All posts by psun49

Cattle and Nudity: Investigating the Pregnancy Reveal in Children of Men

The pregnancy reveal scene in Alfonso Cuarón’s Children of Men (2006) is undeniably crucial: Kee’s child is the glimmer of hope around which the chaos of the film revolves. The presentation, however, is confusing. Why does Kee begin the conversation talking about cow titties? Why is the barn filled with milk cows? Why does Kee decide to disrobe?

Perhaps Kee is simply nervous and so she just starts talking about the first thing that comes to mind. Why, though, are cow titties the first thing that comes to mind? I do not think that there is a ton of significance to this particular choice, but the question she asks is quite fitting: “Why not make machines that suck eight titties, eh?” Even this lighthearted reprieve brings to bear an example of reproductive brutality. The fact that this pivotal scene takes place with the one hope for humanity standing amongst a herd of milk cows makes it seem that the cows, and Kee’s brief commentary on their mistreatment, are indeed important. The reveal could have happened in a basement, in Kee and Miriam’s room, anywhere isolated. Instead it happens in a barn full of milk cows, ready symbols of motherhood and reproduction, and opens with a commentary on their brazen mistreatment. Perhaps this sort of needless cruelty is part of what the film warns against. Extrapolating, perhaps mankind has driven itself to the brink of extinction through its defiance and abuse of nature.

This still leaves the third question unanswered: Why does Kee decide to undress in order to announce her pregnancy? She could have just told Theo, or she could have bared only her stomach. It seems that this detail reinforces the symbolism of the cows and the importance of Kee’s commentary. Immediately after being presented with the unnecessary removal of mammary glands, Theo and the audience are presented with Kee’s naked breasts. Taking the reproductive process for granted by amputating udders simply because the machine only fits four seems ridiculous when juxtaposed with the first working human reproductive system in over a decade. Kee’s nudity, then, taken with the setting and introduction of this very important scene, can reasonably be judged as a warning against reproductive abuse –  as a reminder that humanity is itself dependent upon the process it often defies.

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Chapter XIII: The Monster’s Struggle for Identity

At the end of Chapter XIII, Frankenstein’s monster seems to determine that he (he shall be used for simplicity; she and it are equally valid) is not a man: a monster perhaps, but not a human.

In his narrative to Frankenstein, the monster says, “I learned that the possessions most esteemed by your fellow-creatures were high and unsullied descent united with riches” (109). He seems to distance himself from Frankenstein’s “fellow-creatures” by his use of your as opposed to our. Perhaps this separation is self-imposed: the monster explains that he has no knowledge of his descent and further no possessions, so certainly no value if graded by the human rubric. As he goes on to note that he “is not even of the same nature as man,” however, it becomes clear that he would prefer to be one with mankind even if it meant being the very bottom rung. Although the differences he lists are in his favor – he is more agile, durable, and imposing in stature – this is not a happy epiphany: “Oh, that I had for ever remained in my native wood, nor known nor felt beyond the sensations of hunger, thirst, and heat!” Once again he is set apart from man by his “native wood;” he is not from a village or city or nation, but from the woods. He is driven to agony by his knowledge and awareness, elevated to heights otherwise reserved for humankind, and seems to resent his status as close but not close enough.

As the monster learns about human reproduction, the pain of this estrangement increases: “I heard of the differences of sexes; and the birth and growth of children; how the father doted on the smiles of the infant . . . But where were my friends and relations? No father had watched my infant days” (110). The monster’s lack of a creator, of parents, is lamented for more than just his lack of a noble ancestry; it is a primary reasons for his status as an outsider: “I had never yet seen a being resembling me.” These musings about his place in the world climax with the topic question of the chapter – “What was I?” The monster did not know then, but he will soon decide. He will decide that he is indeed, as he has been referred to throughout this blog, a monster. He will be forcefully rejected by his one hope for acceptance within humanity, and this denial of fraternity drives him to terrorize those that refused to give him a chance.

Nature versus Nature in The Convent of Pleasure

Lady Happy and the men in The Convent of Pleasure seem to have different opinions about nature and how to serve it. Lady Happy sees nature not in the biological light that the men do, but rather as a kind of hedonistic deity that can live vicariously through the actions of humans. Her opinion about nature is unearthed to an extent in her early and revealing conversation with Madam Mediator: Lady Happy tells her “I will serve nature” by partaking in as many pleasures as possible; in so doing, she continues, she will also serve the gods, because “the gods . . . bid us freely please ourselves.”

Monsieur Take-pleasure and Monsieur Advisor reveal a contrasting opinion during their discussion about how to remove the women from the cloister. Monsieur Take-pleasure says that smoking them out would not be villainous because in doing so “[they] shall do nature good service.” This seems to point to a perception of nature that is rooted in biology, that they would be doing nature good service because they would be forcing the women out and back into the world where they can procreate. It is reaffirmed by Monsieur Advisor’s response: “Why, so we do Nature good service, when we get a Wench with Child, but yet the Civil Laws do punish us for it.”

These two views seem to be at odds, at least according to Lady Happy. Back in her conversation with Madam Mediator, Lady Happy claims “Men are the only troublers of Women; for they only cross and oppose their sweet delights.” It thus seems that were Monsieur Take-pleasure to follow through with his plan and his service to nature, forcing Lady Happy back out into the world where she would be impregnated, he would truly live up to his name. It would require a good bit of interaction with men for Monsieur Take-pleasure’s nature to be served, and this interaction would fly in the face of Lady Happy’s nature.

The Sunne Rising

John Donne’s “The Sunne Rising” is a short poem in which the speaker seems to reverse the reverence typically displayed for the sun, instead chastising and belittling it. The poem progresses from lobbing bitter insults in the first stanza to elevating the speaker and his beloved in the second; the third combines and builds upon the first two.

The speaker first addresses the sun as a “Busy old fool” and a “pedantic wretch,” insults that ring like a reluctant youth pleading with his mother for more time to sleep. The rhetorical questions situated between these two insults, though, seem to betray some measure of respect: “Must to thy motions lovers’ seasons run?”

As the poem progresses, the speaker seems to decide that the answer is no – that both he and his beloved are in fact greater than the sun. “I could eclipse and cloud [the sun’s beams] with a wink,” the speaker declares. He continues the disparagement by telling the sun that all of the Indians and kings that it has seen can be summoned right here, to this bed.

Perhaps the speaker is referring to the power of dreams when he claims that “’All here in one bed lay,’” but moving into the third stanza it appears that he really intends to exalt himself and his lover, their bed and their room, to the center of the universe. “She’s all states, and all princes I; / Nothing else is,” he continues to apostrophize, throwing now his most authentic sounding insult: “Thou, Sun, art half as happy as we.” He reassures the surely shaken Sun by telling it that its duty to warm the world can be fulfilled by simply warming this room: “Shine here to us, and thou art everywhere; / This bed thy center is, these walls thy sphere.” Thus the poem has reached its crescendo, evolving from a dream-clouded and angry entreaty to a lucid and confident claim; nothing else, not even the Sun, is of any importance when compared to the world he and his beloved have built for themselves.