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The Death of the Western

With the rising discontent with the MCU as seen on many social networking apps and film and television critics, a revisiting of the last truly dominant Genre of Westerns which held control of the box office landscape never before seen and only really eclipsed by the current superhero/comic adaptation market.

What in particular made the western so popular and what in specific lead to the box office death of the genre? What were the politics behind the genre, the economics, and actors both in a gamesmanship context and a performative context.


    Ideology and a problem with Superheroes.

    Superheroes, are presented as by their nature disruptions to the "natural order" of the world. That is to say many are presented in worlds more or less analogous to that of the reader, either in the urban setting or something that perceivably realistic. But, this presents a disruption to the world they exist within.

    Many heroes are, in some interpretations, read as virtual gods amongst men, invulnerable, nigh unstoppable, with only "benevolence" as the check against them dominating the world. How does a world function similarly to our own while also inhabited by a living god or gods?

    Many exist only in reactive states, that is to say, many heroes and their stories are written to respond to "crime" or "disasters" but rarely are we presented with them proactively pushing for some sort of shift. How does this materially affect their world? How does a world of heroes and supervillains, one of constant impending doom have any sense of normality? How can that world even function?

    Part of this can be blamed on the medium, crime being punished is an easier comic to sell than crime never happens, but that reinforces the idea of crime without interrogating the why of crime. The material conditions, not to mention the motivations of criminals within worlds of sentient nuclear weapons is rarely examined.

    Returning to the core question, superheroes exist in worlds similar to our own, but how in fact is that possible? How is it that a world where Superman and Batman exist is virtually the same as a world where they don’t. How is the world of Marvel, with aliens and spirits, and devils, and sentient robots not dissimilar entirely to the world that exists today?

    How do writers square the circle that is the "status quo" ? Status quo being read as a world that has enough parallels to the real world to be read as similar to our own. A sense of normalcy that can allow for the reader to feel connection with the world of the heroes. How can you reckon with the fact that the existence of these walking myths has little impact on their worlds?

    The writer could interrogate the idea of the superhero as it compares to the prior age of myth, but the more challenging question would require some understanding of the main universes of some of the major comic book publishes and their distinctions and similarities from the real world along with speculation/analysis of why or even how those similarities exist.

    • One idea from the pilot episode of Agents of SHIELD: organizations like SHIELD exist to keep the majority of the weird stuff away from the public, so the world will not change dramatically. Another idea: if the existence of super-people did change the world, the most likely result would be something like Injustice: Gods Among Us - the super-people ruling the world, whether the regular people wanted that or not. Many of the superheroes know this and willingly avoid impacting the world in such a way because free will matters to them. Also consider Watchmen, a fairly popular story about super-people very much changing the world. – noahspud 3 months ago

    Gilgamesh and shooting the shaggy dog

    Shooting the shaggy dog refers to a bleak ending at the end of a drawn out story. Doing so can create a sense of realism as seen in movies like Chinatown but can also create a sense of apathy in the audience if every turn makes the world worse and the the stories conclusion is just more of that.

    For the writer, the Manga Gilgamesh is a pure example of shooting the shaggy dog. The plot is a world of darkness and depravity and the story’s conclusion leaves off with the question what was all of the suffering for? What was the purpose of the story if the ending doesn’t just drive home the point that the world is bad, but makes it clear that it can never be good?

    • Okay, nice, but you left me hanging. I understand your frustration with the story and the trope, but what's the thesis of your article? Are you trying to say the trope should die because it's not redeemable? Or, is there something of value in the trope and the types of stories in which we find it? Or are you going for something else entirely? Consider these questions, and consider exploring other stories as examples. A Series of Unfortunate Events immediately popped into my head. – Stephanie M. 1 month ago

    The Outer Worlds, a centrist's critique of capitalism.

    Outer Worlds, made by Obsidian of Fallout New Vegas acclaim, is a open world RPG where you exist in an alternative universe where capitalism is even more unregulated than it is today.

    Within the world of OW however there is little to be said in response to capitalism. In a future where "science" is good on it’s face, marauders commit crimes because crime, and the world itself is limited by the imagination of the writers, what is displayed is a critique of the world not for ideological reasons but for practical and efficiency reasons. That is to say, Outer Worlds can lead the player to see some damning indictments of capitalism, but it will never allow for anything in game aside from a moderate reformism.

    And that is a curious line to draw. What indeed can be said about advancement for advancement’s sake when the human cost both in universe and out is seen as only worthwhile if it’s apolitical. Where revolution is on its face dismissed for it’s idealism, but "progress" is revered for making the future better.

    • The Outer Worlds is made by Obsidian Studios who are well-known for their previous RPG Fallout: New Vegas (2010). This game's fame, I would say, is well received due to the true moral choices the game presents you with - no faction that the player character can choose to side with is ever inherently "good". Because of how the game shows you the consequences of your choices and actions, the theme of centrism may be seen as portrayed in a positive light here - if no faction or ideology is desirable, the game seems to say, why pick one at all? – Tristan 1 month ago
    • The premise is flawed. Ideology is how you understand the world you exist in. Likewise, the game world is created by people who either don't understand some of the ideologies or are actively hostile to any critique of capital that isn't framed exclusively around its grossest excesses. – Sunni Ago 1 month ago

    The "Actual" meaning of Encanto

    Encanto as a film was one of the better received Disney animation in recent memory, from the music, to the character designs, to the narrative resolution and heartwarming interplay of all of the characters in the family Madrigal.

    Though, for all of the popularity of the film there was a bit of controversy in the "proper" reading of the plot. While there is a clear examination of intergenerational trauma from Abuela to Mirabel and all of the family in-between, some have read the film with as allegorical to the experience some in LGBTQ community have experienced.

    This disagreement led to a decent amount of intercommunal conflict on many social networks about the proper way of reading the text, but is their an actual proper meaning to a film? Does authorial intent matter? Is it "wrong" to read the text in a way more relative to oneself?

    There is quite a lot of room to discuss the racial and cultural perspectives of the various angles of the argument of the actual meaning of the movie.

    • Death of the Author is essentially whats going on here. I like this topic as this is a reoccurring issue in the Anime community, as femboy/Trap characters are often read as trans by western audiences, while in Japan they are read as effeminate men. Even when authors directly comment on issues like this they are often ignored by fans and localizers. This often leads to heated debates online. I'm not a fan of the idea that text can be interpreted in any way possible, but that often becomes the case when authors note or thoughts are not available. It is why I believe whenever possible journals and notes should be preserved. But, in the event that evidence is not available, I was taught in my college classes interpretations of text need to be backed by evidence either from the author or evidence in the text, which is something that is often lacking in LGBTQ readings of text. An example that comes to mind is when Dreamworks Voltron was announced a lot of people assumed Pidge (Katie Holt) was trans. When the character was just pretending to be boy to find her brother. Same deal with Keith and Lance, as many people assumed the characters were gay, despite the show showing multiple times that Lance had feelings for princess Alura. – Blackcat130 4 months ago
    • I don't disagree about it being death of the author I was moreso interested in the backlash the DOA side of the discourse received for subverting the "intent" of the movie. I also don't see an inherent flaw with queer readings of media, I myself am guilty of it with characters in some of my favorite shows. That said, I can't say I'm sympathetic to the idea of a culture being ignored for the sake of others reading themselves into a text. I do think it is a topic worth discussion. – SunnyAgo 4 months ago
    • I just want to clarify that I am not saying that there is anything wrong with doing a queer reading of a text. My issue is as you put it "people reading themselves into the text" Another example of this is in My Hero Academia. Many fans believe Bakugo and Deku are gay for one another, despite the author clearly stating certain characters having romantic feelings for one another. Even without author input the text at certain points states how the characters feel about one another. This also becomes obnoxious to me, as often times these text actually have LGBTQ characters (Tiger and Magne are trans) in it that get ignored for fan canon. One theory that I've heard for why this happens comes from YouTuber Dimitri Monroe. They believe its not about whether or not a character is gay or Trans, but metaphorical point scoring. They believe the reason modern queer reading often alter characters is because some LGBTQ activist simply want a more prominent character as opposed to the side character (which Tiger and Magne both are.). Dimitri uses Astolfo from the fate series as an example, as not only in the lore Astolfo is canonically and stated multiple times to be an androgynous male who doesn't care about gender norms. Despite that many will say he's trans. Which once again fate does have actual trans/gay characters, Astolfo is just considered one of the more popular characters and that why he's often subject to this debate. You can see the same thing with P4's Naoto who states both their gender and sexual preferences, but fans created a mod to turn the character Trans. I think this more about politics as apposed to trying to understand the message of a story. (Also I might take this topic.) – Blackcat130 4 months ago
    • I think what you're talking about here is "reader response criticism," where a reader (or viewer in this case) interacts with a "text" relative to his/her/their own experiences. For instance, as an autistic woman, I very much "read" Encanto as a commentary on disability, giftedness, and twice-exceptionality. So no, there is nothing wrong with looking for or finding deeper or truer meaning in the plot. The challenge here is going to be choosing which deeper readings to focus on, because as you mention, there are so many. – Stephanie M. 1 month ago
    • The whole concept of interpreting creative works has been academically discussed for centuries by this point, so there's not exactly much new ground to tread, other than to perform case studies on specific modern works like you're trying to do with Encanto. I personally believe, especially in a medium like film, that the idea of any one interpretation being correct is absurd, even if it's one that has been publicly stated by a key creative such as the director or writer. Therefore I think that were you to continue this article in any direction where are you providing your own personal interpretation, the key point is providing evidence from the source itself, Encanto, to defend and support your case. If you are instead headed in the direction of using Encanto as a talking point to further the general discussion of artistic interpretation, then it would definitely be interesting to see you critically analyse some of the different 'theories' and 'arguments' circulating the Internet in regards to what the films 'true meaning' is. Irrespective of whatever path you take with this topic, I wish you the best and look forward to reading your work :) – LucasR 1 month ago

    Analyzing Analog Horror

    Analog Horror refers to the genre of horror created with the aesthetic of Analog technology, that is to say shot on video, "found footage".

    Within the subgenre there exists quite a number of breakthrough hits such as "Backrooms" "Local 58" and "The Mandela Catalogue"

    What draws people to this genre and what can be said about the genre tropes and themes? What is the appeal and is there a lesson that can be garnered from the creation of these works?

    • Good start, but you might want to delve a bit more into what analog horror is, or how your examples achieve it. If you don't know what found footage is (and I, for one, only have a vague idea), you might be a bit confused. – Stephanie M. 2 months ago
    • I was just thinking of leading a topic for this subject too. I think the evolution of analog horror is fascinating, its origins (I think) layered from many concepts and ideas from YouTube. I think constantly about what makes this niche sub genre scary, and what draws people in. This would be a great topic, especially to see where it’s grown from. – eaonhurley 2 months ago
    Taken by eaonhurley (PM) 2 months ago.

    The Legacy of Ken Penders and Archie's Sonic the Hedgehog

    A retrospective on the comic run of Ken Penders, his various additions to the Archie Sonic the Hedgehog comic for better and for worse.

    Analysis of his writing style, character tropes, creative choices and limitations while contextualizing it in comparison with the greater Sonic media franchise.

    Exploring what made Ken Penders so valuable at the beginning of his run with Sonic, how he became so reviled by many in the fanbase and his current media presence after his departure.

    • This topic has potential but is also pretty broad. It sounds like you could be dealing with three separate topics, so I might just choose one and expand. – Stephanie M. 2 months ago

    Eva and the Rebuilds

    Analyse the current state of the canon between Eva and it’s rebuild. Compare the emotional highlights from the first anime with their analogs in the rebuilds and what the variations between the two mean for the story.

    Analyze the characters and how they’re different between the rebuild and the original series.

    Highlighting the differences not just in the emotional state of the author but in the conceptualization of the story after having been finished once and now finished again.


      The Merits and Flaws of A.I. Art

      The art world is current having a bit of a controversy about the nature of the soul in Art with the rise of programs like DALL-E 2, Stable Diffusion and Craiyon that allow for the submission of prompts to generate visual media. While many laud this as another innovation of the digital age others such as traditionally defined artists view it as not only "soulless" that is to say made without the efforts and passions of a creator but also a form of stealing as the A.I. typically process art and art styles without credit and attribution only to then to produce something that is given credit as though it was wholly unique. This brings up the ethical questions of the generators and that immortal question, "What IS Art?"

      • A.I. Art reminds us that art is a learnable skill. If we can teach a computer to follow style guidelines and create images, humans can certainly learn the same skills. – noahspud 2 months ago
      • I am reminded of Walter Benjamin's piece on art in the age of mechanical reproduction. The uptick in A.I. art is a great opportunity to review some of Benjamin's original propositions. The question of artistic merit is worth digging into—what matters in a judgment of merit might be context-dependent rather than intrinsic. – JackWalton 2 months ago
      • I think this would be a good topic to explore if it was focused on something more specific about the relationship between AI and its creator/participant. While it does bring up the same old questions of what is art, it would perhaps be more interesting to put a spin on those old questions by looking at what function AI art serves in the area of identify for those with the tools and the agency to create a kind of sentient intelligence and personality in cooperation with their own skills, but at the same time, outside of their own control. You know what springs to mind, is the conversation between Basil Hallward and Lord Henry Wotton, especially when he starts talking about this: “He is all my art to me now,” said the painter gravely. “I sometimes think, Harry, that there are only two eras of any importance in the world’s history. The first is the appearance of a new medium for art, and the second is the appearance of a new personality for art also." – taleialani 1 month ago

      "I Don't Like ****, I Don't Go Outside" An Exploration of Depression

      "I Don’t Like ****, I Don’t Go Outside" is the sophomore album by Odd Future Alum, Earl Sweatshirt. Despite maintain a level of darkness in his tone and instrumentation, Earl is distinctly alien from his former self. Gone are the edgy shock-lyrics of cannibalism and murder, replaced instead by a vulnerable young man drowning in depression reliant on drugs and alcohol to keep himself going.

      What is it to be a celebrity? A chosen one at that, to be the idol of millions of people you’ve never met while isolated from your friends and family. The album speaks to the thin veneer of happiness success can really be.

      Earl was often a center piece of the fandom from the "FREE EARL" days and yet it doesn’t seem as though the freedom was very liberatory. The lack of hope and overwhelming sense of abject bleakness from Earl speaks to the hollow nature of what was gained by his fame and his regrets seem innumerable as each song on the album falls further in further into an inky blackness of despair.

      That then begs the question, what does this album serve? Is it just a self-exploration or can there be some universal message garnered from the album? What can be said of Earl and his developments as an artist? What of the raised awareness about depression and how it can shape and distort a person’s view not just of themself but of the world around them.

      • Agree with first person. You do a good job summarizing what the album is about, but what specific question are you trying to ask? – Montayj79 3 months ago
      Taken by Isobel Archer (PM) 4 weeks ago.

      The Lighthouse (2019) and the nature of Hierarchy.

      *This can be argued from either Marxist or Anarchist perspective. As I’m not an anarchist I will present the topic from my perspective but the author is free to analyze with whatever school of thought they see as suitable.

      The Robert Eggers film, The Lighthouse stars Robert Pattinson and Willem Dafoe as two men charged with the upkeep of a lighthouse. Throughout the course of the film the audience is shown the relationship of the two men, which is that of worker and boss. The Worker, Howard (Pattison) is younger and serves at the will of the boss, Wake(Dafoe) who is older.

      The division of Labor is shown to be highly unequal as Wake (Dafoe) works considerably less and does considerably easier work than Howard (Pattinson). This is exacerbated by the fact that Wake controls not just how much Howard will be paid at the end of their shift but also if he will even be paid at all. The dynamic is severely unbalanced and rigidly show, the boss is able to control the worker with the threat of starvation.

      The film explores other facets of domination, control, and but one key theme is liberation, that is escaping the need to labor and being free to exist. Wake has attained it, Howard seeks to reach that.

      This is echoed by the fact Wake, is the only one to work the light. While Howard is forced to toil below. Drawing parallels to the idea of skilled vs. unskilled labor.

      Of note, the two men share quite a number of similarities and it can even be said they’re the same man at different points in his life, but then what can be read from the text. The oppressed worker himself becoming an oppressor. Indeed when Howard lashes out at Wake and turns him into a dog, is he in fact liberated?


        "This is The Police" and the Banality of Evil

        "This is the Police" was a top down simulation game, in the vein of Sim City where, you play as a police chief. It happened to be released during the rise of Black Lives Matter and Gamergate, but went out of its way to say it was "not a political game but a human one", or at least that is what the developers claimed.

        This is the Police, as game has a fail state, you have to make certain decisions or the game will end. In the case of your player character you are fired or killed for making decisions that could or would be read as moral, for example, not firing certain officers for their race or investigating crimes that mafia members don’t want you to.

        Hannah Arendt, wrote of Eichmann, how he wasn’t amoral, wasn’t a monster, and instead of how ordinary he was. How his motivation to send millions to their death wasn’t motivated by sadism but shallowness and carelessness. He didn’t think of the consequences of those actions.

        Within the narrative of This is the Police, the player is faced with various situations were their own morality may come into conflict with the story. And that should be examined as even if the game is "not political" it does reflect a volatile political situation.

        Why are you as a player character rewarded for being corrupt? Examinations of police corruption merit discussion but the game seems more than comfortable in presenting the idea of corruption without inspecting it. It’s the nature of the system and as such is immutable.

        This gives room for analysis of the actions the game forces you to take, why are those the only possible actions, why were some scenarios added and why not others? Moreover, what does it say about this "human game" as per the developers and its commentary on the nature of humans?


          Akame Ga Kill and the apolitical revolution

          The world of Akame Ga Kill is one of the darker world to exist in fiction, if only due to the focus on the horrific nature of amoral and immoral aristocrats who exist disconnected from the masses they rule and their own humanity.

          The plot of Akame Ga Kill is one of a splinter cell, dubbed Night Raid, aiming to overthrow the corrupt prime minister and hoping to liberate their kingdom, they lose allies constantly, in the end only 4 members of the group survive. The Kingdom is overthrown but replaced with another Kingdom.

          The horror of the Kingdom can’t be overstated, but the decision to continue a monarchial system in spite of that is one that begs the question, what’s stopping the decay of the previous system.


            Fire Emblem and the "Justifiable Conquest"

            Fire Emblem, a pre-eminent franchise in the strategy RPG genre, has long worn its tropes. The rightful ruler in exile, fighting an evil empire with a color cast of allies and in the end bringing justice, order, and balance back to the world.

            Within the franchise however there have been times, were the player, knowingly or not has played less of a liberator, and more as conqueror in their own right. Notable examples of this are in Fire Emblem Gaiden and it’s remake Shadows of Valencia where the male protagonist Alm, settles the entire continent as its Emperor.
            Fire Emblem Fates: Conquest also sees the player character, Corrin, take the role of conqueror, at the behest of the Evil King/Slime Demon Garon. Throughout the story the player is constantly exposed to the truly villainous nature of the Nohrian conquest but at no point is their an option to rebel and the ending resolves with Hoshido, a now conquered land acquiescent to the new high king on the promise that relations will now be warmer.

            A key flaw in the narratives is the player’s agency is completely absent. To win you must conquer and while some justification are offered, it could be argued that they’re insufficient compared to the players actions. You conquer because that is the objective of the game, the impact of that on the people is immaterial, inconsequential and that’s an extremely interesting writing decision.

            Is there a such thing as a justifiable conquest?

            • Agree with first person; interesting topic; the only thing I would do is keep all wording in 3rd person. Take out you so the writer can remain objective in their writing. – Montayj79 3 months ago
            • I would love to see someone discuss Fire Emblem: Three Houses as well. – Sean Gadus 3 months ago

            Happiness, a exploration of Nihilism.

            Happiness is a vampire manga by Shūzō Oshimi. While on the surface it is a supernatural story it delves quite readily into not just other genre conventions such as science fiction body horror and coming of age romance, but examinations on the very concept of humanity, the nature and purpose of suffering and if meaning can ever truly be garnered from horror.

            The protagonist is spared from death on the whim, his friend and his friend’s lover, not to mention her family, are much less fortunate. The protagonist and his love interest are subjected to grotesque trials for 50 years only for them to escape and resolve to live apart from humans, which begs the question, both textually and metatexually, what was the purpose of this?

            • I think the edits I made didn't process which is unfortunate. To clarify, Nihilism in the common understanding, is the belief that nothing in life matters, that nothing is really real. Within the plot of Happiness the Protagonist is subject to trials and tribulations that don't reveal a greater understand of the world to him within his story, his suffering doesn't better or worsen the world around him. Metatextually, the world of Happiness is similar and dissimilar to the real world, there are horrific science experiments done on people throughout human history that never yielded any medical insight. Suffering for the sake of suffering being all that was produce. What purpose does it serve to feature such a dispiriting element to the story when the ending amounts to, the main character being again isolated from humanity with the one who turned him into a vampire? – Sunni Ago 4 months ago
            • A digestible yet philosophical dissection of Happiness would be an incredible read, especially if one takes the time to draw real world parallels--it is difficult NOT to feel nihilistic in this day and age, and tapping into that very real feeling of listlessness, one that inspired the concept of nihilism in the first place, and connecting it with the narrative of Happiness would underscore the humanity (both conceptually and literally) the series appears to be examining. – alliegardenia 2 months ago

            The nature of Self in Centaurworld

            Centaurworld is a Netflix animation about a Horse that is magically transported to the titular Centaurworld, in her journey not just to get back to her home but to fight the Nowhere King and save both her world and Centaurworld.

            In the story, the audience see Horse change in a physical sense going from a sharp anime-inspired design to a softer, rounder more western cartoon inspired design but also in a sense of self as she identifies so much as the horse of her rider, that when the two come in to conflict it serves as one of the many emotion highpoint of the series finale. Horse, breaks the identity she had imposed on herself but at the same time embraces it.

            The Nowhere King serves as excellent contrast, as the character is introduced as a malevolent spectre, one of no approximate time or origin, and with what seems like a clear goal of escape. As the series reveals though, The NWK shares an origin with another character and their lack of acceptance of self leads to endless suffering for the NWK. The inability of one to accept themselves becomes the inciting incident for the near destruction of two worlds in the show.

            Points of analysis can be the Horse’s difficulty in accepting changes, their concern for the perception others, name their Rider may have for them, the various Centaurs and their own discoveries of self, the idea of ego death and how Horse is literally surround by light as she lets go of her previous identity of self, how it parallels the tragedy of the NWK.

            • The point regarding the names was crawling around the back of my mind when I happened to watch a few episodes--mainly, Horse is named Horse, Rider is named Rider. As if they were stock characters in a generic action movie, but obviously the series inverts this. Not sure where I am going with this thought, just was wondering how you were planning on addressing that aspect in your analysis. – alliegardenia 2 months ago

            BreadTube and The Politics of Media Consumption

            Youtube and Twitch have quite notable political niches respectively, but with regards to Leftist Thought, there was/is a loose subgroup of notable creators, Contrapoints, Philosophy Tube, Big Joel, Hasanabi, amongst others who all in someway were affiliated with the term, "Breadtube", taken from "The Conquest of Bread" by Kropotkin.

            As universal marker there was a general tone of rebuttal to right-wing political talking points and media but as time has gone on and the subgroup more tenuous it can be asked what is/was "Breadtube" and why did/does it exist?

            There has been a marked pushback against many of the creators for a variety of reasons such as their seemingly lacking political advocacy and poor racial representation.

            It could argued that there was never a "Breadtube" and that fans of the creators were reading too much into various creators friendships.

            There is also room for discussion of the idea of using vaguely Anti-Capitalist talking point a brand without delving into what the concepts actual mean.