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Month: March, 2013

Meme Project

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        For my meme project I chose The Most Interesting Man In The World. This meme is one of the most popular memes on the internet, and was created after an advertising campaign by Dos Equis in 2006. This advertising campaign, created by Euro RSCG Worldwide, “starred American actor Jonathan Goldsmith as ‘the most interesting man’ with narration by Will Lyman, best known for his narrating role in the public affairs TV program Frontline” (knowyourmeme). In each advertisement, Will Lyman would list interesting things that Jonathan Goldsmith’s character has done, and then at the end of the commercial, Jonathan Goldsmith says “I don’t always drink beer, but when I do, I prefer Dos Equis,” followed by “stay thirsty, my friends.” From this setting, a still image of Jonathan Goldsmith’s character sitting in front of a Dos Equis bottle was transformed into a very popular meme in early 2010. The meme’s caption is designed as follows: “I don’t always do X, but when I do, I Y.” In this template, “I don’t always do X” is the top line, and “but when I do, I Y” is the bottom caption. However, like all memes, this template can be broken and used as a meme itself.

            I chose The Most Interesting Man In The World because it is one of my favorite memes and it’s interesting to analyze. It was not created as a meme, it was created as an advertisement, which I believe makes it more exciting than say, “Y U NO” guy, which is an image created simply to be a meme. Additionally, Mr. Interesting over here has a nice caption template and a sarcastic tone that appeals to me greatly. This sarcastic tone is also important in understanding the kinds of messages the meme tries to send. For starters, this meme, like most internet memes, is meant to be humorous. If you aren’t at least amused after reading derivations of this meme, it is an invalid derivation, even if it uses the template correctly. Additionally, this meme is meant to be ironic. “I don’t always do X, but when I do, I Y” can be rephrased as “Whenever I X, I Y.” As these two sentences are equivalent, either both of them will be funny, or neither will. If you look as the second sentence, it is easy to see that the only way that statement can be humorous is if sarcasm and irony are used to choose an X and Y that either a) you wouldn’t normally associate together, or b) is very relatable to you. For example, my memes about meat and music are both very relatable, but to different overlapping audiences. On the other hand, my meme about this project works because it’s bizarre to think about turning in a project late and making a meme for your professor about it. The audience for this is again different from the first two examples.

            Audience is an extremely important consideration when creating or describing a meme. First of all, my audience is limited to English speaking people. I admit this is obvious, but it is always an important factor to consider. Also, an internet meme’s audience is immediately limited by the nature of internet meme’s. If someone doesn’t know what a meme is, most if not all memes won’t make much sense to them. Additionally, the people who don’t know this particular meme, but do know memes in general further limit my audience. Without knowledge of the caption template, some of the meaning will be lost. These considerations give us the maximum audience for a The Most Interesting Man In The World meme. Now each meme will have a different audience. Let’s start with the meat example. This meme probably has the smallest audience of the three memes, because I am referencing a feeling about Notre Dame in particular. So current or former Notre Dame students are the audience for this meme. The music meme is much more universal, because I’m pretty sure anyone who listens to music knows how it feels to forget the name of a song you like. So this audience would be pretty close to everyone who understands the meme. Finally, the project meme doesn’t depend solely on relating to the audience, but the audience still has to understand the context of the situation. So the audience of this would be anyone who both understands the structure of the meme and has turned in a project late. So there you have it, three memes, all different, all using the same format, just like a thousand other The Most Interesting Man In The World memes that are created every day.

Quiz 3: Memes as Organic Information

1. According to Richard Dawkins, ideas contain some of the properties of biological organisms. Some of these ideas include evolution, growth, communication, replication, and adaptation. In other words, an idea or meme can “take on a life of its own” once it had been created, and can change as it is transmitted from person to person. I believe this is a very cool way of viewing memes, especially given the increased communication provided by the internet. When ideas are constantly transmitted between so many people, change occurs quickly and noticeably, emphasizing the “organic” traits described by Dawkins. On sites where memes are regularly distributed and used to exchange information, it is obvious how an unassuming picture can be posted, turned into a meme with distinct unwritten rules, and seen by thousands of people, all in a matter of hours. For example, on reddit.com today, this image was posted 12 hours ago: http://i.imgur.com/r0LaiUh.jpg. Then 8 hours ago, the image was transformed into a meme and posted: http://www.quickmeme.com/meme/3tb05z/. Then 6 hours ago came this one: http://i.imgur.com/gnPNwGa.jpg. This is a perfect example of Richard Dawkin’s ideas on memes in human society. An idea is created, and then shared. It evolves into a meme format, adapting to its online environment, and shared again. This one image creates spin-off memes that follow the same unwritten rules as the first, the picture of the “sarcastic dog” with a dog-related pun matching the unenthused facial expression of the husky. By thinking of ideas and memes in this way, the transformation of ideas can be specifically broken-apart and studied.

2. This quote is taken from the very end of the Gleick’s article, and is used in a discussion about the existence of ideas outside of the mind, in a sort of “infosphere”. James argues that ideas have existence within themselves, and humans are simply the only ones who can see and interact with these ideas. He also shows that we cannot control the spread and evolution of ideas, even within out own mind. Our mind is just a vessel to contain and sustain ideas, which act as a sort of parasite inside of us. If you hear a song on the radio, it becomes part of you, residing inside your head. You may not like the song, you may want to forget you ever heard it, but this is outside your power. Once an idea has taken root, it cannot be destroyed easily, and when you least expect or desire its attention, that song you once heard on the radio may come back to the forefront of your consciousness. In this way, it is easy to see what Gleick means by a master/slave dynamic, and how we really can’t control how ideas spread and change.

3. The “Actual Advice Mallard” and “Malicious Advice Mallard” are two example of famous internet memes. “Actual Advice Mallard” was first, and it is a picture of a green mallard that is used to convey good advice to people who read the meme, such as the USB tape example on the quiz page. “Malicious Advice Mallard” on the other hand, is a meme that was created soon after “Actual Advice Mallard” first presented itself, and is the same mallard picture colored red, which gives horrible advice such as microwaving your pet. This meme is a another great example of how the concepts discussed in Gleick are relevant to information in today’s society. Similarly to the husky example in 1, the meme was first thought-up and spread through the internet in meme form. This shows adaptation of the meme to its environment (the internet). From there, another person saw the meme and thought of a sarcastic parody that could be created with “Malicious Advice Mallard.” This is an example of idea evolution. The “Malicious Advice Mallard” only makes sense if you know about and understand “Actual Advice Mallard,” which only makes sense if you understand the workings of internet memes. These ideas have parents and children and grow and spread just like the organisms discussed by Dawkins.

Visual Analysis

Figure 12

5. What is the composition of the image?

The figure is composed of a bright green rectangle that serves as a sign. Inside this rectangle are two black squares with yellow and white writing. The upper square says “Spylepedal” and then “Toilet flush pedal,” while the bottom square shows a large yellow arrow pointing down.

2. What social, political, and cultural forces affect the image?

This sign is formatted in the common European Union format, which immediately makes it stand out in any situation. This formatting provides ethos to the sign, which seems more authoritative because it looks official. Font, bright green color, relation between the text and the arrow, and size all cue the viewer to this conclusion. This sign is primarily written in Norwegian, and the EU produced it, so this picture was taken in a governmental location in Norway. The culture of Norway affected the language of the sign, and the EU’s involvement impacted its appearance.

4. What kinds of details, symbols, and codes send messages in the image?

The sign’s arrow pointing down means whatever idea the sign is supposed to convey, it should be directed downward. The words “Toilet flush pedal” indicate the sign is located in a bathroom, and give context to the direction provided by the arrow. Therefore, the arrow is pointing towards a lever or pedal below the sign, which is used to flush the toilet. The bright color of the sign grabs the attention of the reader and helps convey the intended message.

6. Do you think there might be any tension between the image’s intention and reception?

Yes. The EU is home to a plethora of languages, and works to ensure easy access to its different locations and cultures. Therefore, the two languages present on the sign will sometimes be completely useless. Then, the only message the sign provides is a downward direction, and the context of being in a bathroom. The intended message may still be received, but it is possible that different cultures from other countries might have different restrooms, and the pedal could be interpreted to have a different meaning.

Afraid & Amazed

I desperately wanted each frame to draw itself a moment longer as I stared with unblinking eyes. Each click of the pause button was minutes spent admiring the detail in the fantastical dreamscape before me. One watching turned into two, and then three, and so it went as I fell helplessly into Spirited Away, and the imagination of filmmaker Hayao Miyazaki.

As director, artist, and screenwriter, Miyazaki is the mastermind of Studio Ghibli, and has breathed life into some of the greatest animated films of all time. Love and creativity permeate all his movies, creating exquisitely drawn worlds filled with compelling characters. However, the clear pinnacle of Miyazaki’s achievement is Spirited Away, a seemingly unassuming film about a 10-year-old girl’s coming-of-age experience while trying to rescue her parents. While the story may not seem particularly interesting at face value, few movies ever produced form as powerful an emotional connection as Spirited Away, and none of Miyazaki’s films achieve the same level of feeling. The source of this personal impact in the movie is Chihiro, the most sympathetic protagonist anywhere in Miyazaki’s filmography.

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Chihiro, the aforementioned 10-year-old girl, is moving to a new town with her parents. Along the way, her father makes a wrong turn into a forest and they reach a dead-end with a tunnel. On the other side is an abandoned theme park filled with empty restaurants. Food inexplicably appears at one counter and the parents immediately begin to gorge themselves. Chihiro wants to leave but she can’t convince her parents to move, so she decides to walk around the town. Night is falling and the park’s paper lanterns begin to light. Shadows deepen and dark figures start to mull around. Chihiro is terrified and runs back to find her parents, who are still eating. As she approaches the counter they turn to face her, but they have been transformed into pigs. After running away and finding herself trapped in a bizarre spirit world, Chihiro must now singlehandedly rescue her parents so they can all escape.

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Following these opening scenes, you first feel nervous, then suspenseful, followed by afraid, shocked, and confused. If you spend a moment thinking, these are the exact emotions that Chihiro experiences through the first ten minutes of the film. This effect is neither accident nor coincidence, but directly intended by Miyazaki. Chihiro plays such a powerful character, that she becomes a piece of cinematography herself. Miyazaki can simply mold the story of Chihiro, scare and amaze her, draw out tears, or paint a beaming smile, and the audience will stare on, engrossed. It seems amazing that a character could hold so much sway with an audience, but of course this is no accident either.

Although Spirited Away is an animated film, cinematography is just as important as in a live-action movie. In fact, animation can achieve many things a traditional movie cannot, such as angles that would be impossible to capture with a camera, or landscapes and characters that exist nowhere outside the mind. Size is an important factor that is exploited by Miyazaki in the film. Chihiro is often portrayed as small and feeble to dramatize her peril and sorrow, forcing the audience to sympathize more with her struggle. As the film progresses, she appears stronger and more confident, which eventually allows the movie to switch gears towards the end to a more optimistic view of her situation. Additionally, water is used to convey a sense of both entrapment and freedom, increasing the feeling of the film. Chihiro stares off into the distance towards the pen where her parents are being kept and towards the human world on numerous occasions. Each time, there is a large body of water between where Chihiro stands and where she longs to reach, making the distance feel larger and more inaccessible than it would otherwise.

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Music also plays an absolutely crucial role in the development and tone of the film. Joe Hisaishi composed the soundtrack for Spirited Away and did a remarkable job. For example, in the opening scene in the abandoned town, “The Dragon Boy” plays and fills the mood with suspense as Chihiro runs while the shadows grow ominously.

The main theme of the movie is “One Summer’s Day,” which is a slow, sad song that is often inserted during Chihiro’s episodes of longing for her old life.

Music is always crucial in any serious film, and Spirited Away would not evoke the same emotions without the award-winning beauty created by Hisaishi. However, Miyazaki understands the value of silence, and there are many moments where the movie is still and quiet, and you are just left with your feelings for Chihiro and her fantastical story.

The imaginative world of Miyazaki is lovable and beautiful, but also necessary. Spirited Away would flop in any other setting because the normal world no longer creates the emotions we felt when we were children. Chihiro is constantly filled with fear and awe, and so are the viewers. The primary purpose of Miyazaki’s imagination is to separate his audience from familiarity, and allow them to feel the sense of discovery from their youth. Miyazaki’s skillful animation is key to creating a “believable” setting for Chihiro’s story. His creativity and skill places everyone in the same place as Chihiro: confused, awestruck, and in the unknown. Tim Brayton, a movie critic, perfectly explains the point of Miyazaki’s animation and world.

That’s the great achievement of this great animated film: it understands that the true meaning of fantastic worlds is not what they show us, but how they make us feel in doing so.

Late in the film, Chihiro must travel on a train to save her friend, which seems to be the only way to leave the bathhouse where she works. She must take a small boat to the station, a small platform raised above miles of water. The tracks run about a foot under the surface, and stretch out into the distance. Chihiro is traveling with a baby-turned-mouse named Boh, and the spirit No Face, neither of who can talk. As the train approaches, “The Sixth Stop” begins to play in the background.

When Chihiro boards the train, a faceless trainmaster shreds her tickets and disappears into a different cabin. She doesn’t know where she’s going, she only knows she must take the sixth stop. The train is full of more faceless figures, shadowy humans who are stuck in the spirit realm. They don’t talk either. The music is mysterious yet serene, and seems to hang a wondering silence over the scene. Who are these people? What are their stories? As the stops go by the train becomes emptier. At one stop the camera is shown from Chihiro’s point of view looking behind to a shadowy girl who looks about her age. Did she stumble into this world like Chihiro did, and is now stuck? Could this be her future? Chihiro looks determined, but the entire sequence is somewhat unsettling, and mysterious. Eventually the train is empty except for Chihiro and her company, and they reach the sixth stop.

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Miyazaki does beautiful work by effectively placing the viewer into his world and relating them to Chihiro’s situation, but this still doesn’t explain why the audience cares, not only for Chihiro but also for then complete cast of misfit characters. Roger Ebert, a famous movie reviewer for the Chicago Sun-Times, has his own idea of how Miyazaki’s creations inspire so much feeling.

The story of Spirited Away has been populated with limitless creativity. Has any film ever contained more different kinds of beings that we have never seen anywhere before? Miyazaki’s imagination never rests. There is a scene where the heroine and her companion get off a train in the middle of a swamp. In the distant forest they see a light approaching. This turns out to be an old-fashioned light pole that is hopping along on one foot. It bows to them, turns, and lights the way on the path they must take. When they arrive at a cottage, it dutifully hangs itself above the gate. The living light pole is not necessary. It is a gift from Miyazaki.

Small stories of complex characters are everywhere in Spirited Away. Boh is the sheltered child of Yubaba, the owner of the bathhouse and the villain of the film. Zeniba, Yubaba’s sister, transforms Boh into a mouse, who follows Chihiro on her adventure and sees the world for the first time with wide eyes. Boh’s excitement and awe serve to fill viewers with a renewed sense of wonder at the amazing sights of Miyazaki’s world, and remind us how strange it all really is.

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There are tiny soot balls that populate the boiler room of the bathhouse. These soot cannot talk, or move beyond a little square on the floor where they carry coal to the furnace, yet they convey complex emotions and are engaging characters. At first Chihiro is afraid of them, then she tries to help them, and they help hide her human clothes so she can remember her old self.

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Spirited Away may be a coming-of-age story about a sullen 10-year-old girl, but for viewers it is an impactful emotional journey. Miyazaki gives this film as a gift to the world, so everyone can remember what it once felt like to be afraid and amazed as a child. Some critics, such as David Nusair, believe that the film is “unwatchable strange.” However, these people are the minority and fail to understand the true purpose of Miyazaki’s animated world, and are unreceptive to the imagination of a genius. I could tell you to watch Spirited Away because it grossed more than any other film in Japan, ever. I could tell you it won an Academy Award for Best Animated Picture, the only foreign film to do so. But instead I’ll tell you this: watch Spirited Away because when its over and the credits roll, you will remember the wonder of being a child, and smile.

Draft: http://www.scribd.com/doc/127899825/Movie-Review-Draft

Evaluation: http://www.scribd.com/doc/127899888/Project-Evaluation

Works Cited

Brayton, Tim. “Antagony & Ecstasy.” : MIYAZAKI HAYAO: SPIRITED AWAY (2001). N.p., 31 Mar. 2010. Web. 28 Feb. 2013.  <http://antagonie.blogspot.com/2010/03/miyazaki-hayao-spirited-away-2001.html&gt;.

“CUTE OVERLOAD!!” Spadgermatazz! N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2013. <http://spadgerdisco.blogspot.com/2009/01/cute-overload.html&gt;.

Ebert, Roger. “A Magical Dot Over in the Corner.” Rogerebert.com. N.p., 11 July 2012. Web. 28 Feb. 2013. <http://rogerebert.suntimes.com/apps/pbcs.dll/article?AID=/20120711/REVIEWS08/120719998/1004&gt;.

Grant, Jesse. “Photos from Ponyo.” IMDb. IMDb.com, 27 July 2009. Web. 28 Feb. 2013. <http://www.imdb.com/media/rm1558808832/nm0594503&gt;.

“Mildly Interesting: They Sit down and Watch Ghibli Films.” Mildly Interesting: They Sit down and Watch Ghibli Films. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2013. <http://mildlyinterestingthings.blogspot.com/2010/10/they-sit-down-and-watch-ghibli-films.html&gt;.

Nusair, David. “The Films of Hayao Miyazaki.” Reel Film Reviews. N.p., 3 Mar. 2012. Web. 28 Feb. 2013. <http://reelfilm.com/hayao.htm&gt;.

“Passion for Movies.” : Spirited Away. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2013. <http://movieretrospect.blogspot.com/2012/10/spirited-away-euphoric-tale-with.html&gt;.

“PudgyBear.” Tumblr. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2013. <http://pudgybear.tumblr.com/post/3840135674&gt;.

“Spirited Away – Dragon Boy.” YouTube. YouTube, 07 July 2010. Web. 28 Feb. 2013.

“Spirited Away – Sixth Stop.” YouTube. YouTube, 01 Feb. 2011. Web. 28 Feb. 2013.

“Spirited Away.” Dvdbeaver. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2013. <http://www.dvdbeaver.com/film/dvdcompare/spiritedaway.htm&gt;.

“Spirited Away OST 01 – One Summer’s Day.” YouTube. YouTube, 01 Feb. 2012. Web. 28 Feb. 2013.

“Spirited Away Trailer.” YouTube. YouTube, 22 Mar. 2006. Web. 28 Feb. 2013.

“Spirited Away.” Little Wolf. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2013. <http://littlewolfblog.com/2011/03/01/spirited-away/&gt;.

“Tumblr.” Background Characters. N.p., n.d. Web. 28 Feb. 2013. <http://www.tumblr.com/tagged/background characters>.