The Pop Culture Lens Podcast: Episode 1 – Easy Rider (1969)

The Pop Culture Lens is a new scholarly podcast hosted by myself and Dr. CarrieLynn Reinhard of Dominican University. In each episode, we offer fresh perspectives on past media to determine whether or not it holds any relevance to the contemporary sociocultural experience. We structure the podcast so that the format loosely resembles an academic paper, but but present our information in a way that everyone can understand.

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Chris’s Cult Catalogue: Voyage of the Rock Aliens (1984)

In Cult Catalogue, I offer my thoughts on cult movies, and try to determine whether or not they are essential, forgettable, or somewhere in between. Throughout this series I will endeavor to focus primarily on cultish, lesser-known, or largely forgotten films, though in the age of the Internet, nothing is ever truly forgotten, so occasionally the movies may seem more familiar. These posts will be less academic, and more in the vein of straight up reviews or blog posts, though occasionally I will attempt to bring in some sort of scholarship or academic approach to these write ups whenever warranted. More than anything, these posts simply represent my attempt to put forth my thoughts on lesser known cult films and so-called “bad” movies. Anyway, I hope you enjoy. As always, I welcome your feedback, so please, let me know what you think of this entry in the comments after the article.

Unlike the last entry in this series, I was quite sure that I had never seen Voyage of the Rock Aliens. In fact, I had never even heard of the movie prior to this year, and only became aware of its existence when I bought a copy of Trailer War, the fantastic and fun compilation of old grindhouse, exploitation, kung fu, and horror movie trailers released by Drafthouse Films. My complete ignorance of Voyage of the Rock Aliens most likely results from the fact that the film never received any sort of wide theatrical distribution anywhere in the world. In fact, according to the film’s IMDb trivia page, Voyage of the Rock Aliens only ever “played in extremely limited release in America and Europe and debuted on television in Canada.” Furthermore, the film only made its way to home video in a handful of places during the three decades following its initial release. As a result, it seemed as though Voyage of the Rock Aliens was one of those movies destined to fade into complete obscurity. Thanks to the efforts of an enterprising YouTube user who posts under the handle KingTaco7, however, the film has been unearthed for all the world to see, and I, for one, couldn’t be happier about that.

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Chris’s Cult Catalogue: Phase IV (1974)

This is the first entry in what I hope will be a new, semi-regular feature here at Seems Obvious to Me, in which I offer my thoughts on cult movies, and try to determine whether or not they are essential, forgettable, or somewhere in between. Throughout this series I will endeavor to focus primarily on cultish, lesser-known, or largely forgotten films, though in the age of the Internet, nothing is ever truly forgotten, so occasionally the movies may seem more familiar. These posts will be less academic, and more in the vein of straight up reviews or blog posts, though occasionally I will attempt to bring in some sort of scholarship or academic approach to these write ups whenever warranted. Anyway, I hope you enjoy. As always, I welcome your feedback, so please, let me know what you think of this entry in the comments after the article.

Phase IV, the sole directorial effort from noted graphic designer Saul Bass, was originally released in September of 1974, roughly five months after I was born. If memory serves, I first saw it (or at least parts of it) sometime in 1984, when I was nine or ten years old, and I’ve had a somewhat complicated relationship with the film ever since. For the longest time, I wasn’t even sure I had seen the entire movie, as I could barely remember anything about the actual plot or narrative (which I will get into shortly). Yet for the past 30 years or so, I have been haunted by the film’s unsettling imagery, such as a sequence of people staggering through a torrent of viscous yellow poison, or the shot of a young woman emerging from a sandy floor deep within the bowels of a massive ant hill. I think it’s safe to say Phase IV had an effect on me, even if the details weren’t always clear.

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Considering Adaptation Theories in the Globalized 21st Century

This post is based on a paper I wrote for Dr. Blair Davis‘ class on Adaptation during the Spring 2014 quarter at DePaul University in Chicago, IL. The purpose of this assignment is to “critically analyze in essay form the work of several adaptation theorists, in order to demonstrate [an] understanding of the phenomenon of adaptation as well as the evolving theoretical tradition surrounding it.” Therefore, I applied the work of three adaptation theorists to the phenomenon of cross-cultural adaptation, which is becoming increasingly common in the globalized world of the 21st century. I welcome any and all feedback, so please feel free to join the conversation on adaptation by leaving a comment in the comments section. Thank you.

Fidelity and Cultural Codes in Cross-Cultural Adaptations: The Consideration of Adaptation Theories in the Globalized 21st Century

This paper considers how various adaptation theories regarding cross-media adaptations can and should be applied to the study of cross-cultural adaptations, particularly when considering the increasingly globalized and mediated world of the 21st century. I contend that cross-cultural adaptations often negotiate many of the same tensions experienced in arguments surrounding the fidelity of an adaptation to the source material, both in adapting a property or story from one medium to another, as well as adapting it from one culture to another. This idea becomes important when considering that globalization has had a profound impact upon the very idea of adaptation, due to an increasing number of cross-cultural adaptations and/or translations which prove that the practice of adapting a property from one culture to another is now the norm rather than the exception, and has been a factor in cross-media adaptations for some time.1 Thus, it is important to understand how current adaptation theories apply to adaptations across cultures as well as across various media. Therefore, in this paper, I draw upon Thomas Leitch’s notion of fidelity in the context of literary adaptation, Guerric Debona’s argument regarding the cultural politics of film adaptation, and Timothy Corrigan’s discussion of the value of art in the relationship of an original to its adaptation, and I apply these arguments to the idea of cross-cultural adaptations in a global context.2

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Something fun for a Monday morning

One of my Facebook friends alerted me to the existence of this yesterday, and since I haven’t had much time to put new content up on this here blog, I thought this might be a fun placeholder until I can get some more academically themed content up (which may be happening later this week…we’ll see). It’s a series of R-rated films re-imagined as children’s books, and is the brainchild of Josh Cooley, a storyboard artist for Pixar Studios. So while it’s not necessarily related to academia or anything like that, I think there is still enough of a connection to remix culture to justify linking to it from my humble academic blog. Plus, in addition to being pretty cool, the image below is tangentially related to my thesis research, therefore I think that’s enough reason to share it.

Drive Children's Book

Anyway, if you want to see the rest of the series, just click here. I hope you enjoy, and be sure to stick around for more serious posts, which will be coming your way in the near future. As always, thanks for reading.

Cinematic Soulmates: The Mist and War of the Worlds

This is the introduction to an article originally published at Clearance Bin Review. It is part of my Cinematic Soulmates series, in which I would write about two films that compliment one another or lend themselves to a good double feature. In this piece, originally published May 20, 2011, I discussed the thematic and subtextual similarities between two post-9/11 horror films, The Mist and War of the Worlds.

“Now that the War on Terror™ is finally over (and America totally won!  USA!  USA!), it seems like now is as good a time as any to look at a pair of recent films that examine the fear, anger and paranoia that emerged in the wake of September 11.  Both The Mist (2007) and War of the Worlds (2005) serve as allegories for that tragic day in 2001, but much like the classic cautionary science fiction films released during the height of the Cold War, they reinterpret the horrific real-world events through the lens of a good old fashioned monster movie narrative.  However, while both films ostensibly cover the same thematic ground, they each approach the material in slightly different ways.”

Click here to read the rest, and you can read all the entries in the series at Clearance Bin Review by visiting my author page.

Masculinity under the gaze

It has come to my attention that Nicolas Winding Refn (director of Drive and Only God Forgives, and the subject of my Master’s thesis) directed a commercial that aired during the Super Bowl this past weekend. While I’m not normally one to pay much attention to commercials, this particular ad is very interesting for a number of reasons, not the least of which because of how it subverts and challenges the idea of the male gaze.

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That time I curated a post for the Doctor Who Theme Week at In Media Res…

Today marks the first day of the Doctor Who Theme Week at In Media Res, a MediaCommons project, and the first post is co-curated by myself and Dr. CarrieLynn D. Reinhard of Dominican University. It is shortened version of the presentation we gave at MPCA titled “‘I AM the Doctor’: Polysemic Rhetorical Flexibility and Non-Traditional Audience Reception in Doctor Who,” but features a brand new video component that we conceived of and edited ourselves specifically for this post. You can check it out here, and we invite you to join in the discussion throughout the week. Be sure to tune in all week at IMR to see what other scholars and fans have to say about the cultural impact and legacy of The Doctor.

Fan Activism and Digital Protest

This is a revised and updated version of a short paper I wrote for Dr. Paul Booth‘s class on Fandom and Active Audiences that took place during the Autumn 2012 quarter at DePaul University in Chicago, IL.

FAN ACTIVISM AND DIGITAL PROTEST

According to Jennifer Earl and Katrina Kimport (2009), protest tactics have diffused across movement societies, and thus have become normalized as a way of addressing both political and non-political issues. They explain that traditional protest tactics and schemas have been used to address a variety of consumer-based and culturally-oriented claims, and that fans have adopted these tactics to address issues surrounding the properties that are the focus of their fandoms. This phenomenon is summed up by John L. Sullivan, who writes that “fans can be mobilized to press producers and media corporations for changes (or, as is more often the case, to prevent changes from coming about in a favorite media text)” (2013, p. 196).

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The Morality of Superheroes

Dr. CarrieLynn D. Reinhard contemplates the morality of superheroes in this thoughtful piece she presented at Dominican University on Nov. 6, 2014. She looks at how the technological and scientific origins of superheroes impact the characters’ moral compasses, and how they come to represent our own relationship with science and technology. If you have any interest in superheroes, this post is well worth checking out. Click here to visit Dr. Reinhard’s blog and read the post.