Archive for November, 2009

Adorno and Blogs

November 18, 2009

Today we will be discussing The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception by Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer as well as Clement Greenberg’s Avant-Garde and Kitsch. I will post something about our discussion later and I am excited about how our conversation will go.  I just want to post some thoughts that I have been having and also share an interesting writing about blogs and visual culture that I came across.

Lately I have been feeling very apathetic.  It is probably due to a lot of reasons but wasting way too much time in front of the computer every night doesn’t help.  I subscribe to over 50 blogs as I am sure most everyone else does at well.  I have become compulsive about checking them and feel I am neglecting my “work” if I don’t read the posts everyday.  It’s funny but for all the art that the blogs bring to me rarely do I come across anything fantastic.  Most of the blogs that I subscribe to are art blogs and after looking at them I feel exhausted.  It is like I have just walked through 20 galleries and not seen anything great.  It is the same feeling that I have when walking through a lot of art fairs, exhausted and wishing for just one great thing, something that will redeem the boredom.  The most satisfying blogs are ones that get an uncomfortable laugh out of me like Regretsy or People of Wal-Mart with their pithy comments and incredible self-loathing.  But I always feel a little bitter after looking at their posts, like I have become someone that I’m not proud of.

I have been thinking about how everything looks the same to me and with the more I see the more bored I feel.  I bring up the Adorno article because I think the same boredom and anger at mediocre cultural endeavors is there.  I think if I had read this article maybe a year ago, my reaction would be quite different.  I would think that Adorno was harsh or maybe completely out of line.  But I have to say that I found parts of The Culture Industry to be charming and hold a lot of truth.  I will get to the two writings in further depth following our discussion today, but for now I want to share an article that I came across in a blog the other day that embodies the same dissatisfaction that I have been feeling as of late.  The article is titled Are We ffff*ucked? and is written by Mario Hugo.  I came across it via the It’s Nice That blog.

http://www.itsnicethat.com/articles/2222-are-we-ffffcked

I see it as along the same lines of Adorno and Greenberg.  Hugo is dissatisfied with the blog culture and how it has misrepresented the arts.  I wonder if Hugo is a follower of Adorno’s writings?  Any thoughts?

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She’s evil…and not just high school evil.

November 17, 2009

jennifers_body-2

I saw the movie “Jennifer’s Body” a while ago and it has really stuck with me.  I knew after seeing it that it really relates to the discussion of this course and blog.  I want to see this movie again, but it is out of the theaters now.  I am waiting for it to come onto DVD so that I can watch it several times in a row.  I was surprised to find that this film did not get such great ratings from the critics, despite the fact that it is written by Diablo Cody.

The reviews that I read stated that it fit into the horror genre comfortably.  I feel that is just a surface read of the film.  Sure, you can watch it and enjoy it without a close reading.  It has beautiful actresses, gore, complicated sets and contemporary costumes, but I feel that simply watching it loses many of the intricate cultural criticisms within it.

Firstly I see the two main characters as both playing within and also dismantling stereotypes of the genre.  There is the mousy character of Needy and the sensual character of Jennifer.  They are opposing, yet within the confines of the film they are best friends.  Yet they do not remain in their stereotypes.  As characters, they surpass them.  I saw this film as a great metaphor for the kind of toxic close friendships that many women experience in their adolescence.  Every woman has been a Needy and every woman has been a Jennifer.  Rather than stereotypes, I saw the two characters as archetypes.

This film feels very “of the now” with the embedded references to the Station nightclub fire, the rise of adolescent vampire chic and the cultural acceptance of the Emo male heartthrob within television shows like Gossip Girl and the OC. But it turns those conventional cultural landmarks on their heads.  The Emo heartthrob is actually a comedic satanic practitioner who wants to “make it big” with his band, the nightclub fire is a backdrop for the characters rather than a life changing event and the moody emotionless male vampire (Twilight, Angel, True Blood) has been replaced with a strong sexual woman who hungers for more than just flirtation.  The climatic scene in the film which occurs on Prom Night, rather than taking place in the dark hallways of the highschool has moved outside of the school.  It has been misplaced to an abandoned mansion’s pool filled with living fauna and flora.  The mansion as well as an earlier setting in the film of an abandoned subdivision speak to the landscapes teenagers have always sought out, yet are currently more available due to the economic downturn.

I felt that this film was a film for women, rather than a typical teen horror film aimed at men.  Diablo Cody has rescued actress Megan Fox from the likes of Transformers 2 and made her an interesting, flawed and real monster.  In the end, the film was about the relationship between two women, which I can think of no other horror film that fits that description.  Here’s hoping that this film will encourage other women writers to tackle the genre of horror and bring their cultural baggage into it.  This film felt a lot more messy and a lot more fascinating than any other horror film I can think of and I can’t stop thinking about it.

Giants and Toys

November 17, 2009

Yesterday I had the pleasure to watch the 1958 film Giants and Toys (Kyojin to gangu) directed by Yasuzo Masumura.  Netflix had recommended this film to me, and I must say that yet again Netflix knows me better than I know myself.  I loved this film.  The look of it was amazing and the plot I found to be very significant in our readings of Harris and Adorno.

The film’s main character Nishi is a young employee of the World Caramel Company in the advertising and marketing sector.  World Caramels are in direct competition with two other caramel companies and it is the time of their advertising launches.  This is the heyday of product giveaways and promotions to sell a product and Nishi is learning to navigate the harsh environment.  Nishi interacts with members of his rival companies in a bar and it is through them that he learns of the realities of business.  World Caramels creates a superstar in Kyoko, a young girl with horrible teeth that Nishi sees on the street.  Kyoko and her dreadful teeth become the face of World Caramels and the promotion is settled on a giveaway of spacesuits and space toys.  Traditionally, Nishi would become the powerful in this film and Kyoko would become the used and thrown away as another postergirl was found for the product, someone fresher and more viable.  But that is not the case with this film.

I was thinking about Adorno and Harris’ ideas while watching this film.  I was thinking about the culture of advertising and Adorno’s culture industry.  Nishi is not aware of what he is getting himself into and neither are we as the viewers.  The industry here is pervasive and wicked and both Nishi and Kyoko are its instruments.

The look of this film is so wonderful.  I love the seas of businessmen in suits and the photos of Kyoko selling her caramels.  The transformation of Kyoko is remarkable as a character and also aesthetically beautiful.  She becomes something much more than caramels.  Although I love the look of Kyoko as she first appears in the film with her high ponytail, bangs and tin can of tadpoles, she is barely recognizable in her final performance scene at the end.  All of the tomboy charm and wild energy is replaced with calm and glamor.  She has truly embodied the essence of the postergirl, the it girl, the star.  The final advertising clip that Kyoko shoots for World is so strange and surreal.  She in her spacesuit surrounded by mayflower queens is a strange sight.

No matter how much Nishi and Kyoko are different from the advertising industry and the culture industry, they get sucked into it and it changes them.  As much as they believe they have control, they are controlled.