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Week 1 Travelogue

To be honest, I found The Trap to be a very strange film to watch.  Maybe it’s that I’m not familiar with BBC-style documentaries, but there were several things that I thought were… just plain weird.  The documentary came out in 2007, but to watch it you would think it was made in the 70s or 80s.  As far as I can tell, all the footage is from an archive and nothing was shot specifically for this piece.  Everything is sort of grainy and antiquated.  The music clips are, I think, the same ones over and over throughout the three parts – and often the tone or type of music doesn’t match what’s being said in the voiceover or what you see on screen at all.  I’m not sure whether we are meant to comment on the production values of the piece, but I was definitely wondering about them as I watched.  I was curious as to why we would watch something that looks so… old in a class about brand new types of media.

As for the ideas presented in the film, well, I must say that a lot of it sounded like conspiracy theory to me.  The idea that anyone with a shred of common sense would apply an abstract and vast generalization like game theory to an entire country or civilization is just crazy!  John Nash was suffering from a mental illness when he came up with his paranoid ideas about everyone betraying each other.  (By the way Ryan, I loved that Dilbert cartoon!)  I felt like much of the film’s discussion was devoted to complaining, in one way or another, about governments and how they continually interfere with their own people and other countries.  I don’t think there is anyone who would debate that.  I agree with agmichael’s comment to The Trap post: “I found ‘The Trap’ as a whole disconcertingly negative; it was very good at showing me the bars to my cage, but was unable to supply me an escape route.”

Coincidentally, I watched on Friday night a film which many of you may have heard of or watched, Good Night, and Good Luck. The film is about the journalist Edward R. Murrow and his conflict with Senator Joe McCarthy, of 1950′s anti-communist witch hunt fame.  It reminded me of the discussion about Russia in Part 3 and the topic of how America went to great lengths to stamp out communism abroad.  Good Night, and Good Luck does a nice job of pointing out that not everyone in the US was so gullible and so blindly accepting of the government’s ruthless tactics.

If you haven’t seen it, check out the trailer:

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Overall, my thoughts on The Trap are similar to my feelings about Kamiya’s The Death of the News.  Great job complaining about all the things wrong in the world – but that’s really only half of the job.

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  1. DanJee 09:53, Jan 25th, 10

    I am completely agree with the complaining/conspiracy theory part of your post. I, too, feel like the documentary was interesting, but lacking in making the argument convincing. Few bits and pieces of self-research here and there show that Curtis only showed half of the picture.

  2. ElzbthMllr 16:27, Jan 25th, 10

    You actually put my finger on the exact thing I was feeling about the film but couldn’t articulate it, that is, that it felt like the program was old. But given that the film is more recent than it would appear to be, it led me to ask myself, what, if anything can these issues (which as you suggest are definitely a little bit conspiracy theory in nature), teach us about the world of new media? Is there any correlation or relationship between game theory and the internet? Perhaps, as you lament the lack of an escape route, we can talk about digital media as a possible way to escape from The Trap. I think it’s also important to look at the role of government in context of new media, however, because it has the power to continue to regulate these industries.

  3. Ryan 01:28, Jan 26th, 10

    Definitely negative and pessimistic about the world that we live in. I mean come on, if its saying that we are trapped and selfish and 1/2 of Americans have a mental illness and are being prescribed stuff by these thieves called pharmaceutical companies, then yes I would feel horrible. However, I enjoyed your reference to the film “Good Night, Good luck”. I saw that film and thought it was a great film and shot well.

    Strangely, Curtis did recycle so many of his clips and songs throughout the film leaving you wondering what kind of propaganda-voice-over-narration is he trying to push. Yet, a lot of what was said had some truth behind it, but I believe that it was weaved together in a way that made it to incredulous to some account.

    It was very postmodern I think too. Although, I do give him props for his editing and copyright clearance. You’re right, he doesn’t leave us with any hope or any kind of solutions, but merely lays all the worlds problems out for us on the table to sort through in three hours of interwoven topics all surrounding the notion of freedom.

  4. agmichaels 02:35, Jan 26th, 10

    I agree with you completely–after watching 3 hours of The Trap, I was about ready to give up and move into the backwoods of Canada, because man, the world is TERRIBLE, and Curtis couldn’t seem to come up with anything resembling hope for the future.

    The one thing that surprised me though was how lightly Curtis touched on 9/11. I kept waiting for the montage of destruction-clips set to eerie music, but we only got one quick shot. That may have been a consequence of copyright clearance, of course, but it was nevertheless a surprising approach what I thought for sure would be one of his sterling contemporary examples.