All posts by cmd42

Humans Always Turn to Violence (Warning, this is depressing)

Children of Men is an extremely dark movie about the effects of the impending end to humanity.  With essentially no reproduction, other than the birth of baby Dylan, the world has become a den of violence and destruction. After watching this movie, I stopped to consider if there are any real world examples of low reproduction and violence. Upon my researching, I found the CIA’s ranking of infant mortality rateS but also the highest fertility rates tend to be those countries with extreme violence. Taking this in consideration with the plot of Children of Men, one can not help but wonder whether there is some kind of correlation between the two.

In the opening scenes of the movie, we immediately become aware of the deterioration of “First World” society and the random acts of violence being committed. Immigrants are being forced into cages and sent to horrible prisons where they are subjected to terrible treatment and have to struggle to stay alive. When we think about the world today, there is not much difference. Though we live in the “First World” where we are still subjected to random acts of violence, we still imprison immigrants and some refugees (to a lesser extent than the movie), and we still leave those we deem lesser or other than ourselves to struggle to survive, whether in our own country or in others. This movie is only set 13 years from now, and to be honest it might not be much of a stretch to think that we could turn to such violence if reproductions stops.

One of Children of Men’s  main characters, Kee, is a young refugee that is pregnant with the first child to be born in 18 years. The implications of her race and nationality are extremely significant. She is living in a time where refugees are discriminated against and treated like animals. She is very young and has little autonomy over her existence; whether it is being led and controlled by The Fishes or by Theo. We also know that after Theo’s death, she is only left to turn to the guidance of the (suspected) Human Project. In juxtaposition to modern society, we yet again see so many similarities. In countries like Niger, Afghanistan, Burundi, Democratic Republic of the Congo there is war, rape, and turmoil, but also the world’s highest fertility rates. There are often many young women of color, living in times of immense struggle, violence, and turmoil, and faced with the task of trying to bear and take care of their children in such an environment. Sadly, those high fertility rates occur also the death of many of those newly born children. When we think of the fact that Kee is a young African refugee and the fact that she will be bringing the first child into the world after 18 years, it amplifies the uncertainty of her and Dylan’s futures and the possible political and social effects that will ensue.

I do not know where I was really going with this journal entry, but I do think that Children of Men magnifies several of the problems that we have today. Immigration issues, race issues, and class issues, are portrayed in this film exemplified by Theo’s cousin who easily says how he just does not think about the horrors happening in the world, while he lives in his large and opulent home. This movie demonstrates how we are all so very dependent on reproduction, even if we do not realize it. Our politics, economics, religions, etc. are all determined by the human ability to continue to go on. At the same time, it also shows how the advent of birth, the production of new hope, brings peace, hope, and faith to people, even those people who are killing each other viciously. That being said, the lives of people living in countries like Burundi, Afghanistan, and Democratic Republic of the Congo have to watch as their symbols of hope die away. Living a life like that certainly could make one turn to violence.

Who is to blame?

Frankenstein by Mary Shelley is quite a disturbing novel. All the creation of life from old body parts, monsters, and death aid in creating this effect. Shelley has several themes circulating throughout this book, but I find the themes of creation and guilt perplexing, especially in how they relate to each other. I understand Victor’s guilt over the murder of his brother and the wrongful execution of Justine, due to the fact that he created a monster that led to both of their deaths. However, I never thought about the religious connotations surrounding this guilt. I did not realize that there was a possible connection between creation, life, death, and guilt until I watched one of my FAVORITE  Youtube subscriptions, Thug Notes.* The creator of this Youtube channel, Sparky Sweets, PhD. gives unconventional summaries and analyses of various pieces of literature. As it turns out, Sparky made a video on Frankenstein, which I watched of course. Towards the end of Sparky’s video he mentions the religious references in Shelley’s book and whether the fault lies with the monster or his creator.

Revisiting chapters 5, 7, and 9 I found several instances of Victor’s guilt. The first disturbing instance occurs in chapter 5, shortly after the creation of the monster. Victor imagines seeing Elizabeth, kissing her, and then her turning into the decaying and worm ridden body of his mother. Gross. Shortly thereafter, Victor falls ill with a terrible fever, obviously a result of massive amounts of fear, stress, and GUILT. The guilt that Victor feels stems from the creation of the horrifying living corpse and from the realization that he has neglected his family in Geneva. The neglect of his family is emphasize by the dream of dead Elizabeth and his dead mother and then the appearance of Henry Clerval whose “presence brought back to [his] thoughts [his] father, Elizabeth, and all those scenes of home so dear to [his] recollection.”

The next instance occurs in chapter 7, when Victor realizes that his monster has (supposedly) murdered his younger brother William and then that Justine is being tried for his murder. Once more Victor goes through some violent bodily reactions, “I shuddered at the conception…my teeth chattered, and I was forced to lean against a tree for support.” In chapter 8 we learn that Justine is convicted and executed. At the very beginning of chapter 9 Victor expresses his guilt and remorse, “a weight of despair and remorse press on my heart which nothing could remove…I had committed deeds of mischief beyond description horrible.” Victor basically continues to deteriorate physically and mentally from all of the guilt that he feels.

Getting back to Sparky Sweets and the religious overtones present throughout the novel: Going back through the novel I saw several references to Dante’s Inferno, “filthy daemons,” the devil, absolution, God, etc. I firmly believe that Victor is at fault for all of the tragic events that occurred after the creation of the monster. When Sparky Sweets poses the question of whether the fault lies with the monster of his creator, you then have to wonder whether Victor is truly at fault. One could argue that Victor’s loss of his family is a form of punishment from God for trying to imitate Him by creating life. This claim could also be supported the severe illnesses Victor suffers from and his slow mental and physical deterioration. However, the evil that Victor has done is also the product of his own creator, God. Is the monster to blame? No. He’s just a creepy thing made out of dead bodies. What do you expect other than weirdness and death? Is Victor to blame? Yes? But by that same token God is to blame as well…?

*link to the Thug Note video: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=hcApm_xETqI *

Convent of Pleasure: Ironic. Confusing. Gender.

The play Convent of Pleasure by Margaret Cavendish is a comedy filled with role reversals, disguises, irony, and copious amounts of dark humor. We have men portrayed as oversexed and evil men that leave their wives and children poor, hungry, miserable and alone. Then we have women who are unhappy all the time, either in search of a husband or married to one.  This play was an obvious commentary on the social and gendered interactions, behaviors, and expectations of men and women. However, I found that the underlying homoeroticism of the play, and then the sudden demolition of that element was so abrupt. Then again, maybe I am the only person that thinks there was any homoeroticism to begin with (obviously my mind is in the gutter).

At the beginning of Act IV Scene I there is a dialogue between the “Princess” and “Lady Happy.” During this scene, Lady Happy is struggling with the idea of falling in love with a woman. She says to herself, “But why may not I love a Woman with the same affection I could a Man? No, no, Nature is Nature, and still will be. The same she was from all Eternity.” Lady Happy is obviously questioning her sexuality; going back and forth with the ideas of what is natural and what is not. The symbol of nature harkens back to Act I Scene II of the play where Lady Happy discusses her commitment and servitude to Nature. Madam Mediator informs Monsieur Take-pleasure and the Advisor, “Alas Gentlemen!…for she is not a Votress to the gods but to Nature.” Therefore, Lady Happy’s romantic desires for the Princess are against nature, or the social norm where man and woman can only develop desires for each other.

Then the entire situation in Act IV gets more complicated when the Princess decides to dress up as a man, specifically a Shepherd. The “Prince-ss” passes so well as a man, that the other towns people do not suspect a thing during the country dances. At this point in the play we are at this weird moment where the Prince-ss is a woman, pretending to be a man, but is actually a man. As we later find out, the Prince-ss is actually a man, pretending to be a woman, pretending to be a man.The confusion of the gender identities and roles is then adds to Lady Happy’s inner conflict with Nature. Does it now become acceptable for her to fall in love with the Prince-ss because she has the appearance of a man? Or is it still against nature because Lady Happy knows the Shepherd to be a woman? She does not appear to continue her contemplation about nature once her relationship becomes acceptable to the public’s eye.

Everything goes out the window at the end of the play. Any possible ideas about homoeroticism, challenges to Nature, and resistance to the social gender norms  become completely irrelevant when we realize that the Convent of Pleasure was infiltrated by a man, that the convent’s founder has fallen in love with a man and then proceeds to marry him. My question is: What was the point of it all?

Tyler Perry is a Total Shakespeare Wannabe

               Shakespeare’s plays are filled with high drama, intrigue, suspicion, betrayal, sex, and the list goes on. In A Winter’s Tale we have all of these elements. A suspicious husband, a pregnant wife, the supposed lover, illegitimate children, revenge and death! But wait! Within all the angst and anger we have loyalty, trust, devotion, and deep sadness. Funnily enough all of these descriptions can be used to characterize a Tyler Perry movie or play. It makes me wonder to myself, is Perry truly an original or is he just another one of those wannabes claiming things from the 80s, 20s, or in this case the 1500s, as their own. The particular Tyler Perry movie that comes to mind is “The Family That Preys.” This movie includes every description that I gave above.

               One of the many issues that I have when always reading Shakespeare is trying to discern the plot. The language is so difficult to understand that it takes a few reads before I truly understand what is going on. In A Winter’s Tale I found that the stage directions were the only things keeping me a float. However, with Shakespeare’s tough to understand old English, it is often quite easy to know when you have gotten to the juicy parts. By Act II we all know that the drama has begun and this continues through the end of the play. In Act II the number of exclamation points from Leontes increases drastically. Words like honesty, virtue, justice, mercy, and (if you still did not know what was happening) adulteress are thrown around. Hermione calls her husband a villain three times in the same breath. She implores him to see his mistake saying “You did mistake.” All these characters come into the fray and plead for Hermione’s sake. You could only image the large group of yelling people. Then in Act V we have revealed identities, moving statues, and engagements.

               *“The Family That Preys,” a 2008 Tyler Perry production, has much the same situations as Shakespeare’s play, though the plot line is much easier to follow from the beginning. The difference in this story is that the wife turns out to be an actual horrible adulteress with an illegitimate child. Characters in this movie are forced to flee, people are banished from town (so to speak), some die, the wronged are “righted,” and everyone at the end gets their just desserts. You feel sad at the end of the story, but also feel a certain sense of closure and justice. Unlike Shakespeare, it lacks the magic, music, transformations, dancing statues, romance, and happy endings.

               I do have to say that Shakespeare does a much better job with the end. The first reason being there are multiple ends. At the end of Act III all seems to be over, but then you realize that there are two more acts to go. The closure of Act III is so very tragic and sad, but at the same time you feel that Leontes deserved to lose the people that he was so quick to discard. There is a feeling of hope, that the small baby deserves to be cared by others, especially those who might make her happy (one of them is a Clown for goodness sake). Then we have the second happy ending filled with all the joys of resolution, forgiveness, reunion, and love. Tyler Perry and Shakespeare have a talent for creating intrigue and drama, but I have to say, Shakespeare does it so much better.

*Link to info about movie: http://www.imdb.com/title/tt1142798/?ref_=nv_sr_1

Shakespeare vs. Donne vs. Timberlake – Sonnet 129

While reading this poem, I could not help but think to myself that Shakespeare was a completely different man than Donne. His lustful desires cause him to feel ashamed, as well as a host of other dark emotions. In contrast, the poems by Donne that we just read portray a man hungry for sex, that uses any kind of cunning to get his female object of desire to undress and sleep with him (referencing “The Flea” and “Elegy XX”). I find it very interesting that these two poets, these two men, have such completely differing perspectives on lust. John Donne seems to embrace desire and lust, while Shakespeare portrays one filled with darkness and shame. When meshing Donne’s eagerness and Shakespeare’s obsessive problems with lust, I could not help but think of Justin Timberlake’s song “Pusher Love Girl,” in which a man so longs for the “love” of his girl, that his desire is like the need for a variety of illicit and addictive drugs.

“Sonnet 129” surprises me because Shakespeare is not averse to sex or sexual desire, as some of his other poems and plays will demonstrate. Taking this into account, I think his poem is trying to demonstrate the obsession that develops out of lust for sex, not any problems with the act itself. The poet is bothered by the amount of time and energy exhausted on desirous feelings, noted with “the expense of spirit in a waste of shame / is lust in action.” The darkness that occurs in want of “lust in action” is “perjured, murderous, bloody, full of blame, / Savage, extreme, rude, cruel, not to trust.” Even after the lustful act, it is “no sooner but despised straight.” Shakespeare is filled with a complex set of emotions that appear to be fighting one another. It appears that the fixation of lust does not justify sex or the sex does not alleviate any of the dark emotions that occur. This might explain the frustration and anger portrayed in the metaphor of the hunter and “swallow’d bait.”

On the opposite side of the spectrum, there is the cunning John Donne who uses philosophic and metaphysical mind tricks to coax women to sleep with him and undress themselves. There is no sense of shame or darkness in any of his propositions or desires. Instead of Shakespeare’s dark imagery of savagery, murder, blood and cruelty, Donne describes his desire in religious, hopeful, and comedic ways. “Elegy XX – On Mistress Going to Bed” demonstrates this best, using religious and conquesting imagery and ending with a surprising twist. Ironically, while Shakespeare’s sonnet harkens to religious ideals of being chaste, there is no hint or mention of religion, whereas in Donne’s poem “Elegy XX,” religious references are used to bolster his lustful propositions.

Pulling Shakespeare and Donne’s poems together is Justin Timberlake’s “Pusher Love Girl.”* This rather long, but very catchy song describes how much a man is “hopped up on” his love interest. Like Shakespeare, his lustful feelings are obsessive to the point of addiction. The woman or the “lust in action” is  “My [Justin’s] heroine, my cocaine, my plum wine, my MDMA…And I can’t wait ’til I get home to get you in my veins.” I doubt Justin feels any hate or madness after getting his fix. The extended metaphor in “Pusher Love Girl” reminds me very much of the persuasive philosophical techniques that Donne uses to try to woe his love interests. Instead of using a flea, Justin Timberlake uses drugs.

These three men of the Renaissance and of the twenty first century all portray the pull and irresistibility of lust and love. Lust is the source of much pleasure, but also deep emotional upheavals and obsessive and addictive compulsions.

 

*Lyrics to the song can be found at http://www.azlyrics.com/lyrics/justintimberlake/pusherlovegirl.html