Orientalism in Action

Throughout modern media, tv, and cinema we see misrepresentations of many eastern cultures. Movie studios, such as Disney, pick and choose which pieces of what cultures they would like to include in their movies and exclude what they don’t like. This is especially prominent in modern American action movies and tv shows, in which cultures aren’t misrepresented, but completely changed to be a fitting other for the protagonist in the story. In these action movies and shows, we often see the entire Middle East depicted as extremely gruesome and violent. We often have an antagonist that is a Middle Eastern terrorist which perpetuates this false idea that people from the Middle East are violent, radical, and terrorists. This image being continuously pushed throughout American action movies creates prejudice towards people from the Middle East in many people who watch these movies. This prejudice prevents people from understanding the many different cultures that are in the Middle East. It also continues to make the problem of xenophobia throughout America and the west worse and worse.

A specific example of this idea is in Marvel’s Iron Man, which is centered around an extremely wealthy business man, Tony Stark, who is captured by an Afghanistan terrorist group called the 10 rings. He is put in a cave, tortured, and forced to develop a weapon for them so that they can start taking power globally. He ends up making the Iron Man suit, which he later uses to seek revenge on the 10 rings and bring justice to those they terrorize. This movie became extremely popular, becoming one of the biggest movies in 2008. This movies popularity gave Marvel the boost it needed to start making more and more movies and developing its franchise, but the popularity of this movie also exastrabates many of its negative impacts.

This movies popularity creates increased prejudice in those who have watched it because it again pushes the idea that people from the Middle East are violent, radical, and terrorists. We often see in action movies people from the Middle East portrayed as either the villains or regular citizens, but never as the hero of the story. Often the hero has to be a white guy saving the citizens from some sort of terrorist, just as we see in Iron Man. We also see an issue in the portrayal of Afghanistan in this movie aswell. Afghanistan is shown as a desolate area that is only desert, they fail to show cities, developed areas, and the foresty mountianis areas and opt to only show small run down towns and military camps. This again further perpetuates the idea that Middle Eastern countries are violent and underdeveloped.

The failure of modern action movies to properly represent the east in general, and especially those who live there and the cultures they practice, creates prejudice as well as an unwillingness to actually learn and involve yourself in those different cultures. It further extrabaltes the problem of xenophobia an America and the west in general and continues to push us farther and farther away from the rest of the world.

Development Through Suffering

Throughout Shakespeare’s King Lear, we see a theme of suffering and the idea that it’s good for a person to suffer to an extent, and I agree with this. I think suffering allows you to have empathy for others who also suffer and this increased understanding that comes from suffering allows you to be a better person towards others. We see this message reflected throughout King Lear.

After Lear is thrown out in the storm he meets poor Tom. Through Lear’s suffering in the storm he begins to become more understanding of poor Toms situation, “How shall your houseless heads and unfed sides, / your looped and windowed raggedness defend you / From seasons such as these? O, I have ta’en / Too little care of this……. / thou may’st shake the superflux to them/ And show the heaven more just” (III.iv.34-41). After Lear sees and goes through what the poor people in his kingdom go through he feels guilty for not helping them more. He has realized that there is no benefit to having power if others are suffering and that you should you use the power you have and the excess resources you have to help those in need. Unfortunately at this point Lear is no longer in control of the kingdom and is going crazy. Another example of suffering leading to understanding is Gloucester’s similar realization after being blinded, “I have no way and therefore want no eyes. / I stumbled when I saw. Full oft ’tis seen / Our means secure us, and our mere defects / Prove our commodities. O dear son Edgar, / The food of thy abused father’s wrath, / Might I but live to see thee in my touch, / I’d say I had eyes again” (IV.i.19-25). Only after Gloucester has had to suffer the loss of his eyes and his power does he finally realize he was being tricked by his son Edmund. He feels guilty for his treatment of Edgar. After a conversation with Edgar, who at the time is disguised as poor Tom, Gloucester extends this realization to empathize for the poor and powerless under his rule, “Here, take this purse, thou whom the heavens’ plagues / Have humbled to all strokes. That I am wretched / Makes thee the happier. Heavens, deal so still: / Let the superfluous and lust-dieted man, / That slaves your ordinance, that will not see / Because he does not feel, feel your power quickly / So distribution should undo excess / And each man have enough” (IV.i.74-81). Gloucester, similarly to Lear, feels bad for his mistreatment of the poor. Through his suffering and talking to someone who he believes to be poor, Gloucester has come to realize that a person shouldn’t have excess if others don’t even have enough to live. Both Lear and Gloucester, when reflecting on their time in power, have come to the conclusion that if they were to have power again they would use it to give back to the less fortunate in order to better balance wealth and power. Throughout Shakespeare’s King Lear, we see characters suffering being beneficial to them understanding others as well as themselves.

Music as Poetry

What is poetry? Perrine defines poetry as a literary use of language concerned with experience. Poems exist to bring us a “sense and a perception of life” and to “sharpen our contacts with existence” (What is Poetry, 2-3). From this definition, we could say that music is often poetry as well.

Artists often use music to express life experiences in a way that allows us to feel and have the same experience by listening to their music. Eminem’s “Stan”, from the Marshall Mathers LP, is a great example of music as poetry. The song is very dark, taking on the perspective of an obsessive fan who writes to Eminem but receives no response. He begins to get angrier and angrier as he keeps writing and eventually commits a murder-suicide by driving himself and his pregnant girlfriend off of a bridge.

The song is a comment on how detrimental an obsession with a person can be to your mental health. There are allusions to Stan having a romatic interest in Eminem throughout the song, although it is never explicitly stated. These allusions create a paradoxical feeling in the listener, causing them to wonder if Stan is just an obsessive fan or is actually in love with Eminem. Eminem uses contradicting phrases, such as “biggest fan” and “be together”, to create this feeling in the listener.

You gotta call me, man, I’ll be the biggest fan you’ll ever lose

Sincerely yours, Stan – P.S We should be together too

In the chorus, Dido (another one of the songwriters), uses imagery to show how an obsession with a person can result in them being your only source of happiness. He uses the word “Grey” to reference sadness and dullness in a person’s life and then turns around to say that a picture of a specific person negates the “Grey”. This further emphasizes that an obsession over a person and relying on them for happiness negatively impacts a person’s life.

And even if I could it’d all be gray

But your picture on my wall

It remids me that it’s not so bad, it’s not so bad

It finally escalates to Stan having uncontrollable anger because of his inability to fulfill his obsession. This is an explicit demonstration of how negatively and obsession can affect someone. To show this negative impact and uncontrollable anger, Eminem shows Stan yelling at Eminem through a letter, personifying his conscious and wishing it will torture and “eat” Eminem for not responding. Here the word “eats” is a metaphor for guilt.

You ruined it now, I hope you can’t sleep and you dream about it

And when you dream I hope you can’t sleep and you scream about it

I hope your conscience eats at you and you can’t breathe whithout me

Stressful Circumstances

As many know stress can have many adverse effects on relationships, but it can also bring people closer. Mohsin Hamid does a great job illustrating how damaging stress can be on a relationship, but also how stressful circumstances can strengthen a relationship. Nadia and Saeed start off extremely passionate, always wanting to be together and meeting each other, “Nadia and Saeed began to meet during the day, typically for lunch…Saeed was certain he was in love. Nadia was not certain what exactly she was feeling, but she was certain it had force” (53-54). They are always together, enjoying each other’s company, and texting. As the story progresses we see Nadia and Saeed’s passion begin to fade seemingly as the result of the extreme circumstances they are forced into. After leaving home, going to Mykonos, and then traveling to London we begin to see Saeed and Nadia having disagreements and arguing, “She emerged from the bathroom wrapped in her towel..he said, looking at her, ‘you can’t stand here like that.’ ‘Don’t tell me what I can and can’t do.’ … they sep on the slender single bed together without speaking, without touching, or without touching more than the cramped space demanded, for this one night not unlike a couple that was long and unhappily married” (126-127). Both haven’t been comfortable for months, being in new places and in other people’s homes. Saeed is understandably worried because of this and both of their inability to relax has seemed to cause them to become irritable. Hamid’s depiction of the effect of the stress of migration on their relationship draws parallels between the effects of migration on families as well.

The way many people view migrants today is negative. We fail to see things from their point of view and consider the fact that they may have and probably don’t want to leave their home country. We fail to see the many adverse effects migration has on the people forced to do it. We don’t seem to understand that people are leaving out of necessity and not choice. They are forced to separate from their families and friends and yet many people make rude demeaning comments and hateful attacks against migrants. I think one of the main purposes of Hamid’s novel is to make a comment on the poor treatment of migrants and give people the ability to see their perspectives and allow us to understand the reality of many migrants’ situations.

Living to Live

Throughout Albert Camus’, The Stranger, Mersault struggles deriving the true meaning of his life. He at first struggles with conforming to social expectation and what people say the meaning of life is. Throughout the novel we see Mersault’s attitude towards Marie as emotionless and disconnected, but towards the end of the novel we get a true insight into his feelings, “I had been looking at the stones in these walls for months. There wasn’t anything or anyone in the world I knew better. Maybe at one time, way back, I had searched for a face in them. But the face I was looking for was as bright as the sun and the flame f desire – and it belonged to Marie” (119). This seems to show that Mersault felt more that just a physical attraction to Marie and one could even say he loved her, but as we approach the end of the novel Mersault’s confrontation with the priest seems to shatter his attachment to any socially expected means of life and his attachment to the idea of love. After becoming annoyed with the priest Mersault says, “I..told him not to wast his prayers on me…. None of his certainties was worth one hair of a woman head. He wasn’t even sure he was alive because he was living like a dead man…we’re all elected by the same fate” (120-121). His confrontation with the priest caused him to realize the only meaning to life was living because everyone died in the end, regardless of what they did during their lives.

I personally agree with this outlook on life. The compliance to the falsified meanings of life such as success, money, power, religion, or love seem to cause more pain than they do happiness. People try to achieve these things before they die, often focused on the past or future. This disconnect from the present moment causes them to miss the experiences right in front of them, and in the end then only thing you really have before death is what you have done and experienced.

Emotional Disconnect

In the novel, The Stranger by Albert Campus, the narrator, Meursault, is continuously depicted as non-feeling and lacking emotion. On multiple occasions where one would normally be upset, Meursault displays absolutely no reaction to the situation. We first see this in the reaction to his mothers death, “It occurred to me that anyway one more Sunday was over, that Maman was buried now, that I was going back to work, and that , really, nothing had changed” (24). He seems to have no opinoin on anything throughout the story and he has this attitude that nothing matters. His lack of emtion becomes more concerning as it begins to upset other people.

Marie, the girl he has been involved with throughout the story, asks him if he would like to marry her and his response is “It didn’t make any difference to me and that we could if she wanted to” (41), he also says that he “probably didn’t love her” (41). Marie is obviously upset by this and very confused. Meursault seems extremely disconnected from the world around him, almost as if he view it as a separate thing altogether that has no effect on him. His lack of emotional response to anything throughout the story makes me wonder what could have possibly caused him to become this far disconnected emotional from his relationships.

He eludes to his time of realization that nothing matters by saying “When I had to give up my studies I learned very quickly that none of it really mattered” (41). This makes me wonder what crushed his previously present ambition? What caused him to mentally separate himself from society? He also speaks of having no dissatisfaction with life, but also having no happiness in it. He almost seems as if he has become so separated from society and connection that he is just watching as his body moves through life, not actively encouraging or opposing events.