Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Sing It Out, Mix It Up (Analysis #7)

America is known as the great melting pot; a nation where all different types of cultures and religions can come together and meld to become one. A blend of all the best parts of the world. Yet, that seems more an ideology that is believed to be true rather than the truth itself. Though America is home to many different people from throughout the world, there is no sense of nationalities blending together. Rather, there seems to be a constant struggle for dominance; like children who all want the biggest piece of cake, the nationalities in America squabble over who should be most recognized, with no one willing to agree that said cake can be shared equally.

It is quite unfortunate that this is so, because when different nationalities and customs are blended together, they can create something beautiful, much like in the above video. This blending is what Gloria Anzaldua argues for “Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza”, because in the world that we live in today, “rigidity equals death” (2100). Focusing too hard on one specific culture does not work, for “All identities are hybrids, formed over time through the interaction of multiple cultures and constantly being transformed by new encounters…between one culture and another” (2097). Though it is tempting to ignore the cultures that one does not feel comfortable with, or a “part of”, it only does one a disservice by closing their mind to all that they can learn from said culture.

This video shows that one way to blend two or more cultures together is through music. There are elements of Latin and American culture mixed into this video seamlessly, and one does not need to know every phrase being uttered to grasp the meaning of the piece as a whole. It is the blending together of different cultures that makes this piece so interesting and entertaining, and if we could learn to do this on a larger scale, we might come out of the other side happier for it.

Works Cited

Anzaldua, Gloria. "Borderlands/La Frontera: The New Mestiza." The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W. W. Norton &, 2010. 2095-109. Print.

"Shakira - Hips Don't Lie Ft. Wyclef Jean." YouTube. Web. 10 May 2011. .

Friday, April 29, 2011

Not So Much 'The Virgin Next Door' As 'The Killer Down the Street' (Analysis #6)

At the end of this clip from Ginger Snaps, the two sisters are burying the body of a girl that has died as a direct result of their actions. Bridget, the younger of the two, is upset and worried about what they are doing, and her older sister Ginger tries to reassure her by telling her that no one will suspect them because they are girls, and girls don’t kill other people. They aren’t allowed. Murder is nor a part of their assigned gender role, so therefore no one will realize that the two of them might have something to do with the soon-to-be-reported-missing girl that they are burying. The fact that girls are only allowed to portray a certain type of personality due to preconceived notions about their gender will keep them from getting caught.

The different identities that Ginger lists for females are exactly what Judith Butler argues against in Gender Trouble. She believes that the rigidity society places on gender roles is problematic, because it can lead to a repression of the one's true self; one's true identity (2551). Butler argues that identifying onesself through gender is impossible because "gender is...a norm that can never be fully internalized...gender norms are...impossible to embody" as they are merely a creation of "...a masculine domination" (2552-53). Yet, even though no one actually conforms to the gender norms that they are given, the ideology has been so ingrained into their heads that they cannot see past it to the reality.

This shows in the way that Bridget keeps her mother from finding the body of the murdered girl. Because their mother believes that the two of them are simply "normal teenage girls", she is unable to catch on to the fact that her daughters are less concerned with what boys want than figuring out how to keep her from finding the frozen body in the freezer.

Works Cited

Butler, Judith. "Gender Trouble." The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W. W. Norton &, 2010. 2536-553. Print.

"YouTube - Ginger Snaps Pt.9." YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. Web. 29 Apr. 2011. .

Monday, April 25, 2011

The Simulacrum of Song (Analysis #5)

Jean Baudrillard defines the first stage of simulacra as “the reflection of a basic reality” (1560). It is a copy, and we know it is a copy because it follows the course of the original. It is the difference between the original copy of “Beggin’” by Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons (see Player 1) and the version of the same song in the musical Jersey Boys (see Player 2). One was obviously made in a sort of tribute to the other, and though there are slight differences in rhythm, the essential song remains the same.
Most of the time, this is as far as simulacra tends to go in song, as usually artists only wish to remake the music that they already love, and therefore try to keep as close to the original as possible in homage to something they love. At the same time, however, the artist covering the song infuses a bit of their own style so that the newer version of the song doesn’t feel redundant and therefore pointless. There are times, of course, when simulacra in song goes farther, such as the rap artist Madcon’s rendition of “Beggin’” (see Player 3), which fulfills Baudrillard’s requirements for the second stage of simulacra in that it “perverts the original” (1560) in the sense that while there is some of the original text there, what has been left has been twisted to fit the new artist’s agenda. Though the basic tune and most of the chorus is the same in Madcom’s version, the original “Beggin’” has started to fade, and there might be those who hear the song that do not realize that Madcom has borrowed elements of his popular hit from another popular song in an earlier decade.
It will be interesting in future to see the third and fourth stages of simulacra emerge in the music industry. In the days of the generic pop ballad, it is quite possible that the third and fourth stages have already arrived, and we are as of yet simply unaware that it has.

Works Cited

Baudrillard, Jean. "The Precession of Simulacra." The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W. W. Norton &, 2010. 1553-566. Print.

"Beggin' - Frankie Valli and The Four Seasons : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive." Internet Archive: Digital Library of Free Books, Movies, Music & Wayback Machine. Web. 14 May 2011. .

"Madcon - Beggin : Radioescuela : Free Download & Streaming : Internet Archive." Internet Archive: Digital Library of Free Books, Movies, Music & Wayback Machine. Web. 14 May 2011. .

"YouTube - Jersey Boys - Beggin'" YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. Web. 25 Apr. 2011. .

Wednesday, March 30, 2011

Group Presentation Reflection

My group’s presentation was on Marxism, and for my part I read the assigned writings by Antonio Gramsci, Louis Althusser, and Andrew Ross, and tried to bring up a few points by these authors that were not covered in the original class discussion. I found the readings interesting, especially the ones by Althusser and Ross, because they both focused a lot on education, and how a capitalist system uses education both to push the ideology of the power class on to student (Althusser) and through ideology convince teachers and professors that not only should they work for less pay, to try and change the system would be a betrayal to the very knowledge which they are to impart on the unlearned masses (Ross). Granted, their ideas would be all but impossible without Gramsci’s introduction of the concept of cultural hegemony, which he said was “manufactured consent” first attained through ideology, and then followed up with law, with the main ideology being that of the ruling class (1000). It is cultural hegemony which allows the ruling class to keep ruling, and to make sure that they have what Althusser calls the “reproduction of labour-power” (1336).  Althusser believed that there were two kinds of State Apparatus: the Ideological State Apparatus or ISA, and the Repressive State Apparatus. While the latter is easy to identify, being policemen, judges, soldiers, etc, it is the former that is the most dangerous, because it is through ISA’s that all members of a society are taught the values of the ruling class. Not only that, the members are taught the value of submission and obeying the rules, hopefully instilling in them the belief that challenging the established code – whether it be moral, political, or social – is wrong. If this ideology doesn’t quite sink in completely, the repressive State Apparatus is there to make sure that the laws and rules are enforced – and to serve as a warning to those who might be thinking about challenging the status quo.
There are several types of ISAs, according to Althusser, but the main one in a capitalist society is the school. While other ISAs have power, and a lot of it, he believed that school holds the most sway, because “…no other ideological State apparatus has the obligatory (and not least, free) audience of the totality of the children in the capitalist social formation, eight hours a day for five or six days out of seven”(1347). School is also where one learns the remedial skills necessary to get one through even a base level job, so when that first set of students either leaves the classroom of their own free will or is ejected into society, they are ready to take their place in the work force and do their part for the economy.  The ones who make it to the top wind up becoming agents of one of the State Apparatuses, and they are taught how to manage their underlings (or, in the case of the police force and law, the citizens over which they govern) accordingly.
If this is the case, then what of those who are teaching the ideology? Althusser believed that there are those who understand the awful system of exploitation that they were ensnared in, and try to do their best to change things; to create in their student’s minds new ideas and awareness to the unfairness of the system. These he likens to heroes (1347-1348). For the most part, however, he believed that most are not aware of what they are doing; what they are tacitly allowing to happen through their teaching of the main ideology. That they are too caught up in the idea of liberating their minds and imparting their knowledge to realize that all they are doing is setting the children that they are teaching up to be productive members of a capitalist society that cares little about their minds and much more about what profit it can make from their labor.
Althusser was quite an interesting read, and even if what I took from the reading didn’t exactly leave me with happy feelings, it definitely made me think.

Works Cited
Althusser, Louis. "From Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses (Notes towards an Investigation)." The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. By Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W. W. Norton &, 2010. 1334-361. Print.
Leitch, Vincent B. "Antonio Gramsci (short Bio)." The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. New York: W. W. Norton &, 2010. 998-1008. Print.

Reflection from Class, 29 Mar

Andrew Ross’ The Mental Labor Problem covers a number of topics about labor. One such topic was that more and more, educators are being forced into the same role as the “starving artist”; that is, they are being pushed more and more into an ideology that claims that the work they do is not accomplished for the monetary gain, but rather for love of the subject. As artists (not pop artists, who are little more than cash cows, but the true artiste) are expected to create their art for the sole reason that to do anything else would be against their very nature, so have teachers been forced into the scholarly mold wherein money is a secondary concern to imparting knowledge on the world.
It doesn’t help that for teachers – especially now, with the economy as shaky as it is – the job market is  very narrow, and there is always some new young face who will be willing to work as adjunct or part-time faculty for the “prestige of being a college teacher” (2591). These fresh new faces in essence allow schools and universities to edge out older, full-time employees who receive such luxuries as health benefits and a salaried income, and replace them with a “volunteer low-wage army” (2589) who will work for both less benefits and pay, and who will give more than their share of time to do so.
Not that Ross is suggesting that any of these part-time or adjunct employees bring such things upon themselves, or are in any way responsible for the way that they are being treated. What he is saying, rather, is that they are being trained “in the habit of embracing nonmonetary rewards-mental or creative gratification-as compensation for work” (2590). This training, Ross explains, is partially the result of the “amateur ideal of the scholar”, in which said scholar had the “privilege” of ignoring monetary concerns as “too vulgar and trivial” for them to deal with (2590).
The real problem here is that the system perpetuates this cycle of accepting less money for more work. With Education being the third largest major category for a Bachelor’s Degree, the largest in the Master’s Degree, and the second for a Doctorate in the US as of 2007, (http://degreedirectory.org), teachers are being churned out for jobs that simply aren’t available. Even without the ideology of the new/old scholar pushing them to accept less pay for more labor, these teaching hopefuls are going to be hard pressed to turn down any job they are offered in a market which doesn’t have room to accommodate them all.

Works Cited

Ross, Andrew. "The Mental Labor Problem." The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W. W. Norton &, 2010. 2575-597. Print.

"What Are the Most Common College Majors in the U.S.?" Premier Online Directory of Degree Programs & Career Planning Articles and Videos from Top Colleges and Universities. Web. 30 Mar. 2011. <http://degreedirectory.org/articles/What_are_the_Most_Common_College_Majors_in_the_US.html>.

Thursday, March 24, 2011

That's Just the Caffeine Talking...Folgers and Commodity Fetishism (Analysis #4)

This commercial is designed to give the person or people watching it what is commonly known as "the warm fuzzies". While watching this commercial, one is supposed to be ruminating on how nice it is that the young man was home for Christmas, and how sweet it is that his sister missed him so much that she waited up all night for him to get home. What we are not supposed to be thinking is how Foldgers is using this setting to imply to the viewer that if they only buy Folgers brand coffee, they too can have a happy, warm Christmas morning with the ones they love.

What Folgers is counting on with this commercial is the unconscious assosiation in a viewer's mind of thier coffee with home, love, and waking up to a happy family who are all smiles and ready to face the day, rather than grumpy with too little sleep. The only way to acheive such a thing is through "the best part of waking up": a big cup of delicious Folger's brand coffee.

This seems, if anything, to be a fine example of commodity fetishism; a term coined by Karl Marx to describe the process by which social relationships between people are replaced by the relationships between things, such as the exchange of money for a good (665). In place of regular interaction, this good becomes the recipient of feelings and preferences that would normally be bestowed between people. In this commercial, the young man obviously doesn't feel at home until he has started making his coffee; it is the scent of said coffee that alerts his parents to his presence, and it is around the coffee that the family gathers to express their joy at seeing him...because after the greeting has been taken care of, it's the coffee that this family will be going for.

Works Cited
Marx, Karl. "From Capital, Volume I." The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. By Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W. W. Norton &, 2010. 663-74. Print.
"YouTube - Folgers Christmas Ad 2009 - Peter." YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. Web. 30 Mar. 2011. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=yOQk_pWmisA>.

Monday, March 21, 2011

It's All About the Fetishism, Bay-Bee (Analysis #3)

This scene from the movie From Dusk Til Dawn portrays a man with a foot fetish getting a little bit of what he craves. Namely, pretty Selma Hayek's feet in his face. As Quentin Tarantino is portraying the character, and he is rumored to have a bit of a foot fetish himself, it is really no surprise that he would take advantage of the chance to have something like this in his movie.

Looking at this through a Freudian lens, one would note that the foot in this case is the replacement for the penis that this man really wants, but cannot have. In order to feed this need, he fixates on something else. Something that makes it easier to see the woman, without a penis of her own, in a sexual light. Probably he developed this fetish early, as a replacement for what he believes is his mother's lost penis, and a protection against losing his own. As Freud writes in "Fetishism", the fetish is a "token of triumph over the threat of castration and a protection against it" (843). The fetish becomes, in a way, a talisman, a sort of good-luck charm against the possibility of castration. Add in the characters weird, co-dependent relationship with his brother, who acts more like a father and might have raised him, and his propensity for violence against women, and the result is a man that I'm sure Freud would have loved to analyze in depth.

One could be forgiven for not quite understanding the whole concept of fetishism. Those who don't have a fetish - or don't have one that is obvious - might not understand the reason behind such a thing. Although Freud might have gotten the reason why one develops a fetish wrong, he was correct in his belief that if said fetish does no harm to anyone, then it is not the right no any one person to judge another for having one, whatever it might be.

Works Cited

Freud, Sigmund. "Fetishism." The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Ed. Vincent B. Leitch. New York: W. W. Norton &, 2010. 841-45. Print.

"YouTube - Film: From Dusk Till Dawn (1996) - Fetish Scene." YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. Web. 21 Mar. 2011. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=-n_pQkK_MP8>