Archive for the ‘Media grammar’ Category

That 70s Show creates stereotypical 70s subtexts – rewrite

February 3, 2011 Leave a comment


Members of the cast of That 70s Show

That 70s Show is a sitcom, comedy show that is supposed to personify the lives of teenagers growing up in the culturally explosive and rebellious period of the 70s.  The show follows six high-school kids from the made-up town of Point Place, Wisconsin.  The point-of-view of the show is through the eyes of these rebellious, rock n’ roll-loving teenagers that (supposedly) show the fun-loving side of the 70s: drinking beers, smoking marijuana, listening to rock music and cruising around in the car with friends.  The audience expects this fun-loving part of the show because many of these viewers grew up in the 70s and find the show to be a fond reflection of that decade.      

Print media, such as the NY Daily Times and have ran stories about the termination of the show and current status of the actors.  The show debuted on the Fox network in 1998, but since then it has aired on many other broadcast and cable outlets, such as ABC Family and MTV.  

The ambiance of the 70s is definitely over stereo-typed in this show.  Although the “love generation” culture was a big part of the 70s, not everywhere in the United States were going through the same revelations of the 70s as Point Place is in the show.  Many of these stereo-types insinuate certain subtexts in the show that, while obvious to the viewer, are also what make the show appealing to those viewers.

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January 18, 2011 1 comment

The show Entourage is the story of one movie star (Vince), his older brother, and 2 best friends who move out to Los Angeles to launch his movie career.  The subtext of the show is that no matter how many curveballs life throws you and how heavily the deck is stacked against you, if you try hard enough and want it bad enough you can succeed.  The characters each undergo their own struggles and challenges throughout each episode, but eventually, through success or failure, they come out of each situation better than they were before.  The show sudbtly conveys that only those who push and fight and claw tooth and nail can really make it in Hollywood, and if you are we or you even think about giving up, you don’t have a chance.


The show is heavily advertised in print media in men’s magazines, and TV commercials during other shows on the HBO channel. The actors in the show also appear in commercials that allow them to utilize product placement.


The soundtrack for entourage is very current and updated within popular culture.  Some of the newest up-n-coming artists have been featured on the show as well as some of the best artists in the game.  The genres range from hip-hop to rap to R&B to sometimes eve­n pop.   Most of the songs are used during transitional scenes of to emphasize a specific moment in conversation and therefore are often in instrumental form.  There is no narrator for the show, its intentional is to portray current real life Hollywood, and thus many celebrities appear on the show in cameos.


The show is considered a comedy-drama with the viewer as a constant third-person point of view.  The audience expects amusing scenes with witty, intelligent conversation and dramatic events.  Sex, drugs, partying, and “boys-will-be-boys” themes are prevalent throughout the show.  The boys are always the focus; both girls and money are portrayed as just accessories that are always available, with the men always in control.  The audience is drawn in by the hope that Vince will eventually become a superstar and the rest of his “entourage” will find fame and success as well.


Entourage utilizes the online environment by advertising on men’s websites and allowing viewers to watch full episodes online after they originally air on Sunday night.  The website also features biographies on the cast and crew, additional footage and behind the scenes moments, director and actor commentaries, and photos of each of the characters.


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January 15, 2011 1 comment

One of my favorite shows that I feel has had a very interesting progression of subtext throughout its 10 seasons is Degrassi: The Next Generation. This show has been in production for several years and can be linked back to the 1980s. The show follows students enrolled at Degrassi Community School through their quests to find themselves while trying to survive Junior High and High school. Throughout the shows history it has intimated and portrayed tweens and teens from several different time periods. As well as presenting different subtexts and approaches in the show according to the dynamic of the youth of the time. Three common subtexts that have followed Degrassi are:

  1. School is the center of the tween and teenage experience.
  2. The ages of 12-18 are a very important time that dictates many decisions in later life.
  3. Temptations created by peers along with naivety causes 99% of problems in a young adult’s life.

The subtexts used in this show I feel create a very interesting effect on its audience. First, all of the subtexts used in Degrassi are directly linked with the ideas of the audience. The makers of Degrassi take great pride in finding out what its audience thinks and feels. After knowing these ideas the show then feeds them back to the audience in a more dramatic fashion. This does several things; mainly it keeps the audience interested and engaged. Along with that the audience also feels an interesting sense of relativity to the show.  Another effect of these subtexts is diversity it creates in audience. The subtext in Degrassi allows the show to reach anyone in the target age range despite racial, social, and economical differences.

Degrassi as far as I have seen has never been in print media. But more recently the creation of several forums and blogs dedicated to the show has grown.  There is even a Degrassi Wikipedia fan base. The show is heavily catered to teens. It is aired in the US on Teennick. The show features an all teen cast who you watch throughout their young adult lives and each episode is even named after a popular song of the time. Degrassi is heavily influenced by the fans and their lives being filled with modern-day references and even taking place in the current 2010-2011 school year. Degrassi is dictated by what the fans are interested in and seeing. The subtexts in Degrassi are a major factor in its long success and by reflecting on it, these subtexts are a major reason I am a fan.


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The Office: Not Your Regular TV Show

January 13, 2011 3 comments

The Office is a show that has been a part of my like since eighth grade. I have never been a person to sit down and watch TV. In fact I do not watch any shows on television. The only thing I watch when I watch TV is a big event (like the ESPYs or X-Games or Olympics), otherwise it is just ESPN. The Office was a show that a friend of mine showed me. He had the complete Season 1 on DVD discs. After viewing the first couple shows, I was hooked. The following years, I bought all of the seasons on my computer and to this day am still downloading iTunes episodes of Season 7 as they go along.

The subtext of this show is very unique. The Office is a show about a small paper company, Dunder Mifflin. More specifically, the setting takes place in Scranton, Pennsylvania in a small building. The “Scranton Branch” is a group of around 14 individuals, and the show films their day to day interactions. This show is definitely a comedy. The company, led by branch manager Michael Scott (Steve Carrell), never has a dull moment. Each specific character has an interesting or funny mannerism, way they carry themselves, or where they come from. Whether you look at Creed, an old man with a mysteriously suspicious past and his haunting yet hilarious comments, or Jim Halpert, a young salesman who has fallen in love with the company’s secretary and flirt-buddy, Pam Beasley.

The Office has been featured in a lot of print media throughout its campaign. Among other awards and recognitions, the webisodes earned The Office a 2010 Streamy Award for “Best Companion Web Series”. In Pennsylvania, there is a giant billboard of Michael Scott and the other Dunder Mifflin Employees as an advertisement for Season 7. Other than that, The Office ads can be found in various current magazine issues and newspaper articles such as Rollingstone, the New York Times, and E! Hollywood.

Interestingly, there is no music in the show.Part o the humor is the element of “awkward silence”. This plays a big role in the shows success. The famous theme song is actually the only bit of music on the show. This theme song is by “The Scrantones”, which is a local band in Pennsylvania. The lightheartedness and slapdash humor of the film gives a great element of intrigue. This show could attract a great range of audiences. This includes children in middle school all the way to parents and even grandparents. It is a very versatile show; appealing to a lot of different crowds. I would say that the primary audience would be around my age, from about age 18 to 25. It is extremely popular among my friends back home in Minnesota.

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Mad Men

January 13, 2011 1 comment

I am a huge fan of TV shows, and it is hard to pick a favorite one to look at. However an excellent show I have been watching recently is Mad Men, which portrays an interesting vision of our culture. I sometimes find myself wondering why I even enjoy this show; most of the characters are scumbags and the sexism in the show is overwhelming. The show is set in the 1950s and portrays some pretty harsh realities about that time period. It is interesting to think that the show would never have aired in the actual time it was set. In the 1950s people were watching shows like I Love Lucy and Leave it to Beaver, which portrayed a pretty peachy picture of family life. Watching Mad Men suggests that underneath these perfect seeming exteriors, life in the 50s was far from easy. I don’t think there is one married man on the show who does not cheat on his wife; most of them do it regularly. Women are treated as objects that can be talked about or touched in any way men see fit. Some of the women on the show are strong characters, but lots of them are weak and submissive to this behavior. It is interesting to think that if this behavior were in a show that was set in present times we would find it very distasteful, and if the show was aired on TV in the 1950s it would have been totally scandalous. And yet is okay to have a show on TV now with such blatant sexism because it portrays a time in the past. Even so, I have several friends that have stopped watching the show because they found it hard to watch the way women are treated in it.

So why do I like this show? For one thing, it does an excellent job as a period piece that makes you completely believe it is the 50s. The costumes, set, script and music all create a world from the past that is different from that of any other shows on television, and is visually very interesting. Even though most of the characters are unlikeable at first, as I watch more of the show I have come to sympathize with them, and the main character, Don Draper, who was once totally despicable has actually become close to my heart. As we learn more about his past, we see him more as the product of his upbringing and his surroundings. We can understand this for all the characters, and gain insight into the difficulties of living in the 50s.  The show is completely in your face about bringing the issues to light, and though the obvious reaction is to think about how much things have changed since that time, another possible reaction is to think about in what ways things are still the same. Mad Men is not always an easy show to watch, but it is excellently produced, and shows an important part of our past culture.

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Boardwalk Empire – A Blast From the Past

January 13, 2011 1 comment

HBO’s critically acclaimed series, Boardwalk Empire, is a period piece set in the roaring twenties, right at the onset of Prohibition.  The show is loosely based on Atlantic City’s Nucky Johnson, the city’s racketeering and liquor smuggling gangster kingpin.  When viewed through a media grammar lens, the piece reveals many of popular social opinions of the era.  Immediately apparent is the tremendous social gap between men and women.  Women are granted the right to vote midway through the series, and are still viewed submissive objects for the most part, only achieving a small amount of power through sex.  An audience response of disgusted awe is oftentimes encountered, owing to the corruption in government which still manages to run incredibly well.  These themes of corruption and sexism contribute to the overall production desire to portray the stark contrast between the popular culture and social system of the modern era and the twenties.

The series was advertised in print publications such as People and Sports Illustrated. The music in the show is jazz and other pop music of the era, an additional area of enjoyment for me.  The show expects that the audience has a somewhat veiled desire for taboo content, showcased through its romantic portrayal of criminals and gangsters.  Viewers are drawn to these “bad boys” much like the “rebels” of pop music, going all the way back to Jim Morrison or even Elvis.  The show fills a niche in pop culture today as a gangster era drama, but it also allows for a sort of outlet for some of the common emotions today.  By watching shows like Boardwalk Empire, one is able to moonlight as a dashing rebel who cares not for the laws of the “common” man.  It provides an escape from the mundane everyday, something which many shows today strive for.

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Family Guy

January 13, 2011 1 comment

I chose Family Guys because it is one of my favorite shows.  Family Guys genre is a comedy in the form of satire.  Family Guys pokes fun at modern day celebrities and events in the news.  Several times in each episode, the show goes completely off topic in a unrelated tangent that could poke fun at anything from a currently popular television show or celebrity or a political figure or decision.  For instance in one episode it makes fun of Kobe Bryant, the superstar basketball player, and his apparent innocence in his infamous rape case.  In another show, a character on Family Guy is a contestant on the Bachelor and throughout the episode the show satires the dramatized and somewhat idiotic nature of the so called “reality” television show. The creators of the show us these satirical tangents to present their subtext.  Family Guy episodes present an anti-pop-culture subtext.  The Family Guy creators use their satire to present their opinion that celebrities are attention-grabbing fools and they also poke fun at the viewers who tune into celebrity news, and reality tv.  Family Guy has been featured in many magazines and television programs.  The coverage is mixed and can be very positive and complementary or very negative. Many stories portray family guy as a crude yet clever and entertaining comedy show.  While others portray it as offensive to young children who could be exposed to the show.  It also has been criticized for possibly modeling itself after the popular animated sitcom The Simpsons.

The music in the show seems to vary quite a bit.  In the beginning of the episode there is always the same opening song in which all the main characters sing a song with a piano in the background. Throughout the episode there is always music that resembles that of classic sit com cut scenes.  However music plays a more prominent role in other episodes.  In some satirical scenes where the show pokes fun at things such as action movies, the music fits with what is going on on screen.  Also, some episodes have extended jokes involving music.  For instance, in one episode the main character becomes obsessed with a classic pop tune from the 60’s, and routinely plays the music throughout the episode. The genre of the show is an animated comedy and the point of view in the show is always done in 3rd person.  Their target audience is teenage and college students who are more open-minded to the sometimes offensive nature of the sketches.  The show borrows from the online environment because in some episodes it pokes fun at the nature of online interactions such as blogging and youtubing.

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