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News Discourse and the Refugee Crisis

Here’s the thing: news outlets need to be objective. The whole premise of journalism is to relay information (read: truth) to the public. Its objective is to be objective. As much as there may be earnest, objective journalists out there, however, news stories are filtered through news outlets – most of which are either government-funded or have commercial interests. And a political agenda, albeit sometimes subtle, usually accompany those interests. And how do you subtly inject a political agenda? You inject it through discourse.

Sunday night’s Last Week Tonight with John Oliver dissected the news media’s (aka Fox News) attempts at infusing anti-immigrant, and ultimately anti-Muslim, slants in their segments. The clip in question shows a video playing with a chyron on the screen that read “Terrorists Inbound?” Needless to say, those language choices are extremely loaded with prejudiced slants. We’re talking about refugees here, and they label them as terrorists by questioning that they may be terrorists. But here’s the kicker—Oliver’s team points out that the video loop they have on screen was uploaded to YouTube in 2010. As in five years ago. How much more subjective (and offensive) can you get when you’re using an old video to propel the discourse you’re aiming to send out into the public sphere?

To be fair, it’s not just news media —governments are just as guilty at managing their agendas through discourse (as are corporations, advertising, etc.). Oliver used the example of British Prime Minister David Cameron referring to a large group of refugees as a “swarm.” The word clearly has negative connotations and invokes a sense of danger and vulnerability. How will refugees ever be treated with humanity and respect when world leaders—I repeat, world leaders—verbally insinuate that they are pests to be feared and dismissed? I hope the answer is that most good-hearted people watching the news and listening to politicians know when to ignore and see through the “bullshit mountain.”

I implore you to watch this entire segment from Last Week Tonight—it’s poignant, frustrating, heart-warming and really effin’ funny. I’m so glad we have people like John Oliver and Noujain Mustaffa in this world to make it just a little better.

Can We Talk…

Thank you, Joan, for the memories. I grew up watching you run that red carpet like it was nobody’s business (and hearing jokes that were probably wildly inappropriate for my adolescent age). And I loved you as the eternal Dot Matrix from Spaceballs, a favorite comedy of mine. Of course, you too seemed eternal, and I don’t mean that as a slight to your age but of your longevity and persistence at staying relevant. And relevant you were, as the documentary Joan Rivers: A Piece of Work showed us, as well as the outpouring of adoration in the wake of your passing. Thank you, Joan, for making us laugh about things we’re told we shouldn’t laugh at, never taking life too seriously, and for always throwing shade.

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A “Trip” for Two

If you ever find yourself with a free evening, where you are looking for a low-key at-home entertainment option along with a glass of red wine (naturally), then look no further to a personal screening of The Trip – brought to you by Netflix. In this adult tale of a bromance of sorts, you’ll find the quasi-alter egos of actors/comedians Steve Coogan and Rob Brydon as they bumble along the winding, country roads of northern England visiting charming old inns while wining and dining. At times melancholy, hysterical, and poignant, the two grow and retract and grow again as adult friends. It’s the simplicity of the situation that makes the film and characters feel so familiar. Plus, both Steve and Rob’s Michael Caine impressions, among many others, are ace. Watch this British gem in preparation of the new sequel, The Trip to Italy, which is playing in select cities right now. I hope for everyone’s sake that it comes to Netflix real soon, so we once again can ogle at the laissez-faire vacations and satisfactory philosophical conversations that these two seem to keep finding themselves in. With European vacation times clocking in at a healthy six weeks a year, I’m sure the next trip is not too far off.

Here’s to a Legend…

Robin Williams. His name alone evokes so many emotions, feelings, and memories. For those of us who only knew him through the frame of entertainment, and not personally, we knew him as an icon. An icon who felt strangely familiar – as if he was a friend. Depending on your age, you may identify with Williams at different points in your life. Whether you grew up watching “Mork & Mindy” or spent your youth replaying “Friend Like Me” over and over again in the wake of your obsession with Aladdin, he left an impact on you. Being born in the late 80s and raised as a true ‘child of the 90s,’ I fall in the second camp, although I do remember catching bits of “Mork & Mindy” on Nick at Nite and having my mom yell from the kitchen that she loved that show when she was young, encouraging me to watch his zany antics and contagious energy.

Williams’ streak of comedy hits in the 90s made him a household legend for us young ones at the time. By the time high school came around it was finally appropriate to watch Good Will Hunting and go back to Good Morning Vietnam and of course, Dead Poets Society – one of the best films to don the ‘mandatory-viewing’ label in English class.

Having watched clips of Williams during the many tributes this past week, and re-watching such films as The Birdcage and Jumanji, I realize now, in the wake of his passing, what it is that has made him such a riveting human being to watch throughout the years. It’s simple really. It’s in his eyes. Williams’ eyes can transport you to a place of complete joy and utter heartbreak, often in the same moment. But his eyes do something more – they reflect a humanity that is so relatable. You can see the melancholy, the yearning, the happiness. Everything. There’s something truly beautiful about his ability to emit such emotion in each and every performance. It’s cheesy to say, but there’s a true twinkle in his eyes. That twinkle brings poignancy to the human condition. And yes, the human condition comes with its struggles and hardships, but it also comes with its highs. And luckily, by simply watching him, he brought highs to so many of us. To that, we are grateful.