Orientalism in Indiana Jones

The Western construct of Orientalism has always been a big part of the American film industry, although the way that the Asian culture is represented is almost never accurate. Hollywood has incorporated Orientalism in many of the adventure films, including the one and only Indiana Jones. In Steven Spielberg’s first three Indiana Jones movies, Indiana’s adventures take him all around the Middle East and India. He frequently encounters a stereotypical, fantasy version of the Asian culture, where Indiana’s character is meant to represent someone that the audience can relate to and root for against the differences he comes in contact with. 

In Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom, there is an absurd amount of the Western/Eastern binary. At the dinner scene, the arrangement of absurd food is meant to shock the audience, making them view the Indian culture as barbarians who consume the most inedible meals. The white characters who show disgust once again represent the audience and their disgust. 

These movies all have the same thing in common, Indiana Jones becoming a hero after defeating all of the villains and taking power over Asian culture.

Pappachi’s Moth

As I continued reading The God of Small Things, one recurring symbol I noticed was the moth that Pappachi had discovered but not received any credit for. Pappachi’s “greatest setback was not having had the moth he discovered named after him” (23). At this moment, the moth became a symbol of failure, “which tormented Pappachi and his children and his children’s children” (24). 

The next time we are introduced to the moth is once Estha and Rahel leave the theater and Rahel makes a snarky comment about Ammu marrying the Orangedrink Lemondrink man. Ammu responds by telling her that hurting people with words will make them love you less. 

Once she says this, “A cold moth with unusually dense dorsal tufts landed lightly on Rahel’s heart. Where it’s icy legs touched her, she got goosebumps” (107). Hearing something like this from your own mother at such a young age completely terrified Rahel, and I would’ve been worried about it too. Rahel knew she shouldn’t have said what she did, and immediately after her mother responded she felt like a failure- like she wasn’t loved as much anymore, and that stuck with her for the rest of her life. 

Pappachi’s moth returns each time Rahel feels as if she has done something wrong, and the moment she heard Sophie Mol’s silence from the river, “On Rahel’s heart Pappachi’s moth snapped opened its somber wings” (277). Rahel is blaming herself for the death of her cousin and not being able to save her. This cold feeling of failure never leaves Rahel, and she takes it with her for the rest of her life. 

Best Part

In his album Freudian, which is full of love songs, Daniel Caesar’s “Best Part” featuring H.E.R. was by far one of my favorites. It’s so good, even Barack Obama added it to his 2019 summer playlist.

This song is a love story between two people, where both people are speaking in the song about their feelings towards one another. The message they are trying to convey is that it’s extremely important to let others know how you feel about them and express these feelings of appreciation. No matter how much of a struggle you are going through there is always someone to support you and stay with you.

The song is filled with metaphors describing the way these people feel about each other and how without each other, essentially both speakers would be lost:

“You’re the coffee that I need in the morning

You’re my sunshine in the rain when it’s pouring”

In this line, H.E.R. refers to her lover being the boost of energy helping her function everyday, and without them, her day is never the same.

“You’re my water when I’m stuck in the desert

You’re the Tylenol I take when my head hurts”

Here, Daniel Caesar refers to his lover as someone who he cannot live without and the moment he is away he needs more, they can easily take his pain away and make him feel better in an instant.

Both of these examples enhance the feeling of love throughout the song as all of the things described are things most people need in their lives and can’t live without, or things that help ease the pain in our everyday lives. Comparing someone to these things sends the message to that person that they bring so much happiness to someone else.

Not only do those quotes show metaphors, but also imagery as well. When describing his lover as being the water in the desert, and the sunshine during the rain, the reader/listener can really feel the pouring rain and dryness being described and understand how it feels to have those feeling taken away by something so powerful.

Another device used in this song is symbolism. Throughout the song, both singers explain how they feel about each other and how they are the best things in each others lives. Their love is a symbol for the necessities of life and how without each other, their lives wouldn’t be the same.

Did Sethe Really Make the Right Move?

In the story Beloved, Toni Morrison highlights the power of love throughout the text and it is shown how strong it can be in certain situations that cause us to do things we would never imagine of doing.

Sethe is shunned and ignored by the other residents of her town after she brutally ended the life of Beloved, but did the townsfolk really have the right understanding of her actions?

The only reason Sethe was able to commit something so horrible, something nobody could ever even consider doing, was because her love for her children was greater than anything else in the world. She knew that if Beloved and her other children were taken away from her and forced into slavery, they would be living lives full of torture, pain, and rape, something that would be very hard to escape from.

Did Sethe really deserve the years of ignorance she received from her neighbors? Or should she have been accepted for doing something so horrifying yet so brave so her children didn’t have to live the life she did?

Escape in Exit West

In the story Exit West, the main character Saeed and Nadia both have different ways of releasing themselves from the present and just forget about what is going on around them.

For Nadia, she enjoys rolling joints and smoking weed to help her cope with the stress of the wars and riots going on around her as it calms her down and brings her joy.

For Saeed, it becomes very important to him to pray more once he has left his hometown and it seems to become a way for him to escape from the refugee camp and enter his own world where he can feel connected to his family, especially his father.

The ways that these two characters choose to cope with their stress and guilt of all that has happened around them is very different, which may be a reason for why their relationship started becoming more and more distant.

Is Meursault a Sociopath or an Existentialist?

The definition of a sociopath is “a person with a personality disorder manifesting itself in extreme antisocial attitudes and behavior and a lack of conscience”. In the story The Stranger, the main character Meursault can be seen as a person with very sociopathic tendencies, such as having a lack of emotion, and lack of remorse, shame, and guilt after the death of his mother and his murder of the Arab. But is he actually a sociopath? Or has he just realized that there is no true meaning or purpose to life and that we are the ones who create our own happiness by accepting that?

As we discussed in class, existentialism is the theory that “existence precedes essence”, basically, we exist the moment we are born, without any purpose or meaning, and we define ourselves later in life through our experiences.

Meursault perfectly fits this description throughout the story as he constantly addresses the absurdity of life with his relationship with Marie, and the lives of the Arab and his mother.

“Bloodchild” and Switching Gender Roles

In the short story “Bloodchild”, Octavia Butler brings us into a completely new world where aliens are in control of humans and men are now used to reproduce. She introduces us to a whole new way of creating life and giving birth, which consists of one member of the Tlics, or aliens, to implant their eggs into a male human host and eventually remove the eggs once they have grown enough by slicing the stomach of the host and digging them all out, in hopes that the host will survive. The brutal explanation of this process was disturbing to read, but how different is it from the way women used to give birth?

During the discussion we had in class, it seemed to many people that what happens to these host men is considerably worse than what women go through during childbirth, but in reality, they are about the same.

Giving birth to a child is one of the most dangerous and painful things a woman can do, and nobody really seems to talk about it. A century ago, around six hundred women would die during childbirth for every one hundred thousand births, and in the 1700’s, that number was more than doubled. Puerperal fever, hemorrhage, eclampsia (ridiculously high blood pressure), and obstructed labor are all causes of death during childbirth that many people aren’t aware of, along with infection and a list of many other things that could go wrong.

I think the way Butler created this process was very fascinating and I really enjoyed the way she switched these gender roles in her story because the way these births happen in her story are actually very similar to the way women give birth today, and allows the reader, mostly men, to see themselves in the story and compare this with what giving birth is like for women.