THE POWER | ISSUE 4.1 | JUNE 2015
“Free Thinkers at 17; de Beauvoir and The Dead Poet Society”
By Sheena Holt
1989 classic The Dead Poet Society follows a group of teenage boys at a prestigious New England boarding school. Individuality is pushed aside and conformity instituted, so that when they leave the boys will know how to properly follow society’s rules and do what is expected of them. All that changes, however, when Mr. Keating, a fiery English teacher and graduate of Welton himself, comes and teaches his classes how to think for themselves and appreciate the world around them, resulting in the boys stepping out of their boxes and embracing the “Carpe Diem” montra. One student in particular, Neil Perry, is especially inspired by Mr. Keating’s outlook on life. Following a secret passion he has had hidden for years, Neil decides to join the local Shakespeare production, without his controlling father’s knowledge. When Mr. Perry hears the news he immediately demands Neil quit the production. Instead, Neil goes to Mr. Keating for advice, to be told that he should simply stick up for himself and explain his love of acting to his father. Neil lies to him and claims to have followed his instruction, but Mr. Keating sees the lie and keeps quiet. At the play, Mr. Perry shows up, dragging Neil away immediately afterward, and tells his son he will be sent to a military school “for his own good.” Seeing no other way to live the way he desires, Neil takes his life, resulting in general outcry at Mr. Keating and the request of his resignation.
From an existentialist perspective, this film raises multiple questions. Was it ethical for Mr. Keating to encourage Neil to act, when he knew it explicitly went against the wishes of his father? Once he realized Neil was acting behind his father’s back, shouldn’t he, being the adult and therefore the more responsible one in the situation have finally drawn the line and confronted Neil? And lastly, was Neil’s decision to kill himself the right decision, or ethical in any regard? In her Ethics of Ambiguity, Simone de Beauvoir attempts to answer these difficult questions. The relation between between these two works, The Dead Poet Society and Ethics of Ambiguity, is what shall be discussed in this essay.
De Beauvoir believed much of true freedom lies not simply in having the physical means to do as you please, but in the ability to strive to exist in the way you wish. As she wrote, “There is a concrete bond between freedom and existence; to will man free is to will there to be being, it is to will the disclosure of being in the joy of existence...at every instant; the movement toward freedom assumes its real, flesh and blood figure in the world by thickening into pleasure, into happiness” (de Beauvoir). Mr. Keating strongly encourages this mentality in his students, telling them to “seize the day” and “make their lives extraordinary.” While Neil is technically free in the physical sense, being in an environment that despite discouraging creativity does not ban it, until Mr. Keating comes he had no true desire to “be” or pursue his true happiness. By supporting Neil in his acting, Mr. Keating helps Neil achieve his own freedom. In de Beauvoir’s words, “The value of an act lies not in its conformity to an external model, but in its internal truth.” It does not matter that encouraging Neil to follow his dream goes against Mr. Perry’s “external model” for what Neil’s life should be, but that it aids Neil in following his freedom to his internal truths and passions.
This same argument can be made for why Mr. Keating is right in allowing Neil to go on with the production even after he realizes he had lied to him. Naturally, Keating is aware that Neil’s choice to act without his father’s permission would backfire in one way or another. Even if he did not attend the show, he would hear about it from someone, or Neil would have to confront him about his dreams eventually. But preventing Neil from acting would be to take away his personal freedom to make his own mistakes. De Beauvoir stated that “To prevent man from error is to forbid him to fulfill his own existence.” If Mr. Keating interferes in Neil’s decision, he would be forbidding him from living his life to its true potential. On the other hand, Mr. Perry thinks he is protecting Neil from a major mistake by pulling him out of Welton. He wants Neil’s life to be successful, and the only life he can imagine for him is that of a professional, certainly not an actor. Neil’s interest in acting only shows Mr. Perry that he is too young and idealistic to make decisions for himself and that what would be best for him is to follow his father’s orders and be “satisfied” with his accomplishments later, but that means sacrificing any freedom, the only thing that can bring true joy of existence.
Perhaps the most heavily debated element of The Dead Poet Society is Neil’s suicide after his father’s decision for him to go to military school. Many people believe this is ridiculous as his education is paid for, his future is bright, and he can still make decisions about his life after school. But the existentialist viewpoint on the matter is one of freedom and oppression. By denying him the right to choose how to live his life, even in a way that harmed no one, Neil’s father oppresses him and prevents him from choosing his own way of being.One could imagine the possibility of running away and restarting his life somewhere else. However the problem with this would be in running away life is spent not freeing oneself, but fleeing the situation. Though Neil would technically be able to start his life over, he would still spend his life controlled by his father, just in a different way. The truest display of freedom, the only way that Neil could make on his terms, was to take his own life. Though it was drastic, killing himself was the only free choice Neil had.
In many ways, existentialism is the philosophy of romanticism, of living the individualistic life to the fullest. It is about striving for true, inner freedom, the same message given by The Dead Poet Society and its characters. Seize the day. Make your lives extraordinary. These are the timeless lessons taught by the film, helping it withstand the test of time. It inspires its viewers to strive for the life they truly desire, and to use their freedom to follow their inner truths. To quote de Beauvoir, “The fact remains that we are absolutely free today if we choose to will our existence in its finiteness, a finiteness which is open on the infinite.” Carpe diem, open on the infinite.
A Kantian refutation of the judgement on aesthetics featuring Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2
By Indy Dixon
When we say something is beautiful, what do we even mean by declaring this? It would seem that describing something as beautiful places some sort of objective value onto them: Flowers are beautiful, Your wife is beautiful, etc… Are these descriptions objective though? Well, in short, of course not, but a more pertinent question to ask would be; Why aren’t they? When one describes something as beautiful, they are doing as much as restating a popular or well agreed on opinion. When many people find something beautiful, it thus makes it beautiful by default? No, simply not, that makes no sense.
Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2; a film (if you could call it that), is commonly regarded as a bad piece of cinema. Yet, does this fact make it bad? What does popularity, or unpopularity for this matter, really determine. The real thing I’m trying to strike here is the subjectivity of beauty, and this movie is prime to be an example. If one may sit down, having no prior knowledge of Kevin James, or the previous Paul Blart movie, they could have a completely separate and unbiased viewing, and therefore can come to their own opinion about the movie separate from popular opinion. It doesn’t matter how many people dislike the movie or hate Kevin James, one’s own conclusion on a piece of media determines one’s own tiny truth about something to which only subjectivity can be applied: Which in this case is again beauty and aesthetics. Something can only be determined as beautiful if all of those who experience the subject have the possibility to come to equal conclusions about the subject’s beauty.
So if Kant’s position [In short: That to come to conclusions about beauty, is has to be possible that everyone could come to agree in something’s beauty.], is essentially true, then now the question is… If Kant sat down and saw Paul Blart: Mall Cop 2, would he think that the film is beautiful. The answer is no, and that’s not because Immanuel Kant was born in 1724. It’s because it simply isn’t possible that everyone who would watch that piece of cinema would agree on it’s beauty on qualitative measures alone. The movie has a myriad of cheesy lines, terrible dialogue, and a simple lack of competent film-making. The jokes are stale and the performances are uninspired. These qualities (In Kant’s opinion, at least…) Make the film logically impossible to find beautiful. Kant just kan’t find something beautiful if there isn’t the possibility for everyone else to see the same beauty.
Contrary to Kant, I have my own stance on beauty. If something you consider artsy, like a sundance film, is unpopular or not well known, that does not make it good, great, bad or horrid. It is simply...Well, unpopular. When it was hypothetically viewed by you, you instinctively made your own judgements (Logical and otherwise) about its aesthetics and beauty. This in essence, decides the film’s artistic merit. You need not rely on other people to influence your opinion on a particular piece of media, as your own subjectivity is all that truly matters. Beauty is in the eye of the Bee-JerrySeinfeld-Holder, they say, and what one may find utterly disgusting, another may take immense pleasure from, and so on and so forth.
Edward Said on the Orientalism in “Aladdin”
By Katherine Jakubsen
When you think of the Disney movie “Aladdin”, you might think of cunning “street-smart” Aladdin, Princess Jasmine and her pet tiger Rajah, or the evil, sinister Jafar. But you probably didn’t think about how Orientalism, or the West’s depiction of the East, affected the whole movie. Throughout the film there are many inaccurate depictions of the East, but we have accepted these as truth, such as it being exotic, uncivilized or even dangerous because it is a different culture from what we have been raised in. According to Said, Orientalism goes back to the Western colonization of the East, where the West saw the East as inferior and unusual, and therefore needed civilizing.
In short, Aladdin is living out the “Western dream”, as he went from living on the streets to being married to a princess. It depicts him as someone who needs to be “civilized” (which he naturally becomes as the movie progresses). In one scene, when Jasmine gives a hungry boy an apple, the vendor says “Do you know what the penalty is for stealing?” and takes out his sword to cut off her hand. This gives the false impression of the East being dangerous and barbaric, and that can be a harmful impression to a child. The movie depicts the East as what we think it is like, not what it actually is. We have this assumption in our mind that because other cultures are different than our own, they are exotic, which might correlate with the fact that Jasmine has a pet tiger, and Aladdin a monkey.
Throughout the film, Jasmine wore a two-piece blue outfit with a cropped tube top which left her stomach exposed. In one scene when she is with Jafar, Jasmine wore all red, which is often regarded as a “sexy” color, a strapless bikini top and gold body jewelry, and tried to seduce Jafar to distract him from Aladdin. Jasmine was heavily sexualized and belittled, possibly just because she was a girl who was a different race than our own. The West often perceives the Orient as exotic, and from that in a way errotic, beaucse it is “unusual” compared to our society.
Said saw the danger in Orientalism and how inaccurate and harmful it could be. He recognized the bias we have towards other cultures that are different from our own. He once said, “All knowledge that is about human society, and not about the natural world, is historical knowledge, and therefore rests upon judgment and interpretation. This is not to say that facts or data are nonexistent, but that facts get their importance from what is made of them in interpretation… for interpretations depend very much on who the interpreter is, who he or she is addressing, what his or her purpose is, at what historical moment the interpretation takes place.” I think Said would say that Orientalism is very transparent in this movie, and it gives a false representation of the cultures and societies of the East.
American Psycho and Capitalism
By Collin Taylor
American Psycho is a phenomenal movie that has a lot of undertones about capitalism and aesthetics themselves. The movie hides these themes hidden under murder and Patrick Bateman hiding his sadistic lifestyle quite well
Patrick Bateman is your average investment banker, has tons of monetary success, engaged, fancy parties, and eats at fancy restaurants. Early in the movie we can get a clear glimpse of Patrick Bateman’s hatred of Paul Allen. Paul Allen is his business partner and supposedly has a better business card while all the business card sin the scene looks the same it’s a representation of american envy, and even though they are all the same mostly it shows how we always want and strive for something people say is better but in all reality is the same. Paul Allen keeps saying in the Texarkana scene that he could have gotten them a seat at a high class restaurant that takes forever to get a reservation for, this angers Bateman because even a thought that he isn’t high class, eats at a less than stellar restaurant, or even isn’t physically perfect angers him and he then tries to draw attention elsewhere and asks if that is really Ivana Trump there trying again to make Paul Allen think that this is a high class restaurant. When Patrick kills Paul he starts talking about Huey Lewis and The News, and eventually turns on ,”It’s Hip to be Square,” a song about conformity and and the following of trends itself which is a metaphor of how much Patrick Bateman wants to fit in and be normal. Funnily, in this scene Patrick Bateman doesn’t want his suit to get dirty in the killing of Paul Allen and he puts on a raincoat which shows how devoted he is to keeping up his lifestyle, and even when he is not being watched keeping up to society's standard. Patrick Bateman the character is portrayed with a very cheesy voice, a high sense of vanity and a lot of monetary success. Some of the best scenes Patrick will just say something totally crazy like ,”I like to dissect girls. Did you know I'm utterly insane?” Which just highlights the indifference and how people have only started caring about themselves and not listening to other people right by them.
This all relates to capitalism and how this is an entire metaphor saying capitalism is violent and can be a very malevolent for people to be in. Karl Marx would be a huge fan of this movie and the message of capitalism kills. Karl Marx believed in a classless society and in this movie there’s a very rich man going on a murderous spree which shows how corrupt the rich can get, and how much they can abuse the poor, and just like Patrick Bateman the rich kill the poor but in a very different more vampirical way. They suck all the money out of the poor, every single last ounce of work they can squeeze, slowly starve them out with a small wage that can barely buy enough food while the rich have so much excess they can just feed their leftovers to their dog. Marx also made up the labor value theory which says how much time put into a product is its material value which means Patrick Bateman should really have no money at all because he does just about nothing the entire movie. But most of Patrick Bateman’s victims are of the lower class, such as the prostitute he drops a chainsaw on, or the homeless people near the end. By the 2nd part it seems as if Patrick Bateman almost has a fetish for preying on the poor and powerless, and gets a lot of physical satisfaction from killing. This sounds a lot like a certain political party that loves money and doesn’t really mind a few poor people dying *cough conservatives cough*
Is Will Hunting an Übermensch?
By Wil Vanderslice
"I teach you the overman. Man is something that shall be overcome. What have you done to overcome him?”
Before the question of if Will Hunting (the main protagonist in the film Good Will Hunting) is a representation of the philosopher Friedrich Nietzsche’s Übermensch is raised we must first define what qualifies a person as a “Übermensch” through Nietzsche’s eyes. The idea of the Übermensch is first introduced in Nietzsche’s novel Thus Spoke Zarathustra, in this novel the main character Zarathustra tries to imagine who the “person of the future” will be based on the assumption that we as humans are continually evolving and should only be greater in the future. With this the idea of the “übermensch” is born. Although he talks about intellect Nietzsche does not mean someone who can solve incredibly difficult equations or read many difficult texts everyday but rather someone who has better qualities than the current humans.
A quality he says that can be found in an übermensch is intense individuality. Someone who thinks for themselves rather than listens to what the general populous says creating their own values makes them a greater individual and thus an übermensch. Nietzsche says that Übermensch can be selfish and will use selfishness in a strategic way to try and better themselves and those around them. Along with those two Nietzsche states that the ubermensch will not be resentful towards the success of others and will accept pain and suffering as part of life understanding that it will happen. Another quality Nietzsche states is that they as people are difficult to understand and thus will end up being lonely. He also lists that instead of being one who is humble towards their own abilities that they will be proud of their own abilities and will make light of them. All of these qualities which Nietzsche describes are in suppose to be used to progress to a better society by being examples for those who are not übermensch. An example of someone who is an übermensch through Nietzsche’s eyes would be Napoleon which he revered for how he used his übermensch qualities.
Having now described what qualities Nietzsche said the übermensch should have we return to the original question of if Will Hunting the protagonist of the film Good Will Hunting is what Nietzsche would consider a übermensch. In the first act of the film the audience is introduced to Will as a lonely and misunderstood man who as a child was raised in a poor economic and social environment hindering some of his emotional development. He clearly portrayed as someone who is highly intelligent but do to his upbringing was not able to act on this intelligence. Due to his character being presented in such a way during the first act of the film one could say that Will clearly obtains at least one quality of the übermensch, that of which being that he lacks any humbleness regarding his extreme intelligence and uses it to purposefully “outsmart” others around and him and portray them as fools. While one could argue the point that by outsmarting others he adds nothing to his society and does not try to change anything for the better in a way he actually does do that such act. Although he may not clearly be pushing any change into his society by what looks like making fun of someone he does do so by pointing out the flaws in the intelligence of those around him who are suppose to be the elite of our society and informing them of what their doing wrong both morally and logically. By doing so this can bring realizations to these people that they are not thinking to their fullest potential creating not only a inspired society but one that is more informed.
While introduced in the first act of the film, the second quality remains constant throughout the film. This quality is that he does not resent the fact that he is not successful and that others around him are clearly doing very well. At the beginning of the film he tries to hide the fact that he has been secretly doing the extreme mathematical equations that the professors have been putting on the board because he knows that he is comfortable where he is and does not want more than he already as. This can later be seen in the third act of the film when he turns down a very well paying job that would make his life much easier than it was. Even though he turned it down because he wanted to “see a girl” it can also be seen as a second representation that he does not such success to be happy. The fact that he turned it down shows that he never resented the fact that he was less successful for if he was resentful would do what is logical and accept the position he was offered. By doing this it sets an example for not resenting unsuccessfulness that could be used to make society greater.
The third quality that Will has of the übermensch is that as a character he is seen as misunderstood and lives lonely in many respects. Will being a child of abuse he has many emotional problems, such as trust, love, and anger. This being one of the main plot lines of the films we see how it affects him throughout the film with many instances of intense misunderstanding occurring throughout the film. In the first act we see how anger is a problem in his life with him engaging in many fights and committing crimes, and due to these actions Will ends up in court with no one else to defend himself but him. His lack of support is used as a way to show how he is misunderstood and further communicate his loneliness to the audience. During the second act he is viewed once again as someone who is misunderstood in a scene where his love interest tells him that she wants him to come with her when she moves to California because she loves and could not bear to leave him. This scene makes use of both a lack of trust he has for people and emotional problems regarding love as a way to further his disconnect from those around him. After she asks him this he immediately breaks down into a whirlwind of emotions about how he is not ready and about his abuse as a child. The fact that he immediately says no communicates how he even though he already spends so much time with her, he does not trust her and does not fully understand the love that is there between the two of them.
Having now discussed qualities that Will Hunting has that Nietzsche describes an übermensch must have, it can be concluded that through examination of the film Good Will Hunting that through Nietzsche's reasoning can be considered an übermensch.
Stereotyping Gone With the Wind
By Colin Mallisee
Gone With the Wind was a wildly successful movie, based on the book by Margaret Mitchell, that came out in the year 1939. The story is about a white sixteen year old girl named Scarlett O’Hara , who is the daughter of a wealthy plantation owner in Georgia, whose life, and romantic pursuit of Ashley Wilkes, we follow during the time of the Civil War. The book and the movie present many stereotypes of how women during that time should act and behave, as well as stereotypes about blacks and how they viewed their slavery, as well as how they were portrayed to act and behave. Gone With the Wind can be used as a source for stereotypes from the Civil War era that still affect our society today despite the proof the that vast majority of the people stereotyped do not fit the stereotype.
Scarlett O’Hara is the protagonist and is a prime example of one of the female stereotypes during the Civil War era. Scarlett is vain, shallow, dishonest, without care for others, and amoral, when Melanie dies Scarlett realizes that she lost her only friend that she had. She can be seen as quite the opposite of what third wave feminism stands for today, which is trying to get rid of stereotypes for not just women, but also all other people. The male gaze also continues to objectify her and turn her more into an object of sexual pleasure for Rhett Butler, who at one point rapes her and then blames it on drinking. For Scarlett, however, this turns into a sexual awakening and she is portrayed to barely keep back a smile and fantasies about what just happened. Scarlett goes against what the focus of feminism today by being an example of the stereotype of women who are “just objects for sexual pleasure for men, along with being manipulative and cruel.”
Along with this stereotype of women Gone With the Wind also gave a black stereotype of “the happy slave”, where they were not aware of what was going on and that they were being oppressed, perfectly content with their lives. Along with this stereotype we can see some others in particular characters, such as Prissy, Mammy, and Big Sam. In the case of Prissy we can see the stereotype of some black women not knowing anything, being irresponsible, and just doing what she is told without asking. Prissy is also famous for this quote: "I don't know nothin' 'bout birthin' babies!" With the character of Mammy we see the black mammy stereotype of that time being “older, bigger, black women being comforting, protecting, and doting on their owners.” The mammy stereotype gives off the sense that older bigger black women are meant to be matriarchal and motherly along with being submissive to their owners. In the character of Big Sam we get the happy slave and the radiant acceptance of his slavery and that he is perfectly content with how his life is and thinks that things are going along just dandy and doesn’t care about anything else. From these stereotypes we are given the general stereotype of slaves during that time being dumb people who aren’t aware of much and just continue to go along as they are told, not aware of their oppression, and are content with life as it is for them. We have the situation presented to us that black people are the “Other.”
Gone With the Wind while being a great piece of literature contains many sexist and racial stereotypes. Women are seen as sex craving objects as well as manipulative and seductresses. Black people are seen as dumb carefree people who aren’t aware of their oppression and are happy with their lives as slaves. The stereotypes in Gone With the Wind are contrary to many of our beliefs today, but these stereotypes can still be seen in a variety of ways in our culture. The stereotypes presented are still around today and affect the way we think of other people. Most stereotypes are contrary to reality and are typically very racist and or sexist supporting the demeaning of women and other races. There are serious problems with racism and sexism that we face today and we can use Gone With the Wind as an example of the bad stereotypes, from the past, that exist in our modern world.
A lot of the issues that we face today are ones of ethics and morality. As people we often struggle to break stereotypes and use them to continue the oppression of other people. Gone With the Wind is a source that we can use to be more aware of stereotypes and how they affect people. Sexism and racism are not easily fixed problems, but it can be bettered with proper understanding of stereotypes, where they come from, what they mean, and how they do not apply to the vast majority of that particular group of people.
On Flowers and Being Merciful: The Morality of Undertale
By Hadley Gilpatrick
Nietzsche’s work often focused on the ideas of “good” and “bad,” and basic human morality. He believed that morality is a construct, and that the ideas of good and bad are created by humans in order to keep certain social hierarchies in place depending on the time in history. Early in history, Nietzsche believed that humanity was mostly dictated by what he called “Master Morality,” a view in which people believed those who were “good” were powerful and driven by conflict and war. In a war-oriented society, this made sense. However, as societal leaders shifted to priests and religious leaders, morality shifted as well. It had changed into what Nietzsche calls “Slave Morality,” where “good” is dictated by kindness, humility, and purity. He believed that current societal standards meant that we as a population are dictated more by slave morality than master morality, however as the world continues to evolve, it will shift again to meet the hierarchy’s needs.
In fictional universes, however, “good” and “bad” can be different depending on the alignment and route the player decides to take. In an RPG like Skyrim, playing well and being “good” at one’s role is entirely dependent on how one decides to create their character and the objectives one decides to complete. The universes in many RPGs with a singular way to level up, however, are often focused around Nietzsche’s master morality. The requirements in order to move forward and proceed to higher locations in the game are directly correlated to defeating those defined as enemies, thus making the player more powerful and capable of imposing their own power on enemies with skills equal in quality to their own. This continues until the player becomes the best in said fictional universe, often leading to their completion of the game.
In the RPG Undertale, however, the game’s main storyline is dictated on the kinds of “good” that relate to slave morality. Its challenges lie not in having the power to fight “enemies,” but the wit to befriend them. Undertale is a game about a determined child named Frisk who falls into the underground, where monsters had been banished and trapped by humans for hundreds of years, and their journey as they befriend monsters and attempt to get back to the surface. Its morals are made very clear through the ideals held by the game’s main enemy, a small flower literally without a soul affectionately dubbed “Flowey.” Within the game’s first few moments, Flowey attempts to murder the player, uttering the game’s infamous quote: “In this world, it’s kill or BE killed.” The player survives through the help of a monster named Toriel who holds ideals the opposite of this. She teaches the player to have mercy on everyone around them, including what many RPG players classify as enemies. From this point onward, the player has full reign on whether they wish to kill enemies and other characters, including Toriel, or spare them, leading to a very interesting take on morality. The player can choose to murder literally everyone they meet, absolutely no one, or a mix of the two, similarly to Nietzsche’s ideas.
If the player chooses to kill everyone, the game recognizes this, and its environment becomes more sinister and uninviting to accommodate it. The music becomes ambient crashing, and save screens simply list the number of enemies there are left to kill in the area, instead of their usual upbeat message about determination. The game obviously has strong ties to the views of good that lie in slave morality, and that imposing power on others often only leads to corruption. The game makes this even more obvious by making it clear how defenseless and weak the enemies are, noting that the player is a child and the “powerful weapons” they use are items like toy knives, gloves, and ballet shoes. If the player continues to kill even through all of this, it leads to an ending that literally takes the playable character’s soul, and changes the ending for every subsequent playthrough, no matter the route the player decides to take. This is meant to show the player that imposing power on enemies that are weak in the first place leads only to anguish and strife, and that the ideas of “good” tied to war and conquering other held from master morality are very wrong. If the player chooses to kill only a few enemies, they are given one of many unsatisfactory endings, depending entirely on who is still alive. The game’s “true” ending lies in killing absolutely no one, and sparing every single enemy the player comes across.
If the player shows mercy on everyone, the game’s tone is much more lighthearted, and only through this route does the player uncover all of the secrets and truths the game has hidden thus far. Through mercy, the character makes friends with all of the enemies and “bosses,” and they join them on their adventure. This ending, where the player shows kindness to everyone, is the only ending that gets the player and all of the main characters out from the underground they had been stuck in through humans attempting to conquer and vanquish all of the monsters that used to live with them. This both literally and metaphorically shows that kindness, care, and empathy instead of power and conquering is the only way to set those one loves free.
The overlying ideals of morality in RPGs differs often depending on the universe the game has been set in. More often than not, if the player does not pave their own ideas of good and bad, games are built through the ideas of master morality, being better than everyone else. However, Undertale challenges this, making killing enemies while progressing through the world completely optional and overwhelmingly frowned upon. The only way to get the satisfying ending in RPGs in which everyone is content in Undertale is not through leveling up and gaining experience, but through refusing to, and I think that’s pretty darn cool.
"So you went the whole way through without killing... And then you decided to kill ASGORE? What the hell is WRONG with you? You COMPLETELY missed the point. Are you trolling me? Because. No. You are only trolling yourself. What a waste of everybody's time." - Flowey
Thomas Hobbes and The Purge
By Michael Sain
The Purge is a smash-hit thriller/horror movie, based around the yearly “Purge”. The story is set in the year 2020, a short 8 years after the economic collapse of America. After the collapse, a new group of political leaders known as the “New Founding Fathers of America” are voted into office and soon after pass an annual national purge. During the Purge, all crime is deemed legal from 7 p.m. to 7 a.m., meaning that murder, theft, arson, etc are legal for that one night. The goal of this Purge is to kill those that the Government sees as parasites/useless members of society: the homeless, elderly, mentally ill, disabled, and poorer people living in slums. By sanctioning this form of “grooming out” the less productive members of society, America’s economy begins to boom, unemployment is below 1%, and crime is at a historic low. During the Purge, most wealthy citizens of the U.S. will spend vast amounts of money barricading and securing their residences, and some others will by weapons and other equipment so that they can participate in the “Purging”. The poor citizens, however, are forced to try and barricade their houses with whatever they can get their hands on, and usually cannot afford to buy weapons or any other tools they can use for their own self defense. This leads to the well equipped wealthy purgers hunting down the poor, defenseless members of their society.
Thomas Hobbes, an English Philosopher, argues that people’s basic impulses are evil, and therefore a strong Government must always be in place to make sure that people are not able to do the atrocious things that they naturally would. He believes that people, left to their own selfish devices, will always be at war for their own emotional or material gain.
Thomas Hobbes believes that people will go to war when there are no laws keeping them in check, and The Purge is a fictional example of just that. Just as Hobbes predicts that people will kill one another for their own selfish gain, in The Purge armed citizens will go from home to home looking to harm others and then take everything of value. Hobbes calls this a human’s “State of Nature”, and believes that before Government, all people were evil and worked only to better themselves. During The Purge, the Government is temporarily inactive and human’s resort to the State of Nature that Hobbes says they will.
Hobbes would see the Purge as just and good, as it helps the social and economic environment of the country it is implemented in. He would be willing to sacrifice the lives of the lower class so that everyone else could live a much better life. Karl Marx, on the other hand, would argue that the Purge is wrong and only benefits the Bourgeois. Because only the rich can afford to buy the equipment necessary to protect themselves, the Proletariat are basically left to die. Marx would be very against something such as this, as it gives one party complete and total power over the other.
Modeling and the Male Gaze
By Anabel Granger
The theorem that women are objectified into an essence of beauty and sexual attraction rather than having human existence is transpiring in not only the world of modeling and cinema, but in everyday life as well. Male gaze in the modeling and performing industry can be defined as when the spectator is put into the perspective of a heterosexual male. This meaning that the scene or picture focuses on a woman’s body and beauty aspects, rather than acknowledging the fact that each woman is an intellectual human being. On similar terms, sexual objectification is when the female body is considered an object and equates a woman’s worth with her body’s appearance and sexual functions. Visual pleasure and Narrative Cinema by Laura Mulvey discusses that the male gaze repudiates a woman’s basic human identity, downgrading them to the status of objects to be acclaimed for physical appearance. Sexual objectification and the male gaze both conspire to form mental troubles that can traumatize a woman’s well being.
Laura Mulvey touches on the subject of male gaze in media. In cinema and print work, it is often found that the camera is angled in such a way that highlights the womanly aspects of the model or actress. This can lower the self confidence of the woman due to the fact that the camera cares mainly about how sexually attractive she is, and if the male will find the image appealing. Mulvey argues that the ramification of the media being presented from the perspective of a man and through the male gaze, women find themselves taking part in the male gaze. This suggests the idea that women are starting to judge not only themselves, but also other females through the male gaze. Due to this blindfold of beauty, women on film or print are not seen as human beings, but rather as objects to be seen as desirable. Mulvey uses the term Scopophilia, or the love of watching. From personal experience, I can justify the feeling of not knowing who is viewing and judging your media. For when they see pictures of me, the viewer only sees my physical being as an object to be seen, not as a person with morals and intellect. Men often treat women in the media as objects related to the gaze, which is disrespecting the basic human values of a person.
Philosophers such as Rousseau, Kant, and Schopenhauer all declared that women possess characteristics and mentalities too weak to produce a genius mindset. While being a genius is a rare and exceptional gift, society does not view models or actresses to be intelligent. Due to sexual objectification, these women are viewed as sexual beings with no mental capacity for academic endeavors. The assumption that women are supposed to be attractive in physical features, not mental talents, can harm the self-confidence and pride of a woman. Once she undergoes the state of believing she is only worth her appearance, a woman is susceptible to mental illnesses such as depression and anxiety. I endured a situation where people would question my intellect just due to the fact that I modeled. It was hard for me to comprehend that a person would assume that I could not excelle in academics along with modeling and film work. It opened my eyes to see that society is blinded by sexual objectification and the male gaze. Laura Mulvey states in Visual and Other Pleasures,“Woman, then, stands in patriarchal culture as a signifier for the male other, bound by a symbolic order in which man can live out his fantasies and obsessions through linguistic command by imposing them on the silent image of a woman still tied to her place as the bearer of meaning, not maker of meaning.”
Mental illness is very prominent due to the male gaze and sexual objectification. A woman will start to watch her appearance and how males view her. Objectification theory points out that females are likely to contribute to mental health problems (i.e., eating disorders, anxiety, depression, and sexual dysfunction) due to the fact they are not seen as human beings, but rather as sexual desires. According to works Barbara Fredrickson and Tomi-Ann Roberts, self-objectification can increase a woman’s anxiety about physical appearance and how their bodies will be examined. One might start to shame their body due to measuring it against a cultural standard. Fredrickson and Roberts touch on the subject on being aware of the consequences of being female in a society that sexually objectifies the female body. This viewpoint on oneself can lead to habitual body monitoring, which can increase women's opportunities for shame and anxiety, and decreased consciousness of internal bodily states. Experiencing mental illness based on societal configuration of beauty is unjust and should not be placed upon a woman based off of the male gaze and sexual objectification.
Physical safety is at risk for models and cinema actresses. Not only are they seen as objects, but they are perceived as objects that men desire. A task as simple as walking down the street can result in major anxiety and agitation. Disrespect is commonly communicated to models by male figures. This can lead to rape, and/or not consented sexual happenings. These factors contribute to mental illness in such a way that girls can feel threatened and at risk to these men that see them as objects. Society has taught women to hide and protect themselves from the rapist, but they did not teach the rapist not to rape. For in his eyes, the woman is just a device to please him. Girls should not feel threatened just by walking down the street, nor should they feel like they constantly have to protect themselves. Due to sexual objectification, women are not seen as victims to these incidences. According to Fredrickson and Roberts, sexual objectification leads to an increase in anxiety about physical safety which causes depression and dysfunction.
Nietzsche Analysis of Religion in Game of Thrones
By Zach Sebulba Martin
Religion is very important part of people's day to day life in the world of Game of Thrones. There are three main religions that impact the characters and plot. There is the Many Faced God, The Faith of the Seven, and The Lord of Light. These various religions all offer various morals and punishments for crimes. The Faith of the seven is the main religion of the seven kingdoms. The followers are called septons and worship The Father, The Mother, The Maiden, The Crone, The Warrior, The Smith, and The Stranger. These people are considered to be good and moral because they are so close to the gods however most of them are violent, mean, power hungry people who are focused on punishing those who do not agree with them. When Cersei Lannister, Margaery Tyrell, and Ser Loras Tyrell are all arrested for their crimes against the faith, they are treated like animals until they admit to their crimes. However, they believe that these actions are justified by the gods therefore they believe that they are ethical people. The Faith Militant believe they are purifying King's Landing, but Nietzsche believes that this idea of “Purification” is a problem. When the faith militant tries to purify Westeros they think they are doing a service to the people and the gods however Nietzsche believes these people are still in the wrong and immoral. People follow the High Sparrow and the faith militant because they are told to do so and don't have the a major problem with religion, and we get our morals from the laws society sets. He ability to do anything about it. Nietzsche calls this Slave Morality and believes that it is believes that “healthy people” (atheists) follow the laws only because they are told to do so and not to by a god who tells them how to live when they are born. In a world where torturing and murdering people is very common gods are often used to justify their actions. However the Lannisters (The ruling family of The Seven Kingdoms) have what Nietzsche calls a Master Morality. The Lannisters want to be obeyed and worshiped because of their status and wealth. Melisandre once uses a shadow demon that is used to murder Renly Baratheon because Melisandre thought that his brother, Stannis Baratheon, was the Messiah of The Lord of Light. When Stannis later dies, Melisandre is still considers herself an “ethical” person because The Lord of Light. The Faceless Men (followers of The Many Faced God of Death) go around murdering people and then take their faces. These faceless men justify their actions through The Many Faced God and use its power to help them with their murder by taking on the persona of previous victims. This religion is based on killing others but in the eyes of their god they are considered moral people.
Our Addiction to Technology Through Plato’s View
By: Kate Bansmer
Our phones and technology have become almost like an addiction for many people now these days. Sending text messages, checking twitter, instagram, and snapchat, and browsing through youtube have become huge parts of our everyday life. While all of these social medias and new ways of communicating may be convenient and helpful in some ways, I think they also are distracting people from the world around them, and from getting the full experience out of life . What you see on your phone is not a actual representation of what is happening in people's lives, it is just an imitation. Sending a text message is not the same as having a conversation with someone in real life, and seeing a picture of a place on instagram is not the same as actually going to and seeing that place in person. Plato would agree with the idea that phones are distracting us from life and the world around us based off his allegory of the cave and his opinions on art. In Plato’s allegory of the cave, there are a few prisoners tied up with rope facing towards the back of the cave wall. All the prisoners could see was the cave wall in front of them, and they did not know that there was a world outside of this cave. All along they thought the shadows they saw on the cave wall from people and animals passing by outside were actual objects, because that was all they saw, shadows were all they knew, and for a long time they never knew anything but these shadows. I think that our phones and technology can sometimes become our caves. We get so caught up in them and in result we can forget about or ignore what is going on in the world around us. Most people would rather be focused on their phones than facing what is going on in their lives. They cause us to become unaware of our surroundings, and to miss out on important experiences. Instead of interacting with people, or going out in nature, we are attached to little screens that have become a massive part of most people’s lives. Plato believes that art imitates reality. He said that art is always a copy of a copy of a Form and it leads us further away from the truth and closer towards illusion. He also goes on to say that art can be dangerous. In his opinion mimesis which is the imitation of something makes people lose their hold on reality and this tendency is familiar to all of us. I think technology can make us lose hold on reality and forget about the actual real things that should matter in life besides likes and retweets. Plato would think our phones are just imitations of reality, because when you watch a video or see a picture it is not like you are actually seeing the view or watching a real event happen. It is different to see something through media than to actually be there. Also having conversations over text message is not the same thing as a real conversation. Things can be misunderstood over text, that would be clear in a face to face conversation. In conclusion, humans these days are spending way too much time on their phones and electronic devices. Plato would agree that our phones can become like our caves, making us become negligent of the world around us. He would also agree that what we see on our phones is not the real and just an imitation of reality. Being on our phones all the time takes away from our experience of life and makes us unaware of the real world around us.
Four Stereotypes in The Princess and the Frog
By Elise Sexton
Disney’s 2009 musical, “The Princess and the Frog”, was groundbreaking for the franchise when it was released as it was Disney’s first musical to star black main characters. The tale follows Tiana, a young, poor woman living in New Orleans, on her journey to open her own restaurant. Along the way, she meets Prince Naveen, who has been turned into a frog by an evil voodoo master. In an attempt to solve the Prince’s dilemma, Tiana kisses him while he’s a frog and ends up simply turning herself into a frog. Together, they seek out the help of the mystic voodoo priestess, Mama Odie, who they believe can turn them human. This paper is going to be an analysis of “The Princess and the Frog” from both a womanist and an orientalist perspective.
Womanism, in basic terms, is the study of the race and gender-based oppression of black women. In this paper specifically, I was looking at 4 main stereotypes surrounding black women: the mammie, the matriarch, the welfare queen, and the Jezebel. The first, the mammie, is the stereotype of black women being faithful, obedient domestic servant. The mammie is often portrayed as overweight, very dark-skinned, and the wet nurse for a rich, white family. The stereotype of the mammie came about during slavery and was used to both justify the exploitation of house slaves and show the ideal black female to white male relationship. At the same time, the mammie was to be seen as undesirable and was used to contain fear of the female body. One of the effects of the mammie was that women who weren’t nurturing or caring were penalized. The mammie was also seen as the “good” black mother. On the other end, you had the matriarch, or the “bad” black mother. This woman was often portrayed as head-strong, confident, unfeminine, and un-marriageable. Many civil issues in the US were blamed on matriarchs and their bad parenting. It was said that their dominant behavior preventing them from ever being wed, therefor black men were running amok and had no one to control them, and that their bad parenting, caused by not being able to model proper gender behavior, led to children being out of control. The matriarch also caused gender role-reversal within black families as they were often the heads of the family.
Along with the mammie and the matriarch, black women were also portrayed as welfare queens. The welfare queen was another “bad” black mother who perfectly content with not working, lazing around, and living off of welfare checks. This portrayal of women came about during a rise in women’s rights. Black women demanded equal access to welfare checks and, as a result, needed to be control by society. The other part of the welfare queen was that she was unmarried. Being unmarried violated on the major parts of the white, male-dominated ideology where all black women needed to be controlled. With the welfare queen came the black lady image. The black lady was seen as a woman who refused to do simple labor jobs, made it to a position of power within a work force, and was stealing the job of a man. The final stereotype surrounding black women is the Jezebel woman. The Jezebel woman is seen as one who has an excessive sexual appetite and were often used to validate sexual assault on black women. Jezebel’s, in modern context, are often portrayed in Reality TV shows and have the recurring image of many children, but no husbands. This, again, disrupts the male, white ideology of black women needing to be controlled and wed.
Within “The Princess and the Frog”, the audience can see depictions of the mammie from the opening scene. Tiana’s mom is the “wet nurse” for a rich white man and is depicted as soft, not sexual, and extremely feminine. She also fits the mammie stereotype of being extremely poor, despite who she works for and how much she works. Tiana only reinforces the stereotype of mammies being the “good” black mother when she shows so much determination, strength, and control. Continuing from there, we see Tiana, who is clearly a matriarch. She is described as very headstrong, motivated, and independent. Throughout the movie, other characters judge her as not having enough fun and not being feminine enough. Prince Naveen, the man she marries in the end, often tells her she needs to “loosen up” and that she’s being too dominant. Along with being seen as too dominant, she is also trying to start up a restaurant. She often encounters characters who tell her, either because she’s a woman, she’s poor, or because she’s black, that she will never get her business. It is only after she marries a man, who also has money and a title, that she accomplishes her goal. The more interesting thing about Tiana is that many people chastise her for working too hard, yet hate the concept of the lazy black woman, the welfare queen.
The other mammie character seen in “The Princess and the Frog” is the voodoo priestess, Mama Odie. To begin with, the putting of the word “Mama” in a name for a black woman is strongly connected to mammies and the taking away of their sexuality. Calling a women “mama” is placing her in a position of motherhood, and not one where she’s free to be a sexual creature. Mama Odie is also portrayed in an even more stereotypical way as fat, darker skinned, and flamboyant or sassy. She also adds an element of orientalism in that she is portrayed as exotic and mystical. She talks to animals, casts magical spells, and, though she is blind, seems to “see” the most about everything. It’s the warmth and comfort, mixed with gentle sass, that makes Mama Odie give off a radiating mammie vibe. The last woman portrayed is the Jezebel, or the whore. Interestingly enough, the movie doesn’t show a black woman as being a Jezebel, but rather a white woman. Charlotte La Bouff is the white daughter of the richest man in New Orleans and is Tiana’s childhood best friend. She dreams of marrying a real life prince and is aggressively sexual throughout the entire movie. The only issue with her sexual aggressiveness is that she is also seen as vain, ignorant, rich, and spoiled. The movie seems to connect her sexuality to the amount of money she has and her general lack of intelligence. The last scene with her is one in which she realizes that Prince Naveen, her “dream” prince, has a younger brother that she can marry. The boy is 6 and Charlotte’s only response to his age is “Well, I’ve waited this long.” The vanity of the scene and her blatant need for a man, and sex, is overwhelming.
As for male character within the film, Prince Naveen is portrayed as a stereotypical black man. He is seen as lazy, extremely sexual, and has nothing on his mind but women. In a “usual” black relationship with a matriarch, Price Naveen would represent the gender-role swap where the woman is head of the family and the man is lazy. The other main male character is the evil voodoo master, Dr. Facilier. He is the main villain, who turns both Tiana and Prince Naveen into frogs, attempts to kill Charlotte’s father, and dabbles and dark magic. He also embodies the features of being lazy, unmotivated, and makes most of his money though swindling and cheating. Dr. Facilier adds to the orientalism in his exotic outfits, career, and in his work with magic. His untrustworthy personality also ties into the idea of foreigners all being lying, deceitful, and out for other people’s money.
Within “The Princess and the Frog”, all four of the major stereotypes of black women can be seen, along with two ideas of black men. The movie also contains the basic concepts of orientalism: exotics, magic/mystics, and having poor morals. As Disney’s first, and so far only, movie with black characters, they seemed to miss the point of defying stereotypes and managed to make almost every single character a stereotype.
Hobbes on the Hunger Games
By Sarah Unowsky
The Hunger Games book series written by Suzanne Collins has recently become wildly popular among teens and young adults in the United States. The movie adaptations created only a few years after the final novel’s publication served to significantly boost the franchise’s already large fan base. One contribution to the major popularity of The Hunger Games may have to do with its participation in the current dystopian young adult book trend, of which the Divergent series and the Maze Runner trilogy also play major roles. Many of the books taking part in this trend revolve around a problematic and even violent government, causing the main character to take part in a rebellion. The Hunger Games series is a prime example of this layout, as it features a poorly run society controlled by a man who expresses no care towards the majority of his people. Each year the annual Hunger Games competition takes place in which youth from ages twelve to eighteen are forced to fight to the death. Katniss Everdeen, the trilogy’s main character, takes part in the Hunger Games before becoming the face of the rebellion against the government.
Thomas Hobbes was an English philosopher who firmly believed that a strong government should be in place to keep control of the people. Even if the figure in power governs with unfair or unpopular ideology, the people must not rebel, as anarchy and war is always worse than a corrupt government. Hobbes does believe, however, that rebellion would be acceptable if the Leviathan, or ultimate sovereign, were to threaten the lives of the people. Furthermore, Hobbes believes that a government formed as a result of force is equally as justifiable as one formed by the consent of the people. The Leviathan has the ability to punish those who break the laws put in place.
In The Hunger Games books, the citizens of the various districts rebelled against the Capitol for its harsh treatment. In order to put down the rebellion, the Capitol created harmful animal mutations and bombings. The annual Hunger Games were created as punishment and to prevent further rebellions. Despite this, another rebellion occurs to overthrow the government. This time, the rebellion is successful.
I believe that Hobbes would approve of the Hunger Games. Their purpose is to serve as a punishment for a rebellion that took place in the past. They also serve to instill fear in the hearts of the people, which Hobbes thought was necessary to keep order and to enforce the laws of nature. One could also argue the opposite stance, however. Hobbes believed that the Leviathan should not threaten the lives of the people, and the Hunger games could be considered as doing just that. Hobbes also believed that the government is put in place to take man out of the violent state of nature, but the Hunger Games promotes this state. Hobbes would then deem the rebellion following the 75th annual Hunger Games reasonable.
Hobbes would also disapprove of the behavior of the people in the Capitol. They view the Hunger Games as a form of entertainment rather than a punishment. Hobbes would be surprised that the people would be happy rather than horrified to witness normally civil people revert back to their primal state.
Sovereign Terms and Conditions
By Luke Ruane
Since the age of Mesopotamia, the pursuit of establishing a perfect state has been one of mankind’s greatest challenges and a constant source of conflict. Many philosophers and politicians have believed that the most successful approach to this perfect state would be to give all the power to one perfectly just person so that the people would have no reason to rebel against the government or against each other. This theory of a perfect state is present in Thomas Hobbes’ Leviathan as well as the plot of the post-apocalyptic television series The 100. Both compositions state that it would be better to under any government rather than be at war, no matter how oppressive it may be.
Ideas and theories from Hobbes’ Leviathan explain the benefit of avoiding war and remaining in a civilized state.Given that the world has been at war with itself since 2700 B.C., many people including Hobbes have become dissatisfied with the constant conflict in the world. In response to this, Hobbes argued to give one sovereign all of the power in order to avoid disagreement people. Hobbes’ sovereign would be a leader who would be perfectly just, have perfect judgement, and thus have sovereign power. There’s one problem: no one is up to the job. Time and time again, autocratic states become authoritarian states and have initiated warfare between the government. This constant cycle of oppression that Hobbes would support has caused catastrophes across time and likely will continue into the future where The 100 takes place.
The television series The 100 is a perfect demonstration of how Hobbes' state could fail. The series takes place 97 years after nuclear annihilation on the space station known as the Ark: the last known settlement of mankind. Over the course of two seasons, the inhabitants of the Ark resettle the Earth and make contact with the people that remained on the Earth known as the Grounders. Whether it as at the hands of the Ark’s harsh judicial system or the Grounders, most of the people who resettled the Earth experienced more than their fair share of traumatic experiences. As a result, many wished for some form of relief the harsh memories they were forced to live with. The source of relief is the AI (Artificial Intelligence) A.L.I.E. A.L.I.E. is a 98 year old computer program whose purpose was to make improve life, and as a result of believing there were too many people alive launched nuclear missiles that ended 6.5 billion lives. A.L.I.E.’s version of an improved life is the City of Light, a virtual utopia stripped of conflict and inequality with one “just” ruler.
Thomas Hobbes would likely approve of A.L.I.E. ruling over the people in The 100. How could he not? A.L.I.E. has the City of Light to offer: everything mankind has been striving for since the first civilizations. Every person is equal, there is no pain, no grief, and no need to fight. Despite these benefits, there is a catch. By taking the “key” to the City of Light, the person surrenders their mind and freedom in the real world to A.L.I.E.. This means that A.L.I.E. can use any person’s body to pursue interests which include but have not been limited to: forcing every living soul to take the key, manipulating people to take the key, imprisoning anybody who opposes her, and in extreme cases crucifying those who resist the key after imprisonment. The simple fact of the matter is that no matter how great a person is, taking the key means A.L.I.E. has the power to turn them into an instrument of injustice and oppression. This is by no means a perfect state.
Accounts from The 100 expose the lengths to which Hobbes would go to avoid war and the problems with giving one person or device total power. In essence, the establishment of a perfect state most likely will never happen. Hobbes’ sovereign is a person that does not exist in the present day and for natural reasons cannot exist. This is the reason why A.L.I.E. never succeeded in improving human life and in the process destroyed more lives than she improved.
By Sabrina Rehman
The term “catharsis” is one used by many writers and artists today to describe the emotional effect of tragedy in art on the human mind. In various writings and his book Poetics, the Greek philosopher Aristotle refers to catharsis as a purging of emotional tensions through an experience with art. These emotional tensions, such as fear and pity, are said to have the capacity to be alleviated or purified by redirecting our feelings from reality to works of art. In contrast to Plato’s less optimistic view of the value of art, Aristotle’s view held that art possesses a kind of ethical utility intrinsic to what makes us human. As manifestations of the deepest forms of human thought, works of art in all mediums have the potential to inspire and instruct others to form the basis of our culture.
Recently, the field of art therapy has emerged as a form of mental health rehabilitation, healing, psychotherapy, and counseling, as well as a medium through which one can uncover a deeper understanding of their own mental state. The creative process that goes into the construction of art has been shown to evoke positive emotional response in addition to aid in conflict resolution. Regardless of talent or artistic ability, the expression of oneself through artistic means is a very deeply human experience whether or not the artist realizes it. It provides an outlet for expression with the capacity to transcend the limitations of language. Art therapy does not only apply to the creation of art, but also the experience one has while viewing art. Aristotle saw the value in artwork that captures human emotion and elicits feelings of pity and fear, emphasizing the significant inward impact art can produce. Although art therapy is a relatively new field, Aristotle might have described the scientific data supporting the results of art therapy as a form of catharsis.
Many world-renowned artists throughout history used art as a form of therapy, exploring psychological themes through their work. This form of expression can be seen in works by artists such as Vincent Van Gogh, Frida Kahlo, and Edvard Munch, who all used art to reflect the inner turmoil they were experiencing or had experienced in the past. Edvard Munch was a Norwegian painter and printmaker whose work depicts the emotional anguish he experienced during his lifetime. As a child he withstood many tragic occurrences of illness and death in his family that left an emotional scar on him and inspired him to delve into themes of mortality, anxiety, and human vulnerability in his art. His most famous painting, The Scream (1893), depicts a figure standing alone on a dock while clasping their face and crying out in anguish. When asked about the source of inspiration for his painting, Munch said that one day while walking he saw the sky turn blood red and heard the “enormous, infinite scream of nature.” When viewing the painting, the intense emotional distress that Munch was trying to convey is very clear. The feelings of pity and fear that onlookers experience can be viewed as feelings of pleasure in the eyes of Aristotle. Both Plato and Aristotle described art as imitation, with Plato viewing it negatively and Aristotle viewing it positively. Aristotle described pity and fear evoked by art as reactions to this imitation, and therefore not true signs of emotional distress. We can experience forms of sadness through art, but it is different from experiencing deep-rooted sadness in reality. For example, when watching a horror movie, your heart rate may increase and you may experience all the symptoms of fright. However, this fear elicited by a screen is different from actually experiencing true fright at something off the screen. Therefore, the emotional connection one has with art depicting tragedy can be that of grief or sorrow, but also that of happiness due to the “purging” of these unpleasant emotions.
Aristotle’s philosophical and psychological writings did not always describe the state and effects of catharsis or tragic catharsis in a consistent manner. Therefore, much of what we gain from his writings on the concept are based upon various interpretations of his works. One approach is that seeing the imitation of the hardship of others allows us to direct our feelings of sadness onto something that we can connect with, but is not real. Another view is that it is the emotional connection we experience that brings out simultaneous feelings of pity and pleasure and awe for the complexity of our own emotion. As human beings, Aristotle says that we want to feel and be inspired, and art is the perfect medium through which to do so. Art therapy encompasses this way of thinking and channels it onto a personal level. The field includes all mediums of art, such as music, dance, sculpting, painting, and much more. However, perhaps we should expand our view of art therapy beyond expressing oneself through creation to include Aristotle’s view on tragedy. If pity and fear stirred by tragedy in artwork are “purifying” experiences, they may be able to help in therapeutic ways or aid in a better understanding of one’s own mind.