as a punchline to which the ‘real Italian ladies’ comment is the setup, meant to convey to the viewers the message: Real Italian ladies, you two? DREAM ON! Later on, an interaction between Deena and Mike takes place to the same effect: Deena throws the pasta in the pot with Mike standing next to her, cooking (which I guess makes him a real Italian lady?…).”You put the pasta in before it boils?” Mike asks incredulously. Then, with Deena looking the other way, all the boys laugh (seemingly unbeknownst to Deena) while Mike gives them a look of shock and amazement. Due to the way this scene is set up, and because it has been established (twice) before what being a real Italian woman means, an interesting division takes place: the guys are in on the joke along with the viewers, while the girls aren’t. The joke is twofold: first, that the girls are lousy cooks, and second, that they are are lousy (as) Italian women.
–Next episode: E3 - ‘Twinning’–