Thursday, May 23, 2013

The Case of the Missing Web TV Critics: There's No There There

Aymar Jean Christian at Televisual asked, Where Are The Web TV Critics?, noting traditional outlets for media criticism including New York Times, The AV Club, New York, Slate, The Los Angeles Times, and Variety have yet to establish a regular column evaluating web TV content.

There are several problems with Christian’s criticism:

What is this thing you speak of? —  
A single nomenclature as well as definition for the visual entertainment content streamed over the internet has yet to be developed. What exactly is “web TV”? Is it the same as “video on demand”? “streaming video”? Is it “social TV” or “second screen content” as covered by TVNewser’s sister site, (which doesn’t provide criticism but news of the same)?

The lack of a cohesive, uniform identity encourages marginalization of the content and delivery format. It's easy to discount it because there's no aggregate accruing critical mass for lack of identity and definition.

What the existing outlets for criticism do know is that whatever it is, it’s not Film or Television, both of which they continue to critique.

Why ask the past about the future of entertainment? —  
If this unnamed and undefined entertainment content has not yet found a home after all this time in traditional outlets, perhaps it’s because these platforms are still tied to a dead-tree, brick-and-mortar analog concept of entertainment.

Why not approach newer, internet-only venues like HuffingtonPost, Flavorwire, Gawker, or other outlets which are not tied to print media formats while focusing on internet content?

Further, why approach traditional, mainstream outlets with requests by email, rather than contacting their critics who use social media through the same? The critics who are most wired and current are those who will best understand how the lack of criticism, published on the internet, affects entertainment content released only through the internet.

Wednesday, May 22, 2013

Diversity on Demand: Challenges to LGBT and Other Minority Entertainment Content

During @BitchFlick’s Tuesday chat about racism and racist stereotypes in Hollywood, @Jamiejhagen asked about LGBT rom-coms.

There are multiple barriers to increasing the number of LGBT rom-coms in video/film. The problems are shared with other minority groups who also want to see themselves represented more accurately and more frequently. Here are some of the most obvious challenges:

1)  Not enough writers who break through to traditional outlets;

2)  Not enough producers who are willing to seek, advocate, promote non-traditional content;

3)  Traditional industry outlets locked into chasing white/male/18-24 demographic;

4)  Insufficiency of ready funding mechanisms.

The first three barriers are quantified in studies like that published by USC-Annenberg’s study on gender inequality in films from 2007-2012; while the study focuses on women in film, other minority groups generally have less representation than women in the same media.

The fourth barrier is in flux; Kickstarter and other crowd- or micro-funding systems are emergent and changing the way programming is funding. The audience commits to the programming it wants upfront, bypassing investor funding compensated by ticket sales and/or advertising/merchandising revenue. Example: Funding for new programming under the once-defunct Veronica Mars series was recently obtained within 48 hours through Kickstarter.

Tuesday, May 21, 2013

Donating to Oklahoma Disaster Aid Groups With GuideStar Reports

Many Americans outside Oklahoma want to help the people of Moore in the wake of yesterday's horrifying and heartbreaking tornado. The Red Cross is one of the first organizations cited and on site in such domestic disasters, but for various reasons many folks would rather give to different aid outlets. Ditto the Salvation Army and other organizations affiliated with religious groups.

Here are three more alternative organizations assisting with rescue and recovery efforts in Moore; the links provide both GuideStar financial information about the group as well as links and contact information for the organization itself:

Regional Food Bank of Oklahoma — they will be distributing food to displaced residents

Humane Society of Central Oklahoma — they will be caring for and feeding displaced pets and farm animals

United Way of Central Oklahoma — this umbrella organization will distribute funds to smaller local charitable organizations for relief efforts

To ensure your donations are used as you desire, indicate in any instruction field or in your check/draft notes area that funds are intended for Moore OK disaster relief if the organization does not already offer a link for that specific purpose.

If you have other suggestions for tornado disaster relief aid, please advise in comments. Thank you.

Author's note: I personally do not give funds for disaster relief to religious groups except for St. Vincent de Paul. I am concerned that some religious groups may discriminate in dispensing aid based on their beliefs, or demand prayers or other religious obligations in exchange for aid.

[Photo: Tornado as it passed south Oklahoma City, via Wikipedia.]

Wednesday, May 1, 2013

Cheerleading Only, All Others Reported

[photo: Br3nda via Flickr]
Being a fan fiction author by very definition means one is first a fan—that's shorthand for fanatic, a person with more than average devotion to a subject.

Fan fiction communities are collectives of individual devotees loosely organized around a shared subject of interest and hobbyist writings about the same. These folks know their material inside and out, and they are passionate in sharing information about their favorite topic; they're quick to note flaws in fiction writing because of their deep knowledge base.

And yes, I'm a fanatic. I hang with two fandoms revolving around the Twilight Saga and Jane Austen's Pride and Prejudice. To date I've read approximately 75 million words of fan fiction based on these two subjects.

But I'm also a subject matter expert in fields not related to fan fiction. Today I experienced a collision between my fan fiction world and my real world knowledge; it wasn't pretty.

A particular fan fiction work (fanfic) now being published posits a contemporary Fitzwilliam Darcy as a hitman contracted the U.S. government. So far, so good; while this premise is on the fringe of legality under U.S. law and illegal under global treaties, the U.S. does contract "killers" who work with Defense Department's Joint Special Operations Command. They are supposed to work outside the U.S. on matters under Defense Department purview including counterterrorism and illegal drug interdiction.

However, this particular fanfic moves from a credible to incredible storyline where Darcy and his contracting firm have accepted a contract, no questions asked, at the order of the White House to target an American on American soil.

Nope. This is a hard limit for me. The premise asks readers to accept grossly illegal, unconstitutional activity; it's a concept so over the top that belief cannot be suspended. Worse, in two installments to date the piece trends toward agitprop or disinformation in its premise that a "good guy" like Darcy would naturally agree to such activity to defend his country.

Does a serious fan let this go, or do they take issue, especially if they know their American history well enough to say this fiction is over the line?

I debated for a while about it, but my conscience wouldn't let me ignore this problem. I posted a comment contesting the premise.

The comment was reported and taken down. Apparently the community only likes happy cheerleading comments and not challenges to facts when it comes to American history.