Scientist by training, writer by choice. Loves anime, horror, religion, nature, folktales, and all things weird and strange.
Obsession with food as a marker of childishness
It sometimes happens in TV shows, particularly comedies, that a childish character will show an inordinate interest in food. For instance, both Michael Scott from "The Office" and Liz Lemon from "30 Rock" are childish main characters who are obsessed with food, and many compilations of them eating exist on YouTube. Ernie, a character from the German comedy "Stromberg," is also obsessed with food and notably more childish than his English-speaking counterparts Gareth and Dwight (who show less interest in food but are instead obsessed with sex). The fact that childishness and food obsession show up together so often suggests that an interest in eating itself is meant to highlight the character’s childishness in some way. Why do you think this is? What are some other examples of shows that connect childishness with a love of eating?
What is the legacy of Skins?
Skins was a British teen soap opera which began in 2008 and ran for about seven seasons. This series was renowned for its controversial subject matter, as many of the characters did things like have sex, experiment with drugs, and struggle with serious mental health concerns. Several of the cast members–including Nicholas Hoult, Dev Patel, and Kaya Scodelario among others–went on to have illustrious film and television careers.
What if any influence has Skins had on the teen soap opera genre? How many modern teen soaps–which tend to feature fairly dark subject matter–were inspired by Skins, whether directly or indirectly? How do more recent television shows for teens compare to Skins in terms of characterization and structure?
Cringe comedies that aren't The Office
The Office and its many adaptations stand out as pioneers of a genre called cringe comedy. In a cringe comedy, the central characters act like fools, and the audience responds by laughing at them out of nervous surprise and vicarious embarrassment. What are some examples of cringe comedies other than The Office? What, if any, influence do you think The Office has had on them? Is there a way to distinguish "good" cringe comedy from "bad" cringe comedy?
Glee and cringe comedy
Although it relies heavily on the tropes of teen soap operas, the musical series Glee is often seen as a comedy. What is interesting about it, though, is that most of the humor appears to be what is often referred to as "cringe" humor. Cringe humor is so-called because it entails a character acting in provocative or foolish ways and causing the audience to laugh at them instead of with them. In the case of Glee, some of the more famous examples of cringe include the teenage characters attempting to perform "sexy" dance numbers, and the one-liners provided by Jane Lynch and Matthew Morrison, who play the most prominent teachers. Some YouTubers have even taken to compiling the most cringey scenes from Glee and giving their videos names like "Glee out of context" or "Glee scenes that give me secondhand embarrassment."
So, is Glee a cringe comedy? Or is it a soap opera that just happens to have cringey humor in it? Is there something about the premise or cast of Glee that naturally lends itself to cringe humor?
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Flatterers in fiction
The ancient philosopher Plutarch wrote a famous essay on how to tell the difference between a friend and a flatterer. In this essay, he lists several qualities associated with a flatterer, including:
With this definition in mind, what are some examples of flatterers from fiction, particularly modern fiction? What traits, if any, do they and their victims have in common? Are there any stereotypes associated with fictional flatterers, either in terms of physical features or psychological makeup?
Audience perceptions of characters in TV shows
It seems as though, a lot of the time, the audience’s perception of a character in a story is colored less by things the character has actually said or done, and more by how another character (who is usually a main character or simply more popular) views them. For instance, in the original British Office, Tim, a salesman, spends most of his time bullying his fellow salesman, Gareth. However, because Tim is more popular and gets more screen time, audiences just assume that he is the "nice" one and Gareth "deserves" to be mistreated when there’s no real evidence of this. The same series also includes a corporate higher-up named Neil, who is made out to be "mean" simply because he doesn’t get along with David, the main face of the show. What are some other examples of this phenomenon from TV, or media in general? Are there any characters who seem to be especially unfairly judged? Do they (or the people judging them) share any particular traits in common?
Has destigmatizing suicide gone too far?
Nowadays, suicide carries less stigma than ever before, both in fiction and in real life. In many respects this is a good thing, as it means that people who experience suicidal ideation no longer have to feel like they are morally deficient. However, it seems as though some works of media have gone too far in the other direction, portraying suicide either as something glamorous or as an inevitable consequence of mental distress. A key example of this can be seen in the novel and Netflix series "13 Reasons Why," both of which seem to portray suicide as a weapon that can be used to get back at someone. Some modern Biblical commentators have even gone so far as to argue that Sarah, the holy matriarch, might have been suicidal based on little to no evidence. What are some ways in which creators can portray suicide more respectfully? Is it possible to point out the harm that suicidal ideation does without making people feel guilty or ashamed for being depressed?
Lesser-Known Adaptations of The Office
When most people think of the mockumentary sitcom series known as The Office, they probably think of the version from either the United States or the United Kingdom. However, The Office is a multinational phenomenon, with at least eight or ten countries having their own home-grown adaptations of it, which they use to make fun of their own work cultures. What are some highlights from these international adaptations? How do they differ from their more famous English-language counterparts? Are there any adaptations that, in your opinion, do not receive the attention they deserve?
Thing is, I do think protagonists in general have become less likable in the last decade or so. Several times now, I’ve tried watching very popular and well-regarded series only to find that the main characters were totally selfish assholes, and their diehard fans both in and out of universe always say that they “mean well” or “grow as a person over time,” or “always come through when it counts,” even if these traits are never actually in evidence. Whether or not Chainsaw Man itself is guilty of this (though the article makes it very much sound like it is), I feel like it’s become a trend and I don’t like it.
It’s great that you take the time to break down the difference between manga genres and demographics. From my admittedly limited understanding, some stories that seem more adult-oriented get published in shounen (or in some cases shoujo) magazines simply because teen magazines have wider reach and are marketed more heavily. Because of this, publishing in one of these teen magazines leads to more publicity for the authors than trying to publish in, for instance, a seinen magazine would. My personal favorite anime, Shiki, seems to be an illustration of this phenomenon, though I don’t know this for a fact. Though the anime is clearly aimed at mature audiences, the manga ran in a shounen magazine. The series began its life as a collection of novels, which I assume were also more adult-oriented, but the manga greatly expanded upon the role of a teenage side character named Natsuno Yuuki, eventually making him out to be a main character in his own right. I can assume that this was done in order to make the series more attractive and relatable to an audience of teenagers. When the anime came out, it relegated Natsuno to a supporting role again (albeit a much larger one), and basically reduced him to a plot device later in the story in order to keep him involved.
I can’t speak to Chainsaw Man (since I’m not familiar with it), but personally, I’m not altogether convinced it’s a good thing that NOT trying to be a good or admirable person is seen as a positive when it comes to lead characters. Amoral acts are still wrong even if they’re being committed by main characters; and while it might be realistic, to a certain extent, that desperate people will do desperate things, a sad history in and of itself doesn’t erase a character’s bad conduct or make it okay. Personally, I’d be a lot more interested in learning about how someone overcame a bad situation and behaved righteously despite the pressure to do otherwise, than someone who used a difficult life to excuse their own bad choices.
It’s interesting that you note the similarities between Hot Fuzz and horror films, because I know that the same people who made Hot Fuzz also made Shaun of the Dead, which is a parody of zombie apocalypse movies. It could be that horror is simply their main inspiration in general.
Main Character Immunity (TM)
It’s a great show and I personally find it much better written and more enjoyable than the US one (and I say this as someone who saw the US version first and did enjoy it at the time), but it’s one of those shows you definitely have to watch more than once. The story is much too rich and layered to take everything in in one go. This is probably why I see so many misconceptions about the series circulating: my guess is that a lot of people watched the show exactly once and thought they knew everything there was to know about it, when nothing could be farther from the truth.
To put things in perspective, I’ve now seen the show three times, and had to take very detailed notes while I was watching to get the material I used for writing this article.
It’s true, I think it’s a bit misleading to refer to one or the other as the “American Gareth” or the “British Dwight” for this very reason. The characters may occupy the same role in the cast, but they are not in any way the same person.
I totally agree. For awhile now it’s been my impression that this type of performance is a staple of British comedy: a character saying ridiculous things with a straight face, to the point it’s clear he doesn’t know how ridiculous he sounds. I’ve seen The Office three times now, and even on my first viewing Gareth was easily the funniest character in the whole show. Nearly all the show’s deleted scenes are of him as well, probably for the same reason.