PCA Research

Abstracts

Dr. Jones

  • The Eating of the Last Boomer: Gen Z Repurposed Narratives in Daybreak and Last Kids on Earth.
  • We are within the first waves of Generation Z entering the workforce and college, and already Gen Z’s narrative structures are entering into the popular culture with story strategies such as those seen in Netflix’s Daybreak and the children’s novel series The Last Kids on Earth. Mediated through “ever on” technology, Gen Z has solidified into a more recognizable set of traits and values than preceding generations. With the rallying call of "OK Boomer" and figureheads such as Greta Thunberg, the voice of Gen Z informs current fantasy narratives such as Day Break and The Last Kids on Earth. These narratives repurpose storytelling in a Gen Z aesthetic and with select discourse strategies. Without understanding these forms of storytelling as Gen Z, these stories elicit negative critiques, such as Daybreak has, of being derivative, overly allusive, and empty of substance. Repurposing is not merely the items made from repurposing, but it is an established form of creativity as old and continual as humanity itself, one that was marginalized with the 18th century rise in science. From Ancient Sumerian uses of pig bladders as floatation devices to Depression Era reuse of scarce materials, from various concepts such a Ghetto, Rednecking, and Jugaad to digital technologies, repurposing espouses a pride in the creative thought process that can utilize items in unintended ways. Gen Z, immersed from birth in technology, and from adolescence in “ever on” technology, utilizes discourse strategies ripe with allusions, fragments, memes, and quick quipped surrealism. By reseeing Daybreak and the children’s novel series ,The Last Kids on Earth, through Gen Z values, worldviews, and social concerns, as well as through Gen Z’s reframing of discourse strategies, we can see how these two narratives encapsulate the wider vision and future of Gen Z’s roles in global socio-economic concerns.


Luke Leonard & Amira M.

  • “Remade in my Image” Counter-Stereotypic Genders in Scifi and Fantasy.
  • Part 2 of 2: In globally distributed sci-fi and fantasy, such as the MCU and Harry Potter, modern counter-stereotypic gendered antagonists, such as Hela and Bellatrix, transgress gendered social norms in their rebellion or antiestablishment actions; however, they inadvertently solidify stereotypic social norms, which poses a problem in developing countries that recently are employing the concept of counter-stereotypes. Recently, a discussion has grown among psychologists, such as Allen and Friedman (2016) and McKimmie et al. (2016), concerning how counter-stereotypes can be both advantageous and disadvantageous. While American culture has, for decades, implemented counter-stereotypes, such a concept is new to developing worlds, where some of the largest film franchises have reached. In Thor: Ragnarok, Hela seeks to rule Asgard and destroys the Asgardian army to achieve this. This is an act that’s typically performed, especially to many developing countries, as male, displaying her capability to act counter-stereotypically. When Thor and Loki seek to destroy Asgard by releasing Surtur, Hela fights to defend her Asgard and sacrifices herself in the process. This gendered sacrifice resembles a mother sacrificing herself for her child, reiterating stereotypic norms rather than maintaining counter-stereotypes. In the Harry Potter series, Bellatrix Lestrange’s emotional depravity is rivaled only by the Dark Lord. She behaves counter-stereotypically by torturing and killing with no moral restrain or remorse. This is an incredibly powerful move for a female character, which makes her a fan favorite for displaying that a woman can be equally as evil as a man. Yet, in the follow-up series, Harry Potter and the Cursed Child, she has engaged in amorous activities with the Dark Lord and produced a child by him, with the willingness and desire to produce an offspring stereotypically female. As with many female characters, Bellatrix and Hela are portrayed as counter-stereotypic villains who achieve villain status by the depths of their violation of social norms. Yet, in their violation of these norms, they fail to fully transgress gendered norms.


Kristina H.

  • Get Outer Your Mind: The Evolution of Mind-Space in the Play Aesthetics RPGs
  • The Last of Us I & II, Outer Worlds, Ancestors: The Humankind Odyssey, Hellblade: Senua’s Sacrifice, and other modern RPGs that blend science fiction and fantasy utilize multiple styles of interaction that reveal a needed emendation to theories of play and of games. Combining C. Thi Nguyen’s striving play concept, James Paul Gee’s 36 learning principles, and the way in which large-scale RPGs now transition among Robert Caillois’ distinctions with ease, we can explore new methods to analyze video games of the 21st century. Gamers play, not in a structured manner, but in a focused, progressing state. Psychologist Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi describes such a state in his aspect of Flow, similar to the peaceful concentration an artist enters when she works. As video games increase in complexity, the Flow advances in ways that weren’t possible even in the nascency of video games. This significant change in how we experience games far exceeds the 20th century ideas of gameplay aesthetics, and a closer, focused evaluation can help formulate the theories and structures from which we pull to analyze games we play today.


Ann B. & Sarah W.

  • I kissed Purity Culture Goodbye: An Analysis of Purity Culture Through Science Fiction Narratives
  • Contemporary narratives such as Hulu’s The Handmaid’s Tale, Amazon’s The Boys, and Showtime’s Shameless actively analyze and/or reject Purity culture, which is currently on a sharp rise in the Western world. Casey Ryan Kelly’s critique of Purity Culture in Abstinence Cinema: Virginity and the Rhetoric of Sexual Purity in Contemporary Film mentions values such as the commodification of people as consumable goods, the identification of women as sexual gatekeepers, and the equation of sexuality with evil, danger, and shame are apparent in many pop culture narratives of the 1990s and 2000s. Casey’s work and Joshua Harris’s 1997 book I Kissed Dating Goodbye illustrate a tension between academia discussions of and popular advocates of Purity Culture. Purity Culture teaches harmful beliefs of gatekeeping, promotes extreme personal constraint in the name of obedience, and perpetuates “fairytale myths” of a perfect intimate relationship after marriage. Since the re-introduction of fact-based sex education in 2009, popular culture seems ready to reexamine and reject the extremism and intolerance of Purity Culture.


Matt H.

  • FunKo POPed the Nerd Culture: How Contemporary Nerd Culture Uses Obscure Characters to Maintain Their Status
  • FunKo POP! figurines cover nearly every mainstream popular culture character; however, some are obscure tertiary characters, and individualized fandom (those who want to stay in the margins of popular culture) use these obscure tertiary characters to find that marginalized space they once enjoyed. Many obscure tertiary characters have already been subsumed by the wider popular acceptance of them, from Boba Fett to TR8R and from Agent Coulson to Felicity Smoak. These characters started out in their respective narratives as tertiary characters, as enigmas, such as what Barthes refers to as element within a story that is not explained and therefore creates an enigma throughout the story. The unintentional enigma, as I explained in previous research, refers to an enigma that was written into a narrative without larger intentions. However, today’s push/pull for expansions to popular franchises (in MCU such as Ant Man, DCEU such as Legends of Tomorrow, and Star Wars such as Mandalorian) exposes these former enigmas and thrusts them into mainstream fandom. Some fans have responded to this over-popularization by focusing on obscure, often esoteric, characters in an attempt to keep the enigmas, enigmatic, and thus alive. As the wider popular culture embraces other, more obscure characters (such as MoonKnight), the lines will continually be redrawn between fans seeking to stay on the margin and franchises popularizing obscure characters.


Artis G.

  • #Selfie #Loveme: Impression Management in Westworld, Humans, and the Novel Passing
  • The TV shows, Humans and Westworld have plots hinging on AI androids passing themselves off as humans, but this "passing off" has real-world precedent, as seen in the novel Passing by Nella Larsen. In Passing, Larsen uses the concept of "passing" with the characters Clare Kendry and Irene Redfield. These light-skinned African American women pose as Caucasian to reap the associated benefits. The idea of "passing" focuses on societal perceptions and advancement. Larsen’s concept of "passing" remains relevant within today’s society with the rise of social media platforms, such as Instagram, which gained 13.9 million downloads since its release in 6 October 2010. Individuals use Instagram to create societal perceptions of themselves through uploading photographs for advancement. The total number of likes, reactions, and comments on posts allows individuals to measure their societal value. The show Orville imagines a society controlled through online activity, similarly to how the Chinese government currently monitors the online social activity of citizens posting pro and anti-government propaganda to determine their societal value.


Payton B.

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Ollie M.

  • Glob Is Dead: Negotiating Mature Themes in Gen Z and Millennial Entertainment
  • Liminal animation, such as Adventure Time and Steven Universe, exemplifies how animation can bridge the gap between Generation Z and Millennial entertainment. From Huffington Post to Bloomberg and from INC to Pewresearch, popular media sources are discussing the differences and conflicts between these two generations; However, little academic treatment, especially in regards to narrative, has been explored. In recent years, a new genre of western animation that appeals to both children and adult viewers has gained prevalence. In contrast to cartoons marketed towards adult-only audiences, liminal animation explores mature subject matter without including intense gore or sexual content. The approachable aesthetic of liminal animation allows for advanced subject matter to be explored in a way that feels comfortable to the viewer. Liminal Animation differs from other cartoons targeted towards children by straying from formulaic storytelling and building upon its established canon to elaborate the narrative. Liminal animation is exhibited in Adventure Time through depictions of characters experiencing the grieving process, dealing with disability, or watching a close family member fall deeper into dementia throughout the show’s seasons. Steven Universe tackles subjects such as homophobia, abusive relationships, and consent.


Dill R.

  • Send In the Clowns: A Shifting View of Masculinity As Seen Through the Joker
  • Since his first live action on-screen incarnation in 1966, The Joker has been used as a societal representation of masculinities. In 1984, Robert Brannon published his Blueprint of Manhood which included traits such as concealing emotions, toughness, and being admired and respected. In “Reported Effects of Masculine Ideals on Gay Men”, stereotypically masculine traits are categorized as dominant, muscular, and athletic. As the standard of masculinity has shifted over the past half century, so has the essence of The Joker in relation to masculinity. Cesar Romero portrayed a derogatory stereotype of a gay man in 1966. In 1989 Jack Nicholson portrayed a narcissistic, Al Capone-esque tough guy. Heath Ledger disturbed the world with his enigmatic perversion of masculine trends as the Joker in 2008. In 2016, Jared Leto portrayed a Joker reminiscent of the hedonism ridden trap music culture. Most recently, Joaquin Phoenix portrayed a mentally ill man, beaten down by society, in his cautionary version of the character.


Eli M.

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Liz T.

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Sam W.

  • Saving the World Before Bedtime: How Children and Teens Are Forced to Be the Hero Before Mental Maturation
  • In Sci-fi & Fantasy, from Stranger Things to Kingdom Hearts, unrealistic expectations placed upon child and teen heroes often inadvertently uphold American culture values of success and perfectionism, and rarely do these narratives espouse an important skill: learning to fail. Current concepts in psychology and child development show that pushing for success and preventing failure can cause extreme psychological issues with children and teens. In shows such as ,Stranger Things, rather than kids just being successful, they are given the responsibility to save people. American culture demands kids to be innocent but, paradoxically, to mature mentally quickly. In the game Kingdom Hearts, Sora is 14 and forced into saving the world from the Heartless and Nobodies. Rim of the World (2019) has its entire plot based around children saving the world from alien invasion. Some narratives successfully orient children and teens into, not success, but accomplishment as well as showing their ability to cope with failure.


Copyright © Warren Jones. 2006-2018