Category Archives: Uncategorized

Validating Visitations

By Ashley Burns

“My name is Melinda Gordon. I just got married, just moved into a small town, just opened up an antique shop. I might be just like you, except from the time that I was a little girl I knew that I could talk to the dead… earthbound spirits, my grandmother called them. In order for me to tell you my story, I have to tell you theirs.” -Melinda Gordon before every episode of the show Ghost Whisperer.

For 107 episodes, young newlywed and self-proclaimed clairvoyant Melinda Gordon, played by Jennifer Love Hewitt, announced her otherworldly abilities to audiences in a conversational way. Broken up with scenes of the dead appearing out of nowhere and watching from afar, Gordon’s statement that her life has always been one that is intertwined with the spirits of the dead is spoken casually alongside mentions of the everyday. Owning a small business, small-town experience, and marriage are all things that everyone can relate to, or at least easily imagine. Regardless, there it hangs unabashedly in the air before the opening scene: the unnatural, unimaginable existence of the afterlife. This is what Ghost Whisperer is about.

Each episode, not including season openings and finales, follows roughly the same outline. A ghost is lost, confused, or angry, and somehow finds its way to Melinda Gordan. Piecing together vague clues about its life and death presented through disconcerting visions, Melinda is able to figure out why the ghost remains. Often, the concept of unfinished business is the root of the deceased’s problem, and always this business is connected to the living. After Melinda has convinced the loved ones left behind by the ghost that she is truly communicating with the dead, she delivers the ghost’s message and ushers the spirit into “the light.” Tears are shared, wounds begin to heal, and Melinda returns home to the day-to-day normalcy of a loving partner and a never-quite-renovated home.

Melinda and Jim

image via Tumblr

This is a story that we can understand; it is not, after all, a new element to the conversation of the afterlife. This, however, didn’t stop Ghost Whisperer from becoming incredibly popular, reaching its most successful season in 2009, with over 10 million viewers tuning into each episode of the fifth season. So, what about a story that has been told so many times before captivated so many people? Perhaps it is the same reason that the ghosts were so captivated by Melinda in the show: she makes the viewers feel important.

The idea of an afterlife often warrants two overarching beliefs: death either leads to an end or to. a continuation of existence, the latter often implying a “Heaven” as a reward for leading a kind and faithful life. While the show doesn’t invoke religious faith explicitly, Ghost Whisperer nevertheless suggests that not only is there an afterlife, but everyone is entitled to it. Furthermore, it is so warm, so inviting, and so perfect, that no soul would ever think of passing it by. Oh wait, they do. Why? For us of course.

Imagine being so important, so unequivocally intertwined with someone’s existence that this connection holds you back from eternal happiness. Or, imagine loving someone so much that it makes you second guess moving on to that eternal happiness. In this sense, Ghost Whisperer is more about how the existence of ghosts changes the meaning of existence for the living, rather than about whether there is an afterlife in the first place.

Consequently, many viewers’ conceptions about the importance of connectivity to loved ones even despite the barrier of death were strengthened even outside of simply watching the show for entertainment. Executive Producer of the show, James Van Praagh, who also happens to refer to himself as a clairvoyant and medium, saw an increase in attendance of his lectures after the airing of the first season. In referring to the popularity of the show and the increase in curiosity concerning the afterlife, Praagh said, “I think especially in a time of war people question beliefs, and I don’t think people are going to religions as much for answers. They are going within and being responsible for their own lives and their own quest for understanding.” (“Renewed”). In other words, interest in communication with ghosts is more often than not ignited by self-interest than a question of whether or not ghosts actually exist.

This attitude appears throughout the show in the sense that not only are the living characters always eventually convinced that their dead friends and family members have stayed behind because of them, but also the fact that it doesn’t take that much convincing at all. Keeping in mind that there is already a lot of unpacking and convincing packed into a 40-minute episode (loved ones are almost always somewhat skeptical of Melinda at first), it also doesn’t seem like a stretch for viewers to buy into what Melinda is selling. The characters seem primed to believe that someone they lost needed to come back to them. It comes as a relief, perhaps, to hear that they were not so easy to leave behind. Again, the show is not about the dead but how the dead increase the importance of the living. Even Melinda asserts in the pilot episode that she is not in the business of dying, but of living, and that “Death is just a part of it.”

Melinda in Nightgown

image via Pinterest

So, what happens when all is resolved, when Melinda Gordan has played therapist to the living and the dead and it is time to say the last, last goodbye? “The light” of course—that promised afterlife teased at the beginning of each episode. A fitting way to end, the light epitomizes what the show stands for. It comes to no surprise to viewers that the show’s “light” is not constructed of pearly gates and streets of gold but filled to the brim with other lost loved ones of the newly deceased, welcoming the now-satisfied ghost and reassuring the living. What else could everlasting peace and happiness be without the people important to us? As is seen by the pretty glistening tear down Melinda’s cheek and her smile as she turns away, Ghost Whisperer refuses to follow the narrative of terrifying specters, long-lasting purgatories, or atheist solitude. In this show, ghosts are about love and community, and how we make such an impression on the lives of others that it ripples into the afterlife. That, and, of course, long, dramatic nightgowns.

 

References:

“Renewed ‘Ghost Whisperer’ Has Many Themes.” TODAY.com, The Associated Press, 3 Apr. 2006, www.today.com/popculture/renewed-ghost-whisperer-has-many-themes-wbna12138079.

Stereotypes, Toxic Masculinity: The Family Business

By Addison Paul

Saving people, hunting things: The family business.

These words are known to many as a tagline for the dark fantasy television series Supernatural. Created by Eric Kripke, Supernatural has become a long-running pop-cultural phenomenon complete with a loyal and eccentric fanbase. With its 15th and final season airing in 2019 – 2020, the show has inspired a passion for all things ghosts, monsters, and demons for many people. Supernatural’s cult following has earned it a chief position among television show fandoms, but for an internet environment that’s all about acceptance and diversity in entertainment, the series presents numerous cultural problems. The show revolves around stereotypical white men, namely Dean and Sam Winchester, as the main players, while women and people of color only appear as extras, often marked for death. For a closer examination, let’s delve into one of the famously parodical installments of the show: Season 3, Episode 13 — “Ghostfacers!” This episode is an excellent example of the repeated othering and stereotyping often ignored by fans throughout many seasons of Supernatural.

With Eric Kripke and Ben Edlund, also two white men, as the writers of “Ghostfacers!,” it’s no wonder that white men dominate the storyline. Released in the spring of 2008, this particular episode combines stereotypes of masculinity, homosexuality, religion, mental illness, and ghost hunting to prove the Winchesters’ supernatural superiority in comparison to the amateur and oafish Ghostfacers team. Not only does “Ghostfacers!” provide parodical commentary on the act of paranormal investigation, but it also features exploitative use of native American culture, a Jewish person making a casual Hitler joke, and a gay man as the sole victim of the ghost — all in 42 minutes. Cramming this much culturally problematic content into one episode could have been a result of the troubling 2007-08 Writers Guild of America strike, but circumstances don’t excuse the central message of the episode: the better ghost hunters are stereotypically masculine white men, not the nerdy band of misfits representing some diversity.

The Ghostfacers team is made up of diverse people (at least by Supernatural’s standards) characterized by stereotypes and portrayed wearing ridiculous head lamps, operating shaky cameras, and working out of a garage. Kripke and Edlund lean into stereotypes surrounding the Ghostfacers’ diverse backgrounds as a crutch for cheap comedy. Harry shows the effeminate fear of a stereotypical geek, Maggie — the only woman and person of color in the episode — is an object of sexual desire, Kenny’s distant Cherokee heritage makes him a “licensed shamanologist,” Alan becomes one of the many queer characters killed for effect, and Ed even pretends to be gay to enlist ghost-Alan’s help,  exploiting his friend’s murder by thanking Alan for “teaching [them] how gay love can pierce through the veil of death and save the day.” The Ghostfacers are merely comedic relief compared to Dean and Sam, the burly, boot-wearing, heroes of Supernatural, affirming that the Winchester brothers, along with whiteness, hyper-masculinity, and heteronormativity, are the superior specimens of ghost hunting.

DLR Blog Ghostfacers

Image via Supernatural Wiki 

Additional cultural problems in “Ghostfacers!” stem from stereotypes of ghost behaviors and mental illness. This episode distinguishes between two types of ghosts: a death echo, a harmless ghost trapped in a loop replaying its death, and a violent spirit, a ghost wreaking havoc because of its violent disposition as a human. The three death echoes shown on screen died from gunshots, a train accident, and the violent spirit murdering Alan. These neutral ghosts all perished from external causes and are even shown as victors at the end of the episode. Daggett, the violent spitit, stole corpses from the hospital morgue to set them up in a horrific birthday party, and later committed suicide due to loneliness. Writers Kripke and Edlund use harmful stereotypes of mental illness and depression to create a shocking backstory for this character, making him the true villain and the epitome of a stereotypically evil ghost.

“Ghostfacers!” perpetuates harmful stereotypes to get a couple laughs and gasps out of the audience, but this kind of writing has more serious cultural implications. This episode creates pop cultural hauntings by associating negative cliches with ghosts and ghost hunters. By connecting women, homosexuals, people of color, and non-Christian religions with the supernatural, “Ghostfacers!” positions these traits and beliefs as “other.” Supernatural maintains such cultural hauntings throughout the series by reinforcing that Dean and Sam, who fit the cultural norms, consistently defeat or out-perform the people and creatures who fall into the category of other.

Ultimately, Supernatural remains a beloved pop cultural phenomenon, but it still presents issues with the writers’ controversial use of cultural stereotypes to affirm white male superiority, create cheap comedy, and present scary ghosts. The Supernatural fandom often ignores these cultural transgressions, preferring to instead celebrate the show for its campy drama and charismatic protagonists. “Ghostfacers!” spoofs and pokes fun at televised ghost hunting, and yet, Supernatural itself is a TV series frequently showcasing that very subject. The show’s ironic and amusing take on televised ghost hunting indicates that it doesn’t take itself too seriously, but given its popularity and dealings with heavy topics, should Supernatural be held accountable for its problematic content? Or, is it better to let the show remain a haunted soap opera with little cultural significance outside of Tumblr?

 

References:

“Ghostfacers!” Supernatural, written by Eric Kripke and Ben Edlund, directed by Philip Sgriccia, Warner Brothers, 2008.

Isolation in The Unknown

By Jo Ladner

*contains ending spoilers for “Over the Garden Wall*

“Over the Garden Wall” has been a Halloween tradition for me ever since it first released in 2013. A short mini-cartoon series Cartoon Network did specifically for Halloween, it’s plenty spooky and full of Halloween tropes, with living skeletons, ghosts, singing frogs, two brothers—Wirt and Greg— trying to find their way home, becoming lost and isolated in the woods, and The Beast.

overthegardenwall

image via Bing Images

The Beast is a hulking shadow that lives in the woods of The Unknown (the place where Wirt and Greg find themselves lost), collecting spirits of lost children to use as fuel for his lantern. He remains elusive through most of the show, although all the people Wirt and Greg bump into warn them of The Beast and his spirit-snatching tendencies. What exactly is The Beast, though?

The Beast himself is a spirit—much like the ones he collects—and like most ghosts and spirits he relies on the energy of others to keep himself aflame, as he says, since The Beast is not capable of doing this himself. He needs someone else to fill of role of the lantern bearer and keep him alive, which plays into the common tropes that ghosts and spirits are not able to completely function by themselves and that they need a vessel in order to stay manifested (the lantern, in The Beast’s case). They require assistance, however willingly —or unwillingly— given, and that is what the lantern bearer does. They collect the edelwood to grind into the oil for the lantern, keeping it lit for The Beast, who isn’t capable of doing it for himself.

The Woodsman is the one who holds The Beast’s lantern though most of the show, and in the last episode Wirt is given responsibility for it for a moment when it’s accidently knocked from the Woodsman’s hands and Wirt picks it up. The Beast is a master manipulator, another common trope of ghosts, and in order to keep and motivate the current lantern bearer, he lies to them and tells them that a spirit of a loved one is the one in the lantern. He plays off their guilt of losing that loved one to get them to keep fueling the lantern. The Beast tells the Woodsman that the light is the spirit of his daughter, and for Wirt, he says it is the spirit of his brother, Greg. The Beast keeps the Woodsman isolated in the woods to keep him from learning the truth, and the action of this isolation accomplishes two things. It keeps the Woodsman in the dark about the state of his daughter (who, despite The Beast’s word, is home alive and well), and it alienates him from the other townsfolk. The townsfolk fear The Beast, and they hold the belief that “he who carries the lantern must be The Beast.” This belief immediately pegs the Woodsman as someone dangerous, and so the townsfolk stay away from him and he stays away from them. So, a cycle starts: isolation, alienation, then self-imposed isolation. The Beast is about to do the same to Wirt before Wirt questions who exactly the spirit in the lantern is. This is where we learn that it is really The Beast’s spirit, and Wirt blows it out and sends it back to the world of the dead.

The idea of spirits keeping people in isolation to feed them in seen in a few other characters in “Over the Garden Wall.” Lorna is possessed by a violent and murderous ghost, and Lorna’s aunt keeps her in a secluded house to keep the ghost from harming others. Quincy Endecott, while not haunted by a literal ghost, is haunted by the idea of one, and he barricades himself in his manor while his fear drives him halfway to madness. These two characters aren’t nearly as terrifying as The Beast, although, at first glance, they appear to be more terrifying. They are given physical bodies and appearances, while The Beast is nothing more than a shadow —the shadow in the corner of your eye, if you will. The Beast is given only a passing glance at first, but the longer Wirt and Greg, and by extension the audience, are left to think on The Beast, the scarier he becomes. He plays on the parental fears of losing one’s child, either to kidnapping or death, which you can see with the Woodsman. He uses the children’s fears of “The Scary Thing In The Dark,” the thing that can take them away (another thing we’re warned about). That’s what makes The Beast so terrifying: his ability to evoke fear in both children and adults through very similar means.

The Beast is not a traditional ghost in this sense, but he is still using the tactic of isolation to keep himself alive. And do we not see this in other ghost stories and in other haunted houses and locations? What about Jack Torrance in Stephen King’s The Shining? Elenore Vance in The Haunting of Hill House? Or even your local ghost story, warning you to never go into the woods just on the edge of town on your own?

References:

Over the Garden Wall, created by Katie Krentz and Patrick McHale, with Elijah Wood, Collin Dean, Melanie Lynskey and Christopher Lloyd, Cartoon Network, 2013.

Chestnuts Roasting Over an Open Fire

By Brooke Lilek

*Chestnut: something repeated to the point of staleness; a trope

Phoebe heard a knock on the front door and froze.

An extreme reaction for someone who cannot sense death at her doorstep, but that’s Phoebe.

She tensed before checking the peephole. She found no one out front though. Phoebe threw the deadbolt into place and plopped down on the couch. Within 20 minutes, the knocking returned. But this time it came from the kitchen, a room Phoebe painted a disturbing fuchsia thinking it would fade to a softer color in a few weeks like hair dye.

Phoebe won’t be as bright as the walls of her kitchen, but this wouldn’t be any fun for you if she was.

Removing herself from the comfort of her couch, Phoebe tried to rationalize that the icemaker had kicked on.

Don’t bother believing Phoebe’s rationalizations. Let’s see how I can make her squirm.

She went into the kitchen to confirm her suspicions, but upon finding no ice, she conveniently remembered she broke it last week. Her heart pounded so fast it almost ran out of blood.

What should I make her afraid of? Nothing too easy, I’m taking up Phoebe’s whole night.

It’s all in my head, Phoebe thought. In the living room, she turned on Deadpool 2 to avoid hearing anything but Ryan Reynolds’, “and that is why the man bun is just a millennial mullet.” But more knocking at the door interrupted Ryan’s sultry voice.

She rose slowly and slunk towards the door. Peering through the peephole, Phoebe saw a man in a red jacket holding a pizza.

“$17.23, please,” said the delivery boy.

Pulling out 20 dollars, Phoebe said, “You didn’t stop by earlier, did you?”

“Nope, just this once.”

“Maybe you got the address wrong for another delivery?” She said.

“Yeah, no.” He said taking the money and leaving.

Phoebe set the pizza box on the couch and walked into the kitchen. She scrounged up her last Pepsi, which she dropped upon finding the pizza box open and a bite missing.

Perhaps you’d like more suspense?

Phoebe told herself she forgot she stole one heavenly bite before retrieving her drink.

As if someone could forget that so quickly.

Phoebe inched closer to the open box. The landline rang, freezing her lungs. Relax, it’s probably just mom, she thought, answering the phone.

What kind of scary story would this be if she didn’t answer the phone?

“H-hello?” she said. But only heavy breathing answered, and the line went dead. It must have been a wrong number, Phoebe thought.

Don’t worry, I won’t let Phoebe off that easy.

She looked at the pizza again. Just to be on the safe side, Phoebe threw the bitten slice away. Near the trash bin, she heard strange noises floating up from the basement, almost like a rusted window hinge creaking in the breeze. I should just go check, she thought, I’ll just close the window and it will be fine. She even imagined a raccoon sneaking past her and taking a bite of pizza.

It feels as silly writing that down as it does for you to read it, but I’ve already decided Phoebe doesn’t have much going on upstairs, so here we are.

With a flashlight in hand, Phoebe wandered into the depths of the house. Something deep inside told her turn back and shamelessly eat pizza while watching Ryan Reynolds leap around in a tight, red suit.

But you have entered a scary story, so she won’t do that. Her survival isn’t my top priority. Also, if you’re wondering why she didn’t turn on the light, you’ve learned nothing about Phoebe.

Halfway down the steps she called into the darkness.

“Hello?”

Something grabbed Phoebe’s ankle and yanked her down the remaining stairs.

Oh Phoebe, if only I hadn’t sent you into the basement.

Her head smacked the steps, breaking them from the walls. Cackling flooded her ears as her body slammed against the cement floor. Her vision swam as she looked around for the source of the insane laughter, but she saw no figures, only the glare of her flashlight as it rolled to the opposite wall.

Barely able to lift her head, Phoebe tried dragging herself back up the steps only to be flung backwards by the collar of her shirt.

“Stay,” a voice hissed.

She swung out her arm hoping to knock over her assailant, but her hand passed through what felt like maple syrup, not sticky, just resistant.

“Anybody, please! Help me!” Tears filled Phoebe’s eyes. She was dragged by her hair across the floor; cold concrete rubbed her skin raw. The laughter continued to fill the basement until Phoebe was practically breathing it.

“Please, let me g—” Phoebe started, but the Being gripped her throat. Cracks spread through the concrete surrounding Phoebe’s body. She thrashed her legs to no effect.

This may seem harsh, but if I just let Phoebe off the hook, who would read about her?

Pieces of concrete fell as sections of the floor split farther apart. Phoebe watched the outline of a head darken as her vision faded. Concrete walls rose to surround her limp body. She attempted to pry its hand away from her throat, but with every ounce of strength it gained, she lost hers. She fixated on its ravenous eyes.

Waves of heat beat against Phoebe’s back. The depths of Hell rose to trade her life for the Being’s. She found herself wondering how Deadpool 2 ended and sighed knowing she would never find out.

Maybe I should have let Phoebe eat some of her pizza. A last meal so to speak.

Blast from the Past: Revisiting Cultural Hauntings in the DLR with Founder Dr. Mix

By: Kylie Poling

Dr. Deborah Mix, Professor of English at Ball State University, obtained her BA at Oglethorpe University, and her MA and PhD at Purdue University. Dr. Mix’s area of expertise relates to experimental writing, especially poetry. Her current published works include literature by Gertrude Stein, Toni Morrison, and many others, ranging in topics from educational pedagogy to 20th-century women’s poetry. She will rejoin the Digital Literature Review for its next issue. Dr. Mix was one of the founders of the DLR, its first ever issue focusing on cultural hauntings. Next year, the DLR will revisit cultural hauntings with Dr. Mix once again at the helm. Recently, Kylie Poling, member of the editorial team for the DLR, conducted an email interview with Dr. Mix to discuss her plans for next year’s journal.

Kylie Poling (KP): Please describe your academic background and/or anything you think is important for readers of the DLR to know about you.

Dr. Deborah Mix (DM): Along with Adam Beach, I founded the DLR back in 2013. Also, despite the course’s focus on ghosts, I’m generally too chicken to watch scary movies or TV shows. So I’ve read The Haunting of Hill House, but I haven’t been brave enough to watch the Netflix series. Sad but true!

KP: Why did you decide to rejoin the DLR this year?

DM: I’m excited to be back with the DLR and to see all the ways the journal has grown since that first year. The technological landscape is so different now than it was 6 years ago, and I know I have a ton to learn. I’ve also continued to think about the ways we, as a culture, are haunted. I’m particularly interested in conversations about ways of understanding absences and erasures.

KP: The theme next year will be similar to the first year the DLR was published. What excites you most about revisiting this topic?

DM: When we chose the ghost theme for the first issue, there were dozens of texts we wanted to teach but didn’t have the time to cover. I’m excited that I’ll get to go back to that list again for this new issue. There will be one repeat on the reading list–Toni Morrison’s Beloved, which is incredibly powerful and important–but everything else will be new for 2019-2020.

KP: What are the leading theories you plan to address in the course?

DM: We’ll be drawing on some psychoanalytic theory, critical race theory, queer theory, and feminist theory. What haunts us? Why are we haunted? What can hauntings tell us?

KP: How do you plan to make DLR different this year than previous years?

DM: I’m hoping to experiment with some digital humanities approaches–mapping, text mining, and more. 

KP: Every year the professor teaching this course changes. What is your teaching philosophy and how do you think that will impact the course?

DM: I teach from a feminist perspective, foregrounding students as makers of knowledge. I want to balance my own agenda for the class (and clarity about assignments and expectations) with real autonomy for students to define our areas of inquiry, their individual projects, and the trajectory for this issue of the DLR

KP: What are you looking forward to most in the class?

DM: I’m excited for the chance to spend an extended period of time on the subject of ghosts and cultural haunting and to learn from the students on the DLR staff. (I learned a ton the last time around.)

Check out more about cultural hauntings in the 2019-2020 edition of the Digital Literature Review, coming in Spring 2020!

References:

“Deborah Mix.” Ball State University, www.bsu.edu/academics/collegesanddepartments/english/connect-with-us/faculty-staff/faculty/mixdeborah.

Mix, Deborah, PhD. Personal interview. 22 March 2019.

Promoting the Hunger Games

By: Fila’Sha Finley

Have you ever wondered how The Hunger Games became so successful? The Public Relations Director has your answers!

Executive Summary:

The first annual Hunger Games will be implemented in Panem in a couple months and I am one of the reasons that the Hunger Games will be so successful. My name is Fila’Sha and I am the Public Relations Director for the newly invented Hunger Games. I am going to give you all the inside scoop on what it takes to make a nationwide event. Now, some of you may be thinking how dare you help make these barbaric games successful? Let’s start off with the rationale behind The Hunger Games. The Capitol started the games to quell the rebellions in the districts and to bring everyone together in the spirit of national pride. The games, with their lottery system selection of tributes (contestants) and the competition to outwit other districts to win the games and bring glory to a district, are necessary in order to keep the peace among the districts. There is lot to get done in terms of coordinating and planning that comes with executing the perfect Hunger Games.

In order to make the Games successful we have a target for every district and the citizens in The Capitol.

With a budget of $2,000,000, we plan to target this audience through innovative social media campaigns, interactive announcements, and community engagement. The Capitol will love these games because they are a form of entertainment that will also promote the greater good of maintaining order among the districts. 

Our current social campaigns focus on showcasing the residents of The Capitol the different locations where the Games will be held. For example, there are rainforests, as well as other tropical and desert simulations. We will play up the exoticness of these locations and the way they will disorient the district tributes, thereby adding to the stakes and excitement of the Games. We will also use social media to promote our event that is mentioned below. T.V. and radio campaigns are at the core of our publicity game plan; these campaigns will reflect the goals of The Capitol.

Because of the large geographic target, T.V. ads will be the best way to reach our audience. We will send out mailers as well to make sure people have a physical copy of our plan and what we want to implement. The mailer will include information on what The Hunger Games are and the rules of the Games.


Situation Analysis: 

The Capitol needs to support the ideas of The Hunger Games before we can implement them to the districts. We will be persuading the residents of The Capitol that supporting the games is in their best interests.

Statement of Purpose:

To implement the Games and ensure there is a victor.

Target AudienceThe Capitol                                                                         

The Plan: Convince citizens of The Capitol that the Games are necessary and entertaining. 

Goal: To advertise the new way to keep peace called, “The Hunger Games”.  

Objective One: To promote viewership for The Games.

Strategy One: Launch a “Hunger Games” commercial campaign.

Tactic One: Target Capitol households with ads.

Description: 30 second advertisements

Deadline: Rolling (10 commercials a day) 

Budget: $525,000

Evaluation: Monitor profile insights/analytics.

Strategy Two: Increase targeting with print ads. 

Tactic One: Send mailers to The Capitol residents.

Description: Distribute mailers through Panem’s post office. 

Deadline: Rolling

Budget: $450,000

Evaluation: Include unique URL to measure response.

Tactic Two: Run radio spots during prime time.

Description: Air on local radio stations, focusing on those targeting young teens. 

Deadline: Rolling

Budget: $400,000

Evaluation: Measure an influx of website visits from targeted area at time of airing.


Timetable:

TacticDeadline
Air commercials during daytime television showsFeb. 15, 2145
Send mailers to The VillagesMarch 15, 2145
Run radio spots during prime timeMay 15, 2145 

Budget:

TacticBudget
Mailers to the CapitolCreatives to make mailers Postage$445,000
Air commercials during daytime televisionProductionDistribution$525,000
Radio spots during prime timeProductionDistribution$400,000
Total Budget$1.4 M

Challenges:

  1. Districts
  2. Support from residents 

Additional Benefits:

  1. Peace in Panem
  2. Entertainment
  3. No more wars

We will direct a wide variety of advertisements at the Capitol in a four-month span. This will get the residents excited for the first ever Hunger Games to take place in Panem. Through the T.V. advertisements, radio segments, and mailers we should be able to gain the audiences’ interest in the games, and particularly in the competition it promotes among the districts. The tagline for the campaign plays on the element of change in the Game’s tribute lottery system, proclaiming, “May the odds be ever in your favor.” This line will be central to both the T.V. and mailer ads. I hope this campaign gives you an idea of how the games will be promoted and what it takes to implement a successful campaign.

Red Queen: A Series of Inclusivity

By: Sammy Bredar

The book series Red Queen by Victoria Aveyard follows some dystopian stereotypes but takes the concept of a dystopian society in an entirely new direction by incorporating LGBT characters Evangeline Samos and Maven Calore into her world. Red Queen introduces readers to Mare, the protagonist of the series. Mare is a Red girl in a world full of Silvers. Silvers have supernatural abilities and can manipulate worldly elements while Reds have no powers of their own; they are forced to serve the Silver elite. Though Silvers make up only a small percentage of the population, their abilities allow them to hold a tyrannical rule over Reds. In this dystopian society, those with Silver blood hold the power, and those with Red blood are treated very poorly by the wealthy and powerful Silvers.

Mare is a young girl who finds herself thrown into the royal lives of the Calore family. She discovers, as a Red, that she has the ability to produce and manipulate lightning. Silvers can manipulate elements, but they cannot produce them, setting Mare apart from Silvers. While Mare has the gift of lightning, Evangeline can manipulate metals, and both Calore princes can manipulate fire. Evangeline Samos is a Silver and Mare’s competition for Prince Cal Calore’s hand in marriage. Maven Calore is Cal’s younger brother and, eventually, worst enemy. Both Evangeline and Maven are painted as villains, and they are also the only LGBT characters that are consistently present throughout the series. While Aveyard does follow some dystopian novel commonplaces with a heterosexual forbidden love story and a love triangle, her incorporation of LGBT characters into her series separates her writing from other dystopian works.

LGBT characters are often portrayed in literature entirely based on their sexualities and nothing more; they are who they love. Aveyard recognizes this fault in literary representations and turns it on its head, introducing a lesbian character, Evangeline, and a bisexual character, Maven. In both cases, these characters are much more than these identifiers. Evangeline is modeled throughout the series as a powerful woman and talented manipulator of metal. Maven is the main antagonist throughout the series, often known for his love of power, prowess, and confidence. Both Maven and Evangeline are much more than just their sexual orientations. Aveyard addresses the issues of same-sex marriage in royalty with the character Evangeline not being allowed to be with the woman she loves because of her predetermined destiny to be Queen. Evangeline longs to be with her lover Elaine, but her royal status does not allow her to do so. Rather, she must be with a man because it is what is seen as “proper.” 

While Evangeline struggles with the marriage requirements of her elite position, the character Maven Calore internally battles with his romantic complications as a bisexual man. Maven is in love with Mare, heroine of this series. The reader discovers that Maven was once deeply in love with a boy named Thomas, their love affair resulted in Thomas’s death. Maven, overcome with joy in embracing his sexuality, accidentally kills Thomas in a fire started by his own passion. Maven’s guilt in regard to this incident creates conflict in terms of his sexual orientation, and he feels a great sense of shame for his past love for Thomas and his current love for Mare. There is a sense of residual guilt in Maven throughout the series.

Evangeline and Maven are eventually allowed to live freely in a new utopia toward the conclusion of the series, but this makes a clear statement about modern society: these characters could not be their true selves in the real world, but rather are only allowed to fully embrace their sexual identities in a utopian, perfect world. The critique presented then is that even while living in a dystopian society (perhaps one closer to our own than the series’ utopia), they should still be able to embrace their true identities and live authentic lives, but cannot due to external pressures and societal expectations regarding sexuality. Evangeline and Maven can only embrace their sexualities in an idealized world. Red Queen’s LGBT community represents the real world’s LGBT community and the safe space that it needs, yet still does not have. 

Dante’s Inferno: Fire, Brimstone, and Utopia

By: Ben Sapet

It might seem like a stretch to call Hell, the realm of eternal torment, a “perfect place” but, in his epic poem Inferno, Dante (the 13th-century Italian poet) writes it as just that. Dante writes of taking a highly allegorical journey through Hell in order to meet his courtly love in heaven. The Roman poet Virgil serves as his guide through the nine circles of Hell, each circle with its own set of sinners and corresponding punishments. In his trek through the fiery underworld, Dante meets important figures from history and myth, contemporary people in power, and even people from his own life—all suffering grotesque punishments for the sins that defined their lives. 

Image via Google Images

As the author, Dante takes great pains to give Hell its nightmarish geography. Located at the center of the earth, Hell is comprised of nine concentric circles—each with crimes and punishments more horrible (in Dante’s opinion) than the last. These range from a fairly pleasant eternal limbo for Homer, Socrates, Caesar, and everyone else who never knew Christ (because they lived before his birth) to the center of hell where those who betrayed their God-appointed leaders spend eternity in a frozen wasteland being chewed up by one of Satan’s three mouths. In between those circles are other bits of nastiness such as gluttons facing eternity lying in filth with excrement raining down on them, heretics in burning coffins, and murderers submerged in rivers of boiling blood. It is an altogether unpleasant place to call a utopia, a perfect place; however, Dante’s hell certainly fits the criteria. 

Utopian thought is often a result of an author diagnosing the ills they observe in the world. Dante uses this imagined world to diagnose the unpunished sins he observed in his own 13th-century Italy (as well as in history and myth) and, in turn, to imagine the divine punishment God might dispense. 

Image via Google Images

Utopias tend to mirror the cultures from which they arise, even as the utopia tries to negate that culture. Dante’s hell takes a decidedly Italian/Roman-centric view of history. Dante keeps the Roman poet Virgil in tow, condemns Odysseus for deceiving and murdering Rome’s Trojan ancestors, and equates the betrayal of Caesar to that of Jesus. Dante is nothing if not thorough. Historical and contemporary enemies of Rome, such as Alexander the Great and Guy de Montfort, burn right alongside one another.

Utopias are inherently grounded in the perspectives and biases of their creators. Dante came from a Florence divided by the power struggle between the Vatican and the Holy Roman Empire. Dante was a Guelph, who supported the papacy and opposed the Ghibellines—those who supported the Holy Roman Emperor. The division went even further with a rift between Black Guelphs, the ardent supporters of the papacy, and the White Guelphs, who had reservations about the scope of papal power. As a White Guelph, Dante found himself in exile, but gets the last laugh by placing Popes, emperors, Black Guelphs, and Ghibellines in Hell. Dante’s personal experience informs his depiction of Hell to the extent that he makes God seem very concerned about the minutiae of Florentine politics and almost always in favor of Dante’s White Guelphs.

Dante’s hell is the ultimate cathartic utopia; as an author and architect of Hell, he gets to assume the role of God’s mouthpiece, classifying and judging wrongs by his own compass, then imagining what nasty ironic punishment God might dole out. It is not a perfect world because nothing bad happens; it is a perfect world precisely because God has brought bad things to those who Dante sees as sinners. Prior to Dante’s viscerally realized Hell, Judeo-Christian Hell was pretty vague; it was menacingly characterized as a terrifying land of fire where the wicked are punished. Upon introducing a utopian framework to Hell, Dante radically changed the Christian mythos. Hell became a part of God’s domain with its own kind of perfection, perfection in which grisly justice is meted according to a divine plan. 

Fate Inc.

By: Allison Akers

“Do you really have to babysit me?” Ben slammed the door to his fluorescent orange sports car, watching as Lark slicked back his hair in the sun visor mirror. He had hoped the location alone would get Lark off his back. A dingy place called “Sam’s Diner” in the middle of nowhere-Oregon was beneath the corporate offices and yachts Lark was used to, not to mention they’d driven two and a half hours to meet Ben’s client. Under normal circumstances, he supposed it would be enough to send Lark packing.

No such luck today.

“I wouldn’t have to, if Their Majesties could trust you,” Lark said, finally stepping out and cracking his back. A silver briefcase swung by his side. “You haven’t had a successful deal in months.”

“So? I’ve been in a funk.”

Lark narrowed his eyes. He slammed the passenger side door, wrinkled his nose at Ben’s car, and led them inside the diner. A bell jingled overhead as they walked in, alerting a waitress nearby. She scurried over to them.

“How may I…” The waitress fumbled, seeing the silver briefcase and its infinity symbol. Lark’s grip tightened on the case and jerked his head to one side. The waitress hurried off. 

At a table towards the back of the diner, Ben noticed a stout, middle-aged woman staring at them: his client. Before Ben could take his eyes away, suggest maybe she’d cancelled their appointment, Lark noticed her and elbowed Ben, who gritted his teeth. They walked to the woman’s table and slid into the booth across from the her with Lark boxing in Ben. The cushion underneath them crumpled like rotten Styrofoam. 

“Mrs. Caroline Collins?” Lark asked, cracking a smile.

“That’s me,” she said. Caroline’s eyes flitted between the two of them, like she was watching a game of ping-pong. She pulled a mug of coffee closer. Ben noticed her right hand had a grayish tint. “I didn’t know there would be two of you. Or—is he human?” She nodded at Ben.

Ben took that question with a bit of pride. He’d worked hard to make his human disguise approachable. He certainly didn’t look like a lawyer with a stick up his ass like Lark. He tried to go with an average, college-guy approach; it helped keep attention off him and protected the people around him. One look at his or Lark’s true forms would send any mortal into cardiac arrest, and while Lark would find that funny, Ben wouldn’t.

Lark put his arm around Ben, clapping his shoulder and chuckling, “No, Ben’s all Fate. Served under The Royal Three with me before Ancient Greece, if you can believe it. I decided to tag along and keep him company. I’ll let him take over from here.” 

Ben felt needle points pressing into his skin from Lark’s nails. He forced a smile and shook Caroline’s hand. “Benjamin Porter, Fate Incorporated. Bending time and space since 2002 for your wildest dreams to come true. What can I help you with today, Mrs. Collins?”

Caroline raised her coffee mug to her lips. It clattered on the table as she set it down. “My son—he was hit by a car a week ago—” Tears welled in her eyes and she wiped them on her jacket’s sleeve. Lark expertly took a packet of tissues from his pocket and offered one to her. Ben tried to ignore the way his coworker’s eyes glittered and how the corners of his mouth twitched. Caroline didn’t notice and continued, “He’s been comatose since. Is there anything you can do?”

“Well, yes,” Ben started, “But he might recover on his own.”

“Might being the key word,” Lark said. He shared a look with Ben, one that said Ben better keep his thoughts to himself and stick with the script. Fate Inc. wasn’t a charity. The Royal Three and their subjects had a job to do, an order to keep each time humans asked them to tinker with time. Fates selected favorable individuals in their good graces, who made the most persuasive appeals—so they said. “Why don’t you take a look at her threads?” Lark set the briefcase on the table and clicked open the locks. He slid it over to Ben, who suppressed a sigh and opened it.

Inside was a mirror-like surface with strands of white, glowing tendrils writhing across it. The other diner patrons noticed the radiating light of the suitcase and stared at Ben like he had a million-dollar check. It was a desperation and hunger he’d seen around the world, wherever he or other Fates went. It broke his heart. Still, he wasn’t about to let Lark know that, so he kept his face expressionless. The human-like covering for his eyes sizzled off to reveal fiery, silver stars, and matching claws pushed through the tips of his fingers. Ben delicately lifted one of the white strands from the mirror. Lark and Caroline studied it.

“Well, what do you see?” Lark asked.

Ben shook his head. He wished he was lying. “Your son won’t make it, Mrs. Collins. Not in the current timeline.”

“But you can fix it,” Caroline pressed.

“For a price.” Lark peered over his nose at Caroline’s stiff, gray hand before taking it in his own. “Hm. This is unnatural paralysis. You’ve been a client with us before?” 

Caroline nodded, although she kept her gaze fixed on the table. “To keep my marriage together.”

“Fancy that. This looks like Lux’s work. Don’t you think, Ben?”

Ben nodded. 

Lark turned over Caroline’s hand a few times. He patted it. “I’m afraid a life is going to cost more than a bad marriage, Mrs. Collins. Let’s say—to restore your son’s health with no side effects—terminal cancer for yourself?” Caroline gasped and Ben glanced at Lark. The pupils of Lark’s eyes rippled silver. “What do you think, Ben? Fair trade?”

Caroline turned her attention to Ben. She had clasped her good hand on top of her bad one, as if praying for a second opinion. If Lark wasn’t here, Ben would have given her a stubbed toe or even a free pass in exchange.

But both their necks were on the line. And Ben wasn’t about to lose his.

He nodded.

Lark continued, “I’m sorry it has to be this way, Mrs. Collins. Do we still have a deal?” Caroline, tears streaming down her face, nodded. “Get to it, Ben.”

Ben gathered the strands of time between his claws, snipping and rewiring them. Each strand offered glimpses of strangers, births, deaths—all affected by saving Caroline’s son. Ben tried not to think about it. The problems he caused others by reworking the timeline just meant more work for Fates. More lives to toy with. To destroy.   

Ben took the cancer thread, hesitating for a moment before he fused it to another. He hoped Lark wouldn’t check the threads. He did give Caroline cancer, but not until she was ninety. They’d never specified a time frame. Ben couldn’t be faulted for that.

He hoped.

When he was done, Ben retracted his claws and his eyes changed back to their human appearance. He and Lark gave some last, consoling words to Caroline and exited the diner after Lark had passed out his business card to curious patrons. Ben had already tossed the briefcase in the backseat when Lark stepped out of the diner, letting the screen door clatter behind him.

“I see why you like the little cases, Ben. Not quite as thrilling as toppling governments and rigging elections—” Lark grinned, letting Ben see the rows of his razor-like teeth. “—but certainly more personal.”

“I guess.”

“They’re so gullible.” Lark leaned over and rested his arms on the hood of Ben’s car. “It’s like slow-boiling frogs. They don’t know they’re dead until it’s too late.”

Ben clenched the car door handle, his claws scratching the paint. He flinched and retracted them quickly.

Lark locked eyes with him. “Careful.”

“Lark—” Ben started. His throat closed and he looked towards the diner, to Caroline crying inside, and then to the forest behind him. He wondered if he could run for it. Or teleport. Be anywhere except here and on this miserable planet doing this miserable job. He stepped back from the car and Lark raised himself slightly. They gazed at each other. Lark shook his head almost imperceptibly. 

No matter that wide, worried look in Lark’s eyes, he’d catch Ben if he ran. Kill him.

Ben put his head in his hand.

“If we keep this up, there won’t be so many of them in a few years,” Lark tried. He lowered his voice, “We’ll be able to take off our disguises. Live on Earth peacefully. Alone. You’ll like that, right?”

Ben didn’t reply. He smiled and hoped that was enough.

Seemingly satisfied, Lark drummed his hands twice on the car roof and smiled back. “Let’s get to the next one. At least when I’m in your car I don’t have to look at its obnoxious color.” He hopped into the passenger’s seat and Ben climbed in the driver’s side. 

They sped off.