Hi, my name is Jasmin. How are you? When I was trying to come up with a name for this blog – something punny and clever whilst still encapsulating my basic premise, harder than you’d think – I considered including my name in the title. I like my name, it’s fine. My mother claims to have picked it from the Isley Brothers’ song Summer Breeze which is a useful bit of small talk, even if it’s not entirely true. And although I never once have been able to find the correct spelling (without the usual “e” on the end) on any personalised tat from gift shops, and people will inexplicably pronounce it Yasmin even though it clearly begins with a “J”, I am perfectly happy to be a Jasmin. However, as an avid watcher of American TV – something which will largely be the focus of this blog as it is, largely, the focus of most of my life – I have come to realise something about the name “Jasmin” across the pond. Characters named “Jasmin” seem to have a reputation. They are rarely protagonists and mostly appear as either strippers or personality-less party girls who sleep with the main character’s boyfriend (Parenthood being a rare exception). There's no judgement here, I respect each of these fictional characters' rights to use their bodies in whatever way they choose. However as an introverted soon to be 21 year old lesbian from Lincolnshire who will never sleep with any of your boyfriends, I felt like using “Jasmin” in my title could be misleading to international readers. Or those who base their views of the world on television, like me, anyway.
I thought I’d better introduce myself, seen as otherwise I’d have to think of an actual topic to start with and that seems even more difficult than coming up with a name. As previously mentioned, my name is Jasmin, I live in Lincolnshire with my parents (I know, so cool) and have recently finished university. I made the somewhat baffling decision to study in my home city of Lincoln, a place which struggles to live up to the noun “city” seen as it’s essentially one really long street with a steep hill at the end, literally called Steep Hill. Lincoln is a city because we have a cathedral, which is about the only notable thing about Lincoln. It’s a very interesting building, however, having lived in Lincoln for almost 21 years and visited the cathedral on trips pretty much every school year, it somewhat loses its charm after a while. There’s only so much interest a massive church can hold to an atheist who’s seen the thing hundreds of times. Lincoln is the proud owner of four Costas, three sex shops, a grand total of fifteen tattoo parlours and a canal boat that doubles as a pole dancing club. For a city that somehow feels the need to have four Costas on its one long street, we only have one cinema. I’m telling you about my home city because I want you to understand what I suspect is one of the main reasons why I spend so much of my time indoors, engrossed in the fictional lives of TV characters. It’s simply because there’s nothing to do here. Lincoln is small and it is boring. It’s very pretty and tourists love it but living here is dull. So until I manage to somehow detach myself from my home town and start living the life I’d like to lead, I will instead use television to escape my mundane suburban existence.
I studied Film and Television and English (a course title with an irritating number of “ands” in it) at the University of Lincoln. I have just finished my course and will graduate with First Class Honours in September. So of course I am starting a blog because that is what unemployed graduates do. I have been blogging for a few years over on Tumblr at butmyopinionisright.tumblr.com and will continue to do so whilst writing here. My tumblr however will mainly consist of links to this blog interspersed with reblogs of gifs of lesbian TV characters and Parks and Rec. I love television. I love movies too, and books. Essentially any type of media which allows me to immerse myself in fiction is pretty high on my priorities. Having spent three years studying all three of these things I decided – pretty much in my first year actually – that I wanted media to be the basis of my professional life as well as spending my free time at the cinema and holed up in my room watching Netflix.
The dream - or as I intend to now refer to it so as to make it seem more realistic, the ambition – is to be a showrunner, to make television in the US, preferably in New York. There are many reasons why I want to make television, reasons which I will most likely go into in later posts, but one of the main reasons is also why I wanted to start this blog. Television is the most powerful tool of social change we have in modern Western society, I would argue even more powerful than the internet (think about it, when have your grandparents last been on Reddit?). Almost every home in the UK of the US has a television, people watch TV all the time, even if they just have it on in the background. It’s one of the most useful methods to proliferate a message or a point of view, which is why the industry is funded so much by advertising. Television has been at the forefront of most of the significant changes in public opinion in the past few decades. Ellen coming out in The Puppy Episode, Willow and Tara kissing in The Body, frank discussion of female sexual pleasure on Sex and the City, The Cosby Show – all of these things and so many more helped change public opinion far more than any grassroots feminism/gay rights/anti-racism campaigns could hope for. These were stories piped into every home in the US (and the UK) with a television set regardless of race, sexuality or gender. They made the unfamiliar seem less scary – lesbians were no longer “those people” they were Ellen Degeneres, they were Willow and Tara – and they changed how audiences thought and behaved in their real lives away from the TV. Television is important. Television is an art form. Television deserves, and needs to be criticised in the same way people would talk about films or literature. I want to make television because I want to change the world and I think that’s the best way I could do it. I want to make television because I think a lot of shows are problematic and I want my shows to be better, both in quality and in representation.
And that’s why the focus of this blog will be mostly TV. I will be including films pretty regularly also, and books occasionally, but I will mainly be writing about television past, present and future. I want to assess television critically as well as discussing its entertainment value. As for this blog’s title – The Second Screen – yes, it’s a somewhat pretentious nod to Simone DeBeauvoir’s feminist masterpiece, whilst also taking note of television’s somewhat marginalised status amongst academic criticism. The focus of the long form critical posts I write on here will be mostly feminist and queer readings of television and pop culture. I hope they’ll be entertaining and most of all I hope they’ll be accessible.
I’m going to warn you right now - as you have probably noticed due to the length of this first post – I am not a concise person. When I write, I write a lot. I am verbose and I rarely edit. I expect that most of the things I write on here will be long, some may be rambling. I hope that they’ll also be interesting enough for you to carry on reading. For this reason (and also because of my intense fear of failure) I’m starting off by only committing myself to one post every week.
So yeah, that’s about it. The Second Screen – long, occasionally rambling, hopefully entertaining posts about television, films and pop culture from a queer feminist perspective. Tell your friends. Please don’t be mean in the comments.