The Independent Student Newspaper of the University of Toronto Mississauga since 1974
Issue 014 Volume 47 January 18 2021
Mirror, mirror: Body image and university students Segen Assefa Contributor
Names have been changed to allow for anonymity.
ost young adults—both male and female—struggle with their body image. Body image can influence your perception of almost every aspect of your life, from what you wear to what you eat to how you interact with others and your general sense of well-being. With almost 15,000 students at the University of Toronto Mississauga and the novel technological aspect of university life, it is common to fall into the draining habit of trying new diets
>> BODY continued on page 09
Ontario enters second Covid-19 provincial emergency Sheryl Gurajada Contributor
n a press conference on January 12, the Ontario government declared the second province-wide state of emergency in response to the growing number of Covid-19 cases. The sweeping stay-at-home order went into effect at midnight on Thursday, January 14. "The latest modelling data shows that Ontario is in a crisis and, with the current trends, our hospital ICUs will be overwhelmed in a few short weeks with unthinkable consequences," said Ontario Premier Doug Ford. Premier Ford went on to emphasize the importance of taking immediate action and following the stay-at-home order to ensure the safety of Ontario residents. “We need people to only go out only for essential trips to pick up groceries or go to medical appointments,” continued Ford. “By doing the right thing and staying home, you can stay safe and save lives." Infection modelling predicts occupation of nearly 1,000 ICU beds for Covid-19 cases by early February, which could potentially overwhelm hospitals. Some days have shown more than a seven per cent rise in cases, with nearly 3,000 new cases every day. Adding to the concern is the new variant of the virus, SARS-CoV-2-B117. Often referred to as the U.K. variant, B-117 is a more contagious strain of Covid-19. Cases of the new B-117 strain have been found in Ontario residents with no travel history, indicating community transmission. Data indicates the onslaught of cases is due to the lead-up during the holiday season when restrictions were eased, and people were travelling between jurisdictions. The state of emergency authorizes provincial officers to inspect adherence to the new rules and ticket individuals
who are in violation of them. The regions of Peel, Toronto, York, Windsor-Essex, and Hamilton will not return to in-person school learning and childcare facilities until February 10. Elementary school learning will return to in-person instruction in other approved regions on January 22. This week, York Center MPP Roman Baber wrote a twopage open letter to the Ford government outlining the negative effects the lockdown is having on society, such as the impact on small businesses, social isolation impacts, and more—comparing the severity of them to the Covid-19 infection. The efforts resulted in Baber being ousted from caucus on Friday. "By spreading misinformation, he is undermining the tireless efforts of our frontline healthcare workers at this critical time, and he is putting people at risk," stated Premier Ford. "I will not jeopardize a single Ontarian's life by ignoring public health advice. There is no room for political ideology in our fight against Covid-19—rather, our response has been and will always be driven by evidence and data.” Baber addressed his removal from caucus on Twitter later the same day, writing, “I don't regret speaking out for millions of lives and livelihoods decimated by Public Health, I serve the public.” Baber went on to discuss his thoughts surrounding the state of emergency, believing it to be unfounded and harmful to society. “The Lockdown is grounded in false public health narrative, poor planning, and bad data,” stated Baber. “While Doug only cares about re-election, Lockdowns are killing more than saving. I couldn't watch the suffering anymore. I hope I encouraged other professionals to speak out.” The lockdown is set to remain in place for at least 28 days, when measures will then be re-evaluated. More information, along with detailed listings of permitted activities and essential businesses can be found on the Ontario Covid-19 webpage.
The role of policing in Toronto
Remembering Dr. King's legacy
Live action remakes of Diney's classics
Feelings lonely? You're not alone
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UTM Academic Affairs Committee discuss registrar’s updates
Domestic student enrollment decreased following universities’ shift to remote education. Isik Vera Senel News Editor
n January 11, the University of Toronto Mississauga Campus Academic Affairs Committee held its first meeting of 2021. In the meeting, Lorretta Neebar, registrar and director of enrollment management at UTM, discussed the challenges faced by the registrar’s office in addition to presenting the enrollment report for the current academic year. “[In 2003] our office adopted a motto of putting students first online instead of inline,” stated Neebar. “So, this is a philosophy that we have worked with, and a tagline that
we've worked with for many years.” Neebar went on to discuss the developments made to the registrar’s online services throughout the years, emphasizing their focus on making the process easier for both students and staff. “In my view, the registrar's office has been so successful in moving and pivoting into an environment where pretty much every single registrarial service has been able to be successful,” Neebar continued. Neebar also discussed the changes adopted by the office following Covid-19 pandemic safety guidelines and lockdown measures. “We were able to move quickly to an email triage system where rather than lining up for our services, [students] were able to contact us by email. We had systems and security already in place so that all of the checks and balances associated with the work we do were able to exist even though we weren't physically on campus.” However, the email triage system was soon found to be unsustainable when it came to the student’s increased reliance on virtual support. This led the registrar’s office to rely on ServiceNow, a software company that makes it easier for companies to operate virtually by managing the digital processes. “We had already started training our programmers to be working in ServiceNow […] and very quickly, we moved that into an external student-facing service.”
To manage the incoming student inquiries, the registrar’s office redirected the email triage system to ServiceNow, creating the AskRegistrar system. Regarding the enrollment data for the current academic year, Neebar revealed that the number of students enrolled was below the expected number. “This year, our target was just under 4,000 students and we have [a] 3,608 total student headcount,” stated Neebar. “I think we did quite well in the international numbers, but we didn't do as well in the domestic numbers.” Neebar argued that the enrollment numbers from the domestic students may have come back lower than expected due to universities adopting online education systems. “It's very possible that more [local] students who would typically accept offers from UTM have chosen to go to some other schools like Western, Queens, [and] McMaster because they are able to learn remotely and didn't have to incur the expenses of living away,” stated Neebar. Following Neebar’s presentation, community member Sultan Akif took a moment to praise Neebar and the registrar’s office for their efforts in helping the university transition its services online. “I just want to acknowledge […] the level of effort it would have taken for you and your team to literally change the wheels of the car while it's moving,” stated Akif. “So, I wanted to just commend you on that leadership, and acknowledge just how difficult that really is in real life, and to pull it off is amazing. Thank you.” The next Academic Affairs Committee meeting will be held on February 11, 2021.
Mississauga Mayor discusses 2021 priorities "Mayor Crombie says that 2021 will be focussed on “recovery, rebuilding, and getting back to building Mississauga into the world class city it is destined to be”."
Prisha Maneka Nuckchady Contributor
n January 10, Mississauga Mayor Bonnie Crombie held the New Year’s levee virtually on YouTube due to Covid-19 restrictions. During this presentation, Mayor Crombie also addressed the issues the city faced in 2020—arguably the most challenging year yet for Mississauga. Currently, there are an estimated total of 16,055 confirmed Covid-19 cases in Mississauga, of which 311 have resulted in death. At the moment, there are around 226 active Covid-19 cases in the city. During the New Year’s levee, Crombie stated that she plans to “ensure that residents receive the vaccine quickly and safely.” More than 3,400 essential healthcare workers have already been vaccinated. Vulnerable people and seniors will soon be next to receive the vaccine. In fact, the province plans to vaccinate all long-term care (LTC) residents, healthcare workers, and essential caregivers by January 21.
"In 2021 and beyond [Mississauga] will remain focused on [...] building a safe and sustainable community and ensuring that Mississauga is treated fairly and equitably by all levels of government."
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In 2020, many residents suffered from financial issues; many lost their jobs, and many small businesses were forced to shut down. During the virtual event, Mayor Crombie addressed the struggles of small businesses and emphasized the city’s support of local business owners. “The council and I are committed on continuing our advocacy on behalf of small businesses to the other levels of government to ensure that they get the supports they need to weather these next few challenging months so that they can recover, rebuild, and thrive once again” stated Crombie. In the spirit of rebuilding, Crombie added that affordable housing will be built to ensure that all residents can afford a safe place to live in. “In 2021 and beyond, we will remain focused on […] building a safe and sustainable community and ensuring that Mississauga is treated fairly and equitably by all levels of government,” continued Crombie. The city will also be focusing on racial equity and addressing the struggles of minority communities by “working to end systemic racism in all its forms by addressing the inequities that racialized groups, indigenous people, and in particular, black communities continue to experience in Mississauga.” Being one of the most diverse cities in Canada, Mississauga’s the city council hopes to keep ensuring residents live harmoniously and are all granted equal opportunities for success. Mayor Bonnie Crombie believes that although 2020 was a tough year, Mississauga has made the best out of it. The new year will be “focused on breaking congestion and getting Mississauga moving again.”
04 cal role in assisting people in accessing supports, retaining housing, and gaining employment,” read the report. “Peer-led models provide a more successful link to service and are a source of meaningful engagement, while [also] being an inexpensive way to improve outcomes and reduce crises for homeless people.”
"The previous year saw not only the emergence of a pandemic that claimed many lives but also the underlying systemic faults that exist within the law enforcement system."
Community safety report explores racism and overpolicing With over two dozen signatures, the report reexamines the role of policing in Toronto. Syeda Hasan Contributor
n the last few years, calls have been made to defund the police and reallocate the budget towards organizations and services that are more adept at dealing with situations that require proper de-escalation tactics. The constant pressure has resulted in the Toronto Police Service requesting a flat-lined budget for 2021, or in other words, a zero per cent increase from the previous years. However, critics are still skeptical as the unchanged $1.076 billion operating budget continues to be Toronto’s highest expense and fails to solve the issue of replacing police as lead responders in situations that officers do not have required skills to handle. Despite Interim Toronto Police Chief James Ramer’s assurance of the budget being used towards expanding the force’s mental health teams, the request has been labelled a “demonstrative gesture” rather than one that invokes action or change. Recently, more than two dozen human
rights and community organizations, including Black Lives Matter Toronto, the YWCA Toronto, Family Service Toronto, and Gerstein Crisis Centre, were signatories to a report highlighting the existing prejudice and confrontational policing against certain Black, Indigenous, and People of Colour (BIPOC) communities, youth, and the homeless. “There are widespread calls for fundamental changes in the way we think about and implement community safety,” stated the report. “In the past, policy-makers treated policing as the answer to a wide range of communitysafety issues, but that has not been borne out in practice.” The report also sheds light on how Toronto could reduce and reallocate police spending towards funding civilian and non-policing alternatives to specific calls. For example, the report encourages the implementation of programs that utilize civilian outreach workers to answer 911 calls relating to issues faced by those experiencing homelessness. This is because civilian outreach programs are better equipped to provide supporting services rather than penalties and accusations. “Peer-support programs also play a criti-
Provision of support has shown to reduce arrests by 56 per cent and incarcerations by 68 per cent. Similarly, the report also provides examples where mental health workers should be given priority to serve as first responders rather than the police as 40 per cent of taser use by police is conducted during mental health crises responses due to the lack of deescalation knowledge. The report also emphasizes the need to diversify 911 call responses to include professionals and civilians who are more skilled at handling certain situations based on their expertise rather than solely relying on dispatching police to all circumstances. Support for the report is present throughout the GTA community such as, but not limited to, Dr. Akwasi Owusu-Bempah, who is an assistant professor in the Sociology depart-
ment at the University of Toronto Mississauga. In a press conference addressing the report and the overall issue of over-policing, Dr. Owusu-Bempah stated that the police were “ill-equipped” to deal with many of the social issues they face on a daily basis. Dr. Owusu-Bempah also hoped the report would ignite discussions relating to the proper and justified treatment of BIPOC communities and the reallocation of funds. The previous year saw not only the emergence of a pandemic that claimed many lives but also the underlying systemic faults that exist within the law enforcement system. 2020 proved to be one of the deadliest years for police shootings in Canada with a total of 55 people being shot by law enforcement officers between January 1 and November 30. Of the 55 people shot, 34 were killed. From a gender-based perspective, 32 were men while two were women. Further independent investigation by the Canadian Press confirmed the race of 21 of the 55 people, with 10 identifying as Indigenous, six as Caucasian, four as Black, and one as South Asian. Most of the cases were the unfortunate result of wellness checks gone wrong, with the most prominent example being the killing of 62-year-old Ejaz Choudry who was suffering from a Schizophrenic episode at the time of his death. These incidents have incited outrage and protest among the general public, with many asking the question: Are the police really capable of handling sensitive issues, particularly those pertaining to mental health and addiction?
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Cultural appropriation continues to occur, and it highlights the power imbalances between cultures
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ast week, an American company called The Mahjong Line, based in Dallas and founded by three white women, sparked a major controversy online about cultural appropriation versus cultural appreciation. Mahjong is a traditional Chinese tile game that originates from the Qing Dynasty. Yet, this Texan company has unveiled a “trendier” version of the game, which looks visually immature and insulting. The company released various lines of the game, such as “The Cheeky Line” and “The Minimal Line,” with different illustrations on the tiles, such as the word “Bam!” on many tiles alluding to the bamboo tiles, or a girl in a dragon costume. These sets cost anywhere from USD$325 to USD$425. The company wrote on their website that the original game’s design “was all the same” and that their newer designs are a “respectful refresh.” The Cheeky Line Mahjong set is described as a representation of a “gal that is equally happy in LA or Austin. Loves a wild wallpaper, millennial pink and her many sneakers.” Social media users have accused the company of cultural appropriation by using disrespectful language to demonstrate ignorance over the game’s cultural significance and privilege while gaining profit. In responses to these Mahjong lines, New York’s first Asian American member of Congress, Rep. Grace Meng, tweeted, “Don’t change my history and culture to make it more palatable to you.” The company eventually apologized by stating that their intention was to “inspire and engage” a newer generation of Mahjong players in America, but they failed to “pay proper homage to the game’s Chinese heritage.” However, they continue to sell them.
This is just another incident where someone from a point of privilege takes a piece of culture that has a history of exploitation, misrepresentation, and oppression to gain profit or borrow its significance temporarily for personal gain. That person receives a lot of criticism, they apologize, take “responsibility,” and promise better conscious decisions. People on social media then move on to the next debate, and the pattern repeats. The problem with this incident is that this company is making “a claim of authenticity” and establishing their authority to redesign a piece of cultural history as they deem fit for their market. This decision comes from a place of privilege, white privilege in particular, where they feign superiority and ignorance over the original game.
"The potential for cultural appropriation should not hinder you from seeking out different cultures and learning about them." Who are three white women to decide that a centuries-old game is not trendy enough? By even suggesting that it needs a “refresh” without consulting the Chinese community and creating Mahjong lines that are representations of sexist valley girl stereotypes is deeply insulting and disrespectful to the game and to Chinese culture. Over the last few years, there have been many incidents where privileged white celebrities have used pieces of Asian culture for their personal gain or commercial success under a thin veil of “cultural appreciation.” Yet, cultural appreciation is only possible when the person is aware of the historical power imbalance between the cultures and takes the time to learn and engage with the culture. Incidents like Kim Kardashian trying to trademark the word “Kimono” (a traditional
Japanese garment) in a particular font for her lingerie line, or Kacey Musgraves posting revealing pictures in a traditional Vietnamese Ao Dai dress are harmful because they regurgitate the power difference that has been enforced historically on the cultures they are taking from. This situation gets a little more complicated when two cultural groups that have both had a history of oppression face off. The power difference between them isn’t as obvious, which makes drawing the line between appropriation and appreciation blurry. This line is clarified, however, when profit is involved. For example, Cardi B was recently embroiled in controversy by posing as the Hindu goddess Durga on the cover of Footwear News. Not only was this a visual representation of the goddess for a commercial magazine, but it was also an advertisement for a shoe, which is not allowed to be worn in religious settings like temples and shrines. However, the potential for cultural appropriation should not hinder you from seeking out different cultures and learning about them. Yes, the line between appreciation and appropriation is confusing, and most people are unaware of what constitutes what. Yet, we learn from the mistakes we see. Instead of cancelling celebrities for their misrepresentation and gain from other cultures, we can take these incidents as learning opportunities about how different cultures engage with one another, how power and privilege come into play, and how certain choices can be culturally insensitive regardless of the intent. It might seem as though this would only continue the social media loop of rage, apology, and moving on. However, as we move forward as social activists on social media, we are exposed to a broader level of social awareness by witnessing events of cultural disrespect, allowing us to support and appreciate one another. Credit: Anthony Labonte
We should blame our governments for the pandemic failure—not the other way around Ryan Olegario Contributor
s the world celebrated the end of 2020, I was not partying but alone in my room. The normally lively Nathan Phillips Square was void of civilians. A last-minute order forced every restaurant in Vancouver to stop selling alcohol, resulting in hundreds of cancellations. For epidemiologists, there was little to celebrate: the previous day, Canada had recorded 7,476 COVID-19 cases. In Wuhan, China, though, thousands partied on the streets. And in New Zealand, barely a mask was in sight as crowds watched fireworks burst over the Auckland harbour. They celebrated not just the end of an unusually harsh year, but victory over the COVID-19 pandemic that defined it. Mainland China reported a mere 19 cases that day. New Zealand reported none at all. How did these countries get to party while we were forced to stay home? The answer is aggressive and urgent government response—something our governments failed at implementing. When China realized there was a pandemic on their hands, they acted immediately. Wuhan was placed under a 76-day lockdown, and drones reminded citizens to go home and put on masks. An elaborate network of contact tracing was implemented, and everyone entering the country was quarantined. This aggressive response allowed China to fight off the pandemic effectively.
Yet perhaps we can’t generalize this response to Canada. After all, China did know about the virus early, due to the first cases appearing there. The government has much more power in China than in Canada and is more capable of enacting sweeping change quickly. There are also significant cultural differences—China fought off SARS in the early 2000s, so there is additional awareness regarding these viruses. Therefore, it might be better to compare Canada to a similar Commonwealth state: New Zealand. They had the same amount of warning as Canada, but instead of attempting to mitigate and suppress the damage, they aimed to eliminate the virus from the island altogether. In mid-March, Prime Minister Jacinda Ardern closed borders and locked the country down. Crucially, the government immediately enacted several measures to financially support those who lost their incomes during the crisis. These financial supports made sure that there was no reason for people to want to go outside. Nobody had to go to work and risk infection because the government was able to support them financially. In comparison, what did Canada do? The federal government took until mid-April to pass an emergency response spending package into law. CERB support dried up by the end of September. Ontario Premier Doug Ford declared a state of emergency in mid-March, but sports facilities and playgrounds stayed open until April 13, as if the virus would magically avoid those densely populated areas. Despite the continued presence of COVID-19, several
U.S. Capitol siege: What P happens when the online bubble pops?
Aidan Thompson Contributor
erhaps I’m being optimistic, but I think we’ve finally hit rock bottom. On Wednesday, January 6, shortly after 1 pm, thousands of Trump supporters gathered in front of the Capitol building in Washington, D.C, demanding evidence of Joe Biden’s victory in the recent presidential election. Now, unless they were hoping to find a scantron card or count each ballot by hand, I really can’t understand what they were hoping to find. But if it was attention, and a front-page photograph, they certainly found it. Let me start by saying I’m extremely nervous about writing this article, and I mean “the night before three midterms” nervous. “Why?” you ask. Great question. On the personal side of things: I’m a white male, and as far as I’m concerned, we’re responsible for practically every problem going on in the world right now. It’s time we started listening to someone else. It’s also people who look like me, dressed up in face paint and animal carcasses, who barged through the capitol doors, barbarically waving American and Confederate flags, smearing conspiracy theories and patriarchal bullshit through the halls of an otherwise beautiful building—all in the name of some narcissistic, spray-tanned lunatic (yeah, we know it’s not natural, Donald). The other reason I was tentative on writing this article is because the power of the
media is beginning to overwhelm its intentions. When a news article from the New York Times can reach millions of people, media outlets must be conscious of how their exposure of radical movements and extremist groups—such as the ones responsible for the riots on January 6—can perpetuate their growth. Just because you intend to criticize or demonize an ideology does not mean that everyone who reads your thoughts will do the same. The attention that these conspiracies and movements have been given over the past week has radically showcased their ideologies, and while most relatively-sane people look upon them with disdain, some people may be drawn towards them—an attraction that would not have otherwise been fostered. I want to highlight that I am not proposing any sort of censorship but rather calling for attention to be drawn to the way in which media—and our curiosity—can give fuel to an otherwise smoldering fire. Perhaps, in times such as these, we must contain our curiosity, like pulling the oxygen from that fire. This is not the only way in which the media had an effect on the events of last Wednesday. The political climate in the United States, and much of the western world, has been steadily becoming more antagonistic and hostile, leaving little room for healthy argumentation and constructive discussions. In recent years, social media websites like Twitter and Reddit have become heavily politicized, and their users have begun fostering their political ideologies through news stories and trends. I should say that I have
provinces had already begun reopening in May, turning salons and retail stores into spreader events. Now, we are experiencing a second wave of lockdowns, something that New Zealand and China completely avoided via decisive action. It’s hard to look at their massive gatherings and see our government’s response as anything less than a failure in comparison. We must also dismiss the notion that personal responsibility alone led to Canada’s inferior response. New Zealanders and the Chinese are not magically more selfless than Canadians, and to suggest that plays into cultural stereotypes. Partying teenagers may have caused individual spreading events, but it is the job of our leaders to be an example. Early on, Chief Public Health Officer, Theresa Tam, repeatedly insisted that the risk to Canadians remained low, even as Wuhan was building emergency hospitals. When Premier Ford invited his daughters to his house in violation of COVID-19 protocols, he showed Ontarians that he wasn’t taking the virus seriously, and many of them followed his lead. With mixed signals coming from our governments and rapidly easing restrictions, can you really blame people for deciding that the virus was nothing but a bad cold? We should be asking our elected leaders why we spent our New Year’s Eve mourning alone, while New Zealand and China spent theirs celebrating together. When the next pandemic comes, they need to be ready—because they weren’t this time, and we are still paying the price.
no problem with this. Seeing younger people engaging in political movements is the stuff you dream of. Yet, I worry that Twitter may not have “make sure users see the other side of the coin” and “make sure all information is factual and true” high up on their priority list. This depersonalized environment has allowed people to curate their feeds to that which they already agree with, limiting any unsettling or confrontational opinions (I have no doubt that the media sites also have a hand in this). This effectively crystalizes their preexisting convictions and leaves little room for growth and evolution. Over long periods of time, confined to the same news outlets, your political ideologies become reinforced to a point where debating with the other side seems tiresome and useless. In turn, you write off anyone who disagrees with you and start to lose sight of your own blind spots. There is a lack of confrontation going on, and I don’t mean confrontation between strangers—you can go on Twitter and find thousands of angry, name-calling critics—I mean a confrontation with ourselves. Social media sites like Twitter, which allow you to subscribe to certain ideologies and block others, have begun to deteriorate our political climate. When we allow ourselves to exist within an echo chamber, without that voice of dispute however misguided it may be, we become too entrenched with our own thoughts and beliefs. A situation that becomes dangerously destructive, as the events on January 6 have shown.
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Becoming a Forex Trader in 2021: The Dos and the Don’ts Professor Lisa Kramer on how to invest during a pandemic and a look into investment opportunities for 2021.
Riddhi Gopinath Contributor
icture this: You put USD $1,000 aside at the start of 2020 to fund a trip with your university friends for the summer to celebrate your graduation. But alas, Covid-19 rains on your parade, and you are left frustrated and with $1,000 to spare. Despite the constant nagging from your forex-obsessed friends, you do your due diligence and invest your extra $1,000 in the “S&P/TSK” index, which tracks 250 of the best-performing companies and trades solely in American dollars. If you did this at the start of April, here’s what would have happened: by July 1, 2020, you would have USD $1213, and by January 1, 2021, you would have USD $1,361. Had you invested in Tesla, you would now have just over USD $8,700 to your name, but you went with the safer option—which is understandable for a university student looking for a long-term investment.
"Someone whose portfolio choices are driven by FOMO is almost surely failing to adopt bedrock principles that advisors emphasize, such as diversification and taking a long-term view."
Now being wealthier in assets, you ask yourself: What did I do right? For one thing, you didn’t fall prey to what Professor Lisa Kramer of the Rotman School of Management calls the “FOMO” and “YOLO” effect. This means you didn’t make the mistake of falling into your friends’ enticing and the slight “fear of missing out” they brought forth. Additionally, you didn’t make a misguided and uninformed impulsive decision just because “you only live once.” Professor Kramer says, “Someone whose portfolio choices are driven by FOMO is almost surely failing to adopt bedrock principles that advisors emphasize, such as diversification and taking a long-term view,” both of which you have done by choosing a diversified stock and holding it for three quarters despite, I’m sure, the thirst to liquidate and shop online. The Covid-19-induced lockdown rendered most of us indoors and alone with our thoughts and ideas. Although many
faced financial hardships in these times, some took the time to learn how to make their money grow. But how does one invest in a pandemic—a time marked by a cut in wages, plummeting stocks, and unemployment rates going through the roof ? The answer is by observing. Since the start of lockdown, screen time has increased. Regardless of the reason, technology companies provide direct proof of this trend as they have remained recession-proof and have, in most cases, performed above the predicted values in non-pandemic circumstances due to the usage increase. For example, Zoom has become a valuable source of connections for education systems and individuals since the lockdown began, and the graph of its stock certainly reflects this. What many have taken away from these effects is the need to research consumer demand, for example, those specific to the circumstances of a pandemic, and let them guide investing choices. During a pandemic, it is important to manage risk exposure. This is challenging in times when the market works in more uncertain ways than usual. However, this can be used to one’s advantage by building a portfolio. In particular, by forming an investment bundle that’s largely unaffected or even positively affected by extenuating pressures, such as a lockdown. It is certainly not wise to use social media and its numerous influencers, which are most often sponsored, as a go-to guide for investing decisions. “When social influencers brwag about only the best performers among their investments, omitting details that might paint a less rosy picture of their overall financial performance, retail traders can come to expect a level of performance that’s all but impossible to attain,” explains Professor Kramer. It is essential to understand that when investing, there will be some good days and some bad. Managing the bad and amplifying the good while ensuring a net positive sum is the best strategy. For example, as university students, we understand that a great grade can compensate a bad grade, and hopefully, the bad grade has been hedged enough not to dent our GPA to great extents. The same method applies to investing. Professor Kramer further warns against companies reporting their earnings after adding a cheeky metric that inflates their numbers. Many businesses took a hard hit from the pandemic. Many were forced to shut down, temporarily or permanently, compromising their profit. To cover their
alarmingly low profits for the year, some companies reported their EBIDTAC (earnings before interest, taxes, debt and amortization, and Covid-19) instead of their usual EBIDTA. The “C” in the EBIDTAC allowed businesses to add to their earning the potential profit they would have made if the pandemic had not happened. To put this in perspective, this is similar to giving a recruiter a transcript of grades you would have gotten had you worked harder. While the circumstances that made businesses do this is certainly unfortunate, it’s best to allow the generic metrics alone to guide your decisions when you have skin in the game. Looking ahead to 2021, we now have two vaccines, the Pfizer/BioNTech and Moderna. This finally allows us to think about the possibility of a 2021 that is “back to normal.” From a financial perspective, people will most likely have “pent up demand” in the previously unavailable industries, including indoor dining, theaters, travel, and pubs. Furthermore, the vaccine’s mass delivery presents the possibility for oil prices to go up and real estate to potentially also make a recovery as the economy bounces back. All of these financial prospects are largely reliant on the successful delivery and provision of the vaccines.
"Why not invest in the virus's quick demise by buying some stock of Pfizer/BioNtech or Moderna?"
Herein lies an opportunity to grow your wealth. Why not invest in the virus's quick demise by buying some stock of Pfizer/BioNTech or Moderna? As a guiding strategy, consider this: the Covid-19 vaccine is Moderna’s first-ever approved vaccine. So, their performance in 2021 depends on the success of the vaccine, unlike Pfizer, which comprises various avenues that decide their final success. This is also highlighted by the steep movement recorded in Moderna’s stock prices compared to Pfizer’s. Further, listen with keen attention to your friend’s and family’s plan for the new year; this is now research for your portfolio management. The choices they make point to a trend that you may want to look out for; this is consumer demand. For all you know, this research may make you your next buck! Investing in the world’s speedy retreat back to normal in the near future may be in your best interest, but nonetheless, always consider the effects of FOMO and YOLO as you make investing decisions in 2021.
He had a dream, one we have yet to realize Prisha (Maneka) Nuckchady Contributor
have a dream that one day, every valley shall be exalted […] and all flesh shall see it together. This is our hope.” Delivered by Martin Luther King Jr. in 1963, more than 50 years after his tragic death, his words continue to resonate deeply in our current social climate. Dr. King was born on January 15, 1929. He was a beloved civil rights activist who fought for socio-economic equality by ensuring that people, regardless of their gender or skin color, were granted equal opportunities in a world infected by racism and prejudice. Each year on January 18, we honor him through Martin Luther King Jr. Day. In the United States, Martin Luther King Jr. Day is a federal holiday, where parades and speeches are delivered in his honor. However, his impact spreads beyond the U.S., and he is celebrated globally on this day. Despite mobility limitations due to Covid-19 and our inability to take to the streets, we continue to celebrate him today. Assistant Professor Zach Richer of UTM’s Sociology department thinks that one of the best ways to celebrate this day is by reflecting upon his work. “It is an opportunity for people to revisit some of his ideas and quotes circulating online, and for discussions to be held to reappreciate Dr. King’s legacy and what he fought for.” Arguably, the most famous speech he delivered was “I have a dream” in Washington, D.C., on August 28, 1963. This speech, in which Dr. King called for an end to racial injustice, is regarded as one of the most resonant speeches in American history. In his speech, Dr. King says, "I have a dream that my four little children will
one day live in a nation where they will not be judged by the color of their skin, but by the content of their character. I have a dream today!” He dreamt of freedom and equality for all. Dr. King fought unremittingly to end discrimination. At the time, slavery was abolished, yet Black people still suffered from inequality and racism as a result of segregation laws. Dr. King realized that the situation was emergent, and it was time to fight for equal rights for all. Dr. King helped society progress and his efforts significantly shaped the fight against inequality. Today, the same struggles for racial justice persist, most notably seen this summer with the Black Lives Matter movement. Professor Richer points out that “Dr. King was never satisfied with progress. He was always pushing for change, and yet, he was never pessimistic or cynical, which was also a remarkable quality of his. He knew that his life’s work would exceed his lifespan.” Dr. King knew that it was critical to focus on long-term change and to strive for true equality. When asked what one of his favorite written works by Dr. King is, Professor Richer states one of them is “Letter from Birmingham Jail,” written on April 16, 1963. Dr. King was sent to jail on April 12, 1963, after leading a non-violent protest in Alabama, which at the time was one of the most segregated states of America. Dr. King’s method for combatting injustice involved collecting facts, negotiations, self-purification, and direct action. One of the most inspiring quotes from this letter explains that “injustice anywhere is a threat to justice everywhere.” Dr. King had a knack for skillfully using words in an impactful way that called to our morality consciousness. His efforts to combat racial inequality with non-violent resistance and powerful prose earned him the Nobel Peace Prize in 1964.
Professor Richer states, “It’s nice to reflect and realize that Dr. King, who was once viewed as a controversial figure is now celebrated for all the work he has done for humanity.” King wrote the “Letter from Birmingham Jail” in response to a group of white religious leaders sympathetic to his cause but thought his non-violent civil disobedience methods were wrong. Through his letter, Dr. King explains why his methods were needed. People believed that he should have waited to protest as he was denied permission by the police officers, but he points out that “waiting is a form of condoning injustice.” An equally inspiring lecture by Dr. King is titled “The Other America,” which he delivered on April 14, 1967, at Stanford University. This speech highlighted the pervasive inequalities we unrightfully allowed to happen. “There are two Americas,” said Dr. King, “One is beautiful for situation […] In this America, children grow up in the sunlight of opportunity. But there is another America. The other America has a daily ugliness about it that transforms the buoyancy of hope into fatigue and despair. In this other America, men walk the streets in search of jobs that do not exist.” This speech mirrors the current organization of society, especially in the U.S. We have seen non-violent protesters of the Black Lives Matter movement treated violently by the police. In contrast, Trump supporters, protesting violently at Capitol Hill in the middle of a global pandemic, visibly encouraged. An evident double standard exists, showing that there are still two Americas, two worlds. One in which people live peacefully and are appreciated for who they are, and in the other, inhabitants face prejudices and are given less opportunities. These populations suffer at the hands of racism, a disease that runs deep in the veins of many Americans. To honour Dr. King, we must appreciate his work and use his teachings to inspire change.
Professor Richer says that “we should try to expand the moral vision that we hold contemporarily informed by the kind of things that he was pushing for at that time and include some of his more robust visions into this celebration.” In fact, Professor Richer explores the evolution of civil activism in his course SOC329: Law & Social Movements. The Black Lives Matter movement employs many of Dr. King’s methods of direct action, including non-violent civil disobedience, to transmit the same message of equality while making use of technological advancements such as social media. According to a report by the Armed Conflict Location & Event Data Project released in 2020, the BLM movement is at its core non-violent, with 93 per cent of BLM protests being non-violent. Dr. King was an influential activist who inspired people through his mastery of language and courageous leadership skills. He appealed to our moral senses. Professor Richer adds that one remarkable quality of Dr. King’s was that “he [conveyed] his message in a way that resonated with people who were not currently on his side while making them feel included.” Professor Richer also believes that the BLM movement is “carrying forward that legacy” by using a minimalist manifesto that appeals to something clear and palpable to our moral consciousness. Racism is a disease to our society. On the eve of his death, on April 3, 1968, Dr. King said, “The nation is sick. Trouble is in the land. Confusion all around.” Dr. King went on to say that the three greatest evils are: racism, poverty, and war, which is still the case today. Covid-19 is not the only threat to humanity—racism is too. We must remember what Martin Luther King Jr. wisely taught us: To fight systemic racial injustice through engagement with nonviolent protest. This starts with consciously and actively acknowledging that Black lives matter.
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Mirror, m irro r: B od y im s t n ag e d ea tu s nd university
keeping up with the latest social media workout (ahem, Chloe Ting), and fighting with the inherent feeling that whatever you’re doing for your physical appearance, regardless of how strenuous, just may not be enough. There exists a common misconception that only women struggle with body image issues. However, a study from the 2019 National College Health Assessment conducted at UTM found that almost half of all students—made up of 49 per cent female and 42 per cent male—were trying to lose weight, even though half of the students who took the same survey—53 per cent female and 45 per cent male—felt that they were at the right weight for their age. But how do students at UTM feel about their body image? Jane, a fourth-year student at UTM studying criminology, notes that her body image changed drastically after she left home. “I’ve always been an active person, and I was dependent on my parents to make decisions for me,” she says. “When I came to university, I felt like I had no real knowledge on how to feed myself, and I stopped playing sports, so I ended up gaining a lot of weight and being unhappy.”
Segen Assefa Contributor
"As long as I remember that my opinion about my body os what matters, and I appreciate it for what it can do, my body image will always be in good standing."
Faizah, another fourth-year student in the CCIT and criminology, law, and society programs, says that she always struggled with her body image, stating that, “Losing weight was my way of thinking that I had control over something when I didn’t really feel in control.” Social media also plays a significant role in how individuals perceive their body image in relation to others. A study at the University of Akron found that the average university student is on social media an average of seven hours a day and that the usual portrayal of the male physique on social media is generally lean and muscular, while the ideal body for women portrayed on social media is 15 per cent lower than the national weight average for each height and age. It is important to note that this data does not holistically capture the feelings of transgender and non-binary students at UTM. UTM’s Health & Counselling Centre (HCC) acknowledges that these are issues these students struggle with and are unfortunately less likely to seek help with. The HCC shared a source with The Medium that stated the impact of the Covid-19 pandemic on body image has been detrimental, partially due to increased screen time, reduced support, and greater social isolation. Sam, a second-year student studying political science, never doubted her body image until the start of the pandemic. “I realized I was spending most of my time reading and doing schoolwork. E v e r y
time I went on Instagram, someone was doing another backyard workout or talking about a new meal plan, and I felt a little lazy that I wasn’t utilizing my time in the same way,” says Sam. “I started to diet really aggressively and was really restrictive,” Jane recalls. “But even though I lost all the weight, I got really sick. I had a cold and sore throat for months, and I felt like my body couldn’t heal itself.” Faizah credits her family as one of the causes of her poor selfimage. “[My family] always made comments about my weight, and over time, I just internalized those things. I wasn’t losing weight in a healthy way though, and I think that reframing my thinking about myself and setting boundaries with my family about how I would like them to address topics about my physical appearance helped me a lot.” A study on PubMed looking at Canadian university students identified that information-based education on health, body image, and eating disorders is the least effective form of awareness. Other approaches, such as media-literacy and dissonance-based educational approaches, as well as physical activities that focus on self-esteem, are more effective. The University of Toronto has set up resources for students looking to repair their self-image. The HCC offers virtual and in-person counseling services, as well as health and nutrition information to all students. In addition, UTM’s Recreation, Athletics and Wellness Centre (RAWC) hosts numerous virtual fitness classes for on and offcampus participants. For Jane, the RAWC was helpful in her journey to regaining confidence in her body image. “The RAWC was really accessible and welcoming, even during the time I didn’t live on campus,” she notes. The HCC has also announced that in February 2021, it will be launching a virtual workshop tackling issues of body image led by staff counselor Lauren Drouillard and dietician Kimberly Green. Students struggling with their body image should continuously prioritize their mental and emotional well-being over their physical appearance. “I was listening to a podcast, and I heard them say ‘Blessed I am to live in such a beautiful temple.’ And it made me think about how truly lucky I am to have a body that allows me to do everything that I want to do,” says Faizah, stressing the importance of verbal affirmations. “It feels weird to be saying it at first, but it’s really important to get into the habit of loving yourself out loud.” Sam, an avid hiker, echoes Faizah’s sentiments, saying that her body image issues improved when she started appreciating her body for what it could do and not what it looked like. “I can walk and run and dance. As long as I remember that my opinion about my body is what matters, and I appreciate it for what it can do, my body image will always be in good standing.” Although the pandemic has brought on novel stressors that have affected us both mentally and physically, the new year gives us a chance to shift the focus from our unfortunate circumstances to our own well-being. Amid these uncertain times, selfcare and self-love have never been more important.
Editor | Chris Berberian firstname.lastname@example.org
Disney aims to keep the magic alive with live-action remakes Unrolling the magic carpet for upcoming releases.
Danica Teng Associate Arts Editor
isney is the magic many of us grew up with, and now, these nostalgic animations are resurfacing in our minds and on our TV screens. Within the last 10 years, Disney has ramped up live-action remakes of its classic animated canon, each one topping the previous in popularity. These remakes have now become a normal expectation, but not everyone views them the same way. Whether these movies are actually better or worse than their original Disney versions have long been a debate amongst fans, with some crying out, “Another one!” and others crying, “Another one?” While complaints and controversies swirl around the words “live-action remake,” Disney keeps re-producing them at a faster rate. Before 2010, the studio released only three live-action remakes, the first being The Jungle Book in 1994. Since the smash-hit remake of Alice in Wonderland (2010), Disney has released 12 live-action remakes in just nine years. Nostalgia breeds happiness and can either make or break a movie; it’s a tightrope that Disney balances often. While this fragile rope often frays, Disney knows there’s a safety net waiting below if they fall. Some remakes, such as Beauty and the Beast (2017) and The Lion King (2019), were massive hits with audiences, each earning more than $1 billion at the box office. Others, like Dumbo (2019) or Mulan (2020), failed to impress viewers and stockpiled negative reviews compared to their animated predecessors. Whether these remakes are critically praised or universally panned, they still bring in millions of viewers and deepen the pockets of Disney. The studio continues to experiment with the same stories, and we continue taking chances on them. Whether we expect too much or too little, we hope that they can make us feel the same magic of the past or even enchant newer generations who
didn’t grow up watching the animated originals. To cater to these two crowds, we get a mix of new and old storytelling, new and old songs, and new and old characters. Maleficent (2014) explored Sleeping Beauty from the perspective of the villain. Aladdin (2019) gave us fun remixes of the classic soundtrack. A fairytale, at its core, provides many opportunities to change and experiment with the original story. These live-action remakes not only generate profit; they also keep Disney relevant. Like other industries, as technology advances, Disney must adapt to how the world is changing. They need something new to entice viewers to watch their creations, whether it’s for the first, second, or seventeenth time. As its theme parks remain in flux around the world, live-action remakes can also be Disney’s way of keeping the magic alive. Starting in 2021, there’s a fresh wave of Disney live-action remakes in the works, with most slated to arrive within the next few years. Cruella headlines the pack with a May 2021 release date. There will also be remakes of The Little Mermaid, Bambi, Hercules, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs, Rose Red, and The Hunchback of Notre Dame, and sequels for already successful remakes of The Jungle Book, The Lion King, and Aladdin. Alongside these upcoming theatrical releases, Disney is also cooking up live-action remakes of Pinocchio, Peter Pan & Wendy, The Sword in the Stone, Robin Hood, Lilo & Stitch, and an Aladdin spin-off, all due for release on the Disney+ streaming service. Whether Disney is in it for money or creative alteration, our perception of remakes is determined more by our preference. For some, these films end up resembling their animated counterparts too closely, while for others, not enough. Where many people prefer the beauty of classic animation and its stories, some prefer the wonders of modern technology and fresh retellings. This balancing act has and continues to fuel live-action remakes, as Disney tries to recapture the hearts of old fans and fascinate the imaginations of new ones.
Promising Young Woman: An incendiary revenge that is as confectionary as it is haunting Paige France Associate Arts Editor
iding on the hackneyed proverb, “Those who seek revenge should dig two graves,” Promising Young Woman is Emerald Fennell’s directorial debut that explores the self-destructive nature of retribution. In this dark comedy-thriller about rape culture, revenge is piping-hot and bathed in Pepto-pink—all to distort reality and deceive its viewers. Cassie (Carey Mulligan) is a 30-year-old medical school dropout, still reeling over her best friend’s suicide. The event has tormented Cassie for years, causing her to lash out and lead a double life. By day, she’s a bright bubblegum-chewing barista; by night, she’s a pub-crawling sexual vigilante, determined to right her wrongdoers. The storyline is invigorating and brilliant, switching the narrative from “he said she said” to “he did.” Cassie preys on predators by pretending to be intoxicated, letting “nice guys” take her home, unaware of her bait-and-switch tactics. Her modus operandi is cunning and accelerates the
film’s off-kilter exploration of toxic masculinity and rape culture.
"This Promising Young WomanGatsby crossover is beyond clever, as both storylines explore women bounded by the social contructs that take away their voices." The film flirts with different genres as it unfolds, emphasizing its overarching deceit. With a juxtaposed happy, romantic montage fixed between brutally grim scenes to amplify the trauma that Cassie has experienced, it remains unclear what genre the audience is indulging in—whether romance or comedy, drama or psychological thriller. Promising Young Woman stylizes incongruities, its pastel pinks and polka dot dresses shrouding Cassie’s trauma. These innocent elements suggest she’s been trapped at the age she >> PROMISING continued on page 11
Warner Bros. and HBO Max threaten the fate of movie theatres in landmark deal Lourdes Duah Contributor
fter a ground-breaking deal between studio giant Warner Bros. and streaming service HBO Max, on Christmas, viewers could watch Wonder Woman 1984 at home the same day it debuted in theatres. It’s an unprecedented move in film distribution—one that may influence other studios to follow suit. Currently, Warner Bros. plans the same release model for all 17 of its 2021 films, including tent-pole blockbusters such as The Matrix 4, Godzilla vs. Kong, and Dune. Several prominent film industry figures, including directors Christopher Nolan and Denis Villeneuve, have denounced the deal, specifically the lack of warning given to the affected filmmakers and actors. The deal reflects a continuing trend within the film industry: shortening the time between a film’s theatrical release and its release for athome viewing, also known as the “theatrical window.” Where most theatres would wait at least three months to release a film for home viewing, this agreement shrinks that window to no time at all.
According to WarnerMedia CEO Jason Kilar, the deal exists in part to give fans the choice between theatre and home, a choice that filmgoers have never had on opening day. Theatres used to be the only place one could watch a film during its opening release. Even with this advantage, theatres have struggled with dwindling audience numbers for years. With the ongoing dangers of Covid-19, climbing ticket prices, and the convenience of at-home streaming, the struggle will only worsen. Under this agreement, viewers no longer need to travel to theatres to be the first to see a new film, one of the major draws that movie theatres had left. If other studios follow in Warner Bros.’ footsteps, we may see even more theatres losing customers and closing their doors in the near future. The new arrangement between HBO Max and Warner Bros. faced major backlash across Hollywood for several reasons. For starters, the 2021 release plans were reportedly kept secret from those affected until about 90 minutes before their public announcement. The decision brought uncertainty to actors, directors, and writers whose earnings often partially depend on in-theatre tickets sales. That number is likely to plummet, given the
>> PROMISING continued from page 10 saw her life fall apart. Now, she’s on the hunt. Her target: the masculine hands that hunted her. Ironically produced by Margot Robbie, this brutally grim Harlequin doesn’t stoop to abstract ideology but thirsts for retribution through action. Drilling home the repulsive elements of rape culture, the film scrutinizes society for its ignorance of sexual violence, the pervasiveness of victim blaming, and the harsh consequences that assault has on those it touches. In 1993, Michael Douglas’ Falling Down exposed white male rage emblematic of the Fox News generation. Promising Young Woman does the same for the #MeToo era as it wages war on social constructs. From its gritty opening bar scene commentary, it’s an audacious examination of rape culture, weaving dark humour into its daring fabric. The film’s title—a reference to the Stanford University rapist Brock Turner being branded a “promising young man” in 2015—plays on the excuses that normalize sexual violence. With it, Fennell sought to expose society’s inclination to forgive affluent male abusers at the expense of their victims.
pandemic and the growing preference toward at-home viewing. Although an alternative payment plan is now in place, it wasn’t shared before the deal was announced, leaving many industry workers feeling blindsided by the news. In an interview with ET Online, director Christopher Nolan condemned WarnerMedia, saying, “That’s not how you treat the filmmakers, stars, and people who’ve given so much for these projects. They deserved to be consulted and spoken to about what was going to happen to their work.” Dune director, Denis Villeneuve, similarly criticized WarnerMedia and its parent company, AT&T, for its lack of collaboration and respect for audiences and cinema as a whole. He asserted that Dune’s massive scale is meant to be viewed on the big screen first. Before this deal, the cast and crew of Dune were assured an optimal viewing format in theatres before being available for home viewing. Now, without warning or consent, such films will immediately release to viewers in a completely different format than the creators intended, altering their artistic vision and minimizing the work they put in. Both Nolan and Villeneuve insist that movie theatres are vital to the industry and
“I believe entirely in forgiveness,” says Fennel in an interview with Yahoo Entertainment, “but it’s interesting how the phrase ‘promising young woman’ is hardly ever used, and if it is, it usually describes a girl who’s no longer alive. You can only really be a ‘promising young woman’ when it’s too late, when your promise is completely aborted.” Fennell says the film is about “how we have all been complicit in a toxic, sexist, abusive culture,” and so “there's nothing in the film that isn't extremely commonplace.”
"By having viewers acknowledge the pervasiveness of rape culture, Fennel hopes to construct new endings for women who are survivors of rape and vilify their offenders." Beneath its more overt references, Promising Young Woman is also ripe with symbolism. In Greek mythology, the priestess Cassandra was cursed to tell true prophecies but never be believed, similar to Cassie’s troublesome expe-
will eventually recover, once again allowing large-scale films like Dune to be viewed as intended. The two filmmakers have valid reasons to believe audiences will return to theatres once it’s safe. The atmosphere, special viewing experiences such as 3-D and IMAX, and sharing the viewing experience with large audiences have pulled people back to theatres for decades. Despite these advantages, skyrocketing ticket prices and growth in streaming services have stunted the movie theatre industry. These issues predate the pandemic and will only continue to plague theatres long after. Without question, the new HBO Max and Warner Bros. deal has pushed film release models into unknown and uncertain territory. This move will have major repercussions for payment structures, the future of movie theatres, and both companies’ reputations. After failing to keep affected parties in the loop, filmmakers are losing faith in studios and distributors’ commitment to cinema and the fair treatment of its workers. Unless that trust is restored, the HBO Max and Warner Bros. deal could prove detrimental to both companies. However, if their 2021 release schedule succeeds, the film industry could see a complete reshaping in years to come.
riences. Elsewhere, our protagonist uses the alias “Daisy” when visiting the Dean. She quips, “Who needs brains? They never did a girl any good,” a subtle nod to Mulligan’s role of Daisy in The Great Gatsby (2013), in which her character says, “That’s the best thing a girl in this world can be, a beautiful little fool.” This Promising Young Woman-Gatsby crossover is beyond clever, as both storylines explore women bounded by the social constructs that take away their voices—one due to the misuse of power and sexual conquest, and the other due to the inability to become wealthy without marriage to an affluent husband. Kick-starting the film’s dramatic climax, Cassie blazes down the path to ultimate revenge to the tune of Archimia’s violent string rendition of Britney Spears’ “Toxic.” This scene hits home the toxicity of the judicial system and her desire to take matters into her own latex-gloved hands. Ploughing through her targets in spectacular fashion, Fennell holds a mirror to our society. By having viewers acknowledge the pervasiveness of rape culture, Fennel hopes to construct new endings for women who are survivors of rape and vilify their offenders. While her film leaves its audience wondering if the protagonist has won or lost, it doesn’t quite matter as the finale soars above expectations and lets survivors write the end to their narrative.
sports & health
Editor | Sarah-May Edwardo-Oldfield email@example.com
This is what loneliness looks like in your brain Recent research has found how feeling lonely looks in the brain, and how it changes the brain.
Duaa Nasir Contributor
ovid-19 cases and death reach dangerous levels in Ontario, and many people are concerned about their loved ones, their jobs, resources, and the future. Within this chaos, some people brush off the loneliness and isolation they and others experience in order to focus on immediate concerns. However, longterm loneliness can have a serious impact on a person’s health. One study by Julianne Holt-Lunstad and her team from Brigham Young University found that loneliness is as harmful as obesity, or smoking 15 cigarettes daily. Another study from Johannes Gutenberg University by Manfred Beutel and colleagues found that lonely people are more susceptible to depression, anxiety disorders, and suicide ideation. This present study, led by R. Nathan Spreng from McGill University, Faculty of
Medicine, examined how loneliness manifests in the human brain. Spreng and his team published this study in Nature on December 15, 2020. The researchers examined genetic data, magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) scans, and data from a questionnaire from 40 000 adults through the UK Biobank, a medical database. The questionnaire asked adults whether or not they often felt lonely. 13.1 per cent of participants answered ‘yes;’ over two-thirds of this group was female. Spreng and team found several differences between the brains of people who were lonely and people who were not lonely. The brain consists of a network known as the default network. This region is active during passive tasks, such as mind-wandering, imagining, and thinking of others. This present study found that lonely people had a more strongly wired default network than people who were not lonely. Lonely people also had more grey matter in their default networks. Grey matter helps the brain process information, notably from sensory organs. "In the absence of desired social experiences, lonely individuals may be biased towards internally-directed thoughts such as reminiscing or imagining social experiences. We know these cognitive abilities are mediated by the default network brain regions," says Spreng. "So, this heightened focus on self-reflection,
Keep Sharp! Optimize your cognitive function for the present and the future Alexandria Ramoutar Contributor
r. Sanjay Gupta, neurosurgeon and CNN’s Chief Medical Correspondent, gained global recognition as he reported on 9/11. Since then, Dr. Gupta has won multiple Emmys on his reporting, become an associate professor at Emery University Hospital, and the Associate Chief of Neurosurgery at Grady Memorial Hospital. In his most recent book, Keep Sharp: Build a Better Brain at Any Age, Dr. Gupta invites us to uncover myths, address the elephants in the room (coffee and video games, no less), and adopt habits that will reinvigorate our brain. Dr. Gupta avoids fear-based arguments and provides a hopeful outlook on the future of brain health. If you don’t have a science background, you’ll find yourself hooked by his ability to distill com-
plex information into compelling (and digestible) material. His educational and warm voice implores you to consider the science behind the facts he puts forth. Throughout the book, Dr. Gupta includes personal anecdotes that break down the wall between teacher and student. We learn that his grandfather suffered a stroke that hindered his ability to communicate. As surgeons helped his grandfather recover, Dr. Gupta submerged himself in reading medical literature, acquired his medical degree, and now desires to see us adopt two things: a hopeful perspective on the future of brain health and a lifestyle that optimizes our brain’s capacity. Dr. Gupta does it all in three acts. First, he takes us down memory lane, with an introduction to neurosurgery with Phineas Gage, the most prevalent causes of cognitive decline, the different types of cognitive defects. These pictures help identify the differences between mild cognitive impairment, Alzheimer’s, and more—
crucial information! He then removes the focus on myths and lets research take center stage, like debunking that “dementia is an inevitable consequence of old age.” Second, Dr. Gupta shares recent research methods, like speed training exercises with video games, how education impacts our brain, and more. He remains transparent on what researchers and practitioners around the world know and don’t know. He’s unafraid to address the pushback on topics like “brain resilience” and “cognitively stimulating” video games and highlights the social and economic biases in studies. With that, Dr. Gupta explains the jarring results that simple acts can elongate your life and prevent cognitive decline. He provides insight on how to improve the efficacy of habits, like “eliminating electronics” to improve your rest. Most importantly, he backs up each claim with the science behind the habit. For example, when you eliminate electronics before you
and possibly imagined social experiences, would naturally engage the memory-based functions of the default network." Spreng and his colleagues also found differences in the fornix. The fornix is a collection of nerves that carry information from the hippocampus to the default network. This was preserved better in lonely people. “The fornix is the most important major fibre tract or major cable that provides input into the default network,” Danilo Bzdok, the study’s senior author from The Neuro and the Quebec Artificial Intelligence Institute told CTV News. “The thickness of the fornix does indeed predict the vividness of mental imagery of humans. We know that this somehow carries information that is necessary for humans to imagine very detailed and rich pictures in their mind.” After a year of this pandemic and varying periods of social isolation, this research is relevant to millions of people. It is also unclear about how permanent these effects are; will an increased tendency to self-reflect make it difficult to connect to other people after the pandemic? Or will the brain easily revert back to its default mode of socializing? "We are just beginning to understand the impact of loneliness on the brain,” says Bzdok. “Expanding our knowledge in this area will help us to better appreciate the urgency of reducing loneliness in today's society."
sleep, you’re eliminating a distraction. It’s easy for us to brush off little sleep, but “a single night of inadequate sleep is enough to activate the inflammatory processes in the body.” Unfortunately, inflammation can cause brain shrinkage. Thankfully, Dr. Gupta shares tips to get a better sleep, exercise, and improve our mental health. Dr. Gupta also does a deep dive into food, including breakfast recipes that prepare your brain for a better day. I enjoyed his discourse on sugar and artificial sweeteners (opt for honey or real maple syrup – go natural). Following a tasty discourse on dinner, Dr. Gupta lays out a 12-week plan that’ll help you ease into a new lifestyle. Dr. Gupta dedicates the last act of his book to caregivers, family members, and individuals navigating cognitive decline, focusing on empathy and compassion. Dr. Gupta shares his friend’s battle with Alzheimer’s and the promise of pursuing a better quality of life. This section serves as encouragement to those caring for loved ones with brain disease. If you want to take actionable steps to keep your, and your community’s, brain healthy, then read Keep Sharp! If you’re interested in mental health resources, check out UTM’s Health & Counselling Centre.
The Medium - Volume 47, Issue 14