All posts by aelar

Hope and Fertility

      The movie Children of Men had some very interesting parallels to the Handmaid’s Tale. Both societies have become infertile, but society’s outlook is very different. In the Handmaid’s Tale, the people maintain some hope of having children. Through religion, they continue to have faith in the possibility of having children. Societal restructures occur so that there is a system to put your faith in – the system of handmaids and wives, promising a better future for all children. Obviously, not all characters maintain this outlook, as we see through Offred’s point of view, but even she does carry some hope that life will improve, especially for the sake of her lost daughter.

      On the other hand, in the film Children of Men, the people of the world have generally run out of hope. They have no children left to hope for; there is no remaining reason to wish for a better society because there is no next generation. Governments have fallen entirely, and we are given the impression that while the rest of the world is in total anarchy, “Britain soldiers on.” It’s an interesting choice of words considering that there is definitely a huge military presence in the country.

      The lack of hope is definitely a continued theme throughout the film. The viewer is left with a certain sense of nostalgia, from Julian reminiscing about the “good ol’ days” with Theo to the song on the radio from “way way back in 2003, before people knew that the future was right around the corner.” But this nostalgia vanishes quickly alongside the hope. As Jasper says when talking about Dylan’s death, “faith lost out to chance. So why bother if life’s going to make its own choices?”

      The desperation in Children of Men dims at the thought of Kee’s pregnancy and baby, but even the presence of the infant isn’t enough to stop the fighting permanently. The world has been totally ruined, it seems, because the Uprising is intent on destroying the political forces of Britain. It’s as if the world is too destroyed for anything to be done to resurrect the hope for a brighter future. Most people believe the Human Project to be a myth, but Kee is able to maintain her faith because she must – she has to try for her baby.

      Overall, it’s not a lighthearted message that Children of Men is telling. The film implies that the only reason humans are able to have faith and keep working to improve society is because they want things to be better for their children. Without any hope of kids remaining, the world falls apart. It’s the faith and hope that keeps society running, but the total lack of hope leads to anarchy. Children of Men is a conceivable conclusion to the story in the Handmaid’s Tale ­– it’s the story of a world that no longer has any faith in institutions to help them, because no institution can bring back children. 

Judging a Book by its Cover: Physical Image in Frankenstein and Beauty and the Beast

At the risk of only comparing our readings to Disney, I found some similarities between Frankenstein by Mary Shelley and Beauty and the Beast.  Though the stories of the monster and the Beast’s creations differ greatly, their lives are markedly similar. Both are cast off from society and forced to live in isolation. Humans are afraid of them because of their unnatural appearance.

Shelley’s monster first discovers that he is different one day when he sees himself in a clear pool. His difference from Felix, Agatha, and the old man troubles him because he wants to be just like the family that he has grown to care so much about. He quickly makes the connection, however, that his looks are why the man in the first hut and the people in the village ran away.

Knowing that his appearance will cause his isolation, the monster hides himself from all people for the year, all the while watching Felix and the family. He learns to speak alongside Safie and is quite well-spoken (though admittedly, his words are told through Robert Walton’s explanation of Victor Frankenstein’s story, who is recounting what the monster said). Still, the monster’s interest in Paradise Lost and his analysis of it indicate a certain level of education and intelligence.

Thus, Frankenstein’s monster is an intelligent creature whose only act of violence (that we know of thus far) was in frustration and anger at the way he was treated. The Beast in the 1991 animated Disney film was less tamed, and his behaviors were similar to that of an untamed animal. He lashes out at Maurice and knows little of human nature.

Alternately, in the original Grimm’s fairy tale (which can be read here), the Beast is similarly eloquent. In fact, when the Beast asked Beauty if she thought he was ugly, she responds in the affirmative but then adds “but I believe you are very good natured.” The Beast, in spite of his short fuse (for he does lash out at Belle’s father when he tries to take a rose from his garden), seems to have a good education.

Of course, that education is due to his status as a prince, and his temper, like Frankenstein’s monster, is likely due to the discrimination against him. Still, it makes me wonder: both pieces were published in the early 1800’s. In both works, it’s clear that there was at least some understanding that appearance was a poor judge of character and that unjust persecution can alter a man’s character for the worse. Why, then, does our society still value beauty and image so much? It’s been over 200 years since the message was published in these two rather popular works of fiction. Why do we scorn those who are different?

(I apologize for my second Disney reference. I promise to try and mature my tastes before the fourth journal entry.)

The Convent of Pleasure and Disney’s Frozen

            In the Convent of Pleasure, the protagonist gets fed up with society and runs away from it. She inherited a large sum of money and is being sought after for her wealth by prospective husbands. More than that, however, she is beautiful and as the character 1 Gent says “Faith, that is too much for one Woman to possess.” Not too much for a man, obviously, so he’ll take her money and leave her beauty. How chivalrous of him!

            Lady Happy wants none of this. “Should I take delight in Admirerers? They might gaze on my Beauty, and praise my Wit, and I receive nothing from their eyes, nor lips, for Words vanish as soon as spoken and Sights are not substantial.” She decides to run away and leave this society, but finds that religious escapes are worthless because God doesn’t care about these nuns and their sacrifices. Lady Happy wants to hide from the troubles of the world and enjoy the happiness and pleasures of it. In this incloisterment, she and the other ladies celebrate their freedom from responsibility and burden of both husband and child. They speak of their freedom from having to bend to another’s will and answer to his commands.

            This past weekend I saw the movie Frozen, and given the snowy state on campus today, the songs have been stuck in my head. One song in particular, “Let It Go,” seems applicable to Lady Happy’s actions. In Frozen, the queen Elsa exiles herself from her kingdom because she has been found out to be a sorcerer and the whole kingdom is after her. She’s lived her whole life hiding her talents at the will of her parents and has not been allowed to truly live. She runs away to escape from the burdens of expectation and hiding. “It’s funny how some distance makes everything seem small / And the fears that once controlled me can’t get to me at all,” she sings as she walks up a mountain. Like Lady Happy, she’s exiling herself so that she can live her life the way she wants to without having to worry about other people.

I can just see it now – a duet between Elsa and Lady Happy as they belt “A kingdom of isolation / and it looks like, I’m the queen.” Unfortunately for both of them, isolation doesn’t provide the reprieve they seek because Lady Happy falls in love with a woman and Elsa returning to her kingdom because of her love for her sister. But at least she got a sweet solo out of it.

Sonnet 3 – A Plea for Progeny

Shakespeare’s Sonnet 3 is especially interesting when considered in light of the other poems we’ve read this week. While those poems were propositions, in which the voice was trying to convince his beloved to have sex, this one is the other way around. The voice is trying to talk someone into fathering a child.

“Look in thy glass and tell the face thou viewest / Now is the time that face should form another.”  The voice is essentially saying that it’s time to man up and have a baby. Later, he clarifies that the problem is that he is “so fond” of “the tomb / of his self-love.” The man is so self-enamored and selfish that he doesn’t want to have a child.  It’s a very different story than was told previously, when it was the woman who was refusing. Granted, we don’t know that the man in Sonnet III is remaining chaste, but at the very least, he’s using some decent Shakespearean birth control.

The voice uses the man’s narcissism against him, however, by saying that having a child would perpetuate his own image. Again, it’s the opposite of what you’d expect – the baby would not be born out of love, but vanity. In fact, the mother of the child isn’t even mentioned here, except to say that she can’t be so beautiful not to want to carry the man’s son. There is no beloved here.

It’s certainly not what I normally think of when I think of pregnancy. In fact, Shakespeare calls the process renewal. It’s the start of a new life, but also the regeneration of the old lives. Without this,  you’re “remember’d not to be” and “thine image dies with thee.” Without a child, there is no way to remember “thy golden time.” Sonnet 3 isn’t only a plea for a child to carry on the family features, but also a plea for somebody to remember (and thus value) the father’s time on earth.