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Tuesday, August 10, 2010

Gender on Gender.

Madonna. Enough said...well not quite enough. There are actually great bonds we must reveal within this particular work of hers. It starts out with a couple of people dressed in black leather not really revealing either ones sex. Both men and women have their hair slicked back and are wearing unisex clothes that protest a masculine rather than feminine aura. As we get deeper into the video, Madonna’s character takes on a more feminine role as she lets her hair loose and strips down to leather intimates, revealing that the main character is in fact a woman.

What message do viewers gain from this video? Is the artist depicting a strong and willful woman? Or is she suggesting that women are set back in society by prancing around in tight black outfits and allowing men to tie her up in her videos? Since we are in the depths of gender studies and feminism I could not help but argue that this video/song is an ode to women all over the world. The main character stands up for her self and does not allow anyone to stand in her way in order to get what she wants. She speaks her mind, and as the song states, is not sorry for it.

Yes, it is strange but it is also strange that century after century women have been considered the subordinate sex. Although times are changing, and here in the United States we are very slowly moving closer to the idea of equality between sexes, this concept of the subordinate sex still exists. In 1949 Simone de Beauvoir, released the idea of “the one” and “the other” in her work entitled The Second Sex. De Beauvoir argues that men and women are both human beings of the same nature yet for some reason the woman has always been perceived as “the other” and the man has been perceived as “the one.” It is a form of a master slave relationship that has been conjured up from the beginning of time by non other than the male sex. De Beauvoir suggests that “humanity is male and man defines woman not in herself but as relative to him; she is not regarded as an autonomous being.” She argues that men have been writing the history of women for as long as women have allowed them too. It is possible for women to rise up and take their stance in the world but if they do not strive to achieve this as a whole then their power will stay where it has been lobbying for years to come.

Madonna’s stance of independence in this song falls right into the lap of De Beauvoir, as she refuses to mesh her thoughts with that of another and stands firmly behind her own suggesting “ I’m not your bitch don’t hang your shit on me” (Madonna).

This song also falls into Michel Foucault’s The History of Sexuality. Not only is a woman expressing her mind but she dares to speak about sex openly and does not apologize for her sexuality claiming “I didn’t know I couldn’t talk about sex” (Madonna). Foucault suggests that in the past, specifically around the 18th century, sex was censored and instead transferred into discourse in order to speak of it (Foucault 1504). It became a scientific disciplinary as the English government took it upon themselves to take charge of the scandalous activity labeling citizens as perverts and using religious confession as a way to discipline sexual acts (Foucault 1508). Madonna’s acceptance of sex and the discussion of it definitely embodies Foucault’s work as they both conclude that it is really not that big of a deal as it is only human nature.
Works Cited:

De Beauvoir, Simone. “The Second Sex: Introduction Woman as other.” Marxist.org.10 August 2010. Web.

Foucault, Michel. "The History of Sexuality." The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Ed, Vincent B. Leitch. 2nd ed. W.W. Norton Company, Inc: New York, 2010. 1502-1519. Print.


Tuesday, August 3, 2010

Marxism > Capitalism... Well at least that's what a Marxist would say.

In this video, Alec Baldwin’s speech exemplifies various aspects of a capitalist society. First and foremost the separation between classes is strictly drawn and painfully played out. In The Communist Manifesto, Karl Marx and Friedrich Engels, divide the capitalist society into two classes, the bourgeois and the proletarians (Marx and Engels 657). The bourgeois are the people in society (owners) who own production, while the proletarians are the people in society (workers/laborers) who do not own production. Alec Baldwin’s character identifies himself only though his material belongings such as his eighty thousand dollar BMW, his expensive watch, and his nine hundred thousand dollar plus yearly salary. In order to achieve a well thought out communist society this separation should be eliminated. A society should be classless and this idea of ownership should cease to exist (Marx and Engels 660).

Here, the “leads” (the people whom they must sell the products to) and the workers themselves are reduced to a commodity. People are seen only as a product and if the workers do not or cannot achieve their goals they can easily be replaced. Marx and Engels suggest that, “ the mode of production in which the product takes the form of a commodity, or is produced directly for exchange, is the most general and most embryonic form of a bourgeois production (Marx and Engels 670). The value of a family is also challenged when Baldwin expresses “ you’re a good father, fuck you go play with your kids,” (Glengarry Ross). Suggesting that this employee is not viewed as a human being, he is only a part of a product whose goal in life is to supply the company with his labor. Proving that the “bourgeoisie has torn away from the family its sentimental veil, and has reduced the family relation to a mere money relation,” (Marx and Engels 659).

In a capitalist society the bourgeois benefit only from the workers labour power. The workers in this video are not cared for by their employers. They are only paid enough and looked after enough in order to keep them alive so they can fulfill their duties at work. Marx and Engels conclude, "it is self evident that the labourer is nothing else, his whole life through, than labour-power, that therefore all his disposable time is by nature and law labour-time, to be devoted to the self-expansion of capital," (Marx and Engels 671).

Works Cited:

Marx Karl, and Friedrich Engels. “Capital, Volume 1, Chapter . Commodities.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Ed, Vincent B. Leitch. 2nd ed. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.: New York, 2001. 663-670. Print.

Marx Karl, and Friedrich Engels. “Capital, Volume 1, Chapter 10. The Working Day.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Ed, Vincent B. Leitch. 2nd ed. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.: New York, 2001. 671-674. Print.

Marx Karl, and Friedrich Engels. “ The Communist Manifesto.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Ed, Vincent B. Leitch. 2nd ed. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.: New York, 2001. 657-660. Print.


Wednesday, July 28, 2010

Boy Meets World. Boy Meets Freud.

Watch from 8:00 and on...

The video posted above is a lighthearted and quirky television show from the 90’s harboring all the aspects of Sigmund Freud’s “Interpretation of Dreams.” Tragedy strikes a tight knit group of friends when life long sweethearts, Cory and Topanga, decide to go their separate ways. Cory’s best friend, Shawn, does not support their break up and does not take his friends’ separation very well. The disentanglement of Cory’s relationship effects Shawn so much that he starts to act out in class (more than usual) and earns everyone involved detention. He falls asleep in detention and dreams that there is a killer on the loose, murdering everyone but Cory, Topanga, and himself. He unmasks the killer only to discover that he was the murderer all along. As Shawn wakes up he realizes that he has been blaming himself for his friends’ misfortune and accepts that he is not responsible for it.

Sigmund Freud argued that human beings do not have access to their unconscious. It is a part of the self that will remain hidden in the dark corners of our minds as it intervenes in our everyday lives (Freud 809). His psychoanalytical study of dreams will help us breakdown this episode of Boy Meets World, produced almost a century after “The Interpretation of Dreams” was published. I cannot prove that the shows writers took note of Freud’s work as they composed this script but I can suggest that they possibly stumbled upon it at some point in their lives, as the episode truly displays a Freudian sense of thought.

Freud argues that a dream has two basic parts that interpreters’ usually confuse. It is important that this confusion does not arise, as it will guide the interpreter to error (Freud 818). Each dream consists of a manifest content (dream-content) and a latent content (dream-thoughts). The characters, objects, and setting Shawn sees in his dream are the manifest content or what is visible. He sees many of his friends die but does not know the reason for the cause of these brutal deaths. The latent content (dream -thoughts) of the dream allows us to figure out what is not so obvious. It urges us to find the meaning behind the murders and discover the killer’s identity. Freud suggests that, “the dream-thoughts and the dream content are presented to us like two versions of the same subject-matter in two different languages,” (Freud 819).

Freud also stresses the importance of viewing a dream as a rebus puzzle (Freud 819). We can find meaning behind the murders if we look at the dream piece by piece and analyze who is murdered and who is not. This will also help us understand why Shawn was the murderer and what might be emerging from his unconscious. He unconsciously blamed himself for his friends’ separation and did not know why he was acting out until his dream clarified things for him. The reason for his conscious misbehavior was because he felt helpless and guilty.

Dream condensation and dream displacement are also two factors of a dream that should not be ignored. While comparing dream content and dream-thoughts, it is proven that dream condensation has occurred at some point (Freud 819). The dream content can be very brief and meager, as dream-thoughts can be very long and in depth. (Freud 819). In Shawn’s case he may have compressed some of the dream content seen above and was not able to remember the dream in its entirety. There may be certain events in the dream that he does not remember or has compressed two events into one, swaying his interpretation of the dream.

Dream displacement urges the differences between dream content and dream thought (Freud 820). Shawn disguises his guilt and sense of responsibility in the form of a killer. His dream could have easily consisted of himself and Cory having a conversation about why he feels responsible for Cory’s heartache. Instead displacement comes into action as his guilt is expressed in a more brutal way.

Works Cited:

Freud. Sigmund. “From The Interpretation of Dreams.” The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Ed, Vincent B. Leitch. 2nd ed. W.W. Norton & Company, Inc.:New York, 2001. 814-824. Print.


Wednesday, July 21, 2010

The Clock Tells Time.


In this world time has come and gone. People have lived here and died here, and now their traces have diminished. As the worlds of fantasy and reality mesh, the aspect of time is lost somewhere in between. Here lies the conception of time and space the way one human being chooses to view it. There are no rules. No exceptions. It seems as though his fantasy world is taking over the real world. He might just be losing all sense of real time and space. Until he finds out that reality is slowly seeping into his fantasy. The world around him is about to become raw and uncensored. With time he will discover his truth and must accept his life as it is and not as he wished it to be many years ago. On this earth time has always held the power over all human beings and will always find a way to catch up to them. Our friend, whose mind we are exploring, is no different than millions of other people who are just unveiling the same concept. One day, he too will wake up and accept the unsteady and mysterious thing we call life and try to understand it through time.


The main object that stands out in this painting is the exploding clock. Artist Salvador Dali does not only choose to destroy the concept of time, but also throws it in the ocean as if to get rid of it once and for all. What can be concluded from this painting then? Is it that time does not matter? Or is time passing by faster than we think and we must act upon this with caution? The answer truly lies in the hands of the viewer. Viewing it in the likes of structuralism and Ferdinand de Saussure I will attempt to put the pieces of the broken clock together. Structuralism allows us to understand the world around us through the structure of signs and urges us to then interpret the meaning of words. In Saussure's Course in General Linguistics, readers are presented with the study of signs otherwise known as semiotics. In his lectures Saussure reveals that within semiotics the signifier plus the signified equals a sign (Signifier + Signified= Sign). Saussure suggests that the signifier is what one sees or hears and the signified is the concept that derives from that sound or image (Saussure 857). When I first saw the clock in this painting I automatically thought of time as in hours of the day. Here the signifier is the clock and the signified is time. Hence, I relate the sign of a clock to the idea of time. Saussure also mentions that it is important to realize that the relationship between the signifier and the signified is completely arbitrary. Therefore when I see the clock and think of time the sign is not fixated, however at the moment that is my personal absolute meaning of the sign. It is also important to mention that by understanding the structure of signs then we are able to understand the meaning of words. Basically signs allow us to give meaning to words both spoken and written down, and help us connect with the world around us.

Works Cited:

Saussure, Ferdinand. "Course in General Linguistics" Ed. Vincent Leitch. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Second

Edition. New York: W.W. Norton & Company Inc, 2010. Print.


Tuesday, July 13, 2010

Gorgias, Plato, and The Sophists.

The song posted above can be interpreted in many ways. Since “For what it’s worth,” was written in 1966 many people believe that it was an ode to urge young people to protest against the Vietnam War. However, the song came about as a tribute to urge Los Angeles inhabitants to protest the closing of a nightclub (Vietnamwarmusic.com). Now with all great art, it is truly up to the listener to take what he or she gains from the product. One aspect that many people will agree upon is that the song influences listeners’ to stand up for what they believe in and protest against what they do not.

Whether it was meant to fall under the grasp of rhetoric or not, the song in its innate nature, is a rhetorical speech on the closing of the club. As a teacher of rhetoric, Gorgias would approve the piece and deem it successful as it draws the audience in with its persuasive yet subtle appeal. The artists are asking their listeners to complete a simple yet powerful task by protesting against “the man”, while using the exact same concept to persuade their listeners. Gorgias believes that rhetoric is capable of persuading any course of action, therefore this two minute song can be one of the most powerful and dangerous products to emerge in the world (class notes). Its aim is towards young people, whose minds can still be shaped and swayed due to the lack of life experience.

Sophists also believed that through rhetoric success would be achieved. Here, Buffalo Soldier uses their celebrity and the power of rhetoric to benefit themselves along with others in the community fighting for the same cause. In terms of Gorgias and the Sophists, the song would be a great way to get young people of the 1960’s involved in helping their communities flourish and captivate.

On the other hand, Plato would argue that due to the songs rhetorical roots and poetic urgency, it should be taken off the air and revoked from the internet. Not only is the song driven by rhetoric but its poetic verses and rhyme scheme make it that much more unreliable and phony. Buffalo Springfield is a band composed of artists who are skilled to play their instruments and therefore that is what they should do. That is where their specialty is useful. They should leave teaching people about ethics and morality to the philosophers.

Plato’s concern of poetry causing uncontrollable pleasure to its seekers would also be a possible problem. Since “For what its worth,” proves to be a poetic work of art it should not be used to persuade others to solve serious problems. It should only used for the sake of virtue and that is all. Plato would also bring forth the concept of mimesis within poetry. The song and the artists would be seen as a mere imitation of a form of work that already exists. What they have created would not be the original form, as they are acting as something they cease to be.

Works Cited

Cain, Finke, Johnson, Leitch, McGowan, Sharpley-Witing, Williams, eds. The Norton Anthology of Theory and Criticism. Second Edition. New York: W. W. Norton & Company, 2010. Print.



Wednesday, July 7, 2010

I guess I am now connected...throughout the world.

Welcome to my blog. Thought some music would be a good way to start things off. Enjoy the melodic beats of Daft Punk :)