Chin Music

He ruined TV too.

Trump. A person who’s very presence in the world is difficult to ignore. There are constantly news stories featuring the man and it seems the culture has been greatly influence.  Culture is responsive and moulded by the world in which it is created. We live in an era where the president is Trump and with that, has come a number of media artefacts that discuss and question this fact. Lately I have noticed American Television has become littered with Trump references. For international viewers of these shows who may not be directly affected by this president, It’s exhausting.

The Good Fight has modelled its entire sophomore season around Trump. Each episode has been named ‘ Day 408’, ‘Day 415’ setting the tone of the series which seems to be counting the days of Trumps Presidency like a prisoner with a wall and some chalk. Furthermore, Trump’s inauguration speech is feature in the opening sequence. Before the show has even begun, its the Trump show.

The idea that the show mentions and reacts to political climates is not new. Its predecessor, The Good Wife, used its fictional characters to unpack many difficult issues, the ‘Ferguson’ episode for example. In the later season of The Good Wife, Obama and his governments influence was mentioned, but far less than the number of times Trump has been mention in The Good Fight. It is almost as if Trump is his own character, the unseen villain of this world looming over the lawyers.

The recent reboot of sitcoms Roseanne and Will & Grace have shown just how politicised television has gotten in the past year. Each show has mentioned – in their first episodes- which presidential candidate from 2016 they supported and continue to support. Will & Grace feature Clintons ‘Equal sign’ emblem in every episode and even set an episode in the White House. Roseanne, which returned last week to record ratings, features a vocal Trump supporter at the helm. The man himself tweeted about the shows ratings as if he himself is responsible for its success.

In a sense he’s correct. Trump, who was once himself a major TV star, has returned to Television and is either a punchline or an adversary for the characters. American Horror Story based a season around the election results and what impact it has on each character. This is a show thats usual themes include ghosts, witch covens and killer clowns. It seems that the media produced in this Trump era is not just a reaction to the election of the man but instead, it utilised the mass unpopularity of president to create a world where character express their dislike of him. Storylines featuring Trump are an easy sell. Instead of asking the audience to challenge the culture of hate, it panders to it.

Albeit, this should not surprise us. When studying media produced during and after World War II we can see that comics, books and movies often took the Nazis and -rightly- vilified them. Perhaps we need to watch fictional characters discuss, fight, or agree with real world leaders and political events in order to process our own thoughts.

Television as a form of escapism seems to have been put on pause. It is difficult to escape real world events when our characters are faced with the same landscape. Perhaps we just accept it and ask creators to use the shows to explore what the characters – and by extension the viewer – can do to find optimism in 2018. Whether it be protesting in American cities or clicking out of the news spiral. Perhaps then we can press play and escape once again.

Advertisements
Chin Music

#2: Man

Recently, two scenarios about the future were made by my nearest and dearest and I couldn’t help but think how incorrect these backdated ideas were.

Scenario 1: When discussing my future career, a family member made an argument for why I should be invested in a company such as Google or Facebook. Why? Because I could work my way up the ladder, embed myself in the company and gain a higher salary. Their confidence in me was endearing, but what followed was less so. They reenforced their point by stating that my “wife” would absolutely encourage this. “Why wouldn’t she?” was the feeling at the dinner table. Yet, as I have made clear to my entire family in the past, I will never have a wife. In fact I think my future husband may not take to kindly to the prospect of me having a wife. So yes, the ignorance surrounding my sexuality reared it’s head,  but hey, at least I’ll be successful.

Scenario 2: Another discussion, this one I was eavesdropping on. As family members discussed a child without a father. How “totally fine” it’ll be for this child to grow up without a “strong male figure”. These were the exact words uttered and they stung as they slapped my face. I spend a lot of my free time with the aforementioned child and plan to be in their life throughout the next few decades. But yea sure, I’m not a strong male figure.

Big picture, there are a number of reasons why the thought process behind these two scenarios is flawed but on a personal level they’re just insulting. To categorise me as a weak man incapable of setting a good example or leading a “normal” tells me that you seriously misunderstand who I am as a man.

Of late I think, what is the true measure of a man? We have a culture which, if we allow it, dictates how we think and act. So it is somewhat forgivable that many still believe in these ideals. However, as someone who spent his teen years questioning his masculinity daily, I have my own idea of what it means to be a man. What I have found is that the majority of traits are not gender specific.

Compassionate, hard working, respectful, supportive, all these qualities make up the pillar in which I stand upon. Yet it seems this pillar is as insecure as I am. For when I think of my own masculinity and compare it to societal norms, I am scared. Scared that by defying the box in which I was put in, I am not even thought of when it comes to the notion of what is a man.

Chin Music

Waiting for Rabbits #1 – Bertha Mason and the Married Roommate

As I come to the end of my four years of college, I find myself in quite a reflective mood. Each day is a melancholy trip down memory lane as I prepare to move out of my college home of Dundalk. As I am a sentimentalist, I wish to have as many records of my time here. The best moments have been lamented in photographs and a #throwbackthursday Facebook post. But to maintain balance, and to ensure that my future self doesn’t look back on these ‘glory days’ as picture perfect memories, I now begin a blog series about the worst moments in college, which can be summarised in one word. Roommates.

First Year

At some point in my childhood, my mother stopped making my lunch for school. This was never a problem, I probably took over one day and she just let me. My parents always left me to be independent, much to my loner selfs delight. I classed myself as independent from early in my teenage years. I enjoyed learning new things such as how to make my own dinners, how to use the washing machine, what to do if the electricity trips, you know…basic survival in a house. So the prospect of living away from my parents was never daunting. What did catch me off guard was the suddenness in which it happened. Within a matter of days, I went from my cushy life in Dublin to being dropped off in the back of housing estate in Dundalk. My parents drove me up, we dropped off my stuff, I picked a room, we went for dinner, we bought the essentials -tea bags and tomato ketchup- and they left me in my new home.

The first night in 73 Rockfield was perhaps one of the darkest nights of my life thus far. Here’s the setup. The house was on the end of a row of houses. When you walk in the door there is the staircase in front of you. To your left is a door into the front room and kitchen. To your right is a locked door that I was told I could never open. Red flag No.1

The landlady was a woman by the name of Martina, she and my mother bonded over their shared birth names. Martina emerged from behind the house, not through the front door. Shortly after her mysterious warning that I could never open the door, she explained. The house had an extension, like a granny flat. In this extension is where Martina lived. She stated this as if it was normal, but I read Jane Eyre and a locked off section of a house with a woman living in it ends in bizarre happenings and a fire, both of which would happen later during my time here. Martina asked that all the month’s rent be sent to an account with the name “King..” something or other. Red Flag Numero dos. Now if you’re reading this with the anticipation that I will eventually explain who King something or other is, I’m sorry but I’ll disappoint you now instead of later by stating that I never met his majesty, the King and he remains a mystery to me to this day.

This brings us to the darkest night, literally. So turns out I had moved in earlier than Martina and the King expected, so they had yet to turn on the electricity in my ‘wing’ of the house. My room was cold, empty and bare. I assured myself that once I settle into bed with a cup of tea and a movie I’d feel more secure. Apparently, my privileged existence thus far had led me to momentarily forget about my lack of electricity. So I had no computer, no wifi, no way of charging my phone, no light to read a book. Although the only book I had with me was my yearbook and I was already feeling sad that I had to leave my friends behind so that would have added insult to injury. Regardless, my optimism persevered and I took to the kitchen. By the light of dark blue September sky, I found joy in the knowledge that the stove was gas – not electric, and it did in fact work. The tap, it had running water. I had tea bags, a cup and room temperature milk. My night didn’t seem so dark. Until I found the pot. The only pot in my humble abode was rusted and flaking. I didn’t realise this until after the water was boiled, you know with all the darkness and that. So tea bag in cup, I pour in the water and notice my cup becoming littered with pieces of the pot. Desperate, I took the cup of tea up to my room and drank it anyway.

So it’s about 10:30pm, I am sitting on the cold wooden floors, drinking a rust filled cup of tea, in darkness. I think about where I am, and how I got here. I don’t remember how long I sat there for, mainly because my phone had died. I don’t cry, I don’t laugh. I am just alone.

Now there are 2 kinds of people, if any, reading this right now. One is feeling sad for me, one is going “oh boo hoo your life is so sad”.  I hear your sympathy and sarcasm and I want you to know that I don’t write this to encourage either reaction. I write this to remind myself of when life seemed darkest now that I sit in a room with blistering sunshine. I write as at the time, I was at the top of my game. I had a great group of friends, I had finished my leaving cert, I had gone to Debs. It felt like I had peaked and my life would only get better. But I had just been knocked by to a -literal- dark age. This night, it thought me a number of lessons that I would only realise in the following years. But that’s for another post, for now, lets get on with the roommates.

I plan to write a number of blog posts about my many roommates, and while I doubt any of them will ever read this, I will give them a pseudonym. My experience with roommates is that they have been messy, smelly and generally unwanted in my life, for these reasons I will name each roommate after a type of cheese.

Brie

Now Brie was the first roommate and by far the most complex of them all. Two days after moving into the house, I was out with a friend of a friend who was showing me around Dundalk when the landlady called. She told me that one of the roommates had moved in so they would be there when I arrive home. Later that evening I arrived back to a dark house -there was electricity at this stage. I called out “Hello” like some idiot in a horror movie, but no answer. I quickly made my way up to my room when I notice the door at the end of the hall was closed. I call out “Hello” once again no answer. So I knock on the door and hear a crash, a mumble and the door swings open. A tall dark haired man stood in front of me with eyes squinted. I introduced myself and soon realised he wasn’t in any mood to talk to anyone. I left and went downstairs to make a cup of tea – minus the rust. Not long after the kettle boiled, Brie joined me. Apologising for being dismissive, we sat in the living room for a chat. It should be noted that at this stage I was starting to feel more comfortable in my new surroundings so having a roommate who wanted to chat over tea was yet another relief. Although one thing that baffled me was that Brie drank boiled water, as he put it “it helps with anxiety”. We talked for over an hour, I learned that he was in 3rd year of Computer science in the college. We got on well and I was happy to have company in the house, we even had a little bitch about how weird it was that the landlady lived behind the locked door. At one point Brie awkwardly said, “there are no bars for people like me up here”. I quickly picked up what he was putting down, he was referring to gay bars. I said, “that’ll be the same for me so”. We spoke in code like 2 gay spies sussing each other out at some sort of money drop.

Brie and I became friends fairly fast and I started to learn more about him. He was a loud personality with little regard for personal hygiene. We got on well and it was nice to have a roommate to talk to when I came home every day. After about a month of living together is when I started to notice something odd about Brie. He spoke about a woman lets call her Cheddar. The other roommates knew Brie was texting Cheddar and I overheard that Brie was clearly angry about this woman. But I didn’t ask for a while. My memory is hazy so I’ll just sum up what happened. I soon learned that Brie and Cheddar were married. They had a child together and Cheddar was pregnant with their second child. I discovered this after several weeks of living with him. I got a bit curious and asked, were they separated because he was gay. He said no, it was because he was a woman. You see Brie had told me he was gay, but that was just a stepping stone to his true reveal. I continue to use the male pronoun not to be dismissive, but because Bries story will change many times in this post so the male pronoun makes the most sense for reasons that will soon become apparent.

Lets fast forward a little, mid-October. Personally, I am struggling with living away from my family and friends, I am struggling to find friends in college that I am comfortable with, I am miserable. But yet staying at home, locked in my room isn’t an option because Brie now sees me a confidant. The only person he can talk to about his life. I wanted to be there for him and so I continued to listen to him. As of this point, Brie has asked me to address him with a female name, he has gone to a transgender support group, and his wife is still pregnant. Until one day when I hear Brie is obviously distressed on the phone. He has learned that his wife is in labour, yet she doesn’t want him anywhere near the birth. He is fuming, I try to help any way I can. He tells me he wants to go to the hospital. So off we go. Two of us march up to Louth Hospital and outside the entrance, he asks to use my phone, as she is no longer answering his call. I suspect it’s because she’s pushing a human out of her but hey I give him my phone anyway. The baby has been born and she doesn’t want him in the hospital. In fact, if he tries to see her, she will call the guards. Now any sane person would have tried to distance themselves from this situation at this point, but her I am. Instead of doing assignments, or hanging out with college peeps, I’m standing outside of a hospital calming down a man who identifies as a woman while his wife and new son (she had a boy) are meters away.

The following weeks were Brie telling me he was stalking Cheddars Facebook (they were no longer friends on it) and he had now seen a picture of his son. In this time it should also be noted that Brie finally admitted that he wasn’t a student in DkIT and lied so he could live in the house. I had my suspicions as he needed stuff printed one day but refused to go to the library as he “still didn’t get a student card”. So I’m starting to realise that this guy is a bit of a liar. I was kind of getting sick of listening to him and he would never take that hint that I didn’t want him in my room. My personal space invaded, I started distancing myself from him. Until one night he sat on my bed and wouldn’t leave because he was having his 3rd existential crisis.

We were talking about the operations and hormones that would be his next step to physically becoming a woman. He started to shrug it off as if it was nothing. After I pressed, Brie became a little panicked and described his attraction to men. I was calm because to be fair, I was under the impression that he was a gay man for weeks before he told me he was a woman. Now he was a straight woman. No biggie. But his panic continued when he told me that he wasn’t a woman (hence why I never dropped the pronoun) but in fact, Brie now realised he was a gay man. Jumping up he ran out of the house. Honestly, I did try to stop him but he just left.

Now, this latest twist in the tale wasn’t a major shock, but I had just spent the past 2 months calling Brie by his preferred female name, so I was starting to get a bit confused. You may be asking yourself, why would I believe anything this person tells me. His mind changed every other day. I was asking the same question, and I went back to the whole married with kids debocal. I was now second guessing everything he told me. Until a few days later when he called me into his room. Up on top of his wardrobe was a single photograph of a wedding day, his wedding day! There was a child in it, so I now knew the married with kids thing was real. I could feel myself becoming sympathetic towards him. Married to a woman while not even knowing who you are or what you want must have been difficult.

The story took a sharp twist in late November. I walked into the front room where all the roommates were chatting. Sidenote: all the roommates knew Brie had identified as a woman and they all address him by his female name, which was pretty cool. Now, I walked in and Brie was speaking in a deep manly voice. He was laughing and joking like he was a “lad”. No one else seemed to find this odd except me. I asked him in front of everyone why he was acting like this, he said “Ah I don’t know what I was thinking. That whole being a girl thing was weird man”.

I had spent night after night comforting him, reassuring him, adapting to him, and now he’s acting like those months were just nothing. I was getting incredibly frustrated with him.

The story ends with Brie meeting a girl on Tinder. They began dating in late November, by mid-December he’s head over heals for her. I’m sitting at my desk when he comes barging in (no knocking which was unusual) and said “c’mon say bye” Blindside I ask what he’s talking about. He tells me he’s moving in with the Tinder girl and he won’t see me again. We hug and he leaves. The end.

I think back on my time with Brie, he is certainly the most bizarre person I have ever lived with. He infuriated me with his complete disregard for me and my life, his little effort to reach out to his family,  his ignorance of his family in the months after his son’s birth. Now he left to live with a woman who I doubt knows anything about his past. Yet, I feel sorry for him. I suppose he probably had mental health issues that needed to be addressed. I wish I could meet him now, 3 years later. I wish him only the best.

Brie was the first roommate I had and I’m sorry but I hope I never have another one like him.

Chin Music, College Work, Published Work

Has the Shift from Appointment Television to Binge Watching Influenced Audience’s Motivations and Behavioural Habits?

The full text of my thesis is now available online:

https://www.researchgate.net/publication/316841683_Has_the_Shift_from_Appointment_Television_to_Binge_Watching_Influenced_Audience’s_Motivations_and_Behavioural_Habits

 

Abstract

The shift from appointment television to binge watching is a direct response to the development of new technologies and services. To understand what effect this has had on audiences, this study investigates how audiences engage with television today and how their viewing habits may have differed from their past engagement. Surveys and interviews were conducted with members of the public, as well as one expert, to collect data which was then analysed and discussed. The result of this research shows that audiences daily lives are impacted by their choices in relation to television. Audiences social life, sleep habits, social media engagement and internet usage, have been altered by the choice to consume content in large quantities. The implications of these choices are outlined in the findings with many respondents noting that their television consumption has an impact on their daily lives.

Keywords: Television Audiences, Audience Motivations, Appointment Television, Time- Shifting, Binge watching, Spoiler Culture

Chin Music, Published Work

In Defence of Girlboss

There are two types of people I don’t trust in this world, weather forecasters and critics. The latter proved true as I finished Netflix’s newest original Girlboss after having read slating reviews. In a – successful – effort to avoid working on my thesis, I watched all 13 episode of Girlboss in 24 hours and here is why you should give it the same chance I did. #nospoilers

Girlboss embellishes the true story of Nasty Gal founder Sophia Amoruso on her road to success. Set in 2006, we see Sophia’s entrepreneurial personality mixed with that of a lost 20 something-year-old as she faces an uncertain life. A personal renaissance finds her embracing her passion for vintage fashion and begin to pursue a career on eBay.

“You know how some people flip houses? I flip clothes.”

The Guardians review – which I regretfully read before watching – decided to tear down the real life Sophia. Stating that if she resembles the fictional depiction of herself she “deserves none of her success and should immediately hand over every cent to charity for crimes against humanity”. Steve Jobs is referenced at one point. Jobs considered to be a great innovator and businessman is similarly brash and flawed in his fictional depictions. Yet we do not attack the man behind the movie, nor should we attack the woman behind the girl boss. The harshness of this critics statement has led me to consider the character of Sophia as depicted in the show.

My issue lies in how critics describe Sophia as this overindulged brat. Having already brought gender into the forefront of this conversation, I would like to add an alternative perspective.

When looking at the vast array of characters on television, present and past, we can see many Sophias. The first that sprung to mind was Dr Gregory House from House M.D. Hugh Laurie’s Golden Globe-winning performance as the selfish, egotistical doctor who belittled everyone around him isn’t described as a “Walking Selfie”. The male equivalents of Sophia are not as highly scrutinised as she is. We have the brilliant minds that fail to understand social norms, your Sheldon or Sherlock. Their “quirks” are endearing and comedic. All three of these, what I will call for argument sakes, boy bosses carry the same character tropes as this girl boss:

  • Emotionally abusive to their best friend
  • Brash and unapologetic
  • Consider themselves “outside” of society
  • Emotionally inept

Sophia’s character is not without her flaws, I agree with the review at times. When watching the first few episodes, I found myself second guessing most if not every decision made by Sophia. From dumpster diving for food instead of meeting her dad for dinner to her lack of work ethic. Sophia is not a likeable character at first. Yet when we explore her backstory and invest in her character arc, we begin to understand her choices. Her burning desire to be independent, to be successful, to enjoy her work. In essence, Sophia embodies what every lost 20 something-year-old goes through. As with every character worth watching, we have to be introduced to their surface before we start to see what’s underneath.

All that said, I won’t forgive the show for making me relive THAT scene from The OC.

Articles Referenced:

https://www.theguardian.com/tv-and-radio/2017/apr/21/girlboss-review-netflix-sophia-amoruso-britt-robertson

Chin Music

#1: Flowers

Today was yet another reminder that my understanding of myself remains in its infancy.

Walking through Dublin City Centre, I blended in with all the others. Men and Women busying themselves, walking to work, just as I was. No one looked at each other, we remained occupants of our own minds while sharing a physical space for a period of time. I spotted a man selling flowers, just across from The Spire. It was in this moment that I remembered it was my mother’s birthday the following day.

After work, I returned to cluttered streets to buy flowers. My mother’s favourite flowers are Lillies, so I bought lilies. While my knowledge of floral varieties and arrangements is as small as my number of purchases of flowers over the years, I do know this; my mother’s favourite flowers are lilies. Now the fact that these flowers are lilies or that they are my mother’s favourite are irrelevant, what is noteworthy is the inexplicit feeling holding these flowers instilled in me.

Now meandering my way through a not dissimilar crowd as the morning, I received many a look from the passing strangers. Suddenly I was no longer the Kevin I had been up until this point, now I was a reinvention. A man walking through the metropolis with a bouquet in hand suggests a great deal of scenarios none of which I will ever be apart of. I became a man who was treating his girlfriend. I became a man who was buying a gift for his girlfriends birthday. I became a man who fucked up and was apologising to his girlfriend. I say, girlfriend because my age still gives some realism to my true character and it would be highly improbable that a man my age would have a wife or fiance in 2017 Ireland. Now it is entirely possible that a number of other scenarios entered the minds of the passing strangers in their 0.01-second analysis of me, such as the flowers were in fact for my mother or sister or female relative. However, I hypothesise that these notions would only follow the girlfriend scenarios in our cultural thinking.

The fact of the matter is, is that for a brief moment of time I felt normal.

The fleeting opinions of strangers and the innate understanding that men buy women flowers as a romantic gesture lead me to walk confidently through the streets of Dublin as a supposed heterosexual man. This raises a number of issues.

Men do not receive flowers. I have grown up with the typical gift in a marriage being alcohol or flowers. I would graciously and gleefully accept the former but in all honesty, I don’t know what I would do if I was given the latter.  It is not that I would feel emasculated, I would simply be at a loss having no precedent upon which to base my reaction. To the best of my knowledge, my father has never received flowers, although he has never complained about their presence in the home. In fact, he admires their smell as have I, yet neither one of us would ever think of buying flowers for ourselves or each other. Men do not receive flowers is a side effect of the male’s role in society which is a much larger issue and would require more than this blog post.

Men do not buy their boyfriends flowers. This follows on from the typical ‘who pays for dinner debate’. When society adapted to homosexual relationships and the customs associated with dating, it could be argued that the role of the man shifted. Now, who was to pay for dinner? The male’s role is to buy flowers, open the car door, pay for the meal and a kiss goodnight. In a nutshell, this is the procedure of dating, however as we know this is outdated. Yet the exchange of flowers was left in the past.

My argument is not that men should be drowned in roses and daffodils. My argument is that for a brief moment in time, I lived the normalities of a heterosexual male and judging by the looks from those around me, I was more attractive. Not in appearance, although the speckled babies breath in the bouquet did highlight my cheekbones, from my interpretation I was approved by society. I was, ironically, more masculine for carrying the flowers. What is perhaps more startling for me, is that I felt more comfortable in public than I would have if I had been holding another man’s hand. With that, the battle to discover the masculine homosexual continues.

-K

Chin Music

The Good Grief

After last night’s shocking exit from The Good Wife  I asked myself the question, Can a TV show survive a Major Exit?

In it’s the fifth season, The Good Wife is at the top of its game. A grand fanbase, beloved by critics and ratings to boot. With a recent renewal, there seems to be no stopping the hit Sunday night drama. However, many fans (myself included) were left gobsmacked with the sudden death of Will Garner in Episode 15 ” Dramatics, Your Honor”. Personally, I have never felt so saddened and shocked by a character’s death in my many hours of TV viewing.

But once I recovered (and wiped away the last tear my dehydrated body could squeeze out) I began to think of the writers. In a show that is not usually one for the “Dramatics” of shootings, explosions and all that comes attached to a Shonda Rhimes show, I had to ask why now? Why kill off the main character mid-season, and why oh why kill the main character’s love interest.

Will and Alicia were the Ross and Rachel of the courtrooms. Over the past few years, I watched them flirt, fight, and…other stuff. So naturally I assumed, like many other fans, they would live happily ever after. Guess fairy-tales don’t apply on Sunday night dramas.

It was in this depressing stupor I found a past example of such a string of upsetting events. Back in 2006, hit show The O.C left my jaw on the floor at the sight of a deceased Marissa Cooper in the streets. My sister cried “But Ryan and Marissa were meant to be together” I share her sentiments today and can’t help but compare the two shows. Marisa’s untimely passing occurred in the Season 3 finale. Viewers clung to hope in Season 4 but alas, without his love Ryan Atwood would find himself on a sinking ship bound for cancellation.

Can the exit of our protagonist’s love interest, and perfectly complex character in their own right, be the end of a TV show? I certainly hope not, I would love to see The Good Wife continue for many years, however without the hope of seeing Alicia and Will surrounded by grandchildren, It may lose its flavor. This is not to say a show is damned if it kills off the sole love interest. Unfortunately, this is all too real in Musical-Comedy GLEE with the tragic passing of Cory Monteith. His character, Finn passed away and we watch his on-screen girlfriend Rachel deal with her loss. Now we see plans to follow our protagonist on her journey of self-discovery, as the show still maintains it’s ratings and fan base.

While I cannot tell what the future holds for The Good Wife I do look forward to seeing how it deals with this risky storyline. Will it continue its rise in popularity, or will it suffer a similar fate as The O.C?