Absolute Beginners was a film that centered around a narrator who becomes disillusioned with the city he lives in, London, because of the onset of race riots and other racial tensions towards the end of the novel. Although there were many interesting themes in the book, the movie just didn’t do it for me. I am a fan of musicals, however this one seemed just a bit too much for my taste. Perhaps the dance fighting of the race riot put me over the edge. The very drawn out race riot fight scene was much too long in my opinion. This may also be why the movie itself did not do so well. The movie was panned partly because of its significant differences from the book. Although I did not enjoy it as much as some, I can’t deny that the film version was definitely entertaining. Overall, I enjoyed the novel much more.
Salman Rushdie- In Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, the character Millat ends up joining a militant Muslim fundamentalist group that protests against Salman Rushdie. After coming across Rushdie’s name in my Arabian Nights class this semester as well, I decided to look into Rushdie’s backstory to see how he could be a useful figure that ties themes together for me across classrooms.
Rushdie was a very controversial figure in this time period after the publishing of a work entitled “The Satanic Verses,” a novel that used magical realism and parts of the prophet Muhammed’s life. This book created a massive backlash from the Muslim world who claimed that Rushdie violated his use of free speech (whatever that means). Rushdie’s writing even earned him death threats from several Muslim leaders. It is very interesting that this figure has appeared in both this class and my Arabian Nights class, because many of the themes surrounding him in both classes are very similar.
After watching the 2006 film This is England, I could not help but draw a comparison to a similar film, American History X. Both of these films deal with a skinhead sub culture that is shadowed by racial hatred and bigotry. In American History X, the main character Derek has been led down the path toward racism by several factors. The casual racist ideology of his father’s dinner table ranting is validated for Derek when his father is killed by a black man. This leads Derek down a snowballing path of aggressive racism and brutal hate crimes until he is locked up for a vicious murder of a black gang member. He then realizes his mistakes, which prompts him to save his brother from this dangerous ideology. He saves his brother from following in his footsteps, however his brother is then shot by the brother of the black man that Derek killed at the beginning of the movie.
This is England has many similarities to this movie. Derek and Combo share a racist ideology that seems to stem more from their own insecurities than anything else. Likewise, Derek’s little brother is comparable to the character Shaun. Both characters join the subculture out of need for belonging; Derek’s brother joins when his father and Derek are both taken from him in a matter of months, while Shaun’s own membership stems from his desire for a surrogate father figure. While Shaun is able to escape the subculture before it can turn him into something like Combo, Derek’s brother is fated to be a victim of hatred from the other side.
These two movies share many interesting similarities, and both raise many important issues. The movies demonstrate how subtle racism can explode into something extremely toxic.
After reading Buchi Emechta’s Second Class Citizen, I became interested in the history of colonialism and postcolonialism, specifically in Nigeria. In order to contextualize the climate in which Emechta begins her novel, I decided to look at a brief history of colonialism in Nigeria. British colonies in Nigeria began trading slaves as early as the 16th century. In this century, as many as 3,000 slaves would be taken and sold each year. Nigeria has a long history of human rights violations due to colonial and post colonial influence. After gaining independence from the British Empire in 1960, Nigeria faced a divided nation as a result of different groups of people being put under the same political umbrella. Learning about the history of Nigeria was very interesting, because it explains some of the themes in the novel, and contextualizes the post colonial status of the country.
The idea of a “sub-culture” is something that I have always found interesting, because I believe that I am part of a very unique one. The sport of wrestling has always been in a very strange position when considering sports. Although it has a massive amount of participants across the world, wrestling has never had a popular following like basketball or football. In essence, wrestling has become its own weird subculture that has developed its own exclusive styles and practices, often which others would probably find very strange.
Wrestling style seems to never align with what the rest of the popular sports are wearing. For example, when basketball shorts became long and baggy, wrestlers kept wearing short shorts. There are many more examples of style that others would find strange. Dyed hair, multicolor singlets, a variety of strange looking shoes, etc. have all come and gone and come again since I began wrestling 20 years ago. Wrestlers will start some weird trend by wearing a pink singlet or shoes that their grandma made, and then, of course, Nike or Adidas will commodify this with its own version of a wacky singlet and the trend will die. I cannot help but think that the uniquely bizarre style choices seen in wrestling are, at least on some level, a reaction to the rejection the sport has felt from popular sports fans, universities, and title 9 laws in recent history.
Wrestling has long been stigmatized negatively for its seemingly strange and brutal practices and issues. I have heard some extremely strange questions from people when they find out that I have been a wrestler my whole life. One lady asked me if I gave myself cauliflower ear on purpose. No, I just got hit in the ear, lady. Others ask me if I starve myself for days on end to make weight. Again, no. I just don’t eat ice cream for 5 months. Still, these ideas had to come from somewhere. Although the negative aspects of wrestling are not around much anymore, they were at one point. Misunderstanding always seems to be the central issue between wrestling and the general population. This being said, wrestling does seem to take pride in being different and separate from other sports. Wrestling has been fighting to stay alive at the collegiate level for some time now. Although there are a vast amount of colleges that have wrestling still, many were being dropped in the early 2000’s because of title ix. Wrestling was also dropped from the Olympics, however a massive worldwide protest saved it. Wrestling culture has also seen a resurgence and unfamiliar rise in popularity due to the rise of Mixed Martial Arts (UFC). The dominance of wrestlers in mma has brought with it the commodification of many of the old wrestling trends that many probably wouldn’t recognize as such.
There are many other reasons why I believe wrestling is truly a unique subculture. I could probably write 50 pages pretty easily on this issue, but alas, here is my annotated bib .
It is interesting to me how well this novel/film fit in with the “western” genre and all the tropes that came along with it. That being said, that was definitely not what I was thinking about while I read/watched each for the first time. The novel surely gave me more of a comic book sort of vibe. Maybe it is just because of all the Marvel and DC shows I have been watching lately, who knows. Or maybe, comic books and westerns just share a lot of tropes. There is also already a huge connection between Noir films and comic book style, so this is probably why I was fixated on this. When I think back, it is clear that the biggest connection I made between the comic book world and the film happened in the famous prater wheel scene.
Harry Lime’s presence in that wheel, combined with all of the strange angled shots, awkward close ups, tense atmosphere, and sociopathic remarks gave me the chills in a truly Joker-esque sort of way. On top of all of this, the most famous and tense scene takes place in an eerie abandoned carnival, with probably the most off putting music I have ever heard playing in the back. What I am getting at, if you haven’t caught on yet, is that Harry Lime is very much like an early comic book villain or even Joker character. The prater wheel scene, to me, is definitely something that could have happened in a Batman origin comic. Harry’s complete lack of human empathy, his wild eyes, his overwhelming presence, and anarchistic behavior on the wheel, all while being charming in the weirdest and creepiest kind of way, immediately made me think of every Batman comic I have read. This really interested me, and I could probably go on and on with similarities between this film and a batman comic, because there are plenty. Vienna as the dark and lawless Gotham city, Martins as the misunderstood hero, Calloway as Gordon, etc. I’m sure there is much more there, perhaps
I will look into it in more depth eventually.
As I read this novel, I began to think of the recurring problem of wartime infidelity that is still going on. I decided to research this problem, and happened to come upon an article from 1945 in which the author discusses the problems with both “women chasing” soldiers overseas and unfaithful army wives. This article points out that both men and women may cheat on the other while overseas because they are “sure” that the other one is anyway. This presents the danger of reading things as a “single story” or single way of seeing something. The article itself, however, only sees one angle of this issue. There could be a number of reasons that something like this could happen, not limited to this one problem of “well she will cheat too.”
What I also found interesting was the lasting effect that this infidelity can cause, especially if it is one sided. I came upon a term called “Post Infidelity Stress Disorder” in which those who have been cheated on are compared to those who have PTSD. The results of the comparison were strikingly similar. War, it seems, can have similar effects on people even when they are nowhere near the battlefield. This may also be a reason for the suicides of soldiers who come home from combat. PTSD on top of infidelity is not something I would wish on anyone. Perhaps this is something the main character went through in this novel.
While reading Swastika Night, I naturally noticed a parallel to 1984. Both of these novels deal with a wild dystopian future in which humanity is all but lost within the overly controlled societies. In an article by Darragh McManus, he examines the similarities between the two: “Both were written in the same era; both offer forensic dissections of the psychopathology of power; both are masterful imaginings of a possible future drawn from the dreadful but logical conclusions of these ideologies. There are even specific similarities between the two: a hero slowly awakening in consciousness, the cult of political leadership, the rewriting of history, a secret text which reveals the truth, a photograph on which the plot twists.” The parallels in these books are fairly obvious, but why is 1984 so iconic whereas I had never even heard of Swastika Night? I found the ideas in this novel very fascinating, such as the Hitler based religion. This is very similar to North Korean ideology in which their last several leaders have been deified. The complete and total objectification of women for breeding is another terrifying idea. Similar things are happening now all over the world. I believe that this novel should be much more popular, because it is more relevant now than ever. It could maybe even be a companion novel to 1984. The terrifying reality of this novel is something that actually could happen. Stories like this one and 1984 are considered “a warning worth heeding in a book worth reading.” I simply don’t think this genre should be limited to only reading one book. Both this novel and 1984 compliment each other in a way that I believe is important. Each story is a chilling warning of what could happen if humanity forgets itself.
After watching strong sisters, I became fixated on the concept of women in government in different time periods. The thought that women in modern day America are still fighting for their equality in government is both startling and revealing when it comes to this issue. This prompted me to write a paper on this issue for another class in which I compared the influence of women in government between two medieval texts: The Arabian Nights and the Irish text The Tain Bo Cuailnge. In this paper, I discovered that a women’s most powerful influence would come from talking to the King in the bedchamber. Women did in fact have a very powerful influence in each tale, but only indirectly through each king. Each text had a different overall outlook on women, the Irish being very negative and the Arabian being very progressive, however any actual role within government was virtually nonexistent. Although this was in the middle ages, women are still not equally represented. It is very encouraging, however, that women are finally being recognized in governments around the world. For example, I just read an article on the mayor of Rome, Virginia Raggi, in which she faced major backlash for vetoing the city’s Olympic bid for 2024. Raggi’s decision is not only the right one in my opinion, but also a very brave one. For a woman mayor to veto the largest sporting event on Earth undoubtedly conjured up a whole lot of sexism. She and other women are currently trailblazing through their nation’s governments, which is very exciting. Maybe women will finally find equal representation in government in the near future.
While reading Lolly Willowes, I noticed that part of the reason for Laura’s decision to separate herself from society altogether is her unwillingness to accept her passive role within a aggressively male dominated society. In an article I found by Bruce Knoll entitled “An Existence Doled Out: Passive Resistance as a Dead end in Sylvia Townsend Warner’s Lolly Willowes,” Knoll discusses Lolly’s early attempts at a passive resistance to her male centered world. He explains that “an old skin of passive resistance is growing around Laura the child. She will have to slough off this skin to emerge outside the passive/aggressive duality in which she has had forced on her.” This passage explains why Lolly’s only other option is to find something that is completely new, which is separatism. This separatism stems from Laura’s need for autonomy from a society that she does not fit into. Once she finds this autonomy, she does not need to return to the masculinity. She finds a true balance between the passive/aggressive duality when she “merges with nature.” An important passage from Knoll’s article helps to elaborate on this point: “Laura’s lesson is twofold. She learns under which circumstances she must assert herself without falling back into the safe but deadly passive role assigned to women. But she also learns how to let nature claim her- not a totally passive act, for by opening herself up to nature, whose influence reached her even in London, she allowed herself to be transformed from the passive child to the assertive adult.” This idea is very interesting to me, and I hope I can follow it into something greater and more well developed.
Article Referenced: http://www.jstor.org.unco.idm.oclc.org/stable/441691?Search=yes&resultItemClick=true&searchText=lolly&searchText=willowes&searchUri=%2Faction%2FdoBasicSearch%3FQuery%3Dlolly%2Bwillowes%26amp%3Bacc%3Don%26amp%3Bwc%3Don%26amp%3Bfc%3Doff%26amp%3Bgroup%3Dnone&seq=19#page_scan_tab_contents