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Suspension of Disbelief: How Far Should We Take It?

Many of today’s most popular stories require some suspension of disbelief to be enjoyed, and yet there are some who believe there is a line that suspension of disbelief shouldn’t cross. I’m not sure where that line is, but I have found my suspension "breaking" and disrupting the story sometimes. This is especially true for children’s and YA novels. For example, I love A Little Princess but as an adult, I find myself questioning, "Isn’t Sara’s rescue extremely contrived? Am I, a modern reader, supposed to believe this to any extent?" Same for Harry Potter–the adult side of me continually says, "Deep cover or not, how did Severus Snape ever manage to keep his job? Has Hogwarts never heard of ethical hiring practices or HR?" Same for Narnia–"You’re telling me these four children maintained what is essentially a double life for years, and then just died/disappeared at the end of The Last Battle, and no one said a word?"

Of course, many of these books, and adult books too, are fantasies and can play by looser rules in terms of disbelief suspension. But even in those cases, questions remain. Even today’s children are reluctant to suspend disbelief because they know more than ever about how the world around them operates. My big question is, has the amount of information and analysis we’re privy to in the modern world made us too cynical to enjoy a story that demands we suspend disbelief? Have we suspended it too much or too little? How can an author do suspension of disbelief well? Discuss.

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    Drag: Sexist Stereotypes or a Respectful Homage to Womanhood?

    The reality television show, Rupaul’s Drag Race, has unquestionably brought the art of drag into mainstream culture. The show has particularly been praised for its inclusion of gay and transgender voices, yet feminists seem to disagree about what the popularisation of drag means for women. Do Rupaul and the drag queens on his show represent femininity and womanhood in a positive light, or encourage feminine stereotypes and rigid beauty standards? By dressing up "as women", are the queens showing an appreciation of femininity and reclaiming stereotypes of gay men? Or are they simply reinforcing harmful ideas about how women should look and behave? Would love to read people’s views on this topic!

    • A discussion of Trans rights (Rupaul has come under fire from the Trans community many a time) as well as the ambiguity and contestation of gender/"womanhood" as such would be prudent to explore here, too. – ees 2 days ago
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    • I have binge watch Rupaul's show all week and although it is highly entertaining I have also been trouble by some of the dated definitions of gender on the show. I like the fact that clearly biological males are referred to repeatedly as women/girls because it does disturb our visual concepts of what is defined as 'womanhood'. But I am often troubled with the fact that 'womanhood' is then further described as pink, 'glittery', feminine, etc. etc... also, the beauty standards are definitely set at glamour and that further isolates not just the expectation of women but also men. – imaenad 6 hours ago
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    John Wayne and the death of the cowboy

    John Wayne was seen as the epitome of the American Hero during the age of the Western film. He was beloved by many, even with his strong conservative politics and often brash language. However, in the 60s, America’s view shifted. They no longer looked to Westerns for inspiration and John Wayne, while still beloved, faded to the background (as symbolically seen in "The Man Who Shot Liberty Valance". I would like to see an analysis of John Wayne’s connection to American culture further, and his impact on American culture long after America turned away from him.

    • Something interesting one could pursue while contemplating this topic is James Baldwin's discussion of John Wayne in his unfinished book- now a film- "I am Not Your Negro." In it he discusses heroes, in particular figures like John Wayne; a perspective like this I think could be an interesting frame of reference for a topic like this. In particular, I find this quote of Baldwin's to be very powerful: “A Black man who sees the world in the way John Wayne sees it would not be an eccentric patriot, but a raving maniac…The truth is that this country does not know what to do with its Black population.” – ees 2 days ago
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    • This is an interesting topic, especially because westerns seem to be having a comeback after a long dry spell. Between the Magnificent 7 reboot, Hostless, Godless, and Westworld, westerns are back in fashion. Are these new westerns evidence that audiences wish to rekindle themes of John Wayne movies? – Ben Lashar 24 hours ago
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    Expanding the word "Art"

    I believe the word "art" is becoming a broader term as time goes on. "Art" no longer solely refers to paintings and sculptures. Art has expanded to include photography, graffiti, abstract sketches, and more. But now it’s 2018, and digital media, the evolving monster, continues to grow. Now, things like Instagram profiles and blogs on Tumblr are becoming somewhat reminiscent of works of art, at least in the world of the internet. Many internet-lovers refer to these "artistic" accounts as having an "aesthetic."

    I do think these aesthetically pleasing accounts have artistic qualities about them, but is it right to consider this art? Does the internet and social media change the ways in which we perceive art? Does social media create limitations or opportunities for art and the definition of art itself?

    • a great place to start for whoever may choose this topic is Roger Scruton's "Why Beauty Matters." In it Scruton argues that there are certain parameters that have been and should be set on what is considered "art," as well as who can and should be considered an artist. He discusses what he sees as the breaking points in the artistic world which lead to art deviating from what he considers to be the true purpose of art. Since this topic asks to consider what should and should not fall into the category of art, as well as changes in artistic perception, it seems like Scruton's work would be an ideal place to start when considering the issues presented in this topic. – ees 3 days ago
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    • I think there can be and often is a distinction between Art and something that is simply aesthetically pleasing. Patterns on carpets, cushions and neckties can be aesthetically pleasing, but I think we'd seldom call them Art. Although ultimately whether something is Art is in the eye/ear of the beholder, for me Art has to convey something of the human condition, however abstract. It should resonate personally with the beholder at some deeper level. The Scruton documentary is interesting. I have a bit of a connection with it in that it uses some of my music (the music that starts at around 48:55 is mine, you can hear the full track here: https://soundcloud.com/broomoid/annotations-iii-closing ). Ironically, I fairly strongly disagree with his central premise that contemporary Art is not concerned with beauty. I think Scruton presents an idea of beauty which is very narrow in scope indeed, and anything that falls outside it is discounted as not worthy of consideration. But the idea that contemporary artists by and large do not concern themselves with balance, with composition, with tone, line, weight, texture and with the same artistic rigour as earlier artists, albeit applied in markedly different ways, is simply not true. I believe the best sort of discussion about Art ideally opens some additional doors to those that partake, but I believe that in his documentary Scruton is closing more doors than he is opening, and that's a missed opportunity. – Broomoid 2 days ago
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    Has social media destroyed a our relationships or empowered them?

    Analyse the facets of human relationships.

    Do we know our friends or a version of them?
    We have the ability to connect with anyone at the end of our fingertips. Are we really connecting?
    Has social media given isolation an environment for community spirit?
    Are all social media platforms beneficial and if not what are the benefits and troublesome tendencies?

    • I know people who have met their best friends through a type of social media and completely had their lives changed by the relationship. I've connected with amazing and not to great people on multiple platforms and there's so many different views that I could see being looked at in this article. We live in a world where many of us 'live' online. I think all types of social medias would have benefits and negative points. Making new friends, business inquiries, cat fishing and bullying are a few I'd focus on. – TorriPaige 3 days ago
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    • Many people are skeptical about the "realness" of online relationships, but there's emerging evidence that those relationships can be more honest than face-to-face relationships. There's an interesting discussion at http://www.pnas.org/content/early/2013/05/31/1222447110?with-ds=yes: Marital satisfaction and break-ups differ across on-line and off-line meeting venues John T. Cacioppo, Stephanie Cacioppo, Gian C. Gonzaga, Elizabeth L. Ogburn and Tyler J. VanderWeele PNAS June 3, 2013. 201222447 From the abstract: "Results [from a survey using a nationally representative sample of 19,131 respondents who married between 2005 and 2012] indicate that more than one-third of marriages in America now begin on-line [that was back in 2013, so it's likely even higher now]. In addition, marriages that began on-line, when compared with those that began through traditional off-line venues, were slightly less likely to result in a marital break-up (separation or divorce) and were associated with slightly higher marital satisfaction among those respondents who remained married." – JamesBKelley 3 days ago
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    • There is definitely a dark side to online interactions, including trolling and doxing, but my thoughts keep returning to the positive. It's worth doing an internet search for: online dating and marriage There's a lot of information, including a number of studies from 2017, about the benefits of online beginnings of marriage: lower divorce rates, higher levels of satisfaction, greater opportunities to find spouses outside of traditional and limited social circles (e.g. increased opportunities for interracial and/or same-sex marriages and partnerships). – JamesBKelley 3 days ago
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    • Like personal interactions it depends on the person and the community of people they surround themselves in. – haileysolessmith 2 days ago
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    • We have friends whom we know personally, and probably have added them on our social media channels. However, people we add only because they have friends of our friends, now those are people we only know a certain version of them either through their profiles or chit chatting about them with others. In terms of connecting; we do connect with our close friends on an emotional and interpersonal level when we comment or post on each others' social media updates, or share photos of each other. What is posted can definitely cause any emotion in an individual, groups of individuals, and worldwide. However, if we are in the same room physically, and are browsing through social media feeds, THAT is when we are not connecting at all whatsoever. – Yvonne 1 hour ago
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    The revival of Dungeons and Dragons due to Geek & Sundry's 'Critical Role' series.

    Dungeons and Dragons has been a long established franchise that has experienced noticeable rise and falls of popularity structured around changing cultural interests. With the mainstream appeal of fantasy films and "soft fantasy" programming on television there has been a slow interest arising around the old RPG paper and pen games. However, it was not until the occurrence of the show ‘Critical Role’ by Geek & Sundry, as streamed by Twitch, that a noticeable and traceable resurgence has occurred. The popularity of a show about watching voice actors play DnD live has lead to a release of new manuals, gaming equipment and surge of fan material. Is this the start of the mainstreaming of DnD?

    • This would make a great article. It might also be good to talk about Felicia Day and her contributions to geek culture; both before and after the creation of geek and sundry. Also the show Community lured a few people into the game. – AGMacdonald 7 months ago
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    • I've heard multiple sides to this. On the one hand, a fun hobby is regaining popularity. On the other hand, Critical Role and shows like it (Acquisitions Incorporated, for example) may give people the wrong idea, because not all games have a Game Master as skilled as Matthew Mercer, let alone a cast of that caliber (they're professional voice actors who have been doing this together for years). So a possible question is, should shows like Critical Role be the motivator for the mainstream resurgence of DnD? – noahspud 5 months ago
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    • I am interested in how you might prove Critical Role as the source of this resurgence, as I think you might need to look at cultural trends that come before the first episode of critical role even airs. The 2011 new york-times best seller Ready Player One by Ernest Cline and, even, the wild success of Felicia Day's own "The Guild," seems to be a strong indication that this resurgence touches on a significantly wider interest in the production of the fantasy world. Rather than asking is DnD now mainstream, I think I am more inerested in why is DnD mainstream: why are we once again interested in the creating the fantasy world? What about the world we live in now encourages us to be interested in this kind of table top gaming? – Dethlefs 5 months ago
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    The argument of why "people love to hate" anime

    A common argument I see regarding certain anime is that "people love to hate" popular anime. I’ve seen this geared towards Your Name., Sword Art Online, Haikyuu, and many more. On one hand, I can see this as a way for people to be playing devil’s advocate so that people don’t blindly jump into a show without being aware of its faults. This is especially true of Sword Art Online. I can’t say I’m a fan of the show at all, but I can see why people are drawn to it, and the same things that I may dislike, other people might not mind. However, I’m sure there are people who label an anime as overrated and boring simply because the show is popular. What are everyone else’s thoughts on the argument that people like to hate popular anime? Why do you think that is people try to tout this particular argument?

    • There are quite a few topic suggestions already concerning anime at The Artifice, so perhaps it would be worth combining a few of these into an overall analysis regarding the pros and cons of anime and what, in particular, people find displeasing or enjoyable. I think a lot of the hatred boils down to personal taste and that eternally ridiculous question of what's the 'best' or 'greatest'; highly subjective at best, which I've made comments about regarding another anime topic suggestion. Having said that, perhaps the simple fact that a popular anime series or film is just that, i.e. 'popular' automatically triggers the hate response in those who feel a burning need to hate popular culture, for whatever reason. Going slightly off topic a moment, but still (sort of) relevant, being a loyal fan of the original Sherlock Holmes stories I resisted the new BBC 'Sherlock' series because I didn't think it would work in a modern day setting...and how wrong I was! Hmph, lesson learned. Regarding anime, we also have to consider the blind preconceptions many in the West still have about 'cartoon' entertainment being only for children, but I'm in danger of repeating myself here so I'll stop. Anyway, a good topic suggestion in my opinion and you get my vote. – Amyus 2 weeks ago
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    Grindhouse and B-Movie Homage

    An analysis of the appeal behind modern movies that attempt to re-create the aesthetics and storytelling elements of grindhouse and b-movies from the 50s, 60s, 70s, and 80s. This analysis could explore themes of nostalgia, kitsch, and DIY film-making. Some examples could include "Black Dynamite," Kung Fury," "Italian Spiderman," "Hobo with a Shotgun," and "Planet Terror/Death Proof."

    • Let's not forget the Turkish 'Star Wars' - a classic! – Amyus 5 days ago
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    • This would not only be a great synthesis of the history of b-movies and how past b-movie themes are being seen in today's movies. I also think that this is a fascinating topic to explore. – FrankWebb 4 days ago
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    Film

    Black Panther: Not the First Black Superhero Film but the Most Impactful
    Black Panther: Not the First Black Superhero Film but the Most Impactful
    Representation of female celibacy in Television and Film
    Leigh Brackett and Jane Goldman: Female Genre Writers Across the Century
    Tide of Mutiny: A Cinematic Chronicle of Maritime Mishap

    TV

    Antagonist-Centered Stories: What Can We Learn?
    Antagonist-Centered Stories: What Can We Learn?
    “It’s Always Sunny” and Why We Laugh at Bad People
    The Enhanced Reality of Reality TV
    Netflix and Impact

    Animation

    Samurai Jack: Exploring the Newfound Maturity
    Samurai Jack: Exploring the Newfound Maturity
    The Double-Edged Stigma Faced By Western Animation
    Best and Worst Disney Role Models for Girls and Young Women
    Feminism and Disney: They’re Not As Different As You Might Think

    Anime

    Are you a Sub or a Dub?
    Are you a Sub or a Dub?
    An Isao Takahata Retrospective
    Attack On Titan: Anger as a Source of Motivation
    The Appeal of Slice of Life

    Manga

    One Punch Man vs. My Hero Academia: Reconstructing the Silver Age of Comics
    One Punch Man vs. My Hero Academia: Reconstructing the Silver Age of Comics
    Manga: How to Travel Between Dimensions
    Naruto: The Unresolved Revolution
    The 5 Saddest Moments in One Piece

    Comics

    Comic Books, Adults, and a History of Stigmatization
    Comic Books, Adults, and a History of Stigmatization
    The Social Stigma of Comic Book Reading
    What Should Happen To Captured Super Villains?
    Finding the Bridge Between Superhero Comics and Hip-Hop

    Literature

    Thin Slicing in Jane Austen’s “Emma”
    Thin Slicing in Jane Austen’s “Emma”
    Macleish’s play J.B. and the Problem of Evil
    What is the Purpose of Dystopian Literature?
    The Philosophy of Conflict in Literature

    Arts

    The Truth About Cats and Artists
    The Truth About Cats and Artists
    How Trump Won: Heroes, Villains and Surviving the Apocalypse
    Cat on a Hot Tin Roof: Internal Guilt
    Picasso’s Guernica: 80 Years Later

    Writing

    Creative Texting: Writing and Textspeak
    Creative Texting: Writing and Textspeak
    Parallel and Alternate Realities; Fiction Tells us the Difference
    Genre Fiction in University Writing Programs: No longer the MFA’s Red-headed Stepchild
    Can you Teach Someone how to Become a Writer?