Watching ‘Sixteen Candles’ made me reflect how much attitudes have changed since 1984

You’ve almost certainly heard of — and seen — the 1984 coming-of-age comedy Sixteen Candles.

I watched it last night on Netflix and was amazed by how offensive the whole thing was. I’ve read quite a few articles on rape culture which reference/criticise the film, including this one, so I knew it would have some problematic elements. However, I was not prepared for how the film — which was a critical, commercial and cultural success — was a train wreck of problematic stuff.

This isn’t exactly a hot take, but watching the film made me reflect on how acceptable behavior in 1984 is (or should be) totally unacceptable now.

Here’s some of the stuff which jumped out at me:

  • The love interest Jake Ryan has a girlfriend Caroline Mulford. She gets really drunk and passes out. Jake says “I could violate her 10 different ways if I wanted to” but has lost interest, so offloads her on a younger guy (“Geek”) to drive her home. The implication being that she is free game, and won’t be able to tell the difference between the Geek and Jake. Uh, hello? It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to figure out he’s basically giving the Geek a green light to rape his girlfriend, and they do seem to end up having sex (although they are both too drunk to remember what happened).
  • The Geek continuously hounds the protagonist Sam Baker, despite her showing absolutely no interest and telling him to piss off. Despite how creepy and overbearing he is, eventually she is inexplicably nice to him — perhaps because he listens to her problems for about two minutes.
  • There is a Chinese exchange student is called “Long Duk Dong”. Every time he appears on screen a gong sound is played, and characters make fun of his poor English.
  • There is a character with a back brace whose only purpose seems to be comedic relief as she struggles to drink out of a water fountain or from a drink.

I’m glad times have changed since the 1980s.

I’m back on Facebook

Given I wrote a proud blog post about how I had left Facebook, the honest thing to do would be to admit I have rejoined it.

One reason why I succumbed is that I am planning a wedding, and Facebook is handy list of friends, acquaintances and family (I don’t even know many of my friend’s emails).

Another reason is my book club is organised through a group on Facebook and someone had to send me a message every month with the details. A minor thing, but probably annoying for them.

I also couldn’t help have a nagging feeling that I was missing out on a fun party invite. (As a side note, the way Facebook treats deactivated profiles is quite annoying — it’s not that easy to see someone is deactivated unless you click on their profile. So my deactivated account was probably being invited to stuff and the person inviting me wouldn’t know I wasn’t actually there.)

Was I really making any difference by leaving Facebook? They still had all my data, and were probably collecting more via cookies and other tracking methods all throughout the web. Without an account I couldn’t even use the Facebook privacy settings (such as they are).

As at the New York Times put it: “The idea that you have control is an insidious illusion.” Much like with climate change, individuals can only do so much — what we really need is systematic change driven by governments regulating in the public interest.

So I will continue to begrudgingly be a Facebook user.

The Herald introduces a paywall

I’ve previously blogged that I want to pay for NZ news but no-one would take my money. I’m glad to see the New Zealand Herald has finally introduced a paywall.

I think the paywall is a great development for the media in New Zealand — so much so that I bought a small number of NZME shares after the paywall plans were first announced. It has been delayed for many months, and according to the managing editor may even be 20 years too late.

It’s not at all clear that it’s going to work. As the Spinoff put it: “The NZ Herald is about to put up a paywall and the stakes are scarily high”. So hopefully the whole thing is a success and my money doesn’t go in flames like the rest of the media industry.

Details of the paywall

The premium Herald costs $5 a week or $199 per year, but is free for daily newspaper subscribers. There’s also $2.50 per week introductory offer.

For that price you get access to ‘premium’ content on the Herald website, which is marked by a yellow tag. Behind the paywall you’ll find long-form journalism, opinion pieces, most business news, and syndicated content from various international media including the New York Times, Bloomberg and the Financial Times.

Behind the paywall

I promptly subscribed to the paywall, which was easy seeing as I already had a Herald account, and enjoyed the ‘premium’ stuff on the website. On the first few days a good two-thirds or more of the website seemed to be premium content.

Being a subscriber also means you can sign up to premium newsletters which highlight good stuff to read, and thank you over and over again for being a premium subscriber. I now subscribe to the general premium newsletter, premium business, and non-premium business. These curated newsletters are a good way of picking up stuff you may have otherwise missed.

Is this a good idea?

You already know I think this is a good idea, but I think I’m not exactly representative of the general public. I already subscribe to the New York Times, as well as contribute to Newsroom, E-tangata, Public Address, Bill Bennett, etc through Press Patron. I have  access to the NBR and Newsroom Pro through work. I also follow heaps of NZ journalists on Twitter.

I have taken an active interest in seeing how people react to the idea of the paywall, and it hasn’t been pretty. I’ve seen many a punter violently react to the idea that they should pay for online news. It shouldn’t be a surprise, but people have a lot of ill-feeling towards the online news media, pointing out the trash that’s routinely on the front pages of both the Herald and Stuff to draw people in.

I do know the status quo for funding the news media in NZ doesn’t seem to be sustainable. Even though the media is still pumping out important, quality journalism, almost every outlet seems to be struggling against the fact that their advertising driven business model is going terribly.

So I’m hoping the Herald introducing a paywall is a first step towards recalibrating how people view the media in NZ. Good journalism costs heaps of money to produce, so it’s not tenable for it to be given away free online.

I do worry that the particular way the Herald has designed its paywall will further entrench divisions between the ‘why would I pay for this shit’ camp and the ‘good journalism is worth paying for’ camp, because the average person has no way of seeing what’s behind the paywall. For that reason I favour a ‘you can read 5 free articles a month’ model which allows you to see what you’re missing out on, but the Herald people must have some reason for pursuing their current strategy.

So good luck to the Herald team. There’s a lot riding on this experiment!

Briefly: a warning sign for the open web

Peter Bright at Ars Technica has written a good article on how Microsoft’s decision to adopt the chromium web engine in its Edge Browser is worrying news.

The decision means that Google has established effective dominance over web, sort of like Microsoft did around the time of Internet Explorer 6.0.

I wrote quite a while ago why Firefox plays an important part in keeping the web open, and this role seems both more important and trickier as time goes on.

Leaving Facebook

I’ve decided to deactivate my Facebook account. The straw that broke the camel’s back was this article in the New York Times which suggested Facebook isn’t taking its privacy problems seriously, and is in fact actively working to dig dirt on its opponents instead of changing its business model.

I want to see how difficult life is without it.

I’ve been feeling uncomfortable keeping my account for a while now, but whenever I thought about the stuff I use Facebook for it keep me there. For example, my book club is a Facebook group so I’ve had to ask them to text me whenever they organise a new meeting.

Even though I’ve deactivated my account I’m still deeply enmeshed in their ecosystem. I’m still on Facebook Messenger, Instagram, and WhatsApp, and I’m sure Facebook’s ad system is still following me around the web (despite my best efforts).

I’m glad I’ve done this and I hope I won’t be back.

Why can’t I subscribe to quality local NZ media?

I would pay for local, digital news, but there are no easy ways to do that. Why is it so hard?

I live in New Zealand where we have two large national newspaper brands: the New Zealand Herald and Stuff.co.nz. (side note: these brands are actually trying to merge at the moment)

I subscribe to the New York Times, but if I want to support a local paper I have unsatisfactory options. Neither of the big NZ brands offer digital subscriptions. Beyond giving local papers ad impressions, the only way to support them is to buy a physical newspaper subscription! Continue reading “Why can’t I subscribe to quality local NZ media?”

Uber becomes (more) legal in NZ

The Land Transport Amendment Bill (No 2) passed its third and final reading in Parliament on 4 August. One of the changes it makes are to ‘small passenger’ service regulations (i.e. taxis). The new rules are expected to come into force on 1 October 2017.

Here are some different perspectives on the change. Continue reading “Uber becomes (more) legal in NZ”