Readability and Personality.


The readability of People is incredibly important to, and evident within, its modern iteration. Though some articles are obviously centered on celebrities, a significant amount are human interest profiles, mildly journalistic ones. For example, in my Dec. 9 2013 issue, the cover story focusses on “The McStay Mystery,” a story on the murder of a suburban family, who’s remains were found in the desert. The first thing you see of the article is a massive spread photo, big letters, more photos, and captions everywhere. Less than a quarter of the two pages is actual text. The whole article, to an extent, can be skimmed by reading captions and looking at pictures. The whole thing does indeed seem “tailored for short attention spans,” you could read it in a minute just by glossing over the pictures; “A Trail of Clues” “I’m not going to give up on trying to solve this until the day I die” “It was love at first sight”. Those little snippits build a profile of the family and the story, and you barely have to read anything. The whole article could be packed into two written pages, but with pictures covers five; it is definitely “easy to read and heavy on photo content.” The whole form of the magazine still matches, with the exception that it is obviously now all in full color. 


The most potent connection between old and modern people is its connection to individuals. The article I focus on is entirely dependent on creating an interpersonal connection with the subjects of the story. In the grand scheme of the world, the story of the McStay’s death isn’t that important, maybe it signals an increasing presence of violence in the “safe” corners of America, or maybe it is a realization that our lack of connection to our neighbors allows things like this to happen. The article doesn’t do that however. People gives us a personal connection to the McStays, painting a picture of a family who was “a snapshot of a normal, sometimes chaotic household.” That type of storytelling is key to human interest; “People Magazine manifested the notion that any story is actually made up of individuals – not societal issues, legislation or global strife.” The McStays’s story is made up from individuals, from the full of quotes from close friends, investigators, parents and siblings. Those quotes are  the article, literally made up of the words of individuals, not the words of the author. 



J. Warren Kerrigan


J. Warren Kerrigan had a profile written about him in photoplay in January 1931. The subject of the profile was a bit unusual, he’s retired, and he loves it. Warren was an early film personality who left Hollywood gracefully after a successful career. The interesting thing about his profile is that it doesn’t fall perfectly into any of Dyer’s categories, except of course the catch all “alternative type.” Originally I thought the profile would fall under the dream sourced, Dyer initially comments that “consumption and success are from time to time shown to be wanting.” (159). The dream sourced celebrity is however not successful, they are tragic failures. Warren was not presented this way, indeed the title of the article is “Hollywood’s only contented man.” For this reason, I think Kerrigan is categorically an ordinary star. He says “this retiring business has always been a dream of mine” and “when the house is sold, I’m going to Europe for a good long trip, then I’ll set myself up on a ranch in the valley.” These sorts of dreams or incredibly ordinary, the sorts of things every day men dream about. Granted they involve a large (yet not unmodest) amount of money, but what dreams don’t? 

Dyer categorizes these sorts of ordinary people stars as one of two categories on page 158, I think Kerrigan falls under the first, “stars can be seen as ordinary people who live more expensively than the rest of us but are not essentially transformed by this.”  Kerrigan embodies that ideal. Later in the article, a direct comparison is drawn between Kerrigan’s ideals and the standard ideals of Hollywood. An old producer of Kerrigan’s once thought he was crazy to sit around his garden and read all day, saying “That Kerrigan is crazy; passing his life that way, when he could be out making money and having a good time in the world,” That producer later turned up working as an extra in movies and said “I guess it was me, not Kerrigan, that was crazy.” That anecdote plays into Dyers concept of ordinariness perfectly, Kerrigan wasn’t changed by his money. 


This article is different in a couple of ways from modern pieces. First of all, the tone is different, more formal and planned. The interview reads, well, like an interview, whereas today they are surface level and short winded. More importantly though, the interview was relatively celebratory, and definitely not surface level. It was making a pretty accurate and flattering value judgement of the star, not spreading gossip of one form or another. 

This is the photoplay archive its in, it starts on page 55

Behind Closeted Doors




Behind Closeted Doors 


I took pictures of 14 different closets, belonging to both men and women. The lowest age of an owner is 19, the highest age is 57, most were in their 20s. The purpose of this exercise was to display the least seen part of the most private room in the house, the bedroom closet. 


In a way, the closet is where our perceptions of a person start; the way we dress is often the first thing people see. When an individual wakes up in the morning, they put on items that seem to change them. A naked person is harder to identify than you think; we recognize people by the way they dress. I hoped to show that a closet is a closet is a closet, and no matter how different we perceive people to be, the places they start their mornings are largely the same. Though they are individualized, these photos are extremely similar, almost all of them have a rack for hangers, a place for shoes, some sort of miscellaneous shelving. Most of them have dirty laundry. In fact, that was the biggest concern people had, “I’m sorry it’s so messy.” Oddly enough, I walked into houses that were disgusting, and rooms that were in disarray, but for some reason everyone was most concerned about the little hole in the corner of the room where they kept their cloths. 


I chose not to include dormitories in piece, though I did photograph several dorm closets. Dorms are all essentially the same, with the same obvious organizational methods and very not individualized closets. Though many of the dorm photos were interesting, I wanted to find out what people did when they had free reign. 


Gender has long influenced clothing choice. Though with men we see collared shirts and suits on hangers, and the women own dresses and shoes, the closets they reside in are all pretty neutral. It is not difficult however to guess which closet is masculine or feminine, even without looking closely. There is no singular way to tell, some women have many fewer cloths than men, some men have bright clothing. As individuals, we have drastically different styles, but for some reason, the gender of our closet is always obvious. That simple fact is why I chose to explore the medium. What makes it so easy to tell? In asked people, everyone correctly identified a gender for each photo, even with just a cursory glance. Though these photos look much the same, gender was still somehow conveyed. That mystery is extremely intriguing, what makes us gendered? Nothing, and everything. The strange truth of this project is that our identity, for better or worse, is in many ways attached to our closet. Maybe that’s why people were so concerned about it’s cleanliness. 



Thanks for a great class! 


Minnesota School Zines

So I chose “Free Association,” which is a zine started in a Minnesota high school in the early 90s. The only reason I know about it is because of my brother. When he was in high school in MN (in the late 90s early 00s) he started a rouge zine called “The Standard.” “Free Association” was a zine widely distributed in Minneapolis high schools that attempted to replace typical high school news dribble. The messages were political and extended to the real world, hoping to show that students were not simply trapped in their own little world, no matter what their parents said. I think it is really important because it gave students an opportunity to participate in societal issues, even when they were officially restricted from them. My brother started “The Standard” in response to 9/11, and my high schools lack of student response. “Free Association” laid the framework for many other MN student zines, and that is pretty sweet. 

ImageThis is it’s seventh edition.

Deschanel jumps the line


Zoe Deschanel fits into this post-feminism thing because she is smart, and she isn’t helpless, at least as far as her intelligence goes. Her major flaw has always been her awkwardness, and her in-ability to interact properly. We may say that Deschanel doesn’t need femenism because she gets the jobs, and she isn’t the helpless woman, in fact, most of the time she is rather unfeeling, but she still needs it. She is always seen as this quirky smart girl who just doesn’t get the fashion thing. She needs some “girl power” desperately. 


On the other hand though, she is too cute, too girly. That is why Deschanel is so weird, she toes the line between helplessly unable to be feminine, to being helplessly feminine. She does, quite frequently, play the “girl who doesn’t know what she wants” this is amazingly true in the episode of “the new girl.” Simultaneously though, Deschanel has these guy friends, and she is capable of being “one of the guys,” which may seem like a leap forward in feminism (I know some people who would think so at least,) but really, it isn’t. She is still seen as “the girl.” The boys hate it when she cries and still view here as the emotional time bomb of emotion, that apparently they can’t handle. They may seem like they are trying to be good friends, but only because they are afraid of what they think are “crazy emotions” that Deschanel shouldn’t have. 


So she’s got two personalities, cute and helpless, or emotionally unfeeling…. And helpless. Thats where she becomes so post-feminist, her characters may be able to inhabit all sorts of social roles, the bro, the teacher, the lover, the hater, the professional or the secretary, but she’s always got that little bit of helpless on the side. That little bit of immaturity to wrap things up. That part of her personality, that is ever present, is what destroys her ability to become a true feminist. Deschanel may seem like a powerful woman, but even in the episode of “the new girl” she ends up loosing her job, wearing a little sparkly hat, and putting on a pouty face. That isn’t really a powerful woman. She finally looses all of her dignity when she is deemed “not hot enough” to be a shot girl. WHY IS THAT THE LAST SHRED OF HER DIGNITY! She’s very pretty, she’s just not slutty and extreme. What? She needs to be slutty and extreme? And the person she wants to be is plainly very stupid. No, if she were a femenist in this character, the episode would have been about her loosing her job, and pulling herself back up, not down to the low “shot girl” persona. 

The line between bromantic and romantic. Too thin.

The go to heterosexual enforcement tool has changed. Instead of being very homophobic, the modern man has begun to display homosexual characteristics prominently, yet mildly sarcastically. Both the episodes of Always Sunny and Workaholics put the bromance in a situation of obvious gayness, in the case of Workaholics, a very sexual gayness. The boner situation is very compelling, if the same sort of situation had happened in the 90s, the response would have been closer to “does this make us gay?” Today, it is just a “boner break,” and is used more for comedic effect than as an entire episode. Becker argues that “being gay-friendly … became de riguer for Americans invested in a hip, socially liberal identity,” this was especially apparent in the 1990s, when “not that there’s anything wrong with that” was happening. There wasn’t even gay seduction happening. In many shows today however, there are a lot of attempted gay man seductions. I would argue that this, in large part, has replaced the “mistaken sexual identity” episodes of the 90s, (it happens in the first episode of always sunny)

The bromance is more of an existence, and a relationship that is built throughout a series, but then highly focused on in a homosexual way in one episode (Mac and Dennis are never as old married couple like again in the series as far as I have seen.) The bromance as a real (read satirically real) thing, is the new episode highlight.

For the large part, I would argue that the homosexual/homoerotic bromance, especially as played out in a satirical light, is not a continuous theme through most shows. Bromance is a word that has been largely used to describe (in hind sight) the best friend relationships, regardless of homoerotic tendencies. Many of these guy pairings are periodicially embellished into full blown homosocial/homoerotic bromances. Most bromances, I think and this is from my eye mind you, not backed up a lot by theory, are not routinely or obviously homoerotic.

I do think it is compelling however that the gay man doesn’t fit into the bromance. Gay guys can be bros, no problem, I have several gay bros, we play video games together and are equally capable talking about how hot men and women are. But when a gay man is included in a media bromance, the difference between being bromantic and romantic becomes, apparently, too thin for comfort. If Dennis were gay, the episode would have had an entirely different plot, where Dennis were more predatory and trying to “turn” Mac (or at least that would be the anxiety.) Unfortunately being a bro in the media world means a sexuality that is hyper masculine and sexualized, and therefore incompatible with a homosexual viewpoint.

Shark Repellant Bat Spray

Campiest moment in movie history, it is so amazingly campy, i can’t even explain how campy it is. The shark is amazingly fake, in the full clip, Robin, for reasons unknown, hangs upside down while giving Batman the spray. Also, the begining of the clip is Robin going down instead of up, but later, he masters the bat copter and puts it in hover mode in order to climb down the ladder. It is just so over the top fake. I can’t even take it. (P.S. it wasn’t just the decade in which it was made, the sixties were bad, but not THIS bad.)

A review of “Where I Cannot Find You”

Instead of posting a full story, I posted this review, it gives us a good insight into how superfans think the characters should be represented in an ideal story.  

Sherlock, as a character, is everything he should be in a parentlock fic. Cold, detached, harsh. He loves Hamish so much but he can’t figure his emotions out, and runs away from them. There’s a great look into his character and always having to have the last word, gave me a lot of insight into his character. John, well I just don’t have a word for how perfect the characterization was. It was him, that is John. There’s no denying it. From the way he stood by his sons side and gave up his own needs, to supporting Sherlock’s case even though he wanted nothing more than to rip all electronics away from the detective it was entirely John.

The objectification of men, (pecs are the new man-boob)

Is a pec different from a boob in magic mike? Both are obviously fetishisized, and heavily for that matter. In the “junk in the face and female gaze” article the author talks about the sheer number of women attending the movie in theaters, I would argue that the producers of the movie knew this would happen, and they billed it that way. So in this movie, the pecs, abs and biceps (which by the way, are significantly MORE ridiculous than most of the boobs in the average movie) have become the major draw. A ridiculous pec (though it is still fetishisized) is culturally OK, yet a boob is seen as an “over sexualization of the female body.” We see WAY more pumped man muscle in movies than we see boobs. So, is a pec any different from a boob (fetish and gaze wise that is)?