aprosaicpintofpisces

Contributing writer for The Artifice.

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    Latest Articles

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    4

    True History of the Kelly Gang: Motherhood and Masculinity

    In the film True History of the Kelly Gang, a fictional take on the outlaw Ned Kelly’s life, relations between Britain and members of the Commonwealth (in this case, Australia and Ireland in the 1870s) play a central role. Themes of displacement begin with Ned’s Irish-born parents’ (especially his mother’s) sense of alienation in Australia and distaste for anything that reeks of British influence. This feeling continues with Ned’s propulsion into the role of “man of the house” when his father dies and then when his mother secretly attempts to sell him into servitude for some quick money. Derision of authority figures partially stems from forced separation from or abandonment by one’s home (whether it is one’s country or familial circle).

    In connection with relations between nations of different power dynamics, gender plays an important role here as well. Despite the reluctance to perform an expected role, there is a strong male desire to be powerful enough to defend female honor from outsiders (i.e. the sexual exploitation of Ned’s mother and sister) that culminates in the Kelly Gang’s string of police-related murders. Ned is encouraged to “Die a Kelly” and give up his own life for his mother, even if it is at the expense of his unborn child and its mother. Ned’s entry into gang life begins as a “Son of Sieve,” an Irish rebel who dons overtly feminine dresses into battle to appear crazy and, therefore, more frightening. By the end of the film, in contrast, Ned Kelly is finally captured after wearing heavy, uber-masculine “bulletproof” armor in a gunfight that results in the bloody massacre of his men.

    What connections are made in the film between male and female dynamics and Britain’s relationship to members of the Commonwealth? How does simultaneous suicidal devotion to a reigning power and an internal aversion to fighting someone else’s battle with the promise of little to no personal benefit play out? What does the film have to say about these opposing tensions and their consequences within this fictionalized depiction of Ned Kelly?

      4

      Books Without Blessings: The Watch and Discworld

      The recent BBC America production, The Watch, has received polarized reactions. It is inspired by characters from Sir Terry Pratchett’s Discworld book series, though it does not claim to be a direct adaptation. If one alienates the people who are already self-proclaimed fans of a certain work, where can one go from there? How important is the original author’s or family estate’s approval of an adaptation for a TV show or movie to be considered successful? Sometimes deviations allow for greater artistic license, but it can come at the cost of bearing little resemblance to the original source material and turning off the already-established fanbase. Alternatively, when sticking closely to the source material, it can attract a large number of people who are already invested in the characters and storylines but may also lead to sanitization and excessive caution in an effort to preserve the work’s and the author’s existent legacy. There are also legal issues to be considered here. Sometimes the difference can be a result of ownership (or lack thereof) of the author’s estate/works. One could examine The Watch’s resemblance and departure from the Discworld series and/or other similar ventures and their outcomes.

        5

        Exploring the Nom de Plume

        What causes someone to choose a "nom de plume" ("pen name")? While living in the Internet age, most people are completely comfortable with the idea of identifying themselves online with names other than those they were born with (i.e. usernames). When it comes to writers, the Brontë sisters all used male pseudonyms in order for their work to be taken more seriously. J.K. Rowling was encouraged to hide her sex when the Harry Potter series was initially published because it was feared young boys would not read her work otherwise. Later, J.K. Rowling herself disguised her world-famous name with the pseudonym "Robert Galbraith" when she departed from Harry Potter-related works. However, it is not only women who take up a "pen name." Lewis Caroll, Mark Twain, and George Orwell are just some examples of this. Much like a "stage name" can serve to reinvent oneself into a more exciting character than one’s birth name would initially suggest, what are the myriad reasons for which authors choose nom de plumes? What do they seek to change or perhaps maintain? Have the reasons for pen names changed over time? If so, how?

        • Hi, I'm not trying to steal your thunder, but I made a very similar topic suggestion a while back: https://the-artifice.com/whats-in-a-non-de-plume/ Might be worth combining both topic suggestions, as we essentially ask the same questions. – Amyus 7 months ago
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        4

        Morality and Disclaimers

        This is a topic that could apply to either movies or television. Disclaimers range in purpose. Sometimes they exist in order to lessen chances of physical discomfort in the audience (and thus potential lawsuits), as with seizure warnings for flashing lights (i.e. a scene in Incredibles 2) or motion sickness warnings with 3D or IMAX films. Mel Gibson’s The Passion of the Christ was flagged for its graphic depiction of Jesus’s crucifixion. However, disclaimers have extended their reach beyond the physical realm into the psychological.

        For instance, the ratings system that differentiates between what is appropriate for certain age groups can sometimes be misleading. Often in preface to cast and crew interviews, there is a text that states “the views and opinions expressed are those of the individual and do not represent those of [insert company name here].” When the Netflix series 13 Reasons Why first premiered, there was controversy it would romanticize and therefore increase the likelihood of suicide in tweens and teens. When Joker was released, there was a fear that burgeoning mass shooters would be emboldened by the film’s protagonist into taking the law into their own hands. Stanley Kubrick’s film adaptation of A Clockwork Orange was banned because of its depictions of hedonistic violence.

        Just recently, the classic Gone with the Wind was briefly removed from HBO Max and then reinstated with disclaimers for fear of its depictions of the antebellum South. Disclaimers step in as “gatekeepers” of sorts, where films or T.V. shows must pass a certain purity “litmus test” to gauge not only their potential offensiveness to audiences but their ability to corrupt their audience’s minds. In what ways does this “moral panic” manifest itself in the form of media disclaimers? The threat of exploring or even simply acknowledging so-called “dangerous ideas” is oft-treaded territory, such as with George Orwell’s notions of ”groupthink.” How does the struggle to protect an unsuspecting audience devolve into a form of thought control? In what ways have such disclaimers proved beneficial?

        • So would some of these cases (like 13 Reasons Why) deal directly with the idea of having trigger warnings? Also, I feel that the controversy surrounding Joker was completely overblown. Much of the controversy/discourse occurred before the film had even been released, where many were reacting to trailers, rumors, and pre-release descriptions. Once the film was released, I think the reality of what the film was about/what content was in the film, it was vastly less controversial than what many reported it to be. – Sean Gadus 9 months ago
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        • That's such a great point, Sean! Thank you. Yes, I think people often jump to hasty conclusions when it comes to trailers or pre-release speculations, which can be quite misleading by nature. Trailers and press rumors are designed to build hype in advertising, alert audiences to genre specifics, and entice audiences with just enough information to get them interested. The final film released in its entirety can often be a bit different from how its originally portrayed. – aprosaicpintofpisces 9 months ago
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        • Oooooh, juicy topic indeed! There's a lot you could get into here. Just the question of what's offensive and what isn't, and the dangers of groupthink, could net you a whole article alone. But there are so many other factors. For instance, you could talk about disclaimers meant to protect people with epilepsy and similar conditions, vs. ableism and people who claim the disclaimers ruin the 3-D experience (jerks). You could discuss the fact that Christians will willingly watch Christ brutally flogged, or watch a war movie because "that's how it was," but still frown on violence in other genre films (oh, what I could say...) – Stephanie M. 9 months ago
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        • I agree, Stephanie. The whole notion of "trigger warnings" and what is considered offensive is quite prevalent now. Even more recently, HBO Max has flagged Mel Brooks's Blazing Saddles just as it did with Gone with the Wind, despite the fact that Blazing Saddles is considered an overtly satirical comedy. – aprosaicpintofpisces 9 months ago
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        • Good topic. – Diani 8 months ago
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        7
        Published

        The Cinematic Space Odyssey

        Movies such as Gravity, Arrival, or the upcoming Passengers and Life films showcase the persistent human curiosity about outer space and who else (if anyone at all) is out there. We’re no longer in the era of little green men coming to invade the Earth in their silver flying saucers to abduct us or otherwise probe our brains. Cinematically speaking, how has the human vision of extraterrestrial life and exploration changed over the years? How have certain historical landmarks in the space program transformed what moviegoers want and expect to see in outer space-themed films? Has the recent media coverage about a possible mission to Mars in the not-too-distant future shifted the cinematic focus away from an interest in aliens to issues of human evolution/multi-planetary colonization? Is there something else at work here?

        • An interesting topic, for sure. Although I don't have the a very eclectic understanding of science fiction in cinema, I wonder if there has been a shift from the foreign/invading extraterrestrial to a interior extraterrestrial. That is to say, I have always perceived a shift from the flying saucer alien to the kind of alien that takes the form of human; an alien that changes our perception of the human body as human. Movies like Alien (where the alien is born from/comes from the human body) and Invasion of the Body snatchers. One might also consider Men in Black and Under the Skin. What we consider to be alien has, in some instances, become remarkably more human, and I think this would be a fascinating angle to take for this topic. – Dethlefs 4 years ago
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        • The movies tend to change with science. The more things science figures out, and by extension, theories it creates, just add to the writer's creativity. One possible reason earlier movies were more about alien invasions is the fact that humans overestimated the planet's resources. Up until somewhat recently, people thought that we had a great thing going here. Now we see that the planet and its resources are finite, and that we are going to have to leave at some point. Which is why more blockbusters are centered more around space exploration rather than invasions from space. – MikeySheff 4 years ago
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        6

        The Challenges of Writing Second Person Point of View

        Using second person point of view isn’t exactly common when it comes to literature. It often brings to mind "Choose Your Own Adventure" stories, but not likely much else. Novels often seek to put the reader into the protagonist’s shoes so to speak, which second person point of view literally does, so what accounts for its limited use? Examine what puts this type of narrative at a disadvantage compared to the more popular first-person and third-person points of view in novels. What are some examples that make good use of second person point of view and how they successfully navigate its pitfalls and/or subvert its expectations?

        • The first example that comes to mind is Tolstoy's "Sevastopol in December," but you're correct to note its rarity. Epistolary novels can also, to a certain extent, be seen as utilizing second-person narration, since authors of letters are directly addressing an implied reader with a unique identity; this, however, becomes complicated by the commingling of the first-person "I" of the letter-writer and the second-person "you" of the recipient, thus reducing the formal purity of a single focalizing voice. It's interesting that you should bring up interactive narratives, since another possible example in that vein are so-called "first-person" video games. These may be better interpreted as actually being second-person, since the avatar through which the player experiences the game is less of a narrator than a participant à la "Choose Your Own Adventure." The true narrator in such cases is the text which appears on screen to provide instruction to the "you" who experiences the ludonarrative. – ProtoCanon 4 years ago
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        • Here's a recent one--Jemisin's "Broken Earth" series. Of course, it's phrased as being told by someone to someone else, but that's just the frame of it. It never leaves "you," and knows everything. – IndiLeigh 4 years ago
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        • This is something I'd really love to explore. I think often times in writing or English classes we are told not to bother with second person point of view because it's so rarely used and thus, we don't get to learn about it or appreciate it like other view points. – ReidaBookman 4 years ago
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        9

        The Role of Opening Credits

        TV opening credits obviously let viewers know who the main cast is as well as give everyone involved in the process their due. The aesthetics and artwork of each individual show’s credits can also persuade the audience into participation. How do opening credits function depending on what shows one is watching? There are certain shows that begin with catchy themes, eye-catching graphics, or contain "easter egg"-like codes/foreshadowing. There are others which keep the visibility of opening credits to a minimum, perhaps to heighten the realism of the show’s fictional world. How does the nature of certain shows determine the way opening credits are presented to the audience?

        • Approved this, but I was going to say would you be able to add some examples? One that always springs to mind for me is the minimalistic credits for Hannibal – Francesca Turauskis 5 years ago
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        • How about a little bit of comparison and contrast with the opening credits from previous decades? I've notice several old programs that have opening theme songs that the lyrics were actually displayed on the screen as they were sung. – NoDakJack 4 years ago
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        • This would be such a great prompt to expand on--once I get to the point where I can publish articles I may take this on myself! So many nuances and storytelling aspects can be found in a good opening credits sequence. There's so much to talk about! Context clues and interpretation of the cinematography and any song lyrics would be good points to discuss. – RachelHart 4 years ago
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        • Just going to leave this right here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qG_P_1JnfXI – ProtoCanon 4 years ago
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        • Wonder if there's much of a difference between opening credits and opening titles, but here's a fairly enlightening video by Cinefix i hope you find useful :) https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i8twthdaqB8 – Matchbox 4 years ago
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        • Just a pet theory for filmic opening-credits, but there must be an evolution in length. Perhaps I'm pointing to the obvious, but Hollywood films produced pre-millennium seem much longer than productions after. Watching Kramer vs. Kramer, I realized it was an eon worth of attention span for the generation of viewers today. The opening for some production during earlier periods are an encased vignette telling an encapsulated story. Perhaps viewer patience have been eroded that opening credit structure is susceptible to such pressures. By the way, after watching the opening-credits for Dexter, does anyone crave ham and eggs with a splash of Tapatio? – minylee 4 years ago
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        • To expand on the comparison of opening credits now versus years ago, almost all older movies and tv shows (mid to late 20th century) feature the majority, if not all, credits at the beginning. Now, generally only the main characters are billed at the beginning, with everything else credited at the end. Perhaps you could examine what caused the switch, if anything, and how that has impacted the audience's viewing experience. – Noelle McNeill 4 years ago
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        11

        Movies to TV: What caused the shift?

        Whether it’s True Detective, Fargo, Mad Men, Boardwalk Empire, Stranger Things, etc. there has been a strong shift of interest from movies to TV. TV shows now have high production levels that mimic large-scale movies in both aesthetics and tone. TV is perhaps taken more seriously now than ever before. Does this have to do with ease of access? With services such as Netflix, viewers can binge-watch entire seasons if they want to. There is also the bankable element of episodic teasing out of narrative compared to the contained narratives of movies. Are TV shows taking more risks? Orange is the New Black and Stranger Things cast mostly unfamiliar faces yet Netflix is also responsible for reboots of familiar shows as with Fuller House and the upcoming Gilmore Girls. Even actors have shown greater interest in moving to TV, which was once seen as lesser than being a film star. Or is something else at work here? Can films make a comeback from this and how?

        • Good topic! In terms of what caused the shift it seems like part of it is economics. Tentpole movies these days are supposed to have boxoffice appeal across the world—which is one of the main reasons most of them have low-IQ CGI action sequences that seem almost endless. TV shows, in contrast, can appeal to niche audiences and go for awards, which means prestige television tends to be more character-driven and thought-provoking. Since economics is driving this, at least to some degree, my guess is that it can't be reversed. – Ben Hufbauer 4 years ago
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        • You're right! I don't know how I forgot to mention that aspect of it. Yes, movies nowadays are more keen to appeal to a global audience (especially China at the moment). That's also why big budget, CGI action movies such as those with universally recognizable superheroes became very popular. With exciting action sequences, as you mention, it also minimizes any problems in terms of language/cultural barriers. Thank you for the note! – aprosaicpintofpisces 4 years ago
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        • I think it is a mixture of things that has resulted in a decline in movie attendance and the rise in television viewers. 1. Ticket prices. People turn away from cinemas because of the cost of not only admission but concession items. Also, perhaps people do not find it as necessary as they once did to rush to the cinema to watch a new movie. 2. The accessibility to premiere television programming from HBO and others. Whether it is through streaming providers or through pirating, perhaps people enjoy the comfort of their own home when watching movies or television. 3. The most interesting analysis could be that the mini-series format that alot of television shows incorporate now is indeed a better way to tell a narrative than to squish the story into a 2 hour time limit. – Jeffrey Cook 4 years ago
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        • The above commenters pretty much covered why there's been a shift to tv shows. I just wanted to add that tv shows give directors more time to cover stories, and they can flesh out their plots too since movies have a limited time frame. – seouljustice 4 years ago
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        • I think its people's hunger for character development and relatability. We are living in difficult times and its hard to share or talk about experiences and having someone understand us. That's what TV is for. We like to feel like we can relate to characters, and we like to see their stories unfold and see them grow for better or for worse, while learning from them at the same time. It is a new form of growth for these modern times, but society hasn't fully grasped that concept. – jcastro4 4 years ago
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        • I've read that some actors prefer to work on TV series because it allows them to develop more their characters. And now that we have shows like Game of Thrones, House of Cards, etc. that are like movies, and have attached directors like David Fincher in House of Cards, and the recently announced TV series that Alejandro G. Iñarritu will be making with Emmanuel Lubezki. The line that differentiates TV from Film production has become harder to draw. With the big studios producing just sequels to superhero movies, TV has become the place to find original content and allows filmmakers to experiment with pilots before investing millions of dollars. – arturoandre 4 years ago
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        • Great observations. I have also noticed that although people are still going out to the theaters and appreciating movies, TV seems to be the go to for a casual evening at home. I think it's because now television is broaching more adult topics, like you said. In the past TV was the one place where things were censored, or created with family friendly intentions. Nowadays because of the new technique of showcasing intense and emotional moments, people find tv just as riveting as a major motion picture. Orange is the New Black is a great example of this. The subject of the show itself, a women's prison, is relatively controversial to start and the creators even took it to the next level by adding powerful character dynamics that resemble real life. Hollywood could actually learn a thing or two from the emotional resonance new television enraptures the world with. The Walking Dead is about zombies but it's easily one of the most moving shows of the last decade. At least, the first four seasons were. Movies are great because they have an entire storyline in only one to three hours. Maybe because the shows have more airtime they can explore more in depth topics. This may also affect why people have become more interested. Because the good shows have more runtime, thus the viewer can get more comfortable in their experience and enjoy having a lot of quality television to watch. Sometimes we even 'binge watch' tv for hours, even an entire day, because the quality of the show is so good. There are very few movies that have this effect; that they are worthy of wasting an entire day watching them. Lord of the Rings is binge watchable. However, the quote really usually only refers to the nonstop viewing of a tv series. If a show can capture a person's attention that long, most of these shows have adult topics, it's no wonder there's been a shift in favor towards television. Movies will always be loved though. You can't watch TV at a theater. – animerose 4 years ago
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        • Great points made. I think that its definitely a mixture of a lot of things. A good thing to find would be statistics especially from streaming services. It would give great insight into this interesting observation. – vivientopalovic 4 years ago
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        Latest Comments

        Thank you for making a piece where the choice of clothing is not simply dismissed as a superficial concern! Fashion can serve as a powerful non-verbal communicator one’s thoughts, feelings, values, etc. I personally care a lot about expressing myself through particular fashion choices, so it can be a good indicator and/or influencer of my overall mood/well-being.

        Costumes On Screen: How Clothing Has Enhanced Visual Storytelling

        One of my favorite lines from the book is: “They were careless people, Tom and Daisy- they smashed up things and creatures and then retreated back into their money or their vast carelessness or whatever it was that kept them together, and let other people clean up the mess they had made.” I think it’s such a good line! And it perfectly sums up how unlikeable and superficial these characters and those like them could be. Contrary to what many readers might hope for, there is little newfound maturity or character growth to be had at the end as far as they were concerned. It’s an intriguing narrative choice to make.

        The Great Gatsby: Exploring 1920s Class Politics with Colour Symbolism

        Thank you for writing this article! I’ve never been a huge fan of this novel (though I do appreciate certain lines of it in terms of the quality of the writing), but the color analysis here has made me look at The Great Gatsby in a new way. Maybe I’ll reread it at some point . . .

        The Great Gatsby: Exploring 1920s Class Politics with Colour Symbolism

        I remember feeling quite struck by this film. It veered off into directions I had not at all anticipated from the initial trailer. It’s a film that certainly stays with you.

        Phantom Thread: The House That Always Changes

        This article reminds me of some of my favorite university classes. Victorian literature is just so good!

        Gothic Fiction and the 'Regressive Evolution' Anxiety

        Thank you! I’m glad you enjoyed it.

        Roland Barthes: Love as a Language

        Thank you for introducing me to this work! I’m not even sure if I was aware of it beforehand or not (or that it apparently introduced the word “robot” to the world). Nice observation there!

        Roland Barthes: Love as a Language

        That’s true! Yeah, I was also pretty young by the time the original show ended (like maybe seven or so) and have vague memories of it being a cultural phenomenon. It seemed too “mature” for me at the time so I don’t think I ever really got around to watching it at all. Poor timing, I guess. But like you said, I think it probably translates even better in adulthood. There are probably so many social commentary witticisms I would’ve missed out on as a kid.

        Daria and the Clichéd Representation of Teenagers