In past decades, situation comedies and dramas were often known for their "very special episodes." These stories took a break from more lighthearted fare to discuss serious topics or issues, often those facing young audiences of the day. Special episodes could often be categorized thus:
-Featuring "special" characters (often disabled), who rarely if ever appeared again but existed to educate audiences and teach the main characters lessons about compassion and tolerance
-Analyzing the dangers of teen life (peer pressure, drugs, drunk driving, child/teen molestation)
-Focusing on particular current events (the explosion of the Challenger space shuttle, the AIDS epidemic, 9/11, etc.)
-Teaching young audiences when and how to give or seek help in serious situations (eating disorders, abuse, CPR, etc.)
Pick a few "very special episodes" to focus on from sitcoms or sitcom/dramas (Diff’rent Strokes, Punky Brewster, Seventh Heaven, Full House…) How has the "very special episode" evolved? Why are they often mocked, even by those who enjoyed their affiliated shows? Is the "very special episode" still around now, and what does it look like?
The impetus for this topic started because, during the pandemic, I’ve become rather hooked on Chopped and its iterations. One thing I’ve noticed about Chopped though, is a dearth of female competitors and winners. Many episodes have male chefs outnumbering females 3-1, and many episodes have the female chef eliminated in round one. Some fans have noted this happens even and especially if female judges outnumber male ones.
Then I started noticing this trend in other competition shows. For instance, I am a huge Jeopardy fan, and have noticed that men win much more often than women. Also, women can have winning streaks–some, like Julia Collins, have won as many as 20 games in a row. But this is nothing compared to the streaks of Ken Jennings (74), James Holzhauer (30 ), and other male players.
This got me thinking, women aren’t the only ones getting shortchanged. It’s fairly common, for instance, to see persons of Asian descent on Jeopardy or Who Wants to be a Millionaire, but not other POCs. It’s becoming more common to see LGBTQ people in competition shows, but not as common as it could be (and those contestants also often lose). Also, while people with learning disabilities or "invisible" diseases such as celiac or diabetes do appear on cooking competitions, trivia competitions, and athletic competitions, it is completely unheard of for people with visible, physical disabilities or disabilities like autism to appear. (Of course, in the case of athletics, the argument is, "Well, we have Special Olympics/Paralympics," but that’s problematic in itself).
Is this trend as prevalent as it appears? Is it changing in a positive or negative way? What could competitions, from sports to cooking to trivia, do to be more inclusive and welcoming? Discuss.
I think this is a really interesting topic to discuss. Perhaps, an article on this topic could take into account - if possible - the demographics of those who apply for such shows, are individuals belonging to minority groups applying and just not getting selected? Or are they choosing not to apply for such programmes? Is there any reason/research for this?
Also - another possible angle, is this prejudice the same across several countries? For example, does the American 'Masterchef' look the same as the Australian or British iterations of the show? Is this a problem intrinsic across the globe, or just pertaining to certain countries? – leersens4 months ago
Bella Swan and Edward Cullen. Catherine and Heathcliff. Lily Evans and Severus Snape. Besides the obvious examples of unhealthy relationships in literature, there are also some that are commonly contested, like Elizabeth Bennett and Mr. Darcy or Jane Eyre and Mr. Rochester. Despite the toxicity of these relationships though, and despite the fact that from a twenty-first century mindset, they could be called manipulative or abusive, people still love them. People still read the stories of these characters and enjoy them.
Do toxic relationships in literature have a particular pull? If so, what is it? What makes a relationship toxic, and are any of these, or others, redeemable? Is the woman always the "victim," or can men be victimized by toxicity as well? Are toxic relationships more "accepted" with white couples (you’ll notice none of these examples contain people of color or minorities)? Why is that? What about LGBTQ examples? Discuss.
I feel like it's in large measure of the potential for abusive relationships to function as narcissist's fantasies, even regardless of gender. For example, in a story like Twilight a woman gets to imagine herself being the object of affections of a man who's so infatuated with her he's willing to cater to her every desire (even if he also treats her quite badly). Whereas men get to fantasize about having a weak, passive woman who loves having them in control and being their willing slave. Part of it might also be that some people really are so desperate for a partner that they're willing to do anything for one, no matter how degrading. – Debs7 months ago
I should also add that, if anything, I think toxic relationships are more common in media with LGBT characters than without them, and that a big part of this is that something that anyone could recognize as creepy and awful if a man were doing it to a woman (i.e., rape, kidnapping, etc.), is more likely to be perceived as not that bad when it's a man doing it to another man, or a woman doing it to another woman. – Debs7 months ago
This is a very rich topic. If you plan to write this topic, I suggest reflecting upon subtopics. In my opinion, the meaning of toxic relationship also differ from period to period, so pay attention to that, as well! – Crisia3 months ago
A very interesting topic and at the same time a good question! These relationships are so timeless and have been attractive for generations. In my opinion, to desire someone and being desired by someone is a deep wish and / or a fantasy that has nothing to do with age or gender. – Guinevere3 months ago
Musical theater is a huge and well-loved medium, and in recent years has given us some cutting-edge hits (Legally Blonde, Wicked, Dear Evan Hansen, Hamilton, etc.) Yet there are some accepted "rules" of theater culture that still feel like stereotypes or "boxing in" actors. For instance: sopranos get the leads; mezzos and altos play "witches and britches." Tenors play romantic leads; basses play villains. Actresses past the age of 30 can expect to play mothers and grandmothers, but not love interests for their own sake. If you are a white male, you cannot convincingly play a male or female of any color (although I have conversely seen white women tapped to play WOCs). Actors with disabilities can only really expect casting in disabled roles.
Most theater aficionados will tell you there are solid reasons behind this thinking, even truth. Then again, in 2019, should conventional theater change more to suit the needs and desires of actors? Could or should a musical be written to give an ingenue role to an alto or a hero role to a bass? Is it pushing the envelope to allow actors of certain orientations to play outside of them, or for a white actor to play a POC (outside of a historical context)? In short, what would and should truly "diverse," "inclusive" theater look like?
I think that, in some respects, it's easier for theatre to accommodate diversity than other media because, moreso than in any other medium, any actor who's qualified can take a particular role regardless of race, gender, or background. This is especially true of school performances, which have to work with the available students. I've seen a rendition of one of Shakespeare's history plays that featured Black actors, for example; and on YouTube I've found versions of Little Shop of Horrors where Seymour was biracial and the dentist was Asian. I've even found a theatrical version of the Screwtape Letters where Screwtape was played (really expertly, I might add) by a woman. – Debs10 months ago
Hi, Debs,That sounds really cool. I'm glad your theater experience was more inclusive than mine. My schools (high and college) had GREAT theater programs I so wanted to be a part of. But, esp. in the case of my high school director, I was not given that chance and I think it was because of cerebral palsy (couldn't prove it, and if I'd said something it would've been, "Oh, you just think everybody's picking on you.") But the truth was, even after calling my acting phenomenal on more than one occasion, that director in particular would only assign me chorus or walk-on roles. The justification was, "Well, the leads have to dance," but chorus lines are basically there to *dance*, at least in my productions. There were other examples of non-diversity there too, such as the lead *always* went to a first soprano--and the year it went to a mezzo, of course, I wasn't in the running. But, this director was *also* willing to cast a white girl as a Hispanic lead (but not a girl of color as a white lead) ??????Anyway, it's only been recently that I realized the full lack of inclusivity and diversity in the world at large and the theater world, so...there you go. Again, we need more stories like yours. – Stephanie M.10 months ago
Scarlett O’Hara is a selfish, stereotypical Southern belle. Julianne Potter (My Best Friend’s Wedding) made multiple attempts to break up a happy relationship out of a belief her best friend "belonged" to her. Emma Woodhouse could be considered on the fence, because while she is charming and engaging, she does meddle in others’ lives constantly, and looks down on those she considers "beneath" her.
These are only a few examples of the unlikable female lead, in literature, film, and other mediums. These women are not inherently evil, but they are self-absorbed, gossipy, backstabbing, and at times downright narcissistic. Yet…a lot of people like them. Why? Is there a "happy medium" between perfect, Mary Sue women and evil women, and have these or other characters found it? Discuss this, as well as whether the unlikable female lead does female representation more harm than good overall.
As someone who studied the Mary Sue phenomenon in comparing why certain female characters are adored while others are ignored, I would like to share my findings.Female characters, like other characters are nothing more than projections of society's fantasies of what it means to be a "cool", "strong" and "powerful" woman. It may seem twisted, but if the female character is an extension of the male character, and is constantly influenced by feminist ideals, these are the type of women are portrayed.
– Amelia Arrows7 months ago
I feel like this isn't really a uniquely female problem--there are plenty of obnoxious, self-absorbed, horrible male leads too. If anything, the problem is that society is more accepting of this kind of behavior in men than in women, so these male leads get a pass. – Debs6 months ago
And that in itself could warrant an entire, separate article. – Stephanie M.6 months ago
I think it's very important to mention Elaine Benes (Julia Louis Dreyfus) from Seinfeld here. She was arguably the first "unlikable" female character on US television. She was hilarious, witty, smart, independent, successful, yet extremely cynical, self-absorbed, blunt and occasionally downright mean.
I think what made her character appeal to so many was how she came across as someone extremely "regular", someone you'd know in real life or run into on the streets. As opposed to other female leads on other shows that aired along with Seinfeld, she was decidedly more "human" and realistic, in contrast to the "beautiful and shallow" Rachel Green or the "clean freak" Monica Geller from Friends, for example. Elaine was known primarily for her acerbic sense of humour and general zaniness, while Rachel and Monica, I would argue, were better known for being "perfect" girls with quirks that made them funny.I think Larry David, in one of his interviews, talked about how the writing team on the show saw Elaine as "one of the men".And if anything, I think this portrayal of women in the media is nothing but a positive example, as it calls for the audience to look at women as funny, intelligent and relatable for a change, instead of viewing women as just "pretty" and quirky, though I think there dies need to be a balance: excessive portrayal of women in this direction could definitely cause potential harm. – Aniruddha4 months ago
Centuries ago, people who were "different" in any way–those with visible disabilities, facial deformities or marks, extreme obesity, or other conditions–often found "employment" in circuses and sideshows. They were ridiculed as freaks and shut out from society, and we now look back at their plights as an ultimate example of humanity’s inhumanity. We say we are too well-informed, too "politically correct," to parade people around for entertainment any longer.
Yet, we also have reality television. These days, the "freak show" looks more like documentaries chronicling the lives of little people, large fundamentalist families, people who have broken away from extreme forms of religion or cults, and yes, the extremely obese or thin again. We also have documentaries that place miserably failing restaurants, hotels, and other businesses on display, mostly so the hosts can be lauded for saving them and the business owners, who are implicitly understood to be careless or stupid.
Some reality shows are much gentler than others, doing their best to present their subjects with dignity and as real, three-dimensional people. Discouragingly though, the shows that seem to pull in the ratings and the viewers are the same ones that invite viewers to gawk and ridicule.
Why is this? Is the nature of reality TV itself to present the most unusual of humanity at people’s expense–that is, is there nothing to be done about it? What does it say about us as humans that we continue to consume and enjoy this entertainment? Discuss.
Some examples you might use:
-The filthiest and most rundown establishments on Hotel Impossible or Restaurant " "
-The shower scenes of My 600-Lb Life, which viewers and reviewers often call "the obligatory shower scene" (they’re often part of drinking games)
-The most extreme or scary-looking cults in documentaries
-The controversy and scandal surrounding the Duggar family, including the marriages of grown daughters and resulting spin-off series
-Places featured on documentaries like Most Terrifying Places in America, Ghost Adventures, etc.
As someone born with disabilities, and was going to see how how the disabled are portrayed in books and films, i support this topic! On Facebook and many channels on Youtube post these outlandish stories about the unusual or disabled people and ending the story with no possitive outcome. We are then to only feel pity for them before we move on and click on another video showing the same type of content with giving a couple hearts and crying emojis to show our support.– Amelia Arrows7 months ago
Good topic. I was expecting mention of Hoarders!
I'm not sure that the final item in the list at the end of your topic -- about Most Terrifying Places in America and Ghost Adventures -- fit with the other items in the list. The supernatural seems to me like a very different topic. – JamesBKelley7 months ago
Hoarders, yes. :) The paranormal stuff probably doesn't fit, on reflection. I included it because, depending on how people feel about the paranormal, they might malign believers as strange and "haunted" places as gimmick-y or places "normal" people shouldn't be. But yes, Hoarders or Hoarding: Buried Alive would fit much better. – Stephanie M.7 months ago
I really like this topic! There's something about society's fascination with the "other" and how we tend to interact with it in a one-sided relationship -- think circus freak shows. How have reality tv shows and things like YouTube broadened our awareness of the "other" and what work does it do to embrace the "other" into society, or otherwise ostracize it further? Should the focus be on integration/assimilation into society, or can folks with disabilities/abilities be more celebrated for creating their own communities? How can able-bodied people respect these marginalized groups? I'm super interested in this topic, and I would eagerly read a piece about it it. – Eden7 months ago
Most actors spend their careers playing fictional characters. However, many actors are chosen to star in biopics, Biblical epics, or similar films at least once. When an actor makes the switch from playing a character to portraying a real person, the gravitas factor goes through the roof, and while most actors will try to play real people respectfully and responsibly, there are some who arguably do it "better" than others. Just for one example, look at the many actors who have played Jesus Christ over the years.
In your opinion, what does it take to play a certain real role responsibly and respectfully? How much of a production team’s choice is based on "casting type" and how much is based on say, personality or lived experience? What are some of the best biopic portrayals you’ve seen, of whom and by whom, and why? Discuss.
An example of Jesus Christ would be Robert Powell from Jesus of Nazareth. He is so committed in his role that 99% of the time he does not blink. Of course, his line delivery is convincing. In fact, whenever I think of a live-action Jesus now, I think of Powell's performance.
To play a real role responsibly and respectfully, you would need to study that character's life and habits and replicate them to the best of your abilities. Experience in, say, boxing would help if you are playing Muhammad Ali, and having an authentic accent would help if you are playing someone of another race.
A good example of how Hollywood casting ruined a character (and actually disgruntled her real-life counterpart) is Ingrid Bergman as Gladys Aylward in The Inn of the Sixth Happiness. The look was wrong (Gladys had dark hair and was short), the accent was wrong (she had a Cockney accent), and her story was portrayed inaccurately (most of the details were correct, but Hollywood added a love story).
Maybe include a rant of sorts of how Hollywood likes to add (or used to add) unnecessary love stories, even if there was no hard evidence for it in real life. – OkaNaimo081910 months ago
This is an amazing topic! I wonder if the responsibilities change depending on the fact that the character of portrayal is still alive or not.As great as both movies were, Bohemian Rhapsody and Rocketman, I have to admit that I was more invested in Rami Malek's performance as Mercury as opposed to Egerton's because I knew that Elton John is still around. – kpfong8310 months ago
I think it takes a lot of research, first and foremost as well as passion to get to understand the person you're portraying to such a level where you almost morph into them. Recently I really loved Steve Coogan and John C. Reilly in Stan & Ollie, particularly Coogan, who went beyond the well-known image of Stan. He could have played him as a caricature. Instead he made him human and relatable to the point where, even though we don't know that much about Stanley Laurel as a person beyond his performances, we believe him to have been as sensitive and complex as he was portrayed by Steve Coogan.
On the other hand we have Renee Zellweger, who although did her research very well, didn't go beyond the caricature level. I know I'm in minority when I say this, given all the accolades, but I wasn't as invested in her Judy as I wished I could have been. I wanted to sympathise with her, instead I found myself noticing the pout and the way she talked thinking "okay, she studied her quite a lot". – danivilu7 months ago
Saving Mr. Banks (2013) was something of a groundbreaking film for Disney. The company had done films based on true stories before, but Saving Mr. Banks was the first to juxtapose the story of a Disney classic’s making with the story of the original work’s author. Saving Mr. Banks met with critical acclaim and is also one of my favorites in the canon. In fact, I’d very much like to see more films like this.
Do other films in the canon, live-action or animation, lend itself to this type of storytelling? Would actors or viewers be interested in say, learning about the personal lives and struggles behind the makings of Disney’s Golden, Bronze, or Renaissance films? Are there untold stories to be mined from animators (e.g,, Walt’s Nine Old Men, female animators, etc.) and other production staff/voice actors? Discuss.
Potterheads enjoy asking each other which Houses they’re from, and once you become a Potterhead, one of the first things you want to do (at least in personal experience) is get formally Sorted via a well thought-out quiz or app. It’s not uncommon to go on social media and find people sorting their favorite media characters into Houses, putting HP Next Generation characters into Houses through fanon, and debating the traits of certain Houses and how they are or are not represented. (I myself am a proud supporter of Slytherin House redemption).
But, why all the fuss over this little bit of HP canon? Why do people get sorted over and over again, identify with more than one House, and so on? Several reasons worth exploring exist. For one, Ravenclaw and Hufflepuff are just sort of "there," while Gryffindor and Slytherin get all the attention. House Sortings are the closest we’re probably going to get to a "real" Hogwarts if we can’t afford trips to Orlando. Sortings help us craft new, fantasy-based identities that may help us handle some real-world problems to a degree. We might be looking for a "perfect" Sorting experience that hasn’t been achieved yet.
Is it all of this? None? Are there facets not yet considered? Discuss.
I feel like it stems from a desire to understand yourself at a deeper level. The premise of the series is that the Hogwarts house you belong to is supposed to tell you something about yourself, even if it isn't always immediately obvious what, as well as surround you with a community of (more or less) like-minded individuals. People like this idea, and so they try to find ways to make it work for them. – Debs10 months ago
I believe that people are eager to sort themselves into houses, because they want to belong to something. Millions of people are in love with the Harry Potter universe, because they prefer it to their own reality. Classifying oneself as Gryffindor, Ravenclaw, Slytherin, or Hufflepuff allows people to identify with something that is greater than themselves. It acts a method of justification for their personalities, and people want to feel that it separates them from others. – nicolemadison10 months ago
To add on, I personally felt really validated and felt like I could finally accept my personality better while growing up. For example, before I became a Potterhead, I was almost embarrassed to be a smooth talker and that I could switch around my words well enough to sound really manipulative, even though it was not in my intention to be like that. However, after being sorted into Slytherin, I began to feel proud and truly understand that it wasn't a bad thing after all. I really owe it to the Sorting Hat for that one. – Dorothy10 months ago
Robert Caialdini author of Pre- suasion talk about how people need to have questions answered and will give there attention to topics which propose one in order to find out the burning question of why, this sounds like good topic to explore – Gkcopy16110 months ago
My most recent Artifice article was about the feminine spirit in Holocaust-centered YA literature, and I enjoyed every minute of prepping and writing it. I also enjoy Holocaust-based fiction (in small doses) because it so often focuses on heroism and brutality in real, thought-provoking ways. The stakes are already built in and a lot of times, couldn’t be better.
But then I had a thought. Lilac Girls, The Guernsey Potato Peel and Literary Society, Lost Roses, The Girl in the Blue Coat, Flight Girls…there is a LOT of WWII women’s fiction around these days, not all Holocaust-based. And I wonder, what is it about this sub-category that is or has become so compelling? Are other women in other time periods as compelling, and what could authors explore to give them their due? Have writers overused this category or are there more stories to be explored?
Wonder Woman 2017 is one other, though not the same time period but definitely a precursor in that regard. (And I suppose, Linda Hamilton in the hypothetical.) – L:Freire10 months ago
I think it's because women became more independent during this time. They took over men's jobs in the factories, joined the army as pilots, and even acted as spies or saboteurs. There is a wealth of possible stories just from this period.
I don't think it's overused yet. It's close, but not quite. However, World War I women could also be explored, particularly those in the Red Cross, as well as the 1920s. (These periods particularly interest me.) – OkaNaimo081910 months ago
Alex Trebek’s announcement of pancreatic cancer shook Jeopardy fans and resulted in an outpouring of love and good wishes on social media. Fans rejoiced when earlier this year, Trebek rallied and achieved borderline remission. But recently, he has hinted he may step down from Jeopardy in the wake of his cancer and treatments. If this were to happen, could Jeopardy survive? Discuss the changes the show might undergo, whether some might be overdue, and how much Trebek’s presence has made the show what it is today.
Sad news for Jeopardy fans. But the show will live on, and even though Alex Trebek may not be the host, the core values will remain the same. – Lava008311 months ago
Every time a movie is adapted from a book, people complain about it. This is understandable; I’ve seen my favorite books butchered in film and it’s never pleasant. However, I recently read the comment on a BuzzFeed article about this that a certain book’s story didn’t "translate" to film. Are there certain books that translate better than others to film, and if so, what are some? Does a book need certain elements to translate well to film, or are filmmakers simply stuck doing the best they can because, print and film being different mediums, certain things are bound to get lost in translation? Discuss.
As you have stated before, texts are analyzed ad infinitum. Yet in terms of this topic, I think you could argue slightly different, for a change of pace. All writing goes through drafting phases and all authors go through periods of productivity and delay or self-doubt. That said, how can we destroy an adaptation that is merely going through a rough phase, on its merry way to the final version? Doesn't sound fair to the artist, but then again, is life ever fair? As far as translation goes, an author that is true to his craft and steadfast to the theme will inevitably produce the elusive masterpiece. Another incumbent will fumble the narrative by second-guessing the motive and the medium, failing to strike a vital chord with the audience in the process. Nonetheless, you managed to rehash a contentious issue among art lovers. – L:Freire1 year ago
The two conversing sides of the argument perhaps both have a touch of truth. Most of the books that have failed after being adapted to films have departed so far from the themes and messages of the books that fans have been almost experiencing a different story altogether (e.g. Eragon). This departure from the known characters is such a removal for the audience that it is almost being incorrectly introduced to someone you already know.
On the other hand, writing a narrative in hundreds of pages cannot practically incorporate the waves of thoughts, senses, and minor details within a two hour film. While most including myself would gladly take a 12 hour Harry Potter film, to appeal to wider audiences, films cannot be realistically expected to cover all aspects of a book.
Certainly, some films have handled the transition better than others and remained true to the heart of the book, but unfortunately the realities of the economically driven film industry prevent the full transition that fans so ardently desire. Maybe the solution is in tv adaptation rather than film to allow for longer screen time, or maybe the magic of perspective and thought disclosure in books can never be truly replicated. – Huntforpurpose1 year ago
I'd be interested in hearing about living writers and their part in the production of the films. Should they be given authority over everything? Do they write the screenplay? if not, does the screenwriter get the say over the writer etc.
– sophiatarin1 year ago
It's a valid concern. There is a documentary on The Virgin Suicides that makes the case for inclusion of the writer within the film-making process. Of course, Sofia Coppola has the ultimate say over the characterization of the narrative. But the author of that novel, Jeffrey Eugenides, was a vital component behind the dialogue, the mood, and the setting. Also, I failed to mention earlier that the reverse can be surprisingly successful. For instance, the Star Trek episode "All the Yesterdays" made a seamless foray into a series of acclaimed novel tie-ins by A.C. Crispin. The onscreen romance between Spock and Zarabeth translated into two compelling novels of time travel and a supposed offspring between the pair. – L:Freire1 year ago
A compelling factor in this debate is circumstances. The ancient Greeks wrote dramatic recollections of events that moved audiences of the time and to this day in practically
every discipline that has emerged since then. But, there were no motion pictures to reclaim those texts. Then, Shakespeare entered the picture with an equal fervor for casting light on the matters of his day. Presently, we submit to the same appetite for literary escape with authors such as J.K. Rowling and Suzanne Collins, probably as eagerly as the Greeks and the British did in the early days of the art. In those times as it continues to be today, the stage was the medium for the written script. I venture to guess that audiences had their preferences for certain actors and theatres when reading the written play was not a viable option nor a preference. Perhaps, it may be that reading the plot in the comfort of a familiar setting with pleasant music or refreshment is the reason why some people opt for this method of entertainment. Indeed, the pace of a book or the flash of color and splash of sound in a film is what draws fans to each particular venue. So, an author's style or an actor's appeal may be the reasons why people turn to different sources of entertainment, including the online variety. I suppose radio producers had the same challenges in their respective field that could be incorporated into this topic. – L:Freire1 year ago
Adaptation theory says that a film can do anything a book can do - it just does it in different ways. For example, first-person narration in a book might be translated in film via sound editing to an internal monologue. I don't really understand this as a valid concern because books, despite what people commonly think, are also a visual medium (consider font, illustrations, formatting, inflection, quotes, etc.) – KateBowen1 year ago
Short stories form the backbone of almost any literature and creative writing class, either because students read or write them. Either way, they are analyzed–sometimes to the point of death, but we hope today’s literature students and teachers are moving past such tendencies.
Of the myriad of short stories that exist, classic and contemporary, what are some that should belong in any canon? In particular, discuss contemporary stories or collections not getting attention right now, that should be. To go along with this, what are some universal themes, character traits, or tropes that make a short story "work" better than it would if it were written in longer form? Do some topics or themes lend themselves better to short form, and why?
I tend to favor the practicality of the short story for inducement to entertain, either personally or formally. Two titles in particular exemplify this viewpoint: The Lottery by Shirley Jackson and The Strange Case of Dr. Jekyll and Mr. Hyde by Robert Louis Stevenson. As you mention, the commentary on social norms that they bring to the fore have been exhaustively analysed. But, I think that they serve the greater purpose of shedding light on the quirks of society that are overlooked or simply ignored in the haste of the day. Furthermore, they can provide a conducive outlet for what would otherwise manifest in cold or violent indifference. At the very least, the short story can be an entry point into much lengthier and broader literature or a welcome reprieve from it. – L:Freire1 year ago
The short story, the ancient art that we knew, is still written and written abundantly, but the lack of follow-up may make us think it is an art of extinction, and no longer exists only in the form of simple flashes here and there.
In fact, I have been able to read in the past few months a large number of story collections, with different qualities and atmospheres. Enough on the things the writer wants to point out, and let the reader complete in his mind what he thinks the writer may have wanted to write. – rosejone1 year ago
I personally never got too into short stories. I've always devoured novels, and all my book/article ideas seem to come in "long form." Seriously, I was telling people at age ten that my 50-page "masterpieces" were "novels." That said, there are a few short stories that have stuck with me for years, and if they can win me over, they can win anyone over. :) I wanted to know other people's opinions so I could try some more short stories. – Stephanie M.1 year ago
Banned Books Week is coming up next month. If you went to public or private school, you probably ran into at least one book whose author endured censorship. If you were homeschooled, certain books may have been banned in your home. If not, your teachers and parents probably discussed literary censorship once or twice, minimum.
This writer has read her share of banned or questioned books, and she wants to know, what are some favorites in our community? The author should discuss some popular challenged books, especially favorites. Why are/were they challenged? If the challenge has died down, why–or why not? What particular literary value do these books have? Most importantly, what do we miss out on when we ban a particular book or author from our curricular or personal canon (s)?
-Judy Blume (Margaret, Blubber, Deenie, really almost any book)
-J.K. Rowling (Harry Potter; witchcraft controversy not as hot but still present)
-Any book, especially children’s, featuring LGBT characters/situations
-Anne Frank (yes, it was once banned for being a "downer" and because of Anne’s discussions of marital relations/sex)
-Shel Silverstein (any book)
-John Green’s Looking for Alaska
I actually read two on this list during middle school: Judy Blume and Anne Frank. I also read another book about a Jewish prisoner in Argentina and the sheer torture that he endured by his captors. But, this was during college and by that point I was mature enough to be exposed to it and to walk away from it a better person as a result. I feel that the Blume variety of distaste was mild in comparison. Further still, how is Anne Frank any different from 1984 by George Orwell in terms of social oppression and sexual deviance, looking back at it? Although I have never read any of Rowling's work, I have watch her televised speeches and interviews and feel that prose as vital and distinct must not be banned, it would be a disservice to art in general and literature in particular. – L:Freire1 year ago
I went to a Catholic K-8 school and many of these were banned. I actually learned how to read by following the release of the Harry Potter books as I grew up, so they were naturally my favorites. But a few other banned books not mentioned here were: Northern Lights/The Golden Compass by Philip Pullman, all of Scott Westerfeld's books, and The Picture of Dorian Gray (lol!). There were probably many more, but those were the ones I went out of my way to read. Thank you, public libraries! – Eden1 year ago
A long time ago I took a look at Frank's book and was absolutely shocked and devastated after watching the documentaries. This book shouldn't be banned whatsoever. IMHO. – tscosj1 year ago
No. No, it shouldn’t. In my opinion, Holocaust studies should be required starting in sixth grade up—full courses with supplements like trips to museums and resource centers. – Stephanie M.1 year ago
Hamilton hit Broadway in 2015 and subsequently became a smash hit. Teachers are now using some of the (clean) songs to supplement lessons on American history, there are tributes and parodies all over YouTube, and people unashamedly admit to listening to the soundtrack on repeat (with 46 songs, most of them over three minutes, this is nothing to sneeze at).
The popularity of Hamilton brings to mind other long-forgotten historical figures and historical periods. Could other historically-based musicals be as successful? Who or what would you like to see get the Broadway/Lin-Manuel Miranda treatment (or attention from another composer)? Are there certain musical genres that would work best for some time periods (Hamilton leans heavily on hip-hop but, for instance, would WWII be more a rock opera type of story? Would a Civil War figure be more suited to say, bluegrass or rockabilly)? Who or what deserves a shot at Hamilton’s level of success, and how would you pull it off? Discuss.
I like this topic. I can't see me writing on this (well, never say never) but I'd be interested in seeing how someone would take a character or period and develop how it could be approached as a musical and why it might be of interest the way "Hamilton" has been received. – Joseph Cernik2 years ago
I love this topic. I think focusing on Lin's influences and how he achieved the incredible work he did in "Hamilton" is crucial in this discussion. – karenstahl1 year ago
Traumatic pasts are de rigeur across mediums, perhaps especially books. Many, if not all, of our favorite protagonists have traumatic pasts. They’ve been orphaned, bullied, imprisoned, raped, or had any number of other tragedies visited upon them (sometimes a combination of many). Trauma is often a good tool in the hands of the writer, as it incites sympathy for characters and explains some motivations.
However, trauma in fiction is often handled poorly. When this happens, you tend to get one of two reactions. The first is what TV Tropes calls "Angst? What Angst," wherein a character seems to function entirely separately of trauma, never mentioning it or letting it influence his or her life. Sometimes, the character suppresses the trauma so much, he or she finally has a melodramatic breakdown, or two or three.
But on the other side of that coin, you have characters defined by trauma. This can be extremely obvious, as in the character who acts like a victim and wallows in self-pity, or it can be a bit more subtle. See, for instance, the abused person who grows up to be an unrepentant abuser, or the military veteran who gives up on life and people after losing a limb or sense.
The question becomes then, how can writers write trauma, and do it justice? What is the best way to write a victim who incites sympathy, yet also incites true likability? How much trauma is too much or too little, and in what situations can/should it play a part? Discuss.
I think part of the success of writers who write trauma well are those who have directly experienced it themselves, or have those in their lives who have, it is always a little obvious when something is being used to provide a "unique flavour" to a story rather than a legitimate portrayal of a genuine experience. – SaraiMW2 years ago
When I read A Little Life by Hanya Yanagihara, I was struck by the impact of trauma on the protagonist and how difficult it was to read such a difficult subject. Perhaps there was too much as it was so traumatic to the reader - and yet, the novel opened up the discussion on childhood sexual abuse and the impact on the adult. I think it is a fine line to walk and one that needs careful consideration.
– Sara2 years ago
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– atomicdesignash2 years ago
So the other day, I’m surfing the Internet looking at Harry Potter writings (I’m a recent Potterhead and enjoying the addiction). I came across someone complaining about The Cursed Child and the Deathly Hallows epilogue, saying that they were too "heteronormative." In other words, this person wanted to know why it was always necessary for our favorite characters to get married (to a heterosexual, but I guess really to a person of any gender) and have kids to be happy.
Now, I’m a sucker for what TV Tropes calls Babies Ever After, but that post made me wonder. Why is marriage/babies held up as the ultimate happy ending? Is it the only one? What works can you name where this didn’t happen, but the characters were still happy and fulfilled? How has the concept of "happily ever after" evolved? Discuss.
I would say read Madame Bovary as it works as an antithesis to the traditional happily ever after. The character of Emma Bovary originally wanted nothing more than to get married, but soon starts desiring other things in life and becomes frustrated with the mundanity of married life. I don't want to give away too much here as it may spoil the story, but the idea of marriage and being a parent as the ultimate form of happiness is challenged in that story. You may also consider different gender perspectives in the happily ever after or "Babie ever after" trope as a lot of feminist literature likes to point out how what makes a female happy in marriage may vary for males. And for the LGBTQ community, it may because marriage and adoption is something that is legally denied to them in many countries. This theory has a lot of layers to it that need qualifications. I personally like stories that end with this trope as well, but I'm also aware of how it was used to keep females in a secondary position and treated them as a prize to be won. Though it is not to say that males did not desire as well. A good example of a male protagonist that wants desires this trope is Sanosuke Harada from the Hakuori Shinsengumi visual novels. – Blackcat1303 years ago
A couple of things to consider: The happy ever after (babies ever after) is a pacifier that stems from an industry pushing an 'aspirational' social value. Keep the status quo rolling along by showing us what we should want. Secondly, the romance novel industry dictates a happy ever after ending as it is expected. Queer romance sells best when it is HEA, but there is also a place for happy for now. – sheena3 years ago
I definitely don't think marriage/babies is the only type of happy ending. I love movies like Waitress, where the protagonist is able to get out of the abuse she may be in and leave any other baggage in order to do something for herself or coming of age movies where you see the protagonist really become an adult in a positive way. I hope that makes sense! – CatBeeny2 years ago
Biologically speaking, the goal of an organism is to pass its genes on to another generation. That said, I think humans are intelligent enough to make their lives meaningful in other ways. One of Eriksen's stages of development is "generatively vs stagnation". I look at it as one of the things people need for a fulfilling life is to contribute to the next generation, but that doesn't mean everyone needs to have children. You can contribute by being a good aunt or uncle, a writer, or through other careers. Society and the media bombards us with the idea that a happy life entails marriage and children even though that isn't a happy life for everybody. One reason I think marriage is sought after is people see the majority doing it and fear loneliness if they do not do the same. I think the media needs to start pushing more of a narrative that happiness is in self-fulfilment, achieving career and personal goals, being healthy, being independent, and other components to a happy ending besides romance and children. – Dawe2 years ago
I believe 'happily ever after' could be open to interpretation where the characters in a story are content at the end. It could mean them achieving what they aspired to at the beginning or something else they least expected but will have come to terms with said achievement.
Society has long created the norm that only romantic love equates to 'happily ever after.' While it is true in some occasions, it is not necessarily the only cause for a happy ending. Achieving one's heart's desire can truly bring happiness to the soul. Unfortunately, popular culture doesn't emphasize this enough. An example is how Sir Arthur Conan Doyle wrote Sherlock Holmes. His happily ever after was fulfilling his mission in life by being the best sleuth he could be, thereby gratifying is soul. Doyle did create a happily ever after for Holmes's sidekick Dr. Watson in the form of romance (however short-lived). Either way both characters were content with where their lives were by the last book Doyle wrote. – mfernando1 year ago
Those of you who have seen my profile and work on The Artifice know I’m a Oncer. Of course, Once Upon a Time ends next week, and of course, the fangirl in me is bummed about it. But I recently came across some interesting cast interviews, where Lana Parilla, Ginnifer Goodwin, and others talked about the "resonance" of OUAT. According to the cast, OUAT was a hit and ran for seven seasons primarily because it resonated with its audience. This got me thinking – what exactly is "resonance" in the television world? What other shows have achieved it, and are there different ways to do so? How do you know when a show has achieved the type of resonance that will ensure a multi-season run, a broad and loyal fan base, and overall endurance? Discuss.
This sounds like a very interesting topic, especially when comparing the producer's intentional and unintentional factors. – inkski2 years ago
Oof, resonance. I agree with inkski in that producers play a role in, I suppose, sustaining that resonance. I think good TV shows recognise their influence and will strive to prolong their on-screen stay. The biggest example of resonance I know of is from Doctor Who, whose influence can be derived from one of the greatest ideas in television history: the constant return of its titular character via 'regeneration'. I think Doctor Who's stories of life, death and how you spend the adventures in between, are what resonates with its loyal audiences. Though in sustaining resonance, I'd say there needs to be constant growth in the story. I haven't watched OUAT in ages but I'm sure it still resonates because it expanded beyond Storybrooke, in the same way it expanded on characters. Doctor Who constantly expands on the nature of the Doctor. I'm interested in how you tackle this topic, not only in how 'resonance' can be identified, but captured and sustained. – Starfire2 years ago
From the Camdens of 7th Heaven to the O’Neals of The Real O’Neals, there are plenty of fictional Christians populating our TV shows. Those portrayals are refreshingly diverse and imperfect, but one wonders if they are all accurate or the best representations of Christianity.
Choose a couple of shows, such as 7th Heaven vs. The Real O’Neals, and compare and contrast their approach to Christianity. What do the shows make look attractive about this religion? Off-putting? Which one is the best representation of modern Christianity? What do these shows say about Christianity in general, particularly to audience members who aren’t followers?
I disagree about relevance and interest, but I do understand what you mean. Maybe contrasting two different shows, one with a more "traditional" approach and one more "modern" one? 7th Heaven vs. The Real O'Neals, perhaps? – Stephanie M.4 years ago
Is there really a true portrayal of Christianity? There are so many sects of the religion, and so many individual views of those sects, that any interpretation can seem normal to at least some viewers. – MikeySheff4 years ago
Hmmm, that's a good point as well. Let me ruminate on that for a while. :) – Stephanie M.4 years ago
You could also add movies such as A Walk to Remember – Munjeera4 years ago
I thought of that, as well as movies that are specifically targeted toward a Protestant Christian audience (mostly people from the Bible Belt). Examples: God's Not Dead, Courageous, Fireproof. I've seen these movies and been entertained by them, but the narrowness of the intended audience bothers me. It also bothers me that in many cases, Christianity is the defining trait of the main characters, and that the directors take the easy way out (i.e., painting an atheist professor as unnecessarily cruel to his students, and then letting a car run him down). That's what I mean by an unhealthy portrayal of Christianity. I just wish the entertainment industry could get past either treating Christianity as a joke, or as something only fundamentalist Protestants are interested in watching. I also wish writers of Christian-based movies would do a better job of presenting Christians as multifaceted, normal people. Anyway, rant over. – Stephanie M.4 years ago
I really felt the title "God's Not Dead" should be adjusted to "Stereotypes Are Not Dead." Every single stereotype was portrayed in the movie: the strict Asian dad, the freedom loving hijab wearing young girl who wants to express herself and the atheist professor. I do not believe the sequel was any better. Why is it so difficult to write Christian screen plays?Even The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe fell flat in the dialogue. But The Voyage of the Dawn Treader was much better in my opinion. Frustrating! – Munjeera4 years ago
@Munjeera: It is frustrating and in its own way, gives Christians a bad name. I have rarely, if ever, seen Christians portrayed as "normal" people in the media, or their lifestyle portrayed as such. Instead, Christians often come across as goody-goodies with persecution complexes which...no. Some of the things that have happened to American Christians are grossly wrong. But compared to the followers in other nations, we have it made. – Stephanie M.4 years ago
I actually live in Canada so it is a little bit different here than in America.I have not felt that movies with Christian themes have nuance. I really liked A Walk to Remember. I think that Mandy Moore did an excellent job, and Roger Ebert agrees. Shane West, also was believable. I am not sure what it is but most movies with Christian themes focus too much on stereotypes and the characters come across one-dimensional. A Walk to Remember was based on a true story written by an older brother whose younger sister died of cancer. If I were rating Christian movies, I would put A Walk to Remember at the top.Movies based on religious themes would be a good comparison overall. Maybe it is difficult to pull off for any religion. – Munjeera4 years ago
The Simpsons both reflected and defined the church-going, 'religious only on Sunday morning' type of Christianity for an entire generation. They may have portrayed God and Flanders in a comic light but they ultimately shaped millions of people's views. – jackanapes3 years ago
Blindside was one of the worst movies in terms of racist portrayals towards the Black community and valourizing White Christians. Are there any diverse people that screenwriters ask when writing on diversity? We do it here on The Artifice and that is why our platform puts out quality material. It is difficult to see my own blind spots so I value the feedback I receive when I publish an article here. If we can do it, why don’t Christian movie producers check with diverse communities. I remember when the movie “Jesus” was produced, there was great concern the movie could evoke anti-Semitism. The producers went to the Jewish community, asked and received constructive criticism. How hard is it to get diverse feedback? – Munjeera1 day ago
I've never actually seen The Blind Side, but I'm not surprised about the criticism. Unfortunately, my tribe (evangelical Christians) doesn't have a very good history with diversity of any kind, and IMHO, it hasn't improved. That is, most pastors I know are trying to take a stand against racism and I'm sure some are doing a good job (b/c of the pandemic, I'm not 100% sure of what everyone's words and receptions have been). But others are either using the same old platitudes, or aligning themselves with those who riot and commit horrible violence--sometimes against Blacks and other minorities--in the name of anti-racism. It's a complex issue, to say the least.On a personal note: have any of you seen how Christian media portrays disabilities? It's even worse. Characters with disabilities are so inspirational and sappy, it's sick. A lot of them die at the end. And this same Christian media always throws around the word "retard" or "retarded." Now, I will admit I've had villains use this word in my own writing because, well, they're villains and they suck and that's what they do. But in Christian media, everybody who isn't disabled says it. It's accepted as fact: "This person is retarded. Retarded is an acceptable word, as long as we say it in the right tone." Ugh. – Stephanie M.20 hours ago
Ask any English major, teacher, or even English student about the current literary canon, and you’ll probably get a tongue-in-cheek response about dead white guys. Although the canon is expanding, most English literature curriculum offerings are still centered on Shakespeare, Dickens, Faulkner, Twain, you name it. If a class or canon is not centered on dead white male authors, it is labeled as such (World Literature, African-American Literature, etc). and sometimes taught as an elective. This sends a negative message to minority and female students, or those who may be white but of non-European heritage.
Then again, I have no problem with some of the old dead white guys. I was reading Dickens when I was ten; he actually inspired some of my (rather bad) first forays into creative writing. I developed crushes on Shakespearean heroes. You get the drift. But we need so much more variety in our literary diets. So the question at hand is: How can we balance the canon so that all authors get representation? How much "dead white guy" literature do we need? Whose works deserve to stay in the canon, and who needs to go? If you could design an entire curriculum or canon yourself, what would be in it? Why?
I’d love to write this myself, but I’m even more interested in what others think…so let’s get going. The floor is open!
This is a largely debated topic in many tertiary institutions and part of the issue is that the original categorisation of "Classic Literature" was developed by a dead, white guy. I agree that these are still texts that have great literary merit and power, but perhaps the issue is rather that the people who categorise the canon need to be those who are disenfranchised by the original canon. What would minority, female, students categorise themselves as powerful literature that fits in the category of English Literature. – SaraiMW2 years ago
I would like to propose a title change. You are mostly talking about native English speakers. There are so many other dead, white guys that have written amazing things that are not that well known (or known at all), because they did not write in English. Do not put all of them in one pot. – tanaod2 years ago
Noted. Perhaps something like, Expanding Representation in the Western Canon? – Stephanie M.2 years ago