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    The Staying Power of The Secret History

    The Secret History, by Donna Tartt, became an instant classic when it was first published in 1992. Though it is primarily set in the 1980s, the story has a dreamy, timeless quality. To read it at a still impressionable young-adult age feels like a rite of passage. On the surface, it is a captivating murder mystery about a clique of Classics students at an idyllic New England college. But to stop there would be to sell the book short. Examine the potent combination of factors that have elevated The Secret History to its iconic status. In my estimation these include the introspective, romantic narration reminiscent of that of Victorian novels; the bittersweet, melancholic tone; and Tartt’s subtle sense of humor. These elements work in concert to ensure that this well-constructed, well-paced mystery leaves a lasting emotional impression.


      Depictions of Bisexuality in Television/Film

      Bisexual people are criminally underrepresented in mainstream media. Bisexuality is often referred to flippantly or treated as a joke, if mentioned at all. But what about the bisexual characters that do exist? How are they portrayed and how does their sexuality factor into their characterization? Examples include Frank Underwood from House of Cards and Oberyn Martell from Game of Thrones. For these two characters, bisexuality seems to be an extension of their personalities (Frank’s greed and hunger for power–he uses sexuality to control people; Oberyn’s hedonism and laissez-faire attitude–there is also the issue of racist stereotypes at work here). Other series with bisexual characters include Orange is the New Black and Pretty Little Liars.

      Another concern: when are we going to call a spade a spade in reference to bisexual characters? Why do writers refuse to actually use the word "bisexual"? Only ever having characters describe themselves/others as being "fluid" sexually, or providing vague descriptions ("I like what I like," etc.) is a cop-out.

      What’s at stake here? Increased (and better) representation of bisexuality in television and film is necessary. It is vital that bisexual people (especially young people) be able to see and identify with characters like themselves. Being able to see oneself in a fictional character can be comforting and empowering. Increased visibility will help bisexual people feel less marginalized and assure them that their identities are valid.

      • This is an excellent topic. As a bisexual woman, I find it appalling that there is almost no representation of bisexuality in mainstream media. I think it would be interesting to expand on that concern that you discuss in your second-to-last paragraph; why are people so afraid to say the word "bisexual" on television? – Kathleen Lassiter 9 years ago
      • I think this is a great idea. Perhaps, you could also look at certain elements of bisexual representations which should be avoided or seen as too stereotypical (e.g. Brittany from Glee). Also, maybe, look at comedic characters which are bisexual (e.g. Pam from Archer, GOB from Arrested Development, etc.) and whether comedy originating from a person's sexuality should be considered valid. – Matthew Sims 9 years ago
      • Another character that could be explored is Dorian Gray from both the most recent film as well as the television series Penny Dreadful. He's shown to be bisexual in both instances and he rather uses this to his advantage. Another course you could take is whether a bisexual character leans toward one sex more than the other. One would expect that if a bisexual character were to be a lead in a Hollywood film they would end up with a woman (as is what (kind of) happens in the Dorian Gray film). – Jamie White 9 years ago
      • On the show The 100, Clarke's bisexuality was a natural evolution of her character as she made an alliance with another powerful female leader and they were forced to learn how to merge their separate followings. The 100 airs on the CW Network which has a primarily teenage audience and Clarke's sexuality is depicted in a very honest way to viewers about a teenage girl growing up. – katrinafowler 9 years ago

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      Latest Comments

      I just recently reread Mrs. Dalloway; I have yet to read The Voyage Out but I plan to in the near future. This article reminded me of a quotation from A Room of One’s Own: “women have served all these centuries as looking-glasses possessing the magic and delicious power of reflecting the figure of man at twice its natural size.”

      Virginia Woolf: A Palpable Parody of Patriarchal Power

      This is an intriguing analysis. Your point that “the audience is ahead of other characters along with Walter, so they feel just as intelligent” particularly stood out to me. I tend to think that the key factor in whether a viewer will root for a given character is the degree to which they are able (and willing) to identify with that character. In Breaking Bad, much of the story is focalized through Walter’s perspective, so naturally we as an audience are made to understand the motivations and desires that influence his actions throughout the series, morally reprehensible though they may be. For instance, in the pilot episode alone we are given a clear portrayal of a man who is brilliant, has a family he loves, but has failed to live up to his potential and feels that he has ended up clutching the short end of the stick. In short, Walter starts out as an underdog. I would argue that the pervasive popularity of his character is a testament to our automatic, unconscious tendency to compartmentalize: emotional attachment to/identification with a character can override our disapproval of immoral behavior we would otherwise condemn. Ironically, our ability to empathize with Walter dulls our reaction to the damage he does.

      Breaking Bad: The Appeal of Walter White

      I haven’t read Infinte Jest or any of David Foster Wallace’s other work, but this article has definitely piqued my interest. I’m looking forward to seeing this film. Paradoxically, loneliness and isolation seem to be among the most universally relatable themes in film and literature.

      The End of The Tour: The Loneliness of the Long-Form Writer

      Thank you for this article! I really needed to read this right now. The biggest factor that holds me back from writing is always my own fear and self-doubt. I feel self-conscious of my writing even when I’m the only one reading it. The best thing to do is not to censor yourself at all (however tempting it may be) and just keep writing until you get yourself unstuck.

      Attention Writers: The Myth of Writer's Block

      This article does an excellent job of cutting to the core of the issue. While I haven’t watched season 5 of Game of Thrones (largely in protest of the gratuitous sexual violence), generally speaking I think it’s helpful to consider what function a given rape scene is performing in the context of the narrative. What is the utility of the scene? Is it contributing in an essential way to the progression of the plot? Is it playing a role in character development? Or has it simply been inserted for shock value? It’s clear that Cersei’s rape scene is useless and unjustifiable. I’ve seen people argue that the inclusion of Sansa’s rape is justified because raping Sansa is in keeping with Ramsay’s character. Of course, the point here is that we already know that Ramsay is brutal and sadistic. Does the scene teach us anything new about the characters involved?

      Sexual Assault in HBO's Game of Thrones