Neutral Magazine
Media Issues & Debates

Media Issues & Debates

Neutral Magazine

Neutral examines the advantages and consequences of living in a technological world and begins to explore what our world may look like in the future.

Cancel Culture

By Phoebe Vines  |  Creative Writing (BA Hons)

It’s no secret that anyone on social media, whether you have 100 followers or a million, can be subjected to cancel culture; something that in the recent years has become a more recognised and frequent phenomenon. Cancel culture is a phrase that started to become popular around 2010, used to refer to someone who has spoken or acted unacceptably or out of line with received social standards, and are therefore boycotted, ostracized, or shunned as a result, it has now become an important part in social justice in a highly mediated world.

In lockdown, cancel culture saw something of a peak, with everyone staying at home it meant there was more time to find ‘wrongs’ in everyone’s actions and this meant more and more people were experiencing the wrath of other’s words, and sometimes even actions. One of the first and more famous cases of cancel culture was when J.K Rowling was targeted for voicing what some see as transphobic beliefs on twitter, this resulted in her facing intense criticism from fans, who joined together, with many agreeing to boycott the writer’s books and vast array of paraphernalia. Contrastingly though, in June of 2020, the sales of her books increased in the U.K, proving perhaps, that all publicity can result in increased income generation. 

To many, Rowling’s perceived transphobia and the backlash, is still a hot topic of debate. Certainly, people can be ‘falsely cancelled’ and this is more common than people believe; it is usually due to false information (or fake news) being spread that the media are quick to believe and latch onto. Actor and comedian Chris Hardwick is a perfect example of this. After facing accusations of abuse after his ex-partner published and account of terrible misconduct from a former lover, which did not name him, but which many read as pertaining to Hardwick, he lost his job and had his reputation severely damaged. Investigations later revealed that Hardwick was in fact innocent, and he was able to regain his role, albeit with the residue of accusation hanging over him. 

With Taylor Swift being one of the biggest celebrities on the planet, she has faced the brutality of cancel culture more the a few times.  One of the more known incidents is the feud between her and Kanye West, it has become a divided debate across the internet with people taking sides, even 14 years later. The feud began when West interrupted Swift’s speech at the MTV awards in 2009 as she is rumoured to sing a song a few years later concerning West, and many on the internet attacked her for this despite it never being confirmed. During lockdown she faced another attack from the internet for using her private jet to do a short journey that could’ve been made by car. Most recently, she was in a battle with Ticketmaster about the prices of her Eras tour tickets continually increasing in price. All these situations have created a divide on the internet as to whether Taylor Swift should be a cancelled celebrity, and this debate continues. 

So, we need to ask the question, does cancel culture really act as a good tool for social justice? Or is it mainly a form of entertainment through public shaming? Most people would agree that this culture is growing and accelerating, so next time you want to voice your beliefs on a controversial topic online, or perhaps share your opinions on what brand of tea you like more, just stop and think, will this get me cancelled?

Creepy Pasta and Participatory Culture 

By Katlyn Robertson  |  Creative Writing and Media (BA Hons)

In 2001, on an Angelfire website, a man called Ted started uploading real-time blog posts about the caving adventures of him and his friends. As they explored, they started encountering strange hieroglyphics and hearing odd sounds, among other paranormal occurrences. Even after abandoning the cave, they were left with hallucinations and nightmares. Eventually, they travelled back to the cave hoping to end it all and were never heard from again. This is the gist of the story known as “Ted the Caver” and is widely considered to be the first instance of a creepypasta. Creepypasta—a play on the words copypasta, meaning copy and paste is a modern form of horror storytelling. There are countless creepypastas across countless websites across the Internet. Good, bad, popular, obscure: they all have found their home there. 

The reigning “King of Creepypastas,” Slender Man, was created on the SomethingAwful forums in 2009 and was quickly adopted by Internet users and turned into a phenomenon. He fell into the heart of the participatory nature of the Internet where thousands of people sat around the digital campfire, shifting through the web: listening, reading, watching, playing, and contributing to the story. They fed the pixelated flames with complex, constructed narratives in analogue horror videos, videogames, forum threads, fanart and multimedia. 

Unlike what followed, the original Slender Man post was simple (Figure #1 – Right); with just two images with an ominous not-quite-human figure in the background, it answered barely any questions but implicated further narratives. It left a sandbox for the community to play in by letting them fill in the story themselves. Everyone was welcome and free to contribute. This is something Slender Man reeks of his conception stemmed from a prompt explicitly inviting user-generated content that was paranormal and authentic-looking and every element of the Slender Man Mythos stems from a gargantuan community. As an open-source horror story, users were able to make a mythos pick-and-mix; taking elements from the original post, bits from Marble Hornets, elements from games like Slender: The Eight Pages, and adding concepts of their own creation to tell a story that was unique to them but still undeniably Slender Man. 

At the heart of creepypasta stories—or creepypasta-adjacent narratives—is this idea of reverse ostension. The community is essential for the narrative and for the story to exist. Had it not been for this reverse engineering, Slender Man would be confined to two images and a handful of words. Instead, he grew into something no one could have ever imagined.  The same vein could be followed—though perhaps to a lesser extent—for massive online projects like the SCP (Secure Containment Procedures) Foundation. The first SCP—SCP-173, which was accompanied by a photo of the sculpture “Untitled 2004” by Izumi Kato—found its way onto 4chan in 2007 and less than a year later an entire SCP wiki website was published. The wiki is an amalgamation of community projects and stories, and since all of it—sans Kato’s sculpture—falls under Creative Commons, anyone can use any text under the SCP umbrella to make any further texts. It leads to fan-games like SCP: Secret Laboratory (2017), which was specifically inspired by the game SCP: Containment Breach (2012). There is this constant snowball effect: a text inspired this text which drew from that text which wanted to be the antithesis of that text, et cetera. 

The SCP Foundation is a website that encourages freedom of creation amongst any who come across it. It invites them to a collaborative writing site that has completely disregarded the notion of a singular canon, meaning anything a prosumer (consumer and producer) writes are within the multiverse of the SCP Foundation. They have pages on how to write an SCP, forums for idea critiques, and forums for draft critiques, there is then an up- and down-vote system as well as a comments/reviews section on each SCP page. The community is dedicated to supporting each other, encouraging sharing and participation, and working collectively on the development of each entry, facilitating participation. 

Participation and support are vital in creepypasta communities like the SCP Foundation and Slender Man. Had it not been for the further development of their narratives in texts like SCP: Containment Breach (2012) or Marble Hornets—in addition to the thousands of other texts on the Internet that pertain to either or both—neither would have gotten nearly as popular. If the lore behind the SCP Foundation started and ended with SCP-173 or, better yet, if Slender Man only existed in those two photos on the SomethingAwful forums and no one felt encouraged to add to the lore or if no one supported the lore, he would not be the “King of Creepypasta.” He would not be the Internet legend, the offline legend, that he is. He was intentionally created collectively by the community, intentionally created to be believable as well.  Slender Man and his prosumers tapped into plausibility by mimicking media conventions and therefore became marginally convincing. Texts like The Blair Witch Project (1999) and the radio adaptation of H.G. Wells’ 1898 novel War of the Worlds emulated a similar atmosphere, leaving people wondering how truthful the respective narratives were and panicking over the uncertainty. They left behind a realism which shot them into the mainstream. Slender Man’s success in the mainstream has garnered him film adaptations, moral panics, novelizations, and innumerable essays. Ironically enough, the commercialized Slender Man texts like Slender Man (2018) and many novelizations, are widely treated as lesser than the community-made texts. 

The 2018 film, written by David Birke and directed by Sylvain White, was a misfire for a few reasons. To start, it failed to tap into the collaborative nature of Creepypasta and Slender Man. It was made by people on the periphery of the culture who saw how popular the character had become and failed to understand the many intricacies of the Slender Man participatory mythos and engaged with the character on the surface level. While he is undeniably a creature of the analogue, his story and narrative are inherently digital. He was conceived online, and it was in the mainstream, the offline, where he essentially died. Community disinterest manifested while corporate interest grew. When producers were no longer consumers, consumers started to fade. When that twinge of belief, when the folkloresque became folklore when a young girl was nearly stabbed to death by her friends in the name of appeasing Slender Man, the affinity for the character retreated into obscurity. Or, as obscure as it can get when thousands of texts have been made across media and seen by thousands if not millions more. 

The Body & Technology: Period Tracking Apps 

By Ella Collins  |  Media and Communications BA (Hons)

In 1973 in the USA, women were granted the constitutional right to access safe and legal abortion, however, 50 years later this has been stripped away and women are being forced to fight, yet again, for their reproductive rights. 

Consequently, there is now the concern of the potential for misuse of assisted reproductive technologies such as period tracking apps, to collect and use data against women who seek abortion services. These apps, which have gained popularity in recent years, can track the user’s menstrual cycle, sexual activity, and even their mood and physical symptoms. While these apps might appear to be something that would help women understand their bodies better, there is growing concern that they could be used to invade their privacy or even be used as evidence against them in court. This artical will explore the possible dangers associated with period-tracking apps and how they may be used to restrict women’s reproductive rights in a post-Roe v. Wade world. 

Following the decision to overturn Roe v. Wade, there was a wave of abortion rights activists sharing links to articles about how period-tracking apps process a user’s data. An article by Consumer Reports found that the user gives consent for the data collected to be used for targeted advertising by a secondary source which can then be bought by a third party for them to use this data however they see fit. The article ‘Tracking (in)fertile bodies: Intimate data in the culture of surveillance’ (Stenström, 2019) highlights that the collection of intimate data on the body and its functions is not solely about reproductive health, but also about power, control, and surveillance which aptly illustrates the data from a study done by the Norwegian Consumer Council, which discovered that when looking at ten popular apps including Clue, that these apps were ‘feeding personal information to at least 135 companies.’ It was also found that even if the user did not put in a personal email or associate their account with their name, the account could still be traced back to them through the location, access to the contacts app and unique identifiers on the phone. However, it’s important to recognize that everyone with a female reproductive system should be able to monitor changes in their body without worrying about where this data could end up. At the same time, it’s concerning that this data could be used as evidence in court that an abortion was knowingly carried out. 

In September 2021, Texas passed a law which outlawed abortions after six weeks of pregnancy, the law had a clause which stated that residents of the state “may sue clinics, doctors, nurses, and even people who drive a woman to get the procedure, for at least $10,000.” This was a concerning development even before the overturning of Roe v. Wade: the legal system was turning everyday people into bounty hunters. This law does not explicitly target the person who has the abortion but instead targets the doctors, nurses and physicians who helped with the procedure, which in turn makes these medical personnel less likely to provide such services in the future even when medically necessary. These laws will be most impactful upon marginalised groups that already face considerable barriers to healthcare access, such as low-income persons, people of colour, and those who live in rural regions, who are also disproportionately impacted by the passing of this law. This can be used as an illustration of how technology, in this case within the judicial system, can support injustice and inequality amongst those who are already at a disadvantage. The combination of these factors could lead to increased rates of unsafe abortions as well as negative health outcomes for women. 

Bellabeat is a femtech health and wellness start-up founded in Silicon Valley. The company has both a menstrual cycle tracking app as well as wearable technology which ‘monitors your heart rate, respiratory rate, cardiac coherence, and physical and mental activity’ (2023). Quantified self-monitoring is a developing trend, and Bellabeat’s menstrual cycle tracking app and wearable technologies are one example. While some critics have argued that quantified self-tracking represents a form of biopower, others have suggested that it could offer individuals greater autonomy and control over their health. Bellabeat managed to get ahead of the overtly competitive market when they recently made headlines for being the first female health company to introduce a new layer of security for their users post Roe v. Wade. They introduced Advanced Encryption Standard (AES-256) Security with Private Keys, the same encryption tool used by the US government to safeguard sensitive data. They are handing the power back to their users by granting them the safety and autonomy that is being stripped away politically. In contrast to this there is an important issue related to fertility tracking apps and the potential for these technologies to perpetuate gender inequalities. Bellabeat does this with the language they use when talking about pregnancy in the marketing of their menstrual cycle tracking app, such as ‘Take control of your fertility journey and increase your chances of getting pregnant.’(2022) this language could also contribute to negative health outcomes by overlooking the role of male partners in fertility management, as well as by reinforcing gendered stereotypes that place the burden of reproductive health on women. One way that Bellabeat could address concerns about gender inequality in fertility tracking apps would be to use more inclusive terminology on their website. For instance, Bellabeat could acknowledge the role of male partners in reproductive health and offer informative resources and support for heterosexual couples who are attempting to conceive rather than portraying fertility management as primarily a woman’s duty. Bellabeat should address issues about gender disparity in addition to employing more inclusive language by discussing women and their partners in the pregnancy portions of their website. By acknowledging the role of male partners in pregnancy and childbirth, Bellabeat could help to promote more equitable and supportive relationships between couples who are starting a family. 

It is evident that stronger legislative safeguards are urgently needed in the post-Roe v. Wade world to ensure that women’s reproductive rights are honoured and preserved, as well as a greater awareness of the possible risks connected to assisted reproductive technology. The pushback from supporters of reproductive health and women’s rights emphasises how critical it is to fight for these safeguards and guarantee that women have the freedom to make their own decisions about their future and their bodies. 

Understanding the Emergence and Success of Analog Horror and its Roots in the Found Footage Genre

By Michael Colk  |  Creative Writing and Media (BA Hons)

Analog horror is a popular horror subgenre that is primarily defined by the use of or mimicked usage of analog technologies such as CRT televisions, camcorders, and tape recorders as the form of documentation. The premises of these stories typically focus on the concept of psychological horror rather than gore, body horror and jump scares. They tackle ideas of identity, lacking control, and the uncanny or cosmic horrors that can linger in the audience’s mind long after they’ve stopped watching. 

The subgenre’s early popularity is thought to have originated in the 2010s with the creation of the YouTube channel Local58TV, the channel’s most popular video is currently Contingency and sits at 4 million views as of writing although the video itself is 5 years old meaning these views have accumulated over time. But, to showcase the scale of Analog horror’s more recent success, look no further than Kane Pixel’s The Backrooms series and its first instalment, The Backrooms Found Footage. Only a year old and the video currently sits at 47 million views. It’s clear that the subgenre has found mainstream popularity, and the question being explored throughout this essay is how and why this happened. A large portion of this success is likely due to the participatory culture that has been created by video-sharing platforms such as YouTube and this has led to a shift away from traditional forms of media for consumers.

However, it is important to note that analog horror is not an entirely new addition to the horror genre and has taken inspiration from traditional media. This subgenre is in fact a direct evolution of the found footage subgenre that began its own rise to popularity in the late 90s and early 2000s with movies such as Paranormal Activity, Cannibal Holocaust and the most well-known of the genre The Blair Witch Project, the impact of which the following paragraphs will explore in further detail. Found footage films pioneered the idea of ‘realistic’ horror, of creating works of fiction that could conceivably exist in our reality as opposed to the more heightened gore-filled slashers and thrillers of the 80s and early 90s such as Evil Dead or Nightmare on Elm Street. The filming having an ‘amateurish’ or ‘hand-held’ look whilst keeping the monster out of shot for the majority or sometimes all of the film’s run time was considered a positive to the subgenre because it made the production feel ‘real’ despite it often coming out of necessity. With the growth of the internet, 

a movie’s marketing team were able to extend the world of their film outside of the movie itself and into the real world through newfound digital means, further deepening the immersion a viewer could experience. As an example, in the case of the 1999 movie The Blair Witch Project, marketing for the film was primarily done through the website where interviews with the cast’s real family members supposedly ‘post-disappearance’ and realistic missing persons posters were published. These paratextual features were released over a year before the film’s initial release,

leaving time for the mythology around the ‘Blair Witch’ to grow and spread across the Web. To a contemporary audience this marketing strategy would be easily recognisable for what it was and quickly dismissed as fake. But to a 90s audience where the internet was still a relatively new and unknown technology, where communication and information sharing were not yet instantaneous, the story was harder to prove to be a hoax. Whilst analog horror cannot utilise these same techniques exactly as The Blair Witch Project did due to the advancements of the internet over the past couple of decades, they can still play with other ways of immersing an audience.

Kane Pixel’s The Backrooms series on YouTube is a strong example of how the aspects of found footage horror that have previously been discussed have influenced the creation and style of contemporary analog horror. The series is made up of a total of 16 videos as of writing and the base concept for the narrative came from a post made on the site 4Chan in 2019.

Aside from a few live-action scenes in later videos, the videos are entirely made in the 3D modelling program, Blender, which Kane taught himself to use through YouTube tutorials. Kane was also able to make and release this series independently at the age of 16 without the help of any major production studios thanks to the capabilities of the modern internet and how easy and accessible sites such as YouTube have made content creation. 

The main way in which The Backrooms continues in the same way as found footage horror is through its ‘camera work’ appearing amateur and handheld. While not all analog horror productions utilise this element of the previous subgenre’s style due to their content or format, much of The Backrooms is either portrayed through the perspective of a handheld camera or security footage, giving that feeling of audience immersion that, as discussed earlier, found footage explored. In opposition to found footage, there are no paratextual features being released online that add to the content in the original text in the case of The Backrooms. Instead, the entire text itself exists entirely on the internet. This in its own way immerses the audience as YouTube is a media platform that intentionally facilitates closer consumer engagement with the available content. More simply put, it utilises ideas of participatory culture as mentioned earlier and by bringing the audience to the forefront they are being brought into the content through the possibility of a more active engagement. 

Another way that analog horror evolves beyond the ideas of its precursor is that their narratives will often play against the idea of techno-panic that is often explored in contemporary found footage films such as Unfriended, Searching and Spree. The idea of new technologies being dangerous or haunted in some capacity is not a new one, but analog horror investigates the idea of what happens when the technology we rely on is corrupted and can no longer be trusted or used as intended. This is a more potent fear to younger generations who have never known a world without these technologies which could explain its effectiveness as a subgenre of horror. 

Overall, Analog horror as a subgenre has become such a success due to the abilities given to content creators by the Internet. Sites such as YouTube help deepen audience immersion through participatory culture which was a concept first explored in the 90s with the found footage subgenre and paratextual materials. 

On Teaching Film

By James Southcott  |  Film Studies Postgraduate

It’s 9am, the first day of term, and I’m standing at the front of the class red-faced after attempting to humour a sea of mute adolescents with film-based puns. I quickly realise my broad Lancashire accent is massacring the word “Mise-en-scene”, and most Geordie teenagers haven’t heard of Wes Anderson, let alone Ingmar Bergman. I set them off on an icebreaker task, sit in my chair hiding behind the computer screen and think about how I can grovel for my old job back. How the hell can I do this for a full year, let alone the next hour?

Making the leap from being a film student to a film teacher has been one of the most challenging yet fulfilling experiences. I never planned on becoming a teacher, but then again who does? One of my favourite quotes comes from Richard Linklater’s School of Rock. Jack Black’s character, Dewey Finn, a substitute teacher at a prep school, remarks to his fellow teachers “Those that can’t do, teach, and those that can’t teach… teach gym” or in my
case, Film!

After University I really struggled to figure out what I wanted to do with my life, I soon realised I didn’t have the talent (or funds) to make films, as well as being 250 miles from London in an area severely lacking any funding in the creative arts industry meant I had to re-evaluate my career path. My dead-end job at Morrisons certainly influenced a career change, but as to what, I didn’t yet know. Whilst scanning the many mountains of toilet rolls piled high along my belt I thought back to my experiences at university, probably the happiest time of my life. Was it the raging hangovers after a night in York? Or the slug-infested student house I resided in? Probably neither. What I did miss the most, however, was sharing my passion for film with my friends and lecturers through having the most nonsensical arguments and debates such as the classic “How has Tarantino ruined postmodernism”, or “Which Director should we cancel today?” (Polanski most weeks). It was these varied anecdotal conversations and close relationships with my lecturers that inspired me to pursue a career in teaching.

When I came to York St John, I was a very shy and introverted 18-year-old with a terrible ear piercing and a questionable film taste, by the time I had left however, I had an unhealthy obsession for Soviet cinema but most importantly a newfound confidence in my abilities. My experiences at university helped me realise that education can be so much more than a qualification. It can be a safe space to express your sometimes controversial film opinions (such as The Phantom Menace is objectively the best Star Wars film), it can be a place to meet like-minded cinephiles and further develop your interests, but for me most importantly university was a place for me to escape; the moment I was sat down in the lecture theatre I felt safe and that I had a voice for the first time in my life. For me this was the entire reason I wanted to get into teaching, I wanted to replicate this feeling and create a safe space for the next generation of cinephiles.

Going back to my first day of teaching, I really wish I could tell you it worked out this way, that I easily replicated my time at university in my classes, but it didn’t work out that way, it didn’t work out for a few months in fact. I really struggled during the first term, I felt like a failure; when you leave university, imposter syndrome catches up with you and quickly becomes your worst enemy and I certainly didn’t feel good enough to be a teacher. It didn’t help I was only 5 years older than some of the students, most of them towered over me by a few feet and many a time I was mistaken for a student by some of my colleagues. The university environment I so dearly wanted to recreate just didn’t happen, the students barely spoke for the first few months, their confidence was just like mine when I was in sixth form, and I couldn’t figure out how to help them. For me, the most important thing I learnt as a teacher was the power of accepting failure as an opportunity, which is easier said than done. I didn’t give up and I learned from my mistakes coming back each week with new methods of teaching, new ways of presenting the films, and by Christmas things fell into place. One of the most important things I have learnt this year is that to be a good film teacher, it’s not just about how much knowledge you have about obscure films or how many random trivia questions you know, you need to have pride, passion and authenticity in your work as teenagers can always spot a phoney, and they certainly knew I wasn’t being my true self for those first few months.

I learnt alongside them, and they taught me a lot about myself, more specifically how confusing my accent sounded, but most importantly they helped me believe in myself as a teacher, making the 6am starts and 8-hour marking sessions worth it. Although one thing I could never conquer was getting my students to like Andrei Tarkovsky films no matter how many video essays I made them watch!

It’s now July, and I’ve just finished my first year of teaching. I honestly never thought I’d get through the first week, there’s been many tears, many sleepless nights, and an awful lot of caffeine! But within these blips I’ve been privileged enough to be a part of these amazing young people’s lives. One of the hardest parts of the job is not only saying goodbye but not being able to join them at university and go through the whole experience again. 

My Son the Fanatic and the Belonging

By Reuben Isle  |  MA Screen Studies

Udayan Prasad’s My Son The Fanatic (1997), is adapted from Hanif Kureishi short story of the same name. The film focuses on Parvez, a Pakistani born taxi driver and a secular Muslim who has found his place in the Britain of the late 1990s. His life is thrown into crisis when his son Farid converts to fundamentalist Islam, leading to a family breakdown and wider social unrest. The West Riding of Yorkshire is a critical region for cinema history and, while not globally recognised, has been an accessory to a deeply rich history on screen. Officially the first moving pictures were created in Leeds, by Louis Louis Le Prince. In the year 1888, Le Prince captured what we understand to be the world’s first moving images, Roundhay Garden Scene and Traffic Crossing Leeds Bridge. This would be the start of a long-standing history of Yorkshire film and television, solidifying Yorkshire’s wide importance for the ecology of both British and global cinema. Geographically Yorkshire features both areas of natural rural beauty as well as industrial urban zones, maximising the potential for filmmakers for many years. 

Ethnic and cultural lineage is important in terms of the narrative of My Son the Fanatic because of this idea of ‘imagined communities’. Imagined communities is a term coined by Benedict Anderson who conceptualises that the nation is made up of imagined communities, stating:‘because the members of even the smallest nation will never know most of their fellow members, meet them, or even hear of them, yet in the minds of each lives the image of their communion.’

Anderson goes on to say that due to us not possibly being able to know every person in the nation we have a presumed knowledge of communities, subconsciously pre-composed in the ways we imagine and feel a part of communities. The film sees a catastrophic clash in what Parvez and Farhed identify as their community and raises wider issues regarding race, region and nationhood in modern Britain. 

My Son the Fanatic is what would be described as a regional film and helps us to question what it is that makes a film regional. A key notion of regionalism that is mapped out by Lez Cooke in A sense of Place: Regional British Television Drama, is the transformation that the label of ‘regional’ has undergone, from simply a region being based upon geographical features and location to political regions, something that is clear throughout this film. Throughout the film what is both important is the landscape of Yorkshire and the political differences in the area from the different national identities on show. Cooke alludes to the industrial revolution as a key component in which human involvement has taken the region from a purely geographical one to an area that has its own industrial and economic iconography; Rachel Pronger refers to the ‘grand buildings, looming mills and spectacular moors’ that reaffirm a ‘throw-back Britishness’. Parvez is proud of the region’s industrial heritage, only for Farid later in the film to weaponize it as an example of the West’s greed, so landscape is used as a narrative means to galvanise both the father and son’s belief system.   

As alluded to earlier, this film questions the idea of national identity, something that is popular amongst a larger network of Yorkshire films such the recent God’s Own Country (2017) and Ali and Ava (2021). My Son the Fanatic, shows several different identities that can all be considered national, which questions the notion that national identity is static rather than in constant flux. The decision to have Parvez be a taxi driver is significant and has been used in several other films to depict characters and environment in a state of flux (as famously seen in Martin Scorsese’s Taxi Driver (1976) and Jim Jarmusch’s Night on Earth (1991). Sandra Ponzanesi states that in cinema taxis are: places where individuals function as passengers or customers or both at the same time, immersing themselves in the chance anonymity of a space without history, as if trapped and frozen in a time unmarked by events happening in the present.

Non-places are often thought of in relation to the migrant experience, between borders, they can appear in the forms of airports and detention centres, places between borders. However, in this instance I think this non-place is how Parvez can operate between any imagined borders, navigating the different national identities in the film.  The regionalism seen in My Son the Fanatic as well as the national identities solidifies the idea that these concepts must be in constant interaction  with each other and themselves. Not only is this seen in my chosen film but it’s apparent throughout Yorkshire cinerma and this points to wider trends nationally and transnationally. These representations of flux show how important film is in exploring the lived experience of change. 

Over the Garden Wall

By Kelise Cassidy  |  Creative Writing  BA (Hons)

Over the Garden Wall is a 10-episode animated fantasy/adventure, mini-series that completely immersed me in the world it created. From the jump, the show opens with the brothers Wirt and Greg trying to escape the unknown to find their way home. Through their journey we travel through cornfields filled with sentient skeletons wearing pumpkins, a school for forest creatures and a tavern where we meet a talking horse. Each episode is filled with strange wonders that somehow each perfectly fit the world as 

it unfolds.

The performances from Elijah Wood (Wirt) and Colin Dean (Greg) truly bring these characters to life; giving them vibrant personalities that can immerse the audience. Greg, being the younger and more naïve of the two brothers, encourages us to embrace our childlike curiosity and enjoy the crazy antics the characters are put through without thinking of the lurking dangers actively searching for them in the unknown. While Wirt, the older and both vulnerable and protective sibling, reels us back to the reality of their situation, his voice both fearful and aware that the environments around them aren’t as joyful and whimsical as they may pretend to be.

Whilst the performances of the two main characters drew me in, the other vocal performances delivered by Melanie Lynskey, voicing Beatrice and Christopher Loyd as The Woodsman, further brought me into the world, making me question every character’s motive throughout the time they were on screen. Alongside other additional voices, the actors do a remarkable job, making the twists and tonal shifts seem completely unexpected. One, being Jack Jones singing a beautiful song in Episode 6.

The music featured in episode 6 is only one of several incredible tracks featured in Over the Garden Wall. The soundtrack takes inspiration from the 1950s, adding a subtextual element to the plot, reminding me of a Halloween town which The Blasting Company, the music’s producers and composers, excel in. The early to mid-20th century influence the soundtrack takes is also seen in the animation, complemented by a hand-drawn style, comparable with classic 1930s to 40s cartoons, not typically seen in today’s era of animation. With the colour palette using dark and warms colours like auburn, the at times sinister and eccentric theme is emphasised along with the other gems to be found, such as Auntie Whispers, voiced by Tim Curry.

As much as I loved this series, I do have some criticisms. One being that while the characters are hand-drawn and designed exceptionally, the animation itself often has computer generated actions so the characters’ movements and reactions look lifeless and slow at times. Another criticism I have relates to the pacing, with some jarring plot movements between episodes, but I believe the show was cut for time from the original 18 episodes which may explain such disparities. 

Over the Garden Wall has amazed me, where now this charming, folksy story will now be a rewatch in preparation for Halloween. I would never consider a piece of media to be a complete masterpiece, but this series comes incredibly close.