The demand for instant gratification and embracing sexual fantasies in lieu of physical intimacy
It’s a warm Friday night. The patios have finally reopened, the beer is flowing freely, single men and women are flocking to the spring clothes littering the backs of their closets and heading out on the prowl.
At the back of a poorly lit rooftop bar, you catch the eye of a handsome stranger, playing the lustful eye game until you muster up some of that false liquid courage and saunter over to introduce yourself.
An adorably forced laugh here, a less than subtle graze of his hand there, and before you know it you’re both picking up the bills while you send off a triumphant text message to your roommate informing them you probably won’t be home in the morning.
The night is spent with awkward first moves and light banter inside his apartment before it’s time to get down to business. It’s wild, it’s passionate, and in forty-five minutes, it’s over.
You grab your shoes to leave but he grabs your wrist, asking you to stay the night. You slyly smile to yourself and hesitantly agree, lying back down with the promise of a repeat performance in the morning.
Or at least, that’s what you want people to believe you did.
Let’s face it, in the age of Grindr and Tinder, more and more Friday nights are being spent in the comfort of your own bed, by yourself, and furiously typing out raunchy message after raunchy message.
The Friday night hook up has been replaced with the Friday night sext session with someone you’ll probably never end up meeting in real life.
I have a couple of theories as to why we’ve become obsessed with this contactless version of intimacy and it has nothing to do with the technologically dominated world we live in. Nor, does it have anything to do with a decreased interest in sex or a declination for physical intimacy.
It comes down to our need to control and our obsession with fantastical perfection. We don’t want to rely on another person to fulfill our deepest desires. Instead, we want the adrenaline rush of letting ourselves go bare with a complete and total stranger but still maintain the ability to steer the night’s events into creating the most pleasurable experience for ourselves.
We’re a generation empowered by pornography. We’re a generation empowered by a wealth of freedom to explore sexuality in all its bountiful forms. We’re a generation so engrossed with dipping our toes into every kind of sexual practice available to us, that actually participating in the act fades into the background and having someone, almost virtual, participate in helping to form your own fantasy becomes the number one goal.
Take your average Tinder user. The majority of people using the app will communicate with a large group of men or women. It’s a candy store. How can one choose just which candy bar they went to take home and savor without knowing how the rest of the delectable looking treats taste? The second stage is moving past the aesthetic and talking to four or five. The messages start off flirty and funny, usually coming up with a terrible joke based on something the person has written in their profile.
The third stage is actually moving beyond the flirty text messages to actual sexting. Usually, it’s just dialogue, but from time to time, the people engaged with the idea of getting each other off over an illuminated screen may move to texting or other services like Keke to send each other photos.
What once used to happen on one date at a restaurant ten years ago has turned into a night of explicit conversation without the awkwardness of telling the other person you never want to see them again or having timid conversations about what you need in bed. Instead, because you don’t actually know the other person, you may not even know their real name, the only aspect of the four-hour relationship you have to worry about is how fast you can reach your orgasmic end.
You don’t even have to fake being interested in the other person’s pleasure because they can’t see you. They can’t hear you. You can fake an explicit message and suavely make it appear you’re interested in them reaching their own pleasurable end, but you both know you don’t.
In an era of sexting and digital sexuality, instant gratification derived from real time fantasy building has replaced a large portion of people’s desire to have physical sex as often as they can.
Of course, there’s still a part of us, as human beings, that clings to the idea of finding a partner to explore these fantasies with. It’s why, as much as we all value our personal time with various porn sites and different erotica authors, the idea of using a site like FetLife or Grindr, apps targeting a specific demographic with one precise intention, are still popular.
We cling to the fantasy of finding the perfect individual who meets our almost scientific demands and needs, even though logically we know that person doesn’t exist. That person has been built up in our minds after years –maybe decades- of media oversaturation. We’ve developed parasocial relationships with television characters and fallen in love with literary idols.
When you combine the accessibility of living out your deepest desires digitally with a stranger you can mold into the fictitious person you’ve become deeply infatuated with, the fantasy becomes the sexual escape you flock to, not the actual act itself.
When I talk to friends, it doesn’t surprise me to hear that after even the most intense sexual encounters with their partners or strangers, they find time to pleasure themselves before falling asleep or continuing on with their day.
The idea of a euphoric feeling sex was supposed to deliver, as promised by Hollywood screenwriters and smizes from Playboy models, has been disproven, but the fantasy of what could potentially happen never died.
We live in a world where we create fictional versions of ourselves in fantasy games, where our social media accounts are fantasy versions of ourselves, where our entire persona changes the minute we enter a chatroom.
Why should anyone be surprised that we’re choosing to embrace a world of what ifs, sexually, instead of being disappointed by the real thing time and time again when it doesn’t match up?
Sex isn’t about physical intimacy anymore; it’s about chasing the instant orgasm. It no longer matters whose hand it takes to get there.
Top 15 New TV Shows of 2014
15.) Peaky Blinders
Peaky Blinders flew under the radar for most Netflix subscribers.
The lack of marketing and promotion failed to highlight the Cillian Murphy period gangster piece that became crime drama the world needed after Nucky Thompson took his last stroll on Boardwalk Empire.
Set in 1918 Birmingham, Peaky Blinders follows Murphy’s Thomas Shelby as he tries to move up the ranks in the local gang that rules over the northern English city.
Murphy is the true star of the series, but the elegant writing juxtaposed the gritty violence that escalates with every episode draws you in from the pilot.
It’s one of the best Netflix shows that was just made available on the Canadian server, and if you’re looking to fill that Terrence Winter void in your living room, this is the perfect place to start.
Ian McKellan. 'Nuff said.
Let’s face it, in the day of Reddit popularity and Tumblr fandom saving shows, this should be a no brainer.
Vicious is technically a 2013 show, but it didn’t premier in North America until July of this year on PBS, so according to rules made up by this writer, it definitely counts.
Starring McKellan as the wryly witty Freddie Thornhill opposite Derek Jacobi who plays his dotting and loving partner Stuart Bixby. Although a comedy, the authenticity and adoration the two veteran actors approach their characters with brings a rare warmth to the show.
Vicious manages to find the perfect balance time and time again of emotional story arcs and typical British humour, flipping back and forth between self-deprecating sentiments and flirtatious insults that roll off McKellan’s tongue with ease.
It’s hard to do a show that takes most of its cues from a specific race. It’s harder to do a sitcom that plays off of a certain race or gender. It’s perhaps most difficult to do both of these things and do it well. When Black-ish was first announced at the upfronts in the summer, it was difficult to take the show seriously and see it for anything more than another sitcom trying to rise off the death bed it was currently lying in.
Critics were wrong.
Black-ish is a refreshing and modern take on a formula shows like The Jeffersons and Fresh Prince of Bel-Air introduced, which all focused on families struggling to keep parts of their culture alive in a world dominated by privileged white folks.
The team behind the show is able to get the moral of their episode across without ever feeling preachy, leaving each episode more thought provoking than the last.
Bill Nye once infamously uttered, “Science rules.” He made a whole generation of kids in the ‘90s and early ‘00s not entirely dread heading into a science class at 8:55 in the morning.
What he was able to do for those kids, Neil DeGrasse Tyson has been able to do for this generation.
Cosmos is based on revered astrophysicist’s Carl Sagan’s previous show of the same name. Updated with stunning computer generated images of the cosmic universe and embedded with nifty graphics and eclectic animations, there’s rarely a dull moment during the entire season.
Tyson pulls off difficult explanations brilliantly, allowing his passion for both teaching and the physics of outer space shine through whenever he’s talking about a black hole or just how many infinite possibilities exist not only in our galaxy, but the billions of galaxies that are floating around ours.
Someone should have asked him to be a consultant on Christopher Nolan’s Interstellar.
11.) How to Get Away with Murder
How to Get Away with Creating a Prime Time Telenovela Hidden Behind a Shonda Rhimes Executive Produced Show.
At least, that’s what I would have called it.
There’s no doubt about it, How to Get Away with Murder is as over the top as you can get, even by Shonda Rhimes’ (Scandal, Grey’s Anatomy) standards.
Viola Davis stuns as the devastatingly sharp and conflicted lawyer Anna Lise Keating. Taking on similar narrative trajectories like Twin Peaks and Harper’s Island, the audience is introduced to the murder of Anna Lise’s husband, Sam (Tom Verica), with each subsequent episode providing more clues to solve in a typical whodunit.
Like most procedural-serialization hybrids, the procedural cases get lost in the drama surrounding the murder and the five law students that become involved in it.
Each episode is more ludicrous than the last, but lead by Davis’ stunning acting and Norwak’s helplessly addicting storytelling, this show became appointment TV (like his former boss’ shows have become). That alone is a great feat in the age of PVR, Netflix, and internet piracy.
10.) Penny Dreadful
This could have gone horribly. I think most people were expecting it too.
A Van Helsing like story that incorporates some of the most beloved (or hated, depending on which English Lit class you ask) literary characters of the past few centuries.
Fortunately, Showtime gave creator Josh Logan (Skyfall, Gladiator writer) free reign and total control of the series. The result is tremendously horrific. It’s frightening without being gory and supernatural without being cheesy. Using the 1800s as a backdrop makes it all the more believable for some reason, as do the English accents.
The show has a literary aroma blanketing it, and yet doesn’t inflict any kind of pretension someone taking an English Lit class may be looking for.
Reeve Carney soars as the sexually adventurous and sly Dorian Gray, but the true star of the series is Eva Green. Playing Vanessa Ives, a woman held hostage by a demonic being, her bouts of physical acting as her body spasms is astounding. Contrasted with her soft spoken, almost shy yet bold character, she provides one of the best performances on television this year.
9.) You’re the Worst
2014 was the year of the twenty-two minute romantic comedy. 2014 will also be regarded as the year the over saturated, overly abundant tired romantic comedy sub genre of comedy on television nearly destroyed the entire collective.
Luckily, FX premiered a small comedy called You’re the Worst that bravely went where Sex and the City went before it. Unlike Sex and the City, however, the main advantage You’re the Worst had was its totally believable characters.
The situations, although exaggerated, were conceivable and added to the humour of each episode. In many ways, although completely different in plot and characters, You’re the Worst is reminiscent of Modern Family’s early years. Taking simple things that happen in daily life and that occur when dealing with relationships and exaggerating them slightly proves it’s still the best way to go when writing a comedy of this nature.
I.E, the Friends method.
8.) BoJack Horseman
BoJack Horseman, an animated satire about a washed up actor (who happens to be a horse) trying to write a book that will bring him into the public eye once again, was one of the best-written shows to debut this year.
A Netflix original, Will Arnett’s monotonous, apathetic voice works sublimely with the character. His deadpan humour comes through brilliantly, as does Aaron Paul’s youthful sunny and carefree disposition with his slacking sidekick character Todd Chavez.
Full of animal related puns (there are penguins running a publishing house) and quick jabs at actors like Andrew Garfield, the show examines the crazy, borderline psychopathic, obsession we have with celebrities and fame.
Patrick Carney’s incredible theme song should also receive praise for setting the mood wonderfully and giving television theme songs a much needed revival.
7.) Silicon Valley
Let’s just get this out there now: “Tip to Tip Efficiency” is the best episode of comedic television to appear this year.
The glorious return from Mike Judge (Office Space, Beavis and Butthead) focuses on an area he knows all too well: Silicon Valley, and provides an eye opening, satirical take on the entire industry. From the elite whiteness of the ever growing tech community, to the constant pressure to create the next big app, to dealing with weird investors and money grabbing friends, there has never been a better time for a show like Silicon Valley to be released.
In the year where the sitcom has begun to perish and niche comedy has built one of the strongest audiences to date for the genre, Silicon Valley is the perfect example of a show that can work for a mainstream audience.
But again, this wouldn’t have been possible without an audience heavily invested in their own social media presence or without the recent immersion from mainstream media in Silicon Valley.
Best of all, the show is hilarious, never missing a beat and never sacrificing the comedy aspect to point out some obvious atrocity with the way the sector is run.
I wasn’t as in love with the Fargo television adaptation as most other critics (it was the top show in the HitFix Critics Poll), but I did appreciate it.
FX has become one of the best networks for oddball comedy and drama, often times focusing on the sweet dramedy that seems to drive audiences wild, and Fargo is proof of programming done well on the perfect hosting network. Colin Hanks and Martin Freeman shine as Gus Grimly and Lester Nygaard, although the entire cast does a remarkable job with their characters.
The show is darkly funny, and the suspense carries over with each episode. It’s one of the few shows were the cinematography and directing is on par with the acting and there are a few frames that stick out as cinematic pleasures.
5.) Last Week Tonight with Jon Oliver
There’s a moment in Kung-Fu movies when the student overtakes the master and the audience has to restrain themselves from cheering out loud.
The same incidence occurred with Jon Oliver this past summer when he left his cushy position on The Daily Show with Jon Stewart and held his own weekly news roasting show.
Combining the new found freedom to explore his own brand of comedy and being able to use explicit photos and language on HBO was the last ingredient he needed to make a near perfect half hour variety program work. Like Stewart and Stephen Colbert, Oliver tackled the idiocy of politics and culture, but unlike his former coworkers, branched off into world affairs and donated eight minutes at a time to a certain topic, deconstructing it and examining the hypocrisy at each level before continuing onto the next subject.
Oliver not only managed to rebrand the variety show genre many were used to with Colbert and Stewart, but rejuvenated the idea of intelligent comedy.
4.) The Knick
The exemplary show proving there was still room for directors in a writers medium.
Although the writing on The Knick was great, and the acting (especially from lead Clive Owen) was superb, it was Steven Soderbergh’s directing that made the show special. From the very first frame of the show, a shot of Clive Owen’s white shoes contrasted against the shadowy blackness of an opium den in 1900’s New York City, the use of monochromatic colours juxtaposed brilliantly bright specks of reds and whites, managed to captivate with each episode. Even when the story dragged slightly, the audience could count on stunning visuals and brilliant choreography (including a beautifully shot drunken fight that framed Andre Holland’s Dr. Edwards face masterfully) to keep them entertained.
One of the greatest feats of the show, however, was using gory imagery without relying on violence to shock. Surgery is a horrific if not genius field. At the end of the day, someone if still slicing, drilling, carving, and sawing into a body, hoping to not nick any major arteries to keep a dying man or woman alive for a while longer. The entire act is macabre, and the use of gory surgical scenes embeds that thought –or realization, rather- into the mind of anyone watching it. It doesn’t glorify the procedures as most surgical dramas do, nor does it show off the doctors as the star players that can do no wrong. The doctors are anti-heroes, full of narcissistic god complexes and a taste for narcotics that aid their near crippling addictions. They’re fallible and in many ways, that’s even more terrifying than the surgeries they perform.
Watching Owen’s Dr. Thackery inject himself with liquid cocaine and then perform a C-section never gets less shocking, and that’s remarkable.
Like BoJack Horseman, credit should be given to Cliff Martinez for his anachronistic score. The electronic beats that play throughout the episodes don’t fit the time period they’re accompanying, but manage to provoke the feeling that you’re watching Dr. Frankenstein at work rather than surgeons. It’s a powerful feeling that Martinez cultivates magnificently.
3.) Broad City
Lena Dunham could stand to learn a thing or two about writing comedy from Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson.
Even though the latter two hate the comparison (although they’ve gone on record time and time again to explain they understand it), it’s hard not to. Both are about twenty-somethings navigating the world around them as they try to cope with crappy jobs, crappy relationships, friends with benefits, and fitting in as an adult in an adult world when you still feel like you’re sixteen.
Unlike Dunham, where Glazer and Jacobson shine is through their authentic self-deprecating vibes. They’re not optimistic about the future and they’re not trying to make it in an American dream field like writing, acting, or playing music professionally. At the end of the day, all they want to do is get paid, have sex, and smoke some ganja. It’s hard to stop yourself from exclaiming, “Oh my god, yes! That’s exactly it,” while watching any episode.
The show is technically niche, but has become so relatable to so many people, it’s difficult to find someone who hasn’t watched it and related to it. Best of all, Broad City allows the audience to see their problems reflected back at them and understand that they’re not the only ones who are dealing with these insecurities and conflicting feelings about trying to survive a world you were suddenly thrust into.
The jokes are consistent in quality and each episode gets more emotionally invested than the last, but it still remains a show that you can drop in on any episode and enjoy.
Most of all, Broad City was one of the first shows that proved web series could be expanded and fill a half hour block on television successfully. Here’s to hoping High Maintenance receives the same nod in the new year.
2.) True Detective
The obvious choice on everyone’s list and for good reason, True Detective became the reason appointment television found a slight bump in return among younger audiences.
This was the show that crashed HBO Go anytime a new episode aired, and inspired torrents of complaints via Twitter from college students who were trying to use their parents account while hosting viewing parties from their dorm rooms.
True Detective perfectly mashed together a barrage of popular television dramas. It was mysterious, dramatic, had a fascinating crime hook, and used two widely beloved actors as their main stars. Most importantly, it was written intelligently and didn’t treat its audience as foolish zombies just clicking through channels. The show took cues from obscure science-fiction novels and outdated philosophy that sent the internet into a frenzy trying to piece together the remaining pieces of a puzzle. It was the most interactive viewing experience since Twin Peaks and on top of all of this, was exceptionally produced.
Nic Pizzolatto understands characters in the same way Aaron Sorkin used to understand narrative, besting the writing each new episode. On top of that, Cary Fukunga masterfully captured the tension of the series with his framing and created one of the best long tracking shots on modern day television. True Detective felt like a show where each episode deserved a second or even third watch to properly understand everything that was going on, and it didn’t feel like a chore either, unlike when you settle in to watch the last Hobbit movie before the new one to remember everything that’s happened and berate yourself for buying tickets to the new one afterwards.
To be honest, I don’t know if people fell more in love with the show or the pandemonium that grew into a subculture behind it, but whatever it did, it certainly enticed millions. Good luck trying to best this with a second season, Pizzolatto.
1.) The Affair
Most human beings care about three things in their life: their children, their careers, and their relationships. Most human beings are also terribly messy when it comes to all three. The career we’re in isn’t what we wanted, the kids are growing up to be assholes, and our relationship has been boring and sexless for the past three years. The Affair takes a look into all three categories of being human and explores the dark side to each.
But that isn’t what makes it interesting.
What makes it interesting is the Rorschach approach creators Sarah Treem and Hagai Levi took to exploring all three situations.
Focusing on the affair between Noah Soloway (Dominic West) and Allison Lockhart (Ruth Wilson), they have while Noah and his family vacation at the Hamptons inevitably gets to the same place early in the season, but there are subtle changes in each of their stories that are far more interesting than the story itself. Instead, we get a look at how two people approach an act like an affair and the differences they see to how the whole event started and continued to escalate.
Often times, Allison remembers Noah being far more aggressive and initiating any kind of sexual flirtation between the two, while Noah recalls Allison being the flirtier of the two. The Affair challenges the ideas of perception in any relationship and that’s what so fascinating about every episode. In the background there’s a murder investigation and family life, but the true story is how these two broken people approach the affair that acts as their escape from their own dreary lives.
They use each other the same way an addict uses a substance or an alcoholic may use whiskey to exhilarate their life and dull their own reality for a couple of hours. Like addicts, though, there are consequences to their actions and The Affair does a phenomenal job of showcasing the other side of their situation from each other’s partners. Like an affair, the subject matter is exhilarating and it’s sexy in the naughtiest way possible. You can’t love Noah or Allison, but you also can’t help rooting them on.
They’re the villains, and as Chuck Klosterman said in his book Black Hats, there’s a part of us that resonates with the villains. It’s one of the best takes on human moral drama in recent years and has become, without a doubt, my favourite new show of the season.
Video stores: Don't you forget about me
Quentin Tarantino and I don’t have much in common.
He’s an Oscar winning director, beloved by critics and actors alike, who’s spent the last twenty plus years of his life drastically changing the face of film.
I’m a twenty-two year old, mediocre writer who’s trying to figure out what to do with the rest of my life and blissfully guilt tripping my friends to click on whatever pretentious and slightly better than alright thing I wrote this month.
To draw a comparison between Tarantino and myself would be farcical and I won’t even try to bother.
What I will say, however, is that Quentin Tarantino and I share one illuminating experience.
But this one-shared experience is like a fraternity or a sorority, or perhaps most accurately, belonging to the same av club twenty years apart.
We’ve never met, but we could talk for days about incidents that happened in our own lives and it would transcend any boundary the conversation might have held otherwise.
It’s like seeing a passing club member ten years after your high school graduation and giving a small nod, an acknowledgment of the other person, an embracement of what was once shared.
Quentin Tarantino and I may have vastly different lives, but at one point or another in each of ours, we worked at a video and record store.
That miniscule job, on the corner of some street or hidden in some suburban street plaza, would forever change the landscape of our lives.
I started working at HMV, a British corporate movie and music retail chain that eventually opened up shop in Canada, when I was sixteen years old.
Sixteen. It’s the quintessential age to any John Hughes movie, and as clichéd as it may sound, it was the perfect moment for me to start working in a store like HMV.
Sixteen is first love, first hangover, first rebellious act, first all night concert, first joint, and the first time you really start to discover music and films.
Before then, the music you listened to was mostly top 40 or whatever your parents had lying around on the floors of their cars. If you were lucky, you had an older brother or sister that had decent taste in music you could quietly steal from.
For the most part, though, you weren’t out digging for new bands or bands of decades past that you heard about through the grapevine. You weren’t scanning the zines weekly to find out who the hip new punk act was and you weren’t checking the back of NOW Magazine to see which bands were playing that week.
When you’re in your teens, however, music becomes a vital part of your life. It defines the type of person you are, the type of image you want to project, and in many situations, the types of friends you develop along the way.
When I was sixteen, I was all about the small amount of rebellion suburban kids so desperately crave. I was tired of all night hangouts in the parking lots of different Tim Horton’s, watching 30-year-old men lazily pass a soccer ball around and obtusely yell bro-downs at one another. I craved the type of adventure I heard in the music I listened to and started venturing downtown with a core group of friends, checking out local bands, getting piercings and tattoos, and making friends with some of the strangest people I had ever seen in my 5,843 days on Earth.
Screamo bands like Alesana, Chiodos, Every Time I Die, and From First to Last got me pumped up for the mission commute we’d routinely have to pull, while pop-punk bands like All Time Low, Motion City Soundtrack, The Matches, and Blink 182 set the mood for when we eventually stepped onto the Osgoode subway platform and breathed in the dank circulated air of the city, the intoxication of the bustling Queen St. W filling our lungs.
Before I started working at HMV, I was listening to music that my friends I had made in high school were listening to. I didn’t have much to go off on at home. My sisters were on the other side of the city and listened to, what I considered back then, primarily garbage music.
Looking back on it now, I would not categorize Sloan as garbage music.
But I still wasn’t looking for my own music. I was happy to embrace what my friends were sharing with me, and the rush I got from cutting class to spend the day downtown before a friend’s punk show made me fall head over heels for the scene, but it still didn’t feel quite like mine.
I never knew why, either, until I started working at HMV.
HMV, like any record shop, is a playground of exploration.
Thousands upon thousands of albums just laying around, whispering to be picked up and listened to as you walk by.
I started working at the Woodbridge location in October, and even though it was only seasonal at the time, after spending close to two years trying to get a job interview, I quickly quit my part time job at a computer store and put all my effort into securing one of the coveted post seasonal positions with the store.
I upsold anything I could, helped as many customers as humanely possible, and picked up as many extra shifts as I could.
In my spare downtime, I shopped.
Do you remember that scene in Matilda, when she goes to the library and gets offered a library card so she can bring books home? Mara Wilson’s smile when she learns she can actually bring home more than one book with her is the closest image I can think of for how I felt when I learned we could listen to albums in the back if we promised to reseal them and put them back on the floor before our shift ended.
Suddenly I was discovering music I never thought possible before. I was discovering genres and musical styles from different countries I didn’t care about exploring prior to getting my job at the shop, and perhaps most importantly, I was discovering that the people I would spend the next four years with, who I am fortunate enough to call some of my closest friends, had the exact same passion.
Within no time, daily shifts turned into deep conversations about the latest artist we were listening to, energetically shuffling through new shipments of product in case an anticipated album had come in, and educational sessions about a band we didn’t know about prior to cracking open the latest issue of Q.
I went into HMV as someone interested in music and as someone who fell in love with live music, with the sound of hundreds of screaming kids feeling their hearts beat to the rhythm of the drums at the same time. I fell in love with the community music brings out in people, and most importantly, I fell in love with the musicians who made the music that gave me all of this and more possible.
While at HMV, I was able to define my musical tastes and went from being someone interested in music to a full blown audiophile. Someone who checks the different blogs daily, who still picks up Rolling Stone or Exclaim! to read an interview with an aspiring artist or a legendary producer. I went from someone who had a brief love affair with a fleeting scene to someone who cannot imagine a life without new music daily.
While music was definitely a large aspect to my time at HMV, it came nowhere close to the education I received in film and television.
Let me back up for a second and set the scene for you.
When I was fourteen years old I was in the ninth grade. At the beginning of every year, each student was handed a free agenda with the assumed knowledge they would use it to diligently jot down what homework they had to do that night and record important upcoming dates for tests and assignments.
I used my agenda diligently, but it wasn’t for jotting down homework or assignment dates.
Instead, in the era of live television actually meaning something, when Netflix and PVR’s were merely a concept in Reed Hasting’s and other executives minds, I would almost obsessively write down what shows I had to watch that night and at what time.
Fridays were reserved for upcoming movie releases I couldn’t miss and everything that went into this agenda was colour coded.
Red meant that show took precedence and was usually reserved for Grey’s Anatomy on a Thursday. Orange meant I should definitely watch it, yellow meant I should try to but it could be missed for an orange or red coloured show, and grey meant it looked interesting but could certainly be missed.
Movies, of course, were always coloured in green.
Growing up, I always felt a little like Abed. In elementary school, I would often try to express how I was feeling through different scenes in shows or movies that seemed to say what I wanted to say with less stuttering and more punchlines.
Today, we have gifs to do this for us. In 2005, it all came down to whether or not that person had seem the same episode of The O.C. you had.
As a kid, I was lucky enough to have parents with great taste in television and a passion for the medium. Saturdays were spent watching cartoons from the ‘50s and ‘60s, while weekday evenings were spent watching hours of Roseanne, Three’s Company, M*A*S*H*, All in the Family, Growing Pains, Who’s The Boss, and so many others.
I would spend free time in the seventh grade rewriting episodes of Law & Order or trying to write jokes that simply fell flat for Ralph and Alice on The Honeymooners.
I, like so many of my friends today, found comfort in the fictional lives of television characters and I, like so many of the writers I know and admire greatly today, always found the scenarios in my head between fictitious people far more interesting than what reality had to offer.
It was my deep love for television in particular, but film as well, that made me apply to work at HMV year after year.
I just wanted a discount on television box sets.
Enter sixteen-year-old me, a teenager with a pretty great knowledge base of television shows and television history, a girl with a crush on Norman Lear, and ready to spend all the hard earned money I would make on the store that was paying me.
I was prepared to help customers out and recommend shows, but what I wasn’t prepared for, and what I am truly grateful for now, were the recommendations customers would enthusiastically give back and the amazing conversation that stemmed from them.
Like any store, HMV had regulars. Some of them we as a staff could have done without seeing for months at a time, but most were part of the reason going into work every day was exciting.
Customers who had worked on different television shows or films, or had amazing stories about partying with the guys from Rush and waking up in a bar somewhere on the outskirts of Ontario with no recollection of how they got there. Which, by the way, was an actual story from a customer. It was a pretty interesting Saturday morning that day.
These customers showed me a whole new world of television I didn’t even know existed and in doing so, strengthened my knowledge of the medium and made me hungry to learn all that I could.
We would spend hours in the store, going through the different sections and learning about different programs, where they got their influences from, the writers that made the entire series possible, and passionately waving our hands around in the air as we shared our love for the idiot box with someone else who got it.
It wasn’t just customers, either. All of my coworkers were television buffs and the amount of information I learned from them was indispensable.
Like Tarantino has said in past interviews, there’s no better film education than working at a video store and just watching movies.
It was like that at our store. We’d often throw on a television show or movie we had been interested in seeing and would watch it from the register area when there were no customers in the store.
The first ever episode of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia I ever saw was the Christmas special. I vividly remember watching it on Christmas Eve with two other coworkers who were scheduled to come in and set up the Boxing Day sales and laughing harder than I had in a long time.
I bought the first season two days later. Three days after that, I bought the second and third seasons, too. I was hooked and it was all because of a friend’s decision to throw it on while we worked.
It wasn’t just television, though. I would sift through our film section weekly and buy a couple of movies each week.
Often times, the purchases were based on directors that had been recommended to me by customers or coworkers, and as the months flew by, and my already active research into film became even more invested, I started ordering strange movie titles a critic I admired gaggled on about for weeks, and after watching it, would lend it out to a coworker who was also interested in seeing it.
HMV gave me the education I needed to pursue my career as a critic and to feel confident in the product I wanted to talk about for the rest of my life.
But HMV gave me something else far greater. It was the perfect part time job to use as a backdrop for my own coming of age story.
I experienced heartbreak and love while stocking Nick Cave albums and experienced a brief love affair with teenage drinking against the backdrop of National Lampoon movies.
I was able to come into my own surrounded by popular culture and revered films, albums, and shows.
Today is International Independent Video Store day, and while HMV is by no means an independent store, the experiences I had in that store are very similar.
Last May, my friends and I watched as the doors to the store closed one last time and we said goodbye to the record and movie shop that had served our suburb for almost thirty years.
I remember looking at each of my coworkers and thinking how fortunate I was to be able to call them all friends, the ensemble in my own teenage movie.
Record and video shops allow passionate people to embrace different forms of art and make lifelong connections with people who are just as enamored with it as they are.
Those aforementioned customers? They came by when the store was closing and we shared heart felt goodbyes, hugs, Tim Horton’s coffee and doughnuts.
As much as HMV shaped my life, it shaped the lives of the people in the community, too.
The world is becoming more and more digital, with no real reason for anyone to have to venture out and buy a physical CD, DVD, record, Blu-Ray, or whatever ever again.
But take it from someone who sold you those things for four years: your contribution to these stores matter.
Can you imagine a world without video shops? Where you can’t walk in and start talking about the latest Twin Peaks news with a bunch of other film nerds?
Video stores are a shining light in the massive industry and they’re slowly losing the kerosene keeping them lit.
Go out and buy a movie today, or even just strike up a conversation with the guy or girl behind the register.
I promise you, it’ll keep that flame lit just a tiny bit longer.
Remixing pop culture one art form at a time
By: Elijah Masek-Kelly
Popular culture is everywhere.
No matter how trivial, superficial, or insignificant one may find it to be, millions of people are going to be engrossed by it. It will be that song stuck in your head, or in today’s internet addicted age, the GIF you watched thirty-seven times in a row. For many, it’s that television show or movie you always quote. It’s always something that’s familiar, and yet, it is still fresh enough to hook you, sinking its claws into your being.
Sometimes, it takes a little old blended in with the striking new to understand just how influential pop culture is in our daily lives.
The above track by Madeon, a French DJ overtaking airwaves in Europe, called Pop Culture, is comprised of 39 entirely recognizable pop songs, but the result is something completely different.
It has the effect of a hand-me-down sweater from an older brother, perceptively new but with a nagging sense of familiarity. It’s what makes you ask ‘do I know this song?’ and in many ways you do.
It is inspired, borrowed and created from our shared cultural experience and is both a reflection and manifestation of our social state, which is part of the reason so many people enjoy it. As humans, we thrive when we can see the line that connects so many fragments of our lives, and we embrace it whole heartedly, sharing that connection with friends and strangers alike to create new connections that can be shared world wide.
Besides the millions of people who make popular culture what it is, there will still be those who say that mainstream media is uninspiring, uncreative, or disingenuous.
There may be a great deal of oversaturated and substandard content, but as sharing content becomes simpler with amplified technology, it is becoming increasingly difficult to resist the allure of pop culture.
It provides us with the satisfaction of discovering new and unexplored content (just take a look at the numerous music blogs and folks rushing to hear the latest tracks on Pitchfork), but still maintains a balance with a comfortable familiarity that makes it accessible to people that come from different backgrounds.
It is a balance that perpetuates itself, and has made pop culture into a machine that cannibalizes popularity. It is society’s method of making something new from something old, and it is the reason that arts and culture gradually transform, rather than suddenly change.
With the prevalence of technology, pop culture is developing in new ways, and has become even more efficient in building upon itself. There is a new level of accessibility that connects people with huge audiences without the need for middleman production or promotion agencies. We have empowered the ‘one-man-band’ and it has allowed us to achieve creation methods that wouldn’t have been possible ten years ago.
Now we go far beyond the simple re-formation of old classics, and the strained applause for cover-bands. Now, we create entirely new content derived from many fragments of our shared realm of knowledge.
Another compelling artist that creates his music entirely from samples is Pogo, an Australian based musician who composes his songs from Disney movie and relatively older television show audio snippets.
One of his most popular songs, Alice, provides a catchy composition that is ripe with nostalgia, a feeling that as we get older, we actively search out, desperately hugging our youthful past.
While some major mainstream record labels and advocates for intellectual property rights may claim that methods of creation such as sampling, remixing, or mash-ups are unlawful and immoral, there is little debate that the creativity inspired by the taste of other’s art is boundless and regenerative.
Internet memes are a rampant example of artistry created by many different people under the guidance of a commonly shared idea.
They typically follow a similar, format founded in precedent, perpetuating the balance between familiarity and unexpected content by making some common pre-established reference to Chuck Norris or cats, and pairing it with a one-liner.
Although so much of the content is striking in similarity, there is an amazing level of creativity that is constantly adjusting itself, and at times, taking wild detours to flip the perspective on commonly perceived images.
Fan art which re-invents favorite videogames into intricate paintings, and songs made entirely of samples from movies, are just as demonstrative in exploring the realm of new media by nostalgically embracing and inputting some of the old.
More refined artists may say that the art created in mimicry of popular media is disingenuous, tacky, or lacking inspiration, but one needs to consider that every artist has been inspired by other work in one form or another.
There would be no Plato without Socrates, no Gene Roddenberry without Isaac Asimov, and no Eminem without Dr. Dre.
We need to share, imitate, mock, re-think, and criticize art as it’s being developed and released in order to progress.
After all, what is pop culture without remarkable conversation and adoration elevating it to mass popularity status?
7 Star Wars characters and their Disney counterparts
With the re-launch of the Star Wars saga drawing closer with each passing day, we at Canada.com thought it might be fun to examine the Star Wars universe had it been funded by Disney from the beginning, and what the inevitable cartoon spinoff might have looked like.
Of course, this resulted in copious debates throughout the Twitterverse as to which classic Disney characters would play some of the most infamous and beloved Star Wars characters throughout the galaxy.
I present to you Disney Star Wars, starring a medley cast of misfits, outlaws, furry, and scaly creatures as you’ve never thought of them before.
Han Solo and Animal
Han Solo, the original space cowboy — who I believe had an important influence on Nathan Fillion’s portrayal of Captain Malcolm Reynolds in Firefly — was played by the arrogant and scruffy Harrison Ford. Ford had been working as a carpenter on the set of Star Wars when an opportunity came up for him to read for the part of Han Solo. If Han Solo had to be played by a Disney character, he’d be played by Animal from the Muppets.
Han has this rock star personality that draws anyone around him into his circle. He’s got a sharp tongue and, like Animal, probably could have benefitted from a couple of mandatory anger management classes. If he had, maybe he wouldn’t have been frozen in carbonite, wouldn’t have had to go up against Jabba the Hutt, and probably could have enjoyed at least one conversation without insulting Chewbacca. Animal, like Han, also would have shot first.
Luke Skywalker and Simba
Luke Skywalker became one of the greatest film protagonists ever for many reasons, but none as powerful as the sheer amount of empathy you have for him and his internal struggles. He learns about his command of the Force at such a late age, watches all of his mentors die and, oh yeah, has to deal with a maniacal father who is out for his life. Helping to lead a rebellion on the side? No pressure, Luke. It’s kind of tough being the chosen one, or at least, the son of the chosen one. Without a doubt, Luke would have been Simba from the Lion King.
Simba wants to get out and survey the lands, prove to his father and the rest of his clan he’s made of something. Sure, Luke may have been a semi-orphan and hated his father, but both were these young, wide eyed, adventurous souls who wanted nothing more than to be someone important. Also (spoiler alert) both their dads died to save them. Crazy, right? And! James Earl Jones voiced both Mufasa and Darth Vader, their respective fathers!
Leia Skywalker and Mulan
Leia Skywalker, Luke’s twin sister and first romantic interest (we try not to think about it too much), is a bit of a rebellious anomaly. When she first appears in episode four, we see her leaving a holographic message with R2-D2 to be played for Obi-Wan Kenobi. Of course, as we all know, R2-D2 and C-3PO are captured and bought by Luke’s Uncle Ben and the fiasco that is the Star Wars franchise begins. Throughout the entire trilogy, however, Leia remains a true heroine, a warrior and important part of the rebellion’s leadership. For that, Leia is Mulan.
Mulan and Leia share so many qualities it’s hard not to picture them as one another if the universes had been flipped. Mulan is desperate to protect her family and her people and will hide her true identity to help the overall cause, learning to be a warrior in the process. Leia, born into a rebel family and trained from a young age, has a slightly different origin story. But her skill with a blaster, and later command of the Force, prove she’s no softy. Mulan saves the Emperor, Leia makes it her mission to kill the Emperor.
Darth Vader and Scar
Darth Vader. The second in line to the throne of the dark side, is quite possibly the most popular Star Wars franchise character. In fact, until episodes 7-9 were announced, people just said Star Wars is the story of Darth Vader. Full stop. Even non Star Wars fans (if there are any) know that raspy breathing and the infamous, “Luke, I am your father.” Darth Vader is deliciously evil but, if we examine his past, he was just this young kid drawn into a world he didn’t quite understand. Darth Vader would be Scar.
Scar had a lot going for him in the Lion King before Mufasa took the spotlight. He grew power hungry and began to surround himself with a bunch of mindless drones who were desperate to please him and avoid his wrath. He eventually killed his brother, the one who mentored him, and made it his goal to kill the surviving heir, only at the last moment proposing they rule together. Sound familiar?
Obi-Wan Kenobi and Bambi
Obi-Wan Kenobi is the Captain America of the Star Wars universe, but don’t worry, that’s not my comparison. All I’m implying is his character is noble, strong, and believes in the power of good. He can’t be swayed from his beliefs and he’ll fight evil to the death. In many ways, he would fit into the Marvel/Disney universe extremely well. One could almost proclaim he is the superhero of the Star Wars franchise. Or he’s just adorably naive. So we went with Bambi.
Bambi is innocent and pure, dancing about almost like he’s in a ballet. Obi-Wan “I’ll pick a kid up on a desert planet and train him to fight a war in a week” Kenobi also has a tendency to rush into things a little too quickly, swinging around his “elegant weapon for a more civilized age.” Bambi is wise and learns quickly, much like Kenobi. But mostly they both just get scared and fall apart when confronted with something entirely new, whether it’s a frozen pond or a Death Star helmed by an old student.
Emperor Palpatine and Mickey Mouse
Emperor Palpatine is, without a doubt, the most evil man in the entire series. A man who soared through the political hierarchy to become emperor of the galaxy, Palpatine is both hated in the original trilogy and the prequels. At the same time, Palpatine has also remained one of the most popular characters and become a staple for the Star Wars community. In my humble opinion, the only person from the Disney universe that could pull off being Emperor Palpatine is the head of Disney himself, Mickey Mouse.
Now hear me out. Mickey Mouse may not be particularly evil, but he is the face of Disney and the head honcho of the entire Disney universe. Truth be told, one of the main reasons I think Mickey Mouse would be perfect as the emperor is due to the fact I am hoping for an epic battle scene in the newest Star Wars between Yoda and Mickey Mouse. The backwards grammar and little squeaks from Mickey alone would make it the move of the decade. And you just know that Mickey secretly has it in for the newer Disney celebrities like Simba and Mulan, right?
C3P-0/R2-D2 and Tweedle Dee/Tweedle Dum
Last are the loveable robotic duo that stole everyone’s hearts when the original trilogy aired. R2-D2 and C-3PO’s friendship rivaled that of Han and Chewie’s, which only made them that much more endearing. R2-D2 and C-3PO are clearly Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum.
Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum were painted as the insolent and moronic twins from Alice in Wonderland. But, in truth, the two were the best of friends and rarely seen without the other. C-3PO and R2-D2 are precisely that. Can you imagine if 3PO had been purchased and R2 was left behind like Uncle Ben originally wanted? You can’t, it’s impossible. And, just like Tweedle Dee and Tweedle Dum, R2 and 3PO are the perfect combination of sentiment and comic relief the franchise needed.
Until Jar Jar Binks came along, but that’s a whole other discussion.
Stay tuned for the second part to the series where I examine the prequel trilogy and their characters while trying not to smite George Lucas in my head.