Tuesday, May 17, 2016

Cher Cured Carrie Brownstein of her 'Days of Our Lives' Obsession: aka how i justify my recent haircut transforming me into the 4th member of SLK*

So I was reading Vulture because I'm unbearable and stumbled upon a beautiful article, Carrie Brownstein on How Cher Cured Her of Her Days of Our Lives Obsession:

“I was so obsessed with Days of Our Lives that when a character named Kayla temporarily lost her hearing and her boyfriend, Patch — because he had an eye patch — learned sign language, I also learned sign language,” she said. “And Patch literally signed the song ‘The Rose’ by Bette Midler with tears streaming down his face. And so I, because I had to, signed ‘The Rose’ to my family at dinner while pasta sauce dripped from my chin.” Brownstein then remembers going to a taping of a local talk show that had dedicated an entire week to the show.
The Days of Our Lives guest was Judi Evans, but the second guest was the one who caught the eye of 12-year-old Carrie Brownstein: a woman who ran a store in L.A. to which movie studios donated their props and costumes. There was a drawing for an item from the store — "an off-the-shoulder lavender, lace crop top that Cher had worn in one of her exercise videos." Brownstein won, but when the cameras zoomed in on her, instead of soaking up the glam, she covered her face with her hands until they cut to commercial.
There was a drawing for an item from the store — 'an off-the-shoulder lavender, lace crop top that Cher had worn in one of her exercise videos.' Brownstein won, but when the cameras zoomed in on her, instead of soaking up the glam, she covered her face with her hands until they cut to commercial.
On that day, sheer embarrassment cured Brownstein of her soap-opera obsession. “But what I had now was this Cher shirt,” Brownstein continued. “This seemed like the real prize. I’d broken up with Days of Our Lives, but in its place found something more exotic, more intriguing, more glamorous.” And what better glamour icon can you have than Cher?

*Or did I subconsciously emulate Cinema and Media Studies department chair, Aniko Imre, AKA according to my mother ,"Adina in the future"?**
**after seeing her at Parent's Orientation in the Fallf

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Carol and the Academy: Posts I Drafted But Never Shared


I did not watch the Oscars voluntarily. I was with my grandparents as I am almost every Sunday and they force me to watch them nearly every year. Almost all of my favorite Hollywood films these season were snubbed except for The Big Short  because it was the only one that starred white men. Carol's Best Picture snubbed hurt the most, not because it was my favorite (Hello, Straight Outta Compton!) , but because there were so much buzz and critical acclaim. It was nominated in every other major awards show besides the Oscars.
Many claimed the snub was do to the lesbophobia, but this 
Autostraddle article beautifully illustrates how the snub was most likely dealt because Carol unlike many celebrated queer film texts the film does not attempt to appeal to the heterosexual viewer or the male audience. The film has almost no male leads and the existing male characters are treated with disdain. Basically, Carol is honest about how men factor into lesbian relationships: they don't, unless to serve as obtrusive.

P.S. I love you. P.P.S. That post script was a very hip movie reference.P.P.P.S. I spent way too long editing and formatting these pictures. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2016

4/19: Global Stars: Consuming Latino/a Culture (Arielle Sitrick Core post #5)

Crossing over can refer to crossing the physical border into the United States, and how this is negotiated differently by different people, and also to the notion of crossing over in music (from the purely-Latino market to the mainstream market), as many artists do. We wanted to dig into what the music of crossing over is, and what it entails. Something we wanted to dig into was the way some mainstream crossover music ignores the struggles of crossing over (in the other sense of the term)–music that assimilates–versus music that acknowledges it–music of revolution.

The opening lyrics of “Jenny from the Block” are: “Children growin’, women producing/ men go work and some go stealin’/ Everyone’s got to make a living.” Opening this song(s) with this verse acknowledges struggle of crossing over and of migrant workers. It is a presencing of struggle.

“Jenny from the Block” is a song that lives in place. The message of the song, as I interpret it, is that Jenny intends to maintain grounded and rooted in the Bronx as she crosses over, walking red carpets and garnering worldwide fame. Jennifer Lopez sings to reclaim her roots, proving that she’s still Jenny from the block, despite the rocks (jewelry) she wears.

Apart from music, another form of presencing is J. Lo’s butt. “As Bakhtin argued in his case study on Rabelais, showing ass is also a sign of getting even. ‘The rump is the ‘back of the face’…Constantly speaking about big rumps in the American media is also a way to ‘lower’ the discussion away from the self-importance graned to celebritydo(o)m and the upper stratum of breasts, straight noses, blonde hair, and [white] faces” (Negron-Muntaner 187). White mainstream culture has a strange fetish for the Other, and particularly for the Other’s body. Black bodies, and Latina bodies too, are up for consumption by the white gaze. After playing Selena in a biopic film, conversation began about the Puerto Rican actress’s rump, and it continued on. The only butt’s I can think of being fetishized and photographed in pop culture belong to non-white actresses. This speaks to America’s parading of colored bodies – a sexualized objectification.

Like Carmen Miranda before her, Jennifer Lopez has been able to manipulate her public image so that she isn’t merely object of desire and spectatorship, but it is troubling that this pattern is so obvious and repeated. “Carmen Miranda's star matrix reinforces typical negative stereotypes of ethnic women by enacting a nurturing earth-mother clichir. By taking as her costume enormous flowers, fruits, and vegetables intermixed with exaggerated traditional Brazilian dress becomes the image of an overflowing cornucopia of South American products, ripe, ready, and eager for picking by North American consumers...these exaggerated qualities contribute to negative conceptions both of "foreign" Others and of women. On the other hand, Miranda's appeal resides in the parody of these stereotypes. Because Miranda so exaggerates signifiers of ethnicity and femininity, her star text suggests that they exist only as surface, that they do not refer, and in this way Miranda can become sheer spectacle” (Roberts 14-5).

3/8: Elvis Sightings: Whiteness, Taste, and Southern Boys (Arielle Sitrick Core Post #3)

Elvis and Marilyn are two separate stars of a similar condition. Each had and continues to have a cult following and a lasting visual iconography in culture. They were working class and gave themselves to their fans. Sex appeal and charisma were their strongest suits, they are remembered for these qualities after their premature deaths.

Western culture is visual. In Elvis, elements of Brando, Dean, and Valentino are present –Brando and Dean’s with Elvis as a “bad boy” of sorts, and Valentino in the hyper-feminized look and feel. He is a pstiche of those before him, and unique to himself as well. “When Elvis adapted Black music, dress, and style, he also appropriated some of the sexuality and scandalizing power of Black bodies. Elvis, the White boy who sang Black, was doubly dangerous because he could appear so innocuous and polite: reporters always commented on how Elvis always said ‘Yes, ma’am’ and ‘No, sir’ (in much the way of ‘good negroes’) and was so soft-spoken–right up until he began to sing and cause the daughters of Suburban America to have public orgasms” (253 Sweeney). These contradictions in his persona made it impossible to pin Elvis down; they contributed to his existence as a powerhouse and the father of rock n’ roll. “Elvis's multifaceted image--rockabilly rebel, teen angel, army private, B-movie idol, family man, Las Vegas superstar, Nixon admirer, drug addict, dead icon--is ambiguous and contradictory, solid but unstable. American popular culture has always been unstable--"a site of conflicting interests, appropriations, impersonations," says Eric Lott--and ever since the mid-1950s, Elvis's image has been continually renegotiated and remade in order to mesh with individual and institutional preferences…it was what took place between Elvis and his audiences that really accelerated his popular culture hold” (2 Doss).

“Elvis wore his hips in his eyes, on his lips, and within his heart” (256, Sweeney). Elvis’s hip swinging made girls scream, wet their seats, cry and made Christian groups and parents wring their hands. The function of unruliness to culture is to provide release so that order is maintained in a given setting. Sanctioned chaos is instrumental in societal upkeep. “The pleasures of the carnival are subordinate pleasures: unruly and lower-class, vulgar, undisciplined. During carnival, the working classes are not working; they are out of their place and out of line…Carnival is the place of laughter, bad taste, loud and irreverent music, parody, free speech, bodily functions, eating and feasting, a place where excess is glorified. Carnival is a world not without rank, but one where rank is allowed to be reversed, showing the potential of society without hierarchy (Sweeney 254). Mass culture is a machine for showing desire, including the desire to rebel, and certainly including the desire for sex, a repressed desire in Western culture. Elvis opened the sex discussions in a time when national tensions were high (with the Cold War and Korean war impending). He served as an outlet for the masses and a controlled chaos-creator. Ultimately, he was more object of the spectator than he was a spectator himself, and suffered for it, while his legacy lives on. 

4/12: Softcore Femininity: The Many Faces of Madonna (Arielle Sitrick Core post #4)

Stardom is an industry of desire.
Largely magic and light, but mechanics too, it drives forward on the impulses of its buyers and those of its suppliers.
To be a star is to be watched, absorbed and consumed.

As I write this blog post I am watching Beyonce’s Lemonade. Beyonce is one of the decade’s biggest stars, and Lemonade, her most recent release (a “visual album” as it has been marketed) is explicitly based in her relationship with Jay-Z and his infidelity.

It is hyper-dramatic, evocative, referential of different historical periods and settings, and a pastiche of history. The video is schizophrenic–Beyonce is a chameleon within the piece and within her career, but maintains Beyonce. She, like Madonna, is a post-modern celebrity.

“Let’s imagine for a moment that you never…[were] labeled as a king…never had the baddest woman in the game up in your sheets.” (“Hold Up”). Beyonce is aware of her existence in the public eye and outside of her role as a performer and artist, and of Jay-Z’s. She references these real roles in her music and videos. We spoke in class about the plasticity of certain aspects of pop culture. Plastic is fast, shiny, cheap, widely accessible and mass-manufactured. Pop culture moves fast, and even faster with developments in technology, and in the digital age it is virtually free. To stay relevant, stars expose themselves, giving themselves up to the camera to keep its lens focused on them. Beyonce does this with Lemonade. Madonna did this with her Blond Ambition tour video. Without existing in a voyeuristic fashion, a star cannot exist.

Madonna and Beyonce exhibit the ability to take on their surroundings while maintaining their personas. Madonna has outlasted other celebrities by her ability to transform. In contrast to movie stars, confined to the scripts of patriarchal Hollywood, pop stars have access to being chameleons, but they are still constricted by social regulation. There is a power to performativity.

As opposed to many sexualized female stars before her, Madonna had a stake in her aesthetics from early on. She placed herself in the limelight and commanded attention in an artful way. Performance art is constituted as any situation involving time, space, the performer's body/ presence in a medium, and a relationship between performer and audience. While each of these tenets carries weight and can be incorporated into other performance mediums, the relationship between performer and audience is crucial in creatively redressing social wrongs; it is quite often lost in creative mediums in which audience members are merely voyeurs. Creative mediums lacking audience involvement provide entertainment, and a chance for an audience to numb themselves or “zone out”. However, no social wrongs can be redressed when a performance asks nothing of its audience because to resolve conflict, people must engage in dialogue.

02/02 - consuming stars: stars and studios - Arielle Sitrick core post #2

Laura Mulvey says that “cinema promotes narcissism and scopopholia.” Scopopholia can be defined as the love of looking. It has a direct relationship to stardom as “being looked at” is what stars do best. Voyeurism plays a huge role in star consumption. If there are no spectators, there is no arena and there are no stars. We see with Valentino, Marilyn, and Madonna how voyeurism can utilize, and be utilized by, a person in the limelight. 

All three personas were marketed and consumed as heartthrobs. Valentino was marketed to the public as the sexy Latin, produced as a product for female consumption. Historically, objects of the female gaze (however few) have been men of color, although there are of course exceptions such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, who was publicized as a self-made man – a man who built himself up, a personification of the American dream (on a very personal level, for building one’s body affects just that person). In relation the camera, Schwarzenegger, generally looking at rather than being looked at. Men of color and women (whether white or of color) are looked at by the camera.

Elvis and Marilyn were considered sex icons and commanded attention by their winks and hip thrusts. Voyeurism is largely linked to sexuality. Pornography, an industry that took off alongside the film industry, relies heavily on a male spectator; the camera is a tool for looking, and sex sells.

To familiarize audiences with Marilyn before she became a household name, studios circulated sexualized images of her, similar to those in Playboy and other “girlie” magazines. In each of Marilyn’s films, she is the object of the male gaze; however much she may work this objectification to her advantage, she is made a spectacle for voyeuristic consumption. As males, Elvis and Valentino were not as explicitly objectified, however, the cameras gazed on them more than they did Marlon Brando or James Dean or other macho-man figures. Studios negotiated these stars’ sexuality by keeping it within the constraints they set up. If Marilyn was to be sexual, she had to be so within the boundaries of a patriarchal narrative. If Elvis were to shake his hips and sing about sex, he had to do so as an object for people to consume. If Valentino was to star in films as a Latino male, he had to do so with the camera gazing upon him. I would argue that none of these three stars commanded the attention they garnered as much as they reacted to the limelight being shined onto them.

Supplemental Post # 7: First Pitch

Tonight I attended the pride and joy of the USC Writing Division's special events. It's called First Pitch, and it's a student run event that welcomes industry professionals, production companies, managers, and agents to sit in the large ballroom of the Beverly Hills Four Seasons and listen to the undergraduate seniors and second year MFA students pitch their hearts out.

I prepared my pitches ahead of time and went into the event with a few butterflies but mostly confidence. After pitching my first idea, the representative I pitched to asked me a question I wasn't quite prepared for.

"Who do you see playing each character?"

I instantly felt taken aback. Of course I had always imagined Jennifer Lawrence. But could I say Jennifer Lawrence? Was that too ambitious or too presumptuous? Why would Jennifer Lawrence act in a movie written by someone with no IMDb credits? Shailene Woodley could do it. She's not as big as JLaw. I should have said Shailene Woodley.

But I didn't.

I said, "Well, I'd always envisioned someone like Jennifer Lawrence. But the Jennifer Lawrence from Winter's Bone. You know, pre-Hunger Games."

Fortunately I didn't blow the pitch and the guy got the idea. I wanted an up and coming actress, but at the moment couldn't think of one.

It occurred to me after 10 rounds of pitching how important it is for writers to write compelling roles for stars to covet. Every actress hopes to have that one role that puts them on the map, that gets them an even bigger role. And to make my pitch even more appealing, I have to imagine what star would best fit the project so a potential buyer can see the potential commercial value. Having an established star with a particular brand can make a project immensely more successful and appealing. It also helps the producer or studio visualize the script in a specific way...a specific way I choose by giving them a specific actor or actress to consider.

There are even some stars whose passion for a role or attachment to a project can actually greenlight the project. I mean, who doesn't want to produce Leonardo DiCaprio's next film? If I write a role that calls for a grisly hero in an epic drama or thriller, he could be the man for the job...or his body type and mannerisms could be right for the part.

At any rate, it made me reconsider how to pitch my stories with stars and celebrity in mind. Not only would I consider a particular star's look, mannerisms, and previous works, but also how their celebrity status (whether admired, adored, or infamous) can contribute to vision of the project.

Monday, May 2, 2016

Early Stars: Our Girl vs. The Shiek - Core Post #1 By: Arielle Sitrick

Staiger and deCordova write about the first emergence of stars: prior to the popularization of film, performers weren't notorious as they are today and have been for the last seventy five years give or take. DeCordova writes that stars emerging as a phenomena depended on strict regulation of what conversation they provoked. Fitting in with Hays administration restrictions on what movies could and could not depict, star-players were as produced as the films they played in. Controlling content, including movie players, in a manner supporting a particular film's distribution mattered to the Hollywood's decision makers.

DeCordova breaks down the "distinction between the filmic, profilmic and the real" as he believes it play into creation of the "picture performer". A separation between the actor’s role in the movie, the production and “reality” play into the star phenomenon. A star exists within the world, but without. In the eyes of the public, a star is enigmatic and extraordinary, but must remain ordinary in small ways so the fantasy is grounded in culture. Many tabloid magazines have features titled something like “Stars: They’re Just Like Us” that familiarize the public with stars by showing them performing ordinary activities and tasks. As stars exist primarily in images, and moving images (or whenever cameras are around), it behooves the studios to circulate images of their film's actors that coincide with the particular archetype this person serves the studio.

Until the post-modern era, stars overtly reinforced gender stereotypes and social structure, while covertly opening up critique. Of course, not all films opened critique, but those that did generally did it quietly, or through comedic manners (i.e. screwball comedy). Screwball comedy films were naughty, barely sliding by the MPAA’s production code with “an infectious sense of fun to them, and a saucy sexiness that often seemed to barely skirt the rigid proscriptions the MPAA’s Production Code” (Bryge, Miller 1991 xiii). Screwball comedy was a way for filmmakers to be daring while existing within the framewokr of censored Hollywood. Whereas censorship in cinema symbolized constraints of society and adherence to social norms, comedy was Hollywood’s arena for social commentary and rebellion­–through laughter and ambiguity.

Until cameras became more readily available and the internet was a public tool, star images were archetypical, fastening a star to their ascribed archetype. This both inhibited and gave star-persons freedom to exist behind closed doors more than they can today. Today, stars are expected to have social media presences and self-promoted brands, a far different cultural atmosphere than existed when stars emerged and studios were responsible for branding. In the 21st century, more than ever, individuals are expected the create and promote their own brands. The studios no longer control what is circulated, and the baton has been tossed to the public.