Category Archives: Blog

Bomb Girls Defused


Global Television has cancelled Bomb Girls by pretending that a made-for-TV movie tying up plot ends is good news. The cancellation is for the usual reasons: low ratings. Lots of other shows have been cancelled for low ratings and some have been famously supported until they could build an audience. Bomb Girls could be such a one and is a good candidate because it does such a fine job of serving an important and underserved demographic: women 18 – 49. Read the rest of this entry


Understanding and Appreciating Attack Ads

Justin Trudeau’s early days in Parliament as the new Leader of the Liberal Party were accompanied by Conservative Party attack ads. Attack ads criticize personal attributes of their targets rather than the policies they might promote. All political parties use attack ads, but the Conservative ads have been harsh and effective. Mr. Trudeau is the 4th Liberal leader in a short time, each of whom were the objects of strong attack ads. Mr. Trudeau follows Stephane Dion, Michael Ignatieff and interim leader Bob Rae, who took over after Mr. Ignatieff lost his seat—and Official Opposition status—in the 2012 election. Read the rest of this entry

Boston Bombing Case Study

The Role of Media in 21st Century Public Life

The April 15 bombings at the Boston Marathon and the subsequent events have provided a fascinating opportunity to explore how  the digital media environment has changed life. The affordances exercised in the search for and apprehension of the Tsarnaev brothers has provided a powerful and illustrative case study for the current state of media presence and influences. Some of these have been well-documented by The Washington Post, but the salient items for media study are as follows: Read the rest of this entry

Be careful what you witch for


A week after the death of Margaret Thatcher, Ding-Dong the Witch is Dead, a song from The Wizard of Oz, had risen to the top of the pops in England as a measure of many Britons’ responses to her death. Respectful or not, this was an authentic cultural response to her actions while PM. Read the rest of this entry

Layers of Meanings in the Minds of the Beholders

Anti-Americanism? Anti-consumerism? Anti-fast-food?

I imagine that you have one or two friends who regularly send you emails or links to unusual, funny, quirky, distracting information.  I do, and I am grateful for the many media literacy opportunities that have arisen from these messages.

I recently received the following one from a good friend who knows I would likely blog it. Read the rest of this entry

Homeland, by Cory Doctorow — a review


Cory Doctorow is a novelist in the same activist tradition as were Kurt Vonnegut and Mark Twain. Vonnegut’s novels were not just entertaining, but they got under my skin, creating discomfort, a need to re-examine life, a need to do something about the problems he was describing. Read the rest of this entry

Seth MacFarlane triumphs or Seth MacFarlane flops as Oscars host

They didn’t get it, at least not the dozen reviewers and bloggers I read the morning after the awards ceremony. In some cases, reviewers trashed MacFarlane’s singing We Saw Your Boobs and celebrated the sock puppet version of Flight. Ironically, both were MacFarlane’s ideas.

The Oscars skew old, meaning that the audience is relatively old for TV. They need to attract a younger audience to maintain viewer numbers that will allow them to profit from ad sales. Ergo, the creator of Family Guy and Cleveland was tapped as host. His name alone attracted viewers from the Family Guy and Cleveland demographic, but the Oscar performance had to deliver the irreverence and edginess his name suggests.

How to be edgy for the younger audience while traditional for the older one?

How to hold the interest and indulgence of both audiences so they won’t click away?

How to make a strong enough impression on the younger demographic so that they will watch again next year and start a much-sought-after life-long Oscar habit?

Create a frame.


Captain Kirk visits from the future—appearing from the bridge of the SS Enterprise—showing the host his mistakes from an archived recording of the show and advising him how to ‘fix’ it in real time. The ‘mistakes’ are the profane and disrespectful bits that the young demogrphic enjoy, but they are framed—literally on screen—as a recording of the flawed show; not part of the real show. The ‘fixes’ are the real show—the responses to the profane ‘mistakes’—and pitched to the traditional viewer. Thus, MacFarlane sings of seeing Charlize Theron’s boobs in the recorded version of the ‘bad’ show (and getting an uncomfortable look from her reaction shot), then croons while she dances beautifully in the fix.

It was a wonderful example of playing with the codes and conventions of entertainment media, something that MacFarlane does in his animated shows already, and which allowed him to counterpoint both tasteless and tasteful performances, pleasing two different audiences with the use of a frame.

It is a wonderful text for students wanting to explore and appreciate the codes and conventions of television representation and awards shows in particular.

Hopefully time and reflection will allow critics to re-visit and discover the genius of the show’s structure and performances.