Visual Comedy in the 20’s

Dramatic comedy has evolved over the years to adjust to society’s type of humor. What we refer to as comedy today has a lot to do with how characters in film or tv combine elements of drama and comedy and it usually depicts incidents in which a character ultimately triumphs over adversity. This clip from the silent film, “The Lions Cage” shows english comic actor, Charlie Chaplin in a circus. Although the film is silent the feelings of the characters are conveyed through different aspects such as hand gestures, facial expressions, musical effects and subtitles. I can tell by watching this clip that the purpose is to amuse those watching by putting a character in a difficult situation and observing his actions as he tries to get out of the situation. To me the facial expressions and body language of Chaplin is what really bring out the comedic aspect to the situation. Not only can people find humor in the setting of the movie but also in how the character moves around and acts within the setting. I can also infer that people find humor in the suffering of others. Not in an evil kind of way but in joking manner where the character is obviously acting out the “normal”.

Although this movie was made for audiences in the 1920’s this kind of humor continues to entertain people in the present day. This is because it is human nature to find humor in such situations where another person overcomes a challenge. Although comedy is a lot about making people laugh, it is also about telling a story using different aspects and factors for entertainment. I believe comedy is a meaningful form of art because is inclusive. I think it would be wrong to see comedy as not meaningful or standardized because it incorporates many different forms of expression and it varies throughout time and culture to reflect the feelings and humor of many audiences.

The Simpsons Satire

The classic TV show, The Simpsons is well known for their satirization of ordinary life. The show achieves this by using comedic techniques such as sarcasm, exaggeration and incongruity to criticize different systems. In this particular episode, Bart and Lisa Simpson are taking standardized test in school to determine their best fit future career.

The show criticizes the school system and the purpose of standardized tests. For example, the name of the test, career aptitude normalizing test, stands for “can’t”. The name is ironic and suggests that assessment has a negative connotation or that it restricts students’ abilities. The teacher also makes a comment saying, “some of you may discover a wonderful vocation you never even imagined, others may find out life isn’t fair”. She then goes into detail about how despite her masters in education she ended up babysitting fourth graders while her husband ran away with her marriage counselor. Although she speaks in a serious tone I can identify this as satire because it is criticizing the foundation of the test by inferring that the career you are given does not always work out or make you happy. This test is seemingly a parody of other standardized tests because the questions on the test are general, easy, and worded randomly to disguise the strategy behind the scores. After the test, Lisa’s friend turns to her and says “well that was a waste of time”. Lisa responds by saying school is never a waste of time. Right after saying this, the students are instructed by the teacher to stare at the front of the room for the remainder of the class. By contradicting the statement that school is never a waste of time, the writers of the show are pointing out that standardized tests are in fact a waste of time in schools. Yet the test is handled with extreme precaution and seriousness. I noticed this when the police officers come in and collected the tests in a briefcase.

Another aspect of satire is the arch above the National Testing Center that is engraved to say “controlling your destiny since 1925”. This is satire because it ridicules the idea of a test determining your destiny. Finally one of the last references to satire I noticed was when Bart’s test was being graded and the answers were so bad that it broke the machine. After it is revealed that his test showed that his “best-fit” career would be a police officer. This not only makes fun of the schools’ system of standardized testing but also criticizes another more political system: law enforcement. It points out the little education needed to be in positions of power such as a police officer and by joking about it, people watching the show can understand the reference and deeper meaning. Although this episode may seem like a simple comedic representation of society, the use of satire shows that it goes beyond just that. It promotes change in the way students are tested and marginalized based on scores and it suggests that society as a whole should hold law enforcement officers to a higher standard and degree of education instead of allowing people to get into positions of power easily.

The Real “true love”

In J. Cole’s album 4 Your Eyez Only we observe a different side of him that hadn’t been revealed in his past albums. This album displays shared experiences within the black community and allows listeners to dive deeper into the meaning of his music through his lyrics. The reason this album feels far more personal than any of his previous albums is because it is also a tribute to his childhood friend, James McMillan Jr who passed away at the age of 22 leaving behind a daughter and his wife. I consider all songs on this album to be art, but the song “She’s Mine Pt. 2” specifically stands out as a poem itself. In his song J. Cole opens up about his experience becoming a father and how it altered his views on life and love. He speaks to his newborn daughter through his lyrics; writing in present tense, as if she were to be listening in the future. He begins the song by saying he wishes things were different in society and criticizes those who focus on material things. He writes saying:

If I had a magic wand

To make the evil disappear

That means that there would be no more Santa Claus

No more to bring you Christmas cheer

Cause what he represents is really greed

And the need to purchase shit from corporations that make a killin’

Because they feed on the wallets of the poor

The writer uses the metaphor of feeding on the wallets of the poor to emphasize the downsides of consumerism among those who don’t have much to give. Although this might seem like a negative approach, I think it is very realistic for him to include this. I interpret these lines as a story of a selfless father who acknowledges the imperfections of society as he is bringing a child into this world, and his only desire to protect his child from all evil.

Reminisce when you came out the womb

Tears of joy I think filled up the room

You are now the reason that I fight

I ain’t never did nothing this right in my whole life

As he begins to describe the birth of his child the tone and diction of the songs shifts. He changes from being direct and pessimistic to fully engulfing in the idea of being a father. In the second line above when he says, “tears of joy I think filled up the room” the writer is using figurative language to capture the excitement and happiness of that moment. The shift in tone is significant because it symbolizes the drastic change that comes with becoming a father, this adds to the overall meaning because it shows how having a child can transform your perspective on life.

Am I worthy of this gift?

Am I strong enough to lift?

Into a place that I can see

Someone more important than me?


In the following lines he provides a deeper reflection of his experience. He questions himself, doubting if he can take on such a responsibility. The use of rhetorical questions in this song, reflect the internal conflict of the speaker. This also further explains the meaning of the song. By repeating these four lines the speaker sets an eerie feeling and prolongs the thought. The last line stands out because it shows how becoming a father has showed him new priorities. At the end he wraps up his thoughts by saying, “someone more important than me” this demonstrates a deeper understanding of love. This ties into the overall meaning of the song because he is expressing how his experience of becoming a father has shown him that he could love another human being far more than he loves himself.

I’m gon’ do a humble stunt, act like I meant this shit

That’s the ego taking credit for what God made

F**k this album shit, “Hey mama, look what God made”

J. Cole mentions his tendency to let his ego get in the way, but when it comes to his child his attitude changes, instead of crediting himself he looks towards god and credits him for his daughter. He sees his child as a gift from God and he feels that he a special new purpose as father. He proves that the birth of his child has taught him true love. No material thing holds the same importance anymore because the love he feels for his child is greater than anything he has ever encountered. Throughout this song the message of love and family is prominent, but not in a traditional way. J. Cole shows us that love can go deeper than just relationships, because the love he feels as a father has impacted him beyond his previous beliefs of love and society.

Capture vs Freedom in The Stranger

In Albert Camus famous novel, The Stranger, the idea that life is meaningless is revealed through the attitudes of the narrator, Meursault. Halfway through the novel, I was convinced Meursault’s random behavior had to do with him being a unique and free individual. It was not until Meursault went to jail that I realized he had been trapped all along. While at his mother’s funeral, Meursault displays himself as cold and emotionless. For example, he describes the funeral as something concrete and not emotional, he also demonstrates this when he falls asleep in his chair during the wake. This response is perceived as odd by others around him who expect Meursault to be grieving the loss of his mother. Meursault expresses feeling judged by his mother’s friends on page 10 saying, “for a second I had the ridiculous feeling that they were there to judge me”. When first reading this quote, I was unaware of its significance to the story. It was not until part two, during the trial, that I realized Meursault had been foreshadowing events of the trial all along. When witnesses were called, the director, the caretaker and Perez, all who were present at the funeral, gave testimonies about Meursault’s behavior. They describe how he had not cried or paid his respects, and bring up that he slept during the wake. While listening to the witness statements, Meursault describes a sudden urge to cry. This is because at this moment he began to realize he was guilty. Meursault’s attitudes and behaviors throughout the novel paint him as a free, senseless individual but below the surfaced he remained captured. After Meursault is found guilty, he has a final conversation with the chaplain. This conversation helps Meursault accept his fate and he is finally able to let go of the life he had lived before. As he begins to see life and death as equal possibilities, his indifferent attitude switches. Therefore by coming to terms with death and embracing his fate Meursault is finally free.

for the first time in years I had this stupid urge to cry, because I could feel how much all these people hated me

pg. 90

Benjamin’s Theory and Abortion Rights

In Jessica Benjamin’s Bonds of Love, she describes domination as a “two-way process” which involves one person submitting to power and the other exercising the power. Establishing this kind of structure in relationships causes polarity and a struggle for authority. Whether it’s a personal relationship between a man and a woman or a father and son, Benjamin makes it clear that love will prevail in domination and submission.

Outside of personal relationships, the struggle for power and domination is also visible in public relations and politics. On June 24th the supreme court voted to overturn Roe v Wade therefore allowing federal governments to regulate abortion laws within their state. Soon after states like Texas, Tennessee, and Oklahoma began enforcing abortion bans. Scrolling through the articles about abortion laws I read something about how in Georgia abortion is illegal after 6 weeks of pregnancy. I was curious why it had to be 6 weeks, and what difference did it make if the pregnancy might have been 10 weeks? Then I realized it really had nothing to do with pregnancy . This whole argument about being pro choice and pro life had no correlation to states banning abortions. It was derived by a desire for power. In reality lawmakers are not worried about the well being of the mother or the unborn child, it’s about having control over women’s bodies and reproductive rights. In a patriarchal society men can assert their dominance by oppressing the rights of women and that is exactly what happens when you take aways abortion rights. Behind it is a cycle of trauma and poverty that young mothers face continually and just like Jessica Benjamin states in her writing, if we don’t challenge the structure of dominance we may never break the cycle. I am hopeful that if we continue to protest gender polarity and valorize feminism we can reach the level of equality we desire, therefore protecting women’s power and rights over their bodies.