Category Archives: Films

Humanizing Without Victimizing: The Relevance of Moonlight By Esther Adema

Moonlight[1] was the surprise film hit during the 2016/2017 awards season: a tiny independent coming of age story about Chiron, a young gay black man, struggling with his masculinity and sexuality. In response to all the accolades and praise, reviewer Camilla Long at the Sunday Times reacted in what can only be described as bitter tones:

“The received wisdom on Moonlight…is that it is ‘necessary’ and ‘important’. It is an ‘urgent’ and ‘relevant’ examination of forbidden attraction…Only, relevant to whom? Certainly not the audience. Most will be straight, white, middle class. Nor is it particularly ‘urgent’: the story has been told countless times, against countless backdrops.”[2]

Long has already been thoroughly skewered for her comments, which apparently assume that queer people of color don’t find their way to the local cinema, or that the only love story worth repeating is one that features white heterosexuals.

Long’s comments conveniently invite us to delve into what does make this film relevant and necessary. Moonlight upends a number of narrative tropes related to queer characters as well as to characters of color. Both queer people and people of color are often victimized in narratives, and queer people of color, in this logic, are thus doubly doomed. We are invited to pity characters who are subjected to discrimination and inhumane treatment, but we aren’t always invited to relate to them in a different way. What Moonlight does, and what makes it so relevant and necessary, is that it humanizes its characters without victimizing them.

Bury Your Gays

One of the most persistent tropes in relation to queer representation remains the “bury your gays” trope, in which one or more queer characters end up dead before the end of the film, or in the case of a TV show, before the end of a season. Think of films like Brokeback Mountain, where Jack becomes the victim of a lethal gay-bashing attack, or Philadelphia, where Tom Hanks’ gay character lives just long enough to teach Denzel Washington’s character that gays are perfectly normal people before dying of AIDS. In the realm of TV, 2016 was a particularly gruesome year for queer women, as 25 lesbian or bisexual female characters were killed off on a variety of TV shows, out of a total number of 133 lesbian or bisexual female characters.[3] The pervasiveness of portraying queerness as inevitably leading to death, whether through violence, disease, or suicide, presents a bleak future for queer youth, who often have trouble envisioning a future for themselves.[4]

Moonlight 1

By the end of Moonlight, Chiron and Kevin are very much alive and what’s more, the film ends on a distinctly hopeful note. There is no definitive declaration of love or a happily ever after, but the final shot of Chiron and Kevin’s embrace – mirroring their sexual encounter on the beach – indicates that Chiron’s feelings are not one-sided. More importantly, by leaving things up in the air, the film forces us to imagine a future for them, whatever that future may be. It is the exact opposite of the foreclosure of futures to which queer characters are so often subjected.

Refusing Stereotypes

A common trope in the representation of African Americans is to depict them as suffering from a lack of agency, whether through slavery or other forms of racism, or to be involved with drugs, whether as users or dealers. Part of the controversy surrounding #OscarsSoWhite wasn’t just that there is a lack of three-dimensional black characters, or that black actors are frequently snubbed during awards seasons – though these are major factors – the controversy also pointed towards the tendency to only award those roles that turn African Americans into hapless victims of their circumstances or to stereotypes, such as slaves or maids. Lupita Nyong’o’s character in 12 Years a Slave becomes eligible to win an Oscar, while David Oyelowo’s portrayal of Dr. Martin Luther King, Jr. is overlooked. The Help can be showered in nominations and wins, while Straight Outta Compton barely gets a nod.[5]

Moonlight doesn’t entirely break with this tradition: Chiron’s mother Paula is a drug addict, his mentor Juan is a drug dealer, and Chiron himself ends up dealing. Still, the film takes great pains to establish that this is not all they are. Juan first and foremost offers a support system for Chiron, teaching him acceptance regardless of his sexuality. From what we can tell, Juan doesn’t deal drug out of some destructive desire or out of a desire to become obscenely wealthy. By foregoing an explanation of a tragic past that must have led to Juan’s dealing, Moonlight withholds judgment and expects us to do the same. As Mahershala Ali, who portrays Juan, explained when comparing the portrayal of drug dealers to that of white collar criminals:

“If you see what happens in these communities…dealing drugs is an opportunity to take care of yourself and to take care of your family. It doesn’t mean that you’re a villain though. It doesn’t mean that you’re ill-intended as you are selling drugs. It’s a means to an end…The same respect has to be shown to these characters who have something in their lives that should not be celebrated but they’re still full people, right?”[6]

Juan dealing drugs is not something to be proud of, but it also shouldn’t be used as an excuse to portray him as a villain, when there could be a whole host of reasons for turning to dealing.

Moonlight 2

Similarly, Paula, Chiron’s mother, while a drug addict, cannot be accurately captured in any singular term. Yes, she is an addict and she is abusive towards Chiron, but again, it does not come from a place of malice. This does not excuse all of her actions, and she does not expect to be excused from them, either, as she tells Chiron later in life, “You ain’t gotta love me, but you gon’ know that I love you.”[7] There’s an understanding that she’s done damage that is not easily repairable, but by showing that understanding, she also shows she is more than an abusive and addicted single mother. She is trying.

Finally, Chiron quite literally fights back against his bullies. After getting beaten up at the forced hands of Kevin and refusing to identify his attackers to the school administration, Chiron hits the main instigator with a chair. This episode is a precursor for the hardened exterior we see in Chiron in the third part of the film, when he has turned to dealing in a rather explicit imitation of Juan, having adopted not just his profession, but also his gold grills. While Chiron is not living an ideal life, he can hardly be called a victim. He has suffered, without a doubt, but he is not without agency. He may not have full control over his life, but he has made a life for himself, imperfect though it may be.

Moonlight 3

In the end, Juan, Paula, and Chiron are all three-dimensional characters and the audience is not invited to pity them, but simply to feel with them. Moonlight does not appeal to a universally vague sense of what it means to be human, lumping everyone in the same broad category, regardless of race, sexuality, or gender. Every character is specifically black and Chiron is specifically black and queer. Perhaps because Moonlight is an unapologetically black, queer film, Long found it difficult to empathize with these characters. Moonlight challenges us to understand a world that may not be intimately familiar to the “straight, white, middle class” audience Long mentioned, but that is exactly where its strength lies. Given that so many African American characters are stereotypes or agency-less victims, this film’s refusal of those stereotypes is, in fact, important and relevant. The film does not bother to inform us of Juan’s or Paula’s pasts through heavy-handed expositionary dialogue or flashbacks. Instead we are shown that people like them exist, and they deserve to be seen as whole human beings, even though they make mistakes.

Whiteness in LGBTQ+ Communities

Chiron’s story cannot be neatly dissected into black and gay components: his life is an amalgamation and inseparable entanglement of the two. His life must therefore be viewed through an intersectional lens, meaning that it should not be considered based on separate identity markers such as queer or black. Sexuality and race constantly collide to shape struggles that cannot be grasped by considering race or sexuality alone.[8] As a result, those collisions must be taken into account.

When discussing the relevance of this movie, we should therefore not forget the intermingled racial and sexual aspects that shape Chiron’s life, as well as the lives of queer people of color in general. Race does not disappear in discussions of homophobia or LGBTQ+ rights; rather, race is an integral part of the LGBTQ+ rights movements, as its aims are largely focused on the needs and complaints of white gay men.[9] The LGBTQ+ community, as a result, has become largely associated with whiteness, while people of color are disregarded or ignored.This also means that whiteness remains unmarked as the unexamined norm within the LGBTQ+ community, turning queer people of color into the Other wherever they go.[10]

Aside from this undercurrent running through the LGBTQ+ community, there is more blatant racism to be found as well. When confronted with charges of racism, white people within the community are likely to turn the conversation to homophobia within African American communities.[11] The underlying assumption here is that homophobia is typical of communities of color, particular African American and Muslim communities, while white people are inherently more progressive. It also serves to erase the fact that queer people of color exist. After all, if homophobia becomes synonymous with people of color, and being queer becomes synonymous with being white, where does that leave queer people of color?[12] This mechanism is further compounded by the fact that gay rights movements have a habit of adopting Civil Rights rhetoric and of comparing racism to homophobia, as if the two are mutually exclusive.[13]

In short, the existence of queer people of color is often erased and therefore, their representation matters and is in fact urgent. Stories of people like Chiron are not common within larger narratives about queer people and telling them challenges notions of what it means to be queer. Furthermore, a character like Juan challenges notions of homophobic black people. When Chiron asks him what a faggot is, Juan responds by saying “a faggot is a word used to make gay people feel bad…you could be gay, but don’t let nobody call you a faggot.”[14] His response shows not only an acceptance of gay people, but also of the harm that slurs like faggot can do, and teaches Chiron the basis for self-acceptance.

Moonlight 4

Moonlight shows us that queerness and blackness are not mutually exclusive, nor are people of color inherently homophobic. Moreover, by only having speaking roles for people of color, Moonlight rejects the white norm in its entirety. It is not concerned with appeasing white audiences; it is only concerned with telling a story that is true to a queer black kid growing up on the streets of Miami.

 In the end, Moonlight offers a distinctly different narrative than we are usually offered. Just by virtue of making a queer black boy the subject of its story, it already stands out from the norm. In contrast to many other portrayals, both Chiron and Kevin make it to the end of the movie and they come together at the end, allowing the audience to imagine a future for them, and by extension, for queer people of color. On top of that, Moonlight resists easy categorization of black characters, who each struggle with various aspects of life, but do not become merely pitiable victims or stereotypes. To appreciate Moonlight, audiences must let go of the usual portrayals of blackness and queerness. The relevance of Moonlight, then,lies in its ability to humanize its subjects not through assimilation to the norm of heterosexual whiteness, but by challenging heterosexual and white audiences to empathize with frequently dehumanized subjects and, more importantly, in its rejection of narrative tropes and societal norms that allows queer black people to see themselves and their experiences represented.

Works Cited

[1]Moonlight. Dir. Barry Jenkins. Perf. Mahershala Ali, Alex Hibbert, Ashton Sanders, and Trevante Rhodes. A24, 2016. Film.

[2] Long, Camilla. “Film Review: Moonlight and Hidden Figures.” Thetimes.co.uk. Times Newspapers Limited, 2017. Web.https://www.thetimes.co.uk/article/film-review-moonlight-and-hidden-figures-fxj5rf7qq

[3]“Where We Are on TV: GLAAD’s Annual Report on LGBTQ Inclusion, ‘16-‘17.” GLAAD, 2017. p. 13.

[4]Jung, Gretchen. “But We Still End Up Dead: Effects of Mainstream Hollywood Film on Queer Identity Development.” MA thesis. California State University, Sacramento, 2011. p. 134.

[5]Boykin, Keith. “Commentary: The Oscars Are So White That…” bet.com. Bet, 2015. Web. http://www.bet.com/news/national/2015/01/16/commentary-the-oscars-are-so-white-that.html

[6]“Variety’s 10 Actors to Watch Panel at Hamptons Film Festival (Full Video).” Variety.com. Variety Media, 2017. Web. https://variety.com/t/10-actors-to-watch/

[7]Moonlight.

[8] Crenshaw, Kimberlé. “Mapping the Margins: Intersectionality, Identity Politics, and Violence against Women of Color.” Stanford Law Review 43.6 (1991). 1241-1299. p. 1242.

[9] Teunis, Niels. “Sexual Objectification and the Construction of Whiteness in the Gay Male Community.” Culture, Health, and Sexuality 9.3 (2007): 263-75. p. 264.

[10] Carbado, Devon W. “Colorblind Intersectionality.” Signs 38.4 (2013): 811-45. p. 823.

[11] Ibid, p. 266.

[12] Haritaworn, Jim, Tamsila Tauqir, and Esra Erdem. “Gay Imperialism: Gender and Sexuality Discourse on ‘The War on Terror.’” In: Out of Place: Interrogating Silences in Queerness/Raciality. Adi Kuntsman & Esperanza Miyake (eds.). York: Raw Nerve Books, 2009. 71-95. p. 72-4.

[13] “Colorblind Intersectionality.” p. 827-8.

[14]Moonlight.

Time Heals All Wounds: Suffering and Temporality in Arrival By Esther Adema

This article contains spoilers

Another science-fiction film about an alien invasion, yet Arrival is like no other. In the opening scene of the film we meet Louise Banks (Amy Adams), as we see snapshots of her raising a daughter who dies of cancer as a teenager. In the next scene, a dozen extraterrestrial spaceships appear all over the world, hovering in the sky, their purpose unclear. The only sounds the aliens, referred to as heptapods, make are indecipherable to the army, so they visit Louise, a top linguist, to help them. Together with a physicist named Ian Donnelly (Jeremy Renner), she is supposed to uncover what the aliens want from humanity and if they pose a threat. She realizes quickly that these heptapods do not speak; they only know written language. Their language is circular, with each circle having precise characteristics that indicate words or sentences. As Ian explains, “their written language has no forward or backward direction.”[1] Their language and way of thinking, unlike ours, does not know a beginning or end.

When Louise has taught them enough English and they have taught her enough of their language in turn to ask them what they want, their answer is to “offer weapon.” Some of the other countries receive similar messages from the spaceship hovering over their land and conclude that the heptapods are trying to start a global war. Louise insists that it must have been a misunderstanding, for weapon might also mean ‘tool.’ However, the situation escalates, with none of the countries communicating and China preparing to attack the heptapods. Eventually, Louise realizes that the ‘weapon’ the heptapods were referring to was their language. It allows her to break out of the linear way of thinking about time and instead view time as something non-linear. Effectively, this means that she can see the future and knows how to stop China from attacking. At this point, it is also revealed that she did not yet have a daughter: that is still to come. Despite knowing what will happen to her future daughter, Louise decides to have a child with Ian, accepting the inevitable suffering along with it.[2]

Arrival raises many points of discussion, from the importance of communication, to the extreme militarism of our current global politics, to the nature of suffering and its connection to time. It is this last point that will be discussed here, though it cannot be entirely disconnected from the other points. As will become clear, everything is interconnected.

The Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis

First, to understand the jump this film makes to Louise’s non-linear experience of time, we must understand the theory it is based on. It is mentioned briefly in the film itself: the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis. This theory suggests that the language we speak is shaped by the culture we live in.[3] In its most extreme form, this does not only apply to words and concepts, but also to grammar itself. As Whorf explained, “the background linguistic system (in other words the grammar) of each language is not merely a reproducing instrument for voicing ideas but rather is itself the shaper of ideas, the program and guide for the individual’s mental activity, for his analysis of impression, for his synthesis of his mental stock in trade.”[4] Put simply: the grammar of whatever language we speak determines how we view the world.

 

Arrival 1

Though this theory is by no means universally accepted, the point of this article is not to argue its merits or shortcomings. Arrival explicitly works from this hypothesis and so will this article. Within Whorf’s logic, it makes sense that Louise would start to think like the heptapods. After all, she spends day and night trying to decipher their language and to think like them. In so doing, her entire line of thinking and way of being is altered. If language is indeed “the shaper of ideas” and the idea conveyed by the heptapods’ language is that time is not linear, then time itself becomes a non-linear experience for Louise. The heptapods may have phrased it as a “weapon” because knowledge is a form of power.[5] In the sense that their language is a type of knowledge, their language becomes a powerful tool to reshape the world.

The Importance of Communication

Louise is the first, and as far as we know within the universe of this film, the only human character to experience time in a non-linear way. This raises the question of what makes her so different from the others? It becomes clear quite quickly that Louise’s methods of using written communication are picked up by the other landing sites almost immediately, so surely other linguists are using the heptapods’ language as well.

ARRIVAL 2

However, Arrival demonstrates in several ways that Louise is different from many other linguists. It starts when she is first approached by Colonel Weber (Forest Whitaker). He does not want to grant her access to the site, instead wanting her to use the audio recordings they have made of the heptapods. When she explains that she needs to be there in person, he declares he will find another linguist. Louise tells Weber to ask the linguist for the Sanskrit word for war and its translation. This other linguist says it means “an argument,” whereas Louise says it means “a desire for more cows.”[6] Louise’s translation is clearly more attuned to the cultural specifics, evidencing a particular sensitivity on her part. She is not merely interested in translating a language, but also in understanding the cultural implications behind words. This makes her far more suitable for the job, as the cultural referents of the heptapods are bound to be vastly different from our own.

Her sensitivity is also instrumental in convincing China’s General Shang to stop the attack on the heptapods. She already speaks Mandarin, but that alone would not be enough to stop him. Speaking in his language does not only mean literally speaking the same words; it also means understanding each other on a more fundamental level. Language is not so simple as learning words, grammar, and syntax. Louise is able to stop General Shang because she tells him she knows something deeply personal, namely his wife’s dying words. She reaches out to him on a specific and emotional level, and that is what saves the day. If she had stuck to generic knowledge about China and Mandarin, she would not have been able to stop him.

Arrival 3

It is this ability that makes Louise the perfect candidate to receive the heptapods’ gift, for she is especially susceptible and open towards receiving new information from cultures that are not like her own. She is willing to go beyond a superficial understanding of words and grammar and instead get to the precise cultural meaning of any given concept. She uses a thoroughly situated understanding of language, meaning that she does not think of language as a source of universal knowledge, but rather as a source of highly specific knowledge.[7]As a result, she immerses herself completely in a culture, which in turn means that, following the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis, she begins to perceive time differently.

Suffering and Temporality

As a result of Louise’s change in perceived temporality, the meaning attributed to suffering also changes. This becomes most clear when Louise decides to have a child despite knowing the pain that will come with the inevitable future loss of that child. The notion that our perception of time influences our experience of suffering is not a new one. In fact, Arrival is reminiscent of Kurt Vonnegut’s novel Slaughterhouse-Five. In it, the protagonist, Billy Pilgrim, is abducted by aliens and brought to the planet Tralfamadore. The Tralfamadorians explain to Billy that nobody ever really dies on Tralfamadore because they experience time in a non-linear way. As a result, they can always go back to those moments in which any given person is still alive, ensuring that they never really die.[8] After all, if time is not experienced as a straight line, there can be no end point either. Suffering therefore becomes entirely temporary. Billy even goes so far as to say that a supposedly dead person “is still very much alive in the past, so it is very silly for people to cry at his funeral.”[9] Nothing is permanent when time itself is fluid.

It is unclear whether Louise or the heptapods are able to control time to such an extent that they can simply choose any moment to experience. However, both Arrival and Slaughterhouse-Five deal with the impact that time has on suffering and on our lives in general. Furthermore, the fact that Louise receives information in the future, such as General Shang’s phone number and his wife’s dying words, which she uses in the present, suggests some level of control over which memories and events are at the forefront of her mind at any given time. Another explanation might be that any given event might trigger glimpses into the future, which present themselves to her as memories. Either way, the experience of suffering changes as a result of Louise’s non-linear experience of time.

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In fact, Eric Cassell, author of The Nature of Suffering, has explicitly linked suffering to temporality. He argued that suffering is connected to one’s sense of self, which in turn is linked to time. He suggested that “it follows, then, that suffering has a temporal element. For a situation to be a source of suffering, it must influence the person’s perception of future events.”[10]As we see in Arrival, Louise is still affected by her daughter’s death. She does not become unfeeling simply because she knows her daughter will die long before she is even born. Still, the fact that she knows it will come, changes the very nature of it. As Louise herself says; “Despite knowing the journey and where it leads, I embrace it. And I welcome every moment of it.”[11] She has made the choice to accept and even embrace the pain that is to come, presumably because she also knows the joy that comes from her having a child. In this way, she can make a decision about whether or not this suffering is worth it and evidently, she has come to the conclusion that it is. Following the logic from Slaughterhouse-Five, Louise might have found enough comfort in the knowledge that in another moment, her daughter is still alive. Though Louise and indeed the entire human race may not be able to fully escape linear time, Louise has been given the gift of thinking in a non-linear way, which serves as a comfort and which allows her to handle the inevitable suffering she will feel as the result of the loss of her daughter.

Conclusion

At the heart of Arrival is a desire to truly understand each other – a desire that Louise can actually fulfill thanks to her careful consideration of the cultural context in which a language develops. Louise calls the heptapods’ language and the subsequent ability to see the future “a gift.”[12] Given the suffering that is to come for Louise, this may be a strange way to phrase it at first glance. However, seeing the future also gives Louise the unique ability to make a decision about her own suffering. Furthermore, it means that death is not necessarily the end, for there is no single end point to anyone’s life if time itself is not ordered in a linear way. The old adage that time heals old wounds therefore takes on a different meaning in Arrival. It is not the passing of linear time that heals wounds; rather, it is the non-linear structure of time that allows Louise to put her suffering in a different perspective and allows her to heal.

Works Cited

[1]Arrival. Dir. Denis Villeneuve. Perf. Amy Adams, Jeremy Renner, and Forest Whitaker. Paramount Pictures, 2016. Film.

[2]Idem.

[3]Lamarque, Peter V. Concise Encyclopedia of Philosophy of Language.Amsterdam: Elsevier Science, 1997. PDF. p. 77.

[4] Qtd. in Lamarque, Peter V. Concise Encyclopedia of Philosophy of Language. p. 77.

[5] Just, Edyta. “When a Photon Meets a Matter – A Brief Story of Seeing, Imag(in)ing and Knowing.” Science Communication and Critically Mediated Interventions. Linköping University, Sweden. Prerecorded Lecture. 13 Dec. 2016.

[6]Arrival. Dir. Denis Villeneuve. 2016.

[7] Haraway, Donna. “Situated Knowledges: The Science Question in Feminism and the Privilege of Partial Perspective.” Feminist Studies 14.3 (1988). 575-99. p. 583.

[8]Vonnegut, Kurt. Slaughterhouse-Five. New York: Random House, 1969. Print.

[9] Idem. p. 26-7.

[10] Qtd. in Malpas, Jeff, and Norelle Lickiss, Eds. Perspectives on Human Suffering. New York: Springer Science, 2012. Print. p. 11.

[11]Arrival. Dir. Denis Villeneuve. 2016.

[12] Idem.

Reimagining a Fictional Hero through Adaptation: Mr. Holmes and the Humanisation of the Great Detective By Bonnie van den Bergh

A stern and authoritative looking Sir Ian McKellen graces the official poster of the 2015 film Mr. Holmes, in which he portrays the world-famous sleuth. Smartly dressed and with a focused gaze it is not hard to imagine McKellen as a detective. After all, many detective figures known from TV and film seem to adhere to these outward characteristics. However, it might be questioned whether we would have recognised McKellen as Holmes, had the title not given it away. As one of the most iconic fictional characters, Holmes has been visualised very distinctly since he was first drawn by Sidney Paget for the original publications of Doyle’s stories in the Strand Magazine. InMr. Holmes, the iconic look of the detective is challenged. The film, which vows to investigate “the man beyond the myth”, delivers a wildly different Holmes than most viewers are used to.[1] Looking at the more personal side of this famous character, the film tackles the fictionality of Sherlock Holmes ‘the icon’. The visual representation of Holmes plays a big part in this. Shying away from the iconography which has come to exist in our collective consciousness, Mr. Holmes becomes a powerful tool for rewriting our perceptions of one of the most recognisable figures of fiction.

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The Importance of Good Character Motivations in Kingsglaive By Kevin Swijghuizen

This article contains spoilers.

Square Enix recently released Kingsglaive: Final Fantasy XV, a film which functions as a prelude for the upcoming Final Fantasy XV game. Kingsglaive is a two hour, long fully animated film that revolves around the final days of the war between two nations; the nation of Lucis and Niflheim. The film predominately focuses  on several key characters from Lucis and by telling the tale of these characters the film tries to set up the story for the plot of Final Fantasy XV. Sadly, this is where it all goes south for Kingsglaive. The plot is somewhat convoluted because it heavily leans on characters doing things that do not seem to make a lot of sense, which, ends up diminishing the impact of the story. In short, the motivations of the characters in Kingsglaive do not make sense to the viewer which makes the plot very feel very disjointed. In this article I will explain the failings of the motivations for the various characters in Kingsglaive and how the plot suffers because of that.

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Ex Machina: The Performative Nature of Humanity By Esther Adema

This article contains spoilers

Ex Machina is a film fundamentally concerned with what it means to be human. Every question the film raises is related to this issue in one way or another. Considering the film’s topic, this is not necessarily surprising. Ex Machina is about a young programmer named Caleb, who wins a prize to meet Nathan, the reclusive owner of the company Caleb works for. He will spend a week with Nathan at his house, which appears to be in the middle of nowhere. Once arrived there, Nathan reveals he has been working on Artificial Intelligence (AI) and wants Caleb to use the Turing test to determine if the AI is capable of passing for human. The AI, named Ava, meets with Caleb in daily sessions during which Caleb asks her questions to determine her linguistic capabilities and her emotional responses, among other things. It soon becomes clear that Ava is highly intelligent, which in turn raises ethical questions as Caleb begins to wonder if Nathan treats her well and if she should be allowed to leave if she expresses such a desire. In the end, it turns out Caleb was manipulated by both Nathan and Ava. Nathan told Ava to use everything at her disposal to convince Caleb to help her escape, meaning she first and foremost had to convince him she cares about him and that she is being mistreated by Nathan. Ava, meanwhile, did not think of this as merely a game and once the possibility of escape is within her reach, she takes it, killing Nathan and locking Caleb in the house in a mirror-image of the imprisonment she herself experienced at Nathan’s hands.[1]

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Cyborgs as Resistance: Masculinities in Captain America: The Winter Soldier By Esther Adema

Superhero films have been omnipresent in the past few years and Marvel Entertainment in particular has been very prolific ever since it established a cinematic universe, starting with Iron Man in 2008. So far, all of these films have starred white men as the titular superheroes; the first Marvel film led by a person of color is scheduled to be released in 2018, while the first female-led film will not be released until 2019. As such, there are many representational issues in these films that potentially deserve our attention. For now, however, this article will focus on masculinity, specifically as presented in the character of the Winter Soldier/Bucky Barnes in Captain America: The Winter Soldier.

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Anonymous Dismissed: Why Shakespeare Isn’t Shakespeare but Might Turn Out to Be Shakespeare Anyway By Coco Clements

Introduction to Anonymous and the Oxfordian theory

In 2011, director Roland Emmerich brought the controversial film Anonymous to fruition. This project had been on hold since John Orloff’s 1998 script had been coincidentally rendered unpopular by its subject’s counterpart, Academy Award favourite Shakespeare in Love.[1] These conflicting interpretations of Shakespeare’s authorship mirror the literary conflict based on that same question: Who was Shakespeare? In contrast to Madden’s image of a romantic and fragile Stratfordian Bard, Anonymous suggests that the true “soul of the age,” was Edward de Vere (1550 – 1604), the 7th Earl of Oxford. As counter-argument to the generally accepted theory that it was Will Shakespeare of Stratford wrote the renowned thirty-eight plays, two long poems, and more than a hundred short poems, Anonymous visualizes the Oxfordian theory. This theory supposed that it was in fact De Vere and not the Man from Stratford who wrote ‘Shakespeare.’ Emmerich’s film offers us a cinematic execution of the Oxfordian hypothesis. This article will therefore analyze Anonymous as a hypothetical take on Shakespearean authorship in relation to the Oxfordian theory and will show that the film fails in more ways than one when it comes to giving it credibility.

Continue reading Anonymous Dismissed: Why Shakespeare Isn’t Shakespeare but Might Turn Out to Be Shakespeare Anyway By Coco Clements

The Construction of a World of Nothing: The World in Mad Max: Fury Road By Berry Giezen

Disclaimer: this article features spoilers.

This year, the new Mad Max film took the world by storm, and presented us with a world of its own. Not much is said about how exactly the world became this apocalyptic, but it is caused by nuclear weapons and wars. The world has turned to dust and sand. This primitive and savage world revolves around three things: food and water to survive, bullets to protect what they have to survive –or to take it, and gas to move around. Vehicles here are not only a way of escape, but they are also weapons

In some (post-apocalyptic) works, the world and environment function as a mere setting or decor. It is the background for a story about people surviving and overcoming obstacles and enemies. One reason for this is that all the social structures of the old worlds are literally dead or broken, and it is hard to write a dynamic world when there is so little going on compared to what we are used to in our world. It is often reduced to a free-for-all sandbox. On top of this, in case of films, there is just too little time to work in a detailed and vibrant world when you’re also trying to fit in an action-packed narrative. TV series are more suited for building dynamic worlds, since they have more screen time and can feature gradual and more detailed build-ups. In The Walking Dead, for example, there are a few settlements of people banding together in settlements to increase their chance of survival. The post-apocalyptic world of Mad Max is surprisingly dynamic and alive, which is especially surprising considering the fact that it is brought to us in (four) films.

Continue reading The Construction of a World of Nothing: The World in Mad Max: Fury Road By Berry Giezen

The ‘Self,’ Corrupted: Joss Whedon and his Tropes of Loss By Coco Clements

Disclaimer: this article features spoilers for Buffy The Vampire Slayer, Dollhouse, Firefly/Serenity, The Avengers, Agents of S.H.I.E.L.D, and Jean-Jacques Rousseau.

The loss of a character can hit home hard, even when it is only fiction. When a creative team decides to kill, maim or erase these familiars from memory within the fictional world, the non-fictional audience can feel quite shaken. One director who especially loves to “shake things up” in such a manner[1] is the creator of great cult classics such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer; Dollhouse and Firefly, but is perhaps generally mostly known for his recent collaboration with Marvel on the Avengers films; he is the elusive and well-spoken serial-heartbreaker, Joss Whedon.  Continue reading The ‘Self,’ Corrupted: Joss Whedon and his Tropes of Loss By Coco Clements