English 1102: Television and Feminism

Dr. Casey Alane Wilson • Georgia Institute of Technology

Category: Review Topic 2 Page 1 of 5

A sense of empathy

Sense 8 is written by Lana and Lilly Wachowski. They are both trans women, formally known as the Wachowski brothers. They were the writers of The Matrix (1999) an iconic movie. After discovering this the show Sense8 now makes a lot of sense. They are both elaborate, reality questioning works of science fictions.

 

Particularly, Sense8’s writing is very unique- unlike anything I have seen before. This is a serious science fiction drama. Unlike many TV shows, including those of science fiction, there is no comedic relief. Everything every character says is deliberate and includes a specific meaning or message. This deliberate style is used intentionally to captivate the viewer. This is not the show to put on in the background while you are eating dinner or doing homework. You have to pay attention. You want to pay attention.

 

Not only is the deliberacy of the timing- when dialogue is used- captivating, but the diction picked out is used so beautifully to convey the deeper elements of human emotion that people often have trouble describing for themselves.

 

We all struggle to understand our emotions. The premise of this show is to make ourselves question our understanding of ourselves and the relationships within our lives. By having the eight main character be connected by something so much stronger than normal human connection. Something so strong that they can feel what each other is feeling emotionally allows for the greater exploration of human empathy.

 

The writing as seen through the dialogue of this show can demonstrate how this message is portrayed. After Lito has gotten his world rocked by the end of his relationship with Hernando, now his ex-boyfriend, he sits in the Diego Rivera Museum contemplating love and his fear of coming out. Lito describes his first kiss with Hernando to Nomi as a ‘religious experience’, but he is still afraid that he will ‘lose everything’ he has worked for in his career by coming out. Even though it is clear that he has already lost so much from losing Hernando. Nomi helps him evaluate his life by describing that at some point she learned that there is ‘a huge difference between what we work for and what we live for’.

 

This dialogue between Lito and Nomi helps everyone contemplate their priorities in life and where the love in their life stems from. For every viewer the reaction to this scene is different, but I felt grateful for the people in my life and reminded that school is not the end all be all.

“The Wachowskis.” Wikipedia, Wikimedia Foundation, 25 Nov. 2018, en.wikipedia.org/wiki/The_Wachowskis

Super Authors

I know that the superpower everyone wanted when they were growing up was to have amazing writing skills, right? No? Well even if that wasn’t the case for you, you still have to appreciate the skills of the ones who did manage to get that superpower, and in order to do this, we will take a more in depth look at episode fourteen from season one of Supergirl.

One thing that is really cool about this episode is that it was both written and directed by women, and out of the entire first season, only two episodes had a female director. One of the writers is Yahlin Chang, and she is a very prolific television writer who worked on several shows including ER and Shades of Blue. She is currently a co-executive producer on The Handmaid’s Tale which has become one of the best dramas currently on television. Another one of the writers is Michael Grassi, and he has worked on quite a few shows that you might have heard of including Degrassi: The Next Generation, Lost Girl, and Riverdale. It is amazing to see how a show that most people would write off as being superficial or frivolous entertainment actually has some incredible depth and talent to it when people choose to look past the surface.

One thing that stands out to me about the writing of the show is how current it is. Now what do I mean by that? I mean that throughout all the episodes the audience is constantly being thrown pop culture, history, and celebrity references that we can relate to on a personal level. From talking about binge watching Netflix to gossiping about celebs such as Jennifer Lawrence, the authors use references such as these to help the audience become more engaged with the story and to relate to the characters by seeing how much they act and talk like we do. For example, Kara tells her sister Alex that she’s always wanted to catch a corrupt cop ever since they binge watched the television show The Wire together. Now I think most people can agree that at some point or another, we all want to escape into the stories we see and get to experience them right along with the rest of the characters. It’s references like these that are thrown throughout the dialogue that help to shape how the audience views the plot and how we experience the action along with the characters on screen.

The actors may be the ones saying the words, but its Supergirl’s writers who are the true heart of the show. They painstakingly craft together scenes and dialogue in such a way as to make the words feel like a conversation that we as the audience get to be a part of. They are the real superheroes.

Writers: The Real Superheroes

New Girl: Seriously Awkward Silence

New Girl is a show that thrives on awkwardness (as anyone who has read my previous posts knows I love). The show will often build up to dramatic moments of silence where the air becomes stiff and viewers are left thinking how they would respond in such a situation. The genius of New Girl is how this awkward silence is broken by the ridiculousness of the characters’ actions. This is used perfectly in the finale of New Girl, Elaine’s Big Day, during [Spoiler] Cece’s failed marriage, while Jess and Nick’s dysfunctional relationship is falling apart.

Silence can be used in a comedy as a way of changing the mood of the scene to be serious and awkward. This focuses the audience on the careful words or actions of the characters, allowing for the crafting of serious moments in an otherwise light-hearted show. In Se2Ep25, Jess and Nick are in conflict due to their relationship. In a mere 20 minutes, the two begin by having an adorable relationship, which quickly falls right apart and is built immediately back up in 5 minutes without any unbelievable leaps of logic: all thanks to the writer’s use of silence in a particular scene.

Specifically, Jess and Nick are discussing how their relationship is clearly not functioning, and Nick decides to break it off, informing Jess that it was never going to be anything serious anyway and that they should just end it. This strong emotional shock to an otherwise fun show is left in several seconds of silence, where the audience is recoiling from the shock that Jess must be going through. The silence is used to display the thoughts going through Jess’ head as she is being broken up with, being told that her relationship was never meant to be serious in the first place.

Se2Ep25 Some awkward silence

This episode uses silence perfectly at this moment to display a serious moment, where Jess’ emotional struggles are in plain view as there is no comedy to cover it. It then does nothing to break the tension of this silence. Rather than saying something, Jess just awkwardly nods and walks away, leaving Nick in silence as he and the audience must think about the consequences of the episode.

New Girl usually uses silence to indicate a more serious moment, but ultimately breaks it with some awkward comedic moment, such as later in the episode when Schmidt is presented with two girls who love him and ask him to choose, he just stands in silence and after a moment starts running off, breaking silence with comedy. However, in the case of Jess and Nick, the silence is never broken. It is left perpetually as Jess just walks away from Nick. In a comedic show, the silence was written in to create a serious moment that leaves the audience in a real feeling of tension and regret for Nick.

A Show About Today

Many shows and movies are set in crazy environmentsones on alien planets, on uninhabitable climates, in war struck zones, and more. However, despite their absurdity, viewers often accept the abstract characteristics as normal for relatively anything can happen in the entertainment industry (as long as producers approve). Despite the ease and prevalence of such variation, relatively few shows are set in the same time and in the current society where they are broadcasted, simply because it is difficult to write, film, and produce shows or movies before the current, dynamics of modern life change. In the sixth season Orange Is the New Black, however, this is not the case.

I was very surprised to see the characters in the sixth season of this show discussing the same issues that I am talking about with my friends. In one of the early episodes of this season, Blanca is depicted discussing Trump’s idea of building a border wall. Later in the episodes, people discuss the “MeToo” movement that has been on the forefront of the news lately. Because the writers included such references to current events in the scripts, they make the characters seem like people who are somewhere out there living in an American prison in the current political system right now. Sadly, people just like the characters in the show actually are living a similar reality. Therefore, the writing makes viewers reflect not only on the politics referred to in the show but also on the state of affairs of the prison system. It brings the story the show tells about a corrupt system into the real world (where it does actually exist too) and places it in the setting of the same place we live today. Before the sixth season, it was apparent that the show was set somewhere in modern America but it was not really tied explicitly to what is going on today. By including references to events that have been hot topics in the past few months, the writers took the show from a vague setting to real time, specifically, making the injustices seen in the show just as current and urgent as the other references.

A prisoner being beaten by a guard—something not uncommon in the modern US prison system.

Casual Misogyny in A Feminist Masterpiece

Murphy Brown is an iconic feminist piece which introduced a strong female character only allowed unedited on to TV because of a writers strike. The creator (Diane English) was female and the writers room shared some of this diversity. The show’s credit lists no writers, however the top four credited are half female and half male with female writers Diane English and Korby Siamis and male writers Steven Peterman and Gary Dontzig.  

The writing itself is even paced and witty, revolving around a recurring cast of characters who continuously build jokes off each other based off their history and the episode’s events. Because of these connections, the writers are able to fit in multiple running jokes which help develop the individuals. The humorous writing is often creative however, it adds many cliches into the mix. Much of the jokes rely on situational humor, with the majority of their landings depending on how the actors physically display the joke rather than just on the writing, a technique that Murphy Brown’s Candice Bergen kills.

Despite its feminist history, Murphy Brown is not without it flaws. The show has a surprising amount of misogynistic and inappropriate humor. At one point in season 1 episode 18, the young producer Miles makes a comment about how his life is hard because he had to turn down a date with “do-anything-for-a-promotion Lisa”, a joke that would not fly in the modern-day era of the Me-Too movement. The same episode sees other uncomfortable workplace jokes such as a coworker suggestively telling Murphy that he “hoped to see [her] in [her] cowgirl outfit” as well as a comment by the same producer asking if Murphy was upset about being slandered because it was “the 18th already” (a hint towards her time of the month which the men of the office creepily knew). This instance is quick and laughable for the 1980’s audience it was geared towards, however when paralleled by Parks and Recreation (2009-2015) the show makes a point to show how inappropriate this is and focuses an entire episode around it.

While the writing of Murphy Brown is lighthearted, easy to follow, and orchestrated by many women it continues to have misogynistic issues which may reflect the norms of the time.

2018 Murphy Brown remake

Plot Twists and New Cousins: Between the Lines of New Girl

Sarah Tapscott is credited with writing the episode “The Hike” in season 6 of New Girl. She has written 41 episodes of New Girl, including the entire 6th season.

The show begins with Jess and Robby being very cute and couple-y and doing things such as saying the same words at the same time, telling inside jokes, and finishing each other’s sentences while getting ready for their hike. Because they are so similar, it sets a very suspicious mood and foreshadows their discovery at the end of the hike. The dialogue was planned this way to show how close and similar they are.

Schmidt and Cece are planning a house party, and they are quite stressed about it. Schmidt makes external references to Groudhog day, calling himself Andie MacDowell because he feels like he has been through this before. They then have flashbacks and begin reflecting on what the “cool” parties were like when they were a kid. These memories were a great use of writing to further characterize Schmidt and Cece and how they handle problems.

When the party begins, dialogue is very important to Winston. Each word he says and story he tells is pretty strange, and this dialogue was chosen to show his nervousness for meeting Ally’s parents. When Ally arrives, there is a large silence that builds apprehension for the surprise. However, there is situational irony because Ally is actually not excited to see her family at all. Ally gets into a fight with her sister because she tells Ally that Winston is “good for her,” which is offensive because it makes it seem as though she needs a man.

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A fun cousin hike

Now back to Jess and Robby. They are hiking and realizing just how similar they are. Then, they come to the conclusion that they are actually 3rd cousins. This is a huge plot twist and dramatic turn, as they are dating. I believe it was the writer’s way of breaking them up so that Jess and Nick can be together. Shortly after in the episode Jess comes to the party with a bag of raisins because she doesn’t like them in the Trail Mix. And it just so happens that Nick loves raisins and wants to eat them. This clever writing trick of bringing them together shows that sometimes opposites attract and foreshadows their future.

#Exposed: The Writing in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend

Crazy Ex-Girlfriend is a very clever show; its writing is frequently deceptively critical. When speaking about the writing in Crazy Ex-Girlfriend, it’s impossible to ignore the songs; they’re always super catchy and super focused in their criticisms of various issues, from women’s oversexualization to the glorification of mental illness. This is true in the case of the song “Sexy French Depression,” which is featured in episode 7, “I’m So Happy that Josh Is So Happy!”

In strongly playing up the concepts of mental illness being interesting and of girls who are struggling being interesting and quirky, the song ends up poking fun at said concepts and deconstructing the fantasy inherent to them. Take the first stanza, for example:

My eyes are dark from sadness
My lips are red from pain
My bosom ‘eaves with sobs
I’m in a sexy French depression

Each individual line portrays an idealized image of struggle and sadness, and by so strongly embracing the concept that female suffering is sexy, the song is able to shine light on the ridiculousness of the concept, right from the start. The second stanza also deconstructs the concept of “sexy depression”, but in a different way. First, a quick look at the stanza:

I walk, oh, so slowly
I can only breathe and sigh, oh!
My bed smells like a tampon
I’m in a sexy French depression

In this case, the stanza doesn’t play along with depression being sexy. Instead, it shines light on how depression really is, unflattering aspects and all, through lines like, “My bed smells like a tampon.” The song switches through these two approaches, going from wholeheartedly embracing depression’s “sexiness” to exposing depression for what it really looks like, and by doing this, it more effectively gets its point across.

This clever writing isn’t very surprising, considering that “Sexy French Depression” was written by Rachel Bloom and Adam Schlesinger. Rachel Bloom has past experience with the particular style of blunt, oftentimes-explicit comedy, from writing and singing the song “Fuck Me, Ray Bradbury,” in 2010 to singing “My Sex Junk” on “The Sexual Spectrum” episode of Bill Nye Saves the World in 2017. She also has experience with musical comedy—as of now, she’s released 2 musical comedy albums, Please Love Me and Suck It, Christmas—and regularly speaks about mental health issues, having a history with it herself (she has depression, OCD, and anxiety.) As for Adam Schlesinger, he has a broad wealth of experience with songwriting, having written song lyrics for movies, TV, and musical theater.

Works Cited

“Adam Schlesinger,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Adam_Schlesinger

“I’m In A Sexy French Depression,” Genius, https://www.genius.com/10127238

“Rachel Bloom,” Wikipedia, https://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Rachel_Bloom

Tense, Urgent, Fearful: the Truth of a Hospital’s Environment

(Topic 2)

The episode (and series) is written by Stacy McKee. That has been her primary achievement/occupation since Grey’s Anatomy is one of the longest running shows. She won the Writers Guild of America Award for Television: New Series. The dialogue is usually quick with the camera and dialogue shifting back and forth as the characters even break each other’s statements to start their own. This seems to create a sense of urgency and creates a tense and stressful environment. This is very much needed since it is the norm in hospitals where people need split-second decisions to save their lives and people dying is very common. Silence is usually used to allow the viewers to feel the finality and the depth of what has happened. This is usually after a death, an argument, someone leaving, or anything where there is a negative emotion to be felt. There are a lot of flashbacks usually either related to suffering in the past such as when Meredith Grey remembers how her mom neglected her or when April Kepner and Jackson Avery remember how their happy marriage turned out so badly or also happiness earlier on in life such as when Meredith Gray remembers how much she loved Derek Shepherd and how great their marriage was. The writing really seems to just capture the air and environment of a hospital, the urgency, the hope, the sadness, the desperation, the fear, and even the brightness of a fixed patient. The writer was perfect for the job and I believe is the rightful recipient of the Writers Guild of America Award for Television: New Series. Her writing has been instrumental in keeping viewers hooked for over 15 years with the same show as characters have come and gone. It’s the style of this show that has kept the viewers at bay.

Image result for stacy mckee

(Stacey McKee is pictured above)

“My G” #2 Post on Writing

For the TV show Fresh Off the Boat, I could have chosen any episode in any season and it would have provided a general overview of its writing style. However, for the episode I chose, season 2 episode 14, I particularly liked how the storyline goes against Asian convention with Louis and Jessica supporting Emery with his hidden talent in tennis. Throughout the episode, the writers, Khan, Huang, Shah, and Wang, collectively create a light-hearted atmosphere while highlighting the comedic effect of Emery’s sudden rise in fame in the tennis world.  This should come with no surprise that the main writer, Khan, has plenty experience writing other comedic shows such as “Don’t Trust the B— in Apartment 23” and “American Dad”.

Khan often use a free-flowing dialogue structure to mimic a natural conversation, thus making it easier to follow. Furthermore, the writers try to avoid utilising advanced vocabulary to make it more appealing to younger participants and it also helps portray across life’s perspective coming a young Asian teenager boy. Interestingly, the characters often express their thoughts out loud to not only exhibit “thinking out loud” characteristic but it helps the audience to decrypt their ulterior motive. This is evidently seen when Jessica inadvertently tells Eddie to move out of his room to make space for Emery so that Emery could more efficiently recover from his physical pain from tennis matches.

Like in any TV show, It is important for the writers to appreciate the perspective and theme the show is portraying across. In this case, it is the significance of mimicking an Asian teenager’s perspective of school as real as possible. They have done a superb job in doing so, with Eddie constantly using vocabulary that belongs in the lexical field of youth. Nouns such as “my G” and “my jam” in addition to portraying across a light-hearted tone, it also allows the show to come across more relatable to younger audiences.

My G, My G!!!!

The Silence of the Friends

     In season 1 episode 15 of New Girl titled “Injured” written by Nick Adams, Berkeley Johnson, and Josh Malmuth, Jess’ friend Nick goes through a crisis of identity when he finds a possible cancerous lump on his neck. While the lump is ultimately harmless at the very end of the episode, the framing of this particularly thematically heavy episode exemplifies the way in which the writing and dialogue of the show as a whole drives both the development of the small circle of friends as well as the juxtaposition of real-world problems with the series’ distinct brand of humor.

The gang shares a tender moment with Nick

     The general delivery of jokes and one-liners remains consistent with other episodes, where a character starts a seemingly ordinary thought and concludes their sentence with the punchline. However, it is oddly the few-second pauses in the characters’ speech that act as the most poignant moments out of the 20-minute episode. As the plot and humor are dialogue-driven, these pauses allow the audience to shift their attention away from the progression of events to the details of the characters’ behavior, thus providing an insight into how these friends deal with such a high stress situation: the respites from the friendly teasing and jokes quickly reveals the underlying sadness, worry, and anxiety all 5 of them have for the well-being of Nick. Even after the lump is proven to be benign, the episode continues with intermittent pauses in the dialogue, thus further solidifying how the gang is still in the process of internalizing Nick’s near-death experience.

     While the writing, pacing, and humor of “Injured” are all the trademark quality of the rest of the show, the moments of silence in this episode provide the central moments from which the characters are able to develop. When it comes to the writing and dialogue, Adams, Johnson, and Malmuth ultimately demonstrate the potency of writing nothing at all.

Netflix. “New Girl S1:E15 ‘Injured’.” Online Video Clip. Netflix. Netflix, 2018. Web.                6 Nov. 2018.

I Watched Grey’s Anatomy, So Now I’m a Doctor

Shonda Rhimes, the author of Grey’s Anatomy, writes her medical drama in a way that everyone can understand. There is medical lingo and jargon, but it’s not enough to confuse viewers, and confusing terms like necrotizing fasciitis and a hyperbaric chamber don’t distract from the overall plot and story. They’re either used in a way that isn’t integral to the plot, or they’re explained to further the plot. This is consistent throughout the entire show and the episode I chose to analyze.

Image result for shonda rhimes

The mastermind behind it all.

Like much of the other aspects of the show, the writing is fast paced and straightforward. In a hospital setting, especially in the emergency department, doctors and nurses communicate quickly and with urgency, including much of the previously mentioned medical lingo. Although some aspects of the show are inaccurate most likely to create the drama and story rather than make it perfectly accurate, much of it seems realistic. This includes the writing. Also, interestingly, when anything is explained, it’s quick and to the point. The audience requires context, as most of them aren’t doctors, but explanations can’t be so drawn out that it becomes unrealistic. Therefore, explanations of medical terms and procedures are done by “testing” the interns’ knowledge or by quickly explaining it in a few words.

Silence isn’t often used. When characters don’t talk, music or commotion is used to fill those spaces. This typically happens in emotional scenes, like when Meredith had to kill a patient due to the patient being DNR ( some more medical lingo for you! ).

There are voiceovers at the beginning and ends of episodes, usually Meredith speaking her thoughts and teasing the episode in the beginning, and reiterating these thoughts while capping off the episode in the end. However, instead of plentiful voiceovers, Meredith’s thoughts are sometimes spoken aloud to compliment what everyone says out loud.

Silence and Emotional Maturity in The Bold Type’s Writing

The season one finale of The Bold Type provided yet another topic of interest that isn’t much discussed in modern television — the lasting effects of sexual violence. In contrast to our class’s viewing of Sweet/Vicious a little while ago, “Carry the Weight” provides viewpoints that aim towards recognition of sexual assault survivors instead of their revenge.

At the very beginning of the episode, the show’s three protagonists, Kat, Sutton, and Jane, are seen running through Central Park. The upbeat music quietens as Jane sees a woman standing under a gazebo-something-or-another (it was weird, okay?), and the focus switches from the three protagonists to the serene woman.

The woman, Mia, holds two weights in her hands, which the audience later learns to be representative of the emotional trauma that she still endures from her assault. Later in the episode, Jane asks Jacqueline, Scarlet’s editor-in-chief, if she can write a story about Mia and her mission. Jane later notes that this story was indeed her first pitch as a writer at Scarlet.

Image result for the bold type carry the weight

Jane and Kat speaking with Mia (middle, right, and left, respectively)

Here with Jane’s writing topics and the implied rekindling of Sutton and Richard’s romance in the elevator, Sarah Watson, the writer of this episode, completes a full circle within the realm of The Bold Type. Watson also wrote scripts for the show’s first and second episodes, “Pilot” and “O Hell No” respectively. However, a key difference in Watson’s earlier scripts and that of the finale is the repeated use of silence.

In this episode specifically, silence is used to portray the importance of certain scenes. Here it is implied that the three women — usually acting upon happy, go-lucky whims, mind you — fully understand the emotional maturity and development that stem from their encounters with Mia, their past lovers, and even with Jacqueline, who decides to finally come forward as a rape survivor, twenty years after her assault.

On a similar note, the theme of extended silence is further mirrored in the episode’s soundtrack. For example, when Jacqueline symbolically takes the weights from Mia, MILCK’s song “Quiet” blasts the lyrics “I can’t keep quiet!”, a nod towards Jacqueline bringing light to her past. The episode later ends with Brooke Candy and Sia’s “Living out Loud”, another play on the breaking of silence.

Overall, writer Sarah Watson effectively wraps up the show’s first season by tying the earlier episodes to the last one. A few more plots are opened, like Kat deciding to go travel with Adena. (Mixed thoughts about Kat to come in the next blog post, perhaps.) But until then, the audience can count on The Bold Type refusing to play clean with what “should be” discussed on television. Watson’s recognition of effective measures that can be used to bring light to and empower sexual assault survivors serves as hope for society’s future conversations on- and off-screen.

 

Works Cited

Shoemaker, Allison. “We Need The Bold Type, and This Finale Proves It.” AV Club, 6 September 2017, https://www.avclub.com/we-need-the-bold-type-and-this-finale-proves-it-1800019688. Accessed 6 November 2018.

“The Bold Type Official Music Guide Season 1.” Freeform, 2018, https://freeform.go.com/shows/the-bold-type/news/the-bold-type-official-music-guide-season-1. Accessed 6 November 2018.

Writes and Wrongs on New Girl

I’ve been looking forward to writing this one.  Today let’s discuss the writing style of New Girl following the 9th episode of season one: “The 23rd”.  Episode 9 having a plot line centered around Christmas proves to be the most emotionally provocative episode yet.  While at an office Christmas party, the gang finds themselves confronting their internal/external conflicts.  This results in an emotional rollercoaster that is powered by subtle but powerful dialogue which we will dive into now!  (Prepare for all the feels)

Throughout episode 9 there are 4 main struggles going on.

  1. Jess isn’t in love with Paul and he is (news that is revealed to Paul by a clumsy Nick)
  2. Schmidt is sick of being used around the office for his body
  3. Winston does not feel a sense of belonging in the world of conventional jobs
  4. Cece is dating a jerk

Each of these struggles are relatable but still difficult making them more impactful on the audience.  In order to capitalize on these pressing issues the writers of the show use certain tactics to amplify the emotional connection between audience and character.  For example, almost all dialogue in this show is shared in an intimate setting between two characters. (3 in the case of Jess, Paul, and Nick)

The writers leave lots of silences between dialogue to let the words resonate with the viewer.  There is also no narrator, which is expected with New Girl, but this leaves the watcher without a specific point from which to view these conflicts.  A lack of narrator decreases biased viewpoints on the issues and increases the reality of the situation.

The episode concludes with the gang coming together to make, a now single, Jess feel better.  They all run around a fancy street early in the morning yelling to get them to turn their Christmas lights on.  One by one the lights come on and Jess, along with the gang, are filled with joy.  A honestly heart warming scene that brought me pre holiday joy.

One of the writers of this episode, Nick Adams, is also the writer of “How to make friends with Black People” a book on bridging racial gaps in society.  Through this process I’m sure he wrote about many interpersonal connections and struggles, similar to the ones portrayed on this episode of New Girl.

In conclusion, the writers of New Girl, like their writing, are subtly good, aspects such as silence, lack of narrator and setting contribute to sympathy of the viewer, and I am now in the Christmas spirit!

Writing the wrongs in Portlandia

Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen, the minds behind cult hit Portlandia

Carrie Brownstein and Fred Armisen are two faces that were easily recognizable in the comedy scene prior to their creation of Portlandia, so when they joined forces to write a new show in 2011, many were buzzing with anticipation. Not after long, the show was already winning multiple awards, largely due to the writing efforts of Brownstein and Armisen. This blog post will be focused specifically on the writing of season 3 episode 3 called “Missionaries.”

The writing in this episode is credited to both Brownstein and Armisen. They are also the lead actors in the show, which makes their command of their characters masterful, as they know exactly how the dialogue was intended to be portrayed. The core plot of this episode is that the mayor of Portland is asking Fred and Carrie to pull some more residents into Portland from rival city Seattle. They go about this by doing missionary type work, spreading the good word of Portland. The writing is very meticulous at parts, getting across the key point that there must be a parallel drawn between what they are doing and actual missionary work. For example, they say stuff like, “have you heard the good word of Portland,” or “have you considered accepting Portland into your life.” These comedic parallels are great writing, striking at the point that people often go about working very hard on certain tasks where if they were to step out of the box and think critically for a brief moment, they would understand the absurdity of what they are doing.

Furthermore, they get to the personality of Portland through this comedic writing through statements like, “Men, bring your bass guitars.” The dialogue is structured in such a way that there is much snarky back and forth that adds to the comedic nature of the show. Overall, it is a very funny episode with lots of great writing that I would highly recommend.

Does hip hop make him supreme – or is it all a scheme?

One of my favorite parts about Fresh off the Boat are the voice overs. Eddie Huang, a middle schooler, narrates the first and final scene of every episode, but as an older post-pubescent man. As the main character, he is telling the story from his perspective and how he views the plot. Therefore, this implies that this is how Eddie sees himself. This is just a hilarious ploy by the writers to me.

The voice of this character is unique to say the least. He reflects Eddie’s love of hip hop by using popular slang terms, because those terms are ~cool~. The speech used by this narrator is based off the speech of the popular hip hop artists who act as Eddie’s role models. The voice drastically contrasts with the voice of the real Eddie Huang which is high pitched, and the slang terms don’t sound quite as natural, because he’s a little kid. When Eddie uses the same slang it looks like a kid who is pretending to be cool when in reality he’s not, but the narration voice really is. Again, what this says about Eddie is that he genuinely believes he’s really cool.

This says a lot about Eddie’s character. Eddie’s character struggles to make friends. He is often rejected by the kids at school. In season 1 episode 5, the episode starts out by Eddie narrating how he doesn’t get invited to any sleepovers. This statement alone is a bit odd, considering the narrator is an adult and adults don’t exactly have sleepovers (in the traditional sense of the term…).  The narrator continues by saying he was “mad siked” about getting invited to the sleepover which is something a ~cool~ person would say. And then the shot pans to Eddie, a small pudgy middle schooler who lacks in eyebrows (no offense Eddy, still love you). Despite this you might start thinking Eddie was actually a cool kid, because he finally got invited to a sleepover and was making friends. But again, the show reminds us that he is not. The next shot is of Eddie’s mom telling Eddie that there is “no way” he’s going to that sleepover. Again we’re reminded that he’s just a little awkward kid (again no offense).

I mean look at him… his cheeks are so chubby.. he has baby fat!

This really just serves as a constant reminder that people view themselves as a little bit cooler than we actually are. Not just kids, adults too. If the joke didn’t apply to adults, it wouldn’t be funny. Obviously low self esteem is a real thing, but the way we view ourselves is never exactly how the outside world views us.

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