I somehow managed to create a podcast…how millennial of me.
I wanna start out with the fact that I thought I would absolutely hate editing, and at times I really did. Listening to your own laughter can be one of the cringiest things possible. It’s even worse when your friend, who has superhuman hearing, can hear it coming from your headphones.
Fleeting is a product of loving my partner a little too much. I spent my entire summer struggling with awful mental health and intense burnout. But no matter how much I cried, or how much I wanted to just not exist for a little while (don’t worry, those feelings are too fleeting), Nick remained a constant in my life. No matter what happened, they were reassuring. They video called me. They said I love you before I fell asleep every night. They remained calm when I could not. And I started to learn how to give that back to them. Finding love was hard, especially for me. And I wasn’t the only one. And there’s a lot of power in that.
And next came the podcast. Fleeting is an exploration of how our opinions on love and sex change over time, how they manifest, how we search for these needs in others. And how we find it. And how we lose it sometimes. And then how we find ourselves afterwards.
I really thought this project was going to be a bust. I’d never even touched audio editing software before. I knew how to talk to people, but I didn’t know how to ask questions and get answers.
No, seriously. You need to love your thoughts, and everything that comes along with them. They aren’t bad, they aren’t scary…just a little hectic at times.
I started out the Capstone thinking I wanted to talk about my OCD. And while I had spent endless hours in therapy talking it over, I didn’t think I was comfortable projecting that to a whole audience of people. I didn’t love the idea. And even though my classmates seemed to really enjoy it, after I mulled it over…I was exhausted. I didn’t want to make my OCD into a project for other people, because it was still a mental struggle for me every single day.
So I picked something a bit lighter, a bit funnier, and something that allowed me to shut my brain off for a while
A podcast. That required a bit more editing than I was expecting (thanks to my friends for wanting to talk to me for more than 15 minutes about high school and sex).
I found that through picking a project I actually cared about, a topic I actively thought about, the more I realized I loved what I was doing.
The more you overthink every little thing you possibly could do for your Capstone, the more likely your idea is going to turn into something that someone else wants, not what you want. My project centered around a thing I wished I had: advice from someone about love, and sex, when you’re 14 and wishing the world was just a little less annoying when it came to being in a relationship. And I ran with that. I thought long and hard about who that girl was, and how disappointed she was in herself for not “getting the guy” by the time she entered her first year of college.
She needed that advice I had for her now. I wanted her to have that. And I wanted that for other people, who maybe felt the same, or were struggling with similar issues. But it came from a place, one I knew and felt comfortable in. Because it was something I thought about a lot. Those are where you best projects come from: things you think about a lot. And even though I’m nervous about where this project will take me in the future, and the potential people who might listen to it…I can say that I’m proud that I chose this direction.
I think it’s the nature of a Communications major, one that’s heavily interested in media research, to always be researching. I feel like there isn’t a day that goes by where I’m not thinking about an old study I really loved, or listening to my boyfriend talk about their favorite research, or my roommate discussing the racism in Artificial Intelligence. Or I’m talking about what I want to research, about Black History, about Black Media, about things that mean a lot to me.
And that’s what a lot of my research so far has involved. Black identity, femininity, things that impact my outward appearance (although for some people it’s a guessing game when it comes to my identity, something I could write a whole other blog post about).
What I’m coming to realize with this project, how little research, like hard research I know about the LGBTQ community, and trans individuals. As someone who is bisexual, and has been involved with trans rights (wow, does that sound self-indulgent? like hahaha “i have a black friend”-y?”). But I guess it’s one of those subjects that…I didn’t really research. Someone in a class has smacked down a reading, or a study, about being a trans-cyborg, and I didn’t understand it, so I just shrugged my shoulder and moved on. Was it the writing? Do I not care (I definitely care, I’m just constantly full of that good-ole self-doubt)? Was I just not paying attention?
I think it’s important to know how other’s identities can intersect with our own. My project is focusing on such an organic, human experience: love. And sex. But some individuals don’t have sex. Some individuals don’t love in the same ways that I do; that requires research, in areas that I’m scared to go. I know anytime I’ve read research on bisexuality, it’s always hit a little too close to home. “Many people believe bisexuality is a myth; that you’ll eventually be straight or be gay.”
My next podcast episode is about sexuality and gender identity. I don’t know if it’s right to combine the two together, but Olliver is such a strong-willed, opinionated individual that I couldn’t resist trying to ask him about all of it. But I also don’t expect him to know everything, to want to spill all the beans, to do all the work for us. Because we shouldn’t be relying on those outside our own identities to have to do all the work to inform us, to tell us how their lives are different from ours, and how they intersect. We gotta meet them halfway, know our shit, and ask questions that aren’t demeaning or blatantly intrusive. But my project relies on strong voices, relies on these experiences, to provide a sense of authority on these lived-experiences.
I think there is a fine line in research, to fetishize groups we don’t know about. I don’t want to do that. I need to be reading from those who have these experiences, not those who are interested in these experiences.
So, I just looked up trans writers and their nonfictional narratives. Because their stories matter more to this part of my podcast than my own narrative.
It definitely will inform me of how to formulate questions that are engaging, but also inclusive and respectful of everyone’s transitions, not one type.
I was really nervous to pitch my ideas to the class. Not because I thought they were inherently bad, but because I was talking about things I’d been thinking about for quite some time, that I really hadn’t spoke out loud.
And that’s strange for me. I’ve always been one to say what’s on my mind, especially when it comes to my ideas and creative endeavors. I want you to hear my ideas, I want to hear your ideas about my ideas. I love this minor because it’s created a space where I feel like my creativity is constantly growing, expanding, due to the sheer amount of beautiful minds adding to your thoughts.
But right now, being creative is actually hard for me to do. The one thing I feel really connected to (writing, obviously), that I’ve always felt came easy to me, has been difficult. I haven’t been able to put things into words, or felt like the words I’m saying hold any meaning. So when I wrote my pitches, I actually found it difficult to even formulate a thought. I hadn’t thought about what I wanted. I don’t feel like I have the same voice in my writing that I did before.
When I pitched my ideas I was nervous. Because I knew people were going to latch on to the idea of me talking about my OCD. Mental health is, as should be, a very complex, compelling, and widespread topic. It’s something we should be talking about. But I’ve started to realize that I’ve let OCD control me for months. Control my creative processes, control my lack of creativity. And when I heard people perk up at the idea of me talking about love and mental illness, I was so exhausted. Not because I was angry about people being drawn to these ideas, but because I’m really, really over talking about myself, and thinking about my mental illness. Part of me wants to be able to represent myself through other mediums, ones that are necessarily a direct representation of my life. While I’m not trying to downplay the importance of my mental state, and how education is a huge part of the process of stigmatizing social issues.
But I want to feel like I’m creating something that is more than myself. And there are ways that I can pull from my life experiences, from others experiences, in something that isn’t directly talking about my life.
So I’ve decided to write that script (okay I say this now and I’ll probably get cold feet in about a week after sitting down with everyone and T again, and we’ll be back to this internal conversation). I want to write about characters that I find compelling, about scenarios that are inherently human and timely. And I want to prove to myself that I can still be creative, beyond who I am on the daily.
Plus I’ve never written a script before, and I think my brain is up for a challenge. And hopefully will help reinvent the creative pathways in my brain that OCD has unfortunately obliterated.
But that isn’t to say that I’m not still nervous. Because this is new, this is not in the repetitive nature that my OCD latches on to. But I have to do something that is going to move my brain away from OCD, and I think the best way to do is to not talk about OCD.
And that makes me nervous. Because I don’t remember what life was like back when I working so hard to control my OCD.
(Also…bare with me through this post, I’m functioning on a whole 4 hours of sleep and 3 coffees)
And what better way to describe my overly complicated, extremely diverse experience with the male gaze, and as a woman of color in the LGBTQ+ community (hi! I’m the B!). I found that with each experiment cycle, my ideas started to become more and more narrow, as I found that a lot of my experiences and the theories I discussed overlapped (not to mention my dying love for SZA’s music and how it literally helped me get out all my frustration about a shitty relationship).
There are moments where I’m overwhelmed with my relationship to men, so much, that I want to delete every single one from my life. Like not in a “I want you dead way” but in a “I probably would not be bothered if you just fucked off right about now” way. And how that ties so heavily to my identity, how it shaped who I pursue, and how I’ve begun internalized all of it.
So what better way to do that than within a genre where my experience becomes the authority…within a ~memoir~?
A memoir is a collection of experiences coming from an one individual’s perspective. Specific moments are described in great emotional detail, describing the moral or immoral conflicts the author had at the moment. Ultimately, they come to a resolution during some portion of the memoir, or frame it as though they are “still growing”. Think, like, Glass Castleby Jeanette Walls. She reveals the difficulties of poverty through an emotionally narrow lens, since her life speaks to broader truths about poverty in America.
Often authors utilize creative writing techniques to evoke stronger connection to places and characters in their stories. By doing so, allows their audience to view them as human, rather than a writer. Unlike a autobiography, a memoir is not just summary of someone’s life, but specific moments are picked apart in order to find the bigger truths behind huge life events, and how they string together.
My story probably isn’t as heart-wrenching and tragic as Walls’, but it definitely would help others understand what it means to be a “victim” of the male gaze, whilst navigating the world as a minority. Julie helped me find a lot of great authors to base my piece around, as well as ones I could reference to give myself a bit more credibility. I enjoyed the passages I read from Brittany Cooper’s Eloquent Rageand believe that a more comical (or, I probably should say relatable), upbeat beginning to my story can show off who I really am, while providing a solid background for my personal accounts. By specifically doing so, I can lay the foundation to explain my dissonance between projection by self and perception by others, and how my race and sexuality effect how males view me, and how I view males.
Like many of my classmates before me, I have chosen the well-known and well-respected op-ed for my next experiment cycle. While I’ve skimmed what seems like a million and a half op-eds, I never really knew its conventions before I got to class. As someone who pushes her opinion whenever she feels it necessarily, you’d think that this would occur to me way before this class. But, y’know, you just sort of accept things as the norm, and move on, without really questioning how they work or why you like them.
The op-ed’s founder, Herbert Bayard, stated,
“It occurred to me that nothing is more interesting than opinion when opinion is interesting, so I devised a method of cleaning off the page opposite the editorial, which became the most important in America … and thereon I decided to print opinions, ignoring facts,”
and if that ain’t me, I don’t know what is.
Op-eds stand for opposite editorial. Op-eds are often given from an individualized perspective, whether it be from the voice of a community, or an individual ready to go all in on a topic (I stole that quote from Wikipedia, the opposite of an op-ed). A majority of op-eds are written by individuals not affiliated with the medium to which they submit the op-ed. Ideas and conversations that may not always be brought up on the front page have the chance to make a real impact. With the internet being as popular as is it (wow, shocking observation, Briana), it’s not surprise that the op-ed has taken off in these past few years. Our society places a lot more faith in individual opinion now than it has in the past, or at least from what I’ve seen in my short, short lifetime.
Op-eds are usually shorter, and contain quick facts to help give its audience context for the topic. Titles are short, witty and attention grabbing, without being insanely click-baity. The topics are relevant, and gives readers something to think about. Although most sources say op-eds range between 500-800 words, I agree with what Olivia said in class: they can definitely be way longer. Points are narrow, and have a lot to do with the writer. Obviously, mine would start out with talk of how I fell into the trap of the male gaze (a huge part of me also thinks this has to do with my fascination of classic Hollywood’s standard of beauty, my own race, and my opinions on beauty…which…is messy…but makes for a good read, probably).
After reading an extremely controversial op-ed by Elinor Burkett, I felt it was my civic duty to tell you what I think about the male gaze, the feminism that comes with it, and how our society is helping dismantle it (or making it drastically worse). I’m currently trying to find movies to use as an antithesis for the male gaze, and I think a lot of the examples we talked about in class can prove this. But, recently, I also have begun to think music and television are moving a lot faster than movies at doing this, and that’s something to take into consideration. Television and music aren’t bogged down by the “blockbuster atmosphere” that support the male gaze. The industry of music and TV have a larger pools of diversity, in both production and directing, in comparison to movies. Artists like SZA, and series like Issa Rae’s Insecure are making huge strides that push back on the male gaze, and what it means to be a woman in Hollywood. These are mediums (or…genres?) that deserve to be looked at, even if they are different from that of movies.
Maybe I should just pitch my own movie, instead of writing an op-ed…
Although, after reading all this theory, I’m struggling currently to not totally go off about how toxic I think white feminism is to the WOC community.
“Like, an essay…but with video?” Is probably what most people would say when asked what a video essay is. In all honesty, I’d have to agree. But that description makes it sound a lot more “boring” than the genre actually is. Before I can even start telling you what makes a video essay so much better than your average essay, I need to explain to you why I decided to choose this fairly new form of genre.
Okay, so basically, I may or may not have fallen into the Hollywood trap that is the “male gaze” and who’s to blame? Well, partially me. And partially my inability to understand fully the implications of my writing and how I was writing it. I’m still not making this very clear, am I?
My freshman year English 125 class was basically Film Analysis 101 (or, alternatively, 20 college students geek out over movies for 4 months). The class was really great, Carol Tell made me a better person, and I decided to wanted to stick with Communications because it let me continue this intense form of analysis without straying too far away from the medium I loved, film.
Our very first essay assignment, after weeks of rigorously tearing apart the 5 paragraph essay, was a visual analysis. And being the art kid that I am, that shit got me going. Especially after I heard it was on a film that my family and I held so dearly: Alfred Hitchcock’s Rear Window. To summarize, Rear Window explores the life of a temporarily disabled photographer, who witnesses the murder of one of his neighbors, as he is forced to live his days observing the world through his living room window. Since this movie was made in the 50’s, of course it needs to have a beautiful, blonde bombshell of a female lead. Grace Kelly’s character was the awe and wonderment of our entire class. So, obviously, I chose to analyze Kelly’s first scene in the movie.
Unfortunately, I did exactly what Hitchcock’s creepy ass mind wanted me to do: watch Grace Kelly’s every single move throughout this movie with voyeuristic detail. At the time of writing the essay, I thought I was being clever for saying that the character was more than your average 1950’s female lead. “She’s compelling, she’s not like other female roles of the time,” I thought, applauding Hitchcock for giving her a brain, “Every time she enters a room, she’s telling us that she’s here! Here I am!” And that’s exactly where I went wrong. Upon reviewing my entire essay, instead of depicting Kelly as the iconic female lead, I painted the picture of the male gaze in all its glory. I talked so heavily about the way she held herself, the way her gaze said something, the way her smile pulled you in. These are qualities unlike any woman in real life would (with the exception of her constantly being watched). I described her as a role, as an object, not as a human. It shocked me during the re-read of this essay. How…the hell did I, a woman, fall into such a shitty trap!? As overdramatic as it sounds, I really do think a video essay will help me recover from my previous oversimplification of these images by implementing a highly neccessary, moving-image function, and a deeper dive into the misogyny of film.
Video essays, in ways, are just like essays. They allow you to view a text through an argumentative and/or analytical lens. Much different from a review, video essays often have a thesis based upon the subject. In my case, I’d probably come up with a thesis about the trap of the male gaze, and how it takes a careful eye to be able to notice when it’s in action. Video essays often give you a broader context at first, narrowing down to detailed conversation about the subject matter, and then broadening up again for future exploration. Or, in the case of Lessons from the Screenplay, the analysis begins extremely narrow, ultimately creating large, overarching similarities between two texts. Most of the time, many different ideas begin developing simultaneously throughout the video, and are tied together at the end.
However, all of this information is paired with the use of audio and visual components. Many video essays take visuals from multiple movies, TV shows or other forms of visual media to help aid their argument, even if it’s not totally relevant to the subject matter. The writer often comes to the audience in the form of a talking head, much like that of a news reporter. The writer is interjected between their visual examples, talking over the clips or allowing the audio to play in order to prove points. Most times, they are witty, personal, and don’t take too seriously the implications of their argument (or at least, from what I’ve seen). The popular visual analyst, Lindsay Ellis, is a perfect example of this. In my case, and a lot of others, the sole purpose of a video essay is to explain an observation found in a piece of text and prove this to the audience. So yeah, a way cooler way to present information and you can let the clips speak for themselves. Videos are uploaded a lot of the time to Youtube and Vimeo, where individuals like Ellis have started a cult following of the genre.
Often, video essays start with a rough script of the argument and examples. Much like an actual script, the length of this can give the writer a rough outline of how long the video might be. Planning a video essay also means creating storyboards and detailed descriptions of how the video will flow and match up with the written portion of the essay. While at first, rough storyboarding is just a way to get your ideas out there (much like an outline), a concrete storyboard is necessary to move forward with the recording and editing process. Video essays, much like formal essays, rely heavily on structure (here’s a video essay on video essay structure), which is why storyboarding is so essential to the overall functionality of the video.
So, does that clear up why this is probably the perfect way to turn my first, shallow, hardly entertaining analysis of Rear Window into a hopefully engaging, thoughtful trainwreck of a video essay? If anything, I definitely have the personality to pull it off.
Let’s just say, I struggle to create witty titles. It’s not really my strong suite.
Also get ready to get visual.
My name is Briana Johnson. I grew up in Port Huron, Michigan. I’m an only child who grew up watching a lot of Sidney Poitier, Marilyn Monroe and Gene Kelly. My dad was into a lot of New Wave music, so, think like Wham! or Blondie. He really shaped my heavy interest in media studies and music, which is probably why I ended up as a Communications Major (even though he likes to tell me my taste in music is weird, his are literally the same in comparison).
I call my mom Marilyn. To a lot of people that’s weird, and disrespectful. Which, honestly, started out from a place of disrespect. My mom and I were at each others throats almost every day when I was in middle school (yeah, I know, all moms and daughters are at this time). I started referring to her as Marilyn with such contempt, that I think people actually thought I hated my mom. Like really hated my mom. But I definitely don’t. Now I just call her Marilyn because it stuck.
She’s probably one of my favorite people to talk to. Most of our conversations end up in fits of laughter, both of us red in the face and crying. In a lot of ways, I’m just like her. We both have this odd knack for attracting conversation, whether we want it or not. Every time we leave the house, my mother runs into someone she once knew. And let me tell you, these conversations last forever. Although at first I didn’t notice it, my friends have pointed out that the same shit happens to me. Thanks mom, I’m definitely a talker.
A lot of the time when I tell people I’m from Port Huron, Michigan, people give me that glossy eyed “oh okay, I don’t really know where that is but I’m going to pretend I do” look. But lately, a shock to me, Port Huron (and its surrounding areas) have been sending a lot of its students to Michigan. There was a moment where I was walking down the street last year with a friend, when I said “You know, it’s weird, Port Huron doesn’t really seem the type of place to breed Michigan students, but I keep meeting a bunch of people from there,” to which a boy walking in front of us whipped his head around, smiled brightly, and said “hey, I’m from Port Huron!” I kid you not.
Port Huron sits across from this thing called Chemical Valley. A lot of people hate it. Although there have been reports that it’s perfectly safe to be living across from a chemical plant, it’s still a bit unnerving to hear drill sirens wailing at midnight on Mondays. Since we sit right on the water, and Chemical Valley is across from us, you can take a drive up the one main road that goes straight through town, and gaze at it in all its glory. When I was little, I called it the fairy city. I mean, what child sees a distant land of twinkling lights, and wouldn’t think that? Right?
Honestly, Port Huron is the type of place to either a) lock you in completely, or b) cause so much emotional damage to you that you have to get away. Or at least that’s what I’ve noticed. It’s a small town, not a lot of diversity. I was one out of about 7 or 8 black students in my graduating class. The number was a lot lower for other ethnicities. There isn’t much to do either. Besides sitting at the bridge late at night, or sitting in the Meijer parking lot (change of location is nice sometimes, yknow?), or spending hours wandering the empty carcass that is downtown Port Huron, the younger crowd of Port Huron is bored out of their minds.
So, naturally, I began to draw. Yeah, kind of weird place to stem off. But I honestly think the lack of social interaction I had as a child, combined with my overwhelming library of media, and the fact that Port Huron had (or maybe still has…) nothing really going for it, that I became the art kid. When I was little, it seemed like that’s all I did. Heck, in highschool that IS all I did. I did it so often and well enough that I got my art on billboards throughout the county. After a stressful 7 months, I got a 5 on my AP art exam. On the side, I was a section leader in marching band. I got straight A’s. My friends and I were happy together. I got my first boyfriend. I breezed through highschool, barely even breaking a sweat (kind of). My life was seemingly perfect.
Near the end of my senior year, I started working at the local Ruby Tuesday. It’s where I met my second family. For my first summer there, I hosted.
A lot of people knew me as the quiet, secluded girl who did art (and as Bryan’s daughter, because my dad was there a lot). I got my first nickname, Pearl, because I wore pearl earrings every day. They were the only fancy earrings I owned, which were passed down to me after my grandma died that year. But when I came back from college for my second summer there, people learned I was anything but quiet. I became a waitress and things changed drastically. I got into fights with people, cursed under my breath a lot more, and was physically assaulted by a customer.I saw one of my coworkers get addicted to opioids and go back to rehab. It’s where my caffeine addiction started. I was eating a lot more than I used to and gained 20 lbs. I stopped drawing. I had my share of depression.
My world pretty much fell apart.
During my sophomore year I almost, comically, lost my mind. I got into a lot of friendships that probably weren’t good for me, and I wasn’t a good friend. I depended on people a lot, I overshared even more. I didn’t really know what I was doing. But like someone stranded in the ocean, I drastically thrashed to stay afloat. My art didn’t seem as good as it was before. I lost an eye for it. I was a lot less passionate about my passion.
I fizzled out. I spent a lot of time by myself.
But I wrote a lot of edgy poetry, and that’s something I found that I like a lot.
After the hellride that was sophomore year ended, I was horrified that I’d be damn near hysterical for my last summer at Ruby’s. But I wasn’t. I was fine. I found myself laughing with people, getting along with customers (as much as one can get along with customers) and drawing a lot more. Ruby’s taught me a lot about what it actually means to grow up. At first I was super cynical about it. Drug addiction is depressing, weight gain is depressing, depression is depressing. But I learned so many coping mechanisms during time there. The art of oversharing was something I had mastered in my previous life, but now I know how to share just enough. How to say fuck it, today, I’m going to try and be happy. No matter if I eat a little more than I want, or I learn something that sends me into a bout of cynicism, I’m going to be aware of it.
I’m allowed to make mistakes.
Anyway, that was a rant that got really deep, really fast. And it’s pretty disjointed, so if you have questions, ask I guess.
I’ll probably have more to share in other blog posts.
So, here’s more of my art.
And my roommates that I don’t want to go too deeply about, but they’re really great and I love living with them. They push me to be a better person.
I can’t wait to get to know all of you this semester!