Dan Harmon on the Miserable State of TV

In the wake of his forced separation from his brainchild, Community, and the show’s subsequent showrunners making an underwhelming debut, it’s especially interesting to hear Dan Harmon’s rather bleak take on the state of television.

Positioning viewers as passive consumers of garbage and writers as powerless pawns of corporations, Harmon’s most fascinating commentary is on the level of censorship involved in the TV production process. Claiming that TV writers are patently “not allowed to say whatever they’re thinking” is a bold statement, especially coming from someone who seems to have been so successful in getting his vision onto the screen.

But Harmon’s comments point to a valid question, and one that has often been on my mind as someone aspiring to enter the entertainment industry: What control do writers, directors, and even showrunners really have? Is it possible to ever really see your work come to life in the way you envisioned it? What do you think?

((Apologies for the rather cynical post; I suppose I’m not in the cheeriest of places lately. –MQ))

Dan Harmon Rants About the ‘Garbage’ That Is TV
Jesse David Fox @ Vulture

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When asked why 30 Rock was able to stay on the air as a poorly rated yet very smart show, Harmon goes off, espousing a very “everything is bullshit” message. He calls all TV, regardless of quality, “a bunch of goddamn baby food made out of corn syrup.”

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The ‘Django’ Controversy Continues

Pictured above, community activist Najee Ali holds an action figure depicting Calvin Candie, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character from the Quentin Tarantino film Django Unchained, during a news conference Tuesday Jan. 8, 2013 in Los Angeles. He (and others) have called for the “offensive” action figures to be taken off the market.

Apparently now we can’t even have action figures from Django Unchained. As I discussed before, there has been some controversy over the film, and especially its vulgar language (like you could expect anything else from a Tarantino film). Now, even though I think the calls for censorship are completely outrageous, at least we can just say “if you don’t want to hear it, don’t watch the movie.” But now we are also being deprived of even the option to buy frakking action figures. They’re dolls! Seriously! How are they hurting anyone?

I’m so irked by this new development that I don’t even know what to say, so I’ll just refer you to an article that will tell you a bit more, and gladly welcome your comments on the matter.

After many protests, production line is halted for Django Unchained ‘action figures’
Liz Ferguson @ Montréal Gazette

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After complaints from several groups, including one led by Rev. Al Sharpton, groups, the Weinstein Co. has asked the NECA company to stop making “action figures” or dolls, if you prefer, of characters in Quentin Tarantino’s film Django Unchained. The Weinstein Co. produced the film.

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Tarantino on the Censorship Controversy of ‘Django Unchained’

Even though it’s been out for over two weeks now, I can’t resist at least a brief discussion of the controversy surrounding Django Unchained, especially because of how closely related it is to my own adoption of the moniker “mewling quim”.

Django Unchained uses the n-word approximately 110 times in its 166 minutes, a level of vulgarity that has caused some uproar. My first reaction to the arguments against it was simply that, coming from Quentin Tarantino, what do you really expect? He is known for excessive violence and language in his films, almost to the point of satire, and that is honestly what is so great about them.

The whole issue reminds me a lot of the episode of South Park, “It Hits the Fan” (S05:E01) that took a stance on censorship through the excessive use of the word “shit”–they even kept a counter at the bottom of the screen of how many times it was uttered in the episode, reaching 162 by the end of the half-hour show. This episode emphasizes the fact that the more a word is used, the less impact it starts to have. It seems to me that this is exactly the point of Django Unchained, as it is meant to realistically reflect its setting at a time and place when the n-word was not offensive. Words change their meaning and their import over time, so why are we so concerned that Django Unchained uses the n-word 110 times instead of 10? Would it be less offensive if there were fewer instances of the word?

But even more importantly, as the interview with Tarantino below reflects, the “excessive” use of the n-word in Django Unchained is not actually excessive, because “no one can actually say with a straight face that we use the word more than it was used in 1858 Mississippi.” And to me, this is the overriding principle in terms of censoring film and television–and creative productions in general: if it’s something that the character would say, then they should say it. You have to be truthful to the characters you write.

One of the most interesting aspects of this interview is that, in response to the Drudge Report posting a splash page of Tarantino across the top of its front pages with the n-word written below it seven times, Tarantino indicates that they were trying to offend him. An ironic state of affairs when you consider the fact that many see Tarantino himself as the one who is being offensive. His reaction to this intended slight is incredibly admirable–he doesn’t let it offend him. He simply says that what they did was ridiculous, and he can’t take it seriously.

What do you think of the controversy surrounding Django Unchained? Check out the interview with Tarantino here.

Quentin Tarantino Isn’t Fazed By ‘Django Unchained’ N-Word Controversy
Kevin P. Sullivan @ MTV

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It should come as no surprise that Quentin Tarantino‘s latest film — which we’ll remind you is a slavery-era tale told in Spaghetti Western style — has stirred up some controversy. What is slightly shocking, however, is that much of the controversy is coming from media coverage of “Django Unchained” as opposed to the movie itself.

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