Posts Tagged ‘social media’

 

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In the ten years that Twitter has been an online presence, the social media platform has radically changed the way we receive and react to information. As a recreational tool it allows us to connect with people all over the world, sharing our thoughts, opinions, fears, and the general existence of the every day mundane in only 140 characters. We build and break connections with people we may never meet in person, jumping in and out of timelines at a leisurely pace or with rapid fire exuberance. It’s become the norm to include the words “tweet” and “hashtag” into casual conversation as we try to navigate the “dos and don’ts” of a social space with loosely defined rules at best.how-to-grow-twitter-followers

But, really, a similar description could be applied to Twitter’s distant cousin site, Facebook. Certainly the idea behind the two platforms is the same. Where Twitter consistently beats Facebook is in its live timeline, a feature that has proven its value as a tool of social activism. The real-time feed of information has been instrumental in exposing the global community to revolutions, protests, tragedies, women’s rights, LGBTQ+ rights, systemic racism, and political inaction in ways that weren’t possible before. The #BlackLivesMatter movement rose and remains a political lightning rod because of the live feed, bringing the hardships and daily experiences of black men, women, and children into the lives of people outside the black community; exposing them to something that can’t be ignored or overlooked in good conscience. The hashtag has become a symbol of activism, but it is also a means of gathering information. The aggregate function of a hashtag allows users to effectively track an event or a trend with the option to get a live feed as the hashtag is used or see the highlights based on the amount of “likes” and “retweets.”

The combination of real-time updates and aggregate searches makes Twitter an invaluable primary resource not just for regular users but for scholars, researchers, and students. So, of course, when news spread that Twitter was thinking about changing the live-feed default to a more streamlined feed with an emphasis on trending tweets, reportedly using an algorithm to display tweets based on what the user may like, people got a bit concerned. And by concerned, I mean #RIPTwitter became an immediate trending topic. While those behind-the-scenes at Twitter have mostly dispelled those rumors, the reaction is far more interesting. In the last few years Twitter has made small attempts to alter their platform to attract more users. These have mostly been design changes, but even that had numerous detractors because to those of us who experience Twitter, casually or fervently, something was taken away without our consent.

Twitter’s biggest selling point, right after the live-feed, has been the illusion of choice. We choose who we follow, who we block or mute, and we customize our homepages with images and color schemes in order to put our personalized stamp on the Twittersphere. Again, Facebook shares a lot of the same functions, but delayed updates, especially where real-time news is concerned, and a fairly static page without a character limit makes for a less energetic approach to social media. By contrast, Twitter encourages activity, 2confronting users with a feed that grows by the second and displays how many tweets have been added that haven’t been seen. The constant presence, no matter what page, of the scorecard keeping track of the tweets made by the user, people or accounts the user is following, and the people or accounts following the user promotes a currency of influence. If you want to get more followers, if you want to be heard by more people, then you need to be more active on Twitter. Unless you’re on your homepage, Facebook doesn’t display the amount of friends you have for public scrutiny. So to make a long story short (too late!): you peruse Facebook, but you engage with Twitter, which gives us a greater attachment and investment in how we represent ourselves. Thus, everything is curated by the individual, so when the site changes something even the most minute alteration becomes a violation of the user’s ability to choose.

Whether or not the people behind Twitter know it, they’ve stumbled into the murky waters of information control. It’s not a new concept by any means. We experience it daily, especially where our news consumption is concerned. Every channel, website, and print article practices a form of information control, cherry-picking facts out of the original context in order to craft a narrative suitable to the needs of its audience. We want to be informed, but we also want our biases confirmed so those in the position of gathering and reporting the news cater to those biases regardless of the harm done in the process. The discipline of historiography is all about examining the subject of history and how authors shape the narrative of any person, place, or thing of historical significance. In my profession as an Archivist, we’re confronted by the sins of information control on a near constant basis. It’s easy to point our fingers at regimes like the Nazis, the Stasi, Stalinist Russia, or North Korea who keep meticulous records to justify their existence, but one can’t deny that practically all archival institutions stand on the shoulders of people who were deliberately left out of the record. Power lies in existence, in having a voice, and when we’re no longer around to speak for ourselves then the record should speak for us. The multitude of silences in the archives is deafening.Twitter minute headline1

Now, I’m not saying Twitter is deliberately altering timelines in order hatch a nefarious plot of dictating information to users. The CEO has already gone on record saying the live-feed is important because it’s essentially what makes Twitter unique compared to other social media platforms, which is true. What I am saying is how they’ve approached updating the website and what they’re updating speaks to some very odd priorities. Though the algorithm-based feed is an opt-in feature, they weren’t exactly forthcoming with that information until they were forced to explain themselves. And even then, they were defensive and reactionary; sounds about right for Twitter, actually. Basically, their customer service skills are wanting, which is why users pondered the reason for aesthetic changes taking priority over issues of security and safety – something that Twitter has dragged their heels on until recently. It says something when the look of your website has more focus than the actual user-base. But, again, even aesthetic changes made, without warning and in the face of the previous freedom to customize, sends a message. When your users resent and distrust you for making minor changes, what’s to stop them from believing you’ll let them see what they want to see versus what you think they may like to see?

 

Sam is joined by JP for an amazing chat with Punisher: War Zone and Green Street Hooligans director Lexi Alexander!

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Two years and four seasons, with plenty of bumps along the way, and here we are at the end of Korra’s legend. At least the part that’s animated. We’ve seen Korra grow in so many ways – as a person, a woman, and as the Avatar. From adorable prodigy to well-intentioned, though naive and hot-headed, teenager to mature adult, Korra’s journeybook four has been fraught with multiple crises. But in her persistence and resolve to prove herself Korra, and by extension her creators, have given us a story of triumph over insurmountable odds; one that embraces mature themes of class equality, spirituality, revolution, and the price paid for being guardian to an advanced world. While The Legend of Korra owes its very existence to the popularity and fantastic storytelling of Avatar: The Last Airbender, the sequel series has, in my opinion, exceeded the legacy of its predecessor, carving out its own space as an iconic piece of Western animation.

Created by Michael Dante DiMartino and Bryan Konietzko in 2012, Korra was originally a one season exploration of the world created in Avatar: The Last Airbender through the eyes of the next Avatar in the cycle, a girl from the Southern Water Tribe named Korra (Janet Varney). Had the show only run for the one season, I’m sure we would have looked at it as a fun trip back into the realm of fantasy where people bend the elements and the Avatar thwarts yet another nefarious plot in order to restore balance. The subsequent seasons, however, became the show’s proving ground. After some backtracking in season two, Korra forged ahead with an agenda that challenged the status quo of storytelling in animation and what is ostensibly viewed as “children’s programming” while still being an entertaining and engaging action-adventure fantasy series.

korra-all-the-avatarsThe Legend of Korra is a multifaceted show that defies simple categorization. Over the course of four seasons we’ve seen this work to the show’s advantage as it essentially grew up under the scrutiny of a generation steeped in internet culture. Avatar: The Last Airbender began and ended before Twitter, Tumblr, and a number of websites were in heavy rotation, but Korra was born within the epicenter of social media and the blogosphere, a place where representation and visibility were, and still are, of the utmost importance. But even with a woman of color as the lead, Korra wasn’t a guaranteed success especially in an environment where anything with a female lead was considered “tricky” or some kind of magical unicorn never to be seen twice. Two years later and the attitude of viewing audiences have towards properties like Korra has changed for the better and yet remained frustratingly the same. DiMartino and Konietzko, or Bryke as they’re affectionately called, aren’t responsible for all matters concerning representation, but they still took it upon themselves to make certain that Korra resonated with her audience despite consistent network interference. By ending the series with Korra and Asami (Seychelle Gabriel) holding hands and staring lovingly at each other as they enter the Spirit World for a much-needed vacation, The Legend of Korra solidified itself as a program indicative of its time and place. Having a queer woman of color in the lead role of a Korrasamifantasy action series put Korra in the unique position of taking a small, but still huge, step forward in the nuanced portrayal of women of color and the LGBTQ community in Western animation and children’s programming. Yes, I’m well aware that anime has been doing this for quite some time.

The uniqueness of the show also stems from a combination of storytelling and character development that, again, isn’t seen a lot in Western animation. For instance, the show follows patterns reminiscent of Joseph Campbell’s “hero’s journey”, but goes to even greater lengths to examine those tropes through the lens of Eastern storytelling. From the beginning, Korra has been a character who embraced the call to action. In fact, it was the central conceit of the pilot and the starting point for the series as a whole. Korra is a more proactive character in her approach to being the Avatar; where Aang tried to find the peaceful route first, Korra was always ready for a fight and the storytelling reflected those traits. Avatar: The Last Airbender was all about the overarching plot of Aang and friends going up against the Fire Lord while The Legend of Korra had contained arcs for each season, which allowed Korra to go up against multiple villains. The advantage for Korra lies in the character growth achieved through her battles with Amon, Unalaq and Vaatu, the Red Lotus, and Kuvira. It’s also another means of showing that the hero’s journey is hardly a linear model with a definitive beginning and end. If legend-of-korra-series-finale-korraanything, the hero’s journey is an ongoing process with multiple starts and stops along the way. The destination is still important, but the journey matters more in the long run and Korra’s journey has been all about growth and change in a world going through the same process.

As a character, Korra has an inherent connection to the struggles of the world she protects. Throughout the series her internal doubts and conflicts are reflected externally. Season one was about elitism and equality in a technologically advanced world, season two the lack of spiritual connection as a result of these advancements, season three the chaos of adjusting to rapid change, and season four the need to control in order to combat the turmoil of chaos. All of these hardships belong to Korra but they are just as present in Republic City, the four elemental nations, and in her enemies. This grounds Korra and gives her personal stakes in the fate of the world regardless of her position as the Avatar. Even if she turned away from the problems facing the world they still live within her. That’s incentive enough to act, but Korra’s peace of mind only appears to be fulfilled when she and the world are in balance.

Season four was a dense playground of themes and ideas, the most poignant being the Buddhist philosophy of suffering. At the end of season three, Korra is poisoned and nearly killed by Zaheer (Henry Rollins). She survives but is broken by the latest in a long line of battles. For three years she attempts to regain her strength and force herself into readiness, but only by accepting the trauma, and learning from her enemies, does she truly begin to heal. Suffering leads to perspective and wisdom, which ultimately allows her to triumph over Kuvira (Zelda Williams); not through the awesome power of being the Avatar but through sympathy and empathy. It was the worst kept Legend-of-Korra-The-Last-Stand-10secret that Korra and Kuvira were reflections of each other. Hell, Bolin (P.J. Byrne) practically spells it out for the audience and I’m fairly certain that the name Kuvira was chosen to be just similar enough to Korra so we wouldn’t miss it. The point being that the similarities between the two in attitude and demeanor forced Korra to go beyond her training as a fighter and find another angle of approach. While the two have some intense and amazingly animated battles thanks to Studio Mir, their conflict ends only when Korra offers a sympathetic ear, something that season one Korra wouldn’t have considered because she didn’t have the experience needed in order to understand Kuvira’s position or her plight. By resolving the situation as peaceably as possible, Korra comes into her own as the Avatar, and the person, she wants to be.

What is specific to Korra, but still a point of connection between her and the audience, is the idea of relevancy. The entire series hinges on a single question: Does the world still need the Avatar? By series end, the answer is a resounding “Yes!” All the mecha suits, spirit kaiju, and political haranguing aside, Korra is still relevant, still necessary to the world around her. But just as importantly, Korra and other shows in the same vein are needed and necessary to the viewing audience. Korra offers something we don’t see as often as we want in the television landscape: a place where women are valued.

beifong womenI’ve written before about the amazing cast of female characters in Avatar: The Last Airbender and The Legend of Korra, but the final season of Korra presented a plethora of women offering sage advice or kicking ass – both in Toph’s case. While Korra had plenty of male teachers and enemies, seasons three and four tipped the scale in favor of the show’s female characters. It doesn’t make Tenzin (J.K. Simmons), Mako (David Faustino), Bolin, Bumi, or Kai irrelevant, but it shows that the creators wanted to celebrate women as heroes, villains, mothers, sisters, friends, lovers, leaders, scientists, spiritual guides, and everything else under the sun. The fact that Bolin’s hero is Toph still makes me happy because it isn’t often that we see male characters on television, animated or otherwise, showing unabashed hero-worship for a female character. Bolin, more than any male character in the series, has been the ultimate cheerleader for women. He’s the first to believe in Korra, laying out all of the qualities that make her amazing, he worships Toph, and he defends Kuvira’s cause because he wants to see the good in it before the reality of his situation sets in. Through Bolin, Bryke found their own surrogate to tell the male audience that the Avatar universe is a world of celebration for women and men. Yes, it’s a realm of fantasy, but fantasy has a way of influencing reality.Bolin and Mako

Is it a feminist agenda? Of course, but the seeds have been there since Avatar. Making the next Avatar a woman as well as the reveal that the Avatar is a literal avatar for Raava, the female spirit of light and peace, are choices on the part of the creators to enrich their world as they see fit. By emphasizing the importance of the feminine spirit alongside the extensive female cast, DiMartino and Konietzko have crafted a realm where girls and women are equal in every way. The Legend of Korra accomplishes this without ever having to explicitly state the obvious in-universe compared to the first season of Avatar that went a long way to get the point across that women could fight just as well as men. The women of Korra are, without question, active agents in their world. Youngsters like Ikki and Jinora make just as much impact as the older Lin (Mindy Sterling) and Suyin (Anne Heche) Beifong. Age doesn’t denote skill or importance, giving girls of all ages in the viewing audience a contrasting image of how to define their own value and self-worth as they grow up.

So what’s next for Korra? Not sure. Hopefully a comic book is in the works a la the continuing adventures of Avatar: The Last Airbender that bridged the two series. After the series finale and the ending that will definitely be talked about for some time, it’s clear that there’s plenty of unexplored territory to cover. As Korra says to Tenzin, she’s not done learning. But if this is the last we see of Korra and company, then it’s definitely a legend worth telling.

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I-Know-That-VoiceI don’t know about you, but cartoons and animation have been a part of my life since before I can remember. When I was younger, I watched Looney Tunes and Hanna-Barbera, along with many of the classic cartoons of the 80s and 90s. I grew up during the Disney Renaissance of animated features while experiencing the psychological damage of the Don Bluth produced films at the same time, and my sense of humor evolved along with the Golden Age of The Simpsons. In my adult years, my love of animation remains in tact not just because the medium has gotten that much better (it has), but because I recognize and appreciate the work involved by voice actors to bring the characters I love to life on television, the big screen, or in video games. The legacy of voice acting is as old as animation, but it’s only been within the last few years that the actors themselves have started to get their long overdue accolades for the work they do. With the stage finally set for voice actors to have their moment in the spotlight, John DiMaggio (Futurama, Adventure Time) along with Director and Co-Producer Lawrence Shapiro and producer Tommy Reid bring us I Know That Voice – a documentary celebrating the talented men and women in the world of voice acting.

As a documentary, I Know That Voice has a very clear cut idea of what it wants to accomplish. You won’t find a sidestory about someone trying to make it in the industry, the camera following a few people as they audition ending with one or two getting a small part or a major role in an animated movie or television show. There’s no need to pad the story because DiMaggio, Reid, and Shapiro let the established veterans of the industry tell you themselves. This is a straight forward look at the people who, on a daily basis, will voice a multitude of characters, each of them different in their own way, in order to entertain audiences. And entertainment is the key here because what is stressed throughout the entire documentary isn’t the idea of never being recognized, or the need for fame and fortune, it’s about the passion these men and women have for their work. They’re the, until now, mostly unseen people who do far more than just make funny voices for money. They’re actors creating characters and without them we wouldn’t have the connections we hold dear to Bugs Bunny, Rocket J. Squirrel, Batman, Bubbles, Azula, Elmira, and even The Joker.

Voice ActorsThe amount of talent assembled is astounding. Close your eyes for a few minutes and you’ll hear characters from cartoons past and present. To give you a sample, I Know That Voice features June Foray, Jim Cummings, Rob Paulsen, Billy West, Maurice LaMarche, Grey DeLisle, Cree Summer, Tara Strong, Kevin Conroy, Mark Hamill, Kevin Michael Richardson, Steve Blum, Kath Soucie, Nancy Cartwright, Phil LaMarr, Tom Kenny, Jess Harnell, Nolan North, Hank Azaria, Lauren Tom, and Jennifer Hale. If you don’t know any of these people, look them up, along with the rest of the actors featured, on IMDB and be prepared to gawk at the laundry list of characters they’re responsible for voicing. Rightly so, the movie has a fitting tribute to the patriarch of voice over actors, Mel Blanc, the “Man of a Thousand Voices” and inspiration of many of the interviewees. It’s from Mel’s ability to create most of the Looney Tunes characters we know and love that the documentary dives into the actual work involved in the creation of animated characters.

For many, it starts with a drawing of the character because how the character looks based on gender, age, and any facial features can shape the voice. There’s also the repertoire of voices collected from people encountered in daily life or another actor with an interesting cadence that can fill in the holes and enrich the sound of a new character. The best examples featured are Billy West’s breakdown and buildup of Dr. Zoidberg’s unmistakable voice and Kath Soucie adjusting her voice based on the age and gender of the character. Even more impressive is watching Dee Bradley Baker alter his animal noises by changing how the air travels through his nose and throat. The techniques employed by each actor are amazing and watching them take us through the process of character creation essentially shows the audience the level of work involved in operating within the industry as a voice artist. For celebrities who get to dabble in animated features where they’re paid to sound like themselves, of course it’s a cakewalk, but DiMaggio, Reid, and Shapiro make sure to hammer it home that voice actors live and work by their ability to create new voices over and over again. Their paycheck comes from disappearing into a role.More Voice Actors

Interestingly enough, the film shows the rise in voice actor recognition with the prevalence of social media and conventions. Voice actors, now more than ever, have benefited from social media and interacting with the fans who are more aware of the people behind the voices. It’s a mutually beneficial interaction as fans get to meet and talk to the people responsible for their favorite characters while the actors get to see the size and scope of their fanbase. Conventions bring even more fan interaction with fandoms displayed for all to see as they reach across generations, many of them brought together by a voice they heard and never forgot. I can attest to that sentiment wholeheartedly.

Overall, I Know That Voice is a movie you want to see if you’re any kind of fan of animation or have the desire to go into voice acting. It’s informative, entertaining, and wonderfully nostalgic. Currently, you can buy or rent the film on iTunes and various media platforms. There are plans to eventually release it on DVD, but a date has yet to be announced.

If you’re also interested in listening to pretty much everyone interviewed in the documentary go into greater detail about their time in the industry, I’d recommend Rob Paulsen’s podcast Talkin’ Toons. And just for good measure, here’s the 2012 lineup of voice actors from Emerald City Comicon performing Star Wars using some of their well known characters to fill in the roles.