Benjamin Studebaker

Yet Another Attempt to Make the World a Better Place by Writing Things

Tag: Aesthetics

Reject the Fat Acceptance Movement

As waistlines have expanded in the western world, we’re seeing a push for “fat acceptance”. This movement takes the view that society unfairly discriminates against fat people on arbitrary grounds, that being fat is a legitimate way of being that should be no more open to criticism than being gay or being black. As the National Association to Advance Fat Acceptance (NAAFA) puts it, “we come in all sizes”. While the Fat Acceptance Movement identifies some genuine problems in our society, its answers to these problems are wholly inadequate.

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Jafar: Agrabah’s Atatürk

Today I’d like to turn to an old theme–the tendency for Disney movies to disparage intellectual villains in favor of physical heroes and apologize for economic and social injustice. Previously, I wrote about how The Lion King, rightly interpreted, is really about Scar’s attempt to liberate the hyenas from a racist lion oligarchy. Today I’d like to do something similar with Aladdinreconstructing the plot so as to render Jafar the hero.

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The Uselessness of Beating Up Eminem

The rapper Eminem released a new album (The Marshall Mathers LP 2). As is his tendency, Eminem dropped some rhymes with morally dubious meanings. And, as has also become the norm, my fellow writers decided to take positions on the matter. Kicking off the discussion was Scott Meslow at The Week, who first drew attention to homophobic lyrics in Eminem’s song, “Rap God”.  Meslow has now followed that piece up with a second one, detailing the reaction to his first piece and what he has gleaned from it. Today I’d like not so much to wade into this discussion as to call its utility into question–what purpose does it serve to write pieces criticizing artists for moral or political messages, either explicit or implicit?

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Breaking Bad and Morality

Once in a while, I like to indulge my interest in fiction and apply political and moral concepts to the world that isn’t. Today, I’d like to have a look at Breaking Bad. Why Breaking Bad? As a fan, I from time to time enjoy perusing the vast amount that is written about the show online. What sticks out to me is that the very same characters can be considered sympathetic, even heroic, by some viewers, while simultaneously receiving scorn and vilification from others–an unusual phenomenon in television. I also find that the justifications reviewers and viewers use for the various sympathies they hold are muddled. So today I’d like to dissect the show and its characters a little, to come to clearer conclusions about which moral principles are in play. Of course, this will entail extensive plot spoilers, so neophyte viewers should steer clear of this piece.

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Scar: The Lion Martin Luther King

Disney has made a lot of beloved animated films. All over the developed world, kids grow up with them. There is something that has long bothered me about them, however–they have long presented children with morally uncomplicated, black and white, hero versus villain narratives. In this way, these movies contribute to our moral socialization as children, normalizing deontological moral beliefs–the notion that actions are right or wrong in themselves, regardless of the outcomes they produce. There is also an anti-intellectual thread running through many of these films–the villain is typically a clever schemer, while the hero is typically an every-man who happens to have unusual physical abilities. Today I’d like to highlight this issue in our culture by taking the plot of the beloved film The Lion King and morally reconstructing it so as to make Scar sympathetic.

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