CulturallyOpinionated

CulturallyOpinionated

George is a Vanderbilt Divinity School gradate with an MA in Religious Studies focusing on mythological studies. His interests include mythology, video games, and Star Wars

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Latest Articles

Latest Topics

3

In fantasy, what are the advantages and disadvantages of populating a world with established and popular races such as elves, dwarves, etc.?

Fantasy worlds, especially in a post-Tolkien setting, have tended to be peopled by many of the same types of beings: elves and dwarves, humans and orcs, giants and halflings. Many of these races, however, are reflective of real-world stereotyping at best and racism at worst. While of course most contemporary authors presumably do not mean to emphasize these negative associations and are merely utilizing shorthand inherent of the fantasy genre, the historical context of some of these races (especially evil or primitive races) still lingers. Steps have been taken by some, such as the publisher Wizards of the Coast, to challenge established norms of fantasy races and their characterizations. Nevertheless, the majority of fantasy still adheres to these popular tropes.

But is an author in 2022 who includes an unfavorable caricature-turned fantasy race in their story responsible for its negative history? Are contemporary vampires, who are largely praised for the wide variety of lifestyles and peoples they can represent in fiction, meant to be equated with Rowling’s goblins, who are often criticized as being an anti-Semitic stereotype? Are we far enough removed from Tolkien and his fantasy archetypes so entrenched in the fantasy genre that they have left their racially-charged roots behind? Is it useful to keep reverting to using monolithic races such as elves, dwarves, and orcs as literary shorthand for character traits? Or do new races which are not monolithic needed to keep fantasy from stagnating? Is that even possible?

In short, what are the advantages and disadvantages to continuing to use established fantasy races in the genre?

  • I think using actual quotes proving that the author has some racist ideal's would help establish credibility that Tolkien and other authors intentionally tried to create offensive depictions of other groups. This is typically the problem with this topic as for years people have tried to prove that Tolkien based orcs off (Africans, Jews, or Asians) with little success. This topic is not really new as this question came up in 2002 when Peter Jackson worked on The Lord of the Rings trilogy, and again when the YouTube channel extra credits made a video saying that Orcs in video-games are an offensive depiction of black people. I am certain that some authors are actual racist and deliberately made fictional characters to depict a group of people. ( ex. H.P. Lovecraft was a known racist and homophob, but we have proof explaining that his work was based off his fears of other cultures/groups. Lovecraft also began to change his views later in life due to his friendship with a gay man.) Without that layer of definitive proof it is going to come across as speculation (I am aware of how Tolkien describes Orcs in The lord of Rings and The Silmarillion. But that doesn't prove he was delibrately basing them off of a particular racial group.) So, who ever writes on this topic should be careful not to simply state what Tolkien's intentions are with out proof. – Blackcat130 1 month ago
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  • "disadvantage" is a also a word,bit for my opinion,it's bad cause it might cause a lack of financial balance between humans and other creatures – Arlonavigne 1 month ago
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  • I believe the advantage comes from keeping fantasy stories accessible. For instance, although elves are portrayed in countless ways across the genre, they are grounded in specific conventions (pointed ears, slim-frame, slender etc.) which serves as a recognisable archetype from which writers build their narrative. It frees the writer from needing to outline, describe and explain an entirely new species. Alternatively, by choosing to utilise one such character, or 'species-archetype', the writer must adhere to these conventions in some fashion, limiting their creative choice to a certain, albeit, minimal extent. – Tea 4 weeks ago
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  • Personally, I think that while there is possibly a hurtful/harmful message behind the creation of some of these races, it is still fiction. At the end of the day Orcs, Elves, Dwarves, etc. don't exist outside of the context of the books. In our writing we are free to create new races, we don't have to stick to the old ones just because it's easy and they've already been established and people know them. As writers, we have the ability to undo or change the narrative on these things. – KGP5118 4 weeks ago
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4

Are radio edits a necessary evil or detrimental to artistic integrity?

Occasionally, a music artist will release a song that is deemed unsuitable for radio play in its current form. It might contain profanity or profane subject material, have undesired instrumentation, or simply be too long for the radio to play. A new version of the song will be created as a "radio edit" that alters the original to meet governmental standards. These changes can range from inconsequential, like replacing one profane word with a sound effect, to substantial, such as replacement lyrics that completely change the original meaning of the song. Famous radio edits include Cee Lo Green’s "Forget You," d-12’s "Purple Hills," and Everlast’s "What’s It Like."

Usually these edits are not made by the artists themselves but by their record labels, broadcasters at the corporate level, or even individual radio stations. Whether minor or major, these changes produce a product that is not what the artist envisioned without the artists’ input. Without these changes, these songs would not play on the radio or in spaces that must abide by government guidelines relating to content standards. Is the radio edit process a necessary evil to becoming a successful artist? Or is the act of altering art in order to conform to public sensibilities harmful to the role of art in our contemporary culture that constantly encourages us to "express yourself?" Especially in the era of the internet and the seemingly endless ways to create and distribute art outside traditional distribution institutions, should corporations compromising an artist’s intended vision to please the masses be considered a malicious act? Or should this new-found freedom provided by the internet encourage society to support art as the artist creates it, even if it offends?

  • This is a fascinating point in the process of musical production that not many people consider. Much like the Hayes code of early Hollywood, such censorship can seem extreme and archaic in a modern society that no longer requires major industries to support success. The examples you give are telling ones since it's easy to classify which genres are more censored compared to others, which could be an interesting aspect to explore. This practice of radio edits may be a hangover of a previous era since tiktok seems to be the predominant platform dominating the music market today. Exploring the alternatives (youtube, tiktok, instagram etc.), which genres or artists are targeted, and the origins for WHY such edits were made, could be a good division of the topic. – LadyAcademia 1 month ago
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  • This is such an interesting thought! As a lifelong hater of radio edits, I’ve never thought of it this way - I would look into which artists get censored the most and their similarities (if any). – kelleykilgore 1 month ago
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8

Is disabling comments on internet articles and videos brave or idiotic?

When online publications release a video or an article that covers a controversial topic or expresses a provocative opinion, more and more frequently the moderators of the website decide to preemptively disable the comments section. Is this a smart idea, given that some topics on more popular websites will inevitably draw internet trolls or similar undesirables to flood comment sections with useless vitriol that overpowers legitimate discussion? Or is this an idiotic action that stifles any chance of legitimate discussion for fear of having to deal with hateful or useless material? Are moderators afraid of being accused of fostering a hateful environment if they allow this material to be presented in their forums? This is especially relevant given that many websites feature a voting system for their comment sections which allow audiences to give relevant comments more visibility based on the opinions of the people actually reading the article or watching the video, thereby allowing audiences to self-regulate what material they choose to engage with.

  • I would suggest being wary of using qualitative terms like "brave" or "idiotic" without strong supporting data (statistics, news headlines, polls, website usage data, etc.). What defines "brave" or "idiotic" is subjective. This feels like it could include a bigger discussion about freedom of speech, censorship, cyber bullying, and hate speech. I would be very interested if this focused on one platform like a case study (YouTube, Twitter, Twitch, 4chan, etc.) because it might be a lot of work to do a broader examination of online commenting. – Eden 3 years ago
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  • If the comments are very/all negative, then you absolutely must disable them. Of course, if the content is disturbing or shouldn't be seen and it causes public outrage, then disabling them seems redundant. However, for something innocent or religious, disabling comments would definitely be necessary. – OkaNaimo0819 2 years ago
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  • Interesting topic! You could possibly explore reasons why disabling comments would be appropriate or argue that it is never appropriate depending on your stance. – Dena Elerian 2 years ago
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  • This is such a relevant, yet interesting topic! Especially with today's internet culture and the prevalence of "cancel culture", it would be interesting to discuss how social accountability versus an intolerant space with no room for growth extends into the realm of hate comments and the action of disabling them. – miagracen 1 year ago
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  • Great topic. I have to wonder, though, how often "legitimate discussion" actually occurs in those online comment sections. – JamesBKelley 1 year ago
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  • If approaching it from the angle of qualitative terms like brave vs. something else, I encourage veering away from "idiotic," as that is an ableist term. – the.liquid.kid 1 year ago
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10

Are Expanded Universes Hindrances or Necessities?

As film and literature franchises grow in scope and popularity, audiences often crave additional material from creators that supplements the world of the main story, frequently known as an expanded universe (EU). Both Harry Potter and Star Wars are hugely successful franchises that feature expanded universes; however, audience reception to this extra material can vary greatly.

Before its acquisition by Disney, the Star Wars EU featured literally hundreds of books, video games, and comics by various authors that explored character backstories, recounted new adventures, and even created entirely new characters and eras of Star Wars lore. Importantly, the old EU was never considered canon by Lucasfilm (although Lucas did take elements from EU material and incorporate them, sometimes directly, into his canonical movies). It was generally well-received by fans and critics, so much so that elements from the old EU are continually being reworked into Disney-era Star Wars material today, such as the character Grand Admiral Thrawn. "Harry Potter" author J.K Rowling has also continued to produce supplementary material for her books, including continuous posts to Harry Potter fan website Pottermore as well as the Fantastic Beasts films. However, Rowling is often derided for her additions to her canon, being criticized that she is simply trying to retroactively "fill in" what she forgot to include in her books instead of add to the lore (the most famous example being her revelation that Dumbledore was gay the whole time). Some even feel this is harmful to the integrity of the original books themselves.

Why is there such a difference in opinion concerning expanded universes? Is it due to the authorship of supplementary material (Star Wars’ EU was penned by multiple authors and NOT by Lucas, while Rowling’s only comes from her)? Does canonicity of the material matter? Is it the length of time audiences have had to process it? Is it genre? Most importantly, does having an EU truly add to or detract from the main franchise material, i.e. the most important aspect of the franchise? Other famous expanded universes include the Marvel and DC Cinematic Universes, Doctor Who, Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Star Trek, etc.

  • Very interesting topic. It's important to note that expanded universes aren't a strictly modern phenomenon: in the early days of cosmic horror, for example (so, late 1800's-early 1900's) writers borrowed from each other's work all the time, to create a much more elaborate pantheon of creepy deities than any of them could have come up with alone. I sort of think that they're inevitable with any long-running series that attracts a large-enough fandom, and one reason for their staying power is that the fans themselves enjoy "filling in the blanks" and seeing how everything fits together. So, expanded universes are really the inevitable result of an interaction between a set of creators and their fans (categories which are certainly not mutually exclusive either). – Debs 3 years ago
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  • Shout to the mention of Thrawn, one of the most significant Extended Universe/Legacy character in Star Wars. He is an interesting choice because he arguably is an improvement over many imperial antagonists and a great addition to the Star Wars mythos. Such a shame that Thrawn's first trilogy is no longer cannon. His second trilogy just finished up, but was not nearly as acclaimed (though the 2017's Thrawn is one of the best Star Wars books since the Disney purchase). – Sean Gadus 3 years ago
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5

Mortality, Momento Mori, and Memes: Joking About Death Is Nothing New

A significant portion of contemporary internet memes seem to trivialize and wish for death, often to the concerned bewilderment of older generations. Is using memes to discus death a new exercise, or are memes simply a the most recent in a long tradition of staving off the Grim Reaper with humor? Look at representations of Death in various cultures’ art and performance theater as a humorous or benign force or figure (memento mori paintings, the Grim Reaper, Beetlejuice, etc.) and compare them to modern memes which focus on death and dying.

  • This has the makings of a great topic but I worry it might be a bit too broad at the moment. Maybe you can condense it down and look at how death has been rationalised in pop culture through the use of humour and draw distinctions between conventional representation and memes. – Simon Malik 3 years ago
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Latest Comments

CulturallyOpinionated

I think it might be available on Netflix in certain regions, like perhaps Canada, but not here in the US. A VPN might come in handy for that problem. Maybe this article should have been sponsored by Nord VPN.

MythQuest and the Challenges of Creating Entertaining Educational Children's Programming
CulturallyOpinionated

I disagree. The old Star Wars EU was comprised of different books, comics, games, etc. by different authors who weren’t accountable to each other. The only person anyone was accountable to was George Lucas himself, and even then the only real restriction he put on these creators was that no one could create any content about the era that would be the setting of Lucas’ Prequel Trilogy. It’s directly BECAUSE there was no overarching plan or story for these creators to adhere to that they had the freedom to explore new ideas, characters, and situations that Lucas wouldn’t have thought of himself. It’s true that this freedom sometimes resulted in content (especially certain novels) that were just flat out bad, and the community treated them as such when they consumed them. But it also led to stories and projects that became lasting fan favorites as well as critically-acclaimed in their respective genres, such as the award-winning “Knights of the Old Republic” video games or Timothy Zahn’s Thrawn Trilogy (which was so popular that Disney hired Zahn to resurrect his characters for their canon). Admittedly, sometimes the lack of communication resulted in different authors getting in each other’s way when it came to the adventures or fates of characters. The author who wrote an adventure where Luke and friends battled a leftover Imperial warlord in a small corner of the galaxy, for example, had no idea that another author would pen a comic where Chewbacca died saving Han Solo’s son’s life from an exploding moon. Even the Yuuzhan Vong War, a 23-part saga where the entire Star Wars galaxy finds itself at war with an alien invasion from another galaxy and which features the deaths of several major characters, was contributed to by many, many different authors who were not accountable to each other. The strength (and weakness) of the old EU was this loose set of guidelines when it came to continuity.
Compare that to the current Lucas Story Group (the Disney/Lucasfilm entity responsible for maintaining canonicity in Star Wars), where every new project has to fall within rather strict rules about its setting, characters, and the outcome of the story, and the difference is night and day. I would argue the overall quality of the current Disney-era canon suffers as a direct result of this. Tolkien would fall similarly into this category. All of the content of the Tolkien canon was penned by Tolkien or his son Christopher (who was largely just fleshing out material by his father in the first place). Not at all like the old Star Wars EU.

Star Wars Publishing Is Taking An Exciting Plunge Into The Unknown
CulturallyOpinionated

I think this article makes some good points, but I strongly disagree on two points.

1. First, I don’t actually think the Disney/Lucasfilm era has done a good job with their supplementary material surrounding the movies. Before Disney acquired Lucasfilm, the books, comics, video games, etc. that surrounded the main films were purely supplemental. With very few exceptions, there was no information contained in these companion materials that affected the story of the film itself. This is not the case for the Disney-era materials. They are no longer supplementary, but rather required reading for understanding the full story of the film they are accompanying. For example, throughout the entire movie, Finn is trying to tell Rey something, but keeps being interrupted. What is it? Is it that he loves Rey? Does he know who her parents are? The plotline gets dropped halfway through the movie, so audiences never know. It’s only by reading the official Star Wars Visual Dictionary that we learn he was trying to tell her he is Force-sensitive. It’s not super important to the plot, but the film teases it as important, then never answers their question, then hides the answer in a $15.99 book. This is only one of many examples. Overwhelmingly, the supplementary material is not so much supplementary to the movies, but retroactive explanations of plot points the filmmakers forgot to include in the film itself. That is not a compliment to how the film succeeds; it’s bad storytelling.

2. More importantly, I disagree that “Rise of Skywalker” should be considered a “love letter” to everything that came before it, especially the Original Trilogy. In fact, I think it actively undermines some of the most important parts of the original movies, particularly the ending of “Return of the Jedi.” If we see the Prequel and Original Trilogies as the story of Anakin Skywalker’s fall and redemption, then “Rise of Skywalker” is specifically egregious to him. In the Prequel Trilogy, Anakin Skywalker falls to the dark side because he is afraid of losing the things he loves (his mother, his wife, the Jedi, etc.) and his attempt to control those things leads to him losing them. He is manipulated by Palpatine and gives in to his suffering, becoming Darth Vader. At the end of “Return of the Jedi,” Anakin is redeemed by the love of his son Luke, who shows him what real healthy love looks like and inspires him to kill Palpatine in a selfless act of love for his son. By ridding the galaxy of the evil influence of Palpatine, Anakin also does something selfless for the entire galaxy at the cost of his life. Bringing Palpatine back as the overarching villain of the Sequel Trilogy undoes Anakin’s sacrifice. Palpatine wasn’t killed, he didn’t lose any influence or power; this was all according to plan. He didn’t bring balance back to the Force, nor did he save the galaxy from supreme evil. So Anakin’s redemption through his sacrifice means nothing, or at least significantly less than it did. If for no other reason than this, “Rise of Skywalker” actively disrespects one of the main themes of the Lucas saga, that of love and how to have a healthy relationship in love with others and with one’s self. There are other examples as well (Rey undeservedly taking the Skywalker name comes to mind), but this is the most egregious. Simply having older actors reprise their roles and alluding to objects or catchphrases from previous films does not make this movie a “love letter,” it makes it at most an homage.

I agree that the Sequel Trilogy’s biggest mistakes lie in how it was not planned out from the beginning, and as the last film in the trilogy “Rise of Skywalker” was in an almost impossible position to give a satisfying experience. But this film doesn’t earn the few compliments given here.

The Rise of Skywalker Succeeds As A Legacy Film But Illustrates The Flaws Of Disney Era Star Wars
CulturallyOpinionated

This was a very interesting article. I’ve been a huge fan of animation all my life, but I avoided Daria based on what I saw in the few clips I saw of it out of context. I understood that, as a show about teenagers, the characters were going to be rebellious and snarky, more so perhaps than a Disney show where the teenagers are a little less antagonistic. Daria’s misanthropy, however, really turned me off from the show. I figured the show would just be for teenagers to self-indulge in how awesome they were for being aloof and non-conformist like Daria. After reading this article, however, I’m looking forward to finding the show and discovering what I’ve been missing. Thank you for writing this.

Daria and the Clichéd Representation of Teenagers
CulturallyOpinionated

It’s interesting that though the Original and Prequel trilogies are so focused on themes of love, as you’ve laid out, the Disney era of Star Wars seems to succeed at understanding this but also fail to grasp this emphasis in some important ways. Take “The Mandalorian”: the relationship between Din Djarin and Grogu very clearly emphasizes the importance of love in a relationship. Grogu is relatively helpless most of the time and is protected by Din, where Din is able to abandon his more selfish and destructive tendencies because of how he cares for Grogu. They have a healthy relationship that benefits them both. And yet the same show gives us a Luke Skywalker, having saved his seemingly irredeemable father by accepting love as a strength and not a weakness, who reverts to the old Jedi ways of isolation and cutting off one’s self from attachments in anything more than a detached, general compassion. The same Jedi ways that led to their downfall and darkness across the galaxy. It’s especially galling that Luke is the one who receives this treatment, given how integral he is to the popularity and staying power of Star Wars as a franchise. It most likely involves the fact that this show and other media set between “Jedi” and “The Force Awakens” is beholden to the unpopular version of Luke created by Rian Johnson in “The Last Jedi,” so there isn’t much the showrunners can do to deviate from that. Still, it’s baffling to me and others that those at Lucasfilm in charge of maintaining continuity can (thematically) get some relationships so right in continuing the core themes of Lucas’ story and can miss the mark so egregiously with others.

Star Wars, Love, Loss & Redemption
CulturallyOpinionated

I have always been a big fan of the old EU, mostly because the books/video games/comics etc. told their own stories. Most of the best examples weren’t just supplementary material for the movies. From what I’ve read of the Disney-era material, the problem is exactly what this article pointed out: that the creators have been hamstringed by the Canon in a way they weren’t before. No story can feature a real event with big stakes or consequences for their characters, because why have something big happen in a book or comic only some people will read when that something big could happen in a movie or show that more people will see? The biggest example of this for me is the scene from the Vader comic where it’s heavily implied that Palpatine had a personal hand in creating Anakin out of the Force, which is an idea that Revenge of the Sith implies itself and older works did as well. But when fans started to praise the comic for this, Disney backtracked by saying this wasn’t the comic’s intentions. Perhaps it’s just my opinion, but this and numerous other examples I’ve read seem to follow this trend. Hopefully, now that Disney is allowing their creators to tell stories outside being supplemental material or direct tie-in to a movie, like the High Republic, the stories will get better than what has been written previously.

Star Wars Publishing Is Taking An Exciting Plunge Into The Unknown
CulturallyOpinionated

In one of the articles I quoted, the author makes a distinction I hadn’t really realized – that “Resident Evil” is a series about physical horror and “Silent Hill” is about psychological horror. One’s about the horror of losing one’s body while the other is about losing one’s mind. Thinking that way, both series complement each other nicely.

Resident Evil: Transformation in the Pursuit of Power
CulturallyOpinionated

The very beginning of Dead Space before you get a weapon and you’re just running from the necromorphs is probably some of the tensest I’ve ever been in a video game. Parts of RE8 have been pretty tense at well.

Resident Evil: Transformation in the Pursuit of Power