Wide Awake

Present day, pop-stars frequently peg themselves into niche markets, with extensive PR and branding. Until recently, Katy Perry had “bubble-gummed” herself quite effectively, labeling herself the “I Kissed a Girl”, the “California Girl”, and the “Teenage Dream”. Lyrical content of her 2012 release, “Wide Awake”, challenged this, beginning her rebranding to a more mature, vulnerable and introspective period for the artist. The song’s story telling promotes youth to adult transitioning, identifying three key phases of development: comfortable ignorance, turmoil catalyzing seeking, and resulting establishment of higher self awakening.
As the story begins, Katy narrates her past conflictedly, referring to it both as “cloud nine”, and a misreading of the stars. The use of paradigmatic self narration creates an introspective and reflective tone within the setting of Katy’s mind. Narrative catharsis creates an intimacy between speaker and listener, like the observing party were being told a personal secret by a close friend. Katy, also being the character of the story, shows some layered roundness from the unpredictable shift her music makes with this release. Previous releases largely focused on partying, love and sexuality; Wide Awake offers a more substantially revealing, authentic side of Katy’s personality.
Incurred experiences of  pain causally relate to Katy’s awakening. The lyrics, “Gravity hurts, You made it so sweet, ‘Til I woke up on, On the concrete” illustrate both the active event of Katy’s real world break up with Russel Brand and, the stative event of Katy’s paradigm shift, activating her mental liberation, allowing her to “wake up” and see life in a new way. Katy, picking up pieces of her wounds, realizes the futility of trying to control life, of fighting gravity. This allows her paradoxically to become more free. Now discovering her own limitations, Katy is more able to focus on what she can control. Herself. The story completes itself within a couple of core motions which convey the key moral of the song. Katy’s happiness is disrupted causing associated traumas and she turns the situation into something positive.
Wide Awake’s main claim is about the establishment of higher states of awareness; struggles in life need not just be struggles but instead can be used to build oneself into something higher. Like Katy, when we falling from external comforts, we too can “pick up every piece, and land on our feet” with new internal realizations. As she claims, truly, we “Need nothing to complete [ourselves]”. When one “lets go” of preconceived notions of perfection and attachments to the comfort of how things are, we inherit the opportunity to love and accept as well as reinterpret our realities and grow as individuals. This moral notion very much carries fidelity; each of us in our own lives will inevitably experience some kind of  loss or upset and will be forced to rebuild. Lyrics of this record are quite optimistic, reminding listeners of the alchemic relationship we share with life. Whether good or bad, our experiences shape us and give us nothing but opportunity to become richer, fuller personalities with ever expanding understandings of the world around and within us.
Could one artists reinvention mark a shift in pop culture? If it became mainstream to introspect and to continually try to better ourselves, what would happen to the world? What needs to happen for this to become reality? If we’re all our own narrators how much of life is really just perception? If the world is just perception, what’s left to call truth? The truth is, we’ll all find it on our own, but let’s hope these simple art forms can guide us on our journeys.

Works Cited
Cirkut. “Wide Awake.” By Bonnie McKee, Dr Luke, Katy Perry and Max Martin. Wide Awake. Katy Perry. Dr Luke and Cirkut, 2012. CD.
“Katy Perry Lately! (It’s Here! Take a Look at the Single Cover For…).” Katy Perry Lately! (It’s Here! Take a Look at the Single Cover For…). N.p., n.d. Web. 25 Jan. 2013.
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Perfection.

Flipping through a Seventeen magazine you always know what to expect. Perfection. Flawless skin, impeccable hair and skinny, toned bodies. Why is this perfection? What has made us believe that this is what women should look like? The answer would be media; some people may even say that we have been brain washed. Most women know that what media sets out to be “perfect” is not realistic but it is still what they believe. No matter how many people tell us we are beautiful or what we try convincing ourselves of, we all want to look like that girl on the cover of Seventeen.

Kesha- seventeen coverfree-seventeen-magazine-subscription

Last week I was with a few of my friends and we passed by a girl on the street that had long wavy hair with glowing skin and one of my friends said, “I wish I could look like that.” Instantly we all look back at her and felt jealous. At that moment it hit me, why do we let this “perfection” take over us? That night when I picked up my new edition of Seventeen I decided to look at things in a different way.  There were many advertisements and celebrities but one page in specific stuck out to me.  It was an advertisement for Tampax tampons, which read: “At a moment like this I don’t care if my tampons came in a little black box. I just want ‘em to work.” The word “this” was bolded, which immediately made me look closer at the “this” moment happening in the ad. It was a bunch of young adults partying on a beach in their bathing suits and one girl is doing the limbo. This girl caught my attention the most due to the fact that she is wearing a white bikini on her perfectly tanned skin. She is also the only girl in the ad that visibly doesn’t have any clothing on top of her bathing suit. With her long blonde hair and skinny body what came to my mind… perfection. It’s crazy to think that even a tampon advertisement can have an affect on the way someone thinks. The advertisement almost screams THIS is beauty, THIS is perfection and THIS moment is what you’re missing out on in life.

Tampax Advertisement

The other characters in the ad are also very predictable or as one could label them “flat”.  The boys are interacting with the pretty girls and one of them on the side is even touching the back of the girl next to him. This represents innocent flirting, which can give the readers of Seventeen (girls aged 13-24) the impression that this is what they need to look like to get guys attention. You might think a tampon ad is something that is just ignored and given no attention to in a magazine. This isn’t true, periods are one thing that every women lives with and tampons are a monthly expense. Having an ad for a brand which competing with another brand, which in this case is U by Kotex, the tampons that come in “a little black box” catches women’s attention. Every girl has her brand the one she likes the best. Everyone likes seeing a bit of competition and having it in this specific advertisement is reeling the readers in and is convincing them that the ad is believable and truthful.

Perfection. It’s what you make it out to be and what you chose to believe. It might be as simple as a tampon advertisement convincing you of what it is. Don’t let media convince you what ought to and ought not to be. We are all beautiful and perfect in our own way.

Scrubs- “My Own American Girl”

Elliot's makeover

“Scrubs” is a sitcom about the life of medical-intern J.D., he narrates each episode; summarizing the story’s message. The episode I will be analyzing is “My Own American Girl”; the setting is at Sacred Heart hospital. I will prove the two underlying messages are communicated by: independence leads to improvement, altering your appearance raises self-esteem and adapting to change leads to opportunities.

The first message is, “If you are unhappy then change yourself”; shown through Elliot (J.D.’s friend). To elaborate, Elliot is a meek, messy looking blonde girl that has bad luck; her new car gets damaged and then she runs into her ex-boyfriend, Sean who has a new girlfriend.

The effect of the first event (the car), impacts the latter (Sean), to make Elliot feel worthless; these events force her to realize she needs to change herself to turn her life around. She thinks to herself, “So you just gonna give up like you always do? Or get mad and do something about it?” (Scrubs. Elliot. Bill Lawrence. 2003). Her resolution is to get a makeover, the outcome of this decision gives her confidence; she returns to the hospital to stand up to an aggressive co-worker from earlier in the episode. This shows the positive results of being independent; by making the decisions to improve herself, she became a stronger person, as well her self-esteem rose because she improved her physical appearance. This matters because “Scrubs” implies women are only confident when they look attractive; this is the show’s one negative message that lacks coherence. The show’s message also relates back to the title, “My Own American Girl”; Elliot is the “American Girl” showing what it means to be “American”. A core value in America is freedom; the right to be an autonomous person, which the episode stresses the importance of. Elliot’s character implies independence comes from choosing to change yourself which will make you a better person, this change includes appearances which also leads to boosting confidence.

The second message “change is an opportunity”, focuses on J.D. In his narration he suggests there is a point in everyone’s life when there are no more surprises. However, from the very beginning of the episode changes are happening. Dr. Cox (J.D.’s superior) who he goes to for all his problems, is too busy to help J.D. with his patient. Instead of seeing the situation as an opportunity to find the answer by himself he asks his friends for help. He realizes though, “even when you put all your heads together sometimes you still can’t find the answer.” (Scrubs. J.D. Bill Lawrence. 2003). J.D. is a tall, lanky, dark haired goofy character; interpreted as incompetent. He discards the chance to prove he can rely on himself; his inability to change as a result gives him trouble diagnosing his patient.

The intended audience is eighteen to twenty-nine. J.D. and Elliot are relatable to the audience; young adults dealing with pressure from work and struggling to grow up. The story is consistent because the setting (hospital) and characters (medical staff) are connected to each other; the story is valid to the viewer. The moral of this episode of “Scrubs” could influence young adults to believe success comes from self-reliance, being physically attractive and adapting to change.

Works Cited

Lawrence, Bill, dir. “My Own American Girl.” Scrubs. NBC. 02 Oct. 2003. Television.

My Own American Girl (Elliot’s New Look). Bill Lawrence. YouTube. YouTube, 22 Apr. 2007. Web. 24 Jan. 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=7aA2JZz1p6Q&gt;.

“My Own American Girl-Scrubs Wiki.” Scrubs Wiki. Wikipedia, 02 Oct. 2003. Web Image. 24 Jan. 2013. <http://images.wikia.com/scrubs/image/5/5d/My_Own_American_Girl.png&gt;.

Here is a link to watch the full episode:

http://www.putlocker.com/file/1534RYLBVUQOCS4S

Gary Clark Jr.’s “Bright Lights”: Consumerism and Fame.

The blues song, Bright Lights, by Gary Clark Jr., released in 2011 is about the singer waking up in New York City, how the city influences him and the events that take place from there on. There are several active, syntagmatic events such as “taking shots, waiting for tomorrow”, but towards the end of the song Clark seems to have a realisation and reflects on the lifestyle he has been living. In my opinion the main idea of this song is to highlight the effect of consumerism and fame. The ‘big city’, firstly, makes him live this consumerist lifestyle, which explains his involvement with alcohol and one night stands that he conveys as trivial. Thus, the goal of this blog is to analyse how Clark emphasises the horrors of consumerism through negative underlying actions and messages.

First and foremost the lyrics “bright lights, big city going to my head” clearly explain Clark being blinded and corrupted by New York and it’s fast paced way of life. The fame he receives from the big city, and his actions influenced by the music business feed into his satisfaction, leading to more temptations. Moreover, Clark sings “I don’t care no, no; You don’t care” implying that he’s so accustomed to the consumerist life that it really doesn’t have any effect on him anymore, and his attitude is reinforced by the people around him.

His carefree approach is further emphasised through his, what appears to be, addiction to drugs and alcohol. He sings “Start up with the bottle; End it up with the bottle; Taking shots, waiting for tomorrow”. On the surface Clark seems to suggest that drinking all day, every day is normal, but at the same time he underlines and implies that it really is NOT normal! He goes on to sing “trying to fill up, whats hollow” suggesting that alcohol and drugs satisfy his needs and release his depression. Through this line, Clark stresses that even in the ‘big city’ with all the fame in the world and nothing to be depressed about, the consumerism has such a large and addictive influence on you that somehow you still have that “hollow”-ness and so you just keep feeding on it.

Moreover, the line “you gonna know my name by the end of the night” not only insinuates his scandalous way of life and having a one night stand but also accentuates his strive for fame and making sure he gets it. This is evident as he repeats the line “you gonna know my name” several times throughout the song.  Again, he’s being consumed by the rock-star way of life – ‘sex, drugs and rock & roll’.

However, it’s clear towards the end of the song Clark expresses a consciousness of his careless, carefree rock-star lifestyle in a fast paced world that he has been consumed by – “Wow I’m surprised that, I’m still alive I should breathe in”. He infers he knows what he’s doing is wrong and is glad to still be alive after everything. Therefore, through his negative actions, he raises awareness to consumerism and how you can become addicted to a lifestyle that is so easy to consume and want but in the end it leaves a terrible influence and scar on you. Nevertheless the song ends with him repeating “you gonna know my name by the end of the night” essentially indicating that he’s too deep in and so caught up with it that he can’t leave or else he loses the opportunity to become famous and successful.

bright lights

Narrative Perspective: Superman

Comic books are one form of entertainment that provide thrill and excitement of superheroes to many young boys and teens. They distinct what is “good” (hero) and what is “bad” (villain). One influential pop culture fictional superhero is Superman.  The character and his adventures portray the ideals of the right values vs. the wrong values in a western society for all young boys and men.

The character of Superman is not just one person, but is of two different types of character archetypes: Superman, an alien sent to earth from the planet Krypton, and his secret identity Clark Kent, an average reporter working at the Daily Planet. Superman is a physically built which gives young men something to aspire to become, and comes from a distant planet where the inhabitants look similar to humans, but are more advanced which gives him some connection to humans, yet is gifted and “god-like” to the people of earth. Superman’s planet, Krypton, was doomed to explode, and his father who was a scientist designed a rocket to send him to earth, which represents in a way someone coming from the old world and into the new world. This also relates to the fact that the character was created during WWII when immigrants were coming to America. Powered by the earth’s yellow sun, superman is given abilities that far surpass those of mortal man, using his gifts to fight for truth and justice, bringing criminals to justice, sending them to jail. Superman wears a distinctive uniform with the “S-shield” on his chest distinguishing his significance in the world. His only weakness is Kryptonite, a radioactive rock from his own planet that affects those who are from Krypton, reminder of his “humanity.”

Superman’s secret identity, Clark Kent, represents the good in humankind and how he does the “right” thing to help others. Clark was raised by John and Martha Kent, as a farm boy from Smallville, Kansas. This origin tells the viewer that Clark was raised with wholesome values when raised on a farm. When he got older, he decided to move to the city of Metropolis where he would become a reporter for the Daily Planet, and get top stories that tell people the truth in order for the betterment of mankind. Clark is has good intentions, is bright yet is very clumsy, and having a crush on his co-worker, Lois Lane, which he could never express his feelings for her because she is more interested in Superman. This tells the audience that all humans are not as perfect as Superman.

The setting for Superman, Metropolis, and the actions that take place in that setting define the morals and the consequences of those morals of the story. The city of Metropolis is a very clean, bright, state-of-the-art city, which thanks to the actions of Superman, continues to be a thriving civilization, telling the viewer that doing good makes a better environment. The events that are mostly taken place in Metropolis are crimes that are being committed by criminals, gangs and super-villains such as CEO Lex Luthor. This leads Superman to fight enemies which for the most part leads to some destruction, yet the people of Metropolis are grateful even though he has caused some destruction. Superman is also for the most part saving Lois Lane from danger when she tries to get a story but eventually becomes helpless in these kinds of situations, which tells the audience that women are helpless and need the help of men.

Superman’s character is genuine for inspiring young boys and teens of the western society to have “good” values by helping out their fellow-men and that there is a perfect male figure that must be maintained by the young men that follow the character. This is one pop culture artifact that will stand the tests of time to give people something to aspire to or hope for to have in the distant future.

The Emmy-Award Winning “Modern” Family

Every Wednesday at 9:00 pm, NBC has situated a time slot for the Emmy-Award Winning for Best Comedy Series called “Modern Family”.  This show puts a comedic twist to families struggling with difficult situations in their everyday lives.  Each episode portrays three different families: a traditional family, a blended family, and parents in same-sex relationship.  The traditional family consists of a middle-age mother and father, Claire and Phil, and their children, Haley, Alex, and Luke. The couple in a homosexual relationship, Mitchell and Cameron, adopted an interracial child, Lily, who completes their family. Claire and Mitchell’s father, Jay, who was recently remarried to a considerably younger woman named Gloria, make up the blended family, along with Gloria’s son, Manny.  Although this may sound like a colourful bunch of characters, through narrative analysis of the pilot episode, one could suppose that the morals they influence the audience to believe are not as “modern” as they appear. One can see that being married with children is the ideal family life, which is a definite outlier from present family life. In addition, the moral of the importance of family approval is still embraced rather than shown in a different perspective. One could also suggest that this show conceptualize the traditional family roles rather than modern family roles. Although Modern Family tries to situate itself as different from the all-American family life, it still influences their audience to ought to believe in the conventional family lifestyle.

When one thinks of a conventional family, the image that comes to mind is a married couple is children.  Modern Family is a perfect example of a show that is dedicated to this belief, targeting an audience that appeals to the family life. Claire and Phil’s family shows the image of a traditional family, where children show constant bickering with their siblings and the parents must act in their traditional family roles in order for them to properly function.  The pilot episode entails the major event of Cameron and Mitchell adopting a child, completing the traditional family persona. When Mitchell states, “Cam and I started feeling this longing for something more…maybe a baby…”, it is implied that having a child will fill a void in a relationship. As a result, the belief that is portrayed in this television show is that family must consist of a two-parent family with children.

Support within a family is of great importance; however, one could suggest that approval is not necessarily achieved in the modern day family life.  In Claire and Phil’s household, Phil was not approving of the way Claire chose to handle Luke’s punishment, but he supported this action regardless.  After the major event of Mitchell and Cameron adopting Lily, Mitchell was afraid of telling his family about this decision because of the judgement they may ensue.  He was right in assuming this fact, as Jay and Claire both initially agree that Mitchell might not be able to handle this responsibility; however, in the end of the episode, both Claire and Jay approve of this decision.  In this episode, Manny takes on the task of confessing his feelings for a girl in which Gloria insists that Jay should support his actions, even though Jay was strongly against it.  Consequently, the message that is being communicated to all viewers is that approval just because they are a family member is emphasized, a conventional moral that does not relate to modern day life.

The all-American family often suggests that there are two conventional roles that a person should take in a family situation: the mother and the father.  In the pilot episode, the motherly figure is clearly demonstrated in Claire and Gloria, who are overbearing when it comes to their children.  Even initially, Claire is adamant in the fact that Haley should not be wearing short skirts and Gloria is overly passionate during Manny’s soccer game. Both acts are clear overbearing attitudes that a traditional mother usually has over their children.  Even through Cameron and Mitchell, it is clear that Cameron is seen as the motherly figure, as Mitchell comments that Cameron has a more “womanly shape”.  In addition, the fathers of the household, Phil and Jay, are shown as the breadwinners of the family, who work and are less involved in supporting the growth of their children.  This can be seen through the scenes where Jay is less committed to supporting Manny’s quest of love and Phil not having the courage to discipline Luke.  Because of such a wonderful ending to the episode, the moral they suggest to the intended audience is that having these family figures will increase the chance of a successful family life.

To conclude, Modern Family tries to perform a modern take on the family life, but still falls short in this goal.  From watching the first pilot episode and analyzing it from a narrative perspective, one can see that conventional family life is still being supported.  The image of a traditional family is still supported where a couple must have a child to achieve happiness.  Moreover, approval and support from family members as a significant part of family life is another moral presented in this show that does not have a modern day perspective.  In addition, the belief in which family members must situate themselves in specific roles to live contentedly is emphasized in this television show.  Although Modern Family does try to influence a modern society, one can only advocate that the messages and morals it tries to portray does not correlate with the majority of modern day thinking.