Gemma White: Why Vinyl Is Better Than Spotify

What comes to mind when you think of a record? For some, it could be the signature crackly sound, for others, old 60’s music playing on a dusty shelf. Perhaps you or your parents may have owned some? Maybe you’ve walked past some niche record shop with rows of untouched vinyl? Or, if you are part of the younger generation, you may recognise them from the single “You Spin Me Round”, which has been re-recorded by many different artists. Many people don’t understand the fuss around vinyl records as technology has advanced since then, so why do so many people, to this day, still use them? In this essay I will explain how vinyl is actually better than online digital streaming.

To start with the most obvious one, the quality of the sound. It’s hard to argue that vinyl has better sound quality than digital streaming; it’s simply a fact. Some believe that listening to a song through the vinyl medium is the best way to hear that song. Of course, this would be affected by the quality of the record player itself, but for the most part, they would be correct. Due to the way vinyl records are created (they are made up of small grooves which the needle is lowered onto and spun on) every single part of the song’s analogue sound-waves is captured in the grooves. This makes them the only true lossless format of music. Whereas with digital music, a digital kit is unable to read analogue sound-waves. This means that they have to translate the waves into a digital signal and back again into sound-waves. This leaves some information lost or changed in the process, not giving the listener the true sound. For a personal experience, I remember playing a record for my brother and his reaction to a song that he had only previously heard digitally. He was taken aback by how you could hear every instrument more clearly and the vocals were smoother. Then he proceeded to ask me, “Why does it not sound crackly?” This crackly sound which many people prefer when listening to music on vinyl, occurs when dust and dirt accumulate in the grooves, causing the needle to jump and produce the noise.

Another reason why there is a buzz around vinyl is not to do with the music itself, but with the experience of buying the records. When you walk into a record shop you can expect to find a few old men looking at classic rock or jazz and possibly some hippie art students flipping through 60s psychedelic pop, but you are guaranteed to fall in love with the atmosphere. Spending hours flipping through rows of old and new records just simply cannot be compared to staring at a screen to select what song to listen to. The rush of dopamine you get when you find an album you like among hundreds of mediocre ones, going out with friends and spending a day looking at music, bringing a parent along and watching their face light up when they find something they “haven’t heard since they were your age,” are just a few of the great parts about going record shopping. Of course, if you are not into the whole social aspect of going out to buy a record, then you can find virtually any record online begging to be part of your collection.

The main reason so many people love vinyl records, including myself, is that they are a physical representation of the music. They can last decades while remaining in a relatively good state. This means that vinyl tends to be an investment for many people and that second-hand records are also very popular. With digital music, there is, of course, no physical representation of what you are listening to. You cannot buy music that someone has already listened to online, but when you buy a used record, you are physically passing music from one person to another. As they are physical, they can make great gifts for people. I have bought many people a vinyl record as a present as it is an easy option and always goes down well. Not to mention, the connection you build with the music while gently putting it onto the table, placing the needle down, and eventually flipping the side over is just far superior to simply clicking a button to play a song online. When I first got my record player my mum looked out a box of her old collection and passed them onto me, thankfully we share a similar music taste, so to my delight I found many albums I enjoyed that were still in good condition such as ‘A Tango in the Night’ by Fleetwood Mac and Paul Simon’s ‘Graceland’ and of course no vinyl collection is truly complete without ‘Blue Monday’ by New Order, but not only did I enjoy listening to these, it was also the connection I had while listening to the same vinyls my mum would’ve at my age that simply could not be replicated if I played them digitally.

If a problem you face while listening to music is figuring out what to play next, then you are not alone. When listening to music on streaming services such as Spotify, sometimes the endless options available can feel daunting, and often you spend more time looking for something to play than actually listening to the music. This is where I feel like the saying “less is more” can be applied, with many people nowadays not fully listening to an album and liking to jump between artists. This is harder to do so with vinyl, as the format forces you to listen to the majority of the songs on the album. This can be good for expanding your music taste by allowing you to listen to more from the same artist. Also, it relieves you of the pressure of, “What should I play next?” as another song will play automatically after the next. This way of listening to music can help you appreciate the effort some artists put into their work, as the arrangement of the songs can play a crucial part in making the music flow well together. Actually sitting down and engrossing yourself in what you’re currently playing is a much different experience than the casual way of playing something through Spotify.

However, many people argue against the use of vinyl. One viewpoint is that they are very fragile and can be easily ruined. Therefore, why would you want to spend money on something that could be rendered worthless so easily? While they are correct in some aspects, I believe that it doesn’t hold enough weight to deter vinyl lovers. Vinyls do need to be stored correctly to be kept in good condition such as; keeping covers on them, keeping them upright, making sure dust doesn’t get collected in the grooves, and the list goes on. Then, while you are listening to them, you should be careful not to make any movement that could cause the needle to jump and create a scratch, as that will lead to the record skipping and being unplayable. Similar to how you will find book lovers that scoff at the idea of downloading a novel on a Kindle as it doesn’t give the same experience as flipping the pages, the same principle can be applied to vinyls. Ultimately, you cannot create the same experience with technology. Taking all of this into account, the fragility of the vinyls adds to their value and makes you appreciate them more.

In conclusion, I believe vinyl is better than digital streaming, such as Spotify. You can find practically any album or song you like in vinyl format, meaning it is an option open to anyone who really enjoys music. Furthermore, the physical aspect of records helps create a deeper connection between the listener and the artist, and the casualness of digital music has, in some ways, watered down the potential impact music can have on people.


Joseph Green: Time to Knock Down Our Dark Past

The purpose of a statue is to honour greatness. Yet, Britain is peppered with statues to those who have harmed people, such as slave traders and colonialists. Events in the summer of 2020 sharpened the focus as the world reeled in the aftermath of George Floyd’s death. This was a symbolic catalyst. Since then, an incredible seventy UK statues, dedicated to slave traders, colonialists and racists, have been removed. But, far too many still remain. Dismantling such symbols of oppression is, in my opinion, entirely justified. Why on earth would we glorify those who wronged and harmed people?

Statues celebrate the glorious, so why keep the inglorious on display? Statues usually commemorate the honourable. Surely then, it is contradictory to keep those commemorating dishonourable slave traders. Who wants to immortalise those who traded in human misery? Until June 2020, Bristol city centre was dominated by the towering bronze figure of 17th-century slave trader, Edward Colston. From the 16th century to the 19th century, an estimated 10 to 20 million slaves left Africa. Forced from their homes, and families, they were transported to the Americas to work in plantations. Undoubtedly, this is one of the most horrific stains on our humanity. Why then do we continue to accept the presence of statues to these ogres? And big names are among them: there is the famous explorer, and murderous slave trader, Sir Francis Drake; then there is Henry Dundas, a Scottish politician, who prevented the abolition of the slave trade for fifteen years after it should have been eradicated in 1792, which ultimately led to 630,000 slaves having to wait more than a decade for their freedom. After all, in other contexts, in other places, statues of the shameful have been toppled. Take the tearing down of a monument to Saddam Hussein, in 2003. Iraqi strongman, Kadhem Sharif “al-Yabani” Hussen took a sledgehammer and smashed the statue of the shamed dictator known as the ‘Butcher of Baghdad’. Obviously, he understood the contradiction of a statue celebrating a disgraceful man.

Moreover, since the UK is more multicultural than ever before, many are offended by the continued presence of statues celebrating colonialists. With changing attitudes, a large chunk of society now sees the British Empire as pernicious; yet, statues glorifying colonialists remain. Modern-day Britain is struggling with racial tensions, much of which springs from colonialism. These tensions are heightened by the myriad colonialist statues that still stand. Take the statue of Cecil Rhodes. Standing proudly outside Oriel College, Oxford, Rhodes is a controversial figure. Today, many view him as the 19th century poster-boy for everything that is disgusting about Empire. He epitomises white supremacy, colonialism and unalloyed racism. In 1895, his British South Africa Company established the southern African territory of Rhodesia, now Zimbabwe, as a British colony. In 2015, a protest group called Rhodes Must Fall, started at the University of Cape Town, South Africa, which also has a Rhodes statue. The movement insisted that it was not targeting Rhodes himself. Rather, that by continuing to prominently display the statue, it legitimises the colonialism he stood for. Surely, that is indisputable. His will leaves no doubt of this. In it, he admits that his, “… true aim and object whereof shall be for the extension of British rule throughout the world…” Surely, leaving Rhodes’ statue standing outside one of the most prestigious UK universities suggests that those in power still harbour visions of racial superiority.

Undoubtedly, many of our inherited statues are no longer compatible with today’s progressive values and so should be removed. They should be replaced with structures that are truly representative of contemporary Britain. According to the 2011 Census of England and Wales, out of a population of over 56.1 million people, 14% identified their ethnicity as non-White European. That’s 7 million people. Yet, out of the 950 UK statues standing today, a mere 16 are of black people. This is wrong. We need statues to represent who we are in today’s society. We need statues that represent how we want the rest of the world to view us. And surely that is not as a country where being white, being a man and being privileged is truly representative of the population as a whole. Therefore, it should be celebrated that in September 2021, a public statue was raised in Cardiff to Betty Campbell. Notably, she was not male, or white or posh. During the 1970s, she was the first black, working-class woman to reach the position of headteacher in a Welsh school. Just as notably, her statue was erected as a result of a public vote. Her school, Mount Stuart Primary in Butetown, Cardiff, was an example of, “…best practice in equality and multicultural education throughout the UK”. Therefore, the Welsh people who voted to commemorate her, in a statue, are sending out a vision of themselves as inclusive. And she is not the only person to have done good for their community. There are many people who could better represent our society. Marcus Rashford is a good candidate. There is already a mural to him in Manchester, which states underneath: ‘Take pride in knowing that your struggle will play the biggest part in your purpose’. In the summer of 2020, Rashford campaigned successfully for the continuation of free school meal provision for underprivileged children. Despite his wealth and fame, he exemplifies social conscience. Certainly, this is the image of the UK that should proudly beamed out – not that of a disgusting, colonial past.

However, the British Government does not wish to see such statues dismantled as it believes that they are part of our history. The Prime Minister, Boris Johnson, has stated that, “To tear [statues] down, is to lie about our history”. In fact, the Government is so concerned that it has brought in new laws to protect statues. These will ensure that historic memorials are ‘retained and explained.’ They think that it is a better to keep statues and have a plaque nearby to explain the actions – good and bad – of the person honoured.

If the UK Government believes statues to murderous slave traders must be preserved, why did Spain, Germany, Ukraine and Georgia, amongst others, tear down statues of equally murderous men like Franco and Stalin? For example, in 2007, Spain’s Historical Memory Law, demanded, “the removal of all Francoera symbols from streets and buildings”. In 2010, a statue of Stalin was removed from Gori, Georgia. Did these nations not care about history as much as Boris Johnson does? More likely, they wished to signal how much they disapproved of what these men did. The UK Government’s failure to recognise that the continued presence of statues, like that of Edward Colston, was offensive suggests that it does not wholly disapprove of how Britain’s wealth was built off the backs of enslaved people. Ben Luke, editor of the Art Newspaper agrees that, “Statues are not history; often they are impediments to truth because they are erected to glorify the powerful as a fig leaf for their flaws and iniquities.” Edward Colston was a powerful man who had many such flaws and iniquities, most prominently the enslavement of human beings. What is his statue if not a glorification of the slave trade?

Ultimately, no matter how greatly a city, or country, benefited, in the past, from evildoers’ contributions, this is nullified by the fact that they made that contribution at the cost of human lives. Statues to such individuals are an eyesore. They misrepresent what Britain wants to be today. Instead, we must strive to be what Robert Louis Stevenson described as an inclusive, non-exploitative community of, ‘multifarious, incongruous, and independent denizens’. And the statues erected must reflect this.

Bibliography: colonialists-removedacross-uk christophercolumbus-his-men-could-not-annihilate/ notable-women-inthe-us-180958237/ (David Olusoga historian) (,and%20explained’%20for%20future%20generations.&text=Historic%20England%20and%20the%20Secretary,in%20the%20most%20exceptional%20circumstances.

Jane Eadie: Twice Upon a Time in Hollywood

British singer Adele is set to star in a remake of Jonathan Demme’s classic psychological thriller The Silence of the Lambs. No, of course she’s not: if she were, you would not have been able to avoid the adverts in magazines and on the sides of buses for the last three months. But if she had been cast in such a role, would you have been surprised? You could see it happening, couldn’t you? Any film studio on the planet would love to make this scenario a reality but why should they jump at the chance to have Adele as the headline star in such a reboot? Is it because she has a proven track record as an actor? Is it because such a talented singer is likely to be able to mine their emotions to turn out a brilliant acting performance? Or might it just be because, with 60 million worldwide album sales to her name and a voracious fanbase, anything she is associated with is a sure-fire hit? 

The fact of the matter is that, regardless of how much of a dud your script might be, or how appalling an actor Adele ends up being, the chances are your movie will attract a huge audience and earn loads of pounds before the penny drops. It’s a scenario we see all too often: David Baddiel- comedian turned children’s author, James Corden- British comedy actor turned US chat show host, Madonna- pop mega star turned Golden Raspberry award-winning worst actress, or even Rylan Clark- talent show wannabe turned surprisingly credible presenter. 

My point is not whether these conversions are a critical success or failure (chances are they’ll at least make money), nor is it a criticism of these people themselves (who wouldn’t seize the opportunity if offered?). It’s that for every lazy decision to overextend and exploit the already famous, to bank on the bankable, there is the likelihood that a truly original, unique and as yet unheard voice gets stifled. 

There’s a laziness too in the assumption by Hollywood producers that the likes of Leonardo DiCaprio’s yet to be born son will grow to become a world-renowned actor. But it’s the same lazy assumption that fuelled the careers of Dakota Johnson, Jayden and Willow Smith, Lily-Rose Depp and many others who through no fault of their own, got their foot in the door. Would Lottie Moss ever have graced a catwalk if she had a different surname? Or Miley Cyrus have got a record deal? Of course, it’s not just in the entertainment business that nepotism flourishes but it’s somehow a bigger injustice, where there is such huge fame and money at stake, that someone should get their lucky break on the strength of their surname rather than their sheer talent and drive. Then again, does it not stand to reason that children who are brought up surrounded by famous parents, steeped in the world of show business, would not be attracted by the allure of the same career? And what’s to say that when a famous parent passes their surname to their son or daughter, that they don’t also pass down some of the genes that made them the stars in the first place? Who’s to say that Kaia Gerber wouldn’t have made it as a supermodel even if she hadn’t been the daughter of Cindy Crawford? And then there’s the fact that some famous offspring take a very different path than their parent: it seems difficult to believe that Stella McCartney could credit her ability to design a handbag from the fact that her dad was one of the Beatles. 

But my point here is that I’m not blaming the children or the parents, or denying that the former might be brilliants talents in their own right. My issue is with those in the entertainment industry who always seem too willing to default to the easy option – the lazy option – of trying to get ever more mileage from a limited pool rather than go to the effort of spreading the net that bit further and seeing what treasures lie in uncharted waters. 

It’s the same laziness that seems to prevail when it comes to the actual product: be it an album, a musical or a film. Whether it’s a reboot, a remake, a sequel or a translation of a foreign film, how often do we see valuable funding and studio production time given over to seemingly endless rehashes of previously successful books, films and music, leaving little room for nurturing newer talent with fresher ideas. A successful movie franchise like James Bond or Star Wars is one thing but at least there is a vague attempt to switch up the storylines each time. But does the world really need another adaptation of Little Women? Having had two BBC versions in the 1950s and in the 1970s and two animated series in the 1980s, as well as film versions in 1917, 1918, 1933, 1949, and 1978, there was arguably a case for there to be a slightly more contemporary version.  Having had that as relatively recently as 1994, however, why was there felt the need to churn out yet another mini series in 2017 followed by a seventh film adaptation in 2019. Let’s face it, the story was set in the early 1860s and it hasn’t really changed! 

With the recent release of the latest instalment of the current Spiderman franchise, featuring Tom Holland’s incarnation of the friendly neighbourhood superhero, we start to wonder how long it will be before he is ditched in favour of another series reboot featuring an even fresher face, like Andrew Garfield and Tony Maguire were before him. Since 2002, we’ve had 3 remakes of a series of 3 movies telling essentially the same clearly money-spinning story to 3 successive audiences. That’s not to say that there’s not an appetite for this type of stuff – I speak as someone who’s seen all 9 and counting! – but it’s so obviously driven by money over original creativity and the laziness of Hollywood producers turning out batch after batch of a winning formula rather than experimenting with some new ingredients.

If that’s not lazy enough, did the producers of the 2021 reboot of the 6 season 2007-2012 phenomenon that was Gossip Girl even get out of bed to decide that a remake was a good idea? With the original cast still young enough to play themselves and the still teenage audience getting a strong sense of deja-vu, how long will it be before we see a series starting to be remade before the original version has even finished its run? 

If there can be any legitimate justification for this for this lazy approach to producing works of entertainment it’s that audiences feel comfortable with names and faces, characters, scenarios and even plots they’ve grown familiar with. Just about everyone on the planet must’ve tuned in, whether by accident or design, to an episode of Friends that they’ve already seen but that hasn’t stopped them continuing to watch to the end. Perhaps the laziness of the producers, agents and promoters is fuelled by the fact that they’ve recognised that audiences are lazy too!

Ultimately though, the pursuit of art and entertainment relies on new faces, original ideas and unique talents. Classical music would never have moved on without Mozart. Art would never have moved on without Picasso. Bob Dylan moved the dial, not his son, Jakob. It was the original Star Wars in 1977 that really pushed the boundaries, rather than the concluding chapter in 2019. It’s the original raw talent that needs to be sought out and given a break. That’s where the creative and entertainment industries ought to be channelling their not inconsiderable energy and resources. Although there’s a cosy satisfaction to be had in reading a novel written by a familiar name, watching a tv series with a well-known actor or seeing a film adaptation of a much-loved classic, it’s time to wake up and realise that the truly thrilling and rewarding is only to be found in encountering a piece of art, literature, film or music that is utterly groundbreaking. Whether it’s the talent spotters that discover, the agents and producers that nurture or the audiences that consume, it would be refreshing to see a bit more effort. Let’s stop being lazy and clinging to what we know already. Let’s embrace the new.


Louise McFadden: Unhappily Ever After: The Harmful Effects of Traditional Fairy Tales on Children

Once upon a time there lived a little girl who was captivated by fairy tales. At bedtime, she listened carefully to her mother’s voice reading the stories aloud, and gazed at the colourful illustrations which brought them to life. Every night, disturbing thoughts of wicked stepmothers, children abandoned in forests and wolves devouring grannies swirled around her young, innocent mind. Such cruelty and brutality are common themes in traditional fairy tales, leaving many children terrified and anxious. Considering this, as well as the sexism, lack of diversity and questionable morals displayed, is it any wonder that little Louise grew up and felt the need to write an essay condemning these damaging and outdated stories?

Murder, kidnapping, mutilation and cannibalism: these are just some of the atrocities that make traditional fairy tales inappropriate for children. According to the historian and mythographer Professor Dame Marina Warner, as well as the fairy tale expert Professor Jack Zipes, many stories were not originally intended for children, but for adults. This includes the popular Brothers Grimm stories of the 1800s, such as ‘Little Red Riding Hood’, ‘Snow White’ and ‘Cinderella’. The earliest adult versions of ‘Cinderella’ contain gruesome details – the ugly stepsisters amputate their own toes to fit into the glass slipper, and later their eyes are pecked out by birds. Originally, in ‘Snow White’, the wicked stepmother is made to dance in red-hot iron shoes until death. Lovely. While some stories have been rewritten over the years in an attempt to make them more child-friendly, a disturbing amount of death, brutality and abuse remains. For example, do you think a story about abandoned children being lured into a cannibal’s house sounds appropriate for a four-year-old? It sounds like the plot of a horror movie. According to Reader’s Digest, ‘Hansel and Gretel’ was one of the nine most popular fairy tales in 2021. What makes this worse is that, like many other fairy tales, it was based on horrendous true events. Many real-life children were abandoned, some even eaten, during the Great Famine of 1314 to 1322. Many parents don’t know the origins of these stories. If they did, perhaps they’d think twice about sharing them with their children. Some, however, do realise the anxiety caused by the cruelty and gore. A OnePoll study in Britain in 2018 revealed that a third of parents said their kids cried at Little Red Riding Hood being eaten by the wolf, and over a quarter change the stories they read to their children. It goes without saying that parents shouldn’t have to adjust the barbarity in their children’s stories – there should be no barbarity to begin with.

As well as the wicked violence of the stories, the endemic sexism also has a damagingly corrosive effect on children. Hundreds of years ago, fairy tales were intended to teach boys and girls their roles. According to Liz Grauerholz, former Professor of Sociology at Purdue University, and Lori Baker-Sperry, Professor of Women’s Studies at Western Illinois University, in their study of Grimm’s fairy tales titled ‘The Pervasiveness and Persistence of the Feminine Beauty Ideal in Children’s Fairy Tales’ (2003), young women were to be “domesticated, respectable, and attractive to a marriage partner”. Why are we still indoctrinating children with outdated gender roles in 2022? Princesses in traditional fairy tales typically do housework all day, lack ambition and have zero independence. They have very shiny hair, though. In fact, the disturbing emphasis on feminine beauty is highlighted by the well-known quote from ‘Snow White’: “Mirror, mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?” Grauerholz and Baker-Sperry’s study states that 94% of Grimm’s fairy tales mention beauty or ugliness. Pressuring young girls to meet impossible beauty standards is unethical and brainwashes them to believe that their appearance is their most important trait. It is not. Seriously, what sort of message are we sending our daughters? That they should sit looking pretty, waiting for a man to save them? Four of the most famous traditional fairy tales follow the recipe of the passive princess waiting to be rescued by the powerful prince – ‘Cinderella’, ‘Snow White’, ‘Rapunzel’ and ‘Sleeping Beauty’. Girls can be so much more than this. They can provide for themselves. They can be the heroines of their own stories. Should parents really be creating a situation where young girls idolise princesses like the Little Mermaid, who sacrificed her voice for a man? As for boys, toxic masculinity is encouraged. Princes in the aforementioned fairy tales tend to have very little characterisation other than being the tough, heroic rescuers and protectors of women. We must stop teaching boys to be strong all the time and show no weakness, emotion or vulnerability. It’s unfair to weigh these restrictions and expectations on anyone, let alone a child.

Traditional fairy tales have a lack of diversity. If I asked you to imagine some characters from fairy tales, you would most likely picture young, white, able-bodied princesses with clear skin and twenty-inch waists. Princes tall and muscly, witches old and wrinkly. Where is the representation for children of colour, disabled children and the LGBT community? There’s no excuse not to include characters that these children could relate to. It’s extremely important to have racial diversity in children’s stories for children of colour to feel included and represented, and to prevent racism developing from a young age. Additionally, there is no body diversity. All characters (except villains because everyone knows that a character’s goodness is directly related to their physical attractiveness) are thin and good-looking. One exception is Hans Christian Andersen’s ‘The Ugly Duckling’ … who eventually turns out alright on the basis that he becomes a beautiful swan. Consequently, some children struggle with low self-esteem, continuing throughout adulthood. What harm would having some more inclusive stories with diverse characters possibly do to our children? Apart from making them happier and more empathetic?

The tales are crammed with bad morals and messages – poisoned apples, corrupting children’s minds, and giving them a twisted perception of good and evil. Every detail from the stories plants a seed in their heads. For instance, stealing and greed are condoned in ‘Goldilocks and the Three Bears’ and ‘Jack and the Beanstalk’. When you see the Prince harmlessly kissing Sleeping Beauty to wake her from the evil fairy’s spell, your six-year-old sees that it’s okay to kiss people when they are asleep. Is it really true love’s kiss or is it sexual assault? Another example of an insidious message is in ‘Beauty and the Beast’. While there is some debate over whether Belle suffers from Stockholm Syndrome (a psychological condition causing hostages to develop positive feelings towards their captor), the story is nonetheless problematic. Belle changes the Beast, teaching him kindness and eventually transforming him back into a prince. Stop teaching young girls that it’s their responsibility to fix men who abuse them. In addition, distorted messages about romantic relationships create unrealistic expectations for children. Fairy tale couples are usually adolescent, implying that love is found easily and quickly, and is only for young people. This can lead to anxiety and depression even when the child is grown up, still looking for “the one”. Moreover, the fact that many tales end with a magnificent wedding insinuates that marriage is the ultimate prize and sign of success. This isn’t true. Love and success can come in many forms and it’s important to teach our kids different happy endings.

I’m aware of the argument that fairy tales improve children’s imaginations. However, they often simply can’t tell the difference between magic and reality. Over fifty American youngsters who kissed frogs hoping for a real-life prince to appear (after watching the Disney film ‘The Princess and the Frog’) certainly didn’t gain a better imagination – they gained salmonella poisoning. And to those who argue that the stories are entertaining – no one is saying that children shouldn’t be told stories, just that there are more suitable ones which could aid childhood development.

Traditional fairy tales do more harm than good. Perhaps if we replace these traumatic stories with ones that are enjoyable, while also being more up-to-date, ethical, inspiring and inclusive, we can all live happily ever after.




Hilda Boswell’s Treasury of Fairy Tales

The Usborne Fairy Tale Treasury by Rosie Dickens

Michael McDonald: Are Comic Books Just For Kids?

”…this is going to hurt you a lot more than it does me…”

Then the Clown Prince of Crime with a sinister smile on his face beats 15-year-old Jason Todd (Robin) to death with a crowbar as his mother watches on, with no hero to save him. In the decades that have followed this atrocity, Batman has suffered from what we know to be post-traumatic stress disorder, or PTSD. Only now after 30 years has he eventually salvaged his sanity, despite still being haunted by the sight of his arch nemesis standing over Jason’s limp and mutilated body. This is just one of the many horrifying moments that have occurred in the so-called ‘child’s entertainment’ industry that is comic books. Now, as a young child you may have read a comic such as The Beano or The Broons. However, now you’re all grown up and are ‘wiser’ in the ways of the world, you probably have this perception that comics are simply for kids, when in actual fact very few are.

I’m guessing you’ve heard of Tony Stark? Iron Man? Most likely you have but what you probably don’t know is that he was an alcoholic in the late 70s. How about Roy Harper? Ever heard of him? He’s Green Arrow’s sidekick and, like the singer-songwriter of the same name, he was suffering from a heroin addiction in 1971. A bit different from CBBC or Disney Channel, wouldn’t you say? I don’t know about you but personally, I wouldn’t exactly regard drug and alcohol abuse as ‘children’s entertainment’; however they do say each to their own. These events are actually what make the characters you know and love, but very few of you will have heard of these darker gritty sides of them as these aspect are only hinted at through their cinematic counterparts to make them more ‘family friendly’ or ‘PG’. Now don’t get me wrong: there are some comics that are aimed at younger readers, but to say that the whole medium is for kids is outrageous. For example, in an article in The Telegraph written by the journalist Rhymer Rigby, simply the headline alone, “No self-respecting adult should buy comics or watch superhero movies”, is preposterous. Take The Walking Dead; that show is well known for being one of the grittiest and most gruesome programmes on television but trust me when I say that it’s mild compared to the horrors printed on the pages of the comic book. In addition to this, you have masterpieces such as Saga, one of the most critically-acclaimed storylines in comic-book history, that is still evolving every month when the next issue appears on shelves. But this comic is far from the world of superheroes. It’s more like our version of Game of Thrones. Violence, sex, racism… it has it all, but not only does it portray these mature subjects, it deals with them in a serious manner by showing the reality of every aspect within these delicate matters. I don’t know any child that would fully understand these subjects, never mind take benefit from the way in which they are explored within the pages of this comic and in fact many other comics like it. 

Everyone assumes that comic books are simply about some witty superhero saving a cat from a tree or a man in spandex foiling a villain’s ‘foolproof’ evil plan to destroy humanity but they’re simply not. Like any other form of entertainment, there are hundreds of different genres and themes: ‘Alex + Ada’, a romantic sci-fi that explores how an artificially intelligent robot could possess emotions; ‘East Of West’, a sci-fi western that depicts a hostile America in the aftermath of the civil war that is segregated into numerous factions; ‘Postal’, a crime thriller that shows a young postman living in a town full of ex-convicts while also having to deal with the effects of Asperger’s disease; ‘Y The Last Man’, a post-outbreak drama where every man on the planet is dead except for one and we see the numerous challenges he faces. Honestly, the list is endless, but people are so naïve that they just stereotype them as being about superheroes. For any comic enthusiast like myself, this is infuriating, as comics contain breathtaking or horrifying tales combined with stunning and jaw-dropping artwork, yet they are still perceived to be on the same level as the Teletubbies or Thomas the Tank Engine. It blows my mind!

From the $2 billion made by Avengers: Infinity War in 2018 to the $380 million made by Batman Begins back in 2005, the comic genre has ruled the cinematic box office for over a decade. Despite this, the stories that made these films a reality are still considered to be for children. If you looked at the revenue these films produce would you think their origins were just for kids? No, of course, you wouldn’t, because how on earth could a multi-billion dollar industry originate from some stories simply for children? The reality is it couldn’t have. These films are so popular because they appeal to people of all ages, whether it’s for the out of this world storylines, the extraordinary characters or even the ground-breaking and innovative CGI (Computer Generated Images) that has changed the world of cinematography forever. These films are being produced year after year in Hollywood due to the fan base continually growing and expanding. This can not only be seen through the money they make but through events such as the San Diego Comic Con where hundreds of thousands of adoring fans dress up as their favourite characters each year and descend on the city’s exhibition centre for all things comics. Nevertheless, our society still maintains the stereotype that comics are just for kids. Why? To be honest, I don’t know. The only difference between the comics and the films (other than the way they are created) is that in actual fact the comics are more complicated to understand and comprehend. Yet our society still believes that they are simply small magazines with a few cartoon pictures and some big speech bubbles with onomatopoeic words emblazoned within them.

Much like with any argument there are always counters and mine is without exception. Many people would say that if you’re an adult or even a teenager why buy what is essentially a magazine when you can buy a fully-fledged book? Well for a start it is not simply a magazine. It is a comic book and it deserves the same respect that is shown to the works of Dickens or Dumas. It contains the same amount of action, excitement, drama, comedy and twists as any other literacy masterpiece. However, as it contains pictures and speech bubbles rather than bland boring pages of text it is believed to be for children. It is honestly astonishing that this is the case, as these pictures and speech bubbles are actually created by award-winning artists and writers such as Frank Miller and Alan Moore, who have both proved themselves in the worlds of art and literature respectively. However, the world sees that as it is not page upon page of endless sentences and paragraphs it must simply be for younger readers. If people were to actually flick through a few pages of a comic they would immediately be drawn into an imaginary world of the author’s choosing, where any number of events could unfold. No different from any other King or Christie creation.

The reality is comics are just the artistic reincarnation of books. They are written by authors but adapted with stunning and scintillating drawings to help enhance the reading experience. Just because they contain pictures doesn’t mean they are just for children: they are for all people, no matter what their age who enjoy both art and storytelling. They are not simply about superheroes: they tackle a wide range of issues across different genres, such as discrimination in space within Saga or the horrors that plague an apocalyptic world within the Walking Dead. There is no limit to what they can express so they simply cannot be limited to children. They are for everyone.


  6. Quote from Batman: A Death In The Family by Jim Starlin and Jim Aparo

Land of Hope and Glory? – Nina Snedden

Trauma. Torture. Torment. All of which should be synonymous with the turmoil imposed upon millions by the British Empire. Yet, on the horizon of a post-Brexit Britain, a sickening sense of national superiority seems to have emerged from the dewy shades of the British empire, once extolled by many as the ‘empire on which the sun never sets.’

An underlying nostalgia for the imperial dominance that the British empire once brought, and a sense of chauvinistic pride surrounding it, and the supposed stability that it secured- despite its harrowing treatment of countries such as India, Yemen and South Africa- is detectable within Britain today. A large section of the British public seems trapped in a web of blind glorification through denial or blatant ignorance. Despite the shocking accounts of imperialist atrocities now widely available for the British public, many Brits seem, even with the knowledge of these events, to be party to a once dormant sense of pride due to the empire’s past assertion of power and dominance over other countries. In recent years, this mentality seems to have erupted once again; fuelled by the jingoistic sentiments of xenophobic politicians and recent events in Britain. A YouGov survey shows that 59% of the British public are proud of the Empire, only 19% are ashamed, whilst 23% don’t know. These results imply a sense of amnesia throughout a large section of Britain regarding British imperialist abominations. During the Boer Wars, Britain was responsible for the death of 10% of the entire Boer population in one year alone, including 22,000 children- yet a large percentage of the British population remains deluded by the miasma that obscures our nation’s understanding of our own history. How can this be?

Many empire fetishists argue colonies profited and prospered under the red white and blue of the gaudily coloured union-jack parasol. Niall Ferguson, author of Empire: How Britain Made the Modern World, falls under this category, writing,”… no organisation in history has done more to promote the free movement of goods, capital and labour than the British Empire in the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. And no organisation has done more to impose Western norms of law, order and governance around the world”. Yet, Britain, in fact kept its colonies and subjects in the shade, confining them to the dark shadows of exploitation. The empire’s indisputable intention was to plunder countries of their natural resources and labourers, with an utter disregard for the suffering of those living under their rule. Ashley Jackson, Professor of Imperial and Military History at King’s College London, comments, “The basis of empire is that you rule other people, you deny them independence, you exploit their labour and resources, and a lot of the ‘good things’ were often incidental and secondary.”

During recent events in Charlottesville, Virginia, when counter protestors met white nationalists at the ‘Unite the Right’ Rally, a 32 year old woman and two Virginia state patrol troops were killed and 19 people were injured. This ostensibly indicates a rise in white supremacist activity and a reluctance to condemn America’s history of slavery. Britain has heavily criticised the US and Trump- with Theresa May commenting that there was “no equivalence between those who propound fascist views and those who oppose them”, and stating that “It is important for all those in positions of responsibility to condemn far-right views wherever we hear them.” Yet bizarrely, Britain itself still seems to glorify its imperial past, shrouded as it is in impropriety, immorality and iniquity. The discussion of it is often carefully orchestrated so as to imply that colonies largely prospered under British rule. Statues erected in areas of Britain dedicated to such tyrants as Cecil Rhodes and Edward Colston go some way to prove that the fetishisation of British imperialism is still rife within a large division of British society today. Having made his fortune in the mining industry, Cecil Rhodes became focused upon the annexation of present-day Zimbabwe. Rhodes succeeded in creating the eponymously named ‘Rhodesia’ in an attempt to assert the British as ‘the first race in the world.’ Rhodes can be held accountable for essentially engineering the system of ‘apartheid’ in South Africa, by separating the Africans working in his mines from the rest of civilisation, as well as stealing millions of miles of indigenous lands and prompting the outbreak of the second Boer War, which resulted in the death of 25,000 Afrikaners. In the context of Britain today, Rhodes would be widely regarded as a white supremacist, a racist and a criminal. Why is it that his statue adorns Oriel College, Oxford?

The Brexit vote in June 2016 further points to an underlying nostalgia for British imperial dominance and a hope to reassert Britain as a ‘world power’. Historian, Margaret MacMillan said ‘They’re talking about the glorious Elizabethan Age; they’re talking about that time that Britain ruled the world. It’s a fake sort of nostalgia because of course it doesn’t take into account the complexities [of the situation].’ This desire to return to an age of power and influence requires the renewal of trading relationships with past British colonies. In a speech in July 2017 Theresa May referred to ‘building new relationships’ and reaching ‘trade agreements’ with ‘old friends’. May’s reference to past British colonies as ‘old friends’ goes far to prove the extent of Britain’s delusion surrounding its nefarious imperial past. During the Bengal famine of 1943, many Indians perished under the hand of ‘the war hero’ Churchill, regarded by history as an honourable British leader. Yet it is unlikely that the 3 million Indians who died during this period would view Britain with the same bizarrely fond affection. Nor the 3 million victims torn from their homes in colonies and enslaved between 1562 and 1807. And certainly not the Adenese, who were stripped of their clothing, sexually exploited, and forced into refrigerated cells, in the torture camps opened during the Aden emergency of the 1960s. Foreign secretary, Boris Johnson commented “We used to run the biggest empire the world has ever seen, with a much smaller domestic population and a relatively tiny civil service… Are we really unable to do trade deals?” However, British colonies including India, having suffered under the violent rule of the British empire for decades, have now economically, democratically and morally surpassed Britain. The rotting corpse of the empire cannot and should not be resuscitated.

Entrenched supremacy, racism and discrimination remains palpable within the British mindset today. The undeniably jingoistic Last Night of the Proms is another clear example of the underlying nostalgia for imperial dominance that still exists in a large faction of British society. Songs such as ‘Rule Britannia’ and ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ extoll the “virtues” of British imperialism. John Drummond, who ran the Proms during the 1980s and 1990s for the BBC referred to being ‘moved from tolerant enjoyment to almost physical revulsion’ in response to the BBC’s glaring dismissal for those who suffered under the tyranny of the empire. Many argue that tradition calls for these songs to be played. However, it was not until 1905 that ‘Rule Britannia’ became a fixed song in the event, and not until as late as 1953 that ‘Land of Hope and Glory’ became a permanent source of particular frustration for anti-imperialists. Lyrics such as ‘Rule, Britannia! Britannia, rule the waves!’, as well as, ‘Britons never, never, never shall be slaves’ imply a specific disregard for the millions of civilians enslaved and murdered under the British rule. The undulating union jack flags hark back to a false memory of when Britons appeared to ‘Rule the waves.’

Unless we collectively address and condemn our imperialist past as a nation, statues will continue to be erected condoning slavery and torture, songs will continue to be sung glorifying an empire responsible for the death of millions, and Britain, although it will likely not return to the world-wide stature and superiority it once supposedly possessed, may continue to allow racism, violence and pain to be the basis upon which power is placed. We cannot allow Britain to regress in such a way.

Planned Obsolescence: Weapon of Mass Discarding or Catalyst for Progress? – Hannah Berry

Emitting a dim yellow glow in a fire station in Livermore, California, the Centennial Light has burned for a record-breaking 115 years since it was first turned on in 1901. Fast forward an entire century, and light bulbs are burning out and being replaced within months. If a light bulb designed in the 19th century can last for over one hundred years, why, in the late 20th and early 21st century, have light bulbs tended to last no more than a few months? The answer is planned obsolescence, a by-product of modern capitalism.

Frequent changes in design; society’s views on fashion and trends; the focus on ‘replace over repair’ of goods and an astronomical use of non-durable material, are the largest contributors to planned obsolescence; a policy of producing consumer goods that rapidly become obsolete and so require replacing. Although believed by economists to be a social necessity for driving technological advancement and innovation, planned obsolescence is unsustainable for the future. Such a policy fuels the society’s damaging consumerist culture and wasteful attitudes, leading to high manufacturing demands, production of waste, natural resource depletion and damaging repercussions on consumers.

One of the most obvious injustices of planned obsolescence is the heavy burden it places on consumers. With the assistance of media, advertising and design changes, manufacturers are frequently introducing new changes in fashion and influencing consumers’ decisions and perceptions of styles which are deemed fashionable or trendy and forces them to believe they must have these products. Fashion of any sort is a classic example of ‘perceived’ obsolescence: consumers are manipulated to believe that a seasonal fashion or certain clothing is no longer in style, so they must be replaced by new garments. This results in the large waste of an increasing amount of items at a high financial cost to the consumer.

This lifestyle has tremendous financial costs for consumers. Often equipment that needs repaired will become obsolete as the price for repair is higher or comparable to the price of replacing the item altogether, or the service or parts are no longer available, resulting in the consumer having no choice but to replace the item, rendering it dysfunctional. For example, major corporations such as Apple and Samsung are now designing their smartphones so there is no access to the battery inside the phone so it is difficult to replace the battery, making the item functionally obsolete. Other examples include the updating of software or designs which make the older versions incompatible with the new advancement, forcing the previous version to become functionally obsolete and forcing the consumer to invest in the new updates.

Over the past few decades, the expected lifespan of products has drastically diminished, so that most consumers today purchase products with the expectation that they will need to be replaced within a couple of years. In an attempt to boost the economy after the World Wars, retailing analyst Victor Lebow articulated the solution that has become the norm for the whole system, he said: “Our enormously productive economy… demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfaction, our ego satisfaction, in consumption… we need things consumed, burned up, replaced, discarded at an ever-accelerating pace.” (Lebow, 1955)

Since its first documented case in the 1920s during the Great Depression, to its adaptation, popularisation and acceptance over the decades, consumers have become acclimated to the practices of planned obsolescence. Planned obsolescence should not be normalised by society; this results in turning a blind eye on the ethically questionable practices and the destruction of the environment.

An even more serious concern, due to consumerist attitudes and our acceptance of the practice of planned obsolescence throughout society, is that the overall demand for the manufacturing of these products is rapidly increasing, thus the overall demand for the Earth’s finite resources is subsequently rising. Studies from the United Nations Environmental Program (UNEP) found that global extraction of materials has tripled since 1970, and not once in the last 40 years has materials extraction declined, even during times of recession and economic crisis. In the past three decades alone, one third of the planet’s natural resources have been consumed. We are cutting, mining, hauling and trashing the place so fast that we are undermining the planet’s very capacity to support human life adequately. By continuing to intentionally limit the useful lifespan of a product by making it unfashionable or no longer functional, manufacturers are creating a significant driving factor to unsustainable attitudes and practices, depleting the planet of its precious, finite resources.

Consumers often view planned obsolescence as a cynical plot by manufacturers and corporations to boost sales and profits while the consumer and the environment pays the price. Arguably, those in support of the planned obsolescence strategy believe it to be the catalyst and driving force for progress and technological advancement. When a new technology is developed, many previous inventions become obsolete. This could bring about truly innovative products, like the advancement of horse and carriage transportation to automobiles, or the typewriter to the computer. However, far too often, planned obsolescence is too easily justified by a slightly sharper camera phone, or slightly more memory, or a new operating system that confuses as much as it simplifies. Do we ‘really’ need these things?

Plastic water bottles, cutlery, plates, cups, razors and bags, seen in the countryside or on the streets or dumped in the landfill: today, we live in a ‘throw-away society’; a culture of over consumption and excessive production of short-lived or disposable products. Planned obsolescence is the leading cause of our wasteful consumer habits and the constant manufacturing of these unnecessary products contributes greatly to pollution, which affects the water we drink and the air we breathe. The United States Environmental Protection Agency (USEPA) found that only 1% of the products we buy are still in use as little as six months after their date of sale. In other words, 99% of our consumption is trashed within six months. The products themselves end up in landfills, taking up precious space that is often at a premium. According to the UNEP, E-waste, or discarded electronic appliances such as smart phones, computers, and televisions, is one of the fasted growing sources of waste. On average a person keeps a smartphone for 18 months, whether the battery fails, screens or buttons break or the operating systems can no longer be upgraded, the immediate solution owners turn to is not the repair of the current system, but the purchase of a brand-new device that is advertised to be ‘better than ever before’.

The disposal of waste releases harmful toxins into the air, the surrounding soil and ground water. A large majority of this waste is disposed of in landfills full of hazardous materials, often in the world’s poorer countries including Bolivia, Ghana and South Sudan. Jim Puckett, co-founder of BAN; an organisation for environmental health and Justice visited Ghana and saw teenagers and young adults working in the landfills, exposed to hazardous substances, burning discarded electronics, and releasing toxic fumes into the air. The accelerating production of so much waste due to planned obsolescence, impacts greatly on the environment, contributing to waste pollution and endangering human life, not only in the countries that produce this waste but also the developing nations.

If environmental and climate challenges are to be tackled, then the wasteful production and consumption patterns driven by planned obsolescence is not the way forward as a sustainable strategy to stave off an economic crisis. The investment in more durable items and taking steps to minimise your participation in a consumer-focused society is the way forward from a disposable and wasteful culture. Only the truly innovative products which provide significant positive advances in society, should light the path to a sustainable future.

The unsustainable practice of planned obsolescence, through the continual replacement, rather than repair, and the manufacturing of non-durable products, results in: masses of waste generation; pollution; loss of biodiversity; the rapid depletion of Earth’s precious resources; and high financial costs for consumers. These challenges must be tackled to move forward towards a sustainable future and can only be achieved by rendering planned obsolescence obsolete.



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