For Sophie-Marie Prime, when she watches the 80s teen movie Deadly Friend, exacerbation hits the moment Paul Conway blends the brains of his teenage crush with a robot. “Nobody has come up with this idea before,” he declares. What films like this perpetuate, she explains, is the Frankenstein trope or man’s inability to give birth and his subsequent appropriation of a women’s power to foster life. It also perpetuates objectification of women, she adds, because Conway is essentially turning a person into an object.
With the goal of providing this type of deep analysis of film and television, Prime enrolled in the Specialized Journalism (The Arts) master’s program.
“I want to bridge academic and pop cultural conversations about representation in film and television via social media and cultural criticism,” she said. “My hope is to engage with these platforms in a way that reaches the people who are producing this work.”
To allow her to really examine media in depth, Prime has been selected as the 2018–19 Rotten Tomatoes Fellow in Digital Innovation and Film Criticism.
The unique, hands-on graduate fellowship between USC Annenberg and Fandango, the parent company of film and TV editorial site Rotten Tomatoes, is designed to foster the next generation of entertainment storytellers and critics for social and emerging platforms. Students gain professional experience and partial tuition support from the partnership.
“We at Rotten Tomatoes are thrilled to be working with USC Annenberg to help foster young and talented professionals such as Sophie-Marie, and look forward to seeing what we can accomplish together over the next year,” said Julio de Oliveira, director of content operations at Rotten Tomatoes. “We believe that partnerships like the USC Annenberg fellowship not only benefit the fellow with the professional experience they gain, but also make us better by bringing fresh new perspectives to the work we do.”
Prime credits her mother with initially teaching her how to critically examine media, and this talent was furthered during her undergraduate studies at the University of California, Berkeley. There, she majored in film and media studies, minored in journalism and wrote more than 100 articles for the Daily Californian, some specific to race and racial misrepresentation in films and television shows.
With this fellowship opportunity, Prime has big plans.
“What I hope to write about is how criticism is changing in the era of #MeToo and #TimesUp and whether a review changes based on the knowledge that abuse was happening while the movie was made and how critics are analyzing what's happening on screen in the context of what's happening in real life,” she said. “I really think that there's no better place to do that than at Rotten Tomatoes where they have this enormous collection of highly influential critics who can provide the data necessary to do this type of work.”
Sasha Anawalt, professor of professional practice and Prime’s advisor, believes Prime is definitely someone to follow.
“What’s wonderful about Sophie-Marie is her obsession with TV,” Anawalt said. “She swings through the intellectual space, grabbing onto novel ideas and fascinating facts, and putting them together in ways that are beautifully structured, often political, consummately disciplined and not at all arbitrary. This makes her perfect for the Rotten Tomato Fellowship, and we all can’t wait to work with her.”