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  Click here to go to the first staff post in this thread.   Thread: The modern arena

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    Didn't try, Succeeded Fay V's Avatar



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    The modern arena

    I've been thinking about this for a while, and intended to post such a thread elsewhere, but considering anyone that would give a half decent answer is now here, let's pump some lifeblood into this forum.

    I am sure we are all well aware of popular shows such as Breaking Bad and Walking dead or the crime and medical dramas of the past years. The crime and medical dramas were funny to me, a look into the dark underbelly of the world in a way. People could see grim murders or tragic injury from the safety of their own home, and it part I never thought about it because it follows the romantic pattern.

    To explain, Romantic literature was not all fluffy clouds and nature is beautiful. Nature was beautiful to these writers but they also paired it with harsh experience...then a bunch of young twats wrote about how nature is beautiful and no one remembers the bad bit. Anyway, there has been a pattern in literature where the people get restless, we begin to write darker more gritty tales that take us back to "nature" in some manner, and then there's a revolution and we get happy again.
    we haven't have a major revolution in a while, blood, guts, and glory are not required, you just see the same themes pop up and the same character types.

    Anyway the point is, seeing something more dramatic on television seemed a fairly natural development.

    Breaking Bad and Walking Dead however were different. (spoilers beyond this point, beware)

    In the past I don't think I noted a show that delved into the darkness, and delved into the darkness of the human mind at the same time. We saw charming personalities deal with murder, or medical catastrophe, with a side order or romance or something, but rarely to the point where there is the question of humanity. The stakes were more in line with, he'll lose faith in his (or her) work and leave the profession. The stakes for Walking Dead and Breaking Bad, the people present are well beyond that point, the characters deal with the psychological struggles of...well falling into the moral black holes.

    The thing is, this isn't just fabricated nonsense and saying "well clearly this is an evil character in a show" these are fairly graphic and interesting depictions of psychology.

    Breaking Bad is fairly obvious. You see the types of people involved in that sort of world and while dramatic, part of the point was to watch as one character fell, hard but slowly, to the point where you would be behind walter white until he did something just so bonkers you'd go "oh...holy shit"

    The less obvious one is Walking Dead. You might say "well, come on, those are zombies. People aren't going to do that" except they do...often. Particularly in the later seasons when you see the governor. That's when they really go out and out with character psychology.
    The governor is actually the reason I am writing this thread.

    You see I once had the displeasure of knowing a psychopath and living with him. I don't say this lightly, I do not mean the man was a dick of greater than usual proportion. I mean that due to damage to his prefrontal cortex at an early age, he lacks the ability to process emotions as fluidly as natural.
    For the sake of this thread I am going to make a definition distinction. A sociopath lacks the ability to process emotion, this does not mean they are inherently bad or will break the law, they just don't react to emotional triggers. A psychopath is one that lacks the ability to process emotion, and acts will malicious intent. I'm defining these because current psychology is mixed on the differences and the distinction is important here.

    I thought he was a sociopath. It was interesting. He was a very manipulative individual whom, like others with his condition, could lie as if it were just taking a breath. It was something I found over time where he would lie and manipulate the situation so that he would be needed. Fortunately for me, I am a fucking ice queen and so his manipulations gained very little, and for the most part things were okay until everything went to hell in a handbasket and he made jokes about the house being burned down as he skipped out on the lease. real bastard of a guy.
    The friend through which I met him was not so lucky, and I will not go into depth on what occurred, but understand he is a manipulative asshole and fucked her up.

    Anyway I tell this because, he is the governor. While watching the show, when we got to that season she could no longer watch because it so clearly held a mirror to her own life. I kept on to see how it would end and the demise, the final rise and flail is the most uncomfortable I have been watching fiction in my entire life. Had I not known he would be dead within the next two episodes I would also have had to stop.

    Upon paying more attention, it's a little stunning how accurate and how dark the psychology of these shows is, and yet how wildly popular they are.

    This got me thinking...why? Why are we insisting on putting such things to paper, on television. Why is the populace eating it up?

    Are we not aware of the horrifying nature of what is happening? Are we aware but want to live vicariously through the danger and the horror from the safety of our homes?

    There is a scene in walking dead, where the people of a town have an arena where they use the living dead as props. It's throwback in part to the gladitorial games and a point was brought up that it made people less afraid, but it is also pointed out that they're foolish to think that.

    I think this is what we're doing. This is the modern arena, in our "evolution" we trading guts and glory for the dark and disturbing nature of the human mind. Rather than watch a man fall to lions we watch him fall to inner demons, and many, the vast demographic audience have never seen this in their lives.

    Are we watching this to taste the horrors that our life thankfully keeps us away from? Are we doing it to feel safer? Or am I over thinking this and people just find terrible shit to be really neat.

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    Premium User FishNChips's Avatar

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    I think the depiction of our "modern arena" is actually a very important development.

    Artmaking and storytelling - in my opinion - has been a wonderful tool for the exploration of all sorts of things. In this case, the darker parts of human psychology, the things that make us human. I think the exploration of what we ignore is what a lot of us really need.

    In fact it's what I'd like to dive into in my own creative work (lel) when possible. I mean, in a lot of modern work, we've always looked at pretty shallow stuff. Good vs evil, family is important, friends are forever, yadda yadda ugh. Popular works with depth are ones with significance IMO.

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    Quote Originally Posted by Fay V View Post
    Are we watching this to taste the horrors that our life thankfully keeps us away from? Are we doing it to feel safer? Or am I over thinking this and people just find terrible shit to be really neat.
    I think those three reasons are divided out amongst the viewing audience.

    My wife is big into her Breaking Bad, Walking Dead and Sons of Anarchy...I don't really enjoy them anymore. All the drama and bad stuff happening to characters I like again and again. I used to watch grim shows like Cracker and the dark humor of Sopranos...but lately I find my escape more in fun stuff.

    I still enjoy violence though, but I prefer to see it being inflicted on people who deserve it or have it coming. I guess for me it has to do with all the stuff that happens in my country as well as being involved in law enforcement in the past, but its all very personal, cos those shows are damn popular with people here too.

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    Senior Vae's Avatar
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    Eh. I've been fascinated by the "darker" aspects of life that I've both personally experienced, and have not. It doesn't make me uncomfortable, even if it strikes really close to home, because I can accept that these wildly fucked up things go on. It's just one of those rules about the world we live in, and I'm not particularly fond of living in escapism or trying to mask the things from myself that I already know.

    I think themes like this are refreshing, when a lot of stuff that I grew up on in my younger days were far too saccharine and eager to shield to even say things like the word "die."
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    Premium User FishNChips's Avatar

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    Quote Originally Posted by Vae View Post
    eager to shield to even say things like the word "die."
    "Hamburger time."

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    Retired Staff Frank LeRenard's Avatar
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    Quote Originally Posted by Gibby View Post
    Popular works with depth are ones with significance IMO.
    The bolded thing is kind of where I'm coming from on this issue. I don't know all the cycles of human thought in the past, but I do know at least a few generations back, when things like Leave It To Beaver and The Andy Griffith Show were the most popular things on television. Those shows are now considered incredibly naive and corny, juvenile to some extent.

    Now, granted, those shows are incredibly simplistic, but even if you think about famous works like Oliver Twist, a lot of old things relied heavily on very simplified portrayals of people, archetypes, people as symbols, things like that. I guess what I'm wondering is, since there's only so much of the human condition you can explore by comparing blacks and whites, maybe we're now just moving on to start looking at the greys?

    It's kind of a natural progression: if you look at old scientific papers, for example, and compare them to new ones, the old papers are far simpler to read and understand, make a lot more simplifying assumptions, rely a lot more on the old standards to make their points. They were just looking for the general principles governing general phenomena. New papers are all about giant computer simulations that can be examined from any angle in any parameter space you want so that you can examine all the nitty gritty details of the more fundamental concepts that have already been explored. So I can't help but compare the two things in my mind and wonder if, so far as art and culture are concerned, it's not just a matter of people trying to get into the more complex and involved nature of things, now that all the broad brushstrokes have been made.

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    Didn't try, Succeeded Fay V's Avatar



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    Quote Originally Posted by Frank LeRenard View Post
    The bolded thing is kind of where I'm coming from on this issue. I don't know all the cycles of human thought in the past, but I do know at least a few generations back, when things like Leave It To Beaver and The Andy Griffith Show were the most popular things on television. Those shows are now considered incredibly naive and corny, juvenile to some extent.

    Now, granted, those shows are incredibly simplistic, but even if you think about famous works like Oliver Twist, a lot of old things relied heavily on very simplified portrayals of people, archetypes, people as symbols, things like that. I guess what I'm wondering is, since there's only so much of the human condition you can explore by comparing blacks and whites, maybe we're now just moving on to start looking at the greys?

    It's kind of a natural progression: if you look at old scientific papers, for example, and compare them to new ones, the old papers are far simpler to read and understand, make a lot more simplifying assumptions, rely a lot more on the old standards to make their points. They were just looking for the general principles governing general phenomena. New papers are all about giant computer simulations that can be examined from any angle in any parameter space you want so that you can examine all the nitty gritty details of the more fundamental concepts that have already been explored. So I can't help but compare the two things in my mind and wonder if, so far as art and culture are concerned, it's not just a matter of people trying to get into the more complex and involved nature of things, now that all the broad brushstrokes have been made.
    I could see that. I think in part our medium has reached a point where we can do that. In the past there isn't a lot you can explore in 2 hours or 30 minutes a week. With the first, you have to rely on archetypes and symbols because ain't nobody got time for that. The closest I could think of as a comparison would be the epic poems, beowulf, homer, sigurd, etc. They don't explore the human psyche as much clearly, though they approach different cultural values. Beowulf and the odyssey do some work, but not like this modern extent.

    Anyway with the second, the 30 min show, you can't go too far into depth because, people would just forget. Psychology is in the details quite a bit. Look at the incredible detail applied to breaking bad that gets overlooked to come extent until you get the chance to marathon it. having a lot more air time, 1 hour now for these shows, and the ability to stream, marathon, and just enjoy in larger portions gives the time to explore something in depth and bring it closer to the practice of novels which is the other thing that deeply explores psychology in its own ways.

    I don't think it's so much that everything has been done, otherwise there would be nothing. The stuff here is not new. Novels have accomplished this for ages you just need to find the one intent on doing that (breaking bad and walking dead both specifically take a lens to the human mind). Comic books are also a medium that explored it, after all walking dead was a comic book, which much more clearly is focused on the people and how they deal with the end of the world. You also have the quintessential Watchmen that takes a harsh turn for comic book heroes and really plays and how broken and fucked up they would become.

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    Remember tales in literature had very dark roots to begin with. Whether they were done to be moral/religious teachings or just good stories to scare the kids with in the great world of the unknown. Television in certain time frames had certain regulations so you'd see how shows evolved once certain restrictions were revisited. Mot of the reason they probably didn't delve into psychology unless it's something like Edgar Allan Poe into prior or more ancient literature can be some of the following reasons -

    1. The text language is old so some of the nuance may be lost
    2. It was mostly survival so we had less free time to think about ourselves psychologically.



    Breaking Bad is good with how it ran. I'm glad it ended the way it did, where on the other hand the entertainment of Walking Dead not so much. It's not that I can't deal with terrible things happening to various people - it's that the writing never felt consistent and a few gems here and there, were sprinkled with spaghetti that was thrown on the wall.

    Game of Thrones is another one I highly enjoy watching because you can understand various motivations of characters and one day you can hate what a character does, and later enjoy them.

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    Well, if you look at some older cultures you can see that our stories have always been this way. Look into the stories that were made in Celtic lands, they are something else. I am told that French Horror is very different from American Horror. You see, in American Horror there is that scrap of hope throughout the film and the protagonist eventually succeeds. French Horror more commonly destroys every single scrap of hope before killing the protagonist. Or so I have heard.

    Even so recent as early to mid-1900's America had a different tone. I've been looking back at some media recently and found myself surprised to see how morbid we Americans used to be, before the pillow of Happy-Good-Times started smothering.

    If you ask me, it has a lot more to do with very smart people in charge realizing that something that appears to backlash on the No Bad Feelings circus tent we have here will draw in a lot of attention. To me, it looks like they're (Shows like Breaking Bad, Walking Dead, and especially Game of Thrones) using a similar approach South Park used to reach the heights it did.

    I find myself not terribly interested in these kinds of stories because I don't particularly care for writers that smack down their characters incessantly, just as I've put down a book before over nothing but good things happening to the character endlessly for chapters on end.

    It's kind of like how Rowling killed Harry's owl; Was that really necessary?

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    I think the tone of popular media largely follows the attitudes of the time periods in which they were created. Stuff like Leave It To Beaver wasn't childishly idyllic just because the medium was young, but because it was in the middle of the postwar economic boom, and the looming threat of the Cold War compelled people to sweep the problems that persisted under the rug and pretend they didn't exist.

    What I feel the current trend says about our culture is that the onset of the Information Age has immersed us in a greater awareness of the character of the people around us, as well as that of our public figures, both past and present. We know more about other people than ever, both good and bad, and it's challenging our previous cultural notions of people that are inherently good or bad, heroes or villains. Our media is now exploring the idea of what makes people we otherwise like do bad things.
         
       
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