tituba

I will be officially playing Tituba in The Crucible by Arthur Miller in Feb 2019! I’m pretty excited as this is my first play in 6 years. Talk about going on hiatus. However, breaking from acting for a while has been great. I have stumbled through life and gained too much life experience. Read the rest of this entry »

Image  —  Posted: March 21, 2018 in acting, juilliard, theater, trump, Uncategorized
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Howell at The Moon: The Actress

Posted: December 9, 2015 in Uncategorized
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Michaela Howell, a Towson University junior theater major (Photo by Kelli Wright)

Towson University (TU) has  many majors for its students. One student named Michaela Howell chose theater. Watch as she lures you into the  entertaining world of a Towson University Theater major. Read the rest of this entry »

Portfolios and People

Posted: November 18, 2015 in Uncategorized
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Tyrek Vice (Photo taken by Kelli Wright/TU Student)

Pulling down his black baseball cap emblazoned with the Porsche crest, Tyrek Vice, a Towson University Senior, chows down on a bag of chips as he speed walks down the hall. He means business. Every Tuesday, at 5pm, Vice is here. Read the rest of this entry »

Photo by Kelli Wright

Letecia Wright landed her dream job.

After a successful track career at Ohio State University, Wright graduated with a Mass Communications degree. She was hired at CBS Sports Radio as a video editor for University of Maryland. She works part time as a FOX 45 weekend editor.

Watch as she shows us around CBS Radio.

The Editing Connection

Eat a Slice, Take my Advice!

Posted: October 12, 2015 in Uncategorized
Photo by Kelli Wright

Photo by Kelli Wright

Choosing an internship can be tough taught the Towson University Career Center to students attending the Advice and a Slice networking event aimed at teaching students how to apply for internship opportunities on campus.

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Photo by Kelli Wright

Photo by Kelli Wright

During Towson Universities “Internship Week” (October 5-9th) students will be able to network with industry leaders, learn resume tips and discover opportunities abroad with the chance of gaining full-time employment once they graduate.

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Watta Camera (Photo by Kelli Wright/TU Student)

Watta Camera (Photo by Kelli Wright/TU Student)

Watta Camera turned 19 this Friday! Her ideal job is to become a writer on a political satire type of show. Her writing posses a unique quality, it jumps off the page. You feel as while reading her work that you can hear her. Listen, as she discusses her interesting background and the inspiration for her career choice.

Marc W. Polite is an award winning writer from New York City. He is the founder of Polite on Society a blog of political analysis and social commentary established in 2009. Most recently, Marc was recognized by the New York Association of Black Journalists at the Awards Gala for “Best blog Commentary” of 2014.

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Carter's Fall

Seasonal Silly

My “Portrait of Fall” features my best little guy, my son, Carter. I love this picture because it brings to mind all of the things I think of when I think fall.

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My name is Kelli Wright and I’m a Transfer student to Towson University. I, previously, attended both The Juilliard School and The California Institute of the Arts for theater. I am majoring in Mass Communication with a trek in Journalism and New Media. I have started this blog for my Media Criticism class here at Towson. I took Media Criticism not only because it is required but because I have a personal interest.

As an actor you’re constantly being accepted/rejected for roles. You wonder, what determines how companies cast to tell the visual story? Why was it certain actors did/didn’t fit into certain films visually?  Companies seemed focused on the image of their consumer. It’s very important to become an informed consumer especially if you ever plan to aid in the selling of a media image. No one wants to be an irresponsible member of culture. Media Criticism seems the perfect class to learn the symbols and signs portrayed in the media.

I remember reading in the course catalog that Media Criticism is the, “Theory and practice of media criticism intended for various audiences, including consumer oriented criticism, social criticism and scholarly criticism.” Dense. As Professor Nichols began peeling back the layers of the concepts, I have come to understand Media Criticism as a vehicle to becoming literate about the media by dissecting it into parts to create a whole picture of its positive/negative effect on our culture.

The media has become a hegemonic force. The people in power use media outlets to push images to the masses. They sell us images of who we should be. If there is no one to watch and judge whether these images are truly serving the good of the people, it could lead to a “zombie apocalypse” society where we do whatever we’re told with no questions, feelings or thoughts of why?

Media criticism is the conscious of society, making sure we are all aware of what signs and symbols mean and how it’s affecting the greater good of humanity.

A clock is a clock. A bus is a bus. We learn these shapes and symbols from childhood and carry them with us. By using the discourse of semiotics and structuralism, we begin to slow down the process of symbolic thought to analyze the sequence and construction of our culture. We can look at the paradigmatic (how the orderly sequence of signs is constructed) and the syntagmatic (used to understand the orderly chain that forms a whole) analysis of a situation to form meaning. Once we understand a texts meaning, we can begin to break down its parts.

Multiculturalism is necessary in all cultures seeking the positive identities and well-being of citizens. Clear dialogue cannot be had without a clear understanding of the symbols at work. Media literacy is important to gain the language to speak articulately about what is going on in a text.

In order to show how the media, particularly, television can form our awareness and shape our ethics and cultural values, I want to examine one of my favorite shows, Sex and the City (SATC) episode entitled “No Ifs Ands or Butts.” This show came in season three and was the first one to feature any Black characters. SATC is classified in television genre “Romantic Comedy” though it definitely tripped over and blurred the lines into a drama.

Its concept is simple. Carrie, the lead character, is a sex columnist writer who has three best friends, Samantha, Charlotte and Miranda. Together, they navigate their personal lives in Manhattan. The show focused heavily on relationships and sex which is considered very risqué because wome are often shamed in our culture for promiscuity.

Their audience was mainly female ranging in age from 18-35. These ladies were older than your normal sexy heroine.

My clip from SATC focuses on the episode where they finally hired some African-American characters during its third season. They had faced a lot of criticism for making one of the most diverse cities in America, New York City, all white. They barely even hired black extras to be in the background. Samantha, the one with the biggest and most deviant sexual appetite decided to date a black guy name Shavonne. Shavonne’s sister, Adina deeply disproves of the relationship and the clip shows the two ladies meeting in a club and getting into a physical altercation.

I will be using the genre criticism approach I learned in the reading of John Fiske’s “The Codes of Television” to dissect the clip.

Genre is a French word meaning “type” or “category.” It’s a mixture of the use of formal, stylistic and substantive theories used to dissect the text.  Formal analysis is how the story begins, develops and ends. In the clip, the story begins with Samantha (Sam) and Shavonne in a club dancing and kissing when Adina comes to join them. It develops into a heated argument between Sam and Adina. It ends with Sam and Shavonne breaking up. Simple, right?

Stylistic analysis refers to things pertaining to the setting like costumes and lighting and sound. Here we have the setting as a dark, hip-hop club. Sam is dressed provocatively in a dark dress that reveals cleavage and has two high slits. Adina is dressed in red, a color of passion and power. We hear loud rap music in the back with an aggressive beat. Substantive analysis deals with ideologies. We could look at the relationship between Sam and Shavonne being highly sexualized as the ideology of racism and the hyper-sexualization of the black culture in the media.

Using Fiske’s , “Levels of Codes”, I am going to demonstrate a semiotic case study of how television serves to create symbols that serve the governing needs of culture. I am going to break it down into clear categories so you can see how the levels work.

Level One- Reality

On level one there is ‘Reality.’ This has to do with appearances and setting. In the SATC clip we can see on a visual level how the story is being told and who is supposed to be the heroine versus the villain.

  1. Appearance/Dress– Sam, in appearance is an attractive, fit, middle aged woman. She matches the colors of the club wearing black and blue. Adina, walks into the scene dressed in red and obviously angry. The color red is a color of passion, warmth and intensity. Her dress isn’t as sexy as Sam’s and it is also very long for a NY nightclub. They portray Adina as angry and envious of Sam. Shavonne is wearing all black. He has on a dark black suit and tie which shows he is higher class though a very hot choice for a club. He also sports dark black glasses in the already dark club further blending him into the scene.
  2. Make-Up-Adina’s make up is dark. Very dark lipstick which makes her look older and angrier. Sams make up is light and natural. She appears a very fair contrast against the dark club.
  3. Dialogue/Expression– The dialogue is very bold. Carrie narrates all the episode and she blatantly calls Adina “a loudmouth bitch,” and Shavonne a, “big, black pussy.”  Shavonne asks the ladies what they would like to drink and they answer at the same time. High-class Sam says, “Champagne,” which is considered a cocktail of the rich. Adina asks for a margarita which is often not very expensive when you go out. We see class becoming an issue as well. Sam isn’t “down enough” to be in a lower income rap club in the middle of Harlem. She belongs in Manhattan. As she argues she leaves her hands by her side and flashes her long neck in the heat of argument. Sams expressions are elegant. Adina on the other hand is shown flailing her arms and rolling her neck while gyrating her hips. This is typical of the black female, aggressive attitude shown in the media. As Shavonne is breaking up the fight he says, “Keep it real. Keep it real.”  As an African American you’re not allowed to say articulate things like, “calm down, stop fighting.” Everything is a witty, concise catch phrase.

Level Two- Representation

            On level two we see where the visual reality being encoded technically for television. We can begin using technical language like camera angles and lighting, editing etc. to see how they send these social codes to us.

  1. The camera work is very aggressive. We see a lot of extreme close-ups between Sam and Adina. This is how we know there is a brutal confrontation brewing. Tight shot of Sam, calm and collected. Tight shot of Adina, flinging her arms and rolling her head. Adina and Shavonne are consistently filmed in shadow while Sam can be seen clearly in her shots.
  2. Though the lighting is very dark throughout the scene with blue strobe lights going in the background. You can see they are using what we call in the theater “realism lighting.” It looks like you’re in a real club except the lights are heightened (especially for Samantha) so you can see the characters faces. Blue is very cold color, matching the blue of Sam’s dress and the coldness of her blonde hair. The lighting on the African American characters often casts them in shadows.
  3. The music in the background is aggressive, beat driven rap music. It fuels the anger and tension of the scene. Rap music normally uses minor notes which gels perfectly with Fiske’s theory that villains often receive the minor key. Since it is an all-Black club and the villain (Adina) considers this “a place for black people,” it fits that the music would be minor.
  4. The casting of this is very interesting to me. Often in film and television, it is okay for the male to have dark skin. The woman cast as his sister however has very fair features and straightened hair. She looks like she could be of mixed ancestry where as Shavonne looks of pure African descent. All of the characters are attractive as would be the standard for anything involving high levels of intimacy. Samantha is the typical leading lady, middle-aged, white, blonde and slender. She oozes sex appeal and confidence. Fiske states that the villain and the hero are often just as likely to commit violence. Here we see that Sam comes back for a fight and when she receives it, she is shocked and surprised at being attacked. I mean she insulted the woman’s okra surely she insinuated the physical lashing that came next! Even as Shavonne gives her a gentle lashing, she is still in control sexually and easily changes his mind with a kiss. Sam get to walk away the hero even though by all intents and purposes she instigated the fight. Fiske also stated that the villain often has hints of non-Americaness and this is very clear in this scene.

Level Three- Ideological Codes

                                    Now we have arrived at my favorite and final level. Now we can begin to discuss the ideology behind this episode. What does it say about race, class, materialism and patriarchy? I like this level because you get to put the other two levesl together and form a solid opinion of what the episode was trying to tell us about our society.

Watching this video, we become apart of it. We are unknowingly accepting the ideological codes it is feeding us about race in America. We can pinpoint three narrative devices, just as Fiske did in his article to show how race is the main conceptual practice being put to use.

The first narrative device is the constant references to the female anatomy the ladies use to insult one another. It’s almost as if the women are battling over whose race has the better organs. Adina tells Sam to take her “little white pussy” away from her brother. A little pussy is synonymous with a tight vagina which is desirable in our culture. No man wants a big, loose vagina, right? This is why Sam leaves Shavonne at the end because he mimics a big black vagina which isn’t sexy or fun or desirable.  Sam tells Adina to get her “big black ass” out of her face, another play on what is considered a typical black woman feature. ”

The second device seems to be the winning of Shavonne. Shavonne seems a metaphor for who is more attractive and desirable to men. Who is more feminine and deserving of a mans attention? White women are considered to be the cream of the crop. During slavery, if a black man looked at a white women he was lynched. Black women were raped repeatedly and considered to be non threats to the mistresses of the house. We see the lusting of the black man for the ever youthful, thin and blonde woman to the point where his sister becomes a non entity. Shavonne grabs Sam during the fight, he doesn’t protect his sister.

The third vehicle is Adina’s red dress. The red can be associated with woman’s period which is a time when all women are considered undesirable in our country. Literally, a red stain on society. She is also sporting an African necklace that mimics the neck rings worn by African and Asian tribes to extend their necks for beauty. The necklace looks like the phallic symbol which represents manhood. She is not feminine not elegant. It symbolizes her want to be beautiful like Sam. Sam is held as the idea of perfection.

Keep in mind as I render this criticism, I LOVED THIS SHOW. It didn’t matter to me that all the characters were Caucasian, it appealed to my sense of feminism. Women should be as free as men. We should be able to choose whether we want to be promiscuous like Sam or traditional like Charlotte. Women come in all shapes and sizes! It never occurred to me that women come in different colors too. By using Fiske’s method of breaking down the episode and using semiotics and structuralism, I have been able to recognize how this show was teaching me what is culturally acceptable and what is not. It made me lust after clothing and shoes I couldn’t afford. It made me an uninformed consumer. My hope for you is that every time you watch a show, you attack it with the same criticism so we can form a truly fair and free society!