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March 29, 2013 - Image 7

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily, 2013-03-29

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T D aMonday, April 1, 2013 - 7A

The Michigan Daily - michigandaily.com

Olivia Pope
silently tackles
race on'Scandal'

Students helm chilling
thriller, 'Meshes of Dusk'

P s
a succes
with a
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Olivia R
and As
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ia Pope
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In not e
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reviously, on "Scandal": to the way "Scandal" treats its
Lisa Edelstein guest gay characters. The President's
stars as Sarah Stanner, right-hand man Cyrus Beene
ssful CEO whose affair (Jeff Perry) is openly married
Supreme Court justice to a male White House press
ee correspondent, but Cyrus's
blic, sexuality is never pushed to the
ing forefront: It's presented merely
npany as an aspect of the character's
n life, without any kind of self-
ope congratulation on the writing's
soci- part. And when his sexuality
eam does come up, it's again in a
ators KAYLA hard-hitting but subtle way:
led UPADHYAYA When grimy oil tyrant Hollis
ierce, Doyle (Gregg Henry) mockingly
able calls Cyrus's husband his wife,
ope. When the team Cyrus quickly corrects him,
Stanner extends her calling out Doyle's heteronor-
Abby Whelan (Darby mative understanding of gay
field): "You must be Oliv- relationships.
." The real Olivia (played But some of the same issues
y by Kerry Washington) people have with Cyrus and
past without hesitation, Olivia are the same: They're
routine: "I'm Olivia not role models. Rhimes said
Stanner reels at her mis- as much about Olivia when
tt Olivia shows no sur- Star Jones hurled criticisms
.fter all, if you've never over Twitter regarding Olivia's
shington D.C.'s famed morality and ethics. Historical-
ho's powerful and sharp ly, it's very difficult for women
to get the highest cali- of color to find role models
lients out of the stickiest in media who look like them.
tions, you'd probably There are Leslie Knopes and
he's the copper-haired Tina Feys and Tami Taylors
oman, not the pressed- kicking ass all over network
black woman. television, but heroines of color?
ndal," ABC's Shonda They exist in backgrounds and
-run political soap, side stories, sure, but rarely
tackle race frequently, come in the form of leading
en it does, it punches all ladies.
it nerves. This particu- So on the one hand, question-
sent is a prime example ing whether Olivia Pope is a
eries's ability to show woman black viewers can look
of tell. Five seconds up to seems like fair criticism,
ked with harsh truths: but it ignores another crucial
gression, raced assump- aspect of representation. In a
mplicit racism that Olivia television era dominated by
obably faces every day. white, male anti-heroes like
Don Draper and Walter White,
"Scandal" boldly declares that
Ve already the morally complex, corrupt
protagonist can be a black
ave enough woman. In the past, writers
and showrunners wrote black
ilter W hites female characters who were
virtuous, as if the only black
the w orld. female character viewers would
want to see is a morally black
and white character. For Olivia,
it's all about the bottom line:
ng helmed "Grey's Anat- Protect the client at all costs,
nd "Private Practice," even if someone ends up hurt or
had an established fan worse. On top of her cutthroat
hen "Scandal" - now approach to problem solving,
cond season - entered she's having an affair with the
midseason lineup in President of the United States.
ut Washington was the Her decisions and judgements
traction. She's the first are imperfect, and her subtle-
oman to lead a major ties make her convincing.
k drama since the 1970s, So no, Olivia Pope isn't nec-
m though the nine-epi- essarily a role model, but she's
st season wobbled, one one of the best protagonists
"Scandal" think pieces currently on network television,
lections on race and and the fact that she's a black
epresentation mush- woman makes that all the more
I all over the Internet. potent.
nwhile, the show itself Its ratings have shot through
to talk about race. the roof in the current season,
al" isn't a race-specific and the numbers tell a distinct
livia Pope isn't defined story: According to the Nielsen
olor of her skin, and ratingsystem, "Scandal" is the
e reasons, it might just highest rated script drama among
most inclusive show on African Americans, and for the
k television right now. first half of this season, over
nothing exploitive or 10 percent of black households
about Rhimes's decision tuned in week-to-week. People
Washington in the role, want to see more diverse faces
he same time, the show on their televisions. "Scandal"
erase race completely. breaks barriers, but does so with
xplicitly calling atten- finesse. It would be naive to say
Olivia's race, the show that Rhimes has sparked a new
whitewash or erase erasof more inclusive television,
f her identity; instead, but it's certainly a step in the
eeing a fully fleshed out right direction. If only network
er who doesn't fall into execs put as much thought into
tereotypes or archetypes selecting content as Olivia Pope

i other shows. "Scandal" puts into choosing which clients
ith race and gender in to take on... our TVs might finally
ut powerful ways, weav- not be so over-saturated with
al commentary into its white dudes.

Two brothers and
their friend learn to
start from scratch
For theDaily
There's no shortage of film
expertise among LSA sophomore
Matt Birnholtz, his brother LSA
senior Jordan Birnholtz and Pub-
lic Policy sophomore Matthew
Gold. This group of Hollywood
hopefuls cited no less than 15very
different films, spanning from
1895 to 2012, to explain their take
on the horror genre with their
film, "Meshes of Dusk," which
revolves around a film crew that
goes up to a cabin to shoot a film
(sponsored by a mysterious art
patron). Shooting goes according
to plan until one of the crew dis-
"Throughout the rest of the
film, it gets very tense, very tight,
and by the end of the movie there's
this very shocking twist," Matt
"Essentially, it's about the mak-
ing of a moviethat goes very badly
awry," Jordan said.
"One ofthe good and badthings
about working with Screen Arts
and Cultures majors ... they're
always asking me, 'Have you seen
this movie, have you seen that
movie,' and just the vast pool of
knowledge of them is just ridicu-
lous," said Gold, the producer of

the film.
That vast amount of knowledge
will only prove useful when Jor-
dan (writer) and Matt Birnholtz
(writer/director), and Matthew
Gold take 20 other University stu-
dents to a cabin in Oscoda, Mich.
this summer to film the bulk of,
whatthey call, their psychological
The crew aims for the high-
est degree of professionalism and
independence, despite the lack of
influential connections, which
stands as a point of pride for the
"It's a crew of students, but it's
not a student film," Matt said.
Matt and Gold had been mak-
ing movies for several years but
feel that this brainchild is their
best yet, and the time has come to
bring it to fruition.
"We really think we have the
right idea," Matt said. "The story
is really an awesome story; it's a
thrill ride. In terms of technical
skills ... I wanted to make sure I
knew enough to make this, and I
feel I'm finally ready asa director.
And I feel we need the right crew
and the right cast, and our crew
is incredible: sound guy, lighting
guy. Everyone is just so ready to
Matt emphasized that "Meshes
of Dusk" seeks to be more than
today's standard gorefest horrors
- it's a film with a message, a cri-
tique of modern social media.
"It's a film about what horror
really is, which is people's emo-

tions getting the best of them in
very tense situations when you're
isolated. I mean, the whole con-
cept of horror is isolate, isolate,
isolate, and in the 21st century
that's nearly impossible to do."
Only through sufficient fund-
ing can these ideas be brought
to the big screen. The group
applied for and won the Screen
Arts and Cultures Department's
Alice Webber Glover Scholarship
Award, which funds students up
to $2000 to aid with special costs
in writing or producing a student-
led project. They also have taken
advantage of the SAC Depart-
ment's allowing majors to rent
much of the necessary equipment
directly from the University, sav-
ing a great deal of money.
The filmmakers hope the rest
of their funding will come from
their Kickstarter, the crowd-
funding website that allows users
to post their project goals online
and hope that an interested public
will donate to get that project up
and running. The team has calcu-
lated a fundraising goal of $4,250.
"We're paying not just for
transportation and equipment,
but for people to eat and subsist
for a month."
According to Gold, costs from
necessities including makeup,
props and a U-Haul truck, as
well as food and equipment, all
accumulate very quickly and sub-
stantially, despite the fact that no
member of the crew is paid.
The three expect the funds to

come from a network rooted in
their close group of friends and
"You're drawing on your
friends, and you're drawing on
your family, and you're draw-
ing on people who just find you
interesting, who are very often
friends of family. That propor-
tion of random people coming
from, say, Uruguay, who are like
surfing the internet, is probably
relatively low," said Jordan, who
has had a past experience fun-
draising but never before for a
Regardless of how much
money they receive from Kick-
starter, however, the team
guarantees that the film will be
completed, albeit with less room
for comfort and leisure. The
crew demonstrates a great deal
of commitment.
"If it comes down to it, we end
up rationing food, we'll ration
rice and apples. And what's great
is our cast and crew are commit-
ted to this that they won't have
an issue doing that," Gold said.
The filmmakers have an idea
they want to bring to life, and
their dedication might drive
them to success. Every contri-
bution of money, time and ideas,
large or small, goes towards
making a winning film. As he
was putting on his coat at the
end of their interview, Matt
found $5 in his pocket.
"Awesome," Jordan said. "Put
it in the fund."

Learning from the lack of
morality in Tarantino 's movies

Daily Film Editor
When it comes to the Oscars
and Quentin Tarantino, I've
heard a frequent complaint
levied toward the "Django
Unchained" director: He lacks
depth and insight. They love
him; they love his films; but he's
just not Oscar-worthy. And then
there's the film elitist belief that
because he ignores morality,
he should be discarded. Take
Armond White's quip on Taran-
tino's favorite genre, Spaghetti
Western: "For intellectually lazy
Americans, these films are just
cool, the birth of hipster cyni-
I am no expert. So, let me
proudly introduce myself as a
simple-minded fool, one of those
"Children throughout the Inter-
net express(ing) pants-wetting
anticipation." Let me tell you,
as purely a moviegoer, no more
or less, why Tarantino will con-
tinue to influence cinema and
how he's taught me to be a better
reader of film.
I believe Tarantino displays
enormous restraint in refusing to
puppeteer a character to present
his own voice, in hijacking per-
spective, in direct commentary.
He strips away morality as he
has intended because it wouldn't
work within the films he crafts.
Imagine a sobby epiphany in
"Kill Bill." Now, imagine one in
"Django" as the titular character
confronts the tyrannical Calvin

movies, "Inglourious Basterds"
and "Django Unchained," I
learned something about mean-
ing: The success of those two
films lies in its provocation of
Tarantino knows that the dia-
logue of film endures beyond the
theater or the car ride home. It
endures in your lunch talks with
friends, in the way we think,
hell, in the way we write. He
places enormous faith in the
intellectual fiber of his audience.
Pretension absent. Preaching
none. It would be wrong to won-
der what he's telling us. It's not
what he thinks; it's what the hell
you think.
As for "Django," he took a
controversial subject people let
die in textbooks, a topic that
normally silences debate, and
produced white-hot noise. And
after 17 years in the business
of making ultraviolent content,
the filmmaker has received his
fair share of ire.
I learned that the aesthetici-
zation of violence is valid. True,
Tarantino has an ear for noise
and verbose wit - a universally
accepted staple of his repertoire
- but he also has an eye for
violence. He has no apologies
for his blood-soaked fantasies,
nor do I have any for watching
them. Violence is a fundamen-
tal component of experiencing
something Tarantinian.
But every once in a while, he
yanks you outta your chair and
sits you down in front of a mir-
ror to look and think. Long and


The Quentinssential peace sign.

cated web of twists and
ngers, instead of throw-
m in your face.
the nuances also apply

Upadhyaya is having
popcorn and wine. To join,
e-mail kaylau@umich.edu.


In "Django," Tarantino jux-
T evoe c taposes comedic, even cathartic
violence (a beloved trademark)
needs to make with very real, very sobering
violence to incredible effect.
no apologies. Uing unreality to illuminate
reality, he captures slavery in
a way no straightforward his-
torical drama could've done.
We too often transpose the He showed both an empower-
world of cinema with the real ing story about a slave seizing
world, just as we too often forget what's rightfully his and the
how complicated morality can pure absurdity of one of Amer-
be. Tarantino drops morality ica's most shameful pasts.
completely. And he invites criti- We're left to ask: How could
cism for it. slavery exist? Equally impor-
Ibelievehe'sawareofthe mess tant: How can we turn away
he leaves in his films. With the from slavery?
release of Tarantino's two latest See TARANTINO, Page 8A

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