Orientalism in Modern Music

Orientalism in Western pop culture has always been very prevalent. In movies such as Aladdin, Mulan, and Indiana Jones, as well as several tv shows, other cultures are crudely and unfairly depicted. I believe with the rise in asian representation in movies in tv, however, this issue is finally starting to get better. One area of entertainment, on the other hand, seems to get away these Eastern interpretations with ease. This is the music industry.

Musicians like Katy Perry, Nicki Minaj, and several other pop stars unapologetically put out music and music videos that are full of orientalism. Take Katy Perry’s music video for “Dark Horse”. It is full of exaggerated asian and egyptian clothing and imagery. Nicki Minaj’s video for “Chun-Li” can’t even get past the title before it reveals its orientalism. Once you start actually watching the video, it’s just her talking in english with Chinese subtitles lazily plastered along the bottom of the screen. The only significance Chun Li has is that it was a character in the video game Street Fighter. I could keep naming these music videos (Post Malone’s “Rockstar,” Coldplay’s “Princess of China,” etc…)

There’s something about the music industry that has always seemed to have an immunity towards backlash. Only in very extreme cases of racism, sexism, or homophobia are artists ever called out on their behaviour. As we are starting to usher in a new era of tolerance in pop culture, I believe this issue needs to be addressed.

Satire in “It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia”

It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is a dark satirical comedy about five people who own and run a bar in Philadelphia. Most of the plots in each episode revolve around and easily solvable conflict that is made far more difficult by the character’s ignorance and stupidity. This style is often great at pointing out the absurdity of social and political issues.

For example, throughout most of the series one of the main characters, Mac, is a closeted homosexual. However, being a “devout catholic”, he is very homophobic and becomes extremely defensive when his sexuality is questioned. There is plenty of dramatic irony as Mac thinks his friends believe he is straight when in reality they all know the truth. Once he comes out officially, he is met with complete acceptance. He was the only one uncomfortable with his sexuality. In this way, the show uses satire to show how belief systems can sometimes lead to irrational thinking such as homophobia.

While the show could be seen as condemning catholisicm, it is merely trying to point out how belief systems can become so ingrained in our heads that we end up denying who we actually are. Mac always believed that he would be punished by god for coming out and kept it in for years. In this way the show is pointing out the absurdity of this mindset in hopes that people realize it is best to be themsleves.

Reptilia

“Reptilia” by the Strokes uses both quips of dialogue and creative imagery to portray a scene in which the speaker becomes increasingly frustrated with a woman’s advances towards him. The title “Reptilia” refers to a speakers reptilian brain in this instance. A reptilian brain in this instance would be one that is less mature, and only focuses on passion and anger.

“You sound so sleepy, just take this, now leave me”

This is the first line of dialogue presented by the speaker. The speaker is most likely at some sort of party or social gathering that is boring him. A woman who is trying to talk to him notices his boredom, and offers him some sort of drug to perk him up. He most likely refuses.

The wait is over, I’m now taking over

You’re no longer laughing, I’m not driving fast enough

The chorus is set later on in the night, the speaker becomes fed up with the situation. He is taking control of the conversation. He lets the woman know that neither of them are enjoying their interaction.

The room is on fire and she’s fixing her hair
“You sound so angry, just calm down, you found me”

We are now presented with the image of the party set ablaze by their arguing. While the speaker becomes enraged the woman decides to back off and wait out his yelling while she fixes her hair. She eventually reveals her motives to talking to him, which he new all along.

The song ends with the chorus again. This asserts that the speaker was able to reveal the woman’s true motives and take control of the situation.

Storytelling through both space and time in Beloved

While flashbacks are often used in storytelling, Toni Morrison really takes it to the next level and utilizes it to enhance both the characters and story. Beloved is a story that is fixated on the past. So much so that a central character is a literal representation of the main characters’ past.

Toni Morrison is able to move seamlessly between the past and present in order to provide background and context to important events in the characters’ lives. Memories are often told in great detail and from multiple points of view. Providing several points of view can help understand how each character was affected or shaped by that memory.

For example, Sethe’s wedding day is first told from her perspective. However, it soon becomes apparent that we can’t trust just her take on that day to be reliable. While she thinks that nobody knew she and Halle had sex in the cornfields, Paul D. and the others were quite aware. This is just one example, although these types of situations occur several times throughout the book.

How Exist West Humanizes Refugees

Exist west provides a very important perspective on the refugee crisis. Often the media portrays them as numbers rather than humans. Due to this, it’s easy to lose sight of what refugees really are: humans.

Before the fighting in Saeed and Nadia’s city broke out, they lived lives quite similar to ours. They went to work, went on dates, used social media, listened to music, and had good educations. People in western countries usually don’t put themselves in their shoes. They never think what it is like to have their entire lives uprooted in a matter of weeks.

Imagine if all of a sudden an intense radical group started terrorizing our towns to the point where they are no longer safely habitable. We would most likely do the exact same thing: take who and what we can with us and try to find somewhere safe to live.

While I don’t think simply looking at the refugee crisis from their perspective will spark any major change, I do believe it will at least make people have more sympathy to those trying to find a safer home. They didn’t just choose to move from their homes, they were forced out. They aren’t looking to steal our jobs or cause terrorism, they just need a place to go. Maybe once more people start considering that there will be less hostility toward refugees.

Camu’s Reason to Live

Camu is well known for his bold question about philosophy. He believed that the most important question was wether one should kill oneself. Is life worth living once people recognize it’s meaninglessness? This is where Camu’s essay “The Myth of Sisyphus” comes into play. Camu invites us all to put ourselves in the shoes of Sisyphus. To pretend we are going on in a meaningless existence, completing the same monotonous tasks for our entire lives. If that were the case, why live? That is when consciousness enters the picture.

Camu is able to argue that Sisyphus’s consciousness, while being the basis of his punishment, frees him. In that same way, our own consciousness can free us from the absurdity and meaninglessness of our own lives. Camu was not like other, dreary existentialists of his time. He was a very lively actually. In his time, he was almost an icon of youth and fashion. He was the type of man to win nobel prizes in literature, and appear on the cover of Vogue. He enjoyed life very much, and found most simple pleasures to give meaning to life.

Camu believed that while constructs like friends, family, and love, could still be enjoyed through an existentialist lense. He also believed one should simple, immediate pleasures. These could include, music, sport, sex, and many other immediate pleasures. Enjoying these simple pleasures is almost laughing in the face of the gods. Learning to simply enjoy oneself in the face of emptiness is true freedom. It is also why, in Camu’s opinion, life is worth living.

How “The Very Old Man With Enormous Wings” Draws Parallels to Modern Media

In this story, when the angel is first discovered, it quickly becomes the center of the town’s attention. People come from all over to view this angel, marveling at its absurdity. However, the second people caught word of a girl with a spider-head, the angel became old news. While people forgot about him, he was very much still there. Suffering all the same in a broken shed.

Upon reading this, it feels oddly familiar. It seems today that any story or event in the media is quickly forgotten after its 15 seconds of fame. However, that almost never means that it disappeared. When a story first breaks, media outlets cover it nonstop, like the angel. Then, as if the original event never happened, the media moves on to the next thing.

Take for example a recent string of media stories. First, Epstein commits suicide in prison, then the Amazon is burning, then Greta Thunburg yells at the U.N, etc… While all these events, at some point, were the main talking point of the country. Now most of them have fallen into irrelevancy. While these events didn’t disappeared, they may as well have. While the angel never disappeared, he may as well have.