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Existentialism and Moral Relativity as an Artistic Crutch

Judging by volume, it seems easier to write morally ambiguous screenplays. Such screenplays also seem to benefit from the default of events being meaningless or random in a meaningless or random existence (e.g., Tony Soprano’s series-ending "dirt nap"), while works regarding morality as objective, ala Breaking Bad, must convincingly explain actions and repercussions without the easy shrug of "stuff happens." If we set the Way Way Back Machine to say, a century ago, the bar of acceptance for atheistic works was high, but today, its bar for justification seems awfully low. Whaddya think about that, my friend?

  • I approve. Ambiguousness can be done well, but I have seen few authors and especially screenwriters pull it off. Moral relativity gives the appearance of freedom, but I think artistically, it actually boxes people in because they have to be careful not to make definitive statements about what's right and wrong, or why they think so. I'm not saying everything has to be squeaky clean--Lord knows that would be boring--but I'd definitely like to see less relativism.I think sometimes filmmakers, screenwriters, what have you, get caught in the trap of relativism vs. a *specific worldview*. That is, some people feel if a work does not appear to support a certain worldview, it has to be completely relative or it doesn't work. Judeo-Christian works, especially films, are particularly guilty. A happy medium is desperately needed. – Stephanie M. 3 months ago
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Being Above the Law in "How to Get Away With Murder"

Analyze the issue of the show’s main characters being involved in law yet acting above it (i.e. through murders, blackmailing, theft). What are the implications of this hypocrisy and how can this form a commentary on modern society or human nature? How is the show so appealing despite the characters going against simple black-and-white laws most people have been raised to instinctively follow? How can we condemn real-life criminals, yet root for these fictional ones as they do the exact same thing? Do the characters’ backstories inform and alter our perspective of them, humanizing them so it becomes more difficult to see them as villains?

  • This is a brilliant idea, particularly in the case of Annalise. – Sonia Charlotta Reini 5 months ago
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  • I recently watched the first two seasons again after that nail-biting cliffhanger in the middle of season three. This time around I was quite impressed how the characters really struggle with what they have done. Everything is internalized and they are not as heartless as they pretend to be. They each have unique reactions and coping mechanisms, and as you pointed out, they are indeed humanized because we can clearly see that they all have a strong moral compass. I really like this idea! – AlexanderLee 5 months ago
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  • I think this is a great topic but it definately can be broadened into the appeal of anti-heroes in general and also the nature of empathy. Whether its Annalise, Dexter, or Batman- we're actively rooting for the people who are taking the law into their own hands because we've been convinced these are criminals/conspiracies the justice system simply cannot handle or wouldn't understand. We forgave the Keating five for Sam's death because he was shown to be a terrible guy responsible for the murder of a missing college student. In the same vein, Dexter was a sociopathic serial killer but because he lived by a code the audience could still be convinced to root for him. We lived in his head and understood his motivations. But if it was an episode of Criminal Minds we'd 100% be rooting for them to catch him. The characters who are humanized and relatable are easy to make excuses for. – LC Morisset 3 months ago
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Policing the War on Drugs in 'The Wire' and 'Breaking Bad': A Comparison

Analyse the way David Simon’s ‘The Wire’ (2002) and Vince Gilligan’s ‘Breaking Bad’ (2008) portray the War on Drugs and the efficacy of policing. Would be interesting to compare representations of surveillance, public policy and drug communities (i.e. how the centrality of drug trading affects social, economic and cultural structures in Wallis’s neighbourhood in ‘The Wire’ v. Jesse’s town in ‘Breaking Bad’). Might also be useful to look specifically at the first seasons and compare the way policing is represented as a response to political zeitgeists in each show and how methodologies have changed. For example, ‘The Wire’ came straight off the back of 9/11 which is cited heavily in the first season as the reason behind the lack of police resources and subsequent thriving of illegal drug pedalling.

  • I like this topic a lot and I think that that shows you have chosen are perfect examples. My only critique would be the scope of the media one would have to analyze - both "Wire" and "BB" are very long series - a writer would have to know the ins and outs of 7+ seasons of material to be comprehensive. This is also difficult because, within those seven seasons, the thesis could easily change back and forth several times.I think taking "Season 1" of each show might be a more attainable goal. – AndyJanz 2 weeks ago
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NBC's Hannibal and Playing With Canon

NBC’s critically-acclaimed but fairly short-lived television series Hannibal is an adaptation of Thomas Harris’s novels featuring the psychiatrist-cum-cannibalistic-serial-killer Hannibal Lecter. Although initially structured as a prequel to the first Lecter novel, Red Dragon, over the course of its three seasons the show became an entirely different animal, adapting pieces of all four of Harris’s novels about Lecter (Red Dragon, The Silence of the Lambs, Hannibal, and Hannibal Rising) to form a whole that’s very different than the sum of its parts.

How does Bryan Fuller choose, combine, and discard very different plot threads from the books into one cohesive series? Does he? Are his methods effective, or is the show’s plot line a muddled mess?

  • Excellent topic! Fuller's alchemy on that series is easily one of the most remarkable artistic achievements in recent television. It's worth noting, however, that he didn't have the rights to include the Silence of the Lambs characters and storyline into the series, which is why the roles of Clarice Starling and Will Graham were fused into one character. Upon cancellation, there was always the hope that Netflix might revive them for a fourth season, and that the timing might coincide with obtaining the rights to Silence of the Lambs, but that prospect kept looking less and less likely as the major players began taking on other projects. However, interesting that you should bring this up now, given the recent announcement: http://tvline.com/2016/12/23/hannibal-silence-of-the-lambs-miniseries-bryan-fuller/ In any case, I'd be excited to read this article. – ProtoCanon 4 months ago
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  • I think this would be a great topic considering the depth of source material and other adaptations of Harris's books. I would like to take a crack at it but I might have to spend a month or two just going over everything to write something worthwhile. – CoolishMarrow90 4 months ago
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  • a few thoughts on some places to start: Miriam Lass and Abel Gideon as expies for SoTL Clarice and Lecter, the choice to adapt two books (Red Dragon and Hannibal) in season 3, the treatment of Hannibal Lecter's canonical but unpopoular backstory from Hannibal Rising. – Sadie 4 months ago
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  • I would compare the show with the Anthony Hopkins movies to better understand the difference between the two takes on Hannibal Lector. – BMartin43 1 month ago
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  • Love the show. And it is ripe for discussion, especially season 3 which incorporates so much of Hannibal and red dragon.Can't wait to see what someone creates with this topic! – SeanGadus 1 month ago
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celebrity appeal: how celebrity endorsement galvanizes the cause

Choose a celebrity or multiple celebrities and discuss the phenomenon of celebrity appeal in America. Do celebrities have an obligation to use their popularity and appeal to speak out against things like global warming and war? Also, their great and often rapid accumulation of wealth, should this obligate them to support social justice causes, and in what ways? Some clear examples to discuss are Dicaprio and Pitt or even Mortensen and Michael Moore. Recent developments revolving around the presidential inauguration and celebrity refusals to participate, could provide good points for discussion.
One more point for discussion would be to evaluate the effect that certain celebrities have had on the social or political causes they’ve endorsed, in our contemporary moment or in the past.

  • This is an interesting topic. I think it might also be interesting to examine the effects of public social/political advocacy on celebrity popularity. At the risk of sounding cynical, it seems to me that a celebrity publicly stating opinions about political/social issues can work either for or against him/her - depending largely, of course, on whether or not people LIKE the opinions he/she is stating. This is admittedly just a casual observation on my part, but from what I gather, when people LIKE the message, they tend to cheer the celebrity on and praise him/her for sharing the message - but when they DON'T like the message, they tend to trash the celebrity, call for boycotts of his/her work, and/or declare that celebrities in general should "just shut up" about politics. The various reactions to Meryl Streep's Golden Globes speech are a good new example. – OBri 4 months ago
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  • Celebs are damned if they do or if they don't. If they speak out about social justice causes, they're labeled as phonies or ppl say that they're only speaking out because it's the 'trend' to do so. However, if they don't speak out they're criticized for not using their public roles properly. – seouljustice 4 months ago
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  • I think another important point to discuss in this is how much the celebrities actually do for the organizations they promote versus just talking about them. This goes a long with the affect they have had on those issues. I think drawing a clear line between the movements/organizations growing because of the groups own efforts and what the celebrities have actually contributed. – JenniferRobinMc 4 months ago
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Are the Gilmore Girls Actually Likable?

With the revival of the beloved show "Gilmore Girls," watchers get another chance to see what their favorite people of Stars Hollow have been up to. It’s no question that those who loved the show before still love the show after watching it over again. However, and with much regret, after enjoying the seven seasons once again, along with "A Year in the Life," some viewers can’t help but question some of the choices the Gilmores make. From homewrecking, to bullying, to cheating, to using, being rude, and somewhat cruel at times, they still somehow manage to make audiences love them. What distracts us from these events? What makes watching it so enjoyable? What qualities redeem them? Why do we love them?

  • Focusing on the original series versus the revival might be helpful in keeping the essay focused. – mazzamura 4 months ago
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  • I was actually thinking about this recently and I was a fan of the series when it originally aired on The WB back in the early 2000s. I also own every season on DVD and tuned in for A Year in the Life on Netfilx with much anticipation. However, in watching AYIAL, I found myself really hating the Gilmores. They were bossy, self-righteous, and made selfish decisions that dragged others into their messy lives. I wanted to smack Rory and shake Lorelai. Emily, I just wanted her to open her eyes and ears to really hear herself and the racist and classist things that she would say to her hired help.Then I realized, I never loved the Gilmores -- it was always the characters around them that redeemed them. It was Stars Hollow, Paris, Lane and Hep Alien, Jess, Liz, TJ, everyone else (even Logan) that made the girls the magnet of my attention and appreciation. The pop-cultural references and wit were great, but the girls alone just didn't sit well with me. I felt it growing up with the series, but now I can more effectively express this feeling. Maybe the revival was too shady for me, but I think looking back at the series, I had more eye rolls towards Rory and Lorelai than I liked to admit. At least Rory got me psyched about applying to college and making something of myself...but how unnerving it is to see where she actually ended up... – khunt12 4 months ago
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  • I really enjoy this idea and you can do the same for other shows as well such as Friends or One Tree Hill. – boyerj 4 months ago
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  • I really like this topic as someone who was never a Gilmore Girls fan. I watched part of A Year in the Life recently and I just couldn't understand the appeal. My main issue was I couldn't understand why they spoke in monologues but that's mostly irrelevant. But I do think the issue isn't so much likability but maybe a bit of subconscious envy. It's appealing to see someone do or say whatever they want with no repercussions and remain the protagonist of the story. Even in something as trivial as eating, the Gilmore Girls live a fantasy idea. They eat junk food in large amounts at all hours of the day but remain attractively slim. Meanwhile the average person subsisting on pizza, ice cream, and pop tarts for 20 years would certainly not look like that. Many people love villains because they do whatever they want; in a way I think shows like Gilmore Girls (and Friends as another commentator mentioned) give viewers similar satisfaction whilst still rooting for the 'good guy'. – LC Morisset 4 months ago
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  • I've never understood the appeal of Gilmore Girls, and I've seen a few thinkpieces since AYITL came out posing this exact question. This could make for a good article, but whoever takes this on should be cautious to not repeat points made elsewhere, or to at least find new evidence for them. – Sadie 4 months ago
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  • Early in the show yes - the snappy dialogue makes them particularly attractive. As the show progresses, however, they slide into boy-obsessed women, often at the risk of other aspects of their personalities, which makes them unlikeable, or two-dimensional. – queeniesukhadia 1 month ago
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  • Many people love villains because they do whatever they want; in a way I think shows like Gilmore Girls (and Friends as another commentator mentioned) give viewers similar satisfaction whilst still rooting for the 'good guy'. – Clay Cain 1 month ago
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  • I have a very hard time enjoying this show because the rhetoric is nauseating. I like the characters, and the premise, but no one talks like that. I am on English Major at UW-Madison and I have never even heard extremely nuanced peers who have an immense capacity for vocabulary and language converse in the way the dialogue is written for that show. – kraussndhouse 1 month ago
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How did 13 Reasons Why change when it was adapted for Netflix?

13 Reasons Why was hugely popular and important YA novel written in 2007 by Jay Asher. In 2017, it received a 13 episode Netflix adaption, which has renewed interest in the story. How did this story change, develop, or grow in its transition to the screen? Were these changes effective, or did they hinder or distinctly change the overall story or characters?

Take us through the changes between the netflix series and the book that inspired it.

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    Testing the Narrative: Virtual Reality as Supplementary Content

    Examine how shows like Stranger Things and Mr. Robot incorporate virtual reality content as supplements to their series. Will we see more of it? When will virtual reality stand on its own? Looking at how VR has exploded in recent years (Facebook buys Oculus for 2.3 billion) and how VR’s growth in the video game sector is creating a wider base of VR headset owners, which could benefit TV shows adopting VR content.

    • It would be wise to cite examples of how VR has expanded not just for television content but for video games as well. – BMartin43 2 months ago
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