Nightcrawler: A Satire on the News Industry

The 2014 film Nightcrawler starring Jake Gyllenhaal is a satire on the public’s obsession with shock journalism and crime. The film centers around a man named Louis Bloom who makes a living by capturing crime scenes on video and then selling these videos to news companies. He drives through the nighttime streets of Los Angeles in search of crime scenes that he can capture by any means necessary while reading ‘how to be successful’ books on the side. His chilling behavior is evident throughout the film.

One example of his strange behavior is when he comes across a nearly dead person, and instead of showing any remorse, he sticks his camera into his face. Another example is when he breaks into a house where a robbery and murder had just taken place and doesn’t appear to feel any sort of sympathy or emotions for the victims. The most noticeable scene in the movie, though, is when someone he knew dies due to his greed and he shows no remorse, instead talking about workplace etiquette and how it was deserved because he wasn’t a ‘trustworthy employee’ of his.

The news industry’s competitiveness is portrayed intensely throughout the movie, and only heightens as Louis gets more successful. With his stress from capturing eye-catching material that he can sell, he goes to further lengths than previously in trying to make money. Jake Gyllenhaal’s entire character is ironic, because everything that he seems to be the exact opposite of what you’d expect someone to say or react to. 

Satire of the Rich and the Food Industry in The Menu (2022)

The Menu (2022) captures the snobbery of the upper class and the toxicity of the food industry. The Menu takes place in an exclusive restaurant on an isolated island, with all of the attendants during the film being assumed to be rich aside from the main character, Margo. Margo immediately feels out of place among the rich attendants, and soon finds out from the chef that everyone in the restaurant is going to die by the end of the night. 

The film uses exaggeration when portraying how the restaurant operates. The restaurant feels very cult-ish, with the staff living on a secluded island, and having no life outside of preparing food. Aside from the main chef, the staff all sleep in the same room, and spend all of their waking hours working, whether that be meticulously preparing food, or cultivating ingredients in a precise manner. Restaurants, specifically high-end, ones are filled with constant stress surrounding food. The cult-like portrayal of the restaurant in the film mocks the reality of high-end restaurants’ workplace experiences. 

Furthermore, the dishes being served throughout the film all have their own meaning, but one that really sticks out to me is the breadless bread plate scene. The head chef gives a speech about bread being the food of the common man, and since they aren’t common folk, they will get no bread. Instead, they receive a plate of sauces made for the bread. One table filled with important employees of a tech giant gets frustrated by this and demands bread, due to the restaurants notoriously for their good bread. They are refused bread. The breadless bread plate serves as a metaphor for the rich being unable to exist without the work of the poor. When there is the sauce and no bread, the sauce is useless. The scene serves as a role reversal, with the important rich people being refused something from the chefs and workers, lower than them in status. The role reversal’s purpose is to mock the rich and in a sense, take away their power with food mockery. 


Turmoil in King Lear

One of the most notable characteristics of King Lear himself is the strong emotions, especially anger, that he expresses throughout the play. What makes the play tragic to me is that instead of realizing that his daughter Cordelia was right for the first 3/4 of the play, he struggles internally, too stubborn to realize that his daughter may have been right, not just some ‘unruly women’ for speaking up. In the end, Cordelia was simply trying to protect him by warning him that maybe dividing up a kingdom based on her sisters’ cheesy, exaggerated speeches would not end well for him.

His arrogance worsens his madness because after losing Cordelia, his daughters with their newly-gained power are trying to ‘dethrone’ him. He has no idea how to deal with his ongoing loss of power, and eventually, we see King Lear wandering through a storm and shouting in rage. If King Lear had Cordelia while Regan and Goneril were still trying to strip him of his power, he would not have gone as mad as he did. King Lear’s only support system was his court jester, and while he is someone who is honest with King Lear, he isn’t someone who can have a somewhat normal conversation with him. King Lear’s arrogance and his initial mistake leading to his downfall combined are what make him such a frustrating yet tragic character.

Double meanings in Ultraviolence

Lana del Reys second album, Ultraviolence, shocked people after its release due to its surprisingly melancholic tone and slow pace. One of the most significant songs in the album is arguably the song “Ultraviolence”. The song uses repetition, symbolism, and double meanings in order to convey an abuser’s manipulation. In an interview, Lana del Rey explained that the song was about a past abusive relationship with a cult leader. The song opens up with,

He used to call me DN/That stands for deadly Nightshade/Cause I was filled with poison/But blessed with beauty and rage 

The mention of deadly nightshade introduces the motif of alcoholism and drug abuse. Deadly nightshade, also known as Bella Donna, is known for its controversial theories surrounding its effects on alcoholism, with some believing that it cures alcoholism. The lyrics after, about being filled with poison, can be interpreted as being filled with alcohol. 

He hit me and it felt like a kiss/Jim brought me back, reminded me of when we were kids

The violence inflicted on Lana feels like a kiss and the combined unbalanced power dynamics convey that the man is idolized so much that his violence is seen as affection. The abuser is manipulating the victim to the point where they end up believing that love is shown through violence. 

I can hear sirens sirens/he hit me and it felt like a kiss

Sirens refer to both police sirens and mythological sirens. In mythology, sirens would lure their victims into the water with their alluring voices and then kill them. The metaphor and double meaning of sirens show that while she hears sirens, the siren-like allure of the cult leader solidifies the control he has on her, which is further shown through the lyric about his violence being like a kiss being repeated throughout the song. 

I can hear violins, violins/Give me all that ultraviolence

Violins are sung in a way that makes the word sound very similar to violence. Violence and violins are also near homophones. The second lyric saying violence further shows the hidden yet obvious double meaning.  This lyrical choice seems like a portrayal of a cry for help, with the indirect wording of violence under the guise of talking about a violin. 

Misogyny in The Stranger and Trust (1990)

Both pieces of media, The Stranger and Trust (1990), center around men, these being Mersault and Matthew. These men both have love interests, the love interests being Marie and Maria, with Maria being more of the main character. My main issue is with Marie from the novel The Stranger. In the book, Marie is never a fleshed-out character, despite being an important character for the events within the novel. 

Marie is seen as merely an extension of Mersault, not as a unique individual. Furthermore, most descriptions of Marie are when he is having sex with her or thinking about having sex with her, illustrating that Mersault likely just sees her as a sex object. 

Trust is different in that regard, with Maria being a more fleshed-out character. However, Maria is also an extension of the male main character, albeit in a more subtle way. Maria’s development centers around Matthew, constantly trying to prove to him how smart and mature. Even conflicts with her mother heavily center around men in the story, that being her dad, her (ex) boyfriend, and Matthew. Matthew, on the other hand, has his character development rely not only on Maria but also on the events of his job and conflicts with his father.

In the end, Trust  is not a movie that criticizes the misogynistic troupes, leading to said troupes not being challenged and an overall misogynistic mi

Conformity in “The Secret Woman” and “Drinking Coffee Elsewhere”

The short stories “Drinking Coffee Elsewhere” and “The Secret Woman” both have one thing in common: the theme of conformity. The short story “The Secret Woman” deals with female expectations of sexuality. For context, “The Secret Woman” was written in the first half of the 1900s. In the short story, a man who attends a sex party on his own accord is shocked when his wife, Irene, sneaks off to a sex party. The husband uses the term “Imprisoned” to describe the arms of the men engaged with Irene at the party, suggesting a possessiveness to her sexuality. Furthermore, Irene’s hands are described as demonic by her husband, displaying that he views her sexuality as “sinful”, which reflects on puritanical views of women at the time that the story was written. While the husband goes to the sex party for his own enjoyment, he only sees a fault in his wife being there, displaying the double standards in female and male sexuality and how they are able to be expressed. Irene defying conformity exposes the harsh reality of how women’s sexuality was viewed at the time, and how it is in many ways, viewed now. 

Likewise, the short story “Drinking Coffee Elsewhere” shares the common theme of conformity. Dina, the main character, is a black woman at Yale. Throughout the story, Dina is shown to isolate herself, even from Heidi, who is portrayed as her only friend. She isolates herself by stocking up on ramen in order to avoid talking to others, denying her own sexuality, and describing herself as a revolver when asked the question of an object that she would be. These examples of her trying to stray away from her peers reflect her refusal to conform at Yale, a place where, throughout the story, it is evident that she feels isolated at. Her race, sexuality, and backround all contribute to this. She is one of the few black people at the PWI and faces a crisis of identity due to her sexuality that causes her to go through self-loathing. Her family life, with her dead mother, invertedly caused her to be harsh to Heidi, following the death of Heidi’s mother. Her isolation causes her to not conform to the other students at Yale, resulting in her moving back to Baltimore with an Aunt that she barely knew. 

Both “Drinking Coffee Elsewhere” and “The Secret Woman” deal with non-conformity as a result of identity, whether that be gender, race, or sexuality. 

Human trafficking and Semplica Girls

One aspect of human trafficking that isn’t known enough is that often times it goes unnoticed. In the case of the novel The Semplica Girl Diaries, the human ornaments called Semplica Girls are common, with nearly every single house in the narrator’s neighborhood having them. Semplica Girls are from impoverished foreign countries like the Philippines or Moldova, who sign a contract in order to become a human decorations. What can be said about human trafficking, whether that be for forced labor or organ harvesting, is that the victims are often from impoverished backgrounds, as those people are easier to exploit. Another aspect that ties the Semplica Girls into human trafficking is that towards the end of the novel, the detective mentions that activists cause the city a problem because they frequently interfere with the Semplica Girls by freeing them. If the Semplica Girls really enjoyed their job or were Seplica Girls voluntarily, why would they object to being free? Wouldn’t they fight back, or take another action to ensure that they would keep their job? It’s clear that since they willingly leave once freed, they are trapped in a job that they don’t want to be in. 

Furthermore, the narrator is careful to explain to Eva that the Semplica Girls aren’t actually being exploited, they choose their jobs and would have a worse situation otherwise. By showing the tragic nature of the backgrounds of the Semplica Girls, the narrator only further illustrates that the Semplica Girls are coerced into their job, that the people who run the company seek out vulnerable females for a cruel industry. With the combined exploitation of vulnerable females and the caging nature of the job, it is evident that Semplica Girls serve as a commentary on the pervasiveness of human trafficking