Playwright, director, essayist. Currently working toward a PhD in Drama, Theatre, and Performance Studies at the University of Toronto.
How "Wakanda" Became a Slur
Those who watched Obama’s Nelson Mandela Lecture (17/07/18) on YouTube may have noticed the added dimension of an adjacent comment section scrolling in real-time alongside the event — the medium being the message, and all that rot. One thing that I could not help noticing among the barrage of nonsense assaulting my peripheral vision was the frequency of comments saying something to the effect of "Wakanada forever," "Is this Wakanda?," or even just the single word, "WAKANDA." Evidently, the mere presence of an African setting is enough to be immediately equated with Black Panther’s residual impact on the popular imagination’s impression of the entire continent.
Though it may be difficult to discern whether this is the result of true malice or simple ignorance, there is certainly something to be said about the co-opting of the fictional nation to become a vehicle for such regressive discourse. Given that Black Panther has been unilaterally received as a moment of progress for African American filmmaking and Black culture in general, attention must also be given the unfortunate consequences of its omnipresence, particularly as it has been received by white (and especially conservative) audiences throughout the West.
This article should examine the subtle process by which the film’s iconography has acquired these less-than-favourable connotations, and what that may mean for its continued existence in this highly fractured media landscape. Does this fallout in any way negate the film’s thematic emphases on the legacy of colonialism and globalization vs. isolationism? In a real-world political climate wherein an American president refers to Africa as being comprised of "shit-hole countries," does the mass exposure received by a fictional Afro-Futurist utopia serve as a genuine antidote to these misconceptions? Where is the line between empowerment and sophistry? What impact might this cross-pollination between popular culture and current politics have on the advancement of the latter, as Obama’s lecture was undeniably meant to represent?
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The Linguistics of "Wumbology"
Famously coined by Patrick Star (and, by extension, teleplay authors Jay Lender, Sam Henderson, and Merriwether Williams) in S03E05a of Spongebob SquarePants, the term "wumbo" has since become a fixture of the pop culture lexicon and fuel for countless internet memes. It is implicitly defined through its usage as being an adjective (as the opposite of "mini"), but subsequent explanation in the episode assigns it the qualities of a verb ("I wumbo. You wumbo. He/she/me wumbo."), and culminating in the academic discipline of "wumbology" (the study of wumbo, which is supposedly introduced in first grade curricula) thus indicating a noun form in order for it to be studied. Though obviously conceived as a simple joke — aimed at highlighting Patrick’s well-documented stupidity — there is a lot to unpack with regards to this seemingly nonsensical neologism.
Conduct a linguistic analysis of "wumbo" and its variant forms, using only the self-contained snippets of dialogue within the episode as a guide. Does it defy our preconceived understandings of linguistic morphology, or can a series of grammatical rules be devised to account for its inherently contradictory nature? If society were committed to accepting the term’s validity, what would be the parameters of usage under which it would enter our active vocabulary?
[Note: For the best quality article, it is highly recommended that this topic be taken up by someone with a background in, or at least a sufficiently deep knowledge of, linguistics.]
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The School of Life's Philosophical War on Trump
Shortly after the 2016 presidential election, the London-based School of Life’s prolific YouTube channel (founded by popular philosopher, Alain de Botton, in 2008) released a video titled "Why Socrates Hated Democracy," outlining how the founder of Western philosophy opposed the idea of putting too much political power in the hands of the unqualified masses. On inauguration day, they released "Why Hegel knew there would be days like these," reminding their viewership of the dialectical nature of history, thereby assuring that this current dark chapter is not the beginning of the apocalypse, but rather a necessary antithesis on the way to a balanced synthesis. A week later came "Thoreau and Civil Disobedience," recounting the all-too-familiar horrors of the Polk administration to highlight the democratic necessity of resistance to morally dubious political policy.
Discuss how this unofficial trilogy of videos (as well as any relevant inclusions that may follow, presumably over the next four years) resists the current state of American demagoguery. How do they contribute to the over-saturated pool of political discourse? Are they effective at breaking through the noise and conveying their messages? How has the [not-so-]subtle refraining from using Trump’s name and face (aside from the occasional comic interlude video, such as "What America is Getting for Christmas," which is not treated with the same degree of seriousness as the others) aided in the potency of their rhetoric? In the climate of anti-intellectualism that many commentators have noted as being central to alt-right ideology, does the invocation of history’s greatest thinkers do anything more than preaching to the choir, without making any significant impact in those in need of conversion? Can their presence on YouTube allow them more potential for change than what is available in old media? Does The School’s firm lack of political neutrality in these videos impact the way we view the rest of their catalogue, most of which being entirely apolitical in nature?
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The Little World of Liz Climo: The Aesthetics of Adorableness
Discuss the career and works of Simpsons-animator, children’s author, and web-comic artist, Liz Climo ((link) . What factors may have led to her success? What is it about her simple, one to two panel comics that makes them so cute and heartwarming? Are there aesthetic standards within the often-neglected form of one/few-panel comics by which her work may be critically evaluated? Where is her place within the long tradition of this form, among artists such as Hank Ketcham, Bil Keane, Gary Larson, Dan Piraro, and countless others? In what ways has her online presence contributed to her work and distribution, as well as the contemporary cultural understanding that comics in the 21st century can exist in spaces beyond the "funny papers"?
literatureWrite this topic
Dothraki Tribalism and the Ubermensch
"It is the right of the strong to take from the weak." (Martin, 758)
The sociopolitical structure of the Dothraki people is governed by the strong, with tribal communities gravitating around warriors who have proven their greatness in battle. This is seen most evidently when Khal Drogo’s khalasar is disbanded as soon as his strength begins to falter, prompting several of his strongest subordinates to name themselves new Khals to form new khalasars with whoever will follow. This ideology is the reason why none of the Dothraki had any respect for Viserys, who had no true strength of his own, but felt entitled to the Iron Throne by being a descendant of the old dynasty. Though the Targaryen reign was ushered in by the brute strength of Aegon the Conqueror and his dragons (a method of asserting one’s right to rule much in line with this Dothraki system), the establishment of a monarchy after the victory changed the game (of thrones).
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Polyvocality in Literature
Trace the history and development of polyvocality (a work having multiple narrators, or following varied narrative voices and perspectives from different characters) as a literary form. From its humble beginnings in the canonisation of the Gospels – combining four distinct accounts of Jesus’ ministry and death by separate authors into one collected volume of scriptural authority – to the epistolary style of Samuel Richardson and Bram Stoker, all the way to Modern novels by William Faulkner, Lawrence Durrell, and George RR Martin. How have methods of polyvocal narration developed over time? What social and aesthetic factors may have given it more prominence at certain historical periods? How have these authors’ choices to present their stories from multiple perspectives been reactionary to the long tradition of single narrators, whether omniscient 3rd person or limited 1st person? How is this reflected in contemporary literary styles and trends?
Homoerotic Subtext and the Ben-Hur Remake
Regardless of one’s personal opinions of film remakes, there’s something rather culturally significant about making a new Ben-Hur in 2016. Since the release of the 1995 documentary, The Celluloid Closet, it has become well-known that Gore Vidal went into writing the screenplay for the 1959 film with the idea that Ben-Hur and Messala were former lovers ((link) which drove much of the subtextual conflict of the story. Though the audience of the day, via their substantially heteronormative attitudes and expectations, was predominantly unable to detect this secret inclusion, today it is viewed as a successful attempt at LGBT representation in the early days of film history.
Fast forward 57 years, to a time when society has progressed enough that homosexuality is no longer the social taboo that it once was and is not at all prohibited from cinematic representation. To remake a film like Ben-Hur at this time presents a world of possibilities, namely that the filmmakers are now able to present the homoerotic tension between these characters more explicitly and overtly than was allowed in 1959. However, based on the two trailers [the film has not yet been released at the time of my writing this], there appears to have been a conscious creative choice to make Ben-Hur and Messala adoptive brothers in this new rendering of the story. One might be inclined to speculate that this decision was made to exorcise the spirit of the story’s homoerotic past, thereby using "brotherly love" in lieu of "ambiguously gay duo" to unburden their hard-core action movie with something that they believe to have "non-masculine" qualities.
Discuss the differences between the two films in this respect. How does it reflect views toward LGBT characters in the film industry, particularly in the action genre? What might it say about the shifting standards for what can be deemed as acceptable and unacceptable film content? Clearly something is a little socially retrograde if a movie in 1959 is able to do a better job of including gay characters than its 2016 counterpart. Might the remake’s heightened religious emphasis have something to do with this? What other examples of recent films might exemplify this phenomenon? Furthermore, what value is there to remake certain films if not to better express aspects that can receive new meaning in our contemporary context?
Jerry Seinfeld's Crusade Against PC Culture
For the past while, Jerry Seinfeld has become quite vocal about his disdain for political correctness in comedy. Independent of one’s personal stance on this highly-contested issue, their is something strange about Seinfeld making himself a spokesman for this somewhat adversarial position, considering how tame his comedy has historically been in that respect. Discuss the nature of Seinfeld’s seemingly unlikely position, what factors may have led him to it, and what influence he has had in the debate.
Any comment on the reveal in The Last Jedi?
Nice to see this published; it really came along.
This might just be one of the best articles I’ve read on this site to date. Thorough knowledge of the subject matter, demonstrative of strong critical thinking, and great skill in writing and rhetoric. A worthy analysis of a fantastic show. You’ve made me want to go re-watch it right now (not that I really needed the excuse). Well done.
I don’t ordinarily comment on these articles with such editorial vigor, but — given the ironic nature of this particular article — it felt morally wrong for me to let it pass by unscrutinized:
– “The new Yorker”: Capitalize the “N”
– “Lately, a common practice that has been largely prevalent among all of these platforms are errors.”: Errors are not a “common practice” (I think you meant to say “common occurrence”). “Practice” implies intentionality.
– “Hence, the question have arisen which asks, ‘where did all the editors go?’”: Replace “have” with “has” since the question is not plural. Also, you don’t really need the “which asks.” It just makes the sentence read more awkwardly than necessary.
– “Newspaper or magazine organizations are cutting down costs to let of the editorial staff.”: Did you meant “to let [go] of”? That’s the only guess I have which could make this sentence make any sense.
– “Therefore, this further makes missing of errors or committing the same errors a natural phenomenon.”: Misuse of the term “natural phenomenon.” Monarch butterfly migration is a natural phenomenon; moss growing on trees and rocks is a natural phenomenon. What you’re describing can better be referred to as a “regular occurrence.”
– The first paragraph after your bolded subheading begins with two nonsensical statements.
– Where is the evidence (in form of citations and/or statistics) to support your claims? I’m not saying that you’re necessarily wrong, but I’m also not going to take your word for it when there’s no indication that you’ve done any research on the subject on which you’re now presenting yourself to be an authority.
– “Most of the editors of the current generation belong to that generation of the journalists who are raised in the media that has emerged in the 90s.”: Cut out the “the” before “journalists”; replace “who are” with “who were”; cut the “has” before “emerged”; put either an apostrophe or “19” before “90s.”
– “80 percent of editors”: Citation please. 1) That statistic feels unlikely, and 2) even if it didn’t, you word is not enough.
– “This lacks professional training”: WHAT exactly “lacks professional training”? Your seemingly made up statistic about 80% of journalists working with 1990s media and technology? What does one thing have to do with the other?
– “The greater amount of popularity that has been received by audio-visual mediums are reasons that online mediums are facing a shrink in the revenue.”: Couple things: 1) “Popularity” in an intangible abstract concept, making it difficult to quantify in terms of “amount.” Use real statistical measures. 2) Are “online mediums” NOT forms of “audio-visual” media? And, if not, what exactly are you suggesting? That the internet is losing out to TV news? I don’t need to see a study to know that’s probably wrong. 3) Perhaps the confusion is a result of the awkward phrasing — i.e. something that an editor would notice and fix.
– “This could be one of the factors”: So much of your argument is predicated on cutbacks leading to laid off editors leading to improperly edited content (which you repeat more times than necessary to convey such a simple point btw). That being the case, is it that “this COULD be one of the factors”? I don’t blame you for not wanting to make authoritative claims — especially considering what little, if any, research you’ve done — but then why even bother trying to diagnose the problem if your not going to commit to your conclusions. This is an opinion piece at best, and a rather weak one at that.
– “The traditional quote of Marshall McLuhan, ‘the medium is the message’ is certainly becoming true.”: Do YOU understand the point that you’re trying to make here? Because I certainly don’t (and I’ve read McLuhan). Your just parroting the point that Munjeera made in the Helpful Notes of the original topic — you seem to have done a lot of copy and pasting from there when composing this article — but your lack of context and understanding has made her point lose all its meaning.
– “One of the major reasons that can be cited as a problem is the modern times.”: By this logic, we could solve the problem by reverting back to the year 1856. The “times” aren’t the problem; it’s the attitudes which characterize the times.
– “What matters today is the speed of news that the quality.”: I’m assuming the “that” was supposed to be “than,” but even then we’re still a couple words away from a coherent sentence. Needs the addition of a “rather than” or “more so than.”
– You use “hence” too much. Maybe invest in a thesaurus.
– “after the writing is done, the editing is hardly given any importance to.”: Never end a sentence with a preposition! This is exactly the kind of grammatical error that your article is lamenting.
– “This factor though does not matter to all but have greatly affected some.”: If your reader fails to make the leap that “all” and “some” are referring to “readers” (I had to read it six or seven times to get what you were trying to say), the entire sentence makes no sense.
– “highly affected”: This feels like an over-dramatic choice of words for what you’re describing.
– Your unfounded claims are beginning to contradict one another. Is the huge decline in “traditional news coverage” or is it in “online mediums”? Unless your point is that news media in general is vanishing, it really can’t be both. Is your argument that people are leaving online sources because they’re fed up with typographical errors, or is it that they’re leaving old media because the frequency of content in new media is more important to them than errors?
– “Thus, it can be said that it is definitely not at all worthy to try so hard.”: What? Wouldn’t the decline in readership make it MORE “worthy to try so hard” to reclaim their diminishing readership?
– “The decline of the quality of writing is a true fact as more than half of the readers complain about the errors online.”: 1) Once again, without a citation for this statistic, I have no choice but to assume you made it up. 2) If this is true, then how can you say that this is caused by readers’ indifference to errors so long as the frequency of content remains high? Wasn’t that the point you were trying to make? 3) Using comment section complaints as evidence that this “is a true fact” does not constitute a valid source (even if it was properly cited). If more than half of people commenting on a BuzzFeed article about Hilary Clinton complain that a woman shouldn’t be allowed to be president, that doesn’t make their ridiculous consensus true.
– “Proofreading is no more done with dedication, resulting in the wide array of errors and mistakes.”: Should be “no longer.” Also, I couldn’t agree more.
On a more general note, you have to understand that “quality of writing” and “quality of proofreading” are not synonymous. Something can be well written but full of typographical errors, or poorly written with no mistakes at all. I’d like to think that most intelligent readers don’t let a few spelling and syntax errors scare them away from reading what can otherwise be considered quality content.
I hope I have not come across as being too harsh. I am aware that the Artifice is not an actual journalistic resource that necessitates the same level of editorial diligence that you’re calling for; however, if you’re going to make such bold claims, it’s important to lead by example (lest come across as a hypocrite). On that note, if you notice any errors in my rather lengthy comment, I encourage you to call me out on them. Though I don’t hold a comment section to the same standards as the content above it, the only way that we can improve the current state of editing is to begin taking it more seriously. Or, if nothing else, let the amount of untended errors in this article be a humbling experience, and treat others’ content with the same critical generosity that you’d like them to grant yours.
A very fitting obituary. My only complaint is that the Artifice’s peer-review process couldn’t allow this to be published sooner (i.e. closer to the time it was written, and Wiesel’s passing), but it continues to resonate months later. Well done.
The Matrix was from 1999, and therefore missed the cut for the scope of this article.
A truly erudite analysis. Well researched, well written, and discusses a very fascinating subject. Well done.
Solid analysis from a truly social scientific perspective. Not going to lie, I had been wanting to read this article for a while, but insisted on waiting until I was caught up with the series to avoid any possible spoilers (not yet realising that this was written before season six aired). I’ll admit, seeing your title for all those months made me expect more of a dramatic conflict between Rick and Deanna, but I really appreciated how the show explored their subdued understanding of one another, which you described and explained well.