Obsession and Mental illness: Janina’s Mind

Drive Your Plow Over the Bones of the Dead’ is a novel following an older woman named Janina as she tries to investigate a series of murders in her town. This novel takes on an interesting approach to its story as it not only allows for the protagonist to act as an unreliable narrator but also ignore standard grammar rules. As a result, the changes in sentences or paragraphs add emphasis in ways that a more conventional writing would be unable to do. It also allows us to look deeper into Janina’s mental state and views.

Throughout the novel, many readers will come to notice the bizarre capitalization for random words that typically wouldn’t be capitalized. Words such as ‘deer’, ‘ailment’ and ‘young ladies’ are only a few examples of words that had been capitalized all through the chapters. What this capitalization reveals about Janina is the subtle importance she places on such subjects, capitalization is usually saved for things like names, titles or certain locations, so to see it used so randomly is jarring enough to tip of the reader to pay attention. Its a very unique stylistic choice, one of which makes the reader further consider the mental state of Janina as well, since it is so different to “normal” sentence structure or thought.

Janina could be considered obsessed with animals, since though out most of the novel that’s most of what she talks about. Animals are the center of Janina’s world, and she views them above humans and even herself. Some might consider her viewing them as god like in a way, with their mental capability being almost – if not – the same as humans. While some would say they too view animals in a similar way to Janina, there is a major difference between the average person love for animals and Janina’s dangerous obsession. While not confirmed, it could be possible that Janina’s obsession could be a result of her failing mental health, possibly due to age or even because of the grief after losing her mother and her ‘Little Girls’ (dogs).

Another possible hint at Janina’s failing mental health could be the amnesia she gets after (spoiler) commiting each murder. While it isn’t impossible for more mentally stable people to forget things, traumatic events – like a murder – are a bit harder to forget, and when they are its typically a trauma response that most would consider a connection to mental illness.

This is all to say; it is highly likely that Janina was suffering from some sort of mental illness that was making her more susceptible to committing such violent acts. But, seeing as its never confirmed in the novel, we will never know.

HBO Velma: Satire and self-awareness done WRONG

We all have fond memories of Scooby Doo and the Gang solving mysteries together, no matter which era or rebirth they went through when you discovered them, its likely you had a few laughs thanks to shaggy and Scooby. In the past year, HBO decided to release a new Scoob-Gang themed show, ‘Velma‘.

This new version of Velma, Shaggy, Fred, and Daphne were very different compared to their previous iterations. HBO Velma changes the races of 3 out of the four main characters and removes Scooby completely. However, these alone didn’t mean a fiery end for the show, what did destroy it? It’s poor comedy and attempt at satire.

When trying to create a good version of satire, you need to have a proper understand of the subject of which you are creating said satire. HBO Velma makes no attempt to do this. HBO Velma doesn’t create any of the Scooby Doo characters as actual characters but more as reflections of modern society and in the case of Velma herself; Mindy. HBO Velma has no respect for the franchise and the characterization of any of its subjects. If you removed the name of Velma and the appearance of any of the other characters, you’d never know that it had anything to do with the Mystery Gang.

The worst part is that it could have been a good show, not great but passable at the very least. HBO Velma tries a meta-satire approach to its comedy, but ends up falling flat due to its lack of respect for itself. Had it attempted to be more focused on taking its usual unmasking of villains and flipping it into a more interesting approach, or more focused on becoming a satire of itself rather than society as a whole it might have been more well received. It does try to attempt this, but its so poorly done you barely notice that it even did so.

To summarize; do not bother watching HBO´s Velma. It fails not only as a comedy in the simplest ways but especially as a satire. It doesn´t treat any of the Mystery Gang with respect, tries too hard to be meta at the expense of the plot, and generally is unfunny. Save yourself and go watch Mystery Incorporated or any of the older Scooby Doo shows.

Raise the Red Lantern: Women against Women

Raise the Red Lantern’ is a Chinese film that focuses on the new life of Songlian, who at the beginning of the film has just become the Fourth Mistress of a rich household. The plot of this film is far from cut and dry, with twists and turns, and occasionally confusing plot points too.

The most important characters of ‘Raise the Red Lantern’ are its female characters. ‘The Master’, as he’s referred to, is one of the few major characters who are male, and his face is never shown directly in shots. It is obvious that the avoidance of the Master’s face is purposeful, however there are a multitude of different reasons why this was implemented into the film’s cinematography. One possible reason could be an attempt to make the Master appear almost god-like by keeping him as a hidden figure lurking but never completely on screen. Another, and more likely, is to keep the focus on the Mistress’s of the household.

Each of the Mistresses are distinct and well thought out characters, you can sympathize with all of them to some degree. However, they all fall victim to one thing; The Gender Binary. Despite being independent and interesting individuals, they fight desperately for the love of Master, who controls their lives with his family traditions. This dynamic pits the mistresses against each other, all trying to sabotage one another in some way.

Whats interesting about a binary like this is that one would assume the women would band together to overcome such a boundary, however, throughout ‘Raise the Red Lantern’ they all try to use one another as stepping stones rather than allies. In the first half of the film, this is seen as nothing more than annoying competition, however by the end of the film its clear that everything could have been avoided only the relationship between the Mistresses and the Master were different. We’ve seen this type of competition among women all throughout history, and it does nothing but further strengthen the patriarchal system.

For the women of ‘Raise the Red Lantern’, there is nothing but suffering and unhappiness. All of which is inflicted not by the Master, but by the other women who they are supposed to consider sisters.

King Lear – Ego, Pride and Greed

The Tragedy of King Lear – written by Shakespeare- is riddled with greed, despair, betrayal and suffering. There is no shortage of passages detailing the pain Lear or any of the other characters go through. However there is one point that while not overlooked, isn’t given enough attention. It is obvious from the very first act that King Lear is an egotistical ruler, especially when he forces his daughters to tell him how much they love him in exchange for a portion of the kingdom’s land, only to banish the youngest after she refuses to be untruthful when telling him how much she loves him. King Lear pride holds him back from being the best possible king for his kingdom, even when his loyal servant tries to show him the error of his ways, Lear tells him to leave too. The issue is that Lear allows his ego as king overshadow his understanding of his situations and the actions of those around him. His pride makes him think that he is untouchable, despite the fact that he willingly gave away his power. Making him nothing but a King on the words of the wind.

Greed, another major plot point of King Lear, has a few characters that encapsulate its violent methods. From Edmund, who destroyed his entire family to become heir, to the sisters Goneril and Regan, who tried so desperately to outdo one another that they end up killing themselves in the process. Greed, in Shakespeare’s plays, has never had a happy ending for those who pursue it so readily. In Hamlet, it was the king’s brother, Hamlet’s Uncle, who suffered after killing his brother in greed for the throne. In Romeo and Juliet, it was the greed of the two families and their feud, and while they may not have been the ones who died in the end, they were still the ones who suffered the consequences, losing their children. All those who indulged in greed in King Lear suffer, Edmund, Goneril, Regan, Oswald (the servant), even King Lear himself suffer because of their eventual greediness. Lear plays into the idea of karma in that regard, by making those who we see change still suffer even after they have– at least somewhat– mended their ways.

That is what makes King Lear especially tragic, because when a character finally changes their ways and better understands the world, the rug is pulled out from under them and they suffer to an even further extent before eventually falling into the cold hands of death too. It’s tragedy also plays into the idea of family, by having this family destroyed by the seams for some land or the love of another. Most people fear the betrayal of a close loved one, especially if in your mind they can do you now harm or they are less powerful than you. It is for that reason that King Lear is a tragedy caused not only by fear, greed, and ego, but also by the betrayal of family.

The Tartness of Cherry Wine

Hozier’s Cherry Wine is one of my personal favorite songs from his first album, Hozier. The album is riddled with meaningful songs that cover many different messages, some more obvious than others. Cherry Wine is a song that sounds incredibly romantic, the softness of Hozier’s tone and calmness of the guitar in the background disguises the dark reality of the lyrics and their story.

“Hot and fast and angry as she can be
I walk my days on a wire”

Cherry Wine, Hozier

Cherry Wine in its most basic form, is a song about abuse, both physical and emotional. However, unlike many other songs that discuss domestic abuse, Hozier explores a narrative that is generally passed over. The song details domestic abuse with the man as the victim. Lines such as:

“Thrown at me so powerfully
Just like she throws with the arm of her brother”

Cherry Wine, Hozier

The metaphor’s used little hide the physical abuse Hozier, who acts as the speaker and victim, experiences. The use of ‘thrown’ and ‘throws’ could be used in the literal sense, where she could be throwing an item at him. But, it could also mean that this behavior might be normal in her family as well.

The chorus of the song is what makes the abuse especially transparent, But the chorus lyrics also create hold some of the best portions of the song in terms of poetic verse.

“The way she tells me I’m hers and she is mine
Open hand or closed fist would be fine
The blood is rare and sweet as cherry wine”

Cherry Wine, Hozier

The title and final word of cherry wine plays into the idea of the speaker’s romantic relationship as a whole as well. One the outside it looks sweet, a happy couple without any issues, while their actual relationship is actually extremely bitter. This is the beauty of Hozier’s music, using whimsical wording and sound he can hide the reality of a song, but like how we never really know what relationships are like behind closed doors.

Exit West: Fantasy and Immigration

‘Exit West’ is a story based in an alternate reality filled with teleportation doors, a fantasy like concept that the story doesn’t focus too heavily on (as to not drown the rest of the story and its meaning). However unlike most other immigration based stories, which typically focus on the journey of immigration and its hardships, ‘Exit West’ doesn’t do that and is more concerned about the struggles and hardships that come after arriving. The doors play into the quick transition by removing the need for a long winded explanation of the travels of the main pair and other immigrants. The concept of magical teleportation doors could be a concept used in an apocalypse, and indirectly makes commentary on the bizarre sentiment of a mass immigration. The book comments on it by creating a reality where no major consequences are caused by the large number of immigrating people, at most there was discourse among the ‘natives’ and the immigrants, there was no war as some people would like to suggest and the doors are even used by people who wouldn’t usually be considered “immigrants” by the western idea of the term.

Exit West‘ is a story of immigrant accented by a fantastical idea and the interesting “romance” between two violently different people and their story of love and suffering.

202 Checkmates: A difference in generations

‘202 Checkmates’ is a story based on relationships, particularly a relationship between father and daughter.

Our narrator is a young girl living with her family who enjoys playing chess, despite losing every time to her father. Chess is mentioned and referenced multiple times throughout the story, and is the key o every conflict among the characters.

One of the side characters massively juxtapositions the father, he is young, his hands are soft, feminine even, and calm. The father works hard for his family, but is impulsive, and thinks that things will work out based on nothing but his own faith. This causes major issues with the Narrator’s mother, especially when he buys a marble chess board for the narrator’s birthday, which we learn they couldn’t actually afford.

This is another difference between the young man who acts as an alternate version of the father, whose relationship with the unknown woman who greets him at the end of each game, seems to be happy or at least alright with his relationship with chess, unlike with the Narrator’s mother and father.

The difference between the father and the young man could be interpreted as a mirror between generations, one who works hard but struggles with reality or concern themselves with the future, and another who doesn’t work in the same tireless way and thinks calmly about the future.

The Power of a Good Reader

Nabokov is partially famous for his discussion of what makes a good reader, and by correlation, what makes a good writer.

Nabokov mentions in his long reasoning that one important aspect of a reader/writer, is the ability to separate the reader’s world from the world the writer creates. But I disagree with this. The best thing about stories is the ability to connect things from your own world to the world the writer creates, whether its understanding the situation a character might be in, to imagining a location to something you’ve seen in your past or everyday life.

That is what makes books so much more imaginative and mentally stimulating than movies, when you read a book every person who reads it has a different image in their mind about a location, or even a character. Not to mention if we followed Nabokov’s example of not inserting ourselves into the story we might not feel the same nervousness, satisfaction or fear that the story presents.