Sunday, February 24, 2008

Faludi

As we see in all of the Susan Faludi chapters, women still do not have equal rights as men. They are not treated fairly and not respected as women. One could say that women are seen as objects and not intellectual beings as they are. The static’s speak for them when she explained the number of women working in fortune 500 companies and just in the workplace in general. These are problems that I do not think have changed even now in 2008. I think that some of these numbers are old. I would like to see the results from these same polls today. The idea of blaming feminism on all of women’s problems in getting jobs and their success with men I believe is a stretch. Some of these problems come with popular culture and social norms of society. The biggest gap that I see is in education and how women make as much money as someone with out a college degree after they graduate. Along with that there is a large gap between funding and popularity between women and men’s sports. Men get hands down a significantly larger amount of funding no mater the sport.

Faludi

As we see in all of the Susan Faludi chapters, women still do not have equal rights as men. They are not treated fairly and not respected as women. One could say that women are seen as objects and not intellectual beings as they are. The static’s speak for them when she explained the number of women working in fortune 500 companies and just in the workplace in general. These are problems that I do not think have changed even now in 2008. I think that some of these numbers are old. I would like to see the results from these same polls today. The idea of blaming feminism on all of women’s problems in getting jobs and their success with men I believe is a stretch. Some of these problems come with popular culture and social norms of society. The biggest gap that I see is in education and how women make as much money as someone with out a college degree after they graduate. Along with that there is a large gap between funding and popularity between women and men’s sports. Men get hands down a significantly larger amount of funding no mater the sport.

Who is to Blame?

The questions raised within the articles were very thought provoking, especially in the wake of watching and thinking about The Hours.  I must agree with the comments from many, that without any strong evidence and without citations it seems that even with the most sound arguments seem lacking within Faludi's arguments.  If these arguments are taken at face value and applied to a text or film, even without strong evidence they present very interesting perspectives and analysis.  By applying her ideas to The Hours, new and unseen perspectives emerge that put the film in a larger network of social commentary and critique.  Operating under these applications does give the movie a greater richness and perspective that would otherwise be missed. 

Friday, February 22, 2008

B.Meyer's Backlash Against the Backlash Against the Women-Folks

Susan Faludi had a point to make. And, yes, Reagan is to blame for a lot of things (and Bush and Clinton and Bush). I found Faludi's arguments to be very refreshing and common sensical--yes, a lot of things we see on TV are not representative of the larger crowd. I cannot find anything at all wrong with this, or these, articles, except the dubious claim of overkill--but in plain sight of this severe backlash against feminism and women in general, I find it very adequate.
She elucidates so many under-the-surface issues and behind-the-scenes actions that we as digestors of popular culture and media are unaware of. Some things that we DON'T see on TV or read in newspapers are just, plainly, unknown to us. Although we attempt to understand that "radio and TV--poison," as rapper Nas said it, we still are affected by what we see, and absent the appropriate counterbalance, and as male participants in this sexist culture, we sometimes tend to believe it, though we don't want to, or succumb to this persistent popular culture. Understand, there are no objective observers. We are all participants within this culture.
Thus, a lot of things that Faludi attempts, and succeeds, in discrediting are things I actually thought had some tinge of truth. Such as: career women succumb to negative psychological effects; feminists are a bit cold-blooded; infertility is rising--blame the women; women are hungry for sex/men, etc. Although I would usually argue against this being a majority of all cases, I would, in the deeper part of me, believe that at some level these statements are true. Therefore, her elucidation on these matters--especially considering the vast, almost conspiratorial efforts by popular media and Hollywood to push the women back in the kitchen--and knowing these to be already racist/sexist institutions--convince me of the larger issue at hand. Which is male insecurity.
Enter Wabash.
What got me was the almost subconscious, paranoid response of the fundamentalists and politicians and psychological ramifications on males involved in this system. Men are so frailly insecure that to have the women step out of the tungsten-thick definitions of reality, the fragile box of reality created for women, would upset the system in its entirety. Even disregarding facts, common sense, plain knowledge, experts who actually know what they're talking about. Our definitions of manhood are so sensitive that even a slight deviation from this mandatorily uncontested "norm" would leave us blubbering, shivering in a corner, writing suicide notes. And so, there stands the grey elephant we call Wabash.
Honestly, we really cannot ignore its presence in the room, i.e., all-male institute, i.e., fragile male self-identification. What I'm trying to point out is our history as a College and the reaction at the mere thought of allowing women in. How much of our lives have been constructed on the perception--covert perception, sometimes overt--that we are in fact dominators, or in some sense in charge or should be by some societal hierarchy. Until the question is asked, the answer won't be provided. In order for the question to be asked, one has to accept the possibility that the system we find ourselves in is in fact sexist--not only that, but as benefitors of this systematic sexism, what is our participation and in which ways do we either fight this or support this? These questions I pose, I guess, are not actual questions to be answered because they're deeper questions that take a long time to answer--rhetorical tools then. My point is, the psychological, widespread backlash that feminism received in Faludi's article's time (late '80s-early '90s I'm sure) is still very much persistent in our times, and we can see this by looking at our pop culture and asking ourselves very honest questions.
I found Faludi's arguments to be eye-opening and at the same time unsurprising when I really thought about it.

Faludi's Backlash

On the whole, I found the reading selection from Faludi's Backlash to be, if nothing else, well-organized and easy to read.  Like others posting, I agree that her lack of citation is frustrating; I would have really appreciated footnotes or endnotes, and their absence makes me inherently a little skeptical towards the material.  Also, I felt that I would be more compelled by the data if it was in a more current book... a lot happens in 15+ years and I cannot help but wonder how valid her arguments and data are today, whether or not this backlash against feminism died with the late 80s and early 90s or if it still exists today.  However, looking past these two issues, I feel she does a good job of making a convincing argument, particularly in the second chapter when she goes issue by issue and tears apart these feminist "myths."

Blame It On Feminism

I thought Faludi's "Blame It On Feminism" presented a number of very interesting arguments. However, like many other people who have already posted blogs, I had trouble taking her argument too seriously due to the way she threw in stats and quotes with no citation or any evidence to prove her validity. To go back to my rhetoric 101 class, it is important to establish credibility while making an argument, and that is not necessarily done in this article in a few places. (I know this isn't a speech, but some of the same ideas apply) This is almost too bad because I think this essay is very well written and formulated, and a few of her ideas caught my attention. One of these things was her idea on backlash, and how it is quietly, almostly secretly, working out of men's fear of women becoming equal. Though I will agree that equality between men and women is still a problem, especially in the work force, I don't know how seriously I can take her argument that there is an actual concentrated effort on the part of men to keep women down.

Backlash: The Undeclared War Against the American Woman

I have studed the Second-wave feminists in the past, and am acquainted with Friedan's innovations in The Feminine Mystique and the militant feminism of Millett's Sexual Politics, but I am not at all familiar with the Third-wave feminists, as I am assuming this is the movement Faludi's critics would ascribe her to.

What I had read about Third-wave feminism left me with the impression that it was essentially the expansion of the women's liberation movement, and would focus upon international issues rather than the rights of women in a single country. I anticipated that a backlash in politics and the media might occur after the Second-wave and subsist for at least a decade, but I did not imagine the overwhelming result which Faludi describes in the articles we've read for today.

Faludi highlights the repeated and widespread use of post-Second-wave feminism as a scapegoat by American society. Understandably, what makes this situation complicated is the lack of equal pay compensate despite protecting legislation, but the cultural biases are no less frustrating. Faludi claimed that infertility is still considered a strictly women's issue and that the media outright manipulates the feminist image and suppress further activity within the movement.

I consider it astonishing that women are still misrepresented in society and find feminist studies that much more worthwhile for this very reason.

"Blame it on Feminism"

I am not going to beat a dead horse. I agree with many of my fellow classmates that I often found Fauldi’s arguments troubling or lacking certain types of validity. It is difficult for us to accept her arguments when she is lacking citation or sources. But I do not want to touch on this because I think that Jake did a tremendous job of this.

I rather liked the structure of her “Blame it on Feminism” piece. I thought that she did an adequate job of attempting to provide the other side of the argument in the first few pages. I found the quote from the Sheriff, page xii, very problematic. His quote seems to reflect his narrow-minded attitude along with his arrogance. (Also, Fauldi does not cite where she discovered this source). I think Fauldi did a good job of finding statements and arguments that contradict her own beliefs. Many of the arguments she presented appeared to be valid, many of them were in fact very factual. In a psychology class that I took last semester, in numerous sources and studies, it was shown that women’s infertility is, more often than not, caused by her career. It’s called “the working women’s disease.” One of the many factors for this ‘disease’ is a postponement of pregnancy to wait until a career blossoms but this postponement can also lead to an increase and stress and workload. Both of these issues lead to menopause. According to the articles and books that I read last year, there is not quite an “infertility epidemic” but there is a rising problem, which Fauldi claims does not exist. My biggest problem with this specific article is that Fauldi claims there is a country wide backlash to “reverse women’s quest for that equality” (xviii). Personally, I have not seen any type of backlash like this. I have not seen, in any shape or form, a backlash or attempt to try and revert women’s roles back to that of the 40s or 50s. I am by no means saying that women have reached complete equality, all I am saying is that I have not seen evidence to support the claim that women are being ushered back to the past.

Faludi chapters

Susan Faludi articulates her points very clearly, and the reading was easy to follow. However, like several of my peers, I am suspicious of the validity of the many statistics she presents, mainly because she doesn't cite specifically where exactly she gets her stats from.

Assuming that her stats and her sources are valid, I found her criticism of the Reagan administration's role in fighting women's independence to be very intriguing. She claims that "In the Reagan administration, U.S. Census Bureau demographers found themselves under increasing pressure to generate data for the government's war against women's independence, to produce statistics proving the rising threat of infertility...the dark side of single parenthood" (8). If this claim is true, it is certainly reprehensible. As an American, I find it embarrassing that a president's administration would intentionally try to warp stats to make it harder for women (or any group of people) to live independently.

Supposedly, the Reagan administration also censured Jeanne Moorman's marriage study. Faludi says that Reagan administration officials "handed down a directive, ordering her to quit speaking to the press about the marriage study because such critiques were too controversial...She was told to concentrate instead on a study that the White House wanted-- about how poor unwed mothers abuse the welfare system" (13). Once again, this is disgusting
and shameful to read. Apparently, the Reagan administration was only concerned about the welfare of a select few individuals in the nation, and independent-thinking women weren't part of this select group.

Once again, I fully realize that these claims really have no true validity apart from hearsay. As an American, I hope that the accusations toward the Reagan administration are not completely true, because they're truly shameful if this is indeed the case.

Faludi and Feminism: Women in the Media

Faludi’s articles are interesting and full of support to help feed the fuel that the media is totally against feminism. The first chapter set up the last two chapters in explaining the ideas and backlashes associated with feminism.

The second article discussed how women are paid less even though have the same or more education that their male counterparts (which is still freaking unbelievable and I believe is a huge problem with America) as well as the problems with divorce. Faludi said statistics showed that “men are less anxious to untie the knot than women: in national surveys, less than a third of divorced, while women report they were the ones actively seeking divorce 55 to 66 percent of the time” (Chapter Two, 26). She also explained the double standard with fertility regarding men and women. The studies are only centered on women and their infertility, not men and their fertility problems.

But, the article that really had me going was Chapter Six and the revelations about the executives at the networks. Essentially, empowered women on television left a bad taste in their mouths, but, in the end, were giving the networks high ratings shares, buckets of money, and great publicity. Of course, the backlash against these outspoken women (like Rosanne Barr and Candice Bergin’s character Murphy Brown) was intense and never-ending, especially when Murphy Brown had a baby out of wedlock. Also, when CBS moved the ever-popular “Cagney and Lacey” to a death time slot, it finally died after failed attempts. Basically, network executives (all male during this time) didn’t want females to have power and promote the ideals of feminism. So much for Girl Power, huh?

Faludi and Feminism

Maybe I am just not up with the times, or am just not paying that much attention to current events (both are equally possible). But reading some of these examples in these three texts did seem a bit of a stretch to me. Growing up, I rarely ever saw a case of the “oh woe is me” feminine reaction. Quite the contrary, I grew up surrounded by several women both in real life (my aunt & my sister especially) and in TV and Film (Ripley from Aliens & Zoe Washburne from Joss Whedon’s Firefly) and never once did I hear or sense any thoughts or feelings on a society that deems women inferior or weak. The question of how far the Feminist Movement has come has popped up once before on a PSY 102 exam. While I’ll admit that the movement is still ongoing, it has brought women a long way from their social status almost a century ago. Perhaps Faludi should do a new piece that is a little more up to date on the current situation of women both in everyday society and in TV and Film, especially with such heroines as Buffy, Jill Valentine and Claire Redfeild from the Resident Evil Films and Padme Amidala from Star Wars.

Thursday, February 21, 2008

Faludi and the Modern Woman

I am inclined to agree with Roger and Jake on several points. Some of my concerns with the readings deal with the fact that, in the end, Faludi is just too repetitive. I completely appreciate the point(s) she is championing, but maybe being a little less trigger-happy would help her presentation. I see truth in what she says; I come from a working class, single parent household. I was raised by a mother who made roughly $20,000 a year. 

I have grown up seeing strong women presented on television, just as Jake and Roger asserted. I als
grew up seeing a strong woman in my own home. Perhaps there are a large number of men out there who are terrified of the idea of having to compete with female counterparts, but I have never been one of them.

Many of Faludi's statistical assertions are difficult to take in all at once. From what I have pieced together, I can say I agree with her. All people should marry and reproduce later in life, after having completed school and becoming set within a career. I feel in our modern world that is becoming common sense. Aside from this, it seems much of Faludi's point seems to be directed at outdated concerns of women living lives as "baby factories." While this should not be the sole purpose of a woman's life, it is something that only a woman can do. Believe me, if I could bear a child in place of a future hypothetical wife, I would, just for the sake of fairness. This is, however, completely impossible.

Some sort of middle ground must be struck. That's just my opinion.

Faludi Chapters

As Jake mentioned, Susan Faludi's Backlash is outdated in 2008, sixteen years after she published it in 1992. Perhaps it is this fact that pushes me to read Faludi's text with a grain of salt, or maybe it is my own (self-proclaimed) progressive stance on feminist/womanist/race issues. Growing up largely in the 1990s, and on into the beginning of the 21st century, my own particular experiences and surroundings have oriented my opinions/beliefs toward this progressive, female-positive (I hope) stance. Contrary to Faludi, I DO believe that the womanist/feminist movement has made some strides, though I realize that it is not yet over (and in this respect, I agree with Faludi), and perhaps it will not be over for a long time. With that said, I must reiterate what Jake says in his post and add my own personal examples: The TV landscape has changed in respect to depictions of women. I have grown up with shows such as Buffy the Vampire Slayer, Charmed, Everwood, Felicity, Jack & BobbyRebaUgly Betty, LOST, and so on, and these shows have/had strong female leads/co-stars playing women in charge, women with clear, nonconforming ambitions, and women who mesh well with an ensemble cast of strong, free-willed characters—male and female alike.

As for specific textual references, the following passage is interesting/ludicrous to me: "A guest columnist in the Baltimore Sun even proposes that feminists produced the rise in slasher movies. By making the 'violence' of abortion more acceptable, the author reasons, women's rights activists made it all right to show graphic murders on screen" (Faludi xi). This quotation features just one example of Faludi's strong use of examples/paraphrases/quotes. The quote piques my interest because of its absurdity, its distortion of logic. I cannot fathom how abortion's (small amount of) acceptance can be used to justify the depiction of "graphic murders [and violence]" (Faludi xi). How is a quiet, relatively private (re: unseen) abortion the same as a gore-filled on-screen murder where the camera never even tries to "look" away? Slasher films depict sensationalism at its "finest," while abortion is nothing to publicize. It seems a woman would want to just get it over with and NOT sensationalize/publicize it. Thus, I think I can see Faludi's point here, and in other instances, but as Jake said, her statistics and citations leave something to be desired (plus, the text is quite "old"/outdated).

Faludi

I had trouble with the pieces by Faludi. I thought they were well approached and meticulously done, however, there are a lot of moments where she will claim statistics and never cite them. This is a huge problem for me. For example, on page seventeen Faludi states, “the suicide rate of single men is twice of that of single women”. That may be true, but there are no sources. Faludi has no problem with ad hominem attacks. She constantly goes for the study, and then personally attacks the people who conducted the study based on their character. For example, Faludi attacks Bennett for the Harvard-Yale study by implying that the studies are false and tainted because they will not directly answer questions about the studies. That seems like a horrible argument that would not be able to stand on its own two feet.

When it comes to Faludi’s chapter on TV, I agree with her. It does appear from the television shoes that she sighted that most of them were based on families where the mother had no part or motive outside of the family (or possibly, she was non-existent). However, I do think this argument is now out of date. Almost twenty years later, the whole mantra of television has changed. The shows that are producing the highest ratings star female casts (Sex and the City, Grey’s Anatomy, The OC, Weeds, The Hills, That 70s Show, Friends, Lipstick Jungle, What I Like About You, Dirt, Will and Grace, etc.). I think this shows that times have changed. I do feel Faludi’s commentary is necessary, but it almost seems more nostalgia than current.

Wednesday, February 20, 2008

Laura Deserves Some Sympathy Too

I am afraid I must completely disagree with Joseph's interpretation of how the characters dealt with the respective problems in the film, particularly with Woolf and Laura Brown.  First off, both characters feel trapped by their situations.  Woolf elects to commit suicide while Laura runs away.  Both choose escapism as their method of handling the situation.  Can we say that suicide is a more legitimate way of handling such a problem over running away?  I don't believe so.  But as one may point out, as Joseph did, perhaps Laura's motivation was not as convincing or did not seem as important as Woolf's.  As stated earlier, Woolf had a history of mental illness, but could one not also argue that Laura did?  I mean, she clearly shows signs of intense depression and any psychologist would find a suitable diagnosis in the pages of the DSM-IV.  So, even though it seems like she had it all going for her, she obviously felt trapped and possibly had deep-seated mental issues like Woolf had.  Thus, I believe we can extend sympathy for her as well.  All the women in the story had unsettling intertwined issues to deal with and all of their struggles should be regarded equally.  That's my two cents at least.

The Hours

After viewing this movie I was torn. I didn’t know if I enjoyed the movie or not. The concept of having three women in three different time periods is one I have never heard of. Wolf was the most intriguing character to me personally. The first scene of her writing a letter to her husband and then in the process of taking her own life was shocking to me. Wolf was faced with the constant struggle of being normal. That is all she wanted but was battling with her voices and unbearable headaches. She was so very sensitive to all of the aspects of the world that is what made her writing so interesting. There was so much detail that it was easy for it to be lived out in reality again. The most intriguing person in the movie was Wolf’s husband. Leonard had some much love and compassion for her it was almost insane. He changed his entire life for her to be accommodated. The way that Virginia has treated him and the way that he responds to her is amazing to me. He was fulfilling his duty as a husband to take the best care of his wife and she went and killed herself.

The Hours Blog

After watching this movie, and thinking about it for a while, I begin to realize how the film imitates Woolf's style of writing--specifically her almost-stream-of-consciousness. In the film, there seemed to be a second or two too long where the camera focuses on seemingly arbitrary objects, and it reminds me of her "Mark on the Wall" short story or whatever it was. I also found the suicides to be very important: a sort of release from the stuck lives that the main characters were living. Woolf kills herself to get away from some complicated form of life--husband? or insanity/depression? or just being away from London? Julianne Moore's character contemplates committing suicide, and the obvious comparison is drawn when the floodwaters come as she's about to do it in the hotel room. But she actually gets up the courage to leave, eventually. At first I would say the reprecussions of her leaving her traditional woman role causes Ed Harris to kill himself--but rather, their relationship was strained because she was in that draining relationship and not because she left that relationship. Meryll Streep or "Mrs. Dalloway" has similar characteristics as the fictional, Woolf-book character, and as in the book, it is not her that dies but someone else, someone very close. But the suicide serves as a positive in that time-frame, bringing the women together--the guy's mother, "Mrs. Dalloway," her life-partner, and their daughter. So there's also that positive from that death. Although drastic, it seems that's what it took to get a change in their lives--even, as with Woolf's situation, she had to end her life in order to do it. Nonetheless, I'm still not sure what to make of this movie. Interesting at least.

A Couple Thoughts on "The Hours"

I wrote a paper last year and in that paper I used some references to this film, The Hours. One of the main ideas I stressed was Virginia Woolf’s use of stream of consciousness and how characters in her prose often reflect her contemplations about the self. She was active in attempting to understand one’s condition. She was often seen as depressed and introverted. Even more, she saw an importance in finding the definition of oneself in relation to others, in relation to community.

This is an important part of the movie. The first scene that stands out as expressing this is with Ms. Brown making the cake for her husband and her friend Kitty coming over. Immediately before the scene, we see Virginia Woolf thinking about her story, Mrs. Dalloway, saying that the woman “is going to kill herself,” over something trivial, basically. The scene then goes to the cake and Mrs. Brown becoming frustrated with how it is turning out. She constantly says “it didn’t work,” even to her friend. She was trying to fix something, trying to show her husband that she loves him. She told her son that they had to make the husband a cake otherwise he wouldn’t know they loved him, which alludes to the relation with community. It is obvious that the husband already loves her, but something like this cake represents more. She can’t make it just like she can’t really fix her feelings of isolation. She can’t express herself and is therefore lonely. This feeling is especially heightened after the conversation with Kitty, her friend who cannot conceive. After a seemingly very emotional conversation and even kiss, Kitty retreats back into a state that seems detached from emotion, especially toward Mrs. Brown. This once again plays into the feelings of isolation that lead Mrs. Brown to move toward suicide, which she does not attempt after all. This brings up another topic of how the characters in the film, Laura Brown and Clarissa, are attached to Virginia Woolf. Their experiences mirror the experiences of Woolf’s fictitious characters, and those characters often reflect the contemplations of Woolf herself, as was mentioned at the beginning of this. In these terms, Laura and Clarissa are outward realizations of Woolf’s interior psyche.

Laura Brown & The Feminine Mystique

In 1963, Betty Friedan published one of the fundamental works of the Second-wave feminist movement, The Feminine Mystique. The Mystique attacked the stereotype of the 'happy American housewife' and concluded that American women were the victims of a society which expected the lives of women to amount to a vicarious existence through her husband and children.

Such is the dilemma which confronts the housewife Laura Brown in director Stephen Daldry's film, The Hours. While reading Virginia Woolf's book, Mrs. Dalloway, Brown realizes that she is unsatisfied with her homely and otherwise picturesque family. Friedan's notion of the feminine mystique becomes apparent when Brown is confronted with the dilemma of a friend and realizes that society expects her to find fulfillment in her life as a homemaker and the bearer of children. But for Brown this is a life of suppression that prevents her from being her own woman and living for herself. She can continue to be a mother for the sake of the continued happiness of her husband and children, or can leave her current life behind and pursue her own happiness and way of life.

After contemplating and rejecting the idea of suicide, Brown solves the dilemma of the feminine mystique by deciding to run away from her family after the birth of her second child. Brown abandons her children and realizes the consequences of her actions, but her dialogue at the end of the movie reveals that she harbors no regrets and believes that she made the right choice by fleeing to Canada. Social norms would contend that she should feel remorse for what she has done, but Brown only regrets that she does not regret living her son Richard behind.

"The Hours": Husband Comparison

Obviously there is a comparison between the three main female characters in the movie (Woolf, Laura, and Clarissa), but I also found a parallel between the two husbands in the movie: Leonard Woolf and Dan Brown.

Both husbands are good, solid men who genuinely care about their wives.  Though the men certainly mean well, neither one really seems to comprehend what their wives are going through.
In Dan's case, he is completely oblivious to the fact that his wife is dangerously depressed and suicidal.  He certainly shows his love for his wife.  He comes home with flowers for his wife on his own birthday, and he makes a big deal abouth how much he enjoys his birthday cake that she made, even though it is clear that she's not a very good cook.  Yet Laura never really opens up about how she's feeling with her husband, and he never probes her regarding her deeper feelings.

Compared to Dan, Leonard Woolf better understands what his wife is truly feeling.  He's much more reserved and serious than Dan.  Leonard clearly is trying to do what he and the doctors think is best for his mentally disturbed wife by moving out of London to the country.  Yet, as the train station scene shows, he never really trusts what his wife says or wants.  He's always worried that its the voices in her head that are truly controlling what she says/does.  

Both men want the best for their wives.  The two husbands are certainly not at fault for the illnesses of their wives.  Yet neither man really seems to grasp what the women are experiencing, and as a result, they aren't able to save their wives in the end.

The Hours

After watching this movie, I am left with many things to be impressed with. The direction of the film was good. Even when the movie jumped between the three different characters, it seemed to have a good flow and was not as annoying as I thought it would be. The aspect of the story that most interested me, and befuddled me, was the comparative situations of the three women and how they faced their problems. Virginia deals with serious mental disease that is well documented in the film and is well known about her in general. Woolf's problems were well documented to have began in her childhood when her mother died, she also was a victim of sexual abuse as a girl. Clarissa, the Mrs. Dalloway character, deals with the issue of her friend and former lover dying of AIDS. She is also overwhelmed by trying to plan his party while trying to deal with her emotions. These characters are easy to sympathize with, both for different reasons, but their reasons are equally legitimate. The character I found it impossible to sympathize for was Laura. I really wanted to like her, as Juliane Moore is one of my favorite actors, but it was impossible. What problems does she really have? She may not be content with her life, but we can say that same thing about most characters we find in books and films. By all accounts she has a good husband, a son who clearly loves her, and an all around decent life. The end of the movie sealed it for me, though, when we find out that Laura left her family behind and moved to Canada, showing the ultimate sign of immaturity. She completely failed to face her problems, chosing instead to run away.

The Hours - Richard as Point of Focus

I must say this film was quite breathtaking. While I certainly empathize with all the main characters, my focus must rest upon Richard. The connections are not explicitly clear until almost the end of the movie, but Richard is the binding of the book. As a poet and novelist, Richard's specialty with literature grants him a knowledge of Virgina Woolf's Mrs. Darroway. Though it may seem scatter-brained to see it, this prologue of this work is a parallel of Richard's life. Virigina Woolf's own issues with her lot in life played out through Richard's mother and later in Clarissa, apparently the only woman for whom he ever held romantic feelings.

This, then, is the idea. Richard's life becomes what is seen in the film (a broken man dying of a terrible disease) because of his relationships with women. His mother abandons him at an early age, and his love for Clarissa is unrequited. While it seems simple, this idea downplays the struggles faced by the women in the story, all of whom deal with some form of depression, anxiety, or feeling of emptiness. In the end, as in Woolf's novel, Richard's only escape, only release, is through death. He could no longer bear what his body, and his heart, were putting him through. I must say that Ed Harris's moving display of Richard was perhaps what drew me into the movie most.

Notes on The Hours

In Stephen Daldry's movie The Hours (2001), when Richard (Ed Harris) says that he seems "to have fallen out of time," his words are a metanarrative of the film itself. Indeed, The Hours as an entity, a film, is "out of time," as we go in and out of time periods at the director's/writer's will. What is more, this time warp is not messy/disorienting; it does not affect the quality of the film, because Daldry and David Hare (the screenwriter) expertly connect the timelines together, using Virginia Woolf and her novel Mrs. Dalloway as the common thread. The three timelines come together mostly through the following themes: depression/oppression, love, and life/death.

Virginia, in the '20s and '40s, is depressed and mentally unstable, Laura (Julianne Moore), in '51, deals with similar issues (e.g., husband/wife power dynamics, individuality, and so on), and both Richard and Clarissa, in 2001, encounter depression as a result of the agony of waiting for death as well as the agony of love. The love theme comes up in Virginia's time, but it becomes more evident as we progress through the time periods (from the '20s and '40s to 1951 to 2001). Regarding love, Laura tells her son that his father will not know that they love him unless they make him a birthday cake, and later on, after she seriously contemplates suicide, she finally tells her son that she loves him. He smiles at this, and here, it seems as though Laura has never said "I love you" to him. Richard echoes this sentiment later on when he says to Clarissa, "You've been so good to me, Mrs. Dalloway. I love you. 'I don't think two people could have been happier than we've been'" (my italics), thus utilizing Virginia('s) (Woolf's) famed words from her real-life suicide note. Finally, as we can gather, life and death are very important in this movie, as Virginia contemplates and later commits suicide, Laura contemplates suicide, and Richard commits suicide (seemingly without thinking much about it).

As we can see, the themes in each time period spill over into each other and create a unified whole. When we finally realize that Laura's son, in 1951, is Richard, in 2001, the movie rapidly comes together, and then concludes. Considering the events and themes in Virginia's storyline, perhaps in Mrs. Dalloway itself, the storylines with Laura, Richard, and Clarissa become extensions of Virginia's own fantasy world, the world in which she writes and sometimes "lives," the world she writes about. We can see this more clearly if we note the suicide subtheme (from death/life) in Virginia's time and its use later in time. Suffice it to say, overall, The Hours is a compelling trip into the mind of one Virginia Woolf; it is "her" story about a group of psychologically "messed up" people, people like her.

P.S. Was anyone else waiting for "Color Blind," by Counting Crows, to start playing? The music in this film reminds me of the beginning of that song!

NOTE: All quotes and paraphrases, of course, come from The Hours.

Generational Perspectives

In watching The Hours, a distinct shift in the problems of each lead female character can be seen. The central plot element tying these three very different stories together is Virginia Woolf's Mrs. Dalloway. The problems that each of these women face seems to be focused on the generational issues within their moment in society and time.
Virginia Woolf suffers not only from her lower societal position as a woman in 1923 England but also from the fact that she must suppress her lesbian desires in order to be accepted. These issues which she struggles with if brought to the surface would have labeled her an outsider. Laura is dealing with the very different lifestyle that she yearns for and its conflict with the 1950's homogeneous societal outlook. As she comes to the realizations that this lifestyle favored and pushed to the forefront by society is not for her, she leaves and takes her life into her own hands. Clarissa's issues are also very much her own and deal with her struggles as a lesbian in the modern age and how she can achieve happiness.
Each of these stories is linked by significant plot issues but each outcome and conclusion for the women is different. The over arching problem which they each struggle with is whether they should live their lives for their own personal satisfaction or for the happiness of others. Each woman's story brings to light parts of their character which works against the societal norm and which they must struggle with to seek happiness.

The Hours

After reading the few posts before my own, I came to the realization that I am somewhere in between Rob’s enjoyment of the film and Arschel’s disdain for the film. There were scenes and issues that I found boring and uninteresting. But I also found several scenes very touching and truthful about the way relationships develop and break apart.

For me, the scenes and characters that I cared the least about were the ones involving Julianne Moore. Her story had so many possibilities and there were so many chances for the movie to do more with her character. I wish she had spent more time talking with Kitty about their husband’s time in the war. Laura tells Kitty that they owe them for their service in WWII. Kitty has no idea what she means and Laura replies “Well, with all of this.” I wish the movie would have pushed this scene and these hidden desires and questions about the way veterans interacted with their wives. Laura appears as if she actually believes this statement. She is living this ‘cookie cutter’ lifestyle because she feels as though she owes it to her husband. This would have been more compelling and much more interesting to me. But instead her story bothered and annoyed me.

However, Clarissa’s story I found to be more exciting and interesting. There is a good chance this occurred because I think Ed Harris is a brilliant actor and I think he did a tremendous job. Rarely, if ever, do you hear about his performance in this movie. Not only does he play a convincing poet, often discussing why or why not he enjoys the life; but more importantly, I believed that he had AIDS and that he was going to die from it. I personally know someone who contracted and died from AIDS and I know what it does to the human body and I know what a person looks like who is suffering from the disease. Tom Hanks looked like he had the disease in Philadelphia and Ed Harris assuredly looked like he had contracted and was dying from the dreaded disease. He was able to make his character, Richard, suffer from terrible mood swings, varying from anger to sadness to happiness in the blink of an eye. I found his story compelling and I feel that Clarissa’s embodiment of Mrs. Dalloway (as Rob mentioned earlier) gave the story more substance and meaning. I felt that she, above all other characters, demonstrated and acted like Mrs. Dalloway, a hostess who was not actually alright.

Tuesday, February 19, 2008

Clarissa

Clarissa is a very interesting character within the film "The Hours." Although she does seem to enjoy her domestic life, her contemplations leave her questioning of her life somewhat leave her happiness "up in the air." It is important to note that although she does not despise her domestic home life, a part of her contemplates the decisions that she has made for herself over the years. Within these contemplations, one is able to notice the ambiguity of her belief that she has made the "correct" decisions. This is important to note under the Feminist Analysis of a text or film, because although a woman may search for her own identity, it does not necessarily mean that she disconnects herself with any type of domesticity in her life. Clarissa seems to be happy with her domestic life, but her contemplations may tell us otherwise. The reflections of her past love affair leave her wondering if she has in fact made the right decisions for herself throughout her own lifetime. Clarissa seems to be caught between the dichotomy of the happiness of the present and the "what if" of past decisions. Her contemplations can be closely related to Sylvia Plath's poetry. Although Plath seems to show happiness in her children, as Clarissa seems to show happiness in present-day life, she feels captivated and bound by her husband, and even her father, as Clarissa does to her past love affair.

Virginia Woolf

“The Hours” focuses on three stories of women as they revolve around Virginia Woolf’s story Mrs. Dalloway. I struggled with Laura and Clarrisa’s characters because they both seemed somewhat bland to me. At least, I think Meryl Streep and Julianne Moore did not perform their parts well. However, I would say that Nicole Kidman did deserve her 2002 Academy Award for her performance as Virginia Woolf.

The way Nicole portrays Virginia is extremely interesting. Virginia seems attached from society, as she constantly finds ways to shut herself away from Leonard. This goes back to her mental illness. There are many times throughout the movie where I question Virginia’s actions. I am left to wonder, is she currently out of it, or is she in her right frame of mind? I believe there is a sort of interpretation for the viewer to decide. I believe that what makes Nicole Kidman’s performance of Virginia Woolf stand out. She gives the character a sense or the estranged and bizarre (“Someone has to die in order that the rest of us should value life more. It's contrast”). I personally think that a great writer has to be strange and different, and this is how Kidman sets up the character. There is also a tie between Mrs. Dalloway and Virginia. The book almost seems therapeutic in its nature, as it opens up a world for Virginia to act by. The story sets up Virginia’s own suicide.

The Hours

Well, I can honestly say that I have never been as infuriated with any film I have ever seen up until I saw The Hours. Watching the lives of these three women play out on screen was an exercise in extreme patience as I listened to their plights and came close to screaming in agony. I’ve rarely ever seen such lack of interest in life in anyone. While I thought Julianne Moore’s story was the most infuriating to watch, it was the Virginia Woolf portion of the film that made me rethink my intentions to become an English major. A little while ago in another class, we asked the question focusing on authors of yesteryear. Was it a must to have a crappy childhood then go insane in order to become on of the greatest literary minds of all time? Apparently, and that is why I have such disdain for a lot of the authors we talk about in most English classes today. But this was different; this was the moment that made me snap with disgust. Towards the end of the film, she tells her husband that “someone has to die in order that the rest of us should value life more.” This was complete stupidity to me. Death, of course, can be life altering, but if this film taught me one thing it is this: watching the sad and depressing lives of these women unfold on screen made me appreciate my life a lot more than I did right before I watched the film. To simply give up and let go, like several characters in this film did, a la Ed Harris and eventually Virginia Woolf, is something that really ticks me off. The will to live is a much more fulfilling goal and worthwhile battle, with surrender not even being an option. If I could have my way, I would avoid this film for the rest of my life…at least Meryl Streep’s story had a somewhat decent ending (or at least she had the same reaction I would picture myself having if I had a girlfriend as just watched this film).

Soon, We All Must Face "The Hours"

This is my third time seeing this film and I appreciate it more every time I see it. The interconnection between the three characters – Clarissa Vaughn (the embodiment of Clarissa Dalloway in Virginia Woolf’s famous novel, Mrs. Dalloway), Laura Brown, and Woolf herself is what makes the film so dramatic and well-made. The film focuses on these three women and the affects that Mrs. Dalloway has on their loves and how they truly relate to one another even though the live in different eras and live completely differently lifestyles.

One of the major themes in the movie is illness. Someone in each of the three women’s lives has a major illness that affects their lives personally. First of all, Virginia is affected the most, because she has a mental illness and it ultimately drives her to a cold and lonely suicide. Her illness was unbearable and was not only hindering her enjoyment of life, but was also, in her eyes, causing her husband to live an unfair life full of sadness and despair. In regards to Laura, her best friend, Kitty, has been told that she has a growth in her uterus and that is the reason why she can't conceive. Laura, heartbroken by her friend’s horrible and unfortunate news, lets her guard down and shows her feelings for Kitty with an affectionate kiss on the lips, escaping her cookie-cutter life as a housewife for just one moment. Finally, Clarissa’s good friend, Richard (who is also Laura Brown’s son), is dying a slow death because of his fight with AIDS. He is a renowned poet and Clarissa is throwing a party for him, which he doesn’t even want to go to because of his awful condition. Clarissa has an extremely close relationship with him and insists that he attend the party, which he ultimately doesn’t, for an obvious reason.

This theme of illness can also be related to the depression that each of the women faces in their everyday life: Virginia with her mental illness and bleak outlook on life; Laura with her marriage that she is unhappy with, as well as the idea of being the perfect housewife for the rest of her life; and Clarissa’s own “unraveling.” She has been taking care of Richard for ten years and has held her composure, but is now losing that composure due to his worsening condition. The main point here is that these women are spending their whole lives trying to make others happy and not worrying about themselves first. There is a difference between being selfish and having respect for one’s self. Essentially, all three women are living a lie and soon they will have to “face the hours.”

Another major theme/motif in “The Hours” is that of water. No matter what, water is in every scene – it is even mentioned in every scene (whether being poured into a vase to bring life to flowers or requested as a drink). The most obvious reference to water is that of death. Virginia commits suicide by drowning herself in a nearby river, Laura contemplates suicide and the scene of water filling her hotel room is a beautiful but morbid scene simultaneously (it represents the drowning sensation she feels as a housewife and mother), and Clarissa describes going out in the morning to getting into a pool.

PS: The one thing that always bothered me about this film is how red the three women’s faces were and how RED Virginia’s hands were, especially when she was smokin’ those cigs.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Jesus the Pederast and Walter the Veteran

I have to admit I got a kick out of Jesus Quintana, the pederast.  Admittedly, he plays a rather small and insignificant role in the film as a competitive bowler that, much to my surprise, we never even get to see Lebowski, Walter, and Donny compete against.  I did find two things about his character interesting.  First, the way he pronounces his name.  When I first saw the name on his bowling shirt, I assumed it would be pronounced JesĂșs (Spanish pronunciation), a name that is not uncommon amongst the latino world; rather, he pronounces it the same way that we pronounce the name of the Christian savior, a name that many in the American population would look down upon using.  We also know it is a nickname much like "The Dude", so it was a self-chosen name.  So just off the bat, we get a strong sense that he is meant to invoke the Christian religion or a connection to it.  Second, his opposition with Walter.  Walter, as we learn in the film, is Jewish (by conversion, thus he willfully accepts the faith much as Jesus chooses his nickname) as he observes the shabbos, which he does in practically orthodox seriousness.  With that in mind, we can regard Walter as a representation of the Jewish faith whereas Jesus is a representation of the Christian faith.  To make this even more secure, we are presented by the conflict between these two characters much as the religions often clash.

But these characters are more than just a representation of these two religions.  Why is Jesus a pederast with a painted fingernail and a hairnet made to look like a ponytail?  Or why is Walter a Vietnam War veteran with PTSD, one which crosses the line repeatedly in the movie towards being an absolutely annoying idiot?  Since these characters are both identified with religions and one is a pervert while the other is barely tolerable, could there be a commentary on religion here?  Arguably the movie is really about nothing significant, so it seems that the portrayal of these characters may be a way to make a negative commentary on two world religions as a way to show just how ridiculous they can both really be.

Class Struggle in "The Big Lebowski"

After reading what Chuck posted about how there are elements of a class stuggle present in "The Big Lebowski" I really got to thiniing about this and found that class differences are present throughout the entire movie. Clearly the "real" Lebowski, Jacky Treehorn, and Maude Lebowski are representative of the highest social class, while the Dude and his associates are on the lower end of the spectrum. These class differences can be seen throughout the movie. In the case of The Dude and his friends Donny and Walter, their social status can be observed by their hobby of bowling. Bowling is one of the central themes in this movie and is important because it is viewed as a working man's sport, which is illustrated by the bowling montage in which over weight and balding lower-middle class men are the majority of the clientele of the bowling alley. The Dude's lower class status can also be seen by the clothes he wears in the movie which all appear to be purchased from thrift stores as at one point in the movie he is wearing a Medina Sod bowling shirt that has the name "Art" stitched into the left breast pocket. The upper class characters in the movie are often associated with their enormous dwellings. Mr. Lebowski lives in a mansion that is apparently large enough to warrant "Wings" while Jackie Treehorn lives in a huge house in a "quiet beachside community" and Maude Lebowski has enough room in her house/apartment to have a harness system installed for her abstract paintings. The rug, which is not only what starts all of the Dude's problems, acts as a unifier of classes as it is something expensive that is normally reserved for the higher class characters and is instead "tying the room together" in a "bums" seedy little apartment. Bunny Lebowski can also be seen as a character who has bridged the gap between classes and has become miserable. Leaving her small town family farm in Minnesota Bunny moves out to the West Coast with great ambitions but instead ends up in the not-so blockbuster film "Logjammin'" and having to marry an old disabled wealthy guy just to survive. In the end Bunny is miserable after becoming part of the upper class and her family wants her back. The Coen brothers seem to indicate that the upper and lower classes should not mingle, and that being in the upper class does not neccesarily entail happiness, as the Dude is happiest when he has a White Russian in one hand and a bowling ball in the other.

Walter Sobchak

Never in the history of film has there been a more hilarious case of post traumatic stress disorder than in the case of Walter Sobchak in "The Big Lebowski." While this may seem a cruel thing to say, I would be lying if I did not admit that I laughed harder at this character than any other in the film. I would feel bad about laughing at his behavior if the characters in the movie didn't seem to have the same unsympathetic feelings towards him. One of the funniest lines to me is when Walt says, "Am I right?" repeatedly and the Dude finally replies, "You're not wrong Walter. You're just an asshole." After watching him go on and on with his tirades about Vietnam and Shomer Shabbos, something became very clear to me. That one thing was that Vietnam did not make Walt the way he was, Walt was born that way, and no set of circumstances in his life could ever change the fact that he is a complete asshole, plain and simple. Although a very loveable (and quotable) one.

The Dude

I saw this movie for the first time last semester, and this is about my third time watching it. I still think it’s a pretty “out there” movie, but I enjoy it. There are a bunch of elements in the movie that I’d want to continue to learn about, but I’ll talk about one thing that I have noticed more each time I have watched the movie.

The Dude seems to always make odd relationships with people. The first relationship noticed is between the Dude, Walter, and Donny. In some way, I feel like these characters and their personalities combine in the attempt to form one. However, being that the Dude is the main character, it would seem like Donny and Walter are part of Dude’s character, but I am not completely sure this is the case. Even when they are all together, Dude doesn’t seem to have much more of a control over himself, which to me would seem like a way to recognize that Donny and Walter are integral missing parts of Dude’s character. On the other side of that, Walter constantly refers to the situation as being “their problem.” Walter is always getting into Dude’s affairs it is like they do move as one person. Donny is the neglected of the three. At most moments, he is positioned in the middle of the three, asking questions which are usually ignored. One time that sticks out was during the “Jesus” scene, when Donny seemed to be peering through Dude’s arm as he sat behind Dude and Walter. Donny and Walter seem to be adding to the Dude, but they are not full replacements of the missing aspects of his personality.

"The Big Lebowski" Loves War and Girl Power

I really don’t know what to write on about this movie, so I am just going to wing it. I have seen this film before on bus rides to swimming & diving meets, but never really paid too much attention to the film, but I definitely noticed some interesting things about “The Big Lebowski” when in a controlled environment.

One of the major themes I noticed was the whole aspect of war. Walter (played by John Goodman) always brings up Vietnam when he is in a situation where he feels he is being threatened. When he is in the restaurant and gets all worked up about the way The Dude is acting, the waitress comes over and politely asks him to quiet down. He immediately goes into a rant about fighting in Vietnam to protect this woman’s rights and his rights so they can be free…and loud in family restaurants. These Vietnam references are not only expressed loudly (literally) but also refer to Walter seeing his friends dying and getting blown up right next to him.

Another theme I noticed in this film was the idea of female empowerment. Maude is the epitome of the new generation’s female. She is strong, stern, and knows exactly what she wants and how to get it. For instance, she has sex with The Dude, only to tell him she did it to get pregnant, but that he shouldn’t worry because she wanted to get impregnated by a man who wouldn’t want to see the child. Not only is she a free thinker and a determined woman, but she also wants full control of her life, and gets it. On the other hand, the “slut” known as Bunny knows what she wants, mostly sexual things (like when she offers The Dude a blowjob for $1000), but also has the free reign to do whatever she wants – case in point, fleeing the town to go visit friends (pretty much the whole plot of the movie is her missing and no one knowing where she is).

The film touches on so many other things, but these two really stuck out to me. I understand that we have to watch “The Hours” for Wednesday, which is funny, because Julianne Moore is in that film, too (she played Maude in this film).

The Big Lebowski

A few guys have talked about the class struggles present in the Big Lebowski, and I had never really thought that much about it, but it's very interesting to look at. The Dude, clearly a character representing the lower class, gets no respect from those in the upper class (Jeffery Lebowski and Jackie Treehorn), and is continually used and abused by them. Even Maude, who is the real source of the Lebowski fortune and a much more positive portrayal of the upper class, uses the Dude to try to get herself pregnant. Like most other things in the movie, it's hard for me to figure out exactly what the Coen brothers are trying to say about the lower and upper classes. Making the Dude the protagonist and showing Jeffery Lebowski as a vain, fake, megalomaniac would certainly suggest that the Coens are on the side of the lower class, but there are a couple of things that make me think otherwise. The Dude really doesn't change throughout the movie, and it is assumed he is still the lazy bum he was at the beginning. Plus, the Dude's companion, Walter, is portrayed as absolutely ridiculous and oafish, which would also contradict that notion. Overall, this is a great and hilarious movie, whether or not it has a clear (or any) meaning.

The Big Lebowski

If there was one thing I found really interesting about this flick, it had to be the frame of the film which was Sam Elliot’s narraration. It reminded me very much of Marlow’s opening and ending for Heart of Darkness. Even though “the Cowboy” was only physically present in two scenes and his narraration was only heard in one other scene other than the beginning and end, it was a good point to note in comparison with another text we’ve read this semester. Also the concept of the “Stream of Consciousness” seemed to play a bit into the film. It starts out with a simple rug, then branches out to several other thoughts and complications pertaining to The Dude while finding ways to return to the subject of rug and branch out again, similar to the recent exercise we just posted on the blog site.

The Big L

The movie shows the differences between classes. The “Dude” was never shown in any position that would show him in a higher class. Through out the movie his clothes were dingy and didn’t look clean cut like the rest of the cast. This movie is the epitome of a lower class citizen trying to live his life and gets mixed up with something he didn’t even want to be mixed up with. I would call it guilty by association. The movie is building stereotypes, stating that when you are a lower class citizen you are at the liberty of all people of a higher class. For the beginning to the end we see “The Dude” getting bossed around and beat up through out the movie. He is at a constant struggle with him self and his peers. His peers who are low class might even be lower than “The Dude” creating even more problems through out his life.

The Philosophy of the Absurd in The Big Lebowski

This article asserts that The Big Lebowski is in fact a modern adaptation of Albert Camus' The Stranger and an illustration of the philosophy of Absurdism, which one might consider type of nihilism-a reference which is frequently alluded to within the film itself.

The Dude equates to an American version of The Stranger's Meursaults in the sense that he lives without responsibility, contemplation, or regret. The Dude individual who consistently denies the possibility of meaning or truth to existence; the entire world may be reduced to opinion and perception for Jeffrey Lebowski. As should already be apparent by now, nothing in the movie is particularly meaningful in and of itself (though his friends may assert otherwise). The Dude is merely acted upon and made to react.

The act of bowling is an adapted symbol which I will take to be representative of the Myth of Sisyphus. Sisyphus tragic Greek hero who is damned to endlessly toil by repeatedly pushing a rock up a hill (and when it reaches the top, it rolls back down and he must start all over again). Sisyphus figures heavily in Camus' portrayal of the Absurd Man. As the bowling ball is to the dude, thus is the epistemic rock to Sisyphus. This ceaseless labor is a metaphor for the absurd repetition and meaninglessness of everyday life. (On a side note: I would argue that the metaphor is more precisely portrayed in The Big Lebowski, for it also confides a sense of mortality-the bowling ball will not simply roll forever as the rock of Sispyhus would, it reaches the end of its lane eventually and invites the epistemic possibility of death). Like Sisyphus, the Dude becomes a tragic hero the moment he becomes conscious of the absolute absurdity of his existence (This occurs for Mersault and The Dude with the impending realization of his own deaths). The Absurd Man realizes that he cannot hope for meaning, true knowledge, the future, or at all; Camus argues would find solace in the garunteed futility of his actions.

Realization of this nihilism grants a kind of freedom, however, as made evident in the comparison between both Jeffrey Lebowskis in the film. One is a nihilist and the other a vain megalomaniac who has dedicated his life to the pursuit of meaning, power, and wealth. Without these illusions he is but a restricted version of The Absurd Man, and therefore he is portrayed as paralyzed from the waist down, unable to move or act without the help of scientific knowledge and sound reason. The Dude, by comparison, needs no degree of hope and therefore exists more freely than his futile antithesis, so long as he accepts the responsibility for his lifestyle instead of existing in a state of perpetual ignorance.

The world is a place devoid of meaning save the meanings which would be imposed upon it by humanity, and in this sense The Dude's paranoid, raving, and indifferent friends who attribute any random series of larger meanings and possibilities upon a single event contrast to The Absurd Man in The Dude.

Maude Lebowski - Truly Feminist or a Parody of Feminism?

Julianne Moore's character of Maude Lebowski is one of the more confusing in the film. While The Dude himself might be seen as a Deadbeat Everyman character, can Maude be seen as an archetypal Everywoman? Her existence seems to be primarily to satirize wealth and affluence, as she is shown to be the true power in the Lebowski family, granting her father a stipend from which he can enjoy a certain level of comfort. Further, she is completely independent and engages in a peculiar artist's lifestyle. These things aside, she is a rather charming character intellectually, as her obvious flaunting of her education over The Dude occurs solely to make him uncomfortable (her second appearance in the "Vagina" scene).

These things aside, Maude can also be seen as a parody of true feminism. This can be seen primarily through her aforementioned arrogance, but also through her final actions in the film (the "Jeffrey. Love me." scene). Maude conceives a child with The Dude, the epitome of a deadbeat, simply because of the fact he is a deadbeat. She wishes to raise the child by herself, without any fatherly influence over the potential son or daughter. Coming from a single parent household myself, I see this as a pretty horrendous idea.

So, we have Maude Lebowski as a self-described feminist, but in truth a potentially poor parent who thinks she can handle everything by herself. Perhaps, in the end, all the characters are nihilists. That is a funny sentiment, is it not? Maude should try believing in something outside of her own tired ideals before trying to force them upon someone else. That is only my opinion, of course.

The Unconscious in Lebowski

The movie has multiple hidden elements working within it. Every character seems to be taken to the ultimate level of their circumstance, Walter invokes every stereotype of a Vietnam veteran, "The Dude" Lebowski shows many assumptions about the lower class of society, Tara Reid epitomizes the stereotype of a gold digger, and the trend continues within almost every character. These over exaggerated portrayals of the characters mixed with the larger than life plot line of movie suggest greater connotations and commentary that the viewer is made aware due to the flow of the movie. The surreal sections of the movie put the it in a world that is not separated from the perception of the mind and is in fact working with it. When "The Dude" slips into his mental hallucinations/dream sequences it subconsciously asks the viewer to be aware of the underlying elements of the movie and helps to make the larger themes of the movie more apparent. These larger themes point toward a social commentary and analysis of class and gender roles within society. The opening scene of the movie also helps to add to this grander view of the plot which makes the dysfunctional characters stand out even more starkly.

Dream Analysis

My initial dream took place in an experimental theatre. I was with my girlfriend and a large group of my fraternity brothers. The actors of the theatre interacted with the audience by giving certain members baskets with name tags. The baskets held within them objects the shape and consistency of racquetballs. I was given a basket with circular shaped objects and a name tag that had not my name but my girlfriends. When I attempted to give the basket to her the actors became angry and would not let me. Several other people nearby received baskets with objects in the them but the objects were abstract and incomprehensible. There shapes and physical presence was continually shifting. The activity on stage as well as the set was very similar to the movie version of a Midsummer Night's Dream. The actors were wearing clothes in the similar style and the stage seemed to be an idyllic outdoor scene.

In analyzing this dream multiple connections and applications on my life. The theatre is connected in that I had visited a theatre that past weekend and had not enjoyed it. The fact that I was enjoying the play must have been a repressed desire to fulfill the high expectations I had held when attending the play. The racquetball type materials are significant because the day before this dream there had been an email fight within my fraternity email list about who would get to play in the IM tournament. The fact that the racquetballs within the baskets are only physically stable in my basket shows that I have made up my mind about the issue but that it is still in turmoil. The name tag with my girlfriends name on it and the presence of my fraternity brothers is possibly a repressed fear for loss of my self identity in the company of my peers while with my girlfriend. The fact that I attempted to correct the situation but that the dream goes on idyllically shows that I am not deeply bother by this issue.

"The Dude" Is Not a Hero

One of the most interesting/important aspects of Joel and Ethan Coen's The Big Lebowski (1998), in my opinion, is the portrayal of diversity/class/genders. We see everything from the poor, lazy oaf (who is not a hero but is still the protagonist of the film) to the rich, apparently thrill-seeking woman. Throughout the movie, the Coens present us with one stereotype after another (e.g., Nothing to worry about; "these men are nihilists"), and "The Dude" does not escape this device. Even in his fantasy with Maude, he is a plumber (or some other job that we often see as lower- or middle-class), while she is a powerful viking (?) woman with a trident; thus, he will never amount to anything, even in the fantasy, and she, being rich in the "real world," gets to wear symbols of power in the fantasy world. Even in the end—although "The Dude" has gone on an adventure, playing private dick—"The Dude" only has his bowling buddies to go home to. There is no lifestyle change for him, even though he underwent a (superficial/fake) transformation of sorts during his adventure (i.e., lost his laziness, to a degree, so he could complete the mission). During the mission, his life had purpose, but now, it's back to basics, or shall we say "bowling?" Thus, "The Dude" is not a hero (for long, at least). He again becomes a stereotypical oaf.

Sunday, February 17, 2008

The Big Lebowski: Walter and Donny

While I did enjoy watching The Big Lebowski, I know for a fact that I didn't understand it completely by any means. So rather than attempting to delve into the philosophical or psychological aspects of the film, I'm going to focus simply on the relationship between Walter and Donny.

Donny serves as Walter's lap-dog. Almost any time Donny attempts to enter a conversation between Dude and Walter, he is greeted by a "shut the f--- up Donny!", courtesy of Walter. There are only a few times in the movie when Walter tolerates Donny, the most notable one being at the bowling alley bar, when the Dude and Walter have gotten into an argument. Frustrated with his best friend and bowling partner, Walter decides to instead take Donny along to bowl. Donny, thus, seems to be a sort of safety option/friend for Walter when his relationship with Dude has its troubles.

It's probably far-fetched, but I think that after Donny's death, Walter realizes that he no longer has his safety "friend." Perhaps deep-down Walter is aware of the fact that he tends to do things that, however well-intentioned they are, get on Dude's nerves. Knowing that Donny will no longer be there is a scary thought for Walter.

The Out of Place and Vietnam

I believe that “The Big Lebowski” is making a point about the veterans of Vietnam and how they live in the current era.

The Dude and Walter are stuck in a time frame that is foreign to them. They do not communicate well with the current society and tend to keep to themselves. When the rug is taken, the Dude is taken along with the rug, out of his hiding place and into a world that is so bright it is almost blinding. He is forced to leave his element on a bizarre journey to find the coveted oriental piece. The problems occur when he runs into characters that seem outside of his time period and more modern. For example, towards the end of one of his visits with Maude Lebowski, Maude (and the other guy in the room) pick up the phone and begin to talk in another language. As the talking continues, the Dude seems more and more out of place, until finally, the two people break out into laughter and the Dude is left watching the bizarre display. The Dude and Walter need something, anything, to keep them back in their own element. This is where bowling and white Russians come into the story. Whenever the Dude enters a foreign place, he immediately goes for the alcohol (2 ounces of vodka, 1 ounce of coffee liqueur, and some cream to be precise) to keep his cool. The same is true when Walter is with the Dude. In order to keep his sanity, Walter needs to be bowling. There are certain times of chaos when Walter leaves the bowling alley. This is seen in several places. First, Walter goes off in the coffee shop when the waitress tells him to keep his voice down. Second, when the two go to drop off the briefcase, Walter hijacks the plan and instead drops off a suitcase without the money. And the last example of a shift in reality happens when Walter and the Dude fight the nihilists. They cannot fight them in the bowling alley, because that is Walter and the Dude’s center of control. However, the moment they leave the alley, they meet the nihilists and all hell breaks lose.

So what does this have to do with Vietnam veterans? Walter’s coping with Vietnam comes through his bowling. When Walter is outside of the bowling alley, he continuously tells stories of how things were in Vietnam. Nevertheless, when Walter is in the bowling alley, all of that ceases to be as he becomes more calm and collective (“Smokey, this is not 'Nam. This is bowling. There are rules.”). The Dude, on the other hand, is completely lost in the 70s. He walks the Earth (never leaving his sandals) completely off the map. He is lost in his own world, and does not want to leave it for any circumstance. This can be seen as aftermath for a Vietnam veteran. The Dude is constantly stuck in a time frame where he cannot get out. His only wish is to surround himself with comfort (through white Russians and bowling) in order to ease his pain. However, by not adjusting to the times, his recovery process is slow and sluggish. This is why they search for white Russians and bowling. To get away from the American culture that brings back memories of Vietnam.

Donny's Death

Personally, this is one of my favorite movies and I will always find it funny no matter how many times I watch it. I was wondering what scene everyone found the funniest. For me, the funniest scene is the first scene in the bowling alley when the Dude is discussing his rug with Walter. The dialogue in that scene is hysterical and I can only imagine how frustrating it would be to actually deal with Walter.

The scene right before Donny’s death, inside the bowling alley is a strange scene. Every time that we have seen Donny bowling, he has been “throwing rocks.” It is implied that he is a very good bowler, perhaps the best on his team. But in this scene, he does not get a strike, he rolls a 9. When the pin fails to fall over, Donny gives a bewildered look down the lane. I felt like the look he was giving was one of defeat and sadness. I never really noticed it before but his look was rather surprising. Considering that his death occurred in the very next scene, the remaining pin foreshadowed his imminent demise. Also, there is a flaw in this scene that anyone who has bowled will notice. Donny should have had a second shot and a chance to roll for the spare but that is beside the point. Most of this movie is extremely comical and very vulgar. But this specific scene stands out to me because it seems out of place. Looking back on it, Donny’s death is so pointless and unnecessary that I wonder why it had to occur. Did the Coen brothers need to kill him? What point was made by his death? I cannot find a reason for his death, I am not sure how the movie would have ended if Donny had lived but I do not think he needed to die. Throughout the movie, his only purpose was for Walter to make fun of him and tell him that he was out of his element. Donny is a punch line for Walter and just kind of a side character who really does nothing to progress the plot of the movie. The first time that I saw the movie, his death surprised me; but the Coen brothers do have a habit of killing characters that probably do not need to die.

Saturday, February 16, 2008

The Big Lebowski

One of the biggest themes that one is able to seen in The Big Lebowski is the clash of socio-economic status peoples within a given community. Obviously, The Dude is not a part of the upper-class, or even the middle class. However, he ends up doing all the "grunt" work for the rest of the upper and middle classes. The movie, especially within The Dude's smaller community, provides a microcosm of the overall American society. The lower class is dependent on the upper and middle classes for monetary value, and the upper and middle classes rely heavily on the lower class for doing their "grunt" work. However, it is not the lower class people that come out on top, because there tends to be a lot of unethical actions taken by the upper class towards the lower classes, and this comes out within The Big Lebowski. It appears that the only way to really make it in America, or to prove the "American Dream," is to delve within a decadence lifestyle, or to make money unethically. The only actual "normal" people are The Dude and Donny, and they get treated horribly by the upper class. Throughout the entire movie, The Dude is forced to do this and that, like being led here and there on a leash. Towards the end of the movie, Donny gets a heartattack and dies because of the unethical actions of the upper class. Instead of treating the lower class with respect, the upper class "uses" them in order to line their pockets a bit more.

Thursday, February 14, 2008

As Requested - A Blog about My Dream

The dream I chose to write about was actually a pretty odd nightmare, of which I do not have many. It occurred early in the morning of January 18th, as a frame of reference. It was quite simple, really, and might have been preceded by other dreams that had some sort of connection to it.

The nightmare was, in totality, a view through my eyes of another face, but one with solid black eyes. This sounds pretty simple, I know, but it did not speak with words, but rather seemed to speak with a placard like out of a silent movie. The placard read simply "You can never go back." I am at a loss as to what this means, exactly, but I do have some ideas. In my class writing exercise over it, I considered the possiblity that it was some sort of fear coming to the surface, such as my fear of failure, etc.

However, with more thought, I begin to think it linked with a recent situation I found myself in. You see, a good friend of mine recently died from a horrible form of cancer that ate away at his spine and brain. Those less-than-necessary details aside, he always told me he would haunt me in a specific situation after his death (we knew well in advance his death would come this way, you see, given the prevalence of cancer in his family). This contingency was that I would endanger my college career by trying to take time off from classes to return to my distant home should he die while I was in said classes. I, of course, followed his advice when the tragedy occurred, but the nightmare happened weeks ahead of time. Perhaps it was a subconscious warning of myself, reminding myself that I needed to follow his wishes, because the time was close. This is just my idea, any others?

Wednesday, February 13, 2008

The Invisible Man in the Mirror

This seems to be an important part of the song:

"Could It Be Really Me,
Pretending That They're Not Alone?"

The man in the mirror is the invisible entity of indifference and selfishness. MJ is asking whether his indifference to other people's struggles are really of his own construction. Flipping up his collar and walking past the homeless people, hungry kids, etc., may not be a behavior that is distinctly Michael, but rather one that pervades the society in which he finds himself. In consideration of Lacan's mirror stage, MJ's perception of the "I" comes in conjunction with his experiences with the others: the obligatory object of his sympathy, but also the cause of his indifference. There is a system of negligence, of ignoring the troubles of the world as long as those troubles aren't personally experienced. The man in the mirror is as visible as our abilities to recognize our indifferences. Therefore the man isn't just MJ, it's all indifferent people on this earth.
This point is furthered when we realize that MJ has a purpose for making this song. Present a situation where you feel sympathy where before you haven't, and present the best way to deal with it:

"If You Wanna Make The World A Better Place
Take A Look At Yourself, And Then Make A Change"

He's not singing to himself necessarily, but to the audience members who are unaware or uncaring of other people's troubles. The song is not meant solely for himself, as the man is not just MJ.

Man In the Mirror

This song addresses a number of things that can be looked at psychoanalytically. Obviously, one the first thing that comes to mind is Lacan's mirror stage, which many people have already talked about. However, I find it more interesting to look at when he says, "I'm gonna feel real good now." On the surface, it's easy to see this as simply talking about the good feelings that come from helping others. But looking at it psychoanalytically, there could be more to see. Why does he suddenly have the urge to feel better? Is there some reason or reasons from his past that have made him unhappy? The way he says it makes me feel like he has been looking for something that will make him feel better for a long time now, suggesting a painful past and general unhappiness.

I don't necessarily think that MJ is referring to his relationship with his dad when he says he has "been a victim to a selfish kind of love". In the way he talks to himself and refers to himself as the Man In the Mirror, I get the idea that he is talking about himself, and how he has victimized himself with his selfish love- love for himself and ignorance of the pain of others. I think he feels guilty about his wealth and is ready to make changes within himself and his way of looking at the world to make the world better. Which will, in turn, make him feel happy.

We are all "The man in the Mirror"

I am not sure who said it earlier in the blog but it was remarked that the man in the mirror is MJ. To some extent I would agree with this but I feel that the "man in the mirror" is all of us; men, women, old and young. Everybody has at one point in their life looked at themselves in the mirror and wished they could change something about themselves or about the world, and the observation that there are many people in the world that "That There Are Some With No Home, Not A Nickel To Loan" is obviously something that many people have noticed and wanted to change. It is interesting to think about what made MJ think about this song, if in fact he wrote all of it, there was probably some event that triggered this type of thinking. Most likely this was a fairly traumatic event as it made Michael want to change not only himself but also to change the way his audience thinks about the world they live in.

Make a Difference!

This is actually one of my favorite MJ songs out there. I found him to be quite the lyricist, considering if he completely wrote or substantially aided in the process of writing his songs. He was an entertainer, as is evident from the video... and then he kind of went left field in most people's eyes. Which brings me to my point.
I love the message of this song. It is about confronting yourself, and making a change for the better: for yourself and society. More so, it is about realizing that there are those less fortunate. What I find interesting is MJ's stance in this song. He makes it sound as though he was unaware of the less fortunate based on his success. This seems a bit off, MJ coming from a poor beginning himself in Gary, Indiana. I don't think he ever overlooked his fans, or those who had less than him, especially children, which is brought out in the first verse. From this, I gather that MJ was referring to himself making a more lasting impression on people as his way to make a change. He was no doubt obsessed with being the greatest entertainer of the 20th Century and he pushed the limits, creatively, image-wise, etc. This song is his realization that he could be even bigger than he was; that he could be an icon. The video shows this. Every 30 seconds or so there is a reference to a clip of famous world leaders or difference makers. This is tying MJ to them; he wants to be as influential as they were and more. The message is powerful, and MJ was well on his way, it is just interesting how wild of a turn that ended up taking in his career, going from amazing entertainer and influential artist to a mostly fanatical persona. Still, MJ left a great mark on entertainment and raised the bar while he was in the spotlight.

Mike Problem Mike Victim

I found this song quite interesting; especially the whole man in the mirror concept. I think the man in the mirror is obviously him. He has essentially decided "to be the change that he wants to see in the world." What I find particularly interesting is that he is possibly the man in the mirror in two ways. I believe that his decision to change is heavily influenced by the fact that when he sees himself, he is also seeing himself as  "The kids in the street / With not enough to eat" for example. The difficulty that he experienced growing up (tough treatment from his father and being a lonely child for example) I think makes him more capable of relating to those who suffer. So, he is the victim and the problem at the same time. 

MJ Blog

After Listening to the song and then reading over the lyrics, its becomes clear to me that the “Man in the Mirror” is himself. He is looking for a change in his life along with others. He fells as if that if he can change and do good in the world so can others in positions of power. Along with that he wants “us” as regular people to make a change in our lives and care for humanity and the well being of others. I'm Gonna Make A Change,For Once In My Life It's Gonna Feel Real Good, Gonna Make A Difference, Gonna Make It Right . . .” These here lyrics explain it all. These are the first lines from the song. Along with Jake I think that he is trying to make the ultimate change. Along with that I can also see where Joseph is coming from in stating that because of his childhood he has been affected so deeply that this change is going to help him dearly. With him helping others and making sure that they can live normal lives will help him cope with the hardships that he dealt with through out his childhood.

MITM Psychoanalysis

If one were to take a psychoanalytic approach to this song, then looking at it through the Lacan Model would be a good way to look at it. “Lacan suggests ‘the mirror stage’…when the child becomes aware of itself as a distinct being…while this mirrored being and the world that surrounds it seem completely under the child’s control.’” In this case, however, this can be put into context of the situation, a man who has a sudden awakening. He looks at the world from a very different view than before. Once a man of privilege, the character in the song realizes, “I’ve been a victim of a selfish kind of love. It's Time That I Realize That There Are Some With No Home, Not A Nickel To Loan Could It Be Really Me, Pretending That They're Not Alone?” He awakens to the truth of the world and seeing that not everything is perfect. And perhaps because of his epiphany, he can start to help change the world he sees, by starting with himself.

Man in the Mirror

I believe that this song is about both changing personally and trying to change the world around you. While I believe this, it is maybe more compelling to think about the personal change of which Michael Jackson sings. When he says, "I've been a victim of a selfish kind of love," I can't help but be reminded of Jackson's tumultuous relationship with his father. His dad, Joe Jackson, was famous for being one of the most strict showbusiness parents ever, cruelly beating and berating his five sons if they did not perform in the way he saw fit. This selfish kind of love refers to Joe's self serving treatment of his kids, not allowing them to lead normal childhoods. Jackson also sings of a "willow deeply scarred." I believe that this is a reference to the permanent damage done to him from his childhood. At the end of the song is an interesting line that raises a few questions. He repeats "I'm gonna feel real good" many times. This seems as though he's trying to convince himself of that, but, as we have seen in the time since he made this song, his life's circumstances have been such that would make me think that his wishes haven't come true.