Sarai Mannolini-Winwood

Sarai Mannolini-Winwood

Sarai is a free-lance literature enthusiast who current works as an academic. An avid horror and fantasy reader she is an advocate for its cultural importance: saraimw.com

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Latest Topics

3

Star Trek: The commitment to storytelling

At the time I loved the new Star Trek movies. They were exciting, full of space travel, linked to nostalgia and full of "larger than life" characters. However, a re-watch of these was almost as painful as re-watching the Fast and the Furious series; instead of vivid I realised the characters were one-dimensional, stereotyped, almost all white and when I actually took note of the ridiculous 70s dresses of the women, actually quite insulting.

Now this realisation did not occur randomly, this was the result of returning to re-watch the films after completing the TV series Star Trek Discovery – and what I discovered was that the films lived up to the franchise (hated by fans, full of over blown situations and lacking the depth of storytelling in the shows). Now with the launch of Star Trek Picard I am blown away by the commitment to storytelling in both the shows. The focus is on personal growth, the difficulty of sticking to your convictions, taking responsibility for your actions, understanding the complexity of dealing with people (human and alien) and it is committed to showing diversity.

I think there is a lot in the new Star Treks that is showing the way forward for all TV – in a post MeToo world, in a post Black Panther world, it is not acceptable to continue to show narrow stereotyped, outdated and offensive perspectives. We often talk about the power of pop-culture and mainstream entertainment because it does offer a platform to not only reflect the world, but offer paths to change. This is a lot of lauding and pressure to place on a set of sci-fi TV shows, but I think Star Trek has more to teach us, even if it is just a better commitment to storytelling. What do you think?

    2

    Space yoga, red lighting to sell meat, and terrible decisions on Avenue 5

    Avenue 5 is a recently released HBO touted as sci-fi comedy, as was Orville, however, the difference is astounding. A5 appears to be taking a more "reality show" approach to storytelling. The cinematography moves between constant vignettes that hone in on the various character groups, and then multi-character scenes are shot in an often long framing to appear as the fly on the wall while you watch characters shout over each other in a very "naturalistic" dialogue approach. The focus so far seems to be on the lack of competence of everyone involved. This reality/sit-com approach is especially unusual in sci-fi and even though Orville began with elements of this it rapidly became a Space Opera with focuses on moralistic decision making and character growth. I’m not sure if we are going to see that occur on A5. But does that matter? A5 appears to be offering a new take on sci-fi which could open the genre wider to further hybrid versions. A deeper analysis is needed to look at what A5 offers the genre.

      4

      The Mandalorian

      Star Wars has been a popular culture icon for decades now. The revival of the early episodes and the continuation of the later that have altered the canon of literature, comics, and games have brought in a new generation of fans. Now with the move to Disney there are high expectations of the money-milking enterprise of a thousand spin off variations, yet interestingly there is the new tv show ‘The Mandalorian’. It already has a youth friendly vibe with a limited range of onscreen violence, no swearing and an over produced cinematography and sound track, yet still…it is the story of a bounty hunter, a criminal…but [SPOILER] he chooses at the end not to kill his bounty when faced with a "baby Yoda." Are we to assume then from this that the story will focus on a lone warrior with his own code, or will this be a redemptive arc – the hero was always within. It indeed fits into the franchise that has always been about hope above all else. The question will be though, like the most recent films, does this show actually have anything new to say or will this once again be a reiteration of the single monomyth that has plagued the SW franchise?

        3

        The rise of the female action hero?

        We are slowly seeing a rise of all female or at least female dominated films in genres that have not traditionally been female friendly. Traditionally action films, whether they are specifically categorised as Action or Action slash (/sci fi, /western, /crime), have focused on varying interpretations of the masculine lead. Sometimes he is flawed, and sometimes he may as well be a plastic figurine for all the depth of character demonstrated, but always he is strong, determined and takes action, and is accompanied with weak or "temptation" women whose role is to look good half dressed. Yet a handful of recent films are starting to challenge the role of the female action hero.

        The supernatural action genre has given us three intelligent, funny, and active women in ‘Ghostbusters’. The heist genre laid out eight women of varying skills whose expertise held up against the original male roles in ‘Oceans 8’. The sci-fi action adventure has most recently given us three power and diverse roles in the latest ‘Terminator’. However, the question is this – does this indicate a substantial change in Hollywood’s approach to the representation of women in film, or is this just a trend that will fade away again to be replaced with atypical machoism?

        • Shout out to Terminator: Dark Fates for its three female action heroes. The film is market poorly in this regard as Arnold shows up in much of the marketing but the film is truly dominated by Linda Hamilton, Mackenzie Davis, and Natalia Reyes who are all compelling in their own ways. Overall, Terminator and Alien remain two series where women have been the protagonists and have been fully realized nuanced characters for decades. – Sean Gadus 6 months ago
          2
        • @Sean so very true and I was so happy to see the return of old Hamilton, with all her issues and bat-crazy attitude. I was really impressed with the actual film focusing in on the women, but I agree it is interesting that there was still such a focus on Arnie in the promotion - does this then undermine the focus of the film or is it a sign of the fact that we still can't truly promote a female action film without it bombing at the box office? – SaraiMW 6 months ago
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        • The female action hero rose around three decades ago. – monkeylove 6 months ago
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        • I truly want to believe that this change is here to stay. Even though female heroes may have been present in previous decades, they were sexualized and belittled by the presence of a man. I think that Hollywood is shifting, because there is a need for strong heroines. All the time in Hollywood films, you will notice that the woman only discovers her worth when the man comes along. People see this as a problem, because women are not helpless damsels. There is an increasing amount of mental health disorders, LGBTQ+ characters, and strong females present in modern film. Hollywood is finally starting to make changes, because they must change with the times. People simply won't accept the traditional standards for characters in movies anymore. Hollywood needs to continue to incorporate important topics and characters into their films. – nicolemadison 6 months ago
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        • There have been fantastic female leads around for longer than the past few years, you only have to look to Sigourney Weaver in Alien to see that. Not to mention that Linda Hamilton was a driving force in Terminator 2, well before Dark Fate was an idea. It would be be good for the writer to examine the difference between these films that have female leads at the heart of their story and established/maintained an IP largely due to these characters, and those films that have come out in recent years that are aiming to use existing IPs to market a "female reboot" for better or worse. – CAntonyBaker 6 months ago
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        3

        The detrimental toll of hype

        Part of marketing is the driving up of hype, but in fact little active promotion is needed by many films and TV these days as most fans drive the movement with their own social media discussions and excitement. But is this proving detrimental to the work? For instance, with the close of the saga ‘Game of Thrones’ the hype and expectation around the wrapping of the series was incredibly high, with people taking time off work/study etc. to catch the "on time" release on Netflix around the world. But what seems to have come out is a post malaise of criticism about the ending that for some may have soured the entire show. Now is this a fair state of affairs? Was the ending really poor or is this simply a reaction to heightened expectations that just can not be met?

        It would be interesting to explore the fan expectations, hype and marketing surrounding the completion of ‘Game of Thrones’, ‘End Game’ (throwing as hugely hyped film into the mix) and ‘Big Bang Theory’ (maybe even look back at other colossal series ends such as ‘How I met your mother’ and ‘Breaking Bad’) to examine how their completions differed and seemed to have resulted in a very different spectrum of responses from fans.

        What makes an ending great? How do you manage fan hype? Can anything live up to a finale expectation?

        • This is really awesome and what you wrote shows how much you really like. – Markh32 12 months ago
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        • I love the question you pose at the end of the first paragraph. Was it really that bad of an ending, or did we have unbelievably high hopes? It definitely gets the reader thinking about the topic. Personally, once I got past the disappointment the ending actually made a lot of sense.The other examples of shows are good to include as you're appealing to different genres. It will allow more readers to think about the questions you're asking in context to shows they enjoy. – briannat 12 months ago
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        7

        The appeal of darkness

        So often we are drawn to the darker side of life, a quick purview of most films coming out in the last 5 years tends to support this. Yet why is this?

        Why are we so drawn to the dark, to the evil, to the bad?

        Is it a desire to engage safely with taboos? Does this appeal to our baser natures that desire an interaction with danger and amoral ideas? Or simply do we want to watch safely from our seats the downfall of others?

        There are obvious genre appeal in watching horror or thriller films, an aspect of the viewing is the narrative structure and the expectation of the horror themes. But what about drama or action or even romance films that are also engaging with these darker tones? Why is there a trend towards the macabre, the sinister and the frightening?
        Consider ‘Coco’ a Pixar animation in the land of the dead, or ‘Three Billboards’ about the lack of progression in the investigation of the murder of a young girl, or even ‘I, Tonya’ with its brutal depiction of domestic violence, even the romance ‘The Shape of Water’ features a rather horrific villain.

        • Films that portray a darker side allow the audience to experience something dark and scary without actually having to physically live it or be harmed. Also, life itself can be very dark, imperfect, violent, and so on. Thus, sometimes the dark side of things can address certain issues present in modern society and be relatable to some viewers. Another way to look at this is that having darker tones in a film can instigate conflict and thus make stories more interesting. – jay 1 year ago
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        • The Movie, Priest (2011) or the way Gotham in any Batman movie is presented are dark cities. So the impression created adds to what viewers feel. – Joseph Cernik 1 year ago
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        • I think that it is largely a desire to engage with these rather frightening ideas while still remaining perfectly safe. These bad things are out there, and by engaging with them through fiction, we can learn about them and how they come about, as well as considering how we might deal with them if they impacted us, but don't have to worry about any real world consequences. In a similar vein, we get attached to villains we see in stories who reflect our darker impulses, but again, because they're not real, we can engage with and explore these darker thoughts we have without anyone getting hurt. – Debs 12 months ago
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        4

        The Victorian Historical Romance and Urban Fantasy Mash-Up

        It is not as silly as it sounds.
        Victorian historical romances are exactly as they titled, they are romance stories set in Victorian England, but are written by modern authors and tend to feature modern sensibilities, such as the right to choices, agency for women, the right to work, but still have aspects of the period such as passivity, manners and gender responsibilities. Urban fantasy are stories set in distinctly urban locales that incorporate the presence of supernatural forces. They also tend to feature strong female leads, moralistic messages and evoke the essence of city life.

        The Victorian era was actually the period of the emergence of city literature, with great works by Charles Dickens that captured the new industrial London. It was a period too when superstitious beliefs and the beginning of science-fiction with Mary Shelley’s ‘Frankenstein’ and Robert Louis Stevenson’s novella ‘Strange Case of Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde.’ It was a period that saw much of its literature immersed into the urban. This is a central concern of urban fantasy, and with the suggested supernatural interactions into the city that highlight the anxiety and fear present in the modern city, as captured beautifully in Bram Stoker’s ‘Dracula,’ it is unsurprising that contemporary authors are still so captivated with using this as a setting.

        As such a new mash-up genre has emerged that is not yet named but is basically ‘Historical Victorian Urban Fantasy Romance’ genre – terrible name but a descriptive working title. Key authors in this field have been C. J. Archer with her series ‘Glass and Steele,’ and ‘The Ministry of Curiosities.’ Both feature strong female leads that must navigate through the streets of London on a series of adventures, with magics and supernatural forces surrounding them. Another is Colleen Gleason’s series ‘The Gardella Vampire Hunters,’ which focuses on Victoria, the most recent hunter called to hunt the vampires of London and Europe.

        This new genre deserves further discussion and a closer examination.

        • Thanks for bringing up this idea! I saw this movie "Pride and Prejudice and Zombies", another of such mash up fiction. I absolutely enjoyed the film. It's interesting to see how such Victorian canonical texts constituting primed-up characters are usually mashed up with supernatural creatures. Also, you have strong female leads taking the front pitch against the invasion of supernatural creatures, so you have a feminist undertone to it. – Azira101phale 1 year ago
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        4

        The female doctor

        We are now three episodes (possibly more by the time this topic is selected) into the new series of Doctor Who (2018), starring the talented Jodie Whittaker. Now seems like a good point to engage in a discussion of the show, its reception, the doctor as a woman, and Doctor Who fandom, in the light of the previous article The Artifice has published. ((link)

        Has Whittaker lived up to the expectations placed on her both as a woman playing an iconic role, and as the newest of the Doctors?
        What has been the overall reception by fans and general media to the portrayal of the doctor as a female now that three episodes have aired?
        Has the new writer/show runner influenced the reception and portrayal of the doctor? Is this a positive or negative?
        Is the new Doctor displaying a subversion of gender normalisation or is it continuing to present traditional stereotypes?

        What do you think?

        • In my opinion it may still be a little too early to analyse Whittaker's Doctor as she is still finding her feet, so to speak. It's a tough role for any actor to take on and truly make it his/her own. I'll reserve judgement until the end of her first season. Having said that though, Chibnall must, in my opinion, up his game. The third episode in this new series, 'Rosa' was particularly weak, insofar as the resolution could have been reached by almost any time travelling hero/ine and the villain of the week was dispatched far too easily. Still, I'm sure others have their own opinion. – Amyus 2 years ago
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        • I did not see it as a big deal that a woman was finally put in the role, I guess I just assumed it would happen, maybe later than it should have happened but finally. On the other hand, two of my daughters who faithfully follow the show were absolutely excited that it finally happened. Since one of the questions addresses fan reception, it might be useful to discuss how male and female fans reacted to the news, followed by how they react now that it is underway. – Joseph Cernik 2 years ago
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        Latest Comments

        Sarai Mannolini-Winwood

        A great discussion with a needed reminder that others have already come before in pop-culture and their mark and their work should be remembered and reviewed. It is becoming more “normal” to see aging stars in TV and film but it would not have occurred as smoothly without these forerunners.

        How The Golden Girls Changed the Face and Narrative of Aging
        Sarai Mannolini-Winwood

        Thanks, great little read – who doesn’t love cosmic horror?

        How Cosmic Horror Made Paganism Great Again
        Sarai Mannolini-Winwood

        Thank you for your interesting discussion, I particularly valued your final discussion of the threats present in the response to current “female power” presentations in Hollywood. I agree that we are still a long way off seeing genuine female storytelling, but as always it is unsurprising that TV is leading where film is still just stagnating.

        GLOW: Actual Feminist Filmmaking in #MeToo Hollywood
        Sarai Mannolini-Winwood

        In interesting discussion. I’m a little unsold though as I think it is great to praise these changes I am still not sold on Disney’s genuine desire to demonstrate change – I think they have had better success in their portrayal of topics and issues then they have had in their gender development. But thanks for continuing the discussion.

        How Princesses of Color Have Improved the Disney Princess Narrative
        Sarai Mannolini-Winwood

        I do so love Carmody and Obernewtyn is a great text, but I think you would have had a more cohesive discussion if you used Kristeva’s concept through an exploration of a number of Carmody’s texts as this is quite a common theme for her and the use of mutation as a form of disruption to identity is indeed present. Thanks for sharing.

        David Ireland’s A Woman of the Future and Isobelle Carmody’s Obernewtyn : Abjection and Mutation
        Sarai Mannolini-Winwood

        Good opening discussion of a very popular trope. I think though it would have been great to include a discussion about why we keep going back to this well – what is it about the concept of timetravel that draws in not only the creators but also the viewers. I like that you acknowledged the biggest issue is when obvious plot holes are present, and I think it is done best when it is built more fully into a longer experience not just a solution or a meaningless accident.

        Is Time Traveling an Effective Means of Storytelling?
        Sarai Mannolini-Winwood

        Thanks for sharing a beautiful childhood memory, I think we can all read this and immediately think of a handful of texts that still call a smile to our faces today.

        The Map That Came To Life: A Memento from Childhood
        Sarai Mannolini-Winwood

        Interesting discussion. I also don’t read reviews for this very reason, but it is good to know that the banality of reviewers and posters is still continuing and should continue to be ignored. Thanks for sharing.

        The Lack of Nuance in Media Criticism