“I’m not lonely, baby, I am free,” sings Hayley Williams on her debut solo album, Petals for Armor, and her relief is palpable as she hums, “Finally.” She is singing of her home and of finding peace in her daily routines, which has taken on a new meaning since the pandemic has turned our homes into workplaces, classrooms, and the site of most of our everyday activity. Williams is known best as the lead singer of the American band Paramore, which has released five studio albums since 2005, but it took Williams until 2020 for her to strike out on her own (even as she reassured fans that her solo album did not spell the end for Paramore). It’s not that Paramore has ever held her back artistically; it is simply that now, Williams embraces the opportunity to dive into a narrative that is identifiably her own.
Martin Scorsese wrote a passionate essay published in Harper’s Magazine this month, critiquing streaming services as catalysts of the downfall of cinema as an art form. His piece acts as much as an ode to the creators, whose works he grew up watching, as it does a farewell to the medium he loves, as it succumbs further to the grip of the invisible hand amidst the pandemic. As one of the great moviemakers of our time (broadly speaking), the Wolf of Wall Street director makes several valid points. But although he specifically curses streaming platforms, I believe tech’s larger impact on society should shoulder much of the blame.
If you’ve spent any time online interacting with popular books, movies, TV shows, or many other types of media, you have probably run across the concept of fanfiction. At its simplest, fanfiction involves taking already-established aspects of fictional universes, including characters, settings, and items, and employing them in new stories. Writers get to take the age-old question of storytelling – “What if?” – to the next level. What if Kylo Ren were a sullen closing-shift worker at a coffee shop? What if an adult Harry Potter went on a begrudging buddy-cop-style mission with his school rival? What if Sherlock Holmes – and you’d have to be specific about which incarnation of the character – had joined up with Moriarty to form a mob? Plot holes or gaps in storytelling are also creatively addressed; if a particular character wasn’t on screen, where were they and what were they doing? If they are introduced as an adult without much backstory, what was their childhood like?
‘Dystopian’ is often defined as “relating to or denoting an imagined state or society where there is great suffering or injustice.” To say that we are threatened by becoming this version of ‘dystopian’ would be to say that the society we live in now is not violent or full of injustice. But it is. So, under the vague dictionary definition, we are living in a dystopia. But the key word that jumps out in this definition is ‘imagined.’ For me, ‘dystopian’ conjures up images of a dark grey filter overlaying a desolated, toxic wasteland or slums full of leather-clad teenagers who team up against the gaudy, corrupt, and wealthy leaders. It’s specific, a reality that makes permanent the injustices already present in our world, taking away any possibility of progression or change. This imagined version of a dystopia isn’t quite our reality.
Writing a blog post about a YouTube video should strike you as an odd choice. Isn’t this what callout or ‘response’ videos are for? I’ve even chosen an appropriately clickbait-y title! Look! I’ve hooked you, at least. But making a YouTube video and a whole YouTube channel about philosophy should strike you as even more strange. Isn’t philosophy too self-serious and academic to set foot on YouTube? Isn’t it dirtying itself by kicking around down here with the philistines? Oliver Thorn, the actor responsible for Philosophy Tube, would undoubtably say no. Thorn has been at this for 7 years. He’s been making YouTube videos through several vast changes in the culture of the internet. He has gone from hanging out in front of a bookcase chatting about Descartes to riding horseback while discussing the British monarchy and performing Platonic dialogues dealing with the politics of climate change. Costumes, makeup, and lavish sets all lend Thorn’s work polish and a district charm. Somehow, he takes the thought he engages with very seriously, but with a dash of good-humor. Though so much has changed, it’s clear the one thing has stayed the same. Thorn still believes in the value of philosophy to everyone. He would not have invested so much time and energy into this project if he did not.