Death of the Critic

Criticism

Tokenism

Written by: Tom Blaich

As a follow-up to our discussion on the Noble Savage, I wanted to take the time to talk about the delicate issue of tokenism in contemporary media or literature. Put simply, Tokenism is the idea of diversity being included for show, of including minority characters in minor roles such that a single minority character has to represent the entirety of their group.

In less malicious contexts, this can take the shape of something that you might see on a brochure, a “multicultural” group of people that are diverse in appearance only. These characters are not allowed to express themselves in a way that would significantly differentiate them from the norm (read: white and straight). It is a way for studios to brag about embracing diversity without actually doing anything of substance.
Read More…
Comments

Male Gaze

Written by: Tom Blaich

When we talk about the depiction of sex and sexuality, frequently the idea of the “Male Gaze” comes up, mostly in regard to female characters and their depiction. At its heart, it’s a rather simple concept, but it can reveal a lot about the intended audience of a piece and of who made it. The Male Gaze is how a scene is portrayed specifically to be attractive to a heterosexual, male audience. It’s designed to appeal to men, and it is evidenced through the difference in depictions of straight male characters, straight female characters, and lesbian female characters and their relationships in media.
Read More…
Comments

The Noble Savage

Written by: Tom Blaich

As a follow-up to our discussion on “
The Other”, let’s look at a more idealized version of the same concept that is popular within literature, books, movies, and games to this day. The Noble Savage is the audience’s idea of an outsider. It is the romanticized depiction of a character untouched by the ills of modern society. They embody the traits that we idealize while at the same time being utterly foreign to us. Read More…
Comments

The Other

Written by: Tom Blaich

We’ve talked about the Other and bothering before, but it is a topic that deserves further examination. The Other is all about setting up the relationship within a story, about creating conflict and division. And it can be used in multiple different ways. It is a rather simple idea as well. The other is different. They don’t belong. They are strange and don’t fit in for some reason. It could be any number of things: their race, gender, sexuality, nationality, religion, class, species. Anything that differentiates them from the norm as defined by the story and it’s protagonists.
Read More…
Comments

The Tragic Hero

Written by: Tom Blaich

When we are looking at the construction of a character, it can help to understand some of the basic archetypes that many authors pull from. We recently talked about Shakespeare as a cultural touchstone, and if we look at many of his plays, we can find evidence of a “tragic hero”. The tragic hero is an age old character archetype describes by Aristotle as:

“A man not pre-eminently virtuous and just whose misfortune, however, is brought upon him not by vice and depravity but by some error of judgement, of the number of those in the enjoyment of great reputation and prosperity; e.g. Oedipus, Thyestes, and the men of similar families. The perfect Plot, accordingly, must have a single, and not (as some tell us) a double issue; the change in the hero’s fortunes must be not from misery to happiness, but on the contrary from happiness to misery; and the cause of it must lie not in any depravity, but in some great error on his part; the man himself being either such as we have described, or better, not worse, than that.” (The Aristotelian Concept of the Tragic Hero) Read More…
Comments

Explication – Holy Sonnet #10

Written by: Tom Blaich


Death, be not proud, though some have called thee
Mighty and dreadful, for thou are not so;
For those whom thou think’st thou dost overthrow
Die not, poor Death, nor yet canst thou kill me.
From rest and sleep, which but thy pictures be,
Much pleasure; then from thee much more must flow,
And soonest our best men with thee do go,
Rest of their bones, and soul’s delivery.
Thou’art slave to fate, chance, kings, and desperate men,
And dost with poison, war, and sickness dwell,
And poppy’or charms can make us sleep as well
And better than thy stroke; why swell’st thou then?
One short sleep past, we wake eternally,
And death shall be no more; Death, thou shalt die.

Explication is one of the simplest ways that we can analyze a piece. Put simply, it is a close reading, a deep look into a text to see what surfaces. This can take on a number of different forms, depending on the media that is being analyzed, from a line by line reading of a poem or song (like the one that we are going to be looking at today), to detailed character analyses from a movie or book, to an examination of a particular chapter or section (like our ongoing
Anatomy of a Film) series. Today we are going to look at John Donne’s Holy Sonnet #10 and the themes of death and afterlife that it contains. Read More…
Comments

Postmoderist Theory

Written by: Tom Blaich

As this site moves forward and we begin to introduce more complex topics it will become useful for us to give a primer in some of the themes and ideas that we are talking about. We've done a little bit of this already, but we will be digging in a little deeper into the topics in question. Death of the Critic is, at its heart, a critical website where we try to take a deeper look at different aspects of media. From movies to games to music and more, we aim to enhance the discussion around media in order to deepen our knowledge and understanding.

Let’s talk about schools of theory. When we critique, frequently we do so through a specific lens. Works can have a lot of meaning hidden deep within them, and if we aimed to fully analyze a book, movie, or game, we could easily fill an entire book. So we use these schools of theory as a way to focus in on one particular area of a work. This helps us hone in on a specific idea and expand upon it more fully than if we had tried to do a very broad reading. By centering on one aspect, the analysis becomes more clear and focused.

Postmodernist Theory is much different than anything else that we have looked at so far. We looked at Structuralism a few weeks back, and its take on literature, where order and form are tantamount to meaning. In comparison to Structuralism’s structure, Postmodernism is anarchy. Postmodernism is all about breaking down certainties, things that many texts follow. It is about the rejection of form instead of its strict adherence to it.

Postmodernist theory is again an offspring of a broader school of thought, Postmodernism, which also contains the idea of “Poststructuralism”. As theorists and authors moved through the 20th century, they began to reject and question the ideas behind Structuralism and modernism, moving expressly in the opposite direction, seeing what meaning could be derived by a work explicitly moving away from pre-established forms, narratives, ideas, and archetypes. They questioned why authors felt the need to follow these forms and what structures might be in place to perpetuate these ideas through literatures.

You can see Postmodernism used with Structuralist Theory. What it means when a text adheres to an established narrative as versus when it breaks free. Why a work chooses to follow some rules and not others. To Postmodernist critics, there is no one “Truth”, and indeed, the pursuit of a singular truth is a fallacy in and of itself. The truth is different for every culture and person, shaped by individual ideas and social experiences across the globe. It looks at the experiences of the “other” and how they are cast aside in favor of the “normal”.

There are broad power structures interested in maintaining the status quo through these forms and archetypes. Why are Christ-like figures so prevalent in media, and why are characters with these virtues universally considered good, even when a large number of creators and members of the audience are not Christian? Why are Middle Eastern countries always the aggressors in action movies? Why are many of our superheroes uber-rich?

Postmodernism questions the use of form in the exact opposite way that Structuralism does. Structuralism looks at form in a positive light, bringing order to chaos and providing an intrinsic meaning to a work through its inclusion. Postmodernism sees it as imposing unnatural order on natural chaos in an attempt to make works conform to the “norm”. It questions why a work chooses to follow along with the formula and what it means by breaking it.

Further Reading:
The Death of the Author - Roland Barthes
The Foucault Reader - Michel Foucault
Complexity and Postmodernism - Paul Cilliers

____________________________________________
Tommy_Tom

Tom has been writing about media since he was a senior in high school. He likes long walks on the beach, dark liquor, and when characters reload guns in action movies.



You Might Also Like:
Schools of Theory

What is Criticism?

The Hero's Journey
_____________________________________________

Comments

Post-Colonial Theory

Written by: Tom Blaich

As this site moves forward and we begin to introduce more complex topics it will become useful for us to give a primer in some of the themes and ideas that we are talking about. We've done a little bit of this already, but we will be digging in a little deeper into the topics in question. Death of the Critic is, at its heart, a critical website where we try to take a deeper look at different aspects of media. From movies to games to music and more, we aim to enhance the discussion around media in order to deepen our knowledge and understanding.

Let’s talk about schools of theory. When we critique, frequently we do so through a specific lens. Works can have a lot of meaning hidden deep within them, and if we aimed to fully analyze a book, movie, or game, we could easily fill an entire book. So we use these schools of theory as a way to focus in on one particular area of a work. This helps us hone in on a specific idea and expand upon it more fully than if we had tried to do a very broad reading. By centering on one aspect, the analysis becomes more clear and focused. Read More…
Comments

Marxist Theory

Written by: Tom Blaich

As this site moves forward and we begin to introduce more complex topics it will become useful for us to give a primer in some of the themes and ideas that we are talking about. We've done a little bit of this already, but we will be digging in a little deeper into the topics in question. Death of the Critic is, at its heart, a critical website where we try to take a deeper look at different aspects of media. From movies to games to music and more, we aim to enhance the discussion around media in order to deepen our knowledge and understanding.

Let’s talk about schools of theory. When we critique, frequently we do so through a specific lens. Works can have a lot of meaning hidden deep within them, and if we aimed to fully analyze a book, movie, or game, we could easily fill an entire book. So we use these schools of theory as a way to focus in on one particular area of a work. This helps us hone in on a specific idea and expand upon it more fully than if we had tried to do a very broad reading. By centering on one aspect, the analysis becomes more clear and focused. Read More…
Comments

Gender Theory

Written by: Tom Blaich

As this site moves forward and we begin to introduce more complex topics it will become useful for us to give a primer in some of the themes and ideas that we are talking about. We've done a little bit of this already, but we will be digging in a little deeper into the topics in question. Death of the Critic is, at its heart, a critical website where we try to take a deeper look at different aspects of media. From movies to games to music and more, we aim to enhance the discussion around media in order to deepen our knowledge and understanding.

Let’s talk about schools of theory. When we critique, frequently we do so through a specific lens. Works can have a lot of meaning hidden deep within them, and if we aimed to fully analyze a book, movie, or game, we could easily fill an entire book. So we use these schools of theory as a way to focus in on one particular area of a work. This helps us hone in on a specific idea and expand upon it more fully than if we had tried to do a very broad reading. By centering on one aspect, the analysis becomes more clear and focused. Read More…
Comments

Queer Theory

Written by: Tom Blaich

As this site moves forward and we begin to introduce more complex topics it will become useful for us to give a primer in some of the themes and ideas that we are talking about. We've done a little bit of this already, but we will be digging in a little deeper into the topics in question. Death of the Critic is, at its heart, a critical website where we try to take a deeper look at different aspects of media. From movies to games to music and more, we aim to enhance the discussion around media in order to deepen our knowledge and understanding.

Let’s talk about schools of theory. When we critique, frequently we do so through a specific lens. Works can have a lot of meaning hidden deep within them, and if we aimed to fully analyze a book, movie, or game, we could easily fill an entire book. So we use these schools of theory as a way to focus in on one particular area of a work. This helps us hone in on a specific idea and expand upon it more fully than if we had tried to do a very broad reading. By centering on one aspect, the analysis becomes more clear and focused.
Read More…
Comments

Structuralism

Written by: Tom Blaich

As this site moves forward and we begin to introduce more complex topics it will become useful for us to give a primer in some of the themes and ideas that we are talking about. We've done a little bit of this already, but we will be digging in a little deeper into the topics in question. Death of the Critic is, at its heart, a critical website where we try to take a deeper look at different aspects of media. From movies to games to music and more, we aim to enhance the discussion around media in order to deepen our knowledge and understanding.

Let’s talk about schools of theory. When we critique, frequently we do so through a specific lens. Works can have a lot of meaning hidden deep within them, and if we aimed to fully analyze a book, movie, or game, we could easily fill an entire book. So we use these schools of theory as a way to focus in on one particular area of a work. This helps us hone in on a specific idea and expand upon it more fully than if we had tried to do a very broad reading. By centering on one aspect, the analysis becomes more clear and focused. Read More…
Comments

New Historicism

Written by: Tom Blaich

As this site moves forward and we begin to introduce more complex topics it will become useful for us to give a primer in some of the themes and ideas that we are talking about. We've done a little bit of this already, but we will be digging in a little deeper into the topics in question. Death of the Critic is, at its heart, a critical website where we try to take a deeper look at different aspects of media. From movies to games to music and more, we aim to enhance the discussion around media in order to deepen our knowledge and understanding.

Let’s talk about schools of theory. When we critique, frequently we do so through a specific lens. Works can have a lot of meaning hidden deep within them, and if we aimed to fully analyze a book, movie, or game, we could easily fill an entire book. So we use these schools of theory as a way to focus in on one particular area of a work. This helps us hone in on a specific idea and expand upon it more fully than if we had tried to do a very broad reading. By centering on one aspect, the analysis becomes more clear and focused. Read More…
Comments

New Criticism

Written by: Tom Blaich

As this site moves forward and we begin to introduce more complex topics it will become useful for us to give a primer in some of the themes and ideas that we are talking about. We've done a little bit of this already, but we will be digging in a little deeper into the topics in question. Death of the Critic is, at its heart, a critical website where we try to take a deeper look at different aspects of media. From movies to games to music and more, we aim to enhance the discussion around media in order to deepen our knowledge and understanding.

Let’s talk about
schools of theory. When we critique, frequently we do so through a specific lens. Works can have a lot of meaning hidden deep within them, and if we aimed to fully analyze a book, movie, or game, we could easily fill an entire book. So we use these schools of theory as a way to focus in on one particular area of a work. This helps us hone in on a specific idea and expand upon it more fully than if we had tried to do a very broad reading. By centering on one aspect, the analysis becomes more clear and focused. Read More…
Comments

Schools of Theory

Written by: Tom Blaich

As this site moves forward and we begin to introduce more complex topics it will become useful for us to give a primer in some of the themes and ideas that we are talking about. We've done a little bit of this already, but starting this week we will be digging in a little deeper into the topics in question. Death of the Critic is, at its heart, a critical website where we try to take a deeper look at different aspects of media. From movies to games to music and more, we aim to enhance the discussion around media in order to deepen our knowledge and understanding.


Let’s talk about schools of theory. When we critique, frequently we do so through a specific lens. Works can have a lot of meaning hidden deep within them, and if we aimed to fully analyze a book, movie, or game, we could easily fill an entire book. So we use these schools of theory as a way to focus in on one particular area of a work. This helps us hone in on a specific idea and expand upon it more fully than if we had tried to do a very broad reading. By centering on one aspect, the analysis becomes more clear and focused. Read More…
Comments

What is Criticism?

Written by: Tom Blaich

As this site moves forward and we begin to introduce more complex topics it will become useful for us to give a primer in some of the themes and ideas that we are talking about. We've done a little bit of this already, but starting this week we will be digging in a little deeper into the topics in question. Death of the Critic is, at its heart, a critical website where we try to take a deeper look at different aspects of media. From movies to games to music and more, we aim to enhance the discussion around media in order to deepen our knowledge and understanding.


This begs the question: What exactly is criticism? Read More…
Comments

The Hero's Journey

Written by: Tom Blaich

We try to give our audience as strong of a background in the themes and ideas that we talk about in our essays. As we look at media of all types, we can see so many common themes that run through our canon, our comprehensive body of work. The more media that you start to consume, the more common threads that you will begin to notice. Perhaps the most common is that of the "Hero's Journey". In essence, the Hero's Journey is a quest that a main character goes through to undergo some kind of personal growth. Harboring deep ties to Arthurian legend, you can see the same set of plot points and character archetypes instilled in so many of the stories that we tell.


You have your main character. Maybe they are a noble knight, or a chosen warrior, or some kid who doesn't quite know their place in the world. They have a specific goal: conquering a dungeon, defeating a dragon, or just talking to a pretty girl in gym class. All along the way they are faced with challenges that stimulate the growth of the character not only in strength of body, but also of character. It is the classic coming of age tale that is told in so many ways by so many different people. Read More…
Comments

The Christ Figure

Written by: Tom Blaich

When discussing criticism, there are a few things that deserve your attention. Usually drawn from our broad cultural touchstones they are themes that we can all easily recognize and understand, even if we aren’t conscious that we are doing it. Shakespearean tales and biblical stories have seeped into many facets of our literature and they aren’t far away in most of our media.

Especially the Christ figure. If we want our hero to be good, just, kind, and honest, then who better to compare them to than the man himself, Jesus Christ. It seems like you can’t watch a movie without tripping over someone who is supposed to remind us of Jesus. From the obvious, like Neo and Superman, to the more subtle, like Optimus Prime, Harry Potter, and Aragorn. But what makes a figure Christ-like? And why do writers choose to do it so often? Read More…
Comments