Raise the Red Lantern: Women against Women

Raise the Red Lantern’ is a Chinese film that focuses on the new life of Songlian, who at the beginning of the film has just become the Fourth Mistress of a rich household. The plot of this film is far from cut and dry, with twists and turns, and occasionally confusing plot points too.

The most important characters of ‘Raise the Red Lantern’ are its female characters. ‘The Master’, as he’s referred to, is one of the few major characters who are male, and his face is never shown directly in shots. It is obvious that the avoidance of the Master’s face is purposeful, however there are a multitude of different reasons why this was implemented into the film’s cinematography. One possible reason could be an attempt to make the Master appear almost god-like by keeping him as a hidden figure lurking but never completely on screen. Another, and more likely, is to keep the focus on the Mistress’s of the household.

Each of the Mistresses are distinct and well thought out characters, you can sympathize with all of them to some degree. However, they all fall victim to one thing; The Gender Binary. Despite being independent and interesting individuals, they fight desperately for the love of Master, who controls their lives with his family traditions. This dynamic pits the mistresses against each other, all trying to sabotage one another in some way.

Whats interesting about a binary like this is that one would assume the women would band together to overcome such a boundary, however, throughout ‘Raise the Red Lantern’ they all try to use one another as stepping stones rather than allies. In the first half of the film, this is seen as nothing more than annoying competition, however by the end of the film its clear that everything could have been avoided only the relationship between the Mistresses and the Master were different. We’ve seen this type of competition among women all throughout history, and it does nothing but further strengthen the patriarchal system.

For the women of ‘Raise the Red Lantern’, there is nothing but suffering and unhappiness. All of which is inflicted not by the Master, but by the other women who they are supposed to consider sisters.

The Element of Satire in Get Out

The movie Get Out was director Jordan Peele’s debut film; it immediately put him into high status in the directorial world, winning him an Academy award for best original screenplay, and for good cause. The film follows Chris, a black man who is going to meet Rose’s, his white girlfriend’s, family for the first time. Throughout this movie we see an amazing craftiness of the racism that exists beneath the surfaces of white America.

Hypnotizing is the main way throughout the movie that Rose’s family hides their true intentions under the mask of being proactive in race issues. Rose’s mother, Missy, uses hypnotism to keep various black people in a mental spell, working for her, portraying it to the outside world as them willingly working for her. She does this hypnotizing through tea, an unassumingly harmless activity, something that is done to be welcoming and social. 

The tea in the movie plays a huge role, having the ability to give Chris and the other mind controlled servants the feeling of falling and being trapped. The imagery in the movie, Chris falling from reality into a dark place, underlines the families true intentions to keep him suppressed. While this is happening the words, “you’ll live in a sunken place” are used. In the movie, this sunken place is a state where people are unable to be in control of their own actions, also hinting at the push back on going forward in racial issues. In the end of this scene, Chris closes his eyes, alluding to the things that black people in society cannot see and do not know because of the history and education being held away. 

Throughout the movie we see the support of two narratives within the satire, both of racial issues in America, accompanied with a clever and effective criticism of our society. As well as, a satire of what a horror movie is in general down to the movie being titled Get Out. The satire in the movie is not targeted at outward racism but more so the self approving white liberal mindset, causing viewers to put deeper thought into some of the things they do and why exactly they’re doing them.

Love & Basketball

Comedy as defined by Aristotle is a story of the rise in fortune of a sympathetic central character. The movie Love & Basketball (2000) fits within this criteria. You have your stereotypical friends-to-lover trope but with a slight twist. The main characters Quincy (Omar Epps) and Monica (Sanaa Lathan) are both aspiring professional Basketball players. The two grew up together and after finding out they both got into USC to play basketball their relationship progressed from friends to lovers. However, everything can’t be straightforward forward and something needs to provoke conflict between the two.

Midway through the movie is when things start to go awry, Quincy begins to ask Monica to do things that he knows would jeopardize her spot on the team when he needs comfort and when she prioritizes her sport over him their relationship begins to change. Things progress the two break up and Quincy drops out of school to pursue a career in the NBA. In the end, like one would expect from a Romantic Comedy the two find their way back together through the use of a grand gesture.

This movie has the markings of a stereotypical romantic comedy movie, with its cheesy trope, predictable conflict, likable characters, and a feel-good ending that many movie lovers tend to seek. While it loosely fits into the category of a romantic comedy the qualities nevertheless are apparent. With Monica prioritizing her career and Quincy creating unrealistic relationship expectations the two seemed doomed from the start, and yet they find their way back together by the end of the movie. Viewers see a role reversal in the prioritization of a career over a personal relationship adding additional depth to the movie. Both characters ultimately experience fortune in their own ways and coupled with their misfortunes these central characters experience immense development fulfilling Aristotle’s criteria for a comedy.

This movie is arguably extremely influential for its time as is a movie about a woman prioritizing her own needs ahead of her boyfriend’s. A needed change from a generation of movies with female leads who sacrificed their aspirations and needs for love.

While there will always be more meaningful works than a comedy. In my opinion, a comedy’s job isn’t necessarily to be meaningful or life-changing but to act as an escape from the troubles and constraints of today’s life. Comedies tend to be unrealistic, far fetched, and that’s what makes them unique and an escape from reality.

Clueless and Jane Austen

The rom-com genius Jane Austen wrote Emma, where she created a swoony story with love triangles while also calling out her protagonist for her sheltered and blinkered view of the world.

Amy Heckerling, writer-director of Clueless, took inspiration from Austen and created a beloved movie even after 25 years. While the film is famous for its ’90s aesthetic, girlish luxuries, endless fashion ensembles, and nice cars, Clueless still is in a tricky place.

Heckerling, like Auestn, uses irony to show what it looks like when a self-involved person with every advantage realizes she needs to stop thinking she’s right about everything and is entitled to tell others how to live.

Clueless is a romantic comedy, but it is also a story about trying to be a better person, specifically about a privileged young white woman trying to be a better person.

In the beginning, Cher insists she lives a “way normal life for a teenage girl,” but she says this while using a computer to pick out her clothes in an uncommonly large closet. From the very first moments of Clueless, it is evident that Cher’s view of the world is entirely at odds with what it is. Much of the humor in the movie comes from that disconnect.

What’s both problematic and amusing about Cher is her ingrained belief that whatever she thinks, says, or does is correct, which is the very definition of white privilege. She has never faced any actual consequences for her actions and therefore has never been challenged.

The love interest, Josh, gives Cher a different perspective on the world. He constantly calls her out on “rich white girl nonsense” and her lack of curiosity about what’s happening beyond Beverly Hills. Her growing respect and love for him make her rethink her previous ideas.

By the end of the movie, there’s no reason to believe that Cher has changed so much that she stopped her previous activities altogether, but she has taken some positive steps. And even a positive step in a teen comedy can leave a significant impression on its audience, especially those who saw it at a young age.

Heckerling took inspiration from Jane Austen’s Emma from 1815 to create a story still relevant in 1995. Clueless critiques the lack of perspective that often goes with being white and wealthy. In its satirical moments, Clueless acknowledges Cher’s obliviousness while still forcing her to start figuring out how to hold herself to a higher standard.

The Meaningful Art of Comedy

Dramatic comedy is a powerful and meaningful art form that has been entertaining and enlightening audiences for centuries. It can be seen as a combination of both tragedy and comedy, allowing us to explore deep human emotions while also providing moments of levity and humor. In this post, I will defend dramatic comedy as a meaningful art form and use the example of the television series “Atlanta” to analyze how it enhances our understanding of the world.

First, it is important to understand the definition of dramatic comedy as Aristotle defined it in his famous work “Poetics.” He saw it as a form of drama that deals with humorous and often satirical subject matter, but still maintains a serious tone and deals with important themes and ideas. By using humor as a tool to explore deeper issues, dramatic comedy can be a powerful way to connect with audiences and make complex ideas more accessible.

One example of a long-form comedic work that is particularly successful in enhancing our understanding of the world is the television series “Atlanta,” created by Donald Glover. The show follows the life of Earnest “Earn” Marks, a young African American man who tries to make it in the Atlanta rap scene while dealing with personal and societal issues.

One of the ways “Atlanta” enhances our understanding of the world is by highlighting the experiences of Black Americans in a way that is both authentic and relatable. The show tackles issues such as racial profiling, police brutality, and economic inequality, while also providing moments of humor and levity. By doing so, it offers a nuanced and multi-faceted portrayal of the Black experience that is rarely seen in mainstream media.

Another way “Atlanta” enhances our understanding of the world is by using surrealism and magical realism to explore deeper themes and ideas. In several episodes, the show takes on a dream-like quality, blurring the lines between reality and fantasy. This technique allows the show to explore complex concepts such as identity, mental health, and the nature of reality itself in a way that is both thought-provoking and entertaining.

Finally, “Atlanta” also explores the struggles of everyday life in a way that is both relatable and meaningful. While the show deals with serious issues, it also presents a realistic portrayal of the joys and struggles of young adulthood. From struggling to pay rent to dealing with difficult family dynamics, “Atlanta” shows us that even in the midst of hardship, there can be moments of humor and connection.

In conclusion, dramatic comedy is a meaningful and powerful art form that can enhance our understanding of the world around us. By using humor to explore deeper themes and ideas, shows like “Atlanta” can connect with audiences in a way that is both entertaining and enlightening. By presenting a nuanced and multi-faceted portrayal of the human experience, dramatic comedy can help us to see the world in a new and more meaningful way.

Shrek Satirical?

Satire in simple terms is “A form of literary criticism: that uses irony, sarcasm, etc.” Quite frankly it surrounds us in our everyday life, from television advertisements, books, newspapers, and artwork, to children’s movies. Yes, I did say children’s movie.

Shrek” a staple movie in the early 2000s is a trilogy that follows none other than Shrek an ogre whose life is turned upside down by a series of fairy tale characters trying to save their home.

I know our probably thinking “What is satirical about a children’s movie?” Let me explain.

Overview of the scene: Depicts the capture of Princess Fiona by Robin Hood, who mistakenly thinks that the Princess has been taken against her will by Shrek. After “rescuing” the princess, Robin Hood and his Merry Men pause to introduce themselves by performing a ridiculous song and dance number. In the middle of the routine, Princess Fiona screams, “That’s enough!” and attacks and subdues Robin Hood and all of his Merry Men.

So how is it satirical?

Within the scene, many satirical techniques are being used in this situation such as incongruity, reversal, and parody. You see incongruity within the way Fiona uses her hair to punch one of the Merry Men and when they freeze her in mid-air to fix her disheveled hair. The actions are absurd and unrealistic, and they also show a parody of movies like “The Matrix” and “Crouching Tiger” which incorporate martial arts styles and special effects as the scene depicts an exaggeration of different fighting styles. The scene also depicts a role reversal; rather than a damsel in distress being saved by the male hero the roles are being reversed and Fiona is saving/standing up for herself.

While not a perfect example nor is it a realistic depiction of modern gender roles; this scene is a piece of satire as it mocks the outdated societal ideology that women are damsels in distress that needs to be saved by a male hero, an idea that is still a prevalent theme within the media. It also can be viewed as a way to hint at the overuse and dramatization of special effects in modern action movies.

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

The Importance of Family “Trust” and “The Stranger”

Family is a constantly recurring theme in both the film “Trust” and Albert Camus’s “The Stranger”. In both”Trust” and “The Stranger” family is seen as a value that many side characters hold highly while the main characters, Maria and Meursault, either dislike or choose to disregard. In “Trust” Maria is constantly being pulled into a traditional family dynamic by her mother, who wants her to live at home and provide by doing chores and participating in the family. Matthew also constantly urges Maria to participate in a traditional family dynamic by asking her to marry him and raise her child with him, despite it not being his child. In “The Stranger” Meursault is told by Salamano that he should be upset that his mother died and he no longer has a family. He is also urged by Marie to marry her and participate in the family in that way. Meursault disregards both these conversations and feels as if he is not wrong for feeling nothing toward his mother and her death. He is later prosecuted on the basis of this and made to seem cold-hearted for not caring about his family. Maria similarly is made out to seem like a bad person for getting an abortion, as represented by when the nurse discusses how her car is vandalized, there for ending her traditional family. Both characters later have their family destroyed in some way. Meursault, who realizes how his mother was content with her newfound family, Perez, and Maria who has Mattew physically pulled away from her by police.

Movie vs Book: Escape From Spiderhead Island

There is one conversation that can always divide avid book readers : When your favorite novel becomes a film, or say you see a film and realize its a book, which is better? Personally I tend to stick with “the book’s better so much more detail and allows you to really chew on the after math of the book” but that was until I watched Spiderhead on Netflix. Escape From Spiderhead Island is a short story by George Saunders with scifi undertones. This book explores the what if of if our emotions could be controlled by the tap of a button. Those on spiderhead island are the testing subjects and are forever bonded with a “Mobi Pack” the Mobi Pack injects chemicals into your blood streak to invoke a reaction from you for a short period of time. These reactions range from lust to mania to anger and even self reflection. Yet the book lacks detail on the subjects, why they are on this island they cant leave, and the true intensity the chemicals when put into the characters blood stream.This is where the movie comes in. 3 weeks prior to reading escape from spiderhead i watched the movie on Netflix. The characters in the film provide depth, purpose, and vividness to the story that the book simply could not etch across. For instance, within the movie, the audience sees why our main character is on spider island. Which is incredibly interesting as through the movie’s explanation subjects on spider island are incarcerated individuals serving time. The movie also outlines the rules, procedures within spiderhead day to day life , and functions of the Mobi Pack. In addition, the movie shows a darker side of Abnesti that the book doesnt really portray. So is this movie a win for books v movie adaption? Its a yes in my book.

Should I Stay or Should I Go?: A Look at Locational Decisions Made in Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom

Throughout the film, Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom, the main character, teacher Ugyen Dorji often contemplates which setting he wants to be in, and which one is the most fulfilling for him. At the start of the movie, Dorji starts his story in a bustling city in Bhutan. One of the very first things we learn about our protagonist is that he is attempting to secure a visa to move to Australia. However, in Bhutan, you have to spend five years working for the government in order to maintain citizenship status and Dorji has only completed four years. He tells his governmental boss that he does not find joy in the profession of teaching and wishes to leave the country to pursue his dream of becoming a singer, another major theme found throughout the film. Instead of allowing him to leave, the secretary states he just finish his final year of service and, since he cannot seem to do his job in the city, has to teach in the most rural, isolated school in the world in the city of Lunana. Lunana is so remote that it takes several days of hiking to reach, and none of the kids there know what a car is. The community only really knows one another, no one else.

The entire lead-up and journey to Lunana is filled with discontent and complaining from Dorji. He is upset at having to leave his familiar city life, his friends, and his girlfriend. He is unfit for the hike to Lunana and disrespects customs and traditions he deems as strange, a possible (though not likely) nod to the concept of Orientalism. He feels on the outside of this society as well as feeling a sense of superiority to them. That is, until he meets the children he will be teaching and sees the lack of space and materials dedicated to their education. He starts to come around to the village, forming connections, and getting supplies to help enhance the school to the best of his ability. He truly begins to immerse himself in the culture, learning more every day about their routines, practices, songs, and most importantly, the connections they have with yaks. In the middle of his stay in Lunana, he learns that his visa to Australia has been approved and he is able to leave once his service year is finished.

The winter quickly approaches, and so are the last few days of Dorji’s stay in Lunana. When he learns he must soon leave, he is immediately distraught. He says that the children still need him and that there is so much he has not been able to teach them yet. Everyone in the village urges him to return the following year after the harsh winter has come to a close. He stays in Lunana for as long as possible until being told he must leave, or he will be stranded there. I truly believe that if he intended to return to Luanan he simply would have remained there through the winter. He wanted to teach and help for as long as possible, but he never intended to remain there, or even return. Once he left, that would be the last time they saw him.

The film ends with a scene of Dorji signing in a bar in Sydney, Australia. He has left everyone behind once again, but this time to follow his heart and attempt to actualize his lifelong dream. He does stop mid-song and sit in silence for a minute before singing a song taught to him in Lunana about the yaks and their significance. The film does not let the audience know if he ever did make his way back to the village of Lunana, which I think was the perfect way to end it. Either way, Dorji would have had regrets about his decision. It is important for him to see all of his aspirations through, which would make the return to Lunana that much more meaningful. If he left Australia for Lunana, it would show what an immense, life-changing impact that experience had for him that he was willing to leave his dreams for it. However, the opposite is also completely understandable. It would be uncharacteristic for him to sacrifice so much to return and teach in the village. I think that they needed one another to learn a lesson, but I am not entirely sure if I think he ever returned. Humans need to go on journeys and experience life in order to grow and learn what is bes for them, and every step he has taken, Dorji has done that.

Indiana Jones and the Orientalism in his movies

Orientalism is the concept of the western view of the eastern world. This is mainly seen with stereotypes about eastern nations and by describing those civilizations as far away and magical. In the film series, Indiana Jones, there is Orientalism seen in each one of the original three films (in the fourth there isn’t orientalism but there are still stereotypes about Latin American nation so I guess South-Americaism?). Right away in the first movie, this is seen. in the Ark of the Covenant, one of the first locations that Indian Jones goes to is the country of Egypt. Now, even though Egypt in the real world is a very prosperous nation with several large cities and its people have very wide and common access to several high end and modern technologies, Indiana Jones and the Ark of the Covenant still shows the country as being a place where everyone fights with swords and lives in dirty mud huts. In fact, t the beginning of the movie they call Egypt a land of magic and mystery and the perfect place where the Ark would be.

In the second movie, the stereotypes just got worse. The second movie, Temple of Doom, takes place in the country of India. This movie is filled to the brim with stereotypes. Right away we see that the first civilization they encounter is a village filled with sheepherders. These villagers all talk about how they have their children stolen and how there is a mysterious royal family that lives in a palace up on the mountain (they don’t even try to hide the mystical faraway land part). The directors then try to emphasize the separation of reality and further perpetuate stereotypes when some of the food that is served is monkey eye soup. The big wammy, however, is with the cult in the basement of the palace where the priest will rip out the hearts of his victims.

The real cherry on top with Orientalism is with the third movie, The Last Crusade (except not really). In this movie, we get to see how the writers of Indiana Jones portray other foreign countries (other foreign white countries) such as Italy and Germany before it goes back to the middle east with Jordan. If one was to compare the ways that the European countries were described compared to the middle eastern countries, one can clearly see that one is shown as more modern and more civilized while the other is seen as thrid world and more old fashioned. Case and point, in Germany, the characters get around in cars and motorcycles while in Jordan, they get around in camels.

Orientalism in Mulan

Everyone knows the critically acclaimed Disney film Mulan. It is highly applauded due to its female hero, which breaks the norm of a standard plot of a Disney film. Despite all of Mulan’s glory, it has tones of orientalism throughout the whole film. Mulan was created after a Chinese folk tale called Ballard of Mulan, however, its animation style seems to portray more Japanese styles than Chinese. For example, when Mulan is being prepared by the matchmaker part of her makeup routine is to cover her face with white powder, however, the white-powered face style comes from the style of Japanese geishas. Not only this, but Mulan is wearing an article of clothing that resembles a Japanese Kimono, despite the film being set during the Han Dynasty. The Han Dynasty had a traditional type of clothing for women to wear, which was not animated into Mulan. In Mulan there is a warming scene between Mulan and her father under a cherry blossom tree, however, it is commonly known that a cherry blossom tree is a traditional flower in Japan. The mix-ups between Japanese and Chinese cultures show that some westerns see the Asian cultures as one big cohesive one even though Asia is made up of 48 different countries.

Mulan misses the mark on representing the fashion and make-up styles, but it also mocks one of China’s most valued ideals. Mushu is supposed to be an ancestral spirit and he is loved amongst the audience for his comedic personality as he guides Mulan through her troubles. But, in Chinese culture, ancestral worship is a belief that is taken extremely seriously and is not to be mocked. Mulan doing this suggest that Westerns see China’s ancestral traditions as a joke or an idea that is ridiculous. One of the core beliefs of the tradition of ancestral connections stems from the idea of respecting your elders. However, Mushu, the ancestral spirit, is disrespected by Mulan and the cricket which undermines the whole idea of what an ancestral spirit is supposed to be or how it is supposed to be treated. This doesn’t just highlight the lack of knowledge but shows the little respect we have for the Chinese culture.

Disney wanted to include more races and ethnicities in the Disney franchise but its version of different races and cultures is skewed by the eurocentric view westerners have about the world around them.

Leave Your Job and Sing Songs From the Hilltop: Orientalism in “Lunana: a Yak in the Classroom”

Set in the south Asian nation of Bhutan, “Lunana: a Yak in the Classroom” tells the story of Ugyen, a teacher who aspires to move to Australia to fulfill his lifelong dream of becoming a singer. However, to align with his duties to the Bhutanese government, he must complete his fourth year of mandatory service teaching in Lunana, home to one of the world’s most remote schools.

Right away, I noticed the strong juxtaposition between a city kid like Ugyen and this remote town in the Orient. Ugyen spends essentially the entire journey complaining about its difficulty and pondering how, exactly, people survive in the middle of nowhere. He almost never takes out his headphones, completely disengaged with his natural surroundings and embraced in the material world.

But as he spends more time interacting with Lunana and its people, Ugyen starts to realize that they are not just a bunch of other-worldly “savages” — the people of Lunana value his presence and value teaching him the legends of their culture. For example, the yak is a motif that is a symbol of love and survival — they sing songs about it, they honor the dead with it, they start fires with its dung to cook food. The students of Lunana expose Ugyen to a different, engaging culture, and in return they value his own lessons through his teaching. This moment of realization in Ugyen’s first few days is the catalyst in his decision to stay in Lunana rather than panic and leave at first sight.

Ugyen still struggles to see Lunana outside of the other-worldly orientalist lens — he has nothing to teach the students with, no electricity, and albeit he is learning, there is still a disconnect between the modern world and the orient in several instances — his students do not know what a car is, and after he runs out of teaching supplies, he must have more sent from the nearest civilization. While learning the traditional songs of Lunana, he is told to “leave his job and sing songs from the hilltop.” While the citizens of Lunana imagined the “hilltop” as the physical hilltop that people sing songs from, one cannot help but imagine Australia — where Ugyen planned to go to become a singer before being sent off to Lunana; the place he thought success was the most possible.

When wintertime comes, Ugyen has the ability to fulfill his lifelong dream, but instead of the “it’ll just be a few months” attitude we saw at the beginning of the film, we see him having trouble leaving. In spite of the disconnect, Ugyen did everything he could for his students, and they let him know. The students embrace of Ugyen as their teacher helped him embrace the culture of Lunana, and even as he heads off for the “hilltop” of Australia, he sings the songs of Lunana.

And I know, in this final scene of the film, Ugyen felt he was doing good — the reasons the filmmakers showed the altitude of each place Ugyen visited (Lunana being the highest; Sydney, Australia the lowest) was to demonstrate that Australia isn’t a “hilltop” after all. As Ugyen got further away from civilization, the altitude literally and figuratively increased. “Lunana: a Yak in the Classroom” demonstrates orientalism’s affect on civilization, and how one can somehow become more enlightened by getting away from the modern world.

Orientalism in Lord of the Rings

The Lord of the Rings was my favorite book and movie series growing up. I argue that the series is better than Star Wars and The Godfather by a large margin. That being said, I think all lovers of the trilogy should consider an orientalist perspective when experiencing the power of the one ring.

While it may not have been intentional, J.R.R. Tolkien created a world called “Middle Earth” that resembled a Eurocentric mindset. In Middle Earth, the west part of the map is filled with innocent white people (hobbits, elves, men, dwarves). The most extreme example is the snow-white elves. Further East in the map is Mordor where Mount Doom lies along with thousands of disgusting, uncivilized orcs.

Again, Tolkien most likely did not mean to hide a hate for the East in his books. However, the blatant contrast between the white westerners and orc easterners reflects a regional bias that may be prevalent among Europeans. Subconsciously, westerners may differentiate themselves from other regions, such as the East, based on race.

In the two biggest battles of the Lord of the Rings, there is a theme of everyone coming together in Middle Earth to defeat the orcs. The first battle is Helms Deep, where the men of Rohan are surprised by hundred of elves willing to fight along side them. Even though the idea is that two very different groups come together, both groups are still 100% white. Anyone who is not western is left out of the “good” alliance.

Tolkien had a clear lack of people of color in his book, but there is still no way I will try to cancel Lord of the Rings. But through this orientalist lens, we can see how a Eurocentric viewpoint can influence one of the greatest pieces of media in the last century.

God of Small Things and Parasite

“How could she stand the smell? Haven’t you noticed? They have a particular smell, these Paravans.”

Baby Kochamma, God of Small Things

“No, no, it’s not that. What is it? Like an old radish. No. You know when you boil a rag? It smells like that.”

Park Dong-ik, Parasite

*spoilers* GOST reminded me of many works of art, including Parasite, one of my favorite movies. Both works put smell at the center of tensions between classes.

This use of smell is very striking in both stories. Even though it’s one of our most powerful scenses, smell tends to be sidetracked in movies and books.

Class might visually or audibly present itself differently in different cultures. Scent is the most universally recognized measure of class; no matter where in the world you live, it requires privilege to have access to perfume, running water, and soap, and to live in an area that isn’t heavily polluted or have a job that doesn’t include interactions with trash/chemicals.

The effects of orientalism are also present in Parasite. I haven’t seen the movie for a while, but a detail I remember is that one character, Ki-jung, uses the fake name “Jessica” and claims to have studied in America when she tries to become the Park family’s art therapist. She seems more qualified to the Park family because of her English name and American education.

There are more similarities between the two stories. Both are about relations between families of different classes, and all families involved in these stories are destroyed because of these relationships. If you haven’t seen Parasite, I highly recommend it. Like GOST, it is as thrilling as it is thought-provoking.

Orientalism in Pirates of the Caribbean

Pirates of the Caribbean, a well known franchise adored by a large audience, is a fun, thrilling tale of the adventures of Captain Jack Sparrow and his companions. I grew up watching the films as a child and immediately fell in love with the series as soon as jack stepped off his sinking ship onto the dock of Port Royal. The first film follows Captain Jack and Will Turner as they attempt to catch the infamous ship, The Black Pearl, captained by Jack’s mutinous first mate Barbossa. The second film, Dead Man’s Chest, picks up right where the first left off and the viewer can jump right back into the fun. Although an enjoyable movie as a whole, the Caribbean native people in the film are portrayed as beast like cannibals who, are meant to be viewed as merely animals.

When we arrive on the island we follow will turner as he is brought before Captain Jack, who the native people believe to be a god. Immediately, the orientalist tones of the film are clear. Within the first few minutes, the white “civilized” characters are placed on a pedestal above the native people who are portrayed as uncivilized and unintelligent. The film depicts them as static, undeveloped savages who are outsmarted by their white overlord. As the story progresses, the native people, who believe Jack to be a god, decide to eat him in order to “Do him the honor of releasing him from his fleshy prison” In the end, Jack and his crew manage to escape the island on The Black Pearl and continue on their journey.

The portrayal of the Caribbean native people in this film is highly problematic. To the western viewer, who may be being exposed to them for the first time through the film, will not see them as people, rather as animals who act off of their instincts and primitive beliefs. The viewers may then internalize the sense of superiority presented to them about themselves and their culture to those that they view as the other. This belief only works to increase the divide and misunderstanding of people who have different cultures than what is commonly known in the west, increasing the prejudice and hate that we commonly see today.

Orientalism in Star Wars

While Star Wars is one of the most popular and (in my opinion) greatest movie franchises in cinematic history, it still has its flaws. Nearly all of those problems are in the storyline of the most recent trilogy, but on a more serious note there are crucial flaws in the original trilogy, and one is the portrayal of different groups of people throughout the movie.

The first movie starts with Luke Skywalker on Tatooine, a sandy, desert planet. The inhabitants of the planet vary, but one of the most obvious native groups to Tatooine are the Sand People. The sand people are portrayed as an uncivilized race that steals from others and wear ratty sand robes, and this is shown clearly in the first part of the movie when they rob Luke. The problem with this is that this aligns closely with the Western view of the Middle East. The vast deserts with no civilizations represent the terrain, and the torn-up robes covering their bodies and heads closely resemble hijabs and other traditional Middle Eastern clothing. The savagery of their lifestyle emphasizes the western idea that these countries are uncivilized and barbaric. This portrayal results in westerners seeing the Middle East as insignificant, and it continues the cycle of racism that already exists in America. While some may see this comparison between the Sand People and Middle Easterns a stretch, it also doesn’t help that these scenes were filmed in Tunisia, a Northern African country with many deserts.

Later in the trilogy, Yoda travels to Kashyyyk, a dense forest planet. This planet seems to have humid, warm weather, and closely represents a jungle climate such as a jungle in Southern Africa or Southern Asia. Of course, Star Wars continues their orientalist theme, and the inhabitants of this planet are Wookies, the same species as Chewbacca. The Wookies are large, gorilla like animals that are seen as rather dumb, and mainly used for their strength. They are rarely seen as dynamic characters, and are usually one sided and cannot help themselves without a leader. Throughout the series all Wookies seem to have a master, whether its Chewbacca with Han Solo, the Wookies on Kashyyyk being led by Yoda, or Krrsantan being led by the Hutts and then Boba Fett. While this may seem to be a coincidence, it still spreads the idea that in the real world, the people from these jungle regions are uncivilized animals, and are desperate for someone to come save them. This enforces the discriminatory views associated with eastern countries and encourages racism. Similar to the situation on Tatooine, the scenes for this part of the movie were shot in Thailand, increasing the idea that the people from these regions are similar to the Wookies in the movie and have animalistic tendencies.

Overall, the Orientalism in Star Wars may not be as obvious as in other movies because the characters portraying these groups of people aren’t human, but that also magnifies it because it emphasizes the animalistic and savage tendencies. The Sand People and the Wookies are obvious examples, but the further you dig, the more Orientalism you will find. It is important to recognize these portrayals and continue to resist the subtle racism incorporated into movies.

Insight on “Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom”

Lunana: A Yak in the Classroom has been nominated for Best International Feature Film in the 94th Academy Awards ceremony and as I watch the film, I notice similarities between the movie’s plot, and me watching it as a member of the western world. The film stars a young man who is a teacher but no longer wishes to be. Ugyen is then sent to the most remote school in the world, Lunana, where he is convinced, he will quit and leave. The teacher begins to enjoy the village and teaching more and more as he starts to appreciate what a teacher can really do for the world. “A teacher touches the future,” is what the villagers believe. Throughout the story, the teacher becomes humbled by the villagers as he transitions from his city life. Humbled in a way that he begins to appreciate the hard work and the simple beauty of the village.

As I watch the film, I cannot help but see motifs within the movie. The city the teacher hails from represents western culture with the fun pop music, professional hiking shoes, and a (possibly) Nike jacket. These are the things westerners are comfortable seeing because we do not have to make any sort of effort to understand. These things are exactly the same in the west. As Ugyen transitions into the village, he gradually starts to ease his hold on his familiar city life. Singing is a motif within the film and the contrast between the songs the villagers sing compared to Ugyen is stark. The songs are not something a western person can easily pick up and Ugyen has the same problem, therefore starting to humble us both. The viewer has just as much learning to do as the new teacher. The film teaches both Ugyen and the viewer to always try to understand another person’s way of life. Ugyen constantly complained about Lunana until he started to understand it. As westerners, we make assumptions about the ways others live, even within their own country. I live in a very urban environment and have assumptions about people who live on farms, let alone people who live on a different side of the world, have a different language, different traditions and simply a different way of life. It should be common decency for someone to always try to understand another person’s life before making any assumptions about them.

Motifs In “Lunana: A Yak In The Classroom”

The film “Lunana” is beautiful because of its delicate and precise construction. Every shot is carefully thought-out with the meaning of the whole film in mind. Within the film, there are several motifs which also help to contribute to the meaning.

Singing is one such motif. In the first act of the film, so to speak, we witness Ugyen singing in English in a club in the city, after proclaiming that he was going to quit teaching and wants to leave the country to sing in Australia. Singing for him is somewhat of an escape from his work and home life, and is also a way in which he connects with other people. Ugyen also listens to music during the climb up the mountain, until his device runs out of battery. We next see singing while Ugyen makes his ascent to Lunana with his two guides, while they are making camp for the night. He asks them what they are singing about, and they explain to him that they are yak herders. I believe it is significant that this moment comes after Ugyen is forced to take off his headphones, and it could be argued that listening is part of the singing motif.

Singing/listening is also seen in the relationship between Ugyen and Saldon; in fact, the sound of Saldon singing is what caused Ugyen to seek her out in the first place. Furthermore, the interaction where Saldon teaches Ugyen the song she was singing is one of the most significant in their relationship. Asking why different people sing, and what the different kinds of listening are, will lead us to some of the more general thematic concerns of the film.

Another motif that the film explores is yaks, and more specifically, their dung. What I found most striking was the respect that the people of Lunana have for the yaks. I would go as far as to say that they have achieved mutual recognition with the yaks, while at the same time Ugyen is struggling to achieve something similar with the people. In conjunction with the motif of song, one of their most treasured songs was written about how a herder was forced to slaughter his most prized yak. The use of the dung to make fire, and the fact that Ugyen immediately starts collecting the dung with his bare hands, is also significant. I think that this motif leads us to themes concerning city life versus rural life, as well as animal and human relationships.

I am certain that there are many more motifs that could and should be explored further, and such exploration is encouraged by the clever approach taken by the filmmakers and writers.

Orientalism in Aladdin

Orientalism is a misunderstood problem that has led to a false representation of Asai and Africa and the cultures surrounding them. The group of people misrepresented the most by orientalism are people from the middle east area. People from Cyprus, Lebanon, Syria, Iraq, Iran, Israel, Jordan, Saudi Arabia, Kuwait, Qatar, Bahrain, United Arab Emirates, Oman, Yemen all have to live with stereotypes placed on their heads through orientalism. In a large majority of films and books, the story’s antagonist comes from some Islam militia terrorist group located in the middle east. This has spread to Africa as well through groups like Boko Haram. Think back to any movie you have ever watched, or any book you have ever read, and try to think of an example where the bad guys or the people portrayed as evil in the story are not Muslim or African. It’s difficult, isn’t it? and near impossible when discussing films from a long time ago. These constant stereotypes have led Muslim people, the Islamic culture, African people, and African groups and cultures to be seen as over-aggressive and dangerous.

A good example of orientalism can be found in the film Alladin. When a middle eastern woman was asked how she felt Alladin represented her culture, she said she throuroughly enjoyed the original film from 1992, but when it came to the remastered disney version, she had the following to say, “Is it messed up that I’m happy Disney has traded explicit racism for cliched exoticism? Is that really the bar they had to clear for me to be happy” she was clearly unhappy with of inacurate disneys representation of her culture was. She went into further discussion of the movie and how Disney failed to hire actual Middle-Eastern actors in both movies. That people of different cultural backgrounds are not interchangeable and simply reinforces Orientalist ideas and erases culture and history. Agrabah, which is the name of the fictional town for the movie, is based off Middle Eastern, Islamic, and Asian aspects and cultural identities. Within the opening song the lyrics describe the town to be “where they cut off your ear if they don’t like your face, it’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home”, essentially describing the people of these cultural backgrounds to be barbaric and uncivil. Another point to be made was that the main characters, Aladdin and Jasmin, are both wearing clothing from different countries with Aladdin wearing a Turkish Fez and Jasmine with Indian shoes.

Orientalism is all around us, in films, books, story’s, and many other places. It is a problem that has been rooted deep in our society for many years, and is now something hard to get rid off. The false representation of Asai and Africa and the cultures surrounding them has lead to negative connotations surrounding them and giving people the wrong idea of these cultures.