How Modern TV Has Been Improving

If you ask the average American, they will most likely tell you that TV is better than most movies out today. I would argue that this is across the board regardless of age, gender or ethnicity. While I think there are a variety of reasons for this, I want to highlight three specific reasons: relatable characters, unpredictability, and consistent world building. I'm going to highlight each of these in specific recent shows; however, I want to bring us up to speed in how we got with the large shift in TV show style in the 2000s.


Aughts and Anti-Heroes

 Tony Soprano

Tony Soprano

After 9/11, America got pretty grim as a whole and instead of rooting for the surplus spending and heroes of the 90s, the US realized that life was fairly bleak overall. As such, a number of anti-heroic shoes cropped up during this time starting with The Sopranos. Even humor seemed to support awful people to root for unlike generally plucky families or bumbling fools. Most of the characters from this time often bent the law according to their terms, like Vic Mackey or Al Swearengen. There were also characters who were criminals themselves  like Tony Soprano and Stringer Bell. In a sense, it felt more authentic because it was not avoiding the issue of a variety of problems throughout America and instead having characters emblematic of the issues themselves. 

Eventually this would become trite as everyone tried to cash in on the wave from The Sopranos, The Shield and The Wire culminating in Breaking Bad, which I believe to be the last strong anti-hero centered show. Breaking Bad not only created possibly the best arc of an anti-hero for a single protagonist but its start coincided with Barack Obama's which is important as not only a sense of hope and change compared to 9/11, but also a sense that would mark his two terms with being someone who was relatable, consistent in its world, and at times unpredictable with regard to the norms of American history. 

 Walter White

Walter White


Relatable Characters

Fast-forward to today and now we are past anti-heroes and more into ensemble casts that do their to create a stronger sense of being able to with their audience. The TV show Friends is often a show that people cannot entirely explain why they like because it is hard to relate to a gaggle of white people in their 20s/30s living in Manhattan without a lot of stresses. Bars and apartment buildings is a part of NYC life but there's a whole lot more comparatively and honestly if I'm in the 90s, listening to Nas or Biggie while hustling on the corner I'm not too concerned about Phoebe's cat.

 Six white people in Manhattan without care.....not relatable to most

Six white people in Manhattan without care.....not relatable to most

This ideology of sitcom style whiteness began to fade with the 2010s and really began with Mad Men that rides this line of in essence a white show with an anti-hero at its center that becomes a multi-faceted show for female empowerment, consumerism, America today and mental illness in many forms.

 Wholesome whiteness hiding an independent woman, a feminist, a gay man, a left-winger, an objectivist, an alcoholic, an adulterer and a whole lot of mental illnesses. 

Wholesome whiteness hiding an independent woman, a feminist, a gay man, a left-winger, an objectivist, an alcoholic, an adulterer and a whole lot of mental illnesses. 

  This coincides with Obama being president who pushes for more and more globalism as we see a rise in shows that are about particularly marginalized groups ranging from women (The Handmaid's Tale), Women of Color (Orange is the New Black), LGBTQ (Sense8), Black people (Atlanta, Blackish), Latinx (Jane the Virgin), East Asian (Fresh Off the Boat) and even multiculturalism (Master of None). Many of these shows appeal with a larger spectrum of the audience/American public than ever before. This is important because of not only the purchasing power of this diversifying public but also that many of these stories are our own. Most of the writers on those shows reflect the characters.

As such, it pushes these characters out of caricatures and stereotypes and into fully realized characters with intelligent dramas and comedies. This works even in shows that have white characters at the center, like Stranger Things, which works so well because it treats its kid story not as a side story or something trivial, but instead its the driving force and harkens to a pre-internet time where kids were recognized for their ingenuity. As such, it appeals to not only nostalgia fans but also my students to due them being able to relate to their ideas of problem-solving as children.  In turn, this has many traditional TV screenwriters scrambling on ways to appeal to emerging markets of the audience who demand well-written characters who look and think like them. Archie Bunker and JR Ewing are not the model, Poussey Washington and Eddie Huang are.


Unpredictability

This aspect is a current delight of many fans in television at the moment. Note that what is different is unpredictable ideas that you never saw coming. This instantaneously makes a show more exciting because you are tempted to keep watching because you're uncertain of what comes next. While you may not know what is going to happen on the Cosby Show or Three's Company you know that either status quo will be restored by the end or nothing extreme will happen to any character unless the actor has to leave the show. This is different than say the current exemplar of unpredictability, Game of Thrones, in which many times we don't know who is going to die and how it will happen.  There were attempts at this in the 2000s from Oz: Season 1, episode 1 with the *spoiler* Dino Ortalni POV character dying in the pilot, and the randomness of Arrested Development which goes forwards, backwards and to places never before seen with its comedy.

 Arrested development makes sense in context 

Arrested development makes sense in context 

However, like relatable characters this wasn't always polished and sometimes stagnated with later seasons. Still, it often exciting when you don't know who might die in Game of Thrones from one week to the next which creates a temptation factor. Many shows try to do this their narratives and characters to increase the overall appeal for people from week to week or even to create a bing show in which a major event happens every season. This also is frequently done with anthology shows, such as, Black Mirror, in which you are uncertain not only how the episode will turn out but how all the elements of the show are composed.

 Based covered - twist ending on a twist anthology show; bisexuality, interracial, handicapped, lesbianism. 

Based covered - twist ending on a twist anthology show; bisexuality, interracial, handicapped, lesbianism. 

Consistent World-Building

This is the most prominent idea that creates strong television currently. While you could argue that Clarissa Explains it All has a consistent world building it does without the other two factors and that's what makes the modern shows so appealing. We have entire universes in which our characters interact with uncertainty for our entertainment. The set design and production team create a look and feel of several TV shows all their own. Mad Men remains instantly recognizable from its 60s decor, Game of Thrones has medieval fantasy and fiction, Stranger Things is firmly in the 80s and even a show like Mr. Robot stays in a particular feeling/framing of hacker culture versus business board rooms. 

 Ah the season 1 cast.....only eight remain in the fantastical medieval world of Westeros 

Ah the season 1 cast.....only eight remain in the fantastical medieval world of Westeros 

We like many of these worlds because they are so different from our own or similar to ours with little flourishes like the Marvel Cinematic Universe's spin on NYC found in its Defenders' shows. As such, we end having great tweaks and imaginations to augment our own world while kindly hoping we could be in the ones that are unattainable. 

Combinations

To summarize, modern television is highly creative fuel and we the audience are the ones who benefit from it. Whether it is Atlanta (Black culture world building, Relatable variants of Black people, and unpredictable in who will be the protagonist for our episode) or The Handmaid's Tale (Unpredictable what time period our episode shows, relatable women including women of color, and world building of subjugated women *shudders*) many of these shows encourage us to think in ways we often did before but now in a world that is special and with people like us. My only hope is that television continues to rise. 

Hope you enjoyed this media heavy post. Here is my highest recommendation for television at this moment.

On the watch for next year: Westworld, Atlanta

What you should've already seen this year: Stranger Things, Handmaid's Tale

Surprisingly good: Mr. Robot, The Deuce

 

 

Free College Tuition in New York and its Effects on Affordable Housing

As highlighted by the New York Times…

 

https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2017/04/10/us/ap-us-free-college-tuition.html?_r=0

 

…college tuition at public and state colleges will now be free provided students remain in New York for as many years as they used the free services. While this sounds exciting, let’s think about what this really means. Ethnic minorities are going to get pushed out of all that affordable housing. The housing in NYC is prime real estate for not only developers, but also the average person who loves the heartbeat of the city. What this means is that a wave of people moving who will not have to pay for college and will most likely have to live somewhere cheap.  As such, there will be greater consequences for this.

 

·      Statistically Speaking

Housing and college trends have changed over the years. As found in the Economist article, one can see that housing over time in NYC has been on the rise for a time now.  At the same time college attendance has gone up as well. Therefore, it is increasingly likely that with free tuition both college attendance and the cost of housing will rise proportionately.

 

 

·      Rise of Taxes

 

All of this free tuition will have to be supported somehow. The most logical conclusion for that is to raise taxes, especially state and local taxes for New Yorkers to cover the cost. Furthermore, property taxes will also increase making the price tag for living in NYC to be quite difficult. As such, it is a wonder how many people will live in NYC while going to college at no cost.

 

·      Lasting Impact of oversaturation

 

Not only will colleges now be filled with students to drive university costs, but many will have to adjust for the amount of people with waitlists or otherwise. I also have to think of the post-college impact on housing and the job markets in NYC. In order to get the free college tuition, you have to stay after college. With that being required that means that not only housing, but also some jobs will remain out of people’s grasps for years to come. Gentrification will also play a part here, as many parts of the city do not get built up or repaired until white people move in.

 

 

 

 

·      Are there any Benefits for low-income families?

 

All of this is not a warning as there are great benefits to low-income families around the tuition movement. One benefit is that college is free for everyone, which means that many low-income families will finally have an opportunity to afford college. This in turn gives more people money to spend on rent, housing, and businesses. Families do not have to be in years of debt for supporting their children through college, thus creating more income and new middle class members.

 

·      Less Debt

 

As seen with many European countries, there are definite advantages to students with less debt. Gone of the burdens of loans and bad credit that marks barriers to entry for a healthy job or entry to the market place. While this makes it difficult for many students to understand that aspect of finance, this opportunity gives them more time and money to learn about finance and how it works in a debt free college environment.

 

Free college tuition in the state of New York is a mixed bag for residents of NYC and it will continue to remain that way unless a clear version of fairness is there for college and housing. 

 

 

Reference:

http://www.economist.com/blogs/graphicdetail/2016/08/daily-chart-20

https://www.nytimes.com/aponline/2017/04/10/us/ap-us-free-college-tuition.html?_r=0

Eminem: An analysis, perspective, thinkpiece, blog post.....

Whatever you want to call it this is a write up on Eminem. My sense of not necessarily being too concerned with the nuance of the title gives credence into how I feel about him.  Eminem is an odd figure in the canon of hip-hop due to the distinct path that he moves on. Let's get a couple ideas out of the way because I think they matter. He is not the first successful white rapper, nor is he the first. He's also not the first controversial white rapper. With the white history out of the way, for the remainder of this blog post I want you to view the person I'm talking about as a Black man.Whatever you want to call it this is a write up on Eminem. My sense of not necessarily being too concerned with the nuance of the title gives credence into how I feel about him.  Eminem is an odd figure in the canon of hip-hop due to the distinct path that he moves on. Let's get a couple ideas out of the way because I think they matter. He is not the first successful white rapper, nor is he the first. He's also not the first controversial white rapper. With the white history out of the way, for the remainder of this blog post I want you to view the person I'm talking about as a Black man.


Eminem was born on the 8 mile line in a poor trailer park in Detroit. The guy had writing talent and a few people who were supportive of him and his rise in the game of hip-hop. He at first was clowned on stage, but then given a chance from a good friend named Proof to begin some legendary battle rapping. As such, his lyrical prowess drew the attention of Dr. Dre who would eventually sign him to Aftermath. Under Dre's beat making skills and tutelage, Eminem would begin to take from his Marshall Matthers LP. 

The mainstream media got a hold of his controversial lyrics and amazing flow which began a whirlwind of attention.  He had lyrics that called out several celebrities like Limp Bizkit and Moby. His lyrics also were extremely misogynist and homophobic as he bashed gays over their sexuality blatantly and then found hatred by antagonizing his wife and in a sense his daughter with threats of murder and drama. He also promoted a crass sense of jackassery with a style that many kids wanted to imitate from drug use, vulgarity, raping and killing women. Tons of kids wanted to dress and be like him even in suburbia kids wanted to be like him.  Also many other poor trailer park people looking for a vanguard for their plight, found one in Eminem and supported his ideals while preaching their pride for their poverty.  People often enjoyed his critique of president Clinton and president Bush and found a voice that they were looking for even though they may have had Republican ideals.

Eventually his fame and skill grew so large that respectable hip-hop heads considered him to be worthy of being in the top 5. As such, his skill and respect in so much so that he was able to transcend race as people are highly excited when he is on a track or makes some new music due to his reputation. Still, his verbal disrespect in and outside of his lyrics has often tarnished while popularizing his overall image. He is also not the only rapper to be misogynist and homophobic either. It is personally, my least favorite aspect and personal struggle about hip-hop/rap in general as it doesn't respect women and LGBT people in any capacity; which leads into that idea of separating the art from the person. This skill seems to be easy though with Eminem because of his reputation and what his upbringing is.

Eminem021214-635x372-616x372.jpg

Now I have to ask, as you have imagined this story and analysis as if this person was a Black man, is this even possible for a Black hip-hop artist to achieve? No it is not because Eminem is actually white and regardless of his upbringing, his lyricism and controversy he is allowed to move in spaces where Black rappers cannot. He can be heralded at a frat party, bumped a summer garden party in white suburbia, give credence to white poor people and their issues, and even be thought of as a white savior to several Black people who say "hey he's one of us and can be invited to the cook out!" However, he isn't one of us and never has been. Sure he's made some support of his hometown in Detroit in both white and Black spheres, but it's never been consistent. Furthermore, could a Black rapper get away with threatening to rape and kill his wife in front of his daughter? No he absolutely couldn't he would be hung out to dry same as any other controversial hip-hop figure. And while I will not go into his specific songs, albums or even videos there is an entire acceptance to all that he does purely because he is white. 

Do I think there are better rappers? Absolutely - go look at my top 10 MCs list along with my ode to Tribe Called Quest. 

Do I think there are more controversial rappers? Depends on what you mean by controversy. Dr. Dre beats women, but not as many people know about that as they do Eminem's blatant disrespect.

Can I ignore the whiteness for talent? It's not even that I cannot, it's that you cannot look at Eminem and ignore it, it is why he is so famous, it is why he can move through circles, it is why people let his condemnation of America, women, gays, and so much more slide.

Therefore, in an argument I've had since his inception into common knowledge, Eminem is not in my top 5 or my top 10 not only because of talent, but because if he was a Black man we would never even be having this conversation. 

The Sartorial Corner with Mike - The Pocket Square

The Pocket Square – Purpose and suit functionality

 

The pocket square is one of the simplest yet misunderstood accessories of sartorial clothing.  The original purpose of a pocket square was for it to be used as a handkerchief to wipe down whatever manner of liquids: sweat, spills, ladies’ tears and so on. The reason why it was in the breast pocket was for quick access and anybody would wear it not only people with suits.

 

As handkerchiefs faded out for tissues and napkins, pocket squares became smaller and less used to the point of merely being a decoration leftover. However, pocket squares are considered a necessity for anytime one wears a blazer with the exception of double breasted where it is occasionally not used because the blazer is designed enough. The main reason for this arrangement is for formality now and to really show a look of well put together gentleman or lady.

 Simple white fold

Simple white fold

 

In terms of accentuating suits, pocket squares are often use as a simple white fold for most business suits and occupations were simplicity is stronger than flair. However, when wanting to flair that’s when one can go all out. It’s best to have a pocket square complement the color or design of a tie, but not match the title exactly due to overall matching and form.  Don’t worry about matching your lapel pin to your pocket square or your suit for that matter – note some suits can have a good contrasting pocket square for a striking look.  Still, the main focus is on how it works with the tie and I know many people get matching ties and pocket squares, but that is not the way to go.

 Note how the colors match of the pocket square match the tie, but not the pattern

Note how the colors match of the pocket square match the tie, but not the pattern

 

Lastly, if you want to add even more flourish to your pocket square, consider folding it in a particular way. I’m going to link the many pocket square folds at the end of this message, because standard square isn’t the only way: Tri-folds, triangle fold, pinch triangle fold and significant poof.

9-Ways-To-Fold-A-Pocket-Square-Infographic-600.jpg

 

Please wear your pocket square and make sure it complements well for a little bit of flair.

The Pervasiveness of Whiteness (Not just Trump's)

This post will not be about the NFL movement, but about what surrounds it. Overall, whiteness is pervasive in every fabric of our society and Trump has existed to highlight that. Yes, whiteness is everywhere and it is constantly everywhere I cannot watch a piece of media without seeing Trump or the issue of whiteness in some form. To give some recent examples:

NFL Sunday - Trump calls them out and everyone follows Kaep (late and not entirely the right reason but solidarity against white supremacy is great only because of the costs). Hopefully people continue the protest.

Kingsman 2: The President is a caricature of Trump

The Deuce: People hate on the current mayor and changes as if it's Trump

South Park: Trump's tweets

Game of Thrones: The Night King/Cersei and their political moves

I could continue on and on, but the whole point is no matter where you look, whiteness and Trump in particular wraps itself around all of the US.  However, as I read a soul-cleansing  book, called Homegoing by Yaa Gyasi, I have learned that whiteness still keeps its tendrils in parts of Africa, South America and more. Hence countries that have little influence (Cuba and Myanmar) often feel unfamiliar because they move to their own beat. At times, I view it as a disease as most people moved to their own beats in general before whiteness. Yes there were wars and other atrocities, but the level at which whiteness has overcompensated for the weakness of its ancestors is thorough and damaging for generations.

Continue to speak out and call out white supremacy. White people from within must continue to do so as well. I can only hope one day it fades.