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- 03/21/14--04:00: _RuPaul still hasn't...
- 03/21/14--09:07: _The best new sci-fi...
- 03/21/14--11:13: _This website turns ...
- 03/21/14--11:46: _Behold the glory of...
- 03/21/14--14:32: _Watch an Italian nu...
- 03/22/14--08:50: _How an Alt Lit vill...
- 03/22/14--09:33: _Kevin Bacon's 'Foot...
- 03/22/14--11:17: _After controversial...
- 03/23/14--12:39: _Paul Walker will be...
- 03/23/14--13:24: _Here’s the 'Wall-E'...
- 03/23/14--15:36: _Pivot is television...
- 03/24/14--04:53: _Lady Gaga uses 'Min...
- 03/24/14--07:46: _Here's proof that w...
- 03/24/14--09:20: _A brief video histo...
- 03/24/14--09:52: _Tabloid coverage of...
- 03/24/14--10:38: _Jessica Chastain's ...
- 03/24/14--12:00: _The Black Keys prom...
- 03/25/14--10:28: _Vine stardrom leads...
- 03/25/14--06:07: _Travel through pop-...
- 03/25/14--15:26: _Gwyneth Paltrow ann...
- 03/21/14--04:00: RuPaul still hasn't learned his lesson on transphobia
- 03/21/14--09:07: The best new sci-fi flick is only 8 minutes long
- 03/21/14--11:13: This website turns your favorite TV show into a beautiful graph
- 03/21/14--11:46: Behold the glory of Madonna’s armpit hair on Instagram
- 03/21/14--14:32: Watch an Italian nun leave 4 'The Voice' judges breathless
- 03/22/14--11:17: After controversial script leaks, ABC scraps 'Alice in Arabia'
- 03/23/14--15:36: Pivot is television programming for the ‘new greatest generation’
- 03/24/14--04:53: Lady Gaga uses 'Minecraft' to resurrect Jesus in new music video
- 03/24/14--07:46: Here's proof that white men can actually jump
- 03/24/14--09:20: A brief video history of Gwar
- 03/25/14--10:28: Vine stardrom leads to record deal for this couple
- 03/25/14--06:07: Travel through pop-culture history with 'The Office' time machine
- 03/25/14--15:26: Gwyneth Paltrow announces split from Chris Martin on Goop
I often cringe while watching RuPaul’s Drag Race. Peering through Cheetos-stained fingers while clutching a glass of Merlot, I feel my skin crawl while bearing witness to the endless humiliations Ru demands of his queens—be it acting, singing, or worse yet, doing comedy. And yet I am drawn to the show for those glimmers of humanity (or even unexpected talents) that come with contestants stretching themselves far beyond their limits. Be it Stacey Layne Matthews’ brilliant turn as Mo’nique during season 3’s Snatch Game or Ongina’s emotional admission to living with HIV in season 1, Drag Race offers moments of profundity. I cringe because I care.
That's why I'm call B.S. on the most recent mini-challenge thrown at season 6’s queens. On Monday night, Ru asked the queens to determine if zoomed-in body parts of demi-celebrities (such as lips, legs, or a pelvic region) belonged to a “bi-o-logical woman” or a “psy-cho-logical woman.” Queens were given signs to hold up with the helpful indicators of “female” or the ever-charming “shemale.” Needless to say, it was a cavalcade of misgendering, misogyny, and transphobia.
Was disappointed @ blatant transphobic minigame on @RuPaul drag race this week. You have had trans contestants! Get it the F together!— teagan (@twidx) March 19, 2014
Throughout the absurd segment, I kept wondering: Why, Ru? What is the goal of this challenge?
Ru has come under harsh scrutiny before for using the slur “tranny” in songs and public performances. His responses have largely ignored criticisms from the trans community as “ego-driven,” saying queens have “earned the right” to use these words and that he loves the word tranny. Dan Savage has similarly chided the LBGT community for its “draconian” policing of language, saying all this in-fighting will ensure we “lose the war” against conservative bigots. While both Ru and Dan have both remained vigilant in their stances, gay male celebrities like Neil Patrick Harris and Lance Bass have both apologized after using the phrase “tranny” in public.
This leads me to wonder: With the firestorm surrounding Ru’s previous comments, why would he choose to antagonize trans activists and allies in such a brazen way?
As much as I appreciate Drag Culture as an art form, it's offensive and unacceptable for them to use Transphobic terms. Please stop @RUPaul.— Julie Rei Goldstein (@JulieRei) March 18, 2014
For the sake of argument, let’s say the Drag Race challenge was merely an attempt to be funny (“Don’t be so serious, guuurl!” you can imagine Laganga Estranga saying in another cringe-worthy display.)
So let’s unpack that a bit. The cast of semi-famous body parts the drag queens were asked to identify ranged from the “Tan Mom” Patricia Krentcil’s legs and pro wrestler Chyna Doll’s waist to the crotch of Drag Race alum Raven. The humor arises when queens guess wrong. The queens find it particularly hilarious when cis-females are read as men in drag. Look at how colossally these women fail at performing femininity! We laugh as the camera pulls back to reveal that Chyna Doll’s muscled physique belongs to a “woman” and not to the “shemale” we thought! One queen even quips, “I’m still not sure if I got it right or wrong” when we see Chyna Doll’s face.
I'm always just really disappointed whenever I'm reminded of just how transphobic rupaul is. Like... Really? "Female or she-male?"— Michael (@maicle) March 18, 2014
In the reverse scenario—say, when a contestant guessed that Raven’s crotch was a “female” one—the camera would pull back to queens responding with an impressed gasp. Now that’s how you do it, you can imagine them thinking.
At its best, Drag Race offers us a glimpse into the way that “all gender is drag,” to borrow a phrase from Ru himself. This is particularly salient and powerful when queens poke fun at themselves as a means to expose the arbitrary boundaries we draw around gender (think of contestant Milk’s decision to don a long gray beard while in full drag).
I love RuPaul...but he is transphobic as fuck. I haven't forgotten that joke about the difference between a drag queen and trans person.— Thomas Hinyard (@afrohippiequing) June 2, 2013
But at its worst—and as this challenge revealed—it’s an opportunity for cis gay men to re-draw the very gender lines they claim to push against. This mini-challenge was not an example of how marginalized groups reclaim derogatory language to talk with and about one another in empowering ways (a la Paris Is Burning). This challenge actively encouraged cis-men to lob the epithet “shemale” at cis-females for a laugh. It's misgendering brought to you by Scruff.
Ru claims that intention is all that matters and if these words are used “within the family” and said “with love,” everyone should get over themselves. While I agree with that logic to some extent, it just doesn’t apply to this scenario. Ru has given cis gay men like myself tacit endorsement to use the phrase “shemale” as a hilarious insult to lob not only at one another but to unsuspecting cis-women as well. And this is to say nothing of the trans and gender non-conforming folks for whom misgendering may be a daily struggle.
Dan Savage has warned us to avoid all this pesky in-fighting, lest we lose sight of the “real enemy.” I would agree with him, if his plea were something more than a tactic to silence trans and other dissenting voices. Language is complex and scary and ever-evolving. I do not advocate for a culture that fears language. But to ignore the violence of certain words—to avoid recognizing the violence such words help normalize and validate—is as much a disservice to trans and queer people as a conservative talk-show host spewing against same-sex marriage.
I know Ru and company can do better. RuPaul has gone against his own advice: He has f**ked it up. But in the immortal words of Latrice Royale, “It’s OK to fall down. Get up, look sickening, and make them eat it.”
You wake up on a strange planet covered with snow. Cloaked in a spacesuit, you hold only two things: a technologically advanced rifle and a picture of your girlfriend. The only sounds you hear are your own panicked breathing, an electronic voice counting down the amount of minutes before breathable oxygen expires--and the occasional gunshot.
What would you do?
Vimeo user Marko Slavnic explores exactly this scenario in his short film Project Skyborn. Selected as a Vimeo Staff Pick, the dramatic video follows a stranded man (Will Buchanan) as he tries to stay alive in an apparent game of death. Eventually, he will come face to face with his attempted killer.
Project Skyborn is proof that a good movie doesn't need a bloated running time or sky-high budget to evoke a feeling of raw tension.
H/T Digg | Screengrab via Marko Slavnic/Vimeo
Who doesn't love both television and beautiful graphs? If you don't you'll want to stear clear of this new Web app. Graph TV, created by software engineer Kevin Wu, uses data compiled from IMDB rankings to map the popularity of almost any television program ever aired. With the data, viewers can see how others generally felt about the show from season to season. Also available is the highest-ranked (and, for that matter, lowest-ranked) episodes of each show.
We ran the data on a few of the Internet's favorite programs.
It seems that Walter White and friends cooked up a steadily-increasing stream of positive reviews during the hit AMC program's five-season run, which ended in 2013. The only episode fans apparently could have done without was the season 3 episode "Fly."
While Breaking Badis a classic example of a TV program's gradual increase to greatness, The Simpsons appears to experience the exact opposite trend. Fans naturally loved the series' first eight or so seasons, but things quickly went downhill—and continue to do so. Lisa's encounter with Lady Gaga has seemingly been voted as Worst. Episode. Ever.
The exclusive availability ofHouse of Cardsto Netflix users doesn't do anything to disqualify the program's rankings during its brilliant run so far. Perhaps unsurprisingly, the second-season opener and its now-infamous plot twist is the series' highest-ranked episode.
The data on Saturday Night Live's graph is especially interesting, as it ranks every single episode of the late-night program dating back to its 1975 debut. The graph shows average ratings dipping down in quality somewhere around 2000 but just recently regaining ground. Internet sweetheart Betty White has the honor of hosting the best-ranked episode, while Queen Latifah's hosting stint in 2003 alongside musical guest Miss Dynamite could—and should—have been replaced with a rerun.
But what about the shows that fall outside of most Internet users' viewing habits?
While IMDB users haven't ranked enough episodes of the long-running children's program Sesame Street to produce any usable trends, it should be noted that its highest-ranked episode was in 1980. I'd like to point out that Elmo was not a main character during this year.
Kevin Smith's attempt to bring his beloved, raunchy comedy film Clerks to the small screen in 2000 didn't exactly fare well with casual viewers or even his diehard fans. A grand total of six episodes were produced for ABC; only two of them aired.
Granted, not all programs are available for data display. The NBC sitcom Union Square, for example, turns up zero results; Union Square was a short-lived 1997 effort to fill the programming gap between the far more popular programs Friends and Seinfeld. Additionally, if you search for Made in Jersey, a CBS drama that was cancelled after a mere two episodes in 2012, data is instead compiled for The Sopranos. This is hilarious.
Madonna has posted an Instagram photo showcasing a tuft of armpit hair. “Long hair...... Don't Care!!!!!!” the pop titan who has amassed a fortune of at least $500 million peddling a highly stylized and calculated celebrity image wrote.
You might assume this is non-news, especially since rocking a fuller-underarm bush is hardly the most provocative fashion choice everyone’s favorite faux-British children’s book author has made. It’s not even the most provocative choice Madonna has made on Instagram in the past few months; she was recently (rightfully) criticized for calling her 13-year-old son Rocco a racial slur in a caption on the photo-sharing site.
That didn’t stop tabloids like the Daily Mail from critiquing her look, never mind that sporting hair that naturally grows on a body part is a sight less offensive than, say, fashion bindis.
Like a scene out of a lost Fellini film, Italy’s version of The Voice just showed it's lot more fun than America’s.
Sister Cristina Scuccia, a 25-year-old member of the Ursuline Sisters of Milan’s Holy Family, recently competed on the show. She’s always loved singing, and in 2008, she found her calling in the Sisters’ music hall. Her performance of Alicia Keys’s “No One” in a blind audition turned the judges into human reaction GIFs. And there in the wings during her performance are her fellow sisters, supporting her, like a Sister Sledge song come to life.
After the performance, she said she hopes Pope Francis will call her now. Don’t we all. More viral nun superstars, please.
Screengrab via the Voice of Italy/YouTube
Months after the Morning News announced its bracket for the 2014 Tournament of Books but just days before his raw, Appalachian novel Hill William was slated to square off against faux-Victorian tome and Man Booker Prize-winner The Luminaries in an opening round, author Scott McClanahan decided to stir up some trouble.
He trolled the tournament in a series of derogatory Facebook comments—and raised serious questions about the state of "Alt Lit" in the process.
“I just thought it was funny and absurd,” McClanahan told the Daily Dot in an email, when asked about his Facebook comments of Feb. 23—an outburst so minor it could easily have gone unnoticed by all but those who were in on the joke. Readers these days, however, are as likely to vet a writer’s social media presence as they are the work itself, so McClanahan’s insulting “resignation,” carefully styled to appear tossed-off, was widely taken at face value.
Getting the name of the contest wrong, maligning a broad and ill-defined group like “soccer moms,” and oddly referring to his agent—all were clear indications that McClanahan hoped to sow maximum confusion and outrage in the Tournament of Books' devoted commentariat, a group whose intensity of feeling and opinion is heightened by the shortness of their time together each year. The status update appeared in the comment section for the tournament’s pre-bracket playoff round, and the first few dozen remarks there concerned McClanahan and Hill William, despite the post itself being a matchup between two other, unrelated titles. Thread: hijacked.
“Sometimes you have to act like a total ass to break through the boredom of these things,” McClanahan told me later on. “I was laughing when I did it and laughing when I saw the LA Times article and I'm still laughing … When did the LA Times start getting their news from the Internet? That's what I want to know. No wonder newspapers are dying.”
Indeed, a former Tournament of Books judge wrote a piece for the Times that inflated the squabble into a bona fide literary scandal, casting McClanahan as an “indie” author attempting, without success, to disrupt a decade-long tradition. Although he wasn’t quoted, the organizers were; they said Hill William would stay in contention.
Part of their unruffled response has to do with the Tournament of Books' reputation as a competition both eclectically egalitarian and decidedly arbitrary; it celebrates the subjectivity of taste with head-to-head comparisons readers wouldn’t otherwise make, and most of the time, that means there’s a token “indie” or Young Adult or genre work in the mix. (Full disclosure: My obscure, small-press novel Ivyland was trounced in the 2013 bracket by the bestselling Gone Girl—which should give you an idea of the unusual matchups produced by this system.) Also, it was too late for McClanahan to drop out, as the judge’s first-round decisions had been filed weeks before.
Regardless, nobody expected Hill William to trump Eleanor Catton’s lavishly praised The Luminaries, a 900-page prestige blockbuster. And then, in a review published March 6, judge Rachel Fershleiser—who happens to be head of publishing outreach at Tumblr, itself responsible for some blogs-to-indie-book-deals—did exactly that, expressing dissatisfaction with both books and ultimately favoring McClanahan’s, as it felt more “alive.” Even though Fershleiser had written this well in advance of the nasty Facebook post, that move didn’t go over well:
Once again, it appeared that everyone was playing their role: The same small handful of commenters were freaking out to the point of developing conspiracy theories; the Morning News color commentators maintained a clear-eyed detachment (“An author doesn’t get to choose his critics, and as it happens, he got a favorable one today,” one said of his cryptic resignation); Catton probably ignored the whole thing—no doubt still sheltering from the fallout that accompanied her astute observations about industry sexism—and the emphatically impartial Fershleiser declined to speak on the record about the dust-up, having said her piece already.
Meanwhile, McClanahan was also playing to type, continuing to crack wise in the tradition of Web-based Alt Lit institutions like HTMLGIANT and Muumuu House. On a reading tour with members of that crew, he said, he had posted on Facebook “that Subway was sponsoring our tour and that the first 20 people would get free Subway sandwiches. There was a guy who showed up in Columbus and was actually wanting his free sandwich. He was pissed we just made up the Subway sponsorship.” Much of the Alt Lit world concerns these games of irony and intention. The losers are those who fail to realize some tongues never leave the cheek.
As for his Tournament of Books win, McClanahan was suitably mock-humble.
“I think The Luminaries was robbed,” he said. “I demand a recount. I'm ready to be eliminated.” Soon enough, he was, overtaken by Ruth Ozeki’s A Tale for the Time Being, and the whole half-controversy faded with a whimper. “I imagine McClanahan probably couldn’t handle being an insider,” wrote Morning News commentator John Warner, reinforcing the notion that the Tournament of Books, though it began as an offbeat forum for highly abstracted literary arguments, is now somehow representative of establishment or mainstream fiction, or as McClanahan might have it, a dumbed-down book club for the Internet. When I asked about his impressions of the participants, he was blunt.
"It looks to me like the comments are usually more interested in talking about Little Women or whether or not a novel 'earns out' or sold for 2 million dollars or fits into some small definition of what a novel should be. It seems like there is a lot of talk about the length of a book and a 'contract with the reader' or whether or not the reader finished the book. Of course, comment sections always make me think of Winston Churchill. He said the best argument against democracy was to walk down the street and talk to any five random people. I think this applies to most book culture as well.
“I only want to apologize to soccer, not moms,” he continued. “I could have said dentists, or chiropractors, and it would have meant the same thing. The problem for readers like this is that they read for edification rather than salvation.”
Suddenly, this no longer sounded like a joke, or a ploy to sell copies of Hill William, which is how many observers characterized McClanahan’s first broadside:
“[M]ost book things now (with a few exceptions) are just built around nice, safe books written for nice and safe book club readers. These are usually the books you see on display at Barnes and Noble. These Internet writers are like literary terrorists to me. They're training as we speak. They're getting ready to invade. They're building an army.”
That’s hyperbole, but it indicates a genuine fear behind McClanahan’s façade of casual antagonism. “I just wanted to make sure Hill William got noticed that first week, and it obviously worked,” he said, and yet his attack comes from a place of philosophical angst, not mere boredom, cynicism, or cruelty. Perhaps this is the hellish bargain the Alt Lit writers—those poker-faced, Gchat-addicted, post-meaning millennials—have struck: Even when you’re dead serious, it looks like trolling, and they may not even acknowledge the difference themselves.
All of which feeds into a larger neuroticism that comes with discussions of art, especially online. Not only are we expected to stake out our camps of aesthetic opposition, we must do so through the filters of handcrafted Internet personae. In a sense, everything that came out of McClanahan’s dig was predetermined and pointless, the exact sequence of events he envisioned when he started typing it. I realized, the other day, when I came home to find a package containing Hill William in my mailbox, that I too had behaved as if programmed. Amused by the original incident, I thought to reward McClanahan with my money and further attention.
And to think they said that print was dead.
Correction: McClanahan did not invent a person named Anna Stein. That was a rather bizarre reference to his own agent. This article has also been updated to clarify that it was a former Tournament of Books judge who wrote the Los Angeles Times piece.
Photo via Scott McClanahan
This year marks the 30th anniversary of the movie Footloose, a film that tackled the very ‘80s issue of the evils of teenage dancing in a small town. Last night on The Tonight Show, host Jimmy Fallon reminded the audience that dancing is "banned" on the show. So, naturally, guest Kevin Bacon reenacted an entire sequence from the film as his entrance, from the angsty wall-pounding and beer bottle-smashing, to the weird gymnastics interlude, to the “let’s daaaance” finale. It was pretty great—almost as great as this guy's dance.
Props to Bacon for looking like he hasn’t really aged in 30 years. All that was missing was a John Lithgow cameo.
Screengrab via The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon/YouTube
Just four days after greenlighting the pilot episode of controversial teen drama Alice in Arabia, ABC Family has decided to cancel it.
Written by a former U.S. Army translator who worked on National Security Agency missions in the Middle East, the TV series was going to follow the life of an American teen who found herself “kidnapped” by her Saudi Arabian extended family and kept prisoner in her grandfather’s royal compound.
Needless to say, this plot summary immediately resulted in scornful backlash from people who accused it of being riddled with racist and Islamophobic stereotypes.
The defense from writer Brooke Eikmeier was that she didn’t write ABC Family’s promotional description for the pilot episode, and that the actual show was a sensitive and balanced portrayal of Saudi Arabian culture. However, BuzzFeed got hold of an early draft copy of the script, which appeared to live up to every concern that Alice in Arabia was just as racist as it sounded.
Alice is written as a relatable suburban teen who sneaks out to parties and watches Project Runway, while veiled Muslim women are described in the script as “completely formless, anonymous.” But while the script’s depictions of Saudi Arabian women seem divided between ultra-devout Muslims and Americanized “rebels” who make sure to point out that they wear La Perla lingerie under their burqas and love to watch Sex and the City, the most offensive character is probably is Alice’s grandfather.
Alice’s grandfather is known as Abu Hamza, a name he shares with an Islamic extremist cleric who is currently facing various charges including planning to open a jihadist training camp on U.S. soil. Abu Hamza is better known in the U.K., where he was given the tabloid nickname “Hook” thanks to having one eye and a distinctive hook-shaped prosthesis for one of his missing hands. But while the real-world Abu Hamza may be more of a household name overseas than in the U.S., it’s still safe to assume that Alice in Arabia’s writer would have heard of him.
Alice in Arabia’s main storyline kicks off when Alice’s grandfather invites her to visit him in Saudi Arabia during a family emergency, but then hides her passport so she can’t go home. According to BuzzFeed, the draft script even includes a scene where he describes America as a “perverted world” where women “starve and cut themselves thin and big titted.”
So, in what was supposedly meant to be a nuanced portrayal of Muslim life in the Middle East, Eikmeier characterized her protagonist’s grandfather as a conservative Muslim kidnapper who literally had the same name as an infamous supporter of Al Qaeda.
Along with the onslaught of criticism on social media, ABC Family was also contacted by the Council on American-Islamic Relations, a Muslim advocacy group that was concerned that Alice in Arabia might have a negative impact on U.S. audiences due to its stereotypical portrayal of Muslim characters. This seemed to be the tipping point for ABC Family, which decided to pull the plug on Alice, saying, "The current conversation surrounding our pilot was not what we had envisioned and is certainly not conducive to the creative process, so we’ve decided not to move forward with this project."
Probably a wise decision. When covering this type of social media backlash story, it’s pretty typical to find people arguing from both sides. But in the case of Alice in Arabia, there only seemed to be one person who wanted that pilot episode to air on TV: Brooke Eikmeier, the woman who wrote it.
Photo via Pixabay
When Paul Walker died in a car accident last November, fans of the actor’s work in the long-running action movie franchise Fast and Furiouswere assured that Walker’s character, cop Brian O’Conner, would be “retired” from the next film, Fast and Furious 7. The release date was pushed back until April 2015 to accommodate screenwriting changes.
Whatever adjustments were made to the script, writing Walker out of it wasn’t one of them. Apparently film production company Universal realized that they’d make a lot more money by keeping Walker in the picture, so they came up with a workaround: A source told the New York Daily News that there are four body doubles standing in, and that Walker’s face and voice will be recreated using CGI.
This could go terribly wrong. CGI gets better every year, but when we mess with human faces, the results are usually creepy, cheesy, or both. Then again, it has been done well: When Oliver Reed died while filming Gladiator in 1999, Ridley Scott’s production team used CGI and several odd techniques, including a mannequin, to finish shots with his character, and most people didn’t notice anything was off.
Wall-E is a beautiful, touching family film that’s more or less impeachable. It’s difficult to imagine the movie being any better than it already is. But a website called The Pet Collective honed in on the one thing missing from Wall-E: adorable baby kittens.
If you liked that video, The Pet Collective website is probably going to be your new favorite thing. They also redid Die Hard with a pug and did a version of Toy Story with cats.
H/T TheMarySue | Screenshot via YouTube
Do TV viewers want to change the world?
That’s what Pivot is proposing. In the past year, the online channel has attempted to bridge the worlds of social good and digital media, and is aiming its mission at millennials.
At SXSW, Participant Media, Pivot’s parent company, held a day of panels for its 10-year anniversary, and discussed this new era of “clicktivism” and digital engagement for the conscious consumer and digital do-gooder. During Pivot’s panel, Jacob Soboroff, co-host of Pivot’s Take Part Live, joined comedian W. Kamau Bell and producer Michael Davies to analyze the future of digital media and television.
Davies, producer of AMC’s Talking Dead and Bravo’s Watch What Happens Live, examined how old and new media have come together on Twitter especially, and proposed we’re now living in a “multiple screen world.” He predicted that in the next five years, subscription services will be “the greatest democratizer,” as viewers bypass networks, start their own channels, and invite people to watch. It was also proposed that the conscious consumer is not a niche market, which is the crux of Participant and Pivot’s mission.
Participant Media was founded by Jeff Skoll, who was also eBay’s first president. They’ve distributed films like Waiting For Superman, An Inconvenient Truth, and The Square, all of which focus on social change and engagement as entertainment. This translated into Take Part Live, a daily talk show offshoot of their social media campaigns, which engage viewers to sign petitions demanding transparency from the NSA or advocating clean water initiatives. Take Part connects content to action, and Pivot is attempting to take that one step further.
Evan Shapiro, Pivot’s president, likes to call Participant a “category creator,” and last August, Pivot was launched to continue this mission of inspiring social change through online media. The channel is directed at the next generation of TV viewers, which Shapiro labeled “the new greatest generation.” Their first show was the comedy Please Like Me, which focuses on what it’s like to be a 20-something dealing with life, relationships, and depression.
HitREcord, which debuted in January, might be their most successful show yet. Hosted by actor Joseph Gordon-Levitt, it hinges on interaction between host and viewer. Shapiro says Gordon-Levitt pitched the show to all the big networks, as well as Pivot, and proposed the idea of a “postmodern Muppet Show, done in a open-source fashion, with him as Kermit.” He eventually settled on Pivot because he cosigned their approach. Shapiro adds HitREcord is a game-changer in TV programming, the first truly open-source created television show, and it comes with an important message about the future of engagement.
“Be aware of your responsibility as a content creator,” Shapiro says. “Every tweet you send, every Instagram photo you post is content, and by putting it up on the Internet, you’re either subverting your rights or offering your rights to a third party to use that content. With HitREcord, it’s different. We encourage the collaborative, but we compensate them if the content is used.”
Pivot’s newest program is Freestyle Love Supreme, a “freestyle hip-hop improv current events show” performed in front of a live audience at Joe’s Pub in New York City. The crew offered a preview at SXSW, bridging comedy and hip-hop by engaging improv’s rules of audience suggestion, furthering HitREcord and Pivot’s model for translating interaction into action.
“For the most part, [millennials] had been stereotyped and almost marginalized as a group,” Shapiro says. “And we put a flag out and said, ‘We think millennials are the new greatest generation, and we think they were put here on Earth to save the planet from itself.’ And we really think we sparked a major conversation about who this generation is and what they can do, culminating with a study that came out a little while ago that showed this is the generation that wants a career that matters, a life of purpose.”
To that end, Pivot will soon roll out TerraCycle, a workplace comedy about a company that recycles trash into new products, and Welcome to Fairfax, a docu-drama about entrepreneurs of color in Los Angeles. Pivot also offers reruns of Veronica Mars and Buffy the Vampire Slayer, tapping into that cult-following audience. It’s a unique balance of programming, one that plays into the “campfire effect” of social media.
“This is the first digitally native generation on the face of the Earth, and they feel completely overwhelmed by it,” Shapiro explains. “The conventional wisdom is, ‘Oh, they’re always on their phones, can’t get their face out of Facebook.’ This is a generation that not only invented FOMO [fear of missing out], which is kind of driving social media, but they also invented JOMO, which is the joy of missing out.”
In this era of clicktivism and hashtag activism, this fear of missing out has taken on an interesting context. A trending hashtag can shed light on an important subject, and start discussion, but doesn’t always translate to real-life change. Sharing links to Change.org petitions and videos of uprisings often replace real-life activism, but make us feel more connected somehow. It’s a passive activism. Shapiro argues the passive and active content creators will converge in the multiple screen world, and “create a renaissance around shared experience.”
“HitREcord really became that for us,” he adds. “If you watch the Twitter feed, you see people who actually contribute to the creation of the show, watching the show. And a lot of [viewers] are creating their own Google Hangouts and hanging out there. We didn’t do it; they did it on their own.”
This circles back to Davies’ idea about the future of TV: subscription services that bypass the big networks, allowing fans and artists to create their own networks, which has already happened on YouTube. Yes, viewers are creating content while watching TV, and making a connection with other viewers, but can Pivot inspire them to go beyond the multiple screens and change the world on their own?
Photo courtesy of Pivot TV
One of the most bizarre scenes in the new video for "G.U.Y." features the Mother Monster herself using Minecraft to resurrect Jesus, Gandhi, and Michael Jackson.
And in case you didn’t get the message that Lady Gaga is a fan of playing with blocks, she then appears with her face superimposed on Nathan Sawaya’s iconic Lego sculpture Yellow.
Any viewers still in doubt of Lady Gaga’s devotion to Minecraft and all things blocky may then be swayed by a scene where she eats Lego fruit on a floating chaise longue.
This isn't the first time that the controversial pop star has expressed her appreciation of Minecraft. She was so happy with a Minecraft parody of Born This Way that she prompty shared it on Twitter and her Little Monsters fan site.
So it seems that when Lady Gaga isn't being vomited on or wearing meat, she likes nothing better than playing some Minecraft.
Photo by petercruise / remix by Jason Reed (CC BY 2.0)
Let’s cut straight to the stereotype: It’s not too often you see a white dude from Southwestern Christian University walk into an NAIA dunk contest and walk out with a championship.
That’s exactly what senior forward Tyler Inman pulled off this weekend, earning a perfect score of 50 in each round. In the finals, against Southeastern University’s Mitchell Wiggins Jr., he went behind the back on one, then dunked from the free throw line on a self-tossed alley-oop another.
Literally zero scouting reports exist of this 6’5” senior on the general basic Internet, so we can’t imagine he’s looking towards following this up in the NBA. But one college dunk championship in the books for a guy who calls himself King Inman—that’s something you can hang your crown on.
He’s also got this eight-minute highlight reel called ‘White Men Can’t Jump… Warm-ups” that reminds you about how basketball’s the smoothest sport they ever made.
Photo via NAIA/YouTube
Gwar frontman Dave Brockie, a.k.a. Oderus Urungus, was found dead in his home on Sunday, at age 50. The cause of death has not yet been released, but this is truly a sad day for fans of the Richmond, Va., metal band. Brockie was the only original member in every incarnation of the group.
In the past 30 years of existence, Gwar transcended musical trends and fads, and never veered from their original goal of highlighting the grotesque and comedic elements of metal and, to an extent, politics and society. Their devout fans shared that sense of humor; they even lobbied for Gwar to play the Super Bowl halftime show.
Gwar was a visual band, and on the Internet, they were best represented on YouTube. Here’s a quick roundup of some of their greatest hits.
This 1992 interview from Wally George’s Hot Seat is a thing of beauty. Gwar could always give a good interview:
And let us never forget they were on The Jerry Springer Show to discuss “shock rock.” (They’re on around the 20-minute mark):
They covered Billy Ocean’s “Get Outta My Dreams, Get Into My Car” for the AV Club, as well as Kansas’s “Carry on My Wayward Son”:
Last year, Urungus read a very NSFW version of Goodnight Moon:
He was also on Fox News’ Red Eye. He had a lot of opinions about politics:
Justin Bieber was disemboweled during a Gwar set last fall:
Lastly, here’s an interview with Brockie, in his human form:
Photo by Libertinus/Flickr (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Actress and noted beautiful person Mila Kunis is pregnant, so of course E! covered the story by posting a list of five ways Kunis can stay fit during her pregnancy. Kunis is expecting her first child with fiancé and former That 70s Show co-star Ashton Kutcher.
“The Black Swan actress is known for her petite frame and commitment to health and fitness,” E! writes, speculating whether Kunis will be able to keep her figure as she brings another human life into the world.
Reading celebrity gossip is like eating Gushers: The pieces are gross and manufactured and doesn’t nourish you in any way, but they’re almost too easy to consume. I don’t know if Gushers have any especially disgusting flavors because I’m not an 11-year-old, but if they do, then this kind of pregnancy coverage that focuses on how the body will get fat or stay fit would be that flavor: especially toxic. Of course, women who are pregnant should treat their bodies well. But so should women who are not pregnant. And, you know, men. Kutcher may become too busy to hit the gym as often as he once did as he prepares to raise a child, but there’s no corresponding article about how the former Punk’d star will stay fit as he adjusts to a new time management schedule. Perhaps the tabloids assume that Kutcher’s routine of throwing heavy piles of money at tech startups is adequate. More likely: The confirmation of Kunis’ pregnancy means that celebrity media outlets will get to play yet another round of Good Pregnancy/Bad Pregnancy.
Last year, tabloids had a field day scrutinizing Kim Kardashian’s weight and style while she was carrying her first child. Nevermind that Kardashian, a woman who took great pride in her appearance and regularly exercised before, during, and after her pregnancy, gained a healthy amount of weight while expecting. She had a Bad Pregnancy because she didn’t look hot. It’s acceptable to be a pregnant celebrity if you’re naturally petite and your pregnancy shows itself as a round, pert baby bump, like Kate Middleton. If you’re not exceptionally small and your pregnancy weight is distributed in a different way, you’re a disgusting garbage whale swimming toward Irrelevance Island. Unless you can reverse the tide and exercise yourself back to previous levels of bangability, you’ll end up like Jessica Simpson: doing gauzy-filter commercial appearances for weight loss products.
Kunis isn’t the only pregnant celebrity renowned for her looks currently getting scrutinized over how the weight she gains or doesn’t gain during pregnancy will affect her career; there is already speculation about whether Scarlett Johansson, who is expecting her first child with fiancé Romain Dauriac, will be able to fit into the skin-tight suits she wears as the Black Widow in The Avengers franchise. They’re going to use CGI and body doubles to keep Paul Walker, who is dead, in the next Fast and Furious movie, so it’s ridiculous that Johansson’s pregnancy weight gain would really present an insurmountable obstacle for the enormously popular franchise. They have the special effects budget. There’s no need to focus on changes to Johansson’s body.
And there’s no need to focus on how pregnancy will change or won’t change Kunis’ body. Even if she does manage to keep her physique in line with the ludicrously narrow parameters set up to constitute a Good Pregnancy, holding her or anyone up as an example of how someone’s body should look during pregnancy is unhelpful, unnecessary, and stupid.
Photo via Flickr/Gage Skidmore (CC BY-SA 2.0)
Jessica Chastain has somehow managed the near-impossible feat of combining “Stars: They’re just like us,” with “No freaking way, this celebrity is living THE BEST POSSIBLE LIFE.”
Mostly known for making serious, Oscar-contender movies, Chastain isn’t exactly tabloid fodder. For her 37th birthday party she went to a karaoke bar like a totally normal person, and then uploaded a bunch of blurry cell phone photos to her public Facebook page, also like a totally normal person.
A normal person who has multiple Oscar nominations and is friends with Tom Hiddleston, that is.
Is anyone surprised that Tom Hiddleston is Very Serious about poring over that book of karaoke songs in the background? No? Yeah, OK, we could’ve predicted that one a mile off.
Happy birthday, Jessica Chastain. And congratulations on being so chill.
Photos via Facebook
To promote their upcoming album Turn Blue, out May 13, they uploaded a strange, David Lynchian video to YouTube, which is apparently supposed to put you in a subliminal trance and potentially make you buy the Black Keys’ new album. Several other infomercial-like spots popped up on the channel last week.
Further, the video’s announcement came via Mike Tyson’s Twitter, for some reason:
Turn Blue http://t.co/N7SaVjl1eD— Mike Tyson (@MikeTyson) March 21, 2014
As has been pointed out, this isn’t the first time the duo has taken social media marketing and promotion to head-scratching territory. Their video for “Lonely Boy” was equally weird, and engaged an audience: It currently has 32 million views.
Drummer Patrick Carney has been teasing the album on his Instagram with a series of “blue” references, including a few Arrested Development photos of Tobias’s failed Blue Man Group audition. This is the brave new frontier, where promotion of an album is now a puzzle for people on the Internet to solve.
Screengrab via Turn Blue/YouTube
Vine is filled with plenty of musical parodies and questionable covers, but is it possible to actually express genuine musical ability in a six-second video? Yes, and it’s also possible to land a record deal.
The folk duo Us— husband and wife Michael and Carissa Rae Alvarado — are now the first musical act to land a record deal from Vine. On March 18, the couple signed with Republic Records, according to Billboard. They’d been releasing videos on YouTube to promote their album No Matter Where You Are, but were having a hard time finding the sweet spot, in terms of exposure.
Last fall, they started doing six-second covers of artists like Pharrell, Drake, and Selena Gomez on Vine, and created a unique way of filming just half their faces, which became their trademark. Eventually, their take on those popular artists and songs caught the attention of Vine megastars like Jerome Jarre. They now have more than 2 million followers, and were recently on Good Morning America.
Republic Records will be re-releasing No Matter Where You Are with a few new mixes of the album’s more radio-friendly tracks. This deal had an interesting exchange, however; Billboard reported that in their first meeting with Republic, the label asked the Alvarados questions about Vine and how to use it. The app’s demo now skews heavily toward teens, and using Vine as a promotional tool to reach that demo with new music is smart.
And part of this campaign extends to their fanbase, which helped them ascend in the first place: The duo recently asked fans to upload their own #NoMatterWhereYouAre videos to Vine. With this new model, if you want to get noticed, you’ve got to find a way to cut through the loops of noise and get to the point. Or at least find a melody people can engage with.
Image via UstheDuo/Vine
The belovedly relatable NBC sitcom The Office may have drawn to a close after a nine-season run. Yet for true fans, it never really ended. Just ask digital artist Joe Sabia, who over the course of 18 months catalogued the show’s 1,300 real-life references for an interactive (and highly addictive) video experience he calls The Office Time Machine.
Just enter the year whose pop culture you want a glimpse of and hit the “Go” button: 1994, for example, gets you Michael Scott imitating Disney’s The Lion King, Pam reminiscing about Old Navy, and Dwight name-checking the original Warcraft.
You can journey as far forward as the series went chronologically (2012), and as far back as the age of Moses, the pyramids, and, apparently, the world’s first “yo mama” joke. For any period earlier than 3500 B.C., however, you get a clip from Jurassic Park—not that I’m complaining.
Here’s 1971, though you’ll need to visit the site to play around with the time machine itself.
“The Office is relatable (and hilarious) because it borrows so much from culture, and people get the references,” wrote Sabia, who collaborated on the project with Aaron Rasmussen and Matt Werner. “Culture is society’s collected knowledge, art, and customs. It’s what surrounds us and unites us, and it allows us to collectively laugh at a joke in The Office about Ben Franklin or M. Night Shyamalan. Culture, simply put, is the seasoning in a meal.”
But Sabia’s not done yet: knowing full well that he has a few blind spots, he’s asking viewers to post suggested revisions and additions in a Google Doc. I helpfully informed him of Dwight’s sulky remark, in an episode when the office is evacuated for a fire, that his favorite movie is The Crow—a moment that would round out the 1994 montage nicely.
Honestly, though, after so much hopscotching through history, I have a newfound appreciation for the present.
Gwyneth Paltrow’s insufferable lifestyle website Goop has been a destination for hate-readers everywhere. But today, fans looking for the hot new glamping destination were met with sad news. Paltrow and longtime partner Chris Martin, frontman of Coldplay, are splitting up.
Or, rather, they are consciously uncoupling.
Fair warning: Gwyneth Paltrow and Chris Martin are breaking up, so now Coldplay songs might be a little slow and self-indulgent.— pourmecoffee (@pourmecoffee) March 25, 2014
I wonder if Chris Martin will just sit around listening to a bunch of Coldplay.— Matt Goldich (@MattGoldich) March 25, 2014
Here’s the official statement from the site:
It is with hearts full of sadness that we have decided to separate. We have been working hard for well over a year, some of it together, some of it separated, to see what might have been possible between us, and we have come to the conclusion that while we love each other very much we will remain separate. We are, however, and always will be a family, and in many ways we are closer than we have ever been. We are parents first and foremost, to two incredibly wonderful children and we ask for their and our space and privacy to be respected at this difficult time. We have always conducted our relationship privately, and we hope that as we consciously uncouple and coparent, we will be able to continue in the same manner.
Gwyneth & Chris
If the anonymous app Whisper is to be believed, Paltrow was allegedly cheating on Martin with Pete Yorn’s entertainment lawyer brother. All this news of uncoupling apparently broke the Goop site, but perhaps Facebook will buy it now.
The hashtag #ConsciousUncoupling is, naturally, blowing up on Twitter:
#ConsciousUncoupling from my sinuses. And insomnia. And 90s micro-floral prints.— Meg Kemner (@megkemner) March 25, 2014
Photo via Richard Yaussi/Flickr