Semicolon an Arts and Humanities Studentsâ€™ Council Publication
COVER ART: Soap Rebecca McLaren
Semicolon is published bi-annually by the Arts and Humanities Students’ Council of the University of Western Ontario. Semicolon is generously funded by the Arts and Humanities Student Donation Fund. The Publications Team would like to thank the Donation Fund Committee, the students who submitted essays, and the rest of the Publications Committee who volunteered for the essay review board. Semicolon accepts A-grade essays from any Arts and Humanities undergraduate student within the University of Western Ontario. To view previous editions or for more information about Semicolon, please contact the Arts and Humanities Students’ Council in Room 0N20D in the International and Graduate Affairs Building. Editor-in-Chief Academic Managing Editor Creative Managing Editor Copy Editor Layout Editor
Alero Ogbeide Lauren O’Donnell Areesa Kanji Katie Fowler Kimberlyn Hawkins
Special Thanks to the Publications Committee: Sofia Berger, Camille Inston, Alicia Johnson, Samantha Kong, Megan Levine, Simone Miklosi, Alexis Pronovost, Julia Sebastien
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Letter from the Editor...
Writing essays can be hard. We all came from high school having mastered the hamburger essay. We had the whole introduction, the three-paragraph in medium-weak-strong argument order, and the final paragraph beginning with “In conclusion…” down pat. Suddenly, we were thrown into this new place where we walked into class, and the first thing the prof said was, “Forget everything you’ve learned about essay writing and the hamburger essay. This is what I want.” And then you’re bombarded with rules about paragraphs, MLA, APA, Chicago style, punctuation inside of quotes, using “I,” not using “I,” focussing on analysis instead of the thesis or vice versa – and the list goes on. Every professor has a different list of their essay expectations, and it’s all we can do to keep up and comply. But eventually, we learn, we understand, we finally get it. We know whether to italicize or use quotation marks for the title of a play, how to say “In conclusion” or “This demonstrates that” in a myriad of ways, and we know how to hit and sometimes exceed the word count without filling our papers with fluff. That’s what Semicolon is all about: it showcases all those students who, whether it was a one-time thing or they’ve hit their stride, finally got it. These essays are both for your reading enjoyment and to inspire. If you haven’t written an A-grade essay yet, don’t worry! You will. And when you do, please send it our way so that, like the students in this publication, we can give you the recognition you deserve.
table of contents 1
“She Was Asking For It” Rape Culture and Abstinence-Only Sex Ed in American High Schools Alessia Mastrorillo
“Don’t Ever Come Near Me Again”: At-Risk Girlhood in Online Poetry Rachel Windsor The Unique Challenges that Asexuals Face Maddy D’Cruze Walt Disney’s Problem Child Parisa Fani-Molki Fight Club, Coriolanus and Blurred Lines of Sexuality Hannah Theodore Murder Mystery: Female Character’s Killing the Patriarchy Carina Gabriele The Fairy’s Child: Misogyny and Nature in John Keats’ “La Belle Dame sans Merci” Laura Brooks Africa Versus the West: A Call for Sexual Equality Jenna Salmers The Use of Biased Media Representation to “Develop Underdevelopment” Laura Fyfe Bates Motel and Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho: The Death of Norman and the Rebirth of Mother Victoria Scott We Ate Them: A Tale of Rampant Consumerism Sydney Keefe Deaf Culture on Broadway: an Analysis of Deaf West’s Revival Production of Spring Awakening Morgan McAuley Wake Up and Smell the Coffee: We Are Not Respecting the Bean Jennifer Glied-Goldstein “i” Can Take Us There Hershawn Arora Brünnhilde and her Immolation: What was she thinking? Donald James MacKinnon
“She Was Asking For It” - Rape Culture and Abstinence-Only Sex Ed in American High Schools Alessia Mastrorillo Abstinence-only until marriage (AOUM) sexual education programs provide youth with a skewed and biased understanding of sex and sexuality. Despite its proven ineffectiveness, many schools in the United States still follow the AOUM sex ed curriculum. With a strict emphasis on monogamy, the prohibition of premarital sex and a discourse devoid of contraceptive methods, the abstinence education guidelines leave little room for sexual exploration. Enforced in Texas, Mississippi, Arkansas, and other states in America, the AOUM education program does a great disservice, in particular, to adolescent girls. AOUM education often lacks information on sexual consent and what healthy sexual relationships look like. Rather, the mandate for this program suggests that the victim is primarily responsible for rejecting sexual advances, and encourages students to refrain from engaging in risky behaviour, such as consuming drugs and alcohol, to avoid being “vulnerable.” The AOUM education program also stresses the importance of monogamy at the expense of women’s bodies. Given that monogamy is central to AOUM education, the program suggests women’s bodies become irreversibly tainted and dirty if they engage in premarital sex. As a way to emphasize ideals of purity and virtuosity, these programs slut-shame and stigmatize women for deviating from societal expectations of sexual behaviour. The program also supports male sexual violence by reinforcing stereotypical gender norms. By suggesting that boys biologically have stronger libidos and are naturally more inclined to think about sex, the AOUM program removes male responsibility and pressures girls to constantly surveil their own behaviour. When examined with a feminist lens, it appears that AOUM sex ed programs are informed by stereotypical ideas about masculinity and femininity. In this essay, I argue that AOUM sexual education in American high schools perpetuates rape culture. While attempting to prevent teen pregnancy and the transmission of STIs, this form of sexual education victim blames women by providing inadequate information about consent, shames women for engaging in premarital sex, and normalizes male sexual violence by reinforcing biological essentialist ideas about men and women. Before delving into a discussion of the impacts of AOUM education on adolescent girls and how these programs perpetuate rape culture, it is necessary to define these terms in relation to how they will be discussed within the paper. I intend to examine and interrogate AOUM sex education as it is defined according to the Sexuality Information and Education Council of the United States (SIECUS). According to SIECUS, AOUM education is a federally funded curriculum and pedagogical tool that serves to “promote the conservative social idea that sexual behaviour is only morally appropriate in the context of a heterosexual marriage” (“A History of Federal Funding for AOUM Programs”). Rather than providing students with information on reproductive anatomy, human sexuality, and sexual health, the AOUM program emphasizes the importance of marriage and defines all sexual activity outside of marriage as harmful (“A History of Federal Funding for AOUM Programs”). SIECUS notes that AOUM programs are structured according to the motivations and education purposes outlined in the Welfare Reform Law (“A History of Federal Funding for AOUM Programs”). The Welfare Reform Law which was established in 1996, enacted Title V, Section 510 (b) of the Social Security Act (“A History of Federal Funding for AOUM Programs”). The Title V 1
AOUM program outlines eight guidelines that structure AOUM sex ed programs. I will conduct my analysis of AOUM education programs according to the definition provided by SIECUS, and I will make reference to some of the eight goals outlined for the AOUM program and its intended educational purposes as it is stated under the Title V AOUM program. The AOUM education programs function to reify victim blaming discourses and place increased responsibility on adolescent girls for fending off sexual advances put on by adolescent boys. The seventh criteria of the Title V AOUM program suggests that the educational program intends to “teache[s] young people how to reject sexual advances and how alcohol and drug use increase vulnerability to sexual advances” (“A History of Federal Funding for AOUM Programs”). This segment of the federal statutory definition of AOUM puts girls in a particularly disadvantaged position. Paired with the rhetoric of male sexuality being biologically hyperactive and untameable, this “goal” implies that girls are personally responsible for rejecting sexual advances. This paradigm reifies a rhetoric of victim blaming and suggests that girls are somehow responsible for unwarranted sexual assaults. Kristen Luschen, a professor at Hampshire College, critiqued AOUM programs for being devoid of adequate and comprehensive information on consent (Luschen 74). According to Luschen’s research, popular discourses and stereotypical ideas about masculinity and femininity had a meaningful impact on how individuals engaged with the sexual decision making process. Programs like AOUM sex ed, that neglected to address this meaningful relationship, framed girls who experienced assault or negative sexual consequences, such as pregnancy or STI infection, as having “failed as border guards of sexual intimacy” and were active agents in their “bad” decisions (Luschen 74). This criteria of the AOUM process only encourages victim blaming discourses that suggest girls are “asking” to be assaulted. This criteria perpetuates rape culture because it removes all male responsibility and puts the onus solely on the adolescent girl to set the limits on rampant, unabashed, male sexual eroticism. The stigmatization of premarital sex that is promoted in the AOUM education program also participates in the victim-blaming rhetoric of sexual assault. A curriculum for an AOUM education based program, entitled The Heritage Keepers, still places blame on girls who are abstaining from premarital sex by accusing them of being overtly promiscuous, wearing provocative clothing, and “activating” male sexual urges, “Females need to be careful with what they wear, because males are looking! The girl might be thinking fashion, while the boy is thinking sex. For this reason girls have an added responsibility to wear modest clothing that doesn’t invite lustful thoughts” (Jackson and Kay 20). In the Heritage Keepers student manual and the Who kNOw curriculum, it appears there is a common trend of placing onus exclusively on the adolescent girl. While AOUM education erases female sexual subjectivity and robs them of their right to sexual expression, it simultaneously surveils women’s sexual behaviour and imagines them as solely responsible for keeping male sexual energy at bay. The Heritage Keepers manual, along with other AOUM curriculums, creates a dichotomy of appropriate male and female sexual conduct. These programs often refrain from chastising boys for inappropriate sexual behaviour and instead frame appropriate male sexual conduct as a product of “appropriate” female sexual behaviour. A constant characterization of women as perpetrators, initiators, and stimulators for sexual misconduct and men as innocent 2
victims of women’s deviant behaviour perpetuates the idea that women are always culpable in cases of inappropriate sexual behaviour or negative sexual outcomes, including sexual violence, teen pregnancy or STI contraction. In turn, this ideology perpetuates rape culture and supports male violence by justifying male negligence and impulsive actions and by placing blame on women for negative sexual consequences. AOUM sex ed programs reinforce stereotypical constructions of gender that suggest males are innately more aggressive and inclined to fantasize about sex, and females are innately more passive and desire emotional relationships as opposed to sexual ones. According to the qualitative study regarding sexual education in classrooms conducted by Odile Mattiauda, sexual education programs that are less comprehensive, like AOUM programs, reproduce this dominant representation of masculinity and femininity and “perpetuate the understanding that boys are not responsible for their sexual activity because they are hormonally programmed to want sex” (Mattiauda 111). These skewed representations of gender and sexuality put an increased emphasis on girls’ behaviour and effectively removes male culpability. This increased emphasis on girls’ behaviour is reflected in Who kNOw curriculum, a federally funded AOUM program (Jackson and Kay 20). The Who kNOw curriculum frames girls are temptresses who tease boys with their unconscious provocative behaviour and activate their sexual urges. The Who kNOw curriculum states “Because girls are usually more talkative, make eye contact more often than men, and love to dress in eye-catching ways, they may appear to be coming on to a guy when in reality they are just being friendly. To the male, however, he perceives that the girl wants him sexually. Asking herself what signals she is sending could save both sexes a lot of heartache” (Jackson and Kay 20). This guideline of the Who kNOw curriculum puts women in a conflicted position, where they are simultaneously denied the right to express their sexual desires, but are posited as agentic subjects who are expected to regulate male sexual behaviour. The Who kNOw curriculum, along with a plethora of other AOUM programs, normalizes male sexual violence and condones male sexual aggression by relying on traditional gender scripts that suggest men are unable to control their sexual urges. As an attempt to keep women pious, pure, and submissive, AOUM education often shames women for engaging in premarital sex and teaches lessons about sex and contamination in a genderspecific way. In 2014, an incident occurred in Mississippi in a high school sex ed class that followed an AOUM curriculum (Semuels). According to a parent of one of the boys in the sex ed class, the teacher asked students to pass a peppermint patty and to observe how it soiled after every touch (Semuels). The peppermint patty served as a metaphor for women’s bodies in order to illustrate how they became dirty, invaluable and damaged after engaging in premarital sex. This example illustrates how the AOUM education dichotomizes girlhood by suggesting that “good girls” do not feel sexual desire, and “bad girls” feel and act on their sexual urges (Birenbaum and Weinberg 97). This missing discourse of female desire robs girls of their sexual agency and impinges on their sexual subjectivity. When female sexual expression is stigmatized, girls are robbed of their sexual autonomy and in turn do not feel entitled or empowered to make individual sexual decisions about their bodies. By erasing female sexual desire, girls’ intimate and sexual feelings are invalidated and constructed as worthless, and the sexual decision making process becomes centred solely around the needs and 3
desires of men. This dichotomization of female sexual behaviour along with the degradation of girls who engage in premarital sex practiced in AOUM programs tells adolescent girls that they are too passive to make decisions about their bodies and that men are entitled to decide their sexual fates for them. AOUM education programs fuel patriarchal ideologies that function to normalize male violence and promote male sexual aggression. By relying on prevailing scripts of gender and sexuality that continually place girls in submissive positions, AOUM programs inscribe a singular and linear narrative of the sexual experience. While continually emphasizing the role of the adolescent girl in the sexual process, girls are simultaneously chastised for having a voice and expected to use their voice to monitor male sexual behaviour. In an attempt to prevent the spread of STIs among youth and to decrease the rate of teenage pregnancy, AOUM sex ed programs have participated in a discourse that puts young girls at an increased risk of sexual violence, polices women’s sexual behaviour and reinforces harmful gender stereotypes. Adolescence is a critical age where young girls learn imperative lessons about their bodies, which will impact how they their bodies are performed for the rest of their adult lives. A patriarchal and stereotypical learning of sex and sexuality will have long lasting impacts on how girlhood is enacted and how girls may fail or flourish as strong, capable and independent women.
Works Cited “A History of Federal Funding for Abstinence-Only-Until-Marriage Programs.” SIECUS, http://www.siecus.org/index.cfm?fuseaction=page.viewpage&pageid=1340&nodeid=1. Accessed 19 November 2016. Biernbaum, Michael., and Joseph Weinberg. “Conversations of Consent: Sexual Intimacy without Sexual Assault.” Buchwald, Fletcher, and Roth. pp. 87-100. Buchwald, Emilie, et al., editors. Transforming a rape culture. Milkweed Editions, 2005. Carlson, Dennis., and Donnyell L. Roseboro, editors. The Sexuality Curriculum and Youth Culture. Peter Lang, 2011. Jackson, Ashley and Julie F. Kay. Sex, Lies & Stereotypes: How Abstinence-Only Programs Harm Women and Girls. New York: Legal Momentum, 2008. Google Book Search. Web. 7 Nov. 2016. Luschen, Kristen. “The Politics of Information: Prevention Education, Individual Choice and the Gendered Politics of Blame.” Carlson and Roseboro, pp. 73-89. Mattiauda, Odile. “Youth Constructing Meanings of Gender in the Sexuality Education Classroom. Carlson and Roseboro, pp. 108-121. Semuela, Alana. “Sex education stumbles in Mississippi.” LA Times, 02 April 2014, p. LZ01.
Walter Sands “Don’t Ever Come Near Me Again”: At-Risk Girlhood in Online Poetry Rachel Windsor In the twenty-first century, girls are increasingly being constructed as “at-risk” due to engagement with types of technology, particularly the internet. They face concerns regarding cyberbullying, low self-esteem (in particular due to a focus on the selfie), and online predators, to name a few. Broadly, such constructions conceptualize girls as being vulnerable and weak in the face of potential danger; this is despite the fact there are numerous examples of girls who have stood up for themselves and others against online sexism (see, for example, the “Gamergate” controversy). This paper will discuss the way internet subculture should not be viewed as risky for girls, and the ways girls are resisting normative constructions of the girl on the internet. I intend to examine the relationship between girlhood and poetry, specifically poetry posted on the website tumblr.com (a popular blogging platform for adolescents). I argue that posting poetry on this website provides a safe space for girls in which they are enabled to express deviant behaviours (i.e. anger, sexuality). To support my argument, I will critically analyze the work of three popular poetry blogs run by girls between the ages of fifteen and twenty to show how girls’ personal narratives often deviate from popular constructions of girlhood. In this discussion I will examine Pipher’s idea of teenage girls in “Reviving Ophelia” and compare her perspective with what is written by the girls. Additionally, I will utilize secondary sources both to show how girlhood and technology is typically constructed in academia, as well as to explain how these constructions are either problematized or adhered to in girls’ own pages. 5
Much like the internet itself, safe spaces for girls on the web are continually being changed and updated; scholars in girlhood studies have over the years written of zines, homepages, social media sites such as MySpace, and most recently blogs. While the spaces take on slightly different appearances, they all hold the use of technology in common, to write about “topics that are culturally inappropriate to discuss in ‘real’ life” and “easy and ‘safe’ self-disclosure” (Stern 29, 31). Both themes are repeated across the three blogs studied. For example, we may look at the references to substance abuse typical in the girls’ writing. Consider the line by Sophie, age 17: “you just attend the funeral / and visit the grave every time you’re drunk / you’re always so goddamn drunk” (extrasad n.p.); in the context of the full poem, the second-person narration style coalesces “you” and Sophie herself. It is typical to look down upon binge drinking such as the kind Sophie alludes to in stating she is “always so goddamn drunk.” However, girls and women are not only stigmatized for substance abuse but also must deal with the label of “unladylike” regarding these sorts of behaviours. Alcoholism or binge drinking tends to be associated with aggression, a typically a masculine trait that Sophie may not want to express in her “real” life. Thus the web becomes a space for girls to, as Stern states, disclose culturally inappropriate behaviours safely. The link between binge drinking and gender roles is made even more clear in a poem by Annie, 20, who states “[i] used to hate the taste of alcohol / cause it made me think of throwing up in the bathtub and i was not the girl who got drunk and threw up in the bathtub” (oceanwriting n.p.). Her reference to the “type of girl” to perform the socially deviant behaviour of binge drinking indicates a reliance on ideals of normative femininity (i.e. a girl who does not engage in typically masculine activities). It is apparent by her use of the past tense “used to” that she now considers herself to reside outside the space of femininity; therefore, she uses her blog as a space to confront her anxiety around deviance. Within the works studied, sexuality is a complex topic that the girls address in a variety of ways. According to Thiel-Stern, “the Internet is an easy place to enact sexuality” for girls; this, she states, leads the news media to create a moral panic surrounding girls and sexuality on the internet, which “furthers a social construction that places girls in the role of the victim” (23, 24). However, in the works analyzed, sexuality is often not referenced directly but is alluded to. Consider the words of Bella, 16: “and i’ve been picking shards of my broken heart / out of my ribs and i’ve been using them to slit my wrists open so i can bleed out onto my favorite dress / because you said i always looked good in red” (roselove n.p.). The imagery of a red dress is culturally associated with sexuality/ promiscuity (likely tracing back to Hester Pryne in The Scarlet Letter). Further, blood tends to be associated with both femininity and sexuality, primarily due to women’s menstruation (symbolic in itself of “becoming a woman”) but also because of its presence at childbirth, the breaking of the hymen (which many believe happens with the loss of virginity), etc. There is evidence in many of the poems of sexual desire, but it is often layered rather than explicit. Vickery notes that girls online tend to redefine their sexuality “in terms of romance” and are thus “literally reproducing the common mediated narrative of asexual girls looking for their ‘prince charming’” (44). The previous example reinforces this claim (for example, the reference to a “broken heart,” more analogous to romance than sexuality). The redefinition of sexuality is mirrored in one of Sophie’s poems: “you will pick up the pieces of your broken heart / and tangle them back together with a lace bra and his 6
favorite perfume” (extrasad n.p.). The idea of a lacy bra is erotic yet, much like in Bella’s poem, the eroticism is blended with the image of a “broken heart,” signifying a romantic angle. In their poetry, girls speak to sexual desire but do not speak of it, effectively recreating standards of normative girlhood even in their own private spaces. The re-creation of normative femininity surrounding sexuality, however, does tend to fall short in most poems. Though the majority of works this essay discusses are written from a female perspective about a male subject, thus reinforcing the notion that girls hold onto the ideology of the “prince charming,” there are also points in most poems in which the performance of femininity gives way to more typically masculine behaviours in their writings on boys (Vickery 44). Specifically, an allusion to violence, either literally or metaphorically, stands out as a staple in the girls’ writing. This trend is again typically associated with masculine behaviour; perhaps, then, when girls romanticize sexuality they are simply trying “to disguise their spaces” and are “happy to be misunderstood as a subculture, and sometimes [play] this up by using the language of girls’ private play and the intimate world of girlhood that (hopefully) is of no consequence or interest to the state or advertisers” (Harris 48). Annie’s poem to an ex-lover vividly displays violent ideology when she states “don’t touch me, don’t touch me, don’t ever come near me again, I swear if I see you again I will kill you” (oceanwriting n.p.). Earlier in the poem she notes “your nose bled all over our lips when you kissed me once” (ibed. n.p.); we see here references to blood and physicality, but there is a lack of overtly sexual imagery, showing the way Annie may be recasting sexuality in a romantic narrative. However, by stating that if the individual in question touches her she will kill him, the limits of romantic narrative become apparent; at a point, girls begin to “write back” to their hurt. Not only do girls threaten aggression, they also often characterize themselves with violent metaphors. Sophie says that “[I am] blood all over the fucking kitchen floor” and later “I am an emergency / and you’ve never been good under pressure” (extrasad n.p.). Sophie imagines herself as the aftermath of a violent act. In saying her partner has “never been good under pressure” Sophie’s anger regarding the aggression is apparent; she seems to place at least partial blame on the other for not being able to help her. Interestingly, much like many instances in the girls’ work, Sophie expresses her anger through swearing; again, an act typically associated with males due to its “unladylike” qualities. Even within their private spaces, we see the way that girls attempt to disguise their deviance, often through symbols such as violent metaphors or cursing. In her self-help book for parents, Reviving Ophelia, Pipher states girls lose themselves and their personalities in adolescence; they become “more deferential, self-critical and depressed” and “their speech is more tentative and less articulate” (19, 20). However, when one explores even the small sample of blogs in this essay, it becomes obvious this is not the case. Indeed, Harris notes that “young women are encouraged to speak their stories and provide narratives of their experiences, but at the same time they risk these narratives being scrutinized, interrogated, appropriated and depoliticized” —for example, there is a section in the introduction of Reviving Ophelia in which Pipher analyses and deconstructs the stories of a number of the teenage girls she sees in her practice (44). Take, for example, Gail, who “burned and cut herself when she was unhappy. Dressed in black, thin as a straw, she sat silently before me” (21). One can compare Gail’s silence with a fragment 7
written by Annie: “sharing the same body with a girl who lit her birth certificate on fire / sharing the same body with a girl who had her left arm stitched up with plastic wire” (oceanwriting n.p.). Annie is able to speak her experiences with self-harm clearly and graphically, because she is able to be a speaking subject in her own space which cannot be targeted by academia or corporations (Harris 48). It is obvious by Gail’s silence, on the other hand, that she did not feel she was in a safe space; her assumption was in fact proven by the fact that Pipher, at least in part, was able to capitalize off Gail’s experiences and pain. Within the girls’ blogs, they are “resisting and reconceptualizing girlhood beyond power and risk” (Harris 53-54); they are also resisting an appropriation of their narratives in the discourse that surrounds young women. To conclude, personal websites such as blogs serve a dual purpose for adolescent girls: they provide a space to reject standards of normative femininity they may be uncomfortable turning away from in their “real life,” and they act as a repose from the discourse around girls that tries so hard to construct them as at-risk. Certainly, within the three pages examined it becomes obvious that being an adolescent girl is an emotional and vibrant time. However, what struck me in reading pages of these girls’ poems was the sheer resiliency of the three—all of them opened themselves up to speak to their heartbreaks, triumphs, struggles, and fears. As I have discussed, girls are often characterized as vulnerable, scared, and tentative; in their poems, girls did have moments of this sort of disposition. However, they also contextualized these feelings, explaining how their immediate or societal situation affected their pain. Further, the girls showed many moments of confidence and assertiveness, celebrating their own survival in a culture that was trying to silence and mock them. Not discussed in this paper was the interactions between poetry blogs; girls publicly sent messages to each other giving encouragement or asking for advice. Girlhood and girlhood online became a space of inclusion, one that perhaps cannot be academically explained—but must be respected.
Works Cited Harris, Anita. “GURL Scenes and Grrrl Zines: The Regulation and Resistance of Girls in Late Modernity.” Feminist Review, vol. 75, no. 1, 2003, pp. 38–56. “My Writing.” roselove. http://roselove.tumblr.com/tagged/my-poetry. Pipher, Mary. “Saplings in a Storm.” Women’s Studies 2225F Course Readings, edited by Miranda Green-Barteet, 2016, pp. 17-27. “Poetry.” oceanwriting, http://oceanwriting.tumblr.com/tagged/poetry. “Poetry Posts.” extrasad. http://extrasad.tumblr.com/tagged/poetry. Stern, Susannah. “Adolescent Girls’ Expression on Web Home Pages: Spirited, Sombre and Self-Conscious Sites.” Convergence: The International Journal of Research into New Media Technologies, vol. 5, no. 4, 1999, pp. 22–41. Thiel-Stern, Shayla. “Femininity Out of Control on the Internet.” Girlhood Studies, vol. 2 no. 1, 2009, pp. 20-39. Vickery, Jacqueline Ryan. “Reproducing Heteronormative Femininity on gURL.com.” Girlhood Studies, vol. 2 no. 1, 2009, pp. 40-53.
The Unique Challenges that Asexuals Face Maddy Dâ€™Cruze When I was younger, I thought my uncomfortable feelings toward sex would disappear after I was married. I figured that there would be some sort of turning point where it would all of a sudden be appealing, and that everyone went through the same thing. Then I discovered the existence of asexuality and suddenly everything made sense. The asexuality movement is one that has only continued to grow as the years have passed, following in the footsteps of the other minority sexualities that had gained their recognition earlier on. However, it has become apparent that the issues and discrimination that asexuals are facing are different from what has been observed in the past with other identities. Asexuals find it difficult to meet others that are like them, and it is hard to even learn about asexuality without knowing what to look for. This identity is hard for sexual people to understand, given the vast difference between sexual identities and asexual identities, and presents the challenge of discrimination not only from heterosexuals, but also other members of LGBT. Some of the issues that asexuals face can be seen as similar to other minority groups, bisexuals in specific, but there are still some factors that bring about a uniqueness to asexuality. Asexuals are thought to only make up about 1% of the worldâ€™s population, meaning there are not very many out there. It is difficult for aces (shorthand for asexuals) to find others that are like them, and living in an over-sexualized society, social isolation is an effect that takes place (MacNeela 809). This is where online communities, such as AVEN, come into play. It allows asexuals to find others like them that they can relate to and talk about their experiences with. Due to small numbers and disinterest in small talk talk about sexual things, it is far easier to find others in asexual communities online, making this an irreplaceable and vital resource for asexuals to have. I would probably never have realized I was asexual if it were not for the internet. Being an identity that is far less wide-spread than others, it is not easy to learn about unless it is actively searched for, in which case prior knowledge would need to be in place anyway. Aces find it harder to realize that they are asexual because the absence of a feeling is more difficult to pinpoint than a feeling that is present but a bit different than what is the norm. A lot of the time, aces can feel like there is something wrong with them because there is some part that everyone else has that they do not (Emens 324). For example, I thought it was something I would grow out of. Learning about asexuality outside of the internet, especially in a classroom setting, is almost unheard of. Many AVEN members were overjoyed when I said I was taking a class that was going over asexuality, because it is a type of exposure that we rarely get to experience. A lack of a feeling may be difficult for asexuals themselves to see, but it is even more difficult for sexual people to understand- Especially since sexuality is so prominent in society and the media. Those who are not able to understand look at asexuals as if they are broken or emotionless, as well as assume that there is something medically wrong with them (Bogaert 368). The emergence of asexuality is different from that of gay or lesbian or bisexual identities, because they still feel a sexual attraction the same way that straight people do, but their attraction is to someone of the same 9
gender rather than the opposite. It presents itself as easier for others to understand because it is the same sort of “model”, just a little bit varied from what everyone is used to seeing. With asexuality, the other 99% of the world cannot relate to not having sexual attraction or desires, and do not separate romantic attraction from sexual attraction. This divide is unfamiliar and thus more difficult to understand than homosexuality or bisexuality. The absence of something is harder to recognize (Bogaert 367-368). As Elizabeth Emens says, an easier way to help them understand would be to “. . .ask gays and straights to imagine that the whole world was made up only of the sex they didn’t desire” (329), emulating the feelings of being asexual in a sexualized world. There are many things that sexual people tend to tell asexuals when they come out that, frankly, we are tired of hearing. Some aces have even made joke bingo cards with some of these sayings, that Youtuber Julie Decker, who goes by Swankivy, has called the “Asexuality Top Ten”: 10) “You hate men.” 9) “You can’t get a man.” 8) “You have a hormone problem.” 7) “You’re overly involved in your busy life.” 6) “You just never had me in your bed.” 5) “You are afraid of getting into a relationship.” 4) “You were sexually abused as a child.” 3) “You are a lesbian.” 2) “You just haven’t met the right guy.” 1) “You just got out of a bad relationship.” (Emens 325) When a person does not understand something, it is first instinct to question it or dismiss it with something they believe can be true, like all of the examples from above. Another misconception is that asexuality is a binary, but it is fluid, just like any other identity. There are sex-positive asexuals and sex repulsed asexuals, as well as everything in between (Emens 323). Also under the umbrella of asexuality is gray-asexual, for those who sometimes or rarely feel sexual attraction, and demisexual, for those who need a strong emotional bond with someone before they feel sexual attraction (Emens 331). Discrimination is something that has affected all minority sexualities, but in the case of asexuality, there are different ways it happens. Heterosexuals tend to view asexuals in a negative light (Bogaert 368); aces are dehumanized because of the assumption that we don’t feel “uniquely human emotions” due to a lack of sexual attraction, which already has too much importance placed on it, and less contact is desired with asexuals and bisexuals than homosexuals or heterosexuals (MacInnis & Hodson 733). However, some of the worst oppression I have personally faced has come from other members of the LGBT community. Asexuals are viewed as too different to belong with heterosexuals, but not different enough by many people who identify as LGBT, which is part of the 10
reason we had to create our own space with AVEN. Aces can be “straight passing” depending on romantic orientation, which makes us “unfit” to belong in LGBT. We do not face the same issues, and maybe some are not as pressing as other identities’, but that does not mean they do not exist. I have been attacked online by people identifying as LGBT for wanting to be included and treated fairly, and a couple of times just for being asexual. In short, there are many LGBT people who believe that asexuals are asking for safe spaces that we do not deserve. Although one of the worst acts of violence toward asexuals would have to be corrective rape, which is a legitimate worry amongst those identifying as asexual (Emens 368). One could argue that the issues faced by asexuals have been seen before in the past, specifically in the struggles bisexuals have and do face. Both are identities that are outside of the standard “be attracted to one gender” model of homosexuality and heterosexuality, and both are told regularly that they are simply in denial about being homosexual, or they are just confused (MacNeela 800801). Bisexuals can also be “straight passing”, meaning that they face the same problem of the LGBT community being hesitant to include them. However, the differences lie in topics previously discussed. Bisexuals do experience “normal” sexual attraction, which is the part that most people are able to relate to; the notion of not having sexual attraction or desire is foreign and most people find it totally unbelievable. Asexuals are also commonly confused with celibates, but it is not a choice. (Emens 318). The acronym LGBTQ is well-known, and there is no debate over which of the letters stand for what. Bisexual has always been the B, just as lesbian has always been the L, and gay has always been the G. Those identities have already been able to firmly claim their place in LGBT. But rarely is the acronym expanded out to LGBTQA+, and when it is, the A is usually written not asexual or aromantic, but as ally. Asexuals and aromantics still have to fight for their place where none of the other identities have to anymore. Asexuals do struggle with the reality that the issues they face are unique and have not quite been seen before. Finding other asexuals to relate to has proved to be a challenge, and it is difficult to learn about asexuality as it is still quite invisible to most of the world. It is something that sexual people are not able to fully understand, which usually ends in the dismissal of the entire existence of asexuality, or discrimination from both heterosexual and LGBT people. There may be some similar aspects to the problems asexuals face in comparison to other minority sexualities, but a focus on sexual attraction and erasure shows that each of our issues is also unique to asexuality. While asexuality has come a very long way from having absolutely nobody recognize it, there is still so much work for the movement to accomplish, and I hope to one day be a part of the asexual revolution. No asexual deserves to think that they are broken because they are different.
Works Cited Bogaert, Anthony F. “Asexuality: What It Is And Why It Matters.” Journal Of Sex Research 52.4 (2015): 362-379. LGBT Life with Full Text. Web. Emens, Elizabeth F. “Compulsory Sexuality”. Stanford Law Review 66.303 (2014): 303-386.Print. MacInnis, Cara, and Gordon Hodson. “Intergroup Bias Toward “Group X”: Evidence of Prejudice, Dehumanization, Avoidance, and Discrimination Against Asexuals.” Group Processes & Intergroup Relations 15.6 (2012): 725-43. Web.
Aesthetic Reflection of Love Devon Lowrie
MacNeela, Pádraig, and Aisling Murphy. “Freedom, Invisibility, And Community: A Qualitative Study Of Self-Identification With Asexuality.” Archives Of Sexual Behavior 44.3 (2015): 799-812. LGBT Life with Full Text. Web.
Walt Disney’s Problem Child Parisa Fani-Molki Disney is known as a machine that churns out successful products for children and teenagers to consume, one of these products being All-American pop stars. A key aspect of success in young stars is the carefully selected and crafted image that Disney wants them to portray. In an interview for Marie Claire, Miley Cyrus explains: “From the time I was 11, it was, ‘You’re a pop star! That means you have to be blonde, and you have to have long hair, and you have to put on some glittery tight thing’” (Glock). Her television show, Hannah Montana, follows the life of a simple, Southern belle who, just by putting on a blond wig, is able to lead a double life as a sensational pop star. Cyrus was forced to act like Miley Stewart on and off the show with her identity essentially set for her—the perfect teen idol. Stewart’s virtuous and feminine persona is portrayed as ‘normal’ for a teenage girl, further reinforcing the idea of hegemonic gendering about girlhood and the significance of the ideal, All-American girl next door. Girls are expected to be kind and demure and it is the rigidity of these norms that makes them problematic: although these norms do not bend, they might eventually break. In the video for her song “BB Talk,” Miley poses provocatively and talks about her sex life while dressed in lingerie made to look like baby clothes. Miley’s costumes, her overtly sexual actions, and her song’s lyrical content suggest that her “BB Talk” video represents Cyrus’s rebellion against society’s expectations of the ideal, wholesome woman that were imposed upon her by Disney. At the beginning of “BB Talk”, Miley’s outfit and accessories seem outlandish; however, a close examination reveals her clear, sensible, and defiant intentions. The video starts with Miley donning a very familiar look—a blonde wig. Miley is dressed in a onesie and can be seen sporting a pink bonnet, however, through the use of sheer fabric, she has managed to look very provocative. Babies are viewed as fragile creatures that are not self-sufficient; they need constant care and attention and they are incapable of making intelligent decisions. Nevertheless, Miley is a full-grown woman and these traits do not pertain to her, similar to how her provocative clothing does not pertain to babies. Her clothes are also cut in such a way that allow for the occasional exposure of her nipples and her buttocks. Through the use of these costumes, the Hannah Montana star is, in a sense, rebelling against the chaste, temperate and moderately pious role she played in her teenage years. Miley’s costumes in the video serve to defy the accepted notion that women have to be innocent and fragile creatures and by adding her own seductive twist to the outfits, Cyrus demonstrates that she cannot be tamed. The montage of baby and little girl imagery presents juxtaposition with Miley’s overtly sexual and vulgar lyrics, exhibiting her rebellion against Disney and ‘the ideal girl.’ After she sadly sucks on a pacifier, the focus draws on Miley’s face as she rants about her sex life in prose. She complains about how “everything that he fucking did just made [her] cringe” (Cyrus 3) and that “it’s the super cutey shit, that’s the main issue” (Cyrus 35). Consequently, as the audience’s attention is directed to her face while she discusses mature subject matter, it becomes very evident that she is, in fact, an adult. Miley wants the people to know that even when she acts like a foul-mouthed, big baby, she is still a grown woman and should be treated as such. She rejects an overly intimate and 13
infantilizing significant other, while simultaneously using her sexuality to shed the childish image that was created for her. Women who embrace their sexuality are often looked down upon and stigmatized, however, by discussing it so openly in her video, it is very clear that Miley does not fear the repercussions. As the sole writer of “BB Talk,” Miley expresses her newfound creative freedom while completely undermining societal expectations. Miley’s provocative actions in the video are neither poised nor refined, defying the social construction of gender and expected behaviour from young American women. Her incongruous behaviour while dressed as a baby further contradicts the cute aesthetics of the video. She rocks back and forth on the floor, spreading her legs wide open and then is seen sucking a huge baby bottle positioned in between her legs. Even when she is sitting in a baby crib, Miley leans back and forth provocatively, allowing the audience to catch a glimpse of her bare buttocks. The juxtaposition of the sexual imagery with the baby theme of the video exhibits the struggles women face in their everyday life: people see and treat them as if they are fragile and dependent children. Nevertheless, they are much more than submissive children and she wants people to finally accept this reality. Miley shatters the cookie-cutter pop star image that Disney created for her while simultaneously opposing gender norms by using this video to publicly claim control over her sexuality. Miley Cyrus’s “BB Talk” video is rich in sexual imagery and content, making it very taboo, not only for the archetype Disney pop star but also for an American woman. Cyrus explained to Marie Claire that she “was told for so long what a girl is supposed to be from being on that show. [Cyrus] was made to look like someone that [she] wasn’t … and then when [Miley] wasn’t on that show, [she] was like, ‘Who the fuck am I?’” (Glock). The character she played on Hannah Montana even had the same name as her, making it easy for the audience to morph the two Mileys together. However, once Cyrus let go of Stewart and became her own person, she finally accepted her sexuality. Unfortunately, societal norms presented in the 21st century have made it exceedingly difficult for girls to take control of their sexuality. Sexual liberation is publicly shamed and women who are comfortable with or prefer to engage in casual sex have to deal with the societal backlash. In spite of this, Miley has been very vocal and open about experimentation with sex, love, and style, among other things. She has been very frank about her rejection of the concept of a gender binary and she even identifies as pansexual—someone who is attracted to people regardless of sex or gender. The media and concerned parents have heavily scrutinized Miley’s transparent love life, however, her goal is not to be a perfect role model but rather the realistic one that youth desperately need. Society is going to have these impractical and unreasonable standards for girls but ultimately, it is important to realize that fear of judgment from society does not justify conforming to gender norms.
Works Cited Glock, Allison. “Miley Cyrus Is Just Trying to Save the World.” Marie Claire, 07 Aug. 2015, http://www.marieclaire com/celebrity/a15323/miley-cyrus-september-2015/. Miley Cyrus. “BB Talk.” YouTube, uploaded by MileyCyrusVEVO, 11 Dec. 2015, https://www.youtube.com/ watch?v=DfwJA0f0UTg.
Fight Club, Coriolanus and Blurred Lines of Sexuality Hannah Theodore To be an enemy or a lover requires intense feelings either of hatred or desire. To love one’s enemy requires an intense feeling of desire to hate. These feelings are equally passionate and undeniable, and lead to enemy exclusivity which borders on monogamy. The relationship that the narrator of Chuck Palahniuk’s Fight Club shares with his alter-ego Tyler Durden is built upon violence interspersed with tenderness and co-dependence. This relationship thrives upon the juxtaposition of pain and tenderness; kisses that leave scars, black eyes instead of hickeys, and a string of unanswered questions that get pushed aside for the sake of the greater good. Tyler would rather blow up a museum than talk about himself with the narrator. In William Shakespeare’s Coriolanus, Martius and Aufidius are blatant with their exclusivity, and their dialogue takes on a confusing sexual undertone which suggests potential romantic interest. Their unwillingness to believe that any other enemy would be sufficient highlights their inexplicable need for one another, though it may just be a need for violence. When hatred turns to dependence, enemies become desperate and the lines between love and hate grow blurred. In both Coriolanus and Fight Club, male characters are brought together by an undistinguished need for violence and love, which blend together into co-dependent homosocial relationships. In both works, sex and violence are linked as replacements of one another. In his journal, “Sexual Imagery in Coriolanus”, Ralph Berry argues that “sex is seen as alternative to war; war is seen as a sexual displacement-activity, a communal therapy and a communal bond” (Berry 310). In Coriolanus, the drive to fight brings Aufidius and Martius together in a way that nothing else can. The only explicitly stated desire they have for each other is to kill the other. Martius makes it clear that he only wishes to fight Aufidius, claiming that he hates him more than any other enemy (Shakespeare 1.8). This exclusivity borders on something deeper than hatred; the fact that the two characters feel so strongly about the other at all, be that they may be feelings of hatred, still suggests an intensity to their relationship that borders on love. Apart from the desire to kill, each man deeply respects the other, as neither accepts that any other enemy would be worthy. Aufidius claims to have dreams of Martius, imagining what fighting him will feel like, though the diction is immensely suggestive and sexual.
I have nightly since Dreamt of encounters ‘twixt thyself and me; We have been down together in my sleep, Unbuckling helms, fisting each other’s throat, And waked half dead with nothing (Shakespeare 4.5).
This speech from Aufidius comes after an embrace between the two men, and their fatal fight does not occur until Act 5. The only physical experiences they share are this embrace or their fights, both of which bring them great satisfaction and fulfillment. This feeling of satisfaction in battle ties into Berry’s argument that “sex and aggression are profoundly linked” (314). Where physical climax
would otherwise result in sex, for Martius and Aufidius, it climaxes in battle. The replacement of intimacy with violence and the fulfillment that comes with it sets the relationship between Martius and Aufidius apart from simply enemies. Berry’s argument of sex and aggression is enforced in Chuck Palahniuk’s debut novel, Fight Club, which tells the satirical tale of middle class America and its crumbling structure. The nameless narrator shares an intimate relationship with his anarchist alter-ego Tyler Durden, whose radical lifestyle shakes up the narrator’s world from the moment he meets him. It’s in a parking lot outside a bar where Tyler first tells the narrator to hit him as hard as he can, which acts as the catalyst to their fight club (Palahniuk 52). The parking lot scene acts as an outlet of aggression that equates to catharsis for the narrator, an ultimately self-destructive method which results in nothing actually being solved, but nothing mattering (Palahniuk 53). The violent intimacy that the narrator and Tyler share sets the stage for their messy dynamic, which only ever climaxes in black eyes and scars. The juxtaposition of Tyler’s “kiss” (lye burns on the back of the narrator’s hand), highlights the combination of pain and love that the narrator and Tyler feel for one another. Tyler’s tenderness as he licks his lips and touches them to the narrator’s hand is not lost, even as the lye burns a permanent scar into the shape of a kiss. It’s an eternal mark of violence and love, a symbol for Tyler to help the narrator reach bottom. Tyler reasserts his tenderness throughout the novel, in tiny actions amidst the chaos that maintain his stance as both violent and loving. On page 163, as he explains everything to the narrator, disclosing the expansion of Project Mayhem and the condition of the narrator’s mental state, he is whispering and tracing the line of the narrator’s eyebrows. The severity of the scene can be read with a tone of gentleness, almost as though Tyler pities the narrator’s condition. This can be reinforced by the notion that Tyler, of course, is the narrator’s condition, highlighting the need the narrator has for a dependant in his life. To highlight the idea of co-dependence among men, it is important to understand how they react when they are without one another. When Martius is killed in Act 5, Aufidius reacts not triumphantly but with grief, claiming that his “rage is gone” and that he is “struck with sorrow” (Shakespeare 5.6). Both Martius and Aufidius lived only to kill the other, and so without the other, their purpose is missing. Aufidius wants to honour Martius’s memory, his respect for him lasting even after death. Their reliance on one another is apparently based only on the need to fight, but there is an overall sense of emptiness in Aufidius’s character after Martius’s death, and an uncertainty of how to proceed. Their goals may have only been to kill, but that still meant an overarching dependence that left them little room for life without one another. If only Martius is worthy of Aufidius’s time, then how he is to spend his time once Martius is gone? The same feelings can be equated to a dependent romantic relationship, which raises the question of the nature of Martius and Aufidius’s relationship, and whether or not it can be categorized as something more.
For several chapters in Fight Club, Tyler temporarily disappears, leaving the narrator alone to handle Project Mayhem and come to terms with his mental state. In his absence, the narrator begins to understand his condition, but spends weeks alone and hopeless without Tyler. In Chapter 18, the narrator repeatedly asks about Tyler’s whereabouts, and spends much of the chapter wishing for death. “My wish right now is for me to die. I am nothing in the world compared to Tyler. I am helpless” (Palahniuk 146). This is the same co-dependence that comes up with Martius and Aufidius. The parallel of being nothing without the other highlights the need that Tyler and the narrator have for one another, and shows the narrator’s inability to live without Tyler. His ability to cope with Project Mayhem and the chaotic lifestyle that Tyler has opened him up to is severely lessened without Tyler there with him. The narrative becomes sporadic and hectic, as the narrator desperately scours the country in search of Tyler. It might perhaps prove co-dependence more so to know that he is really just searching for himself. Co-dependence and the homosocial is strengthened both in togetherness and separation, as seen both in Coriolanus and Fight Club. Together, men find replacements for sex and tenderness with violence and force, and apart they are hopeless. The narrator’s desperate search for Tyler and himself show how little he believes he can function without Tyler, without even recognizing that he can barely function with him. The camaraderie that the characters share over something as forceful as a punch to the neck, or a burned kiss to the hand display the role that pain and violence play into the narrator’s twisted desire for a heightened life. The constant back and forth between tender and cruel is Tyler’s dangerous method for hitting bottom. What’s striking is that the narrator welcomes this, and thrives under the relationship that he builds with his unstable alter-ego, a relationship that is undeniably homosocial in nature. Marla Singer, the only female character in the novel, is a device of a lover, whose existence falls second to Tyler’s consistently throughout the novel. The narrator seems aware that she exists, but is often more concerned about Tyler, where Tyler is, what Tyler is doing, who Tyler really is. The male dynamic is more sought after than the female attention. Tyler always manages to come first for the narrator. Similarly in Coriolanus, Martius is solely focused on Aufidius for much of the play, and both men’s energy is expelled through verbal or physical fighting with one another. The strange lack of distinction between love and hatred between the two blurs the boundaries of their relationship and leads it more so in the direction of romance. Their hatred is simultaneously echoed with respect and admiration for the skills and strength of the other. Without Martius, Aufidius’s purpose is missing entirely, and the play ends with a sense of anti-climax as Aufidius realizes that his life, which was devoted to killing Martius, now has little to no meaning. These blurred lines and moments of love make it difficult to distinguish the male relationships in Coriolanus and Fight Club. Both the narrator and Tyler, and Martius and Aufidius have relationships that mimic monogamous romances, though love and sex are replaced by hatred and violence. Intense emotions back up both relationships and make it difficult for these men to exist without one another. This is the homosocial dynamic of co-dependency and desire, mingled with the toxic male psyche which values strength and dominance. Martius and Aufifius fight for dominance of the people, while the narrator and Tyler fight for the dominance of the narrator’s mind. When admiration and love come into play with this feud, the lines of the male relationships 17
become blurred and questions of stronger feelings come into play. Despite the tensions that overarch their relationships, the need for one another always wins. Yes, Martius is Aufidius’s greatest enemy, but he is also his worthiest adversary whom he respects deeply. Aufidius’s dreams of Martius border on obsessive and the language he describes them with suggests undercurrents of sexual desire. The narrator of Fight Club fears the world Tyler has created for him, but also welcomes Tyler’s kinship and brotherhood. The narrator seems to willingly allow Tyler to takeover, acknowledging that he is everything that he wishes he could be. Hate and love are often mixed together exclusively for both pairs of men. In either direction of the emotional spectrum, the feelings are intense and expressed through releases of violence. Martius and Aufidius, and the narrator and Tyler share a homosocial dynamic with a heavy focus on co-dependency. It leads to an overall downfall for every character, as no man can live without the other. The narrator finds himself disoriented and perpetually lost when he ends up in an institution by the end of the novel (Palahniuk 206), and Aufidius’s story ends anti-climactically with the death of his only worthy enemy (Shakespeare 5.6). When love and hate comingle so strongly in juxtaposed displays of affection and suffering, where do characters draw the line between homosocial and homosexual, and is there perhaps any way to truly distinguish the two? Both texts leave this open, but surely the intense feelings of need the characters feel suggests at the very least a strong male bond with suggestions of something more.
Works Cited Berry, Ralph. “Sexual Imagery in ‘Coriolanus’.” Studies in English Literature, 1500-1900 13.2 (1973): 301-316. Web. 13 April 2014. Palahniuk, Chuck. Fight Club. New York, NY: W.W. Norton & Company Inc., 2005.Print. Shakespeare, William. Coriolanus. New York, NY: Simon and Schuster Inc., 2009. Print.
Yearning Annkie Y.Y. Mak Murder Mystery: Female Character’s Killing the Patriarchy Carina Gabriele The mystery and detective fiction genre provides readers the opportunity to read through experiences and seek a resolution to a conflict all within the pages of a book. This genre can prove to be a cathartic experience that allows the reader an opportunity to live vicariously through the detective team and seek a solution to a pre-existing anxiety about society. In this way, mystery and detective fiction has a tendency to reflect current cultural anxieties by addressing the fears of the masses through the narration of a mystery or crime. The Girl on the Train by Paula Hawkins and Gone Girl by Gillian Flynn are two popular novels that reflect current patriarchal culture’s anxieties of women in society through the main female characters. The deaths, mysteries and disappearances that shroud the main characters of Amy and Rachel are narrated unreliably, and both women are represented as unstable, leaving readers unconvinced of both Amy and Rachel’s sanity. Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train fashion the main female characters of Amy and Rachel to be unstable, unreliable and dramatic women to reflect patriarchal culture’s anxiety of what women will do to gain power in society. Amy and Rachel are the representation of most modern women in North American and European societies. The culture’s anxieties about women are rooted in deep-seated fears of women gaining power in society and empowering themselves to be less subservient and more assertive. With the rise in popularity of feminist discourse, society is theorizing the ways in which women will attempt to gain power and break the glass ceiling within patriarchal structures. These fears are embedded institutionally as a backlash to women who are entering workforces, universities 19
and gaining political platforms in droves. In an attempt to reconcile and address these cultural anxieties, mystery and detective fiction has incorporated more female-driven detective stories that utilize the role of the female character to represent these deep-seated anxieties society has of the rising political, social and economic power women are experiencing. Amy Dunne in Gone Girl and Rachel Watson in The Girl on the Train are two examples of women in mystery and detective fiction novels that embody the themes of instability, drama and unreliability that society fears women will unleash should they gain power. Gone Girl is about the mystery of the allegedly murdered main character Amy Dunne, who is one of two narrators of the book. The Girl on the Train is about Rachel Watson, a divorced alcoholic who takes the train every day, and one day witnesses outside the window what she believes to be a clue in the murder of Megan Hipwell. The portrayal of Amy as dramatic is a play on the common stereotype of women as drama queens. Rachel’s alcohol abuse creates her as an unreliable narrator and an unstable character. The mysteries in each novel center on the dramatic and unreliable female characters, and attempt to satiate the anxieties of a culture experiencing an increase in powerful women. Amy’s dramatic character in Gone Girl is an embodied reflection of the cultural anxiety the patriarchy has towards women who seek to destabilize it. Amy is the wife of Nick Dunne, an unfaithful spouse who pays little regard to Amy or her interests. The first half of the novel switches between Nick’s perspective of current time where Amy has gone missing and appears to have been killed, and Amy’s diary entries dating back multiple years that show Amy to be a good and devoted housewife to her husband. It is revealed that Amy stages her murder in an attempt to frame her husband to get back at him for all the wrongs he has committed against her. It is only when he pleads on national television for the safe return of Amy that she returns to Nick, all bloodied and having claimed she was kidnapped by her high school boyfriend and unable to get away until she killed him. Amy is the reflection of the stereotypical dramatic women who goes to great lengths to execute a huge, meticulously planned murder set-up to seek justice on her cheating husband. Nick recalls how the treasure hunt Amy set up for their five year marriage anniversary the day she disappeared had each clue, “hidden in a spot where I’d cheated on Amy. She’d used the treasure hunt to take me on a tour of all of my infidelities” (Flynn 226). Nick’s infidelities are what drive Amy to her dramatic plan of revenge. Amy is fed up of being the Cool Girl for Nick. Amy married Nick while living under the façade of the Cool Girl. The Cool Girl is, as Amy explains, “a hot, brilliant, funny woman who adores football, poker, dirty jokes and burping… Cool Girls never get angry; they only smile in a chagrined, loving manner and let their men do whatever they want” (Flynn 222). The Cool Girl lives to please men, and Amy admits to find the Cool Girl “tempting” (Flynn 223), but no equivalent to the Cool Girl exists for men, and Amy points out how women became complacent in their own self-degradation: “I waited patiently for the pendulum to swing the other way… and then we’d say yeah, he’s a Cool Guy… But it never happened. Instead women across the nation colluded in our degradation! Pretty soon Cool Girl became the standard girl” (Flynn 223). Amy stops complying with the patriarchal structures that fabricated her into the Cool Girl and effectively frames Nick for her murder. This seems rather dramatic, but it also brings to light to what extent women will take to gain control and power in a patriarchal society. While Amy’s actions are dramatic, her plan is perfectly executed to the last detail. Her actions put her in control but wreak havoc on Nick’s life. 20
Amy’s rise to power leads to the painful descent of Nick’s control over his own life. This is a reflection of women gaining power in society and the loss of control patriarchal structures are experiencing as women rise. Gone Girl uses the detective fiction genre to navigate culture’s anxieties of women in power and the dramatic ways in which they will do it, at the expense of patriarchal structures that attempt to constrain them. In The Girl on the Train, Rachel Watson’s ability to disregard doubts and trust her instincts to solve the murder of Megan Hipwell exposes the patriarchal anxiety that women can overcome stereotypes of weakness and rise to power. Tom, Rachel’s ex-husband and head patriarch, treats Rachel condescendingly because he sees her as a weak and unstable drunk. However her ability to solve the murder proves that she is not unstable or weak. Rachel is the equivalent of Amy’s Cool Girl, but when she finds out she is unable to have children Tom cheats and leaves to marry the other woman. Rachel is left alone, living in a friend’s apartment with an out of control alcohol addiction that causes her to have frequent blackouts and memory loss. She is unemployed, but she takes the commuter train that passes by her old house each morning and night where Tom, his new wife and baby now live. It is during a train ride that Rachel witnesses a young woman, Megan, two doors down from Tom’s house being kissed by a man she does not recognize to be Megan’s husband. It is only a couple days after Megan is declared missing that Rachel attempts to solve the mystery herself. For Rachel, Megan’s missing person’s case is exhilarating: “Megan has been missing for around 133 hours, and I feel better than I have in months” (Hawkins 101). Throughout the novel, readers are annoyed with the lack of reliable narration Rachel provides due to her constant blackouts. On the night Megan goes missing, Rachel is in Megan’s neighborhood walking around in a drunken stupor preparing to confront her ex-husband when she blacks out and wakes up in her apartment the next morning soaked in blood and urine. Readers are left in the dark about what transpired that evening, and Tom constantly brings her sanity and stability into question. When Rachel asks Tom what happened the night of Megan’s disappearance, Tom replies, “’you were drunk… I told you to go home. You wouldn’t listen. You wandered off. I drove around looking for you, but I couldn’t find you” (Hawkins 255). When Rachel pushes him to provide more information, Tom dismisses Rachel by highlighting her drunken instability and weaknesses: “another heavy sigh. ‘I’m surprised you remember anything at all, Rachel. You were blind drunk. Filthy, stinking drunk. Staggering all over the place’” (Hawkins 255). Rachel is consistently dismissed for her weaknesses and drunken instabilities. Women in society are characterized as the weaker sex, and Rachel is defined by her weaknesses in the eyes of Tom. Women overcoming instability and weakness is a patriarchal anxiety reflected through the characters of Tom and Rachel. Tom, who killed Megan, is the embodiment of the anxieties patriarchal culture has towards women who dismiss the accusations of being weak and unstable. Tom consistently tells Rachel that she is incapable and worthless in an effort to keep her submissive. Rachel does not listen and solves the murder, angering Tom and causing Rachel to kill him in self-defense. Rachel killing Tom becomes a symbolic representation of women prevailing over patriarchal constraints despite social constructions that deem women unreliable and unstable.
Both Gone Girl and The Girl on the Train expose cultural fears of women gaining power and dismantling patriarchal structures. In Gone Girl, Amy is tired of being Nickâ€™s Cool Girl that only exists to please him. She utilizes a common feminine trope of being overly dramatic to stage a plot framing him for her murder. In the end, Amy gains total control over Nick and does so without having to resume the Cool Girl persona. Her ability to reject patriarchal standards and gain control all while utilizing a feminine stereotype speaks to a cultural anxiety that women are capable of upsetting the patriarchy while playing out stereotypes to their advantage. While Amy embraces and uses feminine tropes to her advantage, Rachel is forced to reject them and ignore Tom when he uses feminine stereotypes such as being weak and unstable to dissuade Rachel from pursuing her investigation into the death of Megan Hipwell. In the end when Rachel discovers it was Tom who killed Megan, Rachel enacts a symbolic revenge and kills Tom, effectively killing the embodied patriarch who attempted to keep her silenced and submissive. Rachel represents the patriarchal anxiety that women are capable of rejecting negative feminine stereotypes such as unreliable and weak to seek power and dismantle patriarchal structures. Both Amy and Rachel overcome patriarchal constraints and gain power as a result.
Works Cited Flynn, Gillian. Gone Girl: A Novel. Crown Publishers, 2012. Hawkins, Paula. The Girl on the Train. Doubleday Canada, 2014.
The Fairy’s Child: Misogyny and Nature in John Keats’ “La Belle Dame sans Merci” Laura Brooks Femininity and nature are two concepts often depicted as inextricably linked in the poetic tradition, where the treatment of one of these themes comments on the other. In John Keats’ “La Belle Dame sans Merci,” the Belle Dame appears to embody a dangerous femininity, due to what appears to be her seduction and later abandonment of the knight-at-arms, and is linked to nature through her fairy-like qualities. However, this reading is only what is suggested through the knightat-arms’ telling of the events. In actuality, the Belle Dame attempts to make the knight-at-arms understand the nature around him and, ignoring these attempts, he then tries to contain her. Due to this containment, the Belle Dame only abandons the knight in order to save herself, which corresponds with an immediate decline in his natural surroundings. Therefore, the mistreatment of the Belle Dame suggests that by projecting a voice onto nature, exemplified by the Belle Dame, and by attempting to constrain it, the knight-at-arms destroys nature and instigates his own physical decline. The events of the knight’s interactions with the Belle Dame are all presented through his perspective. The knight recounts the events in a seemingly objective way, however one can see the bias in his testimony upon closer analysis. In her essay “‘Language Strange’: ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’ and the Language of Nature”, Judith Weissman argues that through “La Belle Dame sans Merci,” Keats displays his “defiance of his Romantic predecessors” who “claimed to believe they could understand the mysterious language of nature” (91). Keats seeks to refute the idea that one can assign one true meaning behind nature. Weissman expands that “the knight is ensnared by the lady because he believes that he can understand her language; but if the language is strange to him, he cannot know whether or not he actually understands it” (91). Indeed, the knight claims to understand something he cannot possibly know the true meaning of. The knight claims that “sure in language strange she said— / I love thee true” (27-28). However, as Weismann asserts, the knight has no possible way of understanding fairy language and therefore arbitrarily assigns meaning to her words in accordance with his own wishes. The knight wants the Belle Dame to love him so he believes that she says she does. In this way, the knight falsely claims knowledge of the Belle Dame, who is a representative of nature, which initiates a destructive process. The Belle Dame attempts to communicate with the knight-at-arms to show him the nature surrounding him, but he instead fixates on her. The knight describes that the Belle Dame “found me roots of relish sweet, / And honey wild, and manna dew” (25-26). While the Belle Dame appears to be giving the knight these items in order to feed him, these gifts can also be interpreted as attempts to provide him with evidence of the splendour of nature around him. The Belle Dame offers this variety of appetizing food items to demonstrate the bounty which nature provides as well as its sweetness and beauty. However, the knight continues to see these as signs of her love for him. That the Belle Dame does not appear to be expressing her affection for the knight-at-arms is further proven when he sets “her on [his] pacing steed, / And nothing else saw all day long, /For sidelong would she bend, and sing / A fairy’s song” (21-24). While on the knight’s horse, the Belle Dame 23
appears to be largely ignoring him as she leans such that she is as close to the nature surrounding her as she can be. She sings in order to feel connected to her surroundings. However, the knight only looks at the Belle Dame, illustrating that he is unable to acknowledge the beauty which the Belle Dame attempts to show him. This fixation on the Belle Dame as a love object is what ultimately leads the knight-at-arms to be a destructive force toward her and the nature she represents. Not only does the knight-at-arms fail to understand what the Belle Dame is attempting to communicate to him, he attempts to confine her, which leads to the necessity of her escape. Gary Farnell, in his essay “The Enigma of ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci’”, summarizing the work of Karen Swann in her essay “Harassing the Muse”, describes that Swann contends that “the woman-Muse, both despite and because of her elusiveness with regard to signification itself, tends to come out of these romantic encounters badly” (197). In the case of the Belle Dame, because she is elusive due to her strange actions and language in the perspective of the knight and his need to assign a voice to her, he attempts to confine her. In his account of the events, the knight says, “I made a garland for her head, / And bracelets too” (17-18). Although these objects may appear to be innocent gifts of the knight’s affection, how they are received by the Belle Dame ultimately reveals that they represent images of confinement. The knight further describes that “[s]he took me to her elfin grot / And there she wept, and sigh’d full sore” (29-30). The Belle Dame would not be crying if she felt happy in her relationship with the knight-at-arms, demonstrating that the knight-at-arms has an inaccurate perception of their relationship. After receiving the garland and bracelets, the Belle Dame mourns her captivity, the gifts being equated to chains. It is after the knight falls asleep that the Belle Dame escapes, without harming him, suggesting she just wishes to escape while she can. The knight only believes himself to be in danger when he is warned by “pale kings, and princes too, / Pale warriors, death pale were they all” (37-38). All these voices of warning are male voices who were similarly rejected by the Belle Dame and therefore possess a clear bias against her. The view of these men, who portray the Belle Dame as a dangerous force, is immediately contradicted by the peaceful way in which she escapes from the knight, which illustrates that she is no true threat to him. Instead, it is the knight who is destructive towards the Belle Dame because, after he has forced an identity onto her, he attempts to capture her. Since the Belle Dame is an embodiment of nature, this process is analogous to the knight attempting to define and confine nature. Finally, the exit of the Belle Dame is accompanied with an immediate decline in the natural surroundings of the knight and his own physical health. Considering that the Belle Dame is forced to leave because of the knight’s attempts to hold her captive, the knight is responsible for the destruction which follows her escape. After the Belle Dame leaves, “[t]he sedge has wither’d from the lake, / And no birds sing” (3-4). This description of the scenery surrounding the knight stands in stark contrast to the previous images of nature’s vitality in the scenes where the Belle Dame is present. The only factor that has changed between these two instances is the presence of the Belle Dame, suggesting that her absence leads to an immediate decline in the natural environment, further suggesting her immediate link to nature. Moreover, the knight also personally experiences the repercussions of his 24
actions displayed in his physical health. The stranger who questions the knight observes “a lily on [his] brow / With anguish moist and fever dew, / And on [his] cheeks a fading rose / Fast withereth too” (9-12). The knight appears to be exhibiting signs of physical illness, which appear immediately after the Belle Dame’s escape and correspond to the decline in his natural surroundings. Therefore, not only does the knight’s treatment of the Belle Dame lead to the deterioration of nature, but also the deterioration of himself. Nature is traditionally personified in female figures, inextricably linking the concepts of nature and femininity when they are displayed in this manner. In John Keats’ “La Belle Dame sans Merci”, the Belle Dame has often been interpreted as a seductress who is a danger to the knightat-arms but, instead, it is actually the knight who is a danger to her. The knight-at-arms attempts to assign a meaning to the Belle Dame’s words despite his lack of understanding of her language, thus assigning her an identity as his lover. Further, when the Belle Dame attempts to show him the splendour of the nature around him, he ignores her message in order to continue fixating on her as a love object. He then confines her, leading to her escaping him which results in the decline of nature and of his own personal health. The knight’s treatment of the Belle Dame is important to consider because it illustrates how the oppression of women, and in this case the destruction of nature, can be dismissed by the male voice.
Works Cited Farnell, Gary. “The Enigma of ‘La Belle Dame sans Merci’.” Romanticism, vol. 17, no. 2, July 2011, pp. 195-208. Keats, John. “La Belle Dame sans Merci: A Ballad.” The Norton Anthology of English Literature. 9th ed., edited by Stephen Greenblatt, vol. 2, W.W. Norton & Company, 2012, pp. 923-924. Weissman, Judith. “‘Language Strange’: ‘La Belle Dame Sans Merci’ and the Language of Nature.” Judith Colby Library Quarterly, vol. 16, 1980, pp. 91-105.
Africa Versus the West: A Call for Sexual Equality Jenna Salmers Deep historic roots of the Atlantic slave trade during the European Enlightenment has created an “economy of resentment,” due to painful memory and a sense of mistrust in Africa toward Western society (Pullen 71). Although both cultures have sanctioned new protocols and political advancements for basic human rights, Africa and the West have yet to agree on the willingness to accept sexual minorities and the LGBT community. James H. Sweet, author of Male Homosexuality and Spiritism in the African Diaspora: The Legacies of a Link, argues that there have been “monumental political changes,” that have emerged in Africa throughout the seventeenth and nineteenth centuries, however, “the core social and cultural values have remained unchanged,” such as the idea of, “matrifocal family structure[s] [which is] an extended system of kinship” (Sweet 185). In contrast to the West’s progressive laws accepting same-sex relationships and ensuring the LGBT community is provided with basic human rights, justice and protection, upholding traditional values has allowed discrimination and violence against homosexuals to persist in Africa. Although the West has cases of discrimination against homosexuals, homophobia is a criminal offense, whereas in Africa it is often reversed. Because leaders in Africa continue to suggest homosexuality is a “westernized perversion,” it has become a form of collateral damage in Africa as a way of nonconformity from the West, which has negative connotations. As a result, the LGBT community in Africa is suffering and often views the West as a safe haven to seek asylum from sexual oppression. This paper will discuss stories such as America by Chinelo Okparanta and Jambula by Monica Arac de Nyeko that give narrative to the African LGBT community to prove that homosexuality pertains in Africa and is not “westernized.” Both stories discuss how current African policies and attitudes are constraining sexual freedom and how they look outside of Africa for fulfillment. This essay will also reference Christopher Pullen’s LGBT Transnational Identity and the Media, as a staple for understanding the relationship between the West and Africa, and hetero and homosexuals. This paper will conclude with reference to Globalizing The Culture Wars: U.S. Conservatives, African Churches, and Homophobia, by Kapya Kaoma to discuss the importance of gay presence in Africa to achieve sexual equality. The answer to sexual equality is not to flee to the West, but to educate, support, and protest LGBT equality in Africa while remaining sensitive of the historical tensions. Christopher Pullen, author of LGBT Transnational Identity and the Media, argues that painful memory of exploitation and mistreatment from the West has created an “economy of resentment [and] suspicion, [and] intense mistrust to anyone making claims of authority” (Pullen 71). This historical tension may have been grounds for entrenching the discrimination against the LGBT community, which is deemed “unafrican,” by leaders such as Zimbabwean President Robert Mugabe (Pullen 69). Pullen states, “Queerness and its associates of LGBT rights are frequently regarded as Western imports,” and the notion of rejecting homosexuality as a part of African society is a way to deviate from Western association in which they resent (71). However, by segregating and denying basic rights to those of the LGBT community in Africa, they are only harming their own and calling into question the idea of freedom and temporality in Africa. President Mugabe propagandized the HIV/AIDS pandemic as a “white disease” to further deviate from the West while simultaneously stigmatizing homosexuals. Pullen argued that Mugabe, 26
“[justified] the supposed purity of tradition within African citizenship and culture,” (70) which would never allude to a black man desiring another black man. Because HIV/AIDS is globally stigmatized as a gay disease, despite statistics that it pertains in the heterosexual community, Pullen states, “[Impugning] homosexuality as a white mans disease brought to Africa by the perversions of white colonial rule and culture servers to differentiate the white (west) in relation to [African culture]” (70). Although the population of those diagnosed with HIV/AIDS is the highest in South Africa, reaching about 5.6 million people, the stigma as a “white mans perversion” further segregated the LGBT community in Africa, instilling homophobia by suggesting that the West has dumped this “toxin” into their nation. Because powerful leaders in Africa are projecting homophobia by playing on anxieties of cruel and exploitative history of the West towards Africa, the LGBT community is victim to discrimination. This resentment is perhaps the largest hurdle that sexual minorities in Africa seek to overcome in order to gain basic human rights. Because HIV/AIDS is stigmatized with both the homosexual community and westernization, many homosexuals seek outside of the African community for temporality and sexual freedom. In order to break the stigma, it important shed light on queer identification while remaining sensitive of methodology of cultural translation. One way that this translation is narrated is through African LGBT literature because it supports that homosexuality is not “unafrican,” but exists throughout the communities all over Africa. Despite President Mugabe banning GALZ (Gay and Lesbians of Zimbabwe) the right to participate in the International Book Fair (Pullen 69), LGBT representations pertain in a multiplicity of literature and give voice to those unheard. Chinelo Okparanta’s America is a narrative that exemplifies anxieties, struggles and conflicting traditional values that arise of a same-sex relationship in Nigeria. Despite criticisms from her parents about reproduction, stating, “no seed will be planted,” (Okparanta 93), Chinelo pursues a relationship with Gloria. Her narrative portrays anxieties of being a sexual minority in Nigeria, stating, Mobile policemen were always looking for that sort of thing- men with men or women with women. And the penalties were harsh. Jail time, fines, stoning or flogging, depending on where in Nigeria you were caught. And you could be sure that it would make the news. Public humiliation. What kind of life was I expecting to have, always having to turn around to check if anyone was watching? (Okparanta, 92). Upon this realization Chinelo applies for a visa to study in America, seeking freedom and acceptance to be with Gloria. Okparanta’s narrative not only exemplifies fear, limitations and laws in Nigeria against homosexuality, but the resentment against the West as well. Her mother states, “America has a way of stealing the good ones from us. When America calls, they go. And more times than not, they stay,” (Okparanta 93). Okparanta continues to revisit the theme of getting lost in America, exemplifying the tension between the West and Africa, and how America is thought of as exploitative of Africa’s resources, playing on anxieties of westernization. America gives a voice to the struggles of being a homosexual in Nigeria, narrating the idea of leaving for the West to find sexual freedom, whilst playing on historical tensions of colonialism, that questions whether the West is 27
really a place of refuge and belonging. Similar to America, Jambula Tree by Monica Arac de Nyeko explores homosexuality and the concept of moving to the West to fulfill sexual freedom. After being “caught” with a woman by Mama Atim, Sanyu and Anyango are forbidden to see each other. Jambula Tree is a letter written by Anyango that reflects their time spent together and questions whether Sanyu is enjoying her time living in London. Mama Atim, who holds African traditional values, states London is “cold” and, “a monster that gives no jobs. London is no cosy exile for the banished. London is no refuge for the immoral,” (Arac de Nyeko 12). Similar to the way Chinelo’s mother views America, Mama Atim views London as monstrous and likewise unforgiving of the “immorality” of homosexuality. A closer analysis of the function of London in the story can examine the complexity of having a homosexual relation as a woman and the horizon of queer desire. Jambula Tree is a juxtaposition of horizontality; the space of thought and development of theoretical reprise, and habitation; the theory of dwelling with a difficult situation or constraint in a social setting (Osinubi 2016). Anyango reflects about her taboo relationship with Sanyu, stating, I still imagine shame trailing after me tagged onto the hem of my skirt. Other times, I see it, floating into your dreams across the desert and water to remind you of what lines we crossed. The things we should not have done, (Arac de Nyeko 10). She is looking back at their history together, while longing to see Sanyu again. Although London is the physical separation between them, it symbolizes their inability to have sexual freedom as in Nigeria without fear of punishment, ridicule or discrimination. Both America and Jambula Tree give narrative to the experience as a homosexual in Africa. As Chinelo attempts to move to America, and Sanyu resides in London, both embody the concept of seeking fulfillment outside of Africa and turning to the West to seek refuge from sexual oppression. Chinelo’s mother and Mama Atim both exemplify Pullen’s concept of homosexuals in Africa as collateral damage due to historical tensions, because they detest the West for progressive thinking. By understanding the intertwined relationship between the West and Africa, the combat for equality for sexual minorities may be achieved. In Globalizing Culture Wars, Kapya Kaoma argues that desegregation between the West and Africa, and hetero and homosexuals is the most powerful and efficient way to fight for LGBT rights. Kaoma stresses the importance for activists to re-conceptualize their position to advocate for the LGBT community and, “become allies who support African leaderships in the struggle for gender liberation” (Kaoma 4). He highlights that homophobia is very prevalent in America still, and U.S. conservative leaders are recruiting powerful African religious figures to promote homophobia and restrict human rights in the gay community. Instead of looking at the West as a sanction from sexual oppression, activists should remain in Africa to advocate for gay rights and expose the agendas of conservative movements that are fostering discrimination and violence against the LGBT community. Kaoma also stresses the importance of supporting education on LGBT rights and sexuality studies in Africa, calling for, “Work on LGBT issues in Africa [led] 28
by Africans themselves. Because so many Africans see homosexuality as a western aberration, U.S. activists’ organizing work on the ground there only fuels bigotry and attacks on African LGBT people” (Kaoma 5). By working with members of the LGBT community in Africa, exposing discriminatory conservative powers, and educating Africans by Africans, the fight to provide the African LGBT community with basic human rights and justice may be able to be achieved and violence and discrimination criminalized. Because of the long history of the west’s exploitation of Africa, it has become a nation that is often mistrusting of Western policies and culture. This resistance has instilled traditional African cultural values to remain, which deems homosexuality as Western abnormality. However, narratives such as Africa and Jambula Tree prove that homosexuality has persisted throughout history in Africa and is not “unafrican.” This cultural value has instilled violence, discrimination and segregation to those in the African LGBT community who are often motivated to move to the West to receive acceptance and sexual freedom. In order to liberate the LGBT community in Africa, the solution is not to withdrawal from the African community, but to remain present and educate, advocate and commemorate for the LGBT community.
Works Cited Arac de Nyeko, Monica. Jambula Tree. Publisher Unknown, 2008. October 16 2016. Kaoma, Kapya. Globalizing the Culture Wars. Political Resource Associates, 2008. 16 October 2016. Okparanta, Chilneo. America. Marnier Books, 2013. 16 October 2016 Pullen, Christopher. LGBT Transnational Identity and the Media. Palgrave Macmillan, 2012. 16 October 2016 Sweet, James H. Male Homosexuality and Spiritism in the African Diaspora: The Legaices of a Link. University of Texas Press, 1996. 20 October 2016.
The Three Worlds Part I - More than the Reality You Know Upasna Mehta
Waterfall Rebecca McLaren
The Use of Biased Media Representation to “Develop Underdevelopment” Laura Fyfe The portrayal of third-world poverty and development by first-world media systemically perpetuates the dependencies and deprivation enduring from the colonial era to serve the political and economic interests of the Global North. Two native Pakistani girls, Malala Yousafzai and Nabeela Rahman, will serve as emblematic examples of how Western media grants certain issues and perspectives precedence, and silences others, in favour of capitalism and the continued marginalization of colonized countries. Both girls were nearly killed by acts of one-sided civilian violence in October, 2012. The Taliban almost took Malala’s life, and the United States government took the lives of many people known by Nabeela, but not hers. Of major concern is the fact that millions recognize the story of the former, and very few the latter. In this paper, I will criticize the biased and ulteriorly motivated framing of issues by Western media and its subsequent implications. I will draw connections to the study of global development, and how individuals are responsible for critically analyzing the often biased information they are presented with, enabling them to act in accordance with their own morals instead of those predetermined by political, economic and institutional powers in the developed world. Malala Yousafzai is the world’s youngest Nobel Laureate, an internationally respected advocate for women’s right to an education, and a forthright opponent of the Taliban extremist regime. However, Malala’s activism is no more extraordinary than that of others, she has yet to accomplish any tangible goals of promoting female education, and she is “by no means…the only person to be shot for speaking out against the patriarchal notion that girls should not be educated” (Tehelka, 2013). Thus, the media coverage given to Malala and her political convictions may have seemed arbitrary, if it didn’t directly overlap with a period of United States covert drone strikes, a topic suspiciously absent from mainstream media coverage at the time. Television anchors “use[d] Malala’s story to demonstrate the backwardness of the Taliban, and by extension Islam, completely ignor[ing] the role the West has played in maintaining that volatility”, while Malala’s claim to the Obama Administration that destructive drone strikes would increase terrorism was omitted from all media publication (Tehelka, 2013). In the study of global development, dependency theory suggests that poverty and low human development are “necessary companions to the richness of the developed world” (Joshi, 2005). Therefore, maintenance of the United States’ high living standards would be contingent upon continued condemnation of countries such as Pakistan, which are “underdeveloped”, and such condemnation is ever more commonly accomplished through biased media representation of poorer countries (UNDP, 2013). Contrastingly, Nabeela’s story represents the strategic suppression of issues which, if given fair attention, would hinder instead of promote the political and economic agendas of the Global North. Nabeela and Malala are the same age, and grew up in adjacent Pakistani provinces. Nabeela’s community of civilians was targeted by United States predator drones. There were casualties in Nabeela’s experience, and none in Malala’s. Nabeela’s story was not covered at all by Western media, while Malala was praised as political propaganda and made known worldwide (Uzayr, 2014). When occurrences such as Nabeela’s are omitted from the news, and thus not accessible to the majority 31
of the developed population, individuals are robbed of the opportunity to holistically understand issues such as poverty, and are steered to support capitalism and competition when they understand poor countries as being deservingly so. As Redden puts it, “Western societies do not do enough to address poverty because the issue is not presented in the mainstream media…instead, the poor are often stereotypically portrayed and blamed for their poverty,” Wright as well supports this idea in stating, “Ambivalence and a lack of awareness of the victim blaming…undoubtedly account for much of the inconsistent treatment of poverty.” The combination of political and economic pressures resulting from power and development discrepancies between the global North and South, and the capitalist nature of the media and new system contribute to the “privileg[ing] and embed[ment] (of) neoliberal approaches to the issue of poverty” (Redden, 2014). “Media monopolies hinder in-depth analysis of the structural flaws that perpetuate poverty” by causing the most profitable ideas to be presented as the most prevalent, dangerously skewing reality and, again, biasing the public unfairly (Bennett, 2006). Perhaps a more left wing approach to media communications could be constructed to allow various points of view to be made available to the public in an objective format. In such a system, those operating to make a profit would likely not be willing to sacrifice said profit for more ethical reporting on issues unless they were provided with an attractive incentive to sacrifice some of their “development” for that of a country still recovering from its colonial exploitation, which is where policy reform comes into play. However, the issue with influencing policy change is, of course, complicated by capitalism. If countries are market- driven, as will be their governments, and their governments may not be susceptible to reforming policy to sacrifice profit and thus lower the value of their gross national product relative to the value of other countries.’ This exemplifies how the result of history hinders development at present; dependency theory argues that the origins of persistent, global poverty can directly related to a capitalistic international economic system and altering the existing structure of global commerce is a rather daunting task. If multiple perspectives were given consideration in the media, critical analysis of accurate information and contextualized international relations could yield theories to support the collaborative success of nations and the shift towards a more socialist global economic system. This shift could help compensate for the exploitation of nations which began in the sixteenth century and continues at present (Escobar, 1995). Due to the interdependency of an increasingly globalized world, the gains of each nations and global progress could be deemed one in the same. The general public is trusting of the institutions providing it with its information. However, the favouring of capitalism starts at an even more subtle level - in the classroom. Colonialism is glorified in many curriculums in the Western world and leads me to question what else and to what extent narratives in current history are being propagated and strategically muted across all disciplines, the same way that Nabeela’s and many other stories have, and are being left out. I realize that power lies in the hands of teachers and scholars in the same way it does journalists, political actors or proponents of the media, to influence perceptions of poverty and act according to fact instead of propagation. Academics are discerning and have access to a variety of high-calibre 32
analysis of multiple perspectives on issues such as, for example, developing underdevelopment, and are not confined by the capitalistic nature of the media system; they have the power and responsibly to objectively present information to their peers and students so that all the facts pertinent to a given issue can be weighed and acted upon. To conclude, the way that media in the developed world is influenced by and chooses to promote capitalist ideals is problematic and hinders the achievement of the global common good. By promoting skewed and unfair perceptions of the developed world, those who should have the capacity to act towards making tangible social change are not informed adequately so as to be able to do so. The global media narrative needs to include the stories of both Malala and Nabeela in order for all of the worldâ€™s countries to have equal opportunity to progress.
Works Cited Escobar. (1995). Introduction: Development and the Anthropology of Modernity. Retrieved from https://owl.uwo.ca access/content/group/afe30fa8-93a3-4bc7-bc23-27e93b4de8ba/ %20Readings%20and%20Other%20Resources/Week%203%20-%20Imperialism Fern, B. (2006). Begging for Change: Media Representation of Poverty and Public Perception. Theses Global. Print. Joshi, S. (2005). Theories of Development: Modernization versus Dependency. Retrieved from http://infochangeindia org/defining-development/theories-of-development-modernisation- vsdependency-12 Redden, J. (2014). The Mediation of Poverty: The News, New Media, and Politics. United Kingdom, 2014. Print. Tehelka. (2013). The Sanctification of Malala Yousafzai. Proquest Researcher. Retrieved from https://www-lib-uwo-ca proxy1.lib.uwo.ca/cgi-bin/ezpauthn.cgi?url=http:// search.proquest.com.proxy1.lib.uwo.ca docview/1445448308?accountid=15115 UNDP. (2013). Pakistan: HDI Values and Rank Changes in the 2013 Human Development Report. Retrieved from http://hdr.undp.org/sites/default/files/Country-Profiles/PAK.pdf Uzayr, S. A Tale of Two Girls Victimized by the West: Malala and Nabeela. Foreign Policy in Focus. Retrieved from http://fpif.org/tale-two-girls-victimized-west-malala-nabeela/ Wright, S. (1993). Blaming the Victim, Blaming Society, or Blaming the Discipline: Fixing Responsibility for Poverty and Homelessness. The Sociological Quarterly. Retrieved from http://www.researchgate.net/publication/ 229481695_BLAMING_THE_VICTIM_BLAMING_SOCIETY_OR_BLAMING_THE_ DISCIPLINE_Fixing_Responsibility_for_Poverty_and_Homelessness1
Bates Motel and Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho: The Death of Norman and the Rebirth of Mother Victoria Scott
“We all go a little mad sometimes.” —Norman Bates In 1960, Alfred Hitchcock directed a film that became the father of all psychological thrillers, while bringing to life the first, classic psycho everyone knows as Norman Bates. Over fifty years later, A&E broadcasts the first ever episode of the highly anticipated prequel to Hitchcock’s film called Bates Motel, a story regarding the life of adolescent Norman Bates and his mother, Norma. Like Hitchcock’s Psycho, Norman proves to be a very strange and complicated character, reflecting many psychoanalytic theories and notions produced by Sigmund Freud. Firstly, the relationship between Norman and Norma suggests that there are strong Oedipal forces at work, which is evident through Norman’s behaviour towards Norma and those who threaten their close bond. Secondly, Norma’s possessiveness with her Norman suggests to have an even stronger hold, which is exemplified through Norman’s hallucinations and blackouts. Lastly, Norma evidently becomes a part of Norman’s consciousness, causing Norman’s identity to split into half-Norman, half-Mother. Overall, in Bates Motel, it is suggestive that Norman’s psychosis is incremental; that is, Norman’s psychosis progresses simultaneously with each given episode. It is in fact at the end of Psycho that the progression of Norman’s character collapses and essentially merges as one with his other half, Mother. As a result, the world of Mother becomes Norman’s personal uncanny, in which his mother represents something familiar and comfortable, yet very strange and terrifying. If there is one thing the audience learns about Bates Motel, it is that Norman Bates has many secrets—some of which he does not know himself. Although the death of Norman’s father was deemed an accident in the very beginning of the series, the truth resides deep within the heart of Norma: Norman murders his father to protect his mother. According to Sigmund Freud, the initial instigator of psychoanalytic theory, Norman’s actions are a direct reflection of Freud’s Oedipus complex, which is the notion that the male child conceives a desire to eliminate the father figure and marry the mother. In The Interpretation of Dreams, Freud states, “It is the fate of all of us, perhaps, to direct our first sexual impulse towards our mother” and that the story of King Oedipus “merely shows us the fulfillment of our own childhood wishes” (816). However, Freud continues to say that “we live in ignorance of these wishes, repugnant to morality, which have been forced upon us by Nature” (816). In other words, as a result of society, we have been taught that such wishes and impulses like those of the Oedipus complex are unacceptable, therefore we must force them into our unconscious—the repressed. Unfortunately, the repressed always finds a way in returning to us, which is exemplified in the character of Norman Bates. Norman Bates’ impulse to kill his father and protect his mother is something innate—an impulse that, according to Freud, resides in all of us. Norman’s sexual impulse towards his mother, and jealousy of other ‘father figures’, only becomes more prominent as Bates Motel progresses; however, the sexual tension between Norman and Norma becomes exceedingly uncomfortable 34
particularly in season three. The third season opens onto Norman and his mother sleeping next to each other, with Norman embracing Norma from behind. Although Norma does not see the strangeness of her 18-year-old son sleeping in the same bed as her, Dylan, her eldest son and halfbrother to Norman, thinks otherwise: “Norman is eighteen. He shouldn’t be sleeping in the same bed as his mom” (“A Death in the Family”). As a result of this, Norma explains to Norman that he should sleep in his own room from then on. Dylan’s interference between Norman and Norma’s relationship causes a raging jealousy within Norman, which instigates Norman to view his brother as a threat. Throughout season three, as Dylan and Norma become closer, Norman’s behaviour becomes more and more unsettling. There are several examples of Norman participating in the elimination of those who present a threat to his and Norma’s relationship. Firstly, in season one the audience finds out that it is in fact Norman who kills his father; secondly, in season three, Norman almost destroys the relationship between Dylan and Norma by revealing a terrible secret; thirdly, Norman essentially scares off Norma’s therapist after he attempts to strangle him; and lastly, Norma’s older brother, Caleb, presents himself to be a rising threat after he and Norma reconcile their disastrous past. Resulting from Norma’s new relationships, Norman begins to seek out ways to capture her full attention once again. A prominent example is when Norman deliberately kisses his new girlfriend, Emma, as his mother walks by the room. While Emma passionately kisses him back, Norman keeps one eye open, watching his mother’s reaction. Norman’s infatuation and obsession with his mother only grows stronger and more unsettling, which is revealed at the end of episode seven of season three, in which the last scene closes with Norman tenderly stroking Norma’s thigh as she sleeps. Delving deeper into Freud’s psychoanalytic approach, while Norman struggles with the repressed wish of having sexual relations with his mother, it is evident that Norma has an even deeper hold on Norman’s unconscious: Before Norman’s blackouts or ‘episodes’, during which he does things that he can never remember afterwards, he hallucinates his mother talking to and reasoning with him. For example, in episode ten of season one, Norman is placed in an uncomfortable position with his high school teacher, Miss Watson. Walking home from the school dance in the pouring rain, Miss Watson drives by and offers him a ride home. She takes him back to her place, and says, “You probably shouldn’t tell anyone that you’ve been here” (“Midnight”). Miss Watson then leaves Norman in the living room as she goes to change out of her dress; however, she deliberately leaves the door open in such a way that Norman can watch everything. It is then that Norman hallucinates Norma sitting on the couch next to him, rationalizing the situation: “What kind of a grown woman invites a teenage boy into her house and changes where he can see her… she wants you to see her body, she wants you to want her…Norman, you know what you have to do” (“Midnight”). Internalizing his mother’s judgement, Norman blacks out and murders Miss Watson. In this case, according to Jacques Lacan, Norma becomes Norman’s “internalized Other…a conscience…that listens to [his] thoughts and judges [his] desires” (Samuels 150). However, while in normal circumstances this internalized Other remains internal, Norman instead “projects his own conscience outside of himself and he is now yelling at himself from the position of the (m) Other” (151). Even when his mother is not around, “every time [Norman] has a masculine desire 35
his mother’s voice reacts against it” (152). Therefore, he has in many ways internalized his mother, becoming half-Norman, half-Norma, and it is during his blackouts that his mother-half takes over. The unsettling emergence of Norman and his mother’s identity takes a drastic turn in episode six of season three, during which Norma has left home for the night in a fit of rage, leaving Norman and Dylan alone at the house. Distraught from his mother abandoning him, Norman suffers from another blackout; however, rather than hallucinating his mother, he becomes her. In the late hours of the night, Dylan goes downstairs to the kitchen to find Norman wearing Norma’s robe, cheerfully making breakfast. In this example, rather than Norman simply internalizing the judgement of his mother, similarly to how a child’s “Symbolic desire” to identify with another child, Norman identifies with his mother, which is “acted out on a level of the Real, when he actually attempts to take on his mother’s voice and clothing” (150). In this scene, Norman has essentially become Mother. Norman’s psychosis takes a pivotal turn in the final episode of the third season, during which Norman attempts to flee from his mother’s house and travel the country with his past love interest, Bradley Martin. However, as Norman and Bradley drive past the town’s perimeter, Norman begins hallucinating Norma in the backseat. The imaginary Norma claims to want to speak to Bradley, telling Norman she will leave them alone once he lets her speak: “I need to talk to Bradley…I’m not leaving until I talk to Bradley” (“Unconscious”). In response, Norman turns to Bradley and says, “Mother would like to talk to you.” Forcing Bradley to pull over, Norman then takes on the voice of his mother: “Did you really think you’d be able to lure Norman away from me with that hot little sex kitten act of yours…Don’t try to play me as a fool, I practically invented that routine” (“Unconscious”). The camera then shows Norman walking around the back of the car, but as he briefly leaves the lens of the camera, Norma instead takes his place. Norma is seen dragging Bradley out of the car and forcing her onto the ground, smashing her head violently against the jagged rocks nearby. Once Bradley is dead, the camera then zooms out to show Norman hovering over Bradley, his hands caked in her blood. Norman looks down at Bradley’s body and whispers, “Mother, what have you done?” (“Unconscious”). However, for Norman, this is only the beginning. Although Norman’s half-mother identity begins to manifest in Bates Motel, it is in Psycho when this identity becomes more prominent. In the film, Norman’s half-mother identity does everything possible to keep the illusion of his mother alive, and that includes eliminating anything that threatens this illusion. For example, because Marion causes an arousal within Norman, the mother-half of Norman’s mind essentially goes “wild,” takes over his conscience, and kills Marion. The film suggests that this taking over of the mother-half happens frequently, causing the death of three other young women who threaten the mother illusion. Again, as done in Bates Motel, Norman becomes “Mother” by projecting his conscience outside of himself, and because he is unable to escape this conscience, he is “unable to leave the imaginary, the world of his mother” (Kolker 148). The death and consumption of Norman’s identity is evident in the final scene of Psycho, in which Norman is shown sitting on a chair in jail; however, the voice that echoes through his mind is not of his own, but of his mother’s: It’s sad when a mother has to speak the words that condemn her own son, but I couldn’t allow them 36
to believe that I would commit murder […] He was always bad, and in the end he intended to tell them that I had killed those girls and that man, as if I could do anything except just sit and stare, like one of his stuffed birds (Hitchcock). It is after this speech that the camera reveals the merging of Norman’s face with the corpse of his mother’s, suggesting that Norman’s identity is dead, and Mother has taken over definitively. It is plausible to suggest that the world of Norman’s mother has now become a manifestation of the uncanny. In The “Uncanny” Freud states that “the uncanny is that class of the frightening which leads back to what is known of old and long familiar” (825); in other words, the uncanny is something strange, yet very familiar. This notion is understood as the species of the familiar: the thing that frightens us is actually very close to home. It is comforting, yet creates a sense of immense anxiety; it is familiar to us, but it is also unfamiliar to us. According to Laura Mulvey’s essay “Death Drives: Hitchcock’s Psycho,” in the case of Norman and his Mother’s house, “the home encloses and thus gives comfort while the secret is enclosed and thus hidden” (11). Essentially, the house “is Norman’s home, his Mother’s home, yet it is also the place where the story’s ultimate enigma lies hidden” (11). This analysis reflects directly on Freud’s interest in the word Unheimlich, a word that Freud suggests to collapse with its opposition, Heimlich, furthermore causing the term to have multiple meanings: “on the one hand it means what is familiar and agreeable, and on the other, what is concealed and kept out of sight” (Freud 827). Therefore, in relation to Norman, his home is his family home, the home that holds his childhood memories and the memory of his mother, however it is also what carries his dark secret, as well as the rotting corpse of his long dead parent. While his house is familiar, “the bond between mother and son, on the one hand, the most normal of relations, is, on the other, easily distorted into the perverse, so that the home conceals deviance and then the enigma: the crime of matricide” (Mulvey 12). In other words, Norman’s house is what conceals his perverse, deviant relationship with his mother, as well as the murders he has committed; as a result, this morphs the house into Norman’s personal ‘uncanny.’ It is evident that Norman suffers from an incremental state of psychosis, of which comes to a startling halt at the end of Psycho when his identity merges, and becomes one with, Mother. Bates Motel exemplifies the beginning of Norman’s journey, during which he experiences the perverse sexual impulse towards his mother, Norma, as well as the hatred and jealousy towards his father and other male figures in Norma’s life. However, this obsession with Norma becomes even deeper when he begins to project her as his conscience, allowing her as an “internal Other” to take over his mind temporarily when he is faced with a situation he cannot handle on his own. In Psycho, there is a definitive collapse in Norman’s identity as the internal “(m)Other” takes over, suggesting that his family home, the place he is most familiar and comfortable, has in fact become a place of strange secrets that must be “kept out of sight” (827). As Norman Bates tells Marion hours before her death, “we’re all in our private traps,” and in Norman’s case, his trap is the world of the imaginary and of Mother.
Works Cited “A Death in the Family.” Bates Motel. A&E. 8 Mar. 2015. Television. Freud, Sigmund. “The Interpretation of Dreams.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. General Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W. W. Norton, 2010. 814 24. Print. Freud, Sigmund. “The ‘Uncanny’.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. General Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W. W. Norton, 2010. 824-41. Print. Hitchcock, George, dir. Psycho. Universal, 1960. Film. Kolker, Robert, ed. Alfred Hitchcock’s Psycho: A Casebook. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004. 147-8. Print. “Midnight.” Bates Motel. A&E. 20 May 2013. Television. Mulvey, Laura. “Death Drives: Hitchcock’s Psycho.” Film Studies 2 (2000): 5-14. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 21 March 2016. Samuels, Robert. “Epilogue: Psycho and the Horror of the Bi-Textual Unconscious.” Alfred Hitchcock’s Pyscho: A Casebook. Ed. Robert Kolker. Oxford: Oxford UP, 2004. 149-62. Print. “Unconscious.” Bates Motel. A&E. 11 May 2013. Television.
We Ate Them: A Tale of Rampant Consumerism Sydney Keefe “These violent delights have violent ends.” This quote appears multiple times in the series Westworld; it is the overlaying motif, depicting the consequences of consumerism. Westworld is a reflection of the violent culture of hegemony in America. The domination of humanity is achieved through physical and emotional violence, as the humans abuse the humanoids and the creators root through the humanoids’ brains without concern for their welfare; this parallels the physical abuse humans inflict on each other every day. In our own reality, 600,000-800,000 people are trafficked over international borders each year (“The Scale of Human Trafficking”). The physical and emotional abuse that is inflicted on humans by humans is represented by the brutality that the humans inflict on the humanoids in Westworld. The humanoids become a cultural commodity that can be bought, and they are kept submissive by way of physical memory and personality change. The audience witnesses the resurrection of the western frontier and colonialism, and its brutal culture, which leads to the complete subjugation of a weaker group of people. The constant violent need to dominate and colonize is prevalent in society, and eventually this need will turn into a demand to be fed by consumerism. Previously in the history of America many minority groups were subjected to second class citizenship under threat of violence. Similarly, the humanoids are abused and enslaved. The suppression of the humanoid race who are the ‘native’ inhabitants of Westworld is extremely grotesque; it reflects how consumerism will continue to control society in the future. The domination of humans over humanoids calls to mind the many instances of capitulation of minorities in history. The series illustrates social minorities being crushed under the foot of hegemony, and displays the human instinct to dominate. The tyrannical need to repress a weaker group is completely ingrained in our culture and will continue to be succumbed to because humanity has been unable to break the cycle of violence after 200,000 years on Earth (“How Long Have Humans Been on Earth?”). In American history, there has been a pattern of hegemony that is perpetrated and is repeated, but as society becomes more equal there is a demand for violence and domination. As we move into a more egalitarian age, the desire to dominate will become a commodity to be produced and consumed. The nostalgic frontier, violent subjection, and women will all become commodities of production and humanity will experience rampant, violent, gluttonous consumerism. In the reality of Westworld, the human race has moved towards a more accepting, equal society. With the creation of this utopian society, there creates a demand for an outlet for all the malignant urges that have always been a part of human society. With the creation of the park in Westworld, the characters can experience a dystopian society where they are free to follow the darkest desires of their hearts. The Utopians want a world similar to the Wild West where there were ‘no rules.’ In this world, they are free to commit violent acts against any of the humanoids without guilt or repercussions. The lack of violence in their Utopian society leads to a demand for an outlet of violence, creating the park in Westworld, where they can pay to violate and brutalize women. Westworld illustrates how capitalism can utilize the frontier nostalgia for profit through consumerism. In Westworld, the western frontier has been rebuilt to accommodate the elite’s 39
fetishes. The frontier is the American and western ideology of pushing the boundary further and further — the place where civilization meets savagery. However, the frontier is now gone from American landscape. In Westworld, Robert Ford has created a simulated frontier where humanity can feed into and relive the romanticized memory of the western frontier. The fantasy of the frontier ideology starts during an overlapping narrative at the beginning of the pilot. The humanoid Dolores narrates: “The newcomers [humans] are just looking for the same thing we are, a place to stake out our dreams, a place with unlimited possibilities” (WW 1). This is a comment on America’s penchant for idolizing the past so much that it becomes lucrative to create a park where members of society can perpetrate hegemonic acts of violence without fear of retribution or consequences. In America, President Donald Trump ran and won an election by focusing on “Making America Great Again,” when in actuality, America’s history is one of slavery and oppression of minorities and women. America idolizes their history which is what leads to the creation of Westworld. Future populations of America yearn for a place of endless possibilities where they can relive domination of native inhabitants, where they can be gods amongst robots. Like Europeans’ interactions with Native Americans, the humans see the humanoids as noble savages. The humanoids are noble savages; they are purer than humans due to their innocence and ignorance, but they are feeble-minded and trapped by their human creators. The humanoids do not know that they are trapped in the park and reliving the same day repeatedly. On the other hand, humans are tainted by their desires and darkness. The humans spend $40,000 a day to enjoy the vile freedom of Westworld. The creator Ford says, “never place your trust in us. We’re only human. Inevitably, we’ll only disappoint you” (WW 9). Humans are sneaky and leave endless disappointments, while the humanoids are also simple minded, etiolated, and under the control of the humans. The slave-like robots in Westworld repeat and mirror the actions of historical western figures in a manner that is startling. In Westworld, there are Native Americans, sheriffs, confederate soldiers etc. The idealized version of the western frontier comes to life, romanticizing how much better things used to be in American in comparison with today. Westworld is recreating the past to feed the unquenchable consumerism of modern society. Hegemonic consumption is feeding the violent demand of cultural domination. Hegemony was an integral part of the frontier and is defined by the Oxford English dictionary as “A predominant social group or regime which exerts undue influence within a society, esp. through conditioned consent or the repression of dissent” (OED). Hegemonic ideology is prevalent in the cultural identity of America and is reflected in Westworld; some of the most defining moments in American History have been moments of war and domination. America became a world superpower through war and violence; the creator of the humanoid robots, Robert Ford, says, “We humans are alone in this world for a reason, we murdered and butchered anything that challenged our primacy…. Do you know what happened to the Neanderthals? We ate them” (WW 9). This unwavering desire for supremacy leads to the commodifying of a pliable species for consumption. Comparing Neanderthals to the humanoids is a metaphor for the blatant and reckless consumerism in Westworld, compared to the literal consumption of the Neanderthals by the Homo sapiens. Neanderthals were once the closest living relative of the modern human; while Neanderthals were widely spread out across Asia, 40
Europe and America, after the expansion of the Homo Sapiens they were wiped out. This timeline is what led to the theory that the Homo Sapiens ate the Neanderthals (McKie). While this is currently a controversial topic, Ford brings it up to explain why people pay thousands of dollars to attack the humanoids. It is because it is what we have always done, and creating an egalitarian society does not destroy the urge to hunt and kill that has been around since the extinction of the Neanderthals. This pathological desire to control is deeply ingrained in culture. The history of hegemony is endless. Human history is the history of men attempting to subjugate and dominate each other for power and for territory. This is exemplified by Billy who embodies the persona of the white knight, by sympathizing with the humanoids and trying to help them, until the penultimate episode. In the climactic episode where Billy massacres and eviscerates dozens of humanoids, the last frame is his bloody smile standing over their bodies. Displaced body parts strewn across the street and a bloody smile — an epic allusion to Homo sapiens eating the Neanderthals, Ford’s blatant metaphor for consumerism. Even the white knight succumbs to consumerism. Consumerism is not passive, it is violent: “to destroy, wear away, to kill … to eat, devour” (OED). The violence of consumerism can be observed every day, and it is especially highlighted on days of special significance – in seemingly unexpected ways. In modern society this is evident through the rising deaths and injuries accumulated during black Friday shopping. Black Friday is the epitome of uncontrolled consumerism; customers kill themselves and others trying to satiate their uncontrollable consumerism. To date, there have been 10 deaths and 105 injuries related to black Friday ( “Black Friday Death Count”). In Westworld, humans are consuming the robotic humanoids, devouring them like the Neanderthals. Consumerism is the inevitable outcome of production; even the purest of characters like Billy are unable to resist. There is a clear displacement of power among sexes. While the humans are white men, like Billy, Logan and the Man in Black, the protagonist humanoids are all women: Clementine, Dolores and Maeve. Throughout the show, we witness some horrific acts of violence against the humanoids. Dolores is brutalized and dragged off within the first ten minutes of the pilot; Clementine is kidnapped and later viciously beaten by a man; and Maeve is shot, strangled, and gutted twice. There is an overt objectification and diminishment of women. Mrs. Abernathy appears in the pilot and is inconsequential, as the camera passes over her corpse. She is murdered by a group of men, and left face down in the hallway of her house while they callously discuss her death. The first man says “Shame you killed the old woman before any of us could have a turn” (WW 1). She is completely insignificant and seen as essentially scenery. The overt hierarchy of human men over humanoid women is the relationship between consumer and product. The women hosts are mindless and slave-like, beaten and violated for the pleasures of white men. They are consumed without conscience or consequence. The feminine role in Westworld is described by Ford as “you and everyone you know were built to gratify the desires of the people who pay to visit your world... they can do whatever they want to you” (WW 1). Their entire purpose is to satisfy the whims of human men who pay to visit the park where they live. The ultimate subjects of production, they were created to be objectified and consumed by the paying customer.
The series Westworld depicts the ideology that originated in the Old West but this is certainly still relevant today. The nostalgia in America creates a demand that is filled by Westworld. The entire series is used to reflect the true insidious nature of consumerism, and the underlying violence associated with it. The customers of Westworld are consuming the atmosphere of the frontier, through the submission of the humanoids and objectified women. As a society, we are devouring the objects of production with increasing ferocity. As consumerism grows so does its violence. Westworld shows that consumption will continue to grow until we are savagely feasting on anthropomorphic commodities. We will eat until there is nothing left.
Works Cited “consumption, n.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, September 2016. Web. 4 December 2016. “hegemony, n.” OED Online. Oxford University Press, September 2016. Web. 4 December 2016. “How Long Have Humans Been On Earth” Universe Today. N.p., 23 Dec. 2015.Web. 30 Jan. 2017. Joy, Lisa and Jonathon Nolan, creators. Westworld. Bad Robot Productions and Universal Media Studios and Warner Bros., 2016. McKie, Robin. “How Neanderthals met a grisly fate: devoured by humans.” The Observer. Guardian News and Media, 16 May 2009. Web. 30 Jan. 2017. “The Scale of human trafficking worldwide.” Stop the Traffik. N.p., n.d. Web. 30. Jan. 2017.
Deaf Culture on Broadway: an Analysis of Deaf West’s Revival Production of Spring Awakening Morgan McAuley The genre of deaf theatre provides a glimpse into deaf culture as a whole through a medium that hearing cultures can access and appreciate. In 2015, the L.A.-based theatre company Deaf West produced the revival production of the Tony-Award winning musical Spring Awakening, by Steven Sater and Duncan Sheik, on Broadway at the Brooks Atkinson Theatre in New York City, with the inclusion of A.S.L. (American Sign Language) and deaf characters, as adapted by director Michael Arden. The inclusion of A.S.L. and deaf characters changed the narrative of the show to include the implications of deaf culture existing within hearing culture while drawing attention to the deaf community and the inclusion of deaf actors in the world of theatre. By including deaf characters in the show’s original script, the show was able to communicate to audiences the history of the education of deaf people, woven into the original production’s 19th century context. The implication of these educational changes caused miscommunication between hearing and non-hearing people with the use of signing and the translation of spoken languages into signs, which becomes demonstrated in the show through the inclusion of deaf characters. By presenting these repercussions and themes of miscommunication between deaf and hearing communities on a mainstream Broadway stage, the progression made in the education of deaf people, and in deaf culture as a whole, becomes highlighted. Deaf West’s Spring Awakening’s inclusion of deaf characters brings awareness to marginalized deaf culture. Director Michael Arden’s decision to place Deaf West’s production of Spring Awakening into the context of the deaf community’s marginalization within education strengthens the journey of deaf culture into the 21st century. The play Spring Awakening that inspired Sater and Sheik’s musical was “written in 1890-91” by Frank Wedekind “and finally received its first, controversial, production in 1906” (Journey). Even Wedekind’s original play, which excluded deaf culture from its narrative, challenged the educators of the time through “its condemnation and merciless satire of a bumbling education system” (Journey). Wedekind’s critique was vocalized through Sater and Sheik’s musical adaptation, directed by Michael Mayer and produced on Broadway in 2006, which was further strengthened by Arden’s 2015 adaptation through the implications of the reformations made in relation to the education of the deaf. Arden’s adaptation, however, did not change a single word of the script, proving that the messages about miscommunication and oppression in education were already present in Spring Awakening – they were accented by the inclusion of deaf culture in Arden’s production. Arden took the context from 1880, when the second International Congress on Education of the Deaf was held in Milan, also known as the Milan Conference, passing several resolutions, two of which were very important: 1. The convention, considering the incontestable superiority of speech over signs in restoring the deaf-mute to society and giving him a fuller knowledge of language, declares that the oral method should be preferred to that of signs in the education and instruction of deaf-mutes.
2. Considering that the simultaneous use of articulation and signs has the disadvantage of injuring articulation and lip-reading and the precision of ideas, declares that the pure oral method should be preferred (Hutchison). These resolutions not only imposed hearing qualities onto deaf students, but also excluded deaf teachers from providing education to deaf students. Robert Niven outlines the major problems with Oralism, lip-reading a speaking, and the oral system, as “lip-reading is a laborious method of communication” because “the child is taught to watch the face of the person talking and to associate the shape of the lips with the meaning of the words” (Hutchison). Arden was able to incorporate the repercussions of this type of teaching through the character of Moritz becoming deaf in his adaptation. Moritz fails his final exams and isn’t promoted in school, which in Arden’s production can be attributed to his inability to be successful under the deaf education standards of the late 1800’s. Robert Smith suggests that “Oralism was seen as a modern doctrine” and “teaching deaf people to speak was much more socially acceptable. Hearing people…did not understand Sign Language, and what people do not understand they often fear” (Hutchison). However, the hearing members of the Congresses did not account for the non-hearing population’s fear of misunderstanding and the inability to assimilate into a hearing society, not by choice, but by genetics and unchangeable circumstances. Michael Arden stated in an interview with Deborah Vankin of the Los Angeles Times that “in a way [Deaf West has] erased the deaf hearing boundary by the very fact that [they’re] making this happen each night; but at the same time, [they’re] highlighting the historical differences and boundaries that do exist between the two cultures — and in doing so [they’re] beginning to erase that line between them,” addressing the marginalization of deaf culture, as heightened by education (Vankin). Arden’s successful attempt at shedding light on the history of deaf education to hearing communities is due to the fact that he used the medium of musical theatre, which engages a larger hearing community. Deaf West’s Spring Awakening draws attention to the oppressive nature of the education of deaf children during the 19th century by changing the show’s original context to include this history in deaf culture. The implication of Oralism and the eradication of the use of signs in the education system, as demonstrated in Deaf West’s Spring Awakening, is in part due to miscommunication as a consequence of the translation of signing into other languages, in relation to the representation of signs—“signs [have] the disadvantage of injuring…the precision of ideas” (Hutchison). “Sign languages play a significant role in the sociocultural studies of d/Deaf people,” making signs important in the discussion of Deaf West’s Spring Awakening (Monaghan & Senghas 73). “Children born to Deaf parents who grow up with ASL or another natural sign language as a home language tend to experience considerably more success in school than children born to hearing parents whose possibilities for linguistic interaction in the home are more limited”, which suggests that sharing a conceptual map with their parents positively impacts students’ success in school (Cummins). “Just as people who belong to the same culture must share a broadly similar conceptual map, so they must also share the same way of interpreting the signs of a language, for only in this way can meanings be effectively exchanged between people” (Hall 19). The interpretation of meaning is what becomes blurred within the use of A.S.L. and homesign, in which people create their own sign for their 44
personal interpretation that exists outside of other people’s conceptual maps. “Homesign gestures are not governed by public conventions; yet, without norms, it would be impossible to communicate through the arbitrary gestures of homesign,” meaning that language, signs, and representation all need to be governed by some sort of universally agreed upon conventions (Rooney 94). In order to interpret the meaning of a sign we require access to a “conceptual map” and a “language system,” which becomes blurred between hearing and non-hearing cultures, as outlined by the consequences of miscommunication demonstrated in Spring Awakening (Hall 19). The discrepancy between cultures that share separate conceptual maps becomes apparent in the parent-child relationships outlined in Deaf West’s Spring Awakening, mainly in the characters of Wendla and Moritz, as they are both deaf characters born to hearing parents. Wendla asks her mother about sex and how women get pregnant, but due to the discrepancy between their conceptual maps and Wendla’s hearing mother’s inability to accurately convey the truth through signing in Arden’s adaptation, Wendla remains naïve to the act of sex, ending up pregnant in the show. For Moritz, he fails his final examinations and isn’t promoted to upper levels in school, which, in Arden’s adaptation, can be credited to his inability to conform to the infliction of Oralism in the education system due to the discrepancies between hearing and non-hearing conceptual maps, leading Moritz to commit suicide. For both Wendla and Moritz, their encountered struggles can be attributed to the fact that they are born to hearing parents and their “possibilities for linguistic interaction in the home are more limited” due to the discrepancies between their parents’ conceptual maps and their own (Cummins). “Deafness is, at least in part, a social construction” because non-hearing communities fear what they can’t comprehend, creating discrepancies between hearing and deaf cultures (Monaghan & Senghas 70). By highlighting these discrepancies in the production of Spring Awakening, the challenges that deaf people face through interpretation and translation are brought forward and demonstrated, which as Arden stated, begins to “erase the line between” hearing and non-hearing cultures (Vankin). Education in deaf culture has progressed immensely since the way it was demonstrated in Deaf West’s Spring Awakening, creating progression in deaf culture as a whole. The marginalization of the deaf community in education was dampened by the implementation of Total Communication, which “is a philosophy incorporating the appropriate aural, manual, and oral modes of communication in order to ensure effective communication with and among hearing-impaired persons.” (Holcomb). Total Communication replaced Oralism “within the Deaf education system in the 1970s and 1980s that promoted a radical philosophical shift from Oralism to the inclusion of signing in the classrooms and homes of young deaf children” (Holcomb). “From the time the Milan Conference took place to the implementation of the Total Communication philosophy, deaf people were not allowed to assume leadership positions within the school system” and “deaf teachers were not allowed to work in the classrooms with young deaf children” (Holcomb). However, Total Communication wasn’t the best alternative to Oralism, because “deaf children are required to communicate in a certain way (speaking and signing at the same time), as opposed to being child-centered as originally devised” (Holcomb). Although, the movement towards including signing in the classroom can be seen as an act of progression within the education system for the deaf community. The progression of including 45
Total Communication in the education of deaf people marks a movement towards equality for deaf culture as a whole from the time of the context of Deaf West’s Spring Awakening. While the shift to Total Communication in the education of deaf people was excluded from Deaf West’s Spring Awakening because it doesn’t fit into the time period of the show, the progression of intertwining deaf culture with hearing culture is instead highlighted through the fact that deaf characters were acknowledged in the show. In Deaf West’s previous productions of musicals that included A.S.L., such as Big River in 2003 and Pippin in 2009, the inclusion of A.S.L. acted as a translation, and the actors who were signing were not acknowledged as being deaf within the context of the show, unlike in Spring Awakening (Vankin). The fact that Arden chose to introduce deaf characters into the conventions of a Broadway musical suggests the progression of the acceptance of deaf culture within hearing cultures, acknowledging deaf actors as valid artists. “Art about deaf culture and experience produced by deaf artists is remarkably evocative of both the struggles and acceptance experienced by individuals in the deaf community,” which is accomplished in Arden’s rendition of Spring Awakening through its inclusion of not only deaf actors but deaf characters, and pushing the idea that “the Deaf art world potentially stands as a model for understanding the wider Deaf world, as a microcosm of activity reflective of the wider Deaf space (Schiff 44). In this respect, art should be regarded as a significant cultural indicator” (Schiff 44). This concept of deaf artists and their art supports the fact that “deaf-culture artists have been able to synthesize their frightening and often physically and emotionally painful experiences into artistic expressions which helped them to cope with those memories” (Schiff 45), which holds true for the actors who portray the characters of Wendla and Moritz, for example, who undergo similar discrepancies that many deaf youth may also experience, such as miscommunication with hearing parents and performing poorly in school. The show then becomes an avenue through which non-hearing audiences that would otherwise be ignorant to the history of deaf culture can gain awareness, through the aesthetic experience of theatre. Deaf West’s Spring Awakening acts as a platform for awareness of deaf artists and deaf culture, highlighting historical elements of deaf culture, and producing progression in deaf culture, by including deaf actors and characters in the production. Deaf West’s Spring Awakening becomes a vehicle for activism within the conventional aesthetic experience of a Broadway musical by projecting the history and progression of deaf culture onto a mainstream Broadway stage. The fact that musical theatre is a genre that prides itself in inclusiveness through the production of controversial shows that discuss real-life social issues, such as the AIDS Crisis in Jonathon Larson’s Rent and the Coal Minor’s Strike in Lee Hall’s Billy Elliot, but holds limited opportunities for deaf artists calls to question the inclusivity of the genre as a whole. Deaf West’s innovation of bringing deaf artists to the mainstream Broadway stage presents opportunities for the deaf community that they didn’t have before, but also proves that their deafness does not hinder their talent or performance ability – proven by the shows three nominations at the 2016 Tony Awards (Tony Award Productions). While deaf theatre as a genre is a growing avenue, the inclusion of deaf artists in a mainstream setting is what highlights the progressions of deaf culture. Deaf West’s Spring Awakening combines history with the present in a combination that enhances the central messages of oppressed and unheard youth, becoming a heightened cultural experience 46
in itself and in the acceptance it represents. For years, “because of their deafness, deaf people have been marked as different and treated problematically by their hearing societies” (Monaghan & Senghas, 69). Works such as Deaf West’s Spring Awakening prove that marginalized groups are only marginalized by the exclusivity of the masses. The oppression of marginalized cultures can potentially be overcome through the ability to look past conventions and think innovatively about the opportunities of art as a cultural vehicle and as a means for progression, giving every individual equal opportunity.
Works Cited Cummins, Jim. “American Sign Language and English Literacy, Interdependence of.” The SAGE Deaf Studies Encyclopedia. Eds. Genie Gertz and Patrick Boudreault. Vol. 3. Thousand Oaks: SAGE Publications, Inc, 2016. 24. SAGE Knowledge. Web. 22 Nov. 2016. Hall, Stuart. Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices. London: Sage in association with the Open University, 1997. Print. Holcomb, Thomas K. “Group Membership and Inclusion.” The SAGE Deaf Studies Encyclopedia. 3 vols. Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publications, Inc, 2016. SAGE Knowledge. Web. 25 Nov. 2016. Hutchison, Iain. “Oralism: A Sign of the Times? the Contest for Deaf Communication in Education Provision in Late Nineteenth-Century Scotland.” European Review of History: Revue europeenne d’histoire 14.4 (2007): 481 501. Web. 25 Nov. 2016 Monaghan, Leila and Senghas, Richard J. “Signs of Their Times: Deaf Communities and the Culture of Language.” Annual Review of Anthropology, vol. 31, 2002, pp. 69–97. www.jstor.org/stable/4132872. Rooney, Jamie (2015) “”You Can Make Words Mean So Many Different Things”: A Study of Homesign,” The Word Hoard: Vol. 1: Iss. 4, Article 11. Available at: http://ir.lib.uwo.ca/wordhoard/vol1/iss4/11 Sheik, Duncan, and Sater, Steven. Spring Awakening: A New Musical. , 2006. Schiff, Debra. “Information Behaviors of Deaf Artists.” Art Documentation: Journal of the Art Libraries Society of North America, vol. 29, no. 2, 2010, pp. 44–47. www.jstor.org/stable/27949552. Tony Award Productions. “Search Past Winners” thetonyawards.com December 7th, 2016. http://www.tonyawards.com/p/tonys_search Vankin, Deborah. “Deaf West Theatre makes Tony Winner ‘Spring Awakening’ all its own.” Los Angeles Times, 25 September 2014. http://fw.to/2nuMRVW
Wake Up and Smell the Coffee: We Are Not Respecting the Bean Jennifer Glied-Goldstein The rapidly growing trend of developing and consuming food spectacles has become a social media phenomenon. Restaurants and bakeries are offering more extravagant and unique products as having their products perceived as ‘food porn’ drives profitability. The New York restaurant, Black Tap Burgers and Beer, is featured on most food bloggers’ social media accounts because it has transformed the basic milkshake. While previously milk, ice cream, and ice would have sufficed, consumers now expect cake blended into their milkshakes and placed on top of the shake along with copious amounts of decorative candy, chocolates and sweet sauces. This type of food indulgence and hysteria has directly affected the coffee industry and is the basis of the “Respect The Bean” advertising campaign produced by Nabob Coffee Co. This essay argues that Nabob’s campaign alludes to the extravagance and overindulgence of industrialized society, to leverage those consumers who object to these elements of popular culture. By documenting their travels to Colombia and engaging with the locals, Nabob evokes a sense of nostalgia for simplicity, intending to encourage consumption of their ‘authentic’ coffee bean and thereby generating profit. Through a detailed analysis of the “Respect the Bean” spot, this essay will show how coffee depicts the tendency of urban cultures to mutate products and will examine the use of the binary opposition of rural and urban societies in lifestyle marketing to appeal to a demographic resisting an increasingly overindulgent popular culture. Nabob utilizes a number of tactics to influence the viewers’ process of decoding this commercial, aiming to convince the viewers to choose their authentic coffee instead of overindulgent coffee options. The company chose a documentary film style that allows its viewers to follow the production process of coffee beans as they grow in their place of origin. It features the Quindío River, Colombian streets and coffee houses, offering a flavour of the geography where pure coffee beans are grown. This encourages the decoder to trust the coffee bean experts and envy their modest lifestyle. The star of the commercial is an ethnic looking American that can be associated with both the North American consumer and the South American producer. This reminds the viewers of America’s multicultural population. Nabob reinforces a point of pride in the cultural trend for diversity to stimulate a longing for cultural products free of Westernization. Further, the commercial provides the firsthand reactions of Colombian locals trying the Westernized coffee. The locals concede that the drinks, covered in whipped cream and filled with artificial flavoring, denigrate the beans that the locals proudly produce. They react in disgust asserting that the drink is “dessert” or tastes like a “pound cake.” As the advertisement had already engrained in the viewers’ minds a trust for the locals’ opinions and a nostalgia for an authentic product, these responses to Westernized coffee further Nabob’s efforts to convince consumers who oppose the popular culture food phenomenon to purchase Nabob’s pure coffee. In addition, Nabob’s marketing exposes the binary opposition of rural and urban cultures to highlight the wastefulness of the industrialized lifestyle it associates with its competitors and with popular culture. When the Nabob representative and a Colombian local bring the Westernized coffee to the farmers, the commercial juxtaposes the artificially pink “Frappuccino” contained in 48
the plastic disposable beverage container to the beautiful and natural greenery of Colombian hills and farming plantations. As the two individuals travel by jeep on the winding, bumpy Colombian roads to deliver the Western coffees, the locals are slowly brewing their own. This theme of rural versus urban cultures continues as the commercial shows the locals making the beans without the use of technology, picking the beans when they are ripe, rolling them out on the dirt floors and finally making them into the perfect cup of coffee using a 113-year-old coffee machine. Unlike most fads of popular culture that constantly change with the times, the farming techniques, the old coffee machine and the coffee itself is not disposable and will not become obsolete. Once the coffee is prepared, in this slow paced rural setting, individuals take the time to enjoy their coffee in an old fashioned cup and saucer in contrast to the speed of the urban environment. The use of this binary opposition secures Nabob’s target market as Nabob’s bean is placed in stark contrast with coffee products that symbolize the corporate superpower and cultural trendsetter, Starbucks. This advertising campaign accepts the supposition that consumer purchasing decisions are associated with the image these consumers would like to portray to their peers. In the realm of coffee beans, quality may be a subjective. However, this campaign argues that consumers of its competitors’ products prioritize their image over the quality of the products that they choose to purchase. Nabob is appealing to a target market that objects to the popularity of astounding drink sizes, food hybrids, funky names and “secret menus” that adhere to popular culture as opposed to the taste and quality of their competitors’ coffee beans. Moreover, many consumers want their purchases to hold a greater meaning. Nabob’s campaign suggests that by buying their products, viewers are engaging in the consumer practice of nostalgia, taking these things that are overlooked and bringing them back into our cultural sphere. Instead of popular trends driving interest in Nabob, the company enlists the coffee growers as the influencers of this demographic. While the characters, music and scenery elicit a sense of nostalgia, the viewers are expected to overlook the fact that Nabob is produced by Kraft Foods. While the campaign implies that Nabob should be differentiated from those that ruin authentic cultural products, the company itself is a giant corporation that produces artificial products such as Cheez Whiz and Miracle Whip. The campaign depicts Nabob as a pure and authentic brand. However, the company is using the local Colombians to sell their product and consumers are buying into the lifestyle marketing strategy. Without careful reflection, consumers do not see the hypocrisy of the campaign because industrialized culture is torn between the pretentious and the purists and the purists want to believe that they can buy this coffee without being influenced by popular culture. Ultimately, Nabob is successful in creating a longing amongst viewers for pure, simple and authentic coffee. Even while these consumers are resisting popular culture, it is defining what they want to consume and how they want to be perceived, as they are choosing to specifically defy it.
Works Cited “Hot Docs 2015 Official Coffee Partner – A Nabob Coffee Story.” YouTube, uploaded by Hot Docs Fest, 13 Apr. 2015, https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=lJ0r3DMu1H0&t=143s.
O’Brien, Suzie, and Imre Szeman. Popular Culture: A User’s Guide, Third Edition. 3rd ed., Nelson Education Ltd, 2014. Print.
Melancholy Rebecca McLaren
“i” Can Take Us There Hershawn Arora Throughout its history, the genre of hip-hop has proven to be an effective platform for MCs to speak on behalf of those who feel powerless. Young rapper Kendrick Lamar continues the legacy of his predecessors by providing a voice for those dealing with depression, addiction and uncertainty. In a time where hip hop music is centered around aggression and frivolousness, Lamar is one of the few acknowledged rappers who focuses on resolving prevalent issues in western culture by using his position to highlight the importance of positive attitudes, and the implications they can have on everyday life. Specifically, Lamar’s politically conscious behaviour leads to an increase in the prevalence of equality, acceptance, and positivity in society. The impact of Lamar’s actions become clear through the examination of camera angles, lighting, and symbolism in the music video for his song, “i”. The camera work in the music video for “i” plays a key role in displaying the implications of Lamar’s political ideologies. Primarily, the height of the camera angles used in this music video are carefully manipulated to make important suggestions about the distribution of power in society. For a majority of the video, Lamar is not filmed from above or below, instead the camera remains level with his body. By manipulating the camera angles in such a conservative way, Lamar is metaphorically suggesting that no one person is more or less powerful than he is, and that each person holds an equal amount of power, ultimately highlighting his political positivity. In contrast to other rappers who idolize individual successes, Lamar emphasizes the importance of a collectivist ideology. Thus, the management of camera heights in this music video displays that Lamar uses his position as a popular rapper to encourage equality amongst people in society, which is especially important in contemporary society where differences are often emphasized, leading to oppression and discrimination. Additionally, Lamar contrasts the camera angles used throughout the video to display the outcomes of his positive ideologies. Camera angles used at the beginning of the video differ from those used in the middle. The first minute of the music video is crowded with close ups of faces. By focusing the camera on one or two people at a time, Lamar emphasizes the individual differences of people, which are often what spark issues between groups in society. In contrast, the camera angles at later points in the video maintain a further distance from the action, and include a vast array of people. The inclusion of multiple people in the scene creates a sense of collectivism which has positive associations such as acceptance and unity. Thus, the use of contrasting camera angles effectively transitions the viewer from spaces with negative connotations to spaces with positive connotations. By guiding the viewer through this contrast of emotions, Lamar is showing the transition he hopes to inspire in society; shifting from an individualistic culture to a welcoming, collectivist one. Evidently, Lamar is interested in using his influence not only to make upbeat music, but also to make people open-minded to others’ differences.
Furthermore, the tracking of the camera, when focused on Lamar, displays the implications of his optimism. The cameraman moves along with Lamar and his following of people as they walk through the streets surrounded by indications of poverty and violence. Instead of displaying Lamar from the front and his followers behind him, the camera remains to the side of this group of people. Lamar’s clever management of the camera shows that he does not believe his audience is lesser than him; rather, he believes they are on the same level. Perhaps this is important because it can persuade his followers, no matter what circumstances they are living in, that they too have the opportunity to make something of themselves. Evidently, camera work is utilized in the music video for the song “i” to exemplify that Lamar’s actions lead to a more accepting society. Lamar quite literally sheds light on the political consequences of his behaviour. The lighting used throughout this music video is contrasted to highlight the social benefits that extend from Lamar’s actions. Indications of societal woes such as poverty, violence, and alcohol abuse all occur in the presence of green light, evoking a sense of nausea and toxicity in the viewer. Thus, Lamar uses lighting to suggest that negative attitudes are contagious by evoking a sense of noxiousness while these misfortunes are depicted. Lamar seems to be immune to the chaos surrounding him, maintaining a positive attitude as he progresses through the poisonous corruptions of society. To combat the toxic negativity which is infecting the city, Lamar leads the crowd of people to a rooftop where there is an absence of green light. Physical distinctions that are perceivable by the naked eye are subject to the greater speculation of their symbolism. Accordingly, Lamar’s interesting use of lighting makes a statement about the prevalence of negativity in society, and suggests that it can be reduced through his optimistic ideologies. In addition to manipulating the technical aspects of this video, Lamar also uses symbolism to portray how his ideologies can enhance societal conditions. For example, Lamar’s white t-shirt can be seen as a symbol of solidarity and positivity. The colour white has positive connotations as it is associated with peace whether it be through the reflection of angelic imagery, or its dissociation from gang colours. By choosing a neutral color for his appearance and avoiding clothing that is exclusive to a certain gang or group, Lamar suggests that he is not interested in creating more division in society. Moreover, Lamar wears this white t-shirt throughout the entire video. By maintaining a constant image, Lamar portrays himself as a symbol of hope; a peaceful, reliable leader who represents positivity in the face of adversity. People from the video unconsciously mimicking his dance signifies the contagiousness of a positive attitude, and the popular appeal of a unique figure like Lamar. People of all races and genders participate in Lamar’s dance, displaying that his ideologies are based on acceptance of others and are inclusive of everyone. Thus, through the clever use of symbolism, Lamar advocates for his righteous political ideologies, suggesting that his intentions are to increase acceptance in society.
Lamar is an buoyant hip-hop writer who uses his optimism for a political purpose. A great example of him doing this is portrayed through his music video, “i”, where he manipulates camera angles to advocate a collectivist and accepting society; uses lighting to contrast negativity from his positive messages; and lastly, depicts messages of peace and consistency through his symbolic messages. In a time where hip hop is characterised by frivolity, a politically conscious figure like Kendrick Lamar who consciously imposes positive ideologies onto his listeners becomes very noticeable, and has a long lasting impact on hip-hop, popular culture, and society as a whole.
Works Cited Lamar. “i.” YouTube, uploaded by LamarVEVO, 4 November 2014, www.youtube.com/watch?v=8aShfolR6w8.
Last Breath Brianna Gray
Brünnhilde and her Immolation: What was she thinking? Donald James MacKinnon The music dramas of the late nineteenth-century German composer Richard Wagner explored the inner psyche of the characters. Using a tonal structure consisting of rapid key changes and recurring themes Wagner called leitmotifs, the composer achieved a unity between text and music rarely seen in the operas of the past. The leitmotifs and the tonal structure paint a vivid picture of what the characters are thinking and feeling in real time (for more see Lee and Millington). The music is thus the “mirror” by which we can see (or rather hear) the character’s mind. This essay examines Brünnhilde’s tragic immolation scene, the final scene of Götterdämmerung (Twilight of the Gods), the scene that brings Wagner’s Ring cycle to its apocalyptic close. After briefly introducing Wagner’s compositional style and philosophy, I shall examine the music-text relationship of this fateful scene in terms of leitmotifs and tonal structure and how these elements reflect the suicidal mind of the Valkyrie Brünnhilde, the heroine of the opera, as she addresses her sacrificial end.
Wagner’s highly chromatic harmonic language reflects the restlessly changing stream of consciousness of the mind; the changes of key and the flow of themes are like our ever-changing thoughts from moment to moment. In previous styles of opera, arias usually in pre-determined classical forms were contained to one main overarching key throughout. Wagner tore down such constraints in his artistic vision of the Gesamtkunstwerk (total art work). Musicians talk of the two main modes or key structures of Western music, namely major and minor. Major keys tend to represent joy, contentment, and clarity while minor keys tend to represent “anguish, misery, and other extreme states of affectivity” (Meyer 227). We see this played out in Wagner, not in selfcontained arias, but as the text unfolds in the dialogue of the characters. Representing emotion (or affect) and the manner in which music reflects the workings of the mind are for Wagner the ultimate realities of musical composition rather than fulfilling traditional classical forms. Music has had a long association with its power to capture human emotion. As Leonard B. Meyer states, “Often music arouses affect through the mediation of conscious connotation or unconscious image process. A sight, or sound . . . evokes half-forgotten thoughts of persons, places, and experiences” (256). Wagner’s music takes this notion a step further; it does not simply arouse emotion and thoughts, but it is the emotion and thoughts as we shall see in the final scene of Wagner’s epic Ring cycle. Brünnhilde’s immolation scene, a scene known for its, as described by George Bernard Shaw, “elevated exploitation of theatrical pathos, psychologically identical with the scene of Cleopatra and the dead Antony in Shakespeare’s tragedy,” begins with her commanding of the building of the funeral pyre for her dead Siegfried, the Volsung hero to whom she was eternally betrothed (82). He was killed, however, for possession of the much-desired ring. She then proclaims her wish to join Siegfried in death and calls for her horse to ride into the fire. She begins: Starke Scheite schichtet mir dort Sturdy branches building his pyre am Rande des Rheins zuhauf! now bring to the shore of the Rhine! Hoch und hell lodre die Glut, Bright and clear, kindle the flame: die den edlen Leib let the hero blaze des hehrsten Helden verzehrt. in splendor and radiance on high. Sein Roß fürhret daher, His horse bring to my side; daß mit mir dem Recken es folge ; he and I together must join him. denn des Helden heiligste I shall share the pure, holy flame Ehre zu teilen, with the hero; verlangt mein eigener Leib. we both shall blaze in the fire. Vollbringt Brünnhildes Wort! Obey Brünnhilde’s command! (Porter 325). The music of the scene begins with an ambiguous tonality reflecting the Valkyrie’s shock and despair at Siegfried’s death. The Funeral Pyre music encompasses both the repeated-note fanfare of the Valhalla leitmotif in the horns and woodwinds, a marker of Brünnhilde’s identity as a Valkyrie and the dotted-note rising scale gesture of the Power of the Gods motif in the strings 56
(see Example 1). Repeated, dotted-note figures often carry a regal, march-like sombre quality in the musical literature such as in the Marche funèbre of Chopin’s Second Sonata or in Beethoven’s Marcia Funebre sulla morte d’un eroe from the Piano Sonata, Op. 26. Wagner is no exception to this tradition, capturing the gravity of Brünnhilde’s grief and her desire for a heroic funerary rite as a daughter of the god Wotan and wife of the intended hero Siegfried. Example 1: Funeral Pyre, Valhalla Fanfare, and Power of the Gods Motifs (see Darcy 14) From the tonal instability of the opening, the music moves to the key of F-sharp, the key associated with fire in the Ring with tinges of both the major and minor tonalities suggestive of Brünnhilde’s conflicted subconscious desires and conscious awareness. We hear the Magic Fire motif (F-sharp major) as fast rising sixteenth-note figures in the strings occur, symbolic of flames. The Siegfried theme (F-sharp minor) is later heard in the trumpet on the word “Leib [body]” as Brünnhilde contemplates her love’s radiant, glorified body in the flames (see Example 2). The fiery music here reflects, on the one hand, the horror of Siegfried’s death and Brünnhilde’s pain of loss. On the other hand, the music seems to suggest Brünnhilde’s sadistic pleasure at the sight of Siegfried on the flames. “Let the hero blaze,” as she suggests taking a kind of masochistic comfort at the thought of joining him shortly. This is the unconscious fantasy playing out before her eyes of two lovers loving to the point of destroying each other as they will die in the flames emerging as transcendental partners. Example 2: Magic Fire and Siegfried Motifs (15) The music modulates to the key of E-flat major at the “must join him” declaration. This is the key of the cosmos in the Ring, the key that accompanies the beginning of the world at the outset of the Ring and is associated here with Brünnhilde’s wish to be at one with nature. This is the very expression of Freud’s concept of the unconscious “death drive” (Freud 46ff), the idea we all wish to return to a state of pre-life peace after a corrupted world existence where desires are ultimately unfulfilled. Brünnhilde then goes on to contemplate the memory of Siegfried and his betrayal caused by Hagen’s potion, the machinations leading to Brünnhilde’s jealousy and thus Siegfried’s murder. Wie Sonne lauter strahlt mir sein Licht: The sun in splendour shines from his eyes; der Reinste war er, the purest hero der mich verriet! though he was false! Die Gattin trügend . . . Untrue to Brünnhilde . . . (Porter 325) The music moves to the key of C major here, one of the most tonally stable sections of this scene as the Valkyrie’s thoughts hearken back to more blissful times. This was the key of the love duet she and Siegfried shared earlier in the cycle. Love motifs, such as the theme of Love’s Greeting (see Example 3) occur in lush strings. Later, the argeggiated Sword motif is intoned in the trumpet 57
(see Example 4), taking on a phallic significance as it represents Brünnhilde’s thought of heroic Siegfried and the relationship between love and power so prominent in this opera; possessing one means relinquishing the other. The Sword motif seems to “cut” her melodic lines, wounding them in a “castrative” sense as this passage concludes in the key of C minor, the parallel minor suggestive of her sexual frustration, the betrayal she suffered, and the loss of love and bliss caused by the power and greed of others. Example 3: Love’s Greeting Motif (Darcy 17) Example 4: Sword Motif Brünnhilde now addresses Wotan, her father and ruler of the gods, and beseeches him to behold her state of anguish. She sings: O ihr, der Eide Look down, you guardians ewige Hüter! look down and hear me! Lenkt euren Blick Turn your regard auf mein blühendes Leid: on my shame and my grief; erschaut eure ewige Schuld! and learn your eternal disgrace! Meine Klage hör’, And Wotan, hear, du hehrster Gott! you mighty god! Durch seine tapferste Tat, By his [Siegfried’s] most valiant deed, dir so tauglich erwünscht, he fulfilled your desire, weihtest du den, but he was forced der sie gewirkt, to share in your curse– dem Fluche, dem du verfielest that curse which has doomed your downfall. Mich mußte, der Reinste verraten, He, truest of all men, betrayed me, daß wissend würde ein Weib! that I in grief might grow wise! (Porter 326) Brünnhilde forcefully accuses her father that Siegfried lost his life through the corruption and greed that the theft of the gold engendered. Tremolos in the strings mark Brünnhilde’s anguish here. Her music is highly chromatic and tonally ambiguous again. The three-note Fate motif plays prominently here, suggestive of the inescapable doom to come as the music shifts into the key of D-flat major, the key that brings the end of the world of Valhalla (see Example 5): Example 5: Fate Motif (Darcy 20) The ominous three-note Fate motif is developed into an ascending sequential pattern climaxing on Brünnhilde’s high A-flat on the word “mich [me]” suggestive of her transcendental 58
fate (her “rising”) that is about to take place. At the sight of two ravens hovering about her, the Curse motif (see Example 6) sounds in its dramatic B minor in the trombones and timpani as the thought enters Brünnhilde’s mind of the ring’s inescapable curse and the consciousness of lack it brings; those who do not possess it will be possessed with envy, those who do will be possessed with fear at its keeping. Once the knowledge of wealth and power has entered one’s life, one’s life can no longer be blissful and innocent. Only in death and the destruction of such a fallen society can a state of innocence once again be achieved. Example 6: Curse Motif Brünnhilde’s next address is to the Rhinemaidens, who brought us into this world of Wagner’s Nibelung at the outset of the cycle. Expressing her wish that the gold be returned to its rightful owners, Brünnhilde she sings, Der Wassertiefe weise Schwestern, You sisters who are wise and graceful, des Rheines schwimmende Töchter, you Rhinemaids who dwell in the waters, euch dank’ ich redlichen Rat. I shall obey your advice. Was ihr begehrt, ich geb’ es euch : What you desire I’ll give you: aus meiner Asche nehmt es zu eigen ! and from my ashes gather your treasure! Das Feuer, das mich verbrennt, This fire, burning my frame, rein’ge vom Fluche den Ring ! cleanses the curse from the ring! Ihr in der Flut löset ihn auf, There in the Rhine, the ring shall be pure; und lauter bewahrt das lichte Gold, preserve it, and guard your shining gold das euch zum Unheil geraubt. whose theft has cursed all our woe (Porter 326-327). This passage, naturally, takes us back to the music of the Rhinemaidens we heard at the opening of Rheingold and the key shifts back to E-flat major, the key of natural harmony, and becoming the key of the death drive. The recapitulation of these themes in their original key achieves a musical purifying effect suggesting the “world purification” by water we are about the witness. Brünnhilde’s next doing is her setting of the pyre ablaze. Fire and Valhalla motifs are heard along with the Spear motif associated with the power of Wotan played fortissimo in the brass in the key of F minor (see Example 7), a minor-key manifestation of this theme suggestive of the ultimate futility of power. The return to Eden is impossible after the curse of the ring, the curse of desire. Example 7: Spear Motif Brünnhilde’s last act is to ride into the flames. We hear the motifs of the Valkyries, of Siegfried, and the introduction of the new motif of Brünnhilde’s Glorification (see Example 8) all finally coming together in D-flat major, the key of the world’s end, representing Brünnhilde’s full and heroic mind at this cataclysmic moment suggestive of the idea of “seeing your life pass before you” at the moment of death. The Glorification theme is heard first in quiet flutes and oboes, then in louder strings, and finally in the full orchestra as Brünnhilde’s final will is achieved. Accompanying 59
her words “Fühl meine Brust auch, wie sie entbrennt [Feel my breast, how it yearns],” the theme is set in a sequential rising passage, like the Fate sequence heard earlier, symbolic of Brünnhilde’s will of transcendence toward eternal union with Siegfried and, indeed, the universe as a glorified body. Example 8: Brünnhilde’s Glorification Motif With Brünnhilde’s death, the world of Valhalla comes to an end. Theorist Warrren J. Darcy describes this scene as “stepping onto a musical treadmill, one that carries the audience inexorably toward the final cataclysm. We have the impression that “that is it,” that there is no possibility of avoiding what is to come” (18). One certainly gets that feeling with the rapid changes of key and the flowing leitmotifs of Wagner music as married to the text in this fateful scene. We can literally hear “what was she thinking” when a Valkyrie makes the ultimate sacrifice for love.
Works Cited Darcy, Warren J. “The Metaphysics of Annihilation: Wager, Schopenhauer, and the Ending of the Ring.” Music Theory Spectrum, Vol. 16, No. 1 (Spring 1994): 1-40. Freud, Sigmund. Beyond the Pleasure Principle. Translated and edited by James Strachey. New York: Norton, 1961. Lee, M. Owen. Wagner’s Ring: Turning the Sky Around. New York: Limelight Editions, 1998. Meyer, Leonard B. Emotion and Meaning in Music. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1956. Millington, Barry. The New Grove Guide to Wagner and His Operas. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2006. Porter, Andrew, trans. The Ring of the Nibelung: German text of Richard Wagner with English Translation. New York: Norton, 1976. Shaw, George Bernard. The Perfect Wagnerite: A Commentary on the Nibelung’s Ring. New York: Dover, 1923. Reprint 1967.