Author Archives: Meredith Bird

About Meredith Bird

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Boys Over (Blood-Spattered) Flowers

Anger frequently plays a major role in conflict, especially violent conflict.  In one of my favorite stories of all time, Boys Over Flowers, almost every conflict that occurs throughout the story is driven by one character’s inability to express his anger in ways that do not involve assaulting people and/or punching walls.   Continue reading

American Horror Story: Sins are Invisible

This season on American Horror Story I am fascinated by the conflict between the carnival performers and the “normal” citizens of Jupiter.  While modern audiences are not at all surprised that someone who looks like Dandy could turn out to be evil, the citizens of Jupiter are still operating under the assumption that moral quality is reflected in physical appearance.

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Penny Dreadful and The Exorcist: Demons Are So Clingy

I am about to discuss an extremely creepy topic during a thunderstorm, in a dark room.  (Why is the room dark? Oh, wouldn’t you like to know, Theoretical Reader, wouldn’t you like to know!) This week I am blending two different stories that share a conflict: possession.  No, not that possession; I’m referring to the one that involves either extreme psychological phenomena or non-corporal-but-sentient-beings, depending on whether or not the characters believe in ghosts, demons, and/or spirits.  In Penny Dreadful and The Exorcist*, characters become actors in deadly conflicts that turn their bodies and minds into war zones.

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Penny Dreadful: Part 1

While there is plenty of internal and interpersonal conflict in Penny Dreadful, the plot is driven by the clash of mortal values and supernatural desires. The group of characters that I refer to as generally “Pro-Human” (Sir Malcolm, Vanessa, Ethan, Victor, and Sembene, and Dorian Gray) have personal goals that vary widely but are not incompatible. They are united in the search for Sir Malcolm’s daughter Mina, who has been kidnapped by mysterious creatures.  This is an example of a classic super-ordinate goal: mortals vs. evil non-humans, but this is only one layer of conflict woven throughout Penny Dreadful’s story. (Warning: there are more spoilers in this post than there are pale people in British period pieces).

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Ripper Street: My Imaginary Friendship

One of these days I will actually write about a book, comic book, or movie, instead of just TV show after TV show… but for now I’m going to talk about Ripper Street (starring Mr. Darcy from Pride and Prejudice, Bronn from Game of Thrones, and this guy)

I watched the first three episodes on Netflix, and instead of focusing on the societal tension between a police force that failed to find Jack the Ripper and citizens who really wanted to not get murdered, I got distracted by the interpersonal conflict between Inspector Reid, the main character, and a journalist named Mr. Best (I didn’t catch his first name, and frankly it’s a miracle I figured out his last name since I cannot tell skinny white men with mustaches apart from each other). Continue reading

Fairy Tail: Villain to Friend in 0 Steps

Does anyone else who watches the anime Fairy Tail sometimes feel slightly uncomfortable with how willing the characters are to forgive just about any other character of any other crime? Warning, general spoilers ahead!

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Vacation’s End

This is not an “official” post, as I am still deciding what my next subject of analysis will be.  Originally I was planning to do a wrap-up article on True Blood, and then a weekly analysis of Breaking Bad, but life has been a little busier than I expected.

I would like to point out, however, that in the final episode of True Blood this season Bill directly addressed the issue I discussed in my Conflict Analysis Part I: the lack of trust between humans and vampires, and the rocky relationship between the two groups since vampires “came out of the coffin.”  (He mentions it briefly during his TV interview regarding the book he wrote about his experience possessed by(?) Lilith).

As an avid Breaking Bad fan, I have been struggling to decide what conflict(s) I would like to discuss from that series.  There are a lot to choose from, but the internal and psychological conflict of Walter White is probably the best and most important to the story overall.  On the other hand, the series has ended now and I might focus on a more relevant story, whether a book, movie, or television show.  Then again, Breaking Bad was an amazing series and we should be talking about it for a long time, in my opinion.  So, I guess you will just have to wait and see what my next post will be about! I’m sure everyone reading this is just trembling with anticipation, so I will do my best to get it finished ASAP.  Until then, take care!

True Blood: Conflict Analysis Part I

Both True Blood and the Sookie Stackhouse novels do a wonderful job of presenting very complicated moral situations. Just as in real life, there is no group that is all bad; but unlike real life, there is a group that eats other people. So I really am not sure whether mediation or facilitated negotiation will be enough to resolve the current conflict between vampires and humans. Continue reading

A Game of Anarchy

Is a game without rules still a game? Game of Thrones is largely about power in society: who really has it, how did they get it, and what do they do with it. Since Westeros apparently has no legal system whatsoever (I am saying that with slight sarcasm, but only a very small amount) I argue that there are no rules, and thus the “game” of politics there isn’t really a game at all. It’s just a bunch of people trying to out-blackmail each other while pretending that they aren’t. This isn’t a critique of the books or the television show, both of which I love, but merely a good lesson when it comes to real life. Anarchy does not lead to a prosperous society, and unacknowledged anarchy is even worse. After all, many characters seem surprised when their peaceful lives are interrupted by the wars of nobles and kings; many characters condemn the actions of other characters, but if you look at the Seven Kingdoms, it seems pretty clear that this is a world without a unified code of law, and without any way of holding those who break a law accountable (unless starting a war counts as a form of assigning responsibility). Consistency is important, that is why precedent is such a powerful influence on the legal system. Without consistency, the basic institutions of society wither faster than the joy at a Frey wedding.   Continue reading

“Torchwood” Manages Terror: Suzie, Gwen, and Terror Management Theory

People are afraid of dying, and this fear influences our behavior in many different ways. Or, in terms of Terror Management Theory, “the self-preservation motive and awareness of our own mortality ‘gives rise to potentially overwhelming terror” (Pyszczynski, et. al., 2004, p. 27 as qtd. in Moghaddam, 2008, p. 58).

Besides stating this slightly obvious fact, Terror Management theorists explain that people deal with the fear of death by creating worldviews, or beliefs, that help us to ignore or deny our inevitable demise. But Terror Management theory argues that no amount of comforting thoughts, however sincerely believed, are powerful enough to eradicate the deeply entrenched fear of death from our bodies and minds.  As a result, the best our worldviews can do is allow us to repress our fear and then take out our “fears and negative emotions [on] outgroups” (Moghaddam, 2008, p. 59).

Of course, experiencing new cultures and worldviews isn’t always terrifying. The point of traveling is to see some place different, and to meet people who likely have different beliefs from your own. Still, Terror Management Theory is an important reminder of “the self-protective mechanism of cultures [and] the fear that can arise within us when we are confronted by outgroup members who, sometimes intentionally, challenge our belief systems and cultures” (Moghaddam, 2008, p. 61). Torchwood demonstrates that when we fear those who are different, life becomes as terrifying as dying. Continue reading