Archive for category Publishing

Censorship is Dead; Long Live Censorship.

2013 was a landmark year for television; the opus of Breaking Bad came to its much-lauded conclusion, Netflix triumphed with web-streamed series House of Cards, Orange is The New Black and Arrested Development, prompting Cards star Kevin Spacey to speak out in favour of ‘binge-watching’ and echo these sentiments about the so-called ‘watercooler moment’. Beyond this, many actors and actresses famed for movies gravitated towards television and even naysayers couldn’t fight the popular opinion that we had now entered the ‘third golden age of television‘. Finally it is not only acceptable but encouraged to consider television a hobby or interest without sounding like a brainless zombie.

Beyond that however, it was also the most controversial year to date: The Red Wedding aired on HBO and became officially the most shocking moment of the year, Orange is The New Black showed explicit representations of sexual identity and gender roles as well as putting women front and centre, and True Blood showed its first male full-frontal nudity. However, fan reactions to these, such as this and this, indicated that the result of what we were seeing was more important than what we were seeing. Take the True Blood example: for six solid years everyone has got used to regularly seeing female full-frontal nudity from both extras and the main cast members in the vampire-centric show, but the internet went into shock mode the second a main male cast member showed us his wooden stake (ahem.) This video perfectly illustrates the ‘dumb double standard’ that audience reaction backs up:

Beyond this, it is (somewhat cynically) arguable that rather than eschew previous standards of censorship to actually advance equality or promote discussion around tricky or unexplored issues, the TV companies showing us this unprecedented level of violence and sex are in fact doing it for their own gain. Of course, television is an industry just like any other, to assume that decisions would be made without profit in mind would be horribly naive, but to present shocking and thought-provoking content purely to garner a reaction, therefore buzz, therefore increased viewership, seems somewhat problematic.

Rather than furthering any discussion it does in fact simply shine a light on how prudish viewers actually are; indeed, violence has become somewhat passé, so Game of Thrones had to show an ugly, appalling and incredibly shocking act of violence to get people talking. Even that, however, didn’t seem to get people talking quite as much as a black transgender woman being a main character in Orange is The New Black.  Now of course, any promotion of discussion and furthered understanding around previously unexplored issues is positive, particularly in such an accessible medium, but the question remains: are networks doing it for the right reasons? Or are they simply trying to generate more tweets?

Sadly it seems censorship still has a long way to go before it’s broken down for the greater good, as opposed to greater profit.

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Everyone’s A Critic

Becoming a media journalist or culture critic is very, very difficult. It’s an incredibly competitive field that any number of degrees and qualification often doesn’t prepare you for, and it’s only getting harder. The graduate job market is saturated, with statistics showing that one in ten people with an undergraduate degree is unemployed, so apply those statistics to an already competitive industry and the reality strikes fear into the hearts of many a student (including myself.)

However, far and away the biggest threat to the budding critic is blogging and social media. Now clearly, for a budding writer, a blog presents an unmatched chance to showcase their writing and build up a portfolio, and with the right connections, tags, shares etc, can often attract the attention of relevant people and lead to some incredibly helpful connections. It is inarguable that ‘the best way to find a job is through networking‘; however, by the same token, the question remains that if seemingly everyone under the sun is blogging, tweeting, statusing, a range of reviews, discussions, analyses, how is it possible to stand out? More crucially, where is the line drawn between ‘respectable’ or ‘notable’ reviewers and someone sitting in bed at 3am writing a weakly crafted response to the latest episode of American Horror Story or their opinion on the BAFTA nominations?

If, like me, you follow a mix of personal and professional links on Twitter, when skimming it is often difficult to decipher which opinion comes from which outlet; is this tweet essaying American Hustle as a shoo-in at the Oscars from Total Film or that guy you met at that party once?  The evidence of audience power is all around: popular reviews aggregator Rotten Tomatoes places audience reviews next to and the same size as critical reviews, thereby giving it equal prominence, and IMDb’s rating system is based purely on user reviews. Now this isn’t necessarily a bad thing, giving audiences the influence they arguably deserve as the people footing the bill, but the question remains: when everyone is talking, how do you decide who’s worth listening to?

Obviously, the barrier still remains between ‘trusted’ publications like Total Film and Empire, but the gap is closing fast. The definition of a journalist has also been updated and adapted to include a relationship with the public that wasn’t previously there, and beyond that it is now more than possible for Joe Everyman to respond to the critics’ opinions directly, whether to agree or disagree. The power is shifting to include the general population as a decision-making force to be reckoned with, but that in itself poses a problem: if everyone’s suddenly a critic, no one is.

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