At first, I was wary about the satirical-horror-comedy-art film starring Jake Gyllenhaal and John Malkovich that appeared on my Netflix que. Velvet Buzzsaw, directed by Dan Gilroy, has been stirring major hype since it was released earlier this spring. The movie follows a group of LA artists who get caught in a cycle of greed, narcissism, and the supernatural. After painter Ventril Dease dies, agent Josephina (Zawe Ashton) steals a collection of his paintings from his vacant apartment. With the help of her art world friends, she sells them to the public, only to reap the bearings as Dease’s malevolent spirit kills them off one by one. It is a classic slasher flick, complete with limb-tearing and death by walking sculpture. However, there is more to this movie than its overplayed death and destruction presents.

Velvet Buzzsaw, while hidden behind Hollywood horror, is a glimpse into what happens when profit overthrows passion. The movie got me thinking, as intended, but not so much about the satire. While the characters in Velvet Buzzsaw are ignorant and corrupt, they are still artists and art appreciators, hoping to make a living from their work and critique. As Pratt students, we are all hoping for the same thing. We want to be recognized and rewarded for what we create. We want to be successful in the careers we pursue. Though Velvet Buzzsaw portrays an extreme and malicious view of greed, it deals with concepts we will undoubtedly encounter in the future, like critique, publicity and profit. Those aspects are not unrealistic at all.

As an artist, I had a brief crisis about what I’m doing and why. Watching Gilroy’s characters lose sight of what art meant was hard to sit through. Is that what life is going to be like once I walk across that stage at graduation? Are commercialization and monetary success going to be the only things driving me to stay afloat? I thought to my own work and why I continue to make it in the first place. The real reasoning, however, soon became clear. For me, there is a passion that comes with writing that makes it all worthwhile. While I hope to make a career out of it one day, I don’t mind having to work to do so. The release of feeling and ideas through words are more valuable than any kind of compensation. After spending time around other artists, I recognize the mutual feeling. People paint and sculpt and film because it is what they are meant to do. That drive does not go away overnight.

The corrupt art scene in Velvet Buzzsaw is very real; however, it is not the majority. As students in a creative community, we go into art already expecting not to make much; we go into art because we have a passion that needs to be released and recognized. While making a living from one’s work is the goal, they are arbitrary aspects compared to the joys that come with creating in the first place. Velvet Buzzsaw represents everything that’s wrong with the art world. Real artists, however, know where their standards lie. As long as you never lose sight of the reason you’re creating, you will be just fine.


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Image by Aliza Pelto

Bathrooms make me nervous. I think it began with my childhood habit of running into the first bathroom I saw and ending up in the wrong one. Then there’s society’s seemingly unanimous decision that public restrooms are just dirty. I often leave public bathrooms feeling the need to shower, which really sucks considering I live in a dorm where I shower in a public restroom. Then there are the people in the bathroom.

There’s three types of people in public restrooms: those who won’t stop talking to me, those who silently stare, and my favorite, the quiet person who pretends there isn’t another being within a mile. That’s who I am in the bathroom, and I often consider this courtesy my good deed of the day.

I think my ultimate problem in going to public bathrooms, though, is the fear of being outed. As a trans guy, it took me a long time, even after I started to pass, to be able to walk into the men’s restroom confidently. I still have trouble, even though I’m pretty sure it would look more odd for me to go into the women’s at this point in my transition. If I’m being honest, I avoid public restrooms at all costs these days, considering the transgender fear-mongering that the Trump Administration encourages. If that’s how I feel while attending a liberal college in New York City, I can only imagine the fear children in more conservative areas must feel.

I’m petrified that one day I will walk in and the other men in the restroom will somehow just know that I’m different, and yell at me for being in the ‘wrong’ restroom. On especially bad dysphoria days, I find myself holding my breath until I’m assured no one else is in the bathroom with me, only realizing I’ve done so when I finally breathe again. I’m most aware of this at Pratt when I get long, hard stares from the other men in the restroom. I know they’re trying to figure out what I am, and my fight or flight responses begs for me to run out of the bathroom.

Even people who are supportive or do their best to understand have a hard time understanding, which makes it hard to know what to do even in a supportive community. Early in my transition, I’d go back and forth, constantly unsure of where I should go. I would try to gauge what the people around me perceived me as, and go to the restroom that matched that gender.

I was trying to avoid conflict at all costs, no matter how uncomfortable I was. Being uncomfortable would be better than being killed or assaulted like so many other trans people. Every time I’m nervous about going into a bathroom, the horror stories play through my head: the five year old sexually assaulted in Georgia, the violent assault of the woman in Paris, the paid beating of a transgender woman in Dallas, and the growing statistic of murdered transgender people nationwide.

Now that I’m beginning to consistently pass, I wonder what would happen if a law was actually passed saying I have to go into the bathroom that matches my sex assigned at birth. I mean, I will certainly be uncomfortable going into the women’s bathroom, but won’t the women there be even more uncomfortable? I don’t think those on the far right of the political spectrum have ever really thought about what would happen if they got what they wanted: transgender individuals going into the bathroom that matches their gender assigned at birth. Imagine walking into the ladies room to see some trans Channing Tatum look alike: it’d be a little jolting, to say the least.

Maybe we should just agree that public restrooms suck, and make us all uncomfortable. Maybe if we used my rule of pretending no one else is with us while in the bathroom, we could coexist, and stop worrying so much about what the person next to us has in their pants.

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Photo by Aliza Pelto


In today’s society, it seems that almost everything has the potential to be offensive to someone in some way. No, really, everything. Trigger warnings on television shows, works of literature and even personal essays are becoming more important than expiration dates on dairy products. Is modern media-related hypersensitivity hindering our ability to produce authentic and valuable art?

13 Reasons Why is a popular Netflix drama revolving around the life, hardships, and (spoiler alert) eventual suicide of fictional female character, Hannah Baker—and oh, has it caused controversy. After two seasons, the production has received immense backlash. Katie Louise Smith’s latest article for Pop Buzz states,“[m]any fans have already called out the show the graphic rape scene in the finale episode, claiming that the trigger warning ahead of the episode did nothing to prepare them for what they saw on screen.” This past May, Vulture also published an article titled “13 Reasons Why Starts With A New Disclaimer Warning Some Viewers Not to Watch the Show.”


This can be alienating both for consumers and the actual communities/situations that media such as “13 Reasons Why” and shows like it are based on. Real victims may feel isolated by such warnings. Those who are affected by suicidal thoughts, experiences and losses of close ones due to the beast that is depression in their everyday lives can tend to feel oppressed or silenced by the sense of ‘taboo’ in culture that the stigma around these shows is creating. This removes their right as individuals to react to and discuss the pain that they are feeling, because the world is deciding that it is a matter of censorship, therefore putting emphasis on universal consumption as a delicacy and diminishing the voices of those who do not want to be hidden behind a disclaimer.


As a writer with hopes of commercial success, responses of this nature definitely discourage me from being completely unfiltered in my art. I don’t like the idea of being prohibited from being raw if I want to achieve my goals. It seems that going forward, creators are expected to tiptoe around certain themes of intensity, which is a severe disruption in the natural cycle of life imitating art and art imitating life. Sometimes life is messy. Sometimes life isn’t fair. Skin is torn, hearts are broken, sexual violence exists, mental illness flares up and dominates unsuspecting, undeserving individuals. Representations of these challenging and turbulent things can be hard to stomach, but, let’s face it: describing fangs as baby teeth isn’t an effective long-term coping mechanism, nor is it going to dull their sharpness.


Hannah Fearn of The Independent responds to arguments over the censorship dilemma of trigger warnings, writing, “Freedom of speech requires that no barrier be placed between the writer or creator and their audience on such matters. The voices and experiences of the marginalised should be heard, and it doesn’t matter who that offends.” I fear that blocking and warning against the portrayal of certain forms of abuse and struggle in mainstream media isn’t going to eliminate these issues—it will simply make platforms for expression such as cinema and television bland and void of vibrance and texture. Most artists choose their career paths because the freedom that comes with it is empowering. Creative control and direction shouldn’t lay in the hands, or should I say, clenched fists, of an oversensitive public.


Over the last week, I asked a handful of motivated and hardworking young creators to share their opinions on this matter.


Sarah Varrell, a 20-year old photography student at Temple University, shares that “People report certain wildlife and animal activist pictures because they get offended by seeing something bloody—it’s gory and hard to witness, but the fact is, this art deserves to be shared to spread awareness to fix issues like poaching, and if everyone is going to oversensitize themselves to these images and report them, these artists won’t have the platform they need to express their goals and make a change. People are oversensitive. That’s what’s ignorant—not the graphic photography itself, but modern society’s unwillingness to accept truth through image.”


Labeling any kind of content prior to our ability to experience it individually, without this taint, strips us of our chance to internally react to it authentically. It is also possible that trigger warnings being splattered liberally cause potent imagery to lose its seriousness by framing it with a pre-decided intensity, and therefore complicating how we’re actually being affected, instead immediately basing our response off of other people’s visible discomfort, rather than our own.


Nick Henon, 21, filmmaker with MidVessel Media chimes in, “Hypersensitivity is ruining satire. I don’t know, the modern social restriction on comedy is getting kind of wild. If I were making a joke—like if I wanted to have a male artist dress up like a female, maybe for a role in a music video or a skit, even if I thought he would be the best person to portray the character—I feel like there would be a lot of people who wouldn’t like that. It’s not meant to be offensive or hurtful. Context is being ignored to the point where an actual well thought out performance or script or idea is overlooked because of one image or word or phrase. People are getting so accustomed to being perpetually bothered that they’re not able to sit back and relax and enjoy something, they’re too busy villainizing other creators. Our culture is being brainwashed; we’re all paying attention to the wrong things.”


Danielle Massi, a marriage and family therapist in Philadelphia working with young and developing minds in our generation adds, “news and opinions can gain traction and blow up at alarming rates, so there’s camaraderie in feeling polarized on topics.” This implies that while an individual may not actually be particularly offended, damaged or hurt by something, they experience the trigger-warning-happy culture that others are engaging in and perpetuating, and decide to hop on the bandwagon because they don’t quite have a sense of self yet, perhaps feeling isolated in the world.


It appears that artists, creators, and even mental health professionals are noticing the severity with which sensitivity is exploding and poisoning the modern mind, damaging our subconscious and self-awareness on a cultural and global scale. This poses challenges for artists to create raw and unfiltered content to the true best of our ability. As Cesar A. Cruz once said, “Art should disturb the comfortable and comfort the disturbed.”

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Photography by Hannah Adams

2019 marks the decline of the family-friendly, relentlessly upbeat Kpop scene. The industry has grown so far as to become one of South Korea’s top exports, worth $5 billion annually. However, what used to be a PG-rated genre has now shifted to one tainted with sex crimes, tax evasion, and assault. Illegal hidden camera footage (non-consensual porn, essentially) exchanged between a circle of Kpop stars make up a scandal simply referred to as “Burning Sun.” The term was coined by Korean news outlets, named after the flashy Gangnam-district nightclub, where many of the crimes took place, and established by now-former BigBang member, Lee Seungri. BigBang shaped a new generation of fan culture and helped Kpop cross over to America, with new acts such as BTS and Loona taking spotlight in the States. This legacy built over thirteen years crumbles as more and more information pertaining to Burning Sun shatters public expectation of Korea’s law system.

This issue isn’t just about whether your favorite celebrities careers are crashing down; real people, who don’t have money and power to cover up their mistakes, are involved. Hidden-cameras have been an epidemic in the country since the early 00s, having evolved into such an issue that you cannot purchase a phone in Korea that doesn't make a loud shutter sound when a photo is taken, no matter the brand or setting. In March of 2019, South Korean police discovered approximately 1,600 victims (mainly women) of molka, or spy cams recorded and live-streamed in motel rooms as they changed clothes or used the restroom. More than 5,400 people were arrested since 2017, yet less than 2% were jailed.

In 2018, thousands of women protested illicit hidden-camera footage under the slogan “My Life Is Not Your Porn.” With the #MeToo campaign in mind, previous scandals of the past that were never dealt with properly are being revisited in Korea. SouthPresident, Moon Jaein, called for a re-investigation of the covert sex footage case. He considered the illegal footage as part of the Burning Sun crisis, referencing the death of actress Jang Jayeon, who commit suicide in 2009 and left behind a note outing thirty powerful people she had been forced to have sex with if she wanted to continue her career.

The public, who previously turned a blind eye to rape allegations and harassment, are finally starting to recognize the issues with their government. Within online communities like Pann, the South Korean equivalent of Facebook, people are voicing outrage at the lack of action or steps being taken to bring justice for the victims of the Burning Sun case. Despite leaks of Seungri’s texts containing messages like “You raped her haha,”  he still hasn’t been arrested. Meanwhile, other celebrities within the group chat have either turned themselves in or been trapped by their own lies. Jung Joonyoung, a Korean rock singer, apologized by stating, “I admit to all my crimes. I filmed women without their consent and shared on social media,” after the group chat data surfaced to the general public. A petition seeking to extend the investigation has received over 685,000 signatures thus far. The widespread news of the scandal resulted in the retirement and imprisonment of a handful of celebrities with otherwise clean slates. Stocks for major South Korean entertainment companies plummeted as the general public expressed disgust with not only the entertainment industry, but their government as well.

It isn’t until recently, however, that the general public begins to grow intolerant of their celebrities’ bad behavior. Snippets of the Burning Sun scandal first appeared in January of this year and more dirt is uncovered each day. Based on user surveys on Naver, Korea’s version of Google, it’s already been named as the most corrupt incident in Korean entertainment history and the facts are only just beginning to come out. Drug distribution and prostitution only touch the surface of Korea’s deep-rooted issues, all of which heavily imply instances of police corruption. Seungri bribed foreign investors with prostitutes, essentially acting as an international ringleader. His label, YG Entertainment, is one of the top companies in Korea interlinked with other like-minded companies, infamous for their ability to sweep incidents under the rug with money and power.

The story strikes a chord in many South Koreans who want an end to the hidden cameras, sexual violence, and general mistreatment for being, well, a woman. As investigations continue and justice is served, there’s renewed hope that this could be a turning point in Korean culture of women perpetrated by powerful, wealthy men in various industries.


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Image By

Jooyoung Park

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