The Everyday Struggle

SBS’s controversial documentary series Struggle Street has “become the highest-rating locally produced program in SBS’s history and the biggest audience for the multicultural broadcaster since the 2014 World Cup in Brazil.(Source)” The program was filmed over six months and explored issues such as drug addiction, illness, unemployment and generational disadvantage. The families featured live in government supported housing commission and the show detail how they got there and the circumstances associated with living in those conditions.

The show has been labeled by some as ‘Poverty porn’ and has been heavily criticised by residents of Western Sydney and government officials. Labor Londonderry MP Prue Car said “There are issues we need to work on in the community but the SBS program was not a true representation of the whole area and the hardworking communities around Mount Druitt.” (Source)

The responsibilities of the production crew were questioned when a woman in the 3rd trimester of her pregnancy is seen smoking pot and cigarettes (as seen above) and there has been allegations that scenes on the show were staged. This seems to be a recurring problem when covering something of this nature. Time and time again suffering is shown in the media and it garners a large polarizing reaction but it is successful.

For example Passion of the Christ the 2004 film that depicted the suffering of Jesus Christ mainly focusing on the final 12 hours of his life. It was criticised for extremely violent to the point at which viewers have claimed it obscures the film’s message. The film was banned for a time in Malaysia and no Israeli distributor wanted to associate themselves with the film. The Film was also criticised for straying from the source material and for having anti-semitic undertones. Despite all these factors the film is the highest grossing R rated film in the United States and because only the biblical languages of Aramaic, Hebrew and Latin were used, it also became the highest grossing non-English language film of all time.

As seen in the success of both of the texts people seem obligated to watch depictions of suffering. Whether it be the suffering of Jesus or some housing commission residents having a tough time consumers eat this stuff up. I believe this is beautifully summed up by Madame Riccoboni who wrote this in 1769, “One would readily create unfortunates in order to taste the sweetness of feeling sorry for them

But Television Is Free?

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Television may be free but what happens when you don’t actually watch shows on Television? TV stations are still basing most of their decisions on ratings when hordes of people have turned to the Internet to consume their television content when, where and how they want to both legally and illegally.

Almost one-third of Australian adults admit to routinely using illegal download services to watch TV shows and movies – and that number is much higher in younger people. More than half of 18 to 24 year olds do it, according to the latest industry research – Pirate hunt: is this the end of Australia’s love affair with illegal downloading? By Kelsey Munro

The illegal side of this new way to watch television is especially prominent in Australia. The legal options that viewers in the states enjoy are slowly making their way to our shores with the recent release of Australian Netflix and homegrown alternatives such as Presto and Stan but the offerings are limited. The Catalogue of the Australian Netflix pales in comparison to the offerings on the American version. According to Lifehack Netflix America has six times as much content as the Australian version.  The main problem that delayed Netflix’s expansion to Australia and causes the library to be significantly smaller is that the Australian rights for a lot of shows are locked up in long-term deals with our TV stations.

The existing broadcast rights are burdening consumers as well. For example Australian Game Of Thrones fans used to be able to purchase the new episodes for a few dollars shortly after they aired in the US but Foxtel changed their deal with HBO to become the only legal way to watch Game Of Thrones in Australia. Thus anyone who wants to legally watch Game Of Thrones must pay monthly for the entire Foxtel suite which is a minimum of 45$ a month plus 150$ in installation fees. This has left many Australians disappointed and left them no way to continue watching without using illegal means.

“They’ve (TV Watchdogs) been toiling in vain to stem the onslaught of viewers flocking to free streaming websites in order to enjoy the latest episodes of “Game of Thrones”, “30 Rock” or “Dexter.” The watchdogs can’t possibly keep up—they’re overrun like a hobbled survivors fleeing a horde of zombies on AMC’s “The Walking Dead.” – TV and Film Piracy: Threatening An Industry

Until these problems are addressed Australians are going to continue to pirate television. Why a deal cannot be made between the legacy media companies such as TV Stations and new media providers such as Netflix or iTunes to let people pay watch what they want is beyond me. This issue is becoming even more important with the threats of new piracy laws looming on the horizon so hopefully it is resolved in the near future.

The Power Of Blackfish

Blackfish is a 2013 documentary that focuses on Tilikum, an orca held by SeaWorld and the controversy over captive killer whales. The film is really well made and had a profound impact on the way that I personally thought about animals in captivity.

“Blackfish” has become a rallying point for those who oppose the use of killer whales for entertainment in the SeaWorld parks, and it has drawn large audiences in theaters and on TV. But SeaWorld has defended its practices, mounting an aggressive pushback against the film. – SeaWorld Questions Ethics of ‘Blackfish’ Investigator By Michael Cieply

The Documentary details 3 incidents that have occurred due to the consequences involved with keeping killer whales in captivity that previously I was unaware of. The film uses interviews from former Seaworld employees and scientific experts to tell the stories of these incidents and try to explain why and how they occurred. The film really attacks Seaworld and its practices involving keeping animals in captivity. The film makers have been criticised by Seaworld for claiming that Blackfish is “inaccurate and misleading and, regrettably, exploits a tragedy” and that it “withholds key facts about SeaWorld”.

The film has also been criticised for over sensationalising the subject matter. Something that I believe is a problem with a lot of modern documentaries. The problem isn’t with the documentaries but with the way the public perceives them. People seem to forget that the majority of documentaries are basically propaganda pieces for a certain cause. They are made by a filmmaker to show something that they think is important and that they think should be exposed to a larger audience. They are made with a purpose. While films such as Blackfish and The Cove use this structure to help shine a light on animal rights violations (which personally I agree with the agendas pushed by both of these films) people need to be more aware of the documentary process and remember that this is only one side of the story.

Tilikum’s plight – enduring violence from other captive whales and forced to entertain crowds in return for fish ever since he was captured in the wild in 1983 – is vividly depicted by former trainers. The film’s conclusion is inescapable: we have no business keeping such large, intelligent mammals in such crippling confinement. We too might get a little psychotic, it suggests, if we were imprisoned in a bath for 30 years. – Blackfish, SeaWorld and the backlash against killer whale theme park shows by Patrick Barkham

Since the release of the film Seaworld has had a $15.9 million loss in profits and as of November 2014, the company’s stock was down 50% from the previous year. The documentary has affected Seaworld’s profit margins and damaged public perception of the company beyond repair. This truly shows that the impact of an expose documentary should never be underestimated.

I Am A God – Deity Impressions

This week in class I had the pleasure of play testing Trapezium Media’s game Deity. Deity is described on Trapeziums blog as  “A combination board-card game where the players are Gods or Goddesses, in the style of a polytheistic pantheon, who control the mortal realm and go to heavenly war in the astral realm. The players will gain the resource ‘faith’ by gathering followers in the mortal realm and then expend that resource in the astral realm to summon armies and engage in a turn-based, tiled wargame to eliminate their rivals.” And Boy did I feel like a god playing this game.

I played in a 5 player session with one of the creators and 3 fellow classmates. Throughout the playthrough I became more and more engrossed in this world we were building together. At the beginning of the game each player rolls a dice to determine their gods relation to the other players. This has no impact on the game other than providing extra narrative for the players to do want they want with. For example, my relation was that I am bitter rivals with the player to my right. So I decided to pool all my resources and focus all my efforts on destroying him, which ended up with me winning the game. I did not have to do this but for sake of our narrative I thought it would be fun. I think this is a key element the guys at Trapezium have gotten right with Deity. The narrative is there for players that want it but players that want a pure gameplay focused experience can have that as well.20150430_133332

The gameplay side of thing was quite balanced for a game that’s still in development. Each turn players receive 2 cards each that have an impact on one of the phases of the game. For example a card could allow you to add a follower to a city and remove one of your opponents followers, thus giving you more and your opponent less faith (the games currency) or spawning a minion in the astral plane that could move straight away (when you buy a minion it gets summoning sickness and cannot move for that initial turn). As the game progresses through its 3 phases more powerful cards become available which gives the game a nice feeling of progression and prevents it from getting stale. It also makes you feel as though your god is becoming more powerful and isn’t that really the point of the game?

All in all I had a blast playing Deity. The guys at Trapezium have obviously worked ridiculously hard to be able to create a game that while still in development is already a well-rounded and most importantly fun board game experience.