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Latest Topics

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Celebrity Worship

People admiring celebrities isn’t a new notion. History is filled with accounts of people idolizing certain individuals, whether for their physical looks, social status, special abilities, etc. This idolization can and has propped celebrities up on pedestals, creating this idea that celebrities are above others. Hollywood and other entertainment industries are the most prominent examples of this, and the internet has only further perpetuated this.

Celebrity worship has been seen with Jennifer Lawrence, Will Smith, Leonardo Di Caprio, and more recently, Keanu Reeves. Despite upholding celebrities to a high status, people often project certain qualities on these people and then tear them down as soon as their images of said celebrities are broken.

Why do you think people display such attitudes towards celebrities? With the internet being used as an outlet for toxic behavior, how do you think this could change, if at all?

  • One of the common signs of the fall of Empire is the creation and then adoration of celebrities. Perhaps one of the earliest examples can be found in Ancient Rome, with its panem et circenses shows for the masses. Gladiators, Charioteers and similar gained almost mythical status, with some earning vast fortunes and their sweat being collected and regarded as an aphrodisiac! Rome also glorified chefs...and we are seeing exactly the same today. For anyone interested in taking this topic suggestion, I'd recommend 'Four Horsemen' (2012), which covers this subject (amongst others). It's available to view on You Tube. – Amyus 8 months ago
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  • Ooh, this is a good topic! I want to add that one of the biggest changes we're seeing now is that the open-source nature of the Internet allows just about anyone who really wants to to become a celebrity. For instance, thanks to YouTube you can make home videos of yourself and (at least in theory) gain fame and fortune, which just perpetuates the celebrity culture (including its more toxic aspects) even further. – Debs 8 months ago
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  • This is a very interesting topic. An aspect of celebrity worship I have always found odd is the whole 'they're just like us' viewpoint and how that becomes a reason to praise them more. It's almost as if there's some sort of erasure of their pre-celebrity past so when the glamorous actress admits she loves eating McDonalds or the buff action hero is afraid of spiders it fuels this worship even though its quite banal. It's almost like normalcy becomes novelty. – JTVersus 5 months ago
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  • I think the reason why they admire such celebrities is because they can relate to them in some way. People who idolize strangers often have this notion of them being a perfect person and maybe not even a human ( in my opinion) putting them on this imaginary pedestal. However with social media and the internet it is a lot easier for these celebrities to mess up and get chastised. This could change the narrative in the future among other things. – 1sharmaaja1 4 months ago
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Double standards about Mary Sues

Most people nowadays are familiar with the concept of the "Mary Sue"–broadly, an unrealistically perfect or beloved character whose wants and needs are given an unrealistic level of focus and attention in the context of their story. It seems like there’s a double standard regarding male and female Mary Sues, both from people who write them and who critique them. Although both male and female Mary Sues exist, the female Mary Sues like Bella Swan seem to receive nearly all the attention and scorn from the wider fan community, as do the (usually female) authors who write them. Some people will go so far as to imply that any female character of any worldly significance whatsoever is a Mary Sue, like Rey from the latest generation of Star Wars. Why do you think this double standard exists? What are some examples of male Mary Sues, and do you see them getting away with things that a female Mary Sue would be called out for?

  • I've had this thought for some time & it's nice to know I'm not the only one. hoping this topic gets written one day soon! – ees 8 months ago
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  • I've also had this thought too! After a little research, I found that a male Mary Sue is sometimes called a Mary Stu (which I find quite clever and funny). Examples include Superman and James Bond, but I also might throw out the male protagonist in a harem anime, as well. – EJSmall 8 months ago
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  • Love this! I would definitely be interested in reading an article that touches on this concept across genres. I would recommend looking into specific examples (Bella Swan, Rey), and then the broad reasons that may apply to why they are perceived this way, i.e. systemic issues that affect how we perceive women and our expectations of the roles they perform in society. – Eden 8 months ago
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  • I think it obviously exists due to the unfortunate misogynist climate experienced within much of nerd/geek culture. There are lots of men out there who default to auto gate-keeping such realms of interest by making baseless accusations, see the seething rage over the latest Star Wars film that has apparently been *overrun* by SJWs etc.. Star Wars is a good example of that double standard and its hypocrisy, as so many of the male protagonists within the franchise are examples of this very behavior.So, to not be a Mary Sue, I guess by definition the character in question has to really *work* to achieve the level of attention/power level/plot significance they receive. How does young Anakin in the Phantom Menace put in any effort beyond being the chosen one? He wins a pod race, wow! Conveniently, his skills at pod racing are sufficient to allow him to deftly pilot a N-1 Starfighter with no prior experience. "Let's try spinning, that's a good trick." Apparently his midi-chlorian is extremely high, despite NEVER (significantly) being mentioned again! Totally male Mary Sue-ism at work. – blissaidan 8 months ago
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  • This is a great topic. It would be cool to see a comparison between mary sues and Gary stu. – anniesaurus 8 months ago
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  • This would be a fantastic article. Personally I'd love to see one of The Shining – danielemilioamato 6 months ago
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  • I think it points back to the misogyny and sexism we have in our society. Women are forced to fit inside a small box and even then they are constantly criticized. A "strong" female character is a boring Mary Sue; a "weak" female character is a terrible, boring character. This rarely applies to males, and I believe that's because male characters are allowed to be more dynamic. Female characters have to fit inside a certain category or they risk getting lumped as a "Mary Sue" or just a "bad" character in general – fhlloyd 6 months ago
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  • This seems like a really interesting and worthwhile topic. If you're going to get into what actually defines a Mary Sue or a Gary Stu (the male equivalent), I think it might be beneficial to distinguish between a Mary Sue character (who consciously doesn't do any wrong) and a character who is just incredibly lucky (who accomplishes things unconsciously through chance). Whether she actually is or not, Rey comes across as a Mary Sue for many because she decides "I'm going to accomplish this goal" and does it with seemingly no problem or pushback that she can't overcome with minimal effort (typical of a Mary Sue). Compare this to another Star Wars character, Anakin Skywalker, who even in The Phantom Menace (arguably at his most Gary Stu-est) mostly accomplishes things by being lucky; even with a midichlorian count higher than Yoda (presumably making him extremely powerful), he wins a very difficult race after not even finishing three times previously and he blows up a space station by randomly pushing buttons and saying "Oops" alot. It's not the same as Han Solo having trouble activating lightspeed on his ship he's flown for 30+ years and Rey stepping into the cockpit and immediately locating and fixing the problem, not due to luck but expertise.They're similar characterizations, but different enough to be distinct from each other, and it might factor into whether or not there is a double standard. – CulturallyOpinionated 6 months ago
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Published

Craft-Mageddon: The Explosion of DIY Culture

Analyze the growth of DIY culture and crafting, from origins in the 1990’s punk movement (with an emphasis on rejecting consumer culture, expanded in the music and skateboarding subgenres and showcased with zines) to YouTube fame today, as well as possible reasons for its growth and rebirth in the online world.

  • This is a really cool topic. Just a thought: though it is mainstream now, could it ever be counter-cultural again? Or is it somehow still inherently an act of rebellion to make rather than consume? – JustinMoir 9 months ago
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  • Devon. Someone has already taken up this topic. It's in the Posts Pending editorial stage right now. A couple of points I raised with regard to that article are also relevant here. DIY began a long, long time before the punk movement (which officially started in the 1970s, though its origins, in turn, can be found in the 1960s). Also let's not forget that during WW2 women would often re-purpose parachute silk to make wedding dresses and even lingerie. So, in the broader perspective of DIY culture and crafting, punks have nothing on Grandma! :) – Amyus 6 months ago
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  • This is a great topic! Might be interesting to dig into what else might have led to this rise of interest in DIY. Perhaps from an economic standpoint. – stephaniehamilton 5 months ago
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The role of toys in popular culture

Toys hold a special place in the heart of fans from all walks of life. From second-hand and bargain-bin action figures, retro toys making a comeback (original Transformers), Funko pops or legos, to unique hand-crafted statues or busts, all those products derived from popular culture have built new communities, connected collectors and reinforced the appreciation in the original works.

Has our consumption for toys changed in recent years thanks to better marketing or distribution? Has the perception of adults collecting action toys changed? Have action figures and statues now been elevated to similar statuses as work of arts (painting or sculpture)? It goes without saying that toys are getting more and more expensive and yet, the demands for some collector’s items are growing.

  • It's an interesting idea. Perhaps just as relevant would be the question: when does a toy cease to be just a toy? For instance, 'collectables' are created to be exactly that and no doubt there are collectors who would thrown their hands up in horror at the very notion of 'playing' with their precious items, or letting a child get his or her grubby mitts on them! An equally valid question would be: have we lost sight of what a 'toy' should be? – Amyus 7 months ago
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  • I'm thinking about which category this would fall under on this site. I would suggest perhaps considering covering toys for a particular media genre, like comics or movies, and then you can include a broader discussion of toy consumption. For example, my brother grew up as an avid collector of Star Wars lego models. It would be interesting to see how movie franchises (or tv series, or comic series, etc.) are influencing and influenced by toy collectors. – Eden 7 months ago
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  • Amyus - as a parent of a toddler, I have definitely lost sight of what a toy should be!I look at those 'cheap' Marvel/DC movie-inspired toys and would gladly buy them for my kid, yet when I encounter the 6-inch scale premium articulation Marvel Legends figures (which is roughly more expensive), I automatically consider them as collectibles. Is it because they are more expensive? Is it because my kid would not appreciate them as much? Am I jealous that there are better toys of characters I love now? :)Eden - Completely agree with your point! If I were to narrow my search, I would focus on comics. I tried to incorporate toys based on Japanese franchises/manga/anime but got completely scared by the scale of popularity considering that there are live full-blown sculpting competitions of Gundam figures. – kpfong83 7 months ago
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  • kpfong. You make some excellent points! Apologies, not being a parent, I can only draw from my own experiences as a child - though I do recall receiving a die cast metal Spitfire for my 10th birthday and I wouldn't let anyone touch it, let alone play with it! – Amyus 7 months ago
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  • Amyus - No worries and thanks for sharing your opinions! – kpfong83 7 months ago
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  • Cool topic! I'd love a discussion on technological toys and games or apps vs. more "traditional" ones such as dolls, stuffed animals, or action figures. Also, while statues and figurines like FunkoPop are called toys by some, I do think they have opened the door for adults to engage or reengage in fandom and toy culture. I'd love for the author to explore this, too. – Stephanie M. 6 months ago
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  • No matter what, toys will continue to attract kids (and perhaps even adults). Gone are the days when toys were made of simple everyday stuff, and yet stimulated the child's brain to be creative with them. – monolina 4 months ago
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The rise in popularity of nihilistic and dark humour memes

Recently I have witnessed an increase in the number of memes which feature nihilistic or dark humour themes. These memes seem to resonate especially well with people between the age of 20-27 years old (as of 2019). Is there a socio-cultural element which has resulted in the increased popularity of such content?

  • Would also be good to look at the 'acceptibility' of these memes. There appears to be some fluctuation in whether these memes are seen as harmful, or a means to cope. – Andi 9 months ago
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  • It shows a lack of imagination essentially in addition to the increased incidence of anti-social and narcissistic personality disorder among millenials. – youngmollflanders 9 months ago
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  • This is such a complicated subject that I genuinely believe deserves a great deal of attention.Some have argued that we are in late stage capitalism; a period of time characterized by the uncoupling of signifier and signified, depthlessness, alienation, absurdity, and meaningless. Life has been subordinated to capital, and capital is not bound to coherent chains of signification. As a result, our lives feel empty, deterritorialized, lacking a history or sensible temporal/cultural orientation.Add to that the war on terror, war on drugs, consequences of the 2008 financial crisis, and ecological devastation, there is a prevailing sense that the present and the future is merely chaos, that the promises we grew up on are empty fictions, and that there is very little hope in general. Nihilistic memes are a reaction to all this, and they are thoroughly implicated in the ironic and post-ironic cultural meta (a refusal to treat anything with sincerity as a reaction to the madness and alienation earlier described). – joshasoflate 9 months ago
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  • I think that maybe it's a way for this (our/my) generation to feel that they are not alone, when everyone seems to be offended at the slightest things. I think there is quite a gap between those who still enjoy dark humor and those who think it's mean and shouldn't be enjoyed. But I think that sometimes those memes can help people deal with the cruel reality of our world and the actual, real life rudeness and hate that we experience every day. However, this is a quite complicated topic. The question why humans enjoy dark humor and tragedy more than we do happy endings, to me seems to be hard to answer. – bulatovskayae 7 months ago
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  • I kind of see it as a combination of the overall nihilism of our pop culture (as a function of growing up, for the first time, without being taught that life has any intrinsic meaning or purpose) and the anonymity of the Internet, which leaves people freer to say things that they wouldn't dare attach their name to in real life. – Debs 7 months ago
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Ophelia as Protagonist: Elsinore (2019) vs. Ophelia (2019)

The recent film Ophelia (2018), starring Daisy Ridley, and the crowdfunded video game Elsinore (2019) marks the latest in an increasingly popular trend of adapting Hamlet by shifting its focus from its conflicted titular character to his doomed lady love. While adaptations focusing on supporting or minor characters in Hamlet are by no means uncommon (with Tom Stoppard’s Rosencrantz and Guildenstern Are Dead as the most notable example), the focus on Ophelia in particular is something new. Ask: why the especial focus on Ophelia, ever-popular in art, as a protagonist? What about Ophelia made it universally panned while Elsinore has been almost universally praised? Which version offers a more compelling take on the character and the story of Hamlet?

  • I'm not familiar with either of these particular works, but one reason why Ophelia in particular is a popular character might have something to do with the way her situation reflects those of girls in general, throughout history. For instance, there is a fairly well-known nonfiction book called Reviving Ophelia, which talks about the toxic messages that young girls receive in modern times. Simply put, there's something relatable about Ophelia to a girl living in a patriarchal society, where the men in her life try to use her as an object or a pawn. – Debs 7 months ago
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  • This is an excellent time to examine this question, as there seems to be renewed interest in the perspective of the character, as well as Ophelia's overall depiction within Hamlet. – Sean Gadus 7 months ago
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Cosmic horror fanart

Fanart of cosmic horror novels and short stories, particularly those by H.P. Lovecraft, comes in many forms. Some of these artists attempt to capture the otherworldliness and terror inspired by the monsters found in cosmic horror, whereas others try to make them seem cute and inviting. Some of these art projects stand alone, whereas others are part of storybooks and games, like the "C is for Cthulhu" series or the board game "Cthulhu in the House". How did we get so much fanart of this genre, and how has it evolved over time? Is anything lost by trying to render cosmic horror creatures (which are supposed to look unnatural and inexplicable to us) visually?

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    Credit Where Credit Is Due: Artists' Edition

    It’s widely accepted that people who create or find something, whether a painting, a computer, a car, a book, a scientific discovery, etc. should receive credit for it. Yet in the online world, this seems to only go so far for artists, specifically illustrators and animators.

    The internet and social media sites are rife with people posting art without crediting the artists. Many try justifying this by stating that "people can look up the art themselves" or they’re giving the artists "exposure." None of these hold water, as it’s been proven that most people do not go out of their way to search the artists. Exposure doesn’t mean anything if people don’t know who the artist is, let alone care enough to find them. It also certainly doesn’t mean anything to the landlords whom artists must pay their rents to.

    If a scientist published an academic paper online, and say, a college student plagiarized it and tried to pass it off as their own, I doubt many would oppose that student being punished and ridiculed for doing so. Yet if an artist protests a person for reposting their art without crediting them, that artist is labeled as "sensitive" or "greedy".

    I find this double standard to tie into inherent laziness in internet users, but also a possible broader sense of people not seeing art, particularly illustration, as a legitimate profession. There are millions of artists all over the world who make a living off their art; the foundation of Hollywood is based on this (as well as nepotism and debatably cyclical abuse, but that’s another discussion) yet trying to enter an art industry can be met with mockery. Many people only see the final product, and not the hours and hours of work that go into artistry, whether it’s music, animation, painting, sculpting, or illustration. They assume it’s effortless and that artists only do it as a hobby, not for income.

    Why do you think this societal stigma is so prevalent, especially in this era where digital media is so widespread and exposes more people to more artforms than ever before? What about art carries such certain connotations that separate it from other fields and professions? How do you think this could change?

    • I love this topic! Art is so easy to plagiarise without credit given the prevalence of social media and the ease of reposting or screenshotting the work of others. Art, to an extent, is also easier to copy and claim as your own when compared to a scientific discovery or mathematical theory. Not only can the work of the original artist be claimed, another artist can replicate the work, or create something similar - which is where it gets even more tricky. How do we know if they were inspired by the original work? Had they seen it before? It is impossible to know. – Cassidy 7 months ago
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