The Cutprice Guignol

The Sixth Year: American Sigh Story

Category: Discussion

In Passionate Defense of Fanfiction

Look, fanfiction gets a bad rap, and I get it. I get that most people think of the iconic Ebony Demenita Dark’ness Raven Way I get that maybe they even looked up, to their great regret, that one story about the giant squid having sex with Hogwarts castle. I get that, well, Fifty Shades of Grey happened because of fanfiction. But I’m here to make a defense of fanfiction, and you’re here to read it and then maybe do your own alt-universe slashfic take on it where this article has soft, tender sex with this article? Fanfiction is so rich, guys, I’m telling you.

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How to Handle Life (And Your Own Mental Health) When Your Partner is in a Psych Ward

(trigger warning for discussions of suicide, hospitalisation)

In March of this year, at about eleven in the evening, I sat down on the edge of my bed. My partner, of six years, who I had met in the smoking area one Halloween when he was dressed as the wrong Doctor from Doctor Who and I just had to pass comment on it, had just voluntarily left our shared home to go to hospital for a psychiatric evaluation after a suicide attempt. From there, he would be committed to a mental ward, where he would stay for the next month (note: would it be funnier if I had titled this article “in the month of madness”?).

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What a Rapist Looks Like

(trigger warning for discussion of rape and sexual assault)

What does a rapist look like?

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Where Black Mirror Went Wrong

Black Mirror. You want to talk about Black Mirror? I’d love to talk about Black Mirror. I’d love to talk about the odd, patchy season that came before this one. I’d love to talk about the weird, unsettling experiment of Bandersnatch. And most of all, I’d like to talk about why this latest season, out last month, feels like such a downturn for a show which has so often held such a huge place in the cultural zeitgeist.

The problem with shows like Black Mirror is that they rely on an outside perspective on the aspects of society that they’re critiquing. When Black Mirror started out, back in 2011, it felt like a genuinely anarchic and even important take on where technology was taking us. Paranoia and fear about technology and social media was only just starting to really bloom, and Charlie Brooker, with his esteemed eye for pop cultural batshittery, was the perfect choice to explore it in a narrative sense.

But how can you sustain that sense of acerbic outsider-dom when you are firmly inside the system? When Black Mirror shifted to Netflix, and when it started working with Youtube personalities, and when it embraced the involvement of huge pop culture figures like Miley Cyrus and the like, it couldn’t hold on to this sense of being on the outside, looking in, and providing all the cogent commentary you would expect from someone holding that position. Other shows have suffered similair fates over the years; The Simpsons worked as a sharp-tongued critic of other pop culture, but after it became so thoroughly absorbed into the very fabric of what made up the modern media landscape, it just had to resort to sending the family on trips to Brazil and Japan for want of a better idea.

When Charlie Brooker gave up writing his legendary Screen Burn columns in the Guardian, he credited some of that decision to becoming part of the industry that he was trying to critique.  His reasoning is pretty unarguable: you can’t poke holes an industry that you have become so deeply entrenched in. As Black Mirror uses modern technology and media to push itself forward, attempts to critique the same become more and more shallow. I mean, I saw Anthony Mackie, star of one of the this season’s episodes, in a Marvel movie just a couple of months ago – unarguably the biggest deal in storytelling since Game of Thones ended. The presence of his celebrity (and the celebrity of so many who have been attached to recent seasons, like Miley Cyrus, Jodie Foster, Bryce Dallas Howard, Letitia Wright, et al) sort of blunts everything the show is trying to achieve. As the show expands to swallow up great swathes of popular culture, it can’t stand outside it comfortably any longer without ringing with some abject hollowness.

And that’s why this season, for me, just doesn’t work. While the show still has some obvious merit – creativity, solid writing, handsome cinematography and talented performers – the central message seems increasingly lost as the meta-narrative of what the show has become in the real world overwhelms the actual narratives that it’s trying to tell us within these episodes. Black Mirror, to its own detriment, just got too good at playing its own game.

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(header image via Cultbox.co.uk)

Don’t Drop the Soap: Why We Need to Talk About Male Rape in Pop Culture

(trigger warning for discussion of rape, sexual assualt)

I was watching the second season of Preacher when it came out – God only knows why I hadn’t quit by then, but I was sticking it out in the hopes that anything about it improved even remotely. And then, to my great surprise, we got to the plot that revolves around the rape of one of the main male characters, Herr Starr. Starr is a villainous character within the story, and in the comics, his rape is played for laughs – a misunderstanding that leads to him having sex against his will. This made me pretty uncomfortable at the time I was reading it, but the show had already switched up so much about the decades-old comics already – for all they had changed, I was certain they wouldn’t leave in this extended joke that revolved entirely around a man getting raped. We’re past that kind of shit now, right?

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How Bisexual Narratives Have Changed on Television

It’s still Pride month for another week, so you best BELIEVE I’m going to milk that for everything that I can get so I can bend your collective audiencal ears into listening to me rant about queer shit.

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The Best Sitcom You’re Not Watching

Well, it’s summer, allegedly. And that means that we’re all reclining into our requisite summer viewing: light comedy, twenty-minute snippets that we can finish up quickly at the instigation of an impromptu beach ukelele party or something. Is that what people do in summer? I’m Scottish, I honestly couldn’t tell you if summer is some sort of elaborate joke at my expense and has been this whole time. Is it? Mail your answers on a postcard to my cat’s litter tray.

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Coming Out: A Timeline

Alright, y’all gay-ass (and other queer-adjacent terminology-ass) motherfuckers: it’s Pride month, and that means I’ve got to squeeze in some LGBT content amongst my searingly incisive deep-dives into how shit Gotham is. I mean, I already have, just a little, but there’s always room for more.

For me, and for everyone else I know who’s had to do it, coming to terms with and coming out with your non-straight, non-cis-ness is usually a long, drawn-out, painful, exciting, scary, affirming dream-nightmare of a process. So I thought I’d give you a little poke around my own self-serving fascination with storifying my own history to indignantly boring effect everything that led to me coming out! I’ve covered some of my experiences previously here, but this time I just want to get stuck in to all the weird little details that turned me into the unstraight I am today. Let’s get to it!

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How Youtube Has Changed The Way We Gossip

I’ve written a lot about Youtube before. As one of the primo video streaming platforms on the planet, it’s an almost unavoidable part of popular culture. And, for my money, it’s been changing the way we interact with major facets of the media – from Petscops’ horror to Shane Dawson’s, uh, we’ll call them documentaries, Youtube is hacking its way through the undergrowth of the curious, still relatively new place it holds in pop culture.

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TV Shows That Aged Seriously Badly

Some shows just aren’t made to go back to. I have no doubt, for example, that Riverdale is going to be looked back upon with bafflement and as a cosmic glitch in the space-time continuum – but today (for once) I’m not talking about Riverdale. No, I want to take a look at some of the shows from yesteryear that just don’t stand up to closer inspection – okay, some of these may not be that old, but I think it’s time for me to jam my nose into them and get down to some good snarkin’ anyway. To the list!

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