Comfort television, a thing of the past?

There is no denying the craze for shows such as Game of Thrones or The Walking Dead. These shows reach people (myself included!) all over the world who share the bloodshed, the killing off of characters and the violence that are common occurrences. Plot twists in the like, although they keep us on the edges of our seats, file under one common tread: instant gratification. Violence becomes a commodity when all you see is the slaughtering of the king and his family or repeated fights through hordes of zombies by slashing them open. We get used to these portrayals of brutal and senseless murders, ‘biter’ guts exposed and the not so occasional revenge-driven blood baths (cue the Red Wedding or almost anything Ramsey Bolton related). Of course these instances arguably serve the story and intensify the drama but sometimes it’s overkill.

There is a case to be said about watching shows where you are not worried that your favorite character might die after every episode. Shows where you grow fond of the characters and get to see them evolve through each season.

A few weeks ago it was officially announced that the Gilmore Girls revival on Netflix would be available for streaming on November 25th. The news of the return of this series drew me back to it, I immediately started re-watching. It’s as relatable nay more relatable than when I first watched it when I was younger. The show is really character driven focusing on the mother and daughter relationship between Lorelai (Lauren Graham) and Rory (Alexis Bledel). When watching it’s as if you are reconnecting with old friends who talk fast and LOVE coffee. Gilmore Girls equals getting cozy and eating comfort food.

About at the same time, I started watching The Walking Dead which are from two completely different universes. I wondered if watching these shows simultaneously has an objective such as procuring an appeasing cycle: zombie attack and slaughter followed by Lorelai and Rory’s witty repartee then repeat. Maybe I’m just an avid watcher of a plethora of different genres but it feels like I am subconsciously trying to balance out the gore to heartwarming ratio. This got me wondering if the top watched shows of the hour still are able to bring an innocence or center on modern relationships? Don’t get me wrong, I enjoy both genres of entertainment but has one gained the upper hand? Apart from some long standing sitcoms such as Friends, How I Met Your Mother or The Office, in the last decade, it feels like the coming of age or character centered shows have become less mainstream on the networks. A genre that maybe has become more easily accessible on streaming like Grace & Frankie and The Mindy Project. It seems like once you’re up to date with your sitcoms you have to wait until the next season airs to get that comfort vibe, but if you’re looking for crime or suspenseful shows you have plenty of choices…

Do you have trouble finding shows that aren’t on the gory or murderous spectrum? Or rather, do you go through the counter violence balancing act?

The True Cost Gives An Inside Look Beyond The Rack

The fashion industry is no stranger to controversy. Slogans, models, photographs and images are not all that is scrutinized in the media and our society. The True Cost  (2015) brings us to rethink how we consume fashion via clothing. Clothes are in a sense statements of who we are as well as who we want to be.They are a part of self-expression and how we present ourselves to the world around us. I sometimes feel the compulsion to buy clothes when there are sales and clearances.  At times, it may seem harder to resist, when we are bombarded by countless newsletters and ads daily. The desire to buy becomes increasingly tempting, when the retail prices are ridiculously cheap.  However, a few months later, I might find that I never wear those items that I hastily purchased. Don’t misunderstand me, I am not quick to make purchases; I always try to carefully foresee the most usage for everything I buy. I am of the school of research before you purch’ and need before want. Never do I make a purchase without giving it a thought beforehand, but sometimes the prices may become blinding. Online shopping is a breeze and frequently has sales.This is where I occasionally falter. More than ever ‘cheap fashion’ or ‘fast fashion’ as named in this documentary has become the norm. It is easily accessible while creating struggle and high-stake rivalry for clothing manufacturing companies which are widely relocated to developing countries. There are most often relegated to Bangladesh and India. The True Cost essentially takes us behind the scenes of the fashion industry, guided by the voices of many key players speaking about its obstacles. These concerns are explored in depth by a discussion with some of the fashion industry’s lead actors. They range from designers, journalists, activists, company CEOs and factory workers. Together they give an insight into the struggles and actions to be taken to better conditions and healthier relations in the fashion industry. We are literally thrust into the making-of of cheap fashion. Director Andrew Morgan answers this rather straight-forward and simple question: Who is behind the clothes we wear?

The fashion world is illusive although it might have seemed like it was reserved to an elite, the people who work in the industry, it is no longer the case. Today, it has become more accessible and affordable, all in a very short period of time. Online shopping is at its peak which means that in a matter of seconds we can be connected to discounted merchandise half way around the world. Morgan investigates how prices are drastically reduced and the man power required to meet tight deadlines and the consequences of this highly competitive market.This documentary also sheds light on the issues and conditions workers face on a daily basis.

The True Cost puts a face to manufacturing employees who work to the bone in order to merely provide for their families. It does not shy away from showing darker truths and heart-wrenching realities, notably in regards to the lack of action that occurred after the devastating collapse of the Rana Plaza building in Bangladesh which claimed over a thousand lives. There are touching testimonies, notably by the mother of a young girl who sacrifices time spent with her in the hopes of giving her daughter a better life.

This documentary is not a simple call for empathy and compassion for the way companies treat their workers. It opens the door to action and rethinking our relation to clothing. On a broader scale, it invites us to eliminate superfluous purchases and be more mindful about what we wear. Quality over quantity is an important lesson to learn. Consciousness and awareness is what The True Cost brings as well as a strong basis that enables the viewer to become a more savvy consumer. For this reason alone, it is a must-see. It will with no doubt make you question your spending and how it affects the people who made them without preaching values or forcing facts down your throat. In the end, this documentary is a reminder of the power of the consumer and how we can make sizable changes with simple reflection. It is a thought-provoking piece that gives valuable knowledge.

I give The True Cost  4/5; it is streaming on Netflix.

The True Cost Photo Credit

The Netflix revolution

These days are either highly humid and hot or rainy , which mainly comes as a perfect excuse to watch a movie or binge-watch a show you’ve relentlessly heard of on Netflix.

This  streaming service has gain increasing popularity in the past five years. It has become an undoubtable player in the demise of video renting stores. It may also be one of the reasons (along  with pricy movie tickets) why people tend to go to the movies less often. In actuality it might be video stores’ new and improved replacement. Ken Auletta from The New Yorker explained the hype surrounding this relatively new streaming service “During peak hours, Netflix accounts for more than thirty per cent of all Internet down-streaming traffic in North America, nearly twice that of YouTube, its closest competitor.”

Effectively, Netflix offers a variety of television series (full seasons), movies and even original content including some that has critical acclaim. Think House of Cards which changed the game in 2013 or Orange Is The New Black. These series are also nominated for Emmys.This means that when you subscribe for a few bucks a month you get at your fingertips many titles that are available through your devices: console, smartphone, tablet and computer. Without a doubt this way of watching has extended and reshaped the experience of traditional television.

For starters, Netflix watching means there is less waiting involved. That is the main reason why viewing through this streaming service is often referred to as binge-watching. It could be compared to an all-you-can-eat buffet; you can try anything that is available and if you don’t like what you picked you can pick something else.When you choose something you enjoyed, you can continue to consume it with no interruption. You can watch episodes back-to-back, which means there isn’t necessarily a built up or even a lingering mystery, since you get to know what comes after that cliffhanger immediately with one click. Some would argue that the time to grow on the characters is limited. To me, this doesn’t ring truth because if a character or a story resonates with us, it will capture our imagination, even though we might have seen 3 seasons in under a month. Of course, every user is different, however binge-watching is a wide spread manner of getting caught up. There is an individual pace of watching that develops. Even though there is a large amount of content, users watch it at their own rythm, so it may be harder to discuss series without revealing spoilers to others who are just starting to view a show you just finished.

What I am merely observing is that this way of watching gratifies our entertainment desires immediately, whereas “traditional” television involves waiting the next week (or longer when there are mid-series hiatus and other interruptions)to see what happens next to your beloved characters in a series. The waiting period leaves you wanting more, maybe even thinking about the plot before viewing the next episode. Consuming televisual content through Netflix and the like might also make us impatient or even more so than before. This idea goes hand in hand with  the increase of the media and Internet’s involvement in our daily lives. Having so much choice (and quality) at hand makes Netflix become part of our lifestyles not-so-slowly replacing the more ‘traditional’ way of watching. Almost gone are the times where you sit on your couch zapping away cheesy commercials and surfing through the programs until you find something you think you would enjoy. Netflix doesn’t have commercials, hence everything you watch comes uninterrupted, so you get straight to entertainment.

It also delivers compelling content which benefits from a hefty dose of creative freedom that is not always possible on network television with censurship and commercial time. Soon, Netflix will dive first in the production of an original movie called Beast of No Nation among four others that are set to be released in October. Needless to say, we can continue to expect new and innovative ways to create content that are both thought provoking and entertaining.

Internet denies mystery, or does it really?

In the past few days, I had a How I Met Your Mother marathon of sorts. Okay, I may have watched 2 seasons in about 3 days… Anyhow, after watching one of the episodes aptly named Mystery vs. History pondering ensued. During that episode, hopeless romantic Ted (Josh Radnor) declares to his friends that he wants to keep the mystery in his future relationship. Indeed, Ted and his date agree to go out without researching each other on the Internet beforehand. He wants them to get to know each other the old fashioned way, by talking organically and discovering mutual interests without the help of an extensive search verging on stalking prior to having diner. This made me think of how there are many things that we decide to do based on the Internet. Our usage of the web is obvious but is also a practice we might take for granted having growing up with it. Technology especially Internet having an increasing role in every day life over the last decade, it’s hard to grasp the exact impact it has. 

Case in point, I’m pretty sure that earlier today you googled something and checked your Facebook feed and e-mails. These are practices that are normal for a great amount of the world’s population (myself included) but that weren’t typical a few decades ago.

Oftentimes, the information we gather comes from the web and acts as a crucial factor whilst in the decision making process. I, as others born in the early nineties and preceding decades have witness the evolution, or more accurately, the popularization of Internet and social media, as well as their impact on everyday life. For more or less a decade, events, dates and outings among an array of other things can be organized in just one click. For instance, pretty much every thing I watch is primarily thoroughly researched : trailers, summary and sometimes reviews by Internet users around the globe are viewed. The same goes with anything I consider buying online or in stores, and even places I am planning to go to. Google is a lifesaver and we do not know of a world without search engines/apps/websites that can answer interrogations of any type. Everyday, we face an abundance of knowledge and information to meet our every need and desires.

Hence, I feel as though we are always looking for success. We try avoiding failure and mistakes at all cost with digital knowledge. In some ways these information aid us in this endeavor; we are less likely to get lost, to forget someone’s birthday or holidays, getting every thing on our shopping list etc. In this sense, Internet and its affiliated technological advances act as an extension of our memory. Our devices memorize information for us. I’m not saying that we can’t  remember anything or that we won’t encounter mystery or the unknown, we are human above all. We simply have a virtual guide that is there to remind us of important things in our lives and that provides us : instructions, directions and much more. It facilitates our lives. However, there is a trial and error process or rather following your natural instincts that partially disappears. Since we can easily have a correct answer or learn new things by simply doing a quick search, why would we risk trying on our own when we could fail?

As aforementioned, the web can respond to any inquiry we have: recipes, health, culture, music, economy, history and many more . Having all this information at our fingertips (literally) is reshaping the world in which we live in. The fast-paced evolution of new technologies makes me wonder what greater invention will surpass it? Thirty years from now, we will be telling to young people the importance of ‘smartphones’ and ‘computers ‘ and ‘apps’ back in our day. Does this mean our 21st century practices are sucking up our sense of adventure and mystery from our daily lives? I think that these advances in technology make it challenging, as we have to keep up with everything that’s new and upcoming to a certain degree. In order to navigate successfully in the current north-american world, some competences are non negligible. Indeed, these digital advances create expectations of knowledge and a sea of information to which we are confronted to. For example, graduates are now more than ever expected to have mastered or have great knowledge of Facebook, Twitter,Pinterest, WordPress, Linkedn, Microsoft Office Suite etc. This is a situation I think my parents and grandparents could of never have anticipated and have a difficulty adapting to its fast-paced growth. For them the thought of having to get back in the job market is very daunting. There is a gap of knowledge that is noticeable between generations.

To come back to what sparked the idea for this post, ultimately, Ted caves in and clicks the link sent to him by his best friends Lily and Marshall  concerning his date.  After doing so, he is flooded by every single article written on her multiple  achievements, which leaves him intimidated and awkwardly trying  to conjure up shared interest . His date feels betrayed that he didn’t follow trough with their initial plan and, needless to say, the date goes awry. In sum, I believe that in this day and age it is difficult for most people to allow mystery and the unknown in their lives. Internet is entrenched in us to a higher degree that we may initially have thought. Internet does not entirely deny mystery because it entices it by its own vast concept. However, it does seem to hinder our sense of wonder and discovery in our actual daily lives. Our technological practices may sometime consume us in a way prior generations  would have foreseen, but this is not inherently negative. This means we have to be aware of how we use Internet and make amends with generational differences.