Joseph Cernik

Joseph Cernik

Editor, Missouri Policy Journal. Writer on Substack (American Eclectic).

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    Latest Articles


    Latest Topics


    Canned Laughter: A Critical Analysis

    A British scientist explained the function of canned laughter used in TV shows as, “adding laughter to a joke, increases the humour value, no matter how funny or unfunny the joke is.” I Love Lucy (starring Lucille Ball, Desi Arnaz, William Farley), originally released in 1951, used canned laughter. The Honeymooners (starring Jackie Gleason, Art Carney, Audrey Meadows), which was originally released in 1955 also used canned laughter.
    M*A*S*H (starring Alan Alda, Loretta Swit, Jamie Farr), which was originally released in 1972, had the creators of the series wanting no canned laughter which was rejected by CBS, although there are episodes where there was no canned laughter. In addition, it was agreed that in surgery, no laughter would be used. When M*A*S*H was released on DVD, the option was added to watch the series with and without canned laughter. One person who commented about watching the series without laughter in the background said, “Hearing each and every one of these words for the first time was a treat.”
    With COVID-19 eliminating fans from baseball and football stadiums, canned cheering and boos are used. This seems a derivative of canned laughter
    A critical analysis of canned laughter should address the following: 1) Does it add to or detract from a series, and; 2) Can there be an “artistic” way of evaluating when it seems too much or inappropriate from being just the right amount.


      The Quiet Man and Domestic Abuse

      The Quiet Man (1952, starring John Wayne, Maureen O’Hara, and Ward Bond) won the Academy Award for Best Director (John Ford) and Best Cinematography. The Library of Congress selected the movie in 2013 to be included in the United States National Film Registry.

      The basic theme is boy moves back to Ireland, boy meets girl, boy meets girl’s brother, boy fights girl’s brother and, in the end, everyone is happy and friends for life. It is an enjoyable movie that presents Ireland in a quaint way, although the film is filled with stereotypes of the Irish.

      The issue is that there are some uncomfortable moments throughout the film that raise the issue of domestic abuse and present it in ways that somehow they can be glossed over as simply entertaining and appropriate in their settings. At one point Wayne (Sean Thornton) pulls O’Hara (Mary Kate Danaher) off a train and drags her (as his wife) five miles to her brother’s farm, where Wayne throws her back at her brother and tells him to keep her. During the lead up to this scene, a woman in the crowd that has been following Wayne drag O’Hara from the train to the brother’s farm, anticipating the fight that will culminate in the film’s big scene, steps forward to give Thornton a tree branch and the woman says, “Here’s good stick.” The point is he can use it on his wife.
      The COVID-19 pandemic has contributed to an increase in domestic abuse, with one Irish mental health authority saying it has reached “epidemic levels.” Ireland may not necessarily have a more heightened level of abuse than other countries. In addition, the issue of domestic abuse predates the pandemic. But, in focusing on Ireland, on the International Day for the Elimination of Violence Against Women in November 2019, a study placed the number of Irish women who suffered at the hands of domestic abuse at 23,000—so before the pandemic.

      Someone agreeing to write on this topic can address films, such as The Quiet Man, and how they may have glossed over domestic abuse and what changes have taken place since this film’s release in 1952. In addition, the impact of films and domestic abuse should be addressed. Did, for example, The Quiet Man, provide a way to rationalize domestic abuse which allowed it to be “swept under the rug” and be treated on a lesser level than other crimes?


        How Satisfied Are Viewers of TV Shows That Just Stop Without An Ending?

        Pitch (2016, one season) starring Kylie Bunbury and Mark-Paul Gosselaar. This series focused on the first female major league baseball player. A good series that just suddenly stopped. What happened after she was injured as she had the opportunity to pitch a no-hitter? The series just ends with no conclusion. Graves (2016-17, two seasons) starring Nick Nolte and Sela Ward. This series focused on a former two-term Republican President and how he wants to now correct some of the "wrongs" he was responsible for. Suddenly, the series ends with his arrest and we never find out if his wife, the former First Lady, is elected as a Senator. It is frustrating to see good, well developed, well acted series, just end. Are viewers satisfied with what they watched? Is there some way to complete these series, as well as others, to bring them to some conclusion in a one or two part episode? Maybe Netflix, Prime, or Hulu can take up the cause.

        • Granted it doesn't detract from the main point the article is trying to make, perhaps a comparison could be made between shows that just stop and shows that remain running for too long when, perhaps, they should have stopped. – Samantha Leersen 4 years ago
        • In the same vein than Samantha Leersen and with the same caution, maybe adding a comparison with shows whose last season has been cut short (Person of Interest is the first example that comes to my mind, though it isn’t that famous – sadly)? (And/or a comparison with endings that may have felt rushed to some viewers (Game Of Thrones, for instance)?) Also, in the same vein than your last point, maybe the article could mention the role of fanfictions to conclude such shows with no proper ending? Anyway, very interesting topic! – Gavroche 4 years ago
        • There are also shows that people simply aren’t interested in. Those shows tend not to be missed, no matter what the ending or none at all. – J.D. Jankowski 3 years ago
        • It depends... When the producer knows how to prepare each session artistically then the audience might be satisfied of the work even if it's without an end... When the producer hasn't enough expertise then the series without an end just would be a waste of time... – Gerald Mann (P. Ghasemi) 3 years ago

        B-Movie Actors and Movies: Where do We Draw the Line?

        Defining a B movie is not necessarily easy to do. Generally, a B movie is considered a low-budget production. There have been certain movie studios that were associated with the production of B movies, Monogram and Republic Pictures among them. B movies might be training platforms for directors who subsequently moved to more well-known works (Edward Dmytryk) or actors who moved on (John Wayne, Humphrey Bogart). The term associated with more modern-day B movies is direct-to-video, which is an indication a film is not good enough for theatrical release. Direct-to-video has, in some ways, replaced films that were shown only at drive-in theaters in an earlier era.

        Bruce Campbell ("The Adventures of Brisco County Jr.," and "Evil Dead") wrote "If Chins Could Kill: Confessions of a B Actor." There is a site titled "bmovies," where one can get their fill of B movies (interestingly "Hillbilly Elergy" is listed along with "Sky Sharks"). One Internet site lists "The 100 1 Best ‘B Movies’ of All Time." Another site lists "1000 Cult B-Horror Movies." Where is the line between B actors, actresses, and movies and whatever is not in that category? "Plan 9 from Outer Space," "Attack of the Killer Tomatoes," or "Poultrygeist: Night of the Chicken Dead," might be easily considered as B movies and never in contention for an academy award, but how do we categorize these movies and who acts in them?

        Someone agreeing to write on this topic should address: 1) What characteristics distinguish B movies (and those acting in them) from whatever is on the other side; 2) What changes have taken place in B movies since there are movies as far back as the 1930s, and even earlier, that can be categorized as B movies, and 3) How might B movies be understood regarding their impact on both Hollywood and American culture.

        • This enhances my conceptualization of B movies. Great job – AmeerShash 4 years ago

        Amos ‘n’ Andy: African-American Stereotypes and the Impact of the NAACP on Television

        "Amos ‘n’ Andy," began as a radio show in 1928. The show was set in Harlem, a section in New York City predominately African-American. The radio show was a spin-off from a minstrel act that involved two white actors in black face. Protests by African-American organizations against the show began in 1931. These protests were unsuccessful, and the show eventually became a television show beginning in 1951 (CBS) with the lead characters being black actors not white in black face. The National Association for the Advancement of Colored People (NAACP) began protesting the show and wanted it removed almost from when it first appeared on television. One of the main characters (the Kingfish) was portrayed as a con man, another was presented as a dim-witted cab driver. The language spoken by the characters was a gutter form of English meant to convey a stereotype of all African-Americans. CBS cancelled the show in 1953, but it lived on in syndication until 1966. There were episodes of the show produced that were not shown at the time CBS cancelled the show and those episodes lived on. American television was slow to eventually remove the show, in contrast with CBS sending reruns of the show to Kenya in 1963 where it was banned almost immediately.
        Someone agreeing to write on his topic can address several issues: 1) How was the show received by both white and black audiences when it first appeared on television, and; 2) the protests to remove first the radio show then the television show can focus on how effective or ineffective these protests were and what they say about African-American influence, and the NAACP in particular, on radio and television content regarding portrayals of black America.


          Mrs. America: Feminism Means What

          Mrs. America (9 episodes on Hulu) has been praised for both the quality of the acting as well as the storyline. The series has addressed what can be described as focused on two different women’s movements: The movement that pushed for the Equal Rights Amendment (ERA) and the movement that fought against it, led by Phyllis Schlafly and which centered on what can be seen as a culture war.
          Gloria Steinem was overly critical of the series, seeing it as too focused on Schlafly and not centered on what she saw as the real opposition to the ERA which was the insurance industry as well as other economics organizations.
          A writer deciding to address this topic should: 1) focus on the these two different women’s movements and how they interact as well as clash; 2) address where Schlafly should actually be placed in ranking her as a factor in contributing to preventing the passage of the ERA, and; 3) What does this series say about how we should look at what these opposing women’s movements have meant to contemporary America and to women specifically.

          • I think there's real value here in illustrating the ways in which the discussion surrounding feminism pits women against each other, by dividing them into "good" feminists and "bad" anti-feminists (or the other way around). It always struck me as a breeding ground for attacks on women, and that would be extremely dangerous. – Debs 4 years ago
          • After seeing the Mrs. America series, and Gloria Steinem's autobiography turned into a movie (with Julianne Moore), I think one aspect of such an essay can be highlighting Steinem and Schlafly, two media personalities but quite different from each other with different goals in mind. Odd to consider that what began as what might be seen as a feminism movement (if that term is correct) with certain goals, should see a counter-movement arise. Is it possible to bridge the two in some way? Are there issues that they may have in common? Mrs. America did not present Schlafly in anything but a manipulative way, but it also seemed to present the supporters of ERA as ignoring the forces behind Schlafly, which, I think, was a wrong thing to do. In the series there is a moment where a friend and supporter of Schlafly's (Sarah Paulson) raises the issue of finding something in common and then it is just gone. – Joseph Cernik 4 years ago

          The Crown and The Future King of the United Kingdom

          The Crown (Netflix) is in its fourth season. With the fourth season, more modern era events are addressed. The courtship between Charles and Diana (what there is of it) is addressed, as well as his inability to move on from Camilla (who now is his wife). At some point Charles will become the King of the United Kingdom, unless he decides to pass on it and, his son, William takes the crown. British tabloids have questioned whether Charles will, in fact, become King. How will the Netflix series play into the public perception of Charles? A poll that was conducted in 2018, said that only 36 percent of the British thought Charles was a positive force to benefit the monarchy. In 2014, a similar poll was conducted, and, at that time, 60 percent saw Charles as a positive force. Charles and Camilla married in 2005 so the 2014 poll was several years after they were married. The fourth season of The Crown does not make Charles look like anything but a person with emotional issues—not mental problems, just removed from showing a caring and emotional side. But, for the matter, each of the four children of Queen Elizabeth II do not come across well in the fourth season. Someone who decides to write on this topic should address how the British public comes to understand the monarchy through this series and whether the series can have some impact on how real-life figures are seen and judged. It may be too much to expect that the series can play into any decision regarding Charles or William becoming King, but a writer can speculate.


          Do Culturally Sensitive Notices at the Beginning of Certain Movies Matter?

          In June 2020, HBO removed Gone With The Wind (1939) from its films available to be shown. A spokesman stated, “[The film was] a product of its time and depicts some of the ethnic and racial prejudices that have, unfortunately, been commonplace in American society." Two weeks after it was removed, HBO brought it back with two video clips that address the stereotypes of slaves depicted in the film and how the film downplays the horrors of slavery.

          On the Disney network, the movie, Mr. Magoo (1997) contains a statement, before the movie begins that partially states, “This program includes negative depictions and/or mistreatment of people or cultures.” Do these videos or statements matter and in what ways?

          The Birth of a Nation (1915), a silent film originally called The Clansman, depicts the Ku Klux Klan in heroic ways. The film is available for sale on Amazon but not found online easily if at all. Somewhere there seems to be a line that can and cannot be crossed. A warning label allows one film to be shown online but is not sufficient for another.
          Addressing culturally insensitive and disturbing issues in movies from previous eras will, no doubt, be an ongoing issue for years to come. Someone choosing to write this essay can address these issues and even might speculate about if or which current films might need warning labels and why. It may be difficult to be completely free of grievance by some group that feels a film has offended them in some way. Is cultural sensitivity in films a goal that can be completely achieved? Several questions and issues are raised in this proposed topic and an essay can address them.

          • I personally have mixed feelings about the warning labels and removal of films. As a black man, I'm used to seeing racist depictions of people of color. And I don't believe removing these movies fixes the situation. I believe having an actual discusion about what is being shown is far more important than censoring. Censoring doesn't change the fact that the people who made these movies or see nothing wrong with them still hold these ideas. While adding the caption at the begining of the movies does help (Toon heads a cartoon anthology series on did something similar in the late 1990's for early merry melodies cartoons) I still think more should be done. It's a very difficult conversation to be had, as where the line should be drawn is difficult to determine. More recently, people have been critcizing Quinton Tarrintino for some of his more questionable decisions on how he depicts race in films. People Like Samuel L. Jackson have defend him, but that doesn't mean Tarritino hasn't made a mistake in his depiction. But I think this is a good topic for who ever wants to write on it. Believe looking into director's intent is the key to determing what should be done with certain films as films like The Birth of a Nation were often used to recruit members into the KKK. Not only that but they actively demonized black men and women. Simultaneously, other filmmakers like Tarrintino despite being accused of racism often sought to depict racism and social divide realisticly or mock it. How succesful he was is up for debate. – Blackcat130 4 years ago
          • Warner Bros. disclaimer (I'm not sure which films they apply to) states that they have chosen to continue showing the films, despite their outdated depictions, because they believe simply not showing the films would be to pretend the prejudice never happened. So in some way, cultural sensitivity warnings can serve as a tool of accountability for the filmmaker, to acknowledge they have made offensive content in the past. This could potentially form an interesting point of discussion. – Samantha Leersen 4 years ago
          • Its quite the difficult question. On the one hand movies are products of the historical process and the prejudices reflected in the movies are often present even in contemporary society, but on the other I feel that movies like The Birth of A Nation and The Triumph of the Will have aesthetic value. That being said, anything other than censorship is preferable as a method of engaging with these issues. – Sathyajith Shaji Manthanth 4 years ago

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          Latest Comments

          Joseph Cernik

          A good article. I liked the way you addressed fighter jets and related them to the movie. I preferred the second Top Gun to the first one.

          Top Gun: Combat on the Screen and the Reality of a High-Stakes Dogfight
          Joseph Cernik

          I never understood why there had to be a part one and two. I saw a long-drawn-out movie that could have been reduced to one movie. Much of that I suspect comes from dialogue that just dragged on and could have been cut or eliminated.

          Kill Bill's Enduring Impact — Two Decades of Echoing Retribution
          Joseph Cernik

          Interesting article. I’m not sure newspaper readership would necessarily increase but poems could add a different dimension to reading a newspaper. Furthermore, the types of poems would become an issue, Alan Ginsberg versus Henry Wadsworth Longfellow.

          Should Modern Newspapers Publish Poetry?
          Joseph Cernik

          I suppose for years to come there will commentaries or analysis on 1984. Orwell just seems to be one of those writers who every few years sparks the imagination of all who read his book. It is interesting to read different perspectives on this book. You made some good points.

          1984: What Does it Tell us About The Purpose of Life?
          Joseph Cernik

          A good essay on what I thought after seeing it was a thoughtful movie. Not really a blockbuster, but a movie that did force you to think about life as it moves along.

          Click: A Tragic Tale Exploring the Importance of Family
          Joseph Cernik

          A good essay. Usually, scenarios that try to think through how a nuclear weapon might be used, focus on a limited use of nuclear weapons. Movies tend to create the impression of everything going off at once, which, I think, creates the wrong impression of what could possibly happen. The case of Nagasaki and Hiroshima, these came in the Second World War several years after the United States entered the war. The firing bombings of Tokyo which killed 80,000–100,000 people were five months before Hiroshima was bombed. If the atomic bomb had been developed earlier would the United States have used it in, say, 1942. War, as in the case of the Second World War, escalated as the war proceeded. Nagasaki and Hiroshima I think create a wrong historical illustration for how a future nuclear weapon might be used.

          Nuclear Nightmares in Film and Preventing Eventual Armageddon
          Joseph Cernik

          A good essay on a movie I thought was not particularly good. I guess Capitalism addressed in the movie is there, I thought it was about the character of a man. Capitalism, or a version of it, was the setting to portray a character.

          Alienation in "There will be Blood"
          Joseph Cernik

          Thanks. I might need to write a follow-up essay with Trump back in the Presidential race (assuming he gets the Republican nomination).

          The Donald Show: Trump, Television, and Manufactured Reality