Hold It Horizontal

Throughout his career, Donald Glover’s various works serve as significant critiques of societies long-lasting, or profound effects on humanity. Under the musical persona of Childish Gambino, specifically on his second major studio album Because the Internet, Glover is able to unpack the animalistic behavior stemming from the dehumanizing nature of social media and the internet. Despite sounding on the surface like a traditional 21st century hip-hop track, his song “II. Worldstar” follows the albums central character, “the boy,” losing his sense of humanity, being consumed by his obsession of the idea of temporary internet stardom, using the popular mid 2010’s social media app Worldstar to do so, hence the name of the song. Through Gambino’s metaphorical lyricism, along with interludes from his brother, Glover gives the listener a sense of the consuming nature one experiences by attempting to achieve online fame.

I’m more or less a moral-less individual
Making movies with criminals, tryin’ to get them residuals

Within the first verse, Gambino is able to establish the boy’s fall to the captivating force of the internet, detailing how his time spent trolling internet goers on previous tracks of the album has led him to being less more or less a “moral-less” person than what he once was. Furthermore, within these two lines, Glover is able to display the crude motives of the boy, emphasizing his desperation to make money by filming fights with criminals through Worldstar.

When I hear that action, I’ma be Scorsese
My nigga, hold it horizontal, man, be a professional
Damn, my nigga, be a professional, what you doing, man?

Later in the first verse, Donald inserts a metaphor between the boy and Martin Scorsese in order to emphasize the boy’s enjoyment and excitement on recording fights on Worldstar that he deems to be on par with action movies directed by Martin Scorsese. He then couples this metaphor with the interjection of his brother Steve G. Lover demanding the boy to hold the phone horizontally as to seem more professional and to capture the maximum footage of the fight possible, upping their chances at a viral video.

Let me flash on ’em, we all big brother now

Towards the end of the second verse, Gambino further emphasizes how upon exposing those in physical confrontation to a flashlight from a phone or a device, it makes the person recording a sort of omnipresent force, giving them full control of the privacy of those in the altercation, essentially making them “Big Brother.”

[Interlude: Steve G. Lover]
Yo, bro, man, check out that video I just sent you, man
This shit is hilarious, man, it’s like this kid, man, he got like sh–
He got like hit on the side of the head, man, he’s like freakin’ out
Like, heh, it’s like he think he completely lost blood and shit
Hahaha, it’s hilarious, man…

Finally, proceeding the outro of the song, Glover introduces a second interlude from his brother, detailing the comedy in a Worldstar video he saw online. This final stanza is used to emphasize the overall theme of the corruption the internet brings in regards to overall humility in reacting to the violence portrayed on social media.

Nothing But Animals: An Exit West Analysis

 “She felt fear, a basic, animal fear, terror, and thought that anything could happen”

Exit West by Mohsin Hamid

In his novel Exit West, Mohsin Hamid uses vignettes to display the effects of the migration through the eyes of different people across the world. Unpacking these vignettes is always a pleasure to do in class as they always bring us as readers closer to the story, immersing us into the world.

In one of his vignettes following a woman facing the effects of the greater world migration in her home country of Vienna, Hamid conveys the theme of people exhibiting reactions of nativism, and activism in response to the civil unrest. Hamid does this through displaying the native peoples of Vienna reverting to a sense of comfort in power dynamics, inevitably losing their humanity, with the woman displaying courage, and hope, actively protesting the invasion of the militants and supporting the migrants. Hamid conveys this distinction metaphorically through an an extended metaphor of animals representing nativism. 

In lines 34-35, upon entering a train on her way to protest, she’s met with hostility from other citizens she considers family due to their shared nationality. “She boarded the train and found herself surrounded by men who looked like her brother and her cousins and her father and her uncles, except that they were angry, they were furious, and they were staring at her and at her badges with undisguised hostility, and the rancour of perceived betrayal, and they started to shout at her, and push her, that she felt fear, a basic, animal fear.” Here Hamid points out their animal like behaviors of the men on the train towards the Woman, showing how the civil unrest in the country has caused them to lose their humanity, attacking one of their own for advocating and maintaining humanity towards the migrants.

In lines 40-44 of the vignette, we see the Woman going to begin her journey to protest the militants occupying her country, going towards a zoo to do so “She gathered her courage, and she began to walk, and not in the direction of her apartment, her lovely apartment with its view of the river, but in the other direction, the direction of the zoo, where she had been intending to go from the outset, and where she would still go.” The choice of the location where she protests being a zoo, alludes to the overall inhuman actions of both the militants Viennas citizens toward both the Woman attempting to support those seeking asylum in the country.

“II. Zealots Of Stockholm” – The Existentialist Theme Song

Heathen, it's a struggle just to keep breathing
“II. Zealots of Stockholm (Free Information)” by Childish Gambino

By definition, existentialism is defined a philosophical theory or approach which emphasizes the existence of the individual person as a free and responsible agent determining their own development through acts of the will. While we’ve explored the lot of existentialist ideals worked into our readings of Albert Camus’ The Stranger, I believe one of the most profound pieces of existentialist media is Donald Glovers “Because The Internet”, specifically his song titled “II. Zealots of Stockholm (Free Information). The overall story of the song follows Glovers relationships with his parents which evolves into the overall questioning of life and death. Throughout the song many lines allude to the overall existential meaning of the song, such as the final line of the first verse reading “F*ck him, I just really wanna feel something,” making reference to a girl pursuing her own individuality through cheating on her significant other for satisfaction. While I won’t cite the lines in full due to their explicit nature, it’s worth highlighting Glover’s notes of existentialist ideals throughout the rest of the track. During the second verse, Glover makes reference to the un-importance of sexual relationships being heavily romantic, the human race being in a constant race to achieve artificial power, as well as the fragility and insignificance of the human life. While Glover is known for plenty works displaying commentary on the worlds issues through music and film, some of his work being categorized as that of the theater of the absurd/existentialist type deserves more exploration and further attention in the media.

The Secret Remains (A “The Secret Woman”)

“The Secret Woman,” is a short story following a man and his wife, who both lie to one another in order to attend an ball. Upon arrival, the man witnesses his wife engage with several men and women, cheating on her him.

The story is masterful, in that the lack of length the story contains forces the reader down a rabbit-hole of dissection of what’s already there. There’s so much to pick apart from the story off of such little content.

The narrative and dynamic between both the wife and husband creates a patriarchal binary between the man and woman, as we see the husbands attitude towards the wife do a complete 180 after seeing her self liberation at the party, introducing her as dainty and almost docile, and ending by calling her evil and black. Moreover, the husband initially lied to the wife which leaves readers uncertain towards what his intentions were at the ball in the first place.

The use of the wife’s costume also is a curious metaphor for the secrecy of the wife as I personally interpret it as a double meaning for the reader and the husband not entirely understanding the true identity of the wife. The story is all told through the husbands perspective, so we only ever get to his perception of his wife, when in reality, the wife may have been putting up a front for the husband the entire time, using her social life as a ways to reject/free herself from the binary.

Overall, the story definitely served as a change of pace from some of the other stories we’ve read whilst maintaining a lot of room to dissect, and discuss.

Abused or Acknowledged: A Benjamin Application

I love movies, and recently, someone very close to me recommended that I watch the movie Whiplash. The film had been lingering on my mind for quite some time as it is critically acclaimed and has been mentioned by many friends and family as of late.

Upon watching, I couldn’t help but draw the similarities of the relationships of characters in the movie to the theories of Jessica Benjamin regarding power dynamics that involve a person subjecting another.

The movie follows Andrew Neiman, played by Miles Teller, a student of the most prestigious music university in the country, who’s obsessed with reaching a level of greatness through becoming a outstanding figure in the Shaffer Conservatory Jazz Band. Throughout the movie, Neiman endures forms of psychological and physical abuse from maestro Terence Fletcher, played by J.K Simmons in his goals to find and create the next great Jazz Musician.

Fletcher is seen practically torturing Andrew by throwing objects at him whilst playing, slapping him for missing tempo, and verbally insulting him time and time again for mistakes whilst playing. But this harm only reinforces Andrews obedience to Fletcher and motivation towards achieving his goal of greatness. Conversely, it allows Fletcher more opportunity to enforce his cruelty in hopes of achieving the goal of his own.

This relationship between the two creates an compelling power dynamic or teacher/student or conducter/musician that’s followed throughout the movie, and ends up resulting in an unforeseen conclusion to the twos relationship that begs the question on whether or not either Fletcher or Neiman achieved a level of Mutual Recognition.

In the end, Andrew plays a final time for Fletcher, disobeying his conducting and reversing the roles of the power dynamic in order to play the set on his own terms. At first, Fletcher doesn’t take kindly to this, mouthing silent threats to him in order not to provoke the audience, however, he eventually submits, and relishes in Andrews talent shining through. The conclusion seems lighthearted and displays the power dynamic fizzling into mutual recognition through Fletcher accepting Andrews rebelling, but it poses the question of the power dynamic being reinforced through Fletcher having his goal achieved of finding solace in Andrew being the next “great” so to speak and Andrew feeling as if he has achieved that status through the approval of his disobedience through Fletchers supposed smile in the final frame of the movie.