Little Cat Version of Me — Self-Reflexivity Done Well

Brandon Moviemaking, Webseries Theories

*THIS POST IS RE-PUBLISHED FROM WEBSERIESTHEORIES.COM, A FORMER BLOG OF MINE.

WEBSERIES THEORY: Webseries culture celebrates self-reflexivity.

It’s fascinating how quickly new mediums and forms of expression become self-referential and/or self-reflexive. Whole sub-culture movements have started this way; the most famous of which was the French New Wave. The French New Wave consisted of a band of film critics and theorists, sure. But as you know, they also wanted to be filmmakers. Huge proponents of the auteur theory (the notion that the director is the author of a film), they set out to make their own films. These films heavily referenced and riffed on Hollywood, but introduced a new type of movie. Directors, like Truffaut and Godard, did everything in their power to remind audiences of the fact that they were watching a movie: self-reflexive.

Fast-forward some time, and you see the ripple effect of their work throughout the world’s film culture, for better (Quentin Tarantino) or worse (Disaster Movie). And now, our little sub-culture of webseries has latched onto this trend with lightning fast speed. It could even be argued that this self-reflexive behavior is directly tied to the medium’s successes. Look to The Guild (the most obvious example), who still even in their most recent season, Season 4, play out the majority of their scenes via webchat, even having their characters talk directly into the camera (many series have followed this example), which in film used to be called “breaking the fourth wall”, but now is simply another piece of visual language in our vlogging world. In addition to cinematic qualities, there are several series that reference the culture and themselves in it for comedic effect, most notably the wildy successful, but uninspired and underwhelming Webventures of Justin & Alden (Webventures).

Recently, a new series came to my attention, Little Cat Version of Me (Little Cat), that follows a similar concept to Webventures: two roommates set out to make a webseries, and “hilarity ensues”. But unlike Webventures, Little Cat doesn’t rely almost entirely on the creative teams’ previous successes, in-jokes, and a group of friends with minor celebrity status. Instead with Little Cat‘s first episode, Director, Daniel Reis, and his Director of Photography, Kian Marandi, skillfully and organically introduce us via mockumentary into the lives of our two heroes, roommates Adam (Adam Goldhammer) and Mitch (Mitch Boughs).

As you can see, the creative team behind this piece embraces the limitations of their budget. Most episodes take place within the one location and consist nearly entirely of back-and-forth dialogue, but due to consistent lighting and well-paced editing it rarely matters. The show takes the time to deliver a quality image, and I’m willing to bet that they don’t have a very sophisticated light kit, if any. But they make do. In an interview with blogTO, Goldhammer says, “the actually shooting of each episode will take on average an hour a minute of the final cut”. In Hollywood terms this isn’t very much, but for a webshow that relies on such a simple cinematic format and equipment, this is a good bit of time. I’ve seen students’ and independent productions breeze through a shoot at the sacrifice of quality. So it counts when time is all you really have.

There is a consistency to the Little Cat world that they’ve built, which is of paramount importance, because the show’s premise does everything in its power to draw attention to the fact that this is in fact, a webseries. The creators only strengthen and maintain the illusion with surprisingly sophisticated writing. In their first episode, we are greeted with two very well-defined characters and friends, already in conflict. Their dialogue and interaction delicately and humorously walks the viewer through key parts of their back story, easily leading to the need for these characters to come together in making a webseries. Then from episode to episode, the writers demonstrate the simplistic thinking behind many in our culture’s attempted exploitation of internet memes, only to turn around and exploit the memes themselves through the characters and their show. Personally, I think it’s brilliant.

Although on occasion, Goldhammer pushes the limits of his character’s absurdity, the acting is very good. Boughs and Goldhammer commit to their roles completely, making for a fun and again, surprisingly sophisticated watch, despite the silliness of it all. The show’s only major fault to date came when the show broke from it’s formula and introduced what can only be defined as a nerd characiture, Dave. The character is so over the top that he doesn’t really fit into the world. And I suppose that is the point, but the character lacks the charm of a Jaleel White, so we are left with only an annoying Urkel, who doesn’t actually type when he is typing, which momentarily destroys the well-preserved illusion of reality in the show.

Little Cat supports their content with a simple tumblr page, which is to-the-point and fitting. On Twitter, they are @TheRealMeowla, the title character of the show, who tweets gems, such as “meow meow meow”, “meowla haz a case of teh meowdayzz”, or “I is in webseriez? http://littlecatversionofme.com”.

Little Cat is a great example of how self-reflexive storytelling can work on an entertainment level, but also with a little bit of thought and social comment. The show is a great achievement and I hope you give it a chance, because for me, this series demonstrates the promise of web content.

“No matter what your politics”

Brandon Essay, Opinion, Politics

*THIS POST WAS ORIGINALLY PUBLISHED ON BRANDONNEY.WORDPRESS.COM.

I just finished reading Cormac McCarthy’s THE ROAD. I’ve never read one of McCarthy’s books before, but the premise and hype surrounding this narrative have sustained themselves at the back of my mind for some time now. So THE ROAD quickly became the top of my epically long reading list during this holiday break. And I finished it this evening. It truly is an impressive (almost boring, but gripping at the same), depressing, “harrowing”, and purely human tale. I plan to see the flick soon, but this is not a self-righteous review of the book. No, this is a self-righteous blog of a very different sort.

You see, as I read McCarthy’s book, I marveled at his masterful use of language, of course, but I could never get this front-page-praise quote from the Bookforum’s Rob Spillman out of my mind:

“There is an urgency to each page, and a raw emotional pull . . . making [The Road] easily one of the most harrowing books you’ll ever encounter . . Once opened, [it is] nearly impossible to put down; it is as if you must keep reading in order for the characters to stay alive . . . The Road is a deeply imagined work and harrowing no matter what your politics.” (emphasis added)

No matter what your politics?

Why does this matter? THE ROAD is devoid of “politics”. You’d have to be completely driven by your own political views in order to inject political meaning into any scene, character, or emotion portrayed within the novel. Of course, I understand that Spillman, who in the same review identifies McCarthy as a “social conservative”, merely attempts to indicate for those opposed to McCarthy’s personal politics, that this book is safe for their reading pleasure. My beef isn’t with Spillman, but with the phrase, “no matter what your politics”.

People often use the phrase with the intention of bridging political divides, but don’t realize they are simply blinded by their own politics. For instance, one person writes, “No matter what your politics, I think we can all agree that our healthcare system needs reform” (blog.theredpost.com/category/politics/). Yes, because politics has nothing to do with healthcare reform, and has no bearing on a person’s desire to promote it or not (<—– No matter what your politics, that was sarcasm). This person obviously holds the need for healthcare reform so close to their heart, they don’t see it as a political issue: simply as a universal truth. The fact is Healthcare reform has dominated the political scene since Obama took office (The Obama Healthcare Plan). Healthcare reform “debate” (If you could call it that) laces the work of some of our nation’s most prominent demagogues: Michael Moore (his film SICKO), Glenn Beck (his Healthcare Special), Ann Coulter (her Liberal Lies About National Healthcare), and the list goes on. Yes, matter what your politics, Healthcare reform is a political issue.

Another example comes in reference to Obama, “No matter what your politics are, you have to admit that this man has taken U.S. politics by storm. He is an incredibly prolific, and gifted man. He is definitely the best choice for Left Hander of the Year 2008” (http://www.lefthandersday.com/lefthander2008.html). Let’s ignore the irony that this quote is being used by Left Hander of the Year 2008. Irony ignored? OK. The person who wrote this is obviously a fan of Obama. And yes, it could be empirically argued that Obama took U.S. politics by storm, but that hasn’t stopped people from doing everything in their power to deny this fact: just type “Obama same as Bush” into Google. I’ll wait . . . moving on. People don’t have to admit anything.

Other times people use the phrase, and it means the exact opposite. “No matter what your politics, our existence here is finite” (http://scitech.blogs.cnn.com/2008/06/12/squids-and-octopods-beware-contaminants-now-in-your-world/).  This person comments on the report of a scientific finding that contaminants have reached the deep sea. The report is very matter of fact, and again devoid of politics. But this person comes along and interjaculates (Thesaurus says what?) their politics, as though they came straight from a screening of FERN GULLY (Don’t get me wrong, I love me some Batty!). This person says, “No matter what your politics”, but they very much address the political issue of environmentalism with, “We are the smartest animal on the planet and yet we don’t see the signs that what we do on a daily basis for our own survival will eventually wipe out all other species”. The issue is so close to their heart that they accuse, “So much for intelligence, we should be talking about ignorance!” Exclamation point! They follow the “no matter” phrase with nothing but an emotional and politically driven exclamation. No matter, your politics are showing.

I just think the phrase has no useful rhetorical purpose. I get it. When using it you are trying to establish a common ground, a common premise, that you can work further into the issue from. Or you are trying to promote something, that you view as devoid (Word of the day!) of political influence. But when you say, “No matter what your politics”, all you do is simply signify that politics matter to you, even on this seemingly apolitical issue.  And it sucks, because it is hard not to politicize everything, when things like the clip below are considered worthy of National Breaking News:

We’ve come so far, haven’t we?

To me the “no matter” phrase indicates a desire for a world in which politics aren’t everything. That’s the world I want to live in. So instead of simply using empty phrases in attempt to mask your political agenda, why not genuinely look at the world, not as a Republican, not as a Democrat, not as the drone of some group, but as a person: an individual.

Read THE ROAD; it’s good. And let’s talk, because existence is finite, we don’t have to admit anything, and we can’t all agree. But NO MATTER WHAT, YOU’RE HUMAN and I’d love to hear what YOU think.