Orientalism in New Girl (Spoiler Alert)

One of my favorite television shows of all time is New Girl that ended a few years ago. The characters are all endearingly weird in their own way and they get themselves into so many funny situations. New Girl has become a comfort show to me as mac and cheese is some people’s comfort food. That being said, because I love it so much, I feel that it is necessary that I criticize it and it’s Othering of Hinduism, displayed in the character, Cece.

About New Girl with Zooey Deschanel on FOX

New Girl is a sitcom about a girl named Jess (Zooey Deschanel) who gets cheated on by her ex-boyfriend and is forced to find a new apartment in LA. She ends up finding a listing on Craigslist for an apartment that needs a new roommate. She ends up moving into this apartment with three men: Schmidt (far left), Nick (second to the right), and Winston (furthest to the right), and shenanigans ensue.

Cece Parekh | New Girl Wiki | Fandom

Cece is portrayed as Jess’s hot, wild-child best friend. Because of this, Cece doesn’t feel like she belongs in her Indian/Hindu culture. To stick with this premise, it seems that the writers rely on Orientalism to accentuate her differences and make her drawn toward Schmidt, the self-proclaimed “douche bag.” This is most apparent in season two when Cece is suddenly fixated on getting married in order not to disappoint her family and to have children. Cece also does this in opposition to Schmidt, who is her ex-boyfriend at the time because she thinks that he is not ready to be serious with her, which is what she needs if she wants to have children soon. When Schmidt comes over to her apartment in an attempt to win her back, Cece does something that the writers portray as “drastic,” which is to call her mother and ask for an arranged marriage, something that is very common in Indian/Hindu culture.

It is further clear that the purpose of the arranged marriage premise is Othering rather than for the purpose of exploration or acceptance when Schmidt assumes that Cece doesn’t want to get married to the person that she is arranged with and attempts to ruin her wedding. This results in Cece confessing that this is not what she wants. This implies not only that the writers find arranged marriages somewhat barbaric and outdated, which is a fundamental element of Orientalism.

This is just one example of how Orientalism is used in the writing and character development of this show. In order for Cece to married to Schmidt, she has to disregard her mother’s disapproval. The show begs Cece to be estranged from her culture due to the fact that it doesn’t seem appropriate in the American culture that she lives in.

Orientalism as it is used in this show is a perfect example of how media can distort public perception of a culture and how people experience it.

Trauma in God of Small Things

Throughout the novel, God of Small Things explicitly says that Sophie Mol’s death is the catalyst for the destruction and subsequent dissemination of Rahel and Estha’s family. However, it is possible that the subtext of the novel suggests an underlying cause of this dissemination: trauma. Each and every character experiences unspoken trauma in their own way, manifesting itself into brittle family ties, the breaking point being Sophie Mol’s death. Although her death ultimately did lead to its dissemination, trauma was the underlying cause of the state of the family after Sophie Mol’s death, exhibited by how all of Rahel, Estha, and Ammu’s actions leading to Sophie Mol’s are predicated by each of their individual traumas.

Early on in the novel, Arundhati Roy explains that Ammu moves in with Mammachi and Pappachi because her alcoholic husband was abusive. At first, Pappachi has a hard time believing this because he was a wealthy Christian Englishman. Additionally, she was physically emotionally abused by her father who was also a wealthy businessman. Ammu began resenting her children because, “…their wide-eyed vulnerability and their willingness to love people who didn’t really love them exasperated her and sometimes made her want to hurt them…,”(42).  Her trauma from her past relationships is part of why she acts in the way that she does. She begins resenting wealthy Englishmen, which may have been part of why she fell in love with and had an affair with Velutha, who was a dark-skinned, lower class and Marxist man. This is significant because this leads to Mammachi and Baby Kochamma locking her in her room so that she would not see Velutha any longer, which leads to her lashing out at her children, saying that she did not love them and blames them for her situation. Her anger at this moment at them clearly is rooted in her resentment toward her children due to their naivety and connection to her ex-husband, despite them clearly having little to do with Mammachi and Baby Kochamma’s actions. This leads to them running away and rowing a boat down the river, the boat tipping over, and Sophie Mol eventually drowning. Sophie Mol becomes a symbol of how when trauma is unspoken, it can cause great distress to a person’s relationships. So much so in this case that it leads to Sophie Mol dying and Estha and Rahel having to move away, and their family to be destroyed as Ammu goes to “fend for herself”.

This is also exhibited by Estha’s trauma within the story. When Estha is at the movie theater to see The Sound of Music, he is sexually assaulted by the “Orangedrink Lemondrink Man.” Estha is traumatized by this and becomes afraid of the Orangedrink Lemondrink Man because he knows where he lives. This becomes a significant part of his decision to run away, besides Ammu telling him to go because he realizes that, “(1) Anything can happen to anyone. and (2) It’s best to be prepared,” (186). He realized the best preparation to protect himself from Orangedrink Lemondrink Man is to leave the place where Orangedrink Lemondrink knows he lives. It is his and Rahel’s combined efforts of running away, and heading to the History house. Sophie Mol tags along, and ends up drowning, causing her death. This decision making caused by Estha’s effort to avoid trauma, because of his past trauma.

Rahel’s trauma is somewhat smaller but still important to the accumulation of trauma that led to Sophie Mol’s death and the subsequent dissemination of her family. After seeing The Sound of Music Rahel makes a snide comment about how Ammu should marry the Orangedrink Lemondrink man, unaware of his encounter with Estha. To this, Ammu responds, “‘When you hurt people, they begin to love you less…’,” (107). This is traumatic to Rahel because it makes her believe that Ammu does not love her. She continues to think this when Sophie Mol arrives and is adored by everyone in her family. This thought process is the precursor to her, Estha and Sophie Mol’s decision to leave because of both her ideas that Ammu didn’t love her, and Estha’s ideas that lead them to leave and try to get to History House by boat.

The accumulation of trauma here is clearly the catalyst for the dissemination of Rahel and Estha’s family rather than merely Sophie Mol’s death.

 

Comedies Change Lives

Comedy is one of my favorite forms of media, whether it be in books, movies, television shows or stand up specials on Netflix, I will always look forward to watching a comedy far more than a drama. However, I have to admit, I have still always seen comedies as less important and profound than tragedies because of the grand reputation that dramas have for speaking on tough issues. Dramas are often moving, and really make the audience think, whereas I have always thought of comedies as an escape from reality rather than something of a magnifying glass. However, this unit on comedy has made me reconsider my ideas about the purpose of comedy.

According to Aristotle, a comedy is a story of the rise in fortune of a sympathetic central character. One of my favorite television shows, Brooklyn Nine-Nine follows this formula, but also adds to it. Brooklyn Nine-Nine stars Andy Samberg as the childish New York City cop, Jake Peralta. The entire series does not necessarily focus on Jake’s rise monetarily, or status wise, but focuses on his character, and its development. From the start of the show, Jake is established as a loveable, but immature character with daddy issues. Throughout the show, with the help of the other characters in the show, he is able to mature as a person and become a better cop. His rise in fortune occurs when the 99th precinct in which Jake is working gets a new captain, Captain Holt, who is very uptight and strict to contrast with Jake. Throughout the show, Holt’s strictness helps Jake mature and become a better cop. Jake’s rise in fortune is the introduction of Holt, which helps him gain what he wants, which is to be a better cop.

Brooklyn Nine-Nine perfectly represents comedy’s importance to literature and media, hence it’s importance in helping us understand our world. Where someone may be turned off by a movie exploring the trials and tribulations of being gay, they may be more inclined to watch a comedic tv series. Brooklyn Nine-Nine stars two openly LGBT characters. Not only is the comedic aspect of their lives as LGBT people explored, the more serious and tough parts of their lives as LGBT people are also explored. Because most people like to laugh, it is one thing that attracts most everyone to comedies, it really expands the bounds of exploration within comedies, and how it can explore issues such as that Brooklyn Nine-Nine explores. Whether it’s through satire or plain old slapstick comedy, it is much easier to sneak in representation and conversations about real issues into a piece of comedic media because those serious discussions are offset by the comedy, which is what makes these shows so attractive in the first place. Thus, because of its wider appeal, comedy might just have even more impact on people’s ideas about the world because of its more subtle ways of unpacking such issues. With these conversations that shows such as Brooklyn Nine-Nine are having about race issues and LGBT issues, it could truly change someone’s perspective on these issues, and quite possibly change lives.

 

Popstar: Hollywood Satire

Popstar: Never Stop, Never Stopping is a mockumentary about the pop star, “Conner4Real” created by the comedy group “the Lonely Island,” consisting of Andy Samberg, Jorma Taccone, and Akiva Schaffer, guest-starring many of their famous Saturday Night Live friends. Popstar about the rise of Samberg’s character, Conner4Real in the boy band, “Style Boyz” and his eventual downfall when he goes solo.

Clearly, this movie makes fun of the overzealous delusional self-image of popstars such as the likes of Justin Bieber, and how the industry is conducted in general. The first utilization of this is with the use of understatement when Sarah Silverman’s character says, “…Sure, Conner surrounds himself with people who are agreeable.” Directly after this, Conner misses a shot in a basketball hoop, and then everyone cheers despite his clear failure. This is far more than expected based on the above comment, thus it helps further illuminate the ridiculous egomania of popstars such as those Andy Samberg is trying to emulate.

The writers also use parody in this movie to help develop the satirical nature of Popstar: Never Stop Never Stopping in this scene, where Maya Rudolph’s character, Deborah proposes that they upload Conner4real’s new flopping album onto appliances. This causes outrage, reminiscent of when Apple made their products come with a compulsory download of U2’s new album that was also flopping. However, the writers hyperbolize this by using this technique on appliances, where the consumer wouldn’t be able to escape it, making the industry and consumers simultaneously aware of ridiculous sales tactics of the industry.

The best way in which Popstar is able to satirize the pop music industry is through their parodies of the lyrics of these songs. This song, Finest Girl in particular is clearly criticizing the way in which many popstars think that whatever they touch turns to gold, perhaps in particular when Justin Bieber allegedly said this:

Image result for justin bieber anne frank

Clearly, both Conner4real and Justin Bieber are making light of issues and current events that are pretty serious, making them both seem tone-deaf, which is likely the point of this parody. Additionally, the ridiculous visuals in the video are quite akin to those found in many pop music videos.

The writers of Popstar do a great job of making fun of Hollywood and the ridiculousness of the pop music industry. What truly makes this film a satire, however, is how it ends. Conner4real’s downfall ends when he reunites with his bandmates and somehow learns how to be less shallow. This alludes to the fact that while the movie had a lot of fun making fun of the pop music industry, it was also trying to send a message that it is uncool to be shallow and that it is often what makes the industry so unbearable. By giving them a happy ending, Popstar is able to achieve its goals.

Meaning in the Ivy

220px-Blonde_-_Frank_Ocean

Frank Ocean’s album Blonde has recently been named the best album of the decade by the music publication website, Pitchfork. With such poetic lyrics as in Ivy, combined with his incredibly emotional isolated vocal performances, it is not hard to see why.

Here are the full lyrics to the song: https://genius.com/Frank-ocean-ivy-lyrics

In his song, “Ivy,” Frank Ocean opens up about a failed relationship, reportedly a sequel to a song from his previous album, “Thinkin’ Bout You”, likely detailing the trials and tribulations of Ocean’s first love. In 2012, Frank Ocean opened up to his fans in a letter on Tumblr, describing his first relationship with a man.

Without much of an introduction, Frank Ocean’s voice comes in right away with the lyrics:

I thought that I was dreamin’ when you

said you love me

Something very interesting about this song is that Frank Ocean starts right away with the chorus that is often not heard in a song until 30 or more seconds into the song. It seems that the intention of this is to convey a sense of shock when he receives this news. He sings this with a very low and quiet tone, conveying vulnerability. This immediate assertion is not only surprising to the listener but the way in a way forces the listener to think about their own past. Perrine asserts in his, “What is Poetry” that poetry is a medium that should be used when prose is not enough to convey the intended emotion. Here, the depth and complexity of emotions that Frank Ocean is feeling is not only conveyed by his tone, but by the formatting. The line breaks near the end at, “said you love me”, almost as if to convey to the reader/listener how much this line stuck with him, the separation perhaps to separate reality with a dreamlike state that he says that this statement put him in. He also utilizes hyperbole to dramatize his emotions, allowing the listener to almost feel what he is feeling.

The rest of this stanza continues with

The start of nothin’, I had no chance to prepare
I couldn’t see you comin’
The start of nothin’, ooh, I could hate you now
It’s quite alright to hate me now
When we both know that deep down
The feeling still deep down is good

Next, Frank Ocean sings, “The start of nothin’,” indicating that the relationship was ruined from the start, nothin’ used as a hyperbolic statement, almost indicating a sense of time wasted in this relationship. Ocean continues to convey his shock here when he says that he, “had no chance to prepare.” This is a very interesting and methodical way of describing a moment that is supposed to be loving between two people, indicating to the listener that the dream that he was describing before was not good. He then goes on to say, “ooh I could hate you now,”. This likely means that Frank Ocean holds some sort of resentment toward the person who told him that they loved him, almost as if that love ruined a friendship perhaps. In the rest of the stanza, Ocean contrasts the resentment that he holds with the resentment that the other person in this relationship holds toward him. He ends the stanza by repeating “deep down” from the line before when describing the nature of the feelings between the two of them. Ocean ends by summarizing the complicated feelings in this relationship, one that he is making clear should be nothing more than a friendship.

If I could see through walls, I could see you’re faking
If you could see my thoughts, you would see our faces
Safe in my rental like an armored truck back then
We didn’t give a fuck back then
I ain’t a kid no more, we’ll never be those kids again
We’d drive to Syd’s, had the X6 back then, back then
No matter what I did, my waves wouldn’t dip back then
Everything sucked back then, we were friends

In this first verse, Ocean uses figurative language in saying, “If I could see through walls,”. These walls are likely a metaphor for the facade that someone puts on when hiding their emotions. Ocean is claiming that he knows the subject of this song so well that he can tell that they are not being genuine in this romantic relationship. He then goes on to tell about how he thinks about the other person in this relationship by saying, “If you could see my thoughts, you would see our faces”. He goes on to describe a nostalgic feeling of when they were kids. Ocean even uses a voice modifier here to enhance that nostalgic feel. He describes a bittersweet feeling of being in love but also being torn between friendship and romance.

He then goes on to repeat the chorus from the beginning of the song, driving home this theme of shock, nostalgia, and bittersweetness.

In the halls of your hotel
Arm around my shoulder so I could tell
How much I meant to you, meant it sincere back then
We had time to kill back then
You ain’t a kid no more, we’ll never be those kids again
It’s not the same, ivory’s illegal, don’t you remember?

This continues the nostalgic feeling that he conveys throughout this song, but also the rotting of this relationship. Ocean asserts that this relationship was very pure and innocent. This is perpetuated by his reference to “ivory” being illegal. The purity of ivory is used in metaphor to compare to the purity in their relationship, that purity no longer existing, being “illegal”.

I broke your heart last week
You’ll probably feel better by the weekend
Still remember, had you going crazy
Screamin’ my name, the feeling deep down is good

The quickness of this bridge conveys the difference between “now” and “then”, and how he must let go of a relationship that has withered, that this relationship is nothing more than a memory.

Next, Ocean goes back again to the chorus, but with more vocal emphasis and elaboration, driving home the complexity of this song/poem.

All the things I didn’t mean to say, I didn’t mean to do
There were things you didn’t need to say
Did you mean to? Mean to
I’ve been dreamin’ of you, dreamin’ of you
I’ve been dreamin’ of you, dreamin’ of you
I’ve been dreamin’, dreaming

The outro drives home the bittersweetness of the end of this relationship, using repetition to convey indecision when it comes to the end of a relationship, and how that person and that relationship sticks in one’s mind forever.

Frank Ocean effortlessly creates poetry within his song Ivy through metaphor and repetition, representative of the complexities of a withering relationship with someone that you really care for. He completes the emotional complexity that Perrine proposes as a requisite for poetry.

Beloved Symbolism

Beloved is a very intriguing book, as Toni Morrison shows her incredible writing technique. One of Morrison’s many impressive writing skills is her ability to weave many different narratives together. Beloved’s story is particularly well crafted and hints to the message of the entire novel.

In her own chapter in part two of the novel, Beloved begins to recount events that seem totally random to the reader, given the rest of the story. She says, “I am Beloved…there will never be a time when I am not crouching and watching the others that are crouching too…the man on my face is dead…we are all trying to leave our bodies behind,” (248).

It becomes clear to the reader that the experiences that Beloved is describing her experiences with slavery on the middle passage, which at first was confusing to me because those events seemed to occur at the beginning of slavery, whereas the story told in the novel occurs at its’ tail end. When Beloved started to describe the relief of death from these circumstances, it reminded me of Sethe’s own reasoning for killing her children. She believed that death was less painful than living in captivity. Clearly, Beloved shares the same mentality as she is on the middle passage when she is longing to die as the other slaves on the middle passage had. The fact that Beloved is Sethe’s dead daughter that Sethe killed for the same reason, makes Beloved representative of the greater trauma that black people as a whole have experienced in America at the hand of slavery. These people would rather die than suffer in captivity, explaining Sethe’s actions in the novel.

Exit West: A Deep Dive

Exit West is a very intriguing book because of everything from its plot, to the magical doors, to the unique writing style, to the message that it is conveying. Today, I wanted to take the time to analyze one specific line from the novel to do a deeper analysis.

My favorite line that we have read so far is, “The dead neighbor bled through a crack in the floor, his blood appearing as a stain in the high corner of Saeed’s sitting room, and Saeed and Nadia, who had heard the family’s screams, went up to collect and bury him, as soon as they dared, but his body was gone, presumably taken by his executioners, and the blood was already fairly dry, a patch like a painted puddle in his apartment, an uneven trail on the stairs,” (85).

First, I want to analyze the syntax of this passage. This whole passage is just one sentence, which is something that is quite prevalent throughout the novel, but its use here is especially interesting. Most of the time, when Hamid uses these types of long sentences, he is referring to the experiences of the main characters to make them even more real. However, he uses this technique here to describe the aftermath of a tragedy that happened to the upstairs neighbor. I believe that he uses this tactic to not only force the reader to feel the emotions with the characters, but to breathe reality into this situation. The long sentence conveys a sense of hopelessness. Not only that, but it also conveys the urgency of this world because as soon as they witness it, the main characters are not only forced to accept it but also forget about it very quickly. Within the span of one sentence.

Another significant aspect of this sentence is its foreshadowing. Not long after this sentence, Nadia and Saeed get the opportunity to go through one of the famous doors that so many immigrants were forced to go through as their last option. I believe that the imagery of blood in this passage conveys something more. The wet blood seems to represent their current, terrible situation in this city that is overtaken by militants. The dry blood seems that it might be what they have to leave behind, and their past once they leave. When Saeed and Nadia leave, they’re forced to leave Saeed’s father behind, like the trail of blood. They lead a better life but have to leave things behind. The dried blood might represent the past, in that it is over now, but still lingers.