Orientalism in “The King and I”

“The King and I”, a classic American movie musical that almost everyone can find themselves singing along to. When thinking about the topic of orientalism the first thing that automatically comes up in my mind is this movie. Even if you were to ignore the white people playing Asian people, it would still be hard to ignore the other insensitive issues that are apparent in this movie. Let’s briefly go over the plot, the story follows a young teacher who is sent to a fictional place in Asia called Siam where she has to teach the King’s wives and all of his kids English. She teaches the English language as well as customs and etiquette to the royal family in order to make them more “Modern”. One of the prime examples of orientalism is the purpose of Ms Loenowens’ trip. Like I said before, she is teaching the Royals of Siam how to be proper so they can look good for the many other Europeans who are visiting to decide if they’ll “accept” the kingdom. It is clear that Ms Loenowens is trying to white-wash their culture, and it is seen as the “right thing” in the movie.

Another big issue with the movie is how the King of Siam is portrayed. The barbaric and poorly mannered king is a horrible representation of Asian culture. Apart from the messed up portrayal of some of these characters, many of the actors playing the people of Siam are white when the characters are Asian. The man who plays the king is a Russian- American actor and the woman who plays Tup-Tim is Puerto Rican. Casting people who don’t have an eastern ethnicity is a very distasteful way to put on a film. Overall, the Westernization of the characters in, “The King and I” is a prime example of why Hollywood needs to understand the history of what they’re portraying. Maybe we can learn from these mistakes and not repeat them. I have already seen significant change since the release of this famous film.

How the Last Chapter Resolves the Book.

Reading the book, you notice the little things that make a character the way they are. It’s these tiny flaws or problems that show the development of a character throughout the novel. I think the final chapter of “God of Small Things” wraps up the book in a satisfying way. One significant change is the way Ammu receives the English song she is listening to. It says, “Barely listening to the music…She couldn’t believe it. The cheap coincidence of those words… Then suddenly she rose from her chair and walked out of her world like a witch. To a happier, better place” (314). That fact that Ammu feels so inspired by the song shows how much her feelings for some of the “smaller things” have changed through out the novel. At the beginning of the book she said she felt an “unsafe edge” when listening to similar music. Not only did she feel safe with this music, but she felt inspired to go and pursue Velutha which is probably very far outside of her comfort zone.

The author wrapped up the chapter and the book in the best way possible. He left us off with Velutha and Ammu finally ending up together. In this final chapter he is showing how strong the love is between them. They also discuss all of the “small things” that they enjoy. One of the “small things” that isn’t mentioned is the promise they make to each other. They promise that they will be with each other the following night but nothing else in the future because they are unaware of it. This is a perfect example of a “small thing” that they cherish and hold on to. This final chapter shows the reader what the book is about and why it earned this title. Even though the characters have faced years of violence and hardship, it’s the little things that they love that keep them going. The author is trying to convey the message that even small acts of love can outweigh the biggest acts of wrongdoing.

Satire in Quentin Tarantino’s “Once Upon a Time in Hollywood”

When I was thinking about this project and the piece of work I would pick, I thought of all the really good comedies i’ve seen. And instantly, I thought of the Oscar-nominated, Once Upon a Time in Hollywood. And the more I thought about it, this film has many different satirical elements that make the movie so good. For starters, Tarantino really employs the use of parody in his movie. The entire film is set in the 60s and he pays homage to his favorite spaghetti western movies by having his actors almost mock the feelings of the actors in the time. For starters, Leonardo DiCaprio’s character has been rumored to be based off a ton of different actors from the 60s. His constant outbursts and breakdowns shed light on how hard a changing industry can be on an actor.


But probably the most apparent use of Satire is the ending with the Manson family. Tarantino is known to rewrite history in some of his movies and that is exactly what he did involving the tragic murder that took place in Hollywood 50 years ago. At the end of the film, three of Charles Manson’s cult members came to murder Sharon Tate and a few of her friends because Charles Manson had a problem with the person who owned the house before them. But before they could get to Tate (like they did in real life), Rick Dalton (Leonardo DiCaprio) and Cliff Booth (Brad Pitt) violently murdered all three of them. Booth having his dog maul one and bashing the head of the other into a brick wall, and Dalton blow torching the third person. This whole situation is very hyperbolic considering they could have easily hurt them and called the police. But the point of this scene is to show how this tragedy could have ended in a completely different way. By making the death of these three murderers so gruesome and overdramatic, he is giving respect to Sharon Tate and he’s showing that if more people paid attention to suspicious people like that, things like this wouldn’t happen.

SNL Skit, “Guns”

Many of us agree we have seen one or two SNL skits. In fact, in almost every episode they seem to have at least one fake commercial. I feel that this sketch in particular is pretty much the definition of satire. The sketch has the same structure as a jewelry commercial. It starts out with moments in people’s lives where love is clearly present (a date, father son bonding, and child birth ). It is even being narrated in a way that makes it look like the product is going to be a sentimental thing. But it turns out to be a gun in every scene even though the commercial continues on with the same tone.

This sketch is one of the best examples of a parody. To start off, the entire thing is prerecorded with the quality similar to a high budget jewelry commercial. If you didn’t know who these actors were it would be reasonable to infer that this is a commercial for Kay Jewelers, that is until you see the guns. The use of guns in every milestone of their lives is similar to showing clips of a woman with a bracelet at many different points in her life. On top of that, this skit also uses understatement considering these people are carrying guns in very public places. One person is shooting one in the air and another shows a pregnant woman bursting into a hospital with a shotgun. If this were to happen in real life, it would be terrifying and fatal but the sketch is making the idea of open carry “normal”.

The entire point of the skit is to call out our current political climate and our issue with gun restrictions. One line from the “commercial” says that guns “unite us” when in fact, they do the opposite. When they made this in the style of a commercial it shows how normalized guns can become if we don’t do something about it. We live in an era where mass shootings have become a common occurrence. SNL is poking fun and adding comedy to the situation to show how messed up our world is.

Afire Love

Afire Love“, from Ed Sheeran’s x (multiply) album, is a very powerful song. I have connected with many of his songs over the years, but this one hits different. The reason this song is so powerful is because it tells a story within a story. It starts out with a boy talking about his grandpa dying of Alzheimer’s. The chorus shifts to the perspective of the grandpa’s wife telling the story of how they fell in love. By doing this, Sheeran is showing that you can think back to the good times rather than get defeated by the problems you may be facing now. Listening to this song can help give perspective to people who may be in a similar situation.

The most obvious technique he uses to deepen the meaning of this song is the constant switch in perspective. He starts the song through his own eyes singing, “I heard the doctors put your chest in pain, but then that could have been the medicine”. He then switches to his dad’s point of view in the pre-chorus. He says, “And my father told me son. It’s not his fault he doesn’t know your face. And you’re not the only one”. He is showing how the father is trying to make his child understand how sad the situation is. He wraps it up by writing the chorus through the eyes of his grandma. He says, “Darling hold me in your arms the way you did last night and we’ll lie inside a little while here, oh”. When he does this he is showing that a death has different effects on different people. Some may have a more innocent outlook (like him) and some may have a more positive outlook, like the grandmother.

Besides the constant switch in perspective, Sheeran also uses a metaphor that compares sickness and death to the devil. “Things were all good yesterday. And then the devil took your memory” and “Things were all good yesterday. And the the devil took your breath away”. While comparing the devil to death is relatively basic, he does it in a way that makes everyone think his grandpa was taken too soon. Saying that the devil took his life is a very intense way of saying that he died. It shows how horrible the death was for everyone because someone “passing away” sends a very different message from someone who’s breath is being taken by the devil. The final way Sheeran conveys the message of love and loss is the repetition in the end of the song. He sings, “And my father, and all of my family rise from the seats to sing hallelujah” . He then repeats this line but replacing “father” with “mother”, “sisters”, and “brothers”. By including every person in this ending, he is showing how the death has brought the family together. The message he wants to leave you with is that grieving can bring more love than ever before.

“I Dreamed a Dream” is very similar to Beloved

I think the song, “I Dreamed a Dream” from Les Miserables is an embodiment of Sethe’s mentality throughout the entire book. In, Beloved, Sethe spends the entire novel constantly reliving the past, the good and the bad. This song is all about how the main character dreams of a better life but is woken up by her reality. She sings, “I dreamed, that love would never die, I dreamed that God would be forgiving”. Sethe has specific flashbacks to the point in her life when she was with Halle. She goes back to the time when her husband was still there with her. Just like the song, she is reverting to the good parts of her past because it is easier than dealing with the traumatic parts.

Similar to the first piece of lyrics, Sethe, is remembering the good times. The character, Fantine, says, “There was no ransom to be paid
No song unsung, no wine untasted”. This can easily be compared to Sethe and Halle’s wedding or Baby Suggs’ preaching. In both of these situations there was some sense of joy, even if it was surrounded by a lifetime of slavery.

But, at some point, a lifetime of trauma can catch up to you. Like in the bridge of the song. It says, “But the tigers come at night. With their voices soft as thunder. As they tear your hope apart. As they turn your dream to shame”. This is almost an exact example of Sethe’s sudden flashback of being assaulted by the white men. At the end of the song she sings, “Now life has killed the dream, I dreamed”, which shows how remembering the trauma has ruined her past.

Exit West: Somewhat Dystopian Outlook

In Exit West, it is clear that Hamid is making a statement on the way people handle immigration into their hometowns. Throughout the book Saeed and Nadia travel through doors and move to many different places. Every place they move, they seem to feel foreign and unwelcome. Both of them have to find some sort of community to make them feel welcome wherever they go. Like how Saeed prayed with the preacher’s daughter in San Francisco and his group in London that reminded him of home. There is a migrant crisis wherever they go because the doors make it so easy to pass through and go to any country you please. And while this is a fictional book, it is obvious that Hamid is is connecting this to the present even if it came out two years ago.

While the book is telling the story of Saeed and Nadia, it also shows undertones of the migration crisis in every place they go. When Saeed and Nadia escape their hometown and go to London it is clear they are unwelcome. The citizens make the job market almost impossible to navigate and the immigrants stay completely separated from the natives. But the most obvious thing Hamid is hinting at is the somewhat gentrification in cities like Marin County. At one point in the book (when Saeed and Nadia move to San Francisco), the Narrator describes Marin County as relatively impoverished and lower income. This is an obvious hint at how the citizens feel about migration because Marin County is one of the richest and most expensive places to live in currently. Hamid is showing the audience how some people are so afraid of change and migration that they will move as soon as someone different from them comes to where they live. The property values went down because all the rich people got out as soon as others came in. Hamid called out this issue of people being scared of immigrants in a really subtle yet smart way. He follows the love story of Nadia and Saeed but also adds in those small hints about whats going on in the outside world both in the book and in real life. This story is a good warning for some of the people in this country who still believe walls should be separating us.

Existentialism in “It’s a Wonderful Life”

Throughout the unit of The Stranger and existentialism many of the characteristics that describe Meursault and other existentialists reminded me of George Bailey during some parts of the classic Christmas movie, “It’s a Wonderful Life”. The indifferent and almost numb feeling that Meursault has is the same feeling George Bailey had when everything was spiralling out of control and going downhill for him. While maybe not as serious as Meursault, George Bailey has had a similar feeling of existentialism it just manifested differently. George believes that he doesn’t matter and that his life doesn’t really affect anyone else’s. Meusault believes he is useful to some people but doesn’t really have feelings or relationships with anyone. Both characters are missing a piece that helps them give meaning to their lives. Each of them represent different levels of existentialism.

But the way they deal with it pans out in a completely different way. The entire novel, Meursault is describing things with very little connection. He refuses to see the importance or meaning to many things. One could go through most of the book without seeing much change in how he views the world. It is easy to infer that he has always lived his life with a high level of detachment. It isn’t till the very end when we finally see him express some sort of emotion. The fact that Meursault remained indifferent up until he was about to be executed shows how much of an existentialist he really was. George Bailey was a little less extreme. He didn’t always live a somewhat sociopathic life like Mersault, but he did have a rough patch where he was starting to believe that nothing mattered. The difference with George is that he had an angel come down and help him realize that his life did have a purpose and that there is something for him to believe in. Both had moments of indifference which ultimately led them to a greater point realization.

“Cariboo Cafe” Levels of Delusion

The Cariboo Café, by Helena Marina Viramontes, tells a story about a unique small town through symbolism and the switching between multiple different perspectives. One of the defining characteristics of the story is the three different narrators. The part of the story that intrigued me the most was the structure. The fiction starts out in the perspective of Sonya who is locked out of her house with her little brother. Since Sonya is from an immigrant family she is told that she has to live under the radar and that her only safe space is her house. While she is drifting off into her thoughts, her brother is brought up. Sonya’s life has pretty much revolved around her little brother Macky. This little boy is her world and she realizes she needs to protect him. At this point in the story Macky didn’t seem very important but over time, he becomes the symbol that I am talking about.

Soon after the mention of Macky the perspective shifts to a cook who owns the Cariboo Café. The story dives deep into his background and how he lost his son Jojo. One night an old woman comes in with two kids who we later find out are Sonya and Macky. When the diner owner first meets them he has an instant connection with Macky. The reason he likes him so much is because he reminds him of his son Jojo. He favors Macky and treats him like a son. It’s almost like he sees Macky as Jojo for the few moments they’re in the diner together. The final perspective is the old woman who lost her son Geraldo, who was the same age as Macky. The old woman became really sad when her son was gone. Eventually that sadness turned into a mental issue. She started to believe she could get her son back (who was most likely dead). This all escalated to the actual kidnapping of Macky and Sonya. She placed Geraldo’s identity onto Macky and fully believed it was him. She also became really paranoid because the police were looking for the missing kids or her “Geraldo”. Since she knew what the police did to her Geraldo the first time, she had every right to be scared about them taking “her little boy”.

I view this story as the progression in delusion of the three people. The story starts out with Sonya who is Macky’s sister and ends with a woman who believes Macky is her son. It tells the same story through the eyes of three different people with three different levels of sanity. The order of the perspectives and delusion also show how pain can affect people. The amount of misery that the treatment of immigrants has caused on both Sonya’s family and the old woman is very clear in the story. The delusion is somewhat representative of what these immigrants have to go through. Sonya is very young so there hasn’t been much time for the pain to affect her; but the old woman has seen everything and has completely lost it. The amount of agony she has faced causes her to take another kid to make her feel okay again.