English 1102: Television and Feminism

Dr. Casey Alane Wilson • Georgia Institute of Technology

Tag: #SecondBlog

The Visuals of Elaine’s Big Day

For the second Blog Entry, I am focusing on the Cinematography and direction of the “Elaine’s Big Day”, the last episode of season 2 of New Girl.

In this episode, there are a lot of major plot twists. For example, Jess’s best friend, Elaine cancels her wedding, and Jess and Nick decide to call their relationship off. These big changes are well represented by the cinematography and direction.

This episode is shot in lots of quick cuts. These quick cuts allow the show to jump from one scene to another in a short time. It matters because these sudden switches of scenes allow two plots to proceed at the same time. This means that the quick cuts add to the dramatic effect of the two huge events, sabotaging the wedding and the conflict between Jess and Nick, that are occurring in this episode.

The color scheme of this episode is red and gold. Since it tries to portray a traditional Indian wedding, it has bright colors involved. Especially the red color indicates passionate love or anger. It correlates with the fact that Elaine admits that her true love is Schmidt and the feeling that Jess or Nick felt when they decided to break up.

Elaine walks down the aisle. The main color is red.

I believe this episode stands out because it had many different bright colors such as red and gold. It defines the importance of the finale of this season and indicates the major changes in their relationships. Also, the lighting of this episode stood out from other episodes of this season. When the wedding was in process, the lighting was very bright. However, after the wedding, the lighting became dull in the scene where Jess and Nick ended their relationship. This dull lighting was also observed when Nick goes to the bartender for a beer. This lighting helps the viewer to interpret the feelings of characters.

Nick is depressed after the break up. Dull lighting is noticed.

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 

Jessica Jones has a Dark Past, and a Dark Show

Six episodes into season 1 of Jessica Jones and I feel like I have barely scratched the surface. There is so much left to learn about the characters’ pasts, the extent of Jessica’s abilities, and the message the producers wanted to convey to the viewers. However, something that was made clear as soon as the intro sequence of the pilot episode came onscreen was this show’s visual style. Within the first minute of the first episode, it is clear that Jessica Jones will deviate from the cheerful, vibrant visuals of your typical Marvel blockbusters like The Avengers. The intro features a dark scenes contrasted with bright streaks of color on which silhouettes are depicted. And while not every scene is as somber as the opening sequence, the rest of the show echoes a new trend in television: dark and moody visuals.

The visual style of the show is one of its distinguishing features, and it is prominent in every scene. Much of the show takes place in dimly lit apartments, whether it be Jessica’s or one of her client’s. When’s she not inside, she’s interacting with a gray, gloomy New York. These visuals not only establish the scene, but are consistently setting the mood. The visuals represent Jessica’s attitude and perspective that the world is a dark, depressing place. This idea is also reinforced by recurring images of Jessica drinking alone in her apartment and of her somberly looking at herself in the mirror. Everything considered, the visuals is part of what makes this show different from mainstream TV; Jessica Jones isn’t afraid of showing you a world painted in grayscale. This, in my opinion, is one of its strengths and one of the factors that made me choose it.

See below for a series of shots from Jessica Jones‘ intro sequence that demonstrate the type of gloomy images employed by the animators.

I’m as Confused as the Main Characters — Which is to Say, Very

I had to switch from reviewing Killjoys to reviewing Sense8 due to difficulties streaming Killjoys.

Sense8 starts off at the end of a dramatic and violent story which, if it had been told, would explain the situation the main characters find themselves abruptly dropped into. As it is, the audience has only slightly more information than the 8 strangers who suddenly begin having vivid and fragmented perceptions of a violent suicide and each others’ lives.

This sense of simultaneous information overload and of lacking key information is reflected in the cinematography and direction of the show.

The main characters are often placed in the middle-ground of a set with obstacles in the foreground partially obstructing view of them. This reflects the limited perspectives the audience and the other seven glimpse of the lives of each of the 8.

Omi, one of the 8, is shown in the middle-ground of the shot. The camera pans left such that the man to whom she is speaking passes in front of her in the foreground.

The 8 are experiencing sensual overload. To reflect that, many of the settings in the show are visually crowded; featuring many vibrant colors.

Will, another of the 8, is in a drugstore. The background is completely full of vibrantly colored products.

Until the beginning of the show, each of the 8 had been living separate lives, each full of unique family and friends. To portray this, many scenes feature a large number of side characters or extras, including at one point an entire pride parade.

This entire pre-wedding celebration, which features at least 6 unique side characters and a backup dancer crew, is all backstory for a single main character.

True to its focus on vivid sensations, the show features multiple explicit sex scenes (which I will not include an example screenshot of). These contribute to the sense that each of the 8 had separate lives before they became inexplicably connected (and also necessarily involve additional side characters).

Despite having many vibrant colors, the show has a very dark lighting and color scheme. All three scenes above are shot at night, the rave lights at the celebration shown are kept to a minimum to maintain low lighting, and scenes are often so dark at first that it is difficult to make out details until more light is (for various reasons) shed on the subject of the scene. This contributes to the theme of incomplete information, as well as giving a somber mood to the show.

The show is comprised of a series of short cuts strung together, rather than longer continuous scenes. This is partly necessitated by the fact that there are 8 main characters who are experiencing things simultaneously in completely different countries. However, even when a scene lasts for a significant length of time and takes place in a single location, that scene is broken up into multiple short cuts from different angles. This gives the story a fragmented and disjointed feeling, as if it is being pieced together rather than unfolding linearly.


A Broad Gender Overview in Broad City

Broad City is unique in that female representation exists at the forefront of each episode in Ilana Glazer and Abbi Jacobson, but there often are more male characters in any given episode. The male characters tend to provide obstacles or annoyance like Bevers or comedic relief in a show that is mostly comedy, Lincoln. Abbi and Ilana’s characters often have to work around the stubborn and problematic male characters, yet they still have a high degree of agency. Characters like Lincoln, Ilana’s friend with benefits, are strung along at the whims of whatever Ilana is pursuing. At one point Ilana says that they had been together five months; Lincoln corrects her that has been eighteen months. Lincoln, played by Hannibal Buress, is the only character in the show with such little agency, and he is the most prominent male character.
Gender is often connected to the class of the characters. Abbi and Ilana struggle to fund all of their escapades, and in one episode they clean a strange man’s house in their underwear to fund their Lil Wayne concert dreams. The man is shown to be creepy, but Ilana still has much of the agency and desire to do so as she had advertised her and Abbi online. Abbi usually has her agency limited for comedic effects: her dead end job, following Ilana’s impulsive lead, and living in an apartment with her roommate’s boyfriend that she hates. Still, there are moments where she has agency such as when she fakes needing to get AIDS test results to get off work.
Race has little influence on the show as Ilana’s boyfriend and her roommate both are successful dentists and drug dealers respectively despite being minority males. Ilana’s character is the primary queer character, and it is never shown to impede her or slow her down. It more often comes up as she tries to get Abbi to do small vaguely sexual things. And while the bosses on the show are male, they have little role in keeping Ilana and Abbi from cutting work, so the show appears to represent gender and other representational axes in a very fair and often funny way.

See the source image

Here is an example of Lincoln being held at the whims of whatever Ilana wants to do.


Episode 3 of Fresh Off the Boat: Writer’s meaning?

Within the script of Fresh Off the Boat Season 1 Episode 3 “The Shunning”, the writers appear to of cleverly included some moments that are speed through in order to represent a point. These include lines that seem to represent real life problems and how they are often ignored when brought up. Such when Grandma Huang brings up foot binding, “My feet were bound when I was seven.” This reflects the problem of elderly women in China that were the victims of foot binding often being ignored by the general population as when she mentions those lines they are quickly distracted by Louis’s interjection. At the same moment, this kind of passing on shows that this is the type of stuff they expect out of Grandma Huang as it isn’t out of place enough to them for any sort of conversation to happen. The show later  presents the close-mindedness of the neighbor women when Jessica offers them stinky tofu and their unwillingness to try present by Jessica comically saying, “How is this fuller than before?” This also seems to suggest that the Huang family perhaps moved into a more gated neighbor that’s a bit more close off from the world. The writers also cleverly choose to depict Jessica’s characteristic cheap and cold personality by letting Eddie ask her if he could buy Air Jordans without letting Jessica speak as he knew exactly what his mom would say. Later at the block party, the neighborhood women says that Jessica is cutting the cake evenly “Because of the communism in your country?” This is again is used to show the neighborhood women as being ignorant and gated, as since the Huang family are from Taiwan, they don’t come from a communist country but rather a capitalistic one. The writers later highlight the focus of Louis Huang with “You know who win every race? The advertising companies.” This showing that what’s foremost in his mind is the sucess of the restaurant. While grandma Huang response to the NASCAR race was “At those speeds it wouldn’t take much tampering to get revenge on your enemies.” This either suggest the dark personality that she has, or some dark intention that she is planning out just being hinted at. The writers do well to seek the lines in giving a different viewing experience to those that pay close attention and have active imaginations.

Implication that she was a victim of the common tradition of foot binding that was in China for much of history.


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