Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Glee-fully Oblivious: The Bad Riddle of Glee

Glee. It's getting hard to ignore.

It seems I might be late for the topic, or at least the party, but really I was the first one there. I just realized my driver took me to the wrong address.

Preferences aside, the show's been making some big waves lately, and it's kinda confusing. On one hand, the show's been generating a lot of  "positive" press around the episode "Never Been Kissed" and it's confrontation of Bullies. On the other hand, the show's been generating a lot of "negative" press around the "photo scandal" in the last issue of GQ.

It's polarizing, but helps illustrates the enigma of Glee. Glee has undeniably awesome moments: some of the dance numbers, Sue Sylvester (Jane Lynch), and just little quirky movements like when we're told that macho, jock Puck eats TV dinner with his single mom and watches Schindler's List every Wednesday night. But the rest of the show, in my opinion, is a muck of uninspiring storylines, stereotypes, and gimmicks.

I want to peg the show as a safe, moral heavy programming preaching the values of diversity to the teens of America, but I can't. I can't because there is too much random, "inappropriate" crap thrown at the viewer: pot-laced brownies, premature ejaculation, scissoring references, and how internet porn changed how women view guys.

"I didn't want to do a family show," said Glee creator Ryan Murphy. "I wanted to do my version of a family show. But we try to be as responsible as we can, because we know some young people watch. Some of the humor goes over their head, hopefully." Wait, what?

Glee puts on a good act of posing as the model show for American teens, it's central audience, by preaching about societal norms and stereotypes. It looks good to say, it's wrong to bully people because they're different than you. And I fully believe and support that belief, but I don't believe the show does, or at least it's audience. 

The main people I know who watch the show are: 1) girls, who like popular songs and hot guys; 2) gay men, who also like popular songs and hot guys, but who also enjoy the subtext that being gay is okay.

Most of the comments I've heard from teenage girls either revolve around the how hot a guy is, the relationships, or... the songs. But mostly just how hot the guys are. I've never heard any comments whatsoever about how the latest episode of Glee really helped change Sara's mind about the whole verbally-degrading Margret-thing. Truth be told, teenage girls are some of the most discriminating people I've ever met.

Shows have to maintain their audiences, and for Glee to keep their audience hooked (teenage girls and gay men), they have to continue catering to those specific demographics. This means more top 40 tunes, more shirtless guys, more gay. There's a reason why the first episode of bully-centered conflict themed episodes  was centered around Kurt, the central gay man from Glee Club.   

So it's a little odd when GQ, a magazine directed towards strait men, does an article called "Glee Gone Wild" and conducts a photo shoot where Lea Michele and Dianna Agron, the two main female leads of Glee, show off panties, bras, and catholic school-girl skirts. Oh, Cory Monteith is featured too, but he's dressed from head to toe. Somewhat understandably, parents and others are "enraged" by the shoot.

The Parent’s Television Council president Tim Winter responded with the following: “It is disturbing that GQ, which is explicitly written for adult men, is sexualizing the actresses who play high school-aged characters on Glee in this way. It borders on pedophilia. Sadly, this is just the latest example of the overt sexualization of young girls in entertainment."

It strikes me as hypocritical that Monteith is completely clothed, but when the main audience is adult men, it's hard not do focus on the target audience. Sound familiar?

Glee is a slave to their audience. GQ is a slave to their audience.We're all slaves to our "audiences".  They support us, and they love us, but they have specific image of how we need to act and what pleases them. This in itself restricts creativity. If the audience is maintained, why risk change?

This is why the main reason why Glee is stifling to me. They're doesn't seem to be any major effort to make any potentially, risky moves. It's the same storylines, the same conflicts, the same reltionships. They're just rebranded.

"I hate Rachelle now. She went back in time," said a friend of mine recently. "She's just like she was at the beginning of the first season."

I liked the photo-shoot. Lea Michelle and Diana Agron used sex appeal to promote Glee, but more importantly themselves. As Ryan Murphy responded to the photoshoot saying "That photo shoot was not about the show. It was about the individuals in the show. They were actors, off the set, being personalities."

For me, that's a huge relief. Lea Michelle was in the original Broadway Spring Awakening. She's got talent. I can't wait for her to do other work besides Glee. The same goes for Agron, especially after discovering her response to the whole photo ordeal on her tumblr.

"For GQ, they asked us to play very heightened versions of our school characters. A 'Hit Me Baby One More Time' version. At the time, it wasn't my favorite idea, but I did not walk away. I must say, I am trying to live my life with a sharpie marker approach. You can't erase the strokes you've made, but each step is much bolder and more deliberate. I'm moving forward from this one, and after today, putting it to rest. I am only myself, I can only be me."

I'm very appreciative of that last line, and that she explains her actions, but still endorses and defends her actions. Upon exploring her tumblr further, Agron gets even better: Tom Waits videos, Wayne Coyne rolling over audiences, Christoper Walken, and she regularly makes playlists like this:

  1. The Whitest Boy Alive - Burning
  2. Empire of the Sun - Walking on a Dream
  3. Ray Charles - What’d I Say
  4. Chairlift - Bruises
  5. LCD Soundsystem - Dance Yrself Clean
  6. The Kooks - Naive
  7. The Virgins - Rich Girls
  8. The Black Keys - Tighten Up
  9. Phoenix - Armistice (Yacht Remix)
  10. The XX - Islands
  11. Florence and the Machine - Dog Days Are Over
A girl after my own heart.

Moral of the story: I don't like Glee; it's a bad riddle of content, but I do like the people on the show and I do enjoy an occasional risque photoshoot with famous women. 

Bonus Track:  Paul_Dini on twitter: "So the GLEE kids all sing & dance flawlessly yet are supposed to be losers. What race of atomic supermen is their competition?

Joel Samson Berntsen (I'll Be Your Mirror - The Velvet Underground)

Sunday, November 7, 2010

We Are All Andy: Toy Story 3 & Class 2010 Plus: Animated Daycare Prison Break-outs

"Mom, can't I blog about connecting with thousands of teenagers before I clean out my room?"
Toy Story 3 marks a movie experience that will never be replicated for the people of my exact age ever again.

What I mean by people of my exact age is people who belong to the class 2010. People who graduated from high school in spring 2010 and that were entering college for the first time. The central story of Toy Story 3 is about Andy going to college for the first time, and the main majority of my peers in the class of 2010 were gearing up to do the exact same thing.

We, class 2010 millennials, were in the exact same situation as the main character of the number one animated movie of all time. We completely identified with Andy. We were all the same age. We were all going to college. We were all having to say goodbye to our brothers and sisters, clean our rooms, throw out old stuff, and dealing with gettting older.

"It's so sad" and "I cried so much" were phrases I heard from almost anybody that saw the film. Well, I heard those phrases mostly from girls, but still, regardless of gender everyone I know my age identified with the film on some level. A movie of that magnitude, one of the most anticipated sequels to the films that we grew up on, defined us as a generation, our generation: we all were the main character, we were all Andy. Really, we were. Everything fit, we all felt the same.

This will never happen in such a specific way ever again. Sure, we might identify with a father or mother figure in a movie in twenty years ago because that guy or girl is going through the same tough life issues we are, but nothing on such a universal level like this will ever happen again.

I'm so amazed I was part of something so big. It makes me want cry. It almost made me cry in theaters, but my girlfriend was there though, so, y'know, I just kept my tears in my eyes.

Let's Get All Steve McQueen in this Joint
Moving apart from the once-in-a-lifetime part of Toy Story 3, I'm going to talk very shortly about why I love the film so much: the main, physical conflict in the film is a prison-breakout story. Woody's gotta bust his pals outta da' joint. It's even got the classic character of the worn-out oldie who knows all the prison tricks, who decides to give Woody the low-down on the prison in hopes of achieving some sort of self redemption.

It's almost always awesome to see a good 'ol prison breakout, and when Pixar's crafting the details, it's better than an afternoon of old Steve McQueen movies. Who wouldn't want to see Woody stealthily slinking about a prison daycare breaking out his pals?

Also, the giant one-eyed baby doll, Big Baby, pretty much serves as the Leatherface of Pixar: it does whatever Lotso (that pink-bear, gangster overlord) wants it do, it's not the brightest toy in the bunch, it's damaged goods, and it's undeniably freaky. I've overheard moms complain about how their children were scared of that baby. That's because it's the modern incarnation of Leatherface. 

In conclusion, I love Toy Story 3. It's rad.

Joel Samson Berntsen (Aquemini - OutKast) 

Friday, November 5, 2010

Cool Guys, Cool Suits: Revisiting Inception

It's like if Alfred Hitchcock directed Inception!

I was oddly harsh on Inception the first time I watched. I liked it, but I had all these crazy expectations for the film and when it didn't fulfill all of them, I left feeling somewhat disappointed. So, it's weird when, after just watching a restyling of a trailer, that my opinion of the entire movie has changed. Sure it's just flashing all the cool parts of the film, but still, after reflecting on the highlights in retrospect, it's a pretty damn cool movie, even if Leonardo DiCaprio is in it. I'm also oddly harsh on Leo. I don't know why exactly.  I really hated Shutter Island. That may be why... I should consult Freud.

Also, everybody runs around in fancy, expensive-looking suits. Suits make just about anything look cool.Why do businessmen dress in suits? It's because they want to look cool all the time.

It's actually more of a red-brown color.
On another related note, I really like Joseph Gordon-Levitt's red leather jacket in Inception. There seems to be a reoccurring theme of me liking red clothing items lately. Maybe it's a fashion trend. And I mean fashion trend on a global level  more than a personal one. Like maybe Italian Vogue announced that this year's color was red. It could happen.

Lastly, my favorite scene from Inception! It's just like a five second scene, but when Joseph Gordon-Levitt kisses Ellen Page in the corporate lobby:  Arthur: Quick, give me a kiss! [She kisses him and then looks around] Ariadne: They're still looking at us. Arthur: Yeah, it's worth a shot. There's an intimacy to that scene. It's sweet, and it sticks in my mind.

 And I think we'll end this one with another video, on a slightly funnier note:

Joel Samson Berntsen (My Sharona - The Knacks)

Monday, November 1, 2010

Zombies And Dictators And Busts, Oh My

I have a thing for Che Guevara memorabilia. I think I might go broke after I found THIS.

In other news, I missed the bulk of The Walking Dead premiere, but I am glad to hear it's not only a smash hit, but also AMC's biggest premiere ever with 5.3 million views. 

The Walking Dead is a damn good comic. AMC produces damn good shows. It's nice when things just work out magically.

In other notes, I watched about fifteen minutes of the the Rocky Horror Glee Show. It was terrible. I wanted to shoot myself. Based on my limited knowledge of the show, I feel I alone could have drastically improved the episode, both with script and with casting of Glee characters as Rocky classics, but I might just be an asshole. But, seriously, why wasn't  Lea Michele cast as Columbia?

Based on what I've discussed with people who are both Rocky and Glee fans, it seems like everyone else thought it was pretty sucky. Missed, butchered opportunities. Tisk, tisk.

Also, did you know the Richard O'Brien (Riff Raff) is the voice of the dad on Phineas and Ferb?

Joel Samson Berntsen (Mr. Ambluence Driver - The Flaming Lips)