Handle with Care: Representing Chinese Factory Workers

Penny Wang | June 11, 2018
Stories about the miseries of Chinese factory workers have been regarded in the West as welcome gestures against the dehumanising globalised market economy to which China has submitted itself. These expository accounts have been applauded as signs of critical reflections against the silence imposed by the Chinese government—a government the Western media label as authoritarian and indifferent to the lower-income populations victimised by its profit-oriented policies. Much as I appreciate the necessity of such exposés, either through reports or slightly fictionalised accounts, I usually find these narratives deeply problematic. Taking an event I recently attended as an example—a screening of the short film Before Christmas directed by Chuyao He on 11 May at Edinburgh Printmakers (part of the Edinburgh Short Film Festival), I would like to examine exactly what is wrong with these representations.

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Their Unrelenting Eyes: I Feel Pretty and the Entrapment of Narcissism

Nadia Ahmed | June 4, 2018
Addressing the lives of women, particularly white, heterosexual, cisgender, American women, is the film I Feel Pretty, which came out last month. What struck me upon watching this film was that the main character’s sense of self compares so closely to the narcissistic woman described in Simone de Beauvoir’s work The Second Sex (1949).  This article is concerned with drawing parallels between I Feel Pretty and The Second Sex in order to question the transcendence of the protagonist, Renee (played by Amy Schumer), who, bored and unsatisfied with her life, inculcates herself into a state of self-obsession.

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Philip Roth’s The Plot Against America and the Recurring History

Sini Eikonsalo | May 31, 2018
Philip Roth, a canonical American writer, died recently at the age of 85, leaving behind a vast array of novels, the most popular probably being his Pulitzer-winning American Pastoral (1997). However, it is The Plot Against America (2004) that has been in the public interest for the past couple of years and now with the news of Roth’s death.

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Models of Capitalist Subversion: Hip Hop or Rock?

Tomas Vergara | May 30, 2018

On the 5th of May of 2018 Gibson, one of the most emblematic guitar manufacturers, announced bankruptcy. An interesting aspect of this event, beyond its economic repercussions on the music industry, is its cultural significance. It marks the decline of rock and guitar-based music, once the dominant musical genre. Gibson’s bankruptcy opens several symptomatic questions concerning the role of music in contemporary capitalist culture: What does this shift in musical taste reflect about the dynamics of capitalist culture? Does it signal the emergence of new ideological apparatuses no longer compatible with rock music? 

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A “Bittle” Love

Christa M. Burgin | May 1, 2018
For those of you who haven’t seen Love, Simon, there are numerous reasons why you should, most important of which is this: Simon, as we’re told early on, is just like you. He has a normal life with the exception of “one huge-ass secret.”1 In fact, this secret is so large that Simon doesn’t reveal he’s gay until he begins emailing “Blue,” a fellow student at his high school. Complications arise when another student reads Simon’s messages on one of the school computers. As a result, Simon is blackmailed into helping his classmate win over a girl in order to protect his identity.

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The Mary Beard Effect: A Brief Review of ‘Women & Power’

Mary A. Pura | April 12, 2018
If you’ve been wandering through Blackwell’s and Waterstone’s lately, you’ve probably noticed the beautifully arranged and aesthetically pleasing displays featuring popular female authors. Partly inspired by a surge in public attention to the #MeToo Movement, there has been an outpouring of new and old literature addressing women’s equality. Amidst the heaping piles, you’ve likely caught sight of the shining silver and gold design adorning Mary Beard’s new publication, Women & Power: A Manifesto. Over the past twenty years, Beard has become a kind of celebrity academic. You may recall an incident back in 2012 consisting of public outrage towards the late AA Gill regarding his statement that Beard was “too ugly for television.” Her response placed her among the feminist gods:

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Rethinking Celtic Medieval Tales: The Worlds of Sarah J. Maas

Sonia Garcia de Alba | April 11, 2018
I have met many adults who confess to reading Young Adult novels for fun. While we may be willing to admit that we use them to disengage from our routines or to while away time, we should question whether such entertainment is the sum of these texts. Some of these books, like the novels of Sarah J. Maas, prompt us to explore and learn about other things, like the fairy tale tradition and Celtic folklore.

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Stories Worth Telling: Black Panther and the Rise of Diversity in Popular Culture

Patricia Ng | March 28, 2018
No matter what you say about the Marvel cinematic franchise, they are making some bold moves. Rather than simply making films about popular superheroes, they have now moved on to lesser-known characters, especially those belonging to minority groups. The newly released Black Panther is certainly one of their best examples. Featuring T’Challa (Black Panther), the king of the fictional African nation Wakanda, as the lead, the film can be seen as yet another attempt to diversify the entertainment industry. In recent years, Hollywood has been producing more and more movies with female leads and a culturally diverse cast, like the upcoming female spin-off of Ocean’s Eleven and the multi-ethnic cast in the new Star Wars reboot films. There is nothing wrong with creating films that don’t have white male leads, and we should welcome narratives that promote diversity. Yet, with the rise of such a trend in popular culture, one has to question what it means for a diverse narrative to be good.

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Fantastic Catharsis and Where to Find It

Laurie Beckoff | March 27, 2018
Fantasy, science fiction, and other speculative genres are often pejoratively labelled ‘escapist’, accused of being too distant from real-world issues and allowing audiences to dissociate from reality to indulge in daydreams. They let us forget about the problems plaguing our society so that we can enjoy an action-packed adventure or a whimsical jaunt through a magical land.

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Fever Ray’s Monster

Madison Pollack | March 13, 2018
There is a latent threat behind each frame of Fever Ray’s video for “To The Moon And Back:” the setting is a large abandoned building whose sparsely placed neon tubes compensate for a lack of overhead lighting. We find our protagonist encased in glass, and she is a fright to behold; her face looks to have been recently carved into, with red encircling her mouth and eyes; her skin is an inhuman shade of white, and she jolts to life surrounded by smoke in a series of twitchy, cross-eyed frames. She is Fever Ray’s Monster in the tradition of Dr. Frankenstein and his unnatural creation. Both come to life alone, abandoned by their creators, hideous in their appearance. Both wander into the dark, lacking any preparation for the world they’ve been born into, not knowing what to expect.

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