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

    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?

      5

      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. 3 years 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 3 years 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 3 years 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 3 years 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 3 years 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 3 years 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 3 years 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 3 years 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 3 years 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 3 years 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 3 years 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 3 years 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 3 years 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 3 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 3 years ago
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      • I think this a topic important to write about. – Diani 3 years ago
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      2

      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 4 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 4 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 4 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 4 years ago
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      4

      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)?

      • Oh yeah, they exist. A lot of times, they're disabled, which smacks of ableism (or they have cancer, which is not the same thing but is in the neighborhood). A lot of Christian-based movies have these, and what's interesting is that the characters come across as too good for earth even if they ultimately survive (inspiration porn). But sometimes you'll find them in non-religious literature, too. The key is, "too good for this sinful earth" in itself implies the character has some kind of faith or at least a belief in heaven, so there is some overlap. – Stephanie M. 3 years ago
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      • This is an interesting topic! I immediately thought of "Clarissa" by Samuel Richardson as one of "too good for this sinful earth" protagonists. I don't think such characters are as popular in modern media anymore because of how people's tastes and social ideals have changed, at least, that is true in most western movies/tv shows. There isn't any purely "good" character anymore and I think we mostly veer towards portraying characters as more human and flawed. But maybe that in itself could be an interesting direction to take for this topic. – Kheya 3 years ago
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      4

      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?

      • This is a super interesting idea. I'd also be interested in how we prognosticate mentally ill creators and whether we should attribute that to how they write, particularly with horror, which is fraught with messy portrayals of mentally ill people. I think about this especially about EAP and HPL. I don't know what Kiernan's mental health issues are, but she tends to be able to represent mentally ill characters very well. But because EAP and HPL were never formally diagnosed, it can be hard to attribute that label and therefore the extent to which it influenced their work. HPL's severe neurosis and illnesses could be attributed to his mother convincing him he was sick (psychosomatic) and emotionally abusing him, anxiety, some have suggested he was autistic, some combo, etc. His anxieties do seem to come through on the page, but I'd also suggest his philosophical thoughts on mechanical materialism also influence the bleakness of his work. – Emily Deibler 4 years ago
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      • I think this needs perhaps a psychologists perspective. Not all mentally troubled people focus on darker work. There are notable exceptions such as Robin Williams, Owen Wilson and Stephen Fry for instance that have excelled in comedic endeavours. It would be interesting to look at what makes certain individuals create the façade of happiness and what allows other to really embrace their troubles. – AshleyStevens 4 years ago
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      • The conflation of Poe with his work is extremely problematic. Poe is not his narrators. Nor was he clinically mentally ill. There is no clear record of that. Poe had a difficult life and his reputation was damaged by the jealous editor Rufus Griswold, who was not even one fragment the writer or critic that Poe was. – rockandrollbob 4 years ago
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      • It also seems a bit problematic to not only lump every single artist or creative that has any form of mental illness under one umbrella but your thesis that they are only capable of creating works of art that is disturbing is somewhat offensive. To say that someone suffering from mental illness can only create art that is worrying seems diminutive to an entire section of society. Vincent van Gogh was clearly disturbed and yet created beautiful painting such as The Starry Night or Almond Blossoms. You need to rework this whole idea or at least remove "always" from the title. I'm sure this is coming from a place of genuine intrigue but please be considerate of the community in which this represents. – FarPlanet 4 years ago
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      • This is a challenging topic to discuss, but that's what makes it so very intriguing. As FarPlanet stated, it can be problematic with generalization if not written/discussed carefully. With that being said, I'd like to offer up my own thoughts on the matter. As someone who struggles with mental illnesses and is studying to be a psychologist, I think the writing CAN be more disturbing, but it is nowhere near always. From where I stand, a handful of mentally ill artists/writers write with a specific emotional depth that many people don't feel for themselves. Sometimes, the depths can be scary... Take psychological thrillers, for example. The mind is a scary place, and the ways in which it can be manipulated are far more terrifying. I would love to write extensively about this topic. I like that it can be approached by the audience, artists/writers themselves in addition to psychologists. It might be a good idea to first isolate the root question here before naming well-known artists/writers in order to keep the discussion open and relevant so as not to rub anyone the wrong way. – Abie Dee 3 years ago
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      Latest Comments

      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.

      The Unsung Hero of the British Office

      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.

      The Unsung Hero of the British Office

      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.

      The Unsung Hero of the British Office

      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.

      Spirited Away as Social Criticism

      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.

      Marvel's Shang-Chi Fights Against Anti-Asian Hate in North America

      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.

      Is Mental Illness an Over-Explored topic in Indie Games?

      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.

      Social Commentary in The Office

      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.

      Social Commentary in The Office