28 March 2008

Exploring the Web: Related Sites of the BdBent Blog

When exploring the World Wide Web, I came across ten more sites that readers may enjoy. Each one takes a different stance on entertainment news, relaying the best information in their given subject matter, and also fulfilling the Webby and IMSA criteria. The first of which is Ain't It Cool News, a witty, no holds barred review of film and movie happenings. Combined with it's comic book-style layout and breaking news stories (though some may be deterred by its excessive use of exclamation points), Ain't It Cool stands out above and beyond all the other movie sites. Similarly, there is CHUD (an acronym for Cinematic Happenings Under Development), which directs its focus toward more macabre films, but has seemingly endless reviews of myriad movies. They boast their extensive message board which, though daunting, is incredibly fun and interactive. Equally interesting, but much sleeker than CHUD is Switchblade Comb, a blog devoted to indie music, movies, and comedy. With its beautiful design and minimalist approach, Switchblade's short posts bring light to little known gems from the far corners of the entertainment industry. Also writing for the indie crowd, but with a touch of mainstream culture, is the Any Given Tuesday blog over at SenBaltimore.com. The articles exhibit excellence in journalism and provide readers with a full and complete analysis of the latest entertainment news, particularly music. On the other hand, Arjan Writes, an extremely popular blog, chooses to draw attention to new and emerging music acts, as opposed to the mostly established ones in Any Given Tuesday. Arjan has been at the forefront of the sonic revolution, prominently featuring acts that are not in the mainstream yet, but very well could be in the near future. Constantly and consistently updated, it revels in its ability to be focused, innovative, and refreshing.

Inverse is another music blog, showcasing rap and hip hop culture. The content is passionate, thought-provoking, and features hip hop that is not about cars and diamond grills, but about social movement and powerful messages. The blog posts may be short, but they always bring new ideas to the table. Speaking of substance in entertainment, the site andPop advertises just that. Featuring the very best in bubblegum culture, the online magazine seeks to find the heart (and humor) in its seemingly shallow content. It has so much information pertaining to music, entertainment, technology, and gaming that there is something for everybody. Marketing Pop Culture is another interesting take on the industry, weighing the successes and failures of pop culture peddlers. It is probably one of the most compelling and intelligent critiques of the entertainment industry that I've ever seen, and the author, thankfully, does not shy away from controversial topics such as the war in Iraq or illegal file sharing. Controversy is not a foe of Truthdig either, a political blog of which I am particular proud because it was started by my beloved and world-renowned professor, Robert Scheer. This 2007 Webby Award-winning blog does not just speak about politics; it speaks about life and the issues that are important to our everyday lives. With over thirty years of journalistic experience behind it, Truthdig provides an honest and eye-opening account of the world. Finally, there is my favorite website, Nylonguys.com. Starting as a supplement to Nylon Magazine in 2005, the web-based appendage to the printed bimonthly highlights progressive movement in fashion, technology, and the entertainment industry. Cool and colorful, its forward-thinking photography (see above) pops off the page showcasing the already stellar articles. Their ability to think differently, but act globally is what sets this entertainment magazine apart from the rest.

10 March 2008

Disease Prevention: Integrating Television Storylines to Promote a Healthier Society

The age of the "After School Special" is over. As society grows and changes in new directions, television producers must think of innovative ways to implement socially conscious messages into their programming. With the success of telenovelas in Latin America and The Norman Lear Center's Hollywood, Health, and Society Program, using embedded storylines to promote health awareness has become more popular than ever.

For those who do not know, a telenovela is a limited-running television serial that was created and popularized in South America. The programs became so popular that South American health promotion and disease prevention agencies asked producers to implement storylines bringing awareness to issues affecting Latino communities. The results were positively staggering, and after running storylines on Alzheimer's Disease and adult literacy, hundreds of thousands of people flocked to their nearest health and literacy centers. With proof that the formula could work, American producers hoped to replicate this same success in the States.

Initially, health conscious programming began with youth-based shows like Saved By The Bell , that advised children against the perils of drugs and alcohol, but prime time programming like Friends used their immense popularity to promote issues like safe sex and STD testing. Even recently with the first American adapted telenovela, Ugly Betty (pictured left), the characters have made positive strides in the advancement of immigration reform and healthy body images by integrating those themes into their storylines.

Current Presidential candidate Barack Obama, despite not being an actor or television personality himself, has released a series of telenovelas hoping to garner Latino support in California. Obama recognizes that issue-embedded entertainment programming is a valuable tool, and creatively speaking, that puts him one step ahead of his competitors.

So why television? Why has this medium proved most effective for translating social content? Well, with the repetitious nature of T.V., viewers are able to develop parasocial relationships with characters over a long period of time. Christine Camilla, a researcher at West Connecticut State University, had this to say on the matter, "Depending on the amount of time spent watching, a [viewer] may create the illusion of friendship and or relationship to a television persona that in fact they have never met. Theorists have claimed that these relationships can in some cases be life changing and personality molding, but definitely life impacting." Constants in everyday life tend to shape who we are as individuals, so it is entirely possible for our world view to grow and change based on the type of programming we have available. With the rapid change in television shows and the increase of mind-numbing programming (like Flavor of Love on VH1 or Next on MTV), producers often feel they have a social responsibility to promote issues relevant to the current culture. Kristin Moran, from the University of San Diego, studied the impact of telenovelas saying that, "the largest portion of learning involving one’s adaptation to society takes place through such observational learning... especially when it comes to new experiences. If a teenager has little or no experience with an activity the observational learning from others becomes more important." Television programs provide a window to other ideas, values, or cultures that an individual may not otherwise be exposed to on a daily basis. Watching shows in which characters take the right course of action concerning a particular dilemma provide a visual reference point which viewers can refer back to in future situations.

The Norman Lear Center's Hollywood, Health & Society Project, was recently established to provide television executives with up-to-date medical research to incorporate into their health-based storylines. On the new ABC show Eli Stone, The HHSP worked in conjunction with the Center for Disease Control, and placed an information title card (pictured right) at the end of the closing credits, asking viewers to strongly consider the importance of childhood vaccinations and autism testing. On another ABC show, Guiding Light, one of the main characters contracted HIV, and the network subsequently set up a website to help answer viewer questions about the disease.

While all of the US intention is well and good, as of yet their integrated programming has not had as widespread of an affect on viewers as the Latin American telenovelas. This may due in part to the much larger selection of programming Americans have available, and if audience members are forced to split their attention between different shows it could mean less focus on education-entertainment. It may also be the way in which the shows are presented. If an episode becomes too didactic or preachy, American viewers especially are more likely to be turned off by that and change the channel.

Regardless, critics of the programming must realize that change cannot occur overnight. Since foreign programming does not translate easily into American markets, television networks must experiment with their shows to find the most effective method. We should not be so easy to dismiss this type of educational entertainment, because it is an unobtrusive, wide-reaching tool that may just save a person's life someday.

03 March 2008

Linkroll Overview: Bridging Society and Entertainment

This week I chose to focus on various resource materials (compiled on the left) which will help you obtain a better understanding of what exactly I hope to accomplish with this blog. In searching the Web, I discovered other sites that promote entertainment and/or social issues in some way. When I am creating a new post I use their content, which most certainly fill the criteria of the Webby and IMSA guidelines, as jumping off points, hoping that they will inspire some sort of new and interesting idea that I can further explore. The first of which is Beat Magazine, an Australian-based online entertainment magazine that adds a little spunk to current events. The bright and aesthetically appealing site excels in adding a human element to pop culture news. Likewise, TV Squad is a fun, interactive musing of current television programs. It gives a great recap of shows while the authors add in their two cents. The Hollywood Reporter is the go-to guide for anything relating to the business of Hollywood. Would you like to know how much money a studio is investing in a new movie or how good (or bad) the ratings were for your favorite television show? Well then this is your source. While the site does not come off very warm, it is not intended to be an editorial, and therefore does a fantastic job of relaying the facts of the entertainment industry. The New York Times Movie Index is also a great resource for film news. While some may argue that it has a liberal slant, it is fantastically organized, often focusing on films strong in content, as opposed to generic Hollywood blockbusters. Karma Jungle is one of the most interesting concept blogs I have ever come across. The author ponders how exactly does our social and entertainment footprint on the world affect us spiritually. Simple and sleek, it is content-rich and always fascinating. Along those same lines, Muse Free is a socio-political blog, critiquing the American value system with witty, thought-provoking jabs along the way. What this site lacks in design more than makes up for it in content. The tellingly-named Good Magazine is another political commentary, also analyzing human actions, but focusing on ways in which people can make positive changes in our world. While I feel the web page itself is cluttered, it is jam-packed with information and constantly updated. Also promoting good deeds is the Daniel Pearl Foundation, in memory of the journalist (pictured at right) slain in Afghanistan, created to inspire charitable works through media and music. If it is simply music news you are looking for, then Pitchfork Media is a wonderfully comprehensive resource of current music. The site layout is both bold and subdued, creating a community atmosphere through its blog-style articles. Last but certainly not least is my favorite organization, The Norman Lear Center for Entertainment. The blog on the site continues to carry out the center's message of promoting and advancing tolerance, democracy, and social change through entertainment. It is scholarly, well designed, and above all else-passionate-which is the essence of every great blog.

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