Everything is Competence Porn and That is Good

The reviews for Ridley Scott’s The Martian has been summed up as “competence porn” by many critics because it shows an intelligent person “science the sh*t” out of a bad situation. It seems like the 2009 coined term, competence porn, has a bad reputation when it shouldn’t. Every inch and cranny of our media consumption shows competent geniuses solving problems other average Joes’ could not. The same way competence is good for drama, incompetence is great for comedy e.g Veep or Silicon Valley. Every comic book film, Christopher Nolan picture, Shondaland TV show, and so many others revolve around the best and the brightest because intelligence is equivalent to magic to us.

Competence porn is a self congratulatory celebration of a writer or creator’s own intelligence. Watching extremely talented people do their jobs well is not dramatic. However, it is dramatic if you perceive everyone around you to be dumb and incompetent. Then you will have to use your expertise to save, con, take down, or conquer the idiots.

And I love it.

The Martian does this by making the planet Mars look like the idiot in the room.

According to Slate writer Sharan Shetty ” ‘competence porn’ is a truly excellent phrase for an old phenomenon; the frisson of watching smart people tackle tasks with freaky aptitude dates as far back as Robinson Crusoe. Liam Neeson, in movies like Taken and The Grey, is the James Deen of competence porn.”

We live in a world where everyone in our films and on our TV screens, digital devices and so on is Sherlock Holmes. They can look at a problem and figure it out in a mere few minutes. What makes this trope exhausting is not that everyone to 2009’s Star Trek to BBC’s Sherlock and beyond is a expert in their respective field; it is that the main characters are white.

Diversity will and has made this trope more interesting. For example, if the 2014 film Whiplash starred an black drummer from the inner city, the film would be drastically different than the one we have. The film is amazing as is but we have seen this before. One film that comes to mind is Black Swan.

We are already seeing this change on TV. Think about it. Annalise Keating portrayed by Viola Davis in How to Get Away With Murder is extremely competent at being a lawyer. Every case is solve in a matter of 45 minutes and she never loses. The fact that a black woman is shown to be the most competent on a TV show is impressive to me as an avid TV watcher when TV is flooded with extremely competent white characters. This can be said about Algernon Edwards from The Knick, Alex Parrish from Quantico, Olivia Pope from Scandal, Beaumont Rosewood from Rosewood, John Luther from Luther, Mary Jane Paul from Being Mary Jane and even Cookie Lyons from Empire who manages to save everyone on the show.

The best example of this competence porn featuring a POC is MR. Robot. Our main character Elliot is of mixed race and he manages to bring the down the entire global financial system all from a computer. It is a brilliant show and it is refreshing because it doesn’t focus on a typical white hacker/ programmer.

I mean if I was white, I would wonder: Are there any competent people of color? The oversaturation gets boring. It is like eating steak everyday of your life. The first few are delicious but sooner or later you will want chicken, fish, pork, etc.

New and different competent faces shakes up a trope that has been around since The Odyssey.

So yes The Martian is competence porn and that is not a problem. Hopefully, Idris Elba, Priyanka Chopra or Angela Bassett gets an opportunity to be competent in a similar film. That is all I am saying.

The Philosophy of Halt and Catch Fire

Published on the Celebritycafe.com

2015 has been a weird year for TV. Empire was the hottest show in the beginning of the year and Game of Thrones is currently the biggest show every time of the year. The irony is that these two popular shows are treated differently. GOT is proclaimed as a prestige show by TV critics. But some would ask why? It seems like every week there is a new controversy. There is an explicit and unnecessary rape scene. There is an unnecessary nude scene or sexposition. The writing and dialogue fluctuates drastically from season to season and episode to episode. Personally, the fourth season was the best of the show and the fifth lacks a good villain. So clearly GOT has some issues but it remains one of the most popular shows on TV.

Empire, however, is not a prestige show. The story of a street hustler becoming a rap mogul and the internal conflict in his family and business is front and center. This show was a national sensation pulling in 10s of millions each week and dominating Wednesday night. But will it win awards and will it become a prestige show. Maybe but more likely no.

What is and isn’t a prestige TV show is extremely random. A show can be seen by everyone and get nominated for a few Emmys and still be prestige. At the same time a show can be seen by no one and get overlooked by the Emmys but as long as critics adore it the show is prestige TV. To be quite honest there are only five American TV shows that aired in 2014 that is prestigious: The Americans, The Knick, True Detective, Halt and Catch Fire, and Mad Men.

All of the shows listed had great performances, great directing and cinematography, and fantastic writing. There is a consistency between each episode that other shows lack. Out of all of the shows, Halt and Catch Fire is probably the best and most under-appreciated.

This show is like Mad Men and the first two seasons of House of Cards had a baby and allowed Tywin Lannister to raise it. Halt and Catch Fire is a show about the early days of computing in Dallas AKA the silicon prairie. Three people will lie, steal, and destroy everything in order to build a portable computer that will change everything.

Lee Pace is Joe McMillan. A man who is a 1980s version of Don Draper with a splash of the scheming- Machiavellian- masterminds Francis Underwood and Lord Baelish AKA Little Finger. Mackenzie Davis is Cameron Howe the brilliant software engineer and outcast who does what she wants and don’t care. The last piece of the trio is the brains and designer of the computer Gordon Clark played by Scoot McNairy. The show focuses on the David and Goliath struggles of a small company competing with the likes of IBM.

Watching this show on Netfilx made me wonder why I didn’t see it in the first place and the answer is simple, the name is …different or just bad. However, I thought about it and as I watched the show the title began to make sense. It is a command that takes over the computer and makes it pretty much useless. This show plays out the idea of tech taking over people’s lives for the better and for the not so good. Cameron drops out of college and loses a friend/mentor over hacking and building the PC. Joe actively destroyed peoples’ lives because he wanted to beat his dad at IBM and prove that he can succeed without him. And Gordon almost lost his family and his talented wife,Donna, because of the need to build a machine and feel accomplished.

Simply put, Halt and Catch Fire is the best show on TV. Watch on AMC.

5 Reasons Atlanta Is the New Hotbed for the Entertainment Industry

Originally Posted on Blerds.

Written By Ricky Riley

There is a reason Atlanta is called the Empire City of the South. Like New York City, Atlanta has become a cultural center for the arts and entertainment industry. Many celebrities make the city their home, such as rapper and actor T.I., director Tyler Perry, singer and actress Brandy and many others. The city has also been a mecca for the Southern rap and hip-hop scene. For these reasons, the city has attracted the movie and television industry. This list will give reasons why the industry continues to come back.

800px-Downtown_atlanta_nightAtlanta Is a Hub for Tech and Business Innovators 

According to the Atlanta Journal-Constitution, “Booming professions include sound engineering technicians, camera operators and producers. Audio and video equipment technicians are expected to lead the pack, with a projected 22 percent growth in jobs over the next seven years.” It’s more than that though. Atlanta is home to many Fortune 500 companies that have pumped billions of dollars into the state. Georgia has a consumer market valued at more than $73 billion. The top five companies that have made their headquarters in Atlanta are Home Depot, Coca-Cola, Delta Airlines, United Parcel Services and The Southern Company.

Rupert Murdoch and ‘Empire’s’ Hold on Black America

Just this Wednesday, 2015’s biggest smash hit Empire, had its season finale drawing in 17 million viewers to ever growing viewership. Empire is probably my favorite show of 2015 so far beating out Archer and How to Get Away with Murder. The show has everything a good drama should have and every week its packs a wallop to the face. It hinges on the performances of Taraji P. Henson and Terrence Howard’s one –two combo as Cookie and Lucious Lyon respectively.  The only problem is that it is on my least favorite network: Fox. A show that is the perfect fusion of the UPN shows of my youth and the quality of a Shonda Rimes joint is on a network that has deemed themselves the savior of the black community. It can’t be. I am a good liberal and a tolerant person. I am experiencing a level of cognitive dissonance no other person has felt because I support a show created by a network that does not particularly hold black people in a good light.

Empire does something no other all-black show has ever done before. It has fully hurled its self into the issue of homophobia in the black community. Lucious Lyon was a gangster turn hip hop mogul that happened to have a gay son who can sing R and B. Lucious throws his son in the trash can when Jamal is just a boy after walking down stairs in high heels and a scarf. This show and that aspect about it was based off of Lee Daniels own life. The fact makes Empire unique in the pantheon of black shows and Jamal’s personal journey is a central plotline.

“With Empire, Fox has landed the top-rated new series on broadcast TV in more than a decade — and a show more popular in black households than even the Super Bowl, according to Nielsen. This week’s finale — a two-hour block consisting of a pair of episodes with the now-familiar mix of surprise twists, criminal misdeeds and catfights — drew an average of 16.7 million total viewers,” according to Los Angeles Times reporter Scott Collins.

Critics of the show point out that black actors and actresses are reduced to playing the same tired stereotypes: whores and gangsters, ghetto and violent, and loud and ignorant. According to actor and rapper Bow Wow, “When we were still filming Cyber episodes, Empire‘s first episode premiered. Fans were saying, ‘Man, you should have been on the show.’ But we all don’t rap or play basketball,” he said. “We can do so many things. There are young African-Americans who are intelligent enough to work at the FBI. That’s what’s so bright. Hopefully, I can help start a new wave of young black actors who don’t want to stereotype themselves.”

Bow Wow and many others like him are so wrong.  There is a multitude of black characters that reflect the wide variety of black experiences in this nation portrayed on this show. Those white people who do watch this show will hopefully see that there are black rich brats, black overachievers, black gay-artistic-prodigies, strong black mothers who sacrifice their freedom, and black Machiavellian masterminds.  However, those white people who can’t see that must have eye problems.

Scholar Dr. Boyce Watkins who criticized the show before even admits that the show is good but has reservations.

Media is about narratives and promoting a set of ideas. This extremely liberal show is too good for Fox. However, the history suggest otherwise. The same network had an entire host of other groundbreaking black shows. For example In Living Color (1990-94), Martin and the Bernie Mac Show were just a few of the shows that brought in very good ratings for the network.  Currently shows like The Mindy Project, Brooklyn Nine-Nine and The New Girl feel like NBC or ABC shows mainly because of their diversity and open-mindedness.

African Americans in Hollywood have had to fight for the leading roles in TV because they were never really offered to them. Black women especially did not have leading roles because of issues of race, standards of beauty, and network bias. In 2015, Taraji P. Henson, Viola Davis, and Kerry Washington lead three of the most popular network TV shows. Each of them are giving Emmy quality performances and breaking records while doing it.

With all of this good, it is impossible to forget the truth: Empire is a Fox TV show. The same network were pulling up your pants will save black people from systematic racism, the same network were Bill O’Reilly that told scholar Marc Lamont Hill that he looked like a coke dealer,  the Benghazi obsessed, black conservative –agenda- having network has the most popular show in black households.

The world is a crazy place. I am conscientious in my viewing but I support the actors and black people in front of the camera and behind because they have created something worth liking. I can still dislike Murdoch’s political views and Fox news and still watch the show. I also understand why others a hesitant.

 

Black Voice Actors

Regina King

King has had many iconic acting roles in shows like Southland (2009-13) and 227 (1985-90) and in 1990s films like Poetic Justice, Boyz n the Hood, Friday and Jerry Maguire. However, she has also voiced the iconic Huey and Riley Freeman from The Boondocks (2005-14).

The Money of Gender Inequality: Capitalism reinforces the gender binary and it can also destroy it

I started working at the age of 16 in an attempt to make enough money to buy fast food and go to the movies.  Ever since that young age I have had 10 female superiors in every job that I worked. Just twenty years ago, the field of journalism and media was dominated by white men with gray manes. In many ways that still rings true but the landscape is quickly changing. Three of my female superiors were entrepreneurs, two were high ranking producers at a major news network, three of them were women of color, and six of them had advance degrees.

You might be wondering why I am telling you this. What does this have to do with anything? Well, the answer is simple: capitalism is reason for this change and it is also the reason I have to illustrate that women have taken a leap forward in a mainly male dominated industry.

Capitalism can keep the gender binary and patriarchy in place or it can change it for the better. During WWII, women went into the workplace as capable and competent workers doing the jobs their husbands did during antebellum. Rosie the riveter became a symbol smashing through traditional gender roles in the 1940s.

However, in the 1950s the nation seemed to have forgotten that. Instead of women workers dominating factories, they were placed back into the kitchen with shiny new appliances like the microwave and the dishwasher.

Without knowing it at the time, corporations and American capitalism became a driven spark to the feminist movement of the 1960s. In just than two decades a paradigm shift occurred and it wasn’t because of overt sexism but because of dogmatic patriarchy and returning to the status quo.

According to Sue Davis from Worker.org, “the U.S. is a world leader in backwardness and misogyny toward women — with women on average making 77 cents for every dollar men are paid (and even less for women of color), rampant violence against women (especially poor women, lesbians and trans women, and women of color), and vicious attacks on birth control and abortion rights, as well as all components of reproductive justice. “

Capitalism plays up the gender roles in order to get more production from workers.  In an attempt not to sound like a Marxist, traditional gender roles are used as marketing ploys, ideas like blue is for boys, girls like to play with dolls, men drink a lot of beer, and women having orgasisms while washing their hair.  If we look at the male stereotype of the protector and provider, we can see the problems this can cause to a man and a woman. Let’s look at this scenario:

A husband works two jobs because he refuses to let his wife work but the house needs two incomes. As he works two full time jobs, he never gets to see his kids. While the wife is struck with the kids all the time and doing all of the housework, helping with homework, and being a single parent. She never gets to grow and pursue a career and the husband will have no impact on his offspring.  While this happens corporations make money hand over foot at the expense of families.

Some would think that traditional gender roles would be a fixture in our economic system but it does not have to be. If we look at the idea of the housewife /househusband stereotype, we can see that the idea of  women and men that stay at home has changed because of capitalism. The reasons for this is simple. Through Capitalism we have fast food restaurants ready to provide entire meals for family.  As time progress onward the menus will increasingly get more healthy as demanded by the consumer.

When we shop in the grocery store frozen foods line freezers just waiting to be popped in the oven.  There are also prepackaged salads and pre-cut fruits to fulfill our health needs. Just like that an instance meal is created thanks to capitalism.  No one has to cook anything if we chose not to. Especially, stay at home parents.  They are free to pursue an online degree, work from home or anything else while the kids are at school.

When it comes to cleaning there have been inexpensive robotized maids in the form of roombas that has hit the market to sweep and mop your floors. Because of capitalism, daycares have taken the charge in rearing our children when schools can not. The machine that is capitalism will make every task we do a money making institution for better and for worse. In the case of gender roles, the tasks that were associated with men and women have been blurred. The home and the workplace are no longer prescribed to one or the other.  At this time in history, we are at an impasse.

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From YaleGlobal

We live in a new world where women are more educated than men, capable of leading corporations, and still managing their families if they choose to do so. The table above shows the countries where women are pursuing higher education.  This means that women are becoming highly qualified workers ready to be hired and sadly these numbers do not reflect job placement just yet.

The major issue with capitalism and gender politics is that it takes a step forward in the right direction and then takes three steps back to old time patriarchy. Just last year Republicans blocked a bill that would  make equal pay for women a mandate. Also last year, Hobby Lobby seem to have found a way to disregard the needs of its female workers.

The reality is that  “women have represented about 57 percent of enrollments at American colleges since at least 2000; they tend to have higher grades; men tend to drop out in disproportionate numbers; and female enrollment skews higher among older students, low-income students, and black and Hispanic students,” according to Alex Williams from the New York Times. Yet women can’t get a break.

The question is how do women prosper in a backwards system. I think the adage of  fighting fire with fire applies here. If a venue does not exist, create a new one. Owning your own business is the best way to guarantee equal treatment and fairness.  If corporations fail to see your value, leave them, boycott them, and find corporations that will. The inevitable is already happening. If men failed to be educated well and fail to pursue higher education with the same vigor as women, companies will have no choice but to higher women to management  positions because men won’t have the qualifications to get the job done.

Eventually, things will change because that is the course of Capitalism.  Maybe women are that change.

#BlackLivesMatter: Riots And Rally Cries

 

Ferguson-police-Protest-rally-hold-vigils-during-daylight-hours

http://www.mintpressnews.com/MyMPN/blacklivesmatter-riots-rally-cries/1355/

Underrated TV Shows of 2014: ‘The Knick,’ ‘Utopia’ and more | TheCelebrityCafe.com

Underrated TV Shows of 2014: ‘The Knick,’ ‘Utopia’ and more | TheCelebrityCafe.com.

Summer 2013 and the Creativity Process

pacificrim_jaegers_wallpaper

People are not stupid. Even though Grown Ups 2 and Despicable Me 2 out-grossed Pacific Rim, doesn’t mean that people are stupid. It just means that people don’t like to try things that are different. The problem is that if people had to choose between trying something new and something that they know works, they choose what they are accustomed to. This isn’t a new idea but it could be if we look at it differently. Pacific Rim is not an original concept. It is just not a popular concept as Adam Sandler or a mediocre kid’s film. A giant robot fighting a giant monster is not a revolutionary concept. The amount of violence used to fight off the monsters should be enough to sell tickets but in the end it just wasn’t. That is why a corporation agreed to green-lit the production in the first place. The problem lies with the standards of people, family fun time and so called smart people that criticize everything but make nothing. All forms of entertainment can’t be thought-provoking, philosophical masterworks. Sometimes it has to be stupid and right on the nose like many of Adam Sandler’s films. These bad works make us appreciate the good pieces of entertainment that we hold as masterpieces. There needs to be a Transformers movie for every District 9.

People know exactly what to expect. People like predictability and certainty in all phases of their lives; and movies are no different. If you find a restaurant that serves the best hot wings in the city, you will continue to go there. You don’t need to try and find a new restaurant because then you have to figure out the menu, the prices, and serving sizes. New things require more time to get invested in and corporations know that people just don’t have that time and don’t want to put in that effort. That is why we get the same repackaged crap. So if we want different and better things we have to stop buying SHIT but that won’t happen.

I don’t care about the quality of new products. I only care if new products exist and that is what makes me different from so call intellectual critics that believe that all entertainment has to be perfect.

Critics are not valuable unless they criticize things they like and if they are artists in that respective field. What I mean is that film makers should criticizes films that are similar to films that they have made. If you like and make sci-fi films; review them. The fallacy comes in when the artist believes that he/she can make it better than the artist’s work he/she is criticizing. Art is personal. Art reflects the Artist. With all of that, I believe that Corporations are vital to artists today. Without Youtube many independent artists would be irrelevant. Think about that for a minute. Corporations help spread ideas and help fund visionary projects. Without Fox, there would be no Star Wars. Without New Line Cinema, there would be no Lord of the Rings films.

In conclusion, I want people to look at the big picture. Corporations are God. They create everything we like, eat, wear, drink, drive, live in, and that is never going to change.  Artists should like to work with a corporation. People should also support new ideas to keep artists interested in working with corporations.

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