CALL ME BY YOUR NAME. Straight movie or ”out of the closet”?

Whatever media does to the world, it seems to be a perfect fit between the two. If media shows patterns of life, it’s because media replicates such patterns. Media are our window to the world.”— (Bauman,2002pg161)

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Call Me By Your Name movie cover

I couldn’t agree more with Bauman’s statement that media is a mirror of our world. I believe Media not only represent patterns of life and behaviours but also mirror our reality.  It could also serve as a potential source for transmitting powerful values and messages to our society. The changes in new technologies and globalisation is making this even more possible!

LGBT movies are more and more common in the movie industry. LGBT society is a vulnerable group of people in need of social recognition and appreciation. There’re many countries which still urge for consideration and social support. Lack of same sex marriage policies, punishments or even sentences to death. Isn’t this awful? Only because you love another person, just like I love colour blue!

Anyways, Call me by your name is a revolutionary movie based from a novel by André Aciman which shows the love story of two men living in the North of Italy in the Summer of 1983.  The main character is Elio, a 17 year-old American Italian who lives in a villa with his family. Oliver, who will fall in love with Elio, goes into this house to do research on Greco-Roman culture. Even though Oliver is much older than Elio, they both profoundly fall in love and live this amazing experience as a secret, (Being gay at that time wasn’t a cool thing to show)

The end of the movie is quite sad because Oliver doesn’t only have to go back to America as the Summer is over, but he marries a woman short after that! When Elio finds out in tears the film ends. It’s a very drastic finish but I really think that despite being oriented in 1983, it still reflects our society with the fact that many gay guys are still ashamed of their sexuality or the prejudice that comes with being gay.

This is a very good movie which despite being considered as low art, can potentially transfer a lot of morals to our society! In fact, it’s been awarded as the Best Film of the Year, rated with 95% of positive reviews on rotten tomatoes. Isn’t this amazing? The age gap between these two could give us an idea that love can be found no matter the age, as long as it is healthy, of course!

There have been concerns in the industry related to the actors not being gay in real life or the movie not providing sexual content to normalise same-sex sexual relations. In fact, there’ve been claims that the movie fails to represent and normalise gay people, as it’s been heteronormalized through the censure of sex. Also the sex wasn’t omitted in the book…Why would they do it for the movie? Come on, all the content in media is sexualised! I don’t get it… However, Garret Schlitchte  a freelance writer interested in the intersection of the LGBT community in popular culture said that when it comes to visualisation of same-sex love, not only emotional but sexual content is also necessary, which is not shown on the movie.

Garret Schlitchte website
Garret Schlitchte critics on Call Me By Your Name

In terms of choosing a gay or straight actor, Luca Guadagnino, the director of this movie, said that he didn’t have a previous idea or judgements to choose the actors. He thinks it’s better not to investigate on the sexualities of people. Moreover, when he got asked why there was no sexual-related content he said “The tone would’ve been very different from what I was looking for”.

What do you guys think? Has this movie been heteronormalized or could it actually show a clear view of the gay society? Would you guys think sexual content was not on the movie so that it could reach more audiences? If yes, does it mean we are still not prepared for the visualisation of gay love? Let me know!

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RuPaul’s Drag Race: A Cultural Juggernaut?

In a 2015 Interview with ABC RuPaul said drag would ‘never be mainstream’, does the massive creative, cultural and online success of Drag Race suggest otherwise?

RuPaul on ABC News (Credit: ABC NEWS)

Drag Race was born as a niche parody of America’s Next Top Model on LGBT+ channel: Logo, the ‘Vaseline smeared’ filter and obvious low budget of the first season is aeons away from the polished cultural juggernaut that graces our screens in 2018. Drag Race’s once limited scope has spawned  television spins offs, international stars, its own dedicated streaming service (WOW Presents Plus, only £3 a month) worldwide tours and a yearly fan convention; alongside offering multimedia content over all aspects of social media. The reachof Drag Race’s success is huge. it has transformed culture in ways other reality shows dream of – but how has it gone from strength to strength so quickly, and most importantly: how has it permeated all aspects of the mainstream?

Trixie Mattel and Katya at Drag Con (Credit: WOWPRESENTS)

A key factor of Drag Race’s success, and a massive factor in measuring its popularity is ‘meme-ability’ – or its ability to instantly be converted into a gif-able, meme-able moment. Richard Dawkins defined the term ‘meme’ in his 1976 book The Selfish Gene, as a ‘unit of cultural submission’.  The Gay lexicon used by Queens on the show such as ‘shade’ and ‘reading’ have entered millennial slang and brought gay culture to a whole new level honeyyyyyyy, and memes have provided a vessel for cultural influence Okurrrrrr!

But how else has Drag Race forced itself into the cultural zeitgeist? Drag Race reached new audiences in 2013 by becoming available on Netflix worldwide; by being nominated for an Emmy in 2016, and not only being nominated, but winning; in the following year it racked up a further three wins and a repeat of its previous win, giving Ru two wins as Outstanding Reality Host. Being appreciated by the mainstream market on a critical scale led to a move for the show from Logo to VH1, and the popularity of the show in the US has only gone from strength to strength since. Logo’s potential viewership stretched to a minimal 48.6 million homes around the USA, in moving to VH1 it more than doubled the potential audience, and with Netflix/WOW Presents Plus+ online viewing audiences Drag Race has opened its doors to the mainstream, outside of those with premium television packages.

The Queens themselves have capitalised on the show’s success, permeating all aspects of the creative industries. YouTube series such as Unnnhhhhh and The Beatdown; a show on Viceland; fashion editorials in Vogue from former contests and mainstream makeup collaborations with Jeffree Starr and SugarPill to name few. The ability to capitalise on creative opportunities and a mass fan following alike is imperative in being a post-show superstar.

Outtake from my 2018 calendar! 📸@sanchezzalba

A post shared by Violet Chachki (@violetchachki) on

The creative industries are defined by Nesta as “those economic activities which involve the use of creative talent for commercial purposes,” and no group of people exemplify the power of monetising their talent ‘for commercial purposes’ than the queens. Whether it be through: social media, television appearances, releasing music or touring worldwide the queens know marketing – and more importantly know how to market their brand cross-culturally.

Blair St. Clair: Now or Never (Credit: BlairSt.Clair VEVO)

It’s impossible to argue against the growing success of Drag Race – particularly in the opportunity’s it has given the Queens. The constant growth shows no signs of halting, and with last week’s Snatch Game episode reaching a series ratings high of nearly a million its popularity only seems to reaching new highs.

Aquaria as Melania Trump in last weeks episode: Snatch Game (Credit: VH1)

 

UK viewers can catch RuPaul’s Drag Race every Friday morning on Netflix, and tune into Wow Presents+ for your fix of the after-show: Untucked!

Title image photo credit: VH1 (Fair use for educational purposes)

Broadchurch Season 3: A Realistic Portrayal of Rape?

Almost ten million Brits who watched the first two seasons of Broadchurch were enthralled by the gripping mystery of the murder of Danny Latimer and the subsequent trial of his killer, Joe Miller. Once the loose ends were tied and – to the nation’s outrage – Joe Miller was acquitted, the question begged. How could the quaint little seaside town of Broadchurch possibly see another investigation as complex and captivating as the first?

The announcement date for the third and final season of the television crime drama created a huge amount of hype. Viewers were intrigued to know what twists and turns the next mystery would bring and, in classic Broadchurch style, the show kept everything a huge secret. Since season one, writer Chris Chibnall became renowned for his secrecy about the culprit, even keeping the cast and crew in the dark throughout the filming schedule. The first episode of season three aired on 27th February 2017 and we discovered the topic of investigation: rape.

Rape is, arguably, seen as a bit of a taboo subject. I personally believe that rape has often been misinterpreted on television. Whether a soap opera storyline prior to the watershed or a sub-plot for the sake of shock drama, multiple programmes have in the past been criticised for their portrayals of sexual assaults. Despite this, television is a brilliant medium for raising awareness of sensitive subjects. I was pleased that critically-acclaimed Broadchurch had chosen to tackle rape in their final series and hoped that it would be handled in a delicate and perceptive manner.

We were introduced to the character of Trish Waterman, brilliantly portrayed by Julie Hesmondhalgh. The harrowing aftermath of her rape saw the return of detectives Ellie Miller (Olivia Colman) and Alec Hardy (David Tennant) treat her allegation with the utmost seriousness. Trish was never doubted for a second by the police, which I feel is extremely important in the realm of current media where we occasionally see stories of women falsely accusing others of rape. Although in some cases, yes, the men are innocent and the women lying are those in the wrong, this can sometimes give the impression to sexual assault victims that they will not be believed by the police, hence why I approved of Miller and Hardy’s firm belief of the victim from the offset.

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Broadchurch Season 3 Promo Shot courtesy of IMDB

The sequence of events following the report of the rape was not at all dissimilar from a real investigation. The initial importance of forensics tests, the compilation of information, the piecing together of the night itself and the support of Independent Sexual Violence Advocate Beth Latimer (Jodie Whittaker) were all incredibly accurate. Again I deem this important as it allows any watching sexual violence survivor to relate and realise that they are not alone. Perhaps the only part I would have deemed slightly unrealistic would be Beth Latimer’s outburst to rape victim Laura (Kelly Gough) about her decision to not report her case. ISVAs are specially trained to remain calm and supportive and I think that they are an asset in their ability to support rape victims.

Of course, Broadchurch wouldn’t be Broadchurch without numerous plot twists throughout its storyline. Viewers and reviewers alike were left guessing after every episode who the culprit could possibly be. From the offset we were led to believe that it would be someone Trish knew. Research has shown that in the majority of sexual assaults, the perpetrator is known by the victim.

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Screen capture from Broadchurch courtesy of IMDB

The culprit was finally revealed as 16-year-old Michael Lucas who had been groomed by serial rapist Leo Humphries. Humphries’ character was well portrayed by Chris Mason and hugely unlikeable. He was a true representation of misogyny and followed the crude belief that all women are sex objects for men. As repulsive as Humphries was, it was arguably a wakeup call for many viewers that men like him do exist and do follow the same views in reality.

On the whole, I believe that Broadchurch was certainly a realistic portrayal of rape and hopefully changed some attitudes to a very real and very sensitive subject. Since the finale of the show, Broadchurch is working with the charity Safeline to help break the stigma of sexual assault.

YouTube is taking TV and Netflix on with free star-studded shows

Unless you live under a rock, you know YouTube. You have probably used it. You may be even using it every day. Or, like me, you cannot imagine your life without it. YouTube is, after all, a great source of entertainment, knowledge (I like to say that, so I don’t feel guilty using it) and much needed cat and challenge videos. But it wants to be so much more than just a streaming service for user-generated content.

It all have started in late 2015 when YouTube Red was launched. It started off as a subscription service which allowed you to watch ad-free videos. But you could already do that if you knew how to add AdBlock to your browser. For $10 a month you could stop feeling guilty about ripping off the YouTubers (and YouTube) from their revenue. But in 2016, YouTube Red added about 30 original series to its repertoire (they made films too!). Your subscription gives you access to dramas, comedies or thrillers featuring well-known YouTubers, such as Rhett & Link from Good Mythical Morning, PewDiePie and Joey Graceffa.

But, truth be told, YouTube’s library is nowhere near those of Netflix or Amazon Prime. Numbers of subscription prove, that it’s not popular either. Red attracted 1.5 million subscribers. Amazon Prime’s offer is a better value for the money – $8.99 a month (or £7.99 a month) will get you a free next-day delivery with Amazon Instant Video “on the side”, which offers exclusive and original series, as well as other popular TV shows and films, (30,000 titles by the end 2012!). But nothing compares to the king of them all, Netflix. The biggest streaming service drew over 70 million subscribers worldwide. No surprise that Red lags behind its older brothers – it is only available in five countries. Living in the UK? Buy an episode for £1.89 each or a film for £5.99. Say what?! Even Red’s subscribers aren’t quite impressed with the content:

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However, there is hope. YouTube has announced just a few days ago that it will be producing new original series which will be available for free. Obviously, same as all ordinary videos, they will be ad-supported and not a part of YouTube Red. These will include shows featuring both TV-born celebrities and beloved YouTube stars. The TV series will include a workout show with Kevin Hart, Demi Lovato’s “documentary”, a talent show from Ryan Seacrest, a behind-the-scenes show for fans of Ellen DeGeneres, Katy Perry Live Special and two series from YouTubers – The Super Slow Show by The Slow Mo Guys and a version 2.0 of Good Mythical Morning. Some viewers are excited about the new and star-studded direction that YouTube is heading. Others are quite the opposite:

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Reportedly, YouTube is pouring millions of dollars into this new project, so they can take a bite out of television advertising budget. Johnson & Johnson has already become an exclusive sponsor of the talent show Best Cover Ever. Would these original series become as big of a hit as Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, Stanger Things or HBO’s Game of Thrones? If they are free – maybe? Who knows? Paid content did not turn out to be a huge success. Despite YouTube Red’s original series, Buddy System being the most demanded online show in March 2017, its popularity was nowhere near to that of The Walking Dead. So will YouTube ever become a TV’s or Netflix’s rival? I can’t see it happen – but it is a great alternative which provides you with content so different from other on-demand or live TV services. After all, I can’t imagine any other place for all the 1000 degree knife challenges.

 

Featured image: “Youtube” (CC BY-SA 2.0) by clasesdeperiodismo

TV shows vs. Trump: How popular culture is battling ongoing social and political injustice

Many have compared the election of Donald Trump as the president of the United States to a dystopian scenario coming to life. In fact, after Trump’s advisor Kellyanne Conway first used the term ‘alternative facts’ the sales of George Orwell’s dystopian novel 1984, which features similar alternatives to truth as a mechanism for manipulating the masses, skyrocketed and shot the book to 6th place on Amazon’s best-selling list.

In this time of traveling bans, deliberate misinformation, walls and meaningless slogans, however, we see a new kind of resistance forming and slowly making its way to people through their screens. Professionals from the film and TV industry have openly criticised Trump’s political views ever since he ran for office, but now they’re incorporating this criticism in their work and through this, into popular culture.

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Image source: Universal
The formula “Make America great again” has become well known to producers and scriptwriters and was even referenced in the slogan of the dystopian action horror film ‘The Purge: Election Year’ – “Keep America Great” (which Trump wanted to trademark for his 2020 election campaign, yes seriously)

TV shows, as the most flexible scripted medium, have been the first ones to adapt to the current political situation and reflect it. These are some of the storytelling metaphors the television show industry is using to portray the Trump administration’s policies and views:

Hyperbole

  • In these scenarios reality is greatly exaggerated, usually dystopian, but remnant of current events in the details of the storyline.

Watch: Hulu’s ‘The Handmaid’s Tale’ – a 2017 TV show adapted from Margaret Atwood’s book (the sales of which also shot through the sky the day after Trump was elected). It’s set in a future, where the government can freely exert power over women’s bodies and this is considered normal. The eerie references to problems such as rape culture, slut shaming, locker room talk and abortion laws are unmistakable, especially in a country run by republicans, who want to regulate women’s rights over their own bodies.

Parody

  • Laughter is said to be the best medicine, especially in the face of a potential authoritarian dictatorship. Political comedy has thrived on Trump’s statements, interviews and tweets, all the while using humour to inform viewers (and presidents) on serious topics.

Watch: HBO’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver’ season 4. Despite being one of the many shows to offer social and political critique, ‘Last Week Tonight’ has differentiated itself from the bunch in its latest season. In the episode ‘Trump vs. Truth’ John Oliver not only talks about the president’s habit of publicly sharing unverified and untruthful information, but also offers a potential solution to the problem. The show sponsored and ran a series of ads featuring a cowboy who shares important facts that the president should know (such as what the nuclear triad is) during the morning cable news, which Trump regularly watches.

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  • Instead of fuelling the hate fire that Trump is spreading by criticising him, some have found that the best way to put it out is to uphold and promote its opposite – acceptance, and are trying to portray this on the small screen.

Watch: Starz’s ‘American Gods’ – a fantasy TV series based on the 2001 Neil Gaiman book. The story revolves around the battle between old and new gods, but its underlying message is in the diversity it portrays. It’s essentially a celebration of different cultures coming together and the power that their combined diversity brings and it’s set in a country, where politics are actively trying to undermine this exact diversity by instilling a fear of otherness in people and setting up immigration bans.

Whether TV shows will have any influence over the general opinions of Trump’s politics, only time will tell. However, I believe it’s good that they’re becoming a platform, which addresses social and political injustices and spreads awareness through popular culture.

What do you think? Share your opinion in the comment section!


Cover image personally edited using pictures by tiburi, PublicDomainPictures and OpenClipart-Vector on Pixabay, all credited under CC0 Public Domain.

RuPaul’s Drag Race: a celebration of self-expression or just another serving of cultural junk food?

If you’ve filled out your personal details online recently, you’ll have noticed the sudden increase in options when it comes to selecting your ‘gender’ – female, male, transgender, gender fluid, gender non-conforming, bigender – the possibilities are endless! We’re in an age of gender fluidity and freedom of sexuality. Gender is in the spotlight.

Queue RuPaul’s Drag Race: a reality competition series in the search for America’s next drag superstar. Each week, contestants compete in various challenges, from underwater photo shoots to performing in telenovelas, where they’re judged on their all-round ability as drag queens. At the end of each episode, the bottom two queens must “lip-sync for their life” in order to avoid being sent home.

Hosted by actor, drag queen and television personality, RuPaul, the show prides itself on its role as an advocate for self-love and of drag as a respectable art form. “Remember, if you can’t love yourself, how in the hell are you gonna love somebody else?”, RuPaul asks the remaining drag queens at the end of each episode, “can I get an amen up in here?”

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Image source: Logo TV

But is the show a refreshing and inspiring celebration of self-expression and drag culture or is it simply another product of cultural junk food?

Of course, the drag queen is not a new concept. Since the birth of theatre, men have been performing as women as women were not allowed to perform on stage. And even after women were allowed, men continued to dress as women for comedic effect: drag queens.

Although drag has a long history, RuPaul’s Drag Race is arguably the first time drag culture has been viewed and enjoyed by the masses, proving its popularity with the season 9 premiere reaching almost 1 million viewers.

The show’s relatively recent convergence into mainstream popular culture has enabled public access to a culture that most are unfamiliar with. By introducing viewers to what many would consider to be an alien concept (a homosexual man impersonating a heterosexual woman) the show bridges the gap between the otherwise misunderstood drag community and the typical reality TV consumer.

Through the medium of entertainment television, viewers are able to appreciate drag as an art: singing, dancing, modeling, acting, fashion and makeup – not to mention the dynamic female personas that must be kept up throughout the series.

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Image source: Logo TV

However, because of the light-hearted nature of RuPaul’s Drag Race and its ludicrous weekly challenges, we may begin to question the show’s cultural value.

TV critics would likely brand the show yet another product of ‘low culture’ in an industry already saturated with simpleminded reality shows. The show’s format resembles America’s Next Top Model: a purely entertainment-based series that arguably provides a template indicating a product of low ‘quality’ television.

So perhaps RuPaul’s Drag Race isn’t going to raise any IQs but by adopting this formulaic structure, the show allows the drag community to be understood and appreciated by the typical popular culture consumer.

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Image source: Vada Magazine

Whilst the show uses humour to engage its audience, this has not always been translated effectively and some argue the show is problematic in regards to race and has even been labelled ‘incredibly transphobic.’

But with its overriding themes of self-acceptance, self-love and self-expression, the show does ultimately promote diversity. And as one of the few mainstream representations of the LGBTQ+ community, the show clearly recognises the responsibility it holds.

Most of the girls taking part in the competition have had difficult lives. Many have been disowned by their families and one contestant came out as HIV positive during season six. As RuPaul explains, “their parents don’t approve. Society doesn’t approve.”

For many, the show will remain to be a guilty pleasure and for some, problematic. But by rejecting society’s rules, RuPaul’s Drag Race offers a much needed insight into the drag community and serves as an advocate for self-love in an all too judgmental society.

 

Featured image source: Logo TV