Hot takes: Media does more than entertain

by Beacon Staff • April 6, 2017

La Haine is a 1995 French film depicting a raw, unapologetic story of identity and marginalization within the Parisian community. It’s the kind of thing most Americans are not accustomed to thinking about—the idea that the Eiffel Tower and fancy macaroons mask internal social conflicts. The film is in black and white (even though the ‘90s were very colorful), which highlight the bleakness of gang life and police brutality. La Haine exemplifies the very idea that fighting fire with fire results in getting burned. The title translates to “hatred” which is in reference to the line where a character exclaims, “la haine attire la haine,” meaning hatred breeds hatred. It’s truly an artistic piece of character growth told specifically through the lenses of people who feel that the system works tirelessly against them. —Asmaa Belhaouari / Beacon Correspondent

 

For me, nothing toes the line between education and entertainment better than “Anthony Bourdain: Parts Unknown.” The show, available to stream on Netflix, follows chef/author/TV personality/general badass Bourdain as he explores cuisine and overall culture in various locations around the world. “Parts Unknown” manages to blend surprisingly deep cultural analysis with plenty of drinking, cursing, and Bourdain’s signature brand of debauchery. I particularly like the fact that Bourdain is able to sidestep the tourist-laden hotspots and connect with the true locals. Each installment is well done, but the season four episode in which Bourdain revisits his old stomping grounds on Cape Cod is one of my favorites. For someone currently lacking the means to travel the world, living vicariously through Bourdain is a delight. —Ross Cristantiello / Beacon Staff

 

Political shows are my cup of tea. From “Scandal” to “Parks and Recreation,” I’ve most likely watched them all. But I still have yet to find one in the same ballpark as “The West Wing.” Created by Aaron Sorkin in ‘99, the fast-paced, dialogue-heavy drama shows a fictional administration’s eight years in the White House. It’s an ensemble cast—think “Friends,” only the characters are the president of the United States, the press secretary, the communications director, the chief of staff, and all of their deputies and assistants. Big names like Rob Lowe, Martin Sheen, Bradley Whitford, Dulé Hill, and Stockard Channing are just a few of the many recognizable faces in the Emmy and Peabody award-winning show. But my favorite part isn’t the rhythmic writing, the inspiring progressive monologues, or the famous walk-and-talks—it’s the portrayal of the American political system. In a time when tensions in government and society are at a notable high, it’s nice to pretend, even for just a 45-minute episode, that we have a president capable of having important philosophical and moral debates. —Cathleen Cusachs / Beacon Staff



For most, binge-watching a TV show means pulling up Netflix and tuning into your favorite comedy or drama. I binge-watch “Jeopardy!” A few months ago, I discovered the magic that is Xfinity On Campus and began recording “Jeopardy!” every night. Most Emerson students have class until the evening, and those classes are often followed by numerous meetings, which made it difficult for me to watch the classic trivia game show. Now I can sit down and enjoy a few episodes of soothing educational banter on my own time. This show not only tests your knowledge of the world, but also provides comic relief to everyday stress, and nothing helps me get through the week like Alex Trebek’s witty remarks. “Jeopardy!” allows you to cancel out the world around you by focusing on the minute details of various categories’ answers. You may even surprise yourself with how much you know. —Monika Davis / Beacon Staff

 

There’s a lot more to YouTube than vloggers and cat videos, folks. Here are some elevator pitches for a few of my favorite thought-provoking and eye-opening channels:

Kurzgesagt (German for “in a nutshell”) is a science channel that deals with the epic and the existential. Think—black holes, robot rights, and the future of humanity. It’s way too easy to lose yourself in the highly-polished animations—though you might have to stop once you learn about the horror of gamma-ray bursts.

Most educational channels teach via animation or from a studio, but British YouTuber Tom Scott travels around the world (well, mostly Europe) and takes you to the scene to examine esoterica. Visit the human-powered theme park in Italy, the suspended monorail in a small German city, and the looping elevator in an English university. And you know I’m a sucker for that accent.

kaptainkristian produces incredible video essays on nerdy pop culture, from Pokémon to Childish Gambino. He makes astute observations about storytelling and artistic creation, and the production value is unparalleled among independent producers. VMA kids: This is the channel you’ve got to check out. —Mark Gartsbeyn / Beacon Staff

 

Sometimes it seems like the United States governmental sphere has a language of its own. This isn’t helped by the fact that I snoozed and doodled my way through my high school civics classes. New Hampshire Public Radio puts out its podcast Civics 101 for people like me. Every few days, they bring in experts to answer listener questions like, “How are executive order passed?” and “What does gerrymandering even mean?” The episodes are always less than 20 minutes, so use your next train commute to brush up on your political lingo.  —Laura King / Beacon Staff


I finished the last episode of HBO’s “Big Little Lies” last Sunday, and ever since, I’ve been trying to convince everyone I know to watch it. The first episode reveals a murder at a public school in picturesque Monterey, California, then flashes back to the first day of school, without disclosing the victim or the perpetrator. On the surface, the series is a glamorous mystery filled with female stereotypes—the overbearing helicopter mom, the guilt-fueled working mom, the mysterious single mother, and so on. But as the series progresses, the cracks in the veneer split wide open, revealing the flaws and insecurities of the complex women played by Reese Witherspoon, Nicole Kidman, and Shailene Woodley. At first glance, Big Little Lies could easily be dismissed as superficial, but that would be a disservice to an impeccably acted, well-written, show that so accurately depicts female faults, fears, and friendships. —Natalie Busch / Beacon Staff