Monday, May 17, 2010

Final Paper: Theoretical Introspection on V for Vendetta

V for Vendetta is a dystopian film where the United Kingdom is imagined from the 1980’s to the 1990’s. The movie depicts a near-future Britain after limited nuclear war (the 5th of November), which has left much of the world destroyed. In this future, a fascist party called “Norsefire” has arisen from the ruling power. “V”, an anarchist revolutionary dressed in a Guy Fawkes mask, begins an elaborate, violent and theatrical campaign to bring down the government. V is a man with reasons and as the mysteries unravel, we find out that he is the only survivor of an experiment in which four dozen prisoners were given injections of a compound called “Batch 5.” The compound caused vast cellular anomalies that eventually killed all of the subjects except V, who developed advanced strength, reflexes, endurance, and pain tolerance. V is also well versed in the art of explosives, subterfuge, and computer hacking, and has a vast literary (Shakespeare, Beethoven), cultural and philosophical intelligence. Because he knows too much and does too much with his knowledge and ideas, the Party (the Chancellor and the Fingermen) label him as a terrorist and sets to bring him down by subjugating him from the society that they have spent so much time constructing.

He is a threat to their system because he believes in the concept of ideas and the power of words. Through the power that he sustains, he shows the people of Britain how corrupted and manipulative the government as well as the different media’s are. V sheds light and destroys the slogan of the government, “Strength through unity and unity through faith.” He invokes that the only reason they want/need civilians to stay united is to remain powerful. However, he uses these words against the inventors by encouraging all the oppressed civilians to rebel and stay united throughout their fight for justice. V meets and falls in love with a young girl named Evey, a victim of the government. We find out that she has had a very dark past and because of it lives every moment of her life in fear. Although she wants to be fearless, her childhood experiences have traumatized her for life. Her father was a writer and believed that writers use lies that the government says to tell the truth; whereas the government lies to hide the truth. He was killed by the military and her mother died from a hunger- strike, fighting for justice. Her little brother was a student at St. Mary’s and became a victim of the virus that spread and killed over a hundred children. Through the experiment that V puts her through, she is transformed into a fearless and powerful women who essentially becomes V’s successor.

This clip is the introduction to the film, therefore the film begins by conveying to the viewer what happens when a man is known to have his own thoughts, his own feelings, and the appropriate language/words to describe and differentiate the truth from lies. This historically accurate story originates from a man named Guy Fawkes. Guy Fawkes belonged to a group of provincial English Catholics who planned the failed Gunpowder Plot of 1605. The plan was to blow up the House of Lords during the State opening of Parliament. The ideas which people were executed for brings out the truth in class differences and inequality.
V for Vendetta - "The Power of Ideas"

In a society founded on totalitarianism and utilitarian ideals, this harbors potential dangers for the rule of the aristocracy. The narrator says that “a man can be killed, he can be forgotten, but 400 years later an idea can change the world” (V for Vendetta). This statement remains true because when “the ideas of a human subject exist in his actions,” his actions make chaos and chaos in turn, if not changes the world, definitely promotes rebellion-a primary agent of change (Althusser696). The movie as a whole questions the intentions of those who rule over us. It questions the extent of truth we as civilians are exposed to, as well as, why we are deprived of being happy, free and heard. The cause for imaginary transpositions of the real conditions of existence is based on “the small number of cynical men who base their domination and exploitation of the ‘people’ on a falsified representation of the world which they have imagined in order to enslave other minds by dominating their imaginations” (Althusser694). This explains the reason people had and still have for acting upon rebellious ideas. These small men enforce ignorance and misconceptions to an extent where people started to imagine a world without being exploited and acted upon these imaginations/ideals. V not only creates this ideal society, but kills all the people who polluted it in the first place.
The use of technology (big screens and microphones) in V for Vendetta is in great resemblance to Orwell’s 1984. V clearly states that “there are those who don’t want us to speak” and means for it to demonstrate the power in words and the change that can come from this power. The Party is in complete favor of civilians being obedient and silenced because they believe this to be the only way their lies will not be known. V continues his speech by listing all the things that is wrong with London. The speech as a whole is radical, but radical is the only type of thought that will make change occur.

V for Vendetta - "power of words”

Plato in his Republic writes about anger and how “it’s not that they are not poetic or pleasurable for the general public to hear; indeed the more poetic they are the less they should be heard by boys and men who must be free and fear slavery more than death” (Plato25). Plato makes it clear that good poetry appeals to all the senses in the human body; that of anger, rebellion, bliss, and faith. However, he wants society to have access to only bad poetry where only joy is spoken of. He does want demoralized people (slaves or not slaves) to view the world without fear. This is the mentality the Chancellor and the Fingerman are controlling London with. Considering the fact that words and speaking raise feelings within the self, the government of London does not want for people to speak because they know that anger is the first outlet that these oppressed people will feel. It’s evident that throughout time, they will not only be angry, but act upon this anger as a way to retain revenge. Inflicting fear is represented as a necessity in a ruling government, hence a prominent theme in the film.

V serves justice by killing Lewis Prothero, Bishop Anthony Lilliman, Delia Surge and many others. Lewis Prothero was the wealthiest man of the country before he became the voice of London. He was the owner of the Larkael Detention Center; the same facility V was burned in and the same facility that killed 80,000 innocent people. Bishop Anthony Lilliman was the highest paid member of the Party (200,000 dollars a month). He was killed for his hypocritical lifestyle, where he slept with and raped young girls for personal pleasure. Delia Surge was killed so that the voice of a woman who was innocent and victimized was heard. She was a doctor in the facility when the entire medical center was exploded. V killed her without her going through any pain, and he did this so that the investigators come to the crime scene and take notice of the 5th of November (written in her journal) - that a conservative political leader was the one in charge (the Chancellor himself).

Evey is being told that the only way she can become free is if she cooperates and gives the name and location of the terrorist (V), but she rejects every chance she gets and remains loyal to V. This is a trial V himself put her through, though she is not aware of this fact. He puts her through that torture for the purpose of being able to live without fear of the government and the fear of what may happen to her- the way she had always desired to be. During her stay at the prison, she gets access to letters (in a mouse hole) from Valerie- a beautiful young lesbian woman who is bought to jail because she is a homosexual.

Valerie's Letter

The Panopticon is a circular building with an observation tower in the center in an open space surrounded by an outer wall made up of cells for the incarceration of mental patients or convicts. Although this description of the cells is written as fiction by Michel Foucault, it does not diminish the fact that “the relation of each individual to his disease and to his death passes through the representatives of power, the registration they make of it, the decisions they take on it” (Foucault550). In the film, all the people who were sent to the facility were “diagnosed” on behalf of the government. They were told what was wrong with them based upon social norms and what seemed fit. Social norms were ways in which the Chancellor sustained his power and kept order persistent.

Oppression is so common in these prisons that something that looks real (letter on a piece of toilet paper) can be thought of as a trick. The letter from Valerie represents how homosexuals were categorized as “plague victims,” “lepers,” and “abnormal” through the technique that “called for multiple separations, individualizing distributions, an organization in depth of surveillance and control, and an intensification and ramification of power” (Foucault550). Threatening them with surveillance control was the first step to demolishing homosexuals from society. Then they were separated from their loved ones, and finally all the torture and humiliation led to the death of the individual- not being able to be who one really is inside. They were forced to put on masks and pretend like they were happy with their stiff smiles, just like the mask of V. Authorities were not fond of laughter either, for violent laughter tends to provoke a violent change, and change they prevented. Valerie’s final words uttered, “Although I have never seen you, and although I will never meet you, laugh with you, cry with you or kiss you, I love you from the bottom of my heart. I love you, Valerie” (V for Vendetta). They were not supposed to show emotion or any sense of vulnerability, but for her having confessed love to some stranger, it epitomizes the fact that innocent love towards the person next to them had completely perished in society. It was unseen of, unheard of, but nonetheless necessary.

As V began to bring chaos into the world of London, the chancellor worried that people will forget why they need him and states that the “message should be read on every newspaper, heard on every radio, and seen on every television” (V for Vendetta). The quote appeals to the idea that society controls our minds and thoughts through media. They can make us think a certain way by enforcing that to be a part of our daily lives.

The Chancellor

Plato writes in his Republic that “it’s appropriate for the rulers of the state, if anyone, to tell lies involving enemies or fellow citizens for the benefit of the state, but no one else must do it” (Plato28). When a society functions on the greatest good for the greatest amount of people, every form of lies are used as a means of benefiting the country and its people. In reality, these authorities are in search of any way they can reap the maximum amount of power while subjecting those weaker or lower in class/status. In the film, the idea of the government having planned the attack on London (disease, death, facilities) is not even considered because the government pretended to help the people by creating a pharmaceutical company. Within this company, they invented a pill that was used and sold as the cure to the poison. They were the ones who spread the toxic chemicals so that they create the medicine for it as a way to increase their income, which was also their way of “helping.” They put this act on while at the same time they pushed forward their plans to destroy. They spread the poison, they separated homosexuals, and they starved these people mentally and physically and said that they were not responsible. It shows the lack of humanity that bastilles upon people of power.

V says the famous line, “there is more than a face under this mask, there are ideas, and ideas are bullet proof” (V for Vendetta). The “existence of the ideas of his belief is material in that his ideas are his material practices governed by material rituals which are themselves defined by the material ideological apparatus from which derive the ideas of that subject” (Althusser697). He is not only a face, but an individual who acts disobediently to the government. This rebel-like characteristic makes one seem insane, but it is through this insanity that he is able to reach the justice and freedom he desires.

V for Vendetta – “Ideas are bullet proof!”

Once one owns their thoughts and does things because they want to and not because they were told to, society will never become utopian. The term sublime implies that a man can in emotions and in language, transcend the limits of the human condition. The only way one is able to understand sublime is by grasping the notion of what exists beyond the human experience. It defeats every effort of sense and imagination; it goes beyond the inevitable- all in the power of words.

GREAT SCENE - V for Vendetta (finale)

His dress attire is completely black from head to toe, which signifies his dark past (getting burned in fire), which in turn signifies the horrors all the civilians were coerced into. The mask that V never removed had a heavy amount of theatrical make-up, along with a fixed smile that was so wide that both eyes were closed and could barely see. This was a transparent representation of how the government wanted people to be. The government’s control is parallel to a puppet show, in which case the population of London was the puppet and was being controlled by the pulling of strings in whatever direction that advantaged the wealthy. V is symbolic of all of London. He is Edmond Dante’s; he is Evey’s mother, father, brother, Mr. Finch and every other tortured soul. He is aware of the fact that “particular actions of individuals are never symbolic in themselves; they are the elements out of which is constructed a symbolic system, which must be collective” (Culler56). Therefore, he uses the truth to pull in the oppressed and unites them by giving them faith, strength, and ideas. The taking off of the masks was a victory for everyone. It was a victory because the Chancellor was dead and they were finally given the chance to be who they really were. They were liberated through rebellion and death.

The movie insinuates the concept of holding on to your past (Guy Fawkes) as a way of making a difference in the future. Although records will vanquish/perish, words will never lose their power. Capitalism is ingrained in the wealth of the few and the value in the laborer. The bourgeoisie society proceeds with their plans by enforcing the owner-slave relationship. Those who are “slaves” are those who are subjects and obedient to every threat that the owners make. V uses the arts to allow optimism to flow through the minds of adults and children. The taking off of the masks was emblematic of V’s plan- the domino effect. He knew that once he had touched the hearts of more than one person, the whole country was going to want to know what it feels to be free.

Works Cited

Althusser, Louis. "Ideology and Ideological State Apparatuses." Literary Theory: An Anthology. Second Ed. Julie Rivkin & Michael Ryan. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2004. 693-702. Print.
Plato. "Republic 3." Classical Literary Criticism. The Penguin Group: London 2000Print.
Foucault, Michel. "Discipline and Punish." Literary Theory: An Anthology. Second Ed. Julie Rivkin & Michael Ryan. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2004. 549-566. Print.
Culler, Jonathan.”The Linguistic Foundation.” Literary Theory: An Anthology. Second Ed. Julie Rivkin & Michael Ryan. Malden, MA: Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 2004. 56-58. Print.
V for Vendetta. Film

Wednesday, May 5, 2010

Postmodernism VS Modernism (Analysis 5)

Modernism describes a collection of cultural movements of the late nineteenth and early twentieth century. It consists of a series of reforming movements in art, architecture, literature, music and applied arts. Modernism was characterized by a dramatic change of thought, whereby human intellect sought to improve their environment. There was a trend of improving every aspect of life by involving science and technology into it. Modernism brought about a reform in all spheres of life including philosophy, commerce, art and literature, with the aid of technology and experimentation. It led to progress in all the aspects of life by changing the approach of mankind of looking at them. Postmodernism means, 'after the modern’. It was a reaction to modernism and was influenced by the disenchantment brought about by the Second World War. Postmodernism refers to the state that lacks a central hierarchy and one that is complex, ambiguous and diverse. The developments in society, the economy and the culture of the 1960s were impacted by postmodernism.

When thinking about a piece of work that has been transported from postmodernism to modernism, the first thing that comes to mind is the remake of A Christmas Carol, the very famous novel written by Charles Dickens in the 19th century. There have been multiple adaptations of this novel, but the most famous one was produced in 1951. This version embodies the idea of postmodernism in regards to the lack of science and technology. In the scene where the ghost of Marley appears to Scrooge, the figure is simply present and not ghost-like at all. The only thing that makes him look like a ghost is all white face makeup he has on. The dialogue is taken straight from the book and not adjusted to meet the entertainment needs of the viewer. The film is in black and white, so that the authenticity of the original art is sustained. The music used in this film is melodramatic and full of suspense. In whole, this version of the film and its simplicity embodies in every aspect the idea that “science has always been in conflict with narratives” (Lyotard). Evidently in postmodernism, narrative is chosen over conflict.

A Christmas Carol (1984): Part 1

Modernist historians have a faith in depth. They believe in going deep into a subject to fully analyze it. This is not the case with postmodernist thinkers. They believe in going by the superficial appearances, they believe in playing on surfaces and show no concern towards the depth of subjects. In the most recent production of this film, the era it represents is Late Modernism/ Contemporary. The viewer is treated with the upmost care when the issue comes to entertainment with the deliberate use of technology, flying figures, vibrant colors, and upbeat music as opposed to the traditional kind seen in the previous clip. Its creative, scientific, and the parts compromise the whole of the story. The dialogue/language used is witty (representation of Charles Dickens), fun and universal in all these aspects.

A Christmas Carol (2009): Trailer

In conclusion, Modernism tends to present a fragmented view of human subjectivity and history
but presents that fragmentation as something tragic, something to be lamented and mourned as a loss. Many modernist works try to uphold the idea that works of art can provide the unity, coherence, and meaning which has been lost in most of modern life; art will do what other human institutions fail to do. Postmodernism, in contrast, doesn't lament the idea of fragmentation, provisionality, or incoherence, but rather celebrates that.

Wednesday, April 14, 2010

Wage Labor and Capitalism (Analysis 4)

The very moving and universal issue of immigrants being paid less than what they should be getting is illustrated in the documentary called “Made in La.” In this documentary, we see how immigrants are being forced to work in factories where they are exposed physically and mentally. These individuals don’t know how to speak English, therefore they are stuck working for factories that pay them cents for an item capitalists sell for $15 (surplus value). They are given no breaks for water or food and if they decide to complain they are fired, hence left with no other alternatives in which they are able to support their families and children. Karl Marx writes in explicate detail how Wage labor and Capital go hand in hand in his work titled “Wage Labor and Capital.” Marx defines wage labor as “the sum of money paid by the capitalists for a particular labor time or for a particular output of labor” (Marx 659).

However, in reality and in the core lies the mere fact that these people sell to the capitalist their labor power. The exchange value that is taking place is not considered to be an equal exchange, therefore considered cheap labor and a way in which the higher class takes advantage of the lower class.

The film named “The Devil Wears Prada” starring Anne Hathaway (Andy Sachs) and Meryl Streep (Miranda Priestly) brings into light the parallel issues of exposing workers in the fashion industry. However, this film as opposed to the documentary, glamorizes those who lack the means of production, hence are subject to it. The movie is about a magazine editor who has created her own fashion magazine empire by using those lower in class. The very first words that she utters to the new co-assistant that she has hired is “So, you don’t read runway? And before today, you have never heard of me?”This depicts how this particular industry, just like America as a whole, has its own language. A language that you are expected to know well in order to be considered anything but an instrument to the bourgeoisie production relation. Meryl’s character continues by saying “You have no style, no sense of fashion.” This is a translucent mirror to how Capitalism works. They sit you down, they observe your appearance, the color of your skin and judge you accordingly. As the movie progresses, we see the character of Anne Hathaway transform herself into a fashion inspired “individual” by allowing the ruling material force of society dominate the ruling intellectual force- which is meant to be a personal choice/force. Essentially we reach the idea that what we produce and how we produce it identifies us as people. In a country where Capitalism is so dominating, individualism has been lost and perished.
In conclusion, the Capitalism is nothing without the labor worker. If there is no worker there is no product. If there is no product there is no surplus value/ even exchange. When there is none of the things that Capitalism is primarily founded on, there are no people buying the products. All the precautions employers take with keeping their workers healthy goes back to square one- their economic status.

Works Cited
Marx, Karl. "Wage Labor and Capital." Literary Theory: An Anthology. Second Ed. Julie Rivkin & Michael Ryan, MA: Blackwell Publisihing Ltd. 2004. 659-664. Print.

Wednesday, March 17, 2010

Beyond the Pleasure Principle (Group Presentation)

My group presentation was on Sigmund Freud’s Beyond the Pleasure Principle. We as a group sought to target Freud’s theory on compulsions and the pleasure we receive from them and the treatments that he came up with to put a stop to these compulsions. To simplify the theories by Freud, we used daily habits of biting nails, lips, moving arms and legs, touching facial parts, playing with hair to exemplify whether or not these habits bring forth pleasure or if they originate from past experiences. All four of us had to come up with questions that reflect those that Freud would ask our classmates if he were to be treating their habits- simpler versions of compulsions. Most of the questions that I came up with consisted of quotes from the book and followed with asking if they find that fact to be true about their habits. We decided we could pretend to be Freud for a day and diagnose the class. Another way I contributed was by making our power point slides. I asked my group members to send me the key points they wanted to discuss. The portion I focused on in Beyond the Pleasure Principle was the notion of transference neurosis. In this I described how and where it originated from and what it actually was. I mentioned how transference neurosis was originally an art interpreting. Because this technique did not solve the therapeutic problem, retracing from our memory to indicate where our resistances came from became the newest approach. It was a therapeutic treatment and the focus of it was to make the unconscious transgress in to our conscious mind. The only way in which to do this, according to Freud, was for the patient to re-experience/repeat the repressed material (that was forgotten) and to make it a part of the present as opposed to the past. Once the patient starts to remember, the analyst has to make sure this transference becomes a permanent part of the memory. Overall, the classes response to our presentation was a positive one and the experience I took from it was, to sum it up, very educational and highly enjoyable.

Can Someone Please Tell Me What Structuralism Is?

The term “structure” as we know it is a term that provokes the idea of order. Structuralism in the field of linguistics is based upon the realization that if human actions/productions have a meaning, there MUST be an underlying system of distinctions and conventions which makes this meaning possible. Semiology is a science that studies the life of signs within society. What constitutes signs? What governs them? Essentially, structuralism and semiology are inseparable from one another. Sings- the basic element of the language system- brings into light the two sides that create it: the signified and the signifier. The signifier is what one hears or sees (picture); signified is the mental image of the word (“tree”). This supports the theory that the words in our language are sound-images.

Works Cited
Saussure, Ferdinand."Course in General Linguistics." Literary Theory: An Anthology. Second Ed. Julie Rivkin & Michael Ryan, MA: Blackwell Publisihing Ltd. 2004. 59-71. Print.

Russian Formalists or American New Criticism… Which do you prefer?

Russian Formalism and American New Criticism are both ways in which one is able to look at a literary work, but in very different ways. Prior to the formalist movements in the late twentieth century, Russian formalism and American New Criticism was the study of literature that was concerned with everything about literature except language, from the historical context of a literary work to the biography of its author. The Russian Formalists were interested both in describing the general characteristics of literary language and in analyzing the specific devices or modes of operation for such language. Their most famous claim was that literary language consists of an act of defamiliarization. The Russian Formalist movement focuses more on the qualities of narrative/poetic language (literary devices) therefore, makes the approach a scientific and rational one. For literature to be literature it must constantly defamiliarize the familiar, and the only way to do that is through the use of devices.

However, the American new Criticism is anti-scientific and interested in the non-rational dimension of art. Two very well known terms are a part of a new critical legacy- intentional fallacy and the affective fallacy. According to the intentional fallacy, meaning resides in the verbal design of a literary work, not in statements regarding his/her intention that the author might make. According to the affective fallacy- the subjective effects or emotional reactions a work provokes in readers are irrelevant to the study of the verbal object itself, since its objective structure alone contains the meaning of the work. This approach informed the study of literature with a concern for traditional religious and aesthetic values of a kind being displaced by science.

Taking into account each approach and what their focuses are within literary texts and applying that to modern life, it is safe to say that critics in this day and time use the American New Criticism more than the Russian Formalist approach. We tend to be more captivated by the universal truth rather than the brilliance of technique in a work. Everything we see and breath is entertainment. One can say that this massive industry and the ideas that come along with it is a way in which to become more utopian- like. If we no longer take notice of the structure of things what else is there really that’s valuable? Are you not utterly disgusted of the constant defamiliarization of the same mass product in different forms? I know I am…

Works Cited

Rivkin, Julie and Ryan, Michael. "Introduction: Formalist." Literary Theory: An Anthology. Second Ed. Julie Rivkin & Michael Ryan, MA: Blackwell Publisihing Ltd. 2004. 3-6. Print.

Sunday, February 14, 2010

Characters Defamiliarized to Mirror our Government (Analysis 2)

The Lion King is known to be one of the best, if not the best, animated Disney film that has ever been produced. Although the story is intended for children, the theme of injustice and oppression among social classes/ranks (rich/poor; strong/weak) is very relevant to the government that we have had, ever since governments came into coexistence. In this picture, I see Simba and his loved ones on the left and on the right we find the hyenas and Scar (Simba’s uncle) who surround Simba with their evil smirks and laughter’s. They clearly represent hatred, vice, power, lies, and wealth/power. If you look at only the left side of this picture and imagine yourself with your loved ones, it can be considered a “sublime” moment and connecting it to the right side of the picture, we see the hyenas and the uncle wanting to deprive them of the moment that goes beyond any sense in their body. This picture makes the familiar, which is the typical civilian and the evil of government, into unfamiliar characters but still bringing into light the idea of conquering evil and landing on top. This is a representation of hope, liberty, justice and most importantly, unity. As Saussure writes, “language may be analyzed as a formal system of differential elements, apart from the messy dialects of real time production and comprehension” (Saussure 59). Although the intentions of those who created this film may not be of societal class, according to Saussure, the picture can be analyzed by looking into the differential elements (good and evil) and by taking out what is only evident about the image. The concept of Semiology plays a major role and is where the signs in society are acknowledged and studied by asking questions like “What constitutes them?” and “What governs them?” (Saussure 60). Speculating this picture even further is to take notice of the cliff in which Simba and his kin stand in (green grass) and how Scar and the hyenas lay below them in dirt. This is to say that although “others” many times are scrutinized, those with evil intentions will always remain below those who are pure and loving.

Works Cited

Saussure, Ferdinand. "Course in General Linguistics." Literary Theory: An Anthology. Second Ed. Julie Rivkin & Michael Ryan, MA: Blackwell Publisihing Ltd. 2004. 59-71. Print.