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1

Authors & Authentic Perspectives

An increasingly important conversation in the book industry is that of diverse representation, both in the characters and stories we promote, and in the authors whose work we publish. Central to this discussion is the question: who has the right to write? Can a neurotypical author write from an autistic perspective? Can a white American write about the experience of growing up Chinese-Indian?

A key part of this discussion also comes down to authenticity: the effort and care put into representations of particular cultural groups and their experiences. Take, for example, Mark Haddon’s ‘The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time’ (2003) and John Boyne’s ‘The Boy in the Striped Pyjamas’ (2006).

Both of these texts received great acclaim in relation to their representation of Asperger’s/autism and the holocaust respectively, to the point that both have been included in school curriculums and other education programs since their publications. However, both authors have publicly stated that they did minimal research into the experiences they wrote about, choosing to focus more on the narrative at hand than the accuracy of their work. Does this diminish the texts’ cultural influence/importance? What responsibility do authors have to ensure authenticity (and accuracy) in their works, especially when they’re not part of the community they’re writing about?

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    How the Situational Conditions Shape Behavior: Boy eating the bird's food

    In contemporary Athens, the protagonist, Yorgos, is a tormented young man on the verge of famine. He’s ostensibly educated and cultured yet separated from family and friends. What sets this topic noteworthy is that it is symbolic of times of crisis, which put many individuals in tough situations. Lyzigos, the film’s director, refers to his work as a psychological case study of the crisis. Though the film’s plot is around a personal story, it has societal implications. Yorgos’ personal history is kept hidden for the duration of the film; we can only see his behavior in unpleasant situations along with his ambiguous motivations. As a result, the film serves as a useful illustration of how situational factors shape people’s behavior regardless of their personal identities, backgrounds, or histories.
    After addressing the film in general and numerous key sequences in particular, all in the context of a situation in which humans’ basic needs are being mistreated, the author may mention and discuss some psychological experiments, one of the well-known of which is the Stanford Prison Experiment. It was created to see how situational circumstances affected participants’ reactions and behaviors throughout a prison simulation. Another example is the Milgram Experiment, which deals with a setting in which volunteers are directed to obey authority. Although psychological studies are not essential, they may provide factual evidence for the idea that situational conditions can influence people’s behavior regardless of their identities! Finally, the contributor can ask a serious question about the interplay of personal and situational factors: at what point does the impact of situational factors become dominant? Aren’t there reasons linked to a person’s own characteristics, such as how reasonable or impulsive he is?

    • An interesting psychological analysis of the film. It would be helpful to have a little summary of the film at the start for context, but it would be a great discussion. – Sarai Mannolini-Winwood 1 week ago
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    • It's worth noting that the two experiments listed above have films dedicated to them, specifically Kyle Patrick Alvarez's The Stanford Prison Experiment from 2015 and Michael Almereydaq's Experimenter from 2015. – Samer Darwich 1 week ago
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    • If I recall, the Stanford Prison Experiment has had some negative criticism in its methodology. Just something that may be worth keeping in the back of the mind. – J.D. Jankowski 6 days ago
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    3

    How does misogynoir affect casting choice?

    Leah Jeffries was recently cast as Annabeth in the upcoming Percy Jackson series on Disney . Rick Riordan, author of the book series it is based on, approves and endorses Jeffries as embodying the characteristics of Annabeth as he wrote her. Jeffries is a young Black actress and her casting was met with a lot of racist backlash.
    Similarly, a few years ago Halle Bailey (also a young Black woman) was cast as Ariel in the live action The Little Mermaid. Her casting was also met with racist backlash.
    Discuss the role misogynoir plays in casting choices and why it is important to cast Black women for characters that are not racially or ethnically specific.

    • Something also worth noting is some of the more levelheaded critics did not care about the race of the actors/actress. They questioned if these individuals being chosen for these roles was only because of their race. As many of these studios made a big deal about the race of the actor's, when many felt their ability to act should be the primary factor in them getting the role. Many accused Disney of Tokenism. I think that is a worthwhile angle to explore as well. We can also see something similar with the fans suggesting Micheal B Jordan play superman. While you naturally have those who hate the idea and make racist remarks online. You can also see some fans question why no one is suggesting Micheal B Jordan doesn't get cast as Icon, a black super hero who has yet to get a feature film or solo T.V series. – Blackcat130 6 days ago
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    • The thing that occurs to me about this is that there is a need to draw a distinction between people complaining about having Black actresses in particular roles, and people complaining about those who complain about having Black actresses in those roles. This is particularly important in the internet age because anything can receive attention it doesn't deserve as long as it can be packaged as "clickbait." If a tiny minority of less than 100 people is complaining about a Black actress in a given role, but then millions of people broadcast the views of this tiny minority in order to tear them down or make fun of them, then it will look like Black actresses get a lot more hatred than they actually do. – Debs 6 days ago
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    • Refer to examples throughout Hollywood’s history to bolster your argument. (Sorry I tried to update the topic but it posted before I could) – Anna Samson 6 days ago
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    1

    Modernizing Old Stories

    In the new Death on the Nile (adapted from Agatha Christie’s book), they made a number of changes to ensure the work was better appreciated by a modern audience. This included changing certain motives and secrets for characters (having a former kleptomaniac instead have a secret lover, for example) and adding a romantic subplot for the main character.
    Regardless of whether one thinks these changes work or not, I wanted to open up a discussion on why we feel the need to modernize old stories (even bringing some into the modern day rather than keeping them set in the past), and if these efforts help our understanding of these stories.
    After all, movies tend to be made for a wide audience. There is a risk that many viewers won’t understand what certain decisions or plot elements imply, because they don’t have a knowledge of the time period it was originally created in. Changes are made to ‘translate’ the work for modern audiences. But on the other hand, it can easily go too far and attempts to modernize can remove beloved parts of the original work.

    • This could be an interesting larger discussion, for instance the modernisation of Shakespeare's works. – Sarai Mannolini-Winwood 6 days ago
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    • I think that one reason why certain stories lend themselves to modernization is that at the time they were written they would have seemed "modern" to begin with. A lot of the technologies and cultural references used by Agatha Christie would have been considered modern, even cutting-edge, at the time her books were written, and it's only nowadays that they seem old-fashioned or "period." This was also the reason why the BBC decided to set its "Sherlock" series in modern times. Sherlock Holmes would have been considered a "modern" detective at the time the novels were originally written, and so, paradoxically, the best way to honor its original vision is to tell a version of the story set in modern times. – Debs 6 days ago
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    • Updating language is always a good reason to 'modernize' a story. Without the ability to actually understand Shakespeare, for example, people might be mislead into thinking it's high-brow classical storytelling instead of a collection of dick jokes stuffed into a thriller jacket. – kgy121 5 days ago
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    7

    Squid Game: a Digestible Dystopia

    Considering the recent success of Squid Game, what factors led to its popularity? The plot itself is one that – while unique, is perhaps not as haunting as less popular films and TV Shows. Is its more simplistic plot the cause of its international success?

    • I'd argue that, while the battle royale format is relatively simple, Squid Game is actually trying to make a fairly complex point about class and privilege. The contrast of simple surface/deeper content could be explored here. You can see online how often people misinterpret the point of the show (ex. "it's about having a go-getter mindset!"). Is it digestible because people are taking something from it without having to dig too deep? And are they taking the right thing? – SBee 6 months ago
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    • I agree with the above comment. Squid Game may seem simple, but it's underlying commentary on class and wealth cannot be overlooked. However, the gore, the bright colours, the flashiness of the game and the characters are attractive to viewers without having to dig too much deeper. – oliviatrenorden 6 months ago
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    • I agree with SeeB. I’d also like to see a consideration of how the national context also influences its popularity. There’s a transnational consumption of Korean culture as mainstream. I think there’s something there to explore. Is S Korea the canary in the coalmine? – ProfRichards 6 months ago
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    • This is a very interesting question indeed. I would say that the suspense also played a role in its success. Plus, there is an interesting presentation of the characters who are different in their intentions in the game. You get to see those who make you feel uncomfortable or angry and those who make you feel like there is still hope in humanity. The emotional responses these characters have on the audience is what I believe made the show an international success. – Malak Cherif 5 months ago
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    • Could also consider that the translation into English was far from perfect, apparently lots of the nuance was lost. However, it managed to be wildly successful in both forms. – JDWatts 7 days ago
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    • I really just think people in the western world made it seem more popular than it was intended to become. I've seen this plot before in anime I've seen but it's more of a niche sub-genre. It took the average Netflix viewer by surprise because it's not something they watch, the survival game type of vibe. – jeet 6 days ago
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    2

    Misogyny and the Romance Novel

    Romance novels are a billion dollar industry, dominated by women. But the romance genre is often decried by critics as subpar. These attitudes are another case of society shaming women for their sexuality, but many women are fighting back, broadcasting their love for love and erotica for all to see. It would be interesting to look back at attitudes from the past, dating as far back as the creation of the early invention of the modern novel. In the past, fiction was regarded as a "feminine pursuit" looked down on by a patriarchal society while men read philosophy and academia. It would be interesting to explore how those attitudes actually helped female pioneers of the novel thrive and how those attitudes encroach into the romance genre of today.

    • Who ever chooses to write on this topic may want to differentiate between erotica and romance, as most people I know do not consider them the same. I would also question if the modern romance genre is being heavily criticized now because its being written by more women, or if its because authors like Henry James, Virginia Woolf, Alfred Flaubert, Shakespeare and Jane Austen have set a high standard for the genre. (Austen is usually considered one of the best romantic writers with Shakespeare sometimes being held in higher esteem.) I've personally never heard of the genre being held down by a patriarchal society. I have heard that men were accused of being feminine or gay in the 19th century, because they wrote romance and emotive stories, and this lead to romance novels adopting the more masculine/ Byronic protagonist. So it may simply be a trend shift, but I don't really know as you see romance novels come back in popularity during the late 20th century, often getting mixed in with other genres like detective-noire. To prove sexism is really difficult, as you need a direct quote or actions showing that the individual is acting in such a way. But even then does one individuals actions reflect the entirety of a culture? Is it possible that modern women writers are being criticized because they do not write at the same level as their predecessors or is it because there is conspiracy to keep to them out of the writing space? I do not see how that can be proven beyond a single individual holding some women back. But those are my main concerns for this topic. I'd be interested in seeing someone write about this. – Blackcat130 2 weeks ago
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    2

    NASA and Don't Look Up

    Analyse Don’t Look Up that came out this past year. In what terms is it showing the truth and/or exaggerating. With the NASA scientist being arrested and the implications on climate change, there is the connection that we are destroying ourselves. How does this connection make us think more about the impact we have on our lives? Or why is it so hard to take action to basically save us?

    • Going on from here to discuss human psychology in situations like this would be really important. The investigation could start on a personal level and end on a collective level. Let's start with some hypothetical questions: why is it possible to intentionally heart oneself? Is it simply a matter of ignorance? Where one knows, is it then a matter of lack of faith? Is it a lack of emotional impulses? Why is it possible to know and believe in self-hearting yet not act on it? How does a personal activity become a community-wide behavior after this? Etc... – Samer Darwich 2 weeks ago
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    5

    The Transition from Literature to Film

    For decades, audiences have witnessed pieces of text translated into film adaptations, such as Dracula, Murder on the Orient Express, etc. Writer participation within the film making is usually nonexistent or very minimal, which is found to be strange considering they are the ones who have created the story, characters, etc. Literature translating to film will most likely continue but should the writer be more involved within film making?

    • Note: there are quite a few films where the author of the literature serves in a consultative role. Examples of this are the author of Inspector Morse in the eponymously-named series and the author of the Twilight series. – J.D. Jankowski 1 year ago
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    • Three thoughts: 1) There is quite literally an entire field of academic study -- Adaptation Studies -- devoted to this exact premise. I'm having a hard time picturing what a short article with such a general scope might be able to add to the discussion that hasn't already been well-trodden territory in that field's many journals and monographs. If you're interested in reading some introductory material on the subject, I'd strongly recommend either "A Theory of Adaptation" by Linda Hutcheon or "Film Adaptation and Its Discontents" by Thomas Leitch. 2) If the intended focus of this article is the question of authorship, and particularly the lack of creative involvement the authors of source texts typically have in the creation of adaptations, then why do you only mention long-deceased authors (i.e. Bram Stoker and Agatha Christie)? It doesn't seem very likely/possible that either of them will have much input in contemporary film adaptations of their novels. Living authors by contrast, retain copyright over their works, meaning they get some degree of choice over who is given film-rights to their books. Even when they don't have screenwriter or consultant credits on the finished film, the fact that they sold the rights to such-and-such studio and/or filmmaker arguably acts as somewhat of a tacit endorsement, no? 3) J.D.'s suggestions are certainly more instructive, and there are no lack of similar examples. A few that immediately come to mind are GRRM's consultant role on Game of Thrones, Mario Puzo co-writing the screenplay for The Godfather, John Patrick Shanley writing and directing the film version of Doubt, etc. The list can go on and on. However, what I think might be more compelling -- and perhaps more relevant to the issue you seem to be raising -- are instances wherein the original authors are famously displeased with the films made out of their books. I believe this to have been the case with Milan Kundera's reaction to the adaptation of Unbearable Lightness of Being, as was Umberto Eco's to that of The Name of the Rose. (Interesting that both of these cases concern quintessentially postmodern novels, in which the form and content are inextricably linked; that said, Vonnegut apparently really liked the Slaughterhouse-Five movie, so who knows?) If you want to go even further back, prior to copyright restrictions, Dickens was famously displeased with stage adaptors in his own time writing and producing theatrical versions of his novels. What especially concerned him was when they did so prior to the novel's completion in monthly serialized publication, forcing these playwrights to make wild guesses at the endings … sometimes correctly, sometimes not (see Karen Laird's "The Art of Adapting Victorian Literature, 1848-1920" for more details). Anyway, hope some of that helps. – ProtoCanon 1 year ago
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    • I'd suggest doing a lot more research on what is actually done when adapting films from literature. Generally the author may not be in a consulting role (for instance when not alive) but there are always organisations that have copyright over the text. A great example of this is the Tolkien Society that has to approve any pitches relating to any films or series that are based on Tolkien's plethora of literature. – cjvisser 1 year ago
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    • I would say yes, writers of novels or other literary pieces set for adaptation should be more involved with the filmmaking process. Firstly, many undergraduate and masters level creative writing degrees are drifting towards a broader approach; making students take screenplay/play writing, prose, and poetry classes for their degrees. It would be silly to not use the creator of a piece if they have been trained in scriptwriting. Secondly, I believe that if a writer of say a novel has captured the attention of a readership, they should at the very least, be in a creative consulting role. The author knows the intimate ins and outs of their story, and more importantly to companies, what the audience does and does not like. If the readers pick up on this shift, you can bet the adaption isn’t lasting long, case and point the unfinished “Divergent” and “City of Bones” movie series's. – Nabs 11 months ago
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    • i definitely think writers should be much more involved in the making of the movie or shows especially for older books because the fan base and readers have probably been waiting for years and years for these stories to become movies and shows and having the disappointment of watching it after all that wait only for it to be a completely different thing to the book is heartbreaking – LMM 1 day ago
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    Film

    A Cinematic Journey Through Time
    A Cinematic Journey Through Time
    Star Wars, Love, Loss & Redemption
    The Dark Side of Beauty Standards in Helter Skelter: A semiotic analysis
    Racist Undertones in “A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding”

    TV

    MythQuest and the Challenges of Creating Entertaining Educational Children’s Programming
    MythQuest and the Challenges of Creating Entertaining Educational Children’s Programming
    Breaking Bad’s Jane: An Island in Albuquerque
    Star Wars: Andor Could Shine A Light On The Darker Aspects of Rebellion
    BrainDead: A Show that Had Something Unusual to Say about American Politics

    Animation

    Celebrating, Analyzing, and Resurrecting Fillmore!
    Celebrating, Analyzing, and Resurrecting Fillmore!
    Nickelodeon, Disney, and the Story of Growing Up
    Ren & Stimpy’s History: 30 Years Later
    Disney and Disability

    Anime

    The Legacies of the Atomic Bomb in Anime
    The Legacies of the Atomic Bomb in Anime
    Anime Versus Cancel Culture
    Perfect Blue: A Genre Study
    Your Name: Finding Love Across Possible Worlds?

    Manga

    Elfen Lied’s Eugenic Underpinnings
    Elfen Lied’s Eugenic Underpinnings
    The Horrifying Appeal of Junji Ito
    One Punch Man vs. My Hero Academia: Reconstructing the Silver Age of Comics
    Manga: How to Travel Between Dimensions

    Comics

    Continuity and Connectivity in Comic Book Movies
    Continuity and Connectivity in Comic Book Movies
    Comics in Education: Benefits and attitudes
    How Gwenpool Knows the Unknowable (And Can We Do the Same?)
    Monstress: World-Building With a Feminist Twist

    Literature

    BookTok Influencers and Their Impact on the Publishing Industry
    BookTok Influencers and Their Impact on the Publishing Industry
    Star Wars Publishing Is Taking An Exciting Plunge Into The Unknown
    Harry Potter and the War on Terror
    Demystifying Franz Kafka

    Arts

    Are Immersive Exhibitions Ruining Art?
    Are Immersive Exhibitions Ruining Art?
    Apex and Abyss: A Thematic Analysis
    Issues of Consent, Representation, and Exploitation in Deepfake Pornography
    Autism in Media: Progressing, Yet Stuck

    Writing

    Fantasy Writing and The Middle Ages to The Renaissance
    Fantasy Writing and The Middle Ages to The Renaissance
    Men Written by Women: Dreamboats or Brutes?
    Fantasy Writing and Classical Antiquity
    A Short Guide to a Writer’s Imaginary Critics