Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Digital Storytelling - Future of Education video

Reality TV: Why Do So Many People Watch It?

In "Reality Hunger: A Manifesto: Why the Lyric Essay is Better Than Fiction", David Shields points out that most "art" tries to get as close to reality as possible. This may not be true in every single case, but he makes a good point.

My first instinct after reading Shields as well as this article was to write about whether reality TV is art or not. However, I think this question is fundamentally unanswerable; art is a broad term that is difficult to define (although Wikipedia tries really hard). And in many ways, whether or not reality TV has artistic value or not is irrelevant because people watch it anyway. So I decided that I would talk about why I think this is.

I don't watch a lot of reality TV; it's just not something I've ever had much interest in watching. I hope that doesn't come across as me sounding pretentious, because that's not how I mean it. I've just never gotten into reality TV.

Last fall, my roommates got caught up in a TLC show called "Breaking Amish." They started watching it as a joke: someone saw a commercial for it and thought it looked funny, they were bored one Sunday night and started watching it "as a joke." But at some point between the first and last episode of the season, it stopped being a joke and just became a show they watched.

My sister is really into reality shows. I've seen her annihilate seasons of Dance Moms (fun fact, a friend of ours was actually on the show) and if it has to do with cake or dresses, chances are she's seen it. I would say she watches reality TV about as much as she watches Dawson's Creek or One Tree Hill or Gilmore Girls.

My point with these examples is that although I don't personally watch reality TV, I understand their appeal to viewers completely. It gives people a chance to watch how "real people" react in "real situations." They can follow the lives of complete strangers, which is strangely compelling. Especially since reality programs are usually not actually 100% real. Some shows slightly over-dramatize situations, while others are largely fictional.

But that's okay. They don't have to be real; they just have to be real enough.

I've definitely fallen victim to this. For class this week we were supposed to familiarize ourselves with lonelygirl15 and her universe. So I watched the first vlog she made. Then I watched the next one. And the next one. And so on and so forth, until I was about 40 videos in. They were simple videos in typical vlog format. Nothing much happened in them (at least in the beginning). I knew they weren't real. And yet I kept watching.

Maybe "reality" programming appeals to the voyeur in all of us. Maybe it's our ability to empathize with people. But we get sucked into the lives of these people, and I think part of it has to do with the illusion of reality involved. We can get into serial television shows (for me, it was Lost; try and tell me the pilot episode isn't compelling), but I think it's much easier for people to get hooked on reality TV because the people we're watching ARE, in fact, people, not characters. Most people can look past the fact that what they are watching isn't completely real because most stories require a suspension of disbelief.

Some shows require a lot of suspension of disbelief... Man, I miss it.

There's been a lot of talk about how reality shows are horrible programs and how they are destroying our brain cells (which I think is over-generalizing), but I do believe that reality programming can be a legitimate storytelling platform. Tons of people watch reality shows and are likely to continue doing so.

(NOTE: I wanted to clarify; the lonelygirl15 videos were scripted and fictionalized, they weren't really reality programming. But the videos presented themselves as real life so the illusion of reality as a way of drawing in viewers applies).

Monday, February 4, 2013

Some Thoughts on Camp, "Hansel and Gretel," and "The Room"

"Camp is a vision of the world in terms of style -- but a particular kind of style. It is the love of the exaggerated, the "off," of things-being-what-they-are-not." "Notes on 'Camp'", Susan Sontag
A couple weeks ago, a group that I'm a part of on campus called MFlicks hosted an early screening of "Hansel and Gretel: Witch Hunters" which, first of all, I really enjoyed. To me, this is a camp film.

It didn't get very good reviews, and I wouldn't expect it to. I went into the screening knowing it was going to be ridiculous (re: the title) so I went in with those expectations and I wasn't disappointed. There were cheesy one-liners, stylized violence, anachronistic weapons, and on and on. It was not an accurate depiction of the time period, people didn't all speak with Olde English accents, and that was okay. "Hansel and Gretel" as Sontag says, is exaggerated. It's an intentional stylistic choice, and in my opinion, that's what made the film work.

In Douglas Wolks "Notes on Art so Bad It's Good," a reaction to Sontag's original article, he describes the term SOBIG (so bad it's good). This immediately made me think of a little film called "The Room." If you haven't heard of it, watch the trailer in its entirety right this second.

I saw "The Room" last spring at the State Theater, and it was an awesome experience. I hope you watched the trailer, because it's hard for me to even describe what happens in the movie. But when the film is shown, it is always an event. Similarly to "Rocky Horror Picture Show" screenings, people are encouraged to interact with the film as it is being shown. People in the theater shout at the screen and throw spoons

Of course, "The Room" is awful as a serious movie. The acting is extremely overdone and there are plot holes left and right. But it's so bad it's good.

"The Room" is playing at the State on March 16, and I highly recommend going. Make sure you get there early, since there will be a long line and people at the back will not get in. And bring some spoons.

Sunday, February 3, 2013

Weekly Summary - Digital Storytelling

This week we started the video section and I'm ashamed to say I haven't done a video daily create yet. I gotta get on that! I've been giving some thought to what I want my three main videos to be, and will start filming here in the next couple days. I still like the idea of a video with a narrative, but I've also lately been thinking about doing something different for one of the videos. More on that as it develops.

Mostly daily creates this week; I'm still working on my response post. Should be up tomorrow morning at the latest. I'm really excited to be creating content for this blog, the problem now is finding the time to make it happen!

Daily Create: Draw a Picture of a New Invention
Digital Storytelling: Video Section Goals
Daily Create: Something Broken
Daily Create: Simple Drawing on Interesting Surface

Daily Create: Simple Drawing on Interesting Surface

Daily Create: Something Broken

This doesn't do me much good anymore. And this happened because my roommates decided it would be a good idea to put the hanger around their heads like a hat. LOL.