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Medium 9780253010773

13 Sketches Gone Viral: From Watercooler Talk to Participatory Comedy

Ron Becker Indiana University Press ePub


Saturday Night Live’s thirty-first season started like most others in the prior decade with no major overhauls of the cast, losing only one member from season thirty and adding three relative unknowns. While two of those new faces, Kristen Wiig and Bill Hader, had the typical background of improv/sketch comedians well attuned to the demands of live performance and protean characterizations, the third was a bit of an outlier. Along with his collaborators Jorma Taccone and Akiva Schaffer as writing staff, Andy Samberg was hired based on his proficiency as a writer and as a maker of short-form comedy productions, which had largely found audiences through early use of Internet streaming video. Calling themselves the Lonely Island, the three had built a career in the fluid space of Channel 101’s participatory comedy platform and their own dedicated website while concurrently pursuing writing jobs in the television industry.1 Initially, Samberg, like many new cast members, was a fairly infrequent onscreen presence, but that began to change with the airing of the December 17 episode.

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Medium 9780253012265

8 Around the World in Eighty Minutes: Douglas Fairbanks and the Indian Stunt Film

Jennifer M Bean Indiana University Press ePub

Anupama Kapse

If a playwright seeks to stick to true history, then he is foregoing his duty to theater. If history is shown on the stage just as it is, it will be unsuccessful as theater.

Kaikhusro Navraji Navrojji, Parsi playwright (1874)

There is no picture like The Thief of Bagdad. It is just suitable for Indian audiences.

J. J. Madan, distributor for Madan Films (1928)

One of the most abominable features of Indian films is [the] hopeless acting. It looks like mimicry.

D. D. Sharma, film distributor (1928)

When Douglas Fairbanks visited India in 1931, he was almost mobbed. An excited reporter carried the story in the New York Times: “Calcuttans … mob Douglas Fairbanks.”1 Newspaper reports suggest that his arrival in Calcutta was some-what compromised by an accident that involved a young teenaged boy who had been knocked down by his car. Even this accident could not deter the eager crowd that had come to see him in person. The experience of being mobbed was not new to the star of The Mark of Zorro (1920), Robin Hood (1922), and The Thief of Bagdad (1924). The Russians had already welcomed Mary Pickford and Douglas Fairbanks—often called Hollywood’s first couple—with a display of acute Americanitis when they visited Moscow.2 But it is not as well known that a Baghdadmania deluged Fairbanks on his otherwise unremarkable trip to India. Within the Hollywood imaginary, India had often figured as a land of bejeweled rajahs and wild tigers.3 The size of the massive, somewhat affluent and urbane crowd gave Fairbanks his first inkling of new audiences in an unexpected venue where his silent films continued to hold sway, although his popularity was fading in Hollywood. As eager fans waited to catch a glimpse of the celebrated “thief of Bagdad,” Fairbanks arrived with the intention of shooting his sassy new film, Around the World in Eighty Minutes with Douglas Fairbanks (1931).4 The idea was to make Thief’s oriental world come alive—to enact a “real” hunt in the actual “orient.” But Fairbanks would soon discover that it would be impossible to supplant the fantastic world of Thief with this actual footage of urban India in Around the World.

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Medium 9780253016126

4. Minoritarian Cinematic Forms as Counter-History

Marcia Landy Indiana University Press ePub

There is a universal figure of minoritarian consciousness as the becoming of everybody, and that becoming is creation. One does not attain it by acquiring the majority. The figure to which we are referring is continuous variation, as an amplitude that continually oversteps the representative threshold of the majoritarian standard, by excess or default. In erecting the figure of a universal minoritarian consciousness, one addresses powers (puissances) of becoming that belong to a different realm from that of Power (Pouvoir) and Domination.

—Deleuze and Guattari, A Thousand Plateaus (1987, 106)

THIS CHAPTER EXPLORES counter-historicizing through the ways in which “a deterritorialising minority uses the language of the dominant, major voice but makes it speak in a minor way” (Martin-Jones 2008, 36). Minority expression addresses “a people who do not yet exist . . . a cinema of the body . . . a potentiality defined by relations and forces, or the power to affect and be affected” (Rodowick 1997, 154). These relations and forces are aligned to an emphasis on time that puts all into crisis, involving connections between past and present, objective and subjective perception, physical and mental sensations, and indeterminacy between the real and the imaginary. Time is present in both the movement- and time-image, indirect in the former and direct in the latter.

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Medium 9780253010773

8 Bringing the Black: Eddie Murphy and African American Humor on Saturday Night Live

Ron Becker Indiana University Press ePub


In the more than thirty-five years that Saturday Night Live has been on the air, only fifteen African Americans have appeared as regular cast members or featured players. Many of these gifted performers were relegated to marginal roles next to their white costars or dismissed after a single season. Some, such as Tim Meadows, Chris Rock, and Damon Wayans, accused the show’s writers of limiting their participation on the show and dismissing their ideas for sketches.1 In spite of SNL’s well-deserved reputation as a force of social critique, the show has been erratic at best in its treatment of African American issues and cast members.

And yet, in the 1980s, an era that would become synonymous with Ronald Reagan’s conservative politics, Eddie Murphy emerged as the breakout star on Saturday Night Live. A crossover performer who attracted both black and white audiences, Murphy was a hybrid figure who blended the brash social satire of comedians like Lenny Bruce and Richard Pryor with the more affable, safe, storytelling persona of Bill Cosby. It is this element of mainstream acceptability that has led many scholars to overlook the sociopolitical significance of Murphy’s work on SNL and to dismiss his film and television performances as inherently apolitical, a claim that I argue is based less on Murphy’s actual performances and more on the presumed incompatibility between social critique and crossover success. Referring to Murphy’s film work, scholar Donald Bogle writes, “Murphy’s movies paid lip service to racism (perhaps even exploited it) but took no stands at all.”2 Cultural critic Nelson George characterized Murphy in the following way: “he isn’t angry or intensely political or overly socially conscious.”3 J. Fred MacDonald was less generous in his assessment of Murphy’s performances on Saturday Night Live, dismissing Murphy’s success by noting that the comedian “scored well in two minstrel favorites.”4 The use of the word “minstrel” is telling, since it references not only the form of Murphy’s performances on SNL (in the tradition of minstrelsy and vaudeville) but also the type of humor that Murphy is presumed to be performing: stereotypical and designed for a white audience.

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Medium 9780253356772

7 Cries and Whispers

Harri Englund Indiana University Press ePub

When I discussed Nkhani Zam’maboma with people I had known for over a decade in Dedza District, many would add to their reflections a sober comment on the area’s invisibility in the program.1 The villages in their chiefdom did not seem to feature in the stories broadcast on Nkhani Zam’maboma, an observation corroborated by the absence of incidents in this area from my sample of stories. No one who made such a comment thought it warranted complacency. Rather than indicating the area’s exceptional record in avoiding scandals, the lack of its stories on the radio, I was told, arose from villagers’ problematic tendency to “keep secrets” (kusunga zinsinsi). Stories about misconduct and abuse did circulate locally, but their failure to reach the national radio bespoke a widely shared fear (mantha) of publicizing unsavory incidents. I heard stories and witnessed events that could have provided material for Nkhani Zam’maboma, and villagers were able to give further examples of similarities between their experiences and those reported on the program. Not only were witches’ aircraft seen to crash-land here as elsewhere, many less spectacular incidents could also have appeared on Nkhani Zam’maboma. For instance, some villagers told me, in hushed voices, about the widespread sexual abuse of female children, often by their own kinsmen.

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Medium 9780253018618

Alternative Monkey

IU Press Journals Indiana University Press ePub

Alternative Monkey

fulfilling anew roman

alternative to singing but

not the silence in monkey eyes

original speaking ageless

british empire triangle swinging

alternative to colonial but with

all my jungle music heart leaping

in a little moonlight they play.

rainforest thick stooping

options of primal rooting

coconut meat love chewing

alternative to confusing but

not the skin of the truth flamingo

across the mystery of sweeping

levee delta mississippi land

in a little moonlight sneaking.

hat cup monkey dancing organ

workin’ street funky corner grinding

alternative to african caribbean sun but

for all the copper yellow too little timin’

alternative to tobacco ripe for pickin’

corporate sugarcane stock deeper rising

sharp diamond carat moon climbing.

arteries drilling alternative to ingenuity

no one other than for tearless gunning

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Medium 9780253012265


Jennifer M Bean Indiana University Press ePub

Anupama Kapse

The mirror is, after all, a utopia, since it reflects a placeless place.

Michel Foucault, “Of Other Spaces”

ONE OF THE most useful insights of scholarship that considers the conversion of 35mm films to 3D is the reminder that the latter’s appearance is not a mere novelty. Such revivals are not, as Kristen Whissel points out, a way of rescuing a seemingly threatened (U.S.) film industry in view of the coming of newer and more profitable technologies of viewing and consuming visual media. Rather, 3D is better approached as a practice that “has migrated across a broad range of platforms and media, including television, smart phones, photography, tablets, video games, and live theatrical performances.”1 Which is to say that the spatial vision of 3D—its direct, tactile address to the spectator, its mutations of time and space, its loosening of the film frame—is not a phenomenon that emerged in the crisis of the fifties, as is commonly believed. Rather, such attempts need to be understood within an archaeology of media forms that have, since the late nineteenth and early twentieth century, continued to relay moving images in a variety of spatial formats which include the history of binocular and stereoscopic vision.

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Medium 9780253021359

7. Oscar Micheaux’s The Symbol of the Unconquered: Text and Context

Charles Musser Indiana University Press ePub


The four pictures given the public up to date and within a period of two years—The Homesteader, a stirring story of pioneer life in the great West country; Within Our Gates, the action of which centers about the Southland; The Brute, a dramatization of the best and the worst in Negro life; and The Symbol of the Unconquered, the action of which deals rather with condition than locale—are all powerful sermons visualizing the struggle of Dark America for a place in the sun.

—Georgia Huston Jones, unidentified magazine (Spring 1921)

Moving pictures have become one of the greatest vitalizing forces in race adjustment, and we are just beginning.

—Oscar Micheaux, The Competitor, January–February 1921

Within two and a half years after founding the Micheaux Film Corporation, Oscar Micheaux had produced four features, films which critic Georgia Huston Jones called “powerful sermons visualizing the struggle of Dark America for a place in the sun.”1 The Homesteader (released in 1919), Within Our Gates (1920), The Brute (1920), and The Symbol of the Unconquered (1920), according to Jones, showed “the tragedy of the Negro being enacted on American soil and voiced the heart cry of millions in a world where the common heritage of trials and obstacles and disappointments are intensified by the evil shadow of prejudice.” In a career that spanned thirty years, Micheaux made close to forty films, with approximately half of his total output produced in the first decade (1918–1929). These silent films were tools to express his personal view of the African-American experience. By addressing such contemporary social issues as concubinage, rape, lynching, peonage, and miscegenation in his pictures, he created a textured and layered response to the social crises that circumscribed African-American life. Oscar Micheaux’s silent films and early novels were acts of recollection and imagination, creations and re-creations shaped by his personal experience and the desire to construct an image of himself for his audience. Suspended between autobiography and commerce, memory and dreams, his stories, though often personal, were not unique; they were woven with threads of commonalty and communality. He spoke from his living history and from the specific realities of his time; he referred to what lay beneath or beyond the particular.

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Medium 9780253016966


Colin Crisp Indiana University Press ePub


France, 1938, 91 min, b&w

Dir Robert Siodmak; Asst dir Rodolphe Marcilly and Pierre Prévert; Prod Corniglion-Molinier; Scr Charles Spaak and Oscar-Paul Gilbert, from the book by Gilbert; Cinematog Eugen Schüfftan; Music Darius Milhaud and Jacques Dallin; Sets Alexandre Trauner; Edit Léonide Azar; Act Harry Baur (Mollenard), Albert Préjean (ship’s mate), Jacques Baumer (director of shipping company), Pierre Renoir (Bonnerot), Gabrielle Dorziat (Madame Mollenard), Elisabeth Pitoëff (Marie Mollenard), Robert Lynen (Gianni Mollenard), Maurice Bacquet, Marcel Dalio, Gina Manès, and Foun-Sen.

Francis Courtade includes Mollenard in his canon of five Popular Front films—Le Crime de Monsieur Lange (#46), La Vie est à nous (#49), La Belle Équipe (#51), Les Bas-Fonds, and Mollenard—“which are powerfully expressive of the social effervescence of the time and of the aspirations of millions of working men.”91 Few would question the other four, some would wish to add to the list, but most would be greatly bemused by the inclusion of Mollenard. Geneviève Guillaume-Grimaud, in a useful book devoted specifically to the cinema of the Popular Front, does not once mention Mollenard. Certainly there is in the film no direct reference to political events, class conflict, cooperatives, or the plight of the workers. Courtade defends its inclusion on the grounds that Captain Mollenard, a man of the people married as chance would have it to a representative of the propertied class, is “a sort of rock standing out against the interests of the great trading merchants, the hypocritical façade of official ceremonies, that ‘respectable bourgeois society’ whose collusion with the Church had never since Lange been so openly decried.”92

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Medium 9780861966738

Disney Films 1967–1988: The “Middle” Era

Davis, Amy M. John Libbey Publishing ePub


Between 1937 and 1967, the Disney studio’s representations of women remained largely static. With the notable exception of Slue-Foot Sue and the somewhat lesser exception of Katrina van Tassel, the heroines of the animated films made by the Disney studio during much of Walt Disney’s lifetime were primarily weak, passive, virginal, and virtuous. The villainesses (and, apart from Captain Hook in Peter Pan, all of the evil human characters were female244) were invariably strong, older, dominating women, usually skilled in black magic and possessed of an all-consuming obsession with destroying their young rivals for personal reasons of jealousy and vengeance. Out of the ten films made between 1937 and 1967 which fit the criteria of this study, only One-Hundred-and-One Dalmatians can be seen to have a woman character (Anita) with no direct threat from an evil other. And in her case, the story’s villainess, Cruella deVil, is still linked with Anita in numerous ways (mainly through their having been at school together, but also through the Dalmatian puppies which Anita owns and Cruella covets).

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Medium 9780253329059

Fourteen Pretty Woman through the Triple Lens of Black Feminist Spectatorship

Elizabeth Bell Indiana University Press ePub

D. Soyini Madison

Africanism is the vehicle by which the American self knows itself as not enslaved, but free; not repulsive, but desirable; not helpless, but licensed and powerful; not a blind accident of evolution, but a progressive fulfillment of destiny.

—Toni Morrison

Black women are employed, if not sacrificed, to humanize their white superordinates, to teach them something about the content of their own subject positions.

—Valerie Smith

In viewing a film, the black feminist spectator gazes at the images, plot, and meanings unfolding before her through a lens formed out of an awareness that race, gender, and class are inextricable as sites of struggle in the world and that they operate variously in all symbolic acts. As a spectator she sits before the screen, all the while reading what she watches through a consciousness of the profound confluence of what it means to be underclass, to be woman, and to be black. Whether she is witness to cultural representations wherein these factors are prominently manifest or deliberately made to appear nonexistent, the black feminist spectator carries her ideology with her and is focused on the interworkings of these “isms”—projected or masked—on all human representation and action. Black feminist critics are in a kind of “third wave” of analysis that is focused, not so much on the invisibility or the silencing of the black female voice, as on the ways specific conceptualizations of literary and cultural study are fostered and institutionalized and how the effects of race, class, and gender operate on the practice of criticism.

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Medium 9780253352521

1 Goals and Orientations

Ray Cashman Indiana University Press ePub


This book examines how local social life and culture are both represented and enacted through storytelling in one Northern Irish community, Aghyaran. Extending language philosopher J. L. Austin’s memorable formulation that people “do things with words” (1997 [1962]), we can also say that people do things with stories. What they do depends on who is talking to whom, in what contexts, and to what ends. It also depends on the type of story being told, for different genres implicate different subjectivities and ideological orientations toward the world (Seitel 1999, Bauman 2004). Typically, however, people’s stories relay shared beliefs, values, and norms. Stories provide a vehicle through which personal and shared orientations may be passed on, instilled, or indeed critically evaluated and reconsidered. Likewise, stories—especially those that appeal to the authority of tradition—provide powerful rhetorical tools in the construction, maintenance, and revision of individual and group identities. Given that narratives are often commemorative orderings of previous happenings, everywhere people tell stories to depict a meaningful past they can use to assess their present and to bolster themselves as they meet an uncertain future.

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Medium 9780253018472

8 Charles M. Tung · “Modernist Heterochrony, Evolutionary Biology, and the Chimera of Time”

Jonathan P Eburne Indiana University Press ePub

8.1. Haeckel Anthropogenie 1874. Lithograph by J. G. Bach of Leipzig after drawings by Ernst Haeckel in Anthropogenie, oder, Entwicklungsgeschichte des Menschen (Leipzig: Engelmann, 1874). Nick Hopwood, “Pictures of Evolution and Charges of Fraud: Ernst Haeckel’s Embryological Illustrations,” Isis 97 (2006): 260–301, PDF. Licensed under public domain via Wikimedia Commons, https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Haeckel_Anthropogenie_1874.jpg#mediaviewer/File:Haeckel_Anthropogenie_1874.jpg.



Charles M. Tung

Spencer Wells, in his PBS documentary Journey of Man, claims that there is “a time machine hidden in our genes.”1 This Wells, unrelated to the literary figure H. G. Wells (at least in the short term), is the genetic anthropologist in charge of the Genographic Project, an international study funded by National Geographic and IBM that traces individual Y-chromosomes from all corners of the earth back to a recognizably “modern” human leaving Africa around sixty thousand years ago. The time travel central to Wells’s research is guided by two-hundred-dollar self-testing kits, tracking devices sold in large part to ancestry-obsessed Americans, and, more controversially, by the institutionalized DNA collection from indigenous populations around the world, whose clustering of genetic markers helps to sketch a roadmap of major ancestral migrations. For Wells, deep in every modern human’s body is not only a vehicle that returns us to a “Y-chromosomal Adam” (and a much earlier “mitochondrial Eve” living 150,000–200,000 years ago) but also, according to his mixing of metaphors, “the greatest history book ever written,” an archival record of our Paleolithic wanderings.2

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Medium 9780253006462

Conclusion Possibilities for Democratic Change

Katrina Daly Thompson Indiana University Press ePub

As popular cultural phenomena, film and television are by definition shifting, as are the ways Zimbabweans talk about them, making them an amorphous, moving target. So far we have examined the period 1980–2001, when Zimbabwe’s film and television culture was recovering from its colonization by foreign elements, developing local talents and themes, and was finally legislated to serve the interests of the state. More than a decade has passed since my fieldwork in Zimbabwe, Yellow Card’s screening on ZTV, and the Broadcasting Services Act’s passage into law. In an excerpt from our June 2011 exchange on Facebook, actor and comedian Edgar Langeveldt recalls the events of 2001 and their effect on Zimbabwe’s cinematic arts in the decade that followed:

2001 is a critical watershed year in terms of Zimbabwean socio-politics: it was the dawn of a new millennium . . . , we had just had hotly contested, “harmonized” elections the year before and the Opposition had announced its arrival with serious intent. Our economy was in free fall following the 1997 War Vet Payout Scheme / Dollar Crash, the 1998 Costly Congo Caper with Kabila Senior, the 1999 invasion and “reformative re-conquest” of land, commercial farms, private residences and businesses, etc., and generally we were under pressure as citizens. Because film/TV require resources, teamwork, and skills to aggregate at the right time, we were obviously blown off course by this set of background facts and events.

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Medium 9781864620542

Video Pleasure and Narrative Cinema: Luc Besson’s The Fifth Element and Video Game Logic

Fullerton, John John Libbey Publishing ePub

[V]ideo pleasure requires the player’s total immersion in the electronic text, trust in the existence of a code imposed by invisible experts, and the self-affirming and empowering experience of its incremental mastery. Predicated on the ability to rapidly discriminate between circulating signs (some hostile, some neutral, and some friendly), and to appropriately respond to them, such a pleasurable mastery involves a skilful and rapid navigation in a chaotic electronic text, a navigation propelled by strategic violent moves administered digitally.1

Jerome Bruner reminds us that narrative is not a contingent, optional dimension of society, but is an essential, ecologically necessary structure with which individuals make sense of social complexity.2 We do not need to subscribe to ontological structuralism – which argues that narrative is a timeless structure that transcends society – to accept this level-headed reminder. In the process of structuring social experience, narrative necessarily reinvents itself in each epoch, offering an historically specific experience. Fredric Jameson’s analysis of the novels of Balzac and Conrad is exemplary in this respect. Jameson identifies in the narrative of Lord Jim the emergence of two incompatible discourses – high literary modernism and popular literature – and historises the emergence of this type of narrative by relating it to the rise of modern imperialist capitalism, dominated by reification and fragmentation.3

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