ISSUE 4.2 JULY 2016
The Philosophy of Les Miserables
By Sarah Douglas Thompson
The 2012 film adaptation of the broadway musical, Les Miserables, is one of my favorite movies. The movie was directed by Tom Hooper, but the play was originally based on the book Les Miserables by Victor Hugo, written in 1862. It is one of my favorite films for many reasons, namely the acting of unlikely stars (Russell Crowe, Anne Hathaway, Hugh Jackman, Amanda Seyfried), but also for the costumes, set design and overall experience of the film. However, the most important aspects of the movie are the songs.
Written by French songwriter, Claude-Michel Schonberg, the songs are masterfully created to be filled with emotion, in addition to expressing a clear understanding of human nature. If one was to analyze the entire, depressing plot of the story, one might notice its resemblance to a greek tragedy. Though there are key differences, (the main character repents and becomes a better man rather than inadvertently committing a terrible crime and ruining everyone’s lives in the process), both forms of storytelling deal with big themes such as love, loss, and the abuse of power. Not to mention, practically all of the characters are dead by the end of the story. By why is this movie so aesthetic? Why are greek tragedies so admired? Aristotle tackles this idea in his book, Poetics. Aristotle believes that tragedies allow the viewer to purify and refine their emotions by watching the imitation of those same emotions in plays. Basically, one gets to feel ‘the feels’ instead of having something terrible happen to them, in which case they are forced to feel ‘the feels.’ This idea is called catharsis, and it is the ultimate goal of a tragedy. Les Miserables is such a good film because it accomplishes this goal with its sorrowful plot and emotion-filled songs, such as “I Dreamed a Dream,” “On My Own,” “A Little Fall of Rain,” and “Empty Chairs at Empty Tables.” I personally always tear up a little during the “Epilogue.”
Yet how is the audience able to feel ‘the feels’ through song? One theory is that of ‘emotional contagion’ or ‘mirroring responses.’ When a person sees a group of moping people, that person tends to be sad as well, even if they are not sad for the moping people or for the reason why they are moping. One would simply ‘mirror’ the group’s emotions. The same idea would apply to music. When hearing the sad song “Empty Chairs and Empty Tables,” you would naturally reflect the mood of the song, yet not truly feel it yourself. Another explanation to the question above is that the audience truly grows to care for the characters and genuinely feels their pain. In John Locke’s Two Treatises of Government, he describes the natural state of man to be perfectly free and equal. Due to this and the law of nature, man naturally has a duty to protect all members of mankind. Basically, humans naturally care about one another’s feelings and well-being. According to Aristotle, tragedies are “primarily an imitation of an action.” Plays are imitations of real-life, and good plays express features of human character and emotion. Therefore, Les Miserables expertly imitates people, and as it’s human nature to care for all people, the audience begins to invest themselves into the imagined lives of these characters. When Jean Valjean has the feels, so do I.
In addition to Aristotle’s idea of catharsis, philosopher, Friedrich Nietzsche, discusses the idea of ‘slave morality’ in his work On the Genealogy of Morality, written in 1887. In summary, Nietzsche believes that morality originated from those in power (nobles, kings, emperors, etc.). They deemed that what they did was good (being powerful, wealthy, in control, etc.). Their slaves did not like this because they could never be considered ‘good.’ As slaves, they would always be poor and oppressed. Nietzsche believes that the slaves flipped the ideas of ‘good’ via Christianity. Christians admire humility, kindness, and compassion (ex: Matthew 5:3- “Blessed are the poor in spirit, for theirs is the kingdom of heaven”). So how does this relate to Les Miserables? How is it aesthetic? The plot of Les Miserables is literally about a freed prisoner who finds God and becomes a successful and wealthy man who embodies kindness, compassion and love. One of the lines from the “Epilogue” reads: “To love another person is to see the face of God.” In relation to today’s society, it is estimated that ⅓ of the world is Christian, meaning that Les Miserables appeals to the ideals of about 2.2 billion people, making it a wildly loved film and play.
Furthermore, the protagonist Jean Valjean embodies the modern-day idea of ‘the American Dream.’ He is the perfect example of a ‘rags to riches’ success story. After the depression of the 1890s, immigrants came to the US in the hopes of finding a better life. Why was America so appealing? Because of the opportunities for jobs and economic growth. Even today, America still boasts of its wealth and success. Therefore, Les Miserables appeals not only to Christian ideals, but to the ‘American Dreamers’ of the world.
In conclusion, it is apparent that Les Miserables is a philosophical gold mine.
The Male Gaze in Music Videos
By Tabor White
The male gaze is the way in which the visual arts and literature depict the world and women from a masculine point of view, presenting women as objects of male pleasure. In pop culture, the male gaze is very evident. One particular area is the music industry in music videos.The phrase’ the male gaze’ was first used by the feminist philosopher Laura Mulvey. She published an essay in the 1970’s criticizing the use of women as sexual objects in films. Her argument aimed the-the movie industry has become very evident in all forms of pop-culture media.
Recently there have been women, who in their videos have challenged this idea of the male gaze by completely refuting it or reclaiming their bodies from the gaze.Some famous female artists that have protested the gaze have made bold and provocative decisions in their music videos to make comments and protest the male gaze.
Sia is very notorious for never appearing in her music videos. She tries to remove any visual representation of herself from her work in an attempt to force people to judge her completely on her art, without taking her appearance into account. Sia believes that much of pop music today relies on sexuality rather than actual talent to create success. In her conscious decision to become ‘invisible’ she raises, then answers the question, “Do women really need sexuality to sell their work?”.
Another artist, Courtney Barnett, in her video of “Pedestrian at Best” creates a visual representation of the male gaze. In her video, Courtney is dressed as a clown; she faces mockery, and becomes an object of the public’s gaze. She is laughed at, touched, and grabbed without her permission. The entire video is a satire on the scrutiny that women face from strangers. In her song, she also includes a line “Put me on a pedestal and I'll only disappoint you” which alludes to the nearly impossible standard women are held to in our society.
One very famous artist who uses imagery to comment in the gaze is Rihanna. The was she embodies the male gaze in her music video of the song, B**** Better Have My Money, is much darker and shows the very gruesome side of the male gaze. Her video makes a comment on the captivity of a woman's body to the public eye. The captivity shown in the video is often violent and abusive and very non-consensual. This makes a very important point of how women are treated by the public and by the male gaze. At the end of the video, she uses images that are intended to represent her reclaiming her body and refusing submission.
As the discussion around feminism becomes prominent in pop culture, there are starting to be varying and indeed challenging interpretations of female sexuality in music videos. Bold and thoughtful women are at the head in this.Women in media now are challenging the male gaze in reach for true equality.
Humor and Philosophy
By Mariana Michie
Comedy is one of the most popular genres in today’s culture, drawing largely from the differences from other people around us. Comedy can be found and experienced through many different mediums whether it’s through television, cinema, performance, comics, text, or on the internet across the board of social media. There’s a place for everyone, and there’s an aspect of beauty in being able to view different perspectives of experience in relevant topics of society. Although all comedy can provide enjoyment, comedy through the internet proves to be more appealing to those in today’s society especially.
Henri Bergson was a major French philosopher, and was found to be the most influential during the first half of the early twentieth century. He’s known for his social analysis on comedy in his essay titled Laughter, An Essay on the Meaning of the Comic . Bergson describes comedy as abstract relations between ideas, or “the intellectual contrast”. He explains the purpose of comedy is to restrain eccentricity and use it in a way to improve utilitarianism, the correction of actions to benefit the most people. Bergson’s idea is that the point of comedic ideas and actions are to restrict the idea of “strange” , because that is what comedy is in the first place. Comedy is necessarily human, meaning we laugh at people and that others do, therefore nothing in the comedic industry can be categorized as strange because either you are laughing at others, or others are laughing at you.On the internet the possibilities cannot be limited to the content provided to the viewers, enough to where all viewers can be content creators themselves. Comedy, especially on the internet, is used as a corrective instrument in society that can form a sense of community that comedic performance cannot provide on its own.
The point of comedy is to provide relief and to make others laugh. Bergson, having written an essay about it, explains that laughter ultimately has a large social significance and function. “Logical relations don’t make us laugh; absurdity ends up in laughing.” Bergson describes how comedy isn’t just the statement of relevant topics and other’s opinions to listen to and understand sincerely. Comedy is about making the relevant, normative ideas in society and allowing them to be absurd or twisted and silly. In modern culture, attention spans are progressively getting shorter, therefore challenging comedy in that comedic ideas are required to prove themselves faster than they used to. If the subject is going on too long without getting to the joke or the point, it isn’t as funny. This has to say about what makes internet comedy more convenient and appealing. Smaller amounts of content are being constantly provided to you, and you can find many different perspectives and types of comedic substance that you can enjoy personally. It is also better in the sense that viewers are more relaxed in that they are reading or watching comedic content in their own home, and are more likely to laugh and greater enjoy it due to the lack of insecurity and judgement from others.
Comedy is both something enjoyable for consumers, and for those who acquire it as a career as well. It’s an outlet used to express personal values other than generic media’s perception and allows conversation and community through a common idea: by making others happy and laugh. There is something truly beautiful in that. By fair use and free speech everyone can find their place in comedy and relate to others equally absurd opinions on how great (or not-so-great) puns and other aspects of comedy are. Comedy is very important in culture today because it brings many amounts of people together and allows for opinions to be equally expressed and shamelessly portrayed. Bergson would recognize and agree with the social aspect of comedy over the internet modernly due to its obvious significance and relevance in shaping society and what is popular over social media as a whole. The point of comedy is to make people happy, and no matter the form it comes from there always will be beauty in making others happy.
TIP Traditions at UGA: Religious Practices?
By Caroline Moore
If you’ve attended Duke’s Talent Identification Program (TIP), then you know that each generation of its students, called Tipsters, have their own special traditions. If you’ve ever been attended TIP at the University of Georgia, then you know that these traditions are, well, sort of a big deal. From serenades on the balcony to flashing green “party glasses,” each tradition is special and steeped in TIP history. To both those who hold them and to those who witness their use, traditions signify the inclusivity and love that are present at TIP. TIP inspires the majority of its Tipsters, leaving them with memories of happiness and acceptance that might not be so prevalent at home. Because TIP is special to so many teenagers, it can be revered to such an extent that some may even call it a religion. Of course, in any religion, there are certain practices upheld to maintain the structure of the religion. If TIP is a religion, should its traditions then be called its religious practices?
Mircea Eliade writes on the sociology of religion and its practice. He says that it is impossible for man to escape his “bondage to religious thought.” Since secularism exists as a reaction against religion, even a nonreligious person has ties to religion. Though a fair number of Tipsters do not participate in typical religious practice, it is impossible for them to completely avoid religion, even if that religion is found at nerd camp. Eliade says that we “still [retain] a large stock of camouflaged myths and degenerated rituals” from the past; we do not even recognize that many of our daily activities stem from past religious practices. Perhaps TIP traditions have been influenced by real religions. Take, for example, the Tipstyc. A UGA-themed umbrella, the Tipstyc represents the “spirit of TIP.” The Tipstyc is a symbol of love, friendship, and caring for everyone. It literally extends the umbrella of family to each Tipster. This theme is similar to the teachings of Christianity, which include loving your neighbor as yourself. Eliade explains that Christians acknowledge that their traditions “are likely to be experienced as strange or even alien by many in modern western societies.” This builds a bridge between different cultures and opens the door to evangelism. Similarly, TIP traditions may seem foreign and strange to people who have never been involved. Even to Tipsters from other campuses, UGA may appear to have an excess of traditions. Because older and more experienced Tipsters recognize that the large number of UGA traditions can be daunting to greener students, they try to gently introduce those younger Tipsters to the traditions. They remember that not everyone will be so enthusiastic about TIP, just as religious men and women know that others may not be accepting of their religion.
Furthermore, TIP duplicates the structure of religious services in its dances. Once a week, Tipsters dress in their best clothes and attend a three-hour-long celebration. At the end of the dance, fourth years form a small circle within a circle of second and third years. They sing traditional songs in a specific order, forming the “liturgy” of TIP dances. After the dance is over, Tipsters release their emotions and usually cry with one another as a cathartic experience. This ordered tradition is a ceremony that reflects the ceremony of many official religions.
In addition to traditional activities, TIP at the University of Georgia has physical traditions, including the few mentioned above. Several frisbees have been handed down for almost a decade, including the “Bora frisbee” and the “Barbuto frisbee.” These both originated in 2008 with two roommates who were both excellent at Ultimate frisbee. Other important traditions include the Tipstyc; the Hat, which is a black fedora wrapped in an orange lanyard and dated with each year; the Party Glasses, which are given to the Tipster with the most excitement at dances; the Girls’ Scrapbook, which is passed to a kind and loving girl to paste photos of the final dance. These traditions all date back many years, and each is accompanied by an almost legend-like story of their origin. In most religions, a creation story explains the origins of the world. At TIP, legends exist about previous Tipsters who began traditions and continue as the traditions are passed down. Folklore creates an aura of mystery about Tipsters who have gone before and adds to the religious aspect of TIP.
Lastly, TIP is inspirational to its Tipsters. As religious followers may devote their lives to practicing their faith, so many Tipsters dedicate their lives to maintaining friendships with other Tipsters, spreading the love that TIP showed them, and continuing to learn in the subject area of their TIP class. TIP could be considered a religion both by Tipsters and by Mircea Eliade. It has religious “ceremonies,” legends, and physical objects that represent the traditions of TIP
**comic sans and a beige background...you reap what you sow**
Perpetuation of Rape Culture: How We Raise Our Children
By: Hailey Woodard
Rape culture; embedded in our society and forced upon our children, the systematic normalization of rape in America affects almost every aspect of our daily lives. From children’s stories, to dress codes, to brushing off sexual assault as a trivial matter, we are constantly teaching our kids, namely our daughters, that the double standard that exists in America is “just the way life is”, and that “boys will be boys”.
Rape culture is the culmination of a long history of victim-blaming and female oppression, rooted in the belief that women are inherently other. “From patriarchy’s earliest times,” says Simone de Beauvoir, “[men] have deemed it useful to keep woman in a state of dependence...she was thus concretely established as the Other.” Man’s fundamental oppression of woman as “the Other” allows him to objectify her as a sexual object, rather than a human being. He holds the gaze, while woman, being the Other, is confined to man’s perception of her, therefore defining her role in society.
Man, however, is not the only one to blame. We, as a society, are also at fault for the existence of rape culture in America. From the time our daughters are little, we spoon-feed them stories such as “Little Red Riding Hood”, with big bad wolves, to scare them out of straying too far from home. We tell them not to wear clothes that are “too revealing”, and scare them away from the idea of being provocative because we are programmed to believe that women should not possess such traits. We enforce dress codes to ensure that these double standards are met, and we teach girls not to get raped, instead of teaching boys not to rape.
Actions such as these justify the objectification of female bodies and allow the validation of these double standards to systematically perpetuate themselves. And, it is through these experiences that women learn not to walk alone at night, to constantly be aware of their surroundings, and that, in order to be perceived as a “good girl” by society, they must not be loud, outspoken, independent, or sexual beings.
Finally, one of the most significant contributors to rape culture is victim-blaming. Following sexual assault, one of the most universal comments made is “Well, what was she wearing? I bet she was asking for it,” or “Was she drinking? She should have known better.” The problem with our society does not lie in whether or not a victim was acting a certain way. The real problem lies with the entitlement and possessiveness that are attached to the objectification of women’s bodies.
Understanding that the victim is not at fault, and that the default perception of a woman’s body is as an object helps to break down the societal barriers held in place by rape culture and allows woman to take her life into her own hands. Understanding this allows woman to not be defined as the Object of the male gaze, but as a human being worthy of respect and worth more than her body.
A Kantian perspective on N.W.A
By Jonathon Kirkland
N.W.A is a group of rappers from compton california that consisted of Eazy-E, Ice Cube, and Dr. Dre. They released several music videos and mixtapes of the the course of the nineties that spoke out against the police and were therefore very controversial. They were repeatedly arrested and assaulted for these protests. Their music detailed the life of young African-American life in poor neighborhoods. The music instantly became known around the country but the majority of Americans and the government disagreed with it.
Immanuel Kant’s view on aesthetics is very simple in its essence: we need art around us constantly. It is “good” and promotes “good” behavior. So now the question is if speaking out against the police and using vulgar language would be considered good by Immanuel Kant. Immanuel Kant distinguishes judgement of beauty from the pleasure of the beauty so if one were to think that N.W.A’s music was pleasing to the ears but not beautiful in a very objective sense than it would not be beautiful at all according to Kant. This goes the same for any painting or sculpture that is pleasurable to the eyes but not objectively beautiful then it is not beautiful at all. Kant also believes that beauty should be universal that if someone sees beauty in something then everyone else must see that same beauty and same pleasure.
In the end I think that Kant would think that N.W.A’s music and content is not objectively beautiful but not because he lived in the 1700’s but because he, like most people around the world, would not be able to relate to what N.W.A is making music about. This makes sense from Kant’s perspective of universality and on pleasurability when it comes to beauty.
I personally disagree with Kant on this perspective because I think beauty is in no way universal and can be directly affected by pleasure. When it comes to beauty I personally believe that everyone's own life experiences and memories shape what they personally believe is true beauty and because no two people on earth have the exact same set of memories from the exact point of view no two people have the exact same definition of beauty. This applies directly to N.W.A in the way that people that have similar memories of struggling against oppressive police and gang violence daily that not only occur on the streets but in schools. When it comes to pleasure i feel that it should influence if not directly affect beauty. Pleasure is closely related to beauty in my opinion because it is what makes us want to see or experience beauty. For example, N.W.A could have told their story through a book or just speaking about it but it would have been pushed to the side and ignored because no pleasure is gained from hearing it. But since they used music to get their message across it was heard around the world.
Gender Roles in Disney Films
By Alisha Desai
Post-Structuralist, Judith Butler, defines gender as a social construction, created by society. This means that gender is fiction,and is therefore open to interpretation. It is simply a performance and is not tied to one’s physical sex. Unfortunately, modern society has merged gender and sex together, and in the process, has created many assumptions revolving an individual due to his/her gender. The media has created a weak, submissive, and frivolous connotation towards feminism and a strong, dominant connotation in regards to masculinity. Walt Disney Films is a major culprit of enforcing false gender roles and aids in continuing the cycle by introducing gender roles to young children.
Disney princesses, individuals who are supposed to be role models for young girls, have been dressed with many common stereotypes about women. All the princesses have long hair, a small waist, and big breasts. Their bodies are incredibly unproportional and represent a minute amount of the population. Snow White would have been a size double zero, in a time when the average woman was an eight. Many, if not all, use their sexuality to win their prince. They are generally passive, weak, and act as servants. They lack ambition, or are made an outcast due to their ambition. Lastly, beauty is the main priority of each of them. Alternatively, princes are shown as strong and dominant. They are generally rich, first class citizens, that have big muscles and nice hair. The men in disney films fit into three different categories: Dumb/fat comic relief, evil/creepy villains, or charming prizes. The princes are usually accompanied by a sidekick who foils the prince. The sidekick is fatter, weaker, and more feminine. This also makes femininity seem subordinate to masculinity.
The Little Mermaid tells the story of Ariel, a mermaid who dreams of finding her prince on the land. Ariel is willing to do anything to make her prince fall in love with her, she even turns to the evil sea witch, Ursula. Ariel gives up her beautiful voice in order to have legs, this teaches girls that their physical appearance is more important than their ability to be heard. Ariel is also willing to leave behind her family, and everyone she loves in the search of a man. Ursula acts as another voice of gender stereotypes through her song, Poor Unfortunate Souls. In this song Ursula tells Ariel that she doesn’t need her voice to make a man love her. She says, “You’ll have your looks, your pretty face. And don’t underestimate the importance of body language. The men up there don’t like a lot of blabber. They think a girl who gossips is a bore! Yes on land it’s much preferred for ladies not to say a word… It’s she who holds her tongue who get’s a man.” Overall, The Little Mermaid teaches young girls that they must be quiet and beautiful in order to get a man, rather than simply being themselves.
In opening scene to Mulan, Mulan is being prepared to see a matchmaker, and the song Honor To Us All starts. This songs teaches girls that women must be submissive and thin, through the lyrics, “Men want girls with good taste. Calm, Obedient, Who work fast-paced. With good breeding and a tiny waist… We must serve our emperor, a man by bearing arms, a girl by bearing sons.” This song also suggests that a woman's sole purpose is to have children. The movie also expresses that women must be obedient towards men through the line, “You would do well to teach your daughter to hold her tongue in a man’s presence.” Additionally, the song A Girl Worth Fighting For, states that men want women that idolize them. When Mulan suggests “How ‘bout a girl who’s got a brain. Who always speaks her mind?” the men instantly reply, “Nah!” Overall, Mulan reinforces the idea that a woman must be obedient and inferior to the men in their lives.
Hercules gives an insight on the effect of gender roles towards men. Hercules is expected to be brave and save the day. This immense pressure is put on all of the ‘princes’ in disney films. The men must be strong, charming, and rescue the princess. This is a nearly impossible task that young men see and attempt to follow. In regards to Meg, Disney manages to sexualize a cartoon character. Meg has a very sultry appearance, she has an impossibly tiny waist, her hips swing excessively, and hercules swoons instantly. She seduces him with her sultry actions and attitudes. Although Meg tries to hide it, she is yet another Damsel in Distress who needs a man to rescue her.
Overall, Disney films portray women as weak, inferior, and dependent and make men seem as though they must be muscular, brave, and save the day. Women appear as objects rather than people, and young girls are taught that their main priority in life is to find a man. This inhibits independence in women, and encourages men to be possessive and dominant rather than loving. Disney makes feminism seem weak and foolish. As a culture, we must learn to differentiate between one’s sex and gender, and end the unreasonable stereotyping of men and women.
The Appeals of the End of the World
By Siena Sockel
The post-apocalyptic genre has become very popular in the twenty-first century. The backbone of the genre starts with a world altering disaster, as opposed to ending with one. Said disaster is almost always possible in our own realities, and the characters who live either through or after the disaster are realistic, too. Human beings, as a species, are curious, but there are limits to how far we can explore our curiosities. Post-apocalyptic media is a safe outlet in which we can play with the idea of the end of the world. The Fallout franchise is a prime example.
Fallout takes place in a universe alternate from ours; a universe where the Cold War continued to the point of a two hour nuclear war that destroyed nearly all life on Earth. The objectives of each of the Fallout games differs, but all take place in the wasteland of America after the war. Separate factions rule the wasteland, which is populated by survivors from different safe houses called vaults. There is no established national government, laws, or authority, and the currency is bottlecaps. Mutated animals and humans are everywhere. The wasteland is an incredibly dangerous place to live in.
One of Fallout’s most famous components are the vaults made by the in game company, Vault Tec. The vaults were made with the intention of being massive fallout shelters able to house entire communities in the incident of nuclear disaster. Very few survived the disaster because of the scarcity of these vaults, as well as the events that transpired amongst those who made it to the vaults. Unknown to everyone except Vault Tec was the true purpose of the vaults: to conduct experiments on the vaults’ population. Each experiment was conducted in a different vault, and each with the intention of bettering the post apocalyptic human race. The concept of being locked underground with a mad scientist in charge is absolutely terrifying, just like the thought of a nuclear holocaust is terrifying. So why is a game like Fallout so popular?
Philosopher Eugene Thacker describes this phenomenon in his books After Life and the Philosophy of Horror. He describes how the idea of a world without us humans disturbs us; how bizarre and believable an alternate reality can be. Thacker writes about how mystery and the incomprehensive create a sensation of fear in us, but it could be said that with the fear comes our curiosity. Things that we don’t understand are risky, but our curiosity leads us to take that risk. Post-apocalyptic media, especially role play games like Fallout, enable us to explore that which we don’t understand in a world disconnected to ours and without consequence.
Male Gaze in Advertising
By Rachel Hetzler
Male gaze is a term to describe how women are portrayed through the view of a heterosexual male. Male gaze often portrays women as objects that should be used for the pleasure of men. One form of media that depicts women as objects is advertisments. Multiple advertisements sexualize women to help their product sell.
When companies try to get you to buy their product they all use a similar message. If they are trying to sell the product to men they use a message along the lines of ‘Buy the product, get the girl.’ If Company A is trying to sell a car they would use a “good looking’ woman to be the face of the advertisement. This appeals to men because they now have the idea that if they have that car they could get the girl that they want.
When Company B wants to sell a product to a woman, such as make up, the use a very similar message of “buy the product to become like the girl so you can get your man.” This encourages women to view themselves through the male gaze of the camera. Women often strive to be the recipients of a man's attention. Imagine a picture of a lady walking down the sidewalk in a nice dress. Sitting on the curb is a group of men looking at her. When men see this picture they will be encouraged to look at other women the way the men on the curb are looking at her. When a lady sees the image they begin to get the idea that if they had that dress they would become the ones receiving the attention.
These concepts brings in the common modern marketing phrase “sex sells”.
One company that is infamous for sexualizing women in an ad is Dolce and Gabbana. They released an ad in 2007 that has recently sparked controversy. It shows 3 men looking on as a shirtless man pins down woman who is wearing a swimsuit and heels. Many have suggested that the ad portrays gang rape and have begun to boycott Dolce and Gabbana’s clothing line.
Another company that sexualizes their product is popchips. One of their ads has Katy Perry holding two bags of their potato chips at her chest. The caption of the advertisement is “nothing fake about ‘em.” This shows how the company is more focused on selling Katy Perry than their product. They sexualized their product instead of selling how good the product tastes and how good the potato chips are.
A majority of the male gaze in ads is demonstrated through three views. The first view is the camera. In television ads the camera will pan up and down a woman's body and zoom in on the sexualized parts. The second view is the view of the spectators. This shows how others are constantly looking at the woman and commenting on her appearance. The last view is through the women themselves. The women in modern ads are clearly dressed to attract the looks of others.
Bioshock Infinite and American Exceptionalism
By Joseph Brentjens
In 2013 Irrational Games released the third installment in the Bioshock series: Bioshock Infinite. The game takes place in the floating city of Columbia. The city (whose name is a reference to the American Capital) shares many parallels with American history including American Exceptionalism, the political justification that the city of Columbia runs on. American Exceptionalism is shown through the game in many aspects including manifest destiny and the Us and Them mentality and even plain theocracy.
American exceptionalism is an idea that has always somewhat revolved around religion. One of the main ideas that has been present throughout history (not just the founding of America) was manifest destiny. The idea that a person or a group of people is entitled to land through the will of god. This is very apparent in Bioshock Infinite as the inhabitants of Columbia deem the city as their right through the will of god and not to anyone else. Throughout the game you hear talk of “the sodom below” referencing the old life and mainland. The citizens claim to have escaped the unrighteous ways of the so called “sodom” and that Columbia is the land for the people of God. This is very apparent as well in our own American culture. When establishing America many saw it as God’s land for God’s chosen people. When we discovered that the land was already inhabited, we decided to take the land by force. Philosopher Frantz Fanon discussed this in his work The Wretched of the Earth. In this he mentions how settlers take from the natives and don’t consider them as humans, merely animals. “At time this Manicheism goes to its logical conclusion and dehumanizes the native, or so to speak plainly it turns him into an animal.” This gets into another aspect of American Exceptionalism: The Us and Them Mentality.
The Us and Them Mentality is the thought process that is used many times as a means of justification by saying that it is us versus them. There is no shortage of this mentality throughout history. The Nazi Party used it in order to rise to power, and America has even used it as well in racial segregation and in justifying stealing land and resources from natives. It is also very prevalent in Bioshock Infinite. Throughout the game you come across segregated areas and slaves used by the Colombian citizens. They are clearly treated poorly and you see many other blatant examples of racism, not the least of which is a public humiliation of a racial couple and the worship of John Wilkes Booth. This terrible treatment of other races leads to an anarchist group known as the Vox Populi rise to power. The Vox Populi (voice of the people) is a group made to end the terrible treatment of the people in Columbia. This leads to an all out war between Zachary Comstock (leader of Columbia) and Daisy Fitzroy (leader of the Vox Populi.) Both of these two groups rely on Us and Them to justify what they are doing and convince people to join their cause. Comstock claims the Vox is a group set on turning Columbia into a anarchy ridden land with no reason while Fitzroy claims that the entirety of Columbia is a racist city that will never stop oppressing others and their basic rights. In spite of who is right or wrong they both use this mentality to justify their war and actions.
In conclusion the game Bioshock Infinite draws influence from American Exceptionalism in many big ways. Its city of Columbia is full of references to the ideal process behind American Exceptionalism and even draws from real life influences. In the end it shows the darker side of this political justification and helps the player gain an understanding of American Exceptionalism.
A Song of Misogyny and Feminism
By Katiemarie McGilvery
Game of Thrones, the television series premiering on HBO is an adaptation of the book series A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin and has been largely popular and successful through its six seasons. Due to its graphic nature and large character base, the show has created a controversial debate. Is the show rooted in feminism where the female characters are conquering the show and displaying feminist values? Or rather is the show exploiting women’s sexuality and giving into tropes.
Never has there been quite so many notable female characters dictating the story line as there are in Game of Thrones. The Bechdel test has been blown away by Game of Thrones and many characters portray strong personalities. Arya Stark and Brienne of Tarth both possess fighting skills, better than some men in the series, Cersei Lannister, Daenerys Targaryen, and Margaery Tyrell are perfect examples of women in power, and Sansa Stark has made a terrific transformation from ditzy pawn to confident strategist.
However, despite how empowering the strong female characters in GoT are, it might be time to take notice that this is just another trope in the opposite role. Women have gone from “damsel in distress” to “strong female” trope ignoring the need to develop female characters the way male characters are. In giving women this one-dimensional outline, the show still ignores poststructural feminism in which women should have a strength of their own and not strength typically associated with masculinity, as this continues to portray feminity as bad.
Another aspect of Game of Thrones that is being criticized, is of course, the nudity. Some say that this is an unnecessary exploitation of the human body but from a feminist view, the body is natural and showing it is not objectifying, if it is done with equality. Female genitals are the only ones to appear on screen due to the male gaze. Game of Thrones is filmed with the men in mind and shows only what they want. This is despite the fact that many point of view characters in the series are female and yet there are close to no male genitals shown. The only glimpses of male bodies shown are also from the male gaze, the gay male gaze. This emphasis on gaze shows that the target demographic is men and does not offer women the same experience when watching the show. If the show is uncomfortable with showing men’s bodies, how are women’s bodies any different?
Going hand in hand with nudity on the show, are the issues of the depiction of sexual assault in the series. The writers for the show David Benioff and D. B. Weiss, have been criticized for using rape as a lazy plot device. Jill Pantozzi, writer for the website The Mary Sue ( a website that has stopped promoting Game of Thrones), argued that having a character who is already a survivor go through the situation does nothing for the story, only for shock value. Pantozzi references the cases of Cersai whom has been raped before and Sansa who had escaped an abusive relationship already. Most of these criticisms are directly related to the show as they deviate from the book, changing the way the viewers relate to the story, and forcing some, such as The Mary Sue to quit watching altogether.
As the show moves forward into a new season, it is important for the writers and the viewers to evaluate the messages that Game of Thrones is putting out. It is also important to consider what this means for society and what we are willing to deal with just for entertainment.
Devolution of Language
By Hannah Pearl
Like any other language, the language of emojis is a metaphor. We think that the definition of a word is the truth of the essence of that word, but in reality we cannot have a “correct perception” of a thing. According to Friedrich Nietzsche, truths are merely illusions which we have forgotten are illusions, metaphors which we have forgotten are metaphors. We define things in relation to humans and according to our perception of things, not in light of what they actually are. Therefore, each word, each description of a thing, is a metaphor, and these words together, which are collectively called a language, must also be a metaphor. However, emojis differ from auxiliary languages in that it is universal. It in a sense combines many different languages, and it is thus a metaphor of all other languages, a metaphor of a metaphor. For this reason, it must be even more basic and unevolved than spoken languages.
In his work On Truth and Lies in a Nonmoral Sense, Friedrich Nietzsche says that human intellect does not have as much value as we believe it does: “For this intellect has no additional mission which would lead it beyond human life. Rather, it is human, and only its possessor and begetter takes it so solemnly-as though the world's axis turned within it.” We like to believe that we know things and that our perception is the “correct perception.” However, there is no correct perception. Instead we measure things not based on their essence but based on their relation to us. This is true especially in the language of emojis. For example, one emoji depicts a cat with tears running down its face even though cats do not actually cry. We impose our humanity on them because we like to believe that we are at the center of everything. We see everything that exists as something only in relation to us. The rest of the world must metamorphose into our idea of what the world is like. We know that cats cannot actually cry and no one would formally write about a crying cat or say it aloud in an auxiliary language, yet it exists in the language of emojis. Thus, emojis must be less sophisticated and unable to convey as much as spoken languages. It cannot convey as much because it is more basic. The real question, however, is why the language of emojis seems so much more basic than any other language today.
Nietzsche may pose an answer to this question when he writes that between two different spheres “there is, at most, an aesthetic relation: … a suggestive transference, a stammering translation into a completely foreign tongue-for which there is required, in any case, a freely inventive intermediate sphere and mediating force.” In pop culture, this translation or intermediate sphere between languages is the language of emojis. This explains why it is so “stammering” and not very sophisticated. It is universal, but in order for it to be this way, it must be able to connect all the languages. It tries to mediate between all the languages but it cannot do this with much ease. Everyone must be able to understand it, which is hard because the population and languages are so diverse. The crying cat, however, would be universally known as an emoji with a sad connotation because all humans cry. In order to be universal it must be as basic as possible. The metaphor that is the emoji language cannot be as intricate, but must instead be simple so that it can actually be universal. It is easier for people to click on the laughing emoji rather than to tell the other person that he or she is laughing. The language may be easier to use, but this does not necessarily mean that it is better.
Nietzsche proposes the idea that “every concept arises from the equation of unequal things.” This applies to languages as well. Each language is a separate concept in a sense and the language of emojis tries to equate all languages, which are already concepts in themselves, and which are all unequal. For example, there are words that exist in some languages which do not exist in others. Some languages are more developed than others, too. Trying to fit unequal physical things (such as animals) into a category is difficult enough, but creating a concept out of many separate concepts which already exist means that you must simplify very complex ideas. This conceptualization lowers the quality of the thing be conceptualized, which, in this case, is language. It groups things which are not the same and makes them the same, thus lessening the individuality of those things. Like on an evolutionary tree, the many branches symbolize all the different languages, but instead of all of those languages branching out into more languages and evolving even more, they are all being interwoven into one new language which must be simplified on a grand scale.
For this reason, the language of emojis is not a step forward but rather a step backward in the evolution of languages.
Tyler, the Creator is our future
By Crystian DeMonbreun
Tyler, the Creator, or otherwise just known as Tyler, is a very well rounded artist. The music aspect includes his own music and a collaborative group of hip-hop artists who go by “Odd Future Wolf Gang Kill Them All” AKA “Odd Future” AKA “Wolf Gang” AKA “OF”, produced by the Odd Future recording label (founded by Tyler in 2011). OF includes Earl Sweatshirt, Frank Ocean, Domo Genesis, Casey Veggies, Mike G, and many young and upcoming artists. Along with creating music, he directs music videos while using his alter-ego “Wolf Haley”. Tyler is also an apparel designer, which he creates and releases through the “Golf Wang” (a play on “Wolf Gang”) franchise of his own. He releases a new wave of clothing every two seasons of every year. Tyler, in general, is one of the most open minded, modern artists in the twenty first century.
Hegel, a nineteenth century German philosopher who had a major influence on modern western culture, mainly studied art. Hegel believed that all art was a way for our consciousness to express itself, and he believed that our consciousness represented the moral purposes and truths of humanity. But he argued that if we look at past generations as a role model for our newest artistry, we will not progress. If we look at Tyler, and translate his creations, we find many subliminal references to atheism, ending all discrimination, liberality, and many other left wing ideals. This is important because Hegel believed that the youngest artists had the most accurate and relevant ideas. Tyler is a perfect example of Hegel’s theory, as he is a very young and upcoming artist who expresses his ideas much more freely than most young artists. He has stated multiple times that he is not heavily influenced by past musicians except for Pharell, who had a very similar look on art. Tyler is absolutely against being boxed into any genre of music. He even started a funk/rock band so he wouldn't just be considered a rapper. Tyler says, “I live in my own head and it all makes sense to me”, “I just try to tell people to think for themselves”, and “ I ain't never gonna bow down to your expectations”.
In conclusion, Hegel believes that art is the future. And who better to use as an example than the leader of a music group named Odd Future?
Jean-Paul Sartre and Aristotle : Our Connection to Art and How We Feel it
By Tatiana Wolf
Sartre thinks that our experience of art involves using our imagination to bring into being the aesthetic object, which is essentially unreal. The aesthetic object we see on a canvas for instance is not a real object. It is separate from the canvas, the colors and brush strokes used to make it. Only through our imagination can the real pieces come together to show us the aesthetic object represented there. Aristotle’s views are complementary to Sartre’s because
Aristotle thought the purpose of art was to allows us to experience “catharsis, a purification or purging of emotions.” The catharsis is a way to experience emotions and deal with them without having something horrible actually happen.
Everyone has had that experience where a piece of art, music, literature, or film has spoken to you. Where you are so wrapped up in a character's story it feels like your own. For me one such book that captured my heart, mind, and imagination was The Iron Fey series.”The series follows 16 year old Meghan Chase as she discovers she is half human, half faery and a daughter of the Summer Fey King Oberon.The Faery realms have always weathered the clash of Summer and Winter Fey, the Seelie and Unseelie Courts. Now a new breed of faery has emerged to challenge both... to their peril. Forged by Man's insatiable pursuit of technological superiority, the terrifying Iron fey are massing...and the fate of all faeries hangs in the balance. The greatest weapon in this epic magical war? A half-human teenage girl. Meghan must battle against the Iron Realm as it approaches, the fey of technology and science, who threaten the survival of the Nevernever, while falling in love with Prince Ash of the Unseelie Court.” For this book to have captivated me, as i'm sure you have at one point been captivated by a piece of art. Involves our imagination. We take ourselves, whatever experiences and background we have and insert ourselves into the main character's mind. We learn to live in that world separate from our own through our imagination, which brings it to life around us. And allows us to more deeply empathize with the character.
This imagination and the experience we bring with us are what allow catharsis to be so fulfilling. when we read a good book such as The Iron Fey, we can be upset for our character. For example, when in the series Meghan has to send Ash away from her so that he will survive. Now remember how you felt in real life before you picked up the book and entered another world. Were you sad, frustrated, or angry? Well, any emotions those or others will lend to differences in how you perceived the moment, and how fierce your reaction is to what is going on in the world of the book. That has been brought to life by your imagination. In the example above I felt the sorrow and challenge of the character especially heavily because I had been sad right before I started reading, a different time when reading the book i was angry at the bad guy who made it necessary for such actions because I had been angry before reading. In both cases the book gave me an outlet for these emotions that wasn't harmful to me or others. In this way catharsis is a great thing it allows us to process our emotions in a healthy way.
Finally, we all know that experience of resurfacing after being engaged in a book for hours or even just minutes undisturbed. A feeling that is heaviest when you finish a book or a series. When you look up and see just how much or little time has passed, and feel foggy and out of place in your own world. Sartre calls this waking up because he considers aesthetic contemplation like a dream and coming back to the real like waking up. Sartre explains the discomfort and disorientation of ‘waking up’ with the idea that we don’t really want to return, even if the ‘dream’ was harsh and scary, because the real is never beautiful. To Sartre beauty can only be applied to the imaginary.
Imagination and Art: Jean-Paul Sartre, The Psychology of Imagination page 739 - 744 in Western Philosophy by John Cottingham
The Nature and Function of Dramatic Art: Aristotle, Poetics page 701-705, Western Philosophy by John Cottingham
Below are links to where I got the description for the series
Appropriation and Orientalism in the Fashion Industry
By Brandi Martin
Orientalism comes from the Western world viewing the Eastern world as exotic and mysterious, imposing potentially harmful stereotypes on Eastern culture. These representations are often misleading, founded on unreliable knowledge and inspiring incorrect ideas of the Eastern world. With the West’s desire to understand and be in control of all other cultures comes cultural appropriation. Cultural appropriation is defined as the adoption of elements of a certain culture by a more globally prevalent culture with false assumption of implied mutual consent for this taking. This allows dominant cultures to force an assimilation or acculturation of certain treasure symbols and traditions which belonged to the adopted culture. So cultural appropriation happens when major fashion labels, such as Prada, use the traditional styles of an exotic continent to create a dress for a white person to wear on a runway.
The problem comes with using the fabrics and designs of a person of color, but silencing the person of color by giving their story to a white person to tell. Too often, fashion is not mindful at all, taking other people’s stories without giving them a chance to tell them. It seems that the fashion industry believes that a style will only be appealing if adorning white skin. The tendency to regard the Other as a stranger is a constant that results in the discomfort with seeing other races as a norm. Furthermore, the tendency to reject otherness by projecting it exclusively onto outsiders, and to refuse to acknowledge ourselves as others, appears invariable. The United States is rich with diversity, but the fashion industry refuses to consider white to be an Other. The beauty and fashion industry manifests a specific conception of beauty and taste, a particular understanding of what should be pleasing to people, and adheres firmly to that idea.
When fashion attempts to represent other cultures, it is more oft than not ignorant and inconsiderate to the cultures it is “honoring”. For example, a tribal-inspired collection is released, with fashion journalists praising the “Africa-themed” collection, ignoring the fact that Africa is a continent with many different traditions, cultures, and styles. This form of appropriation flattens the myriad of cultures that designers steal from, and mythologises them as an exotic Other, regardless of inaccuracies of representation.
We can look to the 2015 Met Gala, with the theme of China: Through the Looking Glass. The event was a medley of stereotypical Asian trends, yet the fact that so few bothered to seek out Chinese designers is the most disconcerting fact. When stereotypical styles from mistaken white designers precede authentic designs of Native people, the story is being stolen from those who deserve to tell it. The persistent Western appropriation of cultural tropes perpetuates fallacies about a population that is already treated as an "other" with Western society. This matters, especially when Chinese culture is located in a specific historical context that also includes a history of Western intrusion and Imperialism, while Chinese individuals or Chinese-Americans still face racial discrimination in this country. The mysterious world constructed by Western perception to sell products has preceded the importance of an accurate and portrayal of the Eastern World. As Said said, the Eastern world is “being structured into a myth prefabricated for Western use.”
On the surface, fashion, like other forms of art, can be seen as a powerful mediator of cultural diplomacy, translating the aesthetics of one nation to people in distant lands who would not necessarily think about that part of the world. The fashion industry must learn to appreciate other cultures without seeing them as an exotic and fetishizable Other. Rather than using appropriation for indiscriminate profit, the fashion world could use cultural appreciation as a way for intercultural dialogue. Fashion must shake itself of its ignorant slumber and fully realize its collective reach, and act more responsibly when it comes to race and cultural appropriation.