The Office Is Problematic For A Reason

 

One of the most popular shows to air on television has been catching a lot of flak recently due to its problematic humor. The show is “The Office” which first aired in 2005 and was aired up until 2013. It’s a show that has developed a cult following amidst its increasing popularity. It’s a documentary style show that follows a paper company “Dunder Mifflin” and all the unique characters that work there. Capturing all the nonsense that they create on a day to day basis that’s usually headed by the boss Michael Scott, played by Steve Carrell

While The Office first aired over a decade ago it has been facing a lot of backlash due to the style of humor that they use. Most of the humor comes from the boss of the paper company Michael Scott. His humor tends to be about off limits subjects. Jokes of race, religion, people’s weight, sexuality and any insecurities the characters might have about them, nothing is off limits for his jokes. This is where a lot of the backlash is coming from as in todays society, we are increasingly aware and trying to prevent these topics to be laughed at.

There was one article by Affinity Magazine that first grabbed my interest in terms of backlash toward The Office. Its one of my favorite shows, but I do understand why people think it’s problematic. While this article is more of a paragraph with a list than an actual article its completely correct. The minority groups in the show are constantly harassed for their differences. Michael continually makes racist, sexist, and homophobic remarks throughout the entire course of the show. So, if you’ve never seen the show this article gives you an idea of what the humor looks like.

So yes, this show is problematic I will agree with that.

After I saw that article I was intrigued to see what others had to say, and in the last few years there’s  been A LOT of articles published saying the same thing. Most of the authors of these articles even claim that they used to be huge fans of the show but as society evolves these jokes become less funny and more offensive to some. This is completely understandable, and I think the many writers and producers (there’s over 40) of the show expected this backlash.

An article came out this year by the The Decider where they chose five episodes to break down and explain why they are problematic. Without even clicking on the article I knew what episodes they were going to break down, I was able to guess four of them right. That’s because these episodes really take the shows problematic humor to the next level. The one they had listed as number one was the episode “Diversity Day” from season one.

Michael decided to teach his employees about diversity by making them put a card on their forehead and someone would use stereotypes about that ethnicity, so they could guess what was on their forehead. The Jamaican was a pothead and the Asian was a bad driver, you get the idea. They chose the most offensive stereotypes about that ethnicity to portray them. Even at some point in the episode Michael shouts the N word when trying to reenact a Chris Rock standup routine. So, its difficult to argue against any of these stances about the show

Everything about this show is wrong, the jokes are in bad taste, they are offensive, and it leaves the audience with a sense of guilt as they laugh at all the events in the show. So even though I agree The Office was problematic in just about every way I do think there was a reason the show lasted and wasn’t canceled after the first season for offending just about everyone possible.
That’s because the show was problematic for a reason.

First, we should understand why the show was so popular. It follows ordinary employees that work at a boring company. Most of the characters can be found in any real life workplace, the prankster, the know-it-all, the uptight one, the annoying one. This show is very relatable to a vast majority of America that sits in an office from nine to five. These are ordinary characters who happen to have an unordinary boss. People can relate this show to their own everyday life.

Now we look at that unordinary boss that’s so problematic, Michael. He’s every company’s worst nightmare, a walking lawsuit. Everything he does is a problem, he’s unproductive, waste his employee’s time, and has an obsession to be liked and accepted by everyone he meets. Then there’s all the behavior that was mentioned before. Michael is an example of everything you should not do in an office environment.

Anyone who has ever had a job has sat through the endless hours of training on sexual harassment, discrimination and all the ethical behavior that is expected from employees. We have all seen the videos in these training sessions that show bad examples of workplace behavior. The ones where a guy makes uncomfortable sexual advances toward a female coworker or makes a very poor racial joke to another employee but everyone else around can hear him as well. These videos are always cringeworthy because they show the worst and obvious examples. But it still remains a problem in the American workplace so its important they show them.

To me Michael is one of these videos, everything he does serves as an example of what not to do in a work place. Companies show these training videos for a reason, while proper behavior may seem like common sense to most it remains a problem in just about every company in America. If it wasn’t, they wouldn’t show the videos to every new employee and do annual training on it again each year. Every place I ever worked showed these videos regularly.

Like mentioned before these shows relate to a vast majority of America who work in an office environment. The Office always tries to show that all the bad jokes and behavior is not okay using dialogue and expressions from the other characters. For example, Michael’s favorite joke “That’s what she said”. A joke that was popular during the time this show was aired but completely inappropriate, expecially in an office environment. Every time Michael makes one of the jokes the camera cuts to one of the female characters sitting nearby. The always have an expression disgust and feeling uncomfortable. This isn’t on accident, its to show they viewer the effects it has on other workers who hear the joke. You might think a joke is funny but others who can over hear it might get offended.

If you watch the show with this in mind you begin to notice how much the producers go to explain the Michaels problematic behavior is not acceptable for an office. So, let’s go and look back at the article by The Decider. Number two on the list of problematic episodes was “Gay Witch Hunt”. This episodes Michael finds out that one of his employees is gay because he reported a homophobic slur Michael used toward him.

Michael gets upset that he doesn’t know when he can use the slur because he doesn’t always know who around him is gay and might get offended by it. Conversing with another employee Dwight, Michael says “There could be other, I don’t want to offend anyone else” which then Dwight replies with the appropriate response “You could assume everyone is and not say anything offensive”. Of course, Michael doesn’t like the logical response, but it goes to show how the producers put that conversation in to serve as an example of how to properly behave in a workplace. It was a very short conversation and serves no point to the plot but the producers put the scene in anyway.

So, while The Decider sees this as an extremely problematic episode its littered with other lessons like this when dealing with gay co-workers. Michael has his comedy that is offensive and might make people laugh but it is just to set up for the appropriate response to this situation. They make an effort to not let this offensive behavior be seen as acceptable.

So, lets continue with another episode on The Deciders list which is “Woman’s Appreciation Day”, number five on the list of problematic episodes. One of the female’s character Phyliss was flashed in the parking lot as she walked into work. She’s in shock after what she just saw and everyone in the office is very sympathetic toward her when they find out.

Except of course Michael, he finds this as a great opportunity to make a bunch of jokes toward Phyliss as she sits there traumatized. As Michael makes his jokes everyone in the office has a look of absolute disgust that he’s doing this. They all exclaim that what he’s doing is wrong. Then one character, Toby intervenes  and says to Michael, “Laughing about it is not the appropriate response.” If the several shots of the disgusted employees’ facial expressions weren’t enough, again the producers created a short conversation to make it very clear for the audience.

Hopefully your beginning to see the theme because each one of the episodes on The Deciders list has moment in it like this. So yes, While Michaels behavior is ridiculously problematic throughout the entirety of the show and even more so in these five episodes, there is always a conversation that follows to explain to the audience that his behavior is unacceptable.

I agree with every article out there about The Office being offensive and problematic. The Office is not just trying to be edgy and make a bunch of jokes at taboo subjects in an attempt to get the audience to laugh. Its bigger than that, the producers understand that they cannot just portray this behavior as acceptable to society. Every chance the producers get they go out of the way to explain to the audience that the problematic behavior is wrong and use it as a lesson. You just have to look at it as one of those training videos you would watch at work where they show examples of poor behavior. So, if you believe that this show just makes jokes in bad taste for laughs, I encourage you to watch it again with this mindset. Look out for these lessons and understand that The Office is problematic for a reason and that it helps to teach society about acceptable behavior.

Avatar The Last Airbender: More Then Just A Kid Show

By: Roman Giunta

Avatar the Last Airbender was a show that aired on Nickelodeon  from 2005 to 2008 and aired only 3 seasons with 61 total episodes in the show. It was made by Bryan Konietzko and Michael DiMartino. Many people know and have even watched Avatar as a kid and enjoyed it.  The main difference Avatar The Last Airbender and other kids television shows like Sponge bob Square pants is the very real and abstract themes that Avatar explores like no other “kids” show. Sponge bob is a show that is always on at a certain time a week and follows the cast through random events every episode. Avatar episodes all have a common overhead goal but with many different subtle messages and meanings that really propel this show to more then just another kid show on Nickelodeon. Imagine if I told you a kids cartoon show started with the mass genocide of a culture in which one 12 year old boy survived and is tasked with saving the world. This does not sound like a kids show to me but this was the first thing we learn about this world we are introduced to.  The amount of different themes that seem too big for a kids TV show that are shown throughout this masterpiece of a show is actually unbelievable. For people who did watch the show as a kid you will know the general basis of the show but for those who didn’t I will make premise as understandable as I can.

I think just watching the intro to the show provides a very easily explained basic plot of the show. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=d1EnW4kn1kg It follows a 12 year old boy named Aang that was frozen for over 100 years. During those 100 years the world went to war because the firelord killed his whole culture of air nomads. The show follows the cast and shows many different themes that no other kid show would go near. Very real world issues like death,  corrupt governments, sexism, and abuse from parents. Avatar has a very real presence of death that not many other kid show have.

Avatar shows main characters that they know the audience, presumed younger, would like the most and killed them off in a way a child can understand it but not be thrown off by it. Jet was shown first in Season 1 Episode 10 called “Jet.” He is shown as a bad boy that guys will think is cool and girls will like. Katara in the show is drawn to him and he is her first kiss. Jet is  suppose to be a well liked character because of all these aspects. Fans liked Jet till they saw he was hired to kill or capture Aang. He realizes error of his ways and fights till he is struck down. It shows him on ground telling Team Avatar to leave and all his friends bowing there heads and Katara crying. The show rights had to confirm that Jet is actually dead. Nickelodeon obviously did not let them show him dying but did let audience know in a known horrifying way.  He shown helping his friends even to the end and fans will never forget him. Another character with that faces concept of death is Sokka’s first love in the show, Water Nation Princess Yue.

Yue is the Northern Water Tribe Princess that also is shown to die in the show. Yue’s death serves a purpose in show and even the characters how they react to this event. She was a very pretty and kind person. She is the most princess like character  in the show so she can appeal to girls and an interest to all male characters beside Aang. During the Siege of North part 2, Season 1 Episode 20, she sacrifices herself after the moon spirits physical form is struck down. She can heal it but it will cost her life so she accepts her duty and says goodbye to Sokka before eventually becoming part of the moon spirit/moon.  Every character knows what she did and feel the loss of her and so did the audience who grew to love character. Death is felt after the initial event and is shown to change characters. The biggest changes came to characters like Sokka who were very close with her. He blamed himself for her death and had a bad hallucination of her yelling at him for not saving her. You can see Sokka’s biggest regret is haunting him and he needs to feel at peace with her death. This concept of death being very real and effecting characters seems like too big of a topic for a “kids show’ but Avatar shows it in a way kids can learn from these events.  Avatar also faces topics like corrupt governments, sexism, and climate change in ways people can understand but also learn from.

Avatar shows different lands like Earth Kingdom and Southern Water Tribe. These are considered good because they are not the fire nation but still have many flaws that are very apparent. In Earth Kingdom, the elite agents called the Dai Lee who are suppose to serve Earth King Kuei but instead follow Azula’s rule and capture him. The government is shown being overthrown from inside and military power is being used to rule. These are just like real life events where a governments ruler gets overthrown by people or other leader. In Southern Water Tribe, women are not allowed to be water benders. Katara who obviously has a talent and drive for water bending is struck down by North and South water bending teachers.The masters use excuse that customs or rules set long ago is what they swear by. Just like real life we use this as an excuse for sexism in the world. She has to prove herself to be a real water bender and even beats the masters. This shows an empowering message to women watching that even though there are sexist people out there you can always prove them wrong. Climate change is another real world issue that Avatar chooses to tackle and explain in a way to fix this problem.

In Season 3, Episode 3, ‘The Painted Lady’, team Avatar find a small fire nation village built on a river near a factory, The factory taking priority to Fire Nation and using force on village takes food and pollutes river turning it brown and murky. Katara feels this is wrong so her and Aang destroy factory and defend town from the factory’s attack. They help the village clean there water and provided food to the town, This can teach people about pollution which is a serious issue and what it can look like. Teaching kids these messages even if its subtle can be very helpful for future but even some adults can learn from concepts like this, Avatar used it’s presumed main antagonist Zuko turned him into protagonist to propel story in such a way no other kid show could ever compare.

Prince Zuko, Son of Fire Lord Ozai the main antagonist in the show, goes through the biggest change of anyone. We learn that Zuko has been banished from the Fire Nation and his main goal is the bring the Avatar to his father to regain his honor or so he thinks it will gain his father’s trust. Zuko was challenged to an Agni Kai or fight to the death by his father at a young age. He is burned by his father on his left eye shown in the first image but his mother rescues him and make sure Ozai does not kill her baby. Zuko has to live with these demons haunting him at all times. It gives audience a reason for all his anger and showing he is a broken kid at heart. Zuko has to go through life living with his father’s hate for him and finds that only when he follows the people who truly care for him like his Uncle Iroh that he can truly be happy, Zuko grows up more then anyone from first episode to the last and his arc truly is a main reason why this show is so much more then a kids show.

Real world issues are all shown in Avatar in different ways but shows how our characters grow from start to finish. I feel this also is a big reason why Avatar is more then a normal kid show. We start with a young kid spirited Aang in a dark world with only his friends and people that care for him have his back just like some kids feel in real world. He goes through different hardships like learning his culture has died to almost failing and losing the Earth Kingdom Capital Ba Sing Say. Every episode can teach a valuable lesson in different ways that we are shown as a kid but do not truly understand till we are an adult. For people who do not think this show is anything out of ordinary, I encourage to really watch show now and you will be amazed by these concepts show in every single episode even if it is subtle. These characters along as the audience learns a lot of different lessons from start to finish. These characters not only grasp these concepts but we also do and have grown from the experience. You learn through there adventure as much as they learn which also helps shows longevity.

Avatar The Last Airbender can teach adults as well as children valuable life lessons which even myself did not truly respect until my friends got me to re watch it. The amount of underlying themes and hardships people go through is insane for a 61 episode show. It shows the growth of characters dealing with troubled past like Ozai burning Zuko for the rest of his life but not choosing to follow in the anger Ozai and Azula have went down. The fact a show can start with a culture dying off, a kid who has to live with the fact all his friends and family were killed because of Ozai, and has to stop the most evil man in history of there world. This is why I would recommend anyone who has even a little bit of interest in Avatar to watch or even re watch The Last Airbender. I never truly appreciated it until my re watch and I can firmly say that it is one of best I have ever watched and will be re watching it again soon. This is not a normal kids show by any means and needs to be given the respect that something of this caliber deserves.

Wicked The Musical: A Good Representation of Women

When I was a sophomore in high school, my piano instructor told me that she had an extra ticket to go see Wicked The Musical on the weekend. I was beside myself as this was the first opportunity to see a musical being performed professionally on Broadway. The entire time I was invested in the characters and plot of the musical. I was completely awestruck and Wicked quickly became my new favorite musical, so much so that I had to have The Grimmerie for Christmas. This book is filled with behind the scenes knowledge including photos of the original book.

I always look back on that experience fondly as it had enriched my life through the work of Stephen Schwartz who composed the music and Winnie Holzman who wrote the dialogue and lyrics. However, I had no idea what I was watching was in fact a musical about women finding themselves and being comfortable in their own skin.

Wicked is a musical that empowers women and encourages them to find themselves, whoever that might be. Any woman could identify with Elphaba, the strong powerhouse role who struggles with being comfortable in her own skin, or Glinda who is the white skinned, light, dainty, and practically perfect in anyway. In any case, there is a woman to look towards for inspiration in our everyday lives.

The Wicked Witch of the West

Elphaba, who becomes the Wicked Witch of the West, is one of the two main female roles of this musical. This musical centers on her story of triumph over her insecurities and her progression into a strong independent witch. It is through her innate ability with magic that she finds ground to stand on. Through Elphaba’s relationship with Glinda, she learns how to be confident in herself and make choices without outside influence.

The audience is introduced to Elphaba as a young, quirky, social outcast that feels like she is a burden on her family. According to the Grimmerie, when she reaches the stage, everyone attending Shiz University stares at Elphaba. This is when she proclaims “What? What are you all looking at?…. yes, I’ve always been green.” This shows Elphaba’s disdain for how she looks. She is not comfortable in her own skin, stating in her own opening number “The Wizard and I” that she wishes for The Wizard to “Degreenify” her.

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Later in the musical, Elphaba actually gets her wish to meet with The Wizard. Ultimately, she realizes that he is just a con man from Kansas. This is when Elphaba has to make a choice whether to openly defy The Wizard or to stick by his side. Enter the most popular number in the entire musical, “Defying Gravity”.

“Defying Gravity” is the closing number of the first act. In Michelle Boyd’s doctoral dissertation published in the American Music journal, she writes, “‘Defying Gravity’ reinforces the strength of Elphaba’s character and her determination to remain true to herself.” Elphaba decides to do what she knows is right even though it will hurt her in the long run, she will be cast aside as The Wicked Witch of the West. This open defiance, especially against a man of power (The Wizard), really shows how this musical is pushing Elphaba’s character into a new direction, that she does not need the affirmation of many to feel empowered. She does not need to be “degreenified” to be happy. She can stay true to herself and her beliefs. This is best exemplified when Elphaba exclaims “ “… And nobody in all of OZ, no Wizard that there is or was, is ever going to bring me down!” while riding her broomstick at the top of the stage.

Practically Perfect in Every Way

Glinda is the second major female lead role in Wicked. Her character is the complete opposite of Elphaba as Glinda eventually becomes the Good Witch. The Grimmerie describes Glinda as “ the ideal of golden girlhood – perfectly dressed and poised – to which everyone else aspired…” Stacy Wolf, an Associate Professor in the Department of Theatre and Dance at the University of Texas at Austin, writes in the Theatre Journal that when the audience first sees Glinda she is “.., made up to look like Billie Burke[The original Glinda from the Movie]… floats down in a steel orb that refers to the bubble in which Glinda enters in the Movie…” Both the Grimmerie and Stacy Wolf describe Glinda as the good girl of this musical, however there are two sides to every coin.

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The number titled “Popular” is about how Glinda is going to help Elphaba become more popular at Shiz University. The beginning of this number shows how empathetic Glinda is towards Elphaba’s social ineptitude, “When ever I see someone less fortunate than I… My tender heard tends to start to bleed.” However, Glinda as the popular blonde still has her braggadocio character seep through her empathy in the song titled Popular, “… and let’s face it, who isn’t less fortunate than I?” This number, although it can be seen as the beginning of Elphaba’s and Glinda’s friendship, is just about how popular Glinda is, “… there’s nobody wiser, not when it comes to popular.”

The end of Wicked shows Glinda’s final character development. She is known as Glinda the Good Witch, but that label was not earned. It was given to her by the Wizard in an attempt to degrade Elphaba’s image. However, Glinda and Elphaba have remained as friends throughout the musical. In the ending number, Elphaba gives Galinda the keys to her fight against the Wizard “You can do all I couldn’t do, Glinda… Because now it’s up to you.” Glinda then decides to take Elphapa up on her offer and tells the Wizard to leave OZ, “You’d better get your balloon ready!”

Wicked and Women

Wicked’s leading roles are two women, which is very uncommon in musical theater. When thinking about past musicals, it is hard to find one that puts women into the forefront as much as Wicked does. In contrast, the male roles are mostly supportive and only have a few solo numbers. The men are either the love interest (Fiyero), which is usually a female role, or the villain (The Wizard). In Marinel Cruz’s article from The Inquirer, she speaks with Carly Anderson who plays Glinda in the Milan staging of the musical. Cruz quotes Anderson saying, “It’s led by two strong women—that’s very powerful to watch.” Cruz also quotes Jaueline Hughes, who plays Elphaba in the same staging as Anderson, saying ““There has never been a time in musical theater history when two women are at the helm of a show. It’s really rare.”

The two main characters in Wicked are so vastly different that any woman could identify with some aspect of either character. Whether it be Elphaba’s defiant stance against the Wizard or Glinda’s pink and girly disposition, there is something for the audience to latch on to. In Stacy Wolf’s article from the Theatre Journal, she uses a quote from Eve Ensler to reinforce this idea “‘the story of a complicated relationship between two women, both of whom, in their way, suggest Everywoman.’”

Wicked gives the audience a sense as to what it is like for women in the modern world. Elphaba’s skin color is obviously different than Glinda’s. This immediately marks Elphaba as the social outcast in the musical. However, the more attractive, blonde, white woman finds her way to the top without any recourse. In Michelle Boyd’s article in the American Music journal she writes, “The gentle “white” witch who abides by the rules can now hope to achieve the American dream, but the unassimilable witch, the ambitious witch, and the witch who ‘defies gravity’ still encounter a rocky path ahead of them.” This dichotomy of the two leading female roles shows how there is a wide range of ways that a woman could relate to either character. Of course there is no way that we could categorize a woman as being an Elphaba or a Glinda, but there are characteristics and experiences that each of these characters have which gives a female audience member something to relate to from themselves.

Race

Although the topic of race is not clearly touched upon in the story of Wicked, the musical has racial undertones throughout the musical. Elphaba’s green skin tone immediately sets her apart from everyone around her. Well what if her skin were black? Would that make a difference? No. It would not. Elphaba is challenged throughout the musical with trying to fit in, which is difficult for her due to the fact of her green skin.  As previously discussed, she finds confidence in her green skin and actually draws her internal power from her green skin. Just as any african american woman should.

Glinda on the other hand gets everything handed to her. She gets the best room at Shiz, she gets her dream job, and she even gets the love interest… if only for a short time. This really shows how the creators of Wicked thought about race even without mentioning it once throughout the musical. They were aware of it, made it a defining part of these characters to a certain point, and left it at that. The characters show, Elphaba specifically, how a woman of color could find confidence in herself and be comfortable in her own skin tone.

Costuming

Wicked’s visual portrayal of women is very conservative because of the time period it is set in. Susan Hilferty, who created the costumes for Wicked, still finds a way to make costume changes that reflect each character’s development in the musical. Elphaba transitions from a shy, social outcast into a strong independent witch. Her Wicked Witch of the West costume is more elaborate than her more conservative act one costumes. This shows how Elphaba began to find confidence in herself. Glinda, on the other hand, always wears dresses. Her Glinda the Good costume is again more fanciful than her act one costumes. However her pink dress from act one is a little more salacious, hinting at her playful demeanor. This shows how Glinda progresses from being a quirky girl to a strong confident woman.

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Ending

When gazing back on my experience in viewing Wicked as a young man I realize that through its use of two female characters as the lead roles and how they progress throughout the story, this musical is reaching out to women to give them something to grasp onto in each character. Elphaba’s strong will and determination even in the face of being called “Wicked” by the Ozians or Glinda’s “golden girl” demeanor give women, and young girls, someone to look up to and identify with. In Stacy Wolf’s article from the Theatre Journal, she states “… a few writers have noted the musical’s feminism or its less vibrant twin, girl power.” Elphaba and Glinda both embody what is Girl Power.

How is “The Handmaid’s Tale” still relevant today ?

By: Hilda Afisllari

“The Handmaid’s Tale” might not seem very unfamiliar to you like the book with the same title by Margret Atwood was on top of the critics and hit the highest selling numbers in 1985 when it was originally published. Later on, a film adaptation was released, even though not as successful as the book. After a long time, now Hulu is releasing the third season of the TV series first made public in 2017. This drama features a time in New England where fertility rates collapse as a result of environmental pollution and sexually transmitted diseases and the remaining fertile women are forced to have intimate relationships with the elite men and bear children for them and their wives. 

https://glamourprin.com/2018/05/09/the-handmaids-tale-s1-s2/

The show itself is violent, scary to watch, it has a lot of tension and might look like it belongs to a time very far and distant from the world we are living now, but as you go deeper in the episodes it starts feeling like what is happening is in front of us. This dystopic reality seems like something that might collapse sooner or later in our society. What makes it so timely is the election of Donald Trump as a president and all the political drama about abortion and female rights that this election brought with him. The changes in the immigration law after Islamic attacks, the anti-gay declaration of the vice president Mike Pence and a government that tries to subjugate women with the abortion law, all this seem to have contributed in the ratings and relevancy.

A lot of discussions have been circulating about the new immigration law and families being separated, such a situation is depicted very similarly in the Tv Show.  In Episode 1 we see Elizabeth a fertile woman who, now that the United States collapsed and were replaced by Gilead a totalitarian theocracy, is called Offred by her commander’s name Fred. As she tells the story of the life that she is now forced to live she has some flashbacks of the family days with her husband Luke and daughter Hannah. They were driving the car fast to reach the Canadian border and the car gets off the road, they are trying to escape and save themselves until they hear the gunshots from Gilead officials who reach them and separate Offred by her daughter and take them back to the core of the hell they were trying to escape.

It is heartbreaking to see a mother and a daughter separated from each other forcefully as it is heartbreaking to see today immigrants who are dragged from their houses in the middle of the night, in the middle of a meal and separated from the children who are not able to take care of themselves. With the change in immigration law a lot of families live separated in two different parts of the globe and the natural right of a lot of children to be able to grow up with a parent has been denied as it has been denied their right to be happy, to run a normal life without being scared of deportation.

https://glamourprin.com/2018/05/09/the-handmaids-tale-s1-s2/

In today’s society judging people for who they are is not as important as judging them for whom they chose to love. There is still discrimination for people of LGBT community and its not hard to notice it.  Not as far as the first four episodes we understand that being gay is not fully accepted in a society that is fighting for fertility and more children, even worse it is punishable by death. Such fate has Offred’s best friend Moira who is gay but not fertile while the Offred’s shopping partner and secret resistance member, Bledel’s Ofglen is sentenced to rehabilitation where her intimate part is being removed. Her life is obviously saved as she is a fertile woman and can be useful in bearing children for a commander. This portrayal of gay characters shows how some people feel about this community and also how some countries treat them. After all the progress that the world has made in accepting diverse sexual preferences, it is hurtful and hard to say that there are still countries out there who still have these evil laws against homosexuality and there are still people who don’t accept diversity. For example, Mike Pence, as head of the Republican Study Committee, a group of the 100 most-conservative House members, rose in support of a constitutional amendment that would have defined marriage as between a man and a woman. Citing a Harvard researcher, Pence said in his speech, “societal collapse was always brought about following an advent of the deterioration of marriage and family.” Pence also called being gay a choice and said keeping gays from marrying was not discrimination, but an enforcement of “God’s idea.”

Aside from the politics and their declarations, there are a lot of social cases where women are being as we today call it “slut shamed”. In a lot of cases, women and their character have been attacked as they press charges for sexual assault. They have been called guilty as they have provoked the assaulter themselves with their feminine behavior or by the way they dress themselves showing to much of skin. For example a judge in Canada Jean-Paul Braun old a victim that was assaulted by a taxi driver that she was a little overweight and must have been flattered by the attention that the driver had given her, or the famous Jian Ghomeshi trial where the victim was judged because of a picture of her in a bikini. In the show, we see that each woman wears a different color to represent her contribute. For example, housemaids are in red, wives in blue and the wives of poor households are in stripes. The women are covered as much as possible as not to attract the opposite sex. In all cases of rape women are the ones who have to take responsibility for their actions and not men.

https://glamourprin.com/2018/05/09/the-handmaids-tale-s1-s2/

With everything that is acclaimed for women by the opposite sex and all kind of declarations towards them, there is a big rise in feminist movements and this TV show is doing it’s best job to make every woman aware of the risks of submitting the orders that are given to them. In the first episode, Offred says: “Now I’m awake to the world. I was asleep before. That’s how we let it happen.” Even their costumes have hidden feminist meanings, in an interview for i-D Ane Crabtree,the costume designer for the TV show says:” I got very depressed, at times, while creating these clothes designed by men to oppress women. The only way I got around it was by creating visual jokes and visual “FUs” for the women. The Aunts’ jacket-and-dress combination actually looks a bit like an inverted vagina. They can only see it when they look down, so it’s more for the handmaids, who have to look at them all the time. I don’t know if people will see it, but I do.”  The Handmaid’s Tale’s most quoted phrase has been the one scratched, presumably by Offred’s handmaid predecessor, in the wall of her room’s cupboard: Nolite te bastards carborundum or don’t let the bastards grind you down. A lot of women even have tattooed this phrase. “Revellers dress up as Handmaids on Hallowe’en and also for protest marches – these two uses of its costumes mirroring its doubleness,” Atwood wrote for the Guardian.  

https://rewire.news/photos/2017/06/05/bystanders-injustice-march-truth-in-washington-d-c/

James Poniewozik wrote in the New York Times that “The Handmaid’s Tale,” in which a theocratic coup transforms America in the wake of a terror attack, is about “the way people will themselves to believe the abnormal is normal, until one day they look around and realize that these are the bad old days.” The Handmaid’s Tale is a series that shows that different roads might lead you to the same destination. Such message means that if women’s rights are reverted or taken away again, our society will be all masculine and twisted. You might find yourself shaking, crying or wanting to stop watching and then realizing that it’s just fiction. Anyways there is no doubt that if we continue to put women down and to disrespect minorities, sexual preferences or create laws against abortion and undesired sexual relationships or pregnancies it will all come down to a collapse and this will be the future we soon have to live in.  

Does Game of Thrones Under-Represent People of Color and Perpetuate Racial Stereotypes?

By: Michael Latch

If you’re a Game of Thrones fan like me, you have no doubt noticed the lack of diversity in its casting and if you haven’t, I urge you to just do a quick google image search of “Game of Thrones Characters.” I think it will take you a while to find a person of color. The lack of diversity in the show is very blatant to me and is the sole reason I haven’t fully embraced the show as one of the greatest of all time. It truly pains me to think about this glaring misstep in an otherwise fantastic show, but in 2018 it can’t just be swept under the rug.

Now more than ever, diversity in film and television is being pushed to the forefront and shows or movies that don’t feature an inclusive cast are more likely to be called out for it, Game of Thrones being no exception. Star Wars actor, John Boyega called out Game of Thrones in a tweet last year for not casting people of color saying, “There are no black people on Game of Thrones…You see different people from different backgrounds, different cultures, every day. Even if you’re a racist, you have to live with that. We can ruffle up some feathers.” Boyega points out what many fans of the show are thinking in the back of their minds and brings up fair points about the show as well as the entertainment industry in general. Game of Thrones has an abysmally low number of POC in the show, out of the approximately 50 main characters (i.e. has a speaking role and appears in multiple episodes), 5 are people of color.

Let me start off by saying I’m not claiming that there are no POC (people of color) in Game of Thrones, because there are. The issue is that the POC in the show are few and far between and lack any sort of emotional depth that a white character in the show has in spades. Not only do they lack character development, but I would argue every POC character in the show is in one way or another based off one of three flagrant racial stereotypes: the slave, the terrorist, or the barbarian.

Take for example, Missandei (no last name), one of the only recurring POC characters with a speaking role in show. She is the herald and right-hand woman to Daenerys Targaryen, one of the shows leading characters. Missandei’s entire story arc revolves around her being sold into slavery as a child, freed by Daenerys, then voluntarily serving her as an act of eternal gratitude. In the seasons that followed her first appearance, Missandei has no actual importance to the plot other than to be Daenerys’s translator with foreign diplomats and is really only there to be a lady in waiting for Daenerys. This backstory lacks any kind of depth and revolves solely around her being a servant, either voluntarily or non-voluntarily.

Missandei’s only other dimension in her otherwise flat narrative is to be a love interest to one of only other POC in the show Greyworm (no last name). Greyworm is the general of the Unsullied, an army of slaves. He is freed by Daenerys and, like Missandei, voluntarily serves her as an act of gratitude for freeing him from slavery. The two show romantic interest for each other in the latter half of the show and bond over their shared past as slaves.

Honestly, I find this pseudo-indentured servant narrative that both Missandei and Greyworm share lazy from a character-writing stand point and frankly a little racist that the only background that George R.R. Martin could come up with for these two is that they were slaves. These characters both have no real goals or motivations of their own and serve no real purpose to the show other than to feed into Daenerys’s blatant white savior complex.

Besides the slave narrative, another category that Game of Thrones POC characters fall into is the foreign terrorist archetype, and no one better exemplifies this than the House of Martell from the southern country of Dorne. I would describe the Martell family as somewhat racially ambiguous, however it is made very clear that they are supposed to represent some sort of exotic foreigner, most blatantly demonstrated by the house’s more liberal views towards sex and sexuality. Oberyn Martell, who is prince to the Martell bloodline, even has multiple lovers (both male and female) at once, a practice that which, by Westerosi standards, is quite taboo. This cultural difference establishes a distaste for the Dornish among the people of Westeros, especially those of the ruling house of Lannister. It is also made clear that this dislike is mutually reciprocated between the Martells and the Lannisters.

The overarching storyline for the House of Martell is that, in an attempt to feign unity and truce between the two houses, the Martells offer to marry off one of their sons to Myrcella Lannister, the youngest daughter to the queen of Westeros, Cersei Lannister. However, their true intention is to poison Myrcella in an act of revenge for war crimes that the Lannister’s committed against the Martells many years prior. This terroristic attack against the Lannister’s caused Cersei to lash out and kill every single member of the Martell bloodline, essentially wiping them entirely from the map.

The Martell’s clearly had goals and ambitions, making their storyline a step above Missandei’s and Greyworm’s completely one-dimensional narratives. However, they’re purpose to the plot is to be blood-lusting, foreign terrorists and nothing more. They serve to only reinforce the strength of the Lannister house, as they manage to essentially eradicate the entire Martell bloodline in the course of just two seasons.

The final category that Game of Thrones POC characters fall into is the barbarian, the best example of this being the Dothraki. Living in the eastern country of Essos, the Dothraki are a nomadic tribe of warriors. They are another example of racial ambiguity in the show, though it is clear they are non-white and have a completely different set of cultural ideologies from the people of mainland Westeros. The shows production team even went as far as creating a new language for the Dothraki people, further establishing them as foreign.

The scenes involving the Dothraki people often depict them as savages pillaging small town and raping women. In fact, the Dothraki’s sole motivation in the show typically seems to surround pillaging and raping women, or occasionally worshipping their god, who is a horse. They have no real agenda, seek no higher purpose, and only strive to be the strongest in their tribe; all of which are typical traits of barbarians. The Dothraki people are the only example in all of Game of Thrones where a group of POC are seen as in a group, and not as token a person of color in a scene. The fact that the only time in the entire show that group of POC is seen together is when they are depicted as savage barbarians raises some serious red flags for me.

Many have claimed, including the author of the series, George R. R. Martin, that the shows lack of inclusivity is not a matter of prejudice, but a matter of historical accuracy. The author claims that the fictional country of Westeros in which much of the show takes place in, is modeled after the medieval British Isles, and its neighboring countries (The Summer Isles, The Iron Islands, Essos, etc.) are modeled after medieval Eurasia. Martin states that this is the reason the show lacks racial diversity in many of the character, solely to remain true to the demographics during a similar time period the show is set in. Frankly, to this argument I call serious BS.

At the end of the day, casting a diverse group of people to reflect the world we live in, should not be a hassle or a burden on show producers. I’m honestly so tired of excuse of typecasting to justify not wanting to cast POC in shows that are clearly not actual period pieces. The excuse that Game of Thrones is based off medieval British Isles and therefore has to feature a white cast is not only inaccurate to history but insinuates that the show is meant to be a completely accurate portrayal of the time period, which it is clearly not. In a fictional world that features magic, dragons, and the undead, why is it so unbelievable to have POC in that same world being featured as something other than a subordinate to a white character in one way or another?

 

 

Why you should say “Yes” to the Foster’s

By: Megan Maloney

According to the most recent federal study, there are 473, 465 children in the foster care system and each year the number has been increasing since 2012. Children in the foster care system are lost and almost never find a permanent home in which to stay which is just heartbreaking. The Foster’s is a tv show that highlights that there is hope in the system and that it is possible to get out for all of the children currently in the system. The show also exhibits and encourages diversity within family and in life. It brings new meaning to the word family and it does so in many interesting ways. The show also makes a statement to stand up for yourself and what you believe in by taking a commenting and exploiting on several current issues going on in society today. 

The show The Foster’s is about the lives and battles of a same sex couple as well as their children. Stef Foster and Lena Adams are the openly lesbian mothers in the show who foster a few kids from all different ethnic groups and previous backgrounds. Their children Brendan, who is biologically Stef’s child from her previous marriage, Jesus and Mariana Foster who are twins they adopted when they were younger, and later Jude and Callie who were initially fostered then adopted into the family. Stef and Lena had previously fostered children and had an open mindset to giving back to their community and helping others. Callie and Jude were only supposed to be temporary children in their home. Callie and Jude were so used to bouncing around from house to house so it was unexpected that they found their forever home, their family.

The creators of the show are Peter Paige and Bradley Bredeweg. They are an openly gay couple whom believed it would be great for a show to reflect and develop the “modern American Family” we are open to accepting today. In searching for the perfect show, they found that television had not told the story of mothers raising children. Even for the single mothers out there which did not have the extra support would often go as far as fostering or adopting other children because of health issues and other problems that may come into effect. This also can shed some light on those watching in the system. They all have a tough life and watching their story can give them a different perspective on how to get out of the system. It can encourage that there is hope for a newer, happier life and it will exist someday.

The show encourages diversity. Their family alone is extremely diverse and they never discriminate or hold back their children’s heritage or culture. They embrace their children with open arms. Jesus and Mariana are Latino twins and Stef and Lena encourage them to bring that side of them out. They themselves are not of that culture, but they still throw Mariana a Quinceanera to allow her that part of her identity. There still were challenges as Lena and Stef were not Latina so it still put strain on cultural identity for Jesus and Mariana no matter how hard they tried to embrace the culture. The show also has as the main family, a gay bi-racial couple. This represents all of the other bi-racial couples who are just viewed as “weird” or “just not right” which are phrases I personally have heard people say. They never let their love for one another be affected by what others believe and they encouraged their children to call them both Mom, even though Brendan was the only biological child to Stef.

The Fosters - 129 Thoughts We Had While Watching The Fosters Summer Finale - 1002

The show is more of a representation of other couples and families that are out there just not the picture-perfect family always depicted on TV. The show also tries to be representative of all current issues. For instance, Callie takes a stand on undocumented immigration which is a current issue being attacked. It shows the more real side of what it is like for a family to be ripped apart. Ximena spoke up and boycotted a speaker that came to her college. She was not afraid to speak up about her undocumented status in the United States and shortly afterwards ICE was after Ximena and her family. Ximena was here legally and her sister was born on American soil but her parents were not. They treated them like they were a threat and did not want to understand their side of the story. They were not harming anyone. It showed just how brutal we can be to the undocumented instead of trying to make them legal, we rip apart families and do not sympathize. I think that it is important to realize that there are many sides to a story and this was just one way that the Foster’s did just that.

The Foster’s also encourages exploring your own identity. For instance, when Jude wanted to open up about his sexuality and even though Lena and Stef are a gay couple, they assumed initially that Jude was not gay and did the very thing their own parents assumed. After they learned about Jude, it opened their eyes that they too can make false assumptions that can hurt someone. They were immediately accepting of his sexuality and who he wanted to be and love. Lena said later, “We love you no matter what because you’re you.” They did not treat him any differently and they embraced him for opening up about who he really was. Jude was much happier and later on in the episodes gets his first boyfriend. This can serve as an inspiration for children who are trying to embrace who they really are and it can encourage them to be more open about their sexuality. It can also show how a child may be feeling. It can potentially inform the parents and even other family members what it is like to be open about one’s sexuality especially at a young age.

Many times, in creating and developing the show, there had been backlash. Before the show aired, one million moms immediately boycotted the show and banned their children from watching it when it came out. One million moms is just an activist group that likes to filter and manage media and fight against “disturbing” shows that goes against their beliefs. The one million moms said collectively that  “this show is exploiting sin.” This did not scare the producers and in fact they were expecting it. Homosexuality is still not fully accepted right now and this show is just a little awakening to the “other” types of families that exist. Nothing like this had been aired before yet alone really talked about. Many people doubted the show before it was even explained them that there was no chance of consideration, there would be no way Hollywood would be interested in this show.

There was a strong bias against these homosexual families. From the plot alone, some of society refuses to accept even portrayal of these actions. With positive inspiration and feedback from Jennifer Lopez, one of the producers, in pushing the development along, they struck the perfect match with ABC family’s slogan; “A new kind of family.” Lopez fell in love with the story from the beginning and was also inspired from a family member who was not able to have a family of her own due to the unjust biases against her sexual preference to adopt.

With the changing times and modern societies, biases like these have hope of fading out. There has been a steady increase over the years in the ability of single parents such as mothers adopting or fostering kids of their own and changing the lives of these children. If someone was to walk into an adoption agency 30 years ago as a single parent, there was almost a guaranteed denial waiting for them. Times are changing. It is not uncommon anymore to have single parents, bi-racial couples or same sex couples. According to the 2009 census, almost one third of them are from single parents which is just another way family can be redefined just like this show exhibits and encourages. This show encourages fostering, adoption, acceptance, diversity, and identity all of which are important features we as a society need to be aware of constantly. So, I encourage you to say yes to The Foster’s because it was a much needed representation of a real family and there is no harm that stems from the show but rather acknowledgement and education of these important topics and issues.

Stream Slip Up: Is sensitive language in streams gratuitous?

Humor comes in many forms. It is a vehicle for entertaining masses and can communicate messages in a light way. One of the newest forms of humor delivery comes by the way of streaming and the people who deliver this content are known as streamers. While you can stream anything, most streamers stream video games and tv shows. Typically, Streamers need to get a certain number of subscribers and views in order to get ads, so they can monetize their channels. Sometimes during a stream, a streamer will say something that most would consider insensitive for shock value. During one stream, the white Twitch Streamer Ninja while rapping to “44 more” by Logic rapped, “In the cut, smokin on Indica, my n***ga, my n**ga, my n**ga.” However, he added the racially derogatory terms into the song despite them not being in the lyrics. Back in 2016, the Swedish Streamer PewDiePie paid two Indian men to hold up a sign that said, “death to all Jews”. Compared to comedians like Dave Chappelle who uses black humor to illustrate life as a black man in America, Ninja and PewDiePie’s usage of offensive language is simply gratuitous and does not communicate a larger message. Instead it communicates a message that any content is good content no matter how offensive.

Pewdiepie is a great example of how far a streamer will go to attempt to shock an audience. During his one of his live streams he exclaimed, “what a fucking n**ga”. Luckily Sean Vanaman, the founder of the game PewDiePie was playing Santo Campo tweeted in response, “He is worse than a closeted racist; he’s a propagator of despicable garbage that does real damage to the culture around this industry.” One can argue that because of cases like this there is a line between what can be seen as racial humor and what is unapologetic racism. While some of videos focus more so on playing video games, his shock videos are made to fish for subscribers and view whether they come from a kid or the KKK. PewDiePie built his streaming empire on shock content and blatant racism. When he started his YouTube channel, he started the “Let’s Play” stream genre in which streamers play various games and comment while playing under the name PewDie. Most of the time, he played Minecraft due to the soaring popularity of the game at the time. When he didn’t get enough views, he shut it down and created the PewDiePie channel in which he started adding his more controversial content. He boosted his following by creating a community of people who enjoy watching shock content. Shock content is streaming material that is meant to shock the viewer into watching. This isn’t limited to racism, sexism, and other forms of bias. While shock content isn’t too bad, he crossed the line when his speech started to stereotype certain groups without trying to deliver any sort of message. When PewDiePie paid a guy to dress up like Jesus Christ and hold up a sign that said, “Hitler did nothing wrong”, he intended to shock viewers. Streamers share this trait with some comedians regarding delivering shocking content but unlike PewDiePie, they use it to make people aware of the plight surrounding a group they consider themselves part of. For instance, Dave Chappelle always makes fun of black people, but he uses shock humor to show people how he sees the world around him as a black man in America. Dave Chappelle even said during his skit, “n**ga you are trapped, play basketball or sell crack.” While this is a stereotypical view of a black man, it highlights the issue of a lack of upwards mobility in high minority areas. Amy Schumer also delivers quality shock content while highlighting her daily experience as a woman. During her Baby Safety ads skit, Schumer says, “It’s safest to let them sleep alone, especially when you drink, use drugs, or are overweight. Yeah, I thought that was weird too. But if you think about it, if you are drunk, stoned, or really fat, in the middle of the night, that baby might look delicious. I’ve eaten weirder things.” This skit pokes fun at women with babies which is ok because she is a woman and could become part of that social group if she decides to have a baby [which she did end up becoming pregnant]. When PewDiePie paid a guy to dress up like Hitler, he did it solely for shock value. He is not Jewish, nor does he have any experience dealing with the Jewish community to any degree other than delivering half assed apologies in which he ends up defending his actions. The damage that it does is that it normalizes anti-Semitic and racist behaviors for audiences who let it fester and meme its way to becoming part of normal society. When he apologized for the death to all Jews sign, he said “I’m sorry for the words I used as I know they offended people. I admit that joke went too far.” However, he also defended his actions stating how he was trying “to show how stupid the website [Fiverr] is and how far you can push it by paying 5 dollars.” While he was trying to point out the absurdity of racism, he ended up becoming an anti-Semite by taking part in a “joke” that was just plain antisemitic. He even said that, “he didn’t think they would actually do it” He easily could have paid someone 5 dollars to eat something gross, streamed it, and raised money. Instead he paid the two men to hold up a racist sign. This act alone proved that he is an anti-Semite and tells viewers that it is cool to pay people to insult others. I think this is where he and comedians like Dave Chappelle differ. Chappelle shows the absurdity of racism in a way that highlights his experiences as a black man while PewDiePie does it because it shows the power he holds as a white man.
Do streamers go too far? While views are important to a streamer, paying subscribers are the lifeblood of them. In order to turn a viewer into a paying subscriber, the streamer must constantly put out content that keeps the viewer on edge and entertain. Racism and offensive language are both taboo subjects that people try to avoid, so it is only natural that a streamer will hit the viewers head-on with this offensive content in order to entertain them. I think that sometimes streamers try to outdo one another by triggering as many people as they can so while they may not be offensive people themselves, they are promoting socially unacceptable behavior through their content. This creates a gross cycle of streamers putting out racist and anti -Semitic content and viewers consuming it.
So, are streamers hypocrites? In a way they are because they normalize racism by treating it as absurd without belonging to the racial or ethnic group that they target. It’s because of this culture that people from hate groups decide that it is safe for them to promote hateful views by creating YouTube channels. This is because viewers don’t understand the background behind why what they said is offensive. In one case, the Neo-Nazi Christopher Cantwell also known as “the Crying Nazi,” made an appearance on Andy Warski’s stream in which he talked about how he would create a whites-only country within the United States. During the stream, a commenter paid $5 to directly ask Cantwell the question, “How would this hypothetical white ethno state deal with undocumented immigrants?” Cantwell responded by saying “anyone who crossed the border illegally would have a fucking wood chipper waiting for them.” This was only a few months ago. While streamers like Ninja may have stopped the hate speech, they normalized it to the point where streaming sites like YouTube and Twitch became a place where these toxic views can fester and draw people in to flaunt their ownership of their underlying racist tendencies.

In conclusion, sensitive language and content in streams tends to be gratuitous. Even though streamers may apologize after the fact, it doesn’t lessen the impact of what they said. Unlike traditional comedians like Dave Chappelle who uses racial humor to not only show the absurdity of racism but also highlight his own experience with his race, streamers like PewDiePie use racism to shock the audiences and connect with viewers who normally would hide their racist tendencies even though the groups he makes fun of had no direct influence on him as a person. It’s because of this culture of views at any cost and some internal feelings of racial superiority that streamers like PewDiePie continue to do a disservice to the streaming community by feeding despicable content to people who crave it.
Works Cited
Alexander, Julia. “Ninja Apologizes after Using Racial Expletive on Stream.” Polygon, Polygon, 29 Mar. 2018, www.polygon.com/2018/3/29/17176408/ninja-fortnite-n-word-stream-logic-apology.
Jarvey, Natalie. “PewDiePie Apologizes for Anti-Semitic Comments, Calls Media Coverage an ‘Attack.’” The Hollywood Reporter, The Hollywood Reporter, 17 Feb. 2017, www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/pewdiepie-apologizes-anti-semitic-comments-calls-media-coverage-an-attack-976788.
Ramanan, Chella. “PewDiePie Must Not Be Excused. Using the N-Word Is Never OK | Chella Ramanan.” The Guardian, Guardian News and Media, 11 Sept. 2017, www.theguardian.com/technology/2017/sep/11/pewdiepie-racism-youtube-games-industry.
Schumer, Amy. “Amy Schumer Jokes and Quotes.” Amy Schumer Quotes and Jokes, 2 Apr. 2010, funnycomedianquotes.com/funny-amy-schumer-jokes-and-quotes.html.
Tufcub. Casual Racist PewDiePie Continues To Be Casual Racist, TheSixthAxis, 9 Nov. 2017, www.thesixthaxis.com/2017/09/11/casual-racist-pewdiepie-continues-to-be-casual-racist/.

Does this haunted house make or break the family?

Heather Glass

The word family is a comforting, deep, and intense, word that I have really learned about after watching the show “The Haunting of the Hill House”. I know that sounds contradicting, but this horror show brought out emotions in just 10 episodes that were so conflicting. As you can probably guess, this show is about a family, the Crain’s, of 7 who are living in a haunted house, but not the typical “haunted” you would expect. It’s haunted by each character’s own demons mostly, along with left over spirits in the house. There are 5 children who have all experience a variety of messed up situations that some could argue are real, and some could argue that it’s all in their head and that they are sick. A big factor in this show is that the oldest brother thinks the family has a hereditary mental illness, meanwhile the rest think that they are just different. The things these individuals go through basically takes over their life one by one, starting with the mother who commits suicide on the last night of the family being in the house. This extremely devasting loss of their mother leads each child to experience their own sorrow in different ways. Throughout the whole entire show, it goes back and fourth between the current time they are living in and their past. This whole family is different, most would say they were “crazy” but as a family they all know that they are not like most. The Haunting of the Hill house reveals the hardships, pain, tragedies, and everything in between that families endure. However, the real question is, did this house sculpt the family or ruin it.

The Haunting of Hill House

Family is the scariest of all
After reviewing a previous article written by Libby Hill about this show, the author was proving her point that family is the scariest part, and that this show is more about tragedy rather than horror. She goes on to mention that all the children move on in life but are still brutally scarred because of their family. I can’t help but get upset, even angry, when I read that. Throughout this whole series, this family had each other’s back even at the darkest of times. None of them ever completely cut strings, even if they tried they could not do it fully because that’s not what family is about. As a matter of fact, even when one of them is dead, they are still present. Throughout this show they do not have many others in their lives besides each other. There is definitely a lot of damage within the family, because of all that they’ve been through with growing up and constantly seeing things and losing their mother to suicide. They can be angry and spiteful, and that is revealed in many scenes. For example, when there is another tragic loss within the family, Nell, who also commits suicide, the family is mad because they already went through the suicide of their mother. During episode 8 when they are all at the funeral home, everything is lashed out between the siblings and father. But at the very last second of any day, they are all each other has which they are aware of and I think this show does a great job about showing the true aspects of a family. A family does not need to experience a tragic loss, or a devasting happening for them become extremely close, however the Crain family has been through it all, and they have had each other’s back every step of the way. This family stands out because of how close they all are, it is rare for all siblings to care and love the way each of these characters do.
http://www.latimes.com/entertainment/tv/showtracker/la-et-st-haunting-of-hill-house-halloween-family-scary-20181019-story.html 

It’s a Twin Thing
The youngest two in the family, Nell and Luke, are inseparable from the beginning, born just 80 seconds apart. They understand each other on a different level compared to the rest of the family. Throughout their lives they’ve been attached at the hip, if one is hurt, the other feels pain, if one is happy the other is suddenly happy. After seeing this between Nell and Luke it reminded me of how a lot of families are. Age is a big factor in how relationships are amongst siblings. For me personally, my brother is 10 years older than, whereas my sisters are 3 and 7 years apart from me. My sister and I are Luke and Nell, we get each other more because were closer in age. Later in the show you see Nell and Luke both enter a dark path of their lives in different ways. Luke has gotten into drugs and has been in and out of rehab; meanwhile Nell is hitting rock bottom and cannot seem to get a grasp on life and reality. This life is devasting and unfortunately common. Many families go through rough patches whether it is losing someone, watching a loved one go through pain, or any other thing that could be considered bad. It does not make them a crazy family though, if anything it makes them stronger and closer. It makes everything feel bearable because you have each other. Nell and Luke are the perfect example of an inseparable bond that they are lucky to have.

Atmosphere
The theme of this show isn’t just about the horror, or the path that life has taken the characters, it is the house and atmosphere that they grew up in that has led them through their journey. Going off that, the environment an individual grows up in is what sculpts that person. The hill house sculpted this family, in great and bad ways. A great way being the incredible bonds they have with each other. They can feel when someone is in danger with a sign, which of course is just a made-up thing that this show has. However, gut feeling is not a made-up thing, and it is true that you can get a gut feeling when something is wrong. There is no evidence to prove that, but I think we all know the gut instinct that I am talking about. However, this house has also sculpted these individuals in bad ways as well. The hill house has caused a lot of pain and wounds that cannot be healed. This family has gone through so much all because of this house. However, it is not the family itself that has caused all this damage, it is the atmosphere they have all grown up in. Another reason to go against Libby Hill’s argument that family is the reason for all of this is that this film started once they moved into this place, not when they were born or when the parents got married or got pregnant, so to say that the show is about a haunted family is not true because of how the film starts. Although it does show how the individuals are broken later on in life, it does not show how the family is because they really never separated. The house is definitely what changed their life, this show is about a haunted house, not a haunted family.

Beginning to end
Not every family is lucky enough to have a close bond with one another, whether it is between the siblings or the one child and parent, whatever it may be, it is never guaranteed that there will be a close relationship. However, I am a firm believer that family is there from beginning to end. Maybe that has to do with how I grew up, or the bonds I have with my siblings. The Crain family has proven that all throughout this show, they have been through horrible losses and have seen traumatizing things, but that never changed the way they were there for each other during everything that happened. So when it comes down to it, I think that this haunted house helped sculpt this family. Yes, it ruined a lot for them it ruined their happiness and the way they look at life as whole, but it never ruined the family’s bond. Even when there were people missing from the unit, they were all still one whole unit together. That is what family is about and that is why I really enjoyed this show. It reveals the ups and downs that every family has to go through, some more than others. It shows their life when everything was well and healthy and also shows their life when it took a complete 360. Nothing can change that fact that they were strong from beginning to end. This show stood out to me in many different ways, it was extremely unqiue and not like a basic haunted house and definitely not a basic family. It left me with conflicting emotions as well, terrified, sad, sentimental, etc. But the main part of this show that I cannot let go of is the way the family made me feel, it was comforting to me to watch a family go through such extents and still be loving and caring towards another.

How Dark Souls tells a Story: The benefits of interactive storytelling

Video games are present a stark contrast to their contemporaries as a storytelling medium. the interactive nature of games allows for the creation of experiences that can, at their best, incorporate a level of engagement that’s often not present in television, books, or movies. Ironically though, many games tend to ignore the advantage this gives them and focus on the gameplay experience rather than the story. That’s not to say that’s a bad thing, it can often feel like a missed opportunity though when games end up telling a linear story that you could have easily seen in a movie. Non-linear, interactive storytelling isn’t completely absent in games of course, games like Telltale’s the Walking Dead and Fallout: New Vegas are both excellent, fun to play games with well-crafted interactive narratives. One game though, manages to stand out amongst its contemporaries and embraces this concept and runs with it though, the 2011 action role-playing game, Dark Souls.

Interactive storytelling in games often follows one of two general categories, the parallel story or the branching story, this isn’t to say these are the only two, but these are the two most prominent in in gam design.  A narrative structured with parallel storytelling branches out into two or three general paths, often converging in on a single plot point multiple times no matter what changes the branching may have caused. This is usually popular with studios as is it presents the illusion of choice and ultimately presents no more than 3 endings to players. An excellent example of parallel storytelling is Telltale’s The Walking Dead. Branching storytelling is a large story that changes often and has numerous endings. It’s more open ended and rarely converges in on singular story events. Games like The Stanley Parable use branching narrative exceptionally well. Dark Souls follows none of these storytelling methods, and arguable a more linear story, yet it’s method of conveying that story is what makes it the extremely interactive.

Parallel Story Structure

Branching Story Structure

The Setting of Dark Souls

Dark Souls, as mentioned above, is an action role-playing game that was released in 2011 critical acclaim. The game itself is set in a grim medieval fantasy world, which draws inspiration from other games like Shadow of the Colossus, to the works of H.P. Lovecraft. The only piece of story you are given in the beginning is what’s told to you in an intro cutscene. The world of Dark Souls was once a primordial grey landscape inhabited only by dragons. Eventually fire came into existence and with it brought the disparity of life and death, light and dark, etc. Four individuals found the flame and used its power to slay the dragons and bring civilization into the world. However, the fire would not last forever, and now it is fading and the once great individuals are desperate to prolong its embers. After being given this information, the player is told that they are the victim one of the side effects of the fading fire, a disease which makes it so that people can no longer die but will also turn people mad over time. As a result of this you begin in a prison cell and the game begins once an unknown knight throws the key to your cell to you. Following this, there is very little of what could be considered storytelling. The other characters within the game rarely contribute to anything close to the larger narrative alluded to in the intro, and it’s entirely possible, even likely, to miss most of the content within the game.

Fragmented Storytelling

Dark Souls is far from lacking in story though and rather than present it in a clear linear fashion, it is hidden away in pieces. An item description here, some cryptic dialogue there and even in the design of the environment you can find the pieces of a story scattered. This “Jigsaw storytelling” results in fans attempting to quite literally put the pieces of the story together from not just what’s given in game, fans have examined content that was cut from the games, and even different translations of the game to gain insight on the meaning of the story. There is not always enough information to fill in what could be considered a complete story though, forcing fans to use what they had to fill in the blanks. This leads to a whole community of fans forming around the idea of completing the story that’s been laid out for them.  becoming much more attached to the story as they have, in a way, helped to put it together.

Hidetaka Miyazaki, Creator and lead director of Dark Souls and its sequels, based this non-linear story layout on a surprising element of his childhood, his reading skills. As a child his family was “tremendously poor” his family couldn’t afford new books for him, so he borrowed what he could in the local library. Not every book he found was at his reading level, leading to him not understanding everything within the stories he read. Miyazaki had to fill in the blanks himself, using his imagination. When designing Dark Souls, he sought to create a similar feeling having the players develop a feeling that they co-authored the story. This is a feeling that just isn’t possible in any other medium.

A Deep World

This non-linear, exploratory element is not present is not exclusive to the game’s story, in fact, it permeates every aspect of the game. The game world  is complex and inter-connected, incorporating a level of verticality that so that you can clearly see how far you’ve come. This is to the point where everything on the horizon is typically a location you’ll end up at some point in the game. This style of inter-connected design is called Metroidvania, named for the two game franchises that were responsible for popularizing it, Metroid and Castlevania. Dark Souls used modern technology capabilities to present its 3D world using this design methodology, allowing for players to discover the world as they move through the game. This is similar to how they discover the narrative. On top of that, every enemy, from undead knights found near the cities they once defended to demonic beasts that become more prevalent the deeper in the world you go. This is done to the point where miniature stories can be told by enemy placement alone, you find one undead knight outside of room where two, already dead, knights were found inside along with empty treasure chests. Unlike other knights this one will not attack you on sight, just looking out into the horizon. Hidetaka Miyazaki commented on this design philosophy on his twitter, stating “a well-designed world could tell its story in silence.”

The gameplay too has many narrative explanations behind each mechanic. For example, respawning, the act of a player-character coming back after a death , is a presence in nearly every game imaginable, allowing players to hop back into the game. In many other games that’s all it is to it, the game mechanic of respawning is just there. In Dark Souls though, there is narrative reasoning for your apparent immortality you and the rest of humanity are victims of a cursed disease in which makes you immortal, although as time passes your skin will rot, becoming hollow. The checkpoints are bonfires that you light as you move through the world and you find yourself back at the last one you visited upon your death as the curse is linked to the aforementioned great fire fading. This gets all players, even those who are uninterested in the story to learn pieces of the narrative

“a well-designed world could tell its story in silence.”

-Hidetaka Miyazaki, 2013

A Grand Reputation

               Thanks to its initial success, Dark Souls, garnered a large fanbase and something that could be described as a very niche was now front and center. Unfortunately, however the difficulty of Dark Souls and all the games that follow it are typically the major thing at the forefront. This is really a shame, because in a time where developers, especially big budget “Triple-A” developers, are so fond of building games that are “cinematic.” In some cases campaign and story modes are slapped onto a game, just so they can say they have one. They are seemingly ignorant to the true strengths of the medium and are reluctant to taking a more experimental approach.

               There should be more stories like that of Dark Souls, woven through a game world that is not shown directly but left for players to figure out is the core of great interactive storytelling were the story is not just a singular aspect of the game, but present in every facet of it. On top of that is another layer of storytelling, a community of players attempting to piece together a full store from fragments, and in the process become the authors of the story they’re looking for. There is multiple levels to how this story is told, through the world, the characters and those trying to piece it all together, this interactive aspect defines a truly unique narrative experience that other entertainment mediums rarely come close to.


Works Cited:

“Metroidvania (Concept).” Giant Bomb, Giant Bomb, www.giantbomb.com/metroidvania/3015-2440/.

Miyazaki, Hidetaka (@HidetakaMiyazak). “A well designed world could tell its story in silence.” 21 April 2013, 1:21 PM. Tweet.

Parkin, Simon. “Bloodborne Creator Hidetaka Miyazaki: ‘I Didn’t Have a Dream. I Wasn’t Ambitious’.” The Guardian, Guardian Media Group, 31 Mar. 2015, www.theguardian.com/technology/2015/mar/31/bloodborne-dark-souls-creator-hidetaka-miyazaki-interview.

 

Does Netflix’s Atypical truthfully portray a typical life of a person with autism?

By: Gabby Parlaman

The Netflix series, Atypical has come into recent popularity of late. For those who are unfamiliar with show, Atypical follows the main character Sam Gardner (Keir Gilchrist) an 18- year old with autism and his search for love, acceptance, and independence. Sam has relatively high functioning autism and although his autism complicates his want for love and independence like any average high school student strives for, he never seems to need extra assistance in school or at his job at Techtropolis where he works with his best friend Zahid selling electronics. So, does Atypical give the viewers a true depiction of what someone with autism goes through and acts like, or is television leaving out the real truth?

Super Genius?
We often see characters such as Sheldon Cooper from The Big Bang Theory, Shaun Murphy from The Good Doctor, and Dr. Virginia Dixon from Grey’s Anatomy, these characters on their respective television shows are portrayed being on the autistic spectrum. These characters are also depicted as extremely bright and even super geniuses. Like those characters, Sam is also depicted in a similar way. He effortlessly shares facts about Antarctica and penguins, that most people would have no common knowledge or understanding of. In the first season, he tells his therapist Julia (Amy Okuda) that he, “Won the 8th grade science fair in 7th grade. I won the 7th grade reading challenge in 6th grade”. Sam even turns down a chance to study with Paige, a girl in his biology class because he was getting an A in the class and she only had an A-. But is this always an accurate portrayal of individuals on the spectrum? Autism diagnosis nearly always comes pre-packaged with extreme giftedness on television shows, which provides a completely false depiction of all individuals who are on the spectrum. By only showcasing characters with autism, as super geniuses, television shows are completely dismissing the 40% of people diagnosed with autism who have a low range IQ, or a learning disability. Though it’s not uncommon for high-functioning individuals to have very high levels of intelligence and savant-like abilities, it’s not everyone’s story. Atypical portrays Sam’s intelligence levels as many television shows do, which isn’t necessarily inaccurate, it’s just stereotypical.

Actions

Throughout the Atypical series viewers are able to learn more about Sam’s mannerisms and certain triggers that he has to deal with. Sam, like most individuals who fall onto the autistic spectrum, has some sensory processing challenges. Sensory processing is defined as sensory information that the individual perceives resulting in abnormal responses. In the first episode of Season 1 titled “Antarctica”, viewers see a scene where Sam goes on a date with a girl he met on this dating website. Sam goes into the restaurant with headphones and wears them throughout the date because of the noise. His date doesn’t seem to understand why he’s wearing headphones, and Sam only says he needs them to block out the noise. Sam uses his headphones a lot during school as well blocking out the loud sounds of students and bells that occur in the hallways. Again, in Season 2 we get a scene where Sam needs his headphones when his family throws a surprise birthday party for his sister, Casey Gardner (Brigette Lundy-Paine). Sam has physical sensory challenges as well, when he rides the bus to work or to therapy he can never sit fully back on the seat because of the feeling on his back. Sometimes when he’s overwhelmed he needs pressure to be put onto him, through hugs or his mom having to wrap him tightly in a blanket with a sweatshirt pulled tightly against his body, he refers to this as “being a burrito”. Although these scenes provide truthful depictions of sensory disorders amongst people on the spectrum, the scenes are used for comic relief which distract from the importance of those specific scenes in the show.

Often people on the spectrum suffer with understanding or catching onto certain social cues that occur. Sam certainly falls into that category, but instead of misunderstanding some social cues in a certain setting, he misses all of them. Sam’s character comes off selfish and rude at times, even ignoring people’s feelings. Every line of dialogue he has somehow involved a social misstep. Each social mishap that Sam has seems to make all the other characters around him extremely uncomfortable. In one scene, he tells his therapist Julia, ““I can see your bra. It’s purple,” or when Sam hears his sister Casey, use the word” twat” he seemingly can’t get that word out of his mind and ends up repeating it multiple times during a family dinner. Sam is seemingly unaware that it isn’t socially acceptable to say these certain things. It seems as though they exaggerate Sam’s social misreads in order to push the comedic aspect of the show, but there isn’t anything funny with using Sam’s disability as comedic relief.

Sam’s character in certain stressful situation will display tics or certain ritualistic movements that are often certain symptoms of autism. In many of the scenes were Sam is at his therapist he is always snapping a rubber band against the palm of his hand. He repeats that same movement for the majority of the time he is with Julia, his therapist. The movement here is rather consistent, it stays at the same rate. Unlike in Season 1 were the movement is relatively the same we see Sam’s movement change during the process of finding a new therapist in Season 2. Sam throughout the scenes where he is shown with a new and different type of therapist the movement picks up and he’s almost snapping the rubber band at a painfully fast rate. Viewers can distinctly see the difference as Sam grows more uncomfortable with the new therapist he is trying out. Another tic that Sam has when he feels overwhelmed is that he pulls the hair at the back of his head extremely hard. In one scene Sam is being made fun of by some kids at school for sharing facts about Antarctica, but he’s unaware that he’s being made fun of until they start laughing at him, which then triggers him to start pulling his hair. Tics and other movements are typical in many individuals on the spectrum, just as it’s portrayed through Sam’s character

Relationships

Sam as the main character has interactions with almost all of the characters on the show. A lot of his interactions occur with his family. His mother Elsa Gardner (Jennifer Jason Leigh) is one of his deepest relationships when the show begins. Elsa is very protective over him, in a way she tries to shield him from the world and tries to baby him in different ways. Throughout the series Sam becomes more independent stating that he can pick out his own clothes and go to the mall without his headphones, during Season 2 the main argument between these characters has to do with Sam wanting to go to college, and his mother not agreeing. Sam as many high-functioning autistic individuals are capable of completing things on their own without need of assistance.

Another complex relationship during the series is with Sam and his father, Doug Gardner (Michael Rapaport). Doug left the family home when Sam was first diagnosed with Autism, and he had a rather hard time accepting his son’s disability. Once he was able to accept it he went on a journey of learning and understanding his son. In Season 2, viewers see Doug go to one of the family support groups that helps families learn and support their children who have autism. When Doug first speaks he says, “my autistic son”, which then creates discussion in the group and they politely correct him letting him know to put the individual before the diagnoses. Doug and Sam’s bond grows stronger as both of them get to know each other better.

Unlike the more truthful depiction of relationships between parents and their child who are on the spectrum. Sam’s romantic relationships are something that causes concern on the way they’re portrayed throughout the series. Sam’s one main goal throughout the show is to find love and a girlfriend. In Season 1, we see Sam ask out a girl who he meets at work, he ends up taking her to the workers hangout spot outside of Techtropolis. The girl seems to find Sam’s quirks cute, and asks him to go home with her. Once they get into her house, she initiates physical contact with him and begins kissing him. He becomes uncomfortable and where there could have been a scene where the girl stops and asks him if he’s okay, the scene ends with Sam pushing her so hard it almost seems like a punch, knocking her down to the ground after she takes off her shirt.

After this Sam then becomes obsessed with his therapist Julia, during one episode he breaks into her house and plans to wait till she comes home to admit his love for her. Throughout Season 1, Sam’s whole plan is to someone how get Julia to be his girlfriend and it depicts a rather creepy and false depiction of someone with autism.

Once Sam finally gets a girlfriend, Paige, viewers see the way he is unemotional and doesn’t understand when he hurts her feelings. People with autism often struggle with creating emotional connections, but are able to understand when they upset someone. One of the most disturbing scenes came when Sam needed to lock Paige in his closest, because he couldn’t handle her touching all of the things in his room. His parents came and explained why this behavior was unacceptable, even though Paige seemed okay with it. The negative portrayal of Sam in this scene could give the audience a complete false stereotype of someone with autism. In fact, people with disabilities and autistic people are far more likely to be the abused than the abusers.


Conclusion

Overall, there are some bright spots in Atypical that show us a truthful depiction of some autistic characteristics, but overall, the show is only providing the audience with the stereotypical view of autism on television. So yes, there is some truth in Sam’s character, but not enough for it to be a portrayal of a typical life of a person with autism.