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

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 7 months 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 7 months ago
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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 7 months 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 1 month 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 1 month ago
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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 8 months ago
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Latest Comments

CulturallyOpinionated

Very interesting article. I’ve been playing Zelda games for years, and when BotW came out I actually bought a Nintendo Switch just to play it. But I was disappointed with the game itself, and I think it’s precisely because I was expecting a more story-driven, fully orchestrated game like previous titles. Don’t get me wrong, I had fun freeing the Divine Beasts and eventually defeating Ganon, a task which naturally took a long time. But while I congratulate the Zelda series for innovating in order to introduce something fresh into its formula, it deviated too much from why I enjoy Zelda in the first place to be palatable to me, much less deserving of the constant “Best Game of All Time” accolades the Internet community piled on it. Weapons that break (even the Master Sword becomes temporarily unusable after too many swings, really?), essentially no large scale and memorable dungeons, a “find the plot for yourself!” motivation, and of course the music… I’m sure I’m in the minority, but it just wasn’t for me. I think the music is a big part of why people have enjoyed the series so much (how many different covers on YouTube are there of the Zelda theme or any song played on an ocarina?). I like your theory of why the developers chose to go this route to fit with the theme of this game, and it certainly fits. But people keep older games alive in their heads in large part due to the music, and I find it hard to believe that BotW will maintain the same level of long-lasting popularity as Ocarina or Majoria’s Mask, or even Skyward Sword or Twilight Princess at least in part BECAUSE of the lack of that substantial musical element.

Zelda: Breath of the Wild's Musical Rebellion
CulturallyOpinionated

I don’t either, really, and that’s why I would have preferred for the new movies to be completely removed from the Skywalker Saga. No Luke or Vader, no Leia or Han, no Empire or Rebellion. I wish they had set the universe in a different time with new characters that didn’t rely on the original Lucas characters, or who were so far removed from them that the interaction wasn’t direct, like how Americans in 2019 are only “related” to the Founding Fathers in that America is only a country because of these men in the past. Star Wars fans love the “Knights of the Old Republic” series,for example, in part because it’s so different and separate from Lucas’ original movies. But Disney thought the only way their older audience would see these new movies would be to include the original cast, so they made that (sensible) choice. Maybe after “Rise of Skywalker” is over we can start getting some real, original content from Disney.

Star Wars: The Difference in Luke and Rey as Chosen Ones
CulturallyOpinionated

Can’t forget Peter Jackson’s Lord of the Rings trilogy. Those movies are by far the best “book-to-movie” adaptation ever made. Not for being at 1:1 transfer of the story off the page to film format, but for making an already great story much more palatable for everyday moviegoers who won’t spend the time slogging through pages and pages of descriptions of plants as the hobbits travel down the road, followed by a one-sentence line “Oh, and then Boromir died.” They aren’t perfect movies (“Looks like meat’s back on our menu, boys!”) but they’re the closest we’re going to get to a perfect adaptation.

The Art of Adaptation: From Book to Film
CulturallyOpinionated

Honestly, I don’t think the “mystery box” approach works for a franchise like Star Wars if the questions they set up don’t get answered. It’s one thing to have some mystery in the universe, like concerning the true ephemeral nature of the Force, that don’t need to be meticulously laid out. But it’s another to ask “Who are this character’s parents?” in a universe where parentage is extremely important and then not answer it. Parentage may not always be the end-all of character in real life, but for sure is in Star Wars, and trying to abruptly ignore or change that goes against why people resonated to the franchise in the first place.

The worst manifestation of this involves Supreme Leader Snoke. He’s set up as the Big Bad of this trilogy and then not immediately explained in Force Awakens, fine. But then he’s unceremoniously killed off with no explanation. The entire conflict of this new trilogy and how the galaxy went from “Happy Ever After” at the end of Return of the Jedi to “Here we go again” at the beginning of Force Awakens hinges directly on the actions of Snoke. Why did the Rebellion apparently not really win? Why is there another Dark Side Force-user? Where did all these soldiers and weapons come from? How was he able to corrupt Ben Solo, and what’s his relationship to Luke if he hates Luke so much? It apparently all ties back to Snoke, so if we’re going to understand the wider situation we need to understand Snoke and his motivations. And then he’s killed suddenly and we’re told he didn’t really matter anyway, so we’re left without the necessary backstory for why the universe is the way it is and why we should care about this movie’s stakes more than in any other given dystopian sci-fi’s plot. So the idea that “it doesn’t matter what [the answer] turns out to be” is completely out of line with storytelling in Star Wars.

Star Wars: The Difference in Luke and Rey as Chosen Ones
CulturallyOpinionated

I could not agree more. They should have left the Lucas material alone and focused on making their own quality story instead of relying solely on brand loyalty from fans and the public.

Star Wars: The Difference in Luke and Rey as Chosen Ones
Star Wars: The Difference in Luke and Rey as Chosen Ones
CulturallyOpinionated

I didn’t even think about that, that’s a good point. I don’t think even Luke ever picked up Shyriiwook (Wookie language) in all the time he spent around Chewbacca.

Star Wars: The Difference in Luke and Rey as Chosen Ones
CulturallyOpinionated

Personally, I think the best direction they could have taken Rey’s character would to have had her fall to the Dark Side in Last Jedi when Kylo offered her his hand during the throne room sequence. The movies present Rey as someone who wants to belong to a family more than anything in the entire universe; it’s what drives her to battle the First Order, join the Resistance, even leave Jakku with Han and Finn even though she thinks she might miss her parents coming back for her. But what if she wanted it so much that it blinded her to the difference between good and evil, and Kylo Ren offering her a chance to finally belong to something bigger than herself was too much for her to resist? This would have gone a long way toward redeeming Last Jedi for me as a Star Wars fan: it would have given Rey a more complicated character with empathetic motivations (even for turning to evil); it would have allowed the secondary characters to have a bigger role in trying to fight/redeem Rey rather than largely functioning as Rey’s cheer squad; it would have introduced more complexity to Kylo in his trying to share power with someone he might come to love; and most importantly it would have introduced an element of uncertainty to the trilogy’s ending that currently is missing. Good have been constantly triumphing in this trilogy, so why should anyone feel any suspense for the Rise of Skywalker if we know Rey will defeat Kylo (for a third time) and whatever superweapon the First Order comes up with will be destroyed? Having Rey be successfully seduced by the Dark Side, even temporarily, would be a true subversion of expectation, and a nuanced and worthwhile addition to what is currently a pretty bland and uninspiring character.

Star Wars: The Difference in Luke and Rey as Chosen Ones