Topics: Joseph Cernik

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Science Explained Through Television: From Watching Mr. Wizard to Bill Nye the Science Guy

From Don Herbert who starred in “Watch Mr. Wizard” (1951—1965) to Bill Nye who starred in “Bill Nye the Science Guy” (1993-1998), we see that science could be explained in ways which do require a degree in science. How do we look at the impact of these shows? Both Herbert and Nye have had some degree of prominence beyond their shows. In the case of Herbert, by the mid 1950s, there were several thousand Mr. Wizard science clubs, and, in the case of Nye, besides appearances on TV shows such as “The Big Bang,” and “Dancing with the Stars,” Nye has been prominent in addressing creationism and global warming. The legacy of these two individuals can be studied to address making science a topic that is not simply left to scientists.

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    How Widows are Seen and Portrayed in America through Movies

    This is an outgrowth of a few comments I noticed on my article about The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel–the issue of widows was raised. It might be interesting to see how widows have been presented in movies, say, a movie from each decade from the 1950s to the present (or beginning before the 1950s). Movies can reflect the values and norms of a period in time so what changes are seen and how do they reflect changing values? A 1947 movie, The Ghost and Mrs. Muir, starred Gene Tierney (as a widow) and Tex Harrison (as the ghost). Or, the 2018 movie, Widows, starring Viola Davis and Michelle Rodriguez. What impact did and do these movies have on how the public looks upon widows?

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      Harry Potter: Reading versus The Movies

      Character development, something that movies do not have the time for, but books do, allows for the creation of a more complex environment. In the case of the Harry Potter books, it was possible to develop an appreciation of the difficulties of learning magic and of the slow process of social interaction among a wide cast of characters. As a result, as one works their way through the books, characters develop more substance. What gets lost, glossed over, or just mentioned in passing in the movies, can be understood and appreciated when watched after having read the books. An essay can focus on the contrasts between understanding Harry Potter from the books versus watching the movies, without having read the books. This can be useful as a way of highlighting the importance of reading but also the difficulties of writing for the big screen.

      • I was just thinking about this topic. If you don't read the books but watch the movies, there is so a lot that feels like plot-holes if you don't know the context of it from the book. A lot of characters get thrown to the side or forgotten in the movies or mentioned in passing so quickly you might not even catch it. Great topic! – Zohal99 2 years ago
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      • A wonderful topic, especially in regards to Harry Potter. There is so much that gets swept under the rug that the Harry Potter movies remind me of a SparkNotes version of the books. – CarliStas 2 years ago
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      • Quite right you are, Zohal99. I was introduced to Francis Ford Coppola's The Godfather by way of the film portrayal. I found it difficult to conceive that anything more could be said about the reality of such a family, Italian or otherwise. I then read the novel and was dumbfounded by what was amiss in the film. Granted, the real reason for Sonny's lady-in-waiting would garner an R rating here, nevertheless; each medium does what it can, how it can, when it can---I believe. – L:Freire 2 years ago
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      Animation and Political Satire

      "Pinky and the Brain" and "Rocky and Bullwinkle" were two series that often contained subtle and, at times, not so subtle jabs at politics. An example is an episode of "Pinky and the Brain" where the Brain found a Rush Limbaugh record where Limbaugh sings and the Brain is going to use it to "try to takeover the world." There may be other series that can be added to this essay, these are included here as examples. The broader theme is that political satire can be found weaving itself through several animation series. An essay can address the writers and what they said. In addition, did viewers pick up on the satire? Did the satire reach beyond the viewers? So, several issues, perhaps others, can be addressed in a well-developed essay.

      • I would try to be as specific as possible for this topic. Because the various political issues are many but certain shows somehow managed to greatly capture those issues. – BMartin43 2 years ago
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      • I would also add that you should analyze how political satire in animation differs from political satire in live-action genres – Michael Scalera 2 years ago
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      • Good points raised regarding whoever may pick this topic to write about. I was undertake impression that topics proposed are to be written by others (not the writers proposing them). So I hope someone picks this topic, I'd enjoy reading the essay. – Joseph Cernik 2 years ago
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      "American Pickers" and Reality TV: The Real from the Staged

      “American Pickers” on the History Channel is fun and enjoyable to watch. The problem, however, is how real is it actually. Reality TV shows need to keep the audience entertained and want them to come back for more, this show is no different. By focusing on this specific show an essay can address staged from real and the impact the show might have on people who begin to believe the stuff they have in a garage, a storage bin, a loft (probably junk they long forgot about) is worth anything of real value. In the case of this show watching people call their stuff “collecting” when it looks more like hoarding can contribute to a good essay.

      • Make sure to look at the other articles on Reality TV already published to address some of the discussion on RTV, but then yes a focus in on the concept of "collecting" and its socio-cultural implications could be really interesting. – SaraiMW 2 years ago
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      Binge-Watching and TV Criticism

      “Happy Valley” (Season 3), “Stranger Things” (season 3), “Lost in Space” (Season 2), “Queen of the South” (Season 3), or “Into the Badlands” (Season 3). There are other series out there. Sure, some come from the BBC or AMC, but the convenience of quickly seeing as many episodes as one can enjoy in a short period of time, is so different than watching “Davy Crockett” on “Walt Disney’s Wonderful World of Color,” spread out over three Sunday evenings, eventually getting to Davy dying at the Alamo.
      The anticipation, the expectation are probably different when waiting for an entire season of a particular show to be available on Netflix than was the case with waiting for the next episode of “Spin and Marty” a series that included some 78 episodes in all (also on Disney). Do we develop a more critical way of evaluating a series now because of the way we wait for its return and watch a number of episodes all in one sitting than was the case when we had no control over how many episodes we could watch at one sitting? Since episodes can be watched back to back (to back, and so on) we can evaluate plot lines and character development in ways that was not the case when we had no choice but to wait for the next installment. Perhaps we become TV critics in ways that was not the case previously or even possible.
      Our capability to critique a series now has to impact how series lines are developed by, say, the writers of these shows. Is there more of an interaction between the audience and the writers, producers, actors on these shows than was the case in the past?

      • The thing is that promotion of these series' was good thats why people remember about these. There are other great series like la casa de papel which got ruined in second season. And no one remembers about it now. – SonofQuantamPhysics 2 years ago
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      Hopalong Cassidy and Sky King save the Day: A Time when Saturday Morning TV Mattered

      This topic requires a look back at the early days of TV, which might not seem to matter but still has an influence. TV, at one time, was an experiment and it might end up being a surprise that certain shows became popular and had a following. Looking at the early days of children’s shows and how they contrast with the present provides an insight into how far TV has come–not necessarily always for the better, just a reflection on how far we have come. Contrasts or evolution or maybe it is just development are a way to measure change: What is different about the present and whether it is better or just different from the past is useful. An historical perspective is a good way to look at the present. In this situation, looking at children’s TV shows can provide that perspective. Change should not always be seen as an improvement, sometimes it is just change–we do things different than they were done in the past just not necessarily better, just different.

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        Is it Possible to develop a good "feel" for a TV show from the first few episodes?

        It is possible to look back after the first season of a show and develop a feeling that it was a good show, or even after several seasons. But, when a show first appears on TV and all that exists are those first few episodes, maybe no more than the first two or three, then what type of opinions can develop about it? It is possible to talk about a "tipping point" what something starts to take off, but here, at the beginning, the tipping point might not yet have been reached. Early on character development, character interaction, plots, story lines might be seen in different ways then might be the case after the show has been on for a longer period. When a show has been on for a season or more, the audience has more of a history to draw upon in how they see character interaction and plots develop, that is not there with only a few episodes. Those first few episodes can begin to lay the foundation for what is to come and, perhaps, it is how the audience speculates about where they think the show and its characters might be headed that matters in determining if viewers see a show as having the potential to be a good show.

        • This is definitely an interesting topic! And definitely something that would be interesting to look at. It would be interesting to talk about the difference between shows that try too hard and those that bring you in slowly. – ChaosMistress5817 2 years ago
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        • This is quite an interesting concept to delve into. Especially because of how often shows get cancelled early in the season due to ratings in our current television network climate. It is almost essential now to have that "it" moment early on to get people talking and tuning in. A bit off topic, but it might also be of interest to look into how streaming services and binge watching may prolong having those "tipping points" later in the season because the entire seasonal storyline is available at hand. What does this mean for network shows? – Lexzie 2 years ago
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        Is it possible to like Gone With The Wind while still realizing the often Mythic Image of the South it Presents?

        Gone With The Wind (1939) can be seen as a good movie. But, at the same time, it presents an image of the South which was never true in the first place and which presents slavery in almost passing reference ways. There is this time before the Civil War where, we are to believe, that the South had an ideal existence. Seeing the movie from the present, makes one quite aware of what is left out and glossed over and makes one want to go "Wait! Stop! Go back!" How can we and should evaluate the movie today?

        • It is important as always to remember the framework of literature, that it is a fiction and GWTW was always framed as a historical romance that drew on some elements of the civil war, but largely was about the journey of Scarlet O'Hara through a changing period. It is a story about the dangers of unrequited love and unrealistic ideals, but also about strength and resolution. In many ways the representation of slavery in the film/book needs to be balanced against the fact it is told from the perspective of a woman in that period, most of which had the same rights of slaves in the time. Scarlet is also an unreliable narrator as she perceives the events around her from a very self-centered lens. However, all in all it is still an interesting text to discuss. – SaraiMW 2 years ago
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        Sharknado: Camp on TV

        Sharknado is suppose to end its run on TV with the release of the sixth in the series of made-for-TV movies. These movies can best be described as "camp" which might express the poor quality yet, at times, hard to resist desire (or curiosity) to watch them. Camp and television have had a long relationship, with shows such as Batman and Gilligan’s Island in the 1960s to Charlie’s Angels and CHiPs in the 1970s and 1980s best described as camp. What is it that attracts viewers to camp TV? Is there a clear dividing line between comedy and camp?

        • A bit of a historical background and theoretical framing of the concept of 'camp' will be required. Otherwise I think it is a fair discussion to have. It could be widened further to generally look at the appeal of what is such an odd series of culturally successful TV movies. – SaraiMW 2 years ago
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        • This can be a very topic to talk about it. Not every piece of entertainment has to aim to thought-provoking high art, that's why Camp exists. It's entertainment junk food that only aims to keep people entertained. Also talk about how guilty pleasure and camp can go hand in hand – cbo1094 2 years ago
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        How have TV Westerns changed since the 1950s and 1960s?

        Hell on Wheels (2016) with Colm Meaney and Deadwood (2006) with Timothy Olyphant represent a scattering of western shows over the past decade or so. In the year 1959, for example, there was Rawhide (with Clint Eastwood), The Californians (with Richard Coogan), The Rifleman (with Chuck Connors) and Bonanza (with Lorne Greene) and several more. What changes have taken place to reflect greater sensitivity to issues that were not always addressed in earlier Westerns? Is it possible to say that more recent TV Westerns have improved upon earlier ones? If so, in what ways?

        • Already addressed (with political undertones and and analysis): 1) https://the-artifice.com/the-virginian-political-journeys 2) https://the-artifice.com/symbolism-in-the-western-genre – L:Freire 2 years ago
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        • "Justified" with Timothy Olyphant (2010-2015) and "Westworld" (2016-present) are also golden examples of a modern take on the Western genre. – ValleyChristion 2 years ago
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        The Enduring Three Stooges

        Moe, Larry, and Curly (forget Shemp, Joe Besser, Curly Joe) made movies between 1934 and 1946 and still are popular today. Almost anywhere in the country a TV station is running Three Stooges short movies. A song called "The Curly Shuffle" was made in 1983. Sam in the TV series Cheers frequently referred to the Three Stooges. MASH had an episode in which three Korean doctors were referred to as Moe, Larry, and Curly. A movie was made in 2012 and one is scheduled to begin production in 2018. Why is there such an enduring affection for these three characters more than seven decades after Moe, Larry, and Curly made their last short movie?

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          The End: How TV Shows End, the Good and the Bad

          Seinfeld ended oddly, it was difficult to feel as though the main characters were likable, Medium ended with a feeling of completion, and The Sopranos ended with a feeling of ambiguity (essentially choose what happened). Is there a good ending? Can they be done differently?

          • There needs to be a clear basis to how you judge a "good" ending. The sources you choose will need to include audience and critic feedback, as well as research to understand how networks vs streaming cancel their shows. This could be a really interesting read if it takes the time to analyze the above concepts. – Nicholas Bennett 2 years ago
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          • I think it will be helpful to consider what alternate endings some of these shows could have had. If they had had another ending would they have been more coherent or consistent as series? Some of these criteria might make sense. Did the shows subvert not just expectations but consistency as well. How much were the showrunners aware of their ending before the show was well underway? – Zander Jones 2 years ago
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          • It might also be useful to discuss how important (or not) an ending really is. Does a fantastic series become instantly ruined with an unsatisfying ending? Should the ending pander to the audience or serve the story and characters faithfully? It would also be interesting to consider the opposite argument. Can a slam-dunk ending make-up for a sub-par series? It would be important to analyze the type of series and what the end game is for a sit-com versus a thriller like "Lost" or "Breaking Bad." – zbalog 2 years ago
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          • Make sure to explain criteria for what is good, bad, etc.. but really interesting topic! – Sean Gadus 2 years ago
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          Tweeting: When it Matters

          This will certainly be Donald Trump’s legacy: He elevated it to a level where it cannot be ignored. But all tweeting is not the same: Some tweets carry more impact than others. Is it only because of who is doing the tweeting or is there more to it? Are there ways of tweeting where the one tweeting can increase their chances of it mattering? Part of issue here is developing a method to study the impact.

          • I just noticed a number of graduate students on this site. Here's an opportunity to structure a course. – Joseph Cernik 2 years ago
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          • Another point: Structuring a course. There's no reason to simply follow the chapters in a textbook. Determining how to structure lectures and discussions can be tied to your particular research interests--which leads to publications. Talk your interests out with your students, let them see how you start to develop your original thinking. Students should not just see the end product, but how you got there. – Joseph Cernik 2 years ago
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          • Another important element to address is the absurd number of bot accounts found on Twitter, and how these influenced and perhaps continue to influence conversations. – LaPlant0 2 years ago
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          Dirty Harry: A Guilty Pleasure where the Simple Solution Persists

          Clint Eastwood in five movies between 1971 and 1988 (Dirty Harry, Magnum Force, The Enforcer, Sudden Impact, The Dead Pool) did what has to be seen as a guilty pleasure: Here was the law dispensing justice in a way that often bypassed the complexities of the legal process and in the end the problem was solved. Villains came across in these movies often as caricatures where the audience could easily get behind Harry as he did his thing. When looking at these movies from the present, in one way, they seem to come from a different era, a different time, yet, at the same time, the simplicity of justice seems to echo Donald Trump’s approach to basically any policy he wants to address: There will be no consequences, we do something and suddenly the problem is solved and America is a better place. If only things were that simple, the Dirty Harry legacy lives on.

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            The Killer Angels (1974): The Unusual Influence of a Novel

            The Killer Angels by Michael Shaara was awarded the Pulitzer Prize for Fiction in 1975. While it won the prize in the Fiction category, the novel is based on the actual events at the Battle of Gettysburg (July 1-3, 1863) during the American Civil War. Shaara based his novel on what are known as After-Action Reports which various officers wrote after a battle. Ken Burns says the book influenced him, leading to his PBS series on the Civil War. Joss Wheldon also says the book influenced him, leading to his TV series, Firefly. How a novel can influence others in ways that extend well beyond literature is a topic to explore.

            • Definitely should explore intertextuality and Barthe's theories surrounding death of the author – Pamela Maria 2 years ago
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            Classics Illustrated: All Comics are not Created Equal

            Classics Illustrated were comics that were produced from 1941 to 1971 and 169 issues were made. Hamlet, Moby Dick, The Count of Monte Cristo, The Three Musketeers were among the novels they made. Students going through high school in the 1950s and 1960s probably were able to make their way through many English classes and exams by using Classics Illustrated instead of reading the real novels. Forget Cliff Notes, these were on a standard well above them. Should we consider Classics Illustrated on a higher level than comics such as Detective Comics or Superman or consider them to be graphic novels.

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              Reading to your Children: A Lifetime of Legacies

              Parents, well some of them, read to their children nightly as they were growing up. The inspiration each of those parents had was probably the same: To instill in their children a desire to read but, more important, a desire to succeed in life. Did those parents know, in advance, what they want to read, or do they just develop. what to read along the along the way? Maybe there are no specific books that transcend a parental era or generation, all that matters is anything that holds a child’s imagination. Parents simply want to see their children attentive and that motivates them to look forward to that next night of reading.

              • I think another interesting thing to consider is how does this play out on our digital age? Do parents find new ways to incorporate storytelling (e.g. audio books) or ignore it all together? – Pamela Maria 2 years ago
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              • What a great topic suggestion. I've often read to my godson (now 4) and am still pleased that in a digital age, he still enjoys books, in whatever format. He also enjoys it when I make up stories on the fly, including him as one of the characters. Let's hope children will never lose the simple pleasure that a good book can give. – Amyus 2 years ago
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              • Hearing of the story of the legends by the parents is a different thing, and reading about the legends or watching fictional movies is another thing! – PiMann 2 years ago
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              From Death Wish (1974) to Death Wish (2018): A Change in Attitude toward Guns and Violence between the Release of the Movies

              When Death Wish starring Charles Bronson came out it was a blockbuster. The movie has a scene where police discuss an internal report that crime in New York City was down, no doubt as a result of Bronson’s character walking the streets at night dishing out his own form of justice (the new version of the movie does not carry that scene). Two years after the original movie was released, Georgia’s Lieutenant Governor introduced legislation which would become copied across the country, leading to concealed gun laws in states. The re-make of Death Wish starring Bruce Willis, has elements of the original but does not carry the same community spirit in the movie that supports this vigilante walking the streets of Chicago. Instead, the movie has a radio show, for example, presenting Willis’s character in a way where some can support him and some cannot. The original movie was received with often applause in movie theaters when a bad guy was shot, not so with the re-make. How the newer version is received is, perhaps, different than the original and can lead to a discussion of guns, violence, and attitudes toward addressing crime.

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                All Reality TV is Not the Same: The Impact of HGTV and American Pickers

                While Big Brother, Keeping Up With the Kardashians, or any Survival island anywhere, have human interactive elements of created drama, these shows can carry a feeling of detachment on the part of the audience: It might be possible to have some vicarious pleasure in watching these shows, but they can still be seen as shows where the viewers do not have the possibility of participation. The various reality shows on HGTV (Property Brothers, Fixer Upper, Good Bones, for example) or American Pickers (on the History Channel) create a feeling that the audience can be more closely involved. Imagine hitting the road and seeing a site that looks like an odd junkyard, knocking on the door, and asking to rummage through someone’s property or warehouses? Imagine inviting The Property Brothers or Chip and Joanna Gaines to be involved in picking out a house to buy, having them knock down a wall, remodel a kitchen and turn the place into your dream home? These types of momentary thoughts can seem all too feasible. If you watch HGTV enough or American Pickers, it can be easy to imagine passing a place that looks interesting and wonder if it is possible to be like Mike and Frank. We all hope to buy a house that has potential and have Joanna do her magic and turn it into the white picket fence home of our dreams.
                Are all reality shows the same or do some create a greater sense of expectation than others? Do these shows have an impact on the real world of remodeling or buying junk (which might not be junk to everyone)?

                • Reality TV is biased towards consumption. While it is true that there are differences between what is being advertised on a game-show type program, in which there is obvious competition, and a home renovation show, there can be no doubt that a product or lifestyle is always being sold. – Aedon 2 years ago
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