The Dark Dandy: Aesthetic Subversion in Bryan Fuller’s Hannibal

There is a certain satisfaction from seeing the good guy catch the bad guy. The tropes of genre allow one to anticipate a certain pattern and find joy when those anticipated elements come to pass (Smith, 2010). But what happens when this logic is subverted? In the current programming-dense “peak” of television, the avid postmodern viewer exhausts genre power, asking TV to be more, do more. In this way, not satisfying audience expectations actually produces more satisfaction. In Hannibal (2013-2015), a genre-defying television show developed and produced by Bryan Fuller, this is accomplished by complicating what is good and evil through careful aesthetic subversion that supports, in formal elements, a plot that with a consumerist morality deifies the bad guy, Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Mads Mikkelsen). In doing so, such a show Continue reading

On the Air Tonight: Music in FX’s The Americans

Music is the first thing one experiences in the pilot episode of The Americans. Quarterflash’s 1981 hit, “Harden My Heart,” plays as we get the show’s setting: Washington D.C. No year is announced, but the song, with it’s era-specific “sexy” saxophone, tells us we are in the ‘80s. We aren’t sure that the music isn’t diegetic as we see Keri Russell sitting at a bar leaning into the conversation she is having with a middle-aged man who has deluded himself into believing that a woman that beautiful is incredibly interested in him.

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Prestige in Horror: The Semiotics of Penny Dreadful’s Intro Sequence

The opening titles sequence of Showtime’s Penny Dreadful visually invokes genre conventions while using music to connote quality. The first shot is a selective focus close-up of a spider emerging from frame left in low-key light as violin music commences with suspenseful charge, two-thirds of the screen still in darkness. This isn’t any ordinary spider, as the rack focus between parts of its body reveals the markings of a toxic predator. Though it appears ordinary at first glance just like our protagonist, Vanessa Ives (Eva Green), upon further inspection it is revealed as exotic—its body showing neon yellow markings—and perhaps even poisonous. We then get the show’s title alone on screen in a font that evokes knives, then dissolving back to black. Continue reading

VISUALIZING HINDSIGHT: THE SEMIOTICS OF HALT AND CATCH FIRE’S INTRO SEQUENCE

HaCF Opening Titles.png Image courtesy of Art of the Title

Halt and Catch Fire  is a show more about time and technological progress than characters, and the intro sequence reflects that.  Currently airing its fourth and final season on AMC, the show charts the evolution of digital technology from the personal computer boom through to the creation of our current portal to the web, algorithmic search engines. The main “stars” of Halt and Catch Fire’s opening title sequence are the racing Tron-like blips of light that shoot from right to left as if they are racing towards an invisible finish line. The five or so lights cut through glitchy silhouette’s of our three main protagonists, underlining the show’s priority of documenting tech’s evolution over character development. You don’t see the characters clearly at any point in the opening, which suggests they don’t matter. After watching the show, one realizes this is largely true. The characters exist mostly to drive the story forward, to play tech archetypes. They are as models are to clothes in a fashion show. The timeline tracking tech’s evolution is the main character. Continue reading

Is Crazy Ex Out of Steam?

I started streaming Crazy Ex-Girlfriend ( a.k.a. CXGF) on Netflix on Saturday night. The “Sexy Getting Ready Song” was refreshingly accurate. I was hooked after that. However, by episode 15, my interest took a dive. I’m afraid that much like my beloved The Good Wife, CXGF might be trapped in its name. Could it have hit the repetition wall–the dreaded point where the premise dies and the show must end–in the middle of its first Continue reading

Sleeping Beauty: Media as Educator in the Performance of Acceptable Femininity 

I shudder to think how much of my personality and interests were molded by The Little Mermaid and Barbie. Only let your kids watch Jem and The Holograms. At least then they’ll think being a woman involves wearing truly outrageous clothes BUT ALSO becoming a music mogul who funds girl-positive group homes. Check out the article:

Disney Princesses: Not Brave Enough

 

The Russians

Finally starting The Americans. It airs on FX, but I’m streaming it from the beginning on Amazon Prime Video. Love that Death Comes to Pemberley‘s Darcy co-stars! I’m not really familiar with Kerri Russell. I watched a few episodes of Felicity…I think…back when it was on. All I know is that I need to at least give a shot to any show  is obsessed with.

The Americans is back — and it’s still the best-kept secret on TV

 

*If you haven’t seen it, you should definitely stream DCTP on Netflix.

 

Ain’t Your Consumer

I would be much more into Jennifer Lopez’s feminist anthem, “Ain’t Your Mama“, if the excellent nod to Network in the opening wasn’t interrupted with the most blatant product placement I’ve ever seen outside a soap opera. I understand the need for TV shows to increase profitability with integrated advertising. But WTF, J.Lo? Someone explain the need for a wealthy, powerful pop star to (not subtly) hawk Lavazza in a music video? Soaps are really struggling (largely bc of the hegemony of masculinity, btw), so I get that. But, J.Lo? Wtf wtf wtf???😟