Racism is a persistent problem in America that a lot of people want to have the answer to. Many sources of fiction have offered their own solutions to it that range from the power of human cooperation to just straight up coercion (beating the bad guys and saving the day), but The Good Wife‘s Alicia Florrick offers a far more cynical response to this issue. Alicia, having grown a particular understanding of human nature through her years as a lawyer, does not believe in a “solution” to racism. She does not believe it is possible to truly change people. As someone running for States Attorney in Illinois, the subject of race comes up often. Her opponent, Frank Prady, is far more optimistic in his views and believes he can create a permanent change, a position Alicia calls the “poetry” of the issue but not the point. She thinks it’s a sentiment that is only repeated to make people feel better about an issue without actually fighting it.
Continue reading “The Good Wife Provides its Bold Answer to Racism”
Pandering has become quite the confusing thing these days hasn’t it? The phrase in the context of fandoms refers to when a writer forces something into their story in a hollow attempt to appeal to his or her fanbase. For example, if I’m writing a popular TV series and there is a one-off character that people found tremendously funny, me contriving that character back into the show and going against its natural flow solely to appeal to the fans is an example of pandering. It is compromising the story for the sake of a shallow appeal, but unfortunately that isn’t exactly a rigid definition. What constitutes as “compromising the story”? How much “compromising” is acceptable if the result is something everyone enjoys a great deal? Is there such a thing as good pandering? What exactly is the difference between that and “fanservice”? These questions are all important, and the distinction that pandering deals with something that directly effects a story’s quality is important, because if we were to consider any time a writer including something they think their fans would like pandering, then far too many things would be classified as such. It is in these questions that people find difficulty in answering that we find the main issue with the phrase. Today, the criticism of pandering is thrown around for just about any subplot featuring a fan favourite character, any pairing they don’t support, anything even vaguely alluding to a particular political affiliation, and essentially anything “I don’t like but other people do”. Due to these reasons, the once valid and important criticism of pandering has lost all weight.
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TV Shows and movies don’t get racism for the most part. They really, really don’t. The most common misstep is the lack of realism in portraying adolescent racism. By now, most recognize that racism in the adult world is institutional and less overt, but with young people writers just love to simplify the hell out of it. Racist people in fiction are generally loud and obnoxious punks who make thinly veiled threats at every person of colour they see. The modern racist does not behave like this at all. Perhaps several years ago that was the case, but in the new millennium that does not even come close. Thankfully we have the Neo-Noir mystery show Veronica Mars that came out in the mid 2000’s to set the record straight. Racist teenagers aren’t loud and angry rednecks, they aren’t only people of low intelligence, and they aren’t super aggressive about their prejudice either. Racism to the teens of the world of Veronica Mars (a world that exists in the fictional town of Neptune) is used as a weapon, a tool of exclusion. For the show’s first two seasons, racial and class tensions are treated with significance, and more importantly, as closely related concepts. As Veronica herself succinctly puts it, “your parents are either millionaires, or your parents work for millionaires” within the class based society she lives in.
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While I’ve sung my praises for The Good Wife in another article on this site, there is one other network drama that I would consider to be on par with prestige cable dramas and head and shoulders above its network competition. That show would be Person of Interest (which I’ve talked about a bit before when I started it). This show turned what could have easily been a long running and cheesy procedural drama with sci-fi and serialized elements into what can be considered a television science fiction epic. It has honestly gotten that good as of late, and it doesn’t look like it will be slowing down any time soon. While I’m delighted that this show has improved as much as it did, I also have a nagging fear that perhaps the writers will cave into the demands of a certain type of fan. You see, there is a significant amount of viewers out there who just want Person of Interest to never try and be anything that’s ambitious and just stick to the “Case of the Week” structure. They want a show where Finch and Reese go through the same routine case after case, week after week, season after season, until eventually the show is 12 seasons old with 4 different spin-offs distinguished only by the different cities that get added to the end of their titles. Person of Interest: Miami, Person of Interest: LA, Person of Interest cross-overs between the original show and Person of Interest: SVU (where a team goes out to stop sex crimes before they happen). The scariest thing about these demands though would be how easy it would be to meet them, to just give up and release regurgitated trash in place of interesting and unique content. This show peaked in ratings during the times where it was more of a procedural than a serialized drama, and now that it has shifted in the opposite direction the show has taken a hit in viewership. This is so depressing because the show is now better than it’s ever been.
Continue reading “Why Person of Interest Needs to Continue Being the Gutsiest Show on Television”
One of the most influential satirical pieces of all time…
What qualifies as “Good Satire”? Given the horrific recent events over in France, this is a question that has come up quite a bit. There is no debate that the actions of these terrorists are absolutely unconscionable, but there has been a large amount of discussion about what the best response to it actually is. The acclaimed cartoonist, Joe Sacco, and his response has had me thinking quite a bit about the nature of satire and why it exists. According the Oxford University Press, satire is the “employment, in speaking or writing, of sarcasm, irony, ridicule, etc. in exposing, denouncing, deriding, or ridiculing vice, folly, indecorum, abuses, or evils of any kind” (“satire” def. 2b). Satires often utilize sarcasm and irony to aid in getting their points across. Irony is a rhetorical device that depicts “a contradictory outcome of events as if in mockery of the promise and fitness of things” (“irony” def. 2). Under that criteria, how effective is the “satire” being employed today in response to this incident? What is really being accomplished by simply drawing a picture of Muhammed? To better articulate my thoughts, I’m going to look at 2 examples of satirical comics produced by Charlie Hebdo. One excellent, and one I would describe as vapid and pointless.
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Twelve Years a Slave, The Butler, and even Django Unchained have been labeled with the “White Guilt Film” moniker. With Selma already receiving a great deal of positive buzz from critics, that phrase has seen a resurgence of use. And honestly? Labeling a film that covers things like slavery, discrimination, and other historical struggles for black people simply as “White Guilt Films” is an extraordinarily offensive thing to do. On top of that, it’s also incredibly arrogant and – I say this seriously – completely stupid. What’s worse is people are going further to state that these films are praised merely because critics are coerced into giving positive reviews out of some sense of guilt. Many negative criticisms on these films are often preceded by some variation of the absurd claim “Oh I’ll be called racist for not liking it”, which is a tellingly defensive thing to say and speaks volumes about the real racial issue that surrounds these movies. In this article, I’m going to unpack, analyze, and dismiss all of the “White Guilt Film” arguments, and hopefully by the end you will see how problematic they are if you don’t already.
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Have you ever heard the phrase “Opinions are like butts”? It refers to the fact that everyone has one and it hints at the tendency we have to not be as accepting of ones that do not belong to us. After all, other butts tend to stink, and at the same time the stench of our own is a foreign element to others. The way it could be received on such an expansive platform like the internet is really anyone’s guess, and that in itself is source of the problem. Since so many different people have access to the web, a huge array of conflicting perspectives on things are going to clash. It is no exaggeration to say that there is no such thing as a subjective thought that someone on the internet does not disagree with. No matter how obvious and self-evident a perspective seems to you, there is definitely going to be someone out there who vehemently disagrees with it. Chances are on the web that if someone disagrees with something you said, they’ll let you know in the least graceful way possible. Often, this will lead to what we call an internet argument (you don’t want that, trust me). People on the internet have unfortunately gotten so used to being harassed over their opinions on things, that they have resorted to throwing out the pointless phrases “in my opinion” at the beginning of their statements and “but that’s just my take” at the end. We know it was in your opinion, the assumption that it wasn’t came from being on the internet too long. In a world where everyone is ridiculously self-conscience about their thoughts on things, we are now used to this fear of being ostracized for them. And fear is what it really comes down to on both sides.
Continue reading “Everyone has Butts: A Guide to Understanding Criticism on the Internet”
James Watson is a Nobel Prize winning scientist who co-discovered the structure of DNA. On the flipside, he is also known for controversial opinions that include advocating the “right” for women to be able to abort their children for being gay, his obvious sexism, and most damning of all, his opinions about race in relation to intelligence. His behaviour has cost him the respect of his peers and his position in the scientific community, and in response he’s decided to sell his Nobel Prize, no doubt as a symbolic gesture of his disillusionment. My take on all this leads me to a number of conclusions about the nature of intelligence and people like Watson.
Continue reading “James Watson: Challenging What it Means to be Considered a Genius”
Dirtbags in fiction have been a fixture in popular fiction for a very long time now. They come in all sorts of varieties but with the common goal of earning the ire of an audience. They are that special kind of character that exists solely to be hated. The reason writers often resort to creating dirtbags is to give the audience a reason to side with the protagonist of their story. Maybe this hypothetical hero has entered a competition but you don’t quite care about whether or not they win, but throw in a dirtbag competitor and you can’t help but want to see that smug grin of their wiped off their face. In short, the dirtbag exists for the purpose of manipulating the audience, so here are a few different types that are used to do just that.
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Trolls are people who spread negativity on the internet through deception. This broad description of them is fitting because there are many different kinds of trolls. There are trolls who deceive people by deliberately saying something naive or stupid (EX: “How does this video have 10 million views, there are only 7 million people on the planet?”), and there are trolls that take on an unusually aggressive stance on something that really didn’t need one (EX: “Anyone who STILL believes in God is a confirmed idiot!”). Recently, a newer “roleplaying” type of troll that originates from the “Le Reddit Army”
, who invade youtube comment sections and masquerade as stereotypical internet personalities like the “fedora-wearing-neckbeard”
and the “angry feminist”
. These trolls are meant to incite anger within people in two different ways. The ones gullible enough to actually buy their charade are offended by their patheticness, and the ones that can see through them are annoyed by the sheer volume of them that exist. Trolls often fight with meaningless nonsense, but they rely on their victim’s reaction for their “reward”, so in the end, trolls are only as effective as you allow them to be. On the other hand, there are those who enjoy harassing people, sending threats, saying explosively racist and offensive things, and telling others to kill themselves. These people are often identified as trolls, when in reality they are more akin to legitimate criminals and cyber bullies. Identifying someone that openly sends death threats as a “troll” downplays the seriousness of his or her actions. Actual trolling is like a balancing act, a line between legitimate and fraudulent, entertaining and disheartening, funny and sad; a line that must be carefully balanced upon. In the end, trolling is a performance, and the difference between a skilled troll and an artless basement-dweller is apparent. Before going any further, the question of why trolls troll must be addressed.
Continue reading “Musings & Trollisms: A Guide to the Trolling Mindset”