Scientist by training, writer by choice. Loves anime, horror, religion, nature, folktales, and all things weird and strange.
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?
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?
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?
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?
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?
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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?
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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)?
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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?
You’re absolutely right. One of the things that gets to me is that Tim clearly has a double standard about his “jokes.” It’s apparently perfectly fine for him to play mean-spirited pranks on Gareth, but the moment someone tries to do the same thing to him (thinking here of the scene in episode 3 where Chris Finch steals his shoes and throws them over a building) it’s not funny anymore. We also see that Tim gets annoyed with Gareth simply for ripping paper too loudly, but he disrupts Gareth’s work on purpose and just expects him to grin and bear it. He can dish it out, but he can’t take it, basically.
I actually don’t think Gareth is autistic at all, for a number of reasons. For one thing, autistic people tend to be very literal, but Gareth is completely comfortable and fluent in non-literal language; we see him use figures of speech, sarcasm, and slang quite frequently, for instance. He also spends quite a lot of time trying to analyze or talk about people’s mental and emotional states, and even shows some ability to “code-switch”–that is, to change his mannerisms and speech patterns based on who his audience is. Someone who was actually on the autism spectrum would have quite a lot of trouble doing any of these things. Moreover, his facial expressions, gestures, and speech patterns are a lot more naturalistic and less stilted than those of, say, Dwight (who I don’t really think is autistic either, but there is at least more of a case to be made for him). Gareth might still have neurological issues, of course, and in fact probably does; but autism isn’t one of them.
That is one of the things I find interesting as well. What fascinates me is that if you read between the lines, it’s clear that Gareth doesn’t actually lack social skills as such. Even his job is a dead giveaway, because he works as a salesman–a position that would require him to negotiate with other people in fairly sophisticated ways. The scenes in which he has social difficulties nearly all take place between him and his coworkers (or boss) in the office. His interactions with women are a good example: he never manages to win over any of his pretty female coworkers, but during the party at the end of the first series we see him convince a pretty woman he doesn’t work with to dance with him without much effort. What all this suggests to me that it’s the workplace itself that has him especially agitated, and this causes him to act out.
This is a very thorough analysis of Spirited Away. I particularly love that it goes past the obvious themes of environmentalism and the like and analyzes the story in a uniquely Japanese (or East Asian) context. I hadn’t thought of the story as relating to Confucianism or what it means to live in an “ordered” society, but when you spell it out like this, it does make sense.
I feel as though it would have been interesting to compare the reception of this film by Asian-Americans and by people who actually were living in Asia (not just China, but also Japan, Korea, and so on). For instance, how widely-viewed and well-received was Shang-Chi in Japan? Korea? Vietnam? Additionally, I’d be interested to know if the film gave non-Asian people a more positive perspective on Asians overall, or just Asian-Americans.
I feel as though the idea that mental health topics are overused in games has more to do with which games get popular than which games are actually being made. Even if the overwhelming majority of indie computer games don’t depict mental illness–or don’t depict it in a realistic and respectful way–if the ones that do get more attention and accolades, then this is going to create the illusion that there are a lot more games dealing with mental health problems than there actually are. Moreover, since in my experience a lot of people who play computer games regularly, particularly if they’re my age or younger, have mental health problems of one kind or another, in a way it makes sense that they would gravitate toward the games that seem to describe their specific troubles.
Michael’s behavior is definitely performative–he’s very much aware of the camera and goes to great lengths to get and keep the attention of both his staff and the camera crew. Interestingly enough, having dug into the mythology of The Office for a few months now, I actually think Michael has a lot more in common with Bernd Stromberg (the boss from the German Office adaptation) than with David Brent from the original British version. Bernd is far more likely than David to act the part of a ladies’ man, among other things.
It’s an interesting question. David certainly does have some middle-class affectations, most notably his interest in political correctness (my understanding is that most working-class people don’t view political correctness as worth getting good at, and the working-class characters in The Office bear this out). He also drinks lager when he goes to bars, rather than more traditionally “English” drinks like ale or apple cider. Additionally, since he and Tim are so similar in so many ways, it’s possible that he is meant to be of the same class as Tim is, and Tim seems pretty soundly of the middle class (we see him make a disparaging comment about the working-class warehouse staff in one episode, and in another he mentions going on safari, which most working-class people probably couldn’t afford). On the other hand, David also talks with a more lower-class-sounding accent than Tim and some of the other characters, which I assume is real. He’s also bad at political correctness and cultural competency, which suggests he hasn’t had the time or inclination to get good at it. I’m guessing lower middle class is the best way to describe David’s background, but it’s hard to judge because we know so little of his past.
It almost certainly is the case, though, that David is higher on the economic ladder than either Gareth or the actual warehouse staff, by birth as well as in terms of his salary.