Fight Club: Spoiler Alert

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In the novel, Fight Club by Chuck Palahniuk the theme of identity is prevalent. The protagonist character suffers with such a disconnect from his own identity that he ultimately creates an uuber-self. This second identity is his better version of himself, but the twist is that he is unaware until the books close that he is doing this. He is unaware that he is creating this identity because it manifests itself in the form of another person, Tyler Durden. This seemingly schizophrenic conception of an alter-ego is Tyler’s way of avoiding the normality and monotony of his daily life. Through Project Mayhem he becomes the person that his alter-ego embodies. Tyler tells him, “you are not a beautiful unique snowflake” to point out the mass culture that he has become similar to. He points out that consumerism has begun to take over his existence, and Project mayhem is a way to counteract that.

In spite of this drone-like consumerist existence the protagonist creates a club, a fight club. This club allows it members to feel alive, to feel pain. This club was an outcry to counteract a meaningless regimen of work outside of the club.

This novel delves into the subject of identity and identity crisis. Tyler Durden feels so stuck in his life that he creates an enhanced version of himself unknowingly. He creates the club to escape his monotonous regimen and ultimately allows others to escape through the club as well.

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A Look Into Band Films!

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            When watching films about musicians, especially those who belong to bands that have supplied hours on end of life-altering tunes, you get a backstage pass into that person’s life and journey. Though sometimes the films created by or about artists aren’t exactly accurate or telling, they can offer a new sound to a song you’ve heard many times prior. The filmmaker often constructs the film in a way that promotes an image that supports the band’s pre-existing image. A large part of being a highly successful musical group is to have a distinct image and a strategic way to sell it. I do not think that all successful musicians put abundant emphasis on creating and maintaining an image, but I do think many have an effortless image that is not constructed or thought out. In my opinion, these natural images sell better and are genuine to the fans and music consumers.

One such band that naturally exudes style, attitude and mystery is a little band called the Doors. In the film, based upon this band, appropriately called “The Doors” a group of musicians follow a pathway to success through the psychedelic sounds that they create.  The film primarily follows lead singer, Jim Morrison, and his soul search that leads him to music. In the film we are sold an image of the Doors that is very edgy, daring and artistic. With my prior knowledge of the band and Jim Morrison I feel that this film depicted the Doors well. The generation is depicted as being very drug-oriented, artistic and forward thinking, and it seems as if that also is an adequate depiction. As the band lives in a city, they support Durkheim’s theory that urban life is a space for creativity, progress and a new world order.

Overall I enjoyed this film and it’s depiction of a band that has supplied me many hours of musical joy.

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Foxxcon and the flaws of capitalism

The people (often very young) who work long, monotonous hours for low wages in other countries to make products for American companies to sell to the American public make me wonder about our capitalist society. At what point did consumers become so detached from our possessions that we do not care how they were made, and under what circumstances? A very potent example of our capitalistic, consumerist society being ignorant to the way things were created is evident in the iPhone.
Within the last few years the story of Foxxcon Technologies has surfaced. Though the corporation has many locations, the Shenzhen location has garnered much notoriety. Allegedly employees at this location work long hours for low wages, and are not provided adequate safety measures. After a slew of employees jumped to their death from the roof top of the building the company opted to surround the building with nets that would catch those who tried to jump. These nets brought on much media attention, because rather than creating better conditions for their workers they made it so that their attempts to kill themselves on-site would be futile.
The virtues of capitalism are anti-totalitarianism, where a tyrant cannot control society or businesses. But, it seems to me that this form of capitalism is becoming a tyrant in its own form. These citizens are so poor that they cannot afford to lose their job, and they are made to be so powerless that they cannot speak up about miss-treatment in fear of losing their jobs. The corporation acts as a tyrant that traps employees in a homogeneous work-force where everyone must abide by strict rules (supposedly workers cannot speak to one another while on their shift). Though it is said that a primary flaw to capitalism and outsourcing work is that your clients are offered less work from your company and have less money to buy your goods. Yet, this does not seem to be the case with the iPhone, which is still one of the most popular cell phones in the U.S.

Boardwalk Empire and Ideological Codes

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One of my favorite television shows out right now would have to be Boardwalk Empire starring Steve Buscemi. It is based in Atlantic City, New Jersey during the 1920’s Prohibition era. The protagonist character, Enoch “Nucky” Thompson is a politician who is involved in the illegal distribution of alcohol. He has ties with government officials and dangerous mobsters alike.

I like the dated context of this series as well as the accuracy that it employs in its details. The settings and costumes are right on point for that era, carnation pocket adornments and all. Even the ideological codes of that time are employed. Such codes are gender roles, male hierarchical dominance, the importance of wealth and racial segregation. Even the dialect and vernacular employed by characters is accurate for that time period.

Nucky’s second wife Margaret Schroeder reinforces ideological codes and gender roles in multiple ways throughout the series. In the episode before last, when Margaret was asked about business matters, she responds that a women’s role is in the house. Also, in many scenes Chalky White and Eli Thompson are shown displaying dominance and control as the men of the house. They’re families even at times reveal fear of the father figures. Nucky Thompson is highly respected and much of this has to do with his extreme wealth and power. Despite his often-unethical tactics of conducting business people esteem him in his community. In the first season we saw the appearance of the KKK and their racial violence towards African Americans. All these situations display the use of ideological codes in this series.

I enjoy the window this show opens into a distant and unfamiliar time, and I also enjoy the superior way in which it is done. The show is historically accurate in its inclusion of real people such as Al Capone and Enoch Thompson (Johnson in real life). Many other characters are also based upon people who actually existed.

Hearts Beat Alike

The story of Romeo and Juliet has been told so many times throughout history. Why? Maybe because it is a scenario that occurs in so many settings, giving it is a relatable plot that transcends time. The star-crossed lovers that come from opposite worlds that forbid their union.  This is the story line that could be told in so many contexts and again people will flock to see the sorrows that a torn heart can induce.

In the film Hearts Beat Alike, Abraham, a black slave in 1890’s Memphis, Tennessee, and Fionna, a white textile plantation owner’s daughter, fall deeply in love. Abraham and Fionna hide their love, because they know that nobody will accept it. But, when, Brenton, the man that Fionna’s father has set her up with, finds the two making love he accuses Abraham of raping Fionna. Both know that is far from the truth, but nobody in Fionna’s community seems to listen to them. Abraham’s family is scornful that he could fall for someone who is in direct relations to a slave master. Fionna’s father, Brenton, and much of the rest of the town create a mob frenzy convinced that Fionna had been raped. They find Abraham and brutally beat him up. They then take him to the near-by jail and make plans to hang him the next day.

Brenton finds Fionna frantically trying to find Abraham in the slave quarters and tells her that Abraham has already been killed, though he knows this is not the truth. She then finds cyanide in the work shed and goes to her room to die in peace. She cannot live with the guilt of Abraham’s death nor with the thought of not having him by her side. That night as Fionna is drinking the poison Abraham escapes from jail. He runs to Fionna’s house and climbs into her room. He has made plans to run away with her and has even figured out a foolproof way of doing so. When he finally gets to her room, Fionna is close to death but is barely still conscious. She cries to see Abraham then slowly fades away, and tells him she thought he was dead and that she loves him. Abraham cries out “No” and accidentally awakens her family. They run to see what has happened and find Abraham draped over Fionna’s dead body. With rage they drag Abraham to the town square and hang him for all to see.

Fionna’s or Abraham’s family lost the ones they love because they tried so hard to push them apart. Maybe not a happy ending, but a Shakespearean tragic closure it is.

In this historical romantic drama, Hearts Beat Alike I would like to feature Shawan Wayans and Jessica Chastain. Although Wayans is usually a comedic actor, I think he will not have a hard time getting into character for this role. Chastain has the southern belle appeal that I am looking for. I want her to be the type to attract many of the white men in town, but to be unaffected by their attention because she is so infatuated with Abraham. The movie will be filmed in rural areas of Tennessee that will be dressed to look like they would have in the 1890’s.

I think this film is important because it is a situation that could have, and may have in some way, occurred in the United States during this time. I think it will spread awareness that many of the supposed rapes by black men on white women were made to look that way by white men with an injured ego. This film could create a narrative about supposed rapists being lynched with no question during that time in history. Though the story does not have a happy ending it does have a climactic ending that will stay on the minds of moviegoers long after they’ve left the theater. This lasting impression caused by the climactic ending will cause people to talk about the film and its content and inevitably snowball into a large viewing audience. Not only is this movie historically accurate and telling, it will be a box office hit as well.

The two young protagonists find they have so much in common including taste in literature and music; they also have the same kind-hearted, soft-spoken demeanor. Their commonalities embrace what author Chris Barker calls “Racialization” in his book Cultural Studies. The thought behind racialization is that many of the assumed differences between people of different races are socially formed. The fact that Fionna and Abraham see themselves as equals goes against what everyone around them believes. “[Race is] formed in and by symbolization in a process of social and political power struggle,” according to Barker. By this he means through a struggle for power and control one race commonly uses social apparatus to subordinate another class. Some of the social apparatus could be the labor market, housing market, education system, or the media. (253-254)

The historical nature of this film is heavily emphasized. Although it is not a true story with true characters, as I said above, it is a type of occurrence that was very common at that time. A young black journalist during the late 1800’s was adamant about reporting upon the lynching trend. She was especially interested in debunking the myth that black men were raping white women to deserve such a fate. In the publication Phylon, author David M. Tucker chronicles Ida B. Wells and her writings in publications across the nation, especially in Memphis, Tennessee. His Article “Miss Ida B. Wells and the Memphis Lynching” reveals that Wells was highly controversial and threatened for her stance that the sexual relationships between black men and white women were consensual, are were pinned as rape to protect the white man’s ego. (118).

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I would like to include Ida B. Wells in the film to add some historical relevance, but she will be only a minor character and will be one of the only characters who supports the bi-racial relationship. She will be played by Kerry Washington, who has played the role of a highly intelligent young women in other films and television shows, so I think she will be able to pull off the role of Well’s very well.

In the way that Django Unchained, written and directed by Quentin Tarantino, unabashedly presented the extent of racism during the mid 1800’s, Hearts Beat Alike will give viewers a truthful depiction of the racial bigotry of the time. This film will include the vernacular and racial slurs used at the time, and will include some violent matter for this reason it will be rated R. Django (the J is silent), played by Jamie Fox, is a freed slave that becomes a bounty hunter, and eventually tracks down his wife who is enslaved by a plantation owner. The plantation owner Calvin Candie, played by Leonardo DiCapprio, is a seemingly evil man with little but his own wealth and ego to consider.  This character has many similarities to Fionna’s father Edward, played by Ron Perlman. Edward is also dispassionate, but unfortunately does not reach the same fate as Calvin in this film.

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The recently released film 12 Years A Slave deals with the same issues of race relations and slavery. Director Steve McQueen tells the story of Solomon Northup, a freed black man from the North that gets captured and sold into slavery. Solomon faces the same brutal treatment as Abraham all because they are black men. Though 12 Years A Slave is based on a true story that took place in the 1840’s, it has many similar heart wrenching aspects as Hearts Beat Alike. Solomon also worked on a Southern plantation. The film 12 Years A Slave has been a controversial box office hit, but is one that has been talked about by many.

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            This film, if given the green light by your production company, will be a similar buzz-worthy box office success. Its historical roots, teamed with romance and tragedy will draw a vast demographic from young women to old men. For this reason and more, I feel that Hearts Beat Alike deserves the green light for production from your honorably company. Thank you for you time!

Works Cited

12 Years A Slave. Dir. Steve McQueen. Perf. Chiwetel Ejiofor, Michael K. Williams,

and Michael Fassbender. Regency Enterprises, 2013.

Barker, Chris. Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice.  London: Sage 2012.

Django Unchained. Dir. Quentin Tarantino. Perf. Jamie Foxx Christopher Waltz,             Leonardo DiCaprio. Columbia Pictures, 2012.

Tucker, David M. “Miss Ida b. Wells and Memphis Lynching.” Phylon 1971: 112-122.

 

Orientalism and the James Bond Villain

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Throughout the long string of James Bond films there have been a slew of James Bond villains for Bond to stand as opposition to. Many of the early Bond villains are interesting depictions of Orientalism.

Orientalism is a form creating an “other” and in doing so bolstering the image of the “us” who in this case would be the British. These cultures bolster their own usually by creating intellectual and social authority over Middle Eastern, Asian, and North African cultures as well as other countries besides the U.K.

Characters such as General Chang of “Tomorrow Never Dies,” Emilio Largo of “Never Say Never Again,” Dr. Kananga of “Live and Let Die,” and General Medrano of “Quantum of Solice,” all create a multi-cultural villain vision of the world outside the U.K. and United States. In this way we can see the James Bond films as a form of propaganda that creates a vision of British superiority. None of these villains, despite their level of skill, can defeat the suave British spy. His superiority is displayed through his cunning ability to foresee their wrongdoing, and ability to always defeat the villain. These representations of reality, coupled with an already Westernized view of the world, could create and maintain a Western superiority conception in it’s viewer.

I am not implying that Bond films are evil or ill intentioned, but I think that many movies portray cultures outside their own as being evil, flawed or sub-par.

Group Presentations. Yikes!

 

In any group presentation, collective effort is very important. Despite any one person’s effort, it is the effort of the group as a whole that makes or breaks a group presentation.  In this English 313 Studies in Pop Culture course we were put into groups of seven to present on a given topic. The topic that my group was given was the film “Lost in Translation” and how it relates to our class material and discussions.

            Being the second group to present, we had some sort of example of what we were to be doing with this presentation. We also had a few weeks to plan and meet regarding the content of our presentation. The class session after we were initially put into groups we all traded e-mail addresses and briefly discussed how we wanted to cover the movie. At this point we all thought we would be covering “Summers Palace.”  We all worked on finding the movie with no luck, after two-weeks of such luck the professor changed the movie to “Lost in Translation,” a movie that most of us had seen before.

            After the movie had been changed I sent out an e-mail to all of the members of my group asking which days they were available to meet. Everyone was fast to respond and we coordinated a meeting time. In class before the meetings we asked that everyone watch the film before our scheduled meeting. We met in the Oviatt library and made a list of class topics that are relevant to this movie. From there we each chose a topic we wanted to discuss and brainstormed on scenes from the movie that would showcase that topic in one way or another. I chose Globalization because I found that many Euro-centric cultural entities have invaded every other country in the world. I find this phenomena interesting and worthy of a closer look. I recalled a scene from the movie where the characters are doing karaoke, and all the music they are singing is of American or British decent. Also, the fact that Bob, one of the main characters in the movie, is an American actor in Japan being commissioned to advertise products and appear on talk shows, shows the extent of cultural imperialism. American films are viewed in other countries, while in America we hear little about foreign films. So I chose this topic so I could share this idea with the class.

            When our first group meeting was over we decided to meet at the same time and place a week from then. I e-mailed those who were unable to attend with an update of what we went over in that session. At this second meeting we all knew concretely which scenes we wanted to cover and how we wanted to relate them to our topics.

            I think I played a big role in initially coordinating our group, but as I said earlier it takes a collective-effort to make a group project work. I think our group worked well together, and we used our time wisely. I hope that our effort shows when finally present our information and movie clips to the class.