Final Projects Info.

Hi all,

For your convenience I am posting the facilitation order and texts that we will be reading for the last two weeks of class below. I will also update this post with specific links to the blog entries created by each group so you can access the necessary videos/texts you should read for each class date.

Also, if you are interested in bumping up your blogging grade, feel free to comment on the blog entries posted by each group! The comments are still due by noon on the day of class.

All the best,

Prof. Tran

Monday, November 30th 

Group: Ashley, Catherine, Kaitlyn, Jillian

  • Topic/Text: Incorporation of science and speculative fiction tropes into contemporary pop music lyrics and videos, e.g. Katy Perry, Lady Gaga.
  • See their post here.

Group: Adrian, Patrick, Dean, John

  • Topic/Text: Bioshock video game
  • See their post here.

Wednesday, December 2nd

Group: Marjorie, David, JP

  • Topic/Text: Pacific Rim, connections to Big Hero 6
  • Check out their post here.

Group: Sara, Caitlyn, Nicole S.

  • Topic/Text: gender norms in the superhero genre; analyzing connections between SNL’s Black Widow trailer and Big Hero 6 and Ms. Marvel.  
  • See their post here.

Monday, December 7th

Group: Vennela, Brandon, Wen-Chiao, Serina

  • Topic/Text: Guardians of the Galaxy (2014)
  • See their post here.

Group: Matthew, Nicole C. Jennifer, Jimmy

  • Topic/Text: The Avengers, thinking through similarities and differences to Big Hero 6

Wednesday, December 9th

Group: Ben, Siri, Jacob, Justin

  • Love & Radio’s “The Living Room”
  • Access the podcast here.

Bioshock and the Future of Immersive Fiction

With the advent and accessibility of digital computing, we stand at the forefront of an entirely new age of media and expression. Three-dimensional realities, fashioned in the imagination, can now appear in wondrous detail at the fingertips of a skilled creator with a laptop. Research in human-computer interaction has brought this technology to the consumer – opportunities to immerse our eyes and ears entirely in virtual reality headsets. Technology rages on faster than creatives can fashion it.

At the nexus of new media, the interdisciplinary production of interactive entertainment has been the first of the age to fall into the recognition of artistic expression. This was not always the case. Video games began humbly as recreational diversions: tactile, quick, simple, and highly entertaining. One of the first waves of the video game as it is known today began undersea, in the fictional dystopia of Rapture. Bioshock, the winner of nearly a dozen Game of the Year awards, was the product of a painstaking effort to create an experience that would challenge the genre – and it succeeded.

The narrative assembled by the writers of Irrational Games was not something unique to the category of dystopian fiction by any means. The plot drew strong themes from Randian philosophy, motifs of objectivism and questions of free will in the face of chaos. Complex narratives were an entirely new concept to video games, and in crafting a challenging story around the world of Bioshock, they raised the standard for video games to come.

These are facts easily found on the back of a box – but they play into what some might argue is the most illuminating perspective on video games. In the right hands (both creator and player), interactive entertainment can be a uniquely immersive way of experiencing an idea. Using Bioshock as an example, examining the motif of free will is interesting.

While wrapped in the pretense of recreation, the fun of playing Bioshock quickly intertwines with challenging ideas and moral decisions. Thrust into this crumbling undersea world, the player character is faced with a series of challenges in an attempt to rescue his ally. Level after level, shooting match after shooting match, the game carries on as most games do, slowly providing more detail to the story. It’s only at the very climax that Bioshocks story makes it’s striking blow: a twisting reveal that the player has in fact been misled and has been responsible for destruction and evil.

It’s in that moment that video game players were, for the first time ever, forced to truly feel out what was going on. In the uncertainty, the formulaic paradigm of playing a game began to fade, and the player’s emotions were brought into the equation. In this special place, the immersion of a well-made video game becomes a greater canvas for expression. If we can continue to fill this space with ideas as powerful as the ones that made Bioshock so successful, the opportunities will continue to expand.

Since then, the industry has seen war shooters denouncing violence and save-the-princess games that portray the savior as the villain, games on immigration, games about baby-proofing apartments, etc. We’re surely privileged to have watched the rise of these unique examples of 21st century expression, as they soon become a standard choice of entertainment for the upcoming generation.

Works Cited

BioShock. 2K Games, 2007. Video game.

 

 

The Living Room

Ben Manahan

Professor Tran

21st Century Expression

December 16, 2015

Final Post: The Living Room

“The Living Room” is a story about a woman who begins to follow the life of her neighbors through their living room window. Given that this story is a true story we cannot analyse the piece the way we have looked at many of the works this past semester. What happened both in the living room and how the narrator reacted to the couple’s lives was not scripted the way novels are. Despite this we can still compare common human characteristics to the characters in Love and Radio’s episode that we brought to the class. This post will examine the main comparison my group made in class between “The Living Room” and the short story read at the beginning of the semester “Standard Loneliness Package.”

The main parallel between both “The Living Room” and “Standard Loneliness Package” to me was the action of peeking into other people’s lives. In “Standard Loneliness Package” the form of observation into someone’s life was through choosing to see the experiences of others through the customer’s eyes. Similarly to the podcast the action of observation was a conscious decision. This idea that we can look into others people’s lives has grown in recent years with the advent of new technologies that make it easier to peer into the lives of those that interest us. In class we spoke briefly about the prevalence of reality television and viewers investment into the shows; describing it as though they are friends with the people they are watching. This craving of looking into others people’s lives is only natural, and it is not hard to find the evolutionary benefits to such a curiosity.

Much of the class discussion also revolved around the idea of voyeurism and whether or not the actions of the narrator in the podcast were ethical. I would say that the large distinction between reality television and the podcast we listened to was that the narrator truly cared for the fate of the woman in the window. While reality television stars are made fun of for their daily issues, the narrator was truly routing for the woman to recover from the loss of her partner. It is not hard to tell that the narrator’s relationship with the woman in the window goes far beyond voyeurism.

Pop Takes on Sci-fi

Our group came across the realization that pop artists have used sci-fi and speculative fiction elements in some of their most popular music videos. We began to ask, “why would pop artists use sci-fi and speculative fiction themes for their music videos?” I came to the conclusion that the artists use the sic-fi and speculative fiction elements in their videos as an entertaining way to promote social change and get their songs’ stories across. We chose to cover four different music videos from four different artists. We reviewed the videos for Katy Perry’s E.T., Lady Gaga’s Born This Way, Ellie Goulding’s Powerful, and Justin Bieber’s Children.

Katy Perry, in E.T., is recreated and made up to look like an alien. She is seen roaming a dark, desolate, post-apocolyptic looking planet. The main point of this video is to portray a love story, and in this case the love story is between an alien Katy Perry and a robot. Aliens and robots are not of the same “race.” This connects to her lyrics “They say be afraid. You’re not like the others, futuristic lovers. Different DNA, they don’t understand you. You’re from a whole other world.”(Perry) Katy Perry is using sic-fi terms to sneak in issues regarding interracial relationships. People may be critical of these relationships, but Katy’s message expresses that these relationships are often misunderstood, and that all races and relationships should be treated equally. If Katy Perry outright expressed these issues without any sic-fi elements, her lyrics and music video would lack in their creativity and excitement.

I found huge connections between Katy Perry’s E.T. and Major Lazer’s Powerful. Like E.T., Powerful’s manor theme is love. The romantic relationship is between an African American male and a caucasian woman. The relationship in E.T. gives the couple so much power that their love is able to light up the whole dark planet they were on. Similarly, the relationship in Powerful gifts the couple with special powers. They are able to control surrounding objects with their minds. This use of science and speculative fiction in the music video allows for a literal portrayal of the “power” that love can give to a couple. Rather than just talking about the “power” love creates, the figurative power can be seen through their supernatural powers. In Fledging, love is extremely powerful, for each person in the relationship becomes responsible to keeping the other alive. Also, the relationships in Fledging cross all boundaries of race, gender, or age.  These artists are expressing the power love can create and how love should not be discriminated against.

Lady Gaga created Born This Way to serve as inspiration for everyone to stay true to who they are and love their selves, despite gender, race, class, or sexual preferences. At one point Lady Gaga and a male are both depicted to be skeletons. This shows that within everyone is simply a skeleton, we are all the same underneath and nothing else should matter. I truly feel Kamala Kahn in Ms. Marvel: No Normal would have loved this song. Kamala’s main issue is accepting herself and finding confidence in who she is. Kamala’s race, religion, and appearance cause her to doubt herself and envy others. Lady Gaga’s music video may appear hectic and random at first glance, but underneath all the craziness is tons of symbolism. Lady Gaga wrote and created the video herself, and took pride in expressing the message of “loving yourself” in a dramatic and eye-catching video.

Justin Bieber’s Children, features an extremely diverse cast of young kids. Children are usually seen as innocent and ignorant victims, yet this song turns towards children as the future generation who is the “visionary for a change.” (Bieber) The children in the video are exposed to a screen which features videos of injustices around the world. As these are just children, they often will break down in the video, looking scared, hurt, or upset. But, between any break downs they put on brave faces and unite together. When they unite together their dancing takes on an empowered fighting feel.

Justin Bieber’s Children, had to have been my favorite music video to study. It reminded me a lot of Big Hero 6, in the fact that the cast was young people and their drive to become super heroes and fight was because of past social injustices that affected them. In Big Hero 6, Hiro, like these children in the music video, often gets emotional and looks like he gives up hope but then continues to fight for the greater good. This music video also reminds me a lot of the Hunger Games, as it is also young people who becomes catalysts for change. Children puts emphasis on the importance of children, for they are the future generation and their power can be used for the greater good.

In conclusion, pop artists use sic-fi and speculative elements for a few different reasons. They use them to take the harsh edge off of serious issues. They also use them to make their lyrics or videos more relatable to mass audiences, by using common sci-fi tropes. They also use them to simply make their videos more entertaining and dramatic.

Works Cited

Big Hero 6. Walt Disney, 2015. DVD.

Butler, Octavia. Fledgling. New York: Grand Central, 2005. 306. Print.

Collins, Suzanne. The Hunger Games. N.p.: n.p., n.d. Print.


Justin Bieber. Children. 2015. YouTube. Web. 14 Dec. 2015.

Katy Perry. E.T. N.d. YouTube. Web. 14 Dec. 2015.

Lady Gaga. Born This Way. N.d. YouTube. Web. 14 Dec. 2015.

Major Lazer Feat. Ellie Goulding. Powerful. N.d. YouTube. Web. 14 Dec. 2015.

Wilson, G. Willow, and Adrian Alphona. Ms. Marvel: No Normal. New York, NY: Marvel Worldwide, 2014. Print.

Pacific Rim and How It Can Be Used As a Way to Show How Empathy Betters our Society

David Huynh

050:316

21st Century Expression

December 16, 2015

Like every other piece of science fiction we have studied this semester, Pacific Rim has man important messages that can be related to society today. Specifically, Pacific Rim is able to show us that togetherness rather than individualism is the source that can power us through times of trouble.

The movie is able to show us how the struggle between good versus equal exists      and how it can be overcome. In the movie Jaegers fight against Kaijus, which are creatures cloned by an alien race. Jaegers are robots that are built to fight against these creatures. Within the introduction of the movie, it showed that these Jaegers were only possible because the world came together in order to pool their resources and create them. It was a collaboration between the world to save these creatures. In addition, it saved the world from the Kaiju blood which was having environmental impacts. This is a very good parallel to current situations in the world with climate warming and how the United Nations along with other countries must come together to pool their resources and fight this form of evil in the world.

In addition, the movie shows togetherness is a strong trait by demonstrating how the machines are operated. The machines are only operated if two people are drift compatible and are able to work together. The drifting allows two people two share each other’s memories and feel each other’s memories deeply. This is seen between both Raleigh and his brother as well as Raleigh and Mako. In fact, the memory sharing between Raleigh and Mako is shown to be so powerful that it almost overwhelms the both of them and causes the Kaiju to cause destruction. However, they are able to overcome this by having such a strong bond together. This shows that human bonds are the most powerful thing to overcome evil. This evil can be many things in the world, but more specifically hate. Hate against many things such as racial, sexual, and cultural differences between societies and individuals. The only way that we are able to overcome such things is to realize that human bonds is what keeps us together just as drifting demonstrates in the movie.

Finally, togetherness is seen a powerful factor when Marshall Stacker Pentecost makes his speech at the end of the movie where he claims that tonight that they end the apocalypse. Once again, this apocalypse can be seen as hate in many forms in our current society and the evil that will overcome us. He states that that night, no individual will stand alone, but together they will be able to end the apocalypse. This is a clear and direct example of how individualism alone will not be able to save our society.

Pacific Rim does a great job of explaining many themes throughout the movie. Most importantly, what we should take away is that our ability to stick together and be empathetic towards each other will help us fight our own modern fight against the evils in the world.

 

Works Cited

Pacific Rim. Dir. Guillermo Del Toro. Perf. Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi, and Idris Elba. Legendary Pictures, 2013. Film.

 

Not Your Ordinary Heroes: How Pacific Rim Takes Almost Every Hero Trope We Know and Punches It in the Face

Marjorie Eyong

050:316

21st Century Expression

December 16, 2015

 

Not Your Ordinary Heroes: How Pacific Rim Takes Almost Every Hero Trope We Know and Punches it in the Face

If you take a quick survey of some of the most well-known action films, shows, and other media, it is easy to note several similarities. Often, we are faced with a lone, white male hero (or antihero), who goes through some form of the hero’s journey before he is finally able to gain the strength to singlehandedly defeat the enemy. In the movie Pacific Rim, while director Guillermo Del Toro plays with some of these typical hero tropes, he ultimately ends up almost completely subverting them. While Raleigh, the initial narrator of the film, may at first seem to fit the description of the typical white male hero, we quickly see Mako, his young Japanese female co-pilot, more fully assume the role of the hero than he does. Additionally, the film neatly subverts the idea of the lone hero, by making teamwork the only way to defeat the kaiju alien invasion. In doing so, Pacific Rim celebrates empathy rather than individual power, and envisions a world in which, ultimately, people must come together in order to save the world.

Throughout the movie Pacific Rim, the characters manage to completely challenge our usual expectations of the hero and the hero’s journey. As previously stated, Raleigh Beckett appears to, at first, fill the role of our typical white male hero. He is the first character that we are introduced to in the film, and he suffers the kind of traumatic, motivating loss that we often see heroes go through in films when he loses his brother Yancy, after their jaeger gets attacked by a kaiju. However, once Raleigh is recruited back into the jaeger program, he meets Mako Mori, a young Japanese woman with the potential to be an amazing jaeger pilot. At this point, the movie suddenly undergoes a slight change in perspective. Though we are still following Raleigh’s point of view, Mako and her struggle to prove herself as a pilot become the main character focus of the film. It is Mako, rather than Raleigh, who ends up going through most of the steps of the typical Hero’s Journey. She fights with her own self-doubt, she confronts her own traumatic past, her strength as a pilot is tested several times, and she deals with a unique external conflict as she tries to prove herself to Marshall Stacker Pentecost, a man who is both her professional authority figure and a reserved, but loving father figure. In contrast, while Raleigh is still an important character, he does not really undergo much character growth after he returns to the jaeger program, a mere 23 minutes into the film. Instead, Raleigh actually ends up taking on more of a mentor role for Mako throughout the rest of the movie, cheering her on, and consistently giving her support. In this way, it is Mako, rather than Raleigh, who truly fits the hero role in the film. In a world where most female characters are relegated to the role of solely being love interests, and where they often experience very little if any character growth, Mako’s role in Pacific Rim is truly unique. She is a fully realized character, one who’s inner strength and identity as a Japanese woman is respected and carefully crafted, and one who becomes a hero in her own right.

In addition to Mako’s role as the hero, Pacific Rim also defies the usual conventions of the heroic tale by placing a huge amount of emphasis on the importance of teamwork and empathy. In the film, the giant robots, or jaegers, that the pilots use to fight the kaiju must be operated by two pilots, through a process of memory sharing called drifting. Through the process of drifting, two pilots are able to share the burden of piloting the jaeger. If only one person attempted to pilot a jaeger, the stress would essentially kill them. This simple detail, that not working together would literally kill an individual pilot, underscores how much importance is already being placed on teamwork in this facet of the film alone. Additionally, pilot teams must typically have a strong relationship with one another in order to be drift compatible. Because of this, most of the pilot teams that we see in the film include siblings, spouses, or a parent and child. In this way, not only does the film prioritize teamwork, but also the importance of having an extremely strong bond within that team. Finally, the fact that drifting requires an act as intimate and as implicitly full of trust as sharing memories also underscores the role of empathy in the film. By making drifting and having two pilots necessary in order to pilot the jaegers, Del Toro completely shatters the lone individual aspect of the typical hero and antihero story. It is physically impossible for the pilots in Pacific Rim to fight on their own, and rather than things like emotions and family ties making them weak, these things make them infinitely stronger as pilots.

Through the elevation of the main female character and through the prioritization of teamwork and empathy, Pacific Rim completely shatters the usual tropes associated with heroes, punching through them like a jaeger to a kaiju and creating a film that resonates strongly within our contemporary moment. The film also envisions a world in which disparate cultures can come together, respect one another, and work together for the greater good, an ideal that our real world should absolutely always continue to strive for. Pacific Rim takes the things that are so often considered weak, and highlights how strong they can actually be.

 

Works Cited

Pacific Rim. Dir. Guillermo Del Toro. Perf. Charlie Hunnam, Rinko Kikuchi, and Idris Elba. Legendary Pictures, 2013. Film.

Please Stop Misrepresenting Women in the Superhero Genre – We Are More than just Foil Characters!

Caitlyn Moss

Representation of women in the media, through mediums such as novels and films in the sci-fi/superhero genre has always been equal when compared to the amount of men that are seen in this genre. In a recent skit done by Saturday Night Live, Scarlett Johansson portrayed her famous character, Black Widow, in a parody of what a movie trailer for a Black Widow movie may look like based on the way Marvel has portrayed their female characters in the past.

Saturday Night Live took to the liberty of playing on the fact that the female characters in recent Hollywood blockbusters, such as The Avengers, The Avengers: Age of Ultron, Captain America: Winter Soldier, Iron Man 2, and Guardians of the Galaxy. In all of these movies, the female characters seem to basically exist just to make the male characters plot more interesting. For example, the romantic relationship that occurs between Black Widow and Hulk, this relationship doesn’t seem to do anything for Black Widow but fulfill the stereotype that women need to be in a relationship for their roles in the media to be deemed “important.” Throughout the skit, the slogan of the movie is “Marvel: We get Women,” (SNL, 2015) which is very iron because rather than making the parody trailer like a typical superhero movie it is depicted in the genre of romantic comedy. The satire brought up different issues of how female characters are presented in this genre through a comedic perspective. Across all different genres of popular movies, women are commonly shown on the big screen in a very soft manner, their looks are very important, and the main conflict in the plot comes from a relationship issue, and that’s how Scarlett Johansson’s character in the parody is played off. Although it may be taken at face value as just a funny video, it really does prove that women need to be characterized

The SNL parody brings to light the way that women are represented in not just marvel but in different channels of media everywhere. In the different readings and movies we reviewed in class, such as Ms. Marvel and Big Hero 6, the representation of the female characters was significantly better than many of the more popular movies in the genre. Ms. Marvel is a very strong character; she is not defined by being in a relationship and is not portrayed by the common conception of beauty and the female characters, GoGo and Honey Lemon in Big Hero Six both can stand alone and don’t need to be defined by male characters in order to be great. All of these characters are not defined by whom they are dating or if they are stereotypically beautiful, they are defined by the actions that they take throughout the plot. Typical gender roles and gender equality in today’s American society still need to be fought for, people need strong female role models in the media to look up to. When women face discrimination and sexist There needs to be better representation of women, and when there are such big name companies, like Marvel, depicting women as background characters and secondary to the male leads, it is extremely frustrating because they have such a large impact on how women are seen in the media. Women are much more than a plot enhancement and it’s about time that they receive the credit and representation that they deserve.

Works Cited

Big Hero 6. Walt Disney, 2015. DVD.

Black Widow Trailer. Youtube., 3 May 2015. Web. 16  Dec. 2015.

<https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=j_5KgpN38hM&gt;.>

Wilson, G. Willow, and Adrian Alphona. Ms. Marvel: No Normal. New

York, NY: Marvel Worldwide, 2014. Print.

Aliens as Races: Guardians of the Galaxy

 

      Guardians of the Galaxy is a movie that takes the audience on a journey with a group of social outcasts from different galaxies led by a human named Peter. The characters in this group, Peter, Gamora, Drax, Groot and Rocket,  start out as strangers, but by the end of their adventures they together become a close knit family. Their expedition to save the world from an all powerful infinity stone incorporates aspects of visionary fiction as the movie discusses how not all superheroes have to look a certain way, and as long as they have a good heart then that is all it takes to be a superhero. The societal problem of racism is presented through the physical discrimination within the aliens, and it is essential for the audience to analyze the characters and the way they are treated because it reflects how not all races are not treated equally, and all races should be or else only certain parts of humanity can prosper and a portion of it can help society progress.

     Guardians of the Galaxy discusses racism by having its alien characters not be treated as well as the lead role, Peter. First off, the main character is played by a white actor, while every other character is an alien, which suggests that the lead character should ideally be a caucasian male, thus demonstrating society’s expectations of how the superhero should look like. Additionally, the only other main actor from the movie in real life of color is Gamora, and in the movie she is green which hides her true darker skin tone, thus supporting how society expects its superheroes to not be of color. Aside from the actors and actresses themselves, the way their characters are treated in the movie also reflect the racism presented in society. Rocket for example, is a raccoon with a high intelligence in bounty hunting and battle tactics, but because he is a raccoon he often gets treated like a simple animal when all he wants is to be respected “like a human” or as equally as the rest of his friends. During the movie, Rocket gets frustrated and yells “He called me vermin! She called me rodent!”(Feige and Gunn, 2014). This reveals his insecurity of being a creature that does not get treated the way he wishes to be. If his friends did not show reverence for Rocket and his intelligence, they would not have gotten out of the prison. This is a parallel to how non white people in our society are treated, since they are not expected to succeed as much as Caucasians, thus they are rarely given the opportunity to show or develop their intelligence or talents.

      It is important that the audience realizes that the different aliens from different galaxies resemble different races on  our planet, because it will then become obvious how if the characters let their differences and backgrounds of who they are get in the way of the mission, then the galaxy would have never been saved. It is also vital that the audience recognizes how the aliens from different galaxies become a family because it demonstrates that people from different races can also form a kinship. Humans need to attend to racism because with this issue standing in the way, we let Caucasians only be successful and we only let them help humanity progress because they are the only ones who are given the opportunity. Racism also causes people to form groups of their own race, and each race has several of its own cultures, thus preventing cultural knowledge to be shared with other people.  Other races are equally as intelligent and capable, and if we give them the chance like the characters did to Rocket, then more people can help humanity advance and make the world a better place by being their own type of superhero.

Vennela Gadde

Bibliography:
Guardians of the Galaxy. Dir. James Gunn. Marvel Studios, Walt Disney Studio Motion Pictures, 2014. DVD.