Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Response: The Cyborg

The idea of the cyborg being outside of Freud, and being outside of the creation of man is in essence true.  It is, as has been stated, still a creation of militaristic capitalism, yet isn't a Frankenstein monster that needs to be saved, its it's own functioning individual self.  Feminists, especially second-wave, see these cyborgs as a metaphor for their struggles and an excellent way to break away from the Stigmas of Freud.
yet they fail to take into account the fact that they are both human and machine.  Through out history the "other" has stood for what is not the majority (the white male), and a mixing of the other and the majority has lead not to cyborgs but to individuals with out a creed of definition in the other.  Like Wikus Van Deburg in District 9 when he become a cyborg like being caught in between the prawn and his own race he is shunned and hunted.  Even in BladeRunner the individual hunted is the cyborg, the new "other".  It is not human and it is not machine so it does not have a home, yet it still struggles for that which all humans want, to be remembered.  It is the reason for the final scene of Bladerunner, he has seen things that no one else will see, he has lived a life that no one will remember, so he saves Harrison Ford so that he can be a testament to the life and death of the cyborg.  The cyborg is still seeking acceptance in society, it has not broken away from the norms but is seeking out the norms.

Tuesday, May 10, 2011

Analysis 7: For no great poet has ever been afraid of being himself.

Admittedly choosing a white artist to analyze Langston Hughes can be seen as disrespectful or missing the point of his essay, maybe even trivializing the struggles that the Harlem Renaissance chose to confront, embrace, and make their own.  Yet he is a white artist in a "black" genera, and he is more than that, he is an artist speaking for himself, he is not trying to be black or white, "for no great poet has ever been afraid of being himself" (Hughes 1192).  So it is in honor of Mr. Hughes that I am choosing an artist like Eminem, the racial mountain is no longer just faced by the "Negro Artist" but by every artist.  Each individual most break out of each social stigma that is placed against their respective race, class, religion, or nationality.  Eminem is a white artist in a black artist's medium, and he  is excelling at it.

What you think, I'm doing this for me, so fuck the world
Feed it beans, it's gassed up, if a thing's stopping me
I'mma be what I set out to be, without a doubt undoubtedly
And all those who look down on me I'm tearing down your balcony
No if ands or buts don't try to ask him why or how can he 
(Eminem - Not Afraid)
Hughes commented on America's standardization, and that black artists were able to break away from this standardization in a way that white artists were not. Yet the middle class and rich blacks wanted to be standardized, and Hughes' essay is a cry against that. It is a manifesto against standardization, about accepting who the artist is as a black artist. Even today this essay is felt in society, rap and the music industry is being standardized.  The lyrics and content are becoming cookie cutter and so are the artists, they are trying to sell the image and life style, yet artists like Eminem break that image because they are outside of the norm. "We younger Negro artists who create now intend to express our individual dark-skinned selves without fear or shame. If white people are pleased we are glad. If they are not, it doesn’t matter. We know we are beautiful. And ugly too" (Hughes 1196), it is no longer the Negro artists struggle by himself.  The Harlem Renaissance has come and gone and affected mainstream popular culture.  There are those rappers who try to be black, yet they are white or latino, and then their are those rappers who do not act the part they are told to, yet embrace their own identity.  Eminem is a white rapper, he is not a "wigger" or a white man trying to be black.  He is the new face of Hughes, he is the new era of the renaissance, it is not longer a racial movement but a cultural one.  One that must be taken on by all of America not just a select few.

Hughes, Langston. "The Negro Artist and the Racial Mountain". ed. Leitch, Vincent B. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. New York: W. W. Norton &, 2010. Print. 

Tuesday, May 3, 2011

Response: Occidentalism, the western ideal

The orientalism and occidentalism are switching places in the modern world.  At first the two could have existed to give meaning to there opposite.  The Oriental know they are Oriental because they are not occidental, and Oriental is truly an occidental creation.  The fact that their name is created from the sheer fact that they are east of the empire of Rome. The slave in the master slave relationship that is semiotics, but one can not exist with out the other.  So they overlap and become each other.  It is evident in both western and eastern culture that their is a blend occurring.  It is no mere coincidence that in Blade Runner and Firefly set in a more Orientally influenced culture, the languages have blended so have the customs.  It is evident even in our society, Coca Cola can be seen across the mass orient, where as sushi, buddhism, acupuncture, and other oriental customs have grown popular in the two great occidental super powers, America and Britain.  India still watches the BBC, and Netflix is stocked full of asian films.  Many new horror films are adapted from the Oriental films (The Ring, One Missed Call, and The Grudge).  A large aspect could be because of the blending of the cultural identity and the populations, or the introduction of the internet, but the cultures have been merging since their first meeting. They shared medicines, weapons, and resources.  Occidental and Oriental are becoming more mixed, while the Oriental populace rises, the Occidental populace trades more and relies more on the eastern economy and community.  Wars and colonialism  facilitated the change, but the economy fostered the child. It allowed it to grow, and it will continue to grow, until Oriental and Occidental simply become ways to designate east and west on a compass and not east and west by culture.

Analysis 6: The Scarlet A and Easy Access.

Foucault, in his text " The History of Sexuality: An Introduction, Volume 1", tackles two major concepts in the idea of sexuality.  The first is that sexuality was at first repressed, and sexuality was almost a taboo, but it was soon scrutinized scientifically.  This is to say that the need to understand sexuality caused sexuality to be seen in the realms of science, psychology, sociology, and other avenues of study, creating a power based off of understanding and finding the sexuality.  The second idea is that the study of sexuality and perversions helps create or strengthen perversions by bringing them to light or making them evident in the eye of the beholder.  This creates a drive into understanding and finding new perversions as well as classifying sexual deviance outside of marraige, I.E. Homosexuality, Transsexuality, Transgendered, etc etc.  It creates the ability to classify and sub-classify each perversion in an attempt to understand it, and in doing so identifies the person with that perversion. The individual now becomes a homosexual or a furry based on his sexual perversions which is not paralleled in say their taste in food (like a "vegetarian").  He defines these studies as a source of power for both the one being studied and the one studying.  The first gains power because they become aware of their perversions, while the second gains power because of the knowledge of the new perversion he brings to light.

Enter the movie Easy A, Olive is just a regular no body in school until the rumor spreads about her sleeping with a fictitious college student.  Now all the students at her school are paying attention to her, spreading more rumors, and participating in a rumor mill to enhance their popularity and power at the school.  The movie becomes a study of school aged sexuality as pointed out in Foucault.  Students are originally kept away from sexuality, but it develops due to the want to understand sexuality and gives the observers and the participant power.  The power on the observers part is a feeling of superiority over the "slut" (who brands herself with a scarlet A) as evident in Amanda Bynes ultra conservative character that leads a movement to get Olive separated from school.  This instance also creates power for Olive, now she is being recognized and is able to insight the crowd and control her fate (or sexuality).  By lying about her sexuality she actually saves (and later condemns) a teacher who was sleeping with another student, as well as enhance the social life of the "others" in school (the nerds).  Her relationship and understanding of the power, as well as the other individuals feeling of empowerment for being better (and a sense of schadenfreude by living vicariously through her) allows her to gain the ability to broad caste both her sexuality, and in the end tell the truth and dispel the rumors of her "slutty ways". Easy A is an excellent example of the power gained by the "understanding" of sexuality, especially in the setting of a school.

 Foucault. "The History of Sexuality". ed. Leitch, Vincent B. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. New York: W. W. Norton &, 2010. Print. 

Tuesday, April 26, 2011

Analysis 5: The Experiment in Foucault

"You are a prisoner."
 The movie The Experiment is based on an experiment based on the Stanford Prison Experiment, an experiment meant to document the affects of the roles of prisoner and guard on the individual.  The test was simple; the group of 26 men would be divided into two smaller groups, most of the men would be "prisoners" while a select few would take the role of the "guards".  They were given a set of rules that had to be followed or the light would come on and the experiment would end and no one would get paid.  The rules were simple, every prisoner must eat everything on their plate, they speak only when spoken too, no outside food or other items, the day begins and ends with roll call, any breaking of the rules must be punished inside of a thirty minute window, and if any violence occurs the experiment will end. At first the experiment went smoothly until the guards felt like they were losing control, and soon the started to raise the level of punishment and got to the point were they no longer treated the prisoners like humans.  The experiment escalated into violence and sadism on the side of the guards, the experiment that was schedules for two weeks hardly made it a hand full of days before being scrubbed.

This model prison, lacking the training and professionalism of a regular prison, created a foil to Foucault's panopticon. The Stanford experiment was a constantly monitored prison, monitored both by guards and by the cameras, but it was because of this observation that the guards became so sadistic.  They realized that they were being watched and that they had to become the roll of prison guards and see the prisoners as less than them or less human.  "Carceral continuity and the fusion of the prison-form make it possible to legalize, or in any case to legitimate disciplinary power, which thus avoids any element of excess or abuse it may entail" (Foucault 1497), except when the guards are told to keep absolute order or they will not be getting paid.  Foucault failed to account for the capitalist worship of money, and the almost Nazi like sadistic zeal that can arise when an individual is put "above" another human being.  If the system allows for the dehumanization of the incarcerated they will be seen as  unruly animals, and as is the case of the movie, the guards will realize they are out numbered and they must rule with fear and strict punishment.  The ideal of a constantly watched populace, or at least the illusion of one, is able to facilitate a norm in cultural law and the way the individuals act (I.E. a boy must partake in the manly sport instead of the "feminine" arts because of cultural stigma) but this leads to the violence and the ideal of the "wrong".  Criminals are not seen as misguided but as bad, and bad must be punished.  If one acts against the norm imposed by the panopticon he must be punished, and if the societal panopticon does not work than the prisoners panopticon must also be flawed.

Foucault. “Discipline and Punish”. ed. Leitch, Vincent B. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. New York: W. W. Norton &, 2010. Print. 

Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Analysis 4: One man thought that he could resist drowning by resisting the idea of gravity.

"In contrast to German philosophy, which descends from heaven to earth, here we ascend from earth to heaven. That is to say, we do not set out from what men imagine, but from real active men. Life is not determined by consciousness, but consciousness by life. When empty talk about consciousness ceases, and real knowledge takes its place philosophy as an independent branch of knowledge loses its medium of existence" (Marx 656).  Marx is trying to say that all of mens cognitive abilities, their consciousness, derives from need and from history, history and need are not derived from it.  In "German Ideology" he details how societies arose in their four steps into feudalism and the class system that he further outlines and calls into action in "The Communist Manifesto".
In his manifesto, Marx tells how the Bourgeoisie were able to over throw the aristocratic elite and become the new dominant class, and that this evolution was lead by capitalism.  He says that capitalism and the merchant zeal lead to the bourgeoisie to enslave the world with capitalism and destroyed the family and society with industrialization.  He goes on to state that the proletariat is being ruled by the Bourgeoisie, and that the workers are selling their labor to the ruling class individuals. The Communist Manifesto is a warning and a call to arms saying that the working class can destroy the ruling class much the way that the bourgeoisie overcame the aristocrats.

In "Capital" he states that commodities can only truly be compared in the time it takes to make the commodity (labor time) and that the only value it can then be weighed in is money. He also argues that by putting a monetary value on an object it loses the labor-value and is only seen in the aspect of monetary worth which then makes the public lose touch with the amount of labor put into the product. this means that capitalism is focusing more on the money and less on the labor price which allows for the company to pay workers less and still charge more money for the object, and allows workers who produce nothing that can be consumed (marketeers) to make more than the laborers.

Yet he fails to take into account that after the proletariate takes over they will become the ruling class.  His essays focus on how society is born from class struggle, and this class struggle pushes society on to the next evolution (evolution through revolution).  In a society with out any monetary value, only labor value will rule, so unless their is a system with no skilled workers only a shared rotation of work (i.e. one individual farms one day, then smiths the next) there will exist another class struggle.  That would be a struggle between the desirable jobs and the undesirable.  A farmer would be more desirable than a stable hand, and a smith would be more desirable than the trash collector, a doctor most desirable of all.  The credit would not be weight in money, but in labor time and reluctance to do the job. If every one were to share and get equal shares of everything, it would soon become evident that the individual making clothes had to do less back breaking labor than the individual making buildings so the division in labor would still be evident.  The class system would not be devised by money, but by desirable position.  Marx is only calling for the evolution of the next class system, for their is no true way to break from class.  If all individuals shared and rotated jobs, then their would be no doctor or no truly skilled farmers, crops would succeed or houses would be erected one day, only to be placed in the hand of a less skilled individual.  this could lead to instances of shoddy houses, ruined harvests, or poisonous medicines.  It is seen in history that humanity started living longer and became more productive with the idea of specialized jobs and skills.  So either humanity would have to resort to a more primitive time, or their would be a class division among trades. 
Marx, Karl. "Capital". ed. Leitch, Vincent B. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. New York: W. W. Norton &, 2010. Print. 
Marx, Karl. "The Communist Manifesto". ed. Leitch, Vincent B. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. New York: W. W. Norton &, 2010. Print. 
Marx, Karl. "The German Ideology". ed. Leitch, Vincent B. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. New York: W. W. Norton &, 2010. Print.

Tuesday, March 22, 2011

Analysis 3: Lost in Context

In the essay "Death of the Author" Barthes calls for the importance of the text above the author or of the biography and history of the text.  He stresses the importance of the text itself, that it must be approached with a clear mind, not weighed down by the knowledge of the authors struggles or the political mind set of the time period.  He also says that any story is trapped in the context of the medium, and that all narratives and language are quilts of what has already been seen, written, or said already.  He stresses that language in itself is a prison, but working inside that prison one can still develop something original.
Iser's essay "Interaction Between Text and Reader" suggests that during the reading of any text the reader most play the part of an active participant.  That the characters, what is shown, what is said, and what is unsaid, all come together on the focus of the reader and it is this process of actively reading and constructing the story that creates the interaction.  He says that the text tells the reader through a process of showing the reader and allowing the reader to infer which allows the reader to be an active component and allows each reading of the text to change. He says that the text is polysemantic and can have many meanings, and with out the reader each meaning less is pointless and the text is pointless.
Together the two authors create an understanding of the reader-response theory, in which the reader defines the work.  That being said i am choosing to preform a reader response analysis of the ending of the show "Lost".  I know nothing about the show, have never seen any episodes, and no nothing about the actors or directors.  I am simply going to conduct a reading of the text and with a combination of reader response and semiotics try and define or come to an understanding of what is transpiring.

The only line of dialogue is spoken by a bald male upon what appears to be the main character entering a church "We have been waiting for you".  This is then a pivotal part in understanding the text, while the scene changes between a dying man in a jungle, and a group gathered in a church, the only line is "we have been waiting for you".  This implies that the group in what appears to be a church had arrived before him and had been waiting for him to start what ever they have gathered together to do. Through a semiotic read, and by understanding the blank (that which is left unsaid), the audience can infer that this is the afterlife or heaven based on the credits showing a wrecked plane and the man dying in the forest.  That as well as the white wash when a man (who is possibly a pastor) leaves the church and enters a white celestial void.  While these things are not explained to the reader, it is inferred by illusions to other pop-culture t.v. shows and movies that show a white wash as the presence of heaven or death. The fact that one of the final scenes of the stumbling man is him closing his eyes, then the switch back to the church further stresses that the church symbolizes the after life, and it being a church must then be heaven.  The love interest and a room of friends are clearly gathered do to the familial way the group accepts the new comer and interacts almost as if they had all been through some trying event (possibly death on the airplane). So the scene then seems to be the passing of the man in the jungle and the acceptance of his ghost in the afterlife by his friends in heaven after a struggle (hinted at by his injured stumbling through the woods), and that he is the final member of the group before they can enter heaven.

That was a small semiotic reading of pheminology and the reader response theory.

Barthes, Roland. "Death of the Author". ed. Leitch, Vincent B. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. New York: W. W. Norton &, 2010. Print. 
Iser, Wolfgang. "Interaction Between Text and Reader". ed. Leitch, Vincent B. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. 2nd ed. New York: W. W. Norton &, 2010. Print.