Pornographer: The Colorful Vanity of Nicolas Winding Refn

When a character in your film coughs up a human eyeball, you may have gone too far. “The Neon Demon,” released in 2016, currently sits at a forgettable 58 percent on Rotten Tomatoes. With scathing review quotes such as “Pretentious and self-indulgent” (James Berardinelli) and “each character is astonishingly boring and unlikable,”(Julia Raban) I wouldn’t fault you for skipping it. “The Neon Demon” felt like a youngest child in both its self-importance and penchant for shock value over substantive storytelling. Never a director known for his subtlety, Nicolas Winding Refn’s most recent effort is comparable to walking around in...

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When it comes to gun violence, no one is right

Another day, another mass shooting … How long will gun violence be an issue in the United States? As long as Americans are American and guns are our standard for coolness. Ask a crowd of right-wing gun nuts what their favorite book is and they’ll almost certainly tell you it’s the Bible. Ask a crowd of gun-control favoring left-wingers what their favorite movie is and they’re just as likely to name some R rated shoot-em-up by Quentin Tarantino. The point is, when it comes to guns, we’re all hypocrites, it’s ingrained in our DNA. I’m not unaware of the fact that enjoying fictional violence does not necessarily imply an enjoyment of real-life violence. And while watching Keanu Reeves shoot people in the face is admittedly a treasured hobby of mine, I can’t help but feel that just as Jesus ~probably~ wouldn’t have supported the rights of average Americans to stockpile mountains of weapons in their living rooms, it can’t possibly be healthy for my psyche to watch geysers of blood spray on screen feet from my face every day, even if it isn’t real. In an ideal world, guns wouldn’t even exist (before you type up that comment calling me a libtard, think about how non-controversial that statement actually is). Killing is not an unintended consequence of gun ownership, nor is it even the main intent of owning a...

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Stem cells and the people who made them taboo

Maxwell Matson, columnist In January 1950, the prolific botanist Elvin C. Stakman provided the following quote to Life Magazine: “Science cannot stop while ethics catches up…and nobody should expect scientists to do all the thinking for the country.” In an age of exponential technological advancement, the question of why we innovate is becoming increasingly less important than the question of how. Technology is increasingly global, increasingly affordable and increasingly complex, but with so much innovation surrounding us all the time, it’s easy to grow desensitized. To contextualize this assertion, consider the issue of stem cell research. First, what are stem cells? The short, non-technical answer is that stem cells are a type of multipurpose cell which can be utilized by the body (or by scientists) to form the building blocks of various tissues. Your body currently contains stem cells called somatic cells which repair your bodily tissues when they are damaged and which have the ability to transform themselves into one of several different types of tissues. But it’s another, much more complicated type of stem cell at the root of the debate over stem cell research. Embryonic stem cells are similar to adult somatic cells in that they do not correspond to a specific type of tissue and are therefore able to differentiate themselves into any of the 225 different types of cells found in the bodies of...

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You’ll enjoy hating ‘Mother!’

The Greek philosopher Epicurus wrote: “Is God willing to prevent evil, but not able? Then he is not omnipotent.  Is he able, but not willing? Then he is malevolent.  Is he both able and willing? Then whence cometh evil?  Is he neither able nor willing? Then why call him God?” In Darren Aronofsky’s new film “Mother!,” this ideology is taken to its logical conclusion . . . and then some . . . and then a lot more. While the exclamation point at the end of the title seems just a touch self-indulgent, it’s a familiar kind of self-indulgence...

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The complicated nature of white identity

What makes a person “white?” For minorities, like myself, the idea of a monolithic characteristic called whiteness is all too real. Whiteness in the U.S. can be defined as a social system through which the presence of phenotypic characteristics which are characteristically European allows for an artificial or undeserved sense of superiority and elevated social standing. This definition of whiteness is of course only one of many, and as the issue has been discussed more openly in the public forum with the proliferation of identity-centered politics and the increased visibility of racist hate groups, the public consciousness has never been more divided regarding what it means to be white. Whiteness has often served as convenient shorthand for colonialist forces from Europe. Under the powerful European empires of the 15th century and onward, people of Spanish, Portuguese, French, British and Dutch heritage introduced themselves to the rest of the world through invasion and subjugation. It is this history from which the very idea of whiteness is derived. To add clarity to this point, imagine that there are two groups of European colonists who each claim ownership over the same parcel of land in Sub-Saharan Africa. One of the groups is Spanish, the other British. If both arrive at the same time, each believing that they have a right to the parcel, there will inevitably be competition over who truly has...

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