Thursday, November 26, 2009


Two years ago, the writers at How I Met Your Mother delivered Slapsgiving – “It’s the one day we set aside each year to gather together and give slaps” – which was by far the funniest holiday episode of a sitcom since the one where Joey got his head stuck in the turkey. This year, they brought back Slapsgiving (or Slapsgiving 2, Revenge of the Slap), and while not nearly as funny as the first one, it still delivers the same lovable goodness. I like Lily’s father as the failed boardgame designer, and the “you’re dead to me” look reminded me a lot of Evil Willow. But really, writers, let’s step it up a notch. Here’s what I want to see for the last slap – write it in somehow:

Marshall, trading on Barney’s fear of slaps, agrees to barter his last slap on a new wager whereby if Barney wins, he will not get slapped the fifth time. Shenanigans ensue, the stakes escalate, and Marshall wins back his slap in addition to being able to place a personal ad in every newspaper and on every dating/social networking site about Slapsgiving 3 “Return of the Slap"

Anyone slept with Barney Stinson and want to slap him? COME ON OVER!

Thanksgiving would be interrupted by a barrage of women slapping Barney. That would be awesome. Even more awesome if Marshall used Barney’s 200+ (it is plus at this point, yes?) list as a “bouncer” to check them off as they come in. How funny would Jason Segel be saying things like, “Ah yes, Heather, number 168. Proceed.” Get on that writers!

Happy Slaps(I mean Thanks)giving everyone!

Monday, November 23, 2009

Pulling a Braid

I consider myself a connoisseur of several things that would be considered part of popular culture – television and wine being my favorite. But recently I’ve tried to make my way back into video games. I don’t quite get it – I liked games in the 90s when we had Atari and Nintendo, but somewhere in the transition to X-Box and Playstation, I lost the love. Of course, it could have been college. And grad school. Anyway –

I think my big problem is that a lot of modern video games are FPS or MMO or RPG. To be frank, I don’t have time for that shit! Okay, I could get into FPS if I liked shooting people in the face, but I really don’t. I’m a non-violent kind of gal. And I liked RPGs in the 90s when it involved actually bonding with people (most of what I did was narrative writing RPGs online), but it got to a point in a grad school where I just didn’t have time to keep up with it anymore.

So – my dream game is one that has all kinds of intellectually challenging puzzles, isn’t too difficult to navigate (as I’m not too swift with the fingers on modern controllers), and doesn’t involve a ton of violence. Braid brought it in spades! I realize this is probably late, as I’m a late-comer since I only have Playstation and it was released a year ago on X-Box, but seriously. This game was AWESOME.

I love the 2D platform, though I know that makes me old-school, but the real selling point for me was the story line – it’s all about the complicated relationship between time and memory. The main character is remembering that he has to do something related to a past relationship, and the quest is all about that. In each level, he gets to manipulate time to a different degree, which I read as part of his nostalgia and memory related to the relationship in question (though others have posited this is about the atomic bomb despite other commentary). I like the idea that you can have a “shadow self” who will still do the same things you did before even if you rewind time, or having a “hesitation” point where you can stop time for a moment and make things move more slowly. Who hasn’t had a relationship or a moment where you wanted to stop time, reverse, and start over? Or where you wanted someone else to do the leg work for you so you could reap the benefits? Or where you wanted to pause time enough to take back something you said that can never be repealed? The themes were so salient that in addition the beautiful graphics and artwork, I would have been amazed. But the puzzles! Oh the puzzles! They were so intellectually interesting. And the ending – I was so in shock that it took me a few hours to process. Since I don’t want to give it away in case you play it, I won’t elaborate. But seriously. The BEST game I’ve played since I was a little tyke and first got Zelda.

Thursday, November 19, 2009

Leaving the Dollhouse Behind

By now, the Whedonite universe has had time to process their recent crushing blow with the cancellation of Dollhouse. I must admit, although a long time Whedon fan and a serious fan of Eliza Dushku (albeit more for her incredible hotness than her ability to act), I’m not surprised. And it’s not for the reasons that most Whedonites would cite – FOX being idiots (ala Firefly), the downfall of narrative storytelling on television in multiple season arcs (fewer and fewer series make it into a second season), or a general inability of new sci-fi to really snag enough of an audience to sustain a series (Heroes anyone?).

At the risk of being shot, lambasted and skewered – Dollhouse was canceled because it kind of sucked.

Okay, okay. So I liked the premise – but the series lacked all of the things I’ve come to know and love about Whedon pieces. Here are three issues that made Dollhouse non-essential viewing material:

1) BAD CHARACTERS: Whedon’s strongest writing comes in developing interesting characters. Topher was the only interesting character on this series because he’s the only one who was stable long enough to develop into something more than a caricature. Boyd, Adelle and Paul were fairly flat with only brief moments of interest. And really, when you hinge the narrative to the idea that the majority of your characters become new people every week, it’s difficult to sustain narrative fidelity. 

2) CREEP FACTOR: While I’m a big fan of more progressive ways of thinking about sexuality and morality, there were TONS of scenes that I was uncomfortable watching. Given real modern day issues with sex trafficking, rape, and government conspiracy, I couldn’t feel good about life after any episode. The episode more recently about how Sierra came to the Dollhouse was so incredibly disturbing I didn’t sleep for two days. And that was AFTER the narrative arc about her basically being raped and molested inside the Dollhouse!

3) REALITY CHECK: Beyond the “wow, check out what we can do with technology and should we really be doing that to peoples’ brains?” there wasn’t really a larger narrative about how this would relate to normal people. Buffy and Firefly were easier to read into as an audience because you could relate to the themes of high school and post-apocalyptic war (probably more with the first, but the later has been enough of a subject in sci-fi that it’s an easy transition – plus, they were space pirates, and everyone’s been in a situation where they haven’t had everything they needed). The clientele of the Dollhouse are all wealthy, privileged douche-bags that think they can do whatever they want. The only client that was remotely sympathetic was the guy whose wife died in a car accident the day he bought her a house. Given that Whedon draws your average geek loving marginalized audience, my guess is that many viewers followed in my cries of “Seriously? Why do the wealthy get away with this shit?” or "Yes, that douche-bag deserved to die." Neither of these is a fun way to spend a Friday night.

I hope that Whedon returns to his roots when developing his next project and offers up a series of strong characters with significant relationships. Sci-fi discourse? Sure! Just make it something we can feel good about watching.

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

Thoughts on Surveillance

Today in one of my classes we were talking about the concept of surveillance – both asymmetrical and lateral. For those less familiar with work in media studies, asymmetrical surveillance occurs when you are watching someone who is watching someone else. Think Punk’d or other such shows. Lateral surveillance occurs when both parties can watch each other simultaneously, such as Facebook or Twitter. My students were fascinated with the different facets of surveillance, both impressed at what it can do for them (coupons and free stuff!) and creeped out by the sheer lack of privacy in today’s mediated world (people should just ask me out rather than look me up on Facebook first).

While the world has definitely changed, I find myself in instances of lateral surveillance asking myself very serious questions such as, “if this were someone’s diary and I knew it was their space, would I open it?” This pertains a lot to Facebook and other mediums where I feel like people carve out a niche – sometimes I feel fine looking at peoples’ pages, sometimes I feel like I’m crossing a line that might move me into weird, stalker mode. But I’m not sure how to occupy a space where the boundaries are consistently transitory – you have to be comfortable with some level of self-disclosure, while at the same time cautious about the information disclosed. Especially when your “friends” network includes anywhere from people you knew marginally in high school, to close friends, to colleagues, to family members, to students. The power dynamics across that range are such that it’s hard to figure out how to “be” in a space.

I've been working to reduce the dissonance between my identities, making them more transparent in ways I never used to be comfortable with. So, for example, I was feeling a bit snarky today, and I thought, I’ll change my Facebook status to something silly like 'In an Open Relationship with Michel Foucault'. That's something weird that I would do and people who "know" me would get. But while I know some people would get the joke, others would be highly confused without the contextual cues. And is it then worth it for me to make the joke if I have to explain it to an entire network? There are some days I feel like fighting that fight and others I feel like deleting my entire page and boycotting the whole performative aspect of my identity. It's hard to be yourself when "yourself" changes based on the monitoring you need to do in particular moments in particular parameters.