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Humanizing the Inmates in Orange is the New Black

*Orange is the New Black* released its latest season this month, and it struck me the way the program continues one trend — to humanize and rationalize the criminality of the inmates. Like Piper, who is written as a hapless entrant to the Litchfield Pen., it seems as if each inmate is offered a flashback account of poverty, racism, LGBTQ bigotry, and bad luck that result in incarceration. In this season, explicitly focused on the inhuman treatment of the inmates and the dehumanizing treatment of Poussey’s death, this narrative choice is especially potent. Yet, there’s also the occasional lapse in the narrative — like when instead of killing and dismembering a hitman-guard an inmate enslaves another or dreams of eating human flesh. How effective is the humanizing narrative in this season and cumulatively in *OITNB*? Is the narrative goal for viewers to understand the prison system to be horrid, in part because the inmates are mostly undeserving of incarceration?

  • I too found the message to also be a little inconsistent. Were they still trying to be sympathetic? Were their terrible actions on (mostly) innocent people justifiable in the writer's eyes? (especially considering how many of the inmates never cared about Poussey) Still, it was refreshing to see a darker, more complex OitNB. The series was starting to get cartoonish. Every inmate was a victim of circumstance (even if they did something terrible it was always somebody else's fault), while every guard and person outside the prison were villains. It just added a level of realism that when these people were put in charge of the prison, they were no better (amd in a lot of cases worse) than the guards they hated (it might also be a good idea to use the Stanford Prison Experiment as a parallel). – AGMacdonald 2 days ago
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Gods and the Nature of the Deity in Pop Fiction

American Gods, Battlestar Galactica, Xena. People’s fascination with gods seems to have shifted from worship to a kind of character archetype. Are "gods" essentially malleable symbols open to interpretation, or is it fundamentally incorrect to draw a line connecting pop fiction gods with their cultural basis?

Potential here to expand the subject to include comics (the Wicked the Divine), games (God of War franchise), film (Bruce Almighty, Dogma, Gods of Egypt).

  • Fascinating topic. One thing I'd suggest for the prospective author to consider is difference in representation between the pantheistic "gods" of antiquated mythologies vs. the monotheistic Judeo-Christian "God" who has remained the cornerstone of much of the world's contemporary theology. Despite all deriving from similar religious foundations, there's a clear distinction between Chris Hemsworth portraying Thor (whom few, if any, people still hold sacred) and Morgan Freeman playing Yahweh (which, quite literally, breaks a Commandment that many people still consider blasphemous). How do the authors/filmmakers approach these two classes of gods differently, and does the latter adhere to the same archetypal logic as the former? – ProtoCanon 3 days ago
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  • The comparison of superheroes to Gods may serve the purpose of this article well, both in comparing and conceptualizing superhuman deities with supernatural powers. Superheroes such as Batman, Superman, or Spiderman, have become symbols of the potential within all humanity for greatness. – iRideChallenges 2 days ago
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The Endurance of Gatsby

Analyze what makes The Great Gatsby such an enduring piece of literature — the 1920s was long ago, as is its culture, and yet we continue to read the book and see pieces of ourselves in the characters. What is it about the writing, the scenario, or the characters that continue relentlessly, beat on, boats against the current?

  • I think it might be useful/helpful to think about if any core themes of the novel still resonate with readers today. I would argue that despite the many changes have occurred in America in the past 90 years, there are still fundamental themes and ideas at the center of Gatsby that remain core/essential to the American experience today. Also, the writing is immensely beautiful. – SeanGadus 3 months ago
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  • I think the 'tickle in the fancy' with the Gatsby is that we can all relate to the images that emanate from the rituals of the not-so-common part of society. If we were to look more closely, even the lower strata of society would have its own version of the 'Ghetto ' Gatsby and that's what I feel draws the reader (or the viewer) into the appealing characters, happenstance, and yearning for abundance in generous times. Shakespearean drama took place even earlier than the 1920s; yet, the plays cry out to our past failures, future hopes in ways that seem more contemporary than distant. I guess, Mario Puzo is the best analogy I can give to the effect that Gatsby has on the unsuspecting reader, the discerning writer, and the public at large; through his Godfather saga. – lofreire 2 days ago
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Subverting egotism is a lie

Selfies, self promotion and social media. A common trait in all three? Self-aggrandisment or is it determination? As our perceptions change and our way of promoting ourselves alter is it fair to judge someone for posting a shameless selfie, or for constantly posting paid ads on their feed? Are they merely showing off their good looks or are they making a name for themselves? We are seeing more and more models become famous through Instagram photos rather than their actual modelling work. Have we as a generation squashed the notion of egotism or is it all that we know?

  • Which came first the chicken or the egg? Is social media ballooning our narcissism or the other way around?I saw a hilarious interaction the other day. I was at a tourist site and a young parent asked her 7 year old to take a picture of her, the mom. I could not help but smile. It was the first time in my life I have seen a child take a picture of a mom. But I want to make sure that as I share this story that I do so without judging the mom. It was just a funny exchange of roles. – Munjeera 5 days ago
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  • This sounds like a cool topic! But in my opinion, even if selfies are becoming practical tools for furthering your success, like a shallow form of a resume, they are ultimately serving a goal that is largely Ego-driven-- your own personal success, which in our competitive culture is something that is done at the expense of other people for only your personal gain. – Calnamni 2 days ago
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Sexual Violence and Censorship

Do shows like Game of Thrones deserve criticism for their depiction of sexual violence, or is their portrayal justified, given the setting of Westeros as a brutal world were violence is the common place?

There’s an interesting debate to be had here about the responsibilities of show writers/directors toward how they handle sensitive topics and staying true to the fictional world they operate within.

  • There's a fine line between violence and sexual violence in particular being shown in context and becoming gratuitous voyeurism and, in my opinion, Game of Thrones has stepped over this line many a time. Yes, of course we all know that the world in which the stories are set is a violent one, reflecting our own middle-ages in that respect, when life was cheap and a self-appointed 'Elite' could determine someone's fate almost at a whim, but I am still of the opinion that there are far darker horrors lurking within the mind than can ever be successfully portrayed on screen. Sometimes a suggestion of violence can be more menacing than the act itself - less is more.Game of Thrones sells itself on its barbarism, so the writers/directors are somewhat obliged to stay as true as possible to the source material, but I do wonder just how often boundaries are being deliberately pushed just to see what they can get away with. – Amyus 7 days ago
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  • An interesting argument. Game of Thrones is a go-to for promoting sexual violence; however, shows like Sons of Anarchy and Outlander have had more graphic sexual assaults and yet they are not mentioned in the debate (in general, not specifically yours). It might be interesting to investigate. – AGMacdonald 2 days ago
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Do sitcoms like 'Friends' and 'The Big bang theory" pose an alternative world far from our reality?

Explain why you think (or may be not) that Tv shows or Sitcoms portraying a well sculpted world, with friends for support and effortless enjoyment can posses a serious threat to how people view reality and their life outcomes?

  • Another approach could be exploring the dependence people have on such television shows as a form of escapism. By illustrating an alternate sitcom reality to our own, creators are effectively entrapping people in a make belief society with different rules that follow the laws or comedy rather than reality. – ninaphillips27 2 weeks ago
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  • i don't think those shows necessarily demonstrate consistent support, rather they should how friends often take the mick out of each other to keep them grounded. the characters in big bang theory are often mocked and ostracised my most members of society and find solace within their own little community. A common trope of sitcoms given its a common sensation in the human experience – Iliasbakalla 2 weeks ago
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  • I agree with Iliasbakalla and Munjeera. These series often extrapolate characters' quirks to the extreme for comic effect. It would be interesting to discuss why this results in a broadly enjoyable experience, e.g. perhaps we identify with characters' flaws etc. The cultural setting of the show and the assumed cultural setting of the viewer would be another interesting aspect to explore, e.g. What is the cultural setting that producers are assuming when they write and produce the show? Do viewers from other cultures have more or less difficulty enjoying these shows? Why/why not? – bethlauren 2 weeks ago
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  • Its definitely an interesting theory... do we change our own behaviours based on what we see as successful in a tv show? Do we try to become more sarcastic because me might find Chandler so incredibly funny and relatable? And then, is this notion of "what we should be living like" having a negative impact on our lives or a positive? – miaraszewski 1 day ago
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Taken by jackson2601 (PM) 2 weeks ago.
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Gravity Falls: Bringing the Mystery to Life

Look at the stories of Gravity Falls and the hidden messages among the episodes. Explore how it ultimately led to a giant real-life scavenger hunt which strengthened fan’s appreciation of the show. Research if any other shows have done this, where they bring aspects of the tv show into real life for fans to enjoy, and how that contributes to the strength of the fan base and its longevity.

Ultimately, the pros and cons of bringing aspects of a show into real-life.

  • Fringe had codes set within each episode, and I'm sure other mystery and sci fi shows had similar things, if that helps. – IndiLeigh 1 week ago
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Images of Terror and Terrorism in the Age of Trump

Recent events in London and abroad raise questions of how we should be representing terrorist attacks and the victims of those attacks. The visualization of difference is crucial to our popular understanding of these events as they unfold and reverberate throughout the world. Discuss the way major news organizations like CNN, Fox and MSNBC visualize these events. What differences arise between these televised news sources? How can stations visualize the aftermath of these attacks and the victims in tasteful ways that don’t compound the trauma?

  • It would also be interesting to explore the way the Manchester attack was reported by American sources (releasing information before the UK, reporting false information, etc). Also, the lack of reporting terrorist attacks in non-western countries. Could this be due to the fact these sources don't want the US sympathizing with the middle-east? They want us to view them only as the terrorist and not as the victim? – BreannaWaldrop 2 weeks ago
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  • An interesting spin-off on this topic would be to explore the way in which news outlets are manipulated for PR reasons by both terrorist organisations and celebrities to manage their public profile. For example, the controversial decision of Grande to "go home" to the US was quickly followed by an announcement of the One Love benefit concert and return to Manchester. The decision of Noel Gallagher not to attend also resulted in a PR issue, which he felt compelled to then "explain". – bethlauren 2 weeks ago
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Taken by bethlauren (PM) 2 weeks ago.