Archive for October, 2010


As you work through your prelim videos, you are hopefully beginning to think about issues of representation- something you must do when you move on to your final projects with the opening titles.

Here are some ideas to start you off:

today, in class we watched the opening titles and sequence for the Robert Downey Jr starrer Sherlock Holmes. In many ways, the Arthur Conan Doyle character has set some of the patterns, stereotypes, conventions with regard to the representation of detectives, conventions that have been defied in some instances and perhaps not, in others. What do you think some of these conventions are?

You should think about how Sherlock Holmes is represented in this film and how that representation might be different from the representation or characterization in other tv or film depictions of this character versus the character in the book.

For example, BBC recently did a 4 episode serial entitled Sherlock, that takes place in a contemporary world where technology plays an important role in the detection of crime. This serial appears to see Sherlock in a more sociopathic light (do you agree?). In other ways, Sherlock’s the series sticks to certain conventions about Sherlock Holmes- talking about the dysfunction of his personal life versus his crime fighting life, his amazing cognitive prowess versus his ineptitude with personal relationships (with the exception of his friendship with Dr. Watson). These appear to be conventions that impact other depictions of other detectives, can you think of any? Frost? The characters in Law and Order? Poirot?

What are some of the conventions with regard to detective characters?

Are they, for instance, mostly male? Do they have lonely personal lives? Are they unusually perceptive and observant?

Jane Marple, an old, spinster is an interesting spin on the detective genre. This Agatha Christie creation has also been depicted on TV and you may be able to find clips on YouTube.

Meanwhile, the TV series House is suppose to be a spin off inspired by Sherlock Holmes. What kind of conventions does House defy when it comes to representing doctors?

Here are more representation issues for you to think about:

How are children represented today? How is this different from the manner in which they were represented in films like Mary Poppins, The Sound of Music, Chitty chitty bang bang?

How are superheroes represented? Male? Female? Animal superheroes? Animals who think they are superheroes?

How are old people represented?

How are Muslims represented on film and television?

How are you going about creating a representation of the characters in your films? Are you falling back on stereotypes when you deal with mentally ill characters, school principals and bullies? Or are you defying these conventions or stereotypes in any way?

Look back at the characterization exercise we did in the beginning of class- did you fall back on conventions or patterns when you were constructing these characters? Did you look at real life for inspiration or did you turn to media and what you knew about characters in books, films, TV etc? Falling back on patterns without realizing you’re doing it is what happens when you are new to media literacy. As you acquire greater literacy with media you will begin to analyze how things are always done versus how certain media texts introduce a spin on what we are used to and you will be able to question whether this spin or departure from the norm has been meaningful (i.e does it tell the audience something new) or successful (does the writer/director succeed in creating something new and meaningful?


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Students’ pet themes

Monday’s are horror days, I always come in expecting an avalanche of student work to look at and instead find that I must prod and push as nothing much has been accomplished over the weekend and students seem too relaxed to be allowed.

Somtimes I wonder if the students are taking this seriously.

Some observations that might help: This is not a new observation, I’ve noticed it before with freshmen at an art school where I taught some years ago- perhaps its because of their age, but students seem inordinately drawn to macabre topics: death, kidnapping, divorce, mental insanity. It seems impossible to convince them that it is possible that issues that they have known well can be effective too, for instance, bullying, exam pressure, peer pressure, mean students, cliques in school, teachers, discipline, grade pressure, worrying about the future etc.

The truth can be so much more effective than melodrama- but perhaps it is no wonder students are drawn to the dramatic, the melodramatic, the grim.

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