Here we define a few terms that have become shorthand at the Sinners Creek Commission.
Big Red Dog: the “moral” of an episode or film offers a conclusion that is the opposite of the content up to that point. Often results in the audience taking away the “wrong” message. Emerson said it as “What you do speaks so loud I cannot hear what you say.”
Comes from: That time when Dr. Mary Louise Mares studied children’s reactions to prosocial TV programming. In one episode of Clifford the Big Red Dog, Clifford and his pals meet KC, a dog with three legs. They spend most of the episode worried that they might catch a three-leg disease and treat KC badly. At the end they realize that they can be friends with KC even though he has a disability, but the program has spent almost all of its time focused on the other dogs’ prejudice and anxieties, leading children to focus more on “three-leg disease” than on the moral. So a “Big Red Dog” problem occurs when the end-messaging is distinct from the story-events-messaging, and the program thinks it has focused on one message while actually communicating the opposite. Ex. Waltz with Bashir
Colonizer Tears: a show or character tries to make a colonized people’s oppression about their own story and feelings as colonizers. Mandate-era Palestine was so *hard* for the British!! See also: White Tears, White Savior, White Burden, White Fragility. Ex. The Promise
Fuzzy Men: male toughness is used to mask the shallow sentimentality of a storyline. For example, a gentle son might be seeking the approval of his military father, and the military father will then reveal that his relentless military toughness is how he displays his love. This trope is usually a cheap substitute for creating complex male characters. Ex. Sleepy Hollow Season 2 Ep 6
The Jonathans: Named for the rush of white literary novelists named Jonathan who became critical darlings in the 2000s, this term refers to the unchallenged assumption that the straight white male perspective is universal and innovative.
Kalinda in the Witness Protection Program (WPP): Any role played by Archie Panjabi after 2009 is actually Kalinda in disguise. Ex. The Fall
MARTYRDOME: In which characters compete to see who can better martyr themself to save the other(s). Usually self-serving, often hurts the person it was intended to protect. Ex. The Good Wife
Olympic Sharkjumping: The term “jump the shark” refers to the point when a television show goes off the rails in an attempt to save ratings (named for an episode of Happy Days in which Fonzie literally waterskis over a shark). Sometimes, a show is so consistently off the rails—for example, Shonda Rhimes’ landmark Scandal—that the sheer implausbility of the plot becomes its joy. Such consistently compelling nonsensical plot twists are referred to as “Olympic sharkjumping.” Shonda Rhimes is the current gold medalist and reigning world champion. The Vampire Diaries is an honorable mention. Ex. Scandal Season 3, Ep 10
Praise Kindred: A salute or blessing offered when a show or episode references or fulfills themes from the work of Black womanist sci-fi writer Octavia Butler. Ex. Sleepy Hollow S2 Ep13
TWAT-TV: stands for The World According To TV. See also, Cop Show Norms.
Comes from: Media studies scholars George Gerbner and Larry Gross developed cultivation theory, which states (among other things) that the differences in television shows are not as significant a factor in social change as their similarities, a.k.a. as the world that TV as a whole creates. One example is “mean-world syndrome,” in which the sheer number of crime shows might lead viewers to believe that a serial killer lurks around every corner. We see society influenced by a number of other such tropes. Ex. Rizzoli & Isles and the CSI/NCIS/Law & Orders-industrial complex