Embodiment

Hip-Hop and Pop music carries great influence in popular culture and the entertainment industry. Twerking and showing off your body, especially your buttocks, has become a very popular occurrence within music videos today, but even in the past it was already present. For this assignment I will analyse the following two music videos: Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda and Sir Mix-A-Lot’s Baby’s Got Back. Both of these music videos place a lot of emphasis on large female buttocks and both of them utilise food imagery as metaphoric of the voluptuousness of the female ‘booty’. Critics have interpreted the booty in different ways:

Feminist scholar, Bell Hooks, argues that the fetishization of the booty can be compared to the reduction of female sexuality to ‘the pussy’. The booty, however, is “a more visible, PG 13 stand-in for female sexuality, easier to represent (and sell) in pop culture, but freighted with more racial connotations. A booty-centric vision of female sexuality asks who has access to the female body”.

Paresecoli (2007: 122) argues that the booty represents the “direct connection between black female flesh and food, especially soul food” and that it “embodies pleasure and nurture, desire and culture, and acts as a valid counterbalance against the sexist identification of black female flesh with the unruly and threatening sexuality that was attributed to it first by white culture, then by the misogynist streak in some aspects of young black culture”.

Since there are different criticisms on the topic, I will engage with feminist criticism and lesbian/gay criticism for this assignment. After looking at the two criticisms, analysis will be done on both of the music videos and their lyrics. After having done that I will relate it back to either the feminist criticism and/or the lesbian/gay criticism. There are also three questions and they will be answered after the initial analysis of Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda and Sir Mix-A-Lot’s Baby’s Got Back. These three questions are the following:

  • Does the conflation of food and sexuality in these videos depict the female body as edible (and as such subject to patriarchal objectification) or does it signify, as Paresecoli believes, “pleasure and nurture, desire and culture”?
  • Does the “booty-centric vision of female sexuality” presented by Nicki Minaj in Anaconda disrupt the conflation of female black flesh and an unruly sexuality, or does it reproduce the discourses that represent this sexuality as exotic and Other?
  • Is Anaconda a parodic interpretation of or homage to Baby’s Got Back?

 

In the 1960’s a woman’s movement happened and one could even say that it was the beginning of modern day feminism. The woman’s movement was fundamentally concerned with different forms of literature within which women are represented or which was created by women. Feminism is the same as that and not a spin-off of it as some may believe it to be. The political is personal, feminism is a personal political position firstly, secondly in biology, and thirdly in culturally defined characteristics. Women has been portrayed in literature in a socially acceptable way as deemed correct by a patriarchal society. Feminists noticed this and pointed out that women can do anything a man can do or simply do their own thing without having to be considered as being mad (Barry, 2009: 85).

Feminism became more eclectic when it came to their criticisms and they started incorporating approaches such as Marxism, intertextuality, linguistics and so on. Feminist critics started to reconstruct experiences and records of women who were previously lost or supressed male versions of the world. More attention has been given to female writers, artists and so on in order to give them new prominence and status in the world (Barry, 2009: 85).

According to Toffoletti (2004: 2), what is considered as being monstrous, animalistic or the feminine Other, have been used by feminists in a progressive way in which monster discourse offers positive yet rebellious means to challenging the humanist subject hood. The effectiveness of the monstrous, animalistic and Other lies in its make-up as a feminist metaphor for change that threatens to cause disorder to phallogocentric models of selfhood, repossessing Otherness as a position of female subject identification.

In Nicki Minaj’s music video, Anaconda, all of the women in the video, including herself, are portrayed in a way that would make feminists cringe. The same is the case with the women shown in Sir Mix-A-Lot’s music video called Baby’s Got Back. After looking at lesbian and gay criticism, analysis will be done into both song including their lyrics and music videos with regard to feminist as well as lesbian and gay criticism.

 

Lesbian and gay criticism started in the 1990’s. the criticism is not exclusive to lesbians and gays, and it may be useful when making an initial comparison to feminist criticism. Lesbian and gay studies do for sex what woman’s studies does for gender in a way. The major feature in lesbian and gay criticism is to make sexual orientation a central category of analysis and understanding. It has both social and political aims, similar to feminism (Barry, 2009: 95-96).

What is known as classic feminism, once ostracised or disregarded lesbianism. According to Barry (2009: 96-97), lesbian should be seen as the most comprehensive form of feminism. Lesbian feminism is thus a radical form of feminism, since lesbians turn away from a variety of forms of involvement with patriarchal exploitation. Queer theory is quite similar to lesbian feminism, but more encompassing of all Other sexualities.

Hip-Hop has always been seen as being a heterosexual and masculine musical genre, but female rappers exist within it and this complicated simplistic reading of it. Nicki Minaj is one of those female rappers and she gained real success and her continuous transformations of her image centres on matters of sexuality (Smith, 2014: 360-361). This is why lesbian and gay criticism is applicable to the study ad analysis of Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda music video and lyrics.

 

It has been said that Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda was inspired by Sir Mix-A-Lot’s Baby’s Got Back and thus, Baby’s Got Back will be analysed before Anaconda with regard to the music video and the lyrics of the song below. First, the lyrics will be discussed after which the music video will be discussed. This will be the case for both songs.

In the very first section of the song there is someone talking to another person about a black woman with big buttocks. They say that she must be a rapper’s girlfriend, that she looks like a prostitute, and that her buttocks are big, round, gross, and black. This section alone is enough evidence to show how black women and their voluptuous buttocks or booty has been sexualised, even by other women and that because of it, she is seen as Other.

In the second section of the song, Sir Mix-A-Lot starts singing about that same black girl. He immediately starts off by saying he likes ‘big butts’ and then he goes on to describe how big it is and how much he likes it. It also arouses him sexually. Here it is more evident again how men make women and their buttocks sexual objects.

In the third section of the song, Sir Mix-A-Lot continues to sing about the girl and he praises her big butt and compare it to the flat white butts you see in magazines. He asks the woman to dance, to shake her butt and to use him. He also mentions that she is not an average groupie. Now, a groupie is basically a female fan of a band of musical artist who is more often than not very willing to do sexual favours. Again, there is sexual objectification of women present.

In the rest of the song Sir Mix-A-Lot basically goes on and on about this girl’s big butt and even calls it juicy, almost as if to compare it to food, more specifically, fruit. He even goes as far as saying he wants to have sex with her because of her big butt. The black female butt is to extraordinary according to him that even ‘white boys got to shout baby’s got back’. As the song progress he sings that no matter what or how many exercises you do, no one will have a natural big butt like that except for her and basically other black women. This is then when the infamous quote comes in: ‘my anaconda don’t want none unless you got buns, hon’. What this quote means is that he (or black men in general) have big genitals and that his manhood does not want a woman who does not have a big butt. Again, the buttocks are compared to food, this time bread buns.

Now, looking at the music video, it is two white girls initially talking about a black woman, how she looks, and about her big black butt. As soon as Sir Mix-A-Lot starts singing all you see are black women dancing semi-clothed and there are images of what looks like peaches or buns behind them. It is clear in the music video that only black women are shown with big butts and white women have flat butts. A banana and two lemons were shown momentarily in the video representing male genitalia.

In the following section Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda will be discussed, first the lyrics and then the music video. When that has been done a comparison will be done between the two songs and music videos.

 

The song starts out with the words, ‘My anaconda don’t want none unless you got buns, hun’. This line comes directly out of Sir Mix-A-Lot’s Baby’s Got Back. This shows an immediate connection between the two songs.

The second section is where the song really begins. In this section Nicki Minaj sings about a rich man who often had trouble with the law and was involved with narcotics. He treats her well and spoils her, he told her he likes big girls, finds her extremely sexually attractive, and apparently, he even had sexual intercourse with her. He also told her he likes big girls because they have something to grab on to and that he does not like skinny or ‘boney’ women. Here we can see how men believe they can buy a woman’s body and affection through money and gifts. Once again, women are treated like sexual objects any man can acquire.

In the next two sections, it is once again a repeat of lines from Sir Mix-A-Lot’s song, the same lines about the anaconda and then, ‘Oh my gosh, look at her butt’, which is repeated a few times. With this emphasis is putt on these lines showing that it is important. The question is just why and what does it mean? This will be discussed in a later section of this assignment.

In the fifth section, Nicki Minaj sings about a different man than before who apparently has a big manhood, she compares it to a tower. She also sings about how good the sex was between them that he fell asleep afterwards. The rest of this section is the same at the previous one.

The anaconda line and the ‘oh my gosh’ line is repeated a few times again and in the middle of it all comes another line inspired from Sit Mix-A-Lot’s song, ‘Little in the middle, but she’s got much back’. This basically just reminds us that Anaconda and Baby’s Got Back is linked to one another.

In the final section of the song, Nicki Minaj sings about how she and her ‘bitches’ are all big and have ‘fat asses’ and how they rule the clubs over the ‘skinny bitches’. The song then ends with her laughing and saying, ‘I got a big fat ass’. Here she owns the fact that she has big buttocks and regardless, she knows that she is beautiful.

The music video starts out in a jungle of some sort showing that it is quite exotic. There are a bunch of women on some kind of a bridge before what looks like an African hut. The women are all semi-clothed showing off their bodies, but mostly their buttocks especially through the way in which they move and dance. There are moments where they are not in the jungle, but the way they dance still keep the focus on the buttocks. The lines from Sir Mix-A-Lot’s Baby’s Got Back are played off a record on a turn table and there are fruits such as bananas and pineapples on it as well. Note, the fruit are tropical and exotic fruits. Also, Sir Mix-A-Lot himself is not in the video and only a recording of his song.

The women in the music video also do a form of dancing that looks like exercise to help keep them in shape, but still the main focus is on the buttocks. Noticeably there are never any men in the music video, only women. The women are always together, dancing and exercising, they are all over each other. With that said, I can now clearly see why the lesbian and gay criticism can be applicable to the analysis of this music video.

In another part of the music video Nicki Minaj is alone in a kitchen with fruit and whipped cream along other things. She eats a banana, but pulls her face almost as if she is disgusted by it. The banana is symbolic of male genitalia. In the end of the video it looks like she is in a club and she is doing a seductive lap dance for a man and she makes exotic noises while doing to before leaving him high and dry.

Overall there are elements in Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda that can be seen as the objectification of women, but the way in which owns it and takes charge gives then opposite idea instead. Nicki Minaj takes on the role of a big, strong, and beautiful woman who knows who she is and what she wants.

In Sir Mix-A-Lot’s Baby’s Got Back, women are just there to be looked at and enjoyed by men. Food, especially fruit, are present in both music videos, but more so in Baby’s Got Back.

Below I will examine and discuss a few articles related to Hip-Hop, Sir Mix-A-Lot and Baby’s Got Back, and Nicki Minaj and Anaconda.

American pop culture has often described the body, especially the female body, not only in a sexual way but also as if though it is an edible substance available for consumption. Metaphors for edibility are often used as sexual innuendoes. In black pop culture the neologism ‘bootylicious’ indicated the deliciousness of the buttocks (Parasecoli, 2007: 111). This explains the use of the fruits in Sir Mix-A-Lot’s Baby’s Got Back and in Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda.

Nicki Minaj is an interesting character. Her fashion, music, and presence change continuously and this forms a part of vibrating black performance art. She uses her body as an aesthetic object in her music videos. With her lyrics she never holds back and says whatever she wants. This is part of what makes her a successful female Hip-Hop artist. Nicki Minaj’s performances, lyrics, and music videos are often quite unorthodox. McMillan (2014: 80) created the term, ‘Nicki-aesthetics’, to be used as an analytic recast of Nicki Minaj’s diverse fashion and vivacious performances. What she does can be considered deviant at times, but in reality, it is aesthetic choices she made. Specific things included in ‘Nicki-aesthetics’ are: anime facial expressions, coloured wigs, bright make-up, leg warmers and the list goes on. Bottom line, Nicki Minaj loves making a statement with her art, Anaconda is no different. The song and all its praises and criticisms will be discussed shortly.

As an artist, Nicki Minaj can do whatever she wants with any genre of music she attempts to use. She is an assertive woman who is open and proud of her sexuality and she uses her sex appeal to get what she wants. This is noticeable in her lyrics of Anaconda (Schoppmeier, 2015: 55).

In many of Nicki Minaj’s songs, there are hints of queerness. The question is: is Nicki Minaj actually queer or is it just strategic queerness that we experience from her music? Many artists use queerness in their music, but few are actually a part of the LGBT community. Some critics refer to Nicki Minaj and her music as ‘fauxmosexuality’ and it was added that heterosexual people pretend to identify with homosexuals in order to draw in more fans (Shange, 2014: 30-31).

Nicki Minaj plays with the existing Hip-Hop stereotypes and she is able to do so because of her enormous success and masculine dominance within the genre. With that said, she goes against the stereotypes of black femininity. Her song, Anaconda, and its music video is extremely explicit and packed with potential criticism for debate. The setting of the music video is in the rainforest and can be interpreted as a stereotype of African Americans being primitive and animalistic (Vos, 2017: 9). Nicki Minaj once again takes whatever people hold against her as a black woman and she owns in.

Nicki Minaj’ Anaconda is a racially celebrated song because of the ‘big fat ass’ regardless of the black female body having been seen as unusual before. Sir Mix-A-Lot’s Baby’s Got Back included lines such as: ‘Oh my God, Becky, look at her butt’ and ‘My anaconda don’t want none unless you got buns, hon’, which was all used in Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda. Anaconda forms a part of what is known as the booty jam subgenre of Rap and Hip-Hop music because of how much emphasis it put on the sexualised female body from a female perspective. Anaconda can be interpreted as a statement championing woman’s self-esteem, body confidence, and sexual activity. While this is true, the song holds a deeper meaning which preserves the damaging patriarchal interpretation of the black female body as consumable sexual objects (Blood, n.d.: 5-6).

In 1992, Sir Mix-A-Lot’s Baby’s Got Back was so popular, it even became an anthem of sorts for black women at the time. The song however did not praise big women for their beauty, but instead sexually objectified them. In 2014, Nicki Minaj released her song, Anaconda, which is loosely based on Baby’s Got Back in many ways and because of this, she has been accused of being anti-feminism (Dreschel, 2017: 1-2). It is upsetting that Baby’s Got Back was loved and praised by many, but Anaconda was criticised. Nicki Minaj worked with a plan when she released Anaconda. She wanted to prove that the black female booty and sexuality is beautiful and nothing to be ashamed of.

Anaconda caused some controversy in feminism because on the one hand it is seen as sexually objectifying women and on the other hand as sexual aggression that makes Nicki Minaj admirable. The song received praise for promoting body positivity but was blamed for skinny-shaming. Anaconda is both offensive and enthralling, reckoned and reckless. This is what made it a far better song than Baby’s Got Back (Tobin, 2014: 1-2).

Now finally, we come to the questions mentioned in the beginning of the assignment:

Does the conflation of food and sexuality in these videos depict the female body as edible (and as such subject to patriarchal objectification) or does it signify, as Paresecoli believes, “pleasure and nurture, desire and culture”? The black female body is definitely seen as being an edible sexual object.

Does the “booty-centric vision of female sexuality” presented by Nicki Minaj in Anaconda disrupt the conflation of female black flesh and an unruly sexuality, or does it reproduce the discourses that represent this sexuality as exotic and Other? Both is equally possible, but the exotic and Other elements come through more strongly in the music video.

Is Anaconda a parodic interpretation of or homage to Baby’s Got Back? It is understandable why some may think Anaconda is a tribute of sorts to Baby’s Got Back, but when you look at the music video, Nicki Minaj clearly jokes around with it and does not take it seriously at all. The music video is quite satirical and thus I would say it is a parody of Baby’s Got Back.

Nicki Minaj’s Anaconda is a controversial song that can be interpreted in various ways, both negative or positive, this is part of its brilliance. The song can be looked at with different criticisms, praised or hated. But in the end, Nicki Minaj is still out there making music and making money, so does it really matter what others think her art means?

 

 

 

Bibliography

Barry, P., 2009, Beginning Theory: An Introduction to        Literary and Cultural Theory, Manchester   University Press: Manchester.

Bell Hooks, Transgression: Whose Booty is This?,             from       https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=QJZ4x04CI8c.

Blood, N.L., n.d., Oh My Gosh, Look at Her Butt: An       Intersectional Feminist Critique of Nicki Minaj’s “Anaconda”, date viewed 10 October, from       https://www.academia.edu/9801344/Oh_My_Gosh      _Look_at_Her_Butt_An_Intersectional_Feminist_C      ritique_of_Nicki_Minaj_s_Anaconda_.

Dreschel, O., 2017, Baby Got Back: The Sexual     Objectification of Women and Gender Biases in Sir       Mix-A-Lot’s “Baby Got Back” and Nicki Minaj’s            “Anaconda”, date viewed 5 October, from       https://medium.com/@oliviadreschel/baby-got-  back-the-sexual-objectification-of-women-and- gender-biases-in-sir-mix-a-lots-baby-got-           a215ada85bfa.

McMillan, U., 2014, Nicki-aesthetics: the camp        performance of Nicki Minaj, Women &   Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory, 24 (1):      79-87.

Nicki Minaj, Anaconda, from    https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=LDZX4ooRsWs

Paresecoli, F., 2007, Bootylicious: Food and the     Female Body in Contemporary Black Pop Culture,      Women’s Studies Quarterly, 35 (1-2): 110-125.

Schoppmeier, S., 2015, ‘Hottentot Barbie’ as a        Multicultural Star: The Commodification of Race in         Nicki Minaj’s Music Videos, date viewed 10            October, from       http://connection.ebscohost.com/c/articles/1114927      03/hottentot-barbie-as-multicultural-star- commodification-race-nicki-minajs-music-videos.

Shange, S., 2014, A king named Nicki: strategic     queerness and the black femmecee, Women &     Performance: A Journal of Feminist Theory, 24 (1):    29-45.

Sir Mix-A-Lot, Baby’s Got Back, from       https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=_JphDdGV2TU.

Smith, M.R., 2014, “Or a Real, Real Bad Lesbian”:             Nicki Minaj and the Acknowledgement of Queer Desire in Hip-Hop Culture, Popular Music and         Society, 37 (3): 360-370.

Tobin, P., 2014, Nicki Minaj beats the music industry         at its own sexist game with “Anaconda”, date    viewed 5 October, from       http://theessential.com.au/features/source-        material/nicki-minaj-anaconda.

Toffoletti, K. 2004. Catastrophic Subjects: Feminism,         the Posthuman, and Difference, Thirdspace: A Journal of Feminist Theory & Culture, 3 (2): 1-14.

Vos, V., 2017, “I’ll Grind ‘till I Own It”:  African-         American Feminism in Hip-Hop, date viewed 10           October, from       file:///C:/Users/Chan/Downloads/MA%20thesis%20     Vera%20Vos%20version%2025-06-  2017%20PDF%20(1).pdf.

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Renaissance Comedy and Tragedy

In the Renaissance era, many plays were written for entertainment in theatres, especially comedies or tragic dramas such as Ben Jonson’s Volpone (comedy) and Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus (tragedy). The two plays just mentioned above are going to be used within this essay when looking at how the material and spiritual plays their parts in Renaissance dramas. Morreall (1999: 30) had the following to say with regard to the human spirit in comedic and/or tragic dramas:

“Tragedy bemoans our messy, limited, embodied         condition, and often dualistically identifies the                human being with the spirit or soul; by contrast,         comedy embraces the physical sphere.”

Investigation will ensue on whether or not Ben Jonson’s Volpone embraces only the material aspects of life or not, then comparing Volpone to Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus for that same purpose. Whether the plays put emphasis on the human spirit or soul or not will be discussed as well. The themes of the temporal (material) versus the spiritual (transcendental/eternal) will be argued within this essay too. Finally, a decision will be made on whether or not the two plays are typical or atypical of their genre, keeping in mind the quote by Morreall that has been written above.

In Act 1, Scene 1, Volpone and Mosca enters a room in Volpone’s house and then Volpone proceed to tell Mosca how wonderful all his treasures are (gold, jewels, plates and so on). Soon after he talks about a few old Pagan Gods and Goddesses before talking about the Christian God, which he referred to as a dumb God. He then continues to speak about how wonderful his treasure and possessions are in such a way as if though it is some kind of a sacred being by saying the following as written by Ben Jonson (1986: 61):

“Volpone: Thou art virtue, fame, honour, and all things else.”

After the words shown above has been spoken by Volpone, Mosca says the following as written by Ben Jonson (1986: 62) which makes it seem as if though he regards material fortunes at a higher value than wisdom or even spirituality.

“Mosca: Riches are in fortune a greater good than wisdom is in nature.”

Looking only at this section from Act 1, Scene 1, which is the opening of the play, Volpone, it seems as if though the material aspects of life is of far more importance to them than the spiritual aspects of life. Whether spirituality even plays a role in this story will be investigated when further examining the play. In Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, Faustus is preoccupied with gaining knowledge on everything he possibly can and because of this he ends up making a deal with the devil in order to do so. Simply looking at the base of what Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus is about, it is clear to see that the material aspects of life (this includes knowledge), is of far greater importance than the spiritual. However, that is only the case in the beginning of the play, spirituality becomes more important to Faustus as the story progress.

Volpone is shown worshipping his gold and other treasures verbally in the opening of the play, but he does not only verbally worship it, but physically as well by apparently kneeling before a visible shrine. This looks absurd and that is the whole point Ben Jonson was trying to make with this scene, the worship is symbolic. Volpone does not actually physically worship his gold and treasures, but spiritually and symbolically he does, he worships wealth (Weld, 1954: 173).

A play was written by Volpone in which Vice was triumphant over Virtue and he rules over all weaker characters. He acted as Vice and he seduced virtuous characters and make them fall victim to evil (Garret, 1990: 21). Volpone clearly only cares about the material aspects of life and does not care about morality, the virtuous, and the spiritual. In both his play and in his life, Volpone only cared about accumulating more and more wealth.

When discussing Ben Jonson’s Volpone, it is often mentioned how Volpone goes on and on about his gold and other treasures. Many critics have said that the play is another disapproval of greed, it is a dissident celebration of appetite, or simply that Volpone suffers from a perversion of his religious and sexual instincts. Gold, for Volpone, can be interpreted as his god and his true love (Watson, 2003: xii).

Gold was later not enough for Volpone anymore as he and Mosca grew more and more greedy. Volpone’s downfall started for him when he abandoned his pursuit for more gold for a more dangerous game. Their greed destroys their little play world completely and desire overthrow their hold on the society in which they live (Garret, 1990: 19).

Before Volpone’s attempt at seducing Celia. Her husband basically prostituted her out to Volpone in the hope that he might somehow inherit some of Volpone’s gold and other treasures. Celia’s words that will be shown below as written by Ben Jonson (1986: 121) basically comes to the point that even love and sex, the most intimate acts in human life, that can even create life, are less important than money for the men in Ben Jonson’s Volpone when it comes to their greed and pursuit of more wealth.

“Celia: Oh, God and his good angels! Whither, whither Is shame fled human breasts? That with such ease, Men dare put off your honours and their own? Is that, whichever was a cause of life, now placed beneath the basest circumstance? And modesty an exile made, for money?”

With greed, lust, and desire being so prominent in the play, the audience or reader of the play would assume that Celia will be easily seduced by Volpone, but this is not the case. Celia takes a stand against Volpone’s attempts to seduce her, she is a virtuous woman, this now makes her an inaccessible treasure for Volpone (Garret, 1990: 28).

Volpone attempts to rape Celia at a later point in the play and when this is busy happening, Celia cries out and pleas for divine rescue repeatedly. In Act 5 of the play, Volpone stands before a Judge in court for all his crimes, one of which was Celia’s rape. The following was written by Ben Jonson (1986: 182) of what was said in the court:

“1st Avoc: And these are all your judgments.”

“All.: Honoured fathers.”

“1st Avoc: Which may not be revoked. Now you begin, when crimes are done and past, and to be punished, to think what your crimes are: away with them. Let all that see these vices thus rewarded Take heart, and love to study ’em. Mischiefs feed Like beasts. Till they be fat, and then they bleed.”

In this final moments in the play in Act 5, the play’s educational and moralising purpose is clear. Volpone and all others like him, called legacy hunters, are all punished for their crimes in the Venetian court and made examples of. The judge then advises all present (including the audience or reader) that they should take this lesson to heart and learn from it. Whatever evil is done by whomever, will inevitably be punished, regardless of how much they may have enjoyed it beforehand. Even though the spiritual has not been mentioned as much as the material aspects of life in this play, Volpone does in fact have some spiritual elements, especially when it comes to the final lesson.

When looking at the themes of the temporal (material) versus the spiritual (transcendental/ eternal) within Ben Jonson’s Volpone, the two characters that represent this dichotomy is Volpone (material) and Celia (spiritual). Celia appears to be from an abstract sphere of virtue and Volpone appears to be from the vitality of evil. The two of them practically exist in two different worlds. When Volpone speaks, he often speaks of the beauty of material things and life. When Celia speaks, she often speaks of the beauty of heaven or she prays (Fredeman, 1956: 94). This makes it clear that Ben Jonson’s Volpone is a play in which both the material and the spiritual play a role, even though the material is still more prominent.

Since Ben Jonson’s Volpone and Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus is supposed to be opposites in the sense that the one is a comedy and the one is a tragedy, the themes of the material versus the spiritual will be looked at with regard to Doctor Faustus as well in order to make a better judgement on whether or not the two plays put emphasis on the human spirit/soul or not. Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus will now be examined below for this purpose.

Faustus, in Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, is a man for whom nothing is ever enough, but unlike Volpone, for him it is not physical treasures, but more knowledge. He makes the tragic mistake of summoning the devil in order to gain even more knowledge, but now within the forbidden arts, and in order to do so he bargains with the devil and offers him his soul. It can be argued that though it is not physical, that knowledge is still a material aspect of life that is desired by him along with a few other things. Faustus is not concerned with his soul initially, but he fears for his soul nearing the end of the play.

Faustus is an extremely knowledgeable man and he desires more constantly. He can always find faults and limitations in each specific subject he encounters and after comprehending all the knowledge he can from a subject, he will move on to the next one. At last, his never-ending desire for knowledge leads him to his next interest, a book of magic (Zhao, 2015: 8).

The big irony in Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus is the fact that Faustus had originally renounced studies such as philosophy, law, and physics, because of their triviality according to him. Now he discovers that the devil has even less to offer him in exchange for his body and his soul (Smith, 1965: 172).

Christopher Marlowe wrote Doctor Faustus in such a way as to illustrate how sin and evil are not as wonderful as it may seem initially. After his bad bargain with the devil, Faustus realises the limitations to his new servant, Mephistopheles’ power. And so, not everything worked out for him as planned (Smith, 1965: 172). Some of the things Faustus asked him to do are the following along with their answers as written by Christopher Marlowe (1994, 22-23):

“Faustus: Tell me where is the place that men call hell?”

“Mephistopheles: Hell, hath no limits, nor is circumscribed. In one self-place; for where we are is hell, and where hell is there must we ever be.”

“Faustus: But leaving off this, let me have a wife, the fairest maid in Germany.”

“Mephistopheles: Marriage is but a ceremonial toy; and if though lovest me, think no more of it.”

This last question and answer between Faustus and Mephistopheles ends up with Mephistopheles bringing Faustus a devil dressed like a woman and Faustus called her a hot whore. This clearly shows Mephistopheles’ limitations as he cannot give Faustus a real wife, because marriage is a sacred thing.

Faustus suffers according to Green (1946: 275-276) because he is a transitional character who has not completely unshackled himself from the superstitions against which he is in uprising, and that he falls back towards the old superstitions he originally rejected, such as those with regard to heaven and hell. Faustus is a tragic hero stuck in a spiritual crisis.

The lesson that Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus aims to teach is that wealth, even in the form of knowledge, can corrupt and be considered wrong especially when attained through immoral means. And even if you realise, like Faustus did, that you have done wrong, it may already be too late for you to redeem yourself and save your soul. By preventing such an instance of occurring, your soul will be safe (Zhao, 2015: 8-9).

When looking at the themes of the temporal (material) versus the spiritual (transcendental/ eternal) within Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, both of these themes play a role. Faustus’ infinite desire for knowledge can be considered as they material aspects of the play and the spiritual aspects of the play is definitely overpowering because of his involvement with the devil and the fact that his soul/human spirit is the price he has to pay.

The emphasis that is placed on the human soul or spirit in Ben Jonson’s Volpone is minor but it is present through the means of Celia, where in Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus, it is extremely prominent and is even used as a tool when teaching the audience or reader a lesson.

Ben Jonson’s Volpone is considered to be a comedy and Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus is considered to be a tragedy. Are these two plays typical or atypical of their genre? Keeping in mind the quote by Morreall (1999: 30):

“Tragedy bemoans our messy, limited, embodied         condition, and often dualistically identifies the                human being with the spirit or soul; by contrast,         comedy embraces the physical sphere.”

One last investigation will be done into both of these plays in order to be able to answer this question and once again Ben Jonson’s Volpone will be done first and then Christopher Marlow’s Doctor Faustus.

Ben Jonson’s Volpone is no ordinary comedy. The experience when reading the play or watching it, does not quite fit the expectations you would have of a satirical comedy. Because the base of the play is much preoccupied with morals, Volpone gives the feeling of being a fable of some kind, yet the character, Volpone, is not successful in his endeavours such as characters in fables (Karim, 2011: 29-30.

Critics have said that Ben Jonson’s Volpone is an overly anti-Catholic play. Once again going against what comedy is all about. Karim (2011: 30-33) continues by saying that Ben Jonson created a whole new kind of comedy when he wrote Volpone, it is satirical, yet moral in nature.

A comedy can be seen as showing the reader or audience the common mistakes or errors people make in life and the whole situation is actually quite ridiculous, the aim is also not to cause any serious harm or pain to others in a comedy. Ben Jonson’s Volpone does not fit into this definition of a comedy because his play involves the seven deadly sins and many wicked crimes. It is crime and sin and not foolishness, evil in human nature and not common life mistakes which are Ben Jonson’s fixation in this play and he delve into them with no mercy which is very uncharacteristic of a comedic play (Chishti, n.d.: 53-54).

By putting good versus evil and virtue versus vice against each other in his play, Ben Jonson made Volpone less of a comedy and more of a drama. The play does induce laughter in the audience, but not like a true comedy would. Volpone is about learning a lesson, bringing the spiritual into what was initially thought to be a material play.

Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus has always been known as and described as a tragedy and a morality play. The play is quite spiritual in nature even though the material has its own role to play within the play as well. Faustus as a character has been described as a genius who became the victim of his own demise because of an inner spiritual conflict that formed within his soul (Demers, 1971: 71-74).

With regard to Morreall’s quote, Ben Jonson’s Volpone is quite atypical of its genre as a comedy, because the spiritual, in the form of morality, plays a big role within the play. Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus however is very much a typical tragic drama in the sense that the spiritual aspects within the play by far overshadows any material aspects.

Comedy versus tragedy and the material versus the spiritual was the basis of what this essay was about. Morreall gave a quote of what a comedy and what a tragedy is. Ben Jonson’s Volpone and Christopher Marlowe’s Doctor Faustus was the two plays used from the two different genres in order to discuss the material versus the spiritual debate. Finally, a decision had to be made stating whether the two plays are typical or atypical of their genres. The one play was in fact typical of its genre while the other was atypical of its genre according to Morreall’s quote. The two plays were surprisingly similar in quite a few ways, yet fundamentally different as well.

 

 

Bibliography

Chishti, F., n.d., Volpone as a Non – Comedy, viewed       26 September, from       http://pu.edu.pk/images/journal/english/previous_p      df/Farida%20Chishti.pdf.

Demers, P., 1971, Christopher Marlowe and His Use         of the Morality Tradition, viewed 26 September,     from       https://macsphere.mcmaster.ca/bitstream/11375/10      016/1/fulltext.pdf.

Fredeman, P.H., 1956, The Way of Ben Jonson’s   Dramatic World, viewed 21 September, from     https://www.google.co.za/url?sa=t&rct=j&q=&esrc=      s&source=web&cd=2&ved=0ahUKEwj8wM611sX      WAhWBKcAKHXnFALcQFggqMAE&url=https%3A      %2F%2Fopen.library.ubc.ca%2Fhandle%2Fbitstre            am%2F136173%2FUBC_1964_A8%2520F7.pdf&u     sg=AFQjCNGpxkq7kom-PiinCk0eK4KoxJz-ng.

Garret, J.C., 1990, Jonson’s Use of the Morality Vice         in Volpone and The Alchemist, viewed 21             September, from       https://macsphere.mcmaster.ca/bitstream/11375/12      172/1/fulltext.pdf.

Green, C., 1946, Doctor Faustus: Tragedy of           Individualism, Science & Society, 10 (3): 275-283.

Jonson, B., 1986, Volpone or The Fox, The Chaucer         Press: Suffolk.

Karim, S., 2011, Ben Jonson’s Volpone: An             Unconventional and Innovative Jacobean Comedy,    IIUC Studies, 8 (1): 27-38.

Morreall, J., 1999, Comedy, Tragedy, and Religion,           State University of New York Press: Albany.

Smith, W.D., 1965, The Nature of Evil in Doctor      Faustus, The Modern Language Review, 60 (2):     171-175.

Watson, R.N., 2003, “Introduction”, In: Robert N.    Watson (ed.), Volpone, Second Edition, London &   New York: Bloomsbury.

Weld, J.S., 1954, Christian Comedy: Volpone, Studies      in Philosophy, 51 (2): 172-193.

Zhao, Y., 2015, Analysis of “Desire” and “Humanism”        in Christopher Marlowe’s Tragedies, International       Journal on Studies in English Language and          Literature, 3 (12): 6-10.

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Victorian Racism and Prejudice

In the Victorian era, there was some form of racism and prejudice already present, it was directed towards foreigners and gypsies mostly. Two novels from the Victorian era where this kind of ‘othering’ is present, is Dracula by Bram Stoker and Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte. Both of these novels demonstrate in some way the Victorian society’s attitudes and ideas towards those they viewed as racially other. The two specific characters that will be examined and used for this discussion in the two novels are Count Dracula in Dracula and Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights. Both of these characters are not only seen as racially other, but also as demonic. Brantlinger (2000:161) had the following to say with regard to this topic:

“The demonic characters in Victorian novels are often, at least implicitly, racially others.”

“In Bram Stoker’s Dracula, the Count, carrying the scourge of vampirism from Transylvania to England, reflects several aspects of late-Victorian racism.”

“Heathcliff is likened to a vampire, a ghoul, and a cannibal – the last, a metaphor that associates him with the ‘dark races’ of the world.”

The quotes above will be the basis of what is to come in this essay and of what will be discussed with regard to the two novels. Below I will first discuss Victorian racism generally before moving on to the specific novels. Dracula by Bram Stoker will be discussed first with regard to how Count Dracula is seen as demonic and racially other. Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte will be discussed next with regard to how Heathcliff is seen as demonic and racially other. After both of the novels have been discussed individually, a comparison will be made between Count Dracula and Heathcliff.

The ‘other’ as seen by the Victorians, were members of marginalised groups whose collective identity was seen as being different in vital ways from the white, Protestant, English-speaking Victorian mainstream. These ‘others’ were also seen as being unalterably alien and inferior (Galchinsky, 2002: 2).

In the Victorian era and even before it, dating all the way back to the Medieval era, the devil figure was seen as being black. This in part seems to be some kind of justification for the Victorians as to why they were prejudiced towards people with a darker skin tone. They though the colour black symbolised something demonic and evil. It has to be said also that they shared this view long before slavery existed. Regardless of the fact that the Victorians saw people with darker skin as demonic or devilish, some women were completely enthralled and obsessed with these ‘black devils’ (Daileader, 2005: 1).

When the slave trade was abolished some of the free slaves still remained in Britain to work in one way or another. This made the Victorians uneasy, even though these free slaves were working for them either directly or indirectly. Hints of Victorian racism can be noted in the journals of British travellers, they also believed that they were of a superior pedigree. The inclusion of this superior pedigree was problematic for various reasons. Blacks, browns, yellows, reds, and non-English speaking Celts were excluded. Scandinavians, Teutons, and Englishmen were included. The position classical Greeks, Romans, and Hebrews was less clear cut (Von Sneidern, 1995: 174).

During the Industrial Revolution, new technologies such as trains and steamships started to get used more often. This made travel over long distances faster and easier. This kind of new found mobility unavoidably forced the Victorians to experience greater regional, religious, racial, and national diversity. Until quite recently though, Victorian racism has not been noticed in literature from that era, but now that more people look at Victorian novels in a more critical way they started noticing Victorian attitudes towards racially others. The British was afraid of reverse colonialization (Galchinsky, 2002: 1).

Dracula by Bram Stoker has roughly been described by critics as a Victorian novel, a homosexual novel, and a classic Gothic novel, but never as a political novel (Clougherty, 2000: 139). As I have mentioned in the section before this, it has not been until recently that critics have started reading Victorian novels in a more political way, identifying political motifs within the texts. Criticism has persistently undervalued the novel’s vast and highly visible contacts with a series of cultural issues, especially those involving race, specific to the Victorian eras (Arata, 1990: 621).

Bram Stoker’s Dracula consists of a collection of documents written by various characters in the novel describing their experiences of coming into contact with Count Dracula, being victimised by him, and ultimately defeating him. Britain forms part of Western Europe and Transylvania where Count Dracula is from forms part of Eastern Europe. This is important to mention, because the West attributed negative characteristics to the East such as barbarism, darkness, and chaos. Thus, these same characteristics is attributed to Count Dracula (Stewart, 2006: 18). In Dracula Harker pointed out that he clearly noticed when he was no longer in the West and was entering the East (Stoker, 2011: 1).

Count Dracula is seen as a foreign intruder that represents Victorian fears and anxieties of degeneration, sexuality, and invasion that could potentially lead to the collapse of the British Empire. The Victorians’ fears and anxieties were directly linked to the effects of British colonialization (Metzdorf, 2012: 2).

During the Victorian era Britain started losing their hierarchy in world power, Germany and the United States of America started to become more powerful, threating Britain’s position. This along with factors outside of the country, made Britain feel uneasy and fearful. Dracula portrays the era’s most important and pervasive narrative of decline, a narrative of reverse colonialization (Arata, 1990: 622-623).

Jews has been seen as being monsters in history and according to Robinson (2009: 16), the composition of Bram Stoker’s Dracula can be seen as a metaphor for anti-Semitic anxieties in Britain during the Victorian era. Vampires such as Count Dracula live off of human blood and will kill in order to get it. The vampire is seen as a godless creature or even as the Antichrist. Christians are believed to have connected blood and death with Jews the same as they did with the idea of the vampire. “What manner of man is this, or what manner of creature is it in the semblance of a man?”, here Harker realises that Count Dracula is not entirely human and perhaps a monster regardless of looking like a human (Stoker, 2011: 23).

Bram Stoker’s Dracula as a novel is very much concerned with details of all sorts, yet when it comes to relationships, social groups and professional groups, it is not. Dracula is extraordinary because of its confusing and somewhat blurry categories. Such categories include the following: modern and primitive, civilised and savage, science and myth, good and evil, clean and unclean, life and death. Count Dracula is considered to be an anomaly, because of how ambiguous and confusing he is as a character. This is why he is seen by the Victorians as being ‘unclean’ (McWhir, 1987, 31). In Dracula, Harker imagines Count Dracula invading England and getting drunk on the blood of English people. He, Harker, feels powerless to stop him, and imagines that the English will be likewise “helpless” against the vampire (Stoker, 2011: 62).

Count Dracula was a ‘visible foreigner’ in the city of London. He was subject to several biases, prejudices and stereotypes. And as with most stereotypes, a person can bend and twist the truth in such a way as to make someone fit the stereotype (Clougherty, 2000: 140). Count Dracula pointed out to Harker that in London the people will know he is a foreigner in the way he ‘moves and speaks’ (Stoker, 2011: 34).

In Dracula, to be able to keep life and the country clean, pure and orderly, the unclean that threatened it has to be eradicated. This is exactly what Harker and Van Helsing did by rising up with the crusades in order to find Count Dracula and destroy him in the end (McWhir, 1987: 32).

Count Dracula is considered to be pure evil, repulsive and terrifying. He takes life, ends life, and/or pervert life. All of his enemies are those who wish to preserve life. The roles in the novel are rigid and clear with definite lines between good and evil, echoing the Victorian concern for purity (Peters, 2002: 1). A passage from Dracula below shows how Harker described Count Dracula (Stoker, 2011: 21):

“His face was a strong, a very strong, aquiline, with high bridge of the thin nose and peculiarly arched nostrils, with lofty domed forehead, and hair growing scantily round the temples but profusely elsewhere. His eyebrows were very massive, almost meeting over the nose, and with bushy hair that seemed to curl in its own profusion. The mouth, so far as I could see it under the heavy moustache, was fixed and rather cruel-looking, with peculiarly sharp white teeth. These protruded over the lips, whose remarkable ruddiness showed astonishing vitality in a man of his years. For the rest, his ears were pale, and at the tops extremely pointed. The chin was broad and strong, and the cheeks firm though thin. The general effect was one of extraordinary pallor”.

This description of Count Dracula by Harker makes it seem as though he is beast-like with his appearance and that he is quite revolting. All descriptions of Count Dracula appear to be negative in nature.

Wuthering Heights by Emily Bronte is considered to be a Victorian novel, a Gothic novel, and a romance novel. The story is mainly a love story, but regardless of that, Wuthering Heights show elements of Victorian attitudes and ideas towards racially others. The target of racial prejudice in this novel is a character named Heathcliff.

When slave trade was still common, Liverpool was the best place to get the best slaves. Mr. Earnshaw in Wuthering Heights was in Liverpool and soon after returned home baring gifts to his children and with a young boy, Heathcliff. He said he found Heathcliff on the streets of Liverpool and looked for his owner, but could not find one, thus he took the boy for himself. Heathcliff’s racial otherness cannot be a matter of debate: Emily Bronte makes that explicit. From the first and frequently thereafter, Heathcliff is called a gypsy (Von Sneidern, 1995: 172). Passages from the novel referring to Heathcliff’s race include the following as written by Bronte (1996: 40-44):

“I declare he is that strange acquisition my late neighbour made, in his journey to Liverpool—a little Lascar, or an American or Spanish castaway.”

“You’re fit for a prince in disguise. Who knows but your father was Emperor of China, and your mother an Indian queen, each of them able to buy up, with one week’s income, Wuthering Heights and Thrushcross Grange together? And you were kidnapped by wicked sailors and brought to England.”

Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights depicted Heathcliff as both the hero and the villain of the story. He started out being a hero, but he turned into a villain because of vengeance. Heathcliff is described in such a way that gives the idea that he might have been a gypsy. During the Victorian era, the Victorians were quite prejudiced towards gypsies. This prejudice is seen as one of the main reasons as to why Heathcliff became a villain (Jose, 2016: 239). An example of how Heathcliff is treated for being a gypsy can be seen below as written by Bronte (1996: 65):

“Take my colt, Gipsy, then!” said young Earnshaw. “And I pray that he may break your neck: take him, and he damned, you beggarly interloper! And wheedle my father out of all he has: only afterwards show him what you are, imp of Satan.”

Nelson (2008: 2), sees Heathcliff in Wuthering Heights as a vampire, because of how he has power and control over Catherine. This is not literal, but rather figurative in meaning. Heathcliff has however been considered to be animal-like or beast-like in the novel. His brooding and troubled personality fits well with the idea of him being a vampire as well as with him being a Byronic hero. “…Heathcliff is: an unclaimed creature, without refinement, without cultivation; an arid wilderness of furze and whinstone”, (Bronte, 1996: 98).

Adding to the idea of Heathcliff being some sort of a vampire, the following is said by Krishnan (2007: 3), explaining why he could have been seen as one is because with literary vampires there is some kind of a psychological transferal. With this transferal, the vampire’s attach destabilises not only the physical heath of the person they attacked, but also their mental integrity. In Wuthering Heights, psychological vampirism is an intensely exploited trope, a metaphor that can scrutinise the borders between selfhood and otherness.

Gready (2015: 24-25), compared Heathcliff with Satan, because she believes that Heathcliff blends in flawlessly with the wildness of the nature around him and that he is the strongest personality in the novel regardless of his cruelty, violence, and immorality. Heathcliff is described as wild, passionate, and sexual. All of which is considered to be obscenities in the Victorian era and characteristics associated with Satan himself.

Heathcliff does not belong anywhere. He is always stuck in an in-between kind of situation: proletariat and capitalist culture, human and inhuman, the hero and the oppressed. Heathcliff is stuck in his own kind of limbo no matter what he does. He made an attempt in Wuthering Heights to integrate into the culture of wealth, respect, and romantic privilege that he deemed as socially encouraged, but he instead finds himself continuously forced into this limbo of his reminding him of his status as ‘other’ (Radcliff, 2004:1).

Some Victorian texts, such as Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, are only incidentally Gothic; others, such as Bram Stoker’s Dracula, are highly conscious horror novels. This is one of the first general things these two novels have in common, but when looking at the specific characters, Count Dracula in Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Heathcliff in Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights, there are more ways in which they are different yet similar. Both of these characters are considered to be demonic and racially other according to the Victorian society in which they found themselves. Count Dracula has been interpreted as being a corrupter from the East, both a sexually and ethnically ‘other’. Heathcliff, although human, is considered to be the same as Count Dracula in that respect and he is repeatedly described in Wuthering Heights as a fiendish creature, demonic because of his obscure origins and devilish in his inclinations (Krishnan, 2007: 2-3).

The vampire is a term that is used to describe both Count Dracula and Heathcliff, but in different ways and for different reasons. Vampirism and its associated infiltration can be interpreted in a variety of ways: as disease-transmission, infection, psychological suggestion, or even barrier shattering liberation. Although, Dracula and Wuthering Heights stand as opposites on this continuum. For Bram Stoker, maintaining integrity of self, whether mental or physical, is vital; for Emily Bronte, the potential merging of selves that occurs through metaphorical vampirism is both necessary and liberating (Krishnan, 2007: 4).

Count Dracula and Heathcliff are not only seen by the Victorians as demonic and inhuman, but also as racially other. Count Dracula is from Transylvania, an Eastern European country, and this makes him an outsider and foreigner both culturally and ethnically. Heathcliff’s origins are unknown, but it is clear that he is of another race and not originally from Britain, he is often described as being dark of complexion and being a gypsy. The Victorians treated both of these characters as outcasts based on how they look and where they came from.

Bram Stoker’s Dracula and Emily Bronte’s Wuthering Heights were used in this essay to illustrate Victorian attitudes and ideas towards race. Both Count Dracula and Heathcliff are racially other from the Victorians and were treated negatively because of it. Two very different characters from to very different novels who ended up sharing a similar experience of Victorian racism, all because the Victorians were afraid of losing their position of power in the world.

Bibliography

Arata, S.D., 1990, The Occidental Tourist: Dracula and     the Anxiety of Reverse Colonization, Victorian      Studies, 33 (4): 621-645.

Brantlinger, P., 2000, Race and the Victorian Novel, in:     David, D., e.d., 2000, The   Cambridge Companion       to the Victorian Novel, Cambridge University Press:   Cambridge.

Bronte, E., 1996, Wuthering Heights, Dover             Publications: Yorkshire.

Clougherty, R.J., 2000, Voiceless Outsiders: Count           Dracula as Bram Stoker, New Hibernia Review, 4           (1): 138-151.

Daileader, C.R., 2005, Racism, Misogyny, and the             Othello Myth: Inter-racial Couples from           Shakespeare to Spike Lee, Cambridge University    Press: Cambridge.

Galchinsky, M., 2002, Otherness and Identity in the           Victorian Novel, In W. Baker & K. Womack, e.d.,         Victorian Literary Cultures: A Critical Companion,          Greenwood Publishing Group: Westport.

Gready, A.M.C., 2015, We are Heathcliff: Primordial          Symbolism in Wuthering Heights, viewed 22         August, from       https://www.lume.ufrgs.br/bitstream/handle/10183/      141813/000991841.pdf?sequence=1.

Jose, P., 2016, Heathcliff – A Hero Fallen by Revenge,     Research Journal of English Language and       Literature, 4 (4): 239-243.

Krishnan, L., 2007, “Why am I so changed?”: Vampiric      Selves and Gothic Doubleness in Wuthering         Heights, viewed 22 August, from       https://kutztownenglish.files.wordpress.com/2015/0      9/jds_v9_2007_krishnan.pdf.

McWhir, A., 1987, Pollution and Redemption in      “Dracula”, Modern Language Studies, 17 (3): 31- 40.

Metzdorf, C.S., 2012, Bram Stoker’s Dracula – A     Foreign Threat to the British Empire, viewed 22 August, from http://www.glk.uni-      mainz.de/Dateien/Metzdorf.pdf.

Nelson, G., 2008, Vampiric Discourse in Emily        Brontë’s Wuthering Heights, viewed 22 August,          from http://parkour.negaah.ca/wp-      content/uploads/2016/11/LiteratureCriticism-     Nicholas-Royle-Andrew-Bennett.pdf.

Peters, S.L., 2002, Repulsive to Romantic: The      Evolution of Bram Stoker’s Dracula, viewed 22    August, from       http://www.hsu.edu/academicforum/2002-          2003/2002-3AFRepulsive%20to%20Romantic.pdf.

Radcliff, D., 2004, Wrestling the Gypsy Devil:          Heathcliff as “Other” in Wuthering Heights, viewed            22 August, from       http://www.davidradcliff.com/docs/Wuthering%20H      eights%20Essay.pdf.

Robinson, S.L., 2009, Blood Will Tell: Anti-Semitism          and Vampires in British Popular Culture 1875-    1914, GOLEM: Journal of Religion and Monsters, 3          (1): 16-27.

Stewart, L., 2006, “I Vant…To Suck…Your Blood”:             Dracula As Eastern ‘Other’, SIGN, 7 (1): 18-28.

Stoker, B., 2011, Dracula, Harper Press: London.

Von Sneidern, M., 1995, Wuthering Heights and the          Liverpool Slave Trade, ELH, 62 (1): 171-196.

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Fashion

Fashion plays a major role in popular culture today and therefore fashion and clothing are often used in order to make a statement. In Dresden Dolls’ music video called Girl Anachronism, they do exactly that. Amanda Palmer, the lead singer of Dresden Dolls, uses fashion and clothing in order to represent the stereotypical image of a hysterical woman. She does not however reinforce the perception people have of female hysteria, but uses it to create a new form of feminism that accepts women with all of their ‘bruises’, ‘scars’, and ‘clumsiness’. The questions presented for this essay are: How does fashion and clothing from the past challenge the stereotypical image of the female? How is fashion and clothing used to frame the body? After answering the questions stated above, the reproduction of historical dress juxtaposes along with the framing of Amanda Palmer’s semi-clothed body will be considered and discussed as well. Irigaray (1977: 76) stated:

“To play mimesis… for women, to try to recover the place of exploitation by discourse, without allowing herself to be simply reduced to it”.

What Irigaray seems to be saying in the quote above is that women attempt to go back to what was once considered a negative aspect about them and then embracing it in such a way that does not exploit or degrade them. An agreement can be made that some women does in fact attempt to do this and many succeed with it as well, ‘owning up’ to who and what they are regardless of how others may interpret it.

Benjamin (2010: 12-13) stated that traditional concepts such as creativity and genius, value and style, form and content, that is used in an unchecked way allow for manipulation to occur of factual material in the interest of fascism. Art in whatever form is reproducible. It is both made and copied by a variety of different human beings. Some art is done for the purpose of practicing, other for propagating purposes and finally art is also done for the purpose of making a profit. Art has evolved and has become more graphic in the sense that multimedia and mass media has gotten involved with it. This has made it possible for artists of whatever kind to broadcast their art to anyone, anywhere. Work of art and art of film are now used interchangeably with one another by many for a variety of reasons.

Benjamin (2010:16):

“The uniqueness of the work of art is identical to its embeddedness in the context of tradition. Of course, this tradition itself is thoroughly alive and extremely changeable.”

Art has been politicised and this is exactly what will be examined with regard to the Dresden Dolls’ music video called Girl Anachronism. This music video is also an example of the art of film and how it is used to portray something traditional, but challenging it the meaning behind it, thus making the traditional changeable. This music video and what it does especially with regard to the fashion it uses will be discussed further below.

The purpose of fashion it to cover up and hide the human body while simultaneously revealing it in one way or another. Fashion in all its different forms are used for a variety of reasons and in a variety of ways. Fashion for formal occasions differ quite dramatically from fashion for casual occasions. Fashion for men and women are different from one another as it is designed to exhibit different elements of the body and sexuality. Fashion is also used as a form of self-expression. Fashion from a psychological perspective and feminist perspective will be discussed later within this essay.

According to Arvanitidou and Gasouka (n.d.: 2), fashion is the subject of powerful sociological, historical, anthropological, and semiotic analysis in contemporary social theory. Fashion aids in the forming of the self, identity, body and social relations.

According to Harvey (2007: 73), men has always been considered to have the mind as their main attribute and women has always been considered to have the body as theirs. This statement can be viewed as factual when considering the fashion of men and women throughout history. Priests, professors and lawyers (all considered to be male professions) have a very dignified fashion sense, the clothing is usually dark, of good quality and covers the body up quite well. Only later times did men start wearing clothing that showed off the shape of their bodies as well as their natural body hair. Women’s fashion and clothing had one of two functions: to cover up the body and shape it in such a way as to represent the ideal body type for women, or to reveal the female body in some way or another resulting in exhibition of the sexuality of women, making them sexual objects to be admired.

Karacan (2007: 72) mentioned that in the modern world consumer culture has become a prevalent part of our lives. There are now two ways in which the body can be seen: the inner and the outer. The inner body is having to be healthy and highly functional, the outer body is all about appearance and how it looks in a social space. The female body and its clothing/fashion has become an object to be fetishized and it is surrounded by symbols of desire.

Women’s underwear forms a part of fashion regardless of generally being hidden underneath other clothing. Underwear can be seen in binary pairs: public/private, sleaze/respectability, and luxury/utility (Tsaousi, 2011: 94). This section mentioned above is very important, especially with regard to the Dresden Dolls’ music video, Girl Anachronism, because Amanda Palmer’s underwear is visible in order to aid in her statement she is trying to make about the female body, fashion and hysteria.

Boultwood and Jerrard (2000: 301-302) stated that the human body and fashion interact with one another to communicate the unconscious that the person in themselves as well as outside of themselves is experiencing. Conflicts within the psyche, played out on the body, add to the divided and broken sense of self some individuals have. The view of fashion as aggravating its disintegration may be contrasted with the belief in the power of fashion to integrate. The obscurity of this internal conflict is echoed by the conflicting social-psychological needs of imitation, identification, and differentiation. This characterises the social experience of the body, and it is manifested in the individual’s response to fashion.

The body and clothing can both be seen as instruments for non-verbal communication. The body and the clothing it is dressed by sends out a message free to be interpreted by whomever notices it and does the trouble or trying to interpret what the message may be. The message conveyed it often quite complex, and though interpreted holistically, it involves both body and fashion variables. The interpretation of the message is often rife with ambiguity for some. In psychoanalytic interpretations of fashion, clothing is seen as a means of tackling psychic conflicts that are acted out on the body. Fashion, though it is a part of clothing, is viewed as a vehicle for bodily reconciliation of conflict. It is almost as though, in our unconscious awareness, the two have become intricately intertwined (Boultwood and Jerrard, 2000: 304-305).

The body and fashion represents the only support or shelter that a person can rely on. Clothing is a part of the human body. Through clothing an individual engages in non-verbal communication. Through fashion individuals establish communication with others, express acceptance or rejection, or collective attitutes in relation to the understanding of something that is likeable, sociable, moral etcetera (Tijana, Tomaž and Čuden, 2014: 322).

Boultwood and Jerrard (2000: 303) mentioned how the body and fashion shares three important themes, these three themes will be discussed individually below starting with fashion as the unconscious communication of the self. This has to do with non-verbal communication and how fashion is often used as a form of self-expression especially with regard to an individual’s subjective bodily experience towards themselves and others. This can be identified to be the case in the Dresden Dolls’ music video Girl Anachronism. In the past wearing certain clothing articles or colours, symbolised a specific even or occurrence, both pleasant or unpleasant.

Fashion and the role of identification and differentiation are two opposing processes implicated in our sense of self and also in our interaction with others. The term identification described the human psychological need to fit in and be accepted, but differentiation on the other hand is the intense need to feel unique. These two terms create conflict for the social and private self, this has been identified as the major driving force urging fashion to constantly evolve and change (Boultwood and Jerrard, 2000: 306).

Fashion as being ambivalent relates to the conflicting and often contradictory attitudes that illustrate our emotional and psychological experience. This same process affects our individual sense of identity (Boultwood and Jerrard, 2000: 308).

Sigmund Freud was the founder of the psychoanalytic field. Psychoanalytic criticism is used to interpret literature in whatever form to attempt interpreting the message it is communicating. This form of criticism looks at the unconscious that ‘leaks’ into the conscious through the means of non-verbal communication cues such as fashion and clothing. Projection and transference of the unconscious that has become conscious is also apparent (Barry, 2009: 69-70). In the music video Girl Anachronism by the Dresden Dolls, Amanda Palmer’s choice of fashion can be interpreted as ‘proof’ that she is indeed a hysterical (mentally unstable) woman.

The whole point of seeing a woman as being hysterical is because she does not present herself in a socially acceptable feminine way. The ways in which this can be exhibited is through the way in which she speaks, dresses herself, her body language and attitude (Farías, 2010: 1-2).

Feminist literary criticism is another criticism used to look at the Dresden Dolls’ music video of Girl Anachronism, but before that is possible to do feminist criticism must first be discussed. The feminist literary criticism we use today is the direct product of the “women’s movement” of the 1960s. This movement was, in important ways, literary from the start, in the sense that it realised the significance of the images of women broadcasted and presented by literature of different sorts, and saw it as vital to fight them and question their authority and their logic. In this sense, the women’s movement has always been critically concerned with books in literature, but other forms of literature now too. Feminist criticism should not be viewed as an off-shoot or a spin-off from feminism which is remote from the ultimate aims of the movement, but as one of its most practical ways of influencing everyday behaviour and attitudes of the many (Barry, 2009: 85).

Women in literature used to be exactly like how they were supposed to be as deemed appropriate by society, the women who did not act appropriately were seen as hysterical women or not real women at all, but deviant creatures. Feminist criticism has helped provide women of all ages find role models in literature that are strong women and not always what society deemed as ‘good’ women. This criticism has helped people look at women in whatever form of literature much differently than they did before. In the case of the Dresden Dolls’ Girl Anachronism, Amanda Palmer presents herself as what used to be seen as a hysterical and mentally unstable woman, but through feminist criticism the music video and the singer has been viewed in a completely new light. Now, Amanda Palmer is seen as a strong, perhaps eccentric, woman who embraces all her imperfections and regardless of what society believes, she is not hysterical, she is just a woman.

According to Geerts (2013: 1), in the popular culture, or more specifically, the music industry, men and women are often extremely different from one another. Women try their best to not always seem like feminist, even when they are, because the word feminist has become a term associated with more negative than positive attachments. Many female musicians touch on serious politically feminist issues without ever saying that they are one. The issue is sometime handled in a very quiet and unnoticeable way and other times it is loud and proud for everyone to see. Not only modern female musicians have done this, but also older female musicians. Amanda Palmer from the Dresden Dolls did this too in the Girl Anachronism music video, she was quite open about what she is trying to get across with her message about society seeing some women as being hysterical when in reality there is nothing wrong with them, they are just being themselves.

The female body and fashion is a unit of some sort, but it is not just one thing, it is many. Fashion is so much more than just simple clothing, pieces of material. Fashion is a part of each and every individual. Fashion is a form of self-expression, it shows how we try to fit in or stand out. Fashion broadcasts statements and messages the wearer may or may not want the world to see. Fashion is extremely important in popular culture and in media, no matter what form it may be presented in. In this case it was in the form of a music video, the message has both feminist and psychoanalytic value, teaching something to whoever watches the video.

Bibliography

Arvanitidou, Z. & Gasouka, M., no date, Fashion,   Gender and Social Identity,    viewed 15      August, from       https://process.arts.ac.uk/sites/default/files/zoi-       arvanitidou.pdf.

Barry, P., 2009, Beginning Theory: An Introduction to        Literary and Cultural Theory, Manchester   University Press: Manchester.

Benjamin, W., 2010, The Work of Art in the Age of Its       Technological Reproducibility, Grey Room 39.

Boultwood, A. & Jerrard, R., 2000, Ambivalence, and        Its Relation to Fashion and the Body, Fashion      Theory, 4(3): 301-322.

Farías, F., 2010, The body of the hysterical woman –        The feminine body, viewed 15 August, from       http://www.champlacanien.net/public/docu/2/rdv20      10pre5.pdf.

Geerts, E., 2013, Singing sirens. Contemporary pop          and rock goddesses and their      potentially      feminist acts of »chanter hystérique«, viewed 15             August, from http://www.pop-      zeitschrift.de/2013/06/18/singing-sirens- contemporary-pop-  and-rock-goddesses-and-their-       potentially-feminist-acts-of-chanter-      hysteriqueevelien-geerts18-6-2013/.

Harvey, J., 2007, Showing and Hiding: Equivocation in     the Relations of Body and Dress, Fashion Theory,        11(1): 65-94.

Irigaray, L., 1977, This Sex Which is not One, New            York: Cornell University Press.

Karacan, E., 2007, Women Under the Hegemony of          Body Politics:  Fashion And Beauty, viewed 15      August, from       http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download;jsess      ionid=720DF8DA46909E7 DA7CF17C29CC69A12?doi=10.1.1.633.5409&rep         =rep1&type=pdf.

Tijana, T., Tomaž, T. & Čuden, A.P., 2014, Clothes            and Costumes as Form of    Nonverbal      Communication, viewed 15 August, from       http://www.tekstilec.si/wp-      content/uploads/2014/12/321-333.pdf.

Tsaousi, C., 2011, Consuming Underwear: Fashioning     Female Identity, viewed 15 August, from       http://criticalmanagement.org/files/Tsaousi.pdf.

 

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Zombie Films

The aim of this essay is to answer the following questions: Why is the zombie genre so pervasive in American popular culture; Why is the Zombie utilised as a narrative device for exploring decaying social norms; What does this tell us about America’s cultural condition; and What dominant images, icons, values, and discursive formations are utilised in the film(s) of my choice. The films chosen for this essay is Zombieland and Warm Bodies, even though both of these films are part of the zombie genre, they obviously share some common attributes, but they also differ from one another and this will all be discussed later in this essay. The zombie is a surprisingly interesting symbol and metaphor in American popular culture which will come to light very soon. Before doing all of this though, the following quotation by Balaji (2013) will be discussed shortly before engaging with the essay completely.

“The ‘zombie industry’, as it has become commonly known, is now generating upward of $5 billion a year (a conservative estimate), thanks to the expanse of media and cultural products offered to hordes of eager consumers. However, the implications of this consumption go far beyond just audiences, the commodification of the undead and the perpetuation of global capitalism. There are social and psychological ramifications as well, particularly as they relate to our fear of Others, insecurities over self-reflection and the deep-seated paranoia over the possibility of an apocalyptic event. Some have even opined that the obsession over zombies is rooted in the temporality of the white-collar workforce in an age of economic displacement and the cementing of the divide between the haves and have-nots.”

The quote above by Balaji touches on many different elements of what the zombie could signify for various people. Some see it as social decay, a simple psychological fear of the dead/undead, fear of a potential apocalypse, or that the whole zombie genre is a commentary on American politics and economics. All of these elements will be discussed in the next section of this essay.

Zombie films and other forms of popular culture the zombie genre form a part of have most if not all of their origins in The United States of America and it soon enough became some sort of an obsession for the Americans, but to an extent also to the rest of the world but not to the same extent. It can be argued that the zombie craze is not only linked to America culturally, but also politically. The statement of it being political for America will be discussed further later in this essay. Zombies and what they symbolise and mean will be discussed in more depth later, but for now it can be said that the zombie genre is definitely omnipresent in American popular culture as a form of political propaganda.

The zombie genre is also a form of new historicism and cultural materialism. A simple definition for new historicism is that it is a approach based on the parallel reading of literary and non-literary texts, usually of the same historical period. New historicism refuses to ‘privilege’ the literary text (Barry, 2009: 116). Cultural materialism can be described as ‘a politicised form of historiography’. It can also be described as a foreword as designating a critical approach which has four characteristics, it combines an attention to: historical context; theoretical method; political commitment; and textual analysis (Barry, 2009: 121-122).

The zombie’s origins began in the form of some sort of voodoo and is part of old folklore associated with Africans and Native Americans. This is what makes the zombie a cultural phenomenon in part. Voodoo zombies are taboo and this contributes to the popularity of the monster (Bishop, 2010: 64). In the 21st century the zombie genre became an individual genre as it no longer fell under the horror genre. The zombie took over all forms of media in popular culture, not only literary but also non-literary media. The first person to make zombies truly popular was Romero who’s first zombie film was called Night of the Living Dead, but it can be argued that there were earlier forms of ‘zombies’ in novels and films. Romero moved the zombie away from voodoo and folklore and made it more gothic and supernatural like most other popular monsters that form part of popular culture (Bishop, 2010: 94).

Every few years a new ‘boss’ monster takes the spotlight in American popular culture, it started with ghosts, aliens, vampires and werewolves and now it is the zombie. In comparison, the attractive vampire that came before it, the zombie looks revolting and seems extremely tedious. Most of the older monsters were terrifying in some way, but the zombie appears to be no real threat because it is slow and stupid. What makes the zombie scary though is the fact that they rise from the dead, kill and eat living human beings and this makes them mindless killing machines regardless of their speed (Gomel, 2013: 31).

Zombies are basically human corpses raised from the dead in some or other way, but the repercussions of this is that these zombies instinctively have the urge for human flesh and/or brains. Zombies address fears inherent to the human condition and specific to the time of their resurrection (Platts, 2013: 587).

After the occurrence of 9/11 in America things began to change as the Americans became more anxious and fearful of not only other counties, but also other people. If anyone looked suspicious in any way people would steer clear of them in fear of their presence. Zombie narratives after 9/11 aided in expressing these American fears without audiences even realising it at times. Not only is it the portrayal of fear of the monster and violent death associated with it, but it is also accompanied with post-apocalyptic conditions, the collapse of infrastructure, survivalist fantasies being activated, and the general fear of other human beings (Pricehorn, 2015 :12).

The aftereffects of war, terrorism, and natural disasters, as seen and portrayed by America’s experiences closely resemble the scenarios of the zombie genre’s representation in the media (Platts, 2013: 548). Zombies have become phantasmal replacements for Islamist terrorists, illegal immigrants, carriers of foreign contagions, and other ‘dangerous’ border crossers that enter The United States of America on the pursuit of destroying the country from the inside out (Saunders, 2012: 80).

There are many theories behind what the zombie represents with regard to America, but one that often comes up is the following: it is the portrayal of fear experienced by the ‘superior’ white race in America being threatened by a possible overpowering by the ‘inferior’ black race in America. African Americans are seen as savage cannibals because of their roots in ‘dark’ Africa. The zombie can also represent people from ‘hated’ races, genders and religions (Cassells, 2015: 37).

From an evolutionary perspective, zombies produce generate terror because of a deep-rooted psychological fear of infectious contagions, loss of independence, and finally death. Culturally, zombies represent monstrous tabula rasa fears and anxieties. From a more modern perspective, zombie narratives more often than not present apocalyptic tales of societies in state collapse wherein a minority of survivors receive restricted refuge from zombie hordes (Platts, 2013: 587).

The zombie genre is both philosophical and political in nature, because it makes people question and debate the importance of life, the healthcare system and the financial institutions of the global economy. The zombie also emphasises the undoing and crumbling political system and is offered as a lens for the people of the outside to look into America (Boyer, 2014: 1139). Zombies are metaphors for illicit globalisation (Saunders, 2012: 80). Zombies are a popular cultural metaphor for the political ‘other’ illegal immigrants and not legal citizens. Within the zombie genre in whatever type of media, it often shows existing governmental institutions being overwhelmed by a zombie apocalypse, including local governments, the military, public health agencies, emergency services, and public utilities (Smith-Walter & Sharif, 2014: 336).

Smith (2016: 2) mentioned that the zombie can be used as a tool for measuring America and the rest of the world’s cultural anxieties. When looking at the zombie through the subject of cultural studies with regard to America, one of the theories are that the zombie is a manifestation of white Americans’ fear of the black African American citizens. The zombie monster is similar to a human being in many ways except for the fact that it is not intellectual at all, it has an animalistic mentality, and poses a danger to society. White Americans believed the same to be the case with the African Americans, but over time this view and feeling has declined and they have become more tolerable towards the African Americans. Assuming this is the theory behind the zombie, when analysing the zombie in popular culture, it can be said that it is possible to examine white Americans’ attitude towards the African American citizens.

Since the zombie is often viewed as being the ‘other’ in American popular culture, the otherness has recently become somewhat attractive in that it provides a strange specialness: pain and trauma distinguishes the individual’s complex uniqueness, and allow its truths to be spoken against normative social pressures. The zombie is a monster that can be seen as being pitiful, a victim of circumstance, a sacred being and an abject figure to some even. Discourse that exhibit the ‘conformism of objection’ includes names such as: wound culture, trauma culture, or victim culture (Botting, 2012: 29).

Bishop (2010: 158) mentioned that one of the ‘big’ questions people ask with regard to zombies is: ‘Are they dead or alive?’ the walking corpses called zombies used to be a terrifying monster for anyone seeing it on whatever form of media, but as time progressed, just like every other ‘scary’ monster, the zombie has been humanised in some or other way. This will be examined and discussed more later with regard to one of the chosen films for this essay, Warm Bodies.

Now before coming to the final part of the essay where the analysis of the two zombie films, Zombieland and Warm Bodies will be done, there is one last thing to said by Boyer (2014: 1139), the key lesson of all zombie texts is that the real threat is not the zombies, but instead the darker elements of humanity that obliterated civilisation long before the dead began to rise.

Before watching the two chosen films, a summary of each film will be given before identifying dominant images, icons, values and discursive formations. An opinion about each of the films will be given as well with regard to the theory that has been handles earlier in this essay.

Zombieland is set in American a few months after a disastrous disease infected almost everyone and turned them into zombies. The United States of America is now called The United States of Zombieland. Only a few people survived which is featured in the film as Columbus, a young male, Tallahassee, an older male, Wichita, a young female and her younger sister, Little Rock. Each has a mission, Columbus wants to find his parents, Tallahassee wants to find Twinkies, the two sisters want to go to the Pacific Playland, an amusement park which is apparently free of zombies. Columbus continuously work on his list of how to survive the zombie apocalypse because so far it has worked for him. The girls con the guys a few times but they always end up together again. Together they drive through zombies, shoot zombies and just try to get away from the zombies. At the amusement park, the activation of the rides and games drew the attention of the zombies and the guys had to go and rescue the girls from them. They are successful. Tallahassee finds his Twinkies, but soon after Columbus destroys it after being startled. The group leave together in the end and Columbus says that without other people you might as well all be a zombie, but the four of them are now a family as well.

When looking at the film, Zombieland, there are various different dominant images, icons, values and discursive formations. Below all of these things identified within the film will be named after which a deeper analysis and opinion of the film will be given.

Some of the dominant images within Zombieland include the following: blood; guts; death; zombies; running; shooting; weapons; deserted towns and cities; broken down cars; everything is dirty; and even military equipment that has been abandoned.

Many if not all of these images portray what a post-apocalyptic world would look like after everyone got infected and turned into zombies. Everything is destroyed and the human race is practically extinct in America. If someone somehow survived without getting infected it becomes a priority to stay alive and safe.

Some of the dominant icons within Zombieland include the following: tattered American flag; burning White House; fighting military; American military rituals following the death of Bill Murray.

All of these icons are related to America and show America’s demise after the zombie apocalypse, even the military and the president did not make it out alive and if some of them did, they could not save the country they resembled and stood for. It is clear to see that America has fallen as a result of the zombies taking over. Politically this is an extremely bad thing that is portrayed here: this means ‘the enemy’ won, whoever they may be: the Islamist terrorists, the Mexicans, the African Americans or whoever else it could have been.

Some of the dominant values within Zombieland include the following: rules are important and there for a reason; family and/or friends are very important; real names are kept secret in order to remain safe; there is a need/yearning for love, affection and acceptance; and last but not least, follow your instincts.

Columbus’ list of rules he made included the following rules: cardio is important; double tap when killing zombies; beware of bathrooms; seatbelts are important to wear; travel light; always check the backseat of a car; limber up before going into any possibly dangerous situation; when in doubt know your way out; enjoy the little things; and do not be a hero. Zombies attack when people are vulnerable thus the rule: beware of bathrooms. Columbus said more than once that you should never trust anyone, because they will either hurt you or coincidently be a zombie trying to eat you. The humans in Zombieland barely trusted each other.

Discursive formations identified within Zombieland include the following: the disease began because of a hamburger being contaminated by meat from a cow with madcow disease which infected human soon creative ‘mad’ zombies, this shows how the people in charge of health and safety of food were negligent and indirectly caused the apocalypse; the economy is destroyed; the medical officials and medicine was not good enough to prevent or cure the disease in humans; anxiety and fear rules most if not all people before and after the zombie apocalypse; survivors wish they could just be normal Americans again; there is safety in numbers; mistakes can cost lives; and it is important never to get attached to anyone or anything in The United States of Zombieland.

For survival Columbus, Tallahassee, Wichita and Little Rock stuck together. An example of mistakes costing lives is when the group goes to Bill Murray’s mansion to rest and Bill Murray himself is still alive but dressed up and made up to look like a zombie. He played a prank on Columbus resulting in him being shot in the chest and obviously this was fatal and he died.

Warm Bodies is a zombie film told from the zombie’s perspective, well, a zombie’s perspective and that zombie is simply known as R. R and many of the other zombies live at an airport while the humans live further away behind an extremely high wall. Bonies are also a type of zombie but they gave up on everything and gave in to the flesh-eating urge. What makes zombies and bonies different is not only their looks but their attitudes towards humans. Long story short, a group of humans go beyond the wall in order to get medical supplies because they are running low within the wall and while they are scavenging for supplies a group of zombies attach them, R is one of those zombies. Perry shoots R but does not kill him resulting in him raging out and killing him and eating his brains. When consuming a human’s brain, zombies receive all of their past memories, thus R received all of Perry’s memories and that in part is why he saved one of the human girls from the other zombies. That human girl was Perry’s girlfriend, Julie. After a long time of looking after her R begins to change slowly back into a human. Other zombies started to change too but bonies are beyond the point of no return. In the end, the zombies help the humans fight the bonies since they are also becoming human again. Once they are triumphant, humans accept the zombies and the zombies slowly turn into humans again. R and Julie fall in love with each other and watch together as the walls of the city gets destroyed now that it is a new world free of zombies. Basically, in an even shorter summary, Warm Bodies is the story of Romeo and Juliet.

When looking at the film, Warm Bodies, there are various different dominant images, icons, values and discursive formations. Below all of these things identified within the film will be named after which a deeper analysis and opinion of the film will be given.

Some of the dominant images in Warm Bodies include the following: news article titles about the disease spreading; zombies; bonies (also zombies but beyond the point of no return); deserted infrastructure; graffiti; death; R (zombie) and Julie (human) together; sleeping and dreaming means you are alive; wall gets broken down in the end; Warm Bodies is Romeo and Juliet.

As seen with simply their names R and Julie is Romeo and Juliet.

Some of the dominant icons in Warm Bodies include the following: the president of The United States of America is infected by the disease; bonies is the bad version of zombies; the military is active always with guarding and protecting the remaining humans.

On a political level America has definitely been affected by the disease and the zombies, but there seems to be some form of hope left since there are so many human survivors still. The zombies and bonies have not taken over yet. By distinguishing the zombies and bonies from one another is makes it apparent that even though they are the same (dead) they are also different almost as if though to say just because people are of the same religion or race or country, it does not mean that they are all the same. In short, do not stereotype people because of the group they represent, everyone is different.

Some of the dominant values in Warm Bodies include the following: zombies are lonely and lost, showing they have specks of humanity left in them; zombies use interspection often and keep asking themselves questions; there is safety in numbers; zombies kill to survive but hate hurting people; memories are important because they disappear so easily; it is possible to change; stay hopeful; and love trumps all.

Basically, here is proves that zombies are still part human and that anyone can change if they just get the opportunity to do so and to prove themselves. The film also tells us that love is a powerful thing and through love anything can be achieved.

Some discursive formations in Warm Bodies include the following: the zombies are waiting for something but do not know what in the beginning; zombies yearn to be human again; love can make a zombie human again if they have not turned into a bonie yet; death has become such a normal thing; zombies show remorse, bonies does not; they say there is no cure for the zombies and they will never change, but they did; humans and zombies unite to fight against the bonies and remain united afterwards as they all change back into humans.

the questions asked with regard to this essay have all been answered and discussed. The two films, Zombieland and Warm Bodies have been discussed with regard to dominant images, icons, values and discursive formations as well as a little extra analysis. The zombie genre as surprisingly fascinating really and I learned a lot while working on this assignment such as the symbolism and meaning behind the zombie. The two films may be from the same genre and have zombies in common, but one of the big things that distinguishes the two is the fact that the one film is from the human perspective and the other film is from the zombie perspective.

 

 

Bibliography

Princehorn, Z., 2015, Among the Living Dead: The             Zombie Narrative in a Post-9/11 Era, date viewed     15 June 2015, from       http://www.otterbein.edu/docs/default-      source/files/academics/Departments/English/swp-      awards/princehorn-ls-swp.pdf?sfvrsn=2.

Bishop, K.W., 2010, American Zombie Gothic,        McFarland & Company, Inc: North Carolina.

Gomel, E., 2013, Invasion of the Dead (Languages):         Zombie Apocalypse and the End of Narrative,            FRAME, 26 (1): 31-46.

Cassells, L., 2015, Magic to manic : the evolution of          the zombie figure In fiction and its basis In moral             panic dissemination, date viewed 15 June 2015,   from       http://repository.up.ac.za/bitstream/handle/2263/57      236/Cassells_Magic_2016.pdf?sequence=1&isAllo     wed=y.

Botting, F., 2012, The Gothic in Contemporary        Literature and Popular Culture, edited by Edwards   J.D. and Monnet A.S., Routledge: New York.

Smith, C., 2016, The Evolution of Protagonist-Zombie       Interactions in American Zombie Cinema: A Mirror           of Evolving Race Relations Between White and Black America, date viewed 15 June 2017, from           https://writing-speech.dartmouth.edu/sites/writing-      speech.dartmouth.edu/files/2016dickerson2-3- smith.pdf.

Boyer, E., 2014, Zombies All! The Janus-Faced      Zombie of the Twenty-first Century, The Journal of Popular Culture, 47 (6): 1139-1152.

Balaji, M., 2013, Thinking Dead: What the Zombie Apocalypse Means, Lexington Books: Lanham.

Platts, T.K., 2013, Locating Zombies in the Sociology        of Popular Culture, Sociology Compass, 7 (7): 547-       560.

Saunders, R.A., 2012, Undead Spaces: Fear,         Globalisation, and the Popular Geopolitics of        Zombiism, Geopolitics, 17 (1): 80-104.

Smith-Walter, A. and Sharif, F.S., 2014, Is   Government (Un)Dead?: What Apocalyptic Fiction          Tells Us About Our View Of Public Administration,   International Journal Of Organization Theory And       Behavior, 17 (3): 336-366.

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Gender in The House of the Spirits and Their Eyes Were Watching God

Gender and the division it causes in society is ever present and often a great theme in novels. Structural gendered imbalances will be identified and discussed as they manifest in and shape the experiences of different characters in the two chosen novels. The novels chosen for this essay is Isabel Allende’s The House of The Spirits and Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God. Stevi Jackson and Sue Scott (2002: 1) say the following with regard to gender:

“gender as we define it denotes a hierarchal division between men and women embedded in both social institutions and social practices. Gender is thus a social structural phenomenon but it is also produced, negotiated and sustained at the level of everyday interaction.”

OpenStax College (2013: 2) produced an article explaining the difference between sex and gender. The definitions they provided can be read below:

“Sex refers to physical or physiological differences between males and females, including primary sex characteristics (reproductive systems) and secondary characteristics (masculine or feminine attributes). Gender is a term that refers to social or cultural distinctions associated with being male or female.”

The difference between sex and gender according to Butler (1990: 6) aid in the argument that any biological interacting sex seems to have, does not influence that gender is culturally constructed. Butler (1988: 519-520) also stated the following with regard to gender:

“Gender is instituted through the stylization of the body in various different ways that constitute the illusion of an abiding gendered self. This formation moves the conception of gender off the ground of a substantial model of identity to one that requires a conception of a constituted social temporality.”

The history of the society people come from aid in giving a better understanding into hoe men and women lived. Through cultural social comparisons it is clearly observable that men and their actions held more value and probably still do in comparison to women and their actions. Men have always been considered to be more important and dominant than women, because they are the providers and women are the nurturers. This have resulted in inequality between the two sexes and/or genders (Holmes, 2007: 19).

Gender roles start forming children from a very young age that is rewarded and punished for either gender appropriate or gender inappropriate behaviours. This act both encourage and discourage children to behave in a certain way that is considered to be socially acceptable for their gender. This moulds the children into the adults they one day become. Their actions should then match what is associated with their gender and what they have been taught as children will manifest in their everyday lives as adults (Risman & Davis, 2012: 4).

Men and women differ from one another in the sense that men are considered to me more influential in society and that women are easily influenced according to society. There are often status inequalities between men and women as well. Men are more often than not, socially and financially above women. The higher the status, the more influence a man possess over women. In a lower socioeconomic status, men and women are often seen as equals with regard to the influence they possess. What is comes down to is that social gender roles and equality varies with socioeconomic status (Eagly, 1983: 971).

How children are taught their gender appropriate behaviours as well as seeing how the socioeconomic status of characters influence their equality and power will be discussed below with specific regard to two novels. The two chosen novels for this topic is Isabel Allende’s The House of The Spirits and Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God in that order.

Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits is a novel that tells the story of three generations of women, who is also the protagonists of the novel: Clara, Blanca and Alba. All three of these characters stand up for their rights as women in a male dominated society, each in their own way. These three women rarely condemn gender inequality however, they are influenced by it. Without causing too much waves, each of these women stood up against the patriarchal society in their own ways which turned out to be far more effective in challenging a continuing struggle for change (Ahrling, 2010: 5-6).

Alba’s purpose in The House of the Spirits is of a dual nature: to recover her female ancestors’ story and to continue enduring through their empowerment (Smith, 2009: 80). Through Alba, Clara and Blanca’s voices are heard, it would otherwise have been lost and forgotten (Thomson, 2016: 47).

The period of time in which the story of The House of the Spirits is set in, the military destroy the country and erase many if not all of its previous history. Alba writes her family’s story and she includes all the important women in her life in the story and all the things they did. Alba and her female ancestors thus become living symbols of a more embracing way of looking at history. Alba allows her grandfather, Esteban, to narrate some parts of the story as well, but he never truly overpower her narration even when he tries. He tells the same story, but from his perspective. In his perspective of the story, it is clearly notable that Esteban is a stubborn patriarch that insist he is always right even when contrary evidence is presented in the form of Clara’s notebooks. Alba uses her grandmother’s notebooks to be able to write a more inclusive kind of story (Smith, 2009: 80).

There is a clear division between the male and female characters in Isabel Allende’s The House of the Spirits. There is an unequal standing of power that one sex (male), maintain over the other (female), through religion, control of sexuality, denial of equal privileges, and violence (Hubata-Ashton, 2012: 13). In The House of the Spirits, Esteban realised that Clara did not belong to him and as long as she continued living in her own world filled with spirits, she probably never would. Esteban did once believe that he could own her or at the very least control her as seen in Allende (1986: 96):

“He wanted far more than her body; he wanted control over that undefined and luminous material that lay within her and that escaped him even in those moments when she appeared to be dying of pleasure.”

In The House of the Spirits women are viewed to be second-class in status in comparison to men. The female characters in the novel stand up for their rights and gender equality through what is considered to be feminism. Clara and Alba are considered to be third-wave feminists and Blanca is part of second-wave feminism which happened during the late 1960’s. All three of the women support one another with their endeavours (Hubata-Ashton, 2012: 8-9).

Throughout the novel, The House of the Spirits, however there are indications of how men and women should be according so society and the family and instances showing how the women in the novel go against what is expected of them. A few examples include the following:

“It was the custom then for women and children not to attend funerals, which were considered a male province, but at the last-minute Clara managed to slip into the cortège to accompany her sister Rosa…” (Allende, 1986: 34).

“If women don’t know that two and two are four, how are they going to be able to handle a scalpel? Their duty is motherhood and the home. At the rate they’re going, the next thing you know they’ll be asking to be deputies, judges – even President of the Republic!” (Allende, 1986: 77).

“Since when has a man not beaten his wife? If he doesn’t beat her, it’s either because he doesn’t love her or because he isn’t a real man. Since when is a man’s pay check or the fruit of the earth or what the chickens lay shared between them, when everybody knows he is the one in charge? Since when has a woman ever done the same things as a man? Besides, she was born with a wound between her legs and without balls, right, Señora Clara?” they would say. Clara was beside herself.” (Allende, 1986: 106).

“He had finally come to accept – beaten into it by the tide of new ideas – that not all women were complete idiots, and he believed that Alba, who was too plain to attract a well-to-do husband, could enter one of the professions and make her living like a man.” (Allende, 1986: 301).

Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God is considered to be an enthralling novel by Hooks (1995: 245) because of the way in which it challenges conservative sexist beliefs of a woman’s role in marriage and romantic love, persisting on the importance of female self-actualisation. Their Eyes Were Watching God has also been referred to as an ‘apologia’ for traditional sex and gender roles and it has been commended as one of the earliest and clearest black feminist novels. The novel has been seen as being about the quest for self-fulfilment or self-identity. It is also considered to be a novel about black love and the humanistic principles that love embodies, and it has been both defended and condemned. The reason for that is because Their Eyes Were Watching God expresses its protest against white injustice only by affirming the creative power of black folk life (Pondrom, 1986: 181).

Black women as seen in Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, can be considered to be doubly oppressed and suppressed. The reason for this is because they live in a patriarchal society where men dominate and also, they still experience the after-effects of the slavery and colonialization which was caused by the white Americans. Black women were considered to be objects that men could possess and apart from working hard at home and being obedient, women were also seen as a source of pleasure for both their husbands and their white masters (Fard & Zarrinjooee, 2014: 474).

The protagonist of Their Eyes Were Watching God is called Janie. She went through three marriages I her lifetime. The first was to a farmer named Logan. She was never happy with him and that is why she left him for Jody. Janie always thought that once she got married it will be the best romantic experience ever, but her realisation came rather soon as seen in Hurston (2007: 34), “She knew now that marriage did not make love. Janie’s first dream was dead, so she became a woman.”

Eatonville is the town in Florida in which Janie went to settle in live with Jody, but in this town gender roles was still taken very seriously. Women had to stay at home while their husbands worked or socialised. The men were known for beating their wives regularly especially after a stressful or frustrating day at work. This is how the men kept asserting their dominance in their relationships. Regardless of being beaten so often, the women stuck by their husbands, because a single woman in Eatonville is worth nothing (Van Rees, 2012: 10). An example of this can be seen as written by Hurston (2007: 121-122) when Jody dies and leaves Janie a widow in Eatonville:

“Uh woman by herself is uh pitiful thing,” she was told over and again. “Dey needs aid and assistance. God never meant ‘em tuh try tuh stand by theirselves. You ain’t been used tuh knockin’ round and doin’ fuh yo’self, Mis’ Starks. You been well taken keer of, you needs a man.”

“Womenfolks is easy taken advantage of. You know what tuh let none uh dese stray niggers dat’s settin’ round heah git de inside track on yuh. They’s jes lak uh pack uh hawgs, when dey see uh full trough. What yuh needs is uh man dat yuh done lived uhround and know all about tuh sort of manage yo’ things fuh yuh and generally do round.”

At the young age of only sixteen years old, Janie was forced by her grandmother to marry an older man, a farmer names Logan. Janie is a bit of a romantic and therefore runs off with Jody, a young up-and-coming black business man. After twenty years of being together, he passes away and this is when Janie met a younger man, Tea Cake. For two years they were happy together, but after being bitten by a dog infected with rabies, Tea Cake tried to kill Janie. She had no choice but to kill him in self-defence. Their Eyes Were Watching God is written in a way which white Americans see black people as being, very simple and traditional (Wright, 1993: 17).

After Tea Cake’s death Janie returned to Eatonville in overalls and none of her old fancy clothes. Many of the members of the Eatonville community thought that Tea Cake stole her money and left her alone, but she knows what the truth is and did not care what they thought. Janie decided to tell Phoeby what happened, not to explain herself or to justify her situation, but simply because she is her friend (Padhi, 2014: 50).

Janie had oppressive experiences with all three of the men she was married to and also with her grandmother in the beginning of her story. She became weak and spoiled at some point, but in the end of the novel there is a change. Janie gets a strong sense of self, reaches self-actualisation and finds her own voice after developing into an independent woman (Safitri, 2007: 18-19).

Throughout the novel, Their Eyes Were Watching God, there are many instances where the men in Janie’s life tries to tell her what to do and how to behave. There is also instances where the men talk among one another about women. A few examples include the following:

“Six months back he [Logan] had told her, “If Ah kin haul de wood heah and chop it fuh yuh, look lak you oughta be able tuh tote it inside. Mah fust wife never bothered me ‘bout choppin’ no wood nohow. She’d grab dat ax and sling chips lak uh man. You done been spoilt rotten.” (Hurston, 2007: 35).

[Joe:] “Somebody got to think for women and chillun and chickens and cows. I god, they sho don’t think none theirselves.” (Hurston, 2007: 95).

“Ah knows uh few things, and womenfolks thinks sometimes too!” (Hurston, 2007: 95).

“Aw naw they don’t. They just think they’s thinkin’. When Ah see one thing Ah understands ten. You see ten things and don’t understand one.” (Hurston, 2007: 95).

[Tea Cake:] “Put dat two hundred back wid de rest, Janie. Mah dice. Ah no need no assistance tuh help me feed mah woman. From now on, you gointuh eat whutever mah money can buy uh and wear de same. When Ah ain’t got nothin’ you don’t git nothin’.” (Hurston, 2007: 171).

Isabel Allende’s The House of The Spirits and Zora Neale Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, are both novels telling the story of female protagonists. Even though the characters from the two novels come from different racial and cultural backgrounds, gender inequality was present in both novels. Structural gendered imbalances and their everyday manifestations was discussed along with how this shaped the characters in the two novels I have chosen to do with regard to this topic.

 

 

Bibliography

Ahrling, J., 2010, A Feminist Reading of The House of      the Spirits, Song of Solomon, and One Hundred             Years of Solitude, viewed 1 August, from    https://www.diva-      portal.org/smash/get/diva2:419360/FULLTEXT01.p      df.

Allende, I., 1986, The House of Spirits, Bantam Books:     New York.

Butler, J., 1988, Performative Acts and Gender       Constitution: An Essay in Phenomenology and             Feminist Theory, Theatre Journal, 40(4): 519-531.

Butler. J., 1990, Gender Trouble: Feminism and the           Subversion of Identity, Routledge: New York.

Eagly, A.H., 1983, Gender and Social Influence: A             Social Psychological Analysis, viewed 26 July, from       http://citeseerx.ist.psu.edu/viewdoc/download?doi=      10.1.1.469.8095&rep=rep1&type=pdf.

Fard, Z.M. and Zarrinjooee, B., 2014, The Double Oppression of Black Women in Their Eyes Were      Watching God, Journal of Novel Applied Sciences,          3(5): 474-481.

Habuta-Ashton, R., 2012, Isabel Allende’s The House       of the Spirits: Examining Magical Realism as It       Bears Witness to Life, viewed 1 August, from       https://www.midlandstech.edu/sites/default/files/mt      c/academics/Eng_Dept/2012%20Ashton.pdf.

Holmes, M., 2007, What is Gender? Sociological    Approaches, SAGE Publications Inc: Los Angeles.

Hooks, B., 1995, Zora Neale Hurston a Subversive            Reading, Black Women’s Diasporas, Volume 2 of        Moving Beyond Boundaries. Edited by Davies,            C.B., New York University Press, 244-55.

Hurston, Z.N., 2007, Their Eyes Were Watching God,       Harper & Row Publishers Inc.: New York.

Jackson, S. and Scott, S., 2002, Gender: A Sociological Reader, Routledge: New York.

 

OpenStax College, 2013, The Difference Between Sex     and Gender, viewed 21 July, from file:///C:/Users/Chan/Downloads/the-difference-           between-sex-and-gender-5.pdf.

Padhi, P.K., 2014, Thematic Concerns in Zora Neale         Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, Journal      Of Humanities and Social Science, 19(9): 48-52.

Pondrom, C., 1986, The Role of Myth in Hurston’s Their Eyes Were Watching God, American         Literature, 58(2): 181-202.

Risman, B.J., and Davis, G., 2012, From sex roles to        gender structure, viewed 28 July, from       http://journals.sagepub.com/doi/pdf/10.1177/00113      92113479315.

Safritri, A.A., 2007, Feminism Approach-Based       Character Analysis on Zora Neale Hurston’s Their            Eyes Were Watching God, viewed 2 August, from       http://repository.uinjkt.ac.id/dspace/bitstream/1234      56789/15573/1/AJENG%20ANNISA%20SAFITRI-       FAH.pdf.

Smith, K.M., 2009, Telling (T)he(i)r Story: The Rise of       Female Narration and Women’s History in Isabel      Allende’s The House of the Spirits, Florida Atlantic       Comparative Studies Journal, 11(1): 79-92.

Thomson, E., 2016, “Not to Die, but to Survive”: The       Construction of Female Voice in Isabel Allende’s          The House of the Spirits, Undergraduate Research        Journal, 8(1): 41-48.

Van Rees, H., 2012, Their Eyes Were Watching God:       Black Feminism and White Ideals, viewed 3            August, from       https://dspace.library.uu.nl/bitstream/…/BA%20The      sis%20Hilde%20van%20Rees%2036

Wright, R., 1993, Their Eyes Were Watching God. Zora Neale Hurston Critical Perspectives Past and          Present. Edited by Appiah, A. and Gates, H.L. Jnr.,         Amistad, 16-24.

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Race in To Kill a Mockingbird and Triomf

Race and racism in whatever form are often topics of interest in different novels and films. Race plays a big role in both, To Kill A Mockingbird by Harper Lee and Triomf by Marlene van Niekerk. Stereotypes and prejudices that occur because of race and will be the main points of focus in this essay in relation to the two novels mentioned above. What will be done exactly is the following: First, the two terms, stereotypes and prejudice, will be defined. Second, stereotypes and prejudices will be discussed with regard to what it is, how it is interpreted, some examples perhaps and general information about it. Third, To Kill A Mockingbird and Triomf will be discussed with the topics of racial stereotypes and prejudices in mind and how both of these acts are present and represented within the two novels.

Before the real topic at hand can be discussed, the definitions of both stereotypes and prejudices has to be known in order to further discuss the meanings, ideologies and examples of it. Stereotypes is a commonly understood, but fixed and overgeneralised image or idea of a particular thing or group of people, in the case of this assignment, people that is a part of the black race. Prejudices are quite similar to stereotypes, but the specific definition is that is it a preconceived opinion that is not based on reason, fact or personal experience, there is also racial prejudices towards black people and other races, but specifically towards black people with regard to this essay.

Racial stereotypes and racial prejudices come from set ideas and opinions about racial groups, but specifically the black race for the purpose of this assignment. Below some additional information will be given with regard to both stereotypes as well as prejudices. Some parts of the information that will be given below will be purely about stereotypes or prejudices, but some bits of information will be about both of these concepts. It can be argued that racial stereotypes and prejudices come from individuals who are considered to be racists which is another group of people found within society in the past and still today. Racist ideologies dominate most other shared social representations, especially racist attitudes, racial prejudices and racial stereotypes (Van Dijk, 2000: 98).

Group categories such as identity, feelings, beliefs, and related mental structures are all factors expressed in human interactions that influence the structure and basic conditions of social organisations. Bobo and Fox (2003: 319) go on by saying that race, racism, and discrimination that happen because of racial stereotypes and prejudices, can also be seen as sources and methods of hierarchal differentiation that shape the ordering of social relations as well as the sharing of life experiences and life choices.

Mai (2016: 2) stated that no matter how true or false a stereotype is, it is mostly based on some reality, truth, a half-truth, or a full-blown fact. Universally, it is a natural tendency to seek people with which there are common interests, hobbies, habits, beliefs, languages and so on. The more people have in common with one another the more comfortable they will feel around these people. In some cases, individuals seek out other individuals from which they differ in many aspects as to learn from them, but unfortunately doing this can be criticised, certain individuals could argue that different races should not mix company. This is an obstacle in the road that society has to get over to be able to make any sort of progress.

Stereotypes of any sort tend to have a negative impact on society, especially in the following ways as written by Mai (2016: 5-6): It traps people in a certain mindset with regard to things or groups of people and this is then extremely hard to change within these people since it becomes so fixed in their minds; when someone believes in stereotypes they refuse  to acknowledge the existence of the possibility of people being part of a group, but not fitting the stereotype at all; stereotypes just like many other mindsets can result in self-fulfilling prophecies because of the link between belief and behaviour.

Stereotypes are generally seen to be a negative phenomenon that only racists engage in, but many different people have a tendency of putting others in a box of some sort regardless of knowing that they are judging these people based on a stereotype. Stereotyping have become a natural thing to do in today’s society and it is hard to be unlearned though it is possible to do so. It is especially hard to shake off this habit because many people who engage in stereotyping find it hard to accept anything that proves the contrary of any stereotype that they believe in (Mai, 2016: 2).

A common existing stereotype about the black race is that they are more likely that other races to be violent or to engage in criminal behaviour. The stereotype of black people being criminals is a widely known stereotype and it is deeply embedded especially within the minds of American regardless of the level of prejudice or personal beliefs they have with regard to this stereotype (Quilliam & Pager, 2001: 721-722).

Prejudices of any sort, but specifically racial prejudices in this case, can start because of the following aspects that occur between different groups of people: conflict of resources; conflict of desires and the ‘blame game’; institutional support and so on (Mai, 2016: 9-11). Mai (2016: 7) then goes on to say that stereotypes can on the odd occasion be considered to be positive, but prejudices are always negative, there is no exception. Prejudices are also usually accompanied with feelings of hostility, rage and judgement. Prejudices are also emotionally fuelled and as well as being a personal attitude/thought process and this can all be transferred into actions which then manifests as discrimination.

At am individual level and not just on group levels, racisms are often expressed in the form of prejudice either in direct or insinuating way. Knowing that prejudices suggest negative attitudes and beliefs, it can often become self-fulfilling prophesies as mentioned before and that would then support and validate prejudiced judgements. When contrary evidence in the form of one or more individuals being different is presented to prejudiced people, they refuse to acknowledge or believe it as proof that the group is not in fact like the stereotype of prejudice and perhaps instead simply and exception to the rule (Sanson et.al. 1997: 12).

Below the ideologies discussed above will be discussed with specific relation to the novel, To Kill A Mockingbird and then toTriomf. Specific articles with regard to the topic and books will be used as well as my own application of examples from the novels and their films (if films are available) to present evidence of racial stereotypes and prejudices present in both of the books.

Class, gender as well as racial prejudices are introduced to Jem and Scout in To Kill A Mockingbird. This is a novel in which these two children learn about life and themselves as a part of it and that society is not always fair to those who do not fit in or follow society’s predetermined rules (Best, 2009: 541). To Kill A Mockingbird is also considered to be a coming-of-age novel and/or as a commentary on racial injustice in the south of the United States of America in the 1930’s (Ernst, 2015: 1020).

Racism is openly presented in To Kill A Mockingbird, sometimes subtle and sometimes blatant through the means of actions and words uttered by the citizens of Maycomb. The layout of the town even supports the segregation of the different races and classes, one area for whites, one area for the ‘white-trash’ and another area for the blacks. The different races are also not allowed to mix company in public places such as the court (Nair, 2014: 208). When Tom Robinson is a black man who is wrongly accused of raping Mayella Ewell who is a white woman, he has to go to court for his trail and it is seen how white and black people are kept separate from one another, the black people has to sit in the gallery and the white people is sitting at the bottom in the court. Before the trail even started the white citizens of Maycomb called Atticus Finch a ‘nigger lover’ because he dared to take Tom’s case to try and help him. The white people in this town also often called black people ‘niggers’, which is slang for Negro which is what black people were called during that time, but it was also considered to be extremely disrespectful to call anyone that term.

The children in To Kill A Mockingbird are exposed to society’s racism and other injustices through Tom Robinson’s trail. The Children’s father, Atticus Finch, Tom’s lawyer, is also faced with significant disapproval from the white citizens of Maycomb (Ernst, 2015: 1021). Other than being called a ‘nigger lover’ for helping Tom, Atticus also faced a mob of angry white men wanting to inflict harm on Tom when he was in jail awaiting is trail the next day and he has to ward them off, lucky for him is children followed him into town and indirectly came to his rescue since their presence resulted in the mob taking their leave. Atticus soon after tells his son, Jem, that there are ugly things in the world, by which he means racism, that he wishes he could keep away from him in order to protect him from the harshness of what society can do.

The people in Maycomb who are considered to be racists, think that all black people are part of a dishonoured race, are undependable and dishonest (Nair, 2014: 208). Mister Ewell confronted Atticus when he heard that he is the man defending Tom Robinson in court and told him that he is sorry that he has to defend a black man. Another example of this is when everyone just assumed Tom is guilty of the crime he was accused of simply because he is a black man. When Tom said he helped Mayella Ewell with little tasks around the house for free, he said the reason for it was that he felt sorry for her, every white person in court was in shock because of his statement and said how dare he, a black man, feel sorry for a white woman. During Atticus’ closing statement in court he made a few more points against the state for Tom showing obvious signs of prejudice and stereotypes being present in Maycomb and that court. Some of the things Atticus pointed out was: Mayella tempted Tom but he was accused of rape because if she admitted that she was the one to tempt him, she would be ridiculed for it, she kissed a black man; The state witnesses was confident on the witness stand because they believed that the all-white jury would believe their testimonies against Tom and that everyone would believe the ‘evil’ assumption that all black people lie, all black people are immoral beings and all black men cannot be trusted around white women.

Tom Robinson’s trail can be seen as an excellent example of injustice because of racial prejudice in To Kill A Mockingbird. He was prejudged by many different people purely because of the colour of his skin (Hutami, 2014: 23-24). The state continuously tried to twist Tom’s words and use it against him in court, but the injustice can be shown in ways other than this. When the jury came back from discussing the trail and deciding on a verdict, the said that they find Tom Robinson guilty of the crime he was charged for even though throughout the trail Atticus made so many points clear to them to why Tom could not have assaulted and raped Mayella as well as motivation as to why Mayella may have accused him of that crime. Atticus was so sure that he and Tom could appeal the case and have another try at clearing Tom’s name, but later that evening after taking Tom to a jail out of town for his own safety, Tom ran and was shot because of it, he died from the hit. There was no justice for the innocent black man wrongly accused of a crime he did not commit.

In the end of the film though, the sheriff did admit that Tom was innocent and that a black man is dead for no reason, showing that some white individuals did know they were wrong to judge a man based on the colour of his skin. The Finch family was also not racist and loved and respected Calpurnia, a black woman working for them at their house.

The whites of South Africa are often referred to as the Afrikaner and they expected their women like in Marlene van Niekerk’s novel, Triomf, translated into English by Leon de Kock, to transfer themselves to and cooperate in the establishment of Afrikaner nationalism’s volks-utopia by taking on the role of the patient and suffering volksmoeder who would sacrifice everything for God and Vaderland (Rossman, 2012: 160). This may not sound that bad, but it is in fact a stereotype that has formed over the years of how older white Afrikaner women are or should be according to society.

Marlene van Niekerk’s use of demotic Afrikaans and the pervasive code-switching in Triomf is linked to the novel’s antinationalist project, which satirises related idea about white Afrikaner racial ‘purity’ and the linguistic integrity of white Afrikaans (Devarenne, 2006: 106). There is a stereotype that only white people speak Afrikaans when in reality other races speak the language as well. It is also believed by whites that they are pure just like the Afrikaans language, but anyone who mixes their language are not considered pure and the same goes for when mixing company with other races. This is obviously not true, but not all stereotypes are based on truths, and only based on false truths.

The town called Triomf in Gauteng where the story plays out is where the old Sophiatown used to be locate before it was demolished to make a new living area for the poor whites of South Africa. The people who live there sees this as a triumphant achievement of Afrikaner racial domination of blacks, hint the name of the town (Devarenne, 2006: 111). The stereotype of whites always dominating blacks is coming up in the passage above, but not all white was or are like that.

As with all races, with the white Afrikaner race, classes exist, having said that the Benade family in Triomf is considered to be white trash and white trash has a stereotype connected to them. The stereotype is that white trash people more often than not engage in incest in order to remain pure and keep their superior genetics, but in reality, this ‘scrambles’ their genetics completely. The mother, Mol, started out by giving her son, Lambert, hand jobs to calm him down whenever he got aggressive with his fits, but eventually that was not enough and he wanted to put his thing in her as they say. Mol gave up her body for her son and brothers in order to keep the family happy and together (Devarenne, 2006: 106). The Benade family also believes that they are racially superior because they are white Afrikaners and engage in incest in order to not mix with coloured or blacks and to stay pure. The stereotype here is that white Afrikaners engage in incest in order to remain pure, but this is rarely ever the case.

The Benade family also engage in incest because they are not good enough to mix with other whites, but they were initially not allowed to mix with coloureds or blacks because of the Apartheid government that existed shortly before the time the novel’s story played out. At a later point in the novel for Lambert’s birthday Pops and Treppie ‘bought’ him a prostitute for the day who was a coloured girl whose company he enjoyed so much (Botha, 2011: 29). This part of the novel contradicts the stereotypes of white people not mixing with blacks or coloureds.

Within this essay race, racisms, stereotypes and prejudices have been defined and discussed and identified within Harper Lee’s To Kill A Mockingbird and Marlene van Niekerk’s Triomf. The first novel is about the unjust treatment of a black man based on the colour of his skin, he was judged based on stereotypes and was prejudiced against in the old American South. Luckily it was not all bad, because there was compassion from the Finch family towards black people and they did not act different to black people just because they are black, they respected them for who they are. The second novel plays out in a recently democratic South Africa soon after Apartheid. This is a story about the Benade family who is white Afrikaners who is considered to be poor whites also known as white trash. Some stereotypes come into play in this novel with regard to white people believing that they are superior over other races and in order to stay pure they had to engage in incest. Incest is also a stereotypical kind of behaviour associated with white trash people, but not all poor whites are like that and not all whites are obsessed with staying pure or believe that they are superior to other races in anyway. This assignment showed me that Racial stereotypes and prejudices to more harm than good, but that there is still hope out there, there is still good people out there that regardless of race respect one another for being the person they are. History was not kind and pinned the different races against each other, but in our modern society things are changing for the better and race does not play as big as a role as it once did.

 


 

Bibliography

Best, R.H., 2009, Panopticism and the Use of “the Other” in To Kill a Mockingbird Best, The Mississippi Quarterly, 62:(¾),  541 – 552.

Bobo, L.D. & Fox, C., 2003, Race, Racism, and      Discrimination: Bridging Problems, Methods, and       Theory in Social Psychological Research, Social            Psychology Quarterly, 66:(4), 319-332.

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