Final project: Growing with the Screen

Our final project incorporates student interviews and clips from various family sitcoms.

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Revised Questions/Concept

Revision: Condensed the questions and shifted the theme of the questions; instead of moving from personal to sitcom, we now focus primarily on the sitcom and only as one explicitly personal question and the end.

Main question: How do people make sense of the concept of family through sitcoms and personal experience?

  • Name sitcom families you watched growing up. How would you describe these families?
  • If you could be a part of a sitcom family, which one would you pick and why?
  • Describe a memorable moment (or character) in a family sitcom (episode, situation, dialogue, catchphrase). Why was it memorable to you?
  • Were these representations of family reflective of your experiences?
  • What are your personal expectations of family?

General research for final project

Below are some sources we are exploring to give us more background on the different types of portrayals of televised families.

Honeycutt, James M., Lynn B. Wellman, and Mary S. Larson. “Beneath Family Role Portrayals: An Additional Measure Of Communication Influence Using Time..” Journal Of Broadcasting & Electronic Media 41.1 (1997): 40. Communication Abstracts. Web. 3 Nov. 2013.

  • “Family television programs can be used to educate real families by providing examples of effective and ineffective communication”

  • socializing influence of sitcoms

 

Morgan, Michael, Susan Leggett, and James Shanahan. “Television And Family Values: Was Dan Quayle Right?.” Mass Communication & Society 2.1/2 (1999): 47. Communication Abstracts. Web. 3 Nov. 2013.

  • Dan Quayle claimed that Murphy Brown was immoral (48)

  • perfect, “golden era,” antiseptic version of family in 1950s, then nontraditional families, antifamilies (49-50)

http://flavorwire.com/326340/

list of sitcom families + youtube links to clips

Critical Essay 3: Transmedia Storytelling

According to Jenkins, a transmedia story “unfolds across multiple media platforms, with each new text making a distinctive and valuable contribution to the whole.” That is to say, every outlet through which the story is being told, be it through film, novel, or video game, should be able to stand on its own. While every individual piece of media consumed would benefit from the background provided by other incarnations of the story, one need not seek out every related piece in order to “get” the story. A good example of a cultural artifact that uses transmedia storytelling is The Matrix. Below is a trailer for The Animatrix, which is an example of storytelling across platforms, illustrating the shift from the live action film to a collection of animated stories.

It is worth noting that at the end of the trailer, there is an additional plug for the CD album, which is another platform through which The Matrix and all its related entities may continue to tell its story. With the trailer for The Animatrix, there are elements familiar to fans of the movie, with its dramatic angles, cuts, and fight scenes. In many ways, it is meant to draw in fans who already understand the source material, but it holds very little barrier for those who may have never seen the film. The announcer for the trailer declares that the stories in The Animatrix “takes the world of The Matrix to its unimaginable limits.” So while the animated stories exist within the world of The Matrix, the focus is not to continue the narrative of the films but rather continue building the world through the various lenses available through this different platform.

This look through multiple lenses is what ultimately signals a shift away from casual enjoyment to the ability to act as a cult piece of media. According to Jenkins, a cult artifact “must provide resources consumers can use in constructing their own fantasies.” The Matrix and its related entities more than deliver on this front with its various platforms and incarnations through which consumers may enter. However, for some viewers, consumers, and fans, these artifacts may go beyond the simply telling a story. In the need to gather all the information available on the world of The Matrix, fans may choose to buy, consume, and analyze every piece of media available in order to fully understand the constructed world. From an economic standpoint, this is ideal – a pool of passionate consumers willing to buy into every bit of the franchise that gets released to the public.

But when do the consumers stop buying? The Animatrix uses excellent hooks to reel consumers in, with the announcer of the trailer declaring it as a “groundbreaking collection of nine animated stories from seven visionary directors.” The phrasing of that sentence suggests new material from quality producers. It seems, then, that in order to truly sustain transmedia storytelling, the producers must 1) have source material that allows itself to be a cult artifact and gain a cult following and 2) take its audience seriously. Without the latter, the consumers become aware of the economic drive behind the storytelling and the magic of wanting to understand the constructed world is lost. According to Jenkins, new Hollywood demands that we “keep our eyes on the road at all times, and that we do research before we enter the theater.” Research, however, is only worth doing if consumers are satisfied with the story.

Critical Essay 2: Fandom and Reality Shows

The ties that come with fandom are pretty huge. From personal experience, once you’re in it, you’re in it for the long haul. As I read Jenkins’ chapters on Survivor and American Idol and the various fan communities that come with it, I realized I was very familiar with the behavior that Jenkins was describing. That is, the loyalty and fervor that comes with discussing and dissecting a reality competition show.

Before I get in too deep, here is full disclosure: I was, in fact, a loyal viewer of American Idol during season 8. I was such a loyal viewer, in fact, that I decided to join an online community on the blogging site Livejournal and connected with other fans – but interestingly enough, even after the competition was over, we still kept in touch. Kris Allen had been crowned the winner of the season, but we still found things to discuss, from the Idols going on tour to whatever lighthearted tweet was sent out that day. The Livejournal community I participated in posted “In Case You Missed It” posts every week, which served as a similar sort of shared knowledge community described by Jenkins in Convergence Culture. That is, fans would work together to aggregate videos, tweets, and articles so that everyone in the community was up to date.

Quite a few of us had a bias towards certain contestants. This is understandable, given the fact that we were fans of a singing competition – undoubtedly some of us would have favorites and want them to win and be successful. But as loyals (described by Jenkins in contrast to zappers and casuals) who gathered in an online community, the connection we felt to the contestants was very strong. So strong, in fact, that we took it upon ourselves to try to trend different hashtags for our favorite Idols. During the summer of 2009, the community celebrated by trending #happybdaykrisallen and creating a fan video with user-submitted images.

This desire to connect with the contestants on screen is not unlike that of the Survivor fans Jenkins discusses. The fans in the Survivor community who focus on spoilers look at the show on a deeper level. Gone are the days of simply wanting to know who wins – these fans want to know about the challenges, want to know how contestants got certain injuries, and, simply put, want to figure out the ending for themselves instead of having it explained by the show. The same sort of thing was occurring in the American Idol fandom – we definitely wanted to know more about the contestants, but we knew better than to trust every video package at face value. This, then, is why we gravitated towards things like tweets and conversations with family members.

Fan communities are a bit of a beastly thing. Whether it’s a reality show or a serialized drama, the intensity that fans bring to their viewing experience works not only to create buzz around the show, but also work to create bonds among fans. It was interesting reading about the fame gained by user ChillOne among the Survivor fan communities. I myself have definitely noticed the Big Name Fan phenomenon happen across various fandoms. In either case, from what I’ve noticed, Big Name Fans (and their followers) don’t tend to dominate fan spaces because these communities are meant for discussion with others – and it is perhaps this sense of open dialogue is what makes fandom so appealing to many loyals.

Critical Essay 1: Finding His Voice (1929)

When Finding His Voice was made in 1929, it was in the midst of a very expressionist view of film. That is, film during that time period was about filmmakers getting, as Monaco puts it, “pure reactions to their stimuli.” In other words, it’s not about a faithful reproduction of something, but rather the most effective way to reach out to audiences. When we first see Talkie, the very vocal roll of film in the animated clip, we see him come to life slowly. Talkie gains a face, a body, and a voice – the latter of which was actually very new technology in film at the time. The creators of the clip have Talkie demonstrate this new technology by having him sing and play the xylophone. All of these actions are intended to get a reaction out of the viewers.

However, it is important to note that this clip does not fall completely on the side of expressionism. The very fact that the film now has synchronized sound is a step towards reproducing reality, or what theorists like Kracauer might call “realism.” Indeed, the presence of Mutie is a reminder of how film used to be without sound. Dr. Western then goes through the process of explaining how the films of the time now have the capacity for synchonized sound, and he begins to skim the surface of the technical aspects of it all. Reality is suspended in between each of the takes, however – for every part of the process, Dr. Western and Mutie end up transporting themselves in a quick blur and changing size as needed in order to better illustrate every point.

After the technical aspects of a sound print are explained, Mutie gets his voice and proceeds to talk over Talkie’s take. This signals a return to the plot, as the two film rolls now have a voice. With both Talkie and Mutie being very vocal, Talkie attempts to ameliorate the sense of brouhaha in this sound-filled world by suggesting that they sing together. Mutie agrees, and they sing in harmony. The clip ends with the two paddling a boat together while singing, which works to give the viewers a sense of unity and efficiency – which is probably what the creators of the sound technology want the viewers to feel. The animated clip works to blend expressionist and realist points of view so that viewers not only gain a basic understanding of how synchronized sound works, but also a feeling a confidence that this technology can and will work.