Month: March 2014

There’s something the matter with Henry

Trigger Warning: Gore.

Even Hollywood comes up with some new ideas, now and again.

In an earlier post, I talked how physical deformity is often used as a clue towards explaining the relative evilness/untrustworthiness of a character. You couldn’t count the number of facial scars, eyepatchs, or claw hands if you tried.

By 1986, horror was just lousy with trope portrayals of killers, ensured by the massive success of Friday the 13th, Halloween, their sequels and imitators. Everywhere you looked, mass murderers were idealized as masked murders, monolithic, calculating reapers. The killers were not men, not people, they were death given form.

Wow, such death, very spoopy.

As effective as these killers were, and they undoubtedly, and deservedly did and do inspire terror, they cannot compare to Henry.

He’s just eating a sandwich.


He isn’t creepy at all.


Oh, I see.

Jason and Michael Myers are wolves in wolves’ clothing; Henry is a wolf in sheep’s clothing.

That’s what, for me, makes Henry the scarier. The movie emphasizes the real over the ideal, leaving Henry to play cards and buy cigarettes. He has an unremarkable area of Chicago, no haunted lake or long-abandoned house for a home base.

The mundane surroundings is also visual rhetoric, the same selection of real vs. idealized. His average face, the could-be-a-million-places feeling of his backdrop produces the terror. Unlike Jason, Henry can be anyone. Anywhere. And that’s scary. That’s the real fear of Henry. His face is a mask, and you worry how many others like him are hiding behind masks. He knows it, and tells us, is too smart to use the same method more than once to avoid recognition for what he is.

In showing killers how they really look, rather than relying on idealized icons, Henry, Portrait of A Serial Killer provides chills by stripping away any of the audience’s ability to dissassociate the actions of the killer with the face of a regular Joe.


Storyboard On ‘Human Testing’

I approached my storyboard in a bit of an irregular fashion. I wanted to have movable pieces so that I was able to rearrange and think of how to present the image. This presentation is a bit linear, so I’l have to rearrange them.

Being a by unsure of what and how to address ‘Human Testing’. Honestly, I had only thought that human testing was done unintentionally or with the testing subject unaware of the actual testing and had not ventured into the realm of intentional/forced human testing. Originally thinking I was looking into pollution, food pesticides, atomic bomb and technology radiation rather than Holocaust twin and African American syphilis unethical testing. Humans testing on other humans is an area I want to peruse as well. This mash up will include both intentional and unintentional testing on humans is a strangely intriguing idea. I want to connect the idea of animal testing to human testing to show that we are animals. Animals, as creatures and animals as monsters.

While I do not want to blatantly state my opinion of both being wrong I want the viewers to ponder about both idea and how humans control both of them. I am nervous about finding human testing clips. Having a magnitude of actual testing clips will be effective for the viewers, but depressive for my sanity.

Mashup Storyboard: Mental Health in Media

mashupstoryboardMy mashup will begin with some panned shots from Girl Interrupted, Prozac Nation, and season 2 of American Horror Story. This initial set of clips will confirm that the mashup deals with mental health. I will be adding other clips which include dialogue from the movies including diagnoses of patients and descriptions of patients pasts. I am only using clips from patients who demonstrate extreme behaviors or who receive extreme treatments, such as tranquilizers or electro convulsive treatment because these are the examples people use to compare normal and crazy.

I will be using clips from musicals of the 1940’s and 1950’s to show what people believe happens after a patient takes medication: everything is all cured and everyone is happy.

I am still trying to find clips of people with masks because SSRIs and other psychotropic medications do not actually cure mental disorders they only mask the symptoms.


Mashup Storyboard: Alien Invasion

Mashup Storyboard

The first clip in my mashup immediately establishes that the mashup is going to be about the personal side of immigration, the way it affects families and individuals, by zooming in on what an “immigrant” looks like.  This puts a definite face behind immigration issues rather than the numbers that are portrayed on the news.

After the first clip, I work through the types of signs and metaphors that I will use throughout the mashup, starting with “aliens” and “freedom.”  The alien images, including spaceships and close-ups, reflect the American view of immigrants – as an unknown force, typically associated with negative connotations and invasions.  The images of the statue of liberty are broken or twisted in some way to show that our view of freedom cannot be whole while we treat immigrants with disrespect.

I am including clips of Obama to recognize that he is taking some action against the wrongful immigration policies, but I am going to show his face in sarcastic moments.  Winking, for example, will show that not enough is being done.

The last images, of bugs, plays on the “invasion” metaphor.  By juxtaposing the bugs with science-fiction alien families, I hope to point out the gap in logic between seeing immigrants as people and as invaders.  The bugs, in this contrast, will reveal the first step in “othering” the immigrant families.

More detail, and the purpose for each specific clip, is written in pink under each image.

Army All-Time Killstreak Champion Storyboard



So–what’s going on in the first thirty seconds of my mashup?

I open with a title screen from a World War Two training film (8th Air Force, for those keeping score) called “Target for Today,” which I like because it has two interpretations you can make the first that this is a training film, and we are seeing kids learning how to operate killer drones, and second (bit more chilling) when paired with the next image, we see that the target for today (for the military) is as always, the next generation of kids. This is a bit of paratext.

The next clip is lifted from a news piece on the USMC’s toys for tots program, but I’ve trimmed it down to just Marines lifting kids into humvees, presumably taking them to some sort of indoctrination camp. I’ve culled some images of child soldiers from Africa that I use later and I am building an intratextual reference here.

Straight from 1988 comes a pair of hands playing Nintendo. This is a very iconic controller, and it’s symbolism for gaming  is the reason I’m using it.

Then, we have a Predator drone cruising through the air. (I learned during this clip that some operators live stateside, which is really weird to me.) This is supposed to develop juxtaposition-that the controller-hands are operating it. This will be built on throughout.

Following that is a vintage Nintendo commercial, with a really chilling slogan. This idea I thought provides a weird intratexuality/intertextuality for the argument that I’m trying to make.

The final 16 seconds of the clip are a montage, using the controller hands, digital footage of drone strike, and Mario celebrating to make it appear that the drone strike is just a game, denuded of real consequences, an idea I will be exploring more later.

Mashup Storyboard: Turning Tricks…



I have such trouble working on things like this, without actual footage to go by while working, which is perhaps why most of this relies on video clips I’m already familiar with. I wanted to open with a short scene from Law and Order: SVU, getting the voice of the cop saying disparaging about the murdered girl (who he thinks is a prostitute, but is actually a college student–oops!) before cutting into the music. Now, I forgot that there was thirty seconds of music in the song before the lyrics start, because for this I was going off the rhythm of the lyrics to determine when to cut to the next clip. So, this is for the second thirty seconds of the song.

There are a variety of “types” of clips I want to use: I want to use images of younger girls and women being confident in their dress and body, one or two flashes of terrible and awkward sex ed classes that most people learn nothing in, images of both men and women leering and being otherwise judgmental when a “certain type” of woman passes, images of violence against such women (not necessarily just sex workers, but also women and girl who are dressed in a way that could make someone accuse them of “asking for it”), as well as confident clips of burlesque dancers and strippers. I also want to, for a portion of the mashup, flash quick images of the victims of what is probably the best known sex crime: Jack the Ripper. I actually think the fact we have to use older as well as newer video really benefits me because the viewing of women–especially sexual women–has been a problem since, well, before Jack the Ripper.

On a final, whimsical note, I hope I never have to write the sentence “young girls in short skirts” even again because now I feel like a creep.

Human Testing Proposal

At first glance, I immediately saw Animal Testing as a black and white topic. Being a large advocate for Beagles I neglected to look at it another way. I’ll begin thinking about animal testing in a new light, on humans. We are creating our world, but this world is now home to technology that we have created and many times we are unsure how it is affecting us. Cell phones omit radiation, but not much research has been conducted on the side effects it could possess. Our food is manipulated, mass produced, and full of toxic and unnatural chemicals War alone has killed millions. Whether and unwanted draft or a new advanced weapon, the battlefield has also become a large laboratory for human rats. Our bodies are becoming the test subjects. Are humans testing humans? Are we merely just another animal to be tested on? I want to incorporate animal testing and war imagines. I think that having a contrast of clean food imagines and over worked, processed food as well might aid my vision.

Proposal: Different Dimensions in the War on Drugs

I did a lot of thinking after reading Dr. Wolff’s comments on my original proposal. After he pointed out that my topic—the politicizing of science—seemed like it could easily turn into a one-sided argument, I saw what he was talking about. There isn’t much ambiguity in stating such obvious facts as I did in my proposal. It seemed like all of the better videos showed problems that didn’t have easy solutions. Perhaps the value of these mash-ups isn’t in trying to fix a problem, but making viewers see the problem in a new light.

So, for my new topic, I think I’d like to go with the war on drugs. Now I realize that Dr. Wolff identified legalizing marijuana as an over-used topic on his website. I agree. My topic won’t focus on the harmlessness or harmfulness of any drug (at least not as the central focus).

I want to explore the complicated dimensions of the drug war and throw them into a stew—well, maybe a little more tactically than that, but you get the point. There are so many questions to ask: Has this war worked? Who is it affecting? Who wants to keep it and who doesn’t? Who benefits from it and who suffers from it? Would making drugs legal lead to more drug use? Is drug use inevitable? What are the historical variables surrounding the war on drugs that led us to this point?

I think it’s important that I stick to questions and not assertions. Or, at the very least, make observations instead of statements. That’s how I think it would be best to take on this assignment.

I’ll have to do a little more sifting through usable images, video, and audio clips before I figure out exactly which elements I’ll use. I suspect some relevant things to start sifting through would be clips of drug use, people in jail, impoverished neighborhoods, videos of arrest, images of cartel violence, etc. It’s all so open ended at this point, though, that I don’t want to commit to anything just yet. I’m more the type to surf through things and wait for light bulbs to go off in my head.

Mashup Proposal: Immigrants as Human Beings

Though most Americans may not realize it, immigration is still a problem in the United States.  People from Mexico, China and the Philippines are settling as often as they were years ago, and the policies that the government tries to uphold are simply failing under the influx.  Immigrants that come illegally can face charges like jail time or deportation, but immigrating legally is difficult and held under strict rules.  The worst part, in my opinion, is that immigrants are not viewed as people but as mindless foreigners trying to steal the opportunities of others.

My mashup will look at the “othering” that happens with immigrants in the United States – the way they are treated by native people, their struggles with jobs and domestic life, etc.  This also includes political issues like being deported or detained, but will focus on the personal rather than the political standpoint.  Although it is impossible to avoid politics, my mashup will not look so much at the political propositions toward fixing immigration as the humanity side of the argument: individual stories, emotions, families, and the ways that immigrants can benefit from coming to America.  Old clips from when immigrants were encouraged to come to the US – particularly in viewing the Statue of Liberty as the immigrant’s statue, and when the US was considered open to everyone for opportunity.

To emphasize the othering, I will contrast these images with clips from science fiction movies where the main race of the show/series/etc. treats another species harshly without understanding their intentions.  This could add a shock factor if I utilize brutal or inhumane clips filled with anger.  It also highlights how the first reaction of people is treat others, different from themselves, with violence and unreasonable judgments.

I also want to contrast the othering with images of bugs.  I want to emphasize the American belief of infestation by using clips that have bugs that work in groups (like ants, for example), like an immigration takeover.  This will tell the other side of the story, the common American take on immigration no matter the benefits.  I think the bugs will add an unexpected element that will make the viewer feel uncomfortable, but also lead the viewer toward the idea that they are uncomfortable because they do not know all of the information about the situation.

I plan to use music that will create a feeling of anxiety.  The music will be fast-paced so that I can use quick cuts to make the situation seem overwhelming and difficult to sort out for the viewer.

The Power of Visual Music

Beyonce in "XO" (Source: BeyonceVemo/New York Daily News)

Beyonce in “XO” (Source: New York Daily News)

In December of 2013, Beyoncé changed the game by not only releasing her entire album on iTunes without a debut single release or promotion, but turning her eponymous fifth studio album into a visual album, meaning each song was accompanied by a music video. We aren’t talking a standard green-screen music video where Beyoncé stands in front of a camera and belts out a soon-to-be hit such as “Pretty Hurts”, “XO” or “Drunk in Love”, but she went on location for each music video (17 in total), from Coney Island, New York to Rio de Janerio. Even the dancers featured in these videos had no idea what they were getting involved in and told TMZ that Beyoncé’s handlers confiscated their cell phones and other communication devices, even requiring them sign strict confidentiality agreements. This is what Beyoncé had to say about the album:

“I see music. It’s more than just what I hear. When I’m connected to something, I immediately see a visual or a series of images that are tied to a feeling or an emotion — a memory from my childhood, thoughts about life, my dreams or my fantasies. And they’re all connected to the music.”

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