Thursday, February 28, 2013

Feminism in The Hunger Games

                     
                       In 2011, Suzanne Collin’s The Hunger Games become quickly worldwide Young Adult literature best seller. The story revolves around Katniss Everdeen, a sixteen-year-old girl that takes her younger sister’s place to fight in a survival-of-the-fittest tournament in a post-apocalyptic world. She puts herself in danger in order to protect her family, sacrifices for her district and tricks the capitol (the game leaders) through the means of her wit and intelligence. Eventually, she survives the game that forces twenty-four children to fight to their death, along with Peeta, the romantic interest who is described as far weaker than her.

 

                       Someone I immediately thought of when reading the book was Hermione Granger’s character in the Harry Potter series. What is refreshing from Collin’s is that the series main protagonist is female, and stands on her own. Though both characters share similar characteristics of intelligence and loyalty, Katniss’ character defers significantly by the fact that she is strong physically and smarter than even the strongest male characters in the books, in the arena.

   
                        Furthermore, Katniss is a strong contrast of many other female literatary characters, namely Bella Swan from the Twilight Saga. Swan is the epitome of the modern-day damsel in distress, whereas Katniss doesn’t rely on a strong male character to save the day. The trilogy has now turned into a major motion picture, and little has been changed, least of all Katniss’ strong characteristic and her portrayal of the feminine ideal. In a sociological perspective, Katniss can be seen as the feminist character that is fighting Hollywood’s age-old idea of the hegemonic masculine character and ideals constructed of gender roles that have always been in place. Throughout the book, Katniss saves Peeta on more than one occasion and challenges what it means to be a strong female character, or what it means to be a strong main character, that isn’t defined by her gender. Sociologically, the “powered” woman has now transitioned in books and film from the masculine patterns of patriarchy and into individual women coming to terms with their lives. With Katniss, this means a stronger ideal role model for girls and an icon for feminist readers for both the book and the silver screen. “For women, the need and desire to nurture each other is not pathological but redemptive, and it is within that knowledge that our real power is rediscovered,” said Audre Lorde, writer and activist, in an essay.

 



Photographs courtesy of Lionsgate Entertainment.

How Hookah Lounges Manage Risks


The Ministry of Municipality and Urban Planning stopped issuing permits to open up Hookah (sheesha) lounges and caf├ęs a couple of years ago. I’m guessing that the ministry decided this to start limiting the hookah lounges and encourage the people to open up other businesses. A permit is required to open up a hookah lounge today, and the only way to get one is through buying one from an existing lounge. The prices of those permits are increasing rapidly and have reached up to 2 million riyals, for the permit only.

Because of the many competitors, Hookah lounges’ managers do their best in trying to attract and keep customers loyal to their lounges. There are many approaches to this, including the decoration of the lounge, prices, quality, service, and other strategies to keep the customers as long as possible in the lounge.

In his book, Mix it up (2010), David Grazian talks about how moviemakers manage the risks using various ways to maximize revenue; it is interesting how hookah lounges approach to minimize the risks similarly, and effectively.
The lounge I looked at is a modern lounge, called Central Lounge; it is different than any other lounge I’ve seen. It uses the same decorations that T.G.I Friday uses in their restaurants.


Product Placement
The restaurant uses creative product placement. I asked the workers if Mustang paid for this or not, but they had no idea, but I’m pretty sure Ford paid (or at least gave them for free) to put the face of the classic Mustang on the wall, but it sure prettier than a portrait. You can look at how the lounge looks from the lounge upstairs here (notice the different products displayed on the wall).


Sticking to Traditional Genre
Flavors: Grape, Grape with mint, and Apple flavor are the most preferred flavors of hookah around the world; this is why they have enough stock of these flavors, and a little of different flavors.
TV, WiFi, and Game Centres: These are also some of the things that you would see in any other lounge. This lounge offers these to attract more customers as well as to keep them stay in the lounge as long as possible.



Creative Accounting
The water in the hookah acts like a filter for the smoke, and without it, the smoke will be too hot for a human to smoke. The managers charge extra for adding ice to this water, and from what I see, everyone adds ice. This small amount that you pay for the ice generates more money than you think.



Wednesday, February 27, 2013

Starbucks and product placement




Product placement in movies is an embedded way of advertising a product. Bands use it to create the image they want about their products. When product placements are used in movies viewers are getting affected without even knowing it. Because brands choice a character or a scene that will get their product associated with the image and characteristic they want to create about their products.

Ads are boring!

Most people don’t like to watch TV commercials! They’re waste of time and they are not effective. People know that this is just an ad and it is not real! So most people skips ads when they appear on the screen. But if the advertisement was placed on one of the movie scenes it’s hard to skip it! So, brands use product placement to advertise their products in an interesting way and in a way where people can’t skip it.

Starbucks in Devil wears Prada



The Devil wears Prada, is a movie that was directed by David Frankel and released on 2006. It talks about Andrea as a Northwestern graduate that goes to New York and work for the most powerful fashion magazine. She worked as a co-assistant for Miranda Priestly, the icy editor-in-chief. In the movie Andrea had to run to Starbucks everyday to get Miranda a cup of coffee. And if you are wondering why does Starbucks choice The Devil wears Prada, simply because it is associated with many other big brands and this is the image that
Starbucks wants to create about itself! Another thing is that, Vogue editor Anna Wintour inspired Miranda’s character, and by getting her a Cup of coffee from Starbucks everyday is a very influential way of advertising.

You’ve got mail



In the movie you’ve got mail Starbucks attempt to popularize the verity of choices they have there! In addition to that they are trying to highlight the fact that both high-ranking businessmen and little shop owners they both are alike and this is when Kathleen and Joe will meet at Starbucks. This movie has done a great job of advertising the image Starbucks wants to create about itself. Because the time Kathleen and Joe have spent together have led them to fall in love.



Risk Management in Television Shows


Its seems to me that television networks realized what people want and they give them that in order to mange the risk of having a failure television.  There are 13 risk management ways that the studios use to minimize the chances of having a flop for both television and cinema. I will provide the examples from television that producing studio used to manage the risk of having a flop and it worked! They had/having a successful television show.


 
1-    Fringe
The first risk management that was used here is using J.J. Abrams who is a winner of two Emmys. Also, he is a famous producer and director of
Star Trek and Lost. Attaching the name of J.J. Abrams to the show gave it the credibility of being good. So people starting to tune it making it a hit TV show. The second risk management technique that was used in the show was the product placement of Sprint mobile devices.


2-    Dark Angel:
The producer of that show was the mega famous James Cameron. The show was a big hit making the actress Jessica Alba very famous during and after the show stopped airing. So when the name of Cameron was attached to the show, people were excited to watch it. Making it a hit television show in the early 2000’s.





 
3-    The Walking Dead:

 The walking dead was produced and developed by Frank Darabont. Frank wrote the screenplay for both The Shawshank Redemption and The Green Mile. This is one of the reasons that the show is one biggest hits that are currently running on television. The second risk management technique for this show was showing the product placement of the car Dodge Changer.


The Vampire Diaries revolves around a girl who is confused about her feeling between two guys and doesn’t know who to pick. Sounds familiar? Yes it sounds just like twilight.  The vampire diaries came out after girls were going crazy for the mythical creatures of vampires after the first movie of Twilight came out.  So it had a big built in audience for that genre, which is one of the risk management techniques.


Another one that was used for this television show was the product placement of Apple devices, such as phones and laptops.





Tuesday, February 26, 2013

Product placement in Cast Away

The movie Cast Away staring the famous actor Tom Hanks and directed by a well known director called Robert L. Zemeckis was a box office success. The movie’s plot is about a FedEx CEO that’s been in a plane crash, and found himself lost in a deserted island.

Not only Cast Away was a great movie, it was also a great example of product placement, it’s almost impossible to miss the FedEx building, boxes, sings, airplane, packages and cars in the movie. In sociology product placement is defined as an advertisement that is placed in movies and music video and not in ads. We see them without realizing that they are advertising their products. Moreover, in most cases the companies pay to be in those movies.

Tom Hanks or chuck as he is known in the movie was flying in a FedEx airplane, the only thing he had with him in that island was the FedEx packages and there’s a famous scene in the movie where he starts opening the boxes and FedEx’s leftovers basically to find things to help him survive on this island. In that process he finds a volley ball that he calls Wilson and puts his bloody hands on it to make a face, and later on it becomes a character in the movie. Not only that the volley ball was an example of product placement and co-starred with Tom Hanks, Wilson the Castaway volley ball was being sold on Amazon.com, after the movie was shown. This took product placement to a whole other level as it made the audience bond with the product and it had an important part of the movie.


Cast Away is one of the best movies for product placement. Moreover, the only thing Tom Hanks had in that island was Wilson and FedEx, you can literally overdose from seeing that much FedEx logos in one movie. Yet, ironically FedEx did not pay anything to be in this movie. And it’s an ongoing debate for wither Cast Away was good advertisement for FedEx or not because their plane did crash but Chuck delivered the packages at the end of the movie so that’s good. However, Wilson Sporting Goods Company paid for Wilson to be in the movie and also it was a different form of product placement since he was somehow a character in the movie. I personally think it was a huge success in terms of advertising for both products and for FedEx in particular.

Product Placement in Music Videos


Ever felt like you could use an ice cold Dr. Pepper every time you watch 90210? Or maybe you've felt like you need a Macbook because that's the only way your work will turn out spectacular? There's a reasonable explanation for that and the perfect term for that is called "Product Placement"

Product placement is an advertising tool, which is used as an alternative to long, and boring commercials. This is a successful way of promoting a product because not only will the targeted audience remain seated while watching it instead of the usual case where they would get up and run away, this will also find its way into their subconscious in the form of a subliminal message. The product will therefore dwell in their materialistic frame of mind.
Here's  the Queen of Nothing aka Lady Gaga promoting Diet Coke in one of her music videos...
And a closer look...
And sure why not promote some beer for the young ones ...
I am going to focus on product placement specifically in music videos. Product placement is both subliminal and persuasive, and not necessarily in a good way. They are advocating for a consumerist society with the purchase of the latest products at the top of their to do list. Most companies would pay millions of dollars in order to push their products into any form of media outlets including social media sites or as it is also known as "Social Media Marketing" Here's a sloppy presentation of products that don't necessarily belong in the video, which makes me wonder why on earth are they there?


 Thanks to channels like Mtv which has nothing to do with music anymore I have some more examples…
 



 Pay attention to what happens in minute 3:54
 You'd think that there are various companies that would profit from this whole product placement business whereas in the end of the day there are only 1 or 2 companies who will benefit. What those videos have in common is the Sony products parade. This is not a coincidence since Sony BMG owns more than a quarter of the U.S. music market. 
My advice to you is think, think and think before you purchase a new product, do you actually need it? How is this going to add something to your life?

Monday, February 25, 2013

Product Placement in Movies


Companies use advertisements to draw their audiences’ attention and get them interested to buy their products. However, people usually don’t like to watch the ads. People think of the ads as a break from movies, they can get up, go to another place, or they can change the channel; people hate watching ads. Therefore, companies figured another way to advertise their products, which is in movies; this process is called product placement.

According to sociology, product placement is defined as a form of advertising where branded goods or services are placed in context usually devoid of ads. Audiences are forced to look at the brands or the products in the movie. However, Audiences indirectly feel it, or they may get have the desire to buy the product that they saw in the film. Thus, companies now can reach their customers and have new ones locally and globally. The Terminal is a movie about Navorski (Tom Hanks), this movie sets inside the airport and many major brands took place during the movie, in this scene, Navorski figured out how to collects coins to get himself a Whopper meal. Navorski finally lifted the inaccurately well-dressed burger to his mouth as the sound of the music is heroically increasing. From this scene, Burger King restaurants wish you to get up, drive to the nearest Burger King and get a Whopper meal.


The product placement in movies is prevalent because it works. When a celebrity’s fans see him/her in a movie with a certain product, they want to get it so that to become like them. For example, Will Smith’s admirers may got the Ray-Ban glasses once they saw him in Men In Black with his Ray-Ban sunglass. Product placement with an attractive character may make the product placement more successful. The more the product pairs with a good-looking actress, the more people like the product.


However, in Cars movie, product placement weren’t directly paid to cars like Ferrari, Porsche etc. But they helped in the technical field of the vehicles during the film's creations. Porsche AG was the latest model for Porsche, and Prosche was the female version in Cars who fall in love with Ferrari (McQueen); McQueen is the hero in this film, and all kids’ dream is to get a Ferrari once they grow up. This film has produced cultural products that lend themselves to branding and merchandising opportunities, such as McQueen toys in McDonald’s happy meals.


The Island movie – a sci/fi-thriller movie - used many products in it, maybe to make the story more realistic! But when you see the movie, you suddenly feel compelled to buy all the luxurious stuff such as the yacht, the Cadillac car, Apple iMac, or any product from Calvin Klein etc. all of the products in the movie get exposure and promoted internationally.


The more you see a name, consciously or subconsciously, the more likely you will buy that product compared with another brand, or a no-name brand “TRUST ME”. When I saw The Devil Wears Prada movie, I wanted to get Miranda (Meryl Streep)’s Prada bag, or her amazing shoes, clothes and everything, every time I watch the movie, I get the desire to do CRAZY SHOPPING.


Product replacement in movies can help the companies to strengthen their names in the long run, because many movies from the secondary market have the opportunity to generate profit from a cultural product beyond its domestic sale in its original format. On other words, the products in the films can be seen in DVD format, airplane displays, iTunes etc.; that’s why many companies are trying to be part in scenes in movies.

The Audi RSQ car plays a central role in I, Robot movie. Mr. Bean's car, a British Leyland Mini 1000 has its own character in all Mr. Bean's movies and episodes. 

Sunday, February 24, 2013

I Fell in Their Trap, Did You?

Last week, we learned about the culture industry from the critical theorists’, Adorno and Horkheimer’s, perspectives. As professor Geoff Harkness explained to us in class, “popular culture is propaganda for corporations, designed to increase their economic power and social dominance.” Basically, we as consumers are soft targets for the big corporations since they produce shows, TV programs, films or design products to entertain us, and to keep us distracted from the fact that we are overworked and exploited customers. For example, fast food tastes great but it doesn’t mean that it’s healthy, and in reality it’s destroying our bodies in the long run as we keep having more cheeseburger meals. Therefore, the popular culture is a problem because it happens to be a form of social control that turns people into mindless consumers. While learning about risk management last week, the Pretty Little Liars show popped into my head as I’m currently watching it. The show is based on a series of books that were written by the American author Sara Shepard. So what ended up happening was that the book got to be made into a TV series. The story got to be developed by a prominent writer with a record of success, Marlene King who also wrote the story for the movie Just My Luck. The producers didn’t pretty much go with the plot of the story and did change A, who happens to be the anonymous person that the four friends kept getting texts from throughout the show. This was done due to the reason below that was explained by the producer of the show, Lisa Cochran-Neilan: "If you go just by the books, your fans are gone. We've used them as source material, we've used them for backbone, but obviously, if you only went by the books, your audience knew before you started shooting what the story was.” This is exactly how they hooked their audiences up with the TV show by simply not following the story of the book as they want to attract their audience and to keep them so attached to the show as they continue to anticipate what’s going to happen next. Another point is that ABC Family is the main channel that hosts Pretty Little Liars. They are also playing other TV shows like The Secret of the American Teenager, Gilmore Girls, 10 Things I Hate About You, and other shows won’t has a good number of fans. So, they are not really afraid of losing because they know they already have big hits. In addition, Pretty Little Liars is on iTunes and Apple TV for people to either buy the whole season or purchase by episode. Another opportunity to make money was by using the name of the show for merchandising through using the name of the characters in the show and putting them on hoodies, T-shirts, iPhone covers, bags, … etc. I fell in their trap because I keep buying more episodes so I can identify who A is. But, the producers are expanding the show and keep adding other additional seasons. Not sure if I'll ever know who A is!

Saturday, February 23, 2013

Nicholas Sparks - Why so famous?


How do film directors and producers ensure that their films don’t flunk, and end up being best sellers? I recently learned about certain risk management techniques that all these billion dollar production companies use to make sure that all the time and effort put into producing their movies don’t go to waste. They contain tactics like: - sticking to traditional genres and other conventions. - Hiring prominent writers, producers, or directors with a record of success. - Producing cultural products with built-in audiences, for example like: sequels, prequels, remakes, and spinoffs. Etc. There are many other risk management techniques that ensure the success of a film.

That got me thinking about books, and how most of these risk management techniques can be applied to books as well as films, and the first thing that popped into my mind was: Nicholas Sparks.

Why is Nicholas Sparks so famous? Why are his books all best sellers? Don’t people get sick of the same story over and over again? How is he not afraid of once writing a book that’s never going to be read? And the answer to all these questions lied in the risk management techniques.

Nicholas Sparks’ books contain many risk management techniques, and the most prominent ones are: sticking to the traditional genres and conventions. Who doesn’t love a heart-warming romance novel? Famous writer. Everyone knows who Nicholas Sparks is, and what he represents. Built-in audience. Even though his books aren’t sequels of one another, they all have the same basic story line.

All these tactics work because they give the people what they want. Sometimes all the people need is a typical boy meets girl story, with conflicts and ups and downs, and finally it all works out at the end. This is what the audience is looking for, and that is proven by the fact that all of his books are known and loved all over the world. The notebook, A walk to remember, Dear John, The last song, Safe Haven; all of these books are best sellers.







Most of them have been turned into films; highly successful films for that matter. Why? Because they contain what the consumer market wants. They have the same typical story line, a genre that is loved by millions of people, famous directors like Lasse Hallstorm, Adam Shankman and Nick cassavetes, and even the same cover picture; a recipe for great success.

Sadly, all these tactics really work, because at this moment, I really want to watch the newest movie, Safe Haven, based on Nicholas Sparks’ novel. It gives the viewer what they want, a safe, stable, enjoyable love story. At some point (even though none of us care to admit it) we want to watch a corny, mushy, love story where everything works out at the end, and the world is a big bowl of rainbow ice cream, with unicorns flying around. We want the typical cover picture of *hands on each other’s face - falling madly in love - everything is going to work out - living happily ever after*. We might criticize it being such a typical unrealistic love story, while rolling our eyes and leaving the movie theatre, but really, we knew that going in, why did we buy the tickets in the first place? It's our guilty pleasure.

A walk to remember trailer

Dear John trailer

The notebook trailer

Safe haven trailer

The last song trailer

Wednesday, February 20, 2013

The Lady and The Tramp


We all heard of a movie called The Lady and The Tramp. It’s about two dogs that are from different social classes meet and get married in the end. It’s a famous classical Disney movie which demonstrates The American Dream ideology and the clear division in social class. In the beginning of the movie it shows how and where the upper class dogs live in very sophisticated and luxurious houses. Then on the other side, the dirty, uncared for, the lower class dogs who lived in the muddy streets. In sociology we see the division in how each dog was behaving and the way they were talking. Each class was very different from each other, they made that very obvious in the movie. Other than where they lived and how they acted, there was another thing that separated the upper class from the lower class. It was the golden collar that was owned by the “elite” dogs. It was an example of conspicuous consumption and it was emphasized on a lot in the movie and how owning one is the dream of every dog. Moreover, the social inequality was present in this movie in terms of how each dog is treated. A dog with a collar is treated differently than a dog without a collar. The upper class dogs received the better treatment. In the movie lady and tramp meet and instantly Tramp is being misjudged by Lady’s upper class friends and they stereotyped him. There is a famous scene in the movie where Tramp takes lady to an Italian restaurant and tries to show her the street life and the real world, she enjoyed her time, but it wasn’t the life she wanted. In the end of the movie it was tramp that achieved social mobility and moved up in the social class. Which shows that it’s a more desirable class and that people shouldn’t give up and work hard and they will achieve social mobility. The American Dream ideology was achieved, that everything is possible, if a person or in this case a dog worked hard enough they will reach their dreams.

High Society Music?

When I stepped in to Virgin Megastores a few days ago, I found a music stand that was labeled "High Society".

   


It seemed like they wanted to associate that specific stand with highbrow culture. Highbrow culture is culture that is consumed by intellectuals and people who belong to a high social class. However, labeling the stand itself felt like Virgin Megastores was trying to appeal to the people who are from a lower social class interested in highbrow culture and social mobility (moving up or down the class system). This stand definitely targets the conspicuous consumers, the consumers who attempt to display class and status through purchase or consumption of high culture (in this case, it's music). By looking at the music CDs on this stand, I realized that it was mostly French and English music. The only somewhat-Arabic CD collection was the special edition of "Belaaks", an album created by Jean Marie Riachi.

   


The album features different artists, most of them are unknown. The album includes some English and French songs in addition to the Arabic ones. The music is a mixture of Jazz and Arabic music. The album is named after the song "Belaaks" which uses Arabic lyrics along with the instrumental music of the famous song "Perhaps".


   


If this music stand does anything other than appealing to conspicuous consumers, it proves the notion that highbrow and lowbrow cultures are socially constructed. They are not given truths, but they are carefully chosen by decision makers, even if its in something as small as Virgin Megastores. However, the main question remains: why is it that what we consider to be highbrow culture in the Arab world is usually foreign, while if something is more authentic, it would be seen as lowbrow culture?

Dance+Romance+Fight=Success?

With over a 1000 films being churned out in 10 or more languages every year, the Indian film industry is more than capable of satisfying the needs of the billion-strong movie aficionados in the country. Yet if I was to count the number of those movies released even in the last 5 years that had a different content, I would be left with a considerably small number. Why is this the case? The answer very much lies in the risk management topic of sociology which highlights the strategies adopted by movie producers in ensuring profits with their movies.but with much less at stake.

The case of the Indian film fraternity is no different. Its first and most significant strategy has been to conform to certain conventions related to the content of the movie: which I describe as the dance+romance+fight formula. Almost all Indian movies, be it in "Bollywood" or the many smaller regional industries always seem to contain these three elements in some form of the other; almost as if it were a requirement. It shouldn't be surprising then  for an audience to find the hero and his lady crooning to tunes in the posh locales of Switzerland, only seconds after he saves her from the evil schemes of the villain. The hyperbolic,exuberant  impression of life that these movies generate is all but a distraction from the rigors of reality and perhaps this is why this tried- and-tested mantra has continued to work wonders on audiences.

The other noticeable issue that could possibly cause a continuum of traditional genres is the imbalance in power between different production houses. With successful businessmen entering the field of movie production and  their influence on casting bankable stars and promoting their movies through aggressive campaigning; the chances for the others to release a successful movie reduce significantly, regardless of the quality of their content. There have been several instances where movies with great stories have been sidelined by their much more popular, more extravagant counterparts. As a consequence, audiences are left with watching movies these bigger production houses present, which are often formulaic and hackneyed.

Overproduction is at present, an obvious factor that the Indian film industry depends on heavily. It is founded on a belief that by creating far more movies than the industry needs, the few big hits would compensate for the losses incurred by the many flops. It is this belief that I consider to be at the heart of the issue of similar content in films. Why need 1000 films to establish a successful industry, when out of those 1000, most of them are gone without a trace? Producing fewer movies would give room for experimentation both on the producing aspect and the film-making aspect; thereby giving room for unique plots and ultimately satisfying audiences.

While, this alternative idea is yet to be fully explored by the Indian film industry, in recent years there have been quite a few movies that have challenged not just the famous dance and romance formula but also the stereotype that lower budget films can never reach the kind of success that those with a famous cast can.
Here are some of those exceptional movies that are still revered by audiences :










Here are some articles describing the Indian film industry :

Indian film industry

stereotypes in indian movies

http://www.inbollywood-movies-from-the-soul-that-will-rule-the-world-842327.html

Tuesday, February 19, 2013

Highbrow Heavy Metal?

      Heavy metal has long been an unspoken interest of mine. It is not like I am ashamed of it; I am not ashamed at all. It has been the only consistent favorite genre of mine for the past eight years. The only issue with being a fan of this genre is the social stigma attached to its universally lowbrow, or unsophisticated, status. Public disapproval of the genre manifests more prominently in the mostly resistant Middle Eastern societies, which are tremendously cautious of introducing typically "Western" cultures.

"People are constantly being typed by their cultural allegiances, respected or dismissed because of the music they like...we internalize these categories."
- Robert Walser, Heavy Metal and the Highbrow/Lowbrow Divide 

      Similarly to how the media associates the genre of rap music with black gangsters, heavy metal is also associated with undisciplined "white trash." One may assume that such negative depiction justifies the majority's detestation of the musical genre. In fact, it is quite easy for anyone to make such an assumption. It is even easier to completely disregard exceptions and disturbances in one's preconceived judgments of a particular culture that is seemingly beyond one's comprehension.

      Does the stigmatized view towards heavy metal diminish, though, when the typically highbrow, sophisticated genre of classical music "breeds" with the lowbrow genre of heavy metal?

       Symphonic metal is a sub-genre of heavy metal that is characterized by operatic voices, poetic lyrics, and the heavy use of keyboards and orchestral music. The sound is often described as "epic", like a blow to the face...or to the ears, with popular approaches to symphonic metal sounding much like film scores. Pioneers of this particular take on the genre include the Finnish band Nightwish, whose success inspired the inception of other prominent bands in the genre, such as the Dutch band Epica. An excellent example of such style is Nightwish's song Ever Dream (a personal favorite), albeit only a gentle taste of Nightwish's typically lengthy and elaborately orchestrated songs.

Ever Dream by Nightwish

      In addition to the classical and operatic undertones of this genre, many symphonic metal albums often include power ballads that could easily appeal to audiences who are more fond of the "symphonic" elements of the genre as opposed to the "metal" elements. Examples of such songs include the Nightwish song Sleeping Sun and Abandoned by the American symphonic metal band Kamelot, sung by the operatically trained Norwegian singer Roy Khan.


Sleeping Sun by Nightwish


Abandoned by Kamelot

      Despite the significant presence of typically highbrow musical characteristics in the genre of symphonic metal, and the unusual variety offered with the inclusion of power ballads in the genre's albums, symphonic metal is still categorized as lowbrow music. Kamelot's concept albums Epica (the namesake of the Dutch band Epica) and The Black Halo, based on the classic German legend Faust, are still considered as lowbrow forms of music despite the traditionally highbrow status of the German folk tale.

Clearly, I am a fan.

      It seems that the universally shared social stigma towards heavy metal, which the media successfully reinforces into the public's preconceptions of the genre as diabolical and detrimental to society's wellbeing, ruthlessly applies to all of its sub-genres, regardless of the presence of highbrow musical elements. The power of the media instills this preconceived notion of the genre so effectively that it almost leaves no room for exceptions. This is particular for Middle Eastern countries, who have notable sensitivity towards controversial Western cultures or behaviors. The extreme Middle Eastern stigma towards the genre, though, could be on the verge of gradual decline. With the recent introduction of heavy metal concerts in Abu Dhabi (such as Metallica's upcoming concert on the 19th of April, and Megadeth's concert this past October), tolerance or even acceptance of the genre may finally be welcomed by Middle Eastern societies, perhaps even ending discrimination towards fans of heavy metal. I am almost certain that it should not be a difficult feat to accomplish when the Middle East has so amiably welcomed the lyrical genius Nicki Minaj in a recent Dubai concert.

      After all, we are all nothing but...


Stupid hoes.


Cars ARE racist!

Since cars were invented in 1894, it developed in an astonishing way that it serves human where ever they go. As I have seen in my homeland Syria, Qatar and the United States of America, certain people from a certain social class and race tend to buy and drive a specific brand of a car. In Syria, people are most likely to buy cheap cars no matter what was the brand because of the high taxes, but some people tend to buy the Syrian or Persian made cars because it serves them better and they can easily sell it later. Of course a person who is in the high middle class would buy an expensive car such as Audi, Land Rover or BMW. If you have the money you can buy any car you want no matter how much were the taxes. As for government officials who do not pay taxes like others, a rise of racism in terms of social classes and positions creates hatred between the people of the society. However, people still continuing to live normally.

As in Qatar, it is different. They are no taxes on cars and it doesn't really matter, but a lot of people tend to have a taste of what car they purchase. Qataris prefers Toyota especially Land cruisers. On the other hand for residence, they have a different taste. Syrians likes Mercedes, Sudanese likes Toyota Corolla, Desi residences like Nissan Sunny and the list continues. It depends on what is your nationality or race to ride a car. With the different of social classes, there are still people who want to move up to the second level by taking a loan from the bank and buying their favorite car
In sociology, race and ethnicity reproduces social classes and it is not fair sometimes. If we would go back when the USA was racist to an unacceptable level. If a cop sees a black person driving an expensive car, this black dude will be most likely pulled over and questioned about where he got that car. The perspective that was taken about this race’s behaviors throws a lot of questions. Back to Qatar, where the majority residences of Qatar are Desi, It would be shocking to see an Indian driving a Ferrari (with respect to all nationalities). People who live in Qatar are not used to it. It is normal to see an American man or European driving a fancy car because the expectations are that this race gets paid more than others. Racism is everywhere, and it creates different perspectives about others.

Monday, February 18, 2013

Family Guy is so racist, it’s not racist

For those of you who aren't aware, Family Guy is an animated series featuring the Griffins, a very dysfunctional family. It has been going on for a while. Seth MacFarlane has produced 11 seasons so far. This show has attracted the attention of many viewers and also the critics who labeled it as offensive and immoral.

First of all, as a personal fan of this sitcom, I believe that those critics need to get a sense of humor. People should stop ignoring the big elephant in the room and start accepting that blue comedy is becoming a part of our lives. We get it, children get it, and everybody gets it. Honestly, the less taboo these topics become, the less intriguing they become and the more mature and astute kids become.

As for the offensive part, I think MacFarlane was clever by featuring racist and stereotypical representations of all ethnicities and religions on this show. They are so stupid and offensive, they make us reflect upon our own perceptions of other people and help us realize how silly these things look like.

One thing I learned in sociology class that was all too new to me is that the terms race and ethnicity mean different things (shocking, I know). Race is a group of people who share genetically inherited physical features that distinguish them from other people. On the other hand, the ethnicity of a group of people refers to how they identify with one another on the basis of common ancestry, nationality, or cultural heritage. I could look like someone, but identify with the culture of someone else more than the person I look like. Which is cool. But the existence of different ethnicities creates stereotypes, prejudice and descrimination that we socially construct.

Stereotypes are inaccurate generalizations about a group of people. We hate stereotypes when they are about us, yet somehow manage to create dozens when they are about other people. In every culture we have the main group and “the other.” It’s the people of the city and the foreigners who live in it. Here in Qatar, for example, we have Qataris and non Qataris. In the US, you have white people and then the other colored people who tend to have beautiful babies.

Movies and TV shows play a huge role in shaping those stereotypes of “the other.” They subconsciously let us behave towards them in a certain manner and therefore, discriminate them. What people try to do now is create this “new racism.” Basically, “we are colorblind, racism doesn’t and shouldn’t exist, we’re all the same.” Sounds sweet. But the problem with that concept is that it fails to recognize that people are different, that we are not the same, that people were treated differently “back then” and might still be treated in that manner.

Now this is where Family Guy beats the rest (at least in my opinion). The show is a social commentary of how people behave and think about others. In order to show that, through comedy, they employ all sorts of stereotypes. “They make fun of jewish people, dorky white people, hispanic people, arab people, catholic, homosexuals … if you can think of a race or religion it has been made fun of on that show.” My personal favorite is Consuela, the Hispanic maid:

When people see those things, they laugh. Yes, we get offended, but eventually, we realize how stupid it would be if we actually viewed people in that manner. The show also makes fun of racist people by having racist characters. Brian, who is a white dog, doesn’t pick up black guys in his cab. The constant bombardment of those representations remind us of our differences, the racism that we face and the discrimination we have towards others. When we start to see how ridiculous it looks like, we start to change our views but respect and accept differences.

You should definitely check out the show if you haven't. I have personal DVDs of most seasons because I just love this show so much. It's so funny.