Wednesday, September 26, 2007

On the Road to Life, There are Passengers...Well, You Know the Rest

As an avid fan of VW (most of you know I have expressed a desire to have my Jetta buried next to me when we both expire), I am always amused by their commercials and ad campaigns. Not only because I think their commercials are hilarious and great at making fun of real life situations, but how they are able to narrow their demographic so well. I posted two very different VW commercials. The first is clearly aimed at a very young audience. It first suggests that a VW looks trendy and cool without all the crap younger teens do to the other types of Focus/Civic cars, and, second, uses extremely choppy, and almost chaotic editting. I think this attracts a younger audience because it moves quickly and barely gives the viewer time to process each frame before the entire commerical is done. This kind of editing is similar to a music video, or even some video games. It doesn't require a lot of thought and time to consume and it catches the younger audience's attention by alluding to pop culture ("drop it like it's hot," signing the VW logo with hands like it's hip "east side/west side" lingo).

The second video is obviously aimed at the college graduate to 30-something, middle class type of person. It offers enough information, although not much compared to a Buick or Cadillac (clearly aimed at a different crowd altogether), to get the viewer interested and its editting is much slower to transition into a different frame than the first video. The plot of the video creates a very clear message that the "average Joe" who doesn't do anything too exciting is encouraged to display the highlighted feature, exciting him so much that he begins speeding and screaming at other cars. The viewer equates Volkswagen to, not only to a more advanced type of driving, but also more exciting.

Yay VW!

Wednesday, September 19, 2007

Not So Ugly TV Show

I decided to check to see if I could find any good "Ugly Betty" clips since it is, in many ways, a satire on the world of fashion and glamour and might provide different filming techniques from regular sitcoms. Originally, I wanted to use a clip I had of "Friends." But I figured no one really wants to hear about unrelated issues such as an entirely homogoneous and sexist character set-up. So I opted for a show I actually like.

"Ugly Betty" is an interesting show, not only because of the plotline, but also the way it is filmed. It emphasizes extreme versions of characters within a fashion magazine world. It does this by placing a comparatively unattractive girl into the mix of men and women and lets the characters display the differences.

I realize this is a clip video, but the first scene is long enough to discuss some of the filming techniques used. "Ugly" Betty enters her job on the first day. In terms of mind reading, it is clear that Betty is excited to be working at such a high profile place, in a high profile position, judging by her large braces filled smile (we've almost all been there--people who have perfect teeth are definitely missing out on some serious bonding topics) and her constantly raised eyebrows. Amanda (the receptionist) is equally shocked that a girl showing up in a red tourist poncho from Mexico got such an important job. The tension is obvious in the way the camera keeps switching quickly from one face to the other as they speak, each with totally different facial expressions and tones of voices.

When the camera switches to behind the two as they walk down the hall, the differences in personalities are even greater. Amanda walks as though she is modelling the new trend in a slimming outfit and stilettos, where Betty looks large and awkward next to her in her poncho and big hair. It seems clear from this angle that Amanda is out to prove her confidence and competance by how well she fits into the fashion world and Betty is not out to prove anything.

Amanda is an interesting character in general because with other equally "fashionable" characters, she doesn't seem so ridiculous. But when she is paired with Betty or her family, as she is in this first scene, she seems extreme and totally one dimensional.

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Vlog on a Stick

Always one to indulge in local flare and culture, I chose to go to the Minnesota Stories vlog. Beyond the interest in Minnesota life, I also heard there were restaurant reviews on the site. Never being one to decline a suggestion to eat anywhere, I thought this was the vlog for me.

Oddly enough, I chose the video, "Minnesota State Fair on a Stick." I say "oddly enough" because I, myself, hate the State Fair with a passion that only other State Fair haters could understand. But there is just something about it, much like a train wreck, that makes me watch when it's on TV, or listen when someone is talking about it. Does it make me dislike the artery clogging food, the rides, the people, the ridiculousness any less? Never.

So I watched the video, which was basically over five minutes of people holding insert-quirky-food-product on a stick and then eating said quirky-food-product on a stick. As one would imagine, there were things that seemed more tangible to be on a stick: shrimp, fruit, chunks of meat (apparently State Fair goers don't understand that this is more often referred to as a "kabob" rather than "--- on a stick"). Then there were the products that just plain bordered on insanity: spaghetti, pork chops, candy bars, TWINKIES. People were decked out in true State Fair attire as well: plastic bead necklaces that made them look like they just stepped off the plane after a long night of Mardi Gras, paper visors with pig ears on them (I don't even want to know why), and the ever popular concession stand uniform, complete with apron and hairnet.

With my usual cynicism, I rolled my eyes, thinking, "typical." But the longer I watched, which I am shocked to say was the entire video, the more I started to see something about State Fair fans that I hadn't noticed before. It was this ironic awareness of the frivolity the State Fair seemed to have. People had ordered these products for the sheer pointlessness of the product, well aware that what they had just bought held no value of nutrition, taste or bragging rights. They bought it because that's what you just do at the State Fair. For an entire day, let all inhibitions go and wear paper pig ears and eat something that may kill you instantly, just for the hell of it.

Maybe the people that loved the fair loved it for the same reasons that I hated it. It wasn't that the entire time I had been missing out on some secret area of the fair that was actually cool. But rather, it was that these people had come to respect and enjoy the shameless freakishness the State Fair embodies so well.

This video was made by people that probably shared a distaste for the State Fair like I do. But by the end, they saw it too: the sheepish smiles the people gave as they held up their stick and then ate it, the way the final boy kept explaining how it was the most unhealthy food on the planet. They knew this is what the fair was about all along. This video was made for people that love and hate the State Fair. Hopefully the haters can see past the surface of the State Fair to what I saw. It wasn't a location I had missed; it was an entire attitude of giving in to ridiculousness for a day that I never understood. Has this made me want to go to the State Fair? Hell, no. But I do have a new found respect for it and the people that go.

Here's the video if you were so interested: