Archive for the ‘Popular Culture’ Category

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Snapchat in the Classroom?

posted: 6.4.15 by Andrea Lunsford

Recently, I read an article in the New York Times about Snapchat, the video messaging app that has barnstormed its way toward valuations in the billions of dollars. The article’s title, “Snapchat: A New Mobile Challenge for Storytelling,” caught my attention and got me looking around the Snapchat site and watching some of their “stories.” The ones I watched were mostly reportorial, with someone giving information accompanied by images. But they got me wondering about other kinds of stories and how they might be told and circulated via Snapchat. [read more]

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Categories: Andrea Lunsford, Popular Culture, Teaching with Technology
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Mad Men: The Finale

posted: 5.21.15 by Jack Solomon

I swear that I am not a fan of the now finally concluded television series, Mad Men (indeed, my returning to it provides an example of how popular cultural semiotics is not driven by what one likes but by what one finds significant), and danged if the much-anticipated final episode hasn’t proven to be strikingly significant. [read more]

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Categories: Jack Solomon, Popular Culture, Semiotics
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Star Wars Forever

posted: 4.30.15 by Jack Solomon

In my last blog post I wrote about Mad Men, a pop cultural sensation that is now winding down.  This time I want to reflect a bit on the Star Wars franchise, a pop culture phenomenon for which the word “sensation” is wholly inadequate, and which, far from winding down, is instead winding up in preparation for the release of its seventh installment (The Force Awakens), with at least two more “episodes” in the works. [read more]

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Categories: Genre, Jack Solomon, Popular Culture, Semiotics
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Mad Men, or the Realities of Realism

posted: 4.16.15 by Jack Solomon

So Mad Men is in its final victory lap, and I really have to hand it to Matthew Weiner.  I mean, imagine trying to pitch a television concept about a group of more-or-less middle-aged characters struggling to make it in the advertising business to a bunch of age-averse entertainment industry executives.  And set it in the 1960s—which means that the lead characters will all belong to my parents’ generation.  And don’t even try to frame it as a comedy.

Wow, that took a lot of imagination, not to mention perseverance. [read more]

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Categories: Jack Solomon, Popular Culture, Semiotics
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Freedom: A Definition Issue?

posted: 4.10.15 by Donna Winchell

Indiana’s controversial Religious Freedom Restoration Act reminds us once again of the role that definition can play in argumentation. The case has been made that the recent Indiana law is no different from the federal Religious Freedom Restoration Act signed into law by President Clinton in 1993. One crucial difference, however, is a matter of definition. The federal RFRA states, “Government shall not substantially burden a person’s exercise of religion even if the burden results from a rule of general applicability.” The wording of the state law is identical except that the term “governmental entity” replaces “government.” That is not the crucial difference, however. [read more]

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Categories: Donna Winchell, Popular Culture
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Cinderella . . . Again

posted: 3.5.15 by Jack Solomon

So Disney is returning once again to that old standard, the story of Cinderella, doing it over but with live action this time.  And therein lies a semiotic tale.

Because the Cinderella story provides a very good occasion for teaching your students about cultural mythologies, and the way that America’s mythologies often contradict each other.  In the case of Cinderella, one must begin with the fact that it is a feudal story in essence, one in which a commoner is raised to princess status, not through hard work but through a kind of inheritance: her personal beauty.  Such a narrative very much reflects the values of a time when social status was usually inherited rather than achieved. [read more]

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Categories: Jack Solomon, Popular Culture, Semiotics
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What Were They Thinking?

posted: 2.19.15 by Jack Solomon

My candidate for the hands-down “what were they thinking?” award for Super Bowl XLIX is GoDaddy’s now-notorious “Puppy” ad, which was pulled from the broadcast schedule days before the game.

The ad, of course, was a parody of last year’s Budweiser puppy ad, highlighting something (oddly enough) that I pointed out in my Bits blog analysis of that ad—namely, that for all the heart warm, the Budweiser puppy was, in effect, a commodity for sale.  GoDaddy’s version made this its punch line, with the adorable Golden Retriever pup returning home only to be shipped out again by his breeder, who smugly observes that the sale was made possible by her GoDaddy sponsored web page. [read more]

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Categories: Jack Solomon, Popular Culture, Semiotics
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The Movie Review as a Claim-of-Value Essay

posted: 2.13.15 by Donna Winchell

Because my son Jonathan is a film scholar, I am probably even more aware than most that this is awards season. The Academy Awards ceremony each year is for our household what the Super Bowl is for others. Jonathan recently posted on Facebook that in his lifetime he has seen 2,502 movies. The fact that he knows that speaks volumes about his obsession, along with the fact that he was watching classic silent movies before he could read the subtitles. I came naturally to use the movie review as a means of teaching the claim of value, but my approach can be adapted to other types of evaluative writing as well.  [read more]

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Categories: Assignment Idea, Donna Winchell, Genre, Popular Culture, Rhetorical Situation
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American Sniper: Or How To, and How Not To, Do Cultural Semiotics

posted: 2.5.15 by Jack Solomon

It is hard not to be aware of the kerfluffle over the many Oscar nominations for the movie American Sniper—especially its nod for Best Picture.  The whole thing was quite predictable: take a controversial book about a controversial topic and have it directed by Hollywood’s successor to John Wayne in the hearts of American conservatives, and you have all the makings of a Twitter Tornado (just ask Seth Rogen and Michael Moore).  Thus, American Sniper is a natural choice for semiotic attention in your popular culture classes.  The only question is how to approach it. [read more]

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Categories: Jack Solomon, Popular Culture, Semiotics
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What’s your word of the year?

posted: 1.22.15 by Andrea Lunsford

Surprisingly (to me at least), Merriam Webster announced “culture” as their Word of the Year for 2014, noting that it was the single most-searched-for term during the last twelve months, coming in ahead of “nostalgia,” the second most-searched-for word. Over at Oxford, they pronounced “vape” the word of the year, in a nod to the e-cigarette movement. And dictionary.com went with “exposure,” related to the fears surrounding Ebola. [read more]

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Categories: Andrea Lunsford, Popular Culture
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