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The author's propriety. 

The “artist”, the “creator”, as inherited from the Greek mythology and culture, is someone whose creative genius is inspired by the Gods or the Muses. There is something divine to it, something that transcends earthly concerns. Therefore, within the realm of art, any exterior and coercive influence is usually viewed as inherently bad or, at least, as suspicious.

It is particularly striking in the film industry, with the determining role of the studios. Some movies have several “cuts” because the original vision didn’t match the producers’ idea of the film, or the imposed length. (For instance, Blade Runner has been through seven different “cuts”, even though, today, the “director’s cut” is the most famous.) Actors’ demands or changes among creative teams, for instance, can also modify the original vision and first idea of a movie. Such mechanisms are particularly striking in the audiovisual, as the creating process is, from the beginning, plural. Yet, we can draw some parallels with the literary field, as well. Indeed, sometimes, some publishing houses may refuse a manuscript or impose drastic corrections.

However, on the other hand, some creators have been criticized for clinging too much to their work. For instance: the additions to the Harry Potter saga, J.K. Rowling made via Twitter. While some were globally well-received, others sparked controversy, whether because they were considered unneeded information, or because they felt like a desperate and clumsy attempt to debunk some small incoherence in the original saga. In the same way, many critics and viewers didn’t praise Ridley Scott’s attempt to, in a way, “regain control” of the Alien’s saga, with his two prequels: Prometheus and Alien Covenant.

Viewers, then, also have power over artistic creation. Their expectations and hopes can influence the way a show is written. And if those expectations are ignored or badly handled, it can lead the audience rating to drop.

Therefore, to what extent an author remains the master of his work? Once a book, a film, or TV show enters the creation process, does it still belong solely to the author? What about once it is released? Does it, at some point, automatically become part of a larger community, which also has some right of inspection? If so, what are, or should be, the power of this larger community?

  • Roland Barthes' essay 'Death of the Author' might fit within this discussion. It argues that the author's identity should not form part of their text's interpretation. Therefore, one might conclude that, once a story has been read or viewed, it is up to the reader/viewer to decide what happens outside of the story world; not the author. – Samantha Leersen 2 years ago

The Last of Us Part II: Why is it so divisive?

Recently, The Last Last of Us Part II won Game of the Year, while, last June, a few weeks before the official release, journalists and critics praised it highly. On Metacritic, critics score is high: 93/100.

However, the user review is way less eulogistic: only 5.7/10, with almost as many negative critics than positive ones: about 35 000, against about 36 000. (As a comparison, there are no negative critics among the critics’ reviews.). It is also worth noting that, on both sides, there are relatively few mixed critics: around 4 000 for users and 8 for critics.

The Last of Us II is, then, a very polarizing and cleaving game. But why is that?

Critics and players almost unanimously praised the graphics and the technical aspects of the game. The divide seems to lies with the narrative and the storytelling of the game. To some, this new opus made bold choices, cleverly subverted expectations, and carried powerful messages. To others, it utterly betrayed the first game and is filled with character inconsistencies and clumsy shortcuts.

How can we, then, explain the gap between those two antagonistic standpoints?

(To do so, one may examine the different plot tricks, gaming devices, or filming effects the game uses, more or less subtly, and the emotional and psychological reactions it is supposed to have on the audience. Plus, as one of the bones of contention is Abby’s character and her narrative arc, empathy is one of the meta-themes of the game: what kind of empathy characters in the game may or may not build towards each other, but, more prominently, what type of empathy a player may or may not develop towards such and such character. Indeed, at least three different kinds of empathies may be at play in the game: emotional empathy, cognitive empathy, and rational empathy or compassion. The kind of empathy one may develop, or, on the contrary, loose, towards such or such character can influence their appreciation regarding the game.)

  • I'm a huge fan of TLoU. The second game was honestly more fun/difficult for me to play, based on the gameplay functions, amped up horror, and graphics. Although, the narrative was a massive disappointment. I think one of the main topics to discuss, would be that the audience never really wanted to get to know Abby. She was barely connected to the first game, and she quickly kills Joel. Why give a random antagonist any attention at all? The fans fell in love with Ellie and Joel's relationship. Making the new game about Abby and Ellie took away from everything that made the game special in the first place. – RaeganSmith 2 years ago
  • I think an interesting thing to separate here would be critics VS online communities because every review I've read has been wholly positive. And also, any friend I've spoken to has been the same. All the complaints seem to come from people benefitting from anonymity. – Marcus Dean 2 years ago

Artists wanting their work destroyed: can they?

Commonly, one of the criteria to judge a great book is its longevity. A book that is read by many, studied by students or scholars, republished by publishing companies, decades after its authors died, is, with little doubt, a great piece of literature.
Yet, some authors expressed the wish that their works – published and unpublished novel, plays, poetry, as well as notebook or library – should be burnt, after their death: Franz Kafka, for instance, or classic author Virgil.
Why did they want their work destroyed? Is it only personal or psychological reasons? Or is there a literary standpoint behind these wishes? If so, which one?
On the other hand, how can we understand their family, friends, publisher “betrayal”? How did they explain it?

Are there, today, artists who expressed similar wishes? Is their explanation different from other past writers? Are their wishes likely to be respected – on a legal level, but also considering the impact the internet and social media could have on the matter?

Or, more, generally speaking, once a book (or film, or TV show…) is released, does it still belong solely to the author, or does it automatically become part of a larger community, which also has some right of inspection?

  • Book recommendation with relevance to this topic: "The Dark Side of Creativity: Blocks, Unfinished Works, and the Urge to Destroy" by Cecile Nebel (1988) – ProtoCanon 2 years ago
  • Emily Dickenson has a lot of writing on this, the American relationship to fame. – skruse 2 years ago

Titles in TV shows

Despite not being a part of the show per se, episodes’ titles can be very important and conscientiously made and choose by the creators. Indeed, they may reveal clues about the plot. They may add up to something, they may be little enigmas, they may seem incomprehensible at first, they can be cultural or academic references… For instance, Blindspot’s convoluted titles are in fact anagrams, the titles of Mr. Robot’s episodes from season one to three are written in Leet Speak, while in the recent Netflix show Warrior Nun each title is a reference to an extract of the Bible in connection with the episode’s plot. Other titles may include puns or schematics. Some titles’ format may become a tradition throughout the show.

From there, many questions can come to mind. Can we discern trends, whether historical or thematic? Is there some TV shows that stand out for their particularly clever use of episodes’ (or show’s) titles? 

To what extent can we say that titles are a part of an implicit pact between the creators and the viewers? With platforms like Netflix and the increasing temptation to binge-watch our favorite shows, we may be paying less attention to the titles and the cuttings, therefore, to what extent are titles still relevant? How the pact previously mentioned could evolve in the future?

  • Favorite episode title choice is "Ozymandias" from Breaking Bad Season 5. The title tells you everything you need to know about the episode by referring Percy Shelley's poem. I also like a lot of Halt and Catch Fire's episode title which reference 1980s Computer Commands/Systems, song titles, and cultural ideas. I feel like those help ground the viewer in its 1980s-1990s world and are a treat for people who understand the references. – Sean Gadus 2 years ago
  • An interesting idea. Are there are studies showing the title of a episode matters? I remember in the late 1950s and early 1960s, the title of the episode was announced at the beginning of some shows on TV. – Joseph Cernik 2 years ago

How do leaks affect both the audience and the creators?

Recently some of The Last Of US II plot and gameplay leaked; a few months ago some elements of the new Star Wars The Rise Of Skywalker were released on the internet before the movie itself; and about a year ago, Game Of Thrones major plot’s elements of the last season were revealed before it aired. How could those leaks have affected or could affect the audience (or the gamer community), whether it is on its viewing (gaming) experience or on the decision to pay to see the movie/the tv show (or buy the game)? What do the reactions following such leaks may reveal about the ‘dark side’ of some fandom? And, on the other hand, how the risk of leaks impacts on the creators’ work? How those new threats are taken into consideration by directors, filmmakers, producers, etc.? How are they, then, received by the audience?

  • Tom Holland is supposedly never given the complete script as he is infamous for leaking plot details accidentally. – Dr. Vishnu Unnithan 2 years ago

How video games may have influenced the way movies are made, and vice-versa?

After watching Sam Mendes’ movie 1917, I heard someone saying that the movie reminded him of a video game. I don’t know if he was referring to the story itself, to the way the movie was shot, or to both, but it had me thinking. To what extent video games may have influenced the way movies are shot and stories built? (In the case of 1917, or in general.) And, vice-versa, some video games like The Last Of Us or Red Dead Redemption 2 can almost be watched like movies. So, to what extent movies have influenced the way video games are designed and built?

  • God of War 2018 did something similar and even boasted about being "1 continuous shot" for the entire game, so some game makers are thinking about some of the same ideas as film makers. – Sean Gadus 3 years ago
  • I think this is a great topic and also a topic of much discussion in cinema and video game studies. The film Run Lola Run can also be a good source to start thinking about around this theme. – Srijita 3 years ago
  • I think Spielberg's Ready Player One is a good movie for reference. Video game is the theme of this movie and the film is structured according to a game's mode. – XiaoYang 3 years ago

The figure of the Devil in TV shows

Popular culture, and TV shows, in particular, are prone to use and revisit mythical figures, religious allegories, and biblical references, and, among, them, the Devil. Whether he is called Lucifer or Satan, the one who rebelled against God and have incarnated evil ever since seems to be an everlasting source of inspiration for screenwriters, creators, and showrunners. However, in recent shows like Supernatural, and, even more, in Lucifer, the Devil is – to a degree at least, especially in Supernatural where he is and stays an antagonist – humanized. His so-called evilness is – once again, to a degree – nuanced, and there is more to his psychology than evil for evil’s sake. It is especially flagrant in Lucifer, as Lucifer is the main character. He is a hero with flaws and qualities, a hero confronted to very human dilemmas, to fear, to loss, to love, a hero we are rooting for.
How Devil-like characters have been written and treated? As it evolved? Can we discern a tendency, in recent TV shows, to develop, or even humanize, the Devil? How is it done? How could such a tendency be related to the evolution of the “Good vs Evil” trope? And, potentially, what are the exceptions to the recent transformations – or lack of transformation, if we can’t discern a real tendency – and how can we explain them?

  • Great topic. Other shows to consider covering: The Chilling Adventures of Sabrina; Reaper; 666 Park Avenue; Good Omens. – Emily Deibler 3 years ago
  • Definitely an interesting topic for discussion! However, it bears pointing out that the idea of the Devil not being pure evil isn't new. It actually goes back to John Milton's Paradise Lost, which was written in the 1600's. – Debs 3 years ago
  • Very good topic! I would suggest, if you can, looking into South Park's Satan, who is very much confronted with the human dilemma of love and sexuality. Some films that I would suggest would be the Ghost Rider films and The Devil's Advocate. I believe that there is a Paradise Lost reference in Advocate. – tolkienfan 3 years ago
  • Also include a reiteration from anime. They have some pretty weird stuff there. (Devil is a Part-Timer, Blue Exorcist, Devilman Crybaby) – OkaNaimo0819 3 years ago
  • I'm wondering if this topic can be approached in an historical way: How the devil was seen in 1930s movies versus now, for example. – Joseph Cernik 2 years ago

Non-American movies (or TV shows) in the USA, and across the world.

Though I’m French, an overwhelming majority of the movies (and TV shows) I’ve watched are American, or, at least, from anglophone countries. So, I wondered… a few things!

Pell-mell: How are foreign movies seen in the US? And/Or in the English-speaking world? And/Or across the world?

Is there foreign movies (or TV show) – French ones, for instance – that are strongly rooted in the American culture, or in any other culture that differs from where the movie is originally from? And if so, why have those movies made such an impact?
Are there biases depending on a movie (or TV show) origin?

And, finally, to what extent platform like Netflix may or may not have changed this tendency and these biases?

  • I also think moving this to TV would be really fruitful with Money Heist and lots of Scandi dramas infiltrating the mainstream too. – Marcus Dean 3 years ago
  • I watch non American shows like Elite (Spanish teen series) and other Turkish and Arabic television series. One of my favorite Turkish series that streams on Netflix is called "Fi", which is a psychological thriller. – nsafwat 3 years ago
  • As you mentioned, it is essential to talk about the importance of Netflix. The company, unlike other streaming services, has built quite a strong reputation bringing, producing and distributing quality foreign series and movies to North American viewers. I think it is also fair to talk about the recent popularity of movies such as Parasite, Roma or I lost my body. – kpfong83 3 years ago

Foreign literature across Space and Time

Though I’m French, most of the books I’ve read are foreign novels, and by foreign, I mean Americans (except for Harry Potter and a couple of other exception, but not that much), while the books I have to read for classes are French and especially French – or French-written – classics. It made me realize that I don’t really know classic books from other countries – I might have heard of them, but I’d never read them – while using American contemporary novels in my essays isn’t the best way to have a good grade! I was then wondering… quite a few things!

Pell-mell: How domestic and foreign literature is tackle elsewhere in Europe, elsewhere outside Europe, in the USA, in the UK, for instance? Are there contemporary foreign books – French books for instance – that are famous in the US, the UK, in Sweden, in Brazil, anywhere outside of its original country? What define “classic”? Does it depends on the country, or is Goethe’s concept of “Weltliteratur” (basically, global literature) real, widespread? To what extent time define whether a book is a “classic”? And, finally, any reading advice concerning foreign classics?

[I’m not quite fluent in English yet, so I hope it was understandable, and not too messy!]

  • Interesting topic. From a North American perspective, I have noticed that it depends greatly on the distribution and quality of the translation of the novels. The marketing campaign also adds an extra layer especially in regards to contemporary works. As a comics scholar, I have seen European comics make or break in the North American market depending on how the author/illustrator interacts with the readers. For example, the success of the French cartoonist Pénéloppe Bagieu is due to her careful marketing (social media, interviews) and being present in the comics festival circuits in North America. – kpfong83 3 years ago