What They Do in the Shadows is Basically What We Do, Too

Whatever I had been expecting from vampire mockumentary What We Do in the Shadows, it wasn’t what I got in the end. And I mean that in the best possible way. Where to start? With plot, I suppose, though that may be the least interesting part about this film. What We Do in the Shadows follows a film … Read more

The Daily Routines of Famous Creative People

One of my New Year’s resolutions is to write more. As part of my effort to blog more regularly, and to produce written work more consistently in general, I’ve been trying to develop a daily routine that isn’t too constricting, but that does get me working on the things I should be doing. Creative and constructive. Clearly I’m not the only who has this struggle, and in that spirit I’d like to share this awesome interactive infographic on the daily routines of famous creative types, based on ‘Daily Rituals‘ by Mason Currey:

 


(via Podio)

If you click through to Podio’s website you can see even more details, like what exactly that exercise or food break consisted of.

When It’s Bad to Think About Flying

This post was originally written on 11 November, 2014. I’ve flown a lot in my life, and at the moment I’m in an airplane at least every other week – generally from Cardiff or Bristol to Amsterdam and back again. I’m in an airplane right now. I’ve never had a fear of flying, but the more … Read more

Here Be Dragons: Why It’s Good to Identify With the Monster

Happy New Year! Hopefully 2015 will bring as many changes, challenges, stories, and monsters as 2014.

Sadly there is one thing that won’t be returning in the new year. After nine seasons on television, The Colbert Report, starring the satirical right-wing persona Stephen Colbert, ended on December 18, 2014. Multiple articles have talked about the political mark Colbert has left on television and on the USA, but today I’m interested in something a little less “real-world”.  In addition to his interest in politics, Stephen Colbert is a huge nerd.

During the penultimate week of the show Colbert had a special guest star: Smaug from The Hobbit. Smaug came to promote the third and final Hobbit film, The Battle of the Five Armies, which hit cinemas in December. You can watch the interview on Colbert’s website, or here via YouTube:

Not only do I find this interview hilarious, particularly with its references Sherlock actors Benedict Cumberbatch (who also voices Smaug in the film adaptations of The Hobbit) and Martin Freeman (who plays Bilbo Baggins), and its caricature of Smaug as a Republican one-percenter – I’m also hoping it represents a continuing trend of glorifying the monster. Over the last few decades there’s been a marked increase in the number of stories told by the bad guy. Culture blog i09.com even had a recent post asking people to list their favourite re-tellings of stories from the villain’s perspective. There are any number of reasons why we find monsters and antiheroes fascinating, and recent pop culture has seen the development of enticingly multi-layered villains, but to be honest, I’m interested in stories that play with monsters in this way for another reason.

When we get right down to it, sympathising with the monsters gives us great practice in humanising people we might otherwise hate. By thinking at length about the reasons that people have for doing strange or terrible things, and imagining what those reasons might be creates empathy. Every single one of us, knowingly or unwittingly, has a group of people that we demonise. Sometimes the hatred that we feel towards these people is earned, but more often our vilification of them is linked to processes of which we are largely unaware. We dehumanise them so we don’t have to feel bad about hating or harming them, and so we can feel better about ourselves. While there are also negative sides to such empathy, in the best of cases, sympathising with the bad guy trains us to think before we assume. Who can ever think the same way about evil henchmen again once they’ve watched the scene below, from Austin Powers: International Man of Mystery (1997)?

What would the world be like if we imagined a similar story for every person we hated or considered to be monstrous?

Of Apes and Angels

“Humans need fantasy to be human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape.” –Terry Pratchett, Hogfather (London: Corgi, 1997), p. 422 This blog has recently undergone a move from WordPress.com to a real domain, as well as a re-design that includes a new name – something more vivid and less technical than ‘Neo-Historical … Read more

Well and Unwell: The Body in the Nineteenth Century (possibly NSFW)

Last week Thursday I flew from Cardiff back to the Netherlands, where I’ll be whiling away the holidays with my partner. It’s not all oliebollen and ice skating, though. I am determined that there will be at least some thesis work conducted during this break. On Friday (the day after I arrived) I made a trip into Amsterdam … Read more

Happy Birthday Jane Austen!

Today marks the very first Jane Austen Day – which would also be the author’s 239th birthday were she still alive. While a lot of websites have been celebrating by listing 30 tips from Jane Austen for a successful life (“The person, be it gentleman or lady, who has not pleasure in a good novel, must be … Read more

New to the Reading List (11/12/2014)

The second round of the books I ordered from the library have now arrived, and two of them were in hardcover no less. Not something you see every day, and certainly not in the “popular fiction” realm of theory, which tends to be relegated to trade paperback – not too shabby, but not quite as … Read more

New to the Reading List (05/12/2014)

In this initial phase of my full-time PhD research I’ve been doing a lot of reading. Fortunately Cardiff University’s library has a massive selection of books in my field, specifically on the Gothic and on neo-Victorian fiction. They were missing a handful of books that I really felt I needed, so about a month ago … Read more