Grad School: Part 12 – Post-G Circus and New Series

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Art exhibit at the Troy Community Center in Troy, MI (2018): These two guys are by John Whyte from Athens High School.

Hello, folks! Hope you’re having a great Saturday. Mine has been eventful. In fact, the past five weeks have been all GO-GO-GO! I keep thinking, “Oh, things are finally slowing down a little bit next week,” and then the forces of the universe laugh and laugh and laugh.

Oh yeah, I’m Greg basically and Stevie is everyone else passing through my life. That’s how it feels like, ha ha.

Well, at this point I’m done with grad school, the thesis is turned in and I’m looking for jobs, which involves fine-tuning resumes and my portfolio, filling out applications, meeting folks for informational interviews, preparing for and attending job interviews, et cetera, et cetera. It’s crazy how much you have to do these days to land a job.

That’s just ONE thing keeping me busy. Among other, it’s helping my dad with the new property in West Virginia (all woods, no buildings). I have been there only once, but there’s been a lot of picking up equipment, packing and planning.

I got a few creative writing projects of my own that I’m trying to get off the ground. Now that the thesis is finished, I also want to find a nice publisher to get it into stores all over the country and websites like Amazon. (Being invited to The Ellen DeGeneres Show would be nice, too.) One project that I want to talk about with you guys will be a new series called Food and Fitness for the blog.

It is going to be about exercising, weightlifting, nutrition and positive mental attitude. The plan for is to talk about my own journey through fitness, my takes on myths surrounding fitness, some recipes and whatever tips I can dig up about food and fitness. I’m not a certified trainer or nutritionist, just a person who loves this kind of stuff and wants to make healthier life choices. I do my own research and try to teach myself the best I can. Whenever I give advice, it will either be my own or coming from somewhere else and I will always give credit to the person or group and provide a link.

You know, my life being a circus is really my own fault because I have so many interests and keep myself busy with whatever I concoct during my spare time.

Maybe that’s why the forces of the universe are laughing.

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Grad School: Part 11 – Scholars to Follow on IG, Friends to Make

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Having people to look up to (your own superheroes) can help keeping you move forward toward your goals.

Before I get into the list, I want to be real for a moment:

Following the “right” people on social media isn’t going to make or break your grad school career. However, if you’re visual person like me who gets motivated and inspired by images, it might help. And hell, you might make some great contacts online.

Making friends with your cohorts is so important, because higher education demands a lot from you: your time, your energy, your sanity, a liver, couple of kidneys, etc. But sometimes, there might not be time to hang out with them or to get together for a group study. Sometimes it’s past midnight and you still haven’t finished your homework for the next day and you’re losing hope. Sometimes it’s just nice knowing you’re not alone.

And when I suggest that you follow these people, I encourage you to actually talk to them. I encourage you to share your own stories on IG or Twitter, whichever your preference. Maybe someone who is in the same boat will reach out. By the way, if you’re talking about your grad school experience on Twitter, one way to make it easy for people to find your tweet is adding the hashtag #phdchat. I felt a little like a cheat whenever I added that, because I was in a master’s program, but #masterschat is apparently too long or not as trending.

One last thing, I would recommend following your university on social media, that includes the library, the gym (however it’s referred to, Oakland University’s gym is called the Recreation Center or Rec Center), the university main hub, the campus police, various clubs; there are usually options. You never know if you might come across handy information.

Here are my IG suggestions! I have one of their latest posts as examples. These are in no particular order.

Not a student. I know, dude. How can you not feel excited about academia when the professor is so hyped, though! I recommend following your favorite professors if they’re on social media.

Her focus revolves mostly around fitness, but she shares her journey in grad school as well. Plus, as I’ve said earlier, exercising is a life-saver once you rise higher in academics.

👩🏼‍🎓 Rebecca Koerner, MA, CF-SLP. . . It took years of hard work, determination, and consistency to get to this point. Today I graduate with my masters and secured employment! Ya’ll I am so proud to graduate from Saint Louis University’s speech language pathology masters program and step out into the real world as a school and early intervention SLP in Saint Louis. I can’t wait to use my gifts to continue pouring into others. . . I have a few fun things coming up this summer, which will be followed by me starting this new journey as an actually employed adult! . . So much love for all of you and your adventures today ❤️ . . #ayllukawsay #liveyourfyeslife #teaminspirejoy @slu_official @saintlouis #mastersdegree #graduation #slp #slpeeps

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Recent graduate (like me!) and who better to ask about grad school than the people who have reached the end of the tunnel.

#ScholarSunday – “Do whatever brings you to life, then. Follow your own fascinations, obsessions, and compulsions. Trust them. Create whatever causes a revolution in your heart” – Elizabeth Gilbert, Big Magic: Creative Living Beyond Fear⠀ ⠀ Something that has brought me a lot of joy lately is being creative. Letting my mind wander. And following these bits of excitement and fascination. Sometime they don’t last long and sometimes they build off the next. It’s fun and exciting. And brings me life.⠀ ⠀ I’ve been trying to bring this creativity to strategically think about Scholar Culture and combine it with my research and advocacy work.⠀ ⠀ I have some exciting things in the works. Not sure where it’s really going but stay tuned ✨⠀ ⠀ What is your creative outlet? ⠀ ⠀ PS – I love the book quoted above, HIGHLY recommend. ⠀

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Such a professional blog! This woman is an insightful, fun positive force. Her content always brighten my day.

I'm holding 5 plates ✋ for 5 different experiments 👩‍🔬, but how many will be successful🤔? _____________________ Let's talk about trial and error ❌. Edit: let's talk about a LOT of trials 🔄 and a TON of errors 😂. _____________________ Out of these 5 plates, 1-2 of them will be 'successful' ✔️, while the rest will probably give me results that generate more questions 💭 than they answer. _____________________ What I'm saying is: on a good day, the success rate of an experiment is about 1 in 5🤓. _____________________ Science isn't always glamorous 🤩. News 📰 headliners say "Scientists made a super exciting discovery this week!", but behind those headlines are a lot of failed experiments 😂🧐. _____________________ Failed experiments aren't failed endeavours, however. No matter how the experiment turns out, we always learn something 💡🎓 (even if we didn't learn exactly what we expected 😉)

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For the scientist in you! I’m just loving how women in STEAM are sharing their stories online nowadays. It’s awesome for girls and other women who are dreaming of becoming engineers or something and they get to see that it’s perfectly normal. Not to mention fucking cool!

Everyone needs a laugh.

Grad School: Part 10.5 – Just Kidding

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Alright, I’m still talking about grad school. This will be a short post simply informing you what’s to come. I’ve had more time to think about this crazy experience and I realized that there are more things I gotta say before I move on from this series.

  • The list of fellow scholars that I follow on IG will arrive soon.
  • The thesis process and the fact that there’s more than research that goes into it.
  • How grad life eventually led me to fitness. [I’m starting a ‘Food & Fitness’ series instead.]
  • The daunting job hunt that follows graduation.

I plan to knock the posts out within a month. Then I’m not sure what I’m going to do on this blog, besides talking about superheroes and books. Hope you’ll enjoy ’em. Happy Friday!

Grad School: Part 10 – Last Advice

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(Left to right) Chris Tucker, me, Max King, Hannah Clark, Rita Hourani-Ndovie and Courtney Stockman. All of us have earned an MA in Communication!

This will be the last blog entry about my grad school experience. Wow, it’s really over. However, shed no tears because it is not the end, only the beginning of a new chapter.

OK, super sappy, I know. I just can’t resist a touch of drama. Plus, I saw Avengers: Infinity War last weekend and I think the theatrics have rubbed off on me. I am still not alright by the way. Few of us will be until Captain Marvel gets released. Maybe not even until Avengers 4. This kind of movie that Marvel Studios made is called “the event” in the comic book genre, which is when all the superheroes get together to save the world and everything that happens affect everyone. And what an event it was!

Anyway, enough nerd rage for now. I wanted to leave you guys with some thoughts about grad school. This might be handy if you’re going for your PhD because from what I’m getting, it’s not much unlike a master’s, except that the stakes are a little higher, people expect you to know APA or MLA like the back of your hand and when you defend your dissertation, things are a little more formal. Additionally, getting a PhD takes a little longer. So when Dr. Strange said in the self-titled movie that he was able to get his master’s and PhD at the same time because of his photogenic memory, I was like, “Bullshit!” (Oops, more nerd rage, my bad.)

I would like to say something that will help you with grad school and this applies to your work life, too: Let’s stop glorifying being busy.

Being busy and the idea that it’s awesome and fulfilling is definitely a troublesome concept in the United States. During my second and final year in grad school, I wasn’t just taking classes: I was working on my thesis, I was volunteering for the American Association of University Women as a member on the student advisory council and I was working as vice chair for the communication division in the Michigan Academy of Science, Arts and Letters. Pro tip: DON’T DO THAT. If you’re like me and you want to help out or prove yourself or add stuff to your resume, that’s cool, but try to pace yourself. Consider eating, sleeping and self-care into the 24 hours that you have each day.

I was extremely stressed during both semesters, to the point that I was unpleasant to be around sometimes. It’s silly that this happened, because I attended at least two self-care workshops last year. Where did I put my notes from those workshops? Why did I forget about them afterwards? Oh yeah, because like Dr. Strange, I like to show off. I like to be the best. Now that I finally have more free time, it’s really dawning on me how crazy it was to commit to so many things at once.

However, I’m both glad and relieved that I did. I was able to perform my duties and do them well. This last year has been such a blur that I rarely took moments to enjoy my accomplishments, so I was actually surprised whenever my professors and my fellow feminists in AAUW complimented me on my work. Looking back, I realize that it’s not that big of a surprise really because I poured my heart and soul into everything I did. Which leads me to my second thought: Hit the pause button sometimes and appreciate yourself and the things you do. How many people go for a master’s degree? Or a PhD? It’s such a rad thing, right? Give yourself a few pads on the back.

And finally, in the light of finding your own time, here is my third advice to you: Find an activity to do when you’re not studying/reading/writing/doing research/etc. It can be something creative, it can be physical, it can be a daily nap. Just make sure it’s something selfish. That sounds odd, but I’m being honest with you here. Find something that makes you happy, that contributes to your well-being and that doesn’t revolve around other people. Self-care isn’t selfish per se, but the “being busy” concept paints it that way. Taking care of yourself is a wonderful thing and it will help you with your academic endeavors as well as your career later on. A person who feels good about themselves is more likely to work well and work hard than someone who feels drained all the time.

I fortunately fell in love with fitness. If it wasn’t for the gym and a better diet, I would’ve found it difficult to stay positive. Lifting weights was like shaking off the bad mojo.

I hope this will be helpful to you guys. Now, excuse me, I have return to some comic book issues about Thanos and Captain Marvel. 😀

Grad School: Part 9 – Final Countdown

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The title of this blog entry is inspired by a video my best friend Lilje sent me.

Where do I even start? It’s been a crazy final semester. I wish I could have found it in me to write about my grad school experience, continuously and regularly. Not that I’m complaining because there’s still plenty of documentation on Twitter and Instagram and I’ve loved sharing my thoughts and feelings throughout this journey. It’s brought me to meeting many interesting people online, i.e. fellow scholars, talking about my research and other academic topics and feeling less like a lonely island. Sure thing, I got my amazing cohorts, but it’s nice seeing scholars from all over going through similar motions, hurdles and epiphanies.

The people who manage to do the blogging thing in addition to school and all the other stuff that comes with it, you flippin’ rock! Some are really professional, by the way, as though it’s a second job and they provide short and sweet nuggets of anecdotes and advice. I’m going to post another blog entry soon with a list of people to follow, in the blog sphere, on Twitter and Instagram. I’ve found them so inspiring, motivational and awesome.

One of my favorite things about grad school has actually been getting in touch with various scholars on social media. Maybe this sounds crazy, but it’s become more and more common for people working on their master’s, doctorate or PhD to talk about grad school online, like their research, internships and/or school-related jobs. If you search with the keywords “phdchat” or “gradschool” on Twitter, you’ll find plenty of hilarious and/or insightful tweets. If you ask me, it’s more than just venting, it’s bonding and sharing and sometimes even to self-reflect on certain moments and/or your state of mind. And frankly, chatting about grad school on social media is fun!

I could write a whole book about grad school (and perhaps I will in the future), but at the moment, I will keep this reflection brief.

The magnitude of what I have done in the past four months feels surreal right now. My thesis was my life. Hell, the last two years are a blur. It’s like I blinked and suddenly I’m about to graduate. I’m walking TODAY! Designed my cap and picked an outfit and everything. Mom is baking a prinsesstårta downstairs (“princess cake,” it’s Swedish) and I got a list of things to do with my suddenly-here extra free time. I don’t have homework anymore? What is this?

For those who don’t know, I’m graduating with a master of arts in communication.

Aside from making many fantastic friends in grad school, I’ve found my confidence. I have fallen in love with exercising, which has taken years to build up. Going to the gym and working off the inevitable stress has been such a life-saver. Plus, I can finally wear clothes that used to fit me when I was 21 (and I’m 26-going-on-27). I have traveled to a few places in Michigan (on my own!) and I have attended conferences and I have become a stronger public speaker. Gosh, and I have written a thesis! On superhero masculinity of all things! And as I’m working on the final edits, I feel like I can truly call myself a feminist scholar (intersectional feminist scholar to be exact) and that feels like an accomplishment on its own. Gender studies are so complex and fascinating and most important of all, relevant.

I may be graduating, but my work isn’t done. I got a load of research papers that I need to edit and send to publications. I have a list of things I want to write about, do research on and talk about with other scholars. I have an additional list of fictional stories I want to write, some of which were created pre-grad and some of which have grown from my studies. Not to mention that I need a job. I was thinking administration in higher education, but that’s a topic for another time.

And no, not getting a PhD. People keep asking me. I’ll be in my early 30s before I get to leave the classroom. I love learning, but I’d rather not be tied to a location right now. I want to travel and write on my own and now the whole world is my classroom.

To my fellow Grizzlies graduating this weekend, congratulations! #ThisIsOU

Grad School: Part 8 – Thesis Progress in Pictures (Fall ’17)

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The fall semester when a lot of my free time was dedicated to my research. I’m writing a thesis on superhero masculinity by looking at the Netflix dramas Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and The Punisher. Of course, it is still a large part of my life right now. I’m pouring my heart and soul into it. Plus a couple kidneys, a lung, a liver, some drops of sanity.

Here is the story in pictures (and tweets and ‘grams), in chronological order.

What a journey! And I’m just getting started.

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There’s gonna be fewer entries on the Writer’s Corner from now on and more activity on my Tumblr blog “Marvel Scholar Palm.” Feel free to check it out if you like! It’s about my thesis research on male superheroes. (9/4/2017)

You tell him, Claire. #clairetemple #marvelresearch #girlpower (Luke Cage, #2, 1972)

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Karen Page: “Thank you, Mr. White Guy.”

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Transcribing…

share the bed

cutis and frank

I’m sure you’re getting sick of Punisher stuff, but I can’t contain my excitement. For someone entrenched in feminist media studies, this show is a gift! It has everything: Patriarchal, hyper, feminist and post-millennial masculinities, and even the new man type. “Front Towards Enemy” broke some ground in the superhero genre… and my heart didn’t come out in one piece either. My favorite part about that episode is the displayed affection between Frank and Curt; their friendship is fucking beautiful. (11/28/2017).

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Analyzing ‘Daredevil’ right now… One thing I’ve noticed is that they managed to make all the scenes at the church feel intimate. Even when the camera pans out, showing a space that’s open and empty, you still feel close to the characters. I believe it’s largely due to the clever use of silence. (11/29/2017).

karen

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Grad School: Part 7 – I’m Getting More Than a Degree

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The front of Oakland Center on a rainy day (picture taken from indoors), 10/11/2017.

I’ve used the words “crazy” and “busy” so much this semester that they have begun to lose all meaning.

Just to paint a picture: I have two classes (meaning that I’m attending grad school full-time), my part-time job, my work-out routine/karate training, my volunteer work with the American Association of University Women, my thesis, and this silly notion that I would like to have a social life.

Luckily, one of my professors gave me a wonderful piece of advice when the semester started: “Focus on the learning, not the performance.” Considering that I’m a perfectionist and over-achiever, that line has spared me several migraines and moments of self-loathing. As stressful as grad school can be, it is possible to achieve a sense of balance. If it hadn’t been for exercising, I probably would have spun off the reels a long time ago. It helps me fall asleep, and I feel physically stronger and more energized. I totally recommend finding a physical activity while you’re at school (or just in general, honestly), because it will make you feel better. Sometimes when I’m doing an exercise like weight lifting or push-ups, it feels like I’m literally purging poison out of my body.

So far, there has been only one time when grad school was zero fun: A few weeks ago, I was working on my research proposal on a library computer, and I thought I was saving all the changes onto my flash-drive. I left for lunch, feeling pretty good about my progress. When I returned and opened the file, it dawned on me that I had saved the new version of the proposal to the desktop. And I had re-started the computer when I left earlier. Two-plus hours down the drain. I almost started crying. I picked up my notes and slammed them against the desk, and threw my pen at the computer screen. Fortunately, my brother was there as I started to descend into madness and he patted me on the shoulder and said, “It’s going to be okay. Take a deep breath. You got this.”

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Notes and research material for the proposal.

In conclusion, shit happens. I was able to re-write everything, which didn’t take two whole hours, thank goodness. I also had another cup of coffee to make myself feel better.

Despite the challenges, I still consider going after my master’s one of the best decision I’ve ever made. I am gaining so much more than a degree.

I have made new friends.

Damn good night with cohorts and friends yesterday. #GradSchool

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I have attended three different conferences, all of which offered their own unique experience: Michigan Academy of Science, Arts and Letters (MASAL) in Kalamazoo, MI; the National Conference for College Women Student Leaders in Washington, DC; and the AAUW-MI Fall Leadership Conference in Taylor, MI.

I have immersed myself in a passion that was actually always there, thanks to my professors, cohorts and friends: Feminist media studies. While I’m working on my research on superhero masculinities, I keep coming up with ideas for future projects. It’s something that’s going to keep me busy for years.

And I have discovered my sense of humor. It sounds weird saying something like that and my friends have told me that I’m funny, but I guess it wasn’t until recently I really believed it.

A good sense of humor will also help you get through a difficult journey like graduate school.

Why We Need The Punisher

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nov 17

The header on Marvel’s The Punisher on Facebook.

There are people out there who don’t want a show about Frank Castle. They claim that it valorizes gun violence. They say it’s in poor taste. They make comparisons between the Punisher and mass shooters. Unfortunately, Marvel and Netflix validated some of those beliefs by postponing the release of Marvel’s The Punisher, which would have been dropped the weekend following the Las Vegas shooting (October 1, 2017).

Personally, I think postponing the release was the sensitive thing to do. What I take issue with is that they cancelled the Comicon panel. It would have been brave of them to get up on that stage and respond to the incident. I don’t care how, as long as they would have said something. As a communication scholar, I’m disturbed by their silence because it’s like they’re trying to distance themselves from a tragedy that doesn’t really have anything to do with the show. It hushes a much needed conversation about how to interpret shows like The Punisher and relate it to our world. If anything it also reflects on the fact that almost everyone in this country doesn’t want to talk about gun violence. Unless a tragedy occurs on a large scale, like Vegas, Sandy Hook, Orlando, Virginia Tech, Columbine, et cetera, we don’t want to think about it, like, ‘It’s somebody else’s problem.’

We can’t be afraid to have these uncomfortable conversations about things that matter. And wouldn’t it be better to have these conversations triggered by a television show, not an actual gun?

Instead of getting offended by the Punisher, people ought to be upset about these facts: Three weeks after 59 people were killed in Vegas, Columbia Journalism Review reported that the coverage of Las Vegas and gun violence in America “faded from the national conversation,” as did Congress’ interest to instill stricter gun-control laws. The Daily Beast reporter Sam Stein stated, “Congressional aides and issue advocates say they see no viable path for passing even the most promising bill: an effort to ban the manufacturing and sale of bump stocks, which were used by the Las Vegas shooter to essentially turn his semi-automatic weapons into fully automatics ones.” Additionally, The Trace reporters Jennifer Mascia and Alex Yablon wrote that 2,920 people had been shot – 906 of them fatally – in the 25 days after the Las Vegas mass shooting.

The reality that this hasn’t been discussed on a national level makes me wonder if we’ve become used to the violence. It might be why we don’t talk about it. Or perhaps we’ve come to believe that mass shootings are the only real bad consequences from not having gun-control. People need to realize that incidents of gun violence aren’t isolated events. As someone who lives 25 miles outside Detroit, I can tell you that the local news reports at least a handful of stories about gun-related violence on a daily basis.

Portraying a complicated character like Frank Castle on the screen offers the opportunity to bring back that conversation to the table. If you think I’m being silly for stating that a comic book character can incite a productive discussion, please consider that people love to talk about television shows. Just go on Google and search “Stranger Things,” and you’ll get 59.4 million hits. If you go Twitter, you’ll be scrolling through the feed till the end of time. And besides, comic book characters have been a reflection of real issues and controversial topics for a long time; one good example is when Stan Lee published The Amazing Spider-Man, issues 96-98 in 1971, which talked about drug addiction.

Furthermore I discuss the impact of superheroes in my thesis, which is (still in progress and) about the representations of masculinities on the Marvel shows on Netflix. Here is an excerpt from my literature review:

Each adaptation is created within a different set of cultural referents (i.e. Luke Cage and its ties to the Black Lives Matter movement), its own era of production, its own industry structures (i.e. Netflix), its own issues-based agenda (i.e. The Punisher and the commentary on gun violence and the U.S. military), and its own cluster of narratives. Liam Burke (2015) who discussed the nature of adaptation in the comic book genre by examining superhero movies ranging from 1978 to 2014, said that one thing that superhero movies bring are stories that address awkward, unresolved issues. As Douglas Wolk (2007) has previously stated, “Superhero comics are, by their nature, larger than life and what’s useful and interesting about their characters is that they provide bold metaphors for discussing ideas or reifying abstractions into narrative fiction” (p. 92). The representation of the superheroes goes beyond the good-guys-versus-bad-guys formula as they acknowledge the likelihood of civilian casualties, the complexities of morality and ethics, and various ideas that reflect worldly events and relevant discussions. Wolk (2007) said that in their own way, comic books serve as novel of ideas with characters that have allegorical values, and with grand metaphors and subjective interpretations of current issues (p. 92).

Among the people who argue that Netflix shouldn’t release The Punisher at all is io9 staff writer Charles Pulliam-Moore. While his article is well-written and contains good arguments, he made some superficial statements, one of which I will address here:

Though Netflix’s superhero shows are some of the most interesting additions to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, they all follow the pattern of propping up their central characters as damaged, yet still sympathetic, admirable people. By the end of Jessica Jones or Daredevil, we’re made to understand that those characters have all made questionable decisions with their lives, but we’re also meant to see them as people who are doing the Right Thing™. That sort of framing works for characters who are, in the truest sense, heroic people with abilities that real people don’t have. But with someone like the Punisher, that kind of story ultimately ends up casting a man who is more or less a mass shooter in a positive light.

The first bold line is correct to an extent; ’empathetic’ is more accurate, not sympathetic. However, the final sentence here shows that Pulliam-Moore hasn’t done his research. The heroes in MCU have committed various acts that can be interpreted as good, bad or somewhere within the gray area. However, the writers leave it to the audience to decide those things; they aren’t preaching anything to them. As far as the Marvel shows on Netflix go, it’s never explicitly said that one should strive to be like Daredevil or Luke Cage, or that in the end, they made the right choices. Like Father Lantom once said to Matt Murdock, “Few things are absolute” (Daredevil, s1/e9, 2015).

Frank Castle questions himself from time to time, which is shown throughout the second season of Daredevil. In an interview with EW, Jon Bernthal said about his role: “There are things you can identify with and get behind, and there are things when the character pushes it and you can’t get behind him anymore. And that’s what I want. I think that’s the nature of the character. This is a guy who pushes the envelope. He’s brutal, but he’s coming from a place of unbelievable hurt. And the best thing about the character is he just doesn’t care. It’s a highly personal mission he’s on and if he offends you, it’s completely unimportant to him.”

In addition, the approach towards the character hasn’t changed for the self-titled show. During an interview with Total Film, co-star Deborah Ann Woll, who plays The New York Bulletin reporter Karen Page, stated: “Karen is always going to be there as a conscience for Frank. She’s also one of his only allies, one of the only people he can come to. […] There’s no conflict about his methods, they’re wrong. The conflict is, ‘Does that make him a monster, make him someone we shouldn’t empathize with?’. That’s the view I’ve latched onto. Not so much, ‘It’s good that he’s killing people’, more, ‘It doesn’t necessarily make him someone we shouldn’t care for or believe in’.”

Besides, you can’t compare Frank to mass shooters. Other than that they both use guns, their goals and ideologies differ: Mass shooters kill innocent people randomly and in great numbers. Frank kills criminals (specific targets), which I don’t encourage, of course, not at all, but that’s an important difference.

One fan stated in a comment on The Punisher‘s official Facebook page: “I know they have pushed back the premier because of Vegas. But there has to come a realization that what happened in Vegas, is similar to what happened to Frank’s family. With all of these mass shootings, it’s hard not to feel like Frank, to feel a connection to a man who wants to stop these shootings before they start. To dole out some punishment to those that seek to sow terror and fear. Yeah, I empathize with Frank Castle the character. I want to give that terror and fear into people who would seek to kill dozens. Not sitting in a jail, or going through years of trials and appeals. Permanent and swift vengeance. But I won’t. Because I live in the real world. When I get to see a fictional character like Frank who doesn’t have to be constrained, who can dish out punishment. Yeah, that is what I would like to see.”

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October 14, 2017.

That’s something I would like to see, too. Plus, you can add as a comment that the murder of Frank’s family being covered up and ignored is possibly an allegory for our silence towards gun violence. When Karen is investigating Frank’s past, she is told by her editor Mitchell Ellison, “Well, you know, people are shot every day. It doesn’t always make the paper” (Daredevil, s2/e5, 2016). That hit home with me, again because I live so close to Detroit.

Pulliam-Moore asked, “When can they release their show about a superhero who shoots people?”

I tell you, sir, the perfect time is NOW. And you and many others aren’t asking the right questions. Instead you should wonder: Why does real tragedy have to happen before we acknowledge a problem?

 

 

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References from Lit Review Excerpt

Burke, L. (2015). The Comic Book Film Adaptation. Jackson, MS: The University Press of Mississippi.

Wolk, D. (2007). Reading Comics: How Graphic Novels Work & What They Mean. Philadelphia, PA: Da Capo Press.

 

 

Grad School: Part 6 – “Sucker-Punching the Last Year” (+thesis proposal intro)

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the heroes

Usually when I write these grad school entries, I bring a load of advice and try to take the therapeutic self-help approach. This time, though, I just wanted to share some exciting things about my thesis with you. Take what you will from it.

THESIS TITLE: “The Boy Behind the Mask” 

Research is a love-hate relationship. Not unlike weight-lifting. There’s lots of pain and slow but gradual gratification. I know it will be worth all that hard work, though, because at the end of my grad school career, I’ll have my very own book at Kresge Library.

For those who haven’t read the previous post, my thesis is going to be on the representations of masculinity in male-centered superhero shows, particularly the Marvel Netflix series Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and The Punisher. Yes, the latter isn’t out yet so considering how I’ve planned my themes according the first three, Frank Castle might introduce some fun challenges.

Those themes are going to be identity, family, embodiment (the male body), women’s roles and power… power in a Foucaultian sense; a blend of feminism and post-structuralism.

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Found on tumblr (user: punishermygunmyhardandme).

Writing a thesis is no piece of cake: First you have to come up with a topic and/or research question or a number of questions. In my case, both happened at the same time after reading the introduction of Cable Guys: Television and Masculinities in the 21st Century by Amanda D. Lotz (really awesome book, totally recommend it!).

Then you have to write a research proposal, where you need to show what you’re studying and why you’re studying it, how you’re going to do it and most important of all, which literature you’re going to rely on throughout the process (or analysis for me). The beautiful thing about the literature review is that it’s going to be part of the thesis itself.

So far, knock on wood, the research is going well. The lit review is kicking my ass, but I’m making progress on the four topics I have to cover before I can start my analysis: Definitions and key terms of masculinity, Netflix and the changing television industry, comic book adaptations, and feminist scholarship.

Once the proposal has been approved, I can start analyzing the text, AKA the four shows, which really is five whole seasons since Daredevil has two. Good thing I’ve already seen most of the material and got several ideas to work with.

Oh, and when you’ve done the actual thesis and gotten it reviewed by your adviser and a committee, it will be a bound book at the university library. I can even get it published if I pursue it! My own book in the stores, can you imagine.

hard at work

Karen Page (pre-journalism days) hard at work, Daredevil, s2/e5.

I will probably post the research proposal on my blog when it’s been OK’d. For now, I’m happy to share the introduction. It might get cut down a bit, so consider this a draft:

— Introduction 

It wasn’t the first time the blind, red-suited vigilante had entered the screen when Netflix released their own television series Marvel’s Daredevil, or simply Daredevil, in April 2015. The self-titled movie from 2003 had left a less than impressionable resonance with the mainstream audience. This time, however, something worked. As part of the Marvel Cinematic Universe, the online streaming service produced a show with 13 hour-long episodes that provided a gritty, realistic portrayal of a heroic figure that is well-established in the comic book genre. The story of Matt Murdock takes place shortly after the events in the blockbuster movie The Avengers, following the (superhero) tradition of independent characters sharing time and space in the same world. Through experimental, relation-oriented storytelling and a daring approach towards characters that have normally been ignored or neglected (female characters in particular), Daredevil became the prime example of what a superhero series should be. What has followed since then is a line of Marvel superhero shows on Netflix—Jessica Jones (November 2015), Luke Cage (September 2016), Iron Fist (March 2017), the team-up of the four heroes in The Defenders (August 2017), and The Punisher (which will be released this fall)—all of which bring their own host of relationships, values, themes and ideas.

One common thread between them is the new representation of men and masculinity, which within the Marvel Universe has created a shift in attitudes towards manhood, gender relations, and women’s roles. It is my intention with this research paper to explore and analyze the men’s portrayal—and consequently the women’s as well—in the male-centered shows: Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist, and The Punisher. The focus will be on the protagonists Matt, Luke Cage, Danny Rand and Frank Castle since the main plot revolves around their relationships, problems and goals. The reason why the analysis goes beyond them is because the showrunners display both the friends and villains connected to the hero’s journey in the same nature of empathy, care and attention to detail. There is a definite conflict between the protagonist and various antagonists and a lot of action, yet the story in all these Netflix dramas have a stronger emphasis on relationships. While characters are trading hands on a rooftop, the audience is aware of the people’s motives and what led up to that fight; perhaps it’s even uncertain whom the audience should root for. It’s like the New York Bulletin reporter Ben Urich once said, “My experience, there are no heroes, no villains. Just people with different agendas” (Daredevil, s1/e7, 2015). The difference between the good guys and the bad guys isn’t a sharp line in the sand, just like the nature of the gender roles. The female characters aren’t naturally love interests and/or victims. Instead the women are active participants in the story, with their own stakes, desires and fears. The fact that women such as Karen Page and Colleen Wing have their own hero’s journey to travel doesn’t emasculate the heroes, nor are their struggles and hopes displayed as less important than the one of the protagonists’.

In my literature review, I will explain how I plan to answer questions regarding the definition of masculinity, the background and understanding of comic book adaptations, Netflix and the changing television industry, and to some extent, how my findings contribute to feminist scholarship. (While the audience and fan engagement is a vital part to the comic book industry, for the sake of time, I’ve decided to leave it as a project for another day.) The most important questions to keep in mind are: How has superhero masculinity typically been constructed in other forms? How is comic book masculinity changing in relation to post-millennial masculinity? How is masculinity shaped by seriality, trans mediation and television seriality, and furthermore, what are the industrial and textual contexts that might help account for this shift? And how does this shift compare to the various reboots that characterize Marvel comic book culture? As for adaptation, I will go over how serialization has played into moving the comic book to the real-life screen, and whether there’s been a history of character development or character reboots. I won’t go into elaborate details on feminist scholarship, but I will consider the role of media in constructing ideas of gender. Regarding gender relations, I will define key terms in the study of media and masculinity, and identify the debates over the usefulness of the concept of hegemonic masculinity. These questions about masculinity and femininity will likely fall into all five themes during my analysis: How has the portrayal of the male superhero changed? How do the men in these shows display patriarchal and/or feminist masculinity? How do the showrunners use narrative elements to present the men, particularly the heroes we’re supposed to empathize with? How are the women portrayed? What are their relationship to the hero? How do they contribute or take away from the story? After my lit review, I will explain how certain themes fit into my broader theoretical and methodological issues. In conclusion, I will lay out the specific methods I plan to use in my textual analysis.

Within a critical and intersectional feminist framework, I’m going to examine the following five themes that can be found in the shows: Identity, family, embodiment, women’s roles and (as in a Foucaultian sense) power. My chapters will in fact be split into the themes as I perform a textual analysis with a focus on the narrative elements, and attempt to answer my questions. By intersectional feminism I am referring to the idea that feminism is concerned about gender beyond the limits of biological differences. Other social, economic, cultural and political factors contribute to different ideals about masculinity, all of which I will consider throughout the research. Michael Kimmel (2006) stated that before gender was visible to men—before masculinity became thought of as a gender and while it was still considered as the normal human experience—manhood was believed to be something innate in every male body, or a transcendent tangible property that each man manifests in the world. With the recognition that the manhood ideal isn’t a consciousness from men’s biological constitutions, but a cultural creation, it became apparent that masculinity means something different for every social group, every generation, meaning that there are several hegemonic masculinities. Some cultures may value manly stoicism or sexual prowess while others see the more emotional, familial man as an aspiring figure. Kimmel (2006) said, “Manhood means different things at different times to different people. […] What it means to be a man in America depends heavily on one’s class, race, ethnicity, age, sexuality, region of the country” (p. 3-4). I will examine how such traits in the characters intersect in their lives, their idea of masculinity and how it shapes their behavior and attitudes. The idea of masculinity won’t be the same for African-American, ex-con yet well-read Luke Cage as it is for the younger, white American Danny Rand who was born into a rich family. However, even Danny, who was raised in a community immersed in Chinese culture starting at the age of ten, he will have different ideas of masculinity than Catholic, pro-bono lawyer Matt Murdock who has never been outside his hometown New York City, or middle class, U.S. Marine veteran Frank Castle who served several tours in Iraq and Afghanistan.

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Grad School: Part 5 – “What Summer Break?”

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At an outlook with friends by Westport, Ontario, Canada on August 4, 2017. From left to right: James, Kelly, Chris, my brother Simon, Lilje and I.

One thing I’ve heard a lot lately is, “This summer went by so fast.” It’s something people tend to say annually, but this time I can honestly agree with them.

For giggles, I wanted to pose this question to my fellow classmates: What did you do this summer?

And secondly, how did you prepare yourself for the fall semester?

In regards to getting ready for school, I got some advice in case you feel caught off guard or lack of motivation.

  • Try making a list of your goals for this semester.
  • Think about your priorities.
  • Think about people and events (i.e. workshops, student orientation, etc.) that can help you achieve your goals.
  • Also, look ahead of time to see if there’s anything fun going on. It’s easy to get caught up with school and work, but don’t let it stop you from having a good time.
  • In the same line… think of things to look forward to.
  • Find a physical activity – whatever it is – that will keep you moving. Exercising is so good for you! I can’t empathize it enough. Believe me, it will actually give you more energy to deal with whatever challenges are ahead.
  • Catch up with your classmates. Think of them as members of the same team as you. No matter how tough a class may get, you can get through it together.

 

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“Wait, where are we? We’re pointing at two different spots!” Just kidding, we’re in Charlevoix, MI; May 2, 2017. I visited my friends Shayla (in picture) and Aaron.

As for my summer, I’ve done a lot travel: One four-hour-long road trip north to Charlevoix, MI, despite the lingering chill back in May. One life-changing conference in Washington, D.C. in early June. And last month, a 10-day long trip to an island in Ontario, Canada with some old friends from high school. In addition to that, I’ve been reading, writing and working. I’ve finally found a nice job and I earned my green belt back in July. Not to mention that I had a kick-ass summer class throughout May and June. It was about gender and sexuality in the media, largely regarding television and online-streams. By kick-ass, I mean that it was a ton of fun and it also kicked my ass. It’s amazing that I managed to ace it with all the reading the professor threw at us. The final was brutal: An in-class essay exam and a paper due a few days later.

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One of my favorites so far. Daredevil, Issue 181 by Frank Miller (1982).

I made it even harder on myself by choosing to write a research proposal, which until then, I’ve never done. It turned out to be “a good start” to the actual proposal that I have to turn in soon. Unlike most of my classmates, who are picking “comps” (the in-class essay exam) as their exit option, I’ve decided to do a thesis. One, I love research, and two, I am a terrible test-taker. I’ve started my research already, even though it hasn’t gotten officially approved, but every professor I’ve talked to thinks I’ve picked an interesting topic. I’m looking at the changing portrayal of the male superhero onscreen and their depiction of masculinity by studying the Marvel Netflix shows. My focus characters are Daredevil, Luke Cage, Iron Fist and the Punisher. In the past few days, I’ve read 49 comic books issues and still got a few dozen to go. Before then I rummaged through websites talking about the characters’ origins and checked out what fans are saying on social media. I’m reading a few books about television in general, too, by scholars such as John Fiske and Amanda D. Lotz. It was actually Lotz’s book that we read for class that inspired me; Cable Guys: Television and Masculinities in the 21st Century. It feels right to take in some of her observations and bring the research to the Marvel universe, considering how big superheroes have become in the mainstream media in the past decade. I will talk about the whole thesis process another time, but if you want to follow my exciting journey more closely, feel free to check out my Tumblr blog, Marvel Scholar Palm. I use the site as a source of ideas and inspiration… and let’s be honest, a platform for some bursts of opinions. I am a superhero fan after all.

So what have you done this summer? If it feels like your memories have become jumbled in the haste of buying textbooks and all that, I got a fun tip for you. I sat down and wrote a list of all the events that took place in the past three-four months; things I’ve accomplished, tried and failed, and even the movies I’ve seen in theater. It really gave me an opportunity to appreciate everything I’ve experienced and allows me to write an end to that chapter. Back to the grind, right?