Wednesday, December 16, 2009

Brilliant WebCT Posts

For a class that is supposed to be about romance, we spend a lot of
time talking about monsters. It's alright, since so much of our culture
is fascinated by the inhuman human. Popular characters like Sylar from
Heroes, Norman Bates, Dexter Morgan and of course Patrick Bateman all
reflect this frightened curiosity we have of the broken, the fragile and
the slipping psyche. Especially since all these reflect different
desires. Bates was a statement on pure evil often being so perfectly
cloaked behind a nice veneer, Bateman was a statement on the sexism and
social darwinism of the Regean era, Dexter is about the darkness and
vegeance we all have lurking inside us, and Sylar represents the mortal
seeking to become a God. None of these are particularly new ideas, but
they keep getting portrayed in entirely new ways. Someone once told me
there are no new ideas, just new colors of paint. Maybe, in some ways,
that's right. We all focus on the same questions about our universe,
but we never have an answer. It's interesting that my psychology book
explicitly stated what questions science is incapable of solving, since
we may never know if there is a God or if life has one specific meaning
or, to tie it back, what love should be. I tend to write these passages
very stream of consciouness, so my thoughts tend to evolve with the
length of my text. Just some ideas, looking forward to class.

The use of Cat on a Hot Tin Roof in this class was good,
though I have a lot of trouble getting into plays, and I wasn't able to
get my paws on the movie or see a live performance. So, I liked the
play, but it seemed kind of pointless. There's no resolution, no
answers to any questions. All you're left with is a bunch of half
questions and half answers about these highly unlikable people. It
wasn't all that great, but the stage directions were incredible. They
were almost more fun to read than the dialogue. There's one that I
found particularly telling/important: "Some mystery should be left in
the revelation of character in a play, just as a great deal of mystery
is always left in the revelation of character in life, even in one's own
character. This does not absolve the playwright of his duty...but it
should steer him away from 'pat' conclusions". This passage is very
important in revealing the whole idea behind Williams' view on writing.
There's nothing wrong with definate details, though! Mystery is
helpful, but having a bit of certainty at the end of a journey really
makes the trip worth it. To make a clever turn of phrase, this was more
a Cat with a Tangled Ball of Yarn. You get the feeling there's a hard
core you could poke at, but there's nothing keeping it all together.

I do not find Megan Fox attractive.
Just wanted to get that out there. I've been seeing way too many
commercials for 'Jennifer's Body' lately, and I would just like to say,
eh. Problem is, so many guy I know seem to just start drooling as soon
as someone mentions her. They begin to talk about her physical features
in a manner that would make Hugh Hefner cringe. Honestly, physically
and oh dear Lord mentally, she doesn't do it for me.
Now, on to why I mention miss Fox.
Every culture seems to define beauty in a slightly different way. To
us 21st century Americans, (apparently, and it saddens me so) Ms. Fox is
the most beautiful thing ever. In the 20's, flat chested women were all
the rage, and this could be linked to the move for equality of the
sexes. Men have also gone through a change. In the 20's, everyone
wanted the rich guy who had the whole world in his hand. Now...Oh,
crap, maybe not so much change on that front. But tastes are certainly
more diverse.
We seemed to be obsessed in class over the fact that men have become
more metrosexual. Maybe this isn't the right term, though. Guys these
days, and women to a lesser extent, have become more okay with the idea
that they have feelings. This is probably due to a rise in the science
of psychology, which, while still seen by many as a 'quack' science,
still brings people to realize there's more to the brain than we thought.
Is this new emphasis on feeling a bad thing? Of course not. Does it
diminish a man to admit he feels sad or lonely sometimes? Not at all.
Too much can be a bad thing, but the same thing with women suddenly
becoming too masculine. Can you honestly look me in the face and tell
me a girl who can throw a punch isn't at least a little hot?
What these romantic comedies do is play it safe. They don't try to
shake anything up, they just keep the status quo and hope enough
depressed housewives go see it. I may be too cynical about this, but
honestly, they're not taking any risks. When I see a non-satirical
romantic comedy that features an interracial couple, or a gay couple, or
shoots both middle fingers at the Bible Belt and makes one about an
inter-racial gay couple, then I might lighten up.
We all have different ideas on what the perfect mate would be. Are
any of us more or less right? With a few exceptions, no. And even if
our tastes are evolving, there will still be a few people that, like
Miss Fox, will never do it for me.

I thought it was interesting how we brought up homosexuality on
Friday, specifically the changing face of it. I have friends that are
all along the Kinsey scale, and their typical 'queeritude' as one called
it range from the BLINDINGLY obvious to the people who would tell you
and you'd laugh at for telling a joke. One of the main points of
interest about gay culture is that it exists everywhere; it's a random
shot, possibly influenced by genetics OR environment, that tends to
appear in about 8.5% of the population (A number I grabbed from my
psychology book, btw. The 10% rule has been proven mostly wrong, but is
still quite relevant given the fact that it was the first shot to try
and pin down a number.)
So how is the face of the gay population changing? Well, it's
possibly growing larger, for one. There's not so much fear about it now
as their was 50 years ago. Hell, back then gays were arrested for being
criminally insane. The only ones who could run the gay bars were the
mob, because they could keep the police at bay. Even before then, there
have been homosexuals. I know, it may surprise you that in a time
before appletinis and Broadway gays existed. But back then it wasn't
spoken of in the least, though there have been a few individuals who
were still out there (pun intended.) Why is it so different now? Well,
not being considered insane is always a plus. As more people besides
the above mentioned 'so obvious it hurts' come out, and show that there
is more to the gay population, breaking the stereotype and making it
'normal'. It's never going to be totally normal, but it can at least
become tolerated, then accepted. People use the example of gays as
'destroyers of the family' too much. One of the main arguments I've
heard against letting gays adopt is that kids adopted by gay parents are
more likely to be teased for that. Does anyone else smell the circular
logic? You make something more unusual, of course it's going to attract
attention, and if you stigmatize it like that you're just going to make
it worse for the minority.

Final Paper

The Lions and the Lambs

While the idea of a fixed social class, a caste, is more deeply engrained in collectivist Eastern cultures, the same concepts are omnipresent in Western cultures as well. People often speak of the spoiled brats of the rich, who never work for what they have and yet ‘have it all’, while there is equal, if not greater, scorn for those who are too lazy to pick themselves up by their bootstraps and get out of the lower class. Charles Dickens, with scathing insight and keen symbolism, mocks both these groups, taking the shining stereotypes of both and picking away at the gold leaf or rugged leather. Great Expectations, in stark, almost sick, detail, shows that the lambs of the lower class cannot mix with the noble lions, and that the rigid social structures of his time were fueled by ignorance, arrogance, and the iron grasp of control the upper classes possessed. Dickens shows the perverse dark side of success, the hopelessness of irrational love, and the impassible divide that exists between groups: male and female, rich and poor, country folk and city slickers. Through much of the book, Dickens flips these roles, making the main character flit back and forth between the binaries as he searches for a stable identity not ruled by others.

Names are how individuals define themselves and how others define those around them. New parents fret over their child’s name and some figures will be known more by the power of their false titles and aliases than they could ever hope to by their formal address. Dickens makes his point of this right from the start, speaking as the main character, “My father’s family name being Pirrip, and my Christian name Philip, my infant tongue could make of both names nothing longer or more explicit than Pip. So, I called myself Pip, and came to be called Pip” (Dickens, 3). While this might be a funny nickname for perhaps the first few years of someone’s life, this name never leaves him. From cover to cover, he’s referred to as Pip, with the exception of one character he meets after he comes into fortune, who comes to call him Handel. However, he’s the only one; to the rest of the world, he still exists as Pip. So, what is the difference between Pip and Handel? Truly, nothing. As Ferdinand Saussure, the 20th century philosopher who specialized in the language of language, points out, the name is entirely dependent on the situation. He explains that “[the name we attach to something] is unmotivated, i.e. arbitrary in that it actually has no natural connection with [the idea behind a name]” (Saussure, 79). While Pip might be the name assigned to him by the general society, it’s arguable that Handel is his true name, since Herbert, the friend who gave him this name, seems to treat him the same regardless of his financial status.

Herbert is likely one of the few in this tale who wasn’t at one time or another obsessed with Pip’s class. At the book’s start, Pip is seen as little more than an inconvenience. His sister beats him for minor infractions against her and the order of the house, and the rest of the community focuses on Pip, like all children, as a bottom feeder, a leech who has no gratitude for his sister bringing him up “by hand” (a term Dickens satirically links to the frequent physical abuse). Even Pip, after he meets with the beautiful, noble born Estella, begins to feel grimy, and looks down on people he used to respect or even possibly love. The prime example of this is his brother-in-law, Joe. Joe is, in a book filled with a near universally cynical view, one of the few shining characters. The main reason for this is his honesty. Joe does not put on airs, he is unashamed of his status as a laboring blacksmith, nor does he bend others to his will; he is someone who is entirely knowledgeable of their place in the world, if not much else. However, after meeting Estella and falling into a love that borders on obsession, Pip, formerly content with his aims in life to join Joe at the forge, becomes frightfully aware of his own place in the world, and how his former ambitions will make a life with Estella impossible. He says that his “young mind was in that disturbed and unthankful state, that I thought long after I laid me down, how common Estella would consider Joe, a mere blacksmith” (Dickens, 69). While previously he had looked up to Joe and had loved the idea of working alongside his hero, as soon as he caught a waft of the upper class, he wanted that instead.

Estella, despite being an obviously beautiful and feminine character, is highly masculine in most of her behaviors. While it is normal to assume that in the classical romances, the woman would be unable to put out the passions in her heart, here it is Pip who takes on this feminine role. Estella is, in many ways, a twist on old fairy tale romances. Pip first meets her after being transported to Satis House, a castle that’s just outside of town, at his sister’s heavy handed insistence, to be essentially a plaything to Ms. Havisham, the old noble who inhabits it. Ms. Havisham adds to this aura, acting as a dragon with the beautiful, hopeless young maiden trapped by her side. Estella is Ms. Havishim’s adopted daughter, and has been brought up under her harsh rule, with men as the prime targets of her poisoned barbs. Ms. Havisham still wears a dress from a wedding that was called off eons ago, with her as the sad bride. She uses Estella as a method to her end: to retaliate at all men for the damage that one caused. Estella, like an automaton, obeys the command, and proceeds to break Pip into tears within their first meeting. Ms. Havisham revels in his pain, constantly asking him how much he loves Estella and re-enforcing how beautiful she is. In “The Politics of Culture”, Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan discuss this concept of culture from above, wherein those high in social class “[allow] only certain kinds of imagery and ideas to gain access to mass audiences…inevitably further[ing] attitudes as perceptions that assure its continuation” (Rivkin, 1026). Ms. Havisham furthers her ideal scenario of Pip being psychologically crushed by forcing the idea of Estella as beauty incarnate, forcing him to realize his own worthlessness. When the three first meet, Ms. Havisham asks the following of Estella:
“Let me see you play cards with this boy.”
“With this boy? Why, he is a common labouring-boy!”
I thought I overheard Miss Havisham answer — only it seemed so unlikely —
“Well? You can break his heart.” (Dickens 58).

Here she tips her hand, expressing her entire reason behind inviting Pip and, to a larger extent, why she brought up Estella by her teachings. She knows that Estella is likely to enjoy making Pip suffer, since that is how she was ‘programmed’. Ms. Havisham has become so locked in the moment of her greatest loss, her greatest dishonor, that the clocks in Satis House have been stopped at the exact moment she lost her fiancĂ©, she refuses to acknowledge the day of the week, or even her own birthday, and she’s dressed like she’s still ready to walk down the aisle. While often it is supposed that, as Simone de Beauvoir states, “woman has always been man’s dependant, if not his slave,” here it is Pip that acts the slave (de Beauvior 79). Furthermore, one often challenges that women cannot exist without men, while Ms. Havisham exists almost in spite of men. In one case, she’s proven her strength, overcoming the difficulty of being a woman of class who is so flagrantly shamed before her fellow nobles. However, she became so upset, so frustrated towards all men that she not only decided to sequester herself away from them, effectively banishing them from her life, but she also adopted a daughter just so she could make sure her goal was still completed even after she was gone, essentially demonstrating that despite her ability to live without them, she needs their suffering to make herself feel empowered.

Ms. Havisham, despite being one of the most obvious and flagrant examples of it, is not the only character who uses those around them for their own gain; in fact, it seems to be a condition that was quite contagious during this period of English history. Ms. Havisham uses Estella as a puppet to advance her own philosophy to the world, even after she’s gone, and Pip is used as a test subject. Pip’s sister uses him for menial labor when he’s seven years old, another of Dickens’ pointed barbs at the view of children in his time. Pumblechook, a grocer who is responsible for bringing Pip to Satis house, uses him as a totemic representation of all that is wrong with the world of children-that is, until Pip gains his fortune, then he is treated as a gentleman that was groomed under Pumblechook’s precise and loving tutelage. He tries to link himself to Pip as soon as he hears of his fortune, and “that [he] should have been the humble instrument of leading up to this, is a proud reward” (Dickens 147). Everyone seems to be so obsessed with being upper class or having some level of dominance over another that they all end up weakening their own relationships and their real status or identity in the world by extension.

The characters who seem the healthiest are those who are the most comfortable, the least focused on shifting their social standing. Examples of this include the industrious Joe, who Pip claims looks even worse in his Sunday best than he could ever in his usual forge clothes, and Herbert, who has a very positive outlook towards his fellow man, regardless of their class. Pip remains immune to this bug after getting his fortune. He begins to flex his wealth, and his among his first plans are raising Joe’s status, perhaps to make up for his own embarrassment about him. He extols his virtuous plan to Biddy, his tutor, remarking that “If [he] were to remove Joe into a higher sphere, as [he] shall hope to remove him when [he] fully comes into his property,” Joe might have a decent chance of being a gentleman much like himself (Dickens, 143). Biddy and he get into a fight where Biddy argues how proud Joe is already of himself, an honest pride, while Pip is getting a pride backed not by his achievements, but rather only received through the nigh impossible circumstance of his fortune. He acknowledges his own luck in this, but still looks down on all the friends he had while growing up due to their lack of class. The problem seems to have persisted with modern day upper classes as well. In Bret Ellis’ Rules of Attraction, the characters are only using each other to find their next fix, be it sexual, romantic, or pharmaceutical. Lauren describes her encounter with one of her fixes as though she’s completely disconnected from the whole situation, as if watching it as someone else. “In the Freshman’s room now. What’s his name? Sam? Steve? It’s so…neat! Tennis racket on the wall. Shelf full of Robert Ludlum books. Who is this guy?” (Ellis, 15). The students here all only want to interact on their terms, when it is most beneficial for them to do so, and only want to have relationships that directly benefit them, even if it’s only a meaningless night in bed. While Dickens’ characters seem to be fitting a need a little higher on Maslow’s hierarchy, they are still guilty of essentially the same crime.

Perhaps the most important theme of the book is this: attempting to act above yourself, or reach farther than perhaps you were meant to, will only bring you deeper dissatisfaction. In some ways, this may reflect a caste system. The characters that seemed the most unbalanced or troubled were the ones that tried too hard to manipulate others. Estella, who seeks a rich husband only so she can be financially stable, openly admits to Pip that she is cold-hearted. Despite the grace and noble beauty she flaunts, her personality and her methods of reaching her goals are often more feral than refined. At the end of the book, Pip has to return to his old town to make amends with Joe. He does not return to work there, choosing instead to work and live with Herbert and his wife, making a modest if successful living. While there, however, he is accosted by Pumblechook, his ‘old patron’ who has been saturating the town with stories of how his intervention brought Pip to his great heights, only to have Pip selfishly spurn his new fortunes. Pumblechook, before a restaurant bustling with people, demands that Pip pass along a message:
“Says you…‘In [Pip] being brought low, [Pumblechook] saw the finger of Providence. He knowed that finger when he saw it, Joseph, and he saw it plain. It pinted out this writing, Joseph. Reward of ingratitoode[sic] to earliest benefactor, and founder of fortun’s[sic]. But that man said that he did not repent of what he had done, Joseph. It was right to do it…and he would do it again.’ ‘It’s a pity…that the man did not say what he had done and would do again’” (Dickens, 459).

Notice Pip’s recently developed vertebrae! Pip, who originally dealt with all the abuse by turning his anger inwards, growing guilty for being a bad son, an unfit pupil, someone whose fortunes in life could never hope to be reached without someone’s assistance, finally looked his abuser turned sycophant in the eye and told him that he was bluffing. Pip has, in many ways, self-actualized, becoming an independent person as opposed so someone ruled and commanded by others. He’s come to realize how much unhappiness his wealth brought him, and instead chooses a life that is of his own personal design. Simone de Beauvoir explains that “the master does not make a point of the need that he has for the other; he has in his grasp the power of satisfying this need through his own action; whereas the slave, in his dependent condition, his hope and fear, is quite conscious of the need he has for his master” (de Beauvoir). Pip has long been the slave to many masters: his sister, Pumblechook, Estella and Ms. Havisham, but has finally ‘grown his mane out’ and become a lion in his own right, though without the predatory implications.
Dickens, in one of his darker works, exposes his ideas on the vapid, rampant materialism and inhumane tendencies that were so common in his era, and likely continue to this day. He exposes the evils of the upper and lower classes, against each other and themselves, each striving to gain that extra bit of gold in the hopes that they will finally find the meaning their lives have been sorely without. They use and abuse others to make their own positions of weakness seem a little less pathetic, though the lambs they see fit to prey on often turn into the noblest lions.

Works Cited

Barker, Chris. Cultural Studies. 3rd ed. Sage Publications Ltd, 2008. Print.

de Beauvoir, Simone. “Woman as Other”. Literary Theory: An Anthology.  Ed. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan.  Malden: Blackwell, 1998.

Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Barnes & Noble Classics, 2005. Print.

Ellis, Bret. The Rules of Attraction. MacMillan, 1988. Print.

Saussure, Ferdinand. “Course in General Linguistics”. Literary Theory: An Anthology.  Ed. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan.  Malden: Blackwell, 1998. 76-89.

Rivkin, Julie, and Michael Ryan. “The Politics of Culture”. ”. Literary Theory: An Anthology.  Ed. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan.  Malden: Blackwell, 1998. 1025-1027.

Tuesday, December 15, 2009

Space and place
While looking through clips of the show Sex and the City, I found one where the conservative Charlotte finally gets fed up with the explicit Samantha for being so open about sex, especially since Samantha knows nothing of her partner, other than his prowess. This argument reflects two main points from chapter 12 of Chris Barker's Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice, reflecting the intimacy of the home and the anonymity of the city. New York is vast, capable of hiding any number of secrets, often entire lives with no one the wiser. Samantha's current boy toy likely has his own life, his own wants, needs, desires, and hobbies, but she's only curious about the gratification she can receive from him. Louis Wirth emphasizes how urban living is "based on having large numbers of people living together in close proximity without really knowing one another" (Barker, 380). Where as in small towns where everyone knows everyone, out of either intimacy or boredom, cities provide an easy escape into the crowd. It's no surprise that most of the cities mentioned as 'global cities' are economic centers of their region, and that many og them are on or near the water, harkening back to the days of transoceanic ferries. The population is so often changing that to keep track of all the people in any one area would be almost impossible. The fact that Samantha is so open about the details of her rendezvous also reflects the intimacy people place on the recessed areas of their home. People will typically want to heat more about the 'performance activities' that happen in the kitchen or the den than the more intimate areas of the bedroom or bathroom. Giddens mentions this 'front and back' concept, that people perform their duties as hosts and entertainers in the common areas while doing more intimate things in the back of the home where permission is required. Talking about these things only tends to happen when there's a true need, such as something happening in the bathroom you need to discuss with your doctor, or when socially acceptable, as when intimacy in the bedroom results in a pregnancy. Even though the four women are likely cloaked in urban anonymity during this scene, Charlotte represents the conservative, even outdated notion that these things are not to be brought up do to their secretive nature.
Works cited:
Barker, Chris. Cultural Studies. 3rd ed. Sage Publications Ltd, 2008. Print.

Wednesday, October 14, 2009

Easy Street

One common theme in most cultures is a certain self importance of the rich. The old notion of Social Darwinism tends to rear its ugly head whenever people shake their heads at the cliques that form in high school, the need to have the trendiest new toy or hottest accessory. However, this isn’t a problem isolated to 21st century girls obsessed with watching The Hills. The nobility of Dickens’ Great Expectations and the raucous college students of Bret Ellis’ Rules of Attraction both share a similar obsession, using possessions as ways of measuring others until others become those possessions. The spoiled rich of 19th and 20th centuries share a common trait of consumption, obsessed with material wealth and success to the point that even fellow human beings become tools, something to have, own, and control, dehumanizing those around them to feed their own wants and goals.

Even the masters are slaves. The masters, in this case the economically well endowed, are slaves to keeping up personal appearances, making sure their honor is impeccable and their wealth obvious. When Pip, the main character of Dickens’ tale, comes into a great fortune, the first thing he does is buy new clothes, the most expensive the tailor in his small town can make, but then arrives in London and feels that his clothes aren’t right because they’re out of style. This trait carries over to the students of Ellis’ Camden University, where the pupils treat class like a joke and focus more on brand names than each other’s name. Lauren, after agreeing to sleep with a total stranger, walks passively behind him, looking at the whole thing as if someone else is making it happen, “In the Freshman’s room now. What’s his name? Sam? Steve? It’s so…neat! Tennis racket on the wall. Shelf full of Robert Ludlum books. Who is this guy? Probably drives a Jeep” (Ellis, 15). She looks down on him because he’s new, he hasn’t acclimated to the trends, hasn’t become part of the general norm in the microcosmic society that she chooses to inhabit. Not that this stops her from having sex with him, of course. As the social elite, the rich take it upon themselves to steer the world, through economic means, into one that’s preferable to their taste and suits their vapid ideas of beauty and art. Corporations are often the most to blame for this, since they are the prime movers and shakers on a global scale. In “The Politics of Culture”, Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan discuss this concept of culture from above, wherein those high in social class and material status “[allow] only certain kinds of imagery and ideas to gain access to mass audiences…inevitably further[ing] attitudes as perceptions that assure its continuation” (Rivkin, 1026). This isn’t just the ranting of conspiracy theorists; many companies have tried to make an international model of their product the norm.

Those who try to stay true to the latest trends and keep up with them label others after the same goal as posers, trying to muscle into territory they believe is right fully theirs. Lauren rails against this to a group of her friends during lunch time, lamenting the college they go to. “’I’m sick of this place. Everyone reeks of cigarettes, is pretentious, and has terrible posture. I’m getting out before the Freshman take over.’ I forgot ketchup. I push the plate of fries away. Light a cigarette” (Ellis, 36). Her willful cognitive dissonance is only made further ironic by the fact that she’s not the only one complaining of inauthenticity. Everyone imagines that they’re the only ‘real’ thing, the only human in a room of robots. “Research suggests,” says Chris Barker, “that claims to authenticity are at the heart of contemporary youth subcultures” (Barker, 429). While finding this authenticity is almost impossible for someone outside of it, those who are on the inside seem to have no such difficulties. Pip, who acts like this elegant gentleman when leaving his farming town to go to London, gets brought painfully down to Earth when Herbert, his friend and roommate of a more distinct nobility, has to gently guide him into a politer set of table manners. During their first dinner, he often pauses midway through his tale to correct some action of Pip’s. “Now, I come to the cruel part of the story—merely breaking off, my dear [Pip], to remark that a dinner-napkin will not go into a tumbler” (Dickens, 172). The ruling party often has this irritating notion that they’re the only ones to be correct, and if you’re of a different opinion then it’s because you’re not one of them. Simone de Beauvoir points out that “In the midst of an abstract discussion it is vexing to hear a man say: ‘You think thus and so because you are a woman’; but I know that my only defense is to reply: ‘I think thus and so because it is true,’ thereby removing my subjective self from the argument. It would be out of the question to reply: ‘And you think the contrary because you are a man’” (de Beauvoir). These walls exist because it’s hard to create a self without an other. Pip may have lived in both worlds, as a gentleman and as a poor man, but he can’t say anything about either because his claims to both are tarnished.

Indeed, by categorizing people as being in this binary of Rich or Poor, In or Out, it’s nigh impossible for people to treat each other as people, and they only become a series of labels, a group of items, until they eventually become an item themselves. Pip’s fortune is eventually revealed to be nothing more than a step in a grand revenge fantasy hatched by an ex-convict who wanted to simply brag of having a gentleman in London. “If I ain’t a gentleman,” he says to Pip, “nor yet got no learning, I’m the owner of such” (Dickens, 311). He only wanted Pip so he could elevate himself, know that he was the owner of someone who had achieved all he couldn’t, his own way of spitting at the system that had tossed him overboard. The convict himself wasn’t really rich, but worked his hardest so that Pip could be in his stead. Sean, one of Lauren’s classmates, describes her only as “the girl who fucked Mitchell last night and who I want to fuck” (Ellis, 40). Sean makes no effort to learn her name, learn anything about her, just decides that he wants to have sex with her, make her a notch on his bedpost. The saddest part is, in this environment, no one seems to know anyone, as if everyone’s perfectly happy isolating themselves and only interacting when they want. They’ve reached the top and can only become more wealthy by collecting the people around them, or they’ve got no money and collect people as a form of currency, elevating themselves by proxy. Jean Baudrillard emphasizes this, stating that “in a more integrated society, individuals no longer compete for the possession of goods, they actualize themselves in consumption” (Baudrillard, 409). These aren’t people any more. They’re a group of oppurtunities, of ideas, of possible pleasures and prides wrapped around one another until the human is obscured by the watcher’s desirous perception.

There’s nothing inherently wrong with want. It’s a perfectly natural, perfectly harmless thing when neutral. However, when it turns malicious, when it becomes more about ephemeral wants over long lasting desires, that’s when the dark side of desire jumps on stage. Both Dickens and Ellis sought to expose this in their works, taking none-too-subtle jabs at those they found most deserving; those who eat until their stomachs bulge, drink until they drown, and hoard without any notion of the wants of others.

Works Cited
Barker, Chris. Cultural Studies. 3rd ed. Sage Publications Ltd, 2008. Print.
Baudrillard, Jean. “The System of Objects”.   Literary Theory: An Anthology.  Ed. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan.  Malden: Blackwell, 1998. 408-418
Dickens, Charles. Great Expectations. Barnes & Noble Classics, 2005. Print.
Ellis, Bret. The Rules of Attraction. MacMillan, 1988. Print.
Rivkin, Julie, and Michael Ryan. “The Politics of Culture”. ”. Literary Theory: An Anthology.  Ed. Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan.  Malden: Blackwell, 1998. 1025-1027.

Wednesday, September 23, 2009


• Casual look at IP addresses shows a wide range of locales and cultures represented; England, Germany, Russia, all across the US, Japan and Australia.

• People are broken into different ‘Ranks’ by the owners of a channel, based on relationship to the owner, experience with the subject the channel’s oriented on, time spent in the channel, or how sociable they are.

• Due to these requirements, people of higher rank tend to be more social/popular than people of lower rank.

• People who cause unneeded drama are looked down upon, often times either temporarily or permanently banned from the channel in question.

• People rarely pull rank, except if someone is being openly and unnecessarily hostile.

• Some people stay out of channels so they can talk to only the people they want to talk to and avoid drama.

• When people come on and talk about a problem, people usually offer advice or sympathy, while others abhor bringing personal problems on and complaining. There’s an undercurrent of distrust, though, since it’s nearly impossible to tell when people are telling the truth.

One of the most distinguishing characteristics of the internet is its ability to bring together people of all backgrounds. Even though internet access has been long viewed as a priviledge, the increase in people who are logging on is astonishing. One of the most common forms of socializing on the internet are Internet Relay Chat (IRC) programs. Though one might expect that something that is, by default, supposed to bring together all types of cultures would not have its own distinct social patterns, there is a slight bit of culture at play here.

One of Simone de Beauvoir’s main ideas on the struggle for women’s rights comes from the idea that there is an ‘Us and Them’ mentality; however, from the interactions I saw, there was very little of that. The groups were too diverse for them to all link to one culturally outstanding trait that unified them. There was a clean representation of many different groups, and they were much more willing to joke about their differences than be honestly offended by anything. For instance, one of the persons in one channel, or chat room, was gay, and the majority of people teased him about it and he would fire back quips accordingly. In the one case that someone did give him flak for it, a lot of the other people there came to his defense. While certain channels might have had a slight bias for certain things based on topic (such as there being more chargers fans in a channel dedicated to Southern California or more gamers in a channel about video games) there is a general cultural blend, since even in the regions or fandoms mentioned there is a blend of cultures.

The problem of language is one that many people would expect to encounter in this type of international environment, but it was maybe only in the background. Despite all the unique cultures represented, there was only a minimum of slang, probably to keep confusion to a dull roar. The conversations had to be very precise, since you couldn’t look through the screen and see the person was smiling sarcastically at a joke. Some examples of it still slip through, such as when British people mention going back to ‘University’ for the new school year. The internet itself has developed its own slang, too, and since it takes a certain skill with computers to work one of these programs, there is a slight lean in the direction of people with higher technical knowledge or education. English is the language of choice, though that may have also been the consequence of me going to a primarily English speaking network and only going to English speaking channels. I did notice some channels focused on German and Spanish, though didn’t enter them due to a lack of fluency. While Sausser may have been correct in the idea that certain places have differing ideas about signs and signifiers, it does seem possible that there is, at every language’s heart, a core that can be accessed by study of the lingual patterns. Even the internet shorthand of acronyms and inside jokes can be easily learned, and represents a culture itself.

Now, one of the main points of this assignment was to look for romance, of which there were few. Due to a heavy (but not total) male population, this is obvious. However, even when surrounded by men and with the veil of secrecy and anonymity that comes from the internet, there was still a polite air about the conversations. Joking around was permitted, but if the insults became much less playful than pointed, people would either tell those involved to take the dispute into a private chat, or the people running the channel would personally step in and settle the dispute. There wasn’t any need to thump your chest and prove your manliness, and even the one instance of that, where someone starting talking down about another because he was gay, and therefore less classically masculine, everyone got behind the victim. The basic goal of these rooms is to keep the conversation going, and being unnecessarily mean drives the conversation in the exact opposite direction from where it really needs to go. There may be some boasting about accomplishments, but it’s not done so much that it’s the only thing that’s going on. People are generally on to talk to friends, discuss topics that are relevant to their interests, and relax.

Though the internet often serves as a joke about people who are unable to socialize in any other capacity, these networks are genuinely used to help people connect despite far reaching differences in status and physical location. The internet has often been called one of the greatest examples of democracy of our time, and in many ways these idle discussions are keeping this fledgling nation strong.

Wednesday, September 16, 2009

For this project, I noticed there were a lot of roles it seemed the playwright was trying to hint at and design characters to fill. So, when we decided as a group to look at certain categories of the play, I tried to assign each character to what they're stereotypical role was, both from what I saw in the play and what I imagined Tennessee Williams to have been aiming for. I'm very used to looking for the 'psychology' of characters or things I'm looking at. I wrote 5 questions that I gave to Charles on Saturday, though I came up with the idea during our first meeting on the Tuesday before this project was due.