Scientist by training, writer by choice. Loves anime, horror, religion, nature, folktales, and all things weird and strange.
The state of "too good for this sinful earth" characters nowadays
Throughout history, many stories have featured characters who are depicted as being "too good for this sinful earth" and therefore dying young. Charles Dickens, for instance, wrote many such characters into his stories; and Uncle Tom’s Cabin also depicts its most famous characters in this way. Such an idea, of course, has explicitly religious connotations, with the idea being that the character is so pure that they belong in heaven and not on earth. Do such characters still exist in modern, secular media? If so, what are some examples? How can a story that lacks a religious bent portray a character as too good for the world (if indeed it’s possible)?
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?
Is the content of mentally-ill writers and artists always more disturbing?
People who live with mental illnesses spend their lives in a state of heightened anxiety and stress, and if they’re creative, this often comes through in their work. Arguably some of the greatest contributions to horror, particularly in literature, were written by people with really severe mental health problems, among them Edgar Allan Poe, HP Lovecraft, and Caitlin Kiernan. Even works made by artists who don’t want their mental illness to be so obvious can be darker than they first appear. For instance, many of the deep cuts of the famous rock star Jon Bon Jovi, who struggles with depression, are much more disturbing than the songs that made him a household name. So, are all mentally-ill creatives fated to create dark, creepy, or depressing content? What specific aspects of a creator’s mental illness might inform the darker aspects of their work? Are there any mentally-ill artists whose art remains entirely untouched by their illness?
Analyzing C.S. Lewis's whole body of work
Everyone knows C.S. Lewis as the writer of the Chronicles of Narnia series, as well as (to a lesser extent) The Screwtape Letters. However, he’s written a lot of other works too–both fiction and nonfiction–that don’t get as much attention. Throughout his body of work, what recurring patterns and themes emerge? How have they changed over time? Is there anything he wrote that doesn’t get the attention it deserves?
Do some cities have an outsized influence?
Any nation is comprised of many cities, towns, and other places where people live. However, many nations also seem to have one city (or at most a handful) that seem to set the tone for how those entire nations are perceived and conduct their daily affairs. One key example of this can be seen during the current pandemic in the US. New York City, the largest and most connected city, is seeing the overwhelming majority of cases and receiving nearly all the media coverage. Meanwhile, other parts of the country, as well as New York State, have issued shelter-in-place orders similar to those in New York City to avoid being overrun by sick patients, even though there is no evidence that will happen–New York City is uniquely vulnerable due to its high population density, reliance on public transportation, and status as an international traffic hub.
It’s also not uncommon for people to organize trips to "the UK" when they really only mean London, for example–some years ago the New York Times advertised a "Brexit tour" of the UK that never left London, even though the people who supported Brexit generally lived in smaller British communities in places like the North and Midlands. Centuries ago, Mark Twain captured a similar sentiment in a satirical article in which he traveled to a famous cathedral in Italy and felt compelled to ignore or minimize everything he saw on the trip over.
Along similar lines, books and movies whose plots feature international travel or worldwide catastrophes often feature just one or two famous cities in any given country. The movie "Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs" even made a joke about this, pointing out that the evil giant foods seemed to be falling first on the most famous landmarks in major cities. Why do you think people, both in fiction and real life, aren’t interested in venturing outside the largest and most famous cities? Would society be more enriched if people ventured outside of these famous urban centers more often (both in fiction and real life)?
When the protagonist is the most interesting character
It’s almost a cliche at this point that the central characters in any story are rarely the most interesting ones. More often than not they tend to be relatively bland, and the story grows out of their interactions with a cast of more interesting side characters. However, every so often a protagonist will end up being the most interesting character in their story. For instance, in Osamu Tezuka’s "Buddha" manga, the Buddha is actually one of the more well-rounded and relatable characters, even given that the legends about him tend to paint him as an almost perfect, untouchable being. What are some other examples of this phenomenon, where the main protagonist really is the most interesting, or one of the most interesting, characters? What is it about them that makes them so interesting?
What does conspicuous leisure look like nowadays?
At the end of the 19th century, a sociologist named Thorstein Veblen argued that privileged people flaunt their wealth in three ways: conspicuous consumption (showing that they can afford to buy products); conspicuous leisure (showing that they can afford to waste time); and conspicuous waste (showing that they can afford to throw things away). Recently, conspicuous consumption and conspicuous waste have lost a lot of their worth as status symbols because goods have become more affordable and both practices are associated with environmental destruction, but conspicuous leisure (which can entail anything from sitting around and doing nothing to lavish vacations to memorizing pointless social rules and regulations) doesn’t seem to carry the same stigma. Classically, conspicuous leisure was embodied in an aristocrat who sits around in a large mansion and looks down on people who perform manual labor, but what are some modern equivalents, either in real life or in our media?
Numerous stories have featured plants in the role of villains. These plants range from minor nuisances (like the mandrakes in Harry Potter) to central antagonists (as in the musical Little Shop of Horrors). Why are people so fascinated by the idea of plants as villains? What are some examples of real-life dangerous plants? Are there any particular real-life plants that seem to get used as models for evil plants more often, and if so, why?
|The Good Place: Philosophically Sound?|
|Gender in Once Upon a Time... in Hollywood|
|Riddles in Rhetoric: Learning from Bilbo and Gollum about Linguistic Segregation|
|Wuthering Heights and its Many Genres|
|Fanfiction: An Ally to Queer Fans|
|Moomins and the Finnish Culture|
|Fanfiction: An Ally to Queer Fans|
|The Odyssey: A Father and Son Quest for Kleos|