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    Latest Articles

    Latest Topics


    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 2 months ago

    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 4 months ago
    • 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 4 months ago
    • 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. 3 months ago
    • 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 3 months ago
    • Good topic. – Diani 2 months ago

    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
    • 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

    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 3 years ago
    • 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 3 years ago
    • 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 3 years ago

    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 4 years ago
    • 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
    • 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
    • Just going to leave this right here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qG_P_1JnfXI – ProtoCanon 4 years ago
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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 3 years ago

    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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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
    • 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

    Can I Get a Take Two?: Actor Replacements in Film Franchises

    What happens when an actor takes on a character played by someone else within the same franchise? I’m not talking about reboots that completely refresh the cast (as in Tobey Maguire, Andrew Garfield, and most recently Tom Holland as Spider-Man). I’m talking about a single franchise where the film brings an entirely different actor to play the same character. For example, in the Harry Potter film series the initial actor who played Dumbledore passed away and Michael Gambon had to step in for the rest of the series. There are also The Mummy movies, where Rachel Weisz dropped out of the cast by her own volition and was replaced by another actress for the third film in the franchise. In my experience, the different Dumbledores didn’t bother me at all but to have Brendan Fraser’s character with a different woman playing his wife was confusing. How have these transitions fared for films that have replaced actors in the middle of the same series? Were they considered jarring and rejected by audiences or did they do little to affect the series as a whole? Does the nature of these replacements have an effect as well (i.e. an unprecedented event such as an actor’s death vs. an actor’s or studio’s decision)?

    • I wrote a long response that I think got erased... TLDR; The actor switch with Dumbledore suited the dark progression of the movies. The first guys was sweet and soft spoken, all about love while the second actor was full of movement, emotion and "did you put your name in the goblet harry?!" I think it was a fortunate (but unfortunate since the actor died) turn of events. In such a case, say, an actor can't fill a role right later in a franchise, better to replace them than have a sub-par rendition? – Slaidey 4 years ago
    • You make a very good point about the Dumbledore example. Michael Gambon's portrayal adds a great deal of emotional heft to the role, which is fitting for the increasingly darker tone of later Harry Potter films. It also aligns well with the change from an optimistically bright, Chris Columbus-style introduction to the Potter universe in the first film to the more melancholically heavy, David Yates-style of the final films. – aprosaicpintofpisces 4 years ago

    Future Film Movements: How will reflexivity tackle fully-immersive cinema?

    4D movie theaters are known for their immersive qualities including smells, seat vibrations, the simulation of certain weather conditions, etc. to replicate for the viewer what is being experienced in the fictional narrative presented onscreen. So far, 4D movies haven’t exactly dominated the movie-going experience but their existence does raise questions about how reflexivity will be achieved in the future. Self-reflexive films make viewers aware of the fact that they are watching a film, revealing “the artifice” as it were of the narrative and the characters involved. It’s a technique that’s often associated with art house or new wave cinema, though it can be found elsewhere in more palatable and consumer-friendly forms. Moviegoers usually like a fully immersive movie-going experience rather than be reminded that a film is a construct (it provides a nice escape from the tedium of reality for a few hours). With the increasing popularity of virtual reality in gaming nowadays, how will these increasingly more immersive technologies impact future movements in self-aware cinema? Will it undermine it all together? If not, how can reflexive techniques find a loophole around it to engage viewers as participants (not just spectators) again?

    • Cinema is designed to be communal. VR and video games are designed (for the most part) to be experienced alone, or at least in the domestic sphere of the home. Examining the aspects of place would be a critical view into your questions. There have been very few successful cross overs of video games to films (Lara Croft being an exceptIon) primarily because the social geography is different, and filmmakers rarely take that into account. An environment designed for personal consumption has some personal geography that is difficult to translate to a communal experience. So the question becomes, not how the reflexive techniques will find a loophole, but how the social geography can best be brought into the reflexive, because that is where the difference will really be made.Note to self, don't leave the page to look up an author's name... lest your note be deleted! Check out Lynn Spigel's work. – staceysimmons 4 years ago

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    Latest Comments

    I loved that you referred to the original text for this analysis! It really portrays Willy Wonka in a subtly-suspect light, rather than the lovably eccentric manner with which he is often solely portrayed in the film adaptations. Watching the fates of the “bad children,” which were often left to the viewer’s imagination, definitely frightened me as a child. Roald Dahl was a master at crafting the stuff of nightmares for children (or at least harnessing and tackling how frightening the world can appear when one is a child). Nice work, Samantha!

    Charlie and the Chocolate Factory: A Capitalist Dystopia

    It’s great to see this article up! Your article provided me with a good introduction to a book I have never read (but am now intrigued to). I especially loved your final remarks about the superficiality vs. substance debate in regard to this book. It reminded me so much of something Oscar Wilde might say in defense of “beauty for beauty’s sake” (with plenty of potential meaning tucked away inside anyway).

    The Secret History: A Novel with Staying Power

    Lovely to see this piece up! It’s remarkable how humanity can have the same conversation about what it is to be human repeated in different ways over the centuries. I also loved how you cleared up a common misconception about Romanticism being opposed to the Age of Enlightenment/the Industrial Revolution (rather than being a reactionary stance). It’s a reasonable expression of caution when “progress” seems to be hurtling forward at breakneck speed, perhaps with blinders on.

    Literature Versus Science? The Cautionary Tales of Scientific Malpractice

    I have never really explored Bo Burnham’s work, though I’ve heard his film Eighth Grade is excellent. Your article made me curious to take a second look. Glad to see this published!

    Bo Burnham's Poetry: Not Just a Joke

    Loved this exploration of mother-daughter relationships in literature! I feel like it is often an overlooked relationship, despite its complexity and primal nature. Your article has inspired me to check out The Bean Trees as well, which I had never heard of before. Great job, Stephanie! 🙂

    The Enduring Importance of Mother-Daughter Literature

    Nice to see your piece published, Samantha! Edgar Allan Poe is one of those famous authors whose work I’ve neglected to explore at length, so it was great to do a bit of a literary deep-dive with your exploration of this short story. I find I keep stumbling onto your work here (whether it’s topic suggestions or articles) because you raise important, poignant questions and are an engaging writer. I’m excited to see what else you have in store for The Artifice! 🙂

    Edgar Allan Poe's Ligeia: Dead or Alive?

    Thank you! Loneliness and isolation is sadly such a relevant topic nowadays.

    Lost in Translation: The Sounds of Silence

    What an interesting way of looking at the film! Looking at it through the lens of the Myers-Briggs Type Indicator and/or Keirsey Temperament Sorter, it seems even clearer now why certain characters have greater compatibility with each other than others. Thanks for the comment!

    Lost in Translation: The Sounds of Silence