Humanities graduates get a bad reputation in this time of increased attention being placed on STEM fields that will surely drive our technologically-advancing economy. Mainstream U.S. films have been a contributing factor to this poor image in representing humanities graduates as aloof and/or struggling writers that are haunted by addiction and manic spurts of genius or inspirational educators that set the bar unrealistically high for actual teachers. Titles such as Stuck in Love and The Dead Poets Society circulate these narratives of humanities graduates, perpetuating a single image of what these graduates can actually do in society. Arrival was released in 2016 with great critical acclaim, and one of the most interesting aspects of the sci-fi epic comes in the form of a humanities vs sciences debate between the two leads – Amy Adams as the linguist Louise Banks and Jeremy Renner as Ian Donnelly – a physicist. Banks makes it clear early in the film that they need to focus on learning to communicate with the titular arrivals before working out the physics of their space-travel, placing the linguist in a position of privilege, but does this narrative manage to correct the one-sided image of the humanities, or does it fall short of shedding a positive light on a field that has been traditionally relegated to narrow, stereotypical representations?
Though I get what you're trying to say, your argument is based on the flawed premise that "English majors" (or, more accurately, "scholars," since the term "major" typically disappears from self-identification after undergraduate study) and "Linguistics majors" are one in the same, despite being entirely separate fields with completely different subject matters and methodological approaches to such. Though it is not uncommon for Literary Studies and Linguistics do occasionally borrow ideas and practices from one another -- as was common in the Russian, Czech, and French schools of Structuralism in the early to mid twentieth century -- the disciplines themselves remain distinct. I had initially considered suggesting that this could be fixed simply by replacing the word "English" with "Linguistics," but the stereotyped image of English majors -- "struggling writers that are haunted by addiction and manic spurts of genius" as you've put it -- is not so accurate a description of the general societal impression of Linguistics majors. Honestly, I'm not sure if there even is such a thing as a mainstream personality stereotype of Linguistics students and scholars, aside from the occasional internet memes made by the majors themselves (https://i.pinimg.com/736x/64/52/db/6452dbbec053cf36476c1edfb68b68fd--linguistics-major-teaching-phonics.jpg). Perhaps a more accurate fix would be to replace "English" with the broader category of general "Humanities," since (as you've observed) the film's central question boils down to "Humanities vs Sciences." That said, being such a broad umbrella term for a vast array of disciplines -- from English to Economic, Geography to Gender Studies, History to Linguistics, etc, etc -- it might be difficult to represent that entire scholarly demographic with any one or two (or ten) stereotypical images. I'm just not sure what can really be done with this. Sorry. – ProtoCanon4 weeks ago
I understand the issues you bring up, and the phrasing was probably not the best. The subject is definitely a bit too broad for a focused study, but I was hoping to get some insight through notes to narrow it a bit. I realize that English studies and linguistic studies are separate fields, but I've personally seen the stereotype of those in the humanities who study language in some way being incorrectly lumped together under the umbrella of "English." This may be a personal experience that does not translate well for others, so turning our attention to the humanities in general may be a slightly more beneficial direction to take this topic. Having said this, I do believe that there is a trend in mainstream U.S. popular culture to view those in the humanities as the stereotypical "struggling artists" without taking into account the intricacies of the humanities such as linguistic studies, technical writing, etc. Thank you for the note; I believe you provided some very important clarifications to my initial topic. – Aaron4 weeks ago
Thank you *so much* for this topic. In an increasingly STEM-driven world, I sometimes feel as though everything I am passionate about is irrelevant. Sometimes I want to say to people, "You do understand you couldn't pursue STEM careers if you couldn't read, don't you?" And you're right, films don't help anything. I don't think I've seen a humanities-based film since Mona Lisa Smile, and that was what, 2003? Anyway...the topic should probably be narrowed down, but you have the seeds of something that will spark a great discussion. – Stephanie M.1 week ago
"It’s 106 miles to Chicago, we got a full tank of gas, half a pack of cigarettes; it’s dark and we’re wearing sunglasses" (Elwood Blues)
"Hit it!" (Jake Blues)
That legendary quote from ‘The Blues Brothers’ (1980) introduced the viewer to arguably one of the funniest and most notorious car chases in cinema history and exemplified the road movie as a metaphor for the desire for freedom. Freedom from oppression, freedom from authority and the freedom of self-expression. The comically manic, self-destructive joyride of ‘Goodbye Pork Pie’ (1981) saw the protagonist taking a thousand mile trip across New Zealand, in a progressively disintegrating mini, just to reconnect with his girlfriend, whilst David Lynch’s gentle perambulation that was ‘The Straight Story’ (1999) was based on the true story of Alvin Straight’s 240 mile trip on a lawnmower across Iowa and into Wisconsin to see his estranged brother. In more recent years we’ve had the eccentric British film ‘Driving Lessons’ (2006), the Bonny and Clyde-esque ‘God Bless America’ (2012), Inmtiaz Ali’s loosely scripted and superb ‘Highway’ (2014) and the somewhat off-kilter ‘The Lady in the Car with Glasses and a Gun’ (2015)…to list but a few examples. What connects all these films is that each is ultimately a life-affirming experience, even if the journey ends in disaster. It is the process of self-discovery, but in these modern times of ultra high-tech surveillance and ever encroaching self-driving vehicles, will we lose that chance to push the peddle-to-the-metal and engage with our thirst for a fleeting moment of automotive freedom?
I'd be really curious to know how the road trip movie fits in different cultures' cinema - I've assumed (perhaps incorrectly) that it was a American connection. – Emily Esten2 months ago
With the rise of digital retail services like the recent "Movies Anywhere," is the age of owning films in physical formats coming to an end sooner than expected? With services like iTunes and Vudu, no one needs to buy a film in a store like Best Buy anymore. Is it for the best? Does owning a DVD or Blu-ray come with benefits, or is it now unnecessary?
Ah, verrrry interesting. I have a DVD collection of movies I consider favorites, but now that Netflix, DVR, and etc. exist, I definitely don't watch them as much as I used to and maybe should. For a topic like this, I think you'd have to think carefully about the upsides of owning a film. For instance, is it just the idea of ownership that makes us shell out hard-earned cash, or is there something else to it? – Stephanie M.1 week ago
We see people refer to the need for more diverse characters, and of course it is important to hear from a broad range of people, who all have different backgrounds and opinions, but is it important that these characters are always linked to social justice? Every time we have an action story with a female lead like Mad Max: Fury Road, Atomic Blonde, Star Wars: The Force Awakens etc, it turns into a tirade about how this character is monumental and never been done before, and young women everywhere should look up to this characters because there aren’t any other female action stars (despite everybody else saying the same thing).
This topic is not intended to question the validity of diverse character, but rather investigate the effects of social justice on these characters. Is this layer of social justice harmful to these characters? If we introduce these characters without strong political and moral lectures, will audiences be more likely to embrace these differences?
An example that could work as a starting point could be The Simpsons: The character of Smithers is homosexual, but he isn’t a protected species like social justice would dictate. All facets of his character, including his sexuality, are made light of. A few years ago, The Simpsons was listed as the most influential show for homosexual representation and the breaking down of homosexual stigma. Is it possible that social justice is standing in the way of diversity? I think it would be very interesting to look at the effects of social justice on the advancement on diversity and how we should move forward with more diverse characters.
Thank you for this topic; I think there's a lot of mileage to be gotten out of it. You raise a valid point, and one I agree with. As a personal example, I have a physical disability. Therefore, I would like to see more people with disabilities represented in the media. But I *hate* it when characters with disabilities only exist to be "inspirations," or to promote social justice. In my view, we all exist to grow into ourselves, to find our purposes, and to be decent people. We're not meant to use each other just so one group can feel better about itself. – Stephanie M.3 months ago
I long for the day when characters are portrayed simply as people, regardless of whatever 'differences' they might have. A great idea for a topic. – Amyus3 months ago
Ideally a role should include both individuality and the person's interaction with society. To have a character without examining the individual's place in society would be an odd omission. Remember the show Remington Steele. It had a mystery to solve in each episode and a feminist arc back over each season back in the 80s. The show Campbell's today is a funny sitcom that shows interactions across race/gender/generations in a hilarious way today. I think the best characters on a show are a combination of the two aspects of a person, not to mention how a person is in one's family. Another example would be Big Bang Theory. Smart, successful people but struggling in love, life and legacies from their families. – Munjeera3 months ago
This is something I've always felt but never put into words. By over-emphasizing on social justice, we take away from the identity of a character. This is especially true whenever a lead is not a heterosexual white male. It's as if the character by itself is not interesting or strong enough to stand without the stigma to be PC. – superdilettante3 months ago
Master of None is a great combination of a person's life with some commentary on racism thrown in as would normally happen to a person of color. Bring It On is another movie that touches on a social justice theme but concludes in a surprising direction. Snowpiercer and Hell or High Water are two movies that portray the males leads in unusual ways. CSI had a coroner who had prosthetic limbs and he was portrayed without social justice themes throughout his tenure. There are successful movies and TV shows that do have diverse characters without social justice themes.The question here can be likened to if someone takes an example of a single character on TV who is not married, they are usually portrayed as searching for a partner. Can a single person ever be portrayed without the search for a significant other? The dating lives of single characters form the basis of so many characters on TV. Why can't single characters be portrayed as happily single and not dating? Because dating is a normal part of single life ad makes for fun TV viewing.Racism is a normal interaction in daily life and often forms the basis for a POC's life trajectory. Sobering but true. Also true is that it does make for interesting viewing. Whether that interest translates into actual action and effectively leads to change is another story. – Munjeera3 months ago
I completely agree Munjeera that racism and other forms of bigotry are part of daily life for some, and obviously that is a topic that is worth exploring; but I think it should be about maintaining balance. If you only show all members of a minority as victims, it sends a message to those people that they will forever be victims. It is like the handling of gay characters in Glee. Every gay character was a victim. They were always defined by their minority status and how society oppressed them. It then instills the notion in young (in this instance gay) people that they will never achieve anything because everyone is out to get them. – AGMacdonald3 months ago
Absolutely agree 100% that portrayals of diversity are trite with the idea that social change is not directed by individuals and their respective communities. But I don't think we should overestimate the influence of the media, rather we influence media. Media feeds our appetites not the other way around. Audiences are comfortable with the idea of diverse characters as victims or comedic targets rather than heroes or characters that have contributions to make.As for instilling in people, young and old, that these stereotypes are acceptable, people need to take responsibility for their viewing habits. I personally have made the decision to crtically examine entertainment for myself and my children and speak out against victimization roles. I do seek out forms of entertainments, plays and movies, that do offer nuanced and critical portrayals with complex characters. The more we support these types of high quality entertainment in its various forms, the more our responsible choices will have an impact on the entertainment industry.We need to stop enabling and blaming the media for their immature portrayals and start being mature and responsible in how we respond. Media will offer diverse characters with depth and nuance when we start demanding it. – Munjeera3 months ago
Absolutely agree. It's such a complicated issue, which is why it will make for a great article. – AGMacdonald3 months ago
Fan service has become a staple of modern Hollywood films, and while it’s great to see the characters from previous iterations of your favourite franchises, it is also important to have fresh original ideas to go with them. The Force Awakens was criticised for doing this to much: for not just including characters and setting, but for reproducing complete story beats and plot devices. So, the question I would like to see explored is: How much is too much when it comes to fan service?
Fan service has always been ingrained in very legendary franchises. It may be best to look at other examples as well.
– BMartin431 month ago
Do you know the origin of how James Bond came to be a spy? Does it take away your enjoyment of the Bond films if you don’t? What about Indianna Jones? Movie after movie after movie, it’s still fun, they are like issues of a comic book series. Why does Hollywood insist on pummeling us with repeatedly telling us the origin of a superhero? Whether it’s 45 minutes of the "first" Spider-Man film, or a five minute recap to remind you (Batman vs Superman) before the next installment commences. Is it necessary? Can’t we just go into the next installment of the movie?
I agree. Origin stories lose the whole mystery. A good example is LOST where the final season explained how everyone got to the island and then proceeded to undermine the whole backstory with a finale that made everything out to be a dream. What a total waste of time and so disappointing. I definitely agree with you that I don't need an origin story. Familiarity breeds contempt! – Munjeera2 years ago
I personally love origin stories, if they're good and come out gradually. It's the same reason I love learning about an author after reading their work -- it often explains the actions and reactions of a character in a way that makes you want to read the story or watch the movie again and search for subtleties you may have missed in the character's various interactions throughout. – Cait2 years ago
I personally don't mind the background story as long as there are variations, of some aspect. If i were to go see two or 3 or etc. version of spider man movies and they all showed the same origin story then it would be pointless and i understand what you are saying then. Although by giving a back-round this also attracts the rest of the population that might not know all the facts about spiderman or etc. . – tranpreet2 years ago
It's a difficult question because on one hand fans want the film to be so faithful to the comics, the origin is necessary but on the other hand, it does take away a large chunk of the film which could have been used elsewhere to enhance the film further. Not having an origin could also confuse those who aren't familiar with the characters comic history. Depending on the character and context to the film, an origin should be explained in some way or another, whether it be ten minutes or even one simple line. – ajgreen942 years ago
The origin of the superhero is interesting because it provides insight into the character's motives and drives. Knowing certain aspects that occurred before the individual reached this level allows the viewer to understand why they act the way they do and it does create a level of understanding and acceptance. The background of Batman is probably one of the most interesting; yet it does not have to be reiterated in every single franchise installment--this I agree with, 100%! I hope someone picks up this topic, especially with the upcoming onslaught of superhero films set to hit the big screen in the upcoming months. – danielle5771 year ago
In my opinion, an origin story, done well, brings a lot to a story because it shows you something about the hero's attitude to their status as hero. For Batman, understanding that he does what he does because of his parents' death throws light on what he's going through internally while he's out fighting bad guys. For Spiderman, seeing him first as a nerdy outcast brings a kind of humour to his sudden freedom when he becomes a superhero. All this brings vulnerability to the characters, which isn't easy to achieve in a genre when victory is mandatory and usually absolute. Interiority obviously isn't the main point of a superhero, but you've got to have some or the thing falls flat. For that, you basically have to reach into their past. – TKing1 year ago
I actually really love origin stories. In fact, you talking about how James Bond became a spy or how Indiana Jones became a treasure hunter really got my mind working. I don't think its necessary, but I think it's fun for audiences to realize why a character does what they do and feel a little more sympathy towards them. The same goes for villains, before I knew Harley Quinn's backstory, I didn't really have an opinion about her one way or another. Now that I do, I love her and think she's a super interesting character. – Jenae11 months ago
Ok, let's agree that an origin story is fun and interesting. I think 99% of the people by now know Spider-Man was bitten by a spider. The story is so well known. Spider-Man began in 1960's and ran monthly ongoing to the present with over 1,000 issues to his name. Only ONE issue contained his origin. (And that was in another title). We had 45 min origin in the 2002 movie, we had another 45 min origin in the 2012 movie. We wait so long for a movie to come out, do we really need another 45 min origin story in 2017 when there is sooo much to be told that hasn't. – DrTestani11 months ago
This depends on how the creator wants to the story of that character to be played out. Origin stories are good in order to see how the character came to be and why. Some origins stories can come in the beginning, like how Peter Parker became Spider-Man, or in the middle of the plot, like how Marinette and Adrien became Ladybug and Cat Noir in Miraculous Ladybug. Sometimes, there is no origin story and that is what makes it interesting; it makes the audience guess and look for answers on that specific character. Origin stories are what help make the entire story plot come together, as long as it makes sense. A good plot makes a good origin story. – Sagemaster110 months ago
Any discussion of this topic needs to reference this article: http://www.npr.org/sections/monkeysee/2017/07/11/536508517/origin-al-sin-what-hollywood-must-learn-from-spider-man-homecoming – derBruderspielt3 months ago
Isn't the origin story part of the whole superhero story formula? For many superheroes, it's the explanation of how the human crosses some sort of line, enters a new realm, becomes the superhuman. I agree that the origin story needs to be creatively retold every time it's told, but I'm all for keeping it in the superhero story formula. – JamesBKelley1 month ago
Whatever happened to the good ole’ bank job? A small team of dedicated villains who cased the job, drew up meticulous plans and (sometimes) got away with the loot. These days we are used to seeing technological spectaculars with the villains often touting hardware and computer systems equal to, or even superior to, that of the Police. The Bank Heist has been a popular movie theme since the days of silent film making, but times move on and so do the brains and specs behind the operation. ‘Bonny and Clyde’ (1967) showed the simple, violent approach to robbing a bank; ‘The Italian Job’ (1969) had a more lighthearted spin and instantly made the Mini car into an icon. In more recent years we’ve had ‘The Bank Heist’ (2011) a Canadian comedy and the Las Vegas-style showmanship of ‘Now You See Me’ (2013), whilst the British films ‘The Bank Job’ (2008) and ‘The Hatton Garden Job’ (2016) both harked back to old school techniques. Of course the list is endless and these are just a few examples. Explore the evolution of the bank heist and not just in terms of the advance in technology over the years, but also look at the characters involved, what their motivations are and why we, the international viewing public, retain a fascination for such villainy. It’s not always about the money!
Analyze the use of music in the film. The music Baby listens to becomes a major part of the movie’s score and also serves to punctuate many of the film’s amazing chase sequences; it is often synced perfectly to the action, as Baby is meticulous in timing the music just right. A film’s score is always deliberately attuned to the story’s plot and themes, but do the musical choices, timing, and the fact it is usually coming from a character’s iPod produce a new or different effect upon the viewer?
I have yet to see baby driver but I hugely appreciate a good soundtrack in a movie so this topic would be great to explore the importance of music in film and how it can at times be equally as effective as special effects and dialogue. The Dark Knight trilogy is a great example of this as I believe Hans Zimmer's composure on that made it all the more amazing. – AdilYoosuf1 month ago
It would be helpful to add a track-listing for the Baby Driver soundtrack, and possibly a link to its iTunes page so readers can have a place to sample songs track by track in case they forget a song. – TeriekWilliams19881 month ago
I recently watched a clip from an interview where the actors talked about the fact that music was a big part of this film already in the scripting phase. They even wrote a special program to help readers experience the story and the music together while they were shopping it around. https://youtu.be/RB7E0geIeV8 – derBruderspielt1 month ago
There are various very useful video essays on this topic on YouTube, typing Baby Driver essay on it should find some. – Henry6 days ago