m-cubed

m-cubed

Contributing writer for The Artifice.

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    Latest Topics

    1

    Gunnerkrigg Court: Nature, Magic, and Technology

    Analyze the juxtaposition of nature, magic, and technology in Tom Siddell’s long-running (12 years so far) webcomic, Gunnerkrigg Court. How does Siddell allow these three to coexist, and how does he allow them to clash? Does Siddell favor any of the three? How are these elements connected to the two main characters/settings (Antimony and Kat, The Court and the Forest) and their respective flaws?
    (link)

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      Can Passive Characters Still Be Engaging?

      Kurt Vonnegut once said that "every character should want something, even if it is only a glass of water." But can some characters, like some people, be partially passive elements in a story? The orphan who doesn’t care who their parents are, the divorcee who makes no attempt to salvage their marriage, the hero that saves the world because..they do. Is it possible to have a compelling story with such characters playing a central role?

      • Interesting topic, but to me the title and description are asking different things. The dichotomy between active/passive is not synonymous with wanting/not wanting. Someone can want something without taking action to achieve it; likewise, a "reluctant hero" can take action toward a goal that s/he doesn't really care all that much about. To use Vonnegut as an example, Billy Pilgrim is a great example of a protagonist who doesn't really appear to want anything in particular. He's just floating through time and space (or rather his own PTSD-inflicted psychosis), but never seems to have a goal in need of pursuit. The logic of that is, if you know everything that'll ever happen to you, and understand the inevitability of it all, then there's no point in exerting effort into anything to the contrary (aka Dr. Manhattan Syndrome). I suppose that still counts as being passive; perhaps a better example would be Lyubov Ranevskaya from The Cherry Orchard, or Vladimir and Estragon from Waiting for Godot. All of them have a specific goal (to save her estate from being sold, to meet Godot), but spend the entire duration of their respective plays doing nothing to achieve them. To answer your title question, all we need to do is ask whether or not we find such characters engaging, and then maybe follow that up with "why." – ProtoCanon 4 days ago
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      • I'd be interested to see you explore characters whose situations force them into passivity. Often, we as readers or viewers criticize characters for not doing anything or wanting anything, but we forget they can't. Cinderella is probably the easiest example. She's criticized for not changing her situation, but has few or no options other than to stay with her abusers. Miss Honey from Matilda is another example, as is Solomon Northrup from 12 Years a Slave. But a character doesn't need to be enslaved to fit this description, or even abused. Sometimes an oppressive culture can do the job, or just reluctance to leave a situation because someone you love is in a more vulnerable position, leaving you feeling they must be protected. – Stephanie M. 3 days ago
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      • ProtoCanon: I understand what you're saying, but I think I'll leave the title and description different so that the author of this article can choose which they prefer. Thanks for the great comment! – m-cubed 3 days ago
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      • I really like what Stephanie said. If an author writes a character who is passive, he/she likely had some specific reason for doing so. What in the character's background caused them to be as such? Is this just part of the character's personality? How does this trait function within the storyline? If there isn't a specific purpose, then the character will fall flat. – itsverity 23 hours ago
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      • I actually like characters with more passive or introverted personalities because to me, they are easy to root for. You want to see them break out of their shells, experience the world, and not feel so "buttoned up." At the same time, you want them to come to a place where they are at peace with *natural* passivity, as opposed to what has been forced on them. – Stephanie M. 13 hours ago
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      2

      Hard and Soft Science Fiction

      Define ‘hard’ and ‘soft’ sci-fi. [See for distinction: (link) Why are they distinct? Where are each found (types of books, age/gender-demographics, or region)? Where does ‘soft sci-fi’ end and fantasy begin? Are they distinguished by authorial background? What trends have been seen in both over time (what are the trends right now?). Most importantly, what are their different narrative functions/potentials (are hard meant for commentary on humanity while soft are just set dressing? Vice versa?)? And why does the distinction matter?

      Some examples of ‘hard sci-fi’: works of Isaac Asimov/H.G. Wells, The Martian, The Diamond Age, Interstellar (arguably)
      Some Examples of ‘soft sci-fi’: Dune, Star Trek, Ender’s Game, Slaughterhouse-Five, most dystopians

      • Adding to the list above, I think Ted Chiang is an author who writes wonderfully in both soft and hard science fiction. Even his hard science fiction works still reveal a theme about humanity.I think these two distinctions are based on the social sciences vs. stem (chemistry, engineering, physics, etc.) but I think both groups are important. Soft is just as important as hard; the one biggest thing that truly differentiates them is the subject matter, but both types of fiction still tell a story. – seouljustice 1 month ago
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      The Success of Herbert's Dune

      Why was Dune so successful despite being largely inaccessible to a mainstream audience? How did Herbert manage to write the best-selling sci-fi novel of all time (surpassing classics such as the works of Asimov and Wells)? While rumors of its reboot arise, why might a major studio (Legendary Entertainment) take on such a sprawling project?

      Overall, what is the appeal of Dune, and why has it been so enduring?

        2

        What Determines Success When Challenging Convention?

        Many directors who have a very distinct style; however, some are criticized for not adhering to convention (Batman V Superman’s lack of establishing shots, Le Miz’s use of handheld and disregard of the fourth wall*) while others are praised for it (Wes Anderson’s constantly symmetrical shots, which ignore the Rule of Thirds). Why are these so differently received? Which filmmakers are successful when they challenge convention, and why? Success here is defined by critical and popular opinion (‘majority rules’), rather than box office returns.

        This topic should mainly address technical aspects of filmmaking such as lighting, camera-work, and cinematography, rather than plot or character.

        *from Film Crit Hulk’s excellent review

        • Interesting observation, but I think what these directors are being critiqued or praised for is not so much the mere act of "breaking conventions," but rather the results of their artistic choices. To use your examples, Snyder's lack of establishing shots may be a creative choice, but it makes the plot harder to follow, which complicated the viewing experience. Alternatively, Anderson's symmetrical framing enhances the viewing experience, adding to the overall whimsy of his trademarked style. (I won't comment on Hooper, because I rather liked what he did with Les Mis, attempting to replicate theatre aesthetics in cinema. However, I feel that Joe Wright did this much better that same year in his Anna Karenina, but that was also torn apart by the critiques.) My point is, iconoclasm in and of itself has no inherent value; it depends entirely one what is being revolted against, for what reasons, and what comes of it. – ProtoCanon 3 months ago
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        Latest Comments

        m-cubed

        I wrote that and then found out like an hour later that DC is planning a Nightwing movie. If they dare destroy my child I will be on the warpath; plan for that if Zack ‘Edgy Grimdark’ Snyder is involved.

        The Success of Marvel Movies and Why DC Falls Short
        m-cubed

        You know DC’s messed up when Batroc the Leaper was in a live-action film before Black Canary, Nightwing (my personal favorite because personality/humor/thematic relevance/social commentary/intriguing interpersonal relations, I could go on), Starfire, John Stewart/Guy Gardener GL, Hawkwoman, Martian Manhunter, etc., etc., etc. They have sooooo many great characters but stick with the Trinity and mainstream Justice League, and then end up neglecting or perverting the best stories for some semblance of creativity? Combining Death of Superman with TDKR was not a good move creatively. Why pick big/boring Doomsday while Hush, Talon, and Mr. Bloom remain untouched? Why is there a Black Adam movie planned? Why is Cyborg, arguably a character less compelling than most DC characters, getting a solo film (correct me if I’m wrong, but I don’t think he’s ever had particularly noteworthy story lines)? There are so many good options, the storytelling plan just seems incomprehensible at this point.

        The Success of Marvel Movies and Why DC Falls Short
        m-cubed

        The only ‘pro’ the studios see is financially-reliable films… I mean, there wasn’t a lot of creative passion involved in Sony’s planned ‘Sinister Six’ movie… I hope that crossovers are used a lot in the future! Characters have always been comic’s greatest strength, so character interactions are almost always fun. Like, if you have two charismatic actors, both characters are immediately more likable/developed when they can banter and interact. I hope the MCU takes a ‘Brave and Bold’ or ‘JL Action’ (haven’t seen much, but it looks to be very fun) approach and does lots of team-ups. That looks like what Ragnarok is planning, so I hope it’s successful and they continue to do two or three main characters. Not full teams, but more like the triumvirate in Cap 2 or Logan (Cap/Widow/Falcon, Logan/Charles/X23), or partners in IM 2 and Ragnarok (Widow/Tony, Hulk/Thor). When it’s a 2/3 person team up, the quality and sense of possibility seems to expand exponentially! I wish DC had done this better with BvS… Someday there WILL be a Booster Gold/Ted Kord movie and the formula will be proven effective. So ends this over-extended rant.

        The Pros and Cons Of Developing A Cinematic Universe
        m-cubed

        This is a great in-depth analysis, but I just can’t get past the first requirement to enjoying it…. I can’t make myself give credit to text-speak as something worthy of respect… Perhaps I can with regards to comedy, but as a legitimate writing style? It does open doors, but these shouldn’t necessarily be opened. It’s just too—odd, for me to see one friend text about a hardship and another reply with a ‘crying emoji.’ It feels sanitized and kind of gross? I…ugh…I don’t know how to feel about text-speak. It really ticks me off, but not in a pretentious/disgusted way. Tangentially: to whomever says emojis are opening doors to new self-expression, factor in that there is a finite amount of them, and typically the same 20 or so are used. Like, when 15 people send you a heart, it’s more of a limit on expression and individuality (one might argue that text-speak, drive by conventions, is similarly limiting). This all coming from the person who responds to 15% of anything with ‘RIP,’ so grain of salt, I guess…

        Creative Texting: Writing and Textspeak
        m-cubed

        I like this as character study but feel like it’s not relevant to feminism? You’re generally arguing that they’re good characters/people. Like, Cinderella suffers abuse but stays because she’s goodhearted. This can be perceived as strength, but I feel like within the realm of feminism it’s more of fulfilling a woman’s classic role (doesn’t get angry, serves family)…. I guess I think you should have addressed the specific aspects of feminism you were referring to for each princess. Because a flattering depiction of a female isn’t the equivalent of feminism.

        Also, maybe define what you believe to be feminist, because it’s extremely varied (the objectification/sexual-for-self debate, for example).

        (This isn’t for all the examples you gave, just a general thing)

        Thanks for the positive article, though. Lots of feminism today dismisses these ladies without really considering them or the times they lived in.

        Feminism and Disney: They're Not As Different As You Might Think
        m-cubed

        Maybe they’re not ‘officially’ different, but there are certainly two distinct types (with different narrative functions), and they’re useful to distinguish when analyzing fiction (and pretty entertaining, too). Just silly/fun nerd talk.

        Parallel and Alternate Realities; Fiction Tells us the Difference
        m-cubed

        (@Philomena) I’m realizing that I sounded really belligerent, which was not my intention. Apologies. I agree with you on mot fronts, but I feel like the onslaught of bad movies recently has caused an overcorrection, and I often find myself feeling vilified for not being pretentious enough, I guess. You probably weren’t doing that, I just projected it on you.

        Any thoughts on good/original popcorn movies? I heard Kingsmen was in that vein, but I’ve yet to see it.

        Should Superhero Franchises have a Definite Ending
        m-cubed

        Not all are so mindless… Doctor Strange, though far from revolutionary, was still objectively good. Cap 2 was pretty great. Lots of people just want fun at the movies. The general public isn’t dumb for liking something that isn’t high art. An analog might be food: am I stupid for liking spagetti and eating it regularly? Should I be eating ‘foodie food’ instead? No, it’s just something I like.

        I dunno’, maybe I have lower standards than you, but most superhero movies are fine to me. Definitely formulaic, but that doesn’t have to be a negative. Hero’s Journey? Bond movies? Coming-of-age stories? Heck, even ‘sad dog books’ have a formula. That doesn’t make ‘Old Yeller’ bad.

        They’re “popcorn movies”, and I see no problem in indulging in harmless fun. I’ definitely go see higher quality movies, but not exclusively. Should I be vilified for doing so? Am I ‘dumbed down’?

        Should Superhero Franchises have a Definite Ending