thinking big: feminism, media, and pop culture

Posts Tagged ‘new media’

DayZ: Where Everybody Is a Body

In games on July 25, 2012 at 7:47 am

Guest Contributor Allison Bray

It is a silent and unremarkable landscape devoid of people. A subdued version of the apocalypse. Depending on which direction you walk, and for how long, you may find hills, streams, farmhouses, or industrial areas. An approaching figure could be a zombie or a human being, but the latter does not guarantee survival. Humans are just as likely to kill you in order to loot your corpse. You’re equipped with little more than a flashlight—useless in a fight. If you run, and many do, the environment poses its own threats. You could die from hypothermia, starvation, dehydration, shock, blood loss, or infection. If you die, and everyone does, you lose everything. Start over.

That is the bleak and uncompromising experience of DayZ, a new online video game that’s been met with widespread acclaim despite—or perhaps because of—its gritty and utterly unsexy minimalism. DayZ could be described as a simplified zombie survival game with an emphasis on realism, or a realistic survival game that happens to include zombies. In either case, the simple premise doesn’t sound that different from many other games on the market. DayZ has set itself apart, however, by throwing out the prevailing formula and its familiar balance of narrative, character, and gameplay. As the gaming industry moves ever closer to cinematic standards in producing that balance, the small team responsible for DayZ stripped away the elements of narrative and character altogether, leaving little more than a player, their on-screen counterpart, and the very real question of what they are willing to do to keep that lone figure alive.

The first people who played it must have been baffled not so much by what they found, but what they didn’t find:  DayZ drops you into a world without context or guidelines. Joining a server loads you onto the map, a fictional chunk of Eastern Europe roughly 225 square kilometers in size, but there is no introductory cut-scene establishing the details of your environment or anything else. Besides the lack of items, there is no map or compass automatically available for navigation. There are no tutorials for new players, no pop-up screens with tips or hints, and no witty sidekicks appear to ease the tension and help. Since this is a game downloaded online and not purchased at a store for sixty dollars, there isn’t a glossy booklet with explanations of the world and its items. The only information available is a small inventory screen, nearly empty at the start, and a small stats display that is a window into the heart of the game.

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A well-stocked inventory.

Like other games, some of the statistics relate to your success within this world, but success means something different in this world. No real plots or large objectives mean no progress meters, experience points or levels, and even though a counter keeps track of the number and type of kills (zombie or human), you don’t win by obtaining the highest tally of kills. You avoid losing by staying alive. Read the rest of this entry »

GLG Weekly Round-Up

In body politics, hip hop, race, social media, Weekly Round-Up on June 22, 2012 at 12:48 pm

Here are some super interesting reads from around the web this week. Enjoy!

An intriguing read on social media, viruses, and violence from A.J. Aronstein, “The Plague Years” at the New Inquiry.

Arturo Garcia provides provides coverage about Jonathan Wall’s racist and violent treatment at a North Carolina bar, on Racialicious: “Grad Student’s Story Leads To Protest Against North Carolina Bar.”

Cord Jefferson has a terrific essay exploring the capitalist underpinnings of “No Church In the Wild” and the Watch the Throne version of revolution.

The writers at XOJane are public personae. Does that mean they can (or should) write about each other? Tracie Egan Morrissey considers Cat Marnell at Jezebel.

A great piece from Dances With Fat, “Feeling Fat vs. Being Fat” in response to Daisy’s “I’m Fat and I’m Not Okay With It” piece at xoJane.

GLG Weekly Round-up: Race & the Media

In activism, race, violence, Weekly Round-Up on May 4, 2012 at 10:13 am

It has been a rather quiet week on GLG (mostly because we are having an in-person GLG reunion over here in Oregon) and we shall be back in full force next week. But, in the meantime here are some links on race & the media. Have a great weekend!

From Adrienne K. of Native Appropriations:
http://nativeappropriations.blogspot.com/2012/04/johnny-depp-as-tonto-im-still-not.html

Not from this week, but a great post from Herman Gray on Flow TV on race, space, and the media:
http://flowtv.org/2012/03/gloved-hands-pressed-uniforms/

From Thea Lim at Racialicious:
http://www.racialicious.com/2012/05/02/a-historical-guide-to-hipster-racism/

Also from Racialicious, Arturo Garcia on Ashton Kutcher in brownface (WTF!):
http://www.racialicious.com/2012/05/03/half-baked-popchips-and-ashton-kutchers-brownface-fiasco/#more-22466

From the Nation, a great post on Race, Racism, and Millenials:
http://www.thenation.com/blog/167590/race-millennials-and-reverse-discrimination

Lastly and importantly: race, violence, transphobia, and activism for Cece McDonald.
http://supportcece.wordpress.com/about-2/background/

Rebound: Texts from Hillary

In news, Rebound on April 12, 2012 at 11:02 am

Last week, Secretary of State Hillary Clinton became a meme! Have you seen Texts from Hillary? It is hilarious. Apparently Clinton (aka “Hillz”) thought so too. She even invited the Texts from Hillary guys to the White House and wrote her own Text from Hillz.

But much like a beautiful shooting star, this meme was only crossing through our stratosphere for a brief time. TTYL indeed, oh pioneers! In the aftermath of the phenomenon that was our Lady of Clinton’s imaginary digital conversations, we at GLG sift through the sands of the hourglass and ponder our own mortality–and also, the Secretary of State’s viral Internet fame.

A-mazing.

First thoughts on Texts from Hillary:

Phoebe: So, I think these are hilarious and also kind of bad ass. And, I love that Clinton appears to love them too and has a sense of humor about herself. I feel like the picture of her laughing with the two guys from Texts from Hillary is awesome and shows a very different side of her than I feel like we have been privy to before. I also love that she composed her own one. I have never quite known what to think of her, although I have always respected her, but I feel like this Tumblr and her response to it have made me a fan. Plus, she does appear to be a pretty darn good Secretary of State too. But seriously, I think this side of Hillary is one (as Sarah goes on to say below) that counters and plays with the media-constructed image of her during the 2008 primaries, which was extra serious. And, I think it is great that in the photo of her on a military jet, everyone else seems to be heading for an exit or trying to get off the plane but Hillary is still working away.

Sarah T: I’m a longtime mega-fan of Hillary. She’s like Mama Rose! She never gives up! You either have it or you’ve had it! The ambition and the glory and the disappointment and the striving! I could go on forever, and I would like to see a biopic based on Hillary’s life and future presidency ASAP. So I was thrilled to see a Tumblr that celebrated her wry dominance at life. In all of the Texts from Hillary posts she’s in a position of power and wisdom — turning down Stewart because she’s already booked Colbert, rejecting friend requests, keeping Biden and Obama in line with their Bieber-fandom, advising Romney to drink up. I mean, she’s even got the Pretty Little Liars on a string.

What’s also great about the meme is that rather than punish her for being a powerful and ambitious woman — as the media did throughout the 2008 primaries — it celebrates her by making her look cool. Founders Stacy Lambe and Adam Smith chose an image of her that showcases her authority (she’s on a military jet, surrounded by paperwork and people in business suits) and her unflappable attitude (her shades, her mouth set in a no-nonsense line, the one-handed texting suggesting that her facility and hipness with technology). But she also looks like a mom (my mom!) with her brooch and blazer and hair-flip. The meme suggests that she’s a leader, a person who has Got It Together, but also a real human being with warmth and humor and sassy attitude. So it’s no surprise that it’s sparked fresh conversations about 2016. If her (hypothetical) campaign team can replicate this version of Hillary in their PR, they’re in business.

Read the rest of this entry »

Rebound: Samantha Brick and Beauty

In body politics, gender, news, Rebound on April 9, 2012 at 10:08 am

Chelsea B.

I want to draw your attention–again, I’m sure–to Ms. Brick, who has been impossible to miss on the internet this week. The condensed version of the story goes like this: Samantha Brick wrote an article for Daily Mail titled “‘There Are Downsides to Looking This Pretty’: Why Women Hate Me for Being Beautiful.” As is unsurprising, based simply on the title, people reacted strongly to her claims.

My concern with the whole debacle begins when Brick says in a televised interview:

‘People mistake self-confidence for arrogance [...] But it’s a fact that women are not nice to one another.  They all stab each other in the backs in my experience.’

Disagreeing strongly, [Ruth Langsford of ITV] interrupted to suggest that rather than her beauty being the factor that creates instant enemies of other women when she enters a room, perhaps it is actually her arrogance and ‘air of superiority’.

I wholeheartedly agree with Langsford, one of the interviewers, that it is great that Ms. Brick is confident in her own attractiveness but problematic that she assumes and continuously asserts that women dislike her before even speaking to her based solely on her appearance. In other words, Brick is dismissive of anyone identifying as female, insulting their intelligence, compassion, and capacity for forming meaningful relationships based solely on a few personal experiences in which she believes she was mistreated by other women due to her attractiveness. Read the rest of this entry »

Replay: Azealia Banks Will See You “L8R”

In gender, music videos, race, Replay on April 4, 2012 at 9:03 am

If you’re not already familiar with Azealia Banks, you will be soon. The rising hip-hop star has got it all: charisma, talent, quick wit, quick rhymes, and a killer name for her upcoming debut album, due out in September: Broke With Expensive Taste.

“But where did my new best friend Azealia come from?” you may be asking yourself at this very moment. “Yea, but from whence does this Lady of the Song arise, like Venus from her shell of ore?” asks your other friend who thinks he is Shakespeare, but he’s not. Your friend is weird but he means well and you are a treasure. So we’ll answer both of you with today’s music video pick, “L8R”  – a demo Banks released way back in 2010 to help draw record labels’ attention.

Sarah T.
First, let’s talk about this barbecue. I want to go to there! And I’m a vegetarian. I think Banks was doing something smart with the whole grilling meat = steamy = sexy but also = Banks in a position that’s traditionally occupied by men. At least in pop culture representations, it’s almost always men who are working the BBQ grill. Similarly, as a rapper, Banks is a woman working in a pretty masculinist field. In both cases, she looks completely in control and capable and also super-appealing. And like she’s having a grand old time.

I really enjoy the sense of playfulness in this video. There are so many fun little details — the guy who keeps the card on his lips while Banks is rapping after a fast-forward game of kiss’n’blow, the way she gets tossed into the pool and completely rolls with it, smiling and swimming and rapping underwater. The light-hearted visuals make for good contrast with her lyrical boasting, which includes the following claims: Read the rest of this entry »

True Confessions; Dangerous Minds

In Uncategorized on April 2, 2012 at 10:11 am

Sarah T.

Ex-boyfriends and ugly feelings, family skeletons and panic attacks, choking self-doubt mingled with soaring grandiosity: this is the bread and wine of confessional blogging.

At xoJane, Cat Marnell describes her pettiness toward her co-workers at the website and details her struggle to kick her addiction to Adderall in real time. In a personal blog that eventually became an e-book, Dodie Bellamy draws on art and theory to explore the emotional aftermath of a romantic affair with a Buddhist teacher. And on Tumblr, writer and PhD student Kara Jesella archives the detritus of her relationship and breakup, including a miscarriage and a stay in a psychiatric ward—and analyzes the feminist underpinnings of the entire endeavor.

For me, this is a gift. All I have ever wanted is for interesting people to tell me their stories – the messy, honest ones that normally come along only after a few drinks. That’s why I love memoirs and Sylvia Plath and Audre Lorde and PostSecret and Joni Mitchell. The confessional voice, done with attention to craft, is one of the best antidotes I know to isolation. Not coincidentally, as far as I can tell the majority of the bloggers currently practicing it are women. Also not coincidentally, the confessional voice—both historically and in the present—has haters without end.

I believe that women writers are drawn to the confessional voice because they are not supposed to speak their pain. The same goes for people who are nonwhite or GLBTQ or disabled or otherwise on societal margins.

Confession is only necessary where there is repression, where it serves the interests of those in power to persuade those who aren’t to maintain their silence. And so confessional blogging, like confessional poetry and confessional novels before it, is a political act. Lorde expounds on the necessity of personal disclosure, writing, “Your silences will not protect you [. . .] What are the tyrannies you swallow day by day and attempt to make your own, until you will sicken and die of them, still in silence? We have been socialized to respect fear more than our own need for language.” Lorde’s criticism applies to the personal just as much as the political, because the two are inseparable in her life and in everyone’s.

Enter the ex-boyfriends.

Bellamy’s blog and book The Buddhist is rife with the embarrassment of personal disclosure. It is embarrassing for her to admit how often she thinks of her former lover, a Buddhist teacher. She tries to stop writing about him over and over again: “So, I’m saying goodbye to the buddhist vein here,” she says, with half her book still to go. “I already said that, but I mean it this time.” (She doesn’t.) It’s embarrassing for her to continue mourning the relationship long past its expiration date, and even more embarrassing to blog about it. Whereas the mantle of what she calls Real Writing might lend her heartbreak cultural credibility and make writing about it more acceptable, blogging won’t protect her from judgment. In fact, it exposes her further. Yet she grows committed to documenting the relationship and breakup when she considers who and what culturally-imposed silence on personal drama serves. Bellamy writes, Read the rest of this entry »

Engaging Television: An Interview with Writer Jacob Clifton

In gender, girl culture, Gossip Girl, Pretty Little Liars on March 7, 2012 at 9:59 am

Sarah Todd

“Why bother watching the show when the recaps are so amazing?” my friend Ali emailed me in 2008. We were talking about the Television Without Pity recaps of Gossip Girl, a show then in its headband-wearing, Met-steps-lunching glory days. The in-depth recaps, written by Jacob Clifton with a killer combination of fiery passion, arch humor, and wide-ranging cultural references, were an essential part of the Gossip Girl experience.

Jacob’s recaps didn’t just help us see things about the show that we might not have spotted otherwise. They also influenced the way we thought about friendships and power dynamics and teenagers and surveillance—and, of course, how we thought about television.

I’ve looked forward to Jacob’s weekly Gossip Girl recaps ever since, along with his writing on True Blood and Pretty Little Liars. He’s one of the few writers I’ve followed quite so faithfully. The author of novels The Urges and Mondegreen, he currently recaps American IdolThe Good Wife, and more for Television Without Pity.

Jacob graciously agreed to talk with Girls Like Giants about recapping, teen dramas, feminism, the power of stories, and why Elena from The Vampire Diaries is way under-rated. Come join the conversation in the comments.

How did you start writing for Television Without Pity?

The internet, in 2001, was a very different place! TWoP (MightyBigTV, back then) was a small enough concern that I was able to lobby for some small, one-off assignments that, over a few years, turned into regular assignments. It was a very empowering, very encouraging chance to be given, and I’m still very grateful to the editors at that time for giving me a shot.

You have a very distinctive and dynamic recapping style. A recap of Pretty Little Liars might have made-up dialogue that highlights Aria’s crazy pants (and the fact that she is crazypants), followed by a Jungian analysis of how the four main characters’ personalities complement each other, followed by a mini-treatise on bullying. How do you approach writing your recaps? What do you want them to be, and how has that developed over the course of your career?

I think that, for me, it’s about capturing the sort of tangents and thoughts and jokes that you might go through on the couch, just watching anything. For shows like PLL, that obviously brings up a lot of stuff and thoughts that I feel like are worth representing on the page: This is what it was like for me watching this show, what was it like for you?

I mean, obviously I have my preoccupations — critical, philosophical, political, feminist — and I don’t really hesitate to bring those to bear on whatever’s actually happening on the show, but I trust myself to know the line as far as what’s worth saying and what’s just blabber or personal axe-grinding. (I also cross it regularly, of course.) But that’s what it means to me: A sort of taking shorthand minutes on where the show takes me as a particular person.

However, I do think there’s a certain amount of workshopping that goes on when you’re forced to pay such close attention to a show over such a long period of time. I don’t know if my writing has improved, but I definitely understand television and storytelling a lot more than I did ten years ago — and part of my mission is to bring that into it as well. The opportunity to turn our brains off, or to reject a show or episode for false reasons, is always there. So by bringing out the storytelling qualities, or the writing tricks, or the production values, the hope is that readers can find new ways to enjoy their television shows in a more interactive way. Read the rest of this entry »

Internet Writers Who Make Us Leap for Joy

In Uncategorized on February 29, 2012 at 11:42 am

In honor of Leap Day, Girls Like Giants is taking a cue from xoJane’s internet positivity initiative and celebrating a few of the internet writers and bloggers we admire. Which writers make your browser windows shine a bit brighter? Let us know in the comments. - Sarah T.

Chelsea H: One of my favorite internet writers right now is Deb from Smitten Kitchen.  As has surely become clear from my (infrequent) posts here on GLG, and is crystalline if you’ve ever read my other blog at shornrapunzel.wordpress.com, I’m kind of interested in food.  Deb is an incredible cook and a great photographer (and she has an adorable child whose photo she links to in every one of her posts).  But that’s not the only reason I like her.  I like her because she is a great storyteller.  She talks about the mechanics and the pleasures of food, yes, using measurements and specifics but also words like nutty and rich and complex – those words that alternate between sounding snobby and perfectly apropos – but she also tells us where her inspirations came from.  She shares her trials and her successes, and she shares collapses and almost-failures.  She talks about being a mom, being a cookbook author, being a woman, all under the multi-colored, multi-faceted umbrella of food writing.

This is the kind of food writer I would like to be.  In addition to admiring her recipe developer skills (I’m really good at following a recipe, but I haven’t dipped into the mysterious, wonderful-and-frightening world of making them up myself), I love her ability to share just enough about herself.  Through her words I feel I know her, though I suspect the person I know is her internet persona.  But that’s okay, because that persona she has created is so genuine and so human–complete with kindness, with snark, with gluttony, with desperation–that she feels round and whole and someone I want in my kitchen cooking with me.  And that, for me, is a big deal.

Sarah T: I look forward to each Thursday because of Dear Sugar, a Rumpus advice column written by author Cheryl Strayed. It’s unlike any advice column I’ve ever read. Strayed practices what the Rumpus calls “radical empathy,” responding to letter-writers with limitless compassion, humor, and honesty. She’s shocked by nothing, judges no one, and writes with a combination of polish and emotional rawness that’s physically shake-inducing. Strayed is also a deeply personal writer, often drawing from her own experience in order to illuminate the situation the letter-writer describes. Dramatic as it may sound, I think I’m a better person for reading her work. Here are a few of my favorite Sugar columns. Warning: you may want to have a box of tissues handy.

“We Are All Savages Inside”: On jealousy

“The Dark Cocoon”: On love, marriage, and change

“The Obliterated Place”: On loss and grief

“The Future Has An Ancient Heart”: Sugar’s graduation speech

“Write Like a Motherf—–”: On the power and pain of writing

Read the rest of this entry »

GLG Weekly Round-up

In gender, reproductive health, Weekly Round-Up on February 4, 2012 at 8:55 pm

As usual, just some good reads from around the internet. Enjoy!

“The New Girl” launches a defense of the manic pixie dream girl, as recapped by Vulture:

http://nymag.com/daily/entertainment/2012/02/new-girl-recap-season-1-episode-11.html

Molly Fischer critiques the ladyblogs of today at n+1…

http://nplusonemag.com/so-many-feelings

… and several ladies affiliated with said blogs respond:

Emily Gould: http://emilygould.tumblr.com/post/16832249416/ladies-women-and-girls

Autumn Whitefield-Madrano: http://www.the-beheld.com/2012/02/on-ladyblogging-and-slumber-parties-of.html

Anne Helen Petersen: http://www.annehelenpetersen.com/?p=2902

Some info and linkes on Komen’s de-funding of Plan Parenthood:

http://colorlines.com/archives/2012/02/bad_politics_thwart_susan_g_komen_foundations_noble_mission.html

And the most recent update from Jezebel on Komen reversing their decision:

http://jezebel.com/5882018/breaking-komen-reverses-decision-on-planned-parenthood-is-still-likely-full-of-shit

What Do You Say to Sh*t [Group of People] Say?

In gender, race on January 10, 2012 at 8:31 pm

Sarah Todd

I was of three minds, like a meme in which there are a thousand Sh*t Girls Say videos on Youtube.*

- Walfred Meevens

Since the Sh*t Girls Say videos have taken over the internet in a tornado of cheaply made wigs, I’ve been struggling to formulate a coherent opinion. On one hand, are they offensive? On the other hand, are they social criticism? On a third hand, are they funny?

The answer to this hand trifecta, I think, is: sometimes. It depends on the video, and even the particular moment within the video.

In some ways, the Sh*t [Whoever] Say format is ideal for revealing the privilege and ignorance behind many supposedly offhand remarks. One of the best of the meme bunch is Franchesca Ramsey’s “Sh*t White Girls Say to Black Girls.” Ramsey parodies the many racist remarks that often follow the preface of “Not to sound racist, but…” Her on-point delivery of offensive lines uttered with blasé attitude makes the video a legitimate, and witty, piece of social criticism. Read the rest of this entry »

Girls Like Giants Presents: Our 2011 Preferences – Games Part 2

In gender on January 3, 2012 at 3:24 pm

Brian P. (aka Cyanotic)

5: Plants vs Zombies (everything)

There are too many games about zombies, but not enough games in which those zombies wear football helmets, attack from pogo stick, or cross suburban swimming pools on children’s inflatable duck innertubes. Clever, cute, addictive, cheap real time strategy and puzzle game with solid replay value. Get it for your iPhone/Pad/Pod/what you have/has you.


[P vs Z]

4: Bioshock 2 (360, PS3, Windows, Mac version January 2012)

The first Bioshock introduced us to Rapture, the sunken, failed 1950′s utopia of Andrew Ryan, (a figure inspired by the philosophy of Ayn Rand, because, hey, Aynagram). The game’s most clever conceit, revealed during its big plot twist/reveal, offered a fascinating commentary on the nature of games themselves: what is a ‘character’ in a medium in which control over (at least your) character is shared and conditional? What is the relationship between the ‘player’ and the ‘played’? How do games in which the player is given moral choices—indeed agency—coexist with the less cheerful reality that one’s character/avatar is nothing more than an automaton, to be used and abused as the player sees fit? Read the rest of this entry »

Girls Like Giants Presents: Our 2011 Preferences – Games Part 1

In gender on January 3, 2012 at 3:19 pm

Brian P. (aka Cyanotic)

Video games are the world’s most popular, most profitable artform, but they still lack the cultural cachet of books, film, and reality television. Despite a number of legitimately great titles, 2011 will probably not be remembered as the best in the medium’s history. But it will, I think, be remembered as the year when they went irrevocably mainstream: Angry Birds were featured on 30 Rock and worn by America’s Trick & Treaters, formerly nerdcore games like The Elder Scrolls: Skyrim were advertised during ESPN’s College Football Gameday, and even the editors of Forbes and The Wall Street Journal (even if begrudgingly) picked games of the year.

Commentary on the medium has become better and easier to find. Tom Bissell’s criticism on Grantland is quite good, Slate’s Year-end Gaming Club celebrated its fifth anniversary, and super-snarky Gawker Media’s own gaming site, Kotaku, published some compelling and frankly overdue pieces on gender, games, and the community; including one recently on the default male voice and female self-censoring and another on gaming/fan communities and male privilege. Read the rest of this entry »

Fighting Clean: xoJane and Its Discontents

In reproductive health on October 30, 2011 at 6:15 pm

Sarah Todd

Fighting can be great. To me, a thoughtful debate between well-matched opponents is far more productive and engaging than a lecture by even the most knowledgeable of speakers. I’d rather hear Hamilton and Jefferson go head-to-head, and sort out what I think for myself in the process, than hear either one of them give a monologue. In this example, I guess I’m assuming that either I live in colonial America or time travel has been invented. I’ve been singing 1776 to myself a lot lately.

In a good fight, people have to reason their way through their positions, reflect on their assumptions, respond to the arguments of their opponents, and perhaps adjust their views to incorporate new information. It’s argumentative writing 101, as all the comp instructors out there can attest (holler!). Unfortunately, the internet hasn’t figured out how to fight too well just yet. Read the rest of this entry »

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