A character review of Mr. Stevens

When I discuss The Remains of the Day, I’m going to refer to the film version. Emma Thompson plays a brilliant supporting role, and her character truly shines in the movie. Let’s dissect and compare to period dramas about servant life.

The Remains of the day: a depressing story

Stevens is an exceptionally strange man. He reads sentimental romance, is very solitary and expresses no outwards emotions. I’m quite convinced he’s a sociopath by his portrayal  in the film adaptation. And then there’s Miss Kenton, his confidant and housekeeper, who tries her best to connect with him. She’s very much the opposite of Stevens; heartfelt, kindhearted and sincere. Their relationship is most unfulfilling whilst they inhabit Lord Darlington’s manor together. They argue over anything and everything, from Stevens Senior’s ability to work, to the German maids’ ability to work because of their Jewish heritage.

Eventually, she goes off to marry another man because Miss Kenton cannot bear her unrequited love for Stevens any longer. This is in part because the under-maid gets married to her sweetheart, despite being naive and poor (qualities which she dislikes). Eventually, Mr Stevens realises his mistakes; not just about serving Lord Darlington too loyally, and about the German Nazis. He meets his comrade, now Miss Benn, for lunch and then a stroll around the beach pier. They talk, about how her life has changed, highlighting the lack of change in his life. Mrs Benn remarks how her life became better once her daughter was born. As he says goodbye to her on the bus in the rain, Stevens comments that he was “too busy serving to notice” any discussion that happened. Even at that point, after his employer’s death, Stevens never once reaches out to Mrs Benn. Historically accurate? Maybe, but it lacks the passion that stories such as War and Peace has.

Downtown Abbey: the recovery of a lost plot line?

Let’s talk about Anna and Master Bates in this series. There are hints of Jane Eyre in this romantic subplot, because Master Bates is married before they meet. Like Miss Kenton and Mr. Stevens, they work together. Their marriage is shadowed by the fact that Anna is late in getting married, and could be past the age of childbirth (with many miscarriages in her  marriage). Fortunately, their ending has a more satisfying outcome, with understanding employers and starting a family. Downtown Abbey is set up like a happy family, as Anna is close to Mary and Edith, whilst Sybil married the chauffeur Tom. Carson and Mrs Hughes marry as well, much to the celebration of the family and staff. With Edith as an editor of a magazine and Mary in charge of the household without the need for a husband, it’s a more modern take on aristocratic life.

The conclusion? Downton Abbey places more emphasis on the lives of the noble family living there, without detaching from human emotions. Whilst Remains of the Day uncovers the secret lives of servants, whilst removing them from current household affairs (to a degree).

Did you enjoy this brief discussion? Please press “subscribe” for more blog posts in future ūüôā

 

 

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Social media explained: the revised edition

There’s a meme explaining how social media works, mostly with donuts. Let’s try expanding this simple analogy. I feel as though I should include a social media post; because even though this has absolutely nothing to do with fiction or writing, we are all in some way defined by our online presence.

Youtube – I got internet famous by doing a donut challenge.

Whisper – I have a fetish for donuts in the bedroom.

Instagram – Here is a picture of my tequila doused platinum coated donut.

Snapchat – Here is a krispy kreme sponsored lens.

Facebook – This donut is delicious and I feel great about eating it. I like donuts.

Twitter – @KrispyKreme I’m not happy with my donut.

Pinterest – here are some inspirational donut recipes I pinned

Reddit – what’s the weirdest thing you have ever done with a donut?

Vine – Haha, look at this clip of a guy with a donut stuck to his face!

WordPress – This is my blog about donuts

Tumblr – I believe in social justice for demigender, asexual, black donuts trapped in white bodies who are Pagan. I also think the government is lying to us.

LinkedIn – My work experience is being a cashier at Dunkin’ Donuts.

Tinder – I’m a skinny latte, you’re a donut. We’re a great match, we complement each other.

Foursquare – This is where I buy my donuts from

Google+ – I’m in a community where everyone talks about donuts.

if you think there’s a platform I have missed, just comment below.

The Arts &Humanities appreciation post

EQ matters just as much as IQ

Employers and universities are starting to understand how emotional and Social intelligence are just as important as intellectual intelligence. Physical strength has been attributed with spots and performing arts, but not EQ. A recent study showed that Arts and Humanities students had higher empathy, more creativity and self awareness. We all know the typical STEM nerd archetype; super brainy but too logical and callous, whereas the poet speaks from the heart and engages with feelings in words.

Drama clubs help Autistic adults

Many disabled adults benefit from a special theatre society. Young people on the Autism spectrum attend a drama class to learn social skills. The situations in plays simulate real life scenarios. It could benefit teenagers as well, giving them a useful way to act out their thoughts.

Information means nothing if you can’t express it

Googlilion existed at the age of Google. Sorry Mathematics students, but this number just did not exist before. We need the arts because they hold up a mirror of reality (or sometimes fantasy) to the world. How many people are willing to admit most of the science they love and learned was from Doctor Who or Star Trek? Most geeks swear by them as gospel.

Without Archaeology and History, we would know nothing about the past

Everything has a history, and we learn everything from history. Unfortunately not all forms of history are 100% reliable, because there were less secure ways of preserving facts (which would explain why the sciences are not so keen on history). However, because historians are becoming much better at correlating facts, we can find out more about what really happened.

Linguistics and Psychology are kind of grey areas

Linguistics because it involves language, human geography, environmental factors and cultural differences. Psychology because of human behaviour and psychoanalysis. It’s true that subjects overlap between disciplines, and the STEM and Arts are not as black and white as most people assume.

What if I told you, science isn’t part of everything?

Religion is one, which is why all the nerds will never like the Quran or Bible. Literature is another (an exception for science fiction could be made here though). Art doesn’t really involve science, even if physiology can help with sculptures and drawing. You don’t need much knowledge of physics to enjoy¬†The Big Bang Theory,¬†just a sense of humour.

Are there any Arts and Humanities people out there who think I have missed any points? Share your thoughts below.

Science fiction is not science fact

Keyboard warrior rant: Round Two

People often believe that gamma rays, hover cars and alien life forms are possible. Then there is the grey area of time travel, telekinetic communication and the human zombie virus. State, however, that dragons, gods and magic are just as plausible as aliens and the “hardcore science” fans glare at you (before returning to watch¬†The Big Bang Theory¬†whilst chatting with their virtual/Facebook girlfriend). Nobody has, to date, suggested that dragons may well be aliens. The people who believe that science fiction is truly educational probably also believe that the world is about to end.

1. Brainiac: teaching kids that dangerous chemistry is fun

I am not sure how the BBC managed to air myth busters for kids with science, but it happened. Maybe it’s that the Brainiac cast used goggles, or that some of their explosions had to be enhanced – most notably, the alkali metals experiment.

Admittedly, not all of the experiments were dangerous, and the crew (probably) knew what they were doing. But, nearly every stunt performer says “don’t try this at home”, and it’s never been said on the show. Let’s not mention the scantily clad attractive women on the show – Remember Thalia Zucchi from “How Hard Is Your Thing?”? What about John Tickle’s busty nurse? If you’ve never seen the show, or don’t remember, here is a brief montage:

 

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Anyway, Brainiac was 1/3rd boobs, 1/3rd explosions and 1/3rd actual science. For this reason, it may as well be science fiction.

2. Doctor Who

Don’t ¬†get me wrong, I LOVED this show (especially with David Tenant as the Doctor). And, considering the large number of crappy science fiction out there, there’s definitely been worse. But there are some concepts in the show that are just plain ridiculous. The sonic screwdriver has a few flaws, namely being that it can open any door…..except a traditional one with a doorknob. Also, the TARDIS defies the laws of physics in just about¬†every¬†way – the reason scientists believe that you can only travel forwards in time is because of the speed of light, and there are no wormholes in space to take you back to the past (which is the only hypothetical way you could get there).

3. Star Wars

I’m probably going to get hate mail for this, but here we go. I honestly believe the mass appeal from Star Wars comes from two things: physics students’ geeky desires to build a light saber and spacecraft, and mass marketing. In the original films, I had a bit of a problem with Han Solo’s attitude towards Leia. As for the more modern films, the main thing wrong with them is their over-dramatic plotlines. So Anakin Skywalker was actually once a good guy and became evil, so what? Othello and Hamlet both do the same damn thing. Then we have Kylo Ren, who is not actually evil but instead is living a narcissistic fantasy after idolising his granddad.

4. Jurassic Park

Ever since this film was made, the planet went nuts for re-creating dinosaurs from amber tree sap. So, dinosaurs are fascinating because they’re extinct. But absolutely nothing is scientific in the movie whatsoever – if ¬†it was, we would’ve already done it. Sometimes I think that movie was only created so someone could make an actual theme park.

5. The Draenei in World of Warcraft

Yes, because satyrs and fauns are actually aliens from outer space – not dissimilar from Scientology logic about divine deities. I’ll admit that the WoW franchise is less sci-fi and more fantasy, but the Draeni are not their strongest race. I’m going to classify the Draeni as sci-fi because they’re alien beings with advanced technology. Why I don’t like them? They’re more original than the other races, but their design as extraterrestrial fauns bugs me.

6. Digimon

So, this is virtual pet; a Tamagotchi combined with Pokemon evolution. How original, just combine two Japanese franchise from competing businesses and merge them into a single toy. Admittedly, Digimon wasn’t anywhere near as popular Tamagotchi or Pokemon, because there’s nothing original about them. So, why is Digimon classed as sci-fi? Apart from the apparent use of gadgets and digital world (just like in¬†The Matrix¬†and¬†Spy Kids)¬†in the anime, I really have no idea.

7.¬†Hitchhiker’s Guide to the Galaxy¬†

I’ve heard far too often that dolphins are sending warning messages by cackling, and it’s all thanks to Douglas Adams. Infamous for coining the answer to life, Everything and the Universe as 42 (from a mathematical point of view). Adams was only joking, but scientists have insisted on proving the phrase to be true. In all fairness, i don’t¬†think¬†Adams was trying to make his book sound like actual science fiction, but the readers have taken it far too seriously.

So, what do you think of all of this: is my pronounced judgement too farfetched, or does this post have a point? Share your thoughts below.

 

 

 

A New Thing

Hi all,

I have some rather exciting news to share: I have set up a second blog on WordPress. I’m an entrepreneur now, and have created a blog for my business, Amethyst Insight. The blog is also called Amethyst Insight, and it will feature extra content as well as teachings on the main webpage.

If you have enjoyed reading my content so far, you’ll probably like what’s on Amethyst Insight. Follow it now at https://amethystinsight.wordpress.com

P.S. More content on The Art of Writing Fiction is coming soon, I’m currently working on some posts about popular culture/commercials and fiction. So don’t go away! ūüėÄ

ÔĽŅDiscover Challenge: Writerspiration of the week

I’m going to participate in a Daily Prompt I saw originally on Participating in Prompts and Challenges. The author who has inspired me this week is Stephen King, and I’ve been reading his novel Carrie online. I really like his teenage protagonist, Carrie, even though it’s not a teen fiction book. However, this has inspired me to write a piece of teen dark fantasy fiction after reading his novel. The scene where the protagonist starts menstruating is quite bold and dynamic, yet Carrie’s isolation provides a sense of dissonance for the audience.

Since adolescence is often a traumatic time before a budding individual begins to bloom, the main theme of my project will be about catalyst events which shape us into the person we become. Since it’s my first time reading a Stephen King novel, I’m quite excited to see how the plot unfolds as a reader, but also understand what makes Stephen King tick as a writer. You can expect the occasional update on how I’m finding the book, but this will be an exciting new experience.

Which author inspires you the most? Comment and share!

 

The commercialisation of books 

This post is going to explore how books are commoditised by the media (regardless of their genre or literary status). Because, nearly anything can be advertised – and if it raises an author’s publicity profile, then that’s even better.

The condensation of words goes something like this:

Oral speech > written word > visual medium

Reading books is extremely unpopular, largely because they’re viewed as academic/literary. This means that they’re unappealing to the masses, and that too much brain power is required to read a book. Whereas you can watch a film or TV show regardless of your IQ, and still enjoy what’s happening.

How does merchandising happen?

So, we have big blockbusters, and we have serious art films. Then we have merchandise. Merchandise combines everything – spin-off to shows, dolls, costumes, toys, albums from songs sung, musicals, and just about everything else. The more heavily franchised something is, the more financially successful it becomes. The prime target audience tends to be children, because children are often dazzled by sparkly dresses and don’t have to worry about money.

The first commercialised film: Star Wars 

Star Wars is said to be the first ¬†merchandised movie – with prequels, sequels, lego toys, action figures, and the Star Wars motion simulator rides in Disneyland theme parks. Since then, nearly every film series has done the same thing. Targeting children and young people does seem to be a recipe for success. Let’s look at a few popular franchises and see how they’ve gotten famous.

Some good examples:

Harry Potter 

Harry Potter¬†has just about everything you could want to merchandise a series – quirky sweets, famous film locations such as Alnwick castle, Quidditch broomsticks, odd facts about Hogwarts for Top Trumps and Trivial Pursuit, and there’s even 4D motion rides and Butterbeer served, and you can even travel between parks on the Hogwarts Express. Universal Studios can make money out of just about any movie, such is their huge influence.

Twilight 

There are many reasons why Twilight has become very successful. Firstly, at the time it was released, teenage vampire and dark fantasy fiction was all over bookshelves. Secondly, its cast is fairly high-profile thanks to Robert Pattinson. And thirdly, the romance genre appealed to the masses.

The Lord of the Rings

Like Twilight, LOTR had Orlando Bloom to raise the status of the films with his sex appeal. But fantasy is something people can really get on board with – both geeks and ordinary folks love it. After a large following due to books, the films took off due to their wonderful special effects, GCI and graphics.

Frozen 

Loosely based on Hans Christian Anderson’s The Snow Queen, Frozen is the highest grossing animated film of all time. The Little Mermaid film, by Disney, had bouts of success with a Disney theme track, Ariel costumes and dolls, also by Hans Christian Anderson. But Frozen outdoes The Little Mermaid ¬†100xs. The last time I visited Disneyland Paris, there were outfits for both Anna and Elsa, Frozen parades every 30 minutes, and the logo on every object with a price tag on it.

Frozen, Harry Potter and Twilight¬†have three selling ingredients: social triangles, magic and a troubled past (Lord of The Rings is a bit of an odd one out). First, a trio of characters usually adds drama in either the form of a romance or a third wheel friend. Magic usually comes in the form of either costume or mystical creatures (usually both) that can be eventually sold on as plush toys. And a troubled past – whether it’s the death of parents, bullying or just being different – plays on the sympathy note.

Other fictional formats: comic books

Good grief, in 2016 there is absolutely no way of escaping the adaptation of comic book characters (much to the delight of cosplayers attending Comicon). The latest version of action movies, these films have witty side humour, actors and actresses oozing sex appeal and plenty of CGI.
An unusual middle ground: Alice in Wonderland 

I’m going to use this story over Greek myths like Hercules and Cinderella, because Alice in Wonderland has one clear author: Lewis Carroll. I’ll admit that perhaps the novel’s adaptations have been more faithful than other tales, but this is in part because French Surrealists have snapped up the story, as well as Tim Burton.

Once again, after Disney snapped up the movie, the teacups ride in the Magic Kingdom, Alice plush toy and movie soundtracks came running along with the franchise. However, niche markets such as the Steampunk community, cosplayers and followers of the lomita fashion movement have seen its appeal – leading to Victorian and Edwardian clothing stores, independent teashops and even Alice-themed alternative events. The trouble is, though, that Alice doesn’t have a pretty¬†factor; most of her appeal lies in her personality, and it’s usually adults who want to cosplay as her. The point being, that Lewis Carroll’s book has turned into a hybrid platform between niche and mainstream.

 

Why are featureless characters assumed to be white and male? 

In a cartoon, the male character is often very basic, sometimes just a stick figure. Often they have no eyelashes, visible lips or even hair. Female characters, however, have bows, ponytails and skirts. Even the toilet sign distinguishes the ladies with a skirt, assuming men wear trousers (despite women being allowed to wear trousers for quite a few decades). The simplest answer is probably that White, straight males are assumed to be the norm. This makes sense, since many characters are often white, and thus are assumed to be caucasian. Thus, the artist has to use a distinguishing feature to set nonconforming characters apart. Considering no features should mean gender neutral, the association of decorated characters with being female is unusual. 

One author, Dorris McComics has tried to combat this trope. Many of the characters are featureless, and stick figure types are usually in unnatural colours. If there are any distinctively human characters, later drawings are often androgynous. Dorris even refuses to give many of them names, whether to avoid gender labelling or due to artistic license. The illustrator, Alex Norris, has frequently chosen to deliberately not state the gender of many of the characters  who appear in the panels. 

Webcomics are a great way to convey simple, but funny, sketches in an accessible format. But there’s by no means any less politics than in any other meme form – just look at what Garlic Bread Memes did with their comment on the number of genders on Facebook. And trying to either reaffirm that there are only two genders or that genderless characters aren’t a good idea just causes trouble on either side. 

Commenters on social media are the new literary critic; as readers, they might enjoy the story. But as soon as you find one who thinks they know about how to write a plot for a comic, they’ll tear you to shreds. Nearly every bad article about a  movie, classic author or artist is usually written by some crappy writer on Buzzfeed, a journalist on the Guardian or a tumblerina picking apart plotholes. Any merit a piece of work has, a savage critic can transform into a negative (also known by its more PC version “room for improvement”). So maybe it’s best to ignore the void of negativity and save it for the experts instead. 

Carey Mulligan and Eddie Redmayne as actors 

These are two very talented, but not particularly well known, actors. Both Mulligan and Redmayne tend to star in either critically acclaimed or memoir genre films. These actors are in the middle of indie, art cinema and mainstream  movies. Whilst the BBC tries to bridge the gap between serious and pop culture films, there are a few actors which run a fine line – Naomi Watts could be a prime example of how surreal cinema and the mainstream collide in Mullholland Drive. 

Redmayne: 

First gaining popularity in biographical romantic drama The Theory of Everything, Redmayne  played Stephen Hawking during his early life as a PhD student and young professor. Later, he played Lili in The Danish Girl, another biographical film about the first transsexual woman. Both these films have similar proponents with their themes about complex romantic relationships, and true stories. Having won a BAFTA, Golden Globe and an Oscar, two of which for Best Actor, Redmayne’s charming, posh persona has led him to be a rising star. In future, Redmayne will star in more mainstream movies, but still retaining his eccentric image. 

Mulligan: 

In films such as An Education and Never Let Me Go, Mulligan is typically cast as a teenage schoolgirl due to her youthful appearance. Her reputation as an actor in critically acclaimed films has meant that she has not appeared in any blockbusters. Her initial choice to remain in independent cinema has meant that she perhaps sees film as an art, rather than as commercial product. In Never Let Me Go, her appearance in a novel adaptation set the stage for The Great Gatsby 2013, with a more famous cast, but still under a high  profile industry with Baz Luhrman’s dramatic style. 

What do you think, are Redmayne and Mulligan more serious actors? Or do they just choose unique film genres? Tell me in the comments below! 

Web mania 

Webcomics:

Combining memes with traditional comic books, webcomics are images which illustrate humorous topics in short panels. Whilst traditional graphic novels, comics and and manga are surely kept alive – albeit either help of ebooks – webcomics are easy. Cyanide & Happiness, The Awkward Yeti and Cheer up Emo Kid are just a few artists who are trying the movement.

Webseries: Netflix and YouTube 

YouTube:

The Annoying Orange originally started as a series of mini clips on YouTube in 2009. Because talking fruit with human faces was rare, it was intriguing (which also made the scenes fairly easy to animate). The orange in question was more of a recurring character rather than a central one, because there was no plot. The basic story shops originally set out with videos around a minute and a half with Orange trolling a new fruit or vegetable, before they were cut up in a mock horror movie ending.

Over time, as DaneBo gained more popularity and views, the Annoying Orange gradually expanded with more characters who originally had cameo appearances. In turn, the characters orange met were not just fruit a veg, but other foods too – sometimes even objects like footballs and iPhones. There were even special spoof episodes of Mario, PacMan and Saw.

Eventually, Cartoon Network snapped up The Annoying Orange, and made it into actual TV show. The cast of  characters include Grapefruit, Passionfruit, little apple, marshmallow and Pear.

Twitter: Six words story

This trending movement ¬†involves quote pictures and tweets telling the shortest story possible, in just six words. The short sentences often pack a mighty punch, and can sometimes have a depressing tone. Sometimes, in the comments section of a social media post, commenters write their short replies in response to either a post which says “you’re driving along in the back of a cop car. You turn to your best friend and say….” or to another commenter.

What do you think of the new web medium, has it killed the book? Or is the book dead because it’s old fashioned?