April 11, 2016 New (Not) Too Bake To Fail *
I’ve never been much of a baker. It requires too much adherence to specific directions. Executing someone else’s instructions has never been my strong suit.
But a month or two ago, I started watching the Great British Bake Off. Something about the modesty of the contestants and the difficulty level of the various challenges gave me the feeling that maybe I *could* bake something kind of fancy…some strange, antiquated British dessert that involves jelly and rough puff pastry.
Having never attempted more than some oatmeal cookies or the occasional birthday cake, I had little appreciation for how hard it is to properly bake.
False sense of confidence + unforgiving chemistry = high failure rate
My first experiment, egg custard tarts, was pretty much a failure: soggy bottoms and curdled custard. I was pissed. I didn’t even take a picture.
But I kept trying. I’ve made several different cookies, tuiles, popovers, parmesan biscuits, and english muffins.
They weren’t all successful. Actually I’d say something went wrong with almost all of them. But I’m trying not to look at it as failure and a reason to beat myself up. Baking has become a safe way for me to try difficult stuff, have it go slightly (or mostly) wrong, with little consequence.
I have a habit of trying stuff that’s probably above my skill level (see: egg custard tarts), and then quitting if I can’t execute it properly. I usually don’t have a lot of patience for actually putting in the hard work. In my messed up brain I’m all, “Either I’m a natural at it or I won’t do it!” But I’m pushing myself to keep baking and continue to develop skills and techniques instead of expecting them to be there from day one. If, and when, I fail, it’s simply fewer calories for me to consume.
*Sorry about that title, I hate puns and I’m terrible at writing them.
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- Posted under Baking, Personal
March 13, 2016 Workshops are 90% planning and 10% execution (especially where sushi is concerned)
We just got home from a sushi making class. A poorly planned sushi making class. An expensive, poorly planned sushi making class. The kind of expensive, poorly planned sushi making class that compels you to write a blog post about getting your shit together if you’re running any kind of event where people are expected to participate in any capacity.
Granted, anything involving cooking food has a high difficulty level. Lots of cleanup and prep, varying experience and comfort levels, and a room full of strangers. But that’s why what I’m about to say is really important. Listen up. [This post got long, so I’m inserting animal gifs to break it up a bit. Enjoy!]
Any workshop is going to involve some back and forth between a presenter/facilitator talking and activities. Ideally, you want to use the talking part to set the stage for the activities and then let the actual learning take place while the participants are doing something. You always, always, always want people to construct their own knowledge. Say it again: CONSTRUCT THEIR OWN KNOWLEDGE. That’s really the entire point of the workshop format, right?
Facilitators need to understand that in a workshop setting (i.e. a situation where I have not paid to see you perform), people are not there to listen to you. They’re there to try it. They’re there because you’re providing the equipment and the environment and the guidance.
How the construction of knowledge happens should be determined by the goal of the workshop:
Is the point to develop and practice skills? Then a demo followed by ample opportunities to practice would make sense.
If the point is to develop understanding or generate ideas, then you want to use modeling sparingly. One way to approach this is to provide tools and facilitation and then back off.
But wait…there’s more! Let’s say we’re running a “skills” workshop. If the goal is for everyone to practice the same set of skills, every single person needs to get their grubby little hands on the same set of materials so that they can all practice the complete set of skills. You can’t have Chris chop the onion while Sally prepares the sauce.
Everyone needs to do their own individual little thing. People prefer to get their own kit of parts, especially when it’s a group of relative strangers. Eliminating any awkward social negotiation over who gets what tool or material will save time and get people focused on the skill itself. If people are there to learn a skill, the workshop should not depend on group dynamics or sharing.
Can it be a logistical nightmare to get enough space, time and materials for each person to work simultaneously? Yeah, that is that hard part and, presumably, why the participants paid you for the workshop. This is where you figure out that you need twice as many cutting boards because there’s not time to wash them all during the class. Spend that time. Because cutting boards are kinda important at a sushi class.
Upping the difficulty level: prep your materials so that you eliminate any steps that are not essential to practicing the skill. It’s like editing a piece of writing: strike anything that doesn’t help you make The Point.
Now, let’s return to the “ideas” or “understanding” type of workshop. Here’s where group dynamics might be a lot more important. If it’s a group activity by design, not necessity, try to provide as much structure and direction as possible in terms of the administrative work of the group. Assign people to groups, do not let them sort themselves. If there are roles to play, like note-taking or time-keeping, consider designating individuals at the beginning.
The truth is, we humans like being given clear tasks and then fulfilling them. The operative word is “clear.” If you’re leading a cooking class, don’t say “Okay, we need a volunteer to make the filling” with no further instruction or details. Some people will volunteer for everything, but most people will not jump at the opportunity to do something mysterious. Be specific, be clear, and assign tasks when possible.
Secondly, in an “ideas” workshop, since you don’t want the group merely copying your example, it’s important to provide the right tools to scaffold learning, creativity, and inspiration. In this kind of session, people need constraints, and it’s up to the facilitator to provide the guardrails. Figuring out how to frame an activity is a different kind of work than physically prepping materials, but it’s just as necessary.
Finally, have Plan A totally mapped out and have a Plan B in mind and ready to go. Anticipate some potential problems that may come up. This is where those of us catastrophizers have an advantage. Don’t go far enough with this thinking to drive yourself crazy, but be ready to be nimble.
Why is this important? People know when the leader doesn’t have their shit together. In a workshop situation, people already feel vulnerable because they’re not sure what they’ll be expected to do (trust falls? being called on at random?). When a workshop is disorganized, the leader is actually passing the burden of logistics onto the participants.
And hey, if you’re doing something free and informal, that’s fine. But if you’re ever, EVER, charging money for a workshop, do not wing it. Have enough materials. Have a plan for every step of the process. Have backup plans. Be professional. Do the 90% beforehand so you don’t have to sweat the 10%.
** I don’t usually position myself as an expert because it seems like something a marketing blogger does. But I really do have years of experience with workshops and event production and a there’s a strong, Type A streak in me that gets incredibly frustrated when something is shoddily organized. Also, this is part of XD, or at least the kind of XD we do. A poorly planned class is bad experience design, full-stop.
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- Posted under Experience Design
February 21, 2016 Screenwriting for Experiences
For many years I had a half-baked idea that I could be a screenwriter. I don’t phrase it that way to put myself down, but instead to acknowledge that I consistently failed to put forth the effort to actually complete an entire screenplay.
I’d always been praised for dialogue, so it was easy for me to write a scene of banter that went on for pages and pages. Where I fell down was story structure. And anyone who’s ever read a screenwriting book will tell you that story structure is really a much bigger deal than dialogue. I can’t imagine being able to nail story structure on your first outline, but I would never give myself more than one chance to figure it out and I resisted listening to any feedback that wasn’t positive. The result: a bunch of thirty-page first drafts.
I’ve taken two kinds of writing classes in the last few years: screenwriting and romance novel writing. They’re both difficult for the same reason: they both need to follow a structure within a prescribed length. There’s only so many pages to hit the right beats and meet or subvert the expectations of the audience. (Yes, even in something as formulaic as a romance novel you surprise the audience.) Both of these media require plenty of discipline.
When you come up with the seed of a great idea for a screenplay or a romance novel, it’s usually just the setup. It’s rare (for me at least) to have any idea of how the conflict will play out, or the story will resolve until I dig much deeper into the initial germ of an idea. Taking that premise and shaping it into something that fits the story structure established thousands of years ago is a something I’ve never quite been able to crack.
Well, no. Not exactly. But I think my perspective as an experience designer has started to bring it into better focus. One of the great and frustrating things about my job is that we’re working in a space that doesn’t have a wealth of best practices. Traditional UX has these resources, but in my studio, we’re typically borrowing from several disciplines at once, UX among them. There’s no Syd Field or Robert McKee guide on how to design an experience for a set of 10 foot high responsive digital columns. So, we dive into an array of work in adjacent fields and media, do a lot of prototyping and testing, and start to compile our own set of best practices.
I’ve come to realize that one of those adjacent fields might be screenwriting. Although the work we do isn’t as specifically prescribed as a formatted screenplay, every experience follows some kind of loose story framework: call to action to the user, user goes of some short journey of discovery by interacting, and then returns to where they came from with some additional knowledge or insight. Putting aside the differences in the experience of “passive viewing” (something I’ve never believed in anyway) versus interacting, what screenwriters, romance novelists, and XDs do is basically the same thing: figure out what’s going on with your audience at every step in the journey and engineer a structure to provide them with the most immersive experience possible.
The tools and raw materials are different, but the task is pretty similar. In fact, much of the overall process of creating the finished product is the same.
Like screenwriters, XDs are usually the first ones into the pool on any given project. Although the makeup of concepting teams varies, there’s always an XD presence as early on as possible. The concept may be totally open and original or spun off from an existing experience. There may already be characters or content to work with, or the team may need to invent everything from scratch. Once the concept is approved by the client (in movie world: the financiers), the XD starts in on the framework of the experience much like the writer would break a story. What needs to happen and how can I structure this in a way that makes sense to the user/viewer but isn’t completely predictable?
It’s that negotiation between working within the conventions but trying to add some new variable to the equation. Sure, you can create a completely out-of-left-field interactive experience, but if the user doesn’t know what to do when they stand in front of it, they’ll eventually walk away. I’m pretty sure that writing for video games straddles these two domains.
As the project goes from the skeleton of an idea to something more fully fleshed out, other specialists and professionals take the “script” and make adjustments. There are constant rewrites for awhile. Creative directors and clients give notes, producers pull together all the moving parts and keep the budget in check, the designers and technologists start to bring everything to life, piece by piece. Often you pivot or make edits when you see how something plays out at scale. Compromises and improvements get implemented. And with each production iteration, the XD’s role becomes more oversight than hands-on.
We’re usually the role that feels like the finished product is quite different (for better or worse) than what we initially envisioned. Sometimes it feels like disappointment. We remember that first draft, before we killed our darlings. I can’t think of a project where I didn’t have to lose the weirdest, coolest element somewhere along the way. It’s hard to admit that that’s often for the best. Even more so than in filmmaking, creating interactive experiences is a team sport and sometimes you can’t have your way (or can’t get someone to pay for it).
There’s some truism about screenplays that goes something like this: a good screenplay turn into a good movie or a terrible movie. A bad screenplay can only be a bad movie. If the structure isn’t there from the start, all the amazing design and technology and acting can’t make it a winner.
And that’s not to say, “hey, XD and screenwriting is so much more important than these other things!” The designers and technologists and producers and CDs on our team have come up with some amazing solves for inherent XD problems. But when you’re the person responsible for that underlying engineering, it helps to have those best practices and rules to follow. It would be a lot easier to be able to pick up a Syd Field book and remind myself of how the whole thing must work.
So I just might do that. Jeremy tipped me off to John August and Craig Mazin’s Scriptnotes podcast and as I’ve been listening, much of it resonates with me as an XD. The fundamental importance of structure. The stripping away of anything that doesn’t provide some vital nugget of information or push the story forward. The careful arrangement of major beats and minor beats to make the audience feel a certain way at a certain time. Avoiding the dreaded exposition fairy. So many of these principles are the same, just viewed through a slightly different lens. I think screenwriters have already figured out a lot of the issues XD folks wrestle with.
I’m kind of excited to pick up those screenwriting books again and figure out exactly how I can apply some story technique to my work. Being an XD has forced me to work within an iterative process with lots of feedback along the way. My first draft is never perfect. I can finally accept that. I don’t know what that means for my screenplays or my romance novels, but I’m pretty sure that if I tried to write one today, I’d work much differently. I wouldn’t start with the first line of dialogue from the first scene. I’d take a stab at engineering the story, and then take like twenty more stabs. It’s still not going to be perfect, but it will probably be a lot better than the thirty-page first draft I wrote 5 years ago.
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- Posted under Experience Design
May 6, 2014 Commencing
Last Friday I graduated from Georgia Tech with a Masters degree. If you told me a few years ago that I would obtain an M.S. from an engineering school, I would have called you crazy. But life is weird and apparently we’re all capable of impossible-sounding feats.
Two years ago, I quit my job and went to grad school because I wanted to create new career opportunities for myself. I felt stuck and envious of people working at cool companies with clients and open concept offices and making a decent living for being creative. For most of my working life, I’ve had jobs where I worked with people in these positions, or in service to them. But I was never a part of that world.
Earlier this year, I started trying to map out (literally, I made mind maps) what I wanted in a job. I’m happy to say that I’ve secured a job that ticks nearly all the boxes on that list, and a few I didn’t even think to put on there. (I was going to say, “luckily” or “I was lucky to secure a job…” but screw that because it’s not just luck. I worked really hard to create good opportunities for myself!) Next month, I’ll be starting work as an experience designer in the ATL office of Second Story, which is (I have to quote this) “an innovation center pioneering new interactive experiences.” Sounds cool, right?
I’m thrilled to be able to take a job that is so closely aligned with my work at Tech. I’m also looking forward to more structure in my workday so that I can have more of a life during my down time. Getting to stay in our current house is a wonderful bonus.
I’ll continue to update this blog, but it won’t be with class projects or work projects. I’ll be posting more projects that I want to do on my own time, hobbyist-style. Really looking forward to this new chapter…
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- Posted under Personal
February 4, 2014 Is this the greatest work of all time?
[For the non-wrestling-inclined: the past two weeks have been an exciting and/or terrible time for wrestling fans. First, there was controversy at the annual Royal Rumble pay-per-view, when crowd favorite Daniel Bryan was seemingly denied the chance to enter the competition. This was either part of a larger storyline about Bryan as an underdog, a serious booking error in “real life,” or the result of WWE bringing back Batista (who went on to win the Rumble, much to the chagrin–but not the surprise–of basically everyone). About a week later, CM Punk, who is maybe the second or third most popular guy on the roster and has a large, vocal legion of internet fans, apparently left the company right before a live RAW broadcast.]
One thing I learned during my first day on the job at WWE last summer, was that the company honestly doesn’t mind getting negative fan feedback on social media. Whereas most companies work hard to get as much positive reaction as possible, WWE is in the business of keeping people interested in their stories. To do that, they need to piss people off, then give them what they want, then piss them off and so on. People who are incredibly upset and outraged over the storyline in which WWE treats Daniel Bryan like dirt are probably still going to tune in to see what happens. It’s only when people are bored with the product that they turn it off. So, igniting passions either way is a win for WWE.
That strategy would seem to indicate that the Daniel Bryan not being in the Rumble was a “work” (or, part of a storyline, usually designed to look “real” to the average viewer). Of course, the WWE has a spotty track record with actually executing these stories that dance on the line of “real” and “fake.” More often than not, fans can tell what is fictional, what’s being set up, what might happen next. The fact that fans got so worked up over the Bryan situation means that WWE either did a hell of a job making the snub look real or lucked into a situation where a booking mistake sparked a lot of outrage and attention on the product. Either way, what happened (and the fan reaction) is now part of the fictional story line.
The situation with CM Punk is a bit different. WWE has made no mention of Punk or the developing “Punk quit” story. Nothing on the website, nothing on the TV shows, nothing on social media (aside from the curious mutual unfollowing of the @cmpunk account and @wwe). Actual news outlets have covered the story, but WWE’s own “news” writers have been silent. CM Punk is not featured on the website in any special capacity at this point, but his profile is still up and there’s still some evidence of his existence (unlike the blackout of Chris Benoit–who is never, EVER mentioned by the company).
Last night on the live RAW broadcast, the crowd was very clearly muted by the production team, although several Punk chants were audible at various times. As WWE continues to post their usual Facebook updates and articles, fans continue to comment about Punk. The company remains silent. CM Punk remains silent.
Is it possible that this is one of the most effective “works” of all time? That WWE somehow found the ability to capitalize on the situation by NOT saying a word? Because by not commenting or even mentioning the story, it’s not going away. And that’s actually a good thing for WWE. Unlike most companies, they never want to sweep something under the rug (with the notable exception of Chris Benoit), even if it could be perceived as negative.
The story could be real AND a work. In other words: CM Punk could have legitimately walked away last week. WWE simply decided to create more interest in the story by not telling it themselves, by letting it play out in internet speculation and fan outrage. By confirming that “CM Punk left our company” WWE would be closing off storytelling possibilities. The certainty of such a statement would deflate the story. Punk’s fans might not bother to watch during the lead up to Wrestlemania. By saying nothing, the door is left open to any possibility, including a shocking return at any moment. Instead of fans simply expressing their displeasure with the fact that Punk is gone, now they are doing that AND complaining about WWE’s silence.
They are also playfully trolling the fans. The Twitter unfollowing was perhaps the most obvious example. Posting things like this, oh-so-carefully-chosen thumbnail of a newer wrestler is another:
Well-played, WWE. We get that you are consciously stoking the flames here. When RAW comes to Punk’s hometown of Chicago in a few weeks, I suppose we’ll know whether or not this was just an elaborate ploy to get the man some vacation time. If the quitting is legit and Punk doesn’t return in Chicago or at Wrestlemania, the story will be over, but at least they’ll have a couple months of intrigue leading up to their biggest event of the year. The smartest thing they can do right now is to show restraint and do nothing. The audience will lean in when you whisper, not when you shout.
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- Posted under wrestling
January 30, 2014 Quick Visualization on Using Food Pantries
This semester I’m taking a class that covers service design related to food systems. We’re working with a major regional food bank to do some participatory research and design with community members. Last week, I dug into the topic of food pantries and did a bit of research on what it takes to use one. I found that, on paper at least, it’s a challenge to find one thats a.) nearby b.) open at a time you’re available c.) takes walk-ins. You need to have about as much documentation to use a food pantry as you do at the DMV. Sometimes there are other qualifications, too.
This diagram is really abstract. I simply compiled all the various requirements and hours of the 10 closest food pantries (in the neighborhood we’re working with) and tried to diagram each one with a vertical line. Each green line is an approximation of the time the pantry is open (and yes, that’s usually just a few hours once per week). The dotted red lines lead down to the potential road blocks a user might encounter when trying to access services (i.e. not having proof of residence or needing a referral).
It might be interesting to build this out in a more specific way. Since I made this in just an hour or two, it’s more of a first draft, but I’d be interested in digging deeper into this issue with more data and a different take on a visualization.
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- Posted under School Projects
January 27, 2014 First stab at a touchpoint diagram
This is a quick first draft of a touchpoint diagram I made visualizing a common service: the security process at the airport. I actually found this diagramming process kind of fun: really thinking through each interaction and categorizing it.
The dotted lines represent various touchpoints and at what stage in the process they occur. The colors denote the type of interaction (with a computer, a person, a sign, etc).
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- Posted under School Projects
January 19, 2014 The Creation Museum: Or, Can We Even Call this A ‘Museum’?
See the slideshow in native flickr format. (I recommend checking it out in Flickr because everything is labeled and the embedded slideshows leave a lot to be desired.)
Back in 2011, I somehow talked my mom into taking a trip that included the Creation Museum. I remember reading about it during the opening in 2007, and hearing that some pretty prominent theme park designers worked on the exhibits. I’m very interested in how information is presented, physically. The Creation Museum is all about “answers.” The overlord organization is actually called “Answers in Genesis” and I have to think it’s because it’s so easy to poke holes in the literal accuracy of the bible simply by raising questions. This place provides the “answers” to those pesky questions.
(If slideshow doesn’t load, you may need to refresh the page, or just view in a new window)
In other words, The Creation Museum is a place where creationist people can go to learn how to better argue with sane people.
It’s not a “museum” in the sense of displaying historical artifacts or works of art. Instead, the exhibits are designed to show you what something looked like. Literally. There are so many rooms in there where the designers just took a phrase and literally turned into three-dimensional reality. (My favorite is the life size “millions of years” wrecking ball pummeling the side of a church. The tableau illustrates the museum’s assertion that the very idea that the earth is more than a few thousand years old means that everything else about the church’s teaching will be invalidated.)
There is no metaphor here. Instead of trying explore the actual meaning behind, say, the great flood, we get a bunch of mannequins demonstrating the building and engineering techniques of biblical times. Because there is no symbolism here. There’s only “what actually happened” aka “the answers.” If you can see it in front of you, it must be the truth. It’s actually an argument against value of faith, in a way.
Although the designers of the Creation Museum believe that everything in the bible is the literal truth, they don’t really possess any objects to prove it. There aren’t any shrouds or slivers of wood from the cross. It may sound odd, but there’s not a whole lot of Jesus or even traditional religious symbolism in the building. Rather, the whole place is based on an argument (the book of Genesis IS the story of how the earth was formed) and all of the “scientific evidence” flows from there. Because there aren’t any traditional artifacts, most of the “scientific evidence” is provided in the form of bullet points and long paragraphs of text. Never have I had to actually READ so much in a museum. Seriously. Paragraph after awful paragraph of nonsense.
That said, it has all the visual cues of a museum: glass cases, placards, dioramas, dramatic lighting. The language doesn’t sound all that different from a natural history museum and the messaging is, well…on brand. Some sections are more laughable than others, but the place twists itself in knots to avoid using “God is magic” as one of their “answers.” For example, to “answer” the question of how different kinds of animals ended up in locations all over the world after the flood (remember, there were only two of each), the Creation Museum doesn’t simply offer that “God intervened,” which would probably just be the simplest explanation. Nope, they claim that animals climbed aboard logs to “raft” to other continents (hat tip to Rationality Now for this priceless photo). Just think about that one for five seconds. There’s something weirdly noble about clinging so desperately to the idea that Genesis can be backed up with something resembling science. I can only imagine the brainstorming sessions over at Answers in Genesis Inc.
It’s a lavish propaganda hut masquerading as a museum. All museums have messages, some more subtle than others. But this one has actual talking points which get reiterated in a truly bizarre movie/audio-animatronic presentation called Men in White.
If you missed the points that the museum text drilled home again and again (“different starting points,” “natural selection is not evolution,” “dinosaurs were vegetarians”), this “comedic” film helpfully provides them to you so that you’re armed with non-logic next time a rational person tries to engage with you.
There’s also a planetarium, which I insisted on seeing because I love planetariums and space. Unfortunately, it was more like a normal projector on a domed ceiling, but I did find it to be the sanest part of the museum, if you just ignore the idea that God also created all of space 6000 years ago.
Overall, the part of the experience that most stuck with me was how foreign and isolated I felt. I wonder if that’s how a creationist feels in a natural history museum? You can only look at so many dioramas of humans and dinosaurs interacting or nonsensical pseudo-scientific explanations before you get mentally fatigued. It’s really disorienting to look around and not see anything in the vicinity that makes sense.
Note: The quality of the photos isn’t great, mostly because of the dramatic lighting, the fact that I was using a point and shoot, and that I didn’t want to be too obvious in my photo-taking.
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- Posted under Uncategorized
January 14, 2014 Additional Conclusions after Several More User Tests
After several more rounds of user testing with my kits, I’ve developed a few more to-dos and overall conclusions:
1. The participants needed a lot of guidance and direct instruction to complete the kits. The written materials were very supplementary, although most participants did follow along with them. Given the amount of reassurance and encouragement needed for many users, I believe that these kits must be used as part of a workshop unless the user is very motivated.
2. After the initial tests, I reduced the number of planned activities to basic LED stuff followed by the moisture sensor. This worked much better and reduced fatigue while allowing users more time for questions and discussion.
3. I need to find more compelling examples of projects that a general audience of users might actually want to do, even if it’s just a simple LED device. Ideally, I’d like to be able to leave programmed chips with them so that they can have a tangible “takeaway.”
4. Perhaps because so many of the users expressed doubts about their abilities, they also told me that they wanted to shared their accomplishment with family members (especially younger friends and family). One motivation for using the kits might simply be to do something “cool” and “techie.”
5. Making simple changes to the breadboards by color coding the rows drastically improved usability. The snaps are still a bit small, but seem to be an improvement over jumper wires. The color-coding, overall, is very handy. I might solder a ground wire directly to the GND pin, since the ground snaps had a tendency to detach (since they were used the most).
6. Older users seem very tentative with a constructivist framework, possibly because they “don’t want to break anything.” These is a common fear when testing new technology and I’m not sure how to best encourage them to just go for it and be inventive.
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- Posted under Masters Project
January 10, 2014 Why Won’t the Naked Lady Just Make This Critic Feel OK About the Fact That She’s Naked?
Now that I no longer have to deal with the television industry for my job, I don’t follow the news from TCA all that closely. TCA is basically a junket. After years of doing TV panels, I’m over the format and it’s particularly overdone for television. Drag out the usual suspects, sit them in a row, and ask the same questions again and again. Season after season, this is how it goes. It’s pretty rare for something novel to come out of a panel event, although I understand that when a network rolls out a new series, this is the most efficient way to get the celebs in front of as many TV writers (not necessarily “critics” as possible).
Yesterday, there was some “controversy” during the Girls panel. Why HBO is still bothering with a Girls panel, I don’t know. Probably so that something like this would happen and we’d all talk about Girls for a few more minutes, so well-played, HBO PR.
So I’m kind of annoyed to even be writing this, but I had a lot of things on my mind last night as various debates unfolded on Twitter. I wanted to rant a bit, but instead I sat with my thoughts for awhile and now I’ll just tap them out here.
I’m not a regular viewer of Girls, although I’ll catch it from time to time. I’m not coming at this from any particular position, other than that of a woman just a few years older than Lena Dunham.
What is so baffling about Lena Dunham’s body? What is so confusing about any performer choosing to be naked sometimes?
So, the thing that gets trotted out a lot is size. It must be some kind of “groundbreaking,” political act to show a body that isn’t size zero. Why do we assume Lena Dunham sees her own body that way? Maybe it’s just, ya know, HER body. Maybe she’d be naked the same amount if she were thinner or heavier. Seems like anytime a non-model girl takes off some clothing, she’s called “brave.” Is that because she’s doing something that’s not “normal” to the TV viewer? When can that just be normal?
The real question here seems to be “why are you annoying us with/subjecting us to your body?” It’s like the critic is maybe expecting an answer like “I’m doing it to get under your skin, Tim!” Then, Tim can feel justified in the idea that he’s bothered by looking at Lena Dunham’s nudity.
I’m reading between the lines here, yes. But why would a journalist ask a question like that YEARS after it’s been asked and answered many times? He said “I don’t get it.” He apparently wasn’t satisfied with several years worth of rhetoric on the subject. He wanted a different answer.
It’s telling that the critic compared the nudity on Girls to Game of Thrones (apparently justified because it’s “salacious”). So, GoT is now the yardstick by which he’s sizing up naked people on screen. He’s using a funhouse mirror.
Here’s my answer: I don’t think Lena Dunham being naked is radical. It’s really crazy to me that a nudity from a performer (and the person literally calling the shots) playing a character in the “real world” is more baffling to a TV writer than the nudity on Game of Thrones. Is he more comfortable with nudity by nubile actresses playing sex workers/slaves in a fantasy world? Does he feel more comfortable because that world was created by a man and interpreted by a group of men and is “salacious” by design?
What if Lena Dunham looked the writer in the eye and said “I get naked on screen to be salacious, too”? Would he “get it” then? Or would he decide that her nudity couldn’t be salacious because it’s done in the “real world” in everyday situations by a person with a normal body?
The fact that there are still journalists fretting (yes, the way he asked the question indicated that he has an issue with it) over this, three seasons in, is ridiculous. Nudity is not that big of a deal. It’s a woman’s body and she decided to show it. If you’re not satisfied by Lena Dunham’s answers after all this time, chances are, she’s not going to bust out with rationale that will make it all better for you.
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