The Cutprice Guignol

The Ninth Year: The Haunting of Swill House

Category: Discussion

Trisha Paytas, Mental Illness, and the Self-Diagnosis Debate

A few days ago, Trisha Paytas released a video. The internet’s most dedicated full-time troll, it’s not exactly as though she’s a stranger to controversy, but this video hit that internet sweet-spot and soon blew up in a big cloud of outrage. In it, Paytas claimed to have Disassociative Identity Disorder (DID), which, she mentioned, she had diagnosed herself.

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Influencer Culture, Eating Disorders, and the Promise of Wellness

Wellness has a nice ring to it, right? There’s something soothing about that term. Calming. Wellness, like it’s all about shifting your life into some soft-focus place of warm, pillowy goodness. You just want to be well. It’s simple, isn’t it? Really?

Trigger warning for discussions of eating disorder behaviours.

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Bojack Horseman, Suicide, and Sad, Happy Endings

Ever since Bojack Horseman came into being, people have been trying to predict just how it would end. Spoilers ahead, for the final season and finale.

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Notes on a Sex Object

What does it mean to objectify somebody?

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Problematic Media, Villainous Villains, and that Surprisingly Anti-Queer Pennywise

In the wake of IT Chapter Two, amongst the maelstrom of Reddie fanfiction that I was certainly not churning out at the rate of six per hour and Bill Hader actually becoming a sex symbol, released an article that swiftly shot to the top of the Discourse surrounding the movie: Pennywise is Surprisingly Anti-Queer in IT Chapter 2.

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Bojack Horseman and the Legacy of Recovery

With only one half-season of Bojack Horseman remaining, I fully intend to spend as much time as humanly (and horsenly) possibly talking about it. Bojack Horseman is one of the best shows of the decade, one of the most consistently brilliant, insightful deep-dives into trauma, abuse, addiction, and mental illness, not to mention a magnificent vehicle for Noted Character Actress Margot Martindale to spin her winsome charms over the nation at large. The last half of this season drops at the end of January next year, and I’m already a little sad to think that it’s going to be over all too soon.

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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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