Department of Rhetoric and Writing

The University of Texas at Austin

Fashioning Modernity in Once's Urban Fairy-Tale

Snow White and her prince nearly kiss in the TV show Once Upon a TimeImage screen captured from abc.go.com

Fantasy is in vogue these days; even sometimes finding its way to the fashion runway. Admittedly, its big-screen run is nearing the end. The decade-long Harry Potter series came to an end in 2011, while the latest Hobbit movie marks the end of Peter Jackson’s The Lord of the Rings decade (extended cut, 2001-2014). Yet while big-budget blockbusters has been taken over by superhero movies or science-fiction dystopias, 2011 saw the advent of two small-screen franchises: the HBO epic fantasy series Game of Thrones and the network hit that is currently Netflix’s second most popular show, the fairy-tale drama Once Upon a Time. Game of Thrones, of course, has been the subject of many academic discussions and controversies; here, it has already been covered excellently on this site from the perspective of visual narrative theory, internet-enabled reader-response “marginalia," and even the tradition of opening films and television episodes with horses, and has had an excellent write-up of the ways its fashion stages culturally situated arguments about gender. Expanding upon Deb's comment yesterday that costumes are always making an argument, I want to look at the way that Once Upon a Time uses costumes to navigate the tension between our sense of the vibrancy of our present day lives and our collective desires for the past, especially as filtered through the lens of childhood memories.

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"Most Adorable Accessory": Celebrity Kid Fashion

Apparently, Kim Karshasian and Kanye West dragged their toddler to Fashion Week. The dubious wisdom of doing such a thing is beyond the scope of this post—North West’s misery has already been catalogued.
North Squirming
Image Credit: Gawker

Underwear, Public Fitness, and the (Dubious) Progress of #aerieREAL

I’m going to take it as an assumption that in any thorough discussion of fitness, we’re also inevitably going to talk about body image. Lately, when I’m thinking about fitness and body image, I am unsurprisingly (and, perhaps unoriginally) drawn to underwear. I am not the first to write about a connection between underwear advertisement and fitness complexes. There’s even a meme that highlights the absurdity of underwear advertising:
Womens Mens Underwear Ads
Image Credit: WeKnowMemes

Marshawn's Mask, Extreme Fitness, and the Economy

Marshawn Lynch in a multicolored high-altitude breathing mask.

Image Credit: SI.com

In a sport known for its trash talk, boastfulness, and elaborately arcane jargon, Marshawn Lynch’s mouth is the exception. Whether wearing a distinctive mask or remaining taciturn in interviews, one of the world’s greatest rushers has made a name for himself precisely be keeping his mouth closed. This reticence—as well as his resultant struggles with the NFL powers-that-be—that makes him a fascinating icon of our current trust in fitness as a source of security in a very economically uncertain time. 

Fitness Trackers and Carrot-and-Stick Motivation

This is not an ad.

It is, however, a shameless account of my fixation on the Jawbone UP24 fitness app. I'll admit, I love data, especially highly specific digital data. Admittedly, some of my organizational tendencies are old-school. Every day, I make a note card filled with every single thing I'll do in the next twenty-four hours, including "drink 3/4 gallon of water" and "exercise." I'm not sure why I like the note cards in spite of my plethora of technology--all of which is capable of organizing and replicating my to-do lists. I think maybe I fetishize the documentation of it. I really like running a nice line through each of my tasks. The actual exercise from the list, though, I need to be as techy as possible. I want records of my heart rate, my sleep cycles, my weight training routines. And I want them to be pretty.

So a little over a year ago, while recovering from spinal surgery, I bought an UP24. For anyone who isn't familiar with fitness wearables, I give you the UP:

Jawbone Up

Image Credit: Jawbone 

Remembering Jim Wiedner

Before starting up for the spring semester, we would like to take a moment to remember Jim Wiedner. Those of us on the viz. team had the privilege of working with Jim both on the blog and in the Digital Writing and Research Lab. In every writer’s meeting, Jim was always incredibly kind and thoughtful to each of us. We'll miss viz.'s “Resident Dude”—as both a colleague and a friend. We hope the posts below give you a sense of the Jim we knew: a funny, sharp, and well-dressed guy a heart of gold. Read more about Remembering Jim Wiedner

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The Super Bowl, Visual Rhetoric, and Marshawn's Mask

Note: the following blog was slated to be published last week, but due to technical difficulties got pushed back a week. While I considered going with more topical material this week, I decided ultimately that it would be tragic if the Viz blog ignored the wonders of Left Shark, not to mention Marshawn Lynch's ironic relation to the culture of extreme fitness.

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