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December 05, 2019 - Image 10

Resource type:
The Michigan Daily

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Each year, the quality of content released to the
public from the entertainment industry hits new
highs and lows. With every sequel and prequel
released, I sink further into doubt that Hollywood
can surprise us anymore. After all, what can shake
audiences to their core the way that “Arrival of a
Train” did? Or the “firsts” of every genre? Thankfully,
something always comes along that proves me
wrong, and after all these years that Hollywood has
gifted me with pleasant surprises and whirlwinds
of emotion, it would be an absolute shame if I didn’t
take a moment to thank the shows that shifted my
perspective on the industry and society as a whole.
I’ve been blessed by the entertainment industry a
countless number of times, but the most memorable
gift was my introduction to the depths and bounds
that animated shows can reach in their content,
spirit and artistry. People have a tendency to
associate animation with children, failing to realize
how animation allows creators to push boundaries
with more flexibility and ease. When you start
to realize just how far they can go, it completely
changes the way you view television.
My proper introduction to a good animated show
was “Avatar: The Last Airbender” in the basement
of my childhood home. My memories of it are
hazy — it was long ago when the show was still on
Netflix. As someone who grew up on Disney and
Nickelodeon sitcoms, it was rare to see a normalized
version of Asian culture in a mainstream television
series. There’s still an ongoing debate as to whether
“Avatar” counts as anime — if it does, the show blows
my whole article wide open. So let’s say it doesn’t.
As a Nickelodeon-produced show, “Avatar” displays
astonishing layers of cultural sensitivity and
tact and ease. It
quickly became
expect from a
series, and few
animated shows
over time have
The first to do
it was “Bojack

Anyone who knows me has likely been pestered to
watch the show several times, and those who I can
force to get past the first season never regret it. At
its best, it’s a surprise. Like most first time watchers,
I began the series with a halfhearted effort.
Even though I had been told it was better than
it appeared, good shows aren’t appreciated until
they’re lived and experienced. I had subconsciously
categorized it under the expectation that it would be
a jaunty, vulgar adult cartoon like the rest, and while
it starts that way, it finds its footing and maintains
its excellence throughout its nearly-concluded
six season run. Its existentialism is gradual, and
the depths it reaches are wholly unexpected but
entirely welcome. The creators somehow made
this animated anthropomorphic horse such a
heartbreaking yet alarmingly relatable character,
not to mention the other side characters, each of
whom have complex, three-dimensional features
that the majority of secondary television characters
lack. It’s extremely predictable of me to stamp this
as the best animated show of the decade, but I can’t
help it. There aren’t many shows that’ll make you
feel the same way that this one does, and it’ll draw
out any buried existential dread that you might
have hoped to get rid of by early adulthood.
But that’s not to say that there are only two good
animated television shows out there. This decade
had much to offer in the realm of animation and
its various art styles, which advanced quickly
throughout the decade. 2019 alone has had amazing
animated shows start, end and get cancelled by
cruel shifts in streaming and entertainment. A
notable mention is “Undone,” a show by the same
creator as “Bojack.” It’s a quick eight episodes on
Amazon Prime Video, and breaks barriers of genre
like I’ve never seen before. Its run is too recent to
label as the best animated series of the decade, but
it’s a beacon of hope for those who fear that the new
decade will have
nothing to offer
but terror and
Apart from some
issues we might
have to face head
on in the very
near future, at
least we can be
soothed in the
fact that good
television is out
there, and likely
won’t be going
away for some

‘Bojack’ is bright, always

Daily Arts Writer


In her 1992 book “Men, Women, and Chainsaws,”
Carol J. Clover coined the term ‘Final Girl,’ referring
to female leads in horror movies who survive as
the other characters are killed off. Carol writes
that they “shriek, run, flinch, jump or fall … (and)
sustain injury and mutilation” until they escape or,
infrequently, kill the attacker themselves. Clover
explains that they are less people and more “abject
terror personified,” existing solely to be afraid.
The tormented female protagonist has existed
almost as long as horror has, with ‘Scream Queens’
like Ann Darrow in 1933’s “King Kong” shrieking
their way through the plot, a stereotype that
transformed into the ‘Final Girl’ through the
decades. The concept coalesced in the 1970s, with
characters like Laurie in “Halloween” being hunted
by powerful villains like Michael Myers. While
they do fight back, every ‘Final Girl’ spends most of
their stories terrified, trying to escape the villain.
This lasted until the new millennium, when cinema
began to embrace new ideas and voices.
In 1999’s “Scream,” Sydney is still a ‘Final Girl’ but
violently fights with almost no fear when compared
to Laurie from “Halloween,” and even terrifies
her attackers. Then there is Sarah in 2005’s “The
Descent,” who hits another character with a pickaxe,
leaving them for the monsters so she can escape with
her own life. A weirder example is 2006’s “Inland
Empire,” where Laura Dern (“Blue Velvet”) plays
both the hero and villain, and it is sometimes unclear
who is who.
While the roles of ‘Final Girl’ and villain were still
obvious in these movies, the inhumanity stretched
to both. In the 21st century, The ‘Final Girl’ didn’t
just flee the monsters blindly. She made ambiguous,
brutal choices that ran against the ‘Scream Queen’
stereotype. In the 2000s, the ‘Final Girls’ strained
the trope’s limits, with a horrific action here or a
murky decision there. In the 2010s, however, they
transformed entirely.
In 2014’s “Under The Skin,” an alien stalks the
streets of Scotland, abducting humans for food.
While this seems like the perfect set up for an “alien
terrorizes Final Girl” scenario, like 1979’s “Alien,” the
extraterrestrial instead takes the form of a woman
played by Scarlett Johansson (“Marriage Story”) and

does not fit the typical role of the antagonist. This
time, the alien is the main character. The female
protagonist in “Under the Skin” is no ‘Final Girl,’
though. She is intelligent, powerful and unafraid.
She murders people but develops shades of kindness,
creating an empathetic push and pull that’s
impossible with simple heroes and villains.
While the alien is chased by an assailant in the
final minutes of the film, it’s by an average man,
not a monster like the usual ‘Final Girl’ adversaries.
After being assaulted by said man, the alien sheds
their female skin and stares into its human eyes.
An alien, a creature usually depicted as a monster
in horror, holds the skin of an assaulted woman, a
trait that typifies the ‘Final Girl,’ as if contemplating,
why wear the skin if it only brings terror and injury?
Subsequent characters chose not to.
In 2015, Thomasin in “The Witch” survives as her
family is killed off, but, ultimately, doesn’t fight back
or even run from the witches. She joins them. 2018’s
“Suspiria” is similar: Susie triumphantly becomes
the leader of a sinister witch coven in 1970s Berlin.
Like “Under The Skin,” these women break the
‘Final Girl’ mold and become something far more
They are attacked by horrific forces and fight back,
but don’t do it out of fright; their violence is imbued
with deep power. They also embrace violence and
the supernatural, without being confined to the role
of a villain.
Without the ‘Final Girl’ trope, horror can tread
new ground, forcing audiences to empathize with
dark, complex characters and examine their own
capacity for evil.
What happens after losing one’s humanity? Can
violence be healing and redemptive? Can one escape
the patriarchy by joining a coven of witches?
These questions, and many more, could be asked
only by discarding the ‘Final Girl’ stereotype, and
are mostly unique to the 2010s. In no other genre,
and at no other time, have the roles of hero and
villain converged in this way, to such profound and
horrific effect.
In 2018’s “Halloween,” everything comes full
circle. Laurie and Michael Myers return, and the
ending is shot to mirror the original. Yet it’s Myers
that hides, as Laurie hunts for him with a shotgun.
She is ferocious in a way that approaches that of a
serial killer, like Myers. It may have taken almost
half a century, but Laurie finally isn’t afraid.

The Final Girl’s final demise

Daily Arts Writer



After recently being added to the Subtle Depressed People
Traits group on Facebook, I enjoyed laughing in my room
late at night, scrolling from a macabre Winne the Pooh joke
about mental illness to a self-deprecating tweet complaining
about being lonely but never leaving the house. These are
the jokes for the generation of kids who are trying to cope.
The past decade saw a rise in mental illness and mental
health awareness in schools and in my own life. I was
officially diagnosed with anxiety and depression in early
2016. At first, I was embarrassed about the stigma, worried
that others would not want to associate with someone so
unstable. Going into college, I felt like I had “ANXIETY
AND DEPRESSION WATCH OUT” scrawled in black
Sharpie on my forehead. However, the more I opened up
to others, I found that many students were struggling with
what I was.
Generation Z, those born from 1997 onward (according
to the Pew Research Center), has grown up amid the
divisive politics, mass shootings, sexual harassment and
climate change of the 2010s. The American Psychological
Association’s October 2018 study “Stress in America:
Generation Z” wrote, “America’s youngest adults are most
likely of all generations to report poor mental health, and
Gen Z is also significantly more likely to seek professional
help for mental health issues.”
The APA survey found that a major stressor for
Generation Z was gun violence caused by mass shootings
and school shootings. By the time the Pulse (2016), Las
Vegas (2017) and Parkland (2018) mass shootings had
happened, our generation grew anxious of the reality
that it could happen at any of the malls, high schools or
concerts that we were attending. The panic over continued
mass shootings opened up a conversation about gun
control, followed by the backlash for politicizing a tragedy,
ultimately burying the discussion of gun laws until the next
mass shooting. The resilience of Gen Z activists like Emma
Gonzalez and David Hogg, survivors of the Parkland school
shooting, sparked the March for Our Lives movement
and a national conversation. A few days after the Walmart
shooting in El Paso, I remember being on the second floor
of a Target and wondering how I would escape if there was
a shooter. It is this kind of anxiety that proliferates around

our generation.
While politics in America were forever changed in the
2016 elections, Gen Z-ers continued to charge through
childhood and adolescence surrounded by the white noise
of this divisive political era. The normalization of acts like
deportation and family separation has led our generation to
become almost numb to the news cycles and Twitter battles.
The #MeToo movement opened up an entire system of
sexual harassment and oppression of the powerless by the
those in power, unveiling the systemic levels of silence and
cover-up, a rude awakinging for young women espeically. I
hope I can speak for most college students when I say I can
remember holding my breath during the Christine Blasey
Ford and Brett Kavanaugh hearings. It felt like “he said”
would eventually trump “she said,” and it was enraging to
All the while, climate change’s detrimental effects
continue to escalate to unprecedented levels by
anthropogenic causes, like air and water pollution. Even with
the overwhelming support and evidence from the scientific
community, leaders within our country and around the
world continue to ignore how pressing and dire our climate
crisis is. Another Gen Z activist, Greta Thunberg, is leading
the charge and inspiring Generation Z and others to become
more vocal and steadfast in fighting for our beliefs.
Generation Z is known for their mental health, but
maybe our identity stems from more than just increasing
levels of anxiety about our changing world. I believe it also
displays our generation’s ability to show vulnerability about
our anxieties and the effects they bring, leading to mental
health awareness popping up as a conversation topic and,
sometimes, outright theme at college events and high school
pep rallies.
A Wall Street Journal article this past May stated
that companies are now implementing mental health
seminars and protocols for their employees in the wake
of Gen Z’s enterance into the workforce. The rise of stress
management apps and programs is just the start of the major
de-stigmatization of mental illness and the embracing of the
importance of mental health in overall well-being.
When a tumultuous world called, Generation Z bit back
with internet culture blended with creative genius and
a sharp sense of humor. We are the generation that cuts
darkness with humor and wit, attempting to diffuse the
tension and fear, to allow ourselves to bond over shared
anxieties and feel less alone in these chaotic times.

Love, an anxious generation

The stories all follow the same general outline:
A girl lives her whole life thinking her society is
normal. She prepares for the day when she is old
enough to be be categorized by a system prescribed
by her society. She meets a boy. She begins to
realize something is off with the world she lives in,
that maybe it isn’t as perfect as she thought it was.
She discovers the truth and she and the boy lead a
reformatory revolution. Split that story up into three
young adult novels, and you have the “Divergent”
series by Veronica Roth. Or the “Delirium” series
by Lauren Oliver. Or the “Matched” series by Ally
Condie, or the “Uglies” series by Scott Westerfield,
or a variant of “The Hunger Games” or any of the
young adult female-led trilogies that hit stores and
teenagers between the years of 2010 and 2015. This
literary phenomenon was mostly ignored (as most
young adult fiction is) by older generations. But the
weird Millennial-Gen Z mashup generation that
went to middle school in the early 2010s received
the full brunt of its force. Dystopian novels took
bookstores and middle schools by storm, and even
self-professed seventh-grade literary snobs (like
my past self) could not ignore the love.
This specific breed of young adult fiction had a
remarkable ability to hold the attention spans of
tween and teenage readers, even in a period when
this age group was, for the most part, getting their
first smartphones. Something made them magnetic,
even after reading was no longer considered “cool.”
These series achieved the effect in two ways: They
organize their stories into a series format, which
kept readers reading, and they employ just enough
plot twists to keep the reader engaged without
feeling tricked. Their prose is simple, usually in
the first person, and involves more action than
description, which is perfect for a book written
for a mass of thirteen-year-olds. Furthering their
popularity, series like “Divergent” and “The
Hunger Games” were turned into movies with
attractive leading actors and aggressive marketing
Much of the tension in these novels stems
from governmental restriction and control. In
“Matched,” the government controls who you
love; in “Delirium,” the government controls
whether you can love at all; in “Divergent,” the
government controls your behavioral traits (which
determines who you love), and so on. Almost every
young adult has problems with some form of
authority figure. These novels paint these figures
in an overwhelmingly negative light, but family and
guardians often remain relatively unscathed. The
family, in fact, is usually a source of support and
an object of devotion and love. Even when it seems
like parents are the “bad guys,” setting boundaries
and enforcing curfews, novels from this specific
subgenre remind the reader that they have our

best interests at heart. Perhaps this comes from
the writers themselves being parents — they are
more inclined to show characters that are most like
themselves in the most positive light possible, even
in a story where they are writing from a 16-year-
old’s point of view.
The dystopian novels of the 2010s take the
universal fears and frustrations of young adults and
cloak them in science fiction and dramatic action.
Middle school is a constant battle to fit in and find
out who you are. It’s probably the first time you had
a real crush on someone else. These books, with
their categorizations and romantic subplots, frame
these problems not as inconsequential — how most
middle schoolers are told — but instead as absolutely
crucial. In the same way a sixth grader might
be choosing which table to sit at for lunch, Tris
chooses which faction she will call her new home.
Young teenagers do not need fiction to solve their
problems — people of this age have been having
the same issues, in one form or another, for a very
long time. Instead, young adult readers simply need
fiction to validate their emotions in a world that tells
them those very emotions are superfluous. Looking
back, a sixth grade crush or choice of dress for the
eighth grade formal seems utterly insignificant. But
at the time, it feels like the decision of a lifetime.
Middle school years are defined by big emotions
attributed to little things: Being melodramatic and
crying because a paper fortune teller told you your
crush would never like you back is an integral part
of being a young adult. The role of these dystopian
novels, then, is to give readers a space in which they
can fully experience those emotions without being
condescended for their “unimportance.”
At their core, all these series rely on the idea that
human nature cannot be categorized, no matter
how hard humans try. The evil authoritarian
societies try to confine human nature to one aspect.
In the beginning, before the main character and
the reader uncover the sinister underbelly of the
particular society, this seems perfect. After all,
categorization makes things so much simpler:
Imagine a world without all the messy emotions and
trial-and-error of trying to find yourself. Life would
be much more straightforward if we all knew our
explicit, definite role in society — where, exactly,
we fit in. It would be nice if we all knew exactly
where we belonged by our early teens, but these
books gave our middle school selves the answer we
didn’t really want to hear: That easy categorization
might seem like utopia, but is actually just a
gross oversimplification of human nature. This
dystopian literary phenomenon, though perhaps
unoriginal and overly romanticized, validated the
larger existential and emotional frustrations our
generation experienced at the time of their peak

The dystopia of the decade

Daily Arts Writer


For The Daily



4B —Thursday, December 5, 2019
The Michigan Daily — michigandaily.com

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