This week the digital humanities journal In Media Res will be posting a series of short pieces I organized on pop music. All the contributors are old friends who worked with me in college on the zine Nadine. Today some of us are academics, others journalists, editors and novelists. Here’s the publication schedule – I’ll come back and add links as each piece goes live.
“Tickling the Ivory Towers” by yours truly. It’s about academia, rock criticism, and Madonna.
“Words, Words, Words” by Gavin Edwards. Gavin is a Contributing Editor at Rolling Stone, the author of numerous books on pop music, and one of my oldest friends – we met in high school when I loaned him my copy of the Bob Dylan boxed set Biograph. His contribution is an extension of his ongoing project to chronicle every minute of the 1988 MTV New Year’s Eve Top 100 Videos countdown, which I primarily remember for the innumerable commercials for the Kevin Kline flop The January Man.
“Hide Your Kids! Hide Your Wife! Hide Your Husband!” by James Hannaham. James is the author of the acclaimed novel God Says No (McSweeney’s) and one of the founders of the performance group Elevator Repair Service. He’s written for The Village Voice and Salon, and teaches at the Pratt Institute. His piece is on the “Bed Intruder Song” viral video.
“… Or Other Visual Media” by Marc Weidenbaum. Marc is the editor of the ambient/electronica music website disquiet and a contributor to Nature. He was an editor at Tower Records’ late, lamented Pulse! magazine, as well as the groundbreaking American version of the omnibus manga magazine Shonen Jump. His piece is on videogame music.
“Free and Freer: Wikileaks and ViCKi LEEKX” by Ivan Kreilkamp. Ivan is Associate Professor of English at Indiana University. He’s the author of Voice and the Victorian Storyteller. He’s also on the cover of the Lemonheads’ Creator holding a box of Cheerios. His piece is on M.I.A.’s mixtape tribute to Wikileaks.
I’m going to try to keep the conversation going all week on Twitter through the hashtag #IMR, culminating in a live tweet chat Sunday night during the Grammies. Join us!
The complete Ted’s Movie Database, featuring the Don’t Tell Mom the Babysitter’s Dead rating system, is now back online. It’s part of the new Lists section, which includes year-end Top 10s and decade-end Top 50s, syllabi, comprehensive exam reading lists, old Village Voice Pazz & Jop critics’ poll ballots, and now TMDB. Follow the links from the navigation bar, or click here to go directly to TMDB.
Media and Popular Culture
Film 4810, Spring 2011
Mondays & Wednesdays 1:30-2:45, Aderhold 303
Office: 738 One Park Place South
Email: firstname.lastname@example.org Twitter: http://twitter.com/tedfriedman
Popular culture is often described as “escapist” entertainment. But this dismissal evades some very serious questions. What are we escaping? Where are we escaping to? Does everybody go to the same place? How might the trip affect us, once we get back? This class looks at the social consequences and political implications of mass mediated entertainment. Its goal is to develop the theoretical tools and critical perspective to interrogate the TV shows, commercials, films, books, songs, videos, and web sites that saturate our lives.
The coursepack is sold by Bestway Copy Center, 18 Decatur Street SE (on the first floor of One Park Place South). Some readings are available online through the links provided. Links to additional optional readings will be distributed via the Twitter hashtag #popcult.
Unit I: Introducing Cultural Studies
1/19 Introduction: What Is Culture?
1/24 Barbie Nation: Culture as Struggle and Negotiation
Ted Friedman, “Introduction,” Electric Dreams: Computers and American Culture:
Watch The Century of Self online:
1/26 Culture as Sentimental Education
Clifford Geertz, “Deep Play: Notes on the Balinese Cockfight”:
In Media Res theme week, Sports & Media: Football/Futbol:
1/31 Paris Is Burning: Subcultures and Mass Culture
Dick Hebdige, “The Function of Subculture”: http://www.kirkarts.com/wiki/images/a/af/Hebdige_subculture.pdf
Malcolm Gladwell, “The Coolhunt”: http://gladwell.com/1997/1997_03_17_a_cool.htm
Gladwell, “The Science of Shopping”: http://gladwell.com/1996/1996_11_04_a_shopping.htm
Unit II: The Circuit of Culture
2/2 Regulation and Production
Thomas Schatz, “New Hollywood, New Millennium,” from Film Theory and Contemporary New Media, ed. Warren Buckland (Routledge, 2009). (CP)
Chris Anderson, “The Long Tail”: http://www.wired.com/wired/archive/12.10/tail.html
Ellen Seiter, “Semiotics, Structuralism and Television,” from Channels of Discourse, Reassembled, ed. Robert Allen (UNC Press, 1992). (CP)
Roland Barthes, “Myth Today”: http://www.artsci.wustl.edu/~marton/myth.html
2/9 Audience, Identity and Meaning
Barbara Ehrenreich et al, “Beatlemania: Girls Just Want to Have Fun,” from The Adoring Audience: Fan Culture and Popular Media, ed. Lisa Lewis (Routledge, 1992). (CP)
Ted Friedman, “Myth, the Numious and Cultural Studies,” Flow 10.05, August 6, 2009:
In Media Res theme week, “Science Fiction and Fandom,” September 6-10, 2010:
Unit III: Culture and Power
2/14 Reading the Romance: Cultural Capital
Janice Radway, excerpts from Reading the Romance (UNC Press, 1984). (CP)
John Fiske, “The Cultural Economy of Fandom,” from The Adoring Audience. (CP)
Go to a bookstore. Browse for, buy, and read a romance novel.
2/16 Ideology, Hegemony and Resistance
James Kavanaugh, “Ideology,” from Critical Terms for Literary Study, ed. Frank Lentricchia and Thomas McLaughlin (U Chicago Press, 1995).
John Fiske, “British Cultural Studies and Television,” from Channels of Discourse, Reassembled.
Stuart Hall, “Encoding, Decoding,” from CCCS Stencilled Paper 7:
2/21 Ultimate Fighting Champsionship
In Media Res theme week, “Professional Wrestling,” August 16-20, 2010:
2/23 Color Adjustment: Racial Formation
Omi and Winant, excerpt from Racial Formation in the United States (Routledge 1994). (CP)
2/28 Spring Break – No Class
3/2 Spring Break – No Class
Ariel Levy, “Raunch Culture” and “The Future that Never Happened,” from Female Chauvinist Pigs (Free Press, 2006). (CP)
Alexander Doty, “There’s Something Queer Here,” from Making Things Perfectly Queer (U Minnesota Press, 1993).
3/9 Mad Men
Unit IV: New Media Futures
3/14 Understanding Comics
Scott McCloud, excerpt from Understanding Comics (Kitchen Sink Press, 1993).
Warren Ellis and Paul Duffield, Freakangels: http://www.freakangels.com/?p=23
(read through at least Volume 1)
3/16 Adult Swim
3/21 Game Studies
Ralph Koster, excerpts from A Theory of Fun for Game Design (Paraglyph Press, 2004).
McKenzie Wark, GAM3R 7H3ORY: http://www.futureofthebook.org/gamertheory/ (read “Agony: on The Cave,” page cards 1-25)
Ted Friedman, “The Play Paradigm: What Media Studies Can Learn from Game Studies,” Flow 9.03 (December 1, 2008): http://flowtv.org/2008/12/the-play-paradigm-what-media-studies-can-learn-from-game-studies-ted-friedman-georgia-state-university/
Ted Friedman, “Strat-O-Matic and the Baseball Tarot: Sense and Synchronicity in Sports and Games,” Flow 9.07 (February 20, 2009): http://flowtv.org/2009/02/strat-o-matic-and-the-baseball-tarot-sense-and-synchronicity-in-sports-and-games-ted-friedman-georgia-state-university-atlanta/
In Media Res theme week, “Gaming,” December 6-10, 2010: http://mediacommons.futureofthebook.org/imr/theme-week/2010/49/gaming-december-6-10-2010
Play World of Warcraft, Farmville, or any other MMORPG or social game of your choice.
Free 10-day trial for WoW at http://www.worldofwarcraft.com.
3/23 Game Demos
3/28 Social Media
Emily Nussbam, “Say Everything,” New York, January 15, 2009:
Ted Friedman, “Tweeting the Dialectic of Technological Determinism,” Flow 10.02, June 27, 2009:
3/30 New Media Demos
Unit V: The Politics of Culture
Benedict Anderson, from Imagined Communities (CP)
Arjun Appadurai, from Modernity at Large (CP)
4/6 Global Formats
Watch Naomi Klein, “Addicted to Risk,” online:
Watch The Story of Stuff online: http://storyofstuff.com/
4/13 Late Night TV
Donna Haraway, “Manifesto for Cyborgs” from Simians, Cyborgs and Women (Routledge 1990).CP
4/20 New Media Demos
4/25 Ecocultural Studies
David Abram, “The Ecology of Magic,” from The Spell of the Sensuous (Vintage, 1996):
Scott London, “The Ecology of Magic: An Interview with David Abram”:
Ted Friedman, “The Politics of Magic,” Scope 14 (June 2009):
Ted Friedman, “Vertigo,” Flow 10.08 (September 19, 2009):
Take a walk in a park.
Take-Home Final Exam due 5/2
The class assignments add up to total of 100 possible points. Your final grade for the class is determined by adding up your grades for each assignment, adjusting for attendance, then applying the final number to the following scale:
A 100-93 B+ 89-88 C+ 79-78 D 70-65
A- 92-90 B 87-83 C 77-73 F 64-0
B- 82-80 C- 72-70
Take-Home Midterm – 45 points
The take-home midterm will require you to relate concepts from the readings and lectures to the films screened for the first three class units. Due in class March 17.
Take-Home Final – 45 points
The take-home final will be structured just like the midterm, covering units 4-7. Due May 5.
Presentation – 10 points
You will sign up with two partners to research the creators, economics, and audience contexts of a television program or video game. You will then choose a sample episode or gameplay experience, present your research to the class, screen the episode/game for the class, then participate in the class discussion. More information will follow in a separate handout.
As Woody Allen put it, “80 percent of success is showing up.” It’s less than that in this formula, but the bottom line is that you can’t contribute to the class if you’re not there. You’re allowed one unexcused absence for the semester. After that, each unexcused absence subtracts one point from your grade total. Excused absences include medical and family emergencies. You will be expected to schedule any employment responsibilities around this class, or accept the consequences of missed classes for your grade. If you do need to miss a class, please contact me ahead of time, and make arrangements to catch up on missed material.
Re-Writes and Makeup Tests
Opportunities for revision and improvement will be available for the midterm and presentations. In addition, I will look at optional drafts of the final submitted on or before the deadline listed above.
Late and Unsubmitted Papers
Late papers will be marked off by ½ point for every day overdue unless an extension is agreed upon before the due date. No work can be accepted after the deadline for the take-home final. Any unsubmitted papers will receive a 0. Likewise, any unanswered exam questions will receive a 0. So, if you answer only 2 out of 3 required exam questions, you will get a 0 on the third question.
Students withdrawing on or before the midsemester point will receive a W provided they are passing the course. Students who withdraw after the midsemester point will not be eligible for a W except in cases of hardship. If you withdraw after the midsemester point, you will be assigned a WF, except in those cases in which (1) hardship status is determined by the office of the dean of students because of emergency, employment, or health reasons, and (2) you are passing the course.
Incompletes may be given only in special hardship cases. Incompletes will not be used merely for extending the time for completion of course requirements.
Changes to the Syllabus
This syllabus provides a general plan for the course. Deviations may be necessary.
Originally posted December 29, 2009
This was the decade in which TV became America’s most exciting creative medium. When the most compelling auteurs were not filmmakers, but showrunners like Joss Wheedon, David Simon, David Chase and Matthew Weiner. When fandom became a matter not just of accepting the limitations of a mass-produced format, but celebrating the novelistic possibilities of serialized storytelling. When hundreds of channels meant, at least some of the time, true diversity. Even as the music industry tanked and the movies got bigger and dumber, TV – at least the best TV – got smarter. How long it’ll last is up for grabs. But this decade has at least demonstrated that there’s an audience out there for great weekly storytelling.
Below is a list of my favorite TV shows of the decade. For shows that started in the 1990s (like Buffy), I only considered the episodes that ran in the 2000s.
1 – The Wire
2 – The Office (US version)
3 – Lost
4 – Chappelle’s Show
5 – Lucky Louie
6 – Breaking Bad
7 – The Colbert Report
8 – Battlestar Galactica
9 – Mad Men
10 – Top Chef
11 – Flight of the Conchords
12 – 30 Rock
13 – Big Love
14 – Deadwood
15 – Buffy the Vampire Slayer
16 – The Gilmore Girls
17 – Insomniac
18 – Generation Kill
19 – Project Greenlight
20 – Sex and the City
21 – Futurama
22 – Curb Your Enthusiasm
23 – The Sopranos
24 – The Daily Show
25 – Undeclared
26 – Dollhouse
27 – True Blood
28 – Hey Monie
29 – The Powerpuff Girls
30 – Parks and Recreation
31 – The Amazing Race
32 – The PJs
33 – Project Runway
34 – Pardon the Interruption
35 – Weeds
36 – CMT Crossroads
37 – No Reservations
38 – Best Week Ever
39 – MXC
40 – Cover Wars
41 – Human Giant
42 – Michael and Michael Have Issues
43 – King of the Hill
44 – Celebrity Poker Showdown
45 – Ultimate Film Fanatic
46 – Beat the Geeks
47 – World Poker Tour
48 – South Park
49 – Yo Gabba Gabba
50 – The Guild
The third Tedcast takes a break from my Fantasy & Science Fiction lectures to present an interview with me conducted by Erik Davis. Erik hosts Expanding Minds on the Progressive Radio Network, and is author of numerous books, including a great study of Led Zeppelin IV and the new collection Nomad Codes. Erik and I go back to college, where we worked together on a zine. Here we talk about the Centaur Manifesto, critical theory, and the tensions between being an academic and a public intellectual.
I’m writing a book about centaurs and cyborgs – about trying to bring together mythos and logos, magic and science, Carl Jung and Karl Marx, Maria Von Franz and Fredric Jameson. I’m podcasting the book via my lectures on Tedcast. I’m tweeting the book via the #centaur hashtag. And I’m blogging the book here.
The book expands my work on politics, myth, fantasy, and the ideas of Karl Marx and Carl Jung. Theoretically, it’s a marriage of post-Marxist critical theory with post-Jungian depth psychology. My hope is the combination will prove, if not a dialectical synthesis, perhaps an alchemical reaction – what Jung calls syzygy, the marriage of opposites.
Jung like Marx began as a Hegelian. Alchemy is Jung’s own revision of Hegel’s dialectic, just as deconstruction is for Derrida. The Buddhist version is my personal favorite: the middle way. Which leads to emptiness, no-self, nirvana. And as Jack Kornfield puts it, After the Ecstasy, the Laundry.
My most recent work has been on games as forms of active imagination. Here’s a short slideshow I made about the social game Farmville and active imagination. It accompanied a piece I contributed to the digital humanities journal In Media Res, “Farmville: the Garden in the Machine.”
Here’s an interview I did with David Metcalfe, who runs the wonderfulOpenMythSource.com. He also wrote a very thoughtful follow-up piece about my work, “Digital Gardening,” and republished “Myth, the Numinous & Cultural Studies.”
And here’s a talk I gave a couple of years ago about the politics of fantasy films.