Saying It Well...

Khrystine's favorite quotes


"If you tell the truth, you don't have to remember anything."— Mark Twain

Modern Muse

Modern Muse
Adriana Lima in Elle Magazine

Monday, August 25, 2008

Mythological Analysis-A Paper That Was Too Short

“Barn Burning” by William Faulkner is the story of young Sarty’s conflict with his father Abner. Abner is a man who will not change his course for anything (including manure) and is a temperamental arsonist.

This story makes me think of a reversed story of Helios, whose son’s pride and recklessness scald the earth as well as kill him. Helios allows his son to drive the sun chariot against his better judgment and many lives are destroyed. Sarty also goes against his better judgment to testify against his father out of familial loyalty. His often reckless father commits arson when ever his pride is hurt. Sarty, like Helios ends up lamenting yet frustrated at his relative’s actions. Prometheus also stole fire (power) from the gods and gave it to man. Destruction is a power Abner has that brings him closer to the rich DeSpains-everyone is vulnerable to fire, and through its use Abner feels invincible.

This story also has an archetypal father vs. son power struggle. We can see this in stories of how Zeus overcame his father, the story of Oedipus, etc. Sarty is indirectly responsible for his father and brother’s deaths. With this he becomes the patriarch in the family, but also to some extent, its destroyer. When Sarty is called on to testify against his father and Abner later beats him for supposedly considering it, it shows the first severing of the father-son relationship.

In these scenes, Sarty is a helpless boy, by the time he runs away from home he is a power in his own right. Sarty’s familial duty gradually fades away as Sarty is unable to empathize with Abner. Sarty tells Abner he understands his anger, which Abner takes as implicit approval of arson. At this point Sarty realizes he must take over in order to survive and protect his family, much as many mythic sons kill their fathers in self-defense or as vengeance.



Monday, August 18, 2008

Faulkner and Fathers


In William Faulkner’s stories “A Rose for Emily” and “Barn Burning” (Faulkner), the protagonists both must deal with overbearing fathers. Emily’s father refuses to let her have boyfriends, and Sarty’s father Abner is an arsonist. We see how these authority figures dominate their lives indirectly, in “Emily”, and directly, in “Barn”. Faulkner creates a world in where no one is innocent, the need for control can be dangerous, and a break with authority can be necessary yet tragic.

Neither Emily nor Sarty are truly innocent, which traps them within an assumed innocence.

Emily is never allowed to experience romance until her father is dead, which makes her innocent of normal male-female relationships, but sadly experienced in a dominating, suppressive one. Her only other relationship is with her serving-man. It is very possible Emily views all men only as potential slave masters or slaves. There is no innocent first love, only a twisted one-sided relationship.

Sarty has also experienced hardship, due to his father’s pyrotechnics. Sarty is very aware of society’s laws and reactions to his father’s crimes. He has seen the destructive power of fire and his father shows this same destructiveness when he beats Sarty. Sarty tries to relate to his father, but cannot due to his experience of what arson really does.

In both stories, to be innocent is to be ignorant.

The townspeople are innocent enough to dismiss the smell at Emily’s as bad cooking or hygiene, and therefore miss the glaring evidence of murder. The pharmacist, while not completely na├»ve, does not have enough persuasiveness to stop Emily from buying arsenic because he has no experience with the situation.

Sarty’s siblings seem innocently ignorant as well. While we find it hard to believe they could be anymore innocent than Sarty, especially the accomplice older brother, they do not to seem to have the same grasp of their father’s actions. The sisters are lazy and unintelligent, and the brother follows Abner blindly.

In both stories, the need for control is dangerous and destructive.

Emily’s father controls her, and this leads to her wanting control over her lover, Homer Barron. Her desire is so strong she kills him, keeps his corpse and never leaves her house. Her home has become her own world in which she can control everything, even her lover. He will never tell her he’s not in the mood, that he doesn’t like the curtains, or that she shouldn’t go out tonight. More important for Emily, he will never leave her, at least physically or by his own volition. He can forever remain the ideal-no need to discover he’s a philanderer or an addict.

Abner exercises control over his family and over the element fire. Prometheus stole fire from the gods and gave it to humanity, as a way to bridge the gap between them. This is basically how Abner utilizes fire. No barn is fire proof, no matter how much money or pedigree has gone into it. His employers may abuse him all they want, all men


are equal in the face of fire-and all are subservient to the one who controls it. Fire also represents rage, as both can be destructive and lose control in an instant.

Faulkner shows the sometimes tragic necessity of breaking with authority.

When Sarty finally betrays his father’s actions openly, it is at least partly in the interest of his family. They cannot keep travelling an losing jobs. They cannot constantly be put in the position of being made to commit perjury or take responsibility for actions that aren’t theirs. Sarty cannot continually be physically and mentally abused. The struggle of family vs. ethics/law/etc. is unsustainable, particularly for a child. Yet when Sarty hears gunshots, he knows it is likely that his father and brother are dead. Sarty will then have to reconcile the feelings of responsibility he may have.

In contrast, Emily never breaks with authority until she breaks what is the most crucial law-murder. Perhaps it is inevitable that those who feel oppressed will revolt, and perhaps it would have been better for everyone if Emily had done so earlier in her life. “Barn Burning” shows this necessity much more explicitly than “A Rose for Emily” does. We don’t actually know to what extent her father controlled her; it may have been very slight. It may have been incredibly abusive. We don’t know if it directly influenced her murderous ways, but one can reasonably assume so. One cannot act according to another’s desires forever. These stories show us the same thing experience has-the longer an emotion stays under wraps, the hotter it will grow, and the more combustible the release will be.

It may have been better for Sarty to turn in his father in the beginning as well. If Abner went to prison, it would have saved two lives. Perhaps what Faulkner is trying to say is that we should not subject anyone-ourselves or others-to someone’s own desires. Faulkner mentioned that the human heart was oftentimes in conflict with itself (Robbins)-add someone else’s heart and life in nearly unsustainable.

“Works Cited”

Faulkner, William. Selected Short Stories of William Faulkner. New York: Random House Inc., 1962.

"Edit Submission: Short Story Essay- Major Paper ." SLCC Virtual Campus. nd. 27 June 2008.

Monday, August 11, 2008

The Personal Life Philosophy of Khrystine Kelsey

In a speech given at West Point Military Academy, author Ayn Rand espouses the reasons one must adopt a life philosophy. The components of philosophy are the most basic questions, one must answer them in order to think, act or survive. According to Rand, the components of philosophy are metaphysics (who/what/where am I?), epistemology (how do I know?), and ethics (how should I behave?) with its subcategories of politics (how shall I behave in relation to others?) and aesthetics (what ideas, images, and inventions/creations will I support, utilize and enjoy?) Using this outline, I will attempt to explain my own life philosophy as clearly as possible.

Who, what and where am I? As a member of The Church Of Jesus Christ of Latter-Day Saints, I feel this question is best answered by the following statement from the Church’s library: “We are daughters [and sons] of our Heavenly Father, who loves us, and we love Him.” I adhere to the belief that I am a literal spiritual offspring of a God and Goddess and that it is my destiny, should I live up to it, to become a Goddess in my own right. I have been placed specifically on the earth at this time and in this situation to follow that destiny. We humans are “god[s] in embryo.”

How do I know? Assuming the main goals of existence are joy and self-actualization (to be examined later), how do we know our metaphysics and actions are correct? We generally experience and interpret the world through three ways; that is action, emotion, and rational thought. If we wish to reach correct conclusions, it is best we give all these interpreters due consideration.

Action is necessary to a long life and for most healthy humans, a happy one. We must take the action of eating in order to survive for example. Action is the center of our experience because it is both a result and a cause of our thoughts and emotions. We desire to kiss our boyfriend, we commit the action and enjoy it, and therefore we desire to do it again. Action without thought, however, is often harmful and stunts progress. (It is doubtful whether one can act without emotion as there is likely at least a desire to perform the act.) If one discovers fire, burns oneself, and out of fear never utilizes that power again, many developments may never be reached (such as light, warmth, cooked food). Truths one discovers through action are called self-evident.

Emotion is important to consider chiefly because it is undeniable. Everyone experiences emotion except possibly severely disordered people such as psychopaths. Emotion is what creates our desires, it seems directly connected to physicality (e.g. the body needs sustenance; this prompts the desire to eat.) With this in mind however, emotion is not purely the body (as is action) nor purely the mind (as is reason) but seems to mediate between them. For example without the emotions of love or compassion, when one feels the desire to eat one could simply steal another human’s food. Emotion seems to me the chief component in moral decisions. If something feels wrong, chances are it is and ones mind has not been able to explain it yet , nor ones body to know what action to take. It is emotion however that is most dependent on the other two faculties of knowledge. On an individual level, it is emotion that should be strongly examined. Emotion and action without reason may result in crimes of passion and further unhappiness, emotion and reason without action leads to non-productivity and, again, further unhappiness.

Reason is the champion of our age and rightly so. Most decisions that lead to happiness and productivity are largely founded on reason, and it continues to be the driving force in society. All conclusions should indeed make logical sense. If action is the way in which we progress and emotion our motivation for doing so, reason is the language we speak. It is the cornerstone of our actions as it is ultimately what decides if the action will result in further happiness. It finds the best way to express or satisfy our emotions. Many philosophers grant reason supremacy, as it is the clearest and most necessary way of dealing with each other. Like action and emotion however, it is also dependent on the other members of the experience trinity. As Aristotle’s syllogism demonstrates, reason can quickly lose credence if founded on false or faulty premises. For example, take the faulty premise that all women like to cook. While cooking may be an activity with many merits most rational beings can appreciate, it is very risky to say that all women enjoy doing so. If we take this premise as true and add the self evident premise that Monique is a woman, we can conclude that Monique likes to cook. But what evil will be wrought when we force Monique to spend time cooking, when she does not derive pleasure from it! That may sound extreme until we consider the following.

The Aryan race is innately supreme to all other races. Science declares this as false, the DNA of one race is not any stronger or weaker than another. But let us take this false premise and play with it. Adolph is of the Aryan race, Elie is not. Therefore Adolph is innately superior to Elie. This follows the logic, does it not? Yet our emotional center is becoming queasy. Adolph, on this false premise executes Elie and six-million or so other non-Aryans. This is the perfect example of why we must employ reason and listen to our emotions and body. An SS officer beats a Jewish woman; he throws up afterwards and feels an unknown guilt. His body, his feelings show him something is wrong, if he only he would use his reason to check his premises…

Aristotle aims to prevent this by having all logic stem from definition. E.g. All animals are living things of such a type that are endowed with traits which allow them to flourish. Human is an animal. Human possess traits of reason, emotion, and ability to act. Human endowed with reason, emotion and ability will flourish. This brings us to the next question.

How should I behave? So we now have a basic compass to guide our behavior. Is the action possible? Does it “feel right”? Does it make sense? Now we check that we are not rationalizing. Is it truly impossible, or is it that I don’t desire it? Do I really feel good about the decision or is it just easier? Does this course really make sense or am I avoiding certain facts? All these questions of course tie directly back in to metaphysics. Who are we? Where are we? Even wearing a sweater doesn’t pass this test if we’re somewhere hot and humid in July. It also begs the better question, what is the purpose?

If we are on Earth training to be Gods and Goddesses, what other purposes does that imply? If we are going to be omnipotent, omniscient beings, we have the purpose to learn. In the Old Testament God says “I AM THAT I AM” to Moses. If we too are to be Gods and Goddesses, we must know ourselves completely, be our best potential most perfect selves. In my religion we also believe that “Men are, that they might have joy.” We can add from this three other things to consider. Will this action increase my knowledge? Will it ultimately bring me joy? Is it worthy of me, an embryonic deity?

How should I behave in relation to others? The important facts to remember are that others are also pre-divine, and it is immoral to impede their education, happiness and health. However if that is unethical it is absolutely unacceptable to impede their freedom. Freedom is self-evident. Everyone must answer the basic philosophical questions, and they must answer for themselves. To destroy one’s own education, happiness, health and individuality is immoral, but is one’s own to destroy or cultivate. The taking away of freedom “for one’s own good” is a contradiction in terms. No matter how ethical one may seem to behave, limiting their freedom will limit their capacity for education. It will limit their capacity for happiness. It will entirely eradicate their divine individuality. Freedom must never be limited. This includes individuals’ freedom to live and gain property as well. As an entitled heir or heiress of heaven we have the right to defend our property, person, and others’ properties and persons from immediate danger. This may come in the form of other countries, other people, or even our government. Those who violate others’ properties and persons must be removed from the society, as they have obviously lost respect for human dignity. We must strive for societies which protect us from these people while still allowing us as much freedom as possible.

What ideas, images, and inventions/creations will I support, utilize and enjoy? Individuality is perhaps the ultimate ideal of my philosophy. We must honor our “divine nature” and “individual worth.” It is also moral to encourage others to do so in such a way that does not limit their freedom. We can do this through our aesthetic principles. We will buy art that shows humans as beautiful and heroic. We will see plays and movies that uphold ideas such as honor, courage and freedom. We will listen to music that pleases us, that helps us to further understand ourselves. We will read what is well written, use what is efficient, wear what is beautiful and well made. When asked what we think, we shall speak. We will live in beautiful places, encourage open minds, and defend truth, freedom, and our divine individuality.






















Bibliography

Rand, A. (1982). Philosophy: Who Needs It .New York City, NY, Signet


LDS Church. (2001). Young Women Theme. http://lds.org/portal/site/LDSOrg/menuitem.b3bc55cbf541229058520974e44916a0/?vgne xtoid=ed462ce2b446c010VgnVCM1000004d82620aRCRD&locale=0&sourceId=725fbe 335dc20110VgnVCM100000176f620a____&hideNav=1


Moyer, T.J. (1993). “The Family-Now and Forever.” Ensign. 10-12.


Ross, W. D. (1955). Aristotle Selections. NY, Charles Scribner’s Sons.


(1958). Holy Bible, King James Version. Philadelphia, PA, National Bible Press.


(1974) The Book of Mormon: Another Testament Of Jesus Christ. Salt Lake City, UT, The Church of Jesus Christ of Latter Day Saints.

Tuesday, August 05, 2008

A different kind of writing...

July 29, 2008


The following is a long paper I wrote with several other people. They will be kept anonymous, for their protection, but I thought I'd post it anyway.


Reality Show Judging: a New Code of Ethics







Salt Lake Community College




Group Community Writing Campaign




Abstract




Reality TV shows' lack of fairness, ethics and good judgment are making an impact on popular culture. There is a lot of disagreement and discontentment with the values that are being transmitted to the viewers. Through research of several different types of reality shows, we have come up with ideas and ways to improve these shows. The most important things we are looking for are (1) qualified judges, since they represent justice (2) stopping multiple voting (3) assuring that judges cannot change their mind after a decision has been made, and (4) establishing a strict code of ethics between contestants and judges (which also includes: no unprofessional interaction and professional conduct on the parts of both contestants and judges, throughout the entire process, including prescreening). The expected outcome is a fair and enjoyable reality TV show.




In the last decade, the genre of reality television has become culturally iconic. TV shows, on which contestants compete, in particular, have enjoyed immense success. Programs that add viewer voting into the setup are watched and participated in by millions of people. The populous now has an even more direct influence on the “next big thing,” whether musicians, dancers, comedians, or even pets. As entertaining as these shows are, however, they are not immune from criticism. Upon closer examination, one can find many problems with the prescreening techniques, the voting process, and the objectivity of the judges -- problems which could be less glaring with some minor adjustments. How do so many obviously untalented people get on TV in the first place? Is it possible some fans are able to “pad” the votes? How does the audience influence the judges, and how do they influence each other? We will attempt to explore these questions, among others, through the specific formats of four popular reality shows that are centered on four different kinds of talent. We will examine the credibility and objectivity of the judges on each show, explain the effect of viewers or audience members on the eventual outcome, and examine what the code of ethics seems to be, if indeed there is one. We will then put forth specific ideas on how each show, and reality competitions in general, may be improved.

The most popular reality show right now is American Idol. American Idol is a hallmark television program with millions of followers. Idol was created by Simon Fuller, the Spice Girls Svengali, and first aired in England in 2001, as Pop Idol. It came to America the following year, with a new name but with the same purpose: to find market-friendly talent among an enormous pool of amateurs and wannabes (Frere-Jones, 2008, p.74). It has a simple dynamic plot that has captivated America for eight seasons. Every year judges that work for the show travel to different cities in the U.S. searching for talented singers. Long lines of hopeful young performers make their way through preliminary screenings anticipating their moment in front of the three famous judges: Simon Cowell, a successful, hit-making executive for BMG Records in Britain who created and helps produce the series, Paula Abdul, a popular singer and choreographer, and Randy Jackson, a veteran musician (Duffy,2002).

Reality competitions are only as good as the judges who preside over them. The American Idol panel, the gold standard of the genre, proves that the right combination of critiques can add professional insight, comic relief or a verbal jab (much to the delight of the audience) (Kinon,2008, p.1). Each judge has a distinct personality and role on the series. Simon is usually the most critical and direct. His opinion is however the most valued because of his experience in the music industry. Simon is paid to deliver his criticism in a nasty way, although he's usually right. "He's just being honest, saying it in blunt fashion. It's just constructive criticism," said Justin Guarini, a personable Pennsylvanian who was among the favorites to win it all (Duffy, 2002). And then there's Paula -- if she could find it in herself to do a taping sober, she might give some good feedback. John Rich of Nashville Star thinks she's downright disrespectful to contestants with how nonsensical her commentary is (Sample, 2008, p.3).

These performances in front of Simon, Paula, and Randy are called the preliminaries, though the contestants have already been seen by another professional panel to eliminate those that are obviously not qualified- or so you might think. The reality is that these first acts from all over the country can be some of the most entertaining, although sometimes at the singer’s expense. In these episodes of American Idol the judges will send a few singers they think have a shot at winning to a second round in Hollywood. These are also the episodes that showcase a variety of obviously bad auditions. The judges, though honest, can be cruel. This of course is entertaining and is usually a crowd pleaser.

"I think this kind of competition, going in there live, singing a cappella, is as brutal as it can get," says Abdul (Duffy,2002). Although each contestant agrees to the terms and condition of auditioning for the show, it might seem mean spirited to show these obviously bad auditions for amusement and public scrutiny. Some of the contestants who might even be mentally ill or psychologically challenged are ridiculed by the judges and their performances are aired on primetime television. Does this aspect of the contest distract from the real goal of helping an amateur singer rise to the top and become a success?

"The original idea was to do a show that shows what the music business is really like-illogical, sexist, all the things," stated Cowell (Duffy, 2002). The contest's intentions may be pure but judges can be brutal, especially in the preliminaries. In one instance, the usually kinder and more sympathetic Paula and Randy were unusually rude.

If you were looking for insensitive behavior, Randy and Paula were your go-to judges. The two of them breaking into hysterical laughter as 22-year-old James Lewis sang "Go Down Moses, Let My People Go," was the cruelest moment of the night. They might be forgiven for not having the back story, but the producers made sure to let the viewers in on the fact that the Philadelphia tour guide had been encouraged by his co-workers to audition, obviously some sort of cruel joke on their part, which the producers were happy to help with” (Kerwin,2008, p.30).

Though it may seem the judges have the final word in the preliminaries by the next phase of the contest it’s not just the judges who affect the outcome. Except for the early stages of the competition, when the judges winnow a group of about two hundred down to twenty-four, they can only file amicus briefs. They can say, "It was just O.K. for me, dog," banish singers to cruise ships, and make everyone cry, but the people have the power (Frere-Jones, 2008, p.74).

The judges critique contestants on their vocal ability, song choice, presentation, and other aspects of pop craftsmanship. The American public, though, decides who remains in the running, by phoning and texting in votes after Tuesday night's broadcast (Frere-Jones, 2008, 75). This is an exciting opportunity for the American people to get involved. They feel that their vote might be the deciding facture of who stays on the show and competes until the end or who goes home. American Idol does "an immense good in getting younger people interested in singing." Finkle (2006, p.18) notes that "competition, as we know makes you get better.” Each week contestants are cut based on the popular vote received from text messages sent into the network from the masses. But text messaging voting, though it involves the viewers, has its disadvantages. There is no limit on how many times a viewer can vote in. While interviewing coworkers at my job I found that many of those who voted texted in dozens of times. Therefore the outcome may be a little skewed.

According to Frere-Jones (2008, p.75), seventy-four million votes were cast in the finale of the 2007 season. The problem with the voting may not just be the amount of times one can repeatedly vote, but the lack of experience the general public has with actual musical talent. Simon Cowell’s critiques, though harsh at times, represent real value.

The viewers need to compete only with Simon; Jackson and Abdul both give us plenty of opportunities to feel superior. The self-flummoxing Abdul is physically incapable of not reassuring the contestants. One of the few variables that Jackson seems able to track is pitch (Frere-Jones, 2008, p.75). Even if the professional judges' opinions might be off at times, surely the general public is even less qualified to judge the real art of singing. Finkle (2006, p.18) wrote, "I don't think that the most important factors are being addressed by the judges more than half the time. You're dealing with a range of watchers who [include] musicians and record producers who know what is marketable. According to Finkle (2006, p.13), there are people who vote for contestants because they're cute. Undoubtedly the winner in the grand finale of the show will become an American idol. A show as big as American Idol, is open for all types of people who want to take advantage of it (Keveney, 2006, p.40). Does this contest undermine the real talent that exists in America? Just because it’s popular doesn’t necessarily mean it’s the most valuable. What the judges say about the contestants does not always sway the voters, although Cowell - the only judge who is able to dependably articulate why he thinks certain performances do or don't work - probably affects some (Frere-Jones, 2008, p.75). Hopefully America will realize that to really find the best of the best a popular television show, though it may have many fans, should not be considered the greatest resource for finding America's most talented singers.

In addition to people pets are also expected to hold their own in the world of reality television. Each episode of Pet Star has a talented group of animals and their owners who show off their special talent competing against one another. The winner of the show for that day will receive $2,500 and return at the end of the season and compete for $25,000 in cash and prizes with the other finalist from that season (“Mario Lopez,” 2008, p.1). Any type of animal can participate in the show as there is anything from lizards and ponies to the average dog competing. To showcase your animal’s talent, all you need to do is call or e-mail the producers and they will send you a form to fill out about the talent that will be shown and what type of animal you have. There are also questions not just about your pet's personality but also your personality. According to Borgenicht (2004, p.10), in his book, “Reality TV Handbook,” if you would like to pass the prescreening you need to make your personality more interesting then it really is.

The host of the show Pet Star is Mario Lopez. Mario has been a celebrity star since 1985 in an ABC comedy series (“Mario Lopez,” 2008, p.1). It is unknown if he owns any animals, but he seems to love each animal that comes on stage with him. Mario makes a wonderful host as he is able to get along well with the animals and the panel of judges (C. Cole, personal communication, July 7, 2008).

The panel of judges is made up of celebrities. The judges will stay for that season then next season there will be new celebrities judging the contestants. Some judges are Ben Stein, Susan Yezzi, Billy West, Brad Pitt, Melissa Pertman, and Brett Butler to name a few (“Animal Planet’s,” 2008, p.1). For each show there are always three judges on the panel. The main things the judges have in common are that they are well known celebrities that are either annoying or funny (C. Cole, personal communication, July 7, 2008). The article “Favorite Reality Television Judges” by Andy Dehnart (2008, p.3) states, “Judges on reality shows need to be knowledgeable, articulate and entertaining, or some combination of those.” Dehnart’s point is that you don’t need to be an animal trainer or have an educated knowledge of animals to be a judge deciding America’s talented animals but you need to be funny and well known.

The judges vote after each animal has preformed their talent on stage giving them points from 1-10, 10 being the best (“Mario Lopez,” 2008, p.1). The judges are to write in their score before they begin to share what they thought of the animal that just preformed. Their comments are not as rude as other reality shows, but uplifting. As the judges may not be educated about the animal that is performing, the judges may not be as awed by a pet that is not incredible. If you really knew the animal and the behaviors of that animal you would find it either normal or simply amazing. An example of this is from the episode on July 7, 2008; the first contestant, a border collie jumped for Frisbees as the owner threw them while the second, a potbellied pig, went through an army obstacle course. The judges gave the Border collie one 9 and two 10s, while they gave the pig two 8s and one 9 (Ross, 2004). Both performances were well done with little mistakes. To me this was unfair judging. If you knew about the two animals you would know that Border Collies learn very fast and are very smart while potbellied pigs are stubborn and hard to train. The correct way to judge this show is to have judges that actually know about different animals and have studied their personalities.

The code of ethics that is illustrated in Pet Star shows professional conduct. As the backstage and the true prescreening of the show are not shown, there is no way to find out if there is unprofessional conduct or unfair prescreening. In most reality competition shows the judges meet the contestants before they are brought on the show, this can be unfair and cause discrimination or prejudging. A change that should be made in Pet Star is to have educated judges that know animals and their natural behaviors. With this change in the show there will be fairness in judging and the right “pet star” will be found.

While the comments on reality shows are often amusing, one show’s purpose is to find the funniest person in America. Last Comic Standing is a reality show in which stand-up comedians compete for the favor of NBC producers, celebrity talent scouts, and of course, audience members. If they succeed in this endeavor, as of the sixth season, they win, “a $250,000 grand prize including an exclusive talent deal with NBC, a brand new Honda, and a starring appearance in Jubilee! at Bally's Las Vegas.” (“Information About Last”, 2008, p.1). Comedians that attend auditions, are given a chance to perform in live showcases, and are narrowed down to only the best. Then they are voted on by the audience.

The show is hosted by Bill Bellamy, who is a comedian. Bellamy has hosted Def Comedy Jam and received an NAACP Image Award. The show also boasts “special correspondents” Fearne Cotton, ANT, and past winner Debra DiGiovanni (“Information About Last”, 2008, p.1).

The participants on the show are diverse. Anyone who thinks they are funny finds their way to the auditions. Many of the contestants who are successful have been doing stand-up for a while, but their styles differ widely. The most recent season started off with the expected satire on everyday life that stand-up generally consists of, as well as a man who impersonates dinosaurs and mosquitoes and one totes his rather large bass fiddle onstage (Hurwitz, 2008). Auditions are open, and it is up to the many celebrity talent scouts to decide who will go to the next round. The scouts don’t always agree about who is funny, but if one sees potential s/he can usually convince his/her fellow judges to give the contestant a chance. The producers are pretty good about which auditions make it into actual air-time: bad comedians are only shown to give the scouts an opportunity to explain what they are looking for or an interesting aspect of the show, such as when a comedian refuses to be rejected, as shown on a recent episode. However, this is not always the case. In one episode, we see a shirtless man in clown make-up make one bizarre statement before the scouts command him to leave. It is likely that the producers show this audition to highlight all the strange diversity of comedy, but it seems just as likely that they had another thirty seconds of air-time to fill (Hurwitz, 2008).

The talent scouts consist of several comedians and comedic actors. While many viewers would agree that these people are funny, and they have obviously found success, one may ask why they are any more qualified to know what’s funny than anyone else. Just because an actor can deliver someone else’s lines well, we give them the credit for being funny but, what about the writer? After all, stand-up comedians have to write their own material as well. Perhaps this is the reason that nearly all of the show’s talent scouts have experience in stand-up, improvisational comedy, or writing. All have been trained in the art of comedy, yet comedy is still highly subjective. After all, what makes someone laugh? Connie Weiss (2008, p.1) quotes Susanne Langer as saying that this is the wrong question-that humor is only one of the “causes of laughter.” Weiss points out that laughter can come from relief or surprise. We may find some things funny that one close to the situation would not, our detachment provides the humor. In contrast, we may find a dark or satirical joke amusing precisely because we can relate to the situation. Weiss observes that comedy often surrounds tragedy, perhaps as a way of dealing with it. This is valid, as satire or “spoofs” have become increasingly popular, and directors like Mel Brooks have based their career on them (T. Dirks, 1996, p.1). It is also what stand-up tends to be about-experiences are embellished or under exaggerated in order to see humor in them. A qualified judge would be one who understands what makes other people laugh and why. The scouts and judges are aware of these techniques, and they have honed their own comedic ability, but they are not free from bias.

While there is no popular vote in Last Comic Standing until the final round, placing more emphasis on professional opinion than many shows, although, viewers still have influence. Comedians perform in showcases, in which judges and the general population are able to see their talent. This is an important part of the process, comedian Tony Jaeger states that “Ultimately, the number of people in your audience that are laughing is the key to comedic greatness” (Jaeger, personal communication, July 7, 2008). It is important to test the hopeful comedian out on an audience. This however, definitely influences a judge’s opinion. Laughter is infectious and a judge may suddenly see a comedian as much funnier (or less amusing) in front of an audience. This also has subtle influences on the viewer who looks forward to voting. The cameramen focus on those members of the audience who seem to be having the most fun, presenting an infectious mood to the viewers as well. There is something to be said for a live connection as well. Comedy is much funnier in person, and it’s much funnier in the front row than in the back. Judge Lonny Ross stated that comedy doesn’t always translate, and though he was referring to cultural differences, it could apply to live versus filmed comedy as well.

Compared to some reality shows, Last Comic Standing runs fairly professionally. However, to limit the judge/audience influence on each other, it might be helpful to split the sections of the show. For example, the talent scouts could choose their favorite comedians from the audition. Those comedians could then perform in a showcase for an audience who votes once for their favorite-this audience would not include the judges. This would consist of the first elimination, and the show would proceed with similar guidelines until a winner is chosen. This would respect the importance of the live audience, check the people’s influences on the judges, and still allow the professional influence to be paramount.

In addition to singing, pets, and comedy, dance as become a popular subject for reality shows. America’s Best Dance Crew is a TV show broadcasted through MTV where dance groups known as “street crews” compete for money and prizes. Randy Jackson, a very successful Grammy Award-winning producer who is also a judge in the aforementioned American Idol, created the show. America’s Best Dance Crew is hosted by Mario Lopez (previously Pet Star’s host), and he hosts quite well. He does however, get overexcited sometimes and starts to demonstrate certain empathy for some of the contestants, usually when they do something totally out of the box and Mario shows his emotion in an exaggerated way.

As I previously mentioned the participants here are called “street crews”, though many of them really aren’t; most of them look pretty preppy or at least they are middle class. They might even go to dancing academies. It’s very strange how the judges refer to them as if they came from the streets even if they are not. It looks absolutely fake how some of the judges would tell them that they know what it is like to come from the streets and how difficult it is to overcome, that is annoying, even though some of the contestants really do come from the streets and most have been dancing in the streets for a long time. Only two or three groups at the most out of the twelve that compete are from the streets (Kubicek, 2007, p.1). These contestants are usually the ones that have the best qualities and do the best performances. Mario Lopez needs to remember that he is the host and he has to show partiality and not favoritism to the street dancers. The main purpose of the show is to make streets dancers famous, and when they bring people that have been going to academies or schools to the show kind of contradicts the purpose of the show (Ominous, 2007, p. 3).

The jury consist of three judges; JC Chasez, Lil Mama and Shane Sparks. JC Chasez used to be one of the members of NSYNC. Lil Mama is a former rapper-singer. Last but not least, Shane Sparks is the only professional dancer of the jury. Here is where the biggest problem is, the jury (Cudworth, 2008, p.2). Not including Shane Sparks, who is the only judge that makes good observations to the contestants’ performances and provides them with a constructive critique, JC Chasez and Lil Mama are very questionable participants on the show. Lil Mama is the main problem because of her poor critiques. There is lack of constructive comments, and the way she expresses herself makes her very hard to understand. Besides she isn’t really a dancer, she is a singer, so we could say that her experience is not relevant. Then we have JC Chasez, who has been out of the scene for almost six years. After NSYNC tore apart he tried to start a solo career, which turned out to be a big failure (Cudworth, 2008, p.2). He gained a lot of experience dancing with his group and he probably learned some basics, but let’s face it, he was just a pretty face.

The voting system is very simple, call as many times that is necessary for your favorite crew. I personally don’t vote for the contestants, but there is some sense of coherency of who is going home and who is staying in the program. We could say that there is some fairness in that part. There have only been two seasons so far, and none of the judges have changed their decisions nor have any argued the reason why certain crews have gone home. There has never been any intimate interaction between contestants and the people in charge of the show (judges, hosts, producers, executives, etc.) so that speaks volumes about the ethics of the program (Kurtz, 2007, p. 69).

In conclusion, to have absolute fairness in the show Mario Lopez would have to stop showing his favoritism. It is not necessary to kick him out, if he would just improve in that he would become a better host. Two of the judges definitely would have to be replaced for others more capable and with more experience, of the same caliber of Shane Sparks to be more specific. This way all spectators would enjoy a more fair TV show and would with no doubt keep watching it (Hill, 2005 p. 47).

As we have made evident, with the creation of a code of ethics and small changes in the voting and prescreening processes, as well as choosing highly qualified judges, reality competitions could be about real talent. These changes will result in better conditions (and chances) for the contestants, more respected judges, and an even more enjoyable experience for the viewers.



References

‘American Idol’s’ Personality Crisis Concerns Simon Cowell. (2008, April 16). Retrieved July 9, 2008 from http://weblogs.variety.com/thesetlist/2008/04/american-idol-1.html?query=Idol American Idol Website (n.d.) Retrieved July 9, 2008 from http://www.americanidol.com/



American Idol Website (n.d.). Retrieved July 9, 2008 fro http://www.americanidol.com/



Animal Planet’s ‘Pet Star’ Judges. (2008). Retrieved July 7, 2008 from http://amiannoying.com/(S(t3qj4vy042k4qo55znb4tsra))/Collection.aspx?collection=4606



Baker, B. (n.d.) What’s Wrong with American Idol? Retrieved July 9, 2008 from http://www.vocalist.org.uk/whats_wrong_american_idol.html



Borgenicht, J. & Saade, J. (2004). Reality TV Handbook. Philadelphia: Quirk Productions, Inc.



Cole, C., Viewers of Pet Star. Personal Communication, July 2, 2008.

Costello, B. (Ed.). (1991). Webster’s College Dictionary (3rd ed., p.731). USA: Random House.



Cowell, S. I don’t mean to be rude, but… Backstage Gossip from American Idol & other Secrets That Can Make You a Star. New York: Broadway Books.



Cudworth, C. (2008, March) America’s Best Dance Crew? Only you and JC Chasez can decide. Retrieved July 1, 2008 from http://www.ramcigar.com/media/storage/paper36/news/2008/03/26/Entertainment/americas.Best.Dance.Crew.Only.You.And.Jc.Chasez.Can.Decide.html



Dehnart, A. (2008). Decisions don’t come easily to reality TV Judges. Retrieved July 7, 2008 from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22669984/



Dehnart, A. (2008). Favorite Reality Television Judges. Retrieved July 7, 2008 from http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/22544440/



Dirks, T. (1996). Comedy Films. Retrieved July, 7, 2008 from http://filmsite.org/comedyfilms.html

Duffy, M. (2002). Judges' barbs tend to overshadow talent hunt. Retrieved July 7, 2008 from http://www.highbeam.com/doc/1G1-120220051.html



Finkle, D. (2006). Idle ‘Idol’-atry. Back Stage East, 47, 18.

Frere-Jones, S. (2008). IDOLATRY. New Yorker, 64, 74-75.

Frey, J. (2008, May 1). The Verdict on Reality Shows? The Judges Hold the Appeal. Retrieved July 9, 2008 from http://www.washingtonpost.com/wpdyn/content/article/2008/05/20/AR2008052002086.html



Hill, A. (2005) Real TV: Factual Entertainment and Television Audience. Los Angeles, CA: Taylor & Francis, Inc.



Hurwitz, P. et al. (Producer). (2008). Last Comic Standing [Television series]. California: National Broadcasting Company.



Idol Upset Rebukes Judges. (2008, May 22). Retrieved July 9, 2008 from http://gawker.com/tag/reality-tv/?i=5010385&t=idol-upset-rebukes-judges



Information About Last Comic Standing Show. (n.d.). Retrieved July 7, 2008 from http://www.nbc.com/Last_Comic_Standing/about/



Jaeger, A., Comedian. Personal Communication, July 7, 2008.

Kerwin, A. (2008). Will America see a kinder, gentler 'Idol' this season? Advertising Age, 79, 30.



Keveney, B. (2006, January 16). ‘Idol’ musings from the judges. USA Today, p. 4D.

Kinon, C. (2008, June 18). 'American Idol' vs. 'So You Think You Can Dance' judges. Retrieved June 30, 2008 from https://www.nydailynews.com/entertainment/tv/2008/06/18/2008-06-18_american_idol_vs_so_you_think_you_can_da-2.html



Kubicek J. (June 2008) “Interview with America’s Best Dance Crew Judge Shane Sparks” Retrieved July 3, 2008 from http://www.buddytv.com/articles/americas-best-dance-crew/exclusive-interview-with-ameri-2063.aspx



Kurtz, H. (2007) Reality Show. New York: Free Press.

Magistra. (2008, May 23). American Idol: Save Idol! Retrieved July 9, 2008 from http://blogs.phillyburbs.com/blog.php/?p=30107&cat=39#more-30107



Mansfield, B. (2008, April 16). A ticket home can be theirs for a song. USA Today, p. 1D.

Mario Lopez. (2008). Retrieved July 7, 2008 from http://animal.discovery.com/fansites/petstar/mario/mario.html



Mish, F. (Ed.). (1995). Comedy. Merriam Webster’s Collegiate Dictionary (10th ed., p. 229). Springfield: Merriam-Webster, Inc.



Ominous, A. (2007, June) “How to Create a Successful Reality Show” Retrieved July 3, 2008 from http://www.associatedcontent.com/article/272381/how_to_create_a_successful_reality.html?cat=39



Ross, R. (Writer), & King, A. (Directer). (2004). Pet Star [Television Series Episode]. Lachman, B. (Executive Producer). Animal Planet.



Roye, S. (2001). Comedy Evaluator Pro. Retrieved July 7, 2008, from http://www.killerstandup.com/comedy-evaluator-pro.htm



Sample, K. (2008, June 20). American Idol and So You Think You Can Dance judges: How do they compare? Retrieved July 1, 2008 from http://www.tvsquad.com/2008/06/20/american-idol-and-so-you-think-you-can-dance-judges-how-do-they/



Wade. (2008, June 5). Reality TV Judges. Retrieved June 29, 2008 from http://www.theapels.org/?p=11



Weiss C. (n.d.). What Makes Comedy Funny & Can We Write Comedy, Too. Retrieved July 7, 2008, from http://www.chatham.edu/PTI/Comedy/Weiss_02.htm