Posts Tagged ‘NPR’

At NPR, Linda Holmes writes about The Hunger Games, focusing on the way that the movie (and, by extension, the books) subverts normal blockbuster relationships, arguing that Peeta is portrayed as a typical movie girlfriend while Gale plays the part of a typical movie boyfriend:

Don’t get me wrong: In real life, we all know couples of all gender alignments who operate in this way and in lots of other ways, whether they’re male-female or two guys or two women or whatever; there’s absolutely nothing about baking, physical strength, or emotional accessibility that is inherently gendered in real life for real humans with any consistency. But the movies, or at least the big movies, are different. Going by the traditional Hollywood rules, make no mistake: Peeta is a Movie Girlfriend.

In fact, you could argue that Katniss’ conflict between Peeta and Gale is effectively a choice between a traditional Movie Girlfriend and a traditional Movie Boyfriend. Gale, after all, is the one whose bed she winds up steadfastly sitting beside after she helps bind his wounds. Gale explains the revolution to her. She puts up a plan to run; Gale rebuffs it because he presumes himself to know better. Gale is jealous and brooding about his standing with her; Peeta is just sad and contemplative.

My sense was that there was a lot more kissing between Katniss and Gale in the movie than in the book, so it will be interesting to see how the movie versions of these relationships play out in the two-part Mockingjay.

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Shonda Rhimes, creator of TV shows Grey’s Anatomy and Scandal, recently talked to NPR. According to Amanda Hess at Slate, one of the things she discussed was the challenge of getting Grey’s Anatomy on the air:

When NPR asked Rhimes if she helped “create the change” in representing complicated and diverse women on screen, Rhimes told the story of pitching the medical drama Grey’s Anatomy to ABC in 2005. Rhimes conceived of Grey’s as a racially diverse show featuring “smart women competing against one another” that she’d actually watch. But higher-ups at ABC had different ideas about what women really wanted. “A bunch of older guys told me that nobody was going to watch a show about a woman who had casual sex and threw a guy out the night before her first day of work—that that was completely unrealistic and that nobody wanted to know that woman,” Rhimes told NPR. “I remember sitting in that meeting and thinking, ‘Wow they don’t know anything about what’s going on in the world right now.’ ”

I’m not sure how the show was allowed to move forward at ABC without changes, but it apparently was and is now in its tenth season. Rimes doesn’t think those views would be expressed today, partly because of the success of Grey’s Anatomy:

“That kind of conversation would never happen now,” Rhimes told NPR. Executives are “no longer worried about whether or not the women are likeable.” It used to be that if you pitched a show with a female lead, “it was so rare [that] everyone wanted that person to be perfect, because she had to represent everybody.” White female characters, at least, are now allowed to be complex. Scandal‘s Olivia Pope, however, “is very rare because she’s an African-American woman,” Rhimes told NPR, “and everyone wants her to be perfect because she has to represent everyone.” The good news is that Rhimes now has the clout to reject that premise: “There’s a box you get put in. My goal is to blow that box wide open.”

Rhimes is speaking to a central challenge of breaking gender and race barriers on television: Because nonwhite, non-male leads represents a risk for a network, producers can put pressure on writers to play it safe in other ways. But characters that are designed to “represent” all women, or all black women, are guaranteed to be boring to pretty much everyone. Rhimes is successful enough now that she can call the shots. I’d be interested to hear how these diversity and likability conversations go with television creators who are not established powerhouses.

As Hess points out, it is great that Rhimes has enough clout to  do what she wants, but the underlying fear on the part of executives likely remains. As long as diversity on TV is rare there will be pressure to make diverse characters bland. When these shows fail the executives will likely point to the fact that the shows featured diverse characters, not their blandness, as the reason for this failure, reinforcing the idea that audiences don’t connect with diverse characters. Hopefully, shows like Scandal and Orange is the New Black will help break this cycle rather than remaining aberrations.

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This interesting article by Ann Powers at NPR.org examines the many covers of Carly Rae Jepsen’s “Call Me Maybe.”Most interesting is the implication that pop culture moments like this allow all sorts of individuals to play at homosexuality, making us all slightly more tolerant. Powers writes:

The first video parody of the song was the most commercially important — it featured Bieber, his gal Selena Gomez and other kid heartthrobs cavorting and lip-synching to the track. It spawned a multitude of answer videos just like it … These are fun, but don’t extend the “Call Me Maybe” story.

What turns the tickle into a bigger statement is the bunch of videos that take up the original video’s final plot point. One highly entertaining one that’s getting a lot of attention was created by West Hollywood man about town Woody Woodbeck and his friends, and puts the homoerotic subplot up front. But a surprising number of “Call Me Maybe” parodies feature guys who mostly read straight (in the sexual and more broadly cultural sense of the word) getting in touch with their inner femininity, and even queerness, by falling in love with Jepsen’s song.

As with other depictions of underrepresented groups, my question is whether images of apparently heterosexual males in these videos conforming to societal stereotypes about homosexuality and femininity push the boundaries of acceptable behavior or merely reinforce those boundaries by mocking them.

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Stanley Milgram’s experiments on obedience to authority rank among the most controversial social science research projects.  Despite (or because of) this, people are always concocting new ways to push his experiments further.  (Milgram himself seems to have started this trend – his 1974 book documents 19 variations on his initial study.)  The latest in this line of ethically-questionable research is a French documentary that repurposes Milgram’s work as a game show in order to see how far contestants will go at the behest of a host and audience.  The answer?  Most of them went all the way to the maximum voltage, at which point the actor “receiving” the shocks slumped over, apparently dead, with the host exclaiming, “And you’ve won!”  Here is a fair and balanced clip:

Obviously, there are ethical implications of this but the larger implication is the potential reward for doing ethically questionable research.  In this case, the producer has received incredible amounts of publicity.  Milgram, Zimbardo, and Humphreys, of course, are rewarded every time we introduce their work to a new generation of students.

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