Article List | V6 Issue 2

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Critically Evaluating the Fictional World through Popular Culture

We are happy to present our special issue, “Criminals as Heroes: Problems and Pedagogy in Popular Culture,” guest edited by Kate Lane and Roxie James. In this issue we explore the unique role that the anti-hero has taken in recent years.  The changing nature of how criminals are portrayed in popular culture brings us a new understanding of how society has shaped this cultural form, and how popular culture has, in turn, shaped society.   

Popular culture arms us with an exciting and powerful pedagogical tool and continues to offer a lens through which to grapple with serious societal issues. In the 1960s and 1970s in the United States, for example, popular culture provided an outlet for viewers to consider important changes occurring in society. Television programs such as All in the Family, Maud, and The Jeffersons helped us think about, and discuss, issues of race and gender equity during a historic period of social change. Today, television series such as Modern Family and Speechless provides society with a fictional world with which to consider how we define ourselves individually and exist as a families, presenting us with a far more inclusive portrayal of how we live our lives today through characters who may not look like us, behave like us, or perhaps even think like us. Through such fictional portrayals that address important issues, we can critically evaluate the changes taking place in our society.  

While the articles are described in detail within Lane and James’s guest editorial, “What Hot Criminals, Anti-Heroes, and Bob Dylan Can Teach Us,” as a brief introduction here, the five articles in this issue reflect on the increasingly important, and changing, role and portrayal of the anti-hero in popular culture. First, Amanda DiPaolo helps us ponder the concerns that may emerge due to the continuing development of artificial intelligence. Max Romanowski then explores how good and evil are defined and portrayed in popular culture. Later in this issue, James Tregonning critically evaluates what it means to follow societal rules when they clash with personal ethics. Lastly, the final two articles by Courtney Watson and Melissa Vosen Callens, respectively, take on an analysis of the more recent incarnations of the female anti-hero.   

Each of the articles in this issue provide ways that we can contemplate society today, using popular culture to address issues of equity, morality, and personal ethics. We are now seeing heroes, and in the case of this special issue, anti-heroes, coming from a varied cross-section of society. Today, we see an increasing variety of characters, such as individuals identifying as men, women, cisgender, transgender, as well as a range across ethnic and cultural identities, and representing various forms of ability and disability. Each variance portrays life, demonstrating a growing acceptance and portrayal of diverse variations within popular culture. 

In addition to the full-length articles, the diversity in representation can be demonstrated to a greater extent in the online book review of Ghettos, Tramps, and Welfare Queens (Pimpare, 2017). In the review, Debbie Olson highlights Pimpare’s (2017) discussion of the “marginalized and maligned” while also noting how the book could be enhanced by further demonstrating the intersection between race, gender, and poverty.

The five articles in this special issue can inform the ways we may choose to consider how the antihero is portrayed, providing insight into why individuals may have selected their path in life, even if at first, this path may push against societal assumptions of what is expected and normal. With the inclusion of the book review, we are shown how future essays and studies could delve into the ways in which sociocultural factors, positionality, and societal expectations and pressures can be examined further. The authors present new ways to use a fictional world to discuss important societal issues, and perhaps question and consider our own personal biases. We hope you enjoy this special edition of Dialogue.  

Kelli Bippert
Managing Editor

Anna CohenMiller
Editor

 

A note from the Editor in Chief:

Since 2011, when Dialogue was first discussed and brought to life, I have been fortunate to work hand-in-hand with amazing editorial team members. With Lynnea Chapman-King, Kurt Depner, and Rob Galin, we have developed strong and varied sets of issues addressing important and fascinating topics in popular culture and pedagogy. Today, I am pleased to introduce, or re-introduce in this case, our evolving editorial team for the next phase of Dialogue. 

Kelli Bippert and Karina Vado have been active members with SWPACA and the Dialogue editorial board over the last few years. They have taken on the roles of Educational Resource Editor and Book Review Editor, respectively, and facilitated the development of our online short articles and musings. I have the honor to announce that Kelli will be moving into the position of Managing Editor and Karina has accepted a new position as Production Editor. With their keen awareness of contemporary issues in popular culture and pedagogical practices, and their exceptional insight and ability, I am excited to have them aboard and know the Dialogue community will benefit from these new developments. 

Lastly, I would like to introduce our new copy editors to the team, Miriam Sciala and Robert Gordyn. For this issue, I would like to thank them along with all those that contributed to the production of this issue: Kelli Bippert (Managing Editor and Educational Resources Editor), Karina Vado (Production Editor and Book Review Editor), Kate Lane and Roxie James (guest editors), all authors who submitted articles for consideration, our peer reviewers, and Douglas CohenMiller (Creative Director). As always, we look forward to hearing your thoughts about the issue and innovative ideas for future development.

Anna CohenMiller
Editor in Chief

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What Hot Criminals, Anti-Heroes, and Bob Dylan Can Teach Us

Kathryn (“Kate”) Lane
Northwestern Oklahoma State University
Alva, OK
kathrynelanephd@gmail.com

Roxie James
Northwestern Oklahoma State University
Alva, OK
dr.roxie.james@gmail.com

 

Author Bios

Kathryn (“Kate”) Lane, Ph.D., is an Associate Professor of English and Department Chairperson at Northwestern Oklahoma State University. Her research interests include Victorian literature and culture, popular culture, and feminist theory. She is also the editor of the 2018 book collection Age of the Geek: Depictions of Nerds and Geeks in Popular Media. 

Roxie J. James, Ph.D., is an Assistant Professor of English in the Department of English at Northwestern Oklahoma State University. She specializes in Romantic and Victorian literature, and her research interests include British women’s writing and depictions of dirt in Victorian literature and culture.

 

Suggested Citation

APA
Lane, K. E. & James, R. (2019). What hot criminals, anti-heroes, and Bob Dylan can teach us. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy. 6(2), http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v6-issue-2/what-hot-criminals-anti-heroes-and-bob-dylan-can-teach-us/

MLA
Lane, Kathryn E. & Roxie J. James. “What Hot Criminals, Anti-Heroes, and Bob Dylan Can Teach Us.”  Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, vol. 6, no. 2, 2019, http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v6-issue-2/what-hot-criminals-anti-heroes-and-bob-dylan-can-teach-us/.

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Review of Ghettos, Tramps, and Welfare Queens

Debbie Olson, PhD
Missouri Valley College
Marshall, MO
olsond@moval.edu 

Book Review: Pimpare, Stephen. Ghettos, Tramps, and Welfare Queens: Down and Out on the Silver Screen. Oxford University Press, 2017. 376 pgs., $34.95.

Stephen Pimpare’s Ghettos, Tramps, and Welfare Queens is a unique jaunt through Hollywood films that feature society’s most marginalized and maligned, the homeless and the poor. Pimpare, PhD, is a senior Lecturer in American politics and public policy at the University of New Hampshire and has authored two previous books on poverty and political policy. And while Pimpare carefully acknowledges he is not a film scholar, his insightful examination of the way film (re)presents the poor and homeless is a valuable addition to both political science and cinema scholarship. Overall, Ghettos, Tramps, and Welfare Queens is a perceptive look at the intersections of popular imagery and public policy. Continue Reading →

Nature vs. Nurture in Albuquerque: What Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul Teach Us About How We Talk About Criminals

Max Romanowski
Baylor University
Waco, TX, USA
max_romanowski@baylor.edu

Abstract

Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul focus on the criminal transformation of their two main characters, Walter White (Bryan Cranston) and Jimmy McGill (Bob Odenkirk). While quite similar on the surface, Walter and Jimmy’s narratives represent two different criminal transitions, evoking the classic nature vs nurture conversation. Both of these shows bring the conversation to the idea of inevitability. The nature vs. nurture argument is a popular one because it acts as a teaching tool for how we think and talk about criminal behavior. At first, it follows that since criminality was in Walter White’s nature the whole time, his transition should feel the most inevitable, with the inverse being true of Jimmy. However, since Better Call Saul is a prequel to Breaking Bad, the opposite ends up happening. Even though Jimmy may only need the right people around him to be saved from his descent, his presence as Saul Goodman on Breaking Bad reminds the audience that it is Jimmy who is already fated to become a criminal. This dichotomy highlights the distinctive pedagogical opportunity present in both of these shows. Through their subversion of the concepts of nature and nurture, they allow for a unique teaching opportunity regarding how we talk about criminals. This article explores what they teach us and how their commentary can be used as a pedagogical tool for learning about criminal behavior in more nuanced ways. 

Keywords: Breaking Bad, Better Call Saul, Nature, Nurture, Social Learning Theory, Classical Conditioning 

 

Author Bio

Max Romanowski is a doctoral student at Southern Illinois University in the Department of Mass Communication and Media Arts. His research interests include television studies, particularly the sitcom, developments of new media, and science fiction in the 21st century.

 

Suggested Citation

APA:
Romanowski, M. (2019). Nature vs. Nurture in Albuquerque: What Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul teach us about how we talk about criminals. 6(2). Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy. http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v6-issue-2/nature-vs-nurture-in-albuquerque-what-breaking-bad-and-better-call-saul-teach-us-about-how-we-talk-about-criminals/

MLA:
Romanowski, Max. “Nature vs. Nurture in Albuquerque: What Breaking Bad and Better Call Saul Teach Us About How We Talk about Criminals”. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, vol.6, no. 2, 2019. http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v6-issue-2/nature-vs-nurture-in-albuquerque-what-breaking-bad-and-better-call-saul-teach-us-about-how-we-talk-about-criminals/

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If Androids Dream, Are They More Than Sheep? Robot Protagonists and Human Rights

Amanda DiPaolo
St. Thomas University
Fredericton, N.B. Canada
dipaolo@stu.ca

Abstract

The robot protagonists in HBO’s Westworld open the door to several philosophical and ethical questions, perhaps the most complex being: should androids be granted similar legal protections as people? Westworld offers its own exploration of what it means to be a person and places emphasis on one’s ability to feel and understand pain. With scientists and corporations actively working toward a future that includes robots that can display emotion in a way that can convincingly pass as that of a person’s, what happens when androids pass the Turing test, feel empathy, gain consciousness, are sentient, or develop free will? The question becomes more complex given the possibility of computer error. What should happen if robots designed for companionship commit heinous crimes, and without remorse? Westworld poses such social and legal questions to its viewers and is, thus, ripe for classroom discussion. This essay explores the complex and contradictory implications of android hosts overcoming their dehumanization through an awakening to both experience and agency. With television and film holding a mirror up to reality, what can science fiction teach us that would help us prepare for such a possibility?

Keywords: Westworld, artificial intelligence, human rights, Science Fiction, robots

 

Author Bio

Amanda DiPaolo is associate professor of human rights at St. Thomas University in Fredericton, N.B. She is the co-editor of The Politics of Twin Peaks (Lexington, 2019), and has written about nostalgia in Twin Peaks as well as inequality and racism in Mad Men. Her work can be found at https://stthomasu.academia.edu/AmandaDiPaolo. Reach her on Twitter at @profdipaolo.

 

Suggested Citation

APA 

DiPaolo, A. (2019). If androids dream, are they more than sheep?: Westworld, robots, and legal rights. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy. 6(2). http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v6-issue-2/if-androids-dream-are-they-more-than-sheep-robot-protagonists-and-human-rights/

MLA 

DiPaolo, Amanda. “If Androids Dream, Are They More Than Sheep?: Westworld, Robots, and Legal Rights”. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy. 2019, vol 6, no. 2. http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v6-issue-2/if-androids-dream-are-they-more-than-sheep-robot-protagonists-and-human-rights/

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AMC’s Infamous Criminal Partnerships: Suppressing the Female Antihero

Melissa Vosen Callens
North Dakota State University
Fargo, ND, USA
melissa.vosen@ndsu.edu

Abstract

Using a feminist lens, the author argues that audiences have failed to embrace female characters on AMC as antiheroes, particularly when they are in romantic relationships with male antiheroes, for three primary reasons. First, female characters often challenge binary thinking, and thus, gender role stereotypes. Rather than exhibiting passive, yet nurturing characteristics, characteristics often associated with femininity and motherhood, female characters within the dataset frequently challenge their partners and exert their dominance. Second, writers often fail to fully develop female characters. The absence of their backstories (who they are and what they are thinking) makes it difficult for audiences to relate to and sympathize with these characters. Finally, within the dataset, female characters are rarely viewed as equals in the eyes of their male partners, and the audience takes cues from this treatment. When female characters are childless and/or respected by their male partners, they are more widely accepted as antiheroes. 

In this paper, the author examines some of the most famous criminal antihero partnerships in the top-rated AMC series over the last decade: Walter and Skyler White (Breaking Bad), Rick and Lori Grimes / Rick Grimes and Michonne (The Walking Dead), Don and Betty Draper (Mad Men), and Saul Goodman and Kim Wexler (Better Call Saul). Following this critique, the broader cultural implications of these representations are offered, particularly the disempowerment of women through motherhood.

Keywords: AMC, antihero, feminist criticism, Breaking Bad, Mad Men, The Walking Dead, Better Call Saul

 

Author Bio

Melissa Vosen Callens is currently an associate professor of practice in instructional design and communication at North Dakota State University, Fargo. Her areas of research and teaching interest include Popular Culture and Online Education. Her writing can be found in The Ultimate Walking Dead and Philosophy, English Journal, Communication Teacher, Hollywood Heroines: The Most Influential Women in Film History, and A Sense of Community: Essays on the Television Series and Its Fandom, among other publications.

 

Suggested Citation

APA
Vosen Callens, M. (2019). AMC’s infamous criminal partnerships: Suppressing the female antihero. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy. 6(2). http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v6-issue-2/amcs-infamous-criminal-partnerships-suppressing-the-female-antihero/

MLA
Vosen Callens, Melissa. AMC’s Infamous Criminal Partnerships: Suppressing the Female Antihero. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, vol. 6, no. 2. Retreived from http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v6-issue-2/amcs-infamous-criminal-partnerships-suppressing-the-female-antihero/

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Breaking the Rules: Playing Criminally in Video Games

James Tregonning
Independent Scholar
Melbourne, VIC, Australia
james.tregonning34@gmail.com

Abstract

Video games have long courted controversy for their frequent valorisation of criminality. However, in this article, I consider heroic criminals in video games from a different perspective. I focus on two games – Lucas Pope’s Papers, Please (2013) and Osmotic Studio’s Orwell (2016) – that position the player as a low-level government operative in a fictional authoritarian regime. Players are expected to process information for their governments, although they are also given opportunities to undermine or subvert the regime. Thus, the trope of heroic criminal is used to comment on the function and role of the state. It becomes the lens through which issues of political philosophy and ethics are balanced against the more pragmatic concerns of personal safety. These multiple competing pressures allow Papers, Please and Orwell to position heroic criminality as a multifaceted problem for the player to critically engage with.

Keywords: Papers, Please; Orwell; video games; criminality; video game violence

 

Author Bio

James Tregonning is a Masters graduate from the University of Otago in Dunedin, New Zealand. His area of research is video game narrative, with a specific focus on the narrative potential of virtual space. He writes broadly on video game narrative at Death is a Whale (https://goingthroughthewash.wordpress.com/); his scribblings there have been cited by Critical Distance, a weekly roundup of “the most important critical writing on games.”

 

Suggested Citation

APA

Tregonning, J. (2019). Breaking the rules: Playing criminally in video games. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy, 6(2). http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v6-issue-2/breaking-the-rules-playing-criminally-in-video-games/

MLA

Tregonning, James. “Breaking the Rules: Playing Criminally in Video Games.” Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy. 2019, vol. 6, no 2. www.journaldialogue.org/issues/v6-issue-2/breaking-the-rules-playing-criminally-in-video-games/

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Bad Girls: Agency, Revenge, and Redemption in Contemporary Drama

Courtney Watson
Jefferson College of Health Sciences
Roanoke, Virginia, United States
cdwatson@jchs.edu

Abstract

Cultural movements including #TimesUp and #MeToo have contributed momentum to the demand for and development of smart, justified female criminal characters in contemporary television drama. These women are representations of shifting power dynamics, and they possess agency as they channel their desires and fury into success, redemption, and revenge. Building on works including Gillian Flynn’s Gone Girl and Netflix’s Orange is the New Black, dramas produced since 2016—including The Handmaid’s Tale, Ozark, and Killing Eve—have featured the rise of women who use rule-breaking, rebellion, and crime to enact positive change. 

Keywords: #TimesUp, #MeToo, crime, television, drama, power, Margaret Atwood, revenge, Gone Girl, Orange is the New Black, The Handmaid’s Tale, Ozark, Killing Eve

 

Author Bio

Courtney Watson, Ph.D. is an Associate Professor of English and Director of the Humanities & Social Sciences program at Jefferson College of Health Sciences in Roanoke, Virginia. Her scholarly interests include contemporary drama, modernist expatriates, and literary tourism. She is also a fiction writer, essayist, and travel writer. 

 

Suggested Citation

APA
Watson, C. (2019). Bad Girls: Agency, revenge, and redemption in contemporary drama. Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy. 6(2). http://journaldialogue.org/issues/v6-issue-2/bad-girls-agency-revenge-and-redemption-in-contemporary-drama/

MLA
Watson, Courtney. “Bad Girls: Agency, Revenge, and Redemption in Contemporary Drama.” Dialogue: The Interdisciplinary Journal of Popular Culture and Pedagogy 2019, vol. 6, no. 2. Retreived from journaldialogue.org/issues/v6-issue-2/bad-girls-agency-revenge-and-redemption-in-contemporary-drama/

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