Debs

Scientist by training, writer by choice. Loves anime, horror, religion, nature, folktales, and all things weird and strange.

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    Latest Articles

    Latest Topics

    8

    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?

    • This is such an interesting topic. It's so complicated to try to portray suicide in a respectful and non-stigmatized manner. I'm really interested to see what you come up with. – gracesamath 3 months ago
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    • There are some interesting discussions on Youtube about this, and euthanasia laws (specifically ones designed about relieving extreme mental distress) could be worth mentioning as well. The Living Well with Schizophrenia youtube channel has a great discussion about this. I've also seen discussions about 13 reasons why by psychologists who point out ways that Hannah's experience of suicide isn't a good representation (because she gives up on getting help or doesn't try enough to get help). – Jordan 3 months ago
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    • This definitely intrigues me, i'm excited to see what you continue to write about it! – OpalReads01 3 months ago
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    • You should write this! I tend to avoid things related to suicide, but the premise of your topic is sound. – derBruderspielt 2 months ago
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    • I like this topic and I would be highly interested to read something related to mental health and suicide. What "13 Reasons Why" did well is that it showed how Hannah's suicide devastatingly impacted the lives of her peers and parents and I think it can help suicidal people realize what the consequences of suicide are and why in most cases it is a wrong choice. What I didn't like about this show starting from season 2 though is that it makes everyone seem like a victim while they can make better and more responsibile choices. This kind of character representation can make teenagers adopt a victim mentality and that's what is happening nowadays among teens and even young adults sadly. – M.C. Cherif 2 months ago
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    • This is such a relevant topic. I think it would be interesting to make a case about Euphoria, which is even more popular and timely than 13 Reasons Why now, and is controversial for its graphic content and effect on young viewers. – katherine 2 months ago
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    • This is something I've wondered about before. So many YA novels are using suicide as a way to write an emotional, yet empty story. It's the black and white or one take move for YA novels nowadays; the equivalent of Oscar-bait. – rileybelle 1 month ago
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    • This is interesting because you're right, suicide seems to be used as just another element to add tragedy to a story. However suicide rates are still increasing and using suicide/ideation as a plot device does give struggling people a character to relate to. But what is the right way to portray someone suffering from that extreme depression and loneliness? – zreddig 1 month ago
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    • It would be so cool to follow it with questions like, is it really an issue of destigmatization of suicide? Or the capitalist society's way of profiting from a pervasive issue through TV shows? – carolynjoan 1 month ago
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    3

    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?

    • Interesting - could you give some suggestions? I think this would be a really interesting topic to break down - even if you went beyond the office and looked at representations of work places and the different cultural representations. I know the US is often over represented in this area, so it would be fascinating to see what other countries have portrayed as work place contexts. – Sarai Mannolini-Winwood 4 months ago
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    • This is a really cool idea. I think bringing The Office into a wider discussion on generic conventions and formats across global media could be a fascinating lens. In what ways does each version differ based on cultural norms and practices; how do these differences map onto differences in shows like American Idol or other generic formats? – kkenny 3 months ago
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    • Another direction you could go would be lesser-known adaptations of different shows and how producers choose what is "essential" to the format vs what should be adapted to the culture/language/location. This isn't the best example, but I've recently begun watching LegoMasters from different countries and its fun to see what's the same and whats different. – derBruderspielt 2 months ago
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    5

    Does BoJack Horseman suffer from psychosis?

    The TV series "BoJack Horseman" is a surreal dark comedy that takes place in a world in which some of the characters (including the title character) seem to be talking animals. BoJack himself openly suffers from several mental illnesses, including depression and anxiety, but could he also have a psychotic disorder, like schizophrenia or bipolar disorder? Psychotic disorders interfere with people’s perception of reality, which might explain some of the more surreal aspects of the series. It might even explain the talking animals, since psychotic illnesses can include a delusion that one is an animal. So, what is the evidence for or against BoJack suffering from psychosis? If he does have a psychotic disorder, what kind does he have?

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      Fictional children acting in unchildlike ways

      It’s relatively rare to find fictional children who act like real children. More often than not, fictional children talk and act like miniature adults. Oftentimes, this is a deliberate artistic choice, which may either be played for laughs (as in Rugrats, The Simpsons, or South Park, for example), or used to show that there is something seriously wrong with the child in question (as in The Umbrella Academy, and many anime series). On the other hand, some creators seem genuinely unable to fathom how children think and behave, and so write them behaving like adults by default.

      What are some examples of stories that portray children this way? What, if any, differences are there between stories that portray children acting like adults for artistic reasons, and those whose writers simply don’t know any better? What effects, if any, do fictional portrayals of unrealistically-mature children have on how people view children in the real world?

      • Oh, cool topic. Interestingly enough, the first examples I thought of regarding children who don't act like children, are from PBS (whose programs are all geared toward young children). Arthur, one of the longest runners, is an example. You'll also find some of this in older shows like Wishbone. Outside of PBS, the phenomenon exists on networks you mentioned, like Nickelodeon, or Disney Channel. Sometimes it works great (see the older show Fillmore for an example of unchildlike behavior as an artistic choice). Other times, the kids just act like brats (i.e., Hannah Montana). – Stephanie M. 1 year ago
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      1

      Who should be the focus of the next biopic?

      A biographical film, or biopic, attempts to document the life of a real person or organization on film. Some examples of famous biopics include Schindler’s List (for Oskar Schindler), A Beautiful Mind (for John Nash) and Selma (for the American civil rights movement, including Martin Luther King, Jr). Who are some examples of people, living or dead, that would make good biopic material? What is it about them that suits the biopic format? If a biopic were to be made of them, what details would need to be included?

      • I think is inevitable that there will be many Barack Obama biopics made in the future. Some film have already began to portray him over the past 5 years or so and with his publishing output (new book selling tremendously well) I think he will be featured in a host of biopic projects. – Sean Gadus 1 year ago
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      • I think that this could be quite interesting. I think an angle that is important for this would be perhaps exploring when criteria is needed in order to determine the subject of a biopic! – RheaRG 1 year ago
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      • My choice would be someone like Jadav Payeng, an Indian man who has spent the last 30 years plus planting a forest in what was once a barren tract of land. His single-handed, selfless work has created a new ecosystem and yet few have ever heard of him. – Amyus 1 year ago
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      • I would advise that it be an under appreciated figure that nonetheless made large historical contributions in his time. – J.D. Jankowski 1 year ago
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      • Bass Reeves would be an excellent choice as a subject for a biopic. He was a lawman in the Old West who possessed unfailing honesty, a deep sense of justice, and dogged determination to get the bad guy. He once even served a murder warrant on his own son. He was one of the few black lawmen serving in the Wild West, and earned near universal respect among his peers. Many historians believe he is the inspiration for the legendary fictional character The Lone Ranger. – NatDog55 1 year ago
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      • I agree with J.D. I see the future of biopics not in 'famous' people who led incredible lives, but 'average' people who greatly affected history. In our age of information it's rather easy to find info on famous people and we are constantly bombarded with celebrity culture. Perhaps we'll turn to the aforementioned biopics as an escape from this aspect of media. – Landon 1 year ago
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      • I think a good subject for a biopic would be a figure that has been erased from our history books yet whose life would serve to represent those who are marginalized still today. Figures from queer history would be very important to see, as well as women who were not respected in their eras. The most famous biopics that you have listed are films that feature men, and while they are excellent biopics, I know there have to be queer/female figures from the past who equally as deserving of the big screen. For example, Madame Lulu White, who rose to riches as a brothel madame in the early 1900s, would be an incredibly fascinating figure to explore in terms of her controversy, eccentricity, and rarity. – aspentaylor 1 year ago
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      • Considering the recent trend of musical biopics, I feel Fleetwood Mac would make an interesting biopic. The band is iconic and left such a lasting impression on music. Plus there is so much to explore. For example the relationship between Stevie Nicks and Lindsey Buckingham alone could make for a stand-alone film. – Dina 1 year ago
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      • I agree with J.D. and Landon that future biopics should not be famous people who did great things, but the problem is in the current trend biopics tend to be Hollywood-centric, i.e.: it belongs to mainstream cinema. Therefore it is foreseeable that the next biopic will continue to be some famous people in the entertainment industry. If I have to come up with a possible choice, it could be Madonna (https://ew.com/movies/madonna-biopic-diablo-cody-movie-screenplay/) – KM 1 year ago
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      1

      Characters who fall in love with versions of themselves

      In some stories, the main character’s love interest seems designed to be an almost perfect mirror image of themselves. These characters’ lovers share their same personalities, tastes, and motivations, and might even look something like them. "The Umbrella Academy" is one notable show that does this. So far both seasons feature a central character falling in love with someone who is almost exactly like themselves (Vanya in Season 1 and Diego in Season 2). What are some other examples of this trope? How popular is this phenomenon in fiction and what factors contribute to it?

      • See the story of Narcissus (Ancient Greek figure who falls in love with her own reflection). – J.D. Jankowski 1 year ago
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      • There is also a hilarious 30 Rock episode about this concept. They discussed the concept of dating yourself is a "double edged sword" where as your weaknesses as a person are the weaknesses of your partner. 30 Rock: Season 5, Episode 14 – Sean Gadus 1 year ago
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      • To add to Sean's point, there's an episode of Seinfeld where Jerry starts dating the "woman version" of himself. He initially finds this attractive until he remembers he "hates himself." – aprosaicpintofpisces 1 year ago
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      7

      Are comic book movie and TV adaptations more realistic than the source material?

      It seems as though, when comic books (Japanese or Western) get adapted into movies or TV series, they become less over-the-top and stylized. The visuals may be toned down, for instance, and some of the characters may talk, act, or even look more like real people would in their situations. For instance, many of the characters in the "Deadman Wonderland" anime talk and act much more realistically than their manga counterparts did. The Netflix adaptation of "The Umbrella Academy" is also supposed to be more realistic and restrained than the original comics, and makes more of an effort to flesh out the characters’ personalities and motivations. Are most comic book adaptations like this, or does it depend on the individual adaptation? If indeed it is a trend, what are some of the factors driving it? For instance, do characters simply have to become more realistic once a real person is charged with bringing them to life?

      • This would be a good topic to write on. However, the perspective of the reader/viewer should also be included to lay emphasis on the change in expectation level if any when a comic book is adapted into a movie or TV series. Also, if there is much difference when an animation adaption of a comic book is compared with anime adaption of a manga. – Abhilash Roy 2 years ago
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      • It's a good topic, definitely! For me, the term "realistic" needs to be defined. Obviously the characters are usually going to be depicted more realistically, if they're actors being filmed rather than figures being drawn, but that's not the meaning of "realistic" that you have in mind here. Do you mean something like "round" (in the sense of round characters versus flat characters), "developed," and "psychologically complex"? – JamesBKelley 2 years ago
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      • I think this a topic important to write about. – Diani 2 years ago
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      Significance of character design of non-human creatures

      It’s often been said that a character’s design is supposed to tell the audience something about them and complement their personality and role in the story in some way. Non-human characters provide unique challenges and opportunities for animators because they possess features that no human could ever have. The popular kids’ movie Monsters, Inc. does a great job of designing characters to perfectly fit their roles in the story. For instance, the main character, Sully, is huge and strong but also fluffy and colorful; his timid but loyal sidekick Mike is small and has a very large and expressive eye and mouth; and the villain Randall is a slippery and surly-looking lizard voiced by Steve Buscemi. What are some other examples of non-human characters with particularly appropriate or memorable character designs? What is it about their designs that provides insight into their characters more broadly?

      • This is a great topic! I liked your example from Monsters Inc? Perhaps you can make the topic title, " How character designs of non-human characters in animation tell the audience about their character?" Or what are examples of non-human character animations designs that speak to their character? – birdienumnum17 2 years ago
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      • Fun idea. First thing that comes to mind is Inside Out, where emotions are literally personified into characters - anger, sadness, disgust. You don't even need to hear them talk in order to understand what they represent. Maybe an interesting comparison would be between good visual depictions of personality (this was done often and super well in older cartoons) and less creative character designs. Consider all the possibilities of 2/3D animation and how those opportunities can be squandered! I'm thinking of the recent Lion King adaptation here; realism doesn't necessarily translate to an expressive character. – dbotros 2 years ago
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      • I think that the design of non-human - or even monstrous - characters often provides insight onto ourselves. That is, the grotesque or Other often reflects our own anxieties about the human condition. When the worst aspects of our psyche/appearance are exaggerated and externalized into non-human characters, they are easy to dislike because they represent the "worst" parts of ourselves. At the same time, mythologically heroic characters represent the best of ourselves, with their looks and demeanour exaggerated to show the potential for goodness and beauty that resides in the human condition. This topic puts me in mind of Peter Jackson/Andy Serkis's portrayal of Gollum in LOTR. The tragic beauty of the character resides in his "fall from grace narrative," for he straddles the line between ultimate corruption and ultimate redemption until his last moments. Smeagol's design incorporates elements of the innocent - his wide eyes and naiveté - while the distorted and expressions of Gollum connote his malice and cunning. Examining the ways in which Serkis/the animators at Weta Digital played with the tension between these two personae can reveal how the archetypes of good and evil originate within our own soul (or psyche, if you prefer). – Rhys 2 years ago
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      • This is an interesting topic, and one becoming more and more relevant as animation makes a resurgence in popular media. One interesting area the article could address would be how and why human elements are included in these character designs, as a means to evoke audience familiarity with the emotions of the character (you mentioned Mike Wazowski's eye as an example). Moreover, it might be worthwhile to discuss the uncanny valley and it's effect on the considerations of animated character design. The game Thomas was Alone is also a really pure example of this philosophy of character design, each character being literally a differently sized four-sided shape. – DanielByrne 2 years ago
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      Latest Comments

      One series that does really interesting things with its characters’ clothes is The Office. Just about everyone in the series wears ordinary office clothes, but when the characters are interacting with each other (particularly when paired up in a talking-head segment), there will be some detail about their clothes that makes them look great together. For instance, a character with blond hair and blue eyes wearing a dark suit, might be talking to another character nearby with darker hair and eyes who wears a lighter shirt. Or they might coordinate their ties. Or the colors and materials they wear might provide clues to their personality somehow. The effect is subtle, but it’s definitely noticeable. It’s almost as though the characters themselves are doubling as set pieces. I’ve seen multiple adaptations of the series and they all do the same thing.

      Costumes On Screen: How Clothing Has Enhanced Visual Storytelling

      I feel compelled to address a point that has come up in the comments several times now. I see a lot of people saying things to the effect that my criticism of Welcome to Night Vale is unfounded because it’s “satire.” I just don’t buy that, though, for the simple reason that satire (even absurdist satire) still requires some internal logic in order to work. The problem with Night Vale is that, more often than not, it seems like the creators of the show just throw whatever random absurd or outlandish thing they can think of at the audience and hope that they find it funny (or scary). This is not good practice for storytelling, period. It’s not funny, scary, or even especially interesting. I know good satire when I see it–I read Kafka and watch The Office, among other things–and Welcome to Night Vale isn’t it.

      Moreover, if Welcome to Night Vale is satire, that naturally raises the question of what it is satirizing in the first place, because the entire point of satire is to make fun of human flaws and weaknesses. In my view, to the extent the series is a satire of anything at all, it’s a satire of progressives.

      Welcome to Night Vale: More Conservative Than It Seems

      I remember watching Fillmore! when it aired. I liked it a lot, but a reboot, particularly one that aged the characters, probably wouldn’t work very well. The entire premise of the show was that it featured kids doing things that, in real life, only adults typically do. This worked on two levels at the time, because kids could relate to the young cast and adults could appreciate the complex, “adult” decisions that the cast members made. If the cast got older, though, the line between the kids and adults would become blurrier, and there is a danger it could eventually turn into just another “teen” or “young adult” soap opera. Or else it would turn into one of those “kid shows” where everyone acts like overgrown elementary-schoolers and is obsessed with school even after they should have moved on.

      Put another way, it makes sense that middle schoolers, who spend most of their lives going to classes in school, would view the school as their entire world, but once the characters enter high school, learn to drive, and get more involved in the wider community, if they continued to fixate on their school it would just start to look ridiculous. This is actually sort of what ended up happening with Harry Potter–even though the main characters were (in some instances) legal adults in the last book, the final battle still had to take place at school, and the protagonists’ main mentor and inspiration was still the teacher that none of them wanted to cross when they were twelve.

      Celebrating, Analyzing, and Resurrecting Fillmore!

      I remember the episode about the teacher who gave the students the choice about stealing the test. It was a good one, although I can’t help but feel as though, as with the rest of the series, the whole thing was really an allegory for a dilemma that an adult would be in.

      Celebrating, Analyzing, and Resurrecting Fillmore!

      He absolutely was a funny man. It’s my understanding, at least according to the testimony of Kafka’s friends, that all he really wanted was to write funny stories.

      Demystifying Franz Kafka

      I agree and I think a lot of it comes back to willing suspension of disbelief. It’s something people understand intuitively about other writers. The audience can overlook a lot of strange or “unrealistic” details about a story’s world as long as the characters behave in the way that they would expect real people to behave in those situations. If you think about it, the Lord of the Rings series (for instance) isn’t “realistic” either insofar as it takes place in a fantasy world, but the characters still behave in ways that are plausible and so they resonate with the audience. It’s the same thing with Kafka.

      Demystifying Franz Kafka

      Thing is, I don’t think Kafka was anti-religious as such. He may not have lived a religious life, but he did have many religious friends, and he got very interested in the mystical aspects of Judaism in his later years. Indeed, one of the conflicts he singles out between himself and his father is that he (the son) was too absorbed in his religious and cultural heritage, and his father resented him for it.

      Demystifying Franz Kafka

      Given the emphasis in the article on the importance of women of color in the fight for liberation, I’m a little surprised you didn’t mention the Combahee River Collective Statement. This was a document developed by Black feminists in the late 1970’s, which addressed the problems that women of color in particular were facing at the time. If you read it, you’ll see it actually invokes the very same themes that are still found in liberation movements today.

      Poetry and Feminism in the Eighteenth Century