Warehouse 13: “Burnout” and Steampunk Technology

11 08 2009

“Pixels will never reflect the real thing.” — Artie to Claudia

One of the most appealing things to me about Warehouse 13 is the steampunk sensibility: there’s a warehouse full of the US’s most top secret artifacts, and it’s guarded not by plasma whozitwhats or iPod-esque oojahs, but by practically fossilized early-twentieth-century technology.

But if you stop to think about that for a second, it makes NO SENSE WHATSOEVER.

I mean, sure, I can think of reasons why this might be the case.  Maybe the Secret Service is afraid to upgrade the tech because they don’t know how the artifacts will respond.  Maybe there’s just no money.  Maybe it’s such a monumental task and the Warehouse is so chronically understaffed that it’s simply impossible.  But really, it just doesn’t make sense, from a plot perspective, if you don’t suspend your disbelief.


From a thematic perspective, it makes perfect sense.  The retro-chic technology fits in with the idea that there is something soulless about modern mass-produced technology, and the individualized and detail-oriented steampunk aesthetic works against this soullessness.  Just like the artifacts are unique relics of historical moments, the Farnsworths hand-crafted by the “father of television” himself, the Warehouse is a relic of a more ingenious and intellectually ambitious time.  (It’s not a coincidence that one of the artifacts that is most prominently featured during the theme song is a moon rock, along with the television and the Farnsworths and a disco ball — these are all inventions of the long golden age of both science and science fiction, the fifty years from the 1920s to the 1970s.)

On that level, the explicit comparison that Rebecca makes between the Warehouse and this week’s artifact, the parasitic and deadly electrocuting spine, suggests an ominous layer to the show that we haven’t really seen up to now.

Also, that was some serious scenery-chewing from Eddie McClintock, eh?  And good for little old Rebecca for calmly and efficiently saving the day when Myka couldn’t!  I want more of her!

But I’m not sure how I feel about their choice to make her the voice of negativity about the Warehouse.  Actually, let me revise that: I don’t like the way they chose to make her the voice of negativity.  From the writers’ perspective, there was no need to bring her back to the Warehouse except to make her have that last conversation with Myka.  And why have Artie give Rebecca the engagement ring that was lurking in one of Jack’s perfectly preserved drawers except to make it clear that she is warning Myka about the Warehouse not out of a generalized concern for her well-being, but specifically so that Myka can “have a life,” i.e., get married and have a family?

But Myka doesn’t seem to want to get married and have a family, and that’s okay!  I hope that we never see her turn into the stereotypical career woman with the ticking biological clock, desperately in search of a man.  And this show had certainly better not go the X-Files route.  Mulder and Scully together was a disaster, and so would Pete and Myka be.  Can’t we have one independent and fulfilled single woman on TV?  They exist in the real world, after all!

What did you think of this episode, esteemed reader?  On a scenery-chewing scale of 1 to 11 (yeah, it goes to 11), how would you rate it?


BlogHer 2009

21 07 2009

In a couple of days I’ll be headed to BlogHer with a very dear friend.  It’s the first time for both of us, and it’s my first time at a conference that is neither (a) for super-religious teenagers (I should post about those conferences, though; they’re terrifying) nor (b) academic.  I’m a little bit overwhelmed just thinking about it! On the plus side, I bought some desperately needed new shoes that should provide the necessary comfort while still looking stylish.  At least, I will keep my fingers crossed that they do, because if they don’t I have no other good options for footwear!

At any rate, I’m excited about the conference and seeing so many smart, savvy women all gathered in one place.  Feminist issues are dear to my heart, and, after all, what is more feminist than women writing and publishing whatever they want, having their voices heard and finding support in an increasingly isolating society?  Okay, so maybe a few things, like equal pay for equal work and universal access to health care, but how will we accomplish those goals without communication?  Not easily!  So go bloggers!

Celebrities: Diversifying Power

15 07 2009

I just wanted to make a note of the Forbes top five influential women in media: in order, Oprah Winfrey, Diane Sawyer, Ellen DeGeneres, and Tyra Banks. I am impressed that of those five, two are African-American and one is lesbian.

Of Forbes’s top 100 celebrities, the top five include Angelina Jolie, Oprah, Madonna, Beyonce, and Tiger Woods; you don’t get a white dude until #6, Bruce Springsteen, who beats Steven Spielberg at #7, and then it’s Jennifer Aniston, Brad Pitt, and Kobe Bryant to round out the top 10.  So of the top 10 most powerful celebrities, five are men and five are women.  It’s like the general population is also half male and half female!  Amazing!  And, interestingly (to me), four of the top ten are African-American or mixed race.  Again, it’s almost as if a significant portion of the US is not white!  Astounding!

I’d like to see what smarter people with economic training have to say, but I’m struck by the methodology for calculating the Celebrity 100:

The Celebrity 100 is a measure of power based on money and fame. Earnings estimates, which include income from films, television shows, endorsements, books and other entertainment ventures, are calculated between June 2008 and June 2009. Figures were rounded off where appropriate. Sources include Billboard, Pollstar, Adams Media Research, Nielsen SoundScan, Nielsen BookScan, Nielsen Media Research and SNL Kagan. Fame is calculated using Web hits on Google Blog Search, TV/radio mentions on LexisNexis, overall press mentions on Factiva and the number of times a celebrity’s image appeared on the cover of 25 consumer magazines.

Which 25 consumer magazines?  What’s the demographic for each of them?  I’m just wondering about using magazine covers to gauge fame when as far as I know, magazine subscriptions have been dwindling.  I assume we’re talking about magazines like People, Vogue, Cosmo, and other checkout-line staples, where anyone who buys groceries ends up seeing the faces on the cover.  But I’d like to know more specifically which magazines count and which don’t.  Rolling Stone probably does, I would imagine, but how many magazines are included in their list that target Latin@s, for example, which make up a significant portion of the population?  Does Forbes, as I suspect they do, privilege magazines targeted at middle-class white women?

The list of the 400 richest Americans is more revealing, though: there are only four women in the top 60, and it’s not until you hit #60 that you finally see a face that isn’t white: Patrick Soon-Shiong, just ahead of Steve Jobs.  Don’t worry, white dudes: you’ve still got wealth and power locked in, in spite of the way you’ve voiced your fears over the appointment of Sonia Sotomayor (*cough*LindseyGraham*cough*).