A Dreamer Walking

Was that Funny?

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on February 3, 2011

Humor in the media these days seems to be full of belittling and mockery. It is an appeal to the lowest common denominator of our society. As if we are still kids who can’t feel strong unless we put someone else down.

I saw an article on CartoonBrew yesterday that really frustrated me. It was a phony letter that The Onion posted of John Lasseter, the chief creative officer of Pixar animation, basically insulting everyone who considers Pixar to be a great studio. The title of the article was Commentary: I’ve Got you Dumb Motherfuckers Eating Right out of my Hands. I still do not understand how this article is accepted as being “funny”. Has our conscious really gone that far down the toilet?

I originally said on the comment section that it might just be my inability to understand the kind of humor represented in The Onion. But after thinking about it, I have realized that is not the case. I understand the humor. I have been part of both sides, the person mocking and the person getting getting mocked. To be honest I usually laughed no matter what side I was on. I have news, just because someone is laughing does not mean that someone thinks it’s funny.

In most cases, if a child is getting mocked, he tries to avoid any more attention then he has to. Thus, laughing along with the bully settles the bullies need to feel superior and the bully leaves, at least for a little while. But if you are getting your high from the belittling of someone else, you are never really satisfied. The bully always comes back and usually the insults become more intense.

Why are there bullies? Why is the kind of humor that puts others down okay these days? It partially has to do with the abused inability to stand up for himself. Usually the case is that the abused just takes the abuse and eventually becomes the abuser to someone else. But, the key reason why verbal insults and mockery keeps on spreading is because the type of abuse has a audience. We keep on laughing.

Belittling and mockery is the easy way out. Anyone can put someone down and sadly that is what most comedies rely on these days. But the comedians and movies that rely on belittling and mockery for humor, will not last. That kind of humor is easy to come by. It does not take much talent to push someone down, anyone can do it.

The bottom line is that the audience chooses what stays and goes in the entertainment business. If we are okay with the bare minimum, we will be given the bare minimum. If we start to stand up for something greater the industry will be forced to produce higher quality work.

Let’s not laugh just because the canned laughter ques us to laugh. We need to look at humor in a different way. Even with humor you need to think about what you are getting out of it and why you are laughing. Humor has the power to reveal truths about the society we live in and the kind of people we are. Humor can even help us examine those truths. Humor has the power to strengthen the insecure and reveal injustice. Humor has the power to lift our nation up rather then push it down. It is our choice!

Visiual Education

Posted in Uncategorized by Jacob on February 2, 2011

I watched a brilliant ten minute interview of Martin Scorsese talking about the importance of visual literacy. In the video Martin expresses the importance of being literate in the techniques and history of film. I personally agree with Martin Scorsese.

Could it be that film is just as important of a subject to learn as math and English? The more I think about it the more I believe that film should be just as important as any other topic in school. We live in a age where film is a huge part of our lives. Whether it is through a TV set, cell phone, computer, or at a movie theater, the visual medium of film impacts us.

Not only are we exposed to film where ever we go, we also have more access to the tools to create film then we ever had before. The majority of youth already do express themselves through visual means. The internet literally has hundreds of millions of videos created by youth not yet out of high school, some even in middle school.  Seeing how huge film has become for our society it is sad to see how ignorant most of us are on the literacy of the medium. I am not saying we should all be forced to be filmmakers, but I think it is crucial that we know the literacy of film like we know the literacy of reading and writing. Very few seem to know how the camera is used to express an idea or point of view. Because we are so illiterate in the language of film, we often let the medium take advantage of us.

The lenses, the angles, the cutting, and the subtitle types of sound in a film, all impact the audience mostly in subconscious ways. At one point, when we went to movies, many of the theaters would put in one or two frames of a food product they were selling. One or two frames does not give us time to consciously see what is being show to us. However, subconsciously we the audience are effected by those images and many would get up to go buy their product. Luckily that tactic is against the law now, but there are many more ways for film to abuse an audiences mind. Just the difference between a high angle and a low angle in film is extreme. When we look up on someone we see them as a higher power. Looking down on someone is way to belittle the person. Film can distort shapes and color, to get a curtain emotion out of an audience. Sound can be used to get inside someones head. A filmmaker literally can use film as a weapon to abuse us and make us feel and even act a curtain way. World War II is a great example of the power of film. The German film Triumph of the Will is considered one of the most powerful films of all time because of the influence it had on the German people in trusting Hitler and his Nazi party.

There are many films that are made by amateur filmmakers that express violence and abuse in extremely unhealthy ways. There have been numerous films posted on the internet that express many misconceptions  about minority races and people with different sexual orientations. There have been cases of individuals killing themselves because of videos going public that represented them in a negative or unpopular light. Visual media is a powerful tool that is often misused by youth because no one has taught them how to use it or what kind of power it really has.

If we started to teach just as much through visual means as we do through verbal linguistic means, we would see more students succeed in school. As a student in middles school and high school, I often was frustrated at the very lopsided concentration my teachers and councilors gave to verbal linguistic learning. There really was no film classes at my school and the art classes felt like a joke. Grades for art class had nothing to do with the artists skill, just whether or not you completed all the requirements. For subjects like math and science we were graded on what we knew and how well we  could express what we knew on a written test. Thus, in math and science where I did not test well and my “skill” level was not very good, my grade suffered. However, with art I concentrated more on developing my skill then getting all the requirements done, and my grades suffered again.

The image is just as powerful as the letter. It is completely unfair to have one side be judged based on how good you are and the other judged on whether you can complete the bare minimum. It is also ridiculous that our resources are so lob sided. There are still many schools that don’t offer film classes. The reason why so many watch movies is because the visual medium speaks to them. Film is a powerful tool that can influence us in many ways. We can literally see how a professional perfects his craft through film, we can experience history through film, and we can be manipulated and abused through film. Everything depends on how we treat the medium and whether or not we give it the recognition it deserves.