No Darkness Without Light

Comedy is important as an art form because it serves to counter tragedy by showing the rise of a normal person, even if their new position doesn’t seem better at first glance. One work that embodies this idea is Raise the Red Lantern. In the movie Raise the Red Lantern, the viewer follows Songlian as she marries into a wealthy family, and eventually falls out of favor. As the story progresses, Songlian begins to exercise more agency, culminating in her being labeled as “mad” before being made into a servant.

In reality, Songlian’s downfall is actually her triumph, as being made into a servant actually gave her more agency than she had as the Fourth Mistress. This was previously seen in the story with Songlian’s servant, Yan’er, who exercised agency by violating traditions at will. The way that she rises above her previous position is by rejecting the power structures she was trapped in by exercising agency.

Raise the Red Lantern is not a comedy because it is about a person being more fulfilled in a materialistic sense, it is a comedy because it is about a person breaking free from the systems of power that they are trapped in through their own actions.

Why Satirical Newspapers are an Excellent Idea

On the 15th of February, 2023, the satirical news source The Onion published an article on the train derailment in Ohio. The article serves to criticize corporate lobbying, money in politics, as well as the materialism in American culture. To do this, The Onion uses parody and understatement.

The article addresses both the concerns people have about the crash, such as product delivery times before the health of East Palestine residents, as well as the lack of consequences for Norfolk Southern in addition to the poor government response. One of the questions asked is “What is butyl acetate?” with the answer “A sweet-smelling, colorless liquid that shouldn’t be inhaled, ingested, or federally acknowledged.” This is a criticism of the idea of harmful substances not being classified as harmful due to poor regulations, as strong regulations could harm profits. Another question asked was “This won’t delay my shipments of cheap consumer goods, will it?” which was answered with “God no, this is America!” The question and the answer both serve to criticize materialism, with the question making a statement about how the main concern of the person was their order, instead of the lives that may have been affected, and the answer serves to criticize America as a whole, being a statement about how the disaster won’t cause any changes to the system that could affect delivery times.

Overall, the article criticizes both the factors that led to the disaster in addition to the poor response to the disaster, making it a very effective satire because it is pointing out the consequences of modern society and how people don’t care, instead of simply mocking the railroad workers, the company, or the government.

Power Doesn’t Corrupt. People are Corrupt.

One of the central themes in King Lear is power, and it is conveyed through power binaries such as LEGITIMATE/illegitimate, MAN/woman, and OLD/young. A central part of King Lear is how characters adapt, or fail to adapt, to shifting power binaries and the loss or acquisition of power.

The titular character in King Lear, Lear, is an example of someone failing to adapt to a loss of power. After giving up his land to his daughters, he begins to lose his mind as the people he used to command stop listening to him and his daughters try to exercise authority over him. Lear went mad because he was not able to comprehend the world around him after the binaries he understood were flipped.

Edmund, Goneril, and Regan are similar characters in the sense that they all use deceptive tactics to acquire power, and their acquisition of power involves a reversal of a power binary (Edmund, ILLEGITIMATE/legitimate, Goneral + Regan WOMAN/man). Another thing that these characters have in common is that they are all killed in the ending of the play. The statement that is being made is that power is not something that can be gained, it is something that people inherently have, and any attempt to flip power binaries would only lead to chaos.

Reading too deep into video game soundtracks

“The Hot Wind Blowing” is a song written by Jamie Christopherson that focuses on ideas of independent thought, militarism, and imperialism. It takes place from the perspective of a veteran of the Iraq War.

Just like the buffalo
Blindly following the herd
We try to justify
All the things that have occurred

The speaker doesn’t understand the reason behind his orders, he only understands that he needs to follow them. Because he is following without thinking, he is left confused at what happens around him. The concept of following something without questioning is not only relevant to the military, but also to the world outside of it. When people blindly follow without making an effort to understand the events taking place around them, they will never understand what is happening and can be easily manipulated into doing what another person wants.

I don’t know what I’ve been told
But the wishes of the people can’t be controlled
I don’t know what I’ve been told
But the wishes of the people can’t be controlled

The speaker does not understand the cause he is fighting for, he only understands that he is fighting to impose “freedom” on other people, believing that those are the wishes of the people he is fighting to liberate. These lines can be interpreted as a comment on people who take a stance on an issue or conflict without really understanding both sides or their own stance. When people don’t understand their cause, but believe they are correct, they can end up advocating for and doing things they would never support if they understood what they meant.

Out of the ashes
The eagle rises still
Freedom is calling
To all men who bend their will

These lines are meant to be interpreted as a commentary on American imperialism. The word “freedom” in the third line is not being used to refer to the idea of having the ability to make your own decisions and live your life as you see fit. Instead, it is an ironic use of the word “freedom” that is referring to the idea of being under the control of the United States of America. Overall, these lines are being used to make the statement that imperialism cannot be used as a tool of freedom, since it requires somebody to bend their will.

Why Meursault Is Content

Meursault should be distraught by the end of The Stranger. After months in prison, he is about to be executed by guillotine with no way out; but he isn’t. In fact, he is perfectly at peace on the night before his death. The reason why Meursault is content is found in Camus’ “The Myth of Sisyphus”. According to Camus, Sisyphus is happy because his fate is one that he created out of his own free will, and his fate wasn’t imposed on him by someone else. Similarly, in The Stranger, Meursault finds peace because he created his own fate. He realized that he could have done things differently, but it wouldn’t matter because he would inevitably die regardless of the actions he took (121). Ultimately, Meursault finds peace because he realizes that he is in a situation that he created out of his own free will, and because it doesn’t matter that he’s about to die because it would have happened anyway, with the only difference being the where and when.

Anonymity in “The Secret Woman”

The short story “The Secret Woman” written by Colette follows a husband trying to catch his wife cheating. Over the course of the story, the husband follows Irene through a ball where everyone present wears masks that obscure their faces. As the husband follows Irene, it becomes clear to the reader that she is acting abnormally, “… the eel-like Pierrot noticed him. ‘Is that a declaration, purple Domino?’ He did not reply, for he was stifled with surprise, waiting and nightmare…” (44). This shows that Irene is acting very differently to how her husband would expect her to act, to the point of leaving him speechless. The reason why Irene is acting unusual is because she believes herself to be anonymous and that no one at the ball will recognize her, “… she was going to leave again the next moment, wander about once more, collect some other passer-by, forger him, and simply enjoy, until she felt tired and went back home, the monstrous pleasure of being alone, free, honest in her crude, native state, of being the unknown woman, eternally solitary and shameless…” (46). This shows that the reason she is acting abnormally is because of her anonymity, because she is the “unknown woman” who doesn’t need to worry about being criticized for her actions.

This is similar to how people often say things they wouldn’t normally say and do things they wouldn’t normally do when they believe that no one is watching or that they can’t be identified. Overall, Irene’s surprising behavior in “The Secret Woman” can be explained as her believing that she can say what she wants and act how she wants because she won’t be recognized.

Response to Benjamin’s Argument

Jessica Benjamin’s argument is that individuality comes from a combination of separation and connection with other people. Essentially, a person’s subjectivity comes from them being recognized by a subject by someone who is recognized as a subject by the person. This is in contrast to Freud’s beliefs about individuality. Freud believed that a (male) person’s individuality first begins to develop when he realizes that he is distinct from his mother. Freud believed that a person’s individuality is developed through their recognition of their separateness from others. Another part of Jessica Benjamin’s argument is that when this delicate balance of mutual recognition breaks down, it leads to a power struggle between those involved. When one person stops recognizing the other person as a subject and diminishes their individuality, the other person affirms their own individuality, which forces the other person to affirm their individuality in return, leading to a power struggle.

Benjamin’s theory helps me understand why people develop a sense of individuality. Her theory may also explain why relationships fall apart and a power struggle forms. As the two people stop recognizing each other as individuals, they try to impose their individuality on them, causing the other to reciprocate by doing the same. Benjamin’s theory also made me think about the human need for socialization. I think that it may explain one of the reasons humans need socialization. Without others to recognize a person’s subjectivity, their sense of individuality falls apart. People who are lonely are more likely to anthropomorphize inanimate objects, and according to Benjamin’s theory, people need their subjectivity to be recognized by another to maintain a healthy sense of individuality. So I thought that people might anthropomorphize objects when lonely/isolated as a subconscious attempt to get that recognition.