English 1102: Television and Feminism

Dr. Casey Alane Wilson • Georgia Institute of Technology

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Beige is the New Orange is the New Black

Saved the best for last. For this final blog post, I’m going to be writing about the cinematography of Orange is the New Black, focusing on the seventh episode of Season 1, ”Blood Donut.”

The color scheme of the show has the most visual definition, or lack thereof, of any of the other aspects of visual design in the show. The show features very little orange or black, in fact, the most prominent color present is beige. Beige is not only the color of the prisoners’ uniforms, but it also saturates the walls and floors of Litchfield. Even the grass within the prison fences is slightly dead rendering it brown, and the trees surrounding the prison are winterized. Even outside, muted earth tones remain the dominant color scheme. In the outside world, colors are far more pronounced and are clearly brighter. Earth tones seemingly remain the primary color scheme, dark brown and beige being replaced with cream and yellow, but there are flashes of bright colors that break this monotony. These are absent in the prison. Lighting contributes to this visual difference between the two places: in the prison lighting is almost constantly white fluorescent, which is colder, and natural light is almost always absent. Outside of prison, lighting is either warm natural daylight or warm, dim, and yellow incandescent lighting.

So much beige

Another visual choice that greatly impacts the show is its shot selection. The show uses a lot of close up shots, framing the faces of its characters. This is effective as Orange is the New Black is, at its core, a show that focuses on all of its characters, their stories, and their experiences, with their being in prison serving as merely a plot device. Even during dialogue, characters are often framed individually while speaking, letting the audience focus more on what they’re saying. Another aspect of shot selection the show uses well is intermittent long takes. These are used not to increase dramatic effect as they normally are, but to highlight the monotony of prison life by lingering on more mundane moments.

Orange is the New Black is a show that revolves around its excellent visual design and character development. It may miss the target in terms of short term plot as a result of looking long term, but sticking with the show makes the viewers appreciate its core tenets. Using this, the show makes important points about the prison system and the lives of women, while remaining entertaining.

“‘Orange Is the New Black’ Blood Donut.” IMDb, IMDb.com, www.imdb.com/title/tt2595996/mediaindex?ref_=tt_mv_close.

Flight Attendant to Astronaut

A parent’s biggest worry is perhaps the future of his/her children. In Season 2, Episode 14 of Fresh Off the Boat, Michael Chang Fever, Emery and Evan came home with their results for prospective careers based on their personalities. Much to Jessica’s surprise, while Evan scored surgeon general, Emery was suggested to become a flight attendant. Jessica explains to Emery that flight attendants are essentially the “homeless of the sky” and encouraged him to learn tennis after hearing that professional tennis players can earn up to 15 million dollars. Emery demonstrated natural talents and quickly rose through the rankings of a tennis tournament; however, he ended up firing his parents as his coach and began training with Billie Jean King. Jessica and Louis understood that their son only made this choice to become a better tennis player, and supported Emery’s decision. After winning the tournament, Emery explained to Jessica and Louis he didn’t want to devote his life to tennis at the moment and wishes to stop playing the sport. The only thing the parents said was: “whatever you want to do, we support you.”

 

This episode revolves around the main question of who should decide the child’s future. Should parents encourage their kids to follow their heart or guide them in directions that the parents believe are good? Jessica refused to let Emery follow the path of becoming a flight attendant, but she realized that Emery’s opinion is very important in making this decision as it is Emery’s life and Emery’s future. In the end, the Huangs decided to embrace their child’s choice, but guide Emery in a slightly different direction: becoming an astronaut. Making a compromise is perhaps the best outcome of the situation, Jessica wants the best for Emery while allowing him to do what he wants with his life.

Emery with his new tennis coach

This episode focuses on a very simple and prevalent issue with parenting and shows how the Huang family guided Emery in career choices. The comedic elements played very well alongside the main story, consistent with the show’s way of portraying the family and the obstacles they overcome.

What Now? Thinking About the End of WestWorld

*Spoilers Ahead*

Now that I have completed season 1 of WestWorld, it is appropriate to take a step back and reflect on the meaning of it all. I feel as though I have been alluding to this throughout these blog posts, but it’s time to finally address the elephant in the room: AI. This clear theme is clearly the main topic they want their audience to grapple in, and it’s time for me to finally do so now.

I feel as though the show attempts to discuss three conflicts with AI: Their rights, their place in this world, and their humanity. It leads us to ask ourselves, seeing how technology is completely reshaping humanity, whether or not this is the path we want to continue taking. Soon, we will grapple even more with these questions, and WestWorld shows us what happens as we reach that point in human conflict.

Most of the robots and artificial intelligence in WW are clueless; they go about their “lives” being completely programmable and controllable by the humans, feeling absolutely nothing. However, a few droid characters have become increasingly self aware: Dolores, Maeve, and Bernard. These characters at first, confused by their onset of “feelings”, still passively respond to human control. However (especially in the case of Maeve), as they come to the realization that the humans are not actually “Gods”, they begin to question their roles and revolt against human control. They feel as though they have been entrapped by the lives they live, constantly being raped, abused, and manipulated by human control. But do they really “feel” these agonies the same way humans do?

Another question arises here: If these droids are capable of “feeling” these agonies, is it torture to leave them in their roles at WestWorld? While the purpose of their existence is already morally questionable, are they capable of knowing what it feels like to lose someone like a human does? Do they know what it feels like to be distressed, anxious, or saddened beyond how their code tells them how to “feel”? It’s also important to know that a lot of the reason why these droids specifically begin to become aware is because the humans put them in this position. Bernard was programmed to be intellectually superior to the other droids, and to be more humanlike (as only Dr. Ford knows he isn’t human). Maeve was made more intelligent by the butchers. So does this really give them the “rights” to these feelings?

By the end Dr. Ford pushes these considerations into the regular people. As he begins the droid revolution by inserting new lines of code into the robots so they can act more “humanlike”, the robots are now free to kill the humans. What Dr. Ford personally believes, we don’t know. He could’ve been doing it for park thrills, or to start a real revolution. Regardless, humanity will now have to decide the place of these robots, and soon, so will we in the real world.

Dr. Ford’s final salute, as if wishing the humans good luck in the new world he has created.

Gender Representation in New Girl

For the fourth Blog Entry, I am focusing on the gender representation within the show. In New Girl, there is a balanced gender spread. Even though there are slightly more male characters than the female characters, the main character is Jess and the show plot is always related to her. Therefore, it balances out the gender representation. However, only two genders, male and female, are represented in this show whereas there are many other genders that could have been represented.

In this show, the two main couples are Jess and Nick, and Cece and Schmidt. In the relationship between Jess and Nick, Jess is dramatic, and Nick hides his feelings. However, this was contrasted in one episode where Nick accidentally says he loves Jess and Jess goes away after giving an awkward reaction. In the relationship with Cece and Schmidt, Cece makes the logical decision and Schmidt follows her decision or runs away from his responsibility. In conclusion, I believe the agency is equally assigned because the characters that makes significant decisions are both males and females.

Jess and Nick

Cece and Schmidt

There are not much of class, disability, and mental illness issues discussed in this show. Since the genre of New Girl is sitcom (situation comedy), the show is mostly in the light mood. Due to this fact, the serious issues in the society are not usually addressed. As I mentioned preciously, there are only two genders represented throughout the show. There is no diversity in sexual orientation. There are only heterosexuals. Lastly, there are characters with different races. However, the race is not really associated with gender in this show, which means that there is no noticeable correlation between gender and race.

In conclusion, although it lacks many different genders, the males and females are balanced in the show New Girl. There are characters which are gender stereotypes but there are also characters which are far opposite of these stereotypes.

How to Represent Gender in a World of Fake Humanity

In the world of fake (and immoral acting) human beings that is WestWorld, it may be hard to find the importance of gender representation. It may seem like a small factor when we’re dealing with some of the worst of humanity, but nonetheless, it’s extremely critical. And just how the writers of WestWorld choose to portray gender makes it enhance the show more altogether.

WestWorld doesn’t really touch much on the gender spectrum, however, the show has fairly equal representation. Interestingly, we see how park administration is fairly split between males and females, along with the artificial humans in the park itself. However, it is also important to note how most of the visitors to the park are male. Is this because, stereotypically, men are seen as being the more violent, risky, and immoral ones? This was likely a question the writers of WestWorld had to confront as they chose who to chose in the position of “visitor”.

The park in WestWorld is run logistically by the headquarters, where WestWorld’s operations control center, security, “manufacturing” and research and development is housed. The division of leadership here is actually quite gender diverse. The head of the park is an older man, who co-started the park with another man named Bernard. Our head of what appears to be research and development is also a man, but has a fairly diverse team working under him, including a savvy coder/developer who investigates and discovers troublesome park corruption. The leader of what appears to be the more “logistical” branch of the park (dealing with safety, budgeting, and the efficiency of the park) is an often unwavering and determined middle-aged woman. The representative of the board of directors is a younger woman, who is quite bold and even reckless when it comes to getting the board’s way. All of these characters are deeply involved in the running and logistics of the park, making major decisions which greatly impact the storyline. Our two most important and intelligent humanlike droids, Dolores and Maeve, are both women whom begin to determinedly question and upset their roles as robots as they question their own roles and cross the lines between robot and human, while most of the male droids appear to sort of “go along for the ride”. This is interesting to see, as many of the important plot points in the show are driven by the decisions or impacts of female characters, who often stand up to an ironclad structure of workplace hierarchy or, in the robot’s case, oppression (whether or not you believe robots can be oppressed is up to you to decide).

Interestingly, we also see a large amount of diversity at play in the show. Many higher ups are POCs. The show seems to largely avoid race themes, except for those purposefully created as part of the park experience (for example, interactions with the Native Americans). In terms of class, we largely only interact with the wealthy. , as these are the only people able to afford the experience of WestWorld. It is important to note how most of these visitors appeared to be white. While the show seems to seek to discuss the AI debate more, it certainly includes some aspects of gender.

Theresa Cullen, one of the most important leads of the first season

Gender Representation in New GIRL

In New Girl, the gender spread is pretty balanced, with quirky Jess as the lead and her beautiful, smart and supportive best friend Cece along with the three roommates that Jess fights with, lives with and learns with. The only two genders represented are female and male whereas there are many more genders that could be represented. Technically, the male characters have more representation but this is balanced out by the fact that Jess is the main character and that the spotlight is always on her. In terms of agency, Jess is mostly able to make her own choices but it is also important to consider the fact that Jess cannot usually act on her desires sometimes. This is shown by the fact that the other characters, both Cece and her male roommates have to sometimes push Jess to do things and stand up for herself. Nick seems to make decisions in a more low-key way contrary to characters like Schmidt. This show also does not really connect gender to race as much as other shows usually do. Race and gender representation do not really correlate in this show as the amount of representation a character has is usually not dependent on what race they are. Sometimes when watching an episode of this show, class and gender representation is sometimes a connection I make. Characters like Schmidt who obviously makes more money than his roommates sometimes has an attitude of superiority over his female and male counterparts.

Jess being a boss.

Also, since everyone in New Girl is heterosexual, there isn’t any discrepancy in the representation that every character gets as there lacks diversity in sexuality.  Disability and Mental illness are also not addressed much in this show, as it usually tries to keep a very light mood throughout the episodes. Heavy issues aren’t discussed usually in this show. Overall, the gender representation is pretty balanced out of the episodes I have seen thus far.

More Than Just Criminals

I thought I was going to have to search really deep in order to find a central theme of a single Orange is the New Black episode, as episodes of the show often feature several plotlines that each try to advance a certain theme or narrative, something the show is able to do in its 55 minute format without seeming too scattered. In comes Episode 4 of Season 1, “Imaginary Enemies.” The episode, while still featuring multiple plotlines with only surface level overlap as far as characters go, relates these plotlines by using them to drive home an overarching theme.

Get it, drive home, because they lose a screwdriver in the episode haha I’m hilarious

This show does not want you to judge its characters before knowing their stories, their backgrounds, and their motivations first. Where this episode pushes this theme most blatantly is in this episode’s flashback storyline, which features Piper Chapman’s new roommate, Miss Claudette. Throughout previous episodes, Miss Claudette has been portrayed as mean without reason and overly controlling. The first two flashbacks explain why this is. We first see her as a young girl who, it can be assumed, is subject to indentured servitude as a way to pay off her parent’s debt. In the second flashback she is a grown woman whom we see has risen the ranks and now runs the cleaning service she worked for. She is shown in the second flashback being as stern with her young workers as her boss was to her in the first flashback. Her reason for asking discipline of others in prison is now understood; it is what she has known her whole life. Outside of flashbacks, the episode also shows that Miss Claudette is capable of sympathy, something that most in the prison thought impossible, after Piper stands up to her.

The episode also approaches this theme from another angle, dealing with some of the mental health issues that inmates deal with and how they often stay hidden. The lunchtime conversation that occurs between Piper and Nichols reveals that both of them are having a hard time coping with their conditions, and Piper even assume Nichols has found a way to deal with them, asking her when the depression ends, to which she responds “I’ll let you know.” Nichols also has a conversation with Alex, in which Alex breaks down and reveals that she too is experiencing depression.

This theme is tied in with the rest of show through the storyline involving the lost screwdriver, which shows that inmates are often dehumanized and thought of as nothing more than criminals. Caputo even explicitly emphasizes that the women in the prison are criminals during the search for the screwdriver as a way to ensure the guards do not show them sympathy. This is something the entire show combats: by following the lives of the women in this prison, we see how they are human and can be sympathized with.

The New Girl Feel

While New Girl highlights significant matters regarding gender and relationships, the series rarely dwells on a particular topic for too long or with too much depth.  Like Jess, New Girl has been lighthearted and optimistic throughout each episode so far.  While the episodes have touched on issues such as body image and gender roles, there are merely threads of these issues, rather than ropes, maintained through the episodes.  Part of New Girl’s charm is that there is no real overarching plot or end goal that the characters are trying to reach.  As a result, each episode has little continuation from the one before except the same main characters and their daily lives.

Elizabeth Meriwether is the creator and executive producer of the show, while Luvh Rakhe is credited as the writer for the most recent episode I watched.  Meriwether’s most notable works include New Girl and No Strings Attached, a rom-com starring Natalie Portman and Aston Kutcher.  Luvh Rakhe is known for It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia, New Girl, and A.P. Bio, a new comedy TV series released this year about a philosophy professor teaching AP Biology.

Dialogue in New Girl episodes generally flow pretty well with little pauses or silences except when to prove a point or to generate some awkwardness.  The writers often include flashbacks to fill in the backstories of characters or explore the lives of the guys before Jess came to live with them.  In episode four, there was a flashback to a chubby, young Schmidt in a bunny suit trying to get his mother’s attention, which highlights his desire for attention and warmth, as well as his body image issues that have continued into adulthood.  Episode seven’s flashbacks regarding Nick’s handyman role hints at a socioeconomic difference between Schmidt and Nick through their views on when to spend money and when to put in the work yourself.

Nick fancy-fixing the toilet

With the series set in modern times and meant to feel relatable to its audience, it makes sense that the writers include snippets of witty quips and pop culture references to appeal to its young adult audience.  With the main characters in about their thirties, though, some of those references admittedly go completely over my head.  Regardless, part of what makes New Girl entertaining and relatable across generations are the situations that the main characters find themselves in and how they interact to solve those problems.  For example, Schmidt and Nick provide models for problems of class and financial discord in relationships, while Schmidt’s characterization magnifies issues of self-confidence and gender roles.

Unlike shows with more drama, such as Jane the Virgin, New Girl draws in its audience with quirky Jess and its more or less realistic experiences and struggles of four(ish) young adults trying to figure their lives out.

Fresh Off the Gender Stereotypes

So far in season one of Fresh Off the Boat, the genders have been fairly traditionally represented. The main characters are a nuclear family with young boys. In some aspects, I suppose the show could be somewhat progressive for the way in which the mother is represented as being rather equally in control over the family as the father. However, it is also his job that moves the family, he who is the main breadwinner, and she who is at home with the kids. For the purpose of playing devil’s advocate, it is true that she very much has a backbone and that she pushes the children in school and calls her husband on his BS, often times saving his skin at the restaurant, but she is also placed in very traditional roles, almost stereotypical for an Asian mother. This way, the show plays with the transitioning role of women in society and emphasizes the context of the character both in her sex and ethnicity in terms of her role in the family. She represents the progression of the role of women in society as she is not as empowered in her career, yet she owns being a stay at home mother and takes an active role in her husband’s business, indicating that although she is in traditional roles, she still has a backbone.

Image result for mom fresh off the boat gif

the family-friendly “yo mama”

With the issue of gender, this show is much less progressive than it could be. There are only the two traditional genders represented, and even these aren’t represented very progressively. We don’t see any instances of the characters being gender fluid, transgender, cross-dressing, androgeny, or otherwise. All of the female characters are feminine and so far all have been straight. All of the men act and dress as a cis hetero male would. The show’s cultural focus is clear. It is not gender. It is not sexuality. It is about Asian immigrants in America. In a way, I can respect this because the focus is not being distracted from. The narrative is told. However, I also take issue with this because it does not reflect the reality for most Americans. Gender is a spectrum. Sexuality is a spectrum. Fresh Off the Boat isn’t too fresh with the facts.

Image result for boom gif

that’s the tea

Movin’ On Up

Broad City’s general brand of humor deals with the relatable yet wacky incidences of daily millennial life, and Abbi and Ilana are perfect portrayals of twenty-somethings trying to get ahead in life. While this brand of comedy accords with the general millennial, season four of Broad City takes a slight turn from wacky to mature. In episode 3 of season 4, titled “Just the Tips,” Abbi’s and Ilana’s characters progress from an innocent, early-20’s mindset to a more mature, late-20’s mindset.

“Just the Tips” reflects the general theme of season 4 in that Abbi and Ilana are not the same wacky, young semi-adults that they once were in earlier seasons. They are maturing into adult women, and they start to attain a sense of stability and maturity that is unlike themselves in earlier seasons. While there still is plenty of craziness that goes on, the protagonists are evidently growing up, and this episode reflects how in real life, people grow up, and they start to make more stable, mature decisions for themselves.

Season 4 of Broad City, spoofing Beyonce’s “Formation” 

In this episode, Ilana is enjoying the fruits of her new high-paying waitress job as she is able to afford daily things that were otherwise luxuries, such as a king-size bed. Abbi, interning at a graphic design firm, is coming to terms with her complicated relationship with Trey, her former boss, and she starts to realize that sex-only flings are not important anymore. While at a party, Abbi and Ilana confront these new lifestyle changes as Abbi is forced to think about her relationship while Ilana is forced to confront Lincoln, her former friends with benefits. Abbi realizes that she needs to invest more time in her well being, and Ilana moves on from the pain of leaving Lincoln as she talks with him face-to-face. Ilana even tells Lincoln that “I[Ilana] am much more mature than when you last saw me.” Both Abbi and Ilana acknowledge what they want, and they start to think for themselves as adults rather than young, innocent millennials. They face their past conflicts head on, and they do not shy away from improving their lives as adults in New York City.

Ilana enjoying her new disposable income

The theme of maturity and growing up in “Just the Tips” relates to the course of Broad City overall because the shift from the earlier seasons to season 4 resembles what happens in real life to most young people. In the earlier seasons, Abbi and Ilana are working dead-end jobs, and they engage in risky endeavors to unsuccessfully better their lives. However, in season 4, Abbi and Ilana are working at stable, worthwhile jobs, and they feel much more content. While there is still plenty of absurdity, Abbi and Ilana are clearly maturing into better versions of themselves. In the end, Broad City takes a more progressing turn as Abbi and Ilana “move on up” in their respective lives.

Ilana and Abbi leaving the party in “Just the Tips”

Jess goes to the Party held by Prince

For the third Blog Entry, I am focusing on the theme of the “Prince”, the fourteenth episode of season 3 of New Girl. In this episode, Jess and her best friend Cece were invited to a party held at Prince’s house. When Jess’s boyfriend Nick tells her he loves her, she replies him with a finger gun hand gesture. Nick and his roommates crashed Prince’s party, so Nick can talk to Jess. At the party, Prince gives Jess a makeover and helps her to tell Nick she loves him back.

Jess replying Nick with a finger gun hand gesture

I discovered a couple of arguments that this episode is trying to make. It is arguing that being honest with your feeling is important in a relationship with others and yourself. Also, telling the other person how you feel is the best way to obtain a good relationship. Lastly, it argues that we can gain something very precious by overcome our fears.

The show makes this argument by first setting the scene where Nick accidentally tells Jess he loves her for the first time and Jess gives an awkward reaction and leaves for a party. At the party, Jess told Prince that she is scared to admit her feeling and is worried that it will be painful if something goes wrong. After talking to Prince about her fears, she overcomes it and tells Nick that she loves her too. After being honest with their feelings, telling the other about it, and overcoming their fear brought out the best result for their relationship.

I believe the theme in this episode relates to the show overall because this episode and the overall show argues that being honest with yourself and the other is essential. I also think that this episode relates to a greater cultural conversation how being honest is important in our culture. Also, how we need to overcome our fears to gain something fruitful.

“Freedom”

In the world of The Handmaid’s Tale, everything’s changed. We see the oppression, the lack of freedom, the seemingly hopeless world. However, the people running the new society have a different viewpoint. Aunt Lydia claims that beforehand, the girls had “freedom-to” and now they have “freedom-from” unpleasantness.

The theme of freedom is explored thoroughly in The Handmaid’s Tale. Aunt Lydia’s words are true to some extent, but the new Handmaids have neither freedom-to nor freedom-from. Most of the Commanders, Wives, and Aunts have kept a bit of their morals from “before,” but justify their actions by creating lies that seem positive to convince themselves that this is utilitarian.

Serena’s, the wife, character has been developed more in the recent episodes. Similar to Petra in Jane the Virgin, the viewer begins to understand the character’s motivations and reasons for acting the way they do. Before the cultural shift, Serena was a powerful woman- a powerful woman who supported the ambitions of her husband and his fellow officials- and had to watch as her own power was stripped away. Not only did she lose her power, she lost love and her freedom. Although the life of a Wife is not as despairing as that of a Handmaid, they are also prisoners: always forced to watch, but not allowed to participate. I’m not only talking about the Ceremony, but Serena, a woman used to playing a big role in her life, watches as the men and Handmaid decide the path of her own life. She smokes, even though she isn’t allowed to, to gain a sense of control back into her own life especially since she has to rely on another quite rebellious woman to give her fulfillment of her own biological destiny.

In S2 E6, Serena’s past journey is revealed a little bit more and her humanity is revealed with it.

The Handmaid’s with their red capes and white wings, are to be distrusted in the society. The officials convince themselves that they must punish the Handmaids because they are distrustful, but actually, the Handmaid’s are distrustful of the government because all their rights have been stripped away from them. June claims that Gilead is afraid of them escaping, both from Gilead and from life. The society needs them to continue the human race, but also do not respect them. For them, it’s easier to torture a few Handmaids to scare the others than to try to please all of them. Aunt Lydia’s comment that they have freedom-from violence and the unpleasantness of the world is frankly untrue. They outlawed rape, but renamed it to the Ceremony. They outlawed murder, but gave the government permission to do it.

We’ve all heard that saying about how it’s better to die fighting for freedom than to live as a prisoner. But the women in The Handmaid’s Tale live as prisoners, and getting a death sentence is just hard to achieve as freedom.

Thanksgiving with Jess: Themes in New Girl

This episode of ‘New Girl’  is centered on one of everyone’s favorite holiday: Thanksgiving. The theme of the episode is Jess and all her friends plus a new guy that she’s crushing on: Paul. By inviting Paul to their house, the day just turns into chaos. The episode goes over all the issues they have during the day such as Nick being irritated, all of the food preparation going wary (the turkey gets WAY too burned) and ends up with them finding a dead body in their neighbor’s house. Regardless of all of these scary and chaotic events, the group of friends still manage to have a meaningful and fun Thanksgiving day together.

Jess going all out for Paul and her roommates.

The show makes this argument by starting the episode with all of Jess’ roommates hating on Paul, but in the end, they all warm up to him and welcome him into their small family. This relates to the overall theme that despite issues and differences, people can still come together and enjoy a holiday together. This theme relates to the show as a whole because every episode, the characters have conflict but still manage to come together and realize their love and care for each other at the end of the day.

I think this episode, in particular, relates to a greater cultural meaning as it shows the importance of holiday’s, especially Thanksgiving, where in America it’s a holiday where you’re supposed to be thankful for the people regardless of the circumstances. Besides this, a lot of what happened in the episode was extreme, and would normally not occur in normal life, but it was done for humor purposes. Also, I have a feeling that Nick likes Jess, which I also think was the purpose of this episode – to overlay this fact. That is why I think Nick dealt with Paul, to make her happy. The things you do for someone you love are endless.

The many views from Portland: diversity in cinematography and what it conveys about Portlandia

Good ol’ fashioned patriotism at Portlandia’s “Allergy Pride” parade

Being a show made up of numerous bits that say something different about life in Portland, Portlandia must be analyzed for its individual stories rather than as an episode in its entirety. This remains true for cinematography, as different stories throughout the episode require a different means of expression since they are trying to convey different things. As such, I will analyze the cinematography in Season 2, Episode 2, but I’m going to focus specifically on two bits within the episode: one at Portland’s fictional “Allergy Pride” parade, and one where Brownstein and Armisen’s characters become addicted to Battlestar Galactica.

The opening scene of the episode occurs at an “Allergy Pride” parade in Portland, where Brownstein and Armisen are announcers for the event. As is shown in the image above, the scene is shot to look like a patriotic setting with red, white and blue in the background. The camera also slightly points up at the two announcers, indicating their authority in the scene. There are relatively short takes, going between the commentary by the announcers and visuals of what is going on. The quick shots point to the chaos and absurdity of the event, as many people walk by with posters like “tolerate the lactose intolerant.” This scene is very well lit, as the goal is to make it look like an official event rather than something in an informal setting.

Conversely, a scene later in this episode shows Brownstein and Armisen’s characters procrastinating many duties as they waste away a week of their lives by watching every episode of Battlestar Galactica. The cinematography of this scene is noticeably different, namely because it is trying to convey a different theme to the viewer at home. Whereas the first scene needed to be seen as more formal, with more complex and well-lit shots, this scene’s humor is derived from the messiness of the characters’ situations. The lighting is darker, showing a lack of hope for their situation, and everything around the room is a mess. There is a rapid pace cutting between scenes, with occasional time stamps showing just how long they had been watching the show for comedic effect. The colors in this scene gradually get darker and less diverse as the scene goes on and they spend more time watching the show. Using different strategies, Brownstein and Armisen are able to convey different moods to the viewer in these two scenes.

However, I wouldn’t say that this episode’s strategy when it comes to cinematography is drastically different than any other episode simply because each episode has such a diverse array of strategies. This is truly a very visually interesting show to watch, and I enjoyed how the cinematography (and diversity of it within a given episode) reflected the diverse nature of the show.

Only The Real Ones Will Know

One special episode of Broad City that represents its uniqueness in comedic writing is the fifth episode of season two, titled “Hashtag: FOMO.” The writers of this episode are the stars Abbi Jacobson and Ilana Glazer, who co-create and write the show as well as having co-created and written the web-series of the same name.

Abbi and Ilana 

Having the main stars write this episode is ideal because much of “Hashtag: FOMO” is Abbi and Ilana scrambling around the city from party to party trying to spend the best time, all while progressively getting more drunk as the night goes on. In this episode, the dialogue is structured mainly around Abbi’s and Ilana’s funny conversations and interactions with others. While there is a writer’s crew and a set script that the Broad City creators follow, the dialogue in this episode is structured in a way that reveals how unstructured the entire show really is. Abbi’s and Ilana’s conversations exude a feeling of familiarity where their perfect chemistry on screen makes the writing flow more naturally. The audience can take it as them improvising their dialogue, but Abbi and Ilana wrote this episode to truly show the natural conversations between two close friends, which makes it all the more relatable to the show’s demographic of millennial viewers. The unstructured feeling of the dialogue within this episode matters because the viewers get to see the true bond of friendship between Abbi and Ilana, which allows the concept of female friendships to be aimed at more than one specific demographic of viewers.

What real friends ask each other

While Broad City strays away from the tropes of typical comedy shows, Abbi and Ilana utilize “easter eggs” throughout the series to appeal to the observant, frequent viewers of the show. “Hashtag: FOMO” has a great example where towards the end of the episode, blackout-drunk Abbi drags Ilana to a underground speakeasy where the patrons receive Abbi warmly. Ilana is bamboozled, and Abbi assumes a persona unlike her named Val, a daring performer with a mid-Atlantic jazz voice who the audience loves. This easter egg refers back to the season two premiere where an old lady shouts “Val!” to Abbi on the subway, much to Abbi’s confusion. The audience does not know the context of Val until later, which shows how Abbi and Ilana write the show as if they are living in the moment alongside the viewers. There is not any dramatic irony between Abbi and Ilana and the viewers, but rather with Abbi, Ilana, the viewers, and the surroundings of the show. As the writers of the show, Abbi and Ilana use these easter eggs to create a more satisfying world where past actions influence future events, almost like real life. That is why “Hashtag: FOMO” is a standout episode of Broad City. The unstructured dialogue and the witty easter eggs create a hilarious episode where Abbi and Ilana find out more about each other than they ever knew.

Ilana shocked at Val 

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