Media, such as films, games, tv and literature, has always had to share with us some great stories. Whether it’s a story of friendship, power or love, we’ve always had a story we can sit back and enjoy. But not every story is the same – Not every story has happy endings. Indeed, not every story was written to make us comfortable. Instead, it’s a sharp, stark reminder of what the real world can be like. This week, check out our Top 10 Media Dealing with Tough Subjects.
WARNING: Going into this one, we will be discussing some difficult subjects in as clean a manner as we can. However, if any of the topics are a bit too much for you, please skip it!
10) The Day After Tomorrow (Extreme Climate Change)
Starting off our list is a little bit of a simpler one, because this is basically just an absolute extreme scenario… Which is so incredibly unlikely to happen, that actually this just becomes a fantasy film by that point. However, to be coined with the term “Disaster Movie”, not because of how bad the film is, but because of the contents of the movie portraying a serious disaster – Well, that doesn’t paint a pretty picture, does it?
The Day After Tomorrow features the absolute worst of what climate change could, potentially, do to our wonderful planet. From extreme snowfall, to devastating twisters and even torrential rainfall, The Day After Tomorrow looks at a very pseudo-sciencey version of events for what could happen if we don’t look after the planet.
Honestly, not the best example, but it’s certainly a great visual metaphor!
9) Doki Doki Literature Club (Depression, Suicide)
One of the most recent entries to this list is a game we mentioned recently, back on our Top 10 Characters Who Died Too Soon. Sayori is the character in question who we raise again, but we couldn’t really justify putting her too high up in the list, for the game almost retcons the serious issue it highlights in the first place, by having an antagonistic character who effectively “programs Sayori to do it”.
Sayori is one of the girls in Doki Doki Literature Club, meaning that you can try to romance her with poetry and short stories. If you try to romance her, or not, she reveals she’s suffered with depression her whole life. It’s a beautifully sad moment that you share with her, but then the final nail is struck, when you go to her house in the morning and she’s committed suicide by hanging herself.
It’s tragic, it’s genuinely disturbing to see and it was handled relatively well, for a game that at face value is nothing more than a generic anime dating sim.
Such a shame they basically retconned the whole thing!
8) One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest (Multiple Personalities/Mental Hospitals)
A classic makes it onto our list today, in the form of One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest, one of Jack Nicholson’s greatest pieces of work. In fact, this film is so great that it’s one of only three films to have won all five of the Big Five Academy Awards! Genuinely, if you’ve never seen this film before, if you’re a fan of good films, I implore you to go and watch this 1975 classic, based off a 1962 novel by the same name.
Accolades aside, One Flew Over The Cuckoo’s Nest deals with some gritty subjects, which many other mediums just couldn’t or wouldn’t touch at the time. Typically it’s criticised for having a formulaic approach to how it ends, but it doesn’t remove the fact that it’s a fine piece of acting, which makes you empathise with their situation. There are many people with different ailments, but typically these were people who were stuck in a Mental Institution, all of whom suffered some form of mental illnesses.
With the strict, brutal regiment of Nurse Ratched, the inmates of this institution, whom should be called victims, had to deal with a lot… A lot of them then paid the ultimate price.
7) 13 Reasons Why (Self-Harm, Suicide)
Let me be perfectly clear when I say this; sometimes, a professionals opinion isn’t really what you need.
You see, 13 Reasons Why is criticised for a lot of the same reasons that it is praised. It’s a series that really does not shy away from anything it’s wanting to discuss. Self-harm, suicide, rape – You name it, the series shows it in graphic detail, so really this one is not suitable for anyone under the age of 18… And mental health professionals have gone on record to criticise the show for it.
However, in terms of media trying to handle tough subjects, there are few out there that have seriously attempted so with great success. It’s forced Netflix’s hand to put strong warnings on specific episodes for the content contained in those episodes, but you have to understand that from a series perspective, they didn’t want to be reserved.
Sometimes characters can be unbelievable due to writing, but if you’re letting that get in the way of what the writer is trying to convey, then perhaps you’re looking too hard into what constitutes good writing. Not everything needs to be a shock – The series is bleak and it accepts that.
Now if only he listened to those damned tapes sooner.
6) This Is England (Multiple Issues)
Hoo boy, let me tell you a story about This Is England.
Okay, so I used to stay up pretty late gaming, usually playing World of Warcraft. I’d have a tiny television on behind me in my bedroom and I’d often end up watching those hugely entertaining poker shows – You know, the ones where guys are sat there fiddling with massives piles of chips, wearing sunglasses indoors and generally looking catatonic. One day, my usual sound of poker chips was interrupted by the graphic sound of abuse.
This Is England touches on some real issues that England suffers through as a whole. It doesn’t mess about, either. From racism, rape, gang mentality, extremist views, intimidation and murder – You name it, it throws it all at you through a compelling and gripping branching story. What started as a film spawned three mini-series, respectively named This Is England ‘86, This Is England ‘88 and This Is England ‘90.
5) The Purge (Political Corruption)
Laden with deep philosophical questions, The Purge tells of a civilisation that stays civilised because of a complete removal of laws and emergency services for one 12 hour period every year. The event has boosted the economy and lowered year-round crime, and leaves us feeling pretty… purged. We can’t kill politicians ~cough~ but anyone else is fair game. The security industry booms, and the houses of those who can afford it become practically impregnable to the anarchy outside, and the impoverished are left vulnerable.
The Purge is not only weaponised to destroy an entire economic class, but it becomes a weapon in the upper echelons of politics to oust those who disagree with the prevailing opinion. It’s a wild exaggeration, but the actual game of slowly privatising health care, police and military services is slower, but no less sickening.
4) Alien (Rape)
The horror classics all address some terrible aspect of life that we are unwilling to confront, they tap in to a primal fear, perhaps without us even noticing. Werewolves are our primality set free, Frankenstein’s monster is an allegory of parental responsibility. And Alien forces us to confront the truth of unwanted and forced pregnancy.
It’s quite intentional that the protagonist is female, as the nightmarish possibility of bearing a child that is unwanted is something that can strike real fear. The life cycle of the Xenomorph forces a host to bear the infant, destroying the host as it tears itself out forcefully through the chest – and the resultant offspring is a waking nightmare for those left behind. Alien may have approached the subject sideways, but there is no glorification, only violation, fear, and vulnerability.
3) Schindler’s List (Real events of war)
Schindler’s List isn’t so much a film, but rather a telling of an actual event that took place during World War II. Whilst it’s not an exact story of what happened, it’s certainly an eye-opening film which is also known for producing one of the most iconic depictions of Hitler, when he snaps at his generals about the situation they’re in. As powerful as that bit is, the topic of Schindler’s List really is even more so.
Originally, Schindler is looking to make a cheap buck, so hires Jewish men and women, as they were the cheapest to employ in Germany at this point. With a Jewish head administrator, he gets them to all work on enamelware for profit. However, he’s absolutely abhorred when he’s confronted the grim reality of what the Jewish people were having to face, seeing even little children killed all in this effort.
The film is powerful and even though it doesn’t convey the emotions of the Jewish survivors all that well, it does give a strong sense of how bleak the war really was for them. It’s not perfect, but honestly, it was enough of an eye-opener.
2) Black Mirror (Societal Change and Technology)
Technology is rolling forward at an ever more alarming pace, and civilization simply cannot keep up with it psychologically. We remain the bronze age standing-ape with ever more complex rocks, and Black Mirror shone a big shiny light on how the near future might be shaped by our technological obsessions. Some of its predictions have come unnaturally close, but some have gotten close enough to be scary without the power of weird coincidences.
Can we not draw a parallel to Waldo the comedic bear to the race of popular celebrities actually achieving political status? The pig thing was uncomfortably real, that’s either dumb luck or weird insider-knowledge, but that knowledge is readily accessible in this age where we pour our personal info onto public forums. Black Mirror is not a horror series, but it is designed to make you afraid.
1) Up (Grief)
The love story that halted the world that bolted our heartstrings into the film before it had even begun. Ellie and Carl were childhood sweethearts turned lovers and homemakers, a shared love of adventure driving them through thick and thin, and times did indeed become thin for them. A handful of minutes and we understood entirely the agony the Carl lives through every day, and understand how deeply he cares for the home he built, and despises those who would build through it.
The adventure of Carl and Russel is laden with metaphor, Russel’s childlike glee and approach to adventure, Dug’s unconditional and relentless love, the upsetting revelation of Muntz, and of course the house that weighs Carl down and comes between him and the adventure of a lifetime.
The Binding of Isaac (Technically the Bible, but heavily altered to the macabre)
The Binding of Isaac is one of those indie games that every gamer has at least heard about in their lifetime. It’s a game which features a young crying naked boy called Isaac, who must run through maze-like sewers, wombs, a sheol and more. He fights the undead, headless babies, Satan, angels and even Mega-Satan – All with just his tears to aid him in his journey of self-realisation and reflection.
The Binding of Isaac on a surface level is a grotesque game, featuring gory subjects and lots of testing boss fights, akin to that of a bullet hell. However, behind that gory facade is a game trying to retell the stories told in the holy Bible, with it’s own spin on things. Whilst the game isn’t necessarily faithful, it’s an interesting telling, allowing you to play as many Biblical characters, such as Cain, Azazel and of course, the most famous Biblical character of all, ??? – Also known as Blue Baby.
Finding Nemo (Child Abduction)
This one isn’t so much of a stretch as it may first seem, but basically the entire story of Finding Nemo is about Marlin trying to find his son, Nemo, who was abducted. The entire film is dedicated to Marlin, along with new found friend Dory, as they desperately search the entire ocean for Nemo. A tragic story, which thankfully has a very happy ending. In fact, that’s why this one gets in the honourable mentions list.
See, all of the other examples in today’s list are quite serious in what they’re portraying. In this Pixar classic, however, it’s all a little bit surreal, as hey, it’s just a fish right? Whilst this is indeed a real child-friendly film, it’s a strong film which discusses the plights of parents who lost their children. From the lack of empathy from other characters, through to the caring individuals who look after Nemo and indeed Marlin, this is a film that’ll have you both laughing and crying.
Another week has passed by and I’m still here, writing more and more entries to our Top 10 marathon. But don’t despair, we’ll be here next week readers. We’ll then be here the following week… And the one following that… Hoo boy, please, would someone send help for us now? We’re going through a rough patch…
… No, don’t you dare vote for a topic for next week..! Oh god, you’re going to anyway, aren’t you?
Well now that we’ve looked into these films, games and series all of which deal with sensitive topics, it’s fair to say that we’ve had enough bleak talk for one day. So, whatever your thoughts on this week’s list, it’s time for you to let it be heard. Do you think we picked the right topics and indeed the right media for the topics? Did our number one choice make sense? Let us know your thoughts in the comments below, or over on Facebook and Twitter.