Arts, Media & Culture Update: Emily Bristow, Dear Gladys, Claire Danes

Arts, Culture & Media Update - November 23
Emily Jane Bristow is the name everyone's talking about with the Brisbane teenager's "Raindrop" reaching in excess of 160,000 YouTube hits (see it below!) after her brother posted it on Reddit. A teary breakup tune, one Reddit commenter wittily consoles with the thought that, "We'll always have puddles." The sweetly singing Bristow, who looks a little Lauren Conrad meets Kirsten Dunst, is a Year 12 student at Citipointe Christian College. Nice to see something "unmanufactured" (the clip was shot for a film project) making it big on the 'net.

An ad for Marc Jacobs' Oh Lola! Perfume, featuring actress Dakota Fanning, aged 17, and referencing the novel Lolita, has been cleared by Australia's Advertising Standards Bureau despite the fact the same ad was banned in the UK for sexual representation of children. The ASB noted that actress Dakota Fanning is "of age", making the ad acceptable. "Acceptable" isn't always right – particularly given how we've "normalised" the representation of young (and old) women as sexy children.  

Meanwhile, several brands have come under the microscope for brandishing goods on soft porn sites, perhaps unknowingly. Clearly not the kind of brand association wanted, trade journal AdNews reports that ANZ, Westpac, Coles and Sony have all shared page space packed with nudity and raunch, "partly as a result of the push by major corporates to demand cheap online inventory through non-premium websites."

In response to AdNews' inquiries, Westpac and Sony immediately withdrew parts of their online advertising schedules last week." It reports that Google has been using such sites to promote free trial advertising offers. "The ongoing appearance of major brands on these sites is escalating as media agencies realise it may not just be due to rogue operators or an occasional glitch," reports AdNews. "Google has gone to ground on some issues but media agencies are pressing the online giant."

Additionally, "The chief executive of the Interactive Advertising Bureau (IAB), Paul Fisher, said the industry body had already started the process of establishing a set of standards covering this area but it did highlight the decision advertisers must make between low price and transparency in their online advertising schedules. “The reality is should agencies being buying on sites for clients if they don’t know where that inventory is going to fall?” Fisher said.

Furthermore, today AdNews reports today: "The Internet Advertising Sales Houses of Australia (IASH) announced today it would investigate a potential member breach but has attributed “almost 100%” of the activity in which banks, supermarket and consumer electronics brands have appeared on soft porn sites, to media agencies and ad exchanges from the likes of Google."

Go AdNews! It's great to see the ad industry taking a stand.

On a related note, the mild-mannered Alexander McCall Smith, author of the highly successful “No 1 Ladies’ Detective Agency” books (now a BBC series), says society is broken. He told attendees of the Dangerous Ideas Festival at the Sydney Opera House:

"We've allowed a generation to develop that seems to lack the fundamental requirements to live constructively in society. We've allowed the growth of a class of virtually feral people, unsocialised, aimless and alienated. But it's important to remember one thing in saying this: it's not their fault they are like that. They have been made that way by the sort of society we have become. They're a consequence of developments that were occurring before most of them were born... 

There is a profound sickness in some contemporary cultures, especially in Britain... we need immediate and radical commitment. Is that a dangerous idea? I suppose it is. Because it challenges many currently held educational and cultural beliefs...We've been far too complacent about what's been happening, we've been far too much in denial to see these developments for what they are... We've laughed at and mocked people who talk of the "broken society". Well, here are the consequences in acres of burnt out shops and homes, in the destruction of people's livelihoods, in the terrorising of innocent members of the public.

Shame on us for not facing up to the signs of social collapse and disintegration; for not facing up to the fact that we've allowed a whole lot of people to grow up without values of any sort, for letting our society to be consumed by a wave of violence and drunkenness and, importantly, share mind-numbing superficiality and false values and materialism too while we're at it. Am I exaggerating? No, I'm not."

This reminds me of a BRILLIANT, ELOQUENT AND ERUDITE SPEECH given by Scott Stephens, editor of ABC Religion and Ethics, at the launch of Big Porn Inc.

Also at ABC Religion and Ethics: Feminism Struggling Beneath the Burden of Beauty. A GWAS must-read! "Scant attention is paid to the social pressures encouraging women to link their inner value with their outward performance," writes Justine Toh. "Such pressures drive many women to "look good" - whether that's through being the perfect hostess (Martha) or taking scrupulous care of their appearance ("Unhappy Swan")."

Related to this: the launch of makeup artist Miriam Jacks' own magazine.

Editors from O, The Oprah Magazine and Good Housekeeping in the States are sharing their knack for good gifting with a new e-commerce site called Gifting Grace. Each magazine features its Gifting Grace favorites in gift guides running in the December 2011 and January 2012 issues of the magazines. In addition to occasion and gender, shoppers can specify a recipient’s age, their relationship to the recipient and the recipient’s personality type, from adventurous to artsy to fashionable. Of course, goes without saying, women are much more than their ability to shop and keep a good house – commercially driven as it is, Oprah's mag does support that idea, at least!

A cycle of hope? That's what we need!

Joining the Salvo's online store is, a not-for-profit online vintage and contemporary fashion boutique that supports long-term unemployed and disadvantaged women. The concept started life as a clothing store in Melbourne's Northcote with the view to providing financial support for Fitted for Work, which since 2005 has helped 6,500 women obtain and maintain employment by supplying personal dressing services, mentoring and transitional programs. Since 2009, Dear Gladys has contributed 30 per cent of its funds to Fitted for Work. Help sustain this good work by popping over to the new online shop and perhaps procure a floral frock!  

With the Aussie dollar dropping a wee bit, shopping OS isn't quite as tempting as it used to be. But Gwyneth Paltrow's Christmas wish list is still worth a squiz. She rates Hello Hanna mini-activity paper doll sets, a Kenton Sorenson iPad portfolio and bespoke book sets by her friend Thatcher Wine of Juniper Books

Chasing down charity-friendly Christmas cards from your work desk? Why not try this site or this site. Additionally, the limited edition Christmas cards by eight prominent Aussie visual artists depicted above are in support of Water for Water, which provides practical and financial assistance to communities who lack access to clean water. You get eight cards for $20. And Target's Operation Santa (in support of UnitingCare) and Kmart's Wishing Tree are in full swing!

In Aussie TV Land, comedian Julia Morris has won Celebrity Apprentice, Reece Mastin won The X Factor (two million Aussies tuned in) and doyenne of daytime Kerri-Anne has spoken of her exit from mornings at Channel Nine. Kerri-Anne, 58, is reportedly being replaced by Sonia Kruger, though Channel Nine have been tight-lipped. "Having known Sonia off and on over the years, she's a terrific girl and I sincerely wish her all the best," said good-spirited Kerri-Anne with her chin up. "All good things have got to come to an end... Everybody's ego gets dinted a bit. I'm no different to anybody else in any other job who finds themselves moving on. Whether you like it or not is besides the point. Get on, suck it up and enjoy." That's the spirit! Love you, Kerri-Anne!

We also love Claire Danes. Forever Juliet (to Leonardo's Romeo) in my mind, while to other Gen X/Y cuspies forever Angela Chase from My So Called Life, to a new slew of TV viewers, she will now be Carrie Mathison from Homeland. In the show, Danes plays a tough, smart but obsessive-to-the-detriment-of-her-personal-life CIA officer who investigates a possible Al Qaeda plot aimed at America (she's driven by her frustration at being unable to predict 9/11). Now renewed for a second season, we wonder if Channel Nine will pick up the "action thriller" given its taste for rather sinister series (see: Underbelly, Blood Brothers, Panic at Rock Island, Scorched...) and investigative dramas (CSI, Prime Suspect, RBT)?

As Alexander McCall Smith said, in addition to a lack in values in school and endemic defective parenting, "We've seen the emergence of an entire culture of scorn and disdain for the private and public virtues that make life in society possible. This has permeated our culture to such an extent that instead of promoting and celebrating the good, our cultural artifacts, our films, television, computer games and so on are devoted to the celebration of violence, destruction, cynicism, greed and every shadow value that you would care to mention... 

Public broadcasters in particular need to ask themselves certain questions, whether it's their role to entertain, to hold up a mirror to a dysfunctional society, or whether they should concern themselves with educating people, giving people something to aspire to, to open their eyes to the possibility of art and higher things... And therefore to express a range of emotions and judgements, to have a richer more nuances inner life. They should be required to stop spending money on trashy reality television, as the BBC now does."

Channel Nine – famous for mercilessly "boning" delightful newsreader and The Hoopla columnist Jessica Rowe – will be launching its 2012 programming schedule today, which will obvi. not feature Mornings With Kerri-Anne but will feature Howzat! The Kerry Packer Story. The Media Machine reports the network got so excited it forgot how to spell excitement in its promo: it's missing an 'e'. Oops. On a more positive note, Christmas With The Australian Women's Weekly, starring Natalie Gruzlewski, Maggie Beer and the Today show's Karl Stefanovic, will air December 14 and 11 at 6:30pm on Nine.

Maggie Burns. Pic: The Mercury
And, lastly, the 2011 Pride of Australia National Medal winners were announced last night. More than 200 people joined the celebrations at the Four Seasons Hotel, including outgoing News Limited chairman and chief executive John Hartigan and incoming chief executive, Kim Williams. "It is humbling - and inspiring – to hear such examples of courage, leadership, compassion and generosity," said Hartigan. Winners included Care and Compassion Medal recipient Maggie Burns, who left behind a successful career as a dancer and choreographer to co-found the Appin Hall respite centre for seriously ill and disadvantaged children and their families in Tasmania.
This is an extended version of my morning column at JUSTB (like the newspaper afternoon edition)!

Girl With a Satchel