The Rock Ethics Institute

Home > Everyday Ethics > Blog Series > Pop-Culture

Everyday Ethics


Abandoned Places, Ghost Towns, Urban Exploring, and Ethical Codes

New World Shopping Mall (credit: Were you a teenage Weird NJ addict, waiting with baited breath for the latest issue full of stories describing trips to the Garden State’s wide variety of abandoned locales? Do you spend your Friday nights cruising the Abandoned Pics or Abandoned Places Twitter feeds (@AbandonedPics and @AbandonedPlaces), surfing for the latest pictures of Pripyat or the New World Shopping Mall? You’re not alone! From aesthetic beauty to historical interest to the thrill of exploring the unknown, abandoned places appeal to a wide variety of people for a wide variety of reasons.

Are Fossil Fuel Industry Commercials Encouraging Americans to Engage In Unethical Climate Change Causing Behavior?

ClimateEthics has written frequently about some obvious ethical problems with cost arguments often made by opponents of climate change policies. Among other problems with cost arguments are that they (a) don't acknowledge duties, obligations, and responsibilities to those most vulnerable to climate change impacts, (b) ignore obligations to prevent human rights violations, (c) wind up being used to give polluters permission to cause great harm to human health and the environment around the world, and, (d) often ignore the costs of doing nothing to reduce the threat of climate change. For instance, see: Ethical Problems With Cost Arguments Against Climate Change Policies: The Failure To Recognize Duties To Non-citizens.

Argo and Orientalism

ArgoSwissair The 2013 film Argo, winner of the Oscar award for best picture, is based on the true story of six American diplomats who escaped the 1979 takeover and siege of the U.S. embassy by Iranian students. The diplomats were approached by CIA agent Tony Mendez and asked asked to buy into an improbable cover story to get them out Iran: pretend to be a Canadian film crew scouting locations for an elaborate science fiction film entitled Argo.

Argo's Long Con

ArgoArgo As I watched Argo in the theater for the first time, I was willingly and enjoyably manipulated by the film to feel a sense of exhilaration and relief on behalf of the diplomats as they finally cleared Iranian airspace after a harrowing escape from Iranian police and Revolutionary Guards. On reflection, however, that “harrowing escape” proved just a bit too much. I concluded that what had been a tight political drama was ruined by a farcical Keystone Cops (Mehrabad Airport Edition) sequence that negated the credibility the film had built to that point.

Citizen Kane: Questions for Reflection

Citizen Kane is filmed as a series of long takes, composed in-depth to eliminate the necessity for narrative cutting within major dramatic scenes. The film uses very little shot/counter-shot. Why is this so important to the way we experience the film visually?

Engineers in Novels No. 1: The Mise-en-Scène

An Old Town in MoroccoThe Stranger by Albert Camus. The estrangement needs not to happen in a foreign land or on an alien. Albert Camus’s classic novel explores the intricate psychological process that turns a French man a stranger to his own society, or that society strange to him. Six hardcover books lay on my desk. My hand reached the stack and pulled out one copy randomly. Hence started my series reading and review of “engineer novels.” I had no idea the first novel I opened was going to be the exact antithesis of engineering, if the latter means logic, predictability, and above all, tangibility. Reading The Mise-en-Scène turned out to be a months-long journey full of confusion, frustration, at times anger, and several attempts to give up. The reading experience, however, supplied a perfect trope for the hero in this novel: Lassalle, an engineer who finds himself constantly “engineered” by an untamed terrain of nature and society he has been commissioned to modernize.

Engineers in Novels No. 2: A Single Pebble

Shaolin TempleShip Trackers One interesting fact about A Single Pebble is that the engineer in this novel did almost no engineering at all. Instead, he acted more like a folklore collector, who hungrily documented the legends, poems, and songs enchanted by the residents on the ship. A sentimental, somewhat daydreaming youngster, he attempted to paint a peaceful, harmonious, and romantic picture of the lives of native Chinese ship workers. Perhaps the engineer wasn’t able to recognize that the ship trackers lived in neither an eclogue from the ancient past nor a futuristic techno utopia. The reality these ship trackers lived in--early 20th century China--should be familiar to the author of this novel: John Hersey. Hersey was born in China in 1914 and spent his first ten years living there before he returned to the United States. Later he returned to the Far East to cover World War II and won most of his literary reputation writing fictions about the war. Perhaps the author’s close experience with the era of turmoil accounts for the oscillation between the serenity and violent tensions in A Single Pebble?

Ethical Musings: Death in HBO's Girls

Girls' Hannah in Graveyard Since its debut in 2012, HBO’s hit series Girls has straddled all sorts of ethical lines about friendship, race, class and femininity.

Ethical Musings: Girls, How ought we treat our friends?

Jessa Johansson: Bohemian and an Unpredictable World-travelerFriends for Life Let us return to an issue that stood out at the very beginning of season three of HBO's Girls. Jessa, one of Hannah's close friends (supporting protagonist) is in rehab. This comes as no surprise when we sum up all of Jessa's erratic and wreckless behavior. We all have a friend or know someone who is like Jessa, even if we take out the over-exaggerations in the show.

Ethical Musings: Honesty and Love in Girls Girls' depiction of young love raises some ethical questions about the management of romantic relationships. Romantic love is philosophically opaque and needless to say people's opinions about managing it vary quite drastically.

Europa, Europa: Fragen zum Nachdenken

Europa Europa This week's installment in the Ethical Dilemmas on Film series is Europa, Europa, a 1990 film directed by Agnieszka Holland. The film was adapted from the autobiography of Solomon Perel, a Jewish man from Germany who survived World War II as a boy by hiding his identity from the Nazis.

House of Games

SpartanHouse of Cards Poster Movies, television, film, rely on the fact that we will lend them our (mostly) full faith and trust. Cinematic narratives, like people, want to be liked. Well-liked, as Biff says in Death of a Salesman. How much a film, a television show, a novel, a play is well-liked speaks volumes, in my view, about collective dreams, desires, and anxieties regarding our political, social, and cultural transactions with one another.

IP's Greatest Hits, Part 1: The End of the Golden Age of Sampling

(Wikipedia) In this installment, we will revisit an obscure copyright infringement case, Grand Upright Music, Ltd. v. Warner Bros. Records, Inc., that had a big effect on hip hop music, and still raises serious questions about IP and culture. So let us go back, to a distant and alien time...

Is Assisted Suicide in Girls and The Walking Dead right?

Jessa assists a suicide in "Girls"Mika and Lizzie Samuels, of The Walking Dead In the season 3 finale of Girls we are introduced to a paralyzed artist who wakes up miserable everyday and is disappointed when she realizes she did not pass away in the night. In a different sense, the issue of assisted suicide is an ongoing theme on AMC’s The Walking Dead.

Knowledge, Agency, and Film

Hunt for Red OctoberHunt for Red October The most intriguing films and television shows give us reason to question the foundations of our knowledge and agency. Knowledge of ourselves, of who we think we are, and what we would like to be. At stake are what we can know, how we can know it, and what we should do.

Knowledge, Agency, and Film - A Closer Look

Glengarry Glen RossGlengarry Glen Ross In my last post, I talked about how the psychic investment we make in films and television is made in exchange for two things: knowledge, including the way we know, and a sense, or fantasy, of agency. In this post, another film offers us a lesson in these departments.

Now Is The Winter Of Our Discontent

Plots have I laid, inductions dangerous... On Our Recent National Fascination With the Dark Art of Politics

Paying the Toll

(Its Always Sunny Wiki) Intellectual property folklore has its share of mythical evil creatures and dastardly deeds, such as patent suppression, the (fictional) practice of obtaining a patent for some invention in order to ensure that it’s never used (as in the so-called “free energy suppression” conspiracy theory). But in the various myths and legends about IP, no evil creatures are quite as reviled as patent trolls.

Six Degrees of Separation: Questions for Consideration

This week's installment in the Ethical Dilemmas on Film series is the 1993 film adaptation of the John Guare play Six Degrees of Separation.

Summer Reading: Speculative Fiction and the Power of Language

Summer Reading Looking for a beach read this summer, but craving something off the beaten path from your usual reads? Well, look no further because I’ve rounded up three speculative fiction selections for your perusal.

Summer Road Trip Podcast Selections

Podcast Getting ready for an end of summer road trip? Possibly one to an abandoned place? Need something entertaining for that long drive? Not to worry! I’ve got you covered with some podcast selections that not only have been on my heavy rotation, but that also touch on ethics through a wide variety of lenses.

Sunset Blvd.: Questions for Reflection

Sunset Boulevard This week's installment in the "Ethical Dilemmas on Film" Series at the State Theatre is the 1950 film noir classic Sunset Boulevard. Here are some things to consider as you reflect on the film:

Superheroes, Super-Profits, and a Super-Swindle

Avengers Do Artists Always Win When Comic Books Become Movies?

The Best Man: Questions for Consideration

In the 1964 screen adaptation of Gore Vidal's play, The Best Man, William RUSSELL quotes the philosopher Bertrand RUSSELL early in the film. Here is the complete quotation from Bertrand Russell:

The Crying Game: Questions for Reflection

The Crying Game This week's selection for Ethical Dilemmas on Film is the 1992 Neil Jordan film The Crying Game. Here are some questions to focus your reflection on the various ethically relevant themes this work addresses:

The Girl in the Café: Questions for Consideration

The first installment in the series of films for English 197A, Ethical Dilemmas on Film, encourages us to think about our personal and political involvements through the lens of our ethical commitments. While few of us are likely to find ourselves in the precise roles of the protagonists, Lawrence and Gina, their story raises a set of questions with which we all arguably ought to be concerned.

The Lives of Others: Questions for Reflection

Christa-Maria tells Wiesler that he is a good man. Jerska gives Dreymann Sonata for a Good Man. Dreymann dedicates Sonata for a Good Man to Wiesler. What is "a good man" in The Lives of Others? Was it possible to be a good man in East Berlin? Do we need a different language/vocabulary to describe these men? Does this film have a hero? Was it possible to be heroic in East Berlin?

The Manchurian Candidate: Questions for Consideration

This week's installment in the Ethical Dilemmas on Film Series at the State Theatre is the 1962 John Frankenheimer classic The Manchurian Candidate. The film is sure to raise all kinds of questions for viewers who are primed to reflect on its portrayal of politics with an ethical lens.

The Nun's Story: Questions for Reflection

The Nun's Story is about the possibility of achieving perfection. What would it mean to be a perfect human being? Would your version of a perfect human being resemble the woman Sister Luke attempts to become?

The Third Man: Questions for Reflection

The novelist E.M. Forster wrote "If I had to choose between betraying my country and betraying my friend, I hope I should have the guts to betray my country." What does The Third Man have to say about betraying one's friend? Is the betrayal of a friend always inexcusable? Are there more important loyalties - to one's country? One's family? One's religion? Etc.

Thirteen Conversations About One Thing: Questions for Reflection

This week's installment in the Ethical Dilemmas on Film series is the 2001 Jill Sprecher film Thirteen Conversations About One Thing. Here are some questions to get you started in your thinking about the film:

Two for the Road: Questions for Reflection

This week's installment in the Ethical Dilemmas on Film series is the 1967 film Two for the Road. Here are some questions to get you started in your reflection:

What is Ethics?

How can you move from ethical awareness to ethical action? The Rock Ethics Institute at Penn State can help guide you and give you some tools to help in both your professional and personal lives.