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!

Hunger Games and Academia

The Hunger Games reminds me of academic work. Sure, we don’t kill one another for entertainment. And, academic life isn’t about life or death, but the stakes are high and at times people are quite petty. The Tributes, though, are the pre-tenure faculty who have to participate in the department’s arena. Some Tributes face an easier match than others, but ultimately the senior faculty and others watch and wait to see who wins. The odds are ever in your favor to: teach, write, and pay service to the department and university. But, most departments really expect you to write, keep your head down, and know your place.

Some of the departments are more favored and might even have a better market “value” and people from those departments (districts) are more privileged and have nicer offices, labs, and equipment. Some of the departments struggle for every little thing that they get and others are swimming in what looks like opulence. The favored districts also find that their students might have more opportunity and job prospects once they graduate. These students are thought of as lucky–they are most likely to have a better idea about what they will do after they graduate.

Meanwhile the Gamekeepers are really the book and journal publishers, who keep the Tributes on their toes trying to make sure that they publish enough to earn tenure. The Tributes do a cost-benefit analysis thinking about which journals are the highly ranked ones and have the fastest review and publication turn-around in order to meet the department requirements. There also is the possibility of sponsors, if you are lucky. You get the sponsors via courting the senior faculty members in the department. They might give you connections, publishing opportunities, and vote for you when your file is under review.

Admittedly I have taken some cheeky licenses here, but I am sure that some read this blog post and agreed. If not, hopefully readers merely enjoyed the post.