Why Fanfiction Matters

by Meghan Mitchell '23 on April 20, 2023
Opinion Staff


Fanfiction is a strange topic. When mentioning it, you’re bound to be met with a wide range of reactions, from “You write fanfiction too?” to “You mean that nerdy fiction that tweens write?” As someone who has been in the fanfiction community for quite a while, I have seen my fair share of both well-written stories with in-depth characters and vivid world-building… and fiction that reads like it was written by twelve-year-olds who forgot spell check exists. Regardless, even the worst writers improve as they age, honing their writing skills and eventually creating something worth hyper-fixating on. However, despite the harmless fun of writing about characters of certain fandoms, many people still disregard fanfiction as a childish hobby. What these people fail to realize is that fanfiction does matter, for a variety of reasons. 

The first is fan interaction. It seems like certain fandoms such as Harry Potter, Supernatural, and even Twilight just won’t die despite their stories concluding years ago. That is mainly due to the number of dedicated fans still writing and reading about these characters. While the stories aren’t written by the authors of the original source material, fan interpretations can either be a refreshing look at a character or be so similar to the author’s work that it’s hard to tell the difference. Just because the main story is over doesn’t mean it has to stop for readers. In addition, fanfiction can be used as a creative outlet and allow people to become better writers. 

Writing can also be therapeutic. Sometimes people will write a character with whom they feel a connection in a situation similar to one that they are currently experiencing, to better cope with the event. This is an example of what someone would call a comfort character. As strange as it may sound, doing this can be a real benefit to people as it helps them feel less alone in whatever situation they are facing. 

The last issue is the judgment fanfiction writers face. Fanfiction writers get called childish or face mocking because of the stereotype of it being something only tween girls do. To this, I ask: why do people care so much about what someone does in their free time? There are worse things people can do than writing stories about fictional characters. It’s also not like fanfiction is anything new; some classic literary works we read in Civ, such as Dante’s Inferno, could be considered fanfiction. It keeps people creative, and some of the best storytellers of the modern era got their start by writing fanfiction. It allows people to connect and form bonds in ways they wouldn’t be able to normally. It’s an experience unlike any other, and instead of being scorned, it should be encouraged to allow people to dream and be creative with the characters they love.

Debates and Laughs Required: Hardball and SNL Have a Place in the Current Political Climate

by Christina Charie '25 on November 17, 2022
Opinion Editor


Photo courtesy of Wikimedia Commons

The term “fake news” is frequently used within the context of contemporary American politics. With heightened polarization, news programming often has an underlying bias running through an entire network’s shows. Political candidates often publicly denounce stories that portray them in a negative light. As a result, the public blindly follows charismatic figureheads instead of developing their own convictions. Without critical debate and ironic comedy to point out the flaws in the system in an engaging way, the media is on the path to becoming the most dangerous threat to American democracy. 

Recently, Chris Matthews, the former host of MSNBC’s Hardball, was invited to speak on campus about his experiences in political communications. Even though his career may have ended, America needs a space for bipartisan debate and analysis. By inviting guests from both sides of the spectrum (sometimes at the same time), Matthews ensured that politicians were held accountable in a format accessible to the public. No one is perfect. Americans should not expect perfection, but they should expect politicians to be held accountable. 

In addition to promoting bipartisan discussion, Matthews consistently challenged the politicians that appeared on his show. Lawmakers should not merely appear on television to talk about their successes. People watch certain news networks for affirmation of their preexisting beliefs. Instead, watching the news should allow Americans to question their convictions on crucial issues. Despite Matthews’ blunt approach, he forces individuals to critically assess their political thinking rather than only focusing on the positive. 

While traditional discourse is imperative, there are moments when politics becomes overwhelming. In these cases, Americans need a comedic outlet. Saturday Night Live delivers with elaborate cold opens and its own “fake news” segment. The ridiculous and exaggerated nature of the sketches often helps to convey truths without the sophisticated understanding of politics that Hardball required at times. 

For some, the comedic approach might easily point out immoral behavior that might not be obvious from formal news communications. With the anxiety and tension surrounding politics in America, the people might need a lighthearted approach. Even those less interested in politics can laugh along with SNL’s political satire. Once again, informal political criticism is accessible to Americans from the comfort of their homes. 

No party is spared from bearing the brunt of an SNL joke. For decades, SNL has created presidential impersonations. Former President Donald Trump and President Joe Biden are certainly not the first to be mocked, nor will they be the last. Laughing about politics is beneficial, but one must be aware of where the truth begins. 

Unlike social media, the essential features of sketch comedy help the public understand the nature of the performance. Actors resemble political figures, but no two people are identical. Of course, a comedy show should not replace news programming, but it can help point out the inconsistencies in American politics while keeping frustrated and disinterested audiences aware of current issues.  

Americans need brutal honesty during the polarizing political climate. However, not everyone is responsive to the approach that Hardball employs, which creates space for political satire. One approach cannot satisfy the interests and needs of each individual. America needs everyone to stay informed on imperative issues by taking information from multiple sources. One TikTok or Tweet is not gospel.

In Memoriam: James Michael Tyler

by The Cowl Editor on November 4, 2021

Arts & Entertainment

In Memoriam: James Michael Tyler

Remembering the Iconic Friends Actor

Nikki Idelson ’22

James Michael Tyler, the actor well-known for his role as Gunther on the television show Friends, died on Sunday, Oct. 24, 2021, at the age of 59. According to The New York Times, “the cause [of his death] was prostate cancer, which was diagnosed in September 2018.” Tyler fought a long and hard battle, all the while sharing his story to spread awareness about prostate cancer. 

Friends debuted in the 90s and ran for 10 seasons. It follows the lives of six friends living in Manhattan as they go through life together. This description of the show encapsulates why it was and continues to be incredibly popular. Indeed, viewers feel as though they can relate to the characters and their everyday life experiences. Tyler played Gunther, a barista at Central Perk, where the friends spent a great deal of time. The character’s most notable trait was his deep crush on Rachel, played by Jennifer Aniston. While he was not one of the “friends,” he was still widely regarded as having a prominent role in the show. According to The New York Times, “he appeared in 150 episodes.” 

However, Tyler was not always an actor. He was born in Mississippi on May 28, 1962 and was the youngest of five children. He attended Clemson University for his undergraduate degree. Then, according to The New York Times, “he earned a master’s of fine arts from the University of Georgia and moved to Los Angeles after a brief stint of selling cars in Olympia, Washington.” He went on to become a barista, which is when he was discovered by the creators of Friends, Marta Kauffman and David Crane. In a 2012 interview with the Times, Tyler explained that he was “working as a barista for a place called the Bourgeois Pig, one of the last independent coffee houses in Los Angeles.” 

Tyler was beloved by everyone that he worked with, including Kauffman and Crane. They released the following statement in the wake of Tyler’s death: “When he started as an extra on Friends, his unique spirit caught our eye and we knew we had to make him a character.” At the beginning of his appearance on the show, he was mainly an extra; throughout the ten seasons of Friends, however, he grew to develop a more prominent role that helped to complete the show. Kauffman and Crane also said that Tyler’s performance was essential to the show because “he made Gunther’s unrequited love incredibly relatable.” Such aspects of Tyler’s performance made him a fan favorite. 

Tyler was not just beloved for his role in Friends, but also for how he carried out his day-to-day life. According to CNN, his representative released a statement following his death that proclaimed, “Michael’s loved ones knew him as an actor, musician, cancer-awareness advocate, and loving husband.” 

It is clear that Tyler touched the lives of his fans, friends, and family. For those who are interested in seeing his most recent work, make sure to check out the short films The Gesture and the Word and Processing. James Michael Tyler will be dearly missed.

Yet Another Breakup Rocks Bachelor Nation

by The Cowl Editor on November 4, 2021

Arts & Entertainment

Yet Another Breakup Rocks Bachelor Nation

Does the Bachelor Franchise Live Up to Its Premise?

Grace O’Connor ’22

The Bachelor franchise consists of a beloved set of shows based on the premise of bringing together a couple that will live happily ever after—or does it? On the most recent season of The Bachelorette, lead Katie Thurston, a fan-favorite contestant from Matt James’ season of The Bachelor, ended her season engaged to contestant Blake Moynes. Thurston’s happiness was tangible both on the show and after the cameras stopped rolling. She expressed on multiple occasions that she spent years trying to find the right man who matched her maturity level as well as her fun side. It seemed that she and Moynes were headed for the “happily ever after” the Bachelor franchise purports to create.

However, it appears that things were less rosy between the happy couple behind the scenes. As People Magazine explains, last week, both took to Instagram to write, “It is with mutual love and respect that we have decided to go our separate ways. We are so grateful for the moments we shared together and the entire journey that has unfolded this year, but we ultimately have concluded that we are not compatible as life partners, and it is the most caring choice for both of us to move forward independently.” 

Another statement made by Katie in Us Weekly brings more clarity to the situation: “We were together for six months [and] Blake and I are very level-headed and mature, and we communicate very well on our thoughts, and we just both knew if this was how our first six months were as a couple, going forward it was going to not be in our best interest for our happiness to stay together.”

Although news of the breakup is disappointing to fans, it should not come as a complete surprise. The reality of The Bachelor franchise, whose purpose is to bring together two soulmates for life, is that a majority of its couples ultimately end their relationships less than a year after the cameras stop rolling. 

Indeed, when reality hits couples after their screen time is over, many are unable to uphold their commitments to one another. A Middlebury site network study examining the success rate of the show in creating long-lasting relationships finds that, “It turns out not that many [last]. In fact, only two-thirds of the seasons end with proposals. Then out of those proposals, only five have led to marriage, with The Bachelorette having a better success rate at 30 [percent] versus The Bachelor at 11 [percent].” 

These statistics suggest that the Bachelor franchise is more successful as a source of entertainment for viewers than as a means of helping two soulmates find each other. With this being said, however,  it is important to note that there are 24 couples who are still together. Nonetheless, despite the many valuable relationships and connections that have been ignited through the franchise, over time, it has lost its legitimacy not only because of its demonstrated failure in helping contestants find lifelong partners, but also due to a tendency of contestants to come on the show to find not love, but rather, fame. 

This was especially apparent in the last season of Bachelor in Paradise, with contestants Brendan Morais and Pieper James more concerned about how many Instagram followers they had and how they looked to the public rather than strengthening their actual relationship. 

Thus, with regard to the question of whether the Bachelor franchise is doing what it is meant to, the answer is both yes and no. Although it seems to give contestants all the resources they need to find love, the majority of relationships that form while the cameras are rolling do not last. Moreover, in recent years, more and more contestants seem to go on the franchise’s shows for fame because they are so popular and widely broadcasted. As the franchise moves forward, fans can only hope that its producers find ways to facilitate more genuine connections and that contestants do not go on the shows hoping to find stardom, but rather, true love.


American Horror Story Returns with “Double Feature”

by The Cowl Editor on October 7, 2021

Arts & Entertainment

American Horror Story Returns with “Double Feature”

Hit Show Promises To Scare Viewers in More Ways Than One

Olivia Riportella ’25

It has been two years since the hit series American Horror Story brought a new tale to the small screen. The much anticipated 10th season finally premiered earlier this year on Aug. 25 on FX and Hulu.

This season, producer Ryan Murphy has taken on yet another unique American Horror Story narrative. The season is split into two separate storylines—hence its name, “Double Feature.” While not much was known about the new “story” for quite some time, trailers teased the appearance of sirens and aliens, and viewers have seen these elements appear in the new season.

Many of American Horror Story’s most beloved cast members have returned this season. Sarah Paulson, Evan Peters, Finn Wittrock, Lily Rabe, Frances Conroy, and Leslie Grossman are some of the familiar faces that appear in its first part, “Red Tide,” which “takes place by the sea.” Many of them are also speculated to make an appearance in “Death Valley,” the second half of the season that takes place “by the sand.” 

Interestingly, Macaulay Culkin, most famously known for starring in Home Alone, is making his American Horror Story debut in “Red Tide.” While Culkin is perhaps the most well-known addition to the cast, there will certainly be other new faces appearing on screen in this new season as well.

The first part of “Double Feature,” “Red Tide,” takes place in New England. It is set in Provincetown, Massachusetts, and follows struggling writer Harry Gardner (Finn Wittrock) who moves his pregnant wife Doris (Lily Rabe) and daughter Alma (Ryan Kiera Armstrong) to the beach town of Cape Cod to seek inspiration. Harry quickly discovers that there has been a series of disturbing murders in Truro, the next town over. Soon enough, the culprits, who are some of the town’s more chilling residents, begin to make an appearance.

It is speculated that this part of the season is inspired by true events that have taken place in New England. For instance, one of New England’s most famous serial killers, Antone Charles “Tony” Costa, committed numerous murders in Truro, the town referenced in Red Tide. Costa was dubbed the “Cape Cod Vampire” because he left bite marks on each of his victims. Similarly, in “Red Tide,” the Truro victims are left dead in seemingly animalistic ways. Such real-life horror stories make this season of American Horror Story all the more sinister. 

The second part of the season, “Death Valley,” takes a turn into a 1950s black and white timeline, where President Dwight Eisenhower is confronted with an alien invasion and subsequent tests on the strange new species. Part two also depicts a group of present-day college students that is faced with the recurrence of these horrors decades later. 

Although it has yet to air, the ending of “Double Feature” will certainly be jam-packed, since part two is restricted to just four episodes. The final episodes of the season will be released in the upcoming weeks of October, with “Inside” airing on Oct. 6, “Blue Moon” on Oct. 13, and “The Future Perfect” on Oct. 20. The season finale, whose title has yet to be announced, is set to be released on Oct. 27, so American Horror Story fans will have something spooky to watch right before Halloween.