“Mindhunter” and the Shadow-Self: An Argument

If you haven’t seen Netflix’s “Mindhunter” yet, do yourself a favor: watch it. Between classes, doing laundry, on the treadmill, whatever. It’s heavily dialogue-driven and, while that may be a turn off for some, David Fincher (Se7ven, Zodiac, Fight Club, The Social Network, etc.) serves as an executive producer and director for the show. If that alone is enough to sell you on the series, I commend your taste in film. If not, consider this–Mindhunter is more than a case study of the killers that occupy its episodes. In a lot of ways, it’s a case study about the viewer. Fincher–as he is prone to do–deftly turns the lens on his audience and asks us to engage in as much self-analysis as we engage in analyses of the show’s characters. Don’t be surprised if you come away from first season both intrigued and perturbed. You may learn more about yourself than you expect.

Why, though, is Mindhunter so addicting?

In his own way, Mindhunter is Fincher’s way of telling us not to be ashamed of our shadow-selves. That it’s okay to confront “the thing[s] a person has no wish to be” that reside in our psyche. (Jung, 1963) Fincher has done this before and it’s no less effective now. People want to accepted. We crave the affirmation that our quirks and perversions don’t make us social pariahs. Mindhunter addresses the concept of shadow-self and asks the audience to turn the lense on themselves as they watch. In a way, Fincher asks of us what Holden Ford asks of his colleagues in the FBI: “Try understanding [them] instead of trying to dominate [them]. Look for common ground. Find commonalities.” In doing so, we develop self-perceptions that we otherwise may not have realized. Mindhunter is addictive because we aren’t merely learning about the psychologies of serial murderers, but we’re also learning about our own. It’s liberating to discover these things about ourselves and learn that we won’t be judged for it. Mindhunter is comforting because, in a bizarre way, its acknowledgement of the shadow-self provides us a safe haven for our own introspection. Once we perceive our shadow-selves, Jung postulates that only then can we be “whole”. (1963) Over his career, Fincher has perfected the formula for this euphoric blend of self-realization and shadow-self indulgence. We love Mindhunter because it’s the latest addition to his canon of sadistic empathy. We feverishly return to Mindhunter because it acts as an outlet for our shadow-self impulses; it confirms that these repressed emotions are not cause for alarm, guilt or alienation.

After all, it’s nice to know we’re not the only one.

Occupational Hazard

I used to watch the show “Deadliest Catch” with my grandpa and my dad all the time. For those who don’t know, Discovery’s documentary-style program focuses on the men who make up the crews of crab boats off the Alaskan coasts. The work is grueling–the seas are tumultuous, the conditions are cramped and crab pots (think big fishing cages) can weigh as much as 800 pounds. Men can and do find themselves flung overboard into the frigid Atlantic waters.

Crab fishing is immensely profitable, but it comes at a cost: According to USA Today, it’s the second most dangerous job in the United States from a fatality standpoint. But, we think to ourselves, it’s okay. They knew what they were getting themselves into. Danger comes with the territory. It’s an occupational hazard.

I read an article in the New York Times that was published in the wake of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School shooting. Its headline: “School Shootings Put Teachers in New Role as Human Shields”. At least three teachers were slain by Nikolas Cruz while protecting students. The community has rallied around the actions of the educators and other teachers have come forward, saying that “[they] would take a bullet for the kids”.

Is education a profession in which death is an occupational hazard?

I have a list of jobs in my head that I’d consider “dangerous work”–roofing, industrial logging, military service. Noticeably absent from my list is education. However, in this world of accessible firearms and school shooters, maybe my line of thinking is becoming antiquated.

Should teachers have to consider that, in the event of a live shooter, they may one day be expected to sacrifice their own lives for the lives of their students? Should we expect them to shoulder such a burden in what has traditionally been a non-lethal play of employment?

Regardless, every active shooter is radically redefining what it means to be a teacher and what is expected of them in what now can be a very, very dangerous line of work.

Tales of Greybriar House

Donald Haynes Institute of Mental Health
Patient Record No. 0764-C
Patient Name: Ricci, Joseph A.
Primary Caretaker: Watts, John D.
Date of Transfer: Aug. 4, 1939
Date of Release: n/a

Session No. 1
Date: Aug. 9, 1939
Patient Condition: Stable
    Met with Mr. Ricci for first time. Patient was sullen
but understandably so given circumstances. Seems moderately
receptive to idea of further sessions. Did not attempt to
broach topic of patient's medical or criminal affiliations.

Session No. 2
Date: Aug. 24, 1939
Patient Condition: Stable
    Too early to say if patient will prove amiable.
Conversation was stilted and ceased entirely at the mention
of the late Mrs. Ricci. Will not bring up again. Patient 
seems to be adapting well to new institute after transfer
but struggles to socialize with other patients.

Session No. 3
Date: Sept. 9, 1939
Patient Condition: Agitated
    Patient seems to be developing nervous ticks. Shies away
from interaction, flinches at unexpected noises. Mr. Ricci
declined to comment on whether other patients are being
physically abusive. Session cut short due to extreme
discomfort in patient.

Session No. 4
Date: Sept. 21, 1939
Patient Condition: n/a
    Session postponed following admittance of patient to
infirmary. Patient covered with lacerations, contusions,
etc. Wounds ruled not self-inflicted. Security personnel now
assigned to all regions of institute. Culprit(s) of attack
    Police are impatient for Mr. Ricci's confession.
Patient has neither admitted his own ties to Theodore
Torrio's Prohibition-era liquor empire, nor provided evidence
to incriminate Torrio's extended family in the business.
   Will push these topics in future sessions.

Session No. 5
Date: Oct. 2, 1939
Patient Condition: Poor
    Patient will no longer make eye contact. Mutters to self
during sessions. Largely unintelligible but snippets sound
like, "...not...well..." Potential self-analysis of condition?
    Mr. Ricci was comfortable discussing his transfer from
the Cedar Point Psychological Hospital. Patient became
hysterical at the mention of his insanity plea following the
infamous Fourth Street massacre. Similar
lines of questioning proved fruitless.
    Patient remained hysterical, repeating, 
"...not...well..." until he had to be sedated.

Session No. 6
Date: Oct. 29, 1939
Patient Condition: Stable
    Patient was uncharacteristically clear-headed. Mr. Ricci
addressed me with a smile and calmly walked me through his
involvement with Theodore Torrio's illicit liquor operation
and the planning of the killings to secure Fourth Street from
a rival gang. Torrio's extended family helped hide his
accomplices. Torrio himself paid off the judge and secured
Ricci's innocence-by-insanity ruling, in exchange for Ricci's
silence. Ricci's wife's death served as Torrio's reminder to 
keep quiet when questioning began.
    Transcription of session en route to police. Patient
seemed oddly at peace at end of session.

Session No. n/a
Date: Oct. 31, 1939
Patient Condition: n/a
    Patient was found at the bottom of the well on institute
property at 8:37 a.m. by the postman. Pronounced dead shortly
after. Ruled apparent suicide.
    It is unclear how Mr. Ricci would have escaped from the
institute of his own power.


“Mythical State”


Mythical State

I had the privilege of attending Dr. Nathaniel Greenberg’s iteration of the “Lunch and Lecture” series hosted by the Arabic Flagship Program. While I’m not a member of the program itself, the prospect of analyzing the communications and aesthetics utilizes by the Islamic state instantly piqued my interest. Throw in the fact that the event was catered by Panera and the deal was sealed.

Dr. Greenberg’s lecture focused heavily on what he referred to as the “digital caliphate”–that is, the new format that Islamic communication and counter-communication have taken over the past few years. For example, it is reported that ISIS generates tens of thousands of tweets every day. That’s a staggering amount of web presence. However, it’s also estimated that the terror organization fields somewhere between 500-2,000 social media operatives. Most of those tweet are coming from bots, spewing their content into the void and hoping that something takes root.

As ISIS grows in presence online, so do those who satirize their message. Macabre “parody” videos that make mockery of ISIS actions, proclamations and media have begun to surface. Most famous is the Iraqi TV program ‘Dawlat al-Khurafa’ (State of Myths). The show aims to diffuse the aura of fear created by ISIS through sketch comedy; an approach that not everyone found appropriate. Dr. Greenberg stated that the show was received poorly by Iraqi citizens who felt that it made light of the situation and legitimized the terrorist group by further acknowledging their presence. The show’s trailer is certainly polarizing: It portrays the wedding of the devil and a Jewish woman, overseen by a whiskey-swilling cowboy. A fledging ISIS member is shown hatching from an egg a short time later and the trailer ends as divisively as it began.


Binging Binging with Babish

Quick plug for one of my favorite media producers right now.

Andrew Rea, better known by his online moniker “Oliver Babish”, is the founder of Binging with Babish–YouTube’s hottest culinary creation. Rea, a graduate of film school from Hofstra, creates the dishes made famous on the silver screen.

The strudel from Inglorious Basterds, the sauce from Goodfellas, even the Dothraki blood pies from Game of Thrones; there’s no recipe that Rea is afraid to tackle. In fact, he put over 30 kinds of meat into his “Everymeat Burrito” from Adventure Time (including rattlesnake and kangaroo) and gathered up actual blood, sweat and tears for Matilda‘s chocolate cake.

Though he’s a deft hand in the kitchen, Rea’s years of film industry experience are clear. His shots are clean and tastefully composed. His voiceover instructions are both easy to follow and laden with a droll sense of humor. He has a fabulous feel for pacing and his rapid editing is engaging without being overwhelming.

Babish doesn’t only hit the film foods though. Recently, he’s started to diversify his portfolio, covering stock kitchen procedures and recipes in the aptly named “Basics with Babish”. He’s extremely receptive to his fan base (now over two million subscribers strong) and he routinely live streams his endeavors in the kitchen so that blossoming chefs can cook alongside him.

I recommend Babish to all of my friends–I’ve even got his cookbook in my dorm room right now. Seriously, if you have a few minutes, check out the embedded episode where he prepares the titular burgers from Fox Network’s Bob’s Burgers. It’s an absolute treat, in every sense of the word.

Recycling: Now for Advertising!

There are a multitude of perks inherent to recycling: reducing carbon footprint, minimizing landfill acreage, extending the lifespan of our nonrenewable resources, and–in the case of invention–a serious lift of creative burden.

The latter is why the replication of past ideas is both loved and loathed in schools everywhere. Students–often bemoaning their workload–are quick to reuse information; teachers stoutly deny its viability in the classroom. Indeed, plagiarism is considered one of the most egregious crimes a student can commit.

Maybe, then, it’s the student in me that cringes every time I see a blatant case of advertising plagiarism. The Verizon guy? He’s still doing the same schtick, but now he’s doing it under the Sprint logo. And he’s doing it frequently.

A serial advertising plagiarist.

Same thing with the Super Bowl. Tide spent an exorbitant amount of money on a slew of commercials this year. Were most of them clever? Sure. The “It’s a Tide Ad” iteration was my favorite spot of the night.

The problem? Tide’s near word-for-word recreation of an Old Spice commercial that went viral a few years ago. Did I love it the first time? You bet I did. But rehashing the same advertisement, down to the jingle? It just feels…lazy.

I was irked.

I’m sure that there will be people that loved the homage. That’s fine, more power to them. But, if you ask me, someone should have reported Tide to the Advertising Integrity Council.

Eagles vs. Patriots vs. Advertising

Fair warning: Here comes football post #2 for the week. However, it is Super Bowl weekend, so I’m willing to indulge myself if you are. All good? Fabulous. Let’s look at the other side of America’s biggest sporting event.

When I invited my non-sports friends to my Super Bowl party this year, I did it out of courtesy. They’d rather not sit through what’s likely to be four hours of New England slogging its way to another championship and I didn’t really expect them to want to come. (DISCLAIMER: I’m no prophet and I likely just jinxed Bill Belichick out of his sixth ring with that statement.)

To my surprise, they jumped at the opportunity. However, it didn’t take long for me to figure out their motive: the commercials. More and more, advertising is coming to dominate the Super Bowl. Media outlets are compiling “rankings” of the best Super Bowl promos each year. Companies invest exorbitant sums of money in securing airtime and race to outdo each other in terms of absurdity, hoping to go viral. I overheard a guy in my lecture talking about his plans to fast forward through the game and only watch the commercials.

Now, to me, it seems ludicrous to watch two hours’ worth of commercials. Aren’t we inundated with enough marketing throughout the day? But, the American advertising juggernaut charges forward and, for the most part, we eagerly rise to meet it. We’ve bought in whole-heartedly to idea of the Super Bowl promo. In fact, ad costs and their subsequent budgets have risen by 12,000% since the 60s. Twelve-thousand percent. Check it out:

So, why will you be tuning in on Sunday night? Hoping for an Eagles upset? Rooting for Team Capitalism?

Even if you’re not planning to watch Super Bowl LII, don’t worry–you’ll be hearing all about the best (and worst) commercials for quite some time after.

Hard Knocks: Football’s Neurological Repercussions

I’ll preface this by saying that I’ve spent a decade on the football field. That’s more than half of my life–from kindergarten to high school–in shoulder pads. I never miss a snap of OU football (whether from the band section or my dorm room) and you’d better believe I’ll be at a Super Bowl party this weekend.

That being said, football is a scary, scary thing.

The detrimental cognitive effects of the sport surfaced publicly in 2005 when Dr. Bennet Omalu published his findings on an autopsy of former NFL player Mike Webster. Webster’s brain was riddled with a debilitating disease that Omalu deemed “Chronic Traumatic Encephalopathy” or “CTE”.

Omalu’s research gained public traction in 2009 after an interview with GQ Magazine and in 2015 following the release of the film Concussion. The NFL saw backlash from their fanbase about claims that NFL executives were downplaying the epidemic of brain trauma that plagued their league.

Kids started dropping out of youth football programs. I saw blog posts from young parents who vowed to keep their children off the football field. I didn’t think much of it until my freshman year of high school. At the end of a play, I took a hit that left me concussed and on bed rest for the last three weeks of the season. I decided that the risks weren’t worth it and didn’t play the next season.

Here’s the thing–I know just how violent the sport is. I’m well aware that my favorite collegiate and professional players are breaking their bodies every game. I know that their playing time–and mine–might have permanent ramifications.

But I still love to watch.

Football has transcended its role as a sport. It’s a business. It’s a lifestyle. It’s a behemoth. Do I know that we need to make serious, immediate changes in the way that we see football? For the sake of the athletes, yes. But I also know that football is a distinct social commodity; the insidious cornerstone of The American Experience™.

It’s nearly impossible to kill an idea, and the idea of football has permeated the minds of Americans everywhere. The question is this: Will we kill football before it kills its players?

It’s hard to say.

Arguably the most important highlight reel of the 2017-2018 NFL season.

Marcus Halevi and “Getting the Shot”

Though I’ve since learned that the sequence of photographs Marcus Halevi captured at Plum Island are infamous among journalists, I was unfamiliar with them until now. For those of you who share my ignorance of early-90s photojournalism, here’s a recap:

Halevi, a photographer with Massachusetts’ Lawrence Eagle-Tribune, was sent to cover the high tides at Plum Island. Capturing the water levels, the highest observed in over 50 years, was the original purpose of Halevi’s assignment. Upon arriving, the focus shifted.

A woman, nursing a beer bottle in one hand and a cigarette in the other, stood atop a sandy ridge overlooking the waves. Halevi set up his gear and shot the scene with the woman in it, liking the effect of a human being in the image. When the tide rolled in, the embankment collapsed beneath the woman, dragging her into the surf.

In times of crisis, we revert to muscle memory–Halevi’s training as a photographer took over. As the woman struggled in water, Halevi kept shooting.

The photographs he captured are disturbing; they provide a real, visceral account of death. Content of the pictures aside, was Halevi right to shoot the scene rather than step in?

Halevi later claimed that he was not the most qualified person present to save the woman. He believed that he was more effective at photographing the woman’s death than trying to prevent it.

I think that notion is ludicrous. Our responsibility to each other transcends our professional duties. I’m hard-pressed to think of a scenario where the value of a photograph of .a human being trumps the value of that human’s life. If the purpose of photojournalism is to document the goings-on of humanity, is the principle pursuit not to preserve humanity itself?

Make what arguments you will about Marcus Halevi. In my eyes, he’s a man who chose to stand idly by in the face of catastrophe. His actions speak of a photographer more concerned with his career than his fellow man.

As journalists, it’s our job to find stories. We seek out corruption, coincidences and catastrophes in an effort to relay them to the public. That being said, we are people first. We are people who have a responsibility to be people: to protect and provide for our neighbor because we expect the same to be done for us.

Let the woman at Plum Island be a lesson: We cannot prioritize saving a story over saving a life.