Monday, May 4, 2009

Analysis # 7: Orientalism

The above cartoon - racists entitle "Chop Suey" - was released August 24, 1930 and is an example of how the West defines the East. The cartoon embraces several stereotypes about the Asian culture that are presented as fact. In the cartoon the Chinese characters are sinister looking cat-like/mouse-like creatures who slanted eyes, walk, dress, and language is highly exaggerated. There traditional braid worn by Chinese men (queue)and syncopated version of Chinese music is used to poke fun at the Asian culture as a whole and establish their "Otherness".

Said says that historically the West has viewed the Orient as, "irrational, depraved, childlike, different; thus the European is rational, virtuous, mature, normal" (8). The Chinese characters hit each other over the head with mallets and kick which reinforces the stereotype that they are childlike and irrational. When the two rat-like creatures go to a Chinese laundry they get high on opium which is supposed to reflect their depraved nature to sell illegal drugs. "In brief, because of Oriental ism the Orient was not (and is not) a free subject of thought or action [...] It as tries to show that European culture gained in strength and identity by setting itself off against the Orient as a sort of surrogate and even underground self" (Said 1).

The Chinese characters all work at a laundry service that implies that they are only "fit" to wash other people's clothes. The an unusual change of events a "white" woman is introduced into the cartoon. Her facial features are more pleasing to the eye and she does not look as evil and sinister as the other cat/mouse creatures. She takes her clothes to the laundry. To illustrate the total depravity of the Chinese; the "white" woman is assaulted by and iron cat-like claw and evil faces appear around her. The stereotype implies that the Chinese are sexually immoral, vicious, and dangers to the purer female sex.

The woman is saved by a noble and brave "white" man who tips his hat politely at the woman. His appearence is also less threatening and exaggerated. He chases the Chinese cats up the chimney and they retreat into a dragon -another stereotype.
The heroric "white" man ends up with the girl, and the two happily drive down the road together.

Cartoons such as "Chop Suey" created images about the Orient and Asian culture that caused many white Americans to view them as the Other.

Works Cited

Siad, Edward. "Orientalism".Rivkin, Julie. Literary Theory: An Anthology. Blackwell publishing; United Kingdom, 2004.

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Saturday, May 2, 2009

Finale Essay: Oreintalism

Throughout history the ideal of the Orient as strange mysterious place has not only fascinated adults, it as also captivated hundreds and thousands of children in Europe, The United Kingdom, Canada, American, and other countries belonging to “the west”. British writers such as Rudyard Kipling, author of The Jungle Book and Frances Brunett, author A Little Princess & The Secret Garden; taught children through their literature how to see the east. In Kipling’s book and small boy named Mowgli is lost in the jungle and brought up by wolves. Mowgli’s adventures include talking to animals and discovering lost treasure buried in a tomb by a Great Maharajah. Children reading The Jungle Book during the turn of the century as well as today embraced the highly fictional stereotypes about India without discernment. In Brunett’s stories – especially in A Little Princess – children learn themes that rang from the superiority of Britain over Indian to the inferiority of the native people who live there; and characters frequently refer to Indians as pigs!

Such images of the Orient in children’s literature have shaped the way each generation perceives eastern countries. With the rise of the movie and television media, marketers have been able to sell their images of the east to children all over the world. In Edward Said’s article Orientalism he calls into question the way the west defines the east. According to Said, “The Orient –dealing with it by making statements about it, authorizing views of it, describing it, by teaching it, settling it, ruling over it: in short, Orientalism as a Western style for dominating, restructuring, and having authority over the Orient” (1).
Today cartoons such as Disney’s Aladdin have continued the well-worn tradition of portraying the Orient as a strange mysterious place full of wonder and magic. In the 1993 cartoon Aladdin the scene opens up with a short (primitive) looking man riding a camel and singing a song:

Oh, I come from a land
From a far away place where the caravan camels roam
Where they cut off your ear if they don’t like your face
It’s barbaric but, hey, it’s home.

When the wind's from the east
And the sun's from the west
And the sand in the glass is right
Come on down
Stop on by
Hop a carpet and fly
To another Arabian night.

Arabian nights
Like Arabian days
More often than not
Are hotter than hot
In a lot of good ways.

In Christian Blauvelt’s “Aladdin, Al-Qaeda, and Arabs in U.S. film and TV” he says, “film has used as a narrative convention that Arabs occupy a mystical land of harsh deserts, tropical oases, genies, magic carpets, thieving bandits, decadent sultans, conniving sheiks, and sensual harem girls. Today, such scripting survives in popular children’s films like Disney’s Aladdin” (2). Perhaps the most striking – if not most racist – line in the song Arabian Nights comes at the end of the first stanza is it’s barbaric, but hey its home! By referring to Arabia as barbaric it implies that the people living there are uncivilized and not as enlightened as people in the west. After all, who wants to live in a country where they cut off your ears if they don’t like your face? By Otherizing the east, “European culture gained in strength and identity by setting itself off against the Orient as a sort of surrogate and even underground self (Said 1).

The ideal of the Orient as an unruly place full of people who can’t govern themselves justified the reason for Britain and other European countries to dominate countries like African, India, and China. Cartoons of Indians and Arabs often demonized their facial features; making their noses comically large, their beards in a satanic-like point, and stature dwarfishly short. The merchant in the opening scene has features that make him appear to be less human. His accent is also more dramatic than in real life, and his “otherness” is reaffirmed by it. Blauvelt says, “Arabs, and Muslims in general, have been culturally coded as “others,” a dislocated social position which many politicians and media producers have used to position Arabs as phantom enemies, as scapegoats for latent U.S. xenophobic tendencies. In this regard, Hollywood filmmakers have often used Arabs in narratives in very much the same way as Nazi propagandists portrayed Jews in the 1930s and 40s” (2).

The result of movies like Aladdin is that children as well as adults do not perceive the east and its people as it really is, but how they imagine it is. This imagined perception over time becomes a part of their reality that is hard to erase. Not surprising Edward Said says that, “Many travelers find themselves saying of an experience in a new country that it wasn’t what they expected, meaning that it wasn’t what a book said it would be. And of course many writer of travel books or guidebooks compose them in order to say that a country is like this, or better, that it is colorful, expensive, interesting, and so forth. The idea in either case is that people, places and experiences can always be described by a book, so much so that the book (or text) acquires a greater authority, and use, even that actuality it describes” (4). According to Said overtime the images and ideas that readers come across about the Orient in literature become well established beliefs within the dominated society. Those who dominate language are free to make the lenses through which the greater portion of society sees the Other. The cartoon in the lenses (literally) through which children are taught to see the Other. Stories about the Other are retold and retold until they become the authority. “There is a rather complex dialectic of reinforcement by which the experiences of the readers in reality are determined by what they have read, and this in turn influences writers to takes up subjects defined in advance by readers’ experience” (Said 5).

The merchant in the open scene proceeds to re-tell a mystical story about a magic lamp, and reinforces the stereotype that Arabic countries are full of magic and mystery. In the song the merchant sings, he makes reference to a magic carpet and the eerie nights that are hotter than hot, in a lot of good ways. “Orientalism is premised upon exteriority, that is, on the fact that the Orientalist poet or scholar, makes the Orient speak, describes the Orient, renders its mysteries plain for and to the west […] The Orient is transformed from the very far distant and often threatening Otherness into figures that are relatively familiar” (Said 3). Again, the image of the Other is often more powerful than what is actually said about the Other. Throughout History degrading images of other ethnic groups have been used as a tool to reinforce stereotypes that dehumanize the entire group as a whole.

Ironically, it is typically the men within an ethic group who become the source of stereotypes. Blauvelt says, “Aladdin, in fact, continues the stale Orientalist fantasy, portraying all Arab men as either street thugs, pickpockets, emasculated palace guards, beggars, sultans, or sorcerers. A male character early in the film even declares to his master upon stealing a jewel, I had to slit a few throats, but I got it. The men are short and stocky with thick lips, missing teeth, heavy, menacing brows, and hooked noses, while the hero Aladdin and heroine Jasmine look like suburban, white, U.S. teenagers. Arabs are shown as gratuitously cruel, with characters making several references to beheading. One Arab merchant even tries to cut off Jasmine’s hand when she doesn’t have money to pay for an apple she gave to a hungry boy” (5).

Images of Arabs as the other half-human, half-evolved, half-intelligent beings often reinforce the necessity of the “dominated” countries to suppress “inferior” countries. The massage viewers learn from such degrading mages is the people portrayed is stereotypical cartoons is that they are weird, strange, and backwards; and therefore need a stronger more intellectual force or system of power to govern them. Said argues that, “To have knowledge of such a thing is to dominate it, to have authority over it. And authority here means for “us” to deny autonomy to “it” –the Oriental country –since we know it and it exists, in a sense, as we know it.” (8). In order to oppress a nation ore people one must create a lie, myth, are fairytale about the people that justifies their need to be control ruled and oppressed. “But essential relationship, on political culture, and even religious grounds, was seen –in the West, which is what concerns us here –to be one between a stronger and a weaker partner […] The Oriental is irrational, depraved (fallen), childlike, different, thus the European is rational, virtuous, mature, normal” (9).

The West no only dehumanizes the people of the East in also invents mythical stories about the country that make in more enchanting, fairytale-like, and fantastic. In Aladdin a magic golden beetle leads to a mysterious place in the desert where the treasure of a great Maharajah is buried. Myths about buried treasure hidden in places like Indian, Egypt, and the Middle East have fueled Hollywood movies like Indian Jones and The Jungle Book. “These media stereotypes have a malleability that allows for their manipulation by politicians and policy makers to construct a narrative justifying U.S. imperialism. In these ideological narratives, Arab culture doesn’t matter; what matters is spreading “freedom” and “democracy,” which become nothing more than useful keywords justifying Western hegemony and U.S. cultural exportation and domination. Jean-Luc Godard once replied, when asked why U.S. films are the most popular in the world, [he said] because Americans tell the best stories. They can invade a country and immediately construct a narrative justifying it” (Blauvelt 8).

Said’s argues that, “that men have always divided the world up into regions having either real or imagined distinction from each other” (8). Today myths about the Middle East do not involve romanticized ideas about hidden treasure, flying carpets, magic lamps, genies, and talking animals. Today myths about the East are becoming less fantastic and grimmer than before. The East is now portrayed in the media and on the news as a place where enemies of the West are building bombs of mass destruction, and threatening to terrorize the world. After 9/11 Middle Eastern men became vilified and demonized as suicide bombers, and old stereotypes about men with black beards and turbans became the symbol of all that America feared and hated. “Hollywood cinema has played into near-mythological stereotypes about Arabs, which imply that the Middle East is a land of cultural otherness, full of people who cannot be understood in Western terms and thus should not be thought of as human” (Blauvelt 3).

Like many stereotypes, beliefs about the East are changing (perhaps for the worse). No longer do children see the East as a place of wonder and enchant, but a place f evil and destruction. Tragically the Orient, such as North Korea, is still Otherized by America as a threat against democracy, and what the Orient is and who the people are is still shrouded in mystery and myth. Perhaps one day we will be able to lift tha veil and see the truth that lies underneath.

Works Cited

Said, Edward. "Orientalism".Rivkin, Julie. Literary Theory: An Anthology. Blackwell publishing; United Kingdom, 2004.

Blauvelt,Christian. Aladdin, Al-Qaeda, and Arabs in U.S. film and TV

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Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Analysis # 6: Feminism, Little Women, Angels in the House

[Quote from Little Women]
Holding a hand of each and watching the two young faces wistfully, Mrs. March said, in her serious yet cheery way - 'I want my daughters to be beautiful, accomplished, and good; to be admired, loved, and respected; to have a happy youth, to be well and wisely married, and to lead useful, pleasant lives, with as little care and sorrow to try them as God sees fit to send. To be loved and chosen by a good man is the best and sweetest thing which can happen to a woman, and I sincerely hope my girls may know this beautiful experience.

To millions of girls living in the mid 1800's (as well as today) the names Meg, Jo, Beth and Amy became recognized names in virtually every American home.When Louise May Alcott's book Little women was published in 1868, the world was presented with an ideal model of female virtue, modesty, sacrifice, purity,and womanhood through the story of the March sisters. For over the a century the March sister have remained in literature the unrivaled "angles in the house".

Mother's encouraged their daughters to strive as best as they could to emulate the pious virtue of Meg and quite humility of Beth. Until the the mid 50's women in literature were traditionally portrayed as saint-like goddesses within the home.
In Gilbert and Gubar's essay "The Mad Woman in the Attic" they argue that, "the images of the 'angel' and 'monster' have been so ubiquitous throughout literature by men that they have also pervaded woman's writing to such and extent that few definitively 'killed' either figure" (812).

One of the works of fiction that is attacked by Gilbert and Gubar is Alcott's Little Women because it reinforces the "angle" image of women that was originally constructed from men's desire to dominate women "because women are defined as wholly passive, completely void of generation power they become numinous to male artist" 815). Like many female writers during her time, Louisa May Alcott reinforces the male stereotypes about women. The March sisters are encouraged to stay at home and become good housewives. Their mother says the best and sweetest thing is to be loved and CHOSEN by a man.

Like novels and self help books during the Victorian era Alcott, "enjoin[s] young girls [towards] submissiveness, modesty, selflessness; reminding all women that they should be angelic" (816). Images of sacrificial women in books who were devoted to their husbands and homes and nothing else became the norm in society until the late 1950's. Through books and ladies magazines women measured their own worth, fashioned their identities around a mythological ideal woman found in fairy tales.

The challenge that female writers encounter when created a female character is to avoid retelling the cliche "angle" "monster" story about women. Female writers today must create female characters that are three dimensional and does not exaggerate their flaws are inflate their virtues. "The woman writer acknowledges with pain, confusion, and anger that what she sees in the mirror is usually a male construct, the "pure gold baby" of male brains, a glittering and wholly artificial child" (813).

Perhaps the "madwoman in the attic" is every woman who tries to break free from the prison that society has placed her in. Those who questions the norms of their society are often considered "mad" by the critics. Women like Jane Austen had to hide their writings lest other should think them strange. Fortunately, "by the end of the eighteenth century women were not only writing, they were conceiving fictional worlds in which patriarchal images and conventions were severely , radically revised" (824).

Today the madwomen in the attic have escaped are now free to run over the pages of fiction.

Works Cited

Gilbert, Sandra and Gibar, Susan. "The Madwoman in the Attic". Rivkin, Julie. Literary Theory: An Anthology. Blackwell publishing; United Kingdom, 2004.

Alcott, Louisa. Little Women. New York: VIKING, 1996

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Tuesday, April 7, 2009

Analysis # 5: Postmodernism, Discipline and Punishment

The church has always served as not only a place of spiritual worship, but also as a means of reinforcing social norms and punishing deviant behavior. According to to Foucault’s essay Discipline and Punishment, “Foucault suggests that citizens of the Western democracies act as their jail-keepers. They internalize the social control that monitors society and maintains the disciplined efficiency of the social system” (559). Although in might be offensive to many people to view the church as a prison, in many ways the church/temple is like a panopticon. The Priest, Pastor, Rabbi, Guru ...etc serve as ever watchful prison guards over their congregation whose eternal soul hangs over the balance between heaven (reward) and hell (punishment).

Foucault says, “In England, it was private religious groups that carried out, for a long time, the functions of social discipline” (559). Even within early American society until our present day churches have enforced laws that forbid drinking, gambling, abortion, birth control, and homosexual marriages. The goal of the church for many years has been to sift out the wicked and uplift the righteous. Foucault says, “The constant division between the normal and the abnormal, to which every individual is subjected, brings us back to our own time, by applying the binary branding and the exile of the leper to quite different objects […] All the mechanisms of the power which, even today, are disposed around the abnormal individual, to brand him and to alter him” (554).

According to the Bible, God is the supreme watchman. He is the unseen guard at the center tower of the panopticon that surveys all. Proverbs 15:3 says: the eyes of the LORD are in every place, beholding the evil and the good. If heaven symbolizes the watchtower and earth symbolizes the prison cell, than are we not all prisoners who live in fear of God. No matter where we go, the Bible reminds us that God is watching! “For what matters is that he knows himself to be observed [he] must never know whether he is being looked at at any moment; but he must be sure that he may always be so” (555).

Within a religious congregation the members are fully aware of the gaze not only of God but of the priest/pastor as well. Numbers 32:23 says: be sure your sins will find you out. The Bible serves as a guidebook for obedience and discipline. This helps to maintain the power and order in society. “By means of wise police, the sovereign accustoms the people to order and obedience” (Foucault 560). Believers are taught that sins and deviances will be punished in he afterlife. As a result believers strive to live moral lives for fear of “discipline” in the afterlife. “Generally speaking, it might be said that disciplines are techniques for assuring the ordering of human multiplicities” (Foucault 562).

Works Cited

Foucault, Michel. "Discipline and Punish".Rivkin, Julie. Literary Theory: An Anthology. Blackwell publishing; United Kingdom, 2004.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Analysis #4: Marxism

In 2002 author Eric Schlosser wrote a bestseller book entitled Fast Food Nation: The dark Side of the All-American Meals. The book –like Upton Sinclair’s Jungle –sheds light on the rather grim underworld of the fast food industry. Like Carol Marx, Schlosser highlights the how fast food workers are exploited and underpaid for the profit of the capitalist bourgeoisies (i.e. the fast foods industry).

In the introduction to Wage Labor and Capital, Rivkin says, “That the secret to wealth is that workers are systematically underpaid” (558). According to Marx the bourgeoisies exploits its workers by paying them wages that is the equivalent of slave labor. Marx says, “Not only are they slaves of the bourgeoisies class, and of the bourgeoisies state; they are daily and hourly enslaved by the machine, by the over- looker, and, above all, by the bourgeoisies manufacturer himself” (5). Although companies like McDonalds make a hundred billons dollars every year; the rarely take time to consider their underpaid workers who must spend lengthy hours performing the same monotonous task over and over again. In Fast Food Nation Schlosser says, “Instead of relying upon a small, stable, well-paid, and well-trained workforce, the fast food industry seeks out part-time, unskilled workers who are willing to accept low wages” (68).

Teenagers and first generation immigrants make the perfect candidates for exploitation. They are less likely to complain about conditions, form unions, or complain about long hours. “These laborers, who sell themselves piece-meal, are a commodity, like every other article of commerce, and are consequently exposed to all the vicissitudes of the of competition, to all the fluctuations of the market” (Marx 5). The system of most fast food restaurants little or no room to rise up the social-economic ladder. Workers –like cheap objects –can be hired and fired at the whim and will of their employers. According to Marx, “The capitalist , it seems therefore, buys their labor with money” (659). The wages that worker make is eventually circulated back to that capitalist who reap the reward. Through this process the rich get rich and the poor stay poor. The bourgeoisies is able to acquire more land and goods; which Marx believed should be equally shared with everything. Like Schlosser, Marx accuses the capitalist of, “[stripping] away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced family relation to mere money relation” (Marx 2). The fast food industry has nearly wiped out the sentimental “mom and pop” chains that once doted the highways of American. Companies like Burger King, Wendy’s, Carols Jr., McDonalds, and Inn and Out made their money on the cheap labor of others.

Works Cited

Marx, Karl. "Wagr Labor and Capital". Rivkin, Julie. Literary Theory: An Anthology. Blackwell publishing; United Kingdom, 2004.

Schlosser, Eric. Fast Food Nation. New YorK: Harper Perennial, 2004

Friday, February 27, 2009

Analysis # 3: Freudian interpretation of the song "I won't grow up"

In the introduction to psychology, Julie Rivkin and Michael discuss several of Freud’s theories in their essay entitled. Strangers to Ourselves: Psychoanalysis. Freud was very much intrigued by the process by which a child became a functioning member of society. He also studied the relationships between fathers and mothers towards their children (especially boys) and how their relationship influenced a child’s' gender identity. In the Peter Pan musical, Peter proudly boasts that he will never grow. One can use Freud's theory of the Oedipus Complex as a foundation for analyzing Peter's desire to remain a boy forever.

Peter says, "Anyone who wants to try and make me a man, catch me if you can!"
According to Rivkin, "Anxiety about entry into an adult world perceived as threatening of a too fragile sense of self or anxiety that awakens either troubling memories or drives energies will propel some people to fixate at an early state of development." It is clear from the song that Peter pan is fixated in an early stage of his childhood development. He has a very fragile sense of self, and if frightened by the adult world that must forever run away from.

Peter is also driven by his id and wants instant gratification all of the time. His id remains unchecked by his ego and superego, so all he cares about his pleasure and having fun. Peter cannot participate the normal social world, which demands that we repress sexual and aggressive emotions. "Repression is essential to civilization, the converse of animal instinct into civil behavior" (Rivkin 389). As a person dominated by his id, Peter Pan finds going to school, obeying rules/norms, wearing a tie, being serious, and maintaining job daunting tasks.

If everyone in the world were like Peter Pan there would be no civilization because everyone would run away from his or her responsibilities. Freud would also say that Peter has not given up his pre-Oedipal desires. "All male children, Freud argued, experience an early attachment to their mother that is sexual in nature. Only the father's intervention, separates the mother from child, prevents incest" (Rivkin 391). Peter's fear of becoming a man may have to do with "castration anxiety" which Freud believed would lead to homosexuality if not overcome. Peter does identify with his father, an important stage in a boy's life.

"A little boy will exhibit a special interest in his father...we will simply say that he takes his father as ideal" (Freud 438). If Peter Pan were to grow up he would most likely have anxieties about sex or be asexual. His abilities to form relationships would be very limited, and would have neurotic tendencies to fly and play with little boys.

Works cited

Rivkin, Julie. "Strangers to Ourselves" & Freud, Sigmund. "Group Psychology and the Analysis of the Ego". Rivkin, Julie. Literary Theory: An Anthology. Blackwell publishing; United Kingdom, 2004.

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Monday, February 23, 2009

Analysis of My Niece: Why Children Play?

When my niece was 1 1/2 years old I used to babysit her after school. A neighbor (Abby) would take care of her until three o'clock, and then I would pick her up. I often liked to watch my niece play, especially with her dolls which she like to dress and feed with plastic bottle and food.

One day, while she was playing, she tried to stand one of her dolls on its feet in order to brush the doll's hair. The doll would not stand because its legs were made out of fabric instead hard plastic. The doll flopped onto the floor over and over again. When my niece became angry she ordered her doll to "Stay, stay!"

When the doll would not stay, my niece walked it over to the corner and gave her doll a time out. "Bad Baby" she said to her doll.
I had never heard my niece say the words "Bad Baby" and wondered who had said the expression in her presence. I later learned from my niece's babysitter, Abby, that my niece hated to have her hair brushed and often fussed and cried.

Like the child in Freud's essay "Beyond the Pleasure Principle" my niece re-enacted with her doll an experience that was not pleasurable for her. By punishing her doll, my niece was able to take an active part in the unpleasant experience. Punishing her doll by placing it in the corner was an act of revenge/mastery against Abby her babysitter who often gave her time outs for throwing tantrums whenever she did not want her hair brushed.

Works Cited

Freud, Sigmund. "Beyond the Pleasure Principle".Rivkin, Julie. Literary Theory: An Anthology. Blackwell publishing; United Kingdom, 2004.