Wednesday, May 19, 2010


Orientalism is the changing of one (the oriental) unknown and mirroring him/her in terms of what looks similar to us, “a manner of regularized (or Orientalized) writing, vision, and study, dominated by imperatives, perspectives, and ideological biases ostensibly suited to the Orient." It is the image of the 'Orient' expressed as an entire system of thought and scholarship,” this according to Danielle Sereed, when discussing Edward Said’s Orientalism. Therefore, we get the Americanized version of foreign continents and therefore are lead to misread people. A perfect example of this can be seen in the Muslims. After 9/11, Islam was seen as a place of “fanaticism, fatalism and polygamy” according to Roger Du Pasquier, in his article, Orientalism, Misinformation and Islam,” in this article it states that since 9/11 people have looked to villainies the Muslim people by making them out to be these monsters with no values. All the while overlooking the true values they’ve always held true. “One symptom of this ignorance is the fact that in the imagination of most Europeans, Allah refers to the divinity of the Muslims, not the God of the Christians and Jews; they are all surprised to hear, when one takes the trouble to explain things to them, that 'Allah' means 'God', and that even Arab Christians know him by no other name,” This passage referring to the way Americans view the Christian ways of the Muslims. Seeing their prayer as sort of a lost religion because they don’t have a god, this is simply not true. That is just the view of a few who allow themselves to get caught in the mystification and “simplifying” of something unknown. Using orientalism (if you will) to try and solve a math problem that can’t be solved so easily. Orientalism is used not only in a demeaning sense, but a lazy sense, as instead of getting better acquainted with something different, the different is simply transformed to resemble the more familiar, “constructed by and in relation to the West.”

Works Cited

“Pasquier, Roger Du.” Orientalism, Misinformation and Islam. Web. 17 May 2010.

“Sered, Danielle.” Orientalism. 1996. Web. 17 May 2010.

The History of Sexuality

It was interesting to see the comparison of the way sex was treated and used to be seen. To what it is now. Before people tried to put purpose behind sex, limiting it to married couples for reason of reproduction early. To ensure this, people (probably women) would be chastised if they comply with their marital duty, as this was seen as being just as bad as giving into carnal temptation. Nowadays, sex is still a hot topic; people are still being chastised for such things as infidelity. But now people have more freedom with what they do and reproduction is not at the top of most people’s list. As even Foucault knew that, “It was time for all these figures, scarcely noticed in the past, to step forward and speak, to make the difficult confession of what they were. No doubt they were condemned all the same, but they were listened to,” (893). And speak they did and condemned they were, these confessions led to the sexual revolutions o the past and have lead to the open door we leave sex to frolic in. Now, no longer is sex (seen as something non-sexual) but is seen as something liberating and something that is naturally fun. Sex has now come out of its trap and alive and everywhere, as stated by Ludwin Molina in the article “Human Sexuality,” “Next to sleeping and eating, it seems that it is one of the most important drives we have to deal with as humans. That is, it takes up so much of our time in thought and behavior that it sometimes seems that every facet of our life revolves around this to a certain extent.”Here we see that sexuality has broken down those uncomfortable walls built up and is now something that is producing life in a whole different way.

Works Cited

Foucalt, Michel. “The History of Sexuality.” Literary Theory: An Anthology. Ed. Rivkin, Julie and Ryan, Maichael. Victoria, Aus.: Blackwell Publishing, 1998. 892-899. Print.

“Molina, Ludwin.” Human Sexuality. 1999.Web. 17 May 2010.

Tuesday, May 18, 2010

Works cited

Marx, Karl. “The German Ideology.” Literary Theory: An Anthology. Victoria, Aus. Blackwell Publishing, 1998. Print. 651-658

Rivkin, Julie and Ryan, Maichael. “Introduction: Starting with Zero.” Literary Theory: An Anthology. Victoria, Aus. Blackwell Publishing, 1998. Print. 643-646

“Lin, Joseph.” Top 10 College Dropouts. 2010. Web. 10 May 2010

Sealey, Geraldine. “Is 'Hillbilly' Humor Offensive?: Critics Say Humor About Rural, Working-Class Whites Crosses Line” 2009. Web. 29 Oct. 2009

Monster-in-Law. Screenplay by Anya Kochoff. Dir. Robert Luketic. DVD. New Line Home Entertainment, 2005. DVD.

Santee, Robert T. and VanDerPol, T.L. “Actor's Status and Conformity to Norms: A Study of Students' Evaluations of Instructors.” The Sociological Quarterly, Vol. 17, No. 3 (Summer, 1976), pp. 378-388 Published by: Blackwell Publishing on behalf of the Midwest Sociological Society (WEBCT) 17 May 2010

Monster-in-Law: A Ruling Class Looking Down

“The ideas of the ruling class are in every epoch the ruling ideas: i.e., the class which is the ruling material force of society, is at the same time its ruling intellectual force,” this quote is taken out of The German Ideology, by Karl Marx. By this quote Marx argues that in the class struggle between the aristocrats at the top of the social ladder and those at the bottom trying to reach for some form of that top ladder there is an imbalance of ideas as to what is correct for the whole, as the lower class is subject to be fed the ideas of the ruling class. Because of the fact that the ruling class does have the means of production, it is automatically assumed that they have all the original ideas and know what is best for everyone around them. Therefore, continuing to separate the line of class division by preventing any of the lower classes to speak opinion, thought, or any sort of ideas ultimately keeping them the lower class. This type of division has been seen for centuries, from Shakespeare to slavery and even in today’s world (as the ruling class’ view of the lower class is sprinkled into everything we pay close attention to); class division is no stranger to everyday life.

This point of view for example can be seen very clearly on film (as everyone watches movies intently, therefore listening to their ultimate message). The film I choose to focus on is Monster-in-Law, starring Jennifer Lopez and Jane Fonda. A film in which a mother (a successful media journalist, Viola), meets her potential daughter-in-law (a temp, Charlotte). And automatically tries to get her out of the picture as Viola sees Charlotte as being not good enough for her doctor son (Kevin), ultimately meaning not good enough for her family. And at first sight Charlie (short for Charlotte) sees this ideal in Viola’s surroundings and quickly conforms to this ideal thought. And now we see in this film, and through the art of humor, first impression, and the lower class conformity of the ruling class’ dominance. That the Marxist ideal of the ruling class being better than the lower class is not only still alive in the thoughts of the upper class but also with the conformity found on film, is still alive in the thoughts of the lower class as well.

In Monster-in-Law we meet Viola who has just been fired from her talk show. She immediately goes home for comfort (after leaving rehab due to a nervous breakdown), but soon her comfort is turned into unwanted stress as she meets her potential daughter-in-law, Charlie, who is of the lower class compared to her doctor boyfriend. Viola’s first impression of Charlie is that of a gold digger, someone who was able (through some sort of “persuasion”) to land herself a successful man of the upper crust (obviously not proper in the world of the ruling class). This first impression begins to define the lower class in a sense as it now proves how the lower class depend on the upper ruling class for survival because as Marx states himself, “The individuals composing the ruling class possess among other things consciousness, and therefore think.” (Marx, p. 656) Meaning that the ruling class has what it takes to survive and prosper in the real world and that the lower class does not, therefore they work and wait for some ideal to fall down from the sky for them, while they just dream of the aristocratic life. This idea of the thinkers was actually highlighted in a 2010 article found in TIME Magazine, focusing on the top ten college dropouts, entitled (appropriately), Top 10 College Dropouts, by Joseph Lin. One of the men that dropped out of school was Steve Jobs who dropped out of Reed College but would soon, “go on to eventually found Apple, NeXT Computer and Pixar, becoming an instrumental force in shaping the landscape of modern culture.” And become one of the richest men in the country. Proving that in order for one to make in life, one has to be a thinker and make a way for himself, not relying on anyone but themselves to move themselves up. This first impression of Charlie goes as far as leading Viola to believe that Charlie has become pregnant with Kevin’s child and in this laying the reason for their engagement. Here we see the first sign of a struggle (although only in the mind); of someone trying so hard to attain something that is not hers (and according to Viola, never will be). And in this meeting of two classes we also see a new view, an unstable view of two classes, proving that, “Moreover, all class-divided societies project into culture the instabilities on which they are built,” as according Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan in the article Introduction: Starting with Zero.

This leads to Viola plotting now how to rid herself of this nuisance that has come into her life (making her life even more unstable), which forces her to point out the fact that Charlie does not fit into this world. This now brings us into the humor and conformity of the film. First, Viola runs a background check on Charlie that proves to be clean of any sketchy past she may have had. Next, she throws a party in which she invites all of the people Kevin grew up with (which just happens to be some of the world’s most prominent people). This accomplishes the first task in Viola’s plan to make Charlie feel out of place, not knowing the first impression Charlie had of Viola. Charlie’s first impression of Viola was that of a women who had done so much more than she could ever imagine. Here is the first sign we see Charlie’s conformity to the ideal that Viola is better than her and has a right to be simply because she knows these people and therefore she is worldlier, has better knowledge on world issues (smarter than her), and is more up to speed with everything around her. This can be heard in Charlie’s reactions to the photos she sees when entering Viola’s house, “Shut up! Is that the Dalai Lama? That can’t be real!” This surprise now seeps into the American audiences and we accept Charlie’s point of view as our point of view (because after all, Viola met Oprah!). Now this conformity on film becomes reality, since now, not Charlie but Jennifer Lopez conforms to Viola’s ideal and we follow her and suddenly her conformity is our conformity and now we feel comfort in our lower stature, this similar view was argued by Rivkin and Ryan. “One function of literature (or film) is to offer those on the losing end images that assure them that their situation of relative deprivation is the natural result of fair play and fair rules, not of a systematic dispossession that is a structural feature of the society.” (Rivkin & Ryan, p. 645) Meaning that because Jennifer Lopez is not right away trying to fight this image of herself as someone unworthy of loving Kevin, but really giving in, she almost gives us permission to do so as well (i.e. give into the impressions people may have of us). Similarly as did Shakespeare in his plays for the royal court, as stated in this same article of how he created character that promoted the royals as the supreme people and made the lower class characters appear as if they deserved to be there, making, “Their speech and patterns of thought suggest less refined natures than those possessed by their “betters,” who usually happen to be aristocrats.” (Rivkin & Ryan, p. 645) And again since it is Shakespeare who says this to the people of his time, they are more willing to accept this, thus solidifying the class divisions.

Now, having failed in making Charlie feel out of place in Viola’s life, as Charlie claims her love for Kevin is stronger than anything that can be thrown at her. The film takes a turn in its discourse from conformity to slap-stick comedy. And again, here we see the lower class character made out to seem like the fool, like in the Shakespeare plays. But here the character takes a different turn as now she will stand up for herself, but even still we see that this character is subject to some harassing behavior (as Viola pretends to not be able to sleep in order to get Charlie in her bed, only to attack her while Viola “sleeps”). And here is where we truly the battle begins as Charlie at first puts up with this harassment because of the fact that she is Kevin’s mother, but soon we see her finally take her stand. This kind of harassment is discussed in the article Actor's Status and Conformity to Norms: A Study of Students' Evaluations of Instructors by, Richard T. Santee and T. L. VanDerPol. The article states how the “roles” in which we all play in life have always played in the backgrounds of our lives, and it is only when you subject yourself to not playing along in your “role” that you open yourself to the harassment of others, “The concepts of norm and role have played a significant part in the behavioral sciences by serving as background assumptions and sometimes explanations of human behavior. Labeling and evaluation are said to result from conformity to and deviation from group standards (Becker, 1963; Cohen, 1966), with scapegoating or harassment of those who do not play the role assigned by the group (Coch and French, 1948).” This harassment is again definitely seen in this film as Viola at one point even poisons Charlie by putting nuts into the gravy in which Charlie is about to consume with her mashed potatoes, knowing very well that she would have an allergic reaction to the nuts (as she does). And in this humor we see Charlie stand up for herself as she returns the harassment and gives the “ill” Viola sleeping pills instead of the vitamins she was taking. Viola finally sleeps (which allows Charlie to finally do the same). We must also though ask why this humor is allowed (and why are we making fun of ourselves) because by laughing her in her situation, we laugh at everyone in that situation. This topic was covered in an article found at ABCnews. com, the article was entitled “Is ‘Hillbilly’ Humor Offensive, and the article basically stated that this type of humor is not offensive in fact, “It's funnier if you have somebody who can relate to it who's making the joke,” stated Chris Duerr in the article. And this type of example is definitely seen here as Jennifer Lopez does find herself relatable to a wide audience. And with this we see the tables finally turn (as the lower class finally grows a backbone) and the lower finally takes all they can take and the real struggle begins. And then we find Ruby (Viola’s assistant) the next morning applauding Charlie in her ability to begin somewhat to win this struggle. As Ruby tells her, “I underestimated you, you don’t need a gun.” And in this we see other lower classes rooting on other lower classes because as Marx states in The German Ideology, “It’s victory, therefore, benefits also many individuals of the other classes which are not winning a dominant position,” (Marx p. 657).

As now the humor not only works as a punishment for trying to go outside your “role” in life, but, now also serves as a test. As now not only does the class also depend on you to win this struggle. But we also get the upper class testing your strength to see if you are in fact worthy to join the upper crust. But to focus for a moment on this lower class not winning a dominant position in life, Ruby, Viola’s assistant is just that, her assistant. She may appear as if she has some power over Viola, working a lot of the time as her voice of conscience (even though many times she does not listen to her). But in the end her social level does not move up, she remains Viola’s assistant. Because of the fact that Ruby stays in the background of the film and does tend to offer a lot of the comedic relief in this film, it could be that she is the perfect example of what ruling classes look for in a person. Ruby stands for someone who does not disobey or necessarily go against the ruling class. Even though, she does appear to have a mind of her own she never truly rebels against the ruling class. She just sits back and waits to see which idea will fall from the sky next.

Unlike Charlie, who goes against everything Viola stands for, and even though she is the producer of everything. Because if you really think about it she was the one who produced everything Kevin had, so in a way you could almost look it as if she brought him up to her social stature as well. And just like he ultimately proved himself to his mother (as he became a doctor), so must Charlie through this class struggle (Humor of film) before Viola will accept her. Because we see this “eternal law” which Marx discusses as the separation of power. And this eternal law can be seen as highlighted in two particular parts in this film, one scene in which both women stand their own grounds and Charlie tells Viola that she knows about everything that she has done and that her game is over, and Viola cackles and responds, “This isn’t over, not even close.” To which Charlie responds, “Bring it on Grandma.” The second scene in which this “eternal law” is highlighted is at the end of the film when the two face off again as the wedding day has arrived, and Charlie tells Viola one more time to fact the fact that she will marry Kevin, and Viola tells her to fact the fact that she will never be good enough for him. This altercation again ensues in slap-stick comedy, this time with literal slapping. By now the audience has slipped into their comfort zone of the inferiority introduced to them by the bourgeois of modern day. But soon see something that is less often achieved by someone of the lower social class. Charlie has won the war against Viola and has been accepted into the family. Thus, now offering a new look at the class structure of the modern and possibly even offering hope that all class structures can be abolished.

Karl Marx argues that ideals of the ruling class are the dominant ideas for all classes, since they are at the top of the social ladder, no one else’s opinion matter but theirs. And this is can definitely be seen in the film Monster-in-Law. As we see the struggle of two different social classes. One is of the ruling class (Viola) whose word is law because it is the producing force. And the other of the lower class which stays divided from the upper class in order to keep order, as can be seen as Viola’s main focus in trying to keep Charlie from marrying her son. The upper class of today tries to do the same with the world as a whole instilling this belief in the film we watch, as they instill the belief that the lower class in lower because that is where they belong, along with the upper class being where they are because that is where they belong. And because we assume that they are better than us, we automatically listen to their ideals. This ideal being instilled in the actors who we love who portray the conforming characters that we soon associate ourselves with. Ultimately proving, that the Marxist ideal of the ruling class being better than the lower class is not only still alive in the thoughts of the upper class but also with the conformity found on film, is still alive in the thoughts of the lower class as well.

Monday, May 17, 2010


According to Jean-Francois Lyotard, Post-Modernism advanced the use of knowledge in order to advance the states. Knowledge was used as a way “to produce the administrative and professional skills necessary for the stability of the state.” So in a sense Post-Modernism did not promote free thought but instead promoted the idea of free thought that was to become one unifying thought to promote legislatures. So it now becomes a contradiction in itself as “legislators will- the desire that the laws be just- will coincide with the will of the citizen, who desires the law and will therefore obey it.” (Lyotard) So now we see control in the form of knowledge, as we feel we have the proper knowledge about the things we vote about, speak out about, and feel for in terms of controversial issues. Suddenly we find “control in the chaos” as we unify in the same thought. As stated in the article “Literary Theory: A Guide for the Perplexed” by Mary Klages, “Modernity is fundamentally about order: about rationality and rationalization, creating order out of chaos.” The article states a similar view when it comes to post-modernism, stating that in creating more stability within the people of the post-modern era, the better it functions. And this is not just seen in education and politics; this is seen in everything from music, to art, to everything in general that is entertaining. One thought means less chaos in free time, meaning better productivity in consumerism, meaning better health in the economy.

Works Cited

“Klages, Mary.” Literary Theory: A Guide for the Perplexed Web. 2007. 16 May 2010

Lyotard, Jean-Francois. “The Postmodern Condition.” Literary Theory: An Anthology. Ed. Rivkin, Julie and Ryan, Maichael. Victoria, Aus.: Blackwell Publishing, 1998. 355-364. Print.

Marxist Analysis

I find it interesting when being introduced to Marxism of how this concept is still visible in today’s society. In the reading Introduction: Starting with Zero by Julie Rivkin and Michael Ryan, they talk about Shakespeare writing his plays just to humor the king and queen. Because after all, “Shakespeare could not have expressed counter-monarchial ideas and still been “Shakespeare,”” meaning that he would not have been hired by the king and queen if he did not promote their point of views in his so-called form of entertainment. And good thing he did follow the rules because at the end, his plays were not only entertaining but also garnered a lot attention. This was a good thing since it helped people remember their place in life, and not in a bad way since these characters were likeable and in a sense made people satisfied with the way they lived, “the lower-class characters, though likeable and comic or the most part, seem to deserve their lower-class status.” This concept can still be seen in today’s form of entertainment, where millions will watch television about the rich and famous (in their own aristocratic), and still be content with other characters on television. The other characters as discussed in an article found on The Museum of Broadcast Communications entitled Social Class and Television by Richard Butsch states about the differences in characters, “In middle-class domestic situation comedies the male buffoon is a rarity. When a character plays the fool it is the dizzy wife, like Lucy Ricardo in I Love Lucy. In most middle-class series, however, both parents are mature, sensible, and competent, especially when there are children in the series.” This quick view shows how television makes it comfortable to see how at the same time it is ok to laugh at the characters on television. We as an audience are saying that it is okay to laugh at ourselves.

Works Cited

“Butsch, Richard.” SOCIAL CLASS AND TELEVISION. Web. 1992. 17 May 2010.

Rivkin, Julie and Ryan, Maichael. “Introduction: Starting with Zero.” Literary Theory: An Anthology. Victoria, Aus. Blackwell Publishing, 1998. Print. 643-646

Sunday, May 16, 2010



When reading the chapter on ideology it was like reading about me, everything in this chapter described me. Ideology is the belief in something imaginary. Or at least that is how Althusser put it, and that is exactly how it is, all humankind is broken down into beliefs, they don’t even have to be necessarily true. From birth until death we follow things as we are told. I found it interesting to find out that we are all subjects, even before birth. We are all assigned to someone; we all have parents and become their children. We become sons or daughters; we are assigned a name and therefore become their property (in a sense). From then on we are told how to act “civilized,” and I always wondered why we act a certain way, when it is more than obvious that people wish to act a different way. Is it really the ideology of separating ourselves from the animals? Or is it just brainwashing into becoming how people want others to act, here we are introduced to the imaginary. For example with religion, we believe in religion but it is something never to be seen. It is just something that you see in the people who pray the people who attend church and even in the people who live a certain believing that someone is observing them. Here is one positive look at ideology, a look at people who change themselves for the better. But what happens when ideology takes a negative turn, this was the focus of Jim Walker in the article The Problem with Belief, “People have slaughtered each other in wars, inquisitions, and political actions for centuries and still kill each other over beliefs in religions, political ideologies, and philosophies. These belief-systems, when stated as propositions, may appear mystical, and genuine to the naive, but when confronted with a testable bases from reason and experiment, they fail miserably. I maintain that beliefs create more social problems than they solve and that beliefs, and especially those elevated to faith, produce the most destructive potential to the future of humankind.” What this basically states is that beliefs help create more issues than they solve, especially those that become personal. But the personal is the fuel behind the ideological, so the ideology in the end does not have to be factual because factuality isn’t represented here.

Works Cited

“Walker, Jim.” The Problems with Belief. 1997. Web. 16 May 2010

Althusser, Louis. “Ideology and Ideoligical State Apparatus.” Literary Theory: An Anthology. Ed. Rivkin, Julie and Ryan, Maichael. Victoria, Aus.: Blackwell Publishing, 1998. 693-702. Print.