PORTRAIT OF A CONTEMPORARY ALIEN

su.ho.al.

Cat Got Your T-elevision?

Advertising wields the power to create brands, images, and identities. By invasively integrating itself into our society, ads frequently utilize tropes to portray common qualities of different identities. Such is the case with several archetypes present in today’s society. In particular, I will be looking at how cat-enthusiasts appear in commercials, and how this demographic is constructed using prevalent ideologies.

In this first commercial, the viewer can see both a promotion of Coke and Taylor Swift’s CD. Throughout the ad, the focus is primarily on Taylor, as she sips Coke and happily plays with her cats. However, the twist is that each time she sips her drink, the amount of cats in front of her multiplies. Evidently, she is enthused by this, and continues drinking her pop so that she can be surrounded by a staggering amount of cats. Now, Taylor Swift is an excellent celebrity to endorse the image of a cat-lover, as they now share similar brands. Taylor’s image is increasingly drifting away from her former connotation with being a serial-dating man-eater, and she is now adjusting her brand by not publicizing her relationships and frequently mentioning her cats. Single women in society are often stigmatized with labels such as “crazy cat lady” if they are reluctant to enter a relationship or go on dates – even if they do not own any cats. By identifying herself as a woman who retains such overwhelming joy from the presence of cats while thriving in the absence of men, Taylor emerges herself into this ideology.

Now, Taylor Swift is not the only celebrity who presents themselves as a subject in this ideology. In this commercial, Eva Longoria can be seen dancing with her cat in a large, ornate mansion. She is playing music, wearing luxurious-looking garments, and displaying an impressive degree of dance technique. It all looks quite serious until the scene is juxtaposed against a silent shot from outside of her house – this particular shot provides the reader with the sound of muffled music and an image of Eva dancing, which gives the commercial a light-hearted and comical twist. This twist is complimented by the sole diction of the commercial, which is “My passion. My cat. My choice.” After Eva says those words, she stops dancing to lay on the ground in a position reminiscent of a cat ready to pounce. Another interesting aspect of this commercial is the song and dance. The music is upbeat, and Eva dances in a style indicative of some sort of Latin genre. Many Latin dances often require partner-work between a man and a woman; however, Eva’s solo dancing contributes to the trope that women with cats abstain from romantic relationships, as it is night time, she is accompanied by a cat instead of a boyfriend or husband as one would expect.

This next commercial, despite not displaying a single woman, still exhibits a similar ideology. It shows a woman who is too busy cooing on the floor with a cat, to join her friends and partner for dinner. She neglects the dinner gathering to the extent where her partner remarks that her food is getting cold. This blatant lack of concern for her dinner and company, due to her fixation on her cat, insinuates that she enjoys the presence of her cat more than actual people and food. Once again, this helps frame the construct that female cat enthusiasts are obsessed with cats to the extent that it inhibits their social lives. Therefore, these sorts of advertisements create an association that any woman who owns a cat must be subject to the cat-lady stereotype. These commercials illustrate that regardless of a woman’s marital status, if she owns a cat, she will enjoy the cat’s company over that of humans.

Altogether, the advertising of cat-ladies contributes to the concept of interpellation because, despite featuring different women in different environments, these commercials portray the same static subject. There is a romantically-disinterested woman, with at least one cat, indoors, and catering to this animal in some way or another. The aforementioned descriptions are easily applicable to any of the commercials featured in this text, and beyond. This image has become so prominent in our cultural discourse that countless members of society would be able to ascribe similar attributes if they were asked to describe what comes to their minds when they imagine a “woman who has a cat.” Most likely, the respondents of that question would arrive at a similar, overall description that characterizes the iconic cat-lady. Advertising works to perpetuate this image, by continuously introducing it into our culture via commercials. This creates rigid boundaries that are hard to defy, and it creates a distinction between subjects who belong to this demographic, and those who do not.

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Fixin’ to Vote Nixon: President Nixon’s 1972 Success

President Nixon had several notable television campaigns that contributed to his re-election in 1972. Today I will be looking at the successful content of Nixon’s commercials, smear campaigns against Democratic candidate McGovern, the mistakes made in McGovern’s own advertisements, as well as the underlying historical context that affected the outcome of this election.

To begin, the Republican party produced a variety of commercials that portray Nixon as a kind, cultured, and hard-working man. Now, Nixon’s overall popularity had declined prior to his 1972 re-election campaign (Living Room Candidate). This could be due to factors like the ongoing Vietnam war which Nixon had previously promised to end, or his secretive visits to China and Russia. However, the Republican party cleverly depicts these ventures in a positive light.

The ad Nixon the Man, did Nixon’s brand an immense amount of good. Nixon had a reputation for being an incredibly private person; this ad affirms that few people do know about the details of his life which contributes to the notion that “those lower in political information [are] more influenced by ads” (Franz and Ridout). An ad such as this could easily persuade voters that Nixon had been misunderstood, and was truly a kind-hearted, cultured man. It also shows Nixon in euphoric settings, such as signing Happy Birthday, and dancing with his daughter on her wedding day. Altogether, this is a wholesome depiction of Nixon, and the ad also overtly depicts his relations with China, which works to clear up any misconceptions that people may have. As for his unfulfilled promise to end the Vietnam War, there was another commercial that addressed that issue (Campbell). In the ad Mamie, former first -lady Mamie Eisenhower can be seen endorsing President Nixon, and implying that there hasn’t been many results due to the fact that four years is not enough for a president. This speaks profoundly to Republican audiences since Eisenhower was also Republican. Moreover,  Mamie can be seen as a calm, elegant, elderly woman. In this scene, she epitomizes grace and charm. She is wearing pearls and soft-coloured dress that is indicative of a soft, grandmother-like femininity. She cheers “so let’s all get behind Mr. Nixon” before the screen switches to a scene of a roaring crowd chanting “Four more years!” This undoubtedly signifies that Nixon has a strong following that consists of political figures and average American citizens. It effectively establishes a connection between Nixon, other political presences, and his audience.

The Republicans also produced several successful smear campaigns for Nixon in 1972. The majority of these ads target all of the drastic, rash changes that the Democratic opponent, McGovern, was proposing. In fact, the subject of these attacks was McGovern’s affinity to change, like in the ad Turnaround. Turnaround highlights some of the contradictions McGovern made, while visually illustrating it by flipping a picture of McGovern’s profile. This emphasizes how McGovern’s contradictions were polar opposites. At the end of the ad, the speaker clearly emphasizes the potential for danger with a volatile leader by announcing “This year. Last year. What about next year?”, before transitioning to a still that reads “Democrats for Nixon.” This phrase makes it seem like it is perfectly fine to be a Democrat and still support Nixon, it naturalizes the political change by making the switch seem like the obvious decision. Unlike Nixon, McGovern waited until later in his campaign to begin mudslinging. Nixon released more attack ads than McGovern. One of McGovern’s ads, Tanya, contains a black background and white text, and criticizes Nixon’s concern for a Russian orphan named Tanya, by juxtaposing the casualties in Russia to those in South Vietnam. The ad Tanya ends with the text “McGovern” in bold, white lettering. Now, the rhetoric in this ad is much stronger than his opponent’s attack ads. Nixon’s ads ask the viewers biased questions, which are almost certain to evoke some sort of opinion from spectators. Meanwhile, McGovern’s attack ads have no strong audience engagement. They do not try to elicit a change in the viewer, instead they present a narrative. The Republicans achieved such successful attack campaigns due to their tenacity, aggression, and by calling their audience to action.

McGovern’s television advertisements generally seem to lack focus, and do not always depict the candidate favourably. For instance, in the McGovern ad “Change”, the idea of being “for the people” is emphasize; however, fourteen seconds into the ad you can hear a foreign voice about to chime in, only to be cut off by McGovern saying “let me just add one thing” while panning towards the face of a listener. This makes it seem as though McGovern did not actually listen to Americans. In fact, it makes him appear ignorant of his peoples’ opinions and viewpoints. Many of McGovern’s other ads also seem to lack a clear call to action. When campaigning, it is essential to focus on the audience and to motivate them to perform some sort of action. In essence, strong persuasion techniques worked in Nixon’s favour during his 1972 re-election campaign. Meanwhile, McGovern fell victim to effective attacks from the Republicans, and his own advertisements were unable to propel him to success due to weak and unclear ads.

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Campbell, Joseph W. Nixon’s mythical ‘secret plan’ invoked as putdown. Media Myth Alert. October 17th 2014. Accessed on February 5th 2015, from: https://mediamythalert.wordpress.com/2014/10/17/nixons-mythical-secret-plan-invoked-as-putdown-in-conn-gubernatorial-race/

Franz, Michael M., and Ridout, Travis N. Does political advertising persuade? Accessed February 5th 2015, from: https://learn.uwaterloo.ca/d2l/le/content/186045/fullscreen/1119398/View

The Living Room Candidate. 1972 Nixon vs. McGovern. 2012. Accessed on February 5th 2015, from: http://www.livingroomcandidate.org/commercials/1972

Basics, Laces, and Pretty Faces

// Discourse of Advertising Assignment 2

There is often a clear division in lingerie ads that signify a segregation between the practical and the fashionable. Through advertisements, it is evident that not all lingerie serves the same purpose. In addition, it is also apparent that lingerie brands utilize familiar signs in order to produce palatable advertisements, which minimize the potentially negative effects of themes and images that may be otherwise perceived as taboo.

Fruit of the Loom

It is typical for brands such as Fruit of the Loom (pictured above) to exhibit their supposedly comfortably, ready-to-wear undergarments on vivacious and energetic models. The advertisement to the left is crisp and fun. The model wears an immense smile while sporting a soothing green coloured lingerie set. The colour of her attire alone conveys the ideal of freshness, and her minimal-makeup face does the same. Meanwhile, the ad towards the right portrays a similar scene, but with different models of varying ethnic origins. The colours in this ad are just as eye-catching as those in the previous ad, if not more. The poses in these advertisements portray movement, which communicates to the viewer that these are comfortable and non-restrictive. The models are engaged in a variety of poses, in some instances they are not even facing the viewer. Instead they are looking beyond their immediate environment which indicates that they’re busy, and too preoccupied enjoying their mobility to completely lock gazes with the viewer. In fact, this attitude almost seems to imply that these women are free and single, as there is almost no detectable sex-appeal in these ads. It is as if comfortable underwear is for single women.

Victoria's Secret

Victoria’s Secret

Now, Victoria’s Secret, a notoriously more upscale brand often portrays women in lacy, itchy looking undergarments. The model above does not look like her lingerie will enable her to move about freely and practically, in fact she isn’t even fully covered. She also appears to be waiting for someone, which could imply that more lavish and scandalous underwear is for women with a partner. Here the model is engulfed in hues of red, gold, and fuchsia. These colours in unison do not contain the same free, innocence as the Fruit of the Loom ads. In unison with the model’s posture and expression, they create a sexually charged atmosphere.

Although, the model’s features can also communicate a more sinister undertone. Her lips are pouted and slightly parted, meanwhile the look in her eyes seems somewhat pained – it is almost as though she is whining or complaining which are mannerisms similar to those of a child. Jhally claims that “persons using [beds] will be positioned lower than anyone who is sitting or standing. A recumbent position also leaves people in a poor position to defend themselves and thus puts them at the mercy of others. These positions are of course also a ‘conventionalized expression of sexual avail-ability.'” Altogether, this constructs a very awkward contradiction where adult women wearing hyper-sexualized lingerie create dangerous associations with the puerile, vulnerable children. Even the direction of the model’s gaze implies that she is fixated on someone above her, someone more authoritative. While such taboo messages should make the reader uncomfortable, they don’t. This is because “as pictures of reality, they do not look strange to us” (Jhally). Semiotically, the way such an ad is interpreted in modern, western society is that it denotes a pretty woman, on a bed, wearing nothing but a pair of underwear. There is the connotative, or associated, meaning that surfaces all of the sexual, and potentially pedophilia, implications (Barthes). To elaborate, we assume that she is looking up at a man, because in contemporary, western society, a nearly-nude woman in lingerie laying on a bed indicates that some form of sexual interaction will occur. Readers can assume that there will be an encounter with another person because the model’s gaze implies that she is not alone in that room. Furthermore, it is assumed that this second person is male, because modern society is conditioned to expect the traditional, gender-binaries to be present in romantic or sexual relationships; this is another reason why viewers may not perceive this ad as shocking since it is “a reflection of the realm of gender displays” (Jhally). While it is sexual, contains devious undertones, and depicts a provocative, impractical pair of underwear, it contains symbols that its readers are familiar with.

spring-2015-ads-agent-provocateur-02
Above is a ad featuring supermodel Naomi Campbell for the Spring 2015 campaign from the French lingerie brand Agent Provacateur. This image brings the prevalence of fashion above those of the Victoria’s Secret and Fruit of the Loom ads. Now, there is absolutely nothing practical about this lingerie, and consequently, it is probably targeted towards wealthier women who are able to splurge on multiple pieces of high-end, skimpy, silk garments. Unlike the Victoria’s Secret advertisement, there are no implications of submission. Campbell embodies a strong, edgy woman in this image. She casts a coy glance while sitting on the edge of the vanity with her foot triumphantly placed against the bed. Moreover, her left hand is in a man’s jacket pocket, tenderly holding what appears to be a thin book or passport. While the garments appear to be confining, the model appears to be in control. This image insinuates that she is wealthy, powerful, and perhaps even well-travelled. These are all characteristics that many women aspire to command in today’s modern world.

On a more sour note, all of these ads do share the similar trope of a young, physically fit, and attractive model. There is little variation between the models’ waistlines and physical appearance; they all encapsulate the fantasy of a youthful and toned beauty, regardless of the price of their panties. This may be due to the fact that there is no overwhelming demand for realistic models. Lingerie brands want to sell their products, and they want to please the masses. In the rare event when non-super-slim women are featured exclusively wearing undergarments, the campaigns will be met with backlash. A man named Richard Roeper whined “give me the fantasy babes” after seeing an advertisement will full-figured women (Pozner). Roeper critiqued the audacity of Dove for publishing an advertisement that did not cater to his desire to see young, attractive, idealistic women. Therefore, while there may be a wide variety of types of lingerie that is presented in a vast array of settings; however, the slim, youthful, and beautiful model remains a constant similarity among print campaigns for lingerie giants.

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Textual References

Barthes, Roland. Rhetoric of the Image. Web. Accessed on January 27th, 2015, from:
http://faculty.georgetown.edu/irvinem/theory/Barthes-Rhetoric-of-the-image-ex.pdf

Jhally, Sut. What’s Wrong with a Little Objectification?. Web. Accessed on January 27th, 2015, from:
http://www.sutjhally.com/articles/whatswrongwithalit/

Pozner, Jennifer L.. Dove’s “Real Beauty” Backlash. 2005. Web. Accessed on January 27th, 2015, from:
http://www.wimnonline.org/articles/dovebacklash.html
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Image References

Fruit of the Loom:

Victoria’s Secret:
http://www.gafollowers.com/wp-content/uploads/2015/01/Erin-Heatherton-Victorias-Secret-Lingerie.jp

Agent Provocateur:

Tech-Tox

So I broke my iPhone 5 after nearly two years without a hitch. I accidentally slammed it in a car door the screen was completely shattered. Now, this wasn’t the end of the world, my phone still worked but its surface was shedding glass like a golden retriever sheds hair in the summertime. Despite the occasional ‘ow-I-poked-my-finger-while-tweeting’, everything was relatively fine. The real problems didn’t start until I naively took my precious little baby to a third-party repair service. Needless to say, they botched my little sidekick beyond functionality. Those meanies. Serves me right for being too cheap to go directly to Apple.

After having spent several hours in the Apple store, they told me that there’s nothing that can be done. My only option is to get a new phone, but is that even necessary? Do I need a phone? No. I don’t need a phone. While crying as the Apple CSR delivered the bad news, I had an epiphany. This little device is the single greatest harbinger of stress in my life. The incessant notifications, phone calls, text messages, e-mails constantly bind me to my 3 jobs and 2 on-going group projects. Really, my workaholicism should finish when I close my laptop for the night, but because of my phone it doesn’t. On numerous occasions, I’ve woken up at 2am because of late-night text messages and e-mails from colleagues and coworkers. Now, this might not be so bad if I cared a little less, but I honestly care too much. Oftentimes, I feel guilty if I feel like I’m not working hard enough. It distracts me when I should be sleeping, when I should be paying attention in class, and even when I’m out for dinner with friends. Now, with the new year and all, I’m determined to cut back and simplify while committing myself to a technology detox (or a tech-tox as I like to call it). My laptop will be for school and work, my iPad will be for fun, and my phone will remain turned off for the next four weeks at least.

I guess this mishap was really a blessing in disguise. Or, I don’t know. Maybe this will hinder my ability to organize myself and stay connected to friends. Either way, I’ll be sure to post an update in a month’s time.

“Smells Like Overly-Sexualized-Fragrance-Industry Spirit”

//Discourse of Advertising Assignment #1

Perfume ads have always intrigued me, so upon seeing the selection of possible advertising genres to analyze the choice was obvious. There are numerous fragrance advertisements plastered throughout magazines, but there usually seems to be several common themes among them. Throughout this analysis, I will be primarily focusing on various advertisements for men’s fragrances.

Screen-shot-2014-09-02-at-11.09.46-AMThe ads pictured above belong to a 2007 campaign for Tom Ford’s debut male fragrance. Now, despite being a men’s fragrance, this ad campaign features a fully nude female in erotic poses with the product strategically placed both on the woman and in the advertisement. There is no man in these photos, nor is there any information about the perfume. Instead, the text simply states “Tom Ford For Men” in big, bold font. Solomon states that “nothing cuts through the clutter like sex”, in the sense that among the overwhelming amount of advertisements we are exposed to on a daily basis the sexual ones are usually the most shocking, provocative, and engaging. Advertisements such as the one above do not directly sell the product or inform you about any of the perfume’s features. However, these advertisements do incite conversation, evoke reactions, and allow the viewer to establish his or her own connections. Barry implies that it is usually best to imply a message, and “Leaving a bit for the consumer to figure out will engage them with your idea” (25). Therefore, the ad doesn’t need to explicitly say ‘use this perfume, then you can have sex with flawless women‘, it visually screams this connection between the fragrance and sex which allows the viewers to establish their own interpretations, all while engaging the viewers much more effectively than if the ad were to simply feature an image of a perfume bottle without the nude model.

gucci-guilty-for-men-perfume-L-Z0uy_CNow looking at a print ad for Gucci Guilty Pour Homme, another male fragrance, sexual undertones are once again present. While this ad for men’s fragrance actually has a male in it, there is still an element of sex. In this ad, the woman is clearly lost in a bout of ecstasy and her focus is entirely on the man. Meanwhile the man has his gaze locked on the viewer. This intense look could have several potential meanings based on the consumer. Men who view this ad could perceive this look as a means of intimidation, where the model is blatantly holding a sexually-engaged woman, and smirking and gazing intently at the viewer as if to communicate ‘look what I have‘ and to evoke a sense of inferiority or envy among viewers. In a way, ads such as these convey a idealistic lifestyle to their viewers, these ads “work by creating symbolic associations between their product and what is most coveted by the consumers to whom they are addressed” (Solomon). Consequently, these ads which seem to feature more sex appeal than fragrance can insinuate that men want sex. By associating their product with sex, a semiotic connection between the perfume and sex can be established.

The tricky thing about perfume ads is that there is no way to ascertain whether or not the models are actually using the product. You cannot see the man or woman applying the fragrance, it is all implied. There is a certain lifestyle associated with splashing on a designer label fragrance, and through these ads, this lifestyle is conveyed to the audience. Male fragrances seem to focus overwhelmingly on sex, and imply that using a certain fragrance will lead to passionate encounters with slim and glossy model-esque women.

Mark-Ronson-for-Fendi-fragrance-campaign1

Fan di Fendi Pour Homme

1409937436_doutzen-kroes-charlie-hunnam-zoom

Reveal by Calvin Klein

Overall the majority of men’s perfume advertisements share many similar characteristics. As mentioned previously there is the ominous and overwhelming association with sex. However, the images are also composed similarly. The colours are all very subdued and sophisticated. There are blends of nudes, golds, and flesh tones often accompanied by greyscale images or the reddish hues. The colour red is particularly striking for me as colours can have profound meaning. Red can symbolize passion, love, power, regality, and fire, among other things. All of these underlying, signified connotations of the colour red play well into establishing a connection between the product, and what the consumer desires most. It is common for most people to seek passion, power, and prestige, and colour is a subtle yet effective way that these associations can be created in ways that go deeper than flashing lights in the backseat window of a car, or a cityscape reflected through a window.

In addition, the placement of the perfume bottle is similar in each ad. The human gaze naturally descends from top to bottom of a page, so the first thing the viewer sees in each of these ads is the man or woman, then the gaze slowly drops to the bottle. This can once again allow the viewer to make his or her own connections, and arrive at a conclusion where the man and perfume are correlated.

Regarding the audience of these fragrance ads, they are saturated in sex appeal and therefore appear to be targeted towards an older, sexually-active demographic. This demographic is presumedly 20 – 50 years old, and can be male or female depending on the specific fragrance being featured. Men would purchase this fragrance for themselves, or women would purchase these products for their partners. The visual patterns present in these ads reflect a wealthy, powerful audience, or an audience of men who aspire to live a powerful, passionate life. All of these perfumes are well-known brands fragrances by these brands can cost upwards of $100 CAD; therefore, one would already need to have some degree of disposable income in order to responsibly sustain such purchases. There is also connotations related to The American Dream present in these advertisement. The men pictured are all young, assumedly wealthy and successful, and are able to easily attract beautiful women.  Now, this is not ordinary for the average citizen, but Solomon claims “Americans dream of rising above the crowd, of attaining a social summit beyond the reach of ordinary citizens.” This ideal prevails throughout the ads, as nothing indicates that the models depicted are ordinary. They are all incredibly attractive by Western standards, and wield a considerable amount of affluence and influence. Everything about the images reeks of an unattainable fantasy, from the colours, environments, emotions conveyed, and the people themselves. However, the perfume industry uses images such as the ones above in an attempt to dismantle the barrier between this fantasy and the viewer in order to really sell this highly sought-after lifestyle. The themes in these ads are all similar, and they’re all successful in portraying an unattainable fantasy in cohesion with a bottle of fragrance while selling the idea that smelling good leads to success, power, and sex.


Textual References:

Barry, Pete. The Advertising Concept Book. New York: Thames & Hudson Inc., 2012. Print.

Solomon, Jack. Masters of Desire: The Culture of American Advertising. Accessed on January 13th, 2015, from:
http://www.indiana.edu/~slavicgf/e103/assignments/solomon_reading_1.html

Image References:

Tom Ford Advertisement:
http://vestoj.com/app/uploads/2014/09/Screen-shot-2014-09-02-at-11.09.46-AM.png

Gucci Advertisement:
https://suhoal.files.wordpress.com/2015/01/edf7a-single_page_ad_-_guilty_male.jpg

Fendi Advertisement:
http://theedito.com/wp-content/uploads/2012/08/Mark-Ronson-for-Fendi-fragrance-campaign1.jpg

Calvin Klein Advertisement:
http://www.usmagazine.com/uploads/assets/articles/77151-charlie-hunnam-doutzen-kroes-topless-calvin-klein-reveal-ads/1409937436_doutzen-kroes-charlie-hunnam-zoom.jpg

“Defiance Against Kings and Audiences” – A Game of Thrones Essay

Hi everyone! Below is a copy of an essay I wrote for my medieval rhetoric class! My end-of-term assignment was to take the ideas of at least one of the rhetors covered this term (I chose George Campbell) and apply it to a modern piece of pop culture – pretty sick, right? Since I have become completely enraptured by Game of Thrones, I decided to write about a scene from season 4. I hope you enjoy it and I would love your feedback! (Please don’t be too harsh though – it was for a 3rd year course and I’m only a 2nd year student, haha. Also, I got the excerpt from here: http://insidetv.ew.com/2014/06/14/game-of-thrones-tyrions-trial-speech-script/).

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In any sort of rhetorical discourse, the audience is an integral component as an audience is contingent to the reception of a speech and the completion of the speaker’s objective. It is absolutely fundamental to understand an audience, and to identify one’s primary intention. This can be an incredibly daunting task of any rhetor, and George Campbell thoroughly acknowledges this and goes into depths on the topic and the manner in which one can successfully influence an audience with their intended outcome in his work, “The Philosophy of Rhetoric”. The concepts which Campbell explains are applicable in the context of Tyrion Lannister’s trial scene in the episode “The Laws of Gods and Men” in the television series Game of Thrones. During this scene, Tyrion is determined to maintain his integrity in front of massive audiences that hold a bias against him and prove his resilience to his father. His first audience is an enormous group of spectators, and while they do not have the authority to determine Tyrion’s guilt or innocence, they nonetheless contribute to the tense, hostile atmosphere of the courtroom. Then there is the council, which consists of a dense assortment of people, each of whom Tyrion holds a unique, personal relationship with. Therefore, in this scene Tyrion is at an irreparable disadvantage due to his unfavorable position with his audiences; however, he manages to successfully focus on his intended audience and deliver an impactful demand in an unjust trial.
To begin, audiences have critical roles in the reception and success of rhetorical discourse. Rhetoric is extremely contingent on its audiences as they determine how a specific work is interpreted, received and shared. The role of the audiences is so critical as they can either hinder or heighten a rhetorician’s discourse. In this particular scene, there are three main audiences: the spectators of the trial, the council judging Tyrion, and the viewing audience since this is an excerpt from a television program. However, this analysis will only focus on the first two audiences. Tyrion is forced to defend his integrity before two very vicious audiences as he stands falsely accused of regicide. It is important that he remains shrewd and calculated in his speech “because rhetoric is tied to the contingencies of the audience, it is strategic: the speaker must figure out how to deliver the message in a way that garners a positive audience reaction” (Keith 12). Prior to the trial, Tyrion is aware that his audiences will deem him guilty of this atrocious crime. This is evident in his discussion with his brother Jaime Lannister. Jaime explains that Tyrion needs “to enter a formal plea for mercy” since he is “going to be found guilty” (The Laws of Gods and Men). Therefore, Tyrion and his allies have the opportunity to methodically figure out to how Tyrion should approach the trial and address his situation before his audiences. In addition to Tyrion’s challenging situation, he must understand his audience is mixed as there are two distinct groups of hearers. Campbell states, “the more mixed the auditory is, the greater is the difficulty of speaking to them with effect” (Campbell 789). The audience members present at the trial vary greatly. Tyrion simultaneously speaks before royalty, nobles, commoners of King’s Landing and even a whore. All of these people have different relationships with Tyrion, different relationships with the deceased King Joffrey, and possess different understandings of the incident on trial. Consequently, Tyrion must wisely choose which audience members’ wills he wishes to move, and focus his discourse in a way that will achieve his intended goal with those particular members. Campbell elaborates on the challenges of a mixed auditory by acknowledging, “what will tend to favour your success with one, may tend to obstruct it with another” (Campbell 789). For example, Jaime Lannister knows that Joffrey was a malevolent king and that Tyrion’s trial is not likely to end in his favour, meanwhile a member of nobility who is fiercely loyal to the king will have an entirely different perception of the incident and probably find the trial incredibly just and perhaps even entertaining. Altogether, it is difficult to create a speech that will please the majority of his audience, and it is also challenging to ascertain exactly how each individual person perceives the trial. Therefore, it is critical that Tyrion acknowledges the impossibility of pleasing everyone and instead focuses on the importance of molding his discourse to be beneficial to his end goal.
One of the unavoidable aspects of this trial is the audience in the courtroom. This audience consists of loud, boisterous and opinionated subjects of King’s Landing, which insinuates that they are all former subjects of the late Joffrey. No one within this audience has any authority over the trial’s judges; however, these people are still very telling of the ideologies and common mentality through the ways that they respond to Tyrion and other speakers throughout the trial. Also, the subjects attending the trial contribute to the event’s overall reception. The first thing that is evident from these hearers is Tyrion’s ethos. As soon as Tyrion enters the room, audience members call out “Kingslayer! Monster”(The Laws of Gods and Men) and other accusations. Even when Tyrion bitterly confirms that he “did not kill Joffrey” (The Laws of Gods and Men), the crowd continues to bellow out their slanders. This indicates that, even when Tyrion clearly states his account of the incident, the crowd does not believe him. When trying to move the will, sympathy can be incredibly valuable; although, “Sympathy in the hearers to the speaker may be lessened several ways… by a low opinion of the his intellectual abilities, and by a bad opinion of his morals” (Campbell 786). If the crowd is convinced that Tyrion committed regicide, their perception of his morality would be abysmal since it is a treacherous, inhumane act that is characteristic of a bad man – and it is elementary to know that a bad man speaking, regardless of how well he speaks, will not be perceived as credible (Campbell 786). Furthermore, the crowd condemns Tyrion before the trial even begins. This indicates that there is a definite bias against Tyrion. Given the scale of Joffrey’s death, it has most likely “been a topic of conversation in most companies, perhaps throughout the kingdom” (Campbell 792). Therefore, the hearers have had a sufficient amount of time to reflect on Joffrey’s murder, discuss the event, and form an opinion. While this bias affects what they say to Tyrion and how they perceive his speech, there is a degree of bias. Whether this bias is slight or severe is contingent upon each individual spectator. Bias stems from probability, and since Tyrion is the only suspect on trial, the crowd knows that there is a possibility Tyrion is the culprit. However, Campbell cautions that “Probability… begets belief… Belief raised to the highest becomes certainty” (Campbell 777). Consequently, there might be spectators who are certain of Tyrion’s alleged guilt, and this certainty stems from mere probability. A final component that puts Tyrion at an unfair disadvantage with this first audience is popularity. Inside and outside of the courtroom, Lord Tywin wields an immense amount of control. Tywin’s formal position is the Hand of the King, which means that he governs the most powerful man in Westeros, the king. In comparison, Tyrion is inferior in countless aspects – especially when perceived by the spectators. Evidently, “The man who enjoys the advantage of popularity needs not this caution. The minds of his auditors are perfectly attuned to his” (Campbell, 786). Even if audience members believe Tyrion, out of fear or loyalty, they will defend whatever Tywin declares. It would be very dangerous for a member of this audience to publically defend Tyrion, because defending Tyrion consequently implies defiance against the king, which is punishable in Westeros. Ultimately, this audience is immovable, regardless of anything Tyrion does or says. They are simply biased, afraid, and inveigled by those in power. Even if Tyrion is capable of shifting this audience’s will it would be a useless effort, since no wise subject would overtly defy the king and put their life in jeopardy for a man accused of murder.
The second audience, and evidently the more challenging of the two, is the councilmen and the witnesses. This audience includes notable characters such as Tywin, Cersei, Jaime, Shae, and other people who Tyrion has some sort of personal relationship with. In rhetoric, there are many components to bear in mind when trying to move an audience, such as the proximity to the event. When trying to move the passions, “any melancholy incident is the more affecting that it is recent” (Campbell 781). This idea affects Tyrion’s discourse negatively. Joffrey’s murder is a pretty catastrophic event for Cersei, as Joffrey was her son, and also for Tywin, as Joffrey was going to carry on Tywin’s legacy. Undoubtedly, it is a tragic loss for many members of this council, regardless of how malicious Joffrey was, he was still a strategic asset to the Lannisters and their allies. Another component that creates a challenge for Tyrion is his relationships with the audience members. Unlike the public audience, all of the people judging and testifying against Tyrion have a personal relationship with him. While some people have a positive relationship with Tyrion, others share a very toxic relationship with him. This is important because, “relation to the actors commonly produces an effect contrary to that produced by relation to the sufferers” (Campbell 782). It is important for Tyrion to ascertain the emotions of each of these audience members, as well as the malleability of their emotional states. Some people are merciful towards Tyrion, meanwhile different people are immovable in their loathing, and “it is impossible with any precision to reduce these effects to rules: so much depending on the different tempers and sentiments of different audiences” (Campbell 782). For example, Cersei is brimming with contempt towards Tyrion. Joffrey was Cersei’s son, and Cersei wants nothing more than for Tyrion to be found guilty. Although Jaime and Oberyn Martell, who find this trial to be unfair and harbor negative emotions towards Tywin, might be more willing to develop sympathy and relinquish any disdain towards Tyrion. The relationships and experiences between the members of this audience are much more intricate and incredibly varied. While Tyrion does have some insight into the temperaments of each of these people, there is a higher degree of complexity since he needs to determine exactly who to appeal to and how he should do so in order to meet his intended end.
Despite the audiences’ predominantly negative responses to Tyrion’s presence and the difficulties that each audience proposes, Tyrion manages to accomplish his objective. The main member of the audience Tyrion wishes to defy is his father, Tywin. Tyrion manages to publically insult everyone who has humiliated him, including Tywin, Cersei, Shae and the subjects of King’s Landing. It seems as though Tyrion is aware discourse “must be rendered conducive to that which is the primary intention” (Campbell 750). Tyrion gradually hurls out successive slews of insults that impact the intended audience members. He overtly expresses his regret in regards to saving “all [the public’s] worthless lives”, dismisses Joffrey as a “vicious bastard”, and exposes how Tywin has been ashamed of his dwarfism throughout his entire life (The Laws of Gods and Men). Another interesting aspect about this scene is the dichotomy between Tyrion’s relationship with the public in contrast with the relationships between himself and those he knows personally, particularly Tywin. In this trial, Tywin seems to wield control and influence amongst everyone. Tywin’s flawless control is evident as there are several times when the crowd of spectators creates deafening uproars, and while Tyrion is forced to shout over the cries of the crowds, Tywin is always able to control the audience by simply commanding “Silence” as the crowd is obligated to listen to him. Despite the evident inequality in this dual power struggle, Tyrion remains defiant and chooses this public domain to discuss his frustrations in a private sphere. He denotes how he is “guilty of being a dwarf” (The Laws of Gods and Men), which is obviously one of his flaws according to his father. In this part of Tyrion’s speech, it is apparent that he is solely focusing on Tywin, while ignoring the rest of the audiences, as it is Tywin who possesses the greatest power in this trial. In successful rhetoric, “It is necessary to show that the action will answer some end” (Campbell 775). Although this trial does not determine whether Tyrion is guilty or innocent – which is the conclusion that audience members would expect, Tyrion’s objective is to deny his father the authority to determine his guilt while demonstrating his resilience. Furthermore, Campbell notes that if a judge is merciless, “there may be no real change wrought upon the judge. He may continue to be the same obdurate wretch he was before” (Campbell 793). Tywin has an authoritative disposition, and is a calculated strategist, yet Tyrion succeeds in moving Tywin’s will. Several times towards the end of the trial, Tywin tries to coerce Tyrion into pleading guilty, but Tyrion never succumbs the way his father wants him to. Tyrion’s final words in the trial are “I know I’ll get no justice here, so I will let the gods decide my fate. (beat) I demand a trial by combat!” (The Laws of Gods and Men). This statement confirms that Tyrion is aware of the unjust circumstances against him, but most importantly this challenges Tywin’s authority, which is something Tyrion has struggled against throughout his entire life. For Tywin to be challenged and moved by his own son demonstrates an undeniable shift in power. In this proclamation, Tyrion prolongs the outcome of the trial, and will be judged in fairer circumstances.
Ultimately, there is never any hope of Tyrion proving his innocence or successfully defending himself against an onslaught of red-eyed spectators and enraged prosecutors. However, Tyrion does honour his integrity by standing defiantly against an overwhelming amount of accusers. While some of his auditory are overcome with bias, or inveigled by influence, and other audience members are reluctant to let Tyrion plead anything other than guilty, Tyrion remains triumphant. Even though Tyrion faces an opposing, mixed audience of strangers and family, he still successfully changes Tywin’s will, which results in a second trial that nobody aside from Tyrion anticipates. In this second trial, Tywin will have no control as the outcome will be decided by combat and not through biased or unjust convictions.

werewolf

Below is a short piece of prose entitled “werewolf” that I wrote when I was 16. It used to be on my old blog, but since that was deleted long ago I figured that I would share it on here. To this day, it’s one of my favourite pieces that I’ve written.

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“Care to make a donation to help save starving children in Uganda?”
I am not sure how to feel about parting with what little money I hold within the pockets of my deep green coat. Even more so, I am unsure how I feel about the young girl, promenading about the busy New York street corner, with a picture of a sullen African boy in her hands, attempting to evoke pity from passers-by. The girl is wrapped in thick layers that protect her from the harsh, blustering winds and drifting snow. Meanwhile, the boy on the poster gazes into the camera with immense eyes, protruding from his emaciated skull as flies, and other infectious creatures, maraud his tear-sodden face. I wonder about the person who captured this image. Surely they allow the boy to remain malnourished enough to model for their alleged altruistic charity.

My flat lay barren, its atmosphere weighted heavily by an ethereal loneliness. Abandoned, unfinished oil canvases depicting various scenes of lost tranquility lay stacked upon one another, cracked and dirty. Most notably is a neglected Mother Mary I once lost myself in years ago during the peak of my artistic career. Its colours faded and indiscernible.

The walls are drenched in an uninviting tone of olive green. A shade reminiscent of rotting flesh, with traces of pulsing blood, leagues beneath its surface. Clinging to the bleak walls was nothing, save for a mirror, in which a ghostly apparition stood. Booted feet, bare legs, a woolen coat, a hat, perhaps. I concluded that the gaunt, expressionless face staring at me must be my own.

I remember having no voice as a youth. I remember relishing every moment of my self-induced solitude. Memories are difficult things to place value on. It is impossible to discern the exact worth of the time that has passed, the things you did and the people you held those memories with. With time, my memories have sentimentally depreciated and figuratively blended together. It is all a blur. Vaguely, I remember a park, a slide, some mangled swings dangling from the rusted frame of a swing set. I hang my head, cupping it in my hands, avoiding the face before me, as though it knows the direction of my wandering thoughts.

“Something the matter?” he asks.
“I’m just a little bored. Sorry.”

I’m bored, in all sincerity. I’m tired of the skulking mundanity that each repetitive day brings. I’m tired of going for coffee with men who can’t maintain my interest for an evening. I’m tired of the tempting bottle of pills in the forefront of my medicine cabinet.

“You sure you’re alright?”

Each word that seeps past his ever-moving lips plunges me deeper into my own thoughts. Not always a good place to be. His meaningless, insincere inquiries sound rehearsed and worn. As though his aging lips have uttered them an innumerable amount of times. Though, I cannot blame him. He is an escapist. Every chirp of his frail voice and faltering, unconfident tone acts as a means of escape for him. He is escaping the silence. Like a fish out of water he is frantic, he is flailing. Simply unable to silently stare at me from across the table for the remainder of the evening. “Leah?” he croaks, with a nervous edge to his voice. There he goes again, I thought, trying to evoke an answer from me, and trying to escape the encroaching silence that is bound to inevitably engulf our doomed conversation.

I look up. He’s different this time. Following my example and paying no attention to the conversation. Enrapturing himself in a far away land beyond the café’s window. A land of setting, fiery suns igniting fields of golden wheat, setting them ablaze in a triumphant and barbaric manner. A place where gargantuan larks would sing sorrowful swan songs. Or so I imagine. As he occupies himself with his nonchalant, insignificant musings I rest my right elbow on the wrought-iron table, placing my chin in the cusp of my palm. I begin to mouth the words that linger on the tip of my tongue, yet are unable to cross the threshold into the delicate, unknown, and undisturbed environment that lies just beyond the horizon of my lower lip. Instinctively, my mouth begins to move:
“You’re boring. Every colloquialism that you utter is charcoal to my soul. You don’t care about me, and you never will. Maybe I would dignify your petty insincerities with a response if you were able to assert yourself and show some bloody confidence-”

“Yes!?” His head jerks upwards, alarmed and urgent. “Did you say something?”

I reply with a blink of my eyes, surprised that he heard my silent slanders. However, I just dismiss his question as if he didn’t exist. He must have heard me stress the “-ence” of “confidence” on the back of my teeth. I feel like a boa constrictor skulking its prey, only to be stripped of all secrecy by the sound of its own treacherous hiss.

Biting my tongue behind the façade of my exterior smile, I drop my glance from his perplexed, curiosity-consumed eyes to that of the table. The scratched table that shamelessly displays evidence of years of abuse, sustained by the copious amounts of caffeine addicts and loiterers. I wonder how many lovers spent their evenings sitting here. For a fact, I know that this very table has been frequented an insurmountable amount of times between potential suitors and myself.

While distancing myself from the uncomfortable relationship with an acquaintance in a coffee shop, beyond the storefront window, I imagine a man I once knew.

Before I could feel anger, I felt something called love. The harbinger of my infatuation was a man named I thought I knew. I wanted to be your door in a room filled with windows. A door that would expose you to an enticing and adventurous path. It would be a road that would lead you to somewhere you’ve never been before. Through your tall stature and dark features, I was intrigued, and by your vexing personality, I was smitten. Upon mention of your name to friends and family, I would receive warnings. They would call you a demon. A sorcerer. A witch. I thought you were a wonderful man, though.

You acknowledged my imprisoning silence and set me free. Exposed me to foreign places not yet uncovered by my careful, naïve self. For you knew that my bashful expressions and impish laughter were caging my soul. All of my anxieties knotting together like a childish game of cat’s cradle. Across a room flooded with people, you fixed your gaze upon me, and you read my lips. In that instant, I thought I had found love. Slowly, I remember how you approached me, and how I pled with my eyes:
Unravel me. Free me from my callow confinement. Release me into your sophisticated realm of classical poetry and jazz music. Enchant me. Enlighten me.

For several months, you were my inspiration, my muse, my obsession. Initially, I was unsure if you were real, or simply an illusion of my flourishing, childish imagination. Regardless, I began to recognize what I learned to be your silhouette; I started to follow the vexing sound that became your voice. You would laugh at my juvenile dramas, turning my tragedies into comedies. Enveloping me in your welcoming arms as we would embrace until the minutes blended into hours, hours to days…

Then, the fated day came. The day you took me by my wrists, gently coaxing me out of the comfort of the coffee shop we usually spent our evening hours within. Together, we ventured through the drifting snow. You led me to the forest. There, you told me how every tree bore a unique indication, representing a memory, a feeling, a piece of yourself. You also spoke of the wind chimes, the ornaments, the birds and the squirrels that decorated these same precious trees. Though, your descriptions were not necessary. I was able to marvel at the forest’s magnificence without your narration, however, I liked the sound of your voice and let you ramble. The sound of your deep, raspy voice was soothing, I cherished every word you exchanged with me. Letting go of my delicate wrists, you allowed my hands to fall to my sides, and urged me to drop to the frozen forest floor. Listlessly, we fell like the snow around us.

Once again, you laughed. Confused but loyal, I trusted you, believing your intentions to be honest and true. Soon, I discovered that the falling, fragmented, frost was no longer made of crystalized water. No. The flakes that fluttered in front of me were made of betrayal, deceit and bullshit. They turned your caramel-coloured jacket a shade darker, and flushed your face a shade of red so vivid, so startling, not even Van Gogh himself could have replicated it. Before my very eyes, you became a monster, a wolf, a merciless beast of the steppes.

Without even noticing, without even thinking to remember me, you drifted away. In search of another young fool such as myself, or perhaps you fell into the grasp of a malignant bitch. A malicious woman, one with intentions far crueler you could ever comprehend. Meanwhile, you left my heart to freeze and my mind to wander, as my body remained lifeless on the icy forest floor.

You may never read my journals or hear my thoughts. But you continue to soar past me. Everyday, I look for your traits in the silhouettes and personalities of lonesome men that flock the city streets. In my dreams, I reside in a utopian society infested with the feelings expressed in our former relationship. Whenever I hear footsteps, I imagine them to be yours. I hope that once again, you will come to my rescue. Just like you liberated me from the social incarceration that manifests itself within all introverts, I hope your footsteps will find me and notify me of your return. That you may save me from the bitter, miserable soul that I have become. Once again, bringing me into your arms, lulling with something of yours I miss so dearly: your laughter.

The other night, while sitting in a coffee shop we used to frequent, on a date with a frantic man, I caught a glimpse of a man who resembled you. Instantaneously, all the walls that I had built since your departure, along with my jaded, harsh façade, fell. Not only did they fall, they cracked, crashed, and shattered. Nostalgia broke them down, years of work building up my exterior suddenly evaporated, and for a moment, it was as though I was a youth again. I felt naïve and vulnerable. In that instant, I became a little more mortal. More human. I was closer to death.

When I met you, you were the sole apple in an orchard of barren fruit trees. You were a rarity, an artifact within a ravaged mausoleum. Meanwhile, I was a slab of pristine marble, anxiously waiting for someone to chisel me into a human being. I was young and curious. More than anything I wanted to feel loved. To feel something that would captivate my soul, and to be held by someone who could evoke such sentiment within myself. I wanted to embark on a journey. To be whisked away by an alluring tide, pulled into somewhere new, unknown and undiscovered. Instead of floating upon a melodic tide, I was plunged into a whirlpool. Forced to view the world from an inverted perspective. Everything became cruel and repetitive. From that point forward, life was nothing more than an incessant stream of continuous disappointments, accompanied by uncomfortable interactions with transient bodies. Was wanting to grow up, wanting to fall in love, really so much to ask? Because of you, I lost every ounce of optimism within my being. I lost my former self.

Once upon a time, I met a girl on a street corner…

“Yes, I do have some money, but that isn’t the issue here. Instead of asking of something from me, I would like to ask for something from you.” Ever so slightly, she recoils from my words and opens her mouth to speak. I cut her off. “From you, I want something precious, something of value.”

She nods with a vacant expression in her tiny eyes that hide behind the cropped fringe of wispy charcoal coloured hairs that linger on her forehead. Clearly, she doesn’t quite understand my intentions, but I press on anyways.

“In your tiny, minute existence you hold the past, the future, feelings, thoughts, memories, but what I need from you right now is the present. A little span of your life that I can carry with me until my heart ceases to beat. My parents are dead, my sister is lost in the tirade that is the city’s crime scene and I know that my soulmate was never truly born. In every aspect, I am just as alone in the world as you are, as the dark-skinned child that you parade about on a piece of paper is. But, let me tell you one thing. That African boy which you are trying to help, even though he is young, he understands this life a lot more than you and I ever will. He was never sheltered. He knows the hardships, turbulence and disappointments of life more profoundly than most people ever will.”

Confused, the girl continues to stare attentively. I realize that my words are being wasted on a puerile mind, unable to fully comprehend my demands and preachings.

“Needless to say, on this planet, we are all similar. We are all starving and we are all lonely. Give or take a few cents.”

Say “Yes” to Academic Streaming!

A while ago, I read an article that discouraged academic streaming within Ontario high schools. As someone who benefitted from the liberty of being able to select my appropriate level of study, I strongly disagree with the article.

My family never really pushed education, all of my motivation to succeed in school stemmed from my teachers and rivalries with fellow classmates. The first instance where I remember feeling “smart” was in the first grade when a teacher had praised me for reading at a fourth-grade level, and later on in the year asked me to opt out of in-class math competitions since I would always beat my fellow classmates. The first time I felt intellectually inferior to anyone was in grade 7, by which point I was in a French Immersion program at an accelerated school. There, my teacher was very vocal about who the “top students” were, and I would consistently round out the top 4, much to my dismay. More than anything, I wanted to surpass the three students who ranked above me, to the point where I would bring myself to tears out of frustration. Next to those 3 fellow students (who also joined me in high school), there was only one time, in the tenth grade, where my average was superior to all of them. Man, that felt amazing.

Anyways, in grade eight, I remember the course selection process for high school – and I remember being given a choice as to which level of courses I wanted to take. There were 4 available in my school: locally developed, applied, academic and advance placement (or AP). Naturally, I chose the most challenging possible levels for myself. For grade nines, only AP math and english were available for selection, but come grade 11, students had the option to select AP biology, art, history, chemistry and french – in addition to the previous courses. Being the stubborn, presumptuous overachiever that I was, I chose as many AP courses as I could fit into my schedule and I loved every moment of those classes. They usually consisted of a close-knit group of 10 – 25 students, and every single student was as driven to succeed as I was. This mentality really fostered a great environment for myself, it was great to surround myself with positive people who had direction in life and created healthy competition as I wanted to consistently emerge on the top-tier of students. Meanwhile, the attitude towards my studies at home were always fairly neutral. My parents used to discourage my advanced courses due to the seemingly excessive and overwhelming loads of homework and assignments. On numerous occasions, they would tell me to go to sleep and abandon whatever project I was working on, ridicule me for bringing my math homework to the beach while on “vacation” and even tell me to drop the classes so I wouldn’t have summer homework. As much as I want to please my parents, I persisted with my academic endeavors because of my classmates in my AP classes. One reason being that I knew I could handle the stress and pressures, another being that I didn’t want to lose this group of friends I had grown to love and gain the stigma of being an “AP drop-out”. We all grew pretty close with one another – going on to create Facebook groups and participate in activities together outside of class hours and this was only upon completion of grade 9. By our senior year, nearly everyday after school would be dedicated to AP exam preparation. Everyone was incredibly supportive, and I (having little to no friends outside of this program) found a community.

Had I not been granted the luxury of selecting AP classes for myself, I don’t think I would have managed to find a niche in a school containing over 2000 students, nor do I think I would have been so passionate about education. While my parents never really pushed education, they never discouraged it either. However, I don’t think I would be the person I am today without having been exposed to such a wonderful, passionate group of students and staff members for they pushed me to pursue something that my family approached with indifference.

Now I am a second-year university student. While I may not be enrolled in the most prestigious of programs, I go to a great school and my love for learning has remained consistently unparalleled, unrestricted and most of all – insatiable.

What I wish I knew before beginning YouTube

I uploaded my first YouTube video on June 17th, 2007. Back then the website was more like a social media website, reminiscent of a MySpace page back when that network was hip and happening. Every aspect of the website was enticing, you could shamelessly self-promote yourself through streams and bulletins and create outrageously innovative backgrounds and layouts. The possibilities were limitless and I loved every aspect of it.

I began as an “artist” (now, I’m using that term in the loosest possible sense) and would post slideshows and animations of my drawings. Later, I became courageous enough to put my face on camera. At that point I began posting rants, raves, reviews and fashion videos which were all met with a humble popularity. My friends and subscribers increased by the thousands and it was exhilarating – like injecting virtual heroine. With every video that stopped at 301 views upon its release, I would eagerly await to see just how many views it had augmented to. Seven years later, I now know that not everything about YouTube is pleasant, in fact I’ve compiled a list of things I have learned and wish I knew before beginning.

 

1. It’s addictive. Plain and simple, even after posting my first measly video I was enraptured by the culture of YouTube. I had posted it before going to bed, and when I woke up in the morning there was a total of 6 views. I showed it to my mom before going to school overwhelmed with pride. SIX complete strangers watched my video. I remember sitting in my seventh grade classroom, brainstorming future video ideas and that summer I proceeded to film one video everyday.

2. Your friends most likely won’t understand. By the time my fourth video was up, and met a positive reception with my 3 subscribers, I decided to share my channel with one of my close friends. When she watched the video she wasn’t very encouraging, according to my memory, she said something along the lines of “The sound quality isn’t great, your introduction was awkward, and when you ask people to comment and subscribe you sound desperate.” It was heartbreaking how my friend could trample on something that gave me so much satisfaction. From that point forward, I decided to keep my YouTube channel as private as possible. That incident was so detrimental to my 12-year-old self-esteem that I even told my mother “I don’t want to go back to school, I just want to make videos” and my mom let me stay home for the remaining week of my seventh-grade year. About 4 and a half years later, when I was in grade 12 and averaging at about 50,000 views per video, one of my friends had seen my video and commented about it. Even all those years later, the attitude of my friends was about the same. She asked me “That recent video you made, about those guys, why do people like it so much? I don’t understand why people are so interested in videos that make zero sense.” By this point, I had become pretty desensitized to any form of criticism. Nonetheless though, this girl was supposed to be one of my friends, and for her to speak so negatively about something I cherished so much made me lose a lot of respect for her.

3. It will follow you. I stopped producing videos altogether in the fall of 2012, shortly after beginning university. However, to this day, I am still reminded of my experience. For example, today I received a friend request from a stranger on my personal Facebook account accompanied by a message asking if I was okay and if I wanted to be his friend. This fellow became a regular viewer of mine in 2010 and just recently found a series of my personal social media accounts which prompted him to pester me to make videos. Another example of how this follows me is that one of my current classmates used to frequent my “meet-ups”. He is a 4th year computer science student, and I am a 2nd year English student – the odds of our paths crossing was small, yet it happened. On the first day of classes we went around the circle introducing ourselves, and the look of sheer confusion he flashed at me when I revealed myself under a different name was both awkward and amusing. I still get weird looks from him, probably because he does recognize me and just can’t figure out from where. Nonetheless, there was a point when we did sing songs together during a karaoke session at one of my meetups. Now, instead of watching me in front of a camera, he watches me get all flustered when I nervously try to answer questions in front of my classmates, unable to edit myself with the luxuries of flattering camera angles and script reading.

4. Your following will absolutely blow your mind. It is amazing just how much people will learn about you. While many people will just casually enjoy your videos, there are two types of extremities. The first of which being the strangers who want nothing more than to see you fail. They will plaster as many rumours, unflattering screencaps and tidbits of personal information as humanly possible on forums such as 4chan and tumblrs dedicated to the downfall of Youtubers. Not only will they target you, but your friends and family will also be fair game. Any relationships you share on the internet are subject to hate. On the other side, you will have some die-hard supporters. While they may seem endearing at first, receiving obsessive photo-collages of your face can be a little creepy. Sometimes you might also get entire videos dedicated to you. Even though a mere shout-out is usually more than sufficient, people would often create video reviews of my videos, or slideshows containing a staggering amount of personal pictures.

5. People just won’t see you the same once they know. It was in grade 12 when my creative writing course was discussing the influence of bloggers, and to my surprise my teacher mentioned me and complimented my Youtube-found success. I remember her stopping mid-dialogue, as though she had an epiphany, and pointed to me saying “you have had a lot of success on Youtube, right? It’s pretty impressive, I watched your video on _______ which had a lot of views.” I didn’t even know what to say. Sure, some people had stumbled upon my videos in passing, but it was never something that I publicly advertised, so to know that a teacher watched one (or more) or my publications was odd. At that point, I knew that my little secret hobby wasn’t really so secret. People dubbed me as “that Youtube girl” and would say that I only had “Internet friends.” In that sense, it was pretty awful. The only people who ever really understood were other Youtubers.

6. People will think you’re stacking mad cash. I was lucky in the sense that, for a while, I was able to financially profit from my videos. While I never made any outrageous earnings, word of me actually making money from filming awkward videos of myself in my bedroom sparked quite a bit of curiosity from the people who knew me personally. People would ask me how much money I was making, if I was making as much as Smosh or Michelle Phan, and whether or not I could loan them money. Suddenly, classmates who never paid me any notice wanted to make plans and spend time with me – for all the wrong reasons. Honestly, I wasn’t allowed to publicly disclose how much I was making, not that I was even making that much. It wasn’t enough to sustain a living, but it was enough to make some indulgent, pricy purchases to satiate my self-serving materialism. All that aside, it wasn’t enough to reasonably become envious about, but it was enough to give some people incentive to use me to their advantage.

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That being said, I’ve decided to return to YouTube. The video-sharing goliath has enraptured me once – and that was all it took. It’s a tumultuous journey, very few people understand the appeal, but I love and miss the experience more than anything. While Youtube has changed TREMENDOUSLY over the course of the past 7 years and I greatly miss its earlier designs, producing videos is something I love to do, so regardless of how many subscribers I lost during my hiatus and how distant I have become from the process, I just keep wanting to go back and do it again.

Give Me Five

A while ago I was talking with a friend and we were musing over the human capacity for skills and abilities after watching a documentary about master sommaliers. We mutually concluded that most people would be able to be extremely knowledgable in 2 or 3 things. However, this all depends on the proximity of the different things, and how early a person begins developing their specific skills. If someone were to be smart about their goals they could probably master 5 different things. Tonight I’ve been thinking quite a bit about cognition, motivation and all of those other jazzy psychology themes, so I thought it would be fun to compose my own list of things I would like to learn about.

1. Linguistics – This is a bit of a fun one for me. I’ve done quite a bit of reading about the topic on my own time and, as an aspiring linguist, it just seems appropriate.

2. Java – Programming is a long-time interest and a first-time venture of mine. It’s been a nagging goal of mine to create an app, so I’d love to gain a decent amount of insight on programming (particularly in Java, since I’ve heard that most apps are written in this language).

3. World Geography/History – I’ve paired these two together since I often find that they can sometimes be closely related, despite being two completely different subjects. Unlike programming, this area isn’t completely alien for me. They’ve always been an interest of mine, and I’d like to think that my knack for memorization and ability to stockpile dates into my memory has, and will continue, to put me a tier above the average man within this jurisdiction.

4. Rhetoric – Like linguistics, I think this comes along with my profession. It’s a broad subject, with a lot that can be learned. I also think that being able to identify and inveigle rhetorical devices is an excellent and highly underestimated skill. Honestly, I don’t know much about the subject matter, but it’s interesting and useful.

5. Videography – While those who know me won’t deny that I’m dangerously inept when it comes to photography, I’d like to think they would say otherwise about my videography. I used to make YouTube videos (and will resume doing so in the near future), but during this time I remember dedicating a ridiculous amount of time editing, processing and filming. I was so meticulous with everything, and while I may not have had the highest quality of production equipment or editing software, I did manage to amass quite a few followers as a highschooler. It was a great hobby and I learned a lot – I cannot wait to fall back into this pursuit of mine.

And that’s it! Boring – I know. I think I may add gardening, pets and tea to the list when I join the ranks of the retired and elderly. There’s a lot to gardening, but being a student confined to an apartment doesn’t leave much lenience for exploration. I guess I’ll just have to wait for that one.