Will Nolen

Will Nolen

Instructor of Philosophy & English. MA in Continental Philosophy. PhD dissertation in the Platonic & Biblical roots in utopian, dystopian, & post-apocalyptic narratives.

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Latest Articles

Latest Topics

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Web video celebrities

What is it about YouTube videos that makes them more accessible and appealing to today’s inquisitive audiences? Why do people seem to prefer YouTube web video celebrities with little to no credentials or credentials in unrelated fields? Is it a matter of charisma? Confirmation bias? Laziness to read? A mix?

  • I like this idea. Are there any celebrities you have in mind for the topic or do you want to leave it open for the writer? – Emily Deibler 3 years ago
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  • Perhaps the ones in the tags? – Will Nolen 3 years ago
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  • Because tags do not show up when a topic is converted into a post, I would suggest possibly adding PewDiePie to the topic, so that isn't lost. That, or I suppose mentioning him in this note is sufficient enough. – Emily Deibler 3 years ago
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  • An important idea exploring an increasingly important medium. – proflong 3 years ago
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  • Oh ok Emily Deibler- wasn’t aware: so examples include PerDiePie, Joe Rogan, Jordan Peterson, and many others – Will Nolen 3 years ago
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Sexual Objects in Feminist Clothing?

The number of female protagonists in video games has sharply increased in recent years. From Lara Croft to D. Va and Widowmaker in Overwatch or Ellie in Last of Us, there’s no denying the move to cast women characters in the lead in many of today’s gaming franchises. The question I have is whether this is in fact a shift in the direction towards gender equality and a real desire to branch out the target client base to include female consumers. The evidence to the contrary lies in the character design of these string, intelligent, independent women and girls who nevertheless remain depicted in what constitute for CIS male players as erotically charged and sexually arousing body types and outfits. Further proof of this underlying trend can be seen in the fact that all of these “empowering” characters are extremely popular in rape based hentai games and videos. Is the gaming industry (designers and consumers) still in the end just a cesspit of misogynistic desires despite the work of women challenging gamer culture through a history of conflicts as #gamergate?

  • I do not much play many games, but I believe that females characters in games have been and continue to be portrayed sexually. In most games, a female character's outfit reveals more skin than a male character's outfit. In some cases, the strength of a female is lower than a male character's strength. In some sense, this brings up the concept of male domination and female subordination. Although this is not true to all cases, I still believe that it is a reoccurring theme. It also leaves a negative effect on individuals because they might not want to choose a female character because it is weaker than the other male characters. – decalcomania 3 years ago
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Superheroes: Altruists or Status Quo Apologists

The Marvel and DC cinematic universes have created superheroes that benefitted from the US military industrial complex then turned their backs on it. Captain America became a hero from the Army’s super soldier serum in The First Avenger then rejected surveillance overreach by government agencies in The Winter Soldier. Iron Man inherited a vast fortune from Stark Industry’s weapons development then restructured the company to clean energy development at the end of the first movie. Batman’s endless array of tech toys originated as US military prototypes of Wayne tech repurposed for war on Gotham’s crime. Nonetheless, super heroic courage, genius intellect, and god like powers are always depicted preserving the status quo (late stage capitalism with grossly corrupt governments protecting global income inequality as the earth burns) and actively combatting those who strive to fix such problems. For example, Thanos aims to eradicate overpopulation and Killmonger plots to undermine white global dominance by destroying US and NATO military superiority. What can we make of this ambiguity in superhero comics and movies?

  • I think it would also be interesting to explore what Superman and Batman represent. Admittedly, I'm not very involved in the lore, but much has been made about Bruce Wayne being a wealthy man who, besides fighting supervillians, also stops people who do petty crimes who obviously are way more economically disadvantaged than him. – Emily Deibler 3 years ago
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  • Yes exactly! Superman on the other hand has the power to shut down the 100 companies producing 70% of the carbon emissions leading to climate destruction but settles for foiling jewel heists and working as a reporter – Will Nolen 3 years ago
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  • Also, we should add Batman's obsession with surveillance and information collection... If I were to tackle this topic, I would definitely bring up Robert Kirkman's Invincible, where the main character is constantly confronted with this ambiguous dichotomy. – kpfong83 3 years ago
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  • Absolutely kpfong83! Batman's surveillance and his schemes to betray each of his allies "just in case" all echo American foreign policies even with fellow NATO members (as I recall in 2015 the NSA got busted for wire tapping German chancellor Angela Merkel). – Will Nolen 3 years ago
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  • I feel like this is really a question about what's good for individual people vs. some theoretical "greater good." Superheroes like Batman and Superman, from my admittedly limited understanding, seem like what they want is to keep "the peace" by ensuring a relatively stable society in which most people can live normal lives, even if it might leave some members of that society vulnerable in certain respects. Meanwhile, the bad guys you mention have big dreams and big ideas about how to remake the world, but the only way to accomplish these goals is to cause a lot of personal suffering, even to the people they're supposedly trying to help. – Debs 3 years ago
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  • I think that you might be right Debs but this superheroic pro-status quo perspective is quite limited in that the definition of who benefits from that "relatively stable society" does NOT include a huge portion of the global population (e.g. the 99% of the population in developing countries, the poor and other disenfranchised in the developed countries- PoC, LGBTQ, poor, etc.). So these superheoes end up reflecting the pov of the ruling elites and their beneficiaries which might explain why many superheroes tend to be white males from middle and upper class backgrounds – Will Nolen 3 years ago
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  • Really great topic! I can't help but think of Roland Barthes' argument that our dominant contemporary mythologies serve to reinforce our dominant, contemporary social value systems. In his analysis Barthes looks at all sorts of things -- including advertising for detergents and professional wrestling -- and if he were writing today, he'd definitely include a short essay on recent superhero films. The film Black Panther would be a great film to focus on, with its competing ideas -- with one idea emerging as the clear victor -- about how we might address lasting economic and social disparities. – JamesBKelley 2 years ago
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Game of Thrones: Daenerys' Backlash

The massive outcry against GoT’s last season centered not only on a rushed job of tying up loose ends, but in particular of Daenerys Targaryen’s turn towards genocidal tyrant in the last season. Was this turn simply more male dominated writing casting female leadership as stereotypical depictions of a hysterical woman who could not handle the pressures of ruling when her BFF was executed, her dragon baby shot out of the sky, and her silver fox butchered (all before her eyes)? Or was this turn perfectly aligned with the nature of power that GoT had been warning from the beginning? Is there anything redeemable in Daenerys’ legacy after such a fall?

  • I think Dany's tyranny had been foreshadowed in her "blood as right to rule," plotline dating back to the start and really began to show in Season 5 when she showed a proclivity towards acts of extreme violence as a leader. While the ending was sloppy for a number of reasons, it would be perhaps harsh to assume that her plotline was playing into "hysterical woman ruler" tropes when a) her family history as a Targaryen made this a distinct possibility from the beginning (as they say, the gods flip a coin on those: given that John was the other one and he was not a genocidal despot, this was likewise foreshadower) and b) she wasn't shown to be "hysterical" so much as falling victim fo the "game of thrones," that the average citizen cares not about (as discussed very early on). The warning had absolutely been there. I think her legacy is mostly in her assistance with defeating the White Walkers and unifying various factions with John's assistance; but in the end, she became just as her father, The Mad King had been. – benjamindmuir 3 years ago
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  • This is a good and complicated topic. I don't want to be that person, but Dany's full name is spelled "Daenerys" for anyone looking to write on her. :) – Emily Deibler 3 years ago
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  • Emily- fixed that. Thank you! – williamnolen11 3 years ago
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  • I think this is a super interesting topic to explore, and something that we can now more rationally analyze since some time has passed since the finale and it's easier to do a retrospective. I think this one will really boil down to whether or not you think this has in fact been set up from the start. In the final episode Tyrion listed out all the reasons why we should have seen this coming; should we have, or was that a convenient excuse for the show runners to use to wrap up the show? I think it would also be worth trying to explore what fan response would have been if her character had been male. It's easy to try and claim that some of her behaviors were just hysterical, but a male character in the same position could get away with the same behavior and no one would have questioned it to the same degree I feel. – InvertedMobiusStrip 3 years ago
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  • This is a really awesome topic. I think everyone was too focused on the ending not being what they expected/wanted, that they had to make it a social issue. There’s tons of evidence foreshadowing Dany’s insanity. But you could also make an argument for the other side. Definitely explore this! – galogsdon 3 years ago
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Latest Comments

Will Nolen

Absolutely, yes I agree. The Jedi represent the U.S.’s more idealistic eutopian paternalism and their gradually increasing reliance on the clone troopers sets up their downfall and the Empire just as US foreign policy devolved from the benevolent defenders of democracy in WWI to the perpetual occupying force and drone based state terror of its War on Terror in the 21st century.

Star Wars: a Criticism of Paternalism as Stepping Stone to Empire
Will Nolen

Thank you! I love me some Star Trek too, don’t get me wrong. I find it interesting that Roddenberry’s utopianism has devolved into the more mainstream dystopian and cataclysmic narratives under Paramount+.

Star Wars: a Criticism of Paternalism as Stepping Stone to Empire
Will Nolen

I’d say I agree with much of the internet: it retcons some of TLJ, a lot of fan service, it would have benefited from being broken up into two parts since it ended up rushing to tie up too many threads in underdeveloped ways, no real surprises, too many deus ex machinas and plot holes, and so on

However, let’s see how it ages.

Star Wars: a Criticism of Paternalism as Stepping Stone to Empire
Will Nolen

Yes! Exactly Spinelli! However, the prequels seem to suggest democracy is not only messy, it is inevitably conducive of tyranny. A conclusion Plato wholeheartedly agrees with as Books VII and VIIII of the Republic map out the same exact descent from democracy to tyranny- a topic I plan to expand on in the next installment.

Star Wars: a Criticism of Paternalism as Stepping Stone to Empire
Will Nolen

Thank you Anthony, I’m happy you liked the read. To be honest, I’m having a hard time seeing much beyond toxic masculinity in the sequel trilogy. It could be because they’ve been winging it in the new series much as they did in the original trilogy, whereas the prequels were under Lucas’ singular creative direction throughout. It could also be that I don’t have enough distance yet to fully appreciate what the sequels are offering. Only time will tell.

Star Wars: a Criticism of Paternalism as Stepping Stone to Empire
Will Nolen

I’m glad you enjoyed the read. As for the consequences of withdrawal, destabilization is already the consequence of US involvement to begin with. In the end, any concern for foreign countries justifies US imperial violence for private interests, that’s how we got into this situation in the first place- the war hawks rely on liberal compassion for foreign suffering and corporate media helps to foster it.

Star Wars: a Criticism of Paternalism as Stepping Stone to Empire
Will Nolen

The fragility of democracy goes well beyond Trump however. Bush and Obama and Clinton have eroded our democratic ideals and human rights through the Patriot Act, the National Defense Authorization Act, $750 bn a year in military weapons spending, drone assassinations, executive orders to bypass the Constitution, Wall Street bail outs and tax cuts, etc.

Star Wars: a Criticism of Paternalism as Stepping Stone to Empire
Will Nolen

No lies detected here Candice. Would make for a good article- you could explain the scale of population and technological advancement along the Kardashev scale then assess SW and other space operas.

Star Wars: a Criticism of Paternalism as Stepping Stone to Empire