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Me and My Twitter: Our Untold Love Story

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This week I taught the film Wall*E (2008, Andrew Stanton ) in my Film Theory and Criticism course. I selected the film to complement the week’s topic on digital cinema. However, my students were far more interested in discussing the film’s post-apocalyptic vision of an Earth so overrun with consumer waste that it must be abandoned for a clean, automated, and digitized existence on the Axiom, a spaceship that caters to humankind’s every need.  Robots take care of human locomotion (which is why these humans are no longer able to walk), food (lunch in a cup!), grooming (robot manicurists!) , and even decision-making:

My students were critical of these human characters: for their sloth, their apathy, and most importantly, because of their inability to form real human connections. “They only communicate with each other through screens!” they lamented. I then pointed out that the behaviors of the  humans on the Axiom are not too different from the behaviors of the humans on our college campus. As I walk to and from my office I see students, heads bent, eyes averted, typing away on their smart phones. Those who aren’t typing on their phones are talking on their cell phones or listening to their I Pods. Eyes plugged, ears plugged, the students I see each day rarely commune with the real world around them. Like the humans on the Axiom, we are surrounded by screens and by virtual relationships. This realization seemed to depress my students.

Actual photo taken on the ECU campus

But I’m not all that saddened by this vision of the future. No, I don’t want to become a rotund, infant-like drone, sucking my lunch out of a cup, but I am quite fond of the connectivity fostered by the internet and the proliferation of increasingly more affordable smart phones. In particular, I love Twitter. Man, do I love Twitter.

When I first joined Twitter in March 2009, I found it to be a lonely place. Gone were the hundreds of friendships I had accumulated on Facebook. Gone were those cute pictures of people’s babies and dogs (no really, I like seeing those). Gone was the instant validation I received when friends commented on my witty and hilarious status updates with their witty and hilarious rebuttals. Instead, I was faced with a long lists of 140 character statements, typed up by strangers, and  addressed to no one in particular.

My very first Tweet

But over time I grew to understand the role of Twitter in my life. As many people have pointed out, Facebook is for connecting with the people I already know. Twitter, however, is for connecting with the people I would like to know. Sound creepy? Sure it does. But really it makes a lot of sense.

In my profession (higher education), networking with colleagues is key. In the past, such networking took place mostly at academic conferences. For example, imagine you are the editor of a film studies journal and you hear someone deliver a paper that sounds perfect for your next issue. You might approach the speaker at the end of the panel and ask her if she’d consider submitting her conference paper for publication in your journal. Or imagine you’re a graduate student and you need to find a scholar outside of your university to serve as a reader of your dissertation. You can approach one of your academic heroes at the bar later that evening, introduce yourself, and pop the question.

Yes, that’s all fine and good for the extroverts among us. But me, I’m an introvert. Or rather, I am the worst kind of introvert — an extroverted introvert. In other words, I love to socialize and meet new people, but I hate being the one who initiates the socializing and I hate introducing myself to new people. I don’t make a great first impression, but I make an excellent third impression. So up until the advent of Twitter, I was not able to meet many new people or forge important professional connections when I attended conferences. Instead, I mostly hung out with my (admittedly awesome) friends from graduate school, getting very drunk in the hotel bar.

Me at my very first academic conference, circa 2002. Mmmm, pancakes!

But all of this has changed because of Twitter. Not only has it allowed me to meet with loads of new and interesting film and media scholars at conferences, it has also allowed me to develop professional relationships with people I have yet to meet.  Many of the people I follow on Twitter also teach film and media studies courses and, even though we have not personally met, are more than willing to offer advice.  For example, I am currently developing a syllabus for a new course, American and International Film History (1945 to the Present) and was having a hard time selecting a film for my week on New Hollywood Cinema. What to choose? So, I posed to the question to the Twitterverse:

And here are some of the responses I received:

This kind of conversation is especially important for someone like me, who teaches at a university in which there are only a few film studies scholars (there are three of us to be exact). Twitter provides me with an opportunity to brainstorm syllabus ideas, to get  research suggestions for upcoming projects, and even to receive feedback on works in progress (via this blog) with an unlimited, virtual community of colleagues. It’s pretty amazing when you think about it.

Another thing that I love about Twitter is that it assembles an ever-present virtual community who is willing to listen, or at least bear witness to, my daily grievances. Here’s a post from a few weeks ago:

There is nothing profound about this tweet. In fact, it’s the kind of banal statement that most people would cite as evidence of Twitter’s utter pointlessness. But when I wrote this, I was having a bad day.  And the shoes that I had to wear during my long walk home in the rain were destroyed. So it felt good to send my annoyance out there into the Twitterverse. Even if no one read it, the Tweet exists, and that’s enough for me.

Twitter is also great for someone in my profession because much of my work is completed in solitude. Yes, I teach in front of large groups of students and yes I have to attend committee and department meetings, but by and large I work alone. Therefore, Twitter affords me the opportunity to drop in and out of ongoing conversations, to comment on someone else’s tweet, to read a recommended article, or to watch a clip of someone crying about a “double rainbow,” when the mood strikes.A few minutes here, a few minutes there. It’s just the break I need in order to remain productive and, oddly enough, focused on the task at hand. Twitter is like a virtual coffee house filled with hundreds of interesting, funny, and bizarre individuals, who can be tuned in or tuned out throughout the course of the day.

It’s true, Twitter has caused me to share more banal details about my life than Facebook ever did:

And no one really needed to know that my cat doesn’t clean his ass after he uses the litter box:

Nevertheless, Twitter has added real value to my life. When I got my very own smart phone almost two months ago, I joined the other screen-entranced zombies who shamble across the ECU campus. But it’s not so much that I’m tuning the real world out. I like to think that I’m bringing more of the world in.

If you’re interested in reading more about the impact of being “plugged in,” you may be interested in the much-discussed (at least in the Twitterverse) article by Virginia Heffernen, “The Attention-Span Myth,” as well as Michael Newman’s thoughts on her piece. Both were written with more time and care than this blog post. But that’s because I’m too busy tweeting, ya’ll.

The Thrill of the Final Image

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Somewhere in TV Land Jersey Shore‘s Snooki is carrying around an entire suitcase of bronzer. Nothing but bronzer. Elsewhere, Mad Men‘s Sally Draper may or may not be developing a nasty little eating disorder. And on True Blood Tara just smashed a vampire’s head flat with a medieval mace. I itch, no I yearn, to blog about these programs. But I haven’t. Because my Big Deadline–August 31–approaches and I must focus my energies on meeting this Big Deadline. For the next 4 weeks all intellectual activity must be channeled towards the Big Deadline.

But my Twitter pal, @KelliMarshall,  has managed to distract me with this engaging meme. I could not resist. Damn you, Kelli.

Here are the rules:

The person tagged is to submit a gallery of images that represents “the thrill of cinema,” however s/he interprets that phrase. The other rules are spelled out thusly:

  1. Pick as many pictures as you want, but make them screen-captures.
  2. Pick a theme, any theme.
  3. You MUST link to Stephen’s gallery and my post too.
  4. Tag five blogs. \\ I am tagging the following  (primarily) film studies blogs: Jamais VuThe Lesser Feat, Ludic Despair and The Chutry Experiment. No pressure folks, just giving you the option to participate.

There is so much that thrills me about the cinema. But to convey that thrill with still images, when, as we all know, the cinema is about moving images, makes this meme a little more challenging. However, I have always been a sucker for the images that appear in the last few minutes of the film. These are the images that you just can’t shake. You replay them in you head long after the end credits have rolled. They are the images that have a visceral impact on the viewer.

They reach into your chest and squeeze your heart so tightly you can barely stand it:

Ennis embraces the shirt of his murdered lover in BROKEBACK MOUNTAIN (2005, Ang Lee).

Stella's daughter will never know of her sacrifice in STELLA DALLAS (1937, King Vidor).

Or they make the little hairs on the back of the neck stand on end, especially when you’re lying in bed, in the dark, all alone:

The final shot of THE TEXAS CHAINSAW MASSACRE (1974, Tobe Hooper) has been seared in my brain.

The mother at the end of THE DESCENT (2005, Neil Marshall) believes she is sharing a birthday cake with her dead daughter. Nope. Still in the cave.

These are the images that can change the entire meaning of a film, or simply hammer home its main themes:

Not technically the final image of THE CROWD (1928, King Vidor), but almost. Our protagonists laugh in unison with the anonymous crowd.
A momentary respite from the ennui of UMBERTO D (1952, Vittorio DeSica)

Occasionally , it’s not a final image that gets me, but a sound. At the end of I am a Fugitive from a Chaingang (1932, Mervyn LeRoy), Helen (Helen Vinson) asks her perpetually on the run fiance, James (the incomparable Paul Muni), what he will do to survive. “How do you live?” she implores as James slips back into the shadows. As the frame fills with darkness we hear him hiss “I steal!”

James, before he disappears into the darkness, at the conclusion to I AM A FUGITIVE FROM A CHAINGANG

I could go on and on here but like I mentioned: Big Deadline.

Whatr are your favorite final images and why?

Tweeting at you Live from Console-ing Passions!: The Politics of the Backchannel

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Note: all tweets quoted in this post are mine, unless otherwise indicated.

I just returned from 4 days in Eugene, Oregon for Console-ing Passions 2010, a conference on television, audio, video, new media and feminism. Console-ing Passions (aka, CP) is consistently one of my favorite conferences and dfter 3 ½ months of maternity leave it was invigorating to have some personal and professional time (not to mention 3 great nights of sleep). The panels I attended—from discussions of “post-racial” television to vomiting in Mad Men—were smart and thought provoking. Also smart and thought provoking? The “backchannel” of tweets that documented, augmented and critiqued the various papers over the conference’s three days.

There was much grumbling (at least on Twitter) about SCMS’s lack of Wi-Fi this year and the consequent inability of attendees to tweet at the conference. So there was much rejoicing when CP’s gracious host, the University of Oregon, made sure that all conference participants were given access to the university’s Wi-Fi. The CP home page also provided a hashtag for the conference–#cpuo—which enabled the backchannel to open up as early as Wednesday, the day before the conference started. Various twitterati announced their arrival times and chronicled their (positive and negative) travel experiences.

My luggage arrived 5 hours later.

I live-tweeted through most of the panels I attended—first on my laptop and then, when that battery died, I moved to typing one handed on my old school I-Touch (hence, my many typos, and poor use of punctuation).

I meant “Joan” not “moan”

Through the first day of tweeting I was delighted to see so many folks who weren’t at CP joining in on in the online conversation. Despite this atmosphere of intellectual exchange, I discovered, over the course of the conference, that many folks at the conference were uncomfortable, and even annoyed, with the Twitter backchannel. Indeed, I believe that the presence of this back channel—and the various responses it provoked in conference attendees—is one of the most interesting discussions to come out of this year’s Console-ing Passions. Here is what people were saying—both for and against—this year’s very rich (and very controversial) backchannel:

The Uses of the Backchannel

1. For those who cannot attend

I was unable to attend this year’s SCMS in Los Angeles but was grateful for the few tweets that were broadcasted over the course of the 5-day conference (I was also an avid reader of Antenna Blog‘s informative daily recaps). I was pleased to see regular film/tv/media tweeters like  d_kompare and fymaxwell engaging in the discussions on the backchannel. Sometimes their comments were merely appreciative while others raised useful questions:

2. It enriches the dialogue by multiplying voices

In an ideal world, the comments from absent twitterers, such as the one displayed above, would then be posed to panelists by during the Q & A session. In this way, scholars who are unable to attend the conference can still be a part of the conference dialogue. In fact, some tweeters at CP were able to “virtually” attend more than one panel at a time–by reading the tweets being broadcasted from the various rooms.

One tweeter lamented not being able to be at two panels at once.

3. Extend and invigorate Q & A

Panel Q & A sessions are always rushed, even when panelists keep their papers within the proscribed time limits. What I enjoyed most about the CP backchannel was that the audience was able to have an on-going discussion of the papers, before, during and after the Q & A session.

I asked another tweeter a question about a point raised in a panel, during the panel…
…and she replied.

I also felt that in several instances the tweets helped the twitter community to formulate better questions for panelists. For example, during Thursday’s Mad Men panel there was a lot of talk on the back channel about the papers were not satisfactorially addressing depictions of race and class depictions on the show. These sentiments were bandied about by tweeters and this culminated in one person standing up to ask that very question during the Q & A. This question—and the intelligent responses it provoked from the panelists—ended  up being the most interesting (at least for me) part of the Q & A.

4. Digital Archive

Finally, the backchannel offers a flawed/funny/smart/critical archive of the entire conference—from the arrival of panelists in Eugene to the (tipsy) tweets coming out of Friday night’s reception.

My tweet about Friday’s tweet up

Think of it as the most detailed conference recap you can find.

The Misuses of the Backchannel

1. The Complex is Simplified

As all academics know, the less space you are given to make your point (as in a conference proposal), the more simplified your argument becomes. The 140 character limit of Twitter has the potential to transform a subtle, elegant argument into something that is too simple, too binary.

My simplified tweet about Marsha Cassidy’s smart, nuanced paper “Betty Vomits: Mad Men, History, and the 1950s Body.” I am sure that this is NOT what she meant.

And without the context of the rest of the paper, simplified, isolated tweets can lead to the complete misrepresentation of a speaker’s argument. For example, Tara McPherson’s plenary paper “Remaking the Scholarly Imagination” was subject to a series of engaged and enthusiastic tweets (I am disappointed that I missed this plenary). However, one of McPherson’s statements, made during the Q & A, was retweeted by numerous people:

Some tweeters championed this bold statement while others were troubled. Regardless, McPherson felt that her comment was taken out of context and that she was being somewhat misrepresented on Twitter:

McPherson responds.

This conversation culminated in a blog post by TV scholar Jason Mittell (who was not able to attend this year’s conference) in defense of  Lost studies. McPherson also commented on Mittell’s post, which lead to an interesting conversation about what happens when statements become part of the public discourse. You can read their very interesting exchange in the comments section of Mittell’s blog.

2. Negativity

Being misrepresented on Twitter is one thing—indeed, it is par for the course in academia. But being trashed is quite another. I have yet to read the entire #cpuo backchannel, but so far I have not encountered much negativity towards the various panels or panelists. I did encounter moments when a twitterer disagreed with a panelist or had some big questions to ask but I think this kind of tweeting is both healthy and necessary. It only becomes problematic when those disagreements and questions remain in the realm of the virtual, rather than the actual. Be critical and raise questions on the backchannel, but if you do, make sure you raise your hand when the Q & A begins. Otherwise, these comments can become the equivalent of the anonymous book review—difficult to trust because there is nothing at stake in the criticism.

Given how much people enjoy the twitter backchannel (myself included) I believe that it’s presence at conferences is only going to become stronger. Having said that, I do think the twitterverse and the academic community need to work together to come up with a series of protocols governing the use of the backchannel at conferences. Perhaps panelists can request that their work not be tweeted or maybe twitterers should identify themselves at the beginning of a panel so that speakers know when and if their work is being discussed online. But the issue must be addressed to ensure that everyone who presents their work at a conference feels comfortable with the arrangement.

But now I’d like to hear your thoughts. Please comment below.

The D2D Release: Notes on a Burgeoning Market

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Yes, it’s true, my blogging has decreased precipitously over the last three months. I had a second child and he takes up all of my time, what with his eating and pooping and inability to sit up on his own. But I did recently finish one last article for the online journal, FLOW on the subject of Direct to DVD releases. In it I argue that the study of direct to DVD films (D2D films) offers an important contribution to the fields of both reception and genre studies. If you’re a fan of such classics of Hood of tha Living Dead or Leprechaun 5: Leprechaun in the Hood, then my friends, this is the article for you.

The Leprechaun as gangsta

You can click here to read the article. And for those of you still reading my blog, thanks and I promise to post more frequently in the coming months.

Window Dressing: Spectacular Costuming in MTV’s THE CITY

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I was just getting back into the blogging habit after my end of the semester/holiday sabbatical when, wouldn’t you know it, I gave birth. Right now my days are consumed with feedings, diaper changes, multiple loads of laundry and assuring the 3-year-old that despite all evidence to the contrary, she is still the center of the universe. Blogging is currently not a possibility.

The new pet human

However, I did finish up an article in early January which has just been published at Flow TV , the online journal of television and media studies. So this makes me feel like I’m still blogging even though all I’m doing is wiping poop off of my pet human’s rear end, which is more delightful than it sounds, I assure you. So until I am able to resume a more regular blogging schedule (i.e., when the pet human agrees to sleep for than 1 to 2 hours at a stretch), all I have to offer you is this article on MTV’s The City, “Window Dressing: Spectacular Costuming in MTV’s The City. Please feel free to leave a comment in the comment section and get some dialogue going. Also, big shout out to Devan Goldstein, who came up with the title for this piece. Thanks Devan!

I should add that the current issue of FlowTV is filled with lots of interesting articles — while you’re there, check ’em out!

V: Then and Now

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The cast of V, 2009.

As soon as I heard that ABC was remaking V, the classic 1980s  miniseries/television series about extraterrestrials coming to Earth, my mind was flooded with long dormant memories of the original series. Growing up with an older brother who had a taste for the macabre, I was exposed to a lot of popular culture that was not entirely age-appropriate — Stephen King novels, Night of the Living Dead (1968, George Romero), The Dead Milkmen — basically anything with “dead” in the title. And so it should not be too surprising that I watched V, in its various televisual manifestations (miniseries, television series), at the tender age of 7 or 8.

Even now, in my thirties, zombies are a key image in my worst nightmares.

I must have repressed most of my memories of the show because I could only conjure up flashes of images: a beautiful woman eating a rodent, a “Visitor” peeling back his faux human skin to reveal lizard skin below, and a super cheesy 80s era rendering of the inside of a “high tech” mothership. Lucky for me, the internet was more than happy to confirm these hazy visions.

Sometimes I wish computers did look like this...

The rodent eating:

This scene is truly laughable now but I’m pretty sure I choked on my Oreos when I watched this as a kid.

The skin-removing:

I think the special effects here are still pretty effective. They were so effective, in fact, that the series made me suspicious of everyone I knew. If anyone could be a V under their natural looking human skin, then what about Mom? Was she a V? What about Dad? I kept a close eye on the hamster cage just in case.

And something that I don’t remember at all but which is hilarious:

Start watching around the 2:10 mark.

Of course, the 2009 remake of V has far superior special effects. For example, when the mothership arrives in New York City a few minutes into the pilot episode  we first see its metal body reflected in the windows of a generic office building. It is a beautiful, chilling moment. Anything that arrives that way cannot be good.

Picture 3
The mothership approaches.

And of course the V’s lizard skins are far more … is realistic the word I’m looking for here? I’ll put it this way: although I figured out that Dale (Alan Tudyk) was an undercover V about 5 minutes after meeting his character, I still let out an involuntary shriek when Erica (Elizabeth Mitchell) pulled back his human skin during a violent showdown.

Picture 2

In terms of themes, the 2009 series has shifted away (at least in the first two episodes that have aired) from the overt Nazi allegory of the original (and no, I did not catch the references to Jewish resistance groups and Fascism and Hitler Youth when I was 7. I was in it for the rodent eating). While V is still playing with some of these themes — for example, the Peace Ambassadors are given blazers reminiscent of SS uniforms and the Vs make generous use of propaganda — there seems to be more of a push to see the Visitors as an allegory of modern terrorism. Only these terrorists have discovered that it is far easier to achieve your objectives if you study your targets, use their language and customs and offer them peace, all while plotting how to gobble them up.

Picture 4
Does this uniform make me look Fascist?

One interpretation I am not willing to swallow (excuse the pun) is that the new V is an allegory for the Obama administration and its politics (also here and on many, many other sites and blogs). The scene in which  Anna (Morena Baccarin), the beautiful, calm leader of the Vs, offers Earth a form of “universal health care,” is deftly intercut with a scene in which an underground resistance movement is slaughtered by a band of vicious Vs. Certainly such editing techniques make the promise of universal health care appear sinister, as a kind of bait and switch for more nefarious doings. But I read this much discussed moment less as a dig at the President and more as a topical reference that would resonate with audiences. In other words, given the way our health care debates have been going, universal health care only seems possible in the world of science fiction.

Picture 1
Beautiful Anna

And yes, Anna and her fellow Vs are attractive, charismatic, and popular with “the kids,” just like Obama was/is. But isn’t this the case with most successful leaders (both the good and the evil)? If Anna were ugly and devoid of personality then broadcasting her visage over 29 major cities would not be the best way to convince the world to cooperate with the Vs. I am sure that right wing bloggers and pundits will continue to see the program as further evidence that the Obama administration will bring about the destruction of humanity, but this will not keep me from watching the show.

Quick thoughts on the cast:

1. Throughout the pilot episode I kept asking my husband “Who is that guy?” every time Ryan Nichols appeared on screen. “I know that guy!” Then as the second episode started (we watched them back to back) and the name “Morris Chestnut” appeared on the screen. Since his acting debut in Boyz N the Hood (1991, John Singleton) Chestnut has appeared sporadically on the big (The Inkwell [1994, Matty Rich]) and small (Bones) screen, but I hope his leading role in V will ensure more steady work. The man looks fantastic!

Ricky! Nooooooooooooooooooo!

2. I am really hoping that Rekha Sharma, who plays FBI agent Sarita Malik, turns out to be an undercover V since she was also one of the “final five” Cylons on Battlestar Galactica (another wonderful, contemporary remake of a somewhat cheesy sci fi program).

Two of the final five in Battlestar Galactica

3. Elizabeth Mitchell. You are truly kick ass. That is all.
"That's right. I survived that crazy island and now I'm here to save the world. With great hair."

So are you digging V? is it better than the original so far? And does ABC hate Obama?

BET’s BALDWIN HILLS: Injecting Race and Class into the Projective Drama

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For those of you who are regular readers of this blog (hi Mom!), you may have noticed that my posting has dropped somewhat over the last few weeks. This is due to the mid-semester crunch as well as some other writing deadlines I had to meet.

Picture 1

One of these deadlines was for the wonderful site Flow TV, “a critical forum on television and media culture published by the Department of Radio, Television, and Film at the University of Texas at Austin. Flow’s mission is to provide a space where the public can discuss the changing landscape of contemporary media.”


If you’d like to read my article on BET’s reality show, Baldwin Hills, it went live today and can be accessed through the link below:

BET’s Baldwin Hills: Injecting Race and Class into the Projective Drama



Ironic Muppets and Horny Houseplants: SESAME STREET’s Dual Address

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Sesame Street's 30 Rock parody.
Sesame Street's 30 Rock parody. This is Liz Lemon. Get it?

This week I was two-timing my blog by posting on another, far more critically incisive site, In Media Res. If you are not familiar with this site, here is its basic mission:

In Media Res is dedicated to experimenting with collaborative, multi-modal forms of online scholarship.

Each day, a different scholar will curate a 30-second to 3-minute video clip/visual image slideshow accompanied by a 300-350-word impressionistic response.

We use the title “curator” because, like a curator in a museum, you are repurposing a media object that already exists and providing context through your commentary, which frames the object in a particular way.

The clip/comment combination are intended to both introduce the curator’s work to the larger community of scholars (as well as non-academics who frequent the site) and, hopefully, encourage feedback/discussion from that community.

Theme weeks are designed to generate a networked conversation between curators. All the posts for that week will thematically overlap and the participating curators each agree to comment on one another’s work.

Our goal is to promote an online dialogue amongst scholars and the public about contemporary approaches to studying media.

In Media Res  provides a forum for more immediate critical engagement with media at a pace closer to how we typically experience mediated texts.

This week’s theme is “Kids TV” and several wonderful scholars are curating clips including: Michael Z. Newman (on The Wizards of Waverly Place), Heather Hendershot (on Ernie and Bert slash), Elana Levine (on Aaron Stone), and Jason Mittell (on Yo Gabba Gabba). My clip and curator’s note, entitled “Ironic Muppets and Horny Houseplants: Sesame Street‘s Dual Address” can be found here.

Sesame Street's parody of Desperate Housewives.
Sesame Street's parody of Desperate Housewives. They really need some water. Get it?

I hope you’ll check it out and possibly join the conversation!

An Open Letter to MTV from Lauren Conrad

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Me at my best.
Me at my best.


It’s me, Lauren Conrad. MTV, we really need to talk.

MTV, we’ve had some good times together. Remember Laguna Beach? Remember how I pined and cried over silly old Stephen Colletti? That was before he started dating that midget from the acne commercials and that nerd show that nobody watches anymore. Then he got dumped and that was awesome. But I digress…

MTV, I was so good at crying about Stephen that you gave me my own show. You even let me change my name from “L.C.” to “Lauren.” Then you scored me a sweet internship at Teen Vogue, even though I was totally incompetent, and paid the rent on an apartment that was too luxe for a young girl just starting out in Los Angeles. Yes, you gave me so many things MTV, and I paid you back. I paid you back with my tears. I cried in taxicabs and I cried on rented yachts. I cried in Les Deux and I cried  in Hyde. I cried in public and I cried in private.

Crying over Jason:

Picture 7

Crying over Heidi:
Picture 6

Heidi again:

Picture 10

Crying over Audrina:

F**ing Audrina again:
Picture 5

Crying on my birthday:
Picture 3

Not sure about this one. I think I was just really drunk:
Picture 9

But a girl can’t cry forever, MTV. It was time for me to move on. I had books to write and low end fashion to design.

So when I decided to leave The Hills last spring I thought you guys would do what was right. I thought you would end the show. But not only did you keep the show going, you replaced me (replaced me) with my arch nemesis, my mortal enemy, Kristin Cavallari.

Nothing hurt me more than watching the opening credits to the season 6 premiere of The Hills last week. Instead of seeing me, Lauren Conrad, driving in my convertible with the the California wind blowing through my hair, there was Kristin Cavallari. In my opening credits sequence! That was a real “fuck you” MTV. Don’t you know anything about the girl code? You’re supposed to be my friend, MTV.

my heart.
my heart.

Watching the first two episodes, it’s like I never even existed. There’s this big Lauren-shaped, tear-free hole in the show and MTV, and no matter how many skanks you hire, you can never fill that emptiness.

Stacie the bartender? Really MTV?
Stacie the bartender? Really MTV?

And to choose Kristin! You think Kristin will give you tears? Kristin can’t cry. And even if she could, she certainly doesn’t wear enough mascara to make her tears nice and black like mine are. Who else is going to give you inky black tears, MTV?

Heed my words, MTV: First Kristin Cavallari came for my opening credits, then she came for Audrina’s motorcycle helmet. Well, MTV, one day Kristin Cavallari is going to come for you. And I won’t shed a single black tear.

Eat your heart out, Kristin.
Eat your heart out, Kristin.


P.S. Look for my new line, L.C. by Lauren Conrad, on sale now at Kohls!!!

THE BERMUDA DEPTHS: One Cinephile’s Movie Memories Finally Reach the Surface

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Randall Martoccia has graciously agreed to write the first guest post ever for Judgmental Observer. Having a guest writer makes me feel important, like I’m too busy to write for my own blog. So while my servant boys feed me grapes and massage my feet please enjoy this guest post:

Thanks to Amanda for letting me guest write. I’m sure the rest of you will appreciate the break from the usual insight on this web site. Intelligent ideas can be so daunting.

And so Randall's obsession began...
And so Randall's obsession began...

This tale begins in the late 1970s. I was 7 years old, scared of girls, and infatuated with sea creatures. My parents, either through a desire to encourage my passion or due to negligence, let me see any marine-related movie, even though these tended to be thrillers. They took me to Jaws (1975, Steven Spielberg) (when I was 6-freakin’-years old), and then to Orca (1977, Michael Anderson) and Tentacles (1977, Ovidio G. Assonitis).

Theatrical Poster for ORCA
Theatrical Poster for ORCA
Starring Shelley Winters!
Starring Shelley Winters!

When I was 8 years old, my parents let my brother and me stay up late to watch another one of these creature features that followed in Jaws’s wake. This one was a network TV movie. A scene in which the turtle rises up and swamps a boat is pretty much all I remembered—and all that are left of that scene are fragments: A boat in rough seas. An ominous sky. A seven-story-tall, pissed off turtle.

Pissed off turtle.
Pissed off turtle.

Over the ensuing three decades, the patchy memory of the turtle kept coming back to me, but I had come to wonder if the scene was from a movie or a recurring dream. My memory never really nagged me so much for me to look into it. Any impulses to identify the movie were swept away by the usual business of life—or my lame version of it.

About two years ago, for one reason or another, I decided to find out for sure about this movie. Blessed be Google—it only took about ten minutes to find with the key words “giant sea turtle TV movie.”

Theatrical Poster for THE BERMUDA DEPTHS
Theatrical Poster for THE BERMUDA DEPTHS

It turns out the movie exists. It’s called The Bermuda Depths, directed by Tsugunobu Kotani and starring Connie Selleca and Carl Weathers. What is astonishing about the movie is the odd community that has formed around it. Here are some typical posts on the movie’s IMDB discussion board:

From yihaa2: Wow. I’m not crazy, it is a real movie, after 25 haunted years of dreams and fragmented memories, I really wasn’t imagining it.

From lilbearlovr: I had the same problem since I was a little kid. I was beginning to wonder if it was just some silly little kid dream.

From barbiegrrl: I have been telling people for years about the fragmented memories I had of seeing this movie as a kid, and no one ever knew what in the heck I was talking about!

From lamsaes: This is extraordinary. I thought I was the only one to remember this film. I saw it on TV when I was just a little kid. For a very long time, I thought I had imagined this film.

From traceymermaid: Holy smokes. Is this coincidence that so many of us are not only remembering this movie but are also taking action, such as writing on this message board? Maybe it is a symbol of something.

From Demarkov-1: My own experience with this movie is so similar to all of you…this is incredibly creepy and wonderfully comforting.

From newtondkc-1: Wow…so I’m not the only one in the world that remembers this flick…. I remember seeing this and I too was scared but strangely drawn to it. I remember the girl with the glowing eyes standing on a boat – I think she came out of the water? And the kids on the beach, carving their initials into the poor turtle’s shell – and then seeing the distorted initials on the back of the fully, fully grown giant turtle as well as a guy caught in the net that the turle was dragging into the depths.

Strangely enough, I have no memory of the oft-referenced girl with glowing eyes, but she would explain my fear of girls.

The origin of Randall's gynophobia.
The origin of Randall's gynophobia.

Michael Summers compares the Bermuda Depths phenomenon to the shared vision of Devil’s Tower in Close Encounters of the Third Kind (1977, Steven Spielberg), and I do wonder how many of you–like the skeptics in Close Encounters–are thinking that the authors of those posts and this blog entry are, well, nuts.

Devil's Tower: NOT made of mashed potatoes.
Devil's Tower: NOT made of mashed potatoes.

But I doubt all of you think this. While I was doing my sea-turtle research and reading The Bermuda Depths’ posts, my wife Christie (I got over my fear of women—or most of them) piped up and said that she had a similar experience with a different movie, making me think that this kind of experience was fairly common. I’m willing to bet that many of you—being movie junkies, scholars, or makers—have your own version of a giant sea turtle haunting you.

By the way, Christie’s fragmentary memory was of a short called “All Summer in a Day,” based on a Ray Bradbury story, which left her with little more than a image of the sweep of the sun’s ray under a closed door. But that image stayed with her for more than two decades.


Do you have your own haunting movie or television experience? An image fragment that you can’t shake? If you share them below, then perhaps I can help you to identify your movie or to discover a community of like-minded inviduals. Or, if you prefer, you can just call me “nuts.” With lilbearlvr, yihaa2, and barbiegrrl getting my back, I feel secure.

About the Author: When Randall Martoccia isn’t grading stacks of freshman papers he writes screenplays and makes short films. His “Pub of the Living Dead” and “They Shoot Zombies, Don’t They?” can be found on YouTube—though (alas) few people have found them. You can checkout his faculty profile here and you can e-mail him at: