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    Latest Articles

    Latest Topics


    The Legacy of William F. Buckley's Firing Line

    Conservative American pundit and public intellectual William F. Buckley Jr. was host of the television series Firing Line from 1966 until 1999, making it the longest running talk show in history to have a single host. The format was simple: Buckley had on one or several guests who were qualified to have something to say on a given topic. He and they would discuss and often debate that topic. As Buckley put it, "the show is based on the proposition that an interesting person can be interesting for sixty minutes consecutively." The show was noted for its formal, respectful tone as well as its generally high intellectual calibre.

    Despite the success of the show, Buckley is perhaps best remembered for his extended television confrontation with liberal intellectual Gore Vidal, not on Firing Line, in which both men dispensed with intellectual discourse and viciously insulted each other.

    Buckley is often credited as an important public intellectual of his time, and also for his more unwitting contribution to the kind of incendiary insult punditry we often see in contemporary talk TV, both right (Fox News etc) and left (Bill Maher etc).

    Examine the legacy of Buckley the debater, and how he changed the way politics is discussed on television.

    • Watch Buckley debate Mark Halpern, who authored a book on the Kennedy assassination, and you'll see two of the most condescending non-royals in history. Here's an excerpt from a very famous debate, which I think the latter speaker won. – Tigey 8 years ago
    • I loved the debate between Buckley and Hitchens, where they discussed the 'woman's movement' and the Ayatollah. It showcased how a conservative can engage a liberal in a fruitful way. – Bilal 8 years ago
    • This is a great topic. Especially in this year, I find myself longing for the civility of Firing Line. There has been such an increase of hostility in politics recently -- on both sides -- that I feel if conservatives and liberals could just hear each other out without getting their proverbial hackles up, then that would go a long way toward restoring the respectful ideological atmosphere Buckley tried to foster. – John Wilson 8 years ago
    • I took this topic to write on and, what I notice, is some statement saying how long ago (usually measured in hours) since I clicked the little rectangle saying I would do this. I do not anticipate this being a quick essay, in fact, as is the case with the essay I have pending (4,200 words) and the one I'm just polishing up and reviewing several times (4,500 words) before submitting, I expect this one to be around the same length. I like the topic. I think it's a good way to address concern about political dialogue today, but it takes time to make it a thoughtful piece--something, I hope, readers can enjoy and add to their ways of thinking and talking about politics. I'm figuring that if I can write some 6-9 good essays a year for The Artifice (all more than 4,000 words in length) then that will be a good year. – Joseph Cernik 6 years ago

    The Personae of Tim Heidecker

    Comedian Tim Heidecker first became famous for his oddball sketch comedy television series Tim and Eric Awesome Show, Great Job! Since the show’s run ended in 2010, he has pursued a number of creative projects in a range of media, including stand-up comedy, two rock albums with the duo Heidecker and Wood, and the web/television series On Cinema and Decker, as well as several podcast appearances and a sustained social media presence.

    In many of these projects, Tim plays a version of himself as the consummate Hollywood boor: ill-tempered, egotistical, pretentious, vulgar, and desperately out of touch.

    What does this character represent, and why does he have such appeal? Is he in fact one consistent character? How does the Heidecker persona change from one context to the next? What factors remain consistent, and how has the persona evolved over time?

    Consider, also, the historical precedents for such a figure, such as Andy Kauffman’s toying with the media and Stephen Colbert’s persona on The Colbert Report, even characters like Barry Humphries’ Dame Edna.

    • "Ill-tempered..." Sounds like Don Rickles' racist jokes about Obama. I'd love to see Jiminy Glick interview this fluid character. – Tigey 8 years ago

    Stereotypes in Sausage Party

    Sausage Party, an R-rated animated feature, has provoked controversy since its release earlier this month. Many critics say that the film makes distasteful use of ethnic, religious and sexual stereotypes, perpetuating offensive associations that have long plagued Hollywood and western culture generally. However, as some of defenders of the film have pointed out, the characters in Sausage Party are not human beings, but rather products made by humans, and so represent and enact the assumptions embedded in the society that produced them. Such being the case, the defenders go on, the world in which the film takes place offers a space to explore the relation between these stereotypes and the culture from which they emerge.

    Is Sausage Party an offensive film? Is its play with stereotype clever, or just lazy? Is it totally out of line, or does it constitute a legitimate satire of Hollywood’s tendency to depend on stereotype?

    • Sorry Tigey, I tried to edit the post, but it doesn't seem to have stuck. After "clever, or just lazy" I meant to add: That is to say, are the filmmakers in control of the social implications of their use of stereotype, and if so, to what end do they evoke them? – TKing 8 years ago
    • If you send a message to misagh, he help you. – Tigey 8 years ago

    In Defence of Ang Lee's Hulk

    Often, I find myself speaking up for Ang Lee’s Hulk, a film that is widely disregarded as slow, pretentious and generally misguided in its execution. Inevitably, the matter of the Gamma-ridden poodles will be brought up. However, I hold up Hulk as an artifact of the early days of the present super movie craze when each film was a distinct treatment of its source material, and each time the artistic voice of the director brought something new. This is before the monetary and perceived artistic success of one or two comic book movies, needless to name here, came in and flattened everything out. Is anybody with me?

    • I cannot, in good conscience, say that I enjoyed Hulk. However, I believe you have isolated an interesting difference between pre- and post-MCU superhero films. Should make for an interesting article. – ProtoCanon 8 years ago
    • I liked this version of Lee's Hulk. The cast was stellar but in this case I think it was a case of too many writers spoiled the broth. I think this Hulk story is also a reflection of the stage of where comics to film adaptations reflected a certain lack. Not necessarily because of the movie or content but back then superhero movies weren't as popular. With the release of Spiderman after 9/11 maybe we all feel the need for superheroes to feel safer. I would frame the article with the context of the times and why this Hulk version was underappreciated while acknowledging the story was a bit convoluted. – Munjeera 8 years ago
    • I will always be quite lenient towards this film, as it introduced me to the character that has become my most favorite superhero out there. However, I will admit that as a Hulk film, its purpose could have been served better. But putting aside the character's fan perspective and taking on a more objective approach, I have come to appreciate this more as a comic book-inspired monster movie, almost like a recall to Universal's glory days in the genre up until the early 2000s or so. 15 years later, and it's quite saddening that not many people have come to appreciate the film as it deserves to be. – Veerji12 7 years ago

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    Latest Comments

    Thanks very much for your kind words. Glad you enjoyed the article. I agree with what you say about these kinds of movies: well-intentioned, but ultimately a real disservice – and, as my “one star review” indicates, not very good movies either.

    Philadelphia and AIDS: Looking Past the Pedantry

    Thanks very much for your kind words, and for contributing your informed perspective to the conversation. I’m glad to hear that, from the point of view of someone who has regular contact with the issue of HIV, I did alright with this article.

    Philadelphia and AIDS: Looking Past the Pedantry

    Just so happens that I came upon this article while I’m in the middle of Camille Paglia’s book Sexual Personae. In it, she attempts to catalogue the ways in which pagan ways of seeing and archetypes of polytheistic gods, rather than being stamped out by Judeo-Christianity, have lived on beneath the surface of Western high and popular art, including in Hollywood films. One of the words she keeps coming back to is “chthonian,” meaning “of or relating to the deities, spirits, and other beings dwelling under the earth.” I understand the word comes up in the Cthulu mythos, and is evidently echoed in the name of that creature.

    Lovecraft: Why His Ideas Survive

    I don’t know why someone would become concerned that they were “using anti-Semitism to sell comics,” because I don’t know why anyone would entertain the possibility that they were actually turning Captain America into a Nazi agent.

    What Does a Hydra Captain America Really Mean?

    Enjoyed the article. I have some resistance to what I read as your wholesale rejection of “perfection” in these stories. In a way, that’s what defines a fairy tale: perfect good meets perfect evil, and we learn to be more perfect in the process. It’s the clarity of these forms that allows the story to pass so smoothly into the unconscious of the individual and the culture. Of course, in the merciless old German versions, things came out differently: perfect good was a little too perfect, too innocent, and often met her grueseome demise. These horrific outcomes, today, are unthinkable for children’s stories, which creates a curious upset in the didacic messaging: perfection goes unpunished, and is therefore held up unproblematically as the desired ideal.

    Then again, you make good on your promise to reject perfection by rejecting the tales themselves with your final sentence. Good stuff.

    Fairytales and Feminism: "I Don't Wanna be Like Cinderella"

    Thanks for this. I learned a lot there. I’m not autistic myself, but I’ve had some limited contact with autistic persons. I’m also not a fanfiction person, and confess that I’m not immune to a certain amount of snobbery toward the genre. But what you have here is a really thoughtful, well researched piece that really illuminates the intellectual accomplishments of which fanfic is capable.

    Sherlock, Autism, and the Cultural Politics of Representation

    Interesting article, cool movie. Another great manifestation of the frontier story and the American picaresque.

    Easy Rider: An Artful American Souvenir

    I think you fall into a somewhat simplistic understanding of late Medieval gender roles, particularly in Chaucer. You say, “Women at the time are degraded and are made out to be only good for reproduction.” While women faced a pretty narrow range of social expectations, it’s not quite fair to imply that no other concept existed in the Medieval consciousness. Just look at the Wife of Bath. You also argue that women were expected to “listen to their husbands and pretty much allow them to do what they want without complaining.” The is the very idea rendered absurd by the Clerk in his narration, in which Griselda defies her husband precisely by doing everything he says. I mean to say that these things are pretty nuanced. Also, I think you could stand to distinguish between the characters’ expectations for women and those imposed by the fabliau genre. Don’t forget, the wives of John and January ARE hypersexual and instantly disloyal. Chaucer, for his part, is totally aware of the unfairness of these norms, and draws constant attention to them.

    Cuckoldry in Paradise