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Posts Tagged ‘TV’

This is amazing:

What I find particularly interesting about this video is the way in which Sir Michael Parkinson cannot seem to get off the topic of Helen Mirren’s body. In fact, though her body is not that voluptuous and she is not dressed in a particularly revealing way.

One of the best/worst parts happens 1:33 when Parkinsons says “You are ‘in quotes’ a serious actress.” Mirren calls him on it. Then he asks if her equipment will hinder her pursuit of becoming a serious actress. She makes him spell out what he is trying to hint at. It is marvelous.

Basically, Parkinson’s argument amounts to the idea that there are no serious actresses because all actresses will have breasts. But Mirren won’t let him get away with it.

Parkinson is just so condescending and Mirren manages to make him look like a fool. It is great. She has such poise and even though he is being rather vulgar she manages to keep her composure.

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I am often critical of advertisements on this blog because commercials are so often horrible: they reinforce rigid gender roles; they attempt to instill dissatisfaction in the viewer to urge purchases; they use emotional manipulation to get us to buy products that have little to do with the emotion; and they are increasingly turning up in places disguised as part of the show or the video game one is playing.

Act Mouthwash

Act Mouthwash

But, I believe that it is also important to notice when commercials get something right. I saw a commercial for ACT mouthwash for kids last night (Edit: um, I mean on August 28) that I think does a lot of things right. [Edit: I have actually been sitting on this post since August and periodically searching the internet for the commercial. The commercial has never appeared. Rather than just keep waiting, I have decided to now publish this post. Perhaps whomever is in control of marketing at ACT will have an alert set for posts that mention their product and will then realize the importance of putting your shit out there for comment. Sure, some of the comments will be bad. But others will be good. If they ever get around to posting their commercial–free airtime, ahem–then I will update this post with an embedded video, or at least a link. Until then, I hope the description is enough to allow you to get the gist of why the commercial is good. Since they don’t have this ad on the internet, I suppose it is also an example of advertising done wrong]

First, mom is the authority in this commercial even though she does not appear in the commercial. That is not so unusual for commercials about products to be used within the home. But this mom’s authority is based on the fact that she is “the dentist.” Her authority is based on her education and achievement outside of the home rather than on her role as homemaker. Now, there is nothing wrong with being a homemaker, and I do believe that  one gains a great deal of knowledge and expertise through performing that role. But, while some women are homemakers, other women work outside the home. In most commercials you don’t see this. What you see is mom in the home. I am not arguing that there is something “better” about being a dentist than being a homemaker. The argument is about what commercials represent and fail to represent; this commercial is good in my opinion because it represents women in a way that is rare for commercials. I think broadening representations of groups of people is good, and this commercial achieves that.

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I am writing this simply to boost the signal on another post “Microsoft Conducts a Home Invasion” over at The MassOrnament. I agree with them about the absolute outrageousness of this commercial:

Note that her computer is only FOUR (4!) years old. Having a four year old computer apparently justifies Microsoft in breaking into your house and harassing you into buying a new computer.

Talk about the high-pressure sales techniques:

“Oh look! we did a B & E in your home while you were out! Don’t call the police, buy a new computer instead! It will cost about $1,000 to $2,000 and it will only last FOUR years! We’re working on lowering the number of years it lasts, by the way! We’ll call it ‘technological advances’ and you’ll want to get yourself another!”

So when a poor person does a B & E and takes your stuff, they get arrested and thrown in jail. But when Microsoft does a B & E, and then coerces you to hand over your computer and a few thousand bucks for a new one, that is somehow caring for their customers?

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I just watched this news report on a terrible case in which Ikenna Njoku, a man from Auburn WA, tried to cash a cheque at Chase bank and ended up in jail (a full transcript is available here).

Vodpod videos no longer available.

I thought the news report might offer an interesting example of shielding the white viewing public from a description of racism in order to help preserve their privilege and ignorance around how racism operates to create disadvantages.

At about minuet 1:45 of the video they interview the gentleman, Njoku, who had been accused of forging the Chase cheque. He explains that the teller was very suspicious of him and asked where he worked. Then, just as he is recounting how the teller asked him about where he lived, “It’s like she didn’t believe that…” the reporter cuts him off (at 1:57). I obviously did not see the uncut tape, so I don’t know what comes next. But it seems like he was about to talk about racist views that are suspicious of black people, and it is in the context of not believing that he would be able to afford a house in a particular area. It seemed like a really odd place to cut the interview, and I really wonder whether it was because he was about to identify one way in which racism operates.

(Full disclosure: part of the reason I wonder about this is the result of my own experiences with media interviews. I was once interviewed about cancer care and the experiences of cancer patients. The interviewer repeatedly cut me off whenever my discussion became even slightly “political.” It was a really odd experience to be interrupted precisely when I began to make a point.)

In a now classic feminism 101 paper, Peggy Mackintosh describes how privilege often blinds those who have privilege to the benefits they receive from oppressive systems by hiding the oppressive workings of that system.

I think whites are carefully taught not to recognize white privilege, as males are taught not to recognize male privilege.

One way this “teaching” occurs is by editing out any account of the experience of racism or sexism. The story then becomes about a general kind of unfairness that could happen to anyone rather than an injustice with racial or gendered implications.

It seems like Njoku was about to tell us how the woman suspected he did not live where he claimed because she did not think black people lived in that area (I am not the only one who interpreted it this way). And this kind of suspicion of black people is indeed one of the ways that racism operates. Black people are often suspected of being “criminals” even when they are not, and this suspicion can affect many aspects of their lives.

For example, Devah Pager (2003) conducted a study in which she created fake credentials for black and white matched-pairs of job applicants. The audit included some applicants who reported having a criminal record for non-violent drug possession and some who reported no record. She found that blacks with a criminal record were significantly less likely to get called back for the job than were whites (5% for blacks with a criminal record vs. 17% for whites with a criminal record) (Pager 2004, 958). Pager writes, the “ratio of callbacks for nonoffenders relative to ex-offenders for whites is 2:1, this same ratio for blacks is nearly 3:1. The effect of a criminal record is thus 40% larger for blacks than for whites” (Pager 2004, 959). This could be taken to show that black men with a criminal record seem less ‘forgivable’ to employers than do white applicants with a criminal record. Further, even black applicants with no criminal record were called back at a rate lower than white applicants with a criminal record (17% for whites with a criminal record vs. 14% for blacks with no criminal record) (Pager 2004, 958). Pager suggests that employers might be associating race with crime even when there is no evidence of a criminal record. For example, she reports that on three occasions, the black applicants were asked about their criminal involvement whereas none of the white applicants were asked about their criminal involvement (2004, 960).

In the news report from the embedded video, Njoku might have experienced discrimination based on his race, but if so that is edited out. This leaves the viewers ignorant of how racism operates and how white privilege shields them from these situations. There is no guarantee that Njoku would not have been thrown in jail if he were white, but there is evidence that tellers would be less suspicious of a white person doing just what he did. This can lead to racial over representation in prisons and so forth. But ignoring the racial dimensions makes it seem like anyone would be equally likely to face such a situation.

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I often see these commercials for the Cancer Treatment Centers of America, and I find them misleading and unethical. I can’t seem to embed the video, but it can be found at this link. Most of their commercials are all about giving the patient “hope” where there was no hope before. But each commercial also carries a disclaimer: “No case is typical. You should not expect these results.” So the CTCA are suggesting that you should have hope and that they will offer you hope when other MDs fail to do so, but that you should also no have hope that it will work for you (although here “hope” is replaced with “expect”).

You need more than a second opinion. You need a second chance.

You need more than a second opinion. You need a second chance.

1. Legal Reasons for Disclaimers in Medical Advertisements

The reason for the disclaimer results from a lawsuit in the 1990s:

Cancer Treatment Centers of America was the subject of a Federal Trade Commission (FTC) complaint in 1993. The FTC alleged that CTCA made false claims regarding the success rates of certain cancer treatments in their promotional materials. This claim was settled in March 1996, requiring CTCA to discontinue use of any unsubstantiated claims in their advertising. CTCA is also required to have proven, scientific evidence for all statements regarding the safety, success rates, endorsements, and benefits of their cancer treatments. CTCA was also required to follow various steps in order to report compliance to the FTC per the settlement.

Cancer centers and hospitals in general (including Cancer Treatment Centers of America) have been the subjects of some controversy over their advertising. Many doctors and other observers have noted that many cancer organizations’ advertising are sparsely regulated and, therefore, often contain unsupported and misleading claims as to the efficacy of their cancer treatments.

In 2001, the FDA issued CTCA a Warning Letter concerning three clinical trials that were conducted in violation of FDA requirements. (From Wikipedia)

I understand that there are legal reasons for the disclaimer. Nevertheless, I find it creates an odd message overall. It also illustrates some of the problems with advertising in medicine.

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Update: SLee and Topher now have an entire case guide out in e-book form. Even better, it is FREE!

Update 2 (May 5th 2012): If you want some help answering the questions, but don’t want the spoilers of the actual answers, SLee and Topher now have a guide with tips on how to deduce the correct response.

I have been playing L.A. Noire [1] and I have really been trying to like it. It should be the kind of game I love. I have written before about why I love crime shows and I usually like crime games as well. The game was highly recommended to me by two friends whose opinions and taste I trust. So I want to like it, but L.A. Noire is just not doing it for me. In this post I give the uncharitable version of my reaction to L.A. Noire. In a future post I will give the more charitable interpretation of my reaction to the game. [Note: This post contains spoilers for L.A. Noire and Triggers for Racism, Sexism and Violence. I will note each in-text as they arise, and hide any spoilers that affect the cases]

Sections:

  1. Racism and Sexism
  2. Plot, Choice and the Uncanny Valley
  3. Gameplay and the Uncanny Valley
  4. Final Verdict (tl;dr)
  5. Link Round-Up of Interrogation and Investigation Tips

1. Racism and Sexism

[Trigger Warning for Discussion of Gender-Based Violence]

L.A. Noire is both racist and misogynist through and through.[2] You play as Cole Phelps assisted by several partners throughout the game. Phelps himself rarely says racist or sexist things, but his partners can be relied upon for a steady stream of racism and sexism. [Light Spoiler for L.A. Noire] One partner, Stefan Bekowsky Roy Earle [Thanks to Harold for the correction], becomes incensed when a black man makes a suggestion. He spits out, “don’t tell me what to do,” with a tone that indicates he thinks the black man “doesn’t know his place.” Later he says, “What an evening I’m having. First a negro puts his hands on me, and then this.” The game also features anti-Semitic conspiracies as part of the plot-line.[3] Later, Phelps’ partner, Finbarr “Rusty” Galloway, jokes about beating and murdering his girlfriends and wives. Galloway thinks a woman deserves to die if she keeps a messy house.[4] [/Spoiler] But I am not going to dwell on those points, since there is an in-game explanation (America is racist! It was especially racist in the ’40s! It adds realism!)[5] and I expect that anyone who is playing a Rockstar game will anticipate a lot of racist, homophobic and sexist shit and will have prepared themselves accordingly.

[/Trigger Warning]

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Probably many readers have seen this video of Jessica who is in a good mood and is talking about all the things she likes and how great she is.

It is really cute and uplifting. Whoever was filming her captured one of those family moments that make parenthood worth its hardships. This is an emotive piece; I think most people who watch it will feel uplifted by Jessica’s innocent affirmation, just as the person filming her did.

Then Maxwell House Coffee took that clip and turned it into a TV commercial with the theme of taking an “optimism break” (video after the jump).

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Watson “Makes a Joke”

 

Watson's Avatar

 

I have been watching Watson playing Jeopardy! It is really interesting. I am impressed by Watson’s performance and ability to analyse questions in natural language (although sometimes it seems like Watson’s performance is at an advantage due to reaction times).

But what really amazes me is the “interaction between” Watson and the audience (literally: the audience’s reaction to Watson). In particular, Watson “made a joke:”

[Watson gets a Daily Double]

Alex: what are you going to wager?

Watson: $6,435

The audience laughs.

Watson got the audience to laugh. Alex then quipped: “I’m not even going to ask.” But the audience laughed before the quip. The audience was laughing at what Watson said, not at Alex’s quip.

I find that really interesting because humour seems like a very human interaction (none of my electronics has every made me laugh, though I have laughed at the human generated content they display. In contrast, I have yelled at my electronics). Now, it seems like part of what is funny here is that Watson gave a very inhuman response. But what does it mean that the audience was shocked by this? What made it funny? Was the audience interpreting the answers as human-like, but then suddenly with this answer Watson fell into the uncanny valley?

It also made me think about my own experience as a human who can more-or-less parse natural language. I have always found humour to be one of the most difficult things to pick-up in a foreign language (I don’t really know why). I wonder whether the next step in the development of AI will involve the ability to interpret and/or produce humour.

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Almost nobody likes commercials. Since technologies such as VCRs, DVRs and TiVo are now available, many people prerecord TV shows and skip through the commercials. So marketers and advertisers are trying to come up with commercials that we are willing to watch, or that we cannot get around watching (for example, because they are part of the TV show itself). I am not usually a fan of commercials; I usually only watch prerecorded TV precisely because I can skip the ads.

The Box Art for LittleBigPlanet2

But last night, I was playing LittleBigPlanet2 and I ended up playing a commercial for the Prius (Part 2 of the level is here). The level is published by “LittleBigPartner” and is described as:

Join Sackboy* as he solves puzzles in his treehouse and takes his Prius for a drive in the city. With the objects you collect here, create your own Prius-inspired level for a chance to win a Sony Bravia 3D HDTV and other prizes. Visit http://www.us.playstation.com/psn/events/littlebigprius.html for more details. NOTE: Name your contest levels “Prius_[Your Level Name]” in order to enter.

The contest has been pretty popular, and there are now a number of Priusthemed user-made levels. From a marketing perspective, this is probably a great campaign. It encourages people to spend a lot of time thinking about the Prius and how to use it in a level they are creating. The Prius car, and various other objects (like wind turbines, and so forth) are given away in the level, and users are encouraged to use “as many of the collected objects as possible” (at 0:59) in their own levels. This allows Toyota a degree of control over the kinds of messages that users create in their levels. The objects that are given away are all associated with environmental themes and alternative energy sources.  If a user incorporates these objects, there is a good chance that the level will end up with a theme that associates the Prius and environmentalism.

Since LBP2 includes the user “LittleBigPartner” I am quite sure that there will be many more of these commercial levels in the future. Perhaps this is a good marketing strategy, for the reasons I described above, but I found it really off-putting. First, I was annoyed because I found the level through the “Media Molecule Picks” and in the past Media Molecule had always featured levels made by regular players, rather than advertisement levels. I felt tricked when I played this level, because I expected a user level, but instead got an advertisement. Second, the contest feels more insidious that previous contests. Both LittleBigPlanetCentral and LittleBigLand have held contests in the past, but these contests did not promote a particular product. This contest seems to be piggy-backing on the work done by previous competitions in the LittleBigPlanet game-universe.

*Note the use of the “universal” or “gender-neutral” “he” and “Sackboy,” which I complained about before.

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A picture of the Cast of Law and Order: SVU

[Trigger Warning for discussions of violence against women and rape.]

One of my guilty pleasures is watching crime shows on TV. I explain why I like crime shows in this post, but I am also aware that crime shows have a number of problematic elements. Crime shows are often problematic because of the way they portray, and sometimes sensationalize, violence.

As it is with many topics, feminists have offered a number of views about the use of violence against women as a form of entertainment. Some feminists object to Law and Order: SVU because it sensationalizes violence against women, depoliticizes rape, and paints female victims as liars. Other feminists claim that SVU might have some problematic aspects, but also some redeeming qualities, such as detectives expressing the belief that no woman deserves to be raped. Still other feminists have describe their reaction to SVU as one of ambivalence caused by its mix of progressive and regressive elements.

I recently noticed one episode of Law and Order: SVU that passes the Bechdel Test. The Bechdel Test is named for Alison Bechdel who writes the comic Dykes to Watch Out For. The test is supposed to provide a metric for the development of female characters in a film, TV show or other story. To pass, a film must meet the following criteria:

1) there are at least two named female characters, who

2) talk to each other about

3) something other than a man.

[SPOILER ALERT: Below the fold I discuss the Law and Order: SVU episode “Dirty” (Season 12, Episode 14) and give away the ending]

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