Stefon: An Unexpected Love Story for the Ages

We have all heard of SNL. The long running late night comedy show has been running for about four decades and offers comedy in many forms such as satire, sketches, news updates, and more. One of the most popular story lines, however, is that of a guest star on weekend update: Stefon.

When Seth Meyers hosted Weekend Update, Stefon came on as a guide to New York City, offering crazy tourist advice covering parties, activities, and food. But Stefon became way more than just a side character, as the skit went on to receive multiple reiterations and formed into a full blown story.

Dramatic Comedy as applied to Aristotle’s definition (at the least) is a meaningful art form because it allows us to see humanity in exaggerated circumstances, and it is open enough to shape to what society wants. Stefon is an extremely exaggerated character, pointing out the almost absurd hipster customs and lifestyles of certain New Yorkers, as well as mocking the way they talk and dress. But despite the completely ridiculous satirical sketches, the audience started to become very connected to Stefon as a character, specifically when it came to his relationship with Seth Meyers. As the seasons went on, people watching the show recognized a flirtatious attitude forming between Stefon and Seth Meyers. Noticing this, the skits started to shape towards that potential romance. And in the pair, the audience members found a story to hold on to. Stefon as a concept is funny on his own, with the talents of Bill Hader and the writing of John Mulaney supporting the character, but he is also very human. And, what started as just a characterization, turned into a comic hero, with the story reflecting what society wanted.

What is so cool about this “dramatic comedy”, is that the story was never set in stone, perhaps because it was never really supposed to be a full story. But, as the sketch went on, and the people responded, a story was created out of it. Because of this, a very real very natural romantic comedy was formed out of almost nothing. And what is also wonderful about this example is the writers/actors ran with it. The comedic form is very open, and allows for these kinds of spur of the moment twists and changes. Stefon could have just stayed a simple side character, but instead turned into a whole character with a love interest and, (spoilers) in the end, a husband. When Bill Hader left the show, the writers concluded the skit the way it had built up until that point, with a dramatic episode ending in the marriage of Stefon and Seth.

Life Is Beautiful

I never saw myself smile or laugh while watching a film about a tragic historic event that affected so many lives. With Roberto Benigni’s Life is Beautiful, a film about a Jewish Italian waiter (Guido) who falls in love with a women, eventually they marry and have a son (Giosue) . Then in turn of events the family is separated from each other and taken to concentration camps. The father focused to protect his son from the horrors of reality, he convinces his son that it is only a game and everyone is playing along. the film is set against the tragic backdrop of the Holocaust, but doesn’t focus on the tragedy. Benigni uses comedic elements, antics and humorous interactions, and physical gestures to bring comedy to the dark event.

Benigni use of noticeable physical gestures, humorous interactions, and antics. Benigni starts the first half of the film more lighthearted and romantic between two characters who eventually fall in love. But the audience is soon reminded that this movie is set in a tragedy under Mussolini and Nazi power.

The first comedic strategy Benigni uses is the interactions Guido has with his son Giosue, who doesn’t understand what’s happening around him. Benigni takes advantage of this and uses the knowledge of a child for comedic purposes. For example in the film, upon arriving at the prison camp, Giosue is confused why so many people are lined up, the father Guido explains that everyone is lined up because they can’t wait to get inside. Benigni is using the interactions between a son and father to express comedy in very tense situations in the film/

Another comedic strategy Benigni uses is Guido’s physical gestures throughout the film. Throughout the film Guido performs a goofy walk while being escorted by any Nazi solider. Guido performs this goofy walk because he knows his son is watching him. Guido needs to act funny to show his son that the situation isn’t serious. There are many physical gestures throughout the film that bring light to the situation.

Life is Beautiful is the perfect example of comedy because it focuses on bringing the Holocaust a very dark event in history into the light with comedic strategies.

Cosmic Love

Florence and the Machine’s “Cosmic Love” has been with me for a long time now. From the first time I let this song fill my ears, Florence’s heart-wrenching words and explosive tone have taken me to a completely different world. It is both powerful and sentimental, beautiful and tragic. Out of all the songs I have listened to, this one is the closest to poetry.

The very first lines of the song are:

A falling star fell from your heart and landed in my eyes

I screamed aloud, as it tore through them

And now it’s left me blind

Here, Florence Welch is describing how she was completely blinded by her love for this individual. Using several elegantly crafted metaphors, Welch compares her blindness by love to a star that fell from her love’s heart and right into her eyes. The metaphors help to build an image of not only the experience, but of the feeling. This is one of the fundamental qualities of poetry.

In the second verse, Welch sings:

And in the dark, I can hear your heartbeat

I tried to find the sound

But then it stopped, till I was in the darkness

So darkness I became

In this stanza, Welch is illustrating her feelings of depression and hopelessness that her relationship has led her to. She spent so long in the dark searching for love, that when her love eventually left her, she was still stuck there. The repetition of the word “darkness” emphasises her feelings of despair. The repetition of words in this way is a key characteristic of poetry that I have seen in many other famous works.

In a heart-wrenching bridge, Welch sings:

I took the stars from our eyes, and then I made a map

And knew that somehow I could find my way back

Then I heard your heart beating, you were in the darkness too

So I stayed in the darkness with you

In contrast to Welch’s previous lines that describe feelings of blindness and despair, this stanza holds a spark of hopefulness in it. This is the turning part of the poem, where she decides that she will love this individual, despite the darkness that he has pulled her into. She realizes that he is just as lost as she is, and she will be there with him, in the darkest of times. Like in previous stanzas, this bridge represents the climax of an experience, and tells the story right at its core. That is a key element of poetry.

Finally, in a beautifully powerful chorus, Welch sings:

The stars, the moon, they have all been blown out

You left me in the dark

No dawn, no day, I’m always in this twilight

In the shadow of your heart

This chorus is arguably the most powerful stanza in the entire song. It elegantly describes her feelings of being left in despair and depression from a relationship but wanting to stay in that relationship nevertheless. By comparing her emotions to various interstellar forces all throughout the song, Welch recounts her experience in a way that people will understand. Unlike simple stories, or artless information, experiences and emotions are harder to explain. That is why Welch’s use of understandable analogies is truly helpful to the reader of the poem.

All in all, I feel that this song is a true example of poetry. The stunning diction, rich metaphors, and powerful structure all contribute to the poetic element of this song. “Cosmic Love” illustrates not only a story, but an experience.

Cosmic Love

The Supernatural in Beloved and Exit West

When first reading Exit West, I assumed it was a futuristic form of historical fiction, a realistic story about two people during a time of war.  But when they first walked through the door, I thought had misunderstood or the story skipped forward in time. I thought it to be a mistake by Hamid to introduce such a syfy like portal in this very probable world, that he was confusing the reader more than he should.

In Beloved, I was even more sure that I was reading historical fiction.  A book about life after slavery? For sure. But then Paul D scared a ghost out of the house, Sethe was choked my mysterious fingers, and Beloved appeared and disappeared.

Although initially strange, I think that these supernatural aspects were necessary.  In Exit West, the magical doors transcend all barriers and create an accelerated migration, that gives Hamid an opportunity provide commentary about these topics.  In Beloved, the ghost forces Sethe to relive trauma that slavery has brought upon her, and gives Morrison a chance to give the reader a deeper understanding about living after slavery.  In both books, they are very central elements, and introduce ways to bring out ideas that wouldn’t have been articulated in a nonfiction book.

Can these books, especially Beloved, still be considered historical fiction?

Doors in Exit West: Magical Portals or Hidden Methods?

In Mohsin Hamid’s novel, Exit West, main characters Nadia and Saeed travel to new places through doors. Although Hamid does not explicitly state that these doors are magical, context often leads the reader to believe so. However, the lack of explanation of the methods through which these doors function leads me to believe that they are not really magical portals, but instead metaphors for methods through which migrants can travel.

As can be seen through the news, there are many ways that people smuggle other people out of dangerous situations to safer places. For instance, there was a truck found in Britain that contained 39 dead Vietnamese people, which is believed to have been a truck full of hopeful migrants. Unfortunately, in this case these people did not survive their passage, but they found the opportunity through an open door, so to speak.

Hamid references these types of doors in a magical sense, but only because these open doors often present illegal and dangerous methods through which to act. Instead of detailing Nadia and Saeed’s journeys through the doors, Hamid decides to focus on what lays at the other side. Therefore, he does not have to reveal and expose such types of methods. He can also establish more focus on Nadia and Saeed’s story as migrants as they live in their destinations, not necessarily as they journey to these places.

Exit West and My Personal Connection

Mohsin Hamid’s novel “Exit West” portrays a variety of themes, but one that stuck out most to me was migration. Although there are themes of love, family, and religion, I found that the novels themes revolving immigrants and migration connected best to me because of my grandparents.

In my life I tend to be surrounded by two different worlds, my grandparents on my mothers side and my grandparents on my fathers side. My grandmother from my fathers side migrated from Panama and my grandfather on my fathers side migrated from England. Although these places are on opposite sides of the world, both these people share a life changing experience. Like my grandparents, Nadia and Saeed had migrated to a totally different world and had to adapt to many life changes. In today’s world, and especially in the US, there is a lot of commotion with fleeing immigrants and negative opinions towards them. Exit West is so captivating because it gives a perspective of how some people are searching for a better life and seeking asylum.

Overall with my personal connections and the current news, Exit West was a great representation of people in search of hope. In the end I find it important that more people read these types of Novels so they can escape their perfect worlds and dive into the realization of how many people live.

Is it Possible to Become an Existentialist?

After reading Albert Camus’s The Stranger and “The Myth of Sisyphus”, I am left wondering if it is even possible to be able to develop a complete existentialist mindset. Existentialists reject societal fabrications such as the idea that social constructs such as family have meaning, and they believe that pain and suffering are the only sure things in life. Since most humans are brought up to believe in these very social constructs, it seems as if it would be nearly impossible to completely reject them, only to replace them with existentialist thought.

I acknowledge that Meursault from The Stranger certainly holds existentialist views. He constantly rejects the acceptance of common social norms, such as when he experiences little remorse after killing the Arab. However, it is important to understand that, first of all, Meursault is fictional. He is the result of Camus’s imagination, and I find it unlikely that anyone like him truly exists. Second, event though Meursault is fictional, he is still human. Humans are the so-called existentialists, but it is important to must remember that humans inherently make mistakes. Therefore, it is unlikely that it could be possible to completely let go of societal fabrications in favor of pure existentialist thought.

The myth of Sisyphus and Camus’s interpretation of Sisyphus’s story in “The Myth of Sisyphus” illustrates the idea that humans (in this case, Sisyphus), can change their outlook to reflect existentialist thought and therefore become more at ease with life. After Sisyphus adopts existentialist thought, Camus argues, he becomes less bogged down with his fate. However, as in the case of Meursault, Sisyphus is human. It is unlikely for him to reject all of his previous modes of thinking in favor of existentialist ideals, regardless of his situation.