Pop Pop Pop Culture

My consumption of pop culture is often informed by a few things varying from what I’m interested in, teaching, or what my family wants to see or do. This last weekend we saw some Americana, ubermasculine spectacle. I’ll give a hint, “You sunk my battleship.” Unlike many people we saw “Battleship” and enjoyed it for what it was worth, but I am ever mindful of some interesting points.

The first thing that we discussed was how the testosterone was dripping from the movie. No, it was exploding from the screen from the different characters’ bravado and the use of nothing possibly more hierarchical and masculine–the military. The movie included lots of male posturing and fighting–yawn. I won’t outline the exact plot since that is somewhat irrelevant as a Peter Berg extravaganza that is based on a Hasbro toy. The thing that made my teen daughter’s face react the most was this notion that one man has to ask another man for his permission to marry his daughter. I know that this tradition is one of those time-honored for many, but is not for me or my family.

The other thing that is so obvious with the “world is going to end due to an extraterrestrial invasion” is that the American military is there to save the day. Even though in this movie the RIMPAC event was taking place and several countries were represented it ended up being the American Navy and some survivors from the Japanese Navy to save the day. The good news was that Rihanna starred in the movie and was in several scenes. Yay for the token, strong black woman. In all serious, she did have a pivotal role working weapons, carrying a gun, and having her clothes on in the movie! I can’t say the same thing about Brooklyn Decker and her role as eye candy in the movie. Decker had on lots of form-fitting outfits, short shorts, and pretty dresses.

Spoiler alert. The movie also offered its own homage to the men who have served via a scene celebrating them and later incorporating some of these retired servicemen in the use of the museum the USS Missouri. Yes, there is a scene in which these older men parade toward the lead character and ask what he needs. He needs them and they are willing to get the decommissioned battleship out to sea to kick some alien ass. I know…cue the national anthem. But, it was pretty darn sentimental and a smart scene in some respects. The old technology still needs the old guys to run it, though. Here, a different demographic gets a nod in the movie. Likewise, in all fairness to Decker she plays a Physical Therapist, so there is a long scene at a rehab with lots of male veterans getting physical therapy. The camera pans over these men who are missing a variety of different limbs. And, one character ends up having a pivotal role in the movie.

Overall, you need to just suspend your beliefs as you watch this over the top movie. Was it terrible? No, but then again I did use some of my Scene points to get one free ticket. Had I paid for both tickets perhaps I’d feel differently!

Katniss Rocks

Before Reality TV was reality tv, Stephen King wrote about it giving readers pause about a cold-hearted dystopic future where people would watch poor people fight until the death (Running Man). The contestants wanted to make money and were paired against professional athletes and killers. They didn’t exactly fight, as much as attempt to survive.

Move forward a few decades to the Hunger Games by Suzanne Collins and we have a dystopic society where the totalitarian government has an annual Hunger Games that requires 12 Districts to offer a pair of Tributes to participate in a fight to the death. The one major difference–these Tributes are 12-18 years old. Yes, you read that right. Youth are fighting against one another in hope of being the surviving Tribute so that they can have an easier life after the fact—if they win.

The competition takes place in a controlled environment where the Gamekeeper and his staff can change the light, the weather, start fires, and even add interesting predators to the game. What is interesting to see here is how the more wealthy districts view the games as a moment of entertainment and not a matter of life and death for the contestants. They are amused by the games and this amusement says so much to the reader or person sitting in the cinema.

The protagonist, Katniss Everdeen, volunteers, after she is shocked to hear her 12 year old sister, Prim’s, name called. The movie stays relatively close to the book and is entertaining. I was lucky enough to sit in a sold out theater with an eager audience. Katniss clearly was at odds with how she had to play the game–to make herself desirable to the viewers. You see, the viewers can sponsor and give the Tributes gifts–medicine, food, or other necessities. The movie kept up the anxiety in all the crucial areas thanks to good direction and solid performances by the various actors. The movie was fabulous and I look forward to seeing it again. The movie offers commentary on politics, violence, class, gender, and what constitutes entertainment. Kissing my three middle fingers and raising them in the air for this first installment. I look forward to seeing Catching Fire and Mockingjay in the theater.

I noticed that the midnight line up included a handful of people dressed up as characters from the books. I did have a conversation after the movie regarding the pageantry of Reality TV. My friend said, “Well, I’m going to think more about watching American Idol.” Now, that show is not about the fight to the death, but the whole notion of the sponsorship and pageantry really does make you think. Let’s hope the odds are ever in your favor!

I want to thank Toshiba Canada for the tickets to the preview.

Fri Fun Facts

In the continued spirit of sharing quirky thoughts, here goes another Friday Fun Facts.

1. I am going to Comic Con in San Diego this month ( #SDCC11 ) with @pipsipirate and lots of other people. No, I’m not dressing up in a complete outfit or uniform. Yes, I might take my Gryffindor polo. I’m going as a Participant-Observer. I’m going to get more information about fandom studies for my Poli 433: Politics and Popular Culture course. Fun.

2. I am also going to BlogHer and this will also be in San Diego, but in August. Again, I’m looking forward to a work related event to network and have opportunities to learn more about women and technology. I am hoping to offer a new course in 2012 or 2013 related to Social Media and Politics. I don’t have the snappy title worked out yet, so it’s currently SMP in my mind.

3. Since I really dig my job a working “vacation” is not a problem. I’m going to two conferences for research, teaching, learning and network. Not too bad!

4. I was really lucky that the Western Political Science Association’s 2011 meeting in San Antonio, TX coincided with the annual Popular Culture conference in the same city. I attended panels related to Young Adult literature (Harry Potter, Hunger Games and Twilight), as well as other panels related to Pop Culture and Politics. Yet another example of how Political Science is a vast field that include this sort of work and interests. Yeah, that’s right–we do more than analyze election results. But, hey, that is important, too.

5. Next year, Weedonverse is at UBC in July 2012. I think I’ll be there.

I hope that you enjoyed today’s Fun Facts. And, for all the Canadians out there–Happy Canada Day!