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Happy new year, everyone. May 2010 bring you fun, health, laughter, good fortune, dreams fulfilled, and happiness. And a healthy sense of subtlety when it comes to decorating your house for Christmas. Or Hanukkah. Or whatever. Subtlety. Yes.
This week, the Twitterverse and online-pub-o-sphere has been all abuzz with the latest way social media - a.k.a. "the people" - are making an impact on big media: the possible - even if limited-duration - return of "Ronna and Beverly," a Showtime series created by Jenji Kohan ("Weeds") and two comedians from UCB, Jamie Denbo and Jessica Chaffin, and featuring Denbo and Chaffin as two older ladies who authored a dating book titled "Don't Worry, You'll Do A Little Better Next Time: A Guide to Marriage and Remarriage for Jewish Singles." The title alone is genius - but the most genius thing is the "a little"...as if doing "much better" or just "better" next time is unattainable. (Which is basically what it feels like. But I digress. This isn't JDaters Anonymous...)
Who are Ronna & Beverly? Rachel Sklar (Mediaite) gives us a look:
Ronna & Bev are not real people — except insofar as you may be have grown up around them, or God forbid, be related to them. They are the incarnation of your worst Jewish mother-in-law or Passover seder nightmare, created by LA-based comedians Jessica Chaffin and Jamie Denbo, longtime fixtures of the LA comedy club scene — and now, the subject of a new Showtime pilot that just might have a shot.
But how much of a shot does it really have on impacting a major cable player like Showtime, which this season picked up no new pilots (essentially saying, nothing personal, Ronna and Bev)? Mashable says (and we have to trust Mashable, because they know lots of stuff about media gone social) that while it's tempting to frame the strategy as groundbreaking, it might not have the desired impact.
Although social media and online campaigns have had an impact on many other mediums, television has remained an elusive nut to crack. Campaigns to get followers to tune into television premieres have consistently failed (or failed to sustain themselves after the initial flurry is over) and online-specific campaigns to take a show to the small screen have been equally unsuccessful.
My go-to examples of a successful online fanbase precipitating the continuation of a TV show both happen to center on Joss Whedon - the "Buffy" auteur who created "Firefly"'s alternate space western universe and the human trafficking-themed "Dollhouse." In the first case, the fan base demanded a movie and got it: when "Serenity" opened to lackluster box office even with the support of the fan base (and that was before Twitter), the model was seen as not viable for replication. When fans protested the impending cancellation of "Dollhouse," the series got a stay of execution for an additional season; it has since been cancelled, but that additional season does allow the writers to craft an ending for the series, which is a blessing for closure-seeking fans.
It was also this base of technosavvy, loyal admirers (along with Joss Whedon's financial support) that made "Dr. Horrible's Sing-Along Blog" a smash internet sensation, shattering the paradigm for content and distribution venues, and giving Felicia Day the success she needed to encourage her into taking her idea for "The Guild" directly to fans via webisodes, bypassing networks and cable entirely. The first season of "The Guild," an sitcom webseries about a group of online gamers, was financed entirely by PayPal donations from fans, and then for its second season, drew corporate support from XboxLive, Microsoft and Sprint. Amazing. (Hearing Day's experience at her Digital Hollywood panel was a real eye-opener about how the industry is changing, yet "legacy media" refuses to admit that change is necessary.)
These are small strides, not enough to open a box office blockbuster or get a third season of "Dollhouse," and maybe not even enough to save a couple of Jewish yentas from Boston from cable retirement from being put out to pasture even before they've begun. But I think all this grassroots mobilizing, this "power to the people" democracy when it comes to which entertainment products we choose, why, and how those products are delivered is not the ends itself of social media, but the beginning of a path that negotiates network goals and user preferences. I think we'll all look back on these moments as the evolutionary step, the entity that emerged from the primordial ooze of our now, but what we'll then call "the way television used to be."
We're less than one week away from January 2010. Which means we're still one month (and less than one week) away from new episodes of "Lost." But IMDB has already posted episode titles for several episodes of Season 6. As far as I saw, no spoilers, other than the titles themselves, and my ensuing ruminations about what these episode titles might mean, below.
And the titles are: "LA X," "What Kate Does," [Episode 6.3 - which I guess means, "title to come"], "The Substitute," "Lighthouse," "Sundown," "Dr. Linus," "Recon," and "Ab Aeterno."
Here's where I become a crazy "Lost" fan, conjecturing about what some of those episodes might contain without even for sure knowing where the beginning of this season finds us. I love this stuff. I love that I know enough about the characters to make guesses as to what they'll do in a future or past I have no knowledge of, based solely on a word or two. I love imagining where these established characters will go, and will delight even if this season proves me wrong. It's like a textually minded person's dream. I've spent way too much time on this today, but I like to believe it helped clear my mind, so I can focus on work this week.
But if 2010's final episodes of "Lost" have me institutionalized and playing chess with Mr. Eko's ghost, we'll know it all started here. If you want to peek inside my crazed mind, my theories based on nothing but a few words begin after the jump.
So, what do we remember about 2009? Or more importantly, how did we "vote with our fingers" about what pop culture elements we'll remember about 2009?
According to the Facebook Memology (yes, it's a scientific study now, performed by the Facebook data research division) top 15 status trends of 2009, we think Farmville (and other Facebook applications) is more status-worthy than celebrity deaths, religion, family or even ourselves ("I" ranked at #15).
And on Twitter, a tool that I'm still explaining to most of the people I meet, they did Trending Topics top ten lists in seven categories, including People, News Stories, Sports, Technology, Movies, TV Shows and Hashtags. To sum up the year using the top two of each top ten list, 2009 looks approximately like this:
Iran Election, Swine Flu, Michael Jackson, Susan Boyle, Google Wave, Snow Leopard, SuperBowl, Lakers, Harry Potter, New Moon, American Idol, Glee, #musicmonday and, to round out the list, #iranelection.
If you add the #3 position on all those charts, you get:
Gaza, Adam Lambert, District 9, Teen Choice Awards, Tweetdeck, Wimbledon, and #sxsw.
What do you think? Does this list reveal more about what actually happened or more about our fears and anxieties? Should there be a 3-day waiting period for parents applying for videocamera ownership? And will 2010 be more of the same?
I seldom use this space to cry "anti-Semitism" or to rail at the misogynist patriarchy, but every once in a while, the Jewish feminist in me uses her guest posting privileges.
Over the past week or so, my Jewish circles online and off have been buzzing about two things. Most recently, this video ("The Coastie Song," via DCC at Jewschool) from the University of Wisconsin that is an ode to (or perhaps a condemnation of) the East Coast Jewish honeys who are blowing Daddy's money. But even before that came this Details magazine article by Christopher Noxon, celebrating "The Rise of the Hot Jewish Girl" - with its subtitle of "Why American Men Are Lusting After Women of the Tribe," hailed by many as a long-overdue paean to Jewish girls, or women.
After a few mentions of Rachel Weisz, Natalie Portman, and Mila Kunis, the focus is revealed to be Jewish women in pornography. As feminist site Jezebel noted, "It's a pretext for a package of "JILFS" (guess) that include photos of and interviews with starlets whose appeal hasn't historically hinged on their rabbinical status." Are these two pieces of popular culture evidence for the appeal of Jewish women, or are they insults masked as compliments? Are they anti-Jewish, or anti-women, or neither?
It's not that the "Coasties" song itself is so bad - I mean, these guys didn't invent the term (although they did put a beat to defining it) - and with or without "Coasties," the JAP stereotype (as much as all stereotypes) is still alive and well. As a friend just pointed out in an IM chat, women getting offended by this video is kind of like him getting offended by a portrayal of the ludicrous men on "Jersey Shore" (which I'm not sure about, but I get what he's saying).
I'm pretty sure that this stereotype has skipped me - I've neither the money nor the inclination to spend $500 (or even $15) on sunglasses or wear Uggs (although I admit, I am from the East Coast and occasionally drink Starbucks). But as a single Jewish woman, I still suffer the fallout from stereotypes. After years of writing about relationships between Jewish men and women, I believe that anything that paints Jewish women in general as superficial damages the reputation of all Jewish women, and empowers others to use this stereotype as fact in conversations and in cultural products. (Despite it's clever riff on "Gold Digger," this is why I'm not a fan of the "Gelt Digger" t-shirts.)
People who may not know many Jewish women and who form their opinions of things based on popular culture may see this kind of video in a vacuum and determine that the behavior depicted is typical, or may read the Details article and think all Jewish women are porn stars. But even people who should know better and who deal with Jews many times a day use these tropes to justify bad dating behavior. I think there's a reason that on JDaters Anonymous, my most-commented-on post of the last two years is "Driving the Jewish Men Away," offered originally in jest, but leading to some bitter conversation on why Jewish women may or may not be at fault for the lack of available, willing Jewish men.
When I think of Los
Angeles, I think of the things that inspired
my move from New York: the
sunshine even (and especially) in winter, the beach, the mountains, the air. These are peaceful images, all yoga-hippy-dippy, all love beads and tranquil meditation. People speak of the brutality
of Hollywood, of the superficiality
and the smog, but for me, the mere existence of nature so close to the urban experience is a huge and peaceful
upgrade, and there’s no brutality to be found.
Then, that day, I felt the weight in my hand, the clichéd cold
steel that seemed simultaneously impartial and vindictive.My hands were peaceful; my heart unencumbered
by grudges. But somehow, a .357 Magnum doesn’t seem to care.
It happened fairly spontaneously: a friend was in town and
we were trying to find something unexpected to do. What was the last thing that
two Jewish female Democrats would do? We asked Google, and found the Los
Angeles Gun Club. We looked at each other, hesitated only a moment, and said
We made our way to a sketchy, semi-deserted part of downtown
– a hipster clothing factory and a sign welcomed us: Los Angeles Gun Club.
Our man behind the counter, Joseph, gave us a quick safety tutorial, took our thumbprints and showed us a few guns. One of the guns was
a Beretta: the magazine popped into the handle quickly, with a
satisfying click, with pressure from the palm of the holder’s hand. It
seemed attractive, and simple, but the instructions for safe use
were very complicated. Since a part of me was still shocked and terrified that
I was peering through glass at display cases of weapons, we decided that
simplicity was key and went with a classic, the .357 Magnum. And we chose a
target – an orange torso, poor fella had no idea what was coming. [At left: His sibling, with organs delineated for easy perforation, who was the subject of a later slaughter.]
we suited up with earplugs, ear protectors, and eye shields – a very unsexy look, I might add - took the gun and
a box of ammo, and headed into the firing range area. Only a few others were there that afternoon, but even
those few bullets exploding around us did something to my nerves. There’s no etiquette about courtesy in shooting like there is in bowling ("after you, no, after you!"), mostly because each shooter’s vision is limited – within each booth, they can only see their target, and not what’s happening around them. So the gun reports aren’t consecutive; they overlap at non-standard intervals, sounding like a cross between fireworks and bombs.
My friend, braver than I am on any given day,
went first. Her first shot – straight into the center of Orange Man’s torso, was so perfect that we reeled that target back immediately, kept it otherwise
pristine as a trophy, and started fresh with a second target. She squeezed off
a few more bullets, and then handed the gun over to me.
I was in New York very briefly last weekend before flying back to Los Angeles, and did something I almost never did while I lived in New York: I intentionally went to Times Square and saw a show, the amazing "Rock of Ages," which I'd wanted to see for a while.
"Rock of Ages," which starred the amazingly powerful and nuanced performance of American Idol finalist Constantin Maroulis, featured all the 80s music that I listened to as a teenager - it was the soundtrack of my life, much like it was the soundtrack of this show. From Journey to Foreigner, from Poison to Pat Benatar, it was all there. Of course, there's no confusing this show - a paean to the rock/metal lifestyle - with my teenage experiences (um, yeshiva day school anyone? Why was I listening to Def Leppard?). But the nostalgia factor was amazing, and the energy of the cast was simply off the charts.
Standout performances were the Jack-Black-meets-Bill-Hader style of Mitchell Jarvis (the Narrator) and of course, Buffy alum Tom Lenk (Franz), who rocked out in amazingly committed character.
After the show, having decided in advance not to stalk the actors, we headed out toward the lights.
Times Square was cold, but the location itself draws crowds no matter what the weather; now, thanks to urban planners, the nexus of all things Broadway and tourist-related has undergone an overhaul. I almost didn't recognize it. But what I did notice was that, as a tourist, it definitely looks different than when you're a resident 40 blocks to the north.
In surveying the changes, I also had the chance to try out my new toy - a Flip Mino HD video camera - that my parents, thanks to the insightful whispers of Hanukkah Harry, gave me for Hanukkah this year.
Check out my first official Flip video here, featuring a cameo by my finger over part of the lens. Hopefully it's way more interesting than those 15-second spots they're using in the Flip commercials.
Enjoy - more videos are on the way, whether you want them or not...
Rumor has it that this bit was pitched after one of the writers saw Hatch's video on a Jewish blog. If I manage to dig up details on that, I'll share it here first - but in the interim, watch the clip below and read my post on Beliefnet's Idol Chatter.