Wisdom Teeth

by Simon Cropp

In Zadie Smith’s White Teeth, we are told stories of the histories of people under the terminology of root canals. The important formation of who characters are in this novel, such as Archie and Samad, Irie, and Clara, is linked to the metaphor of teeth and how possibly the procedure of removing decay from the roots of their heritage.

Allow me a digression:

And this reminds me of my own uprooting, when my wisdom teeth had to be removed. Wisdom teeth are the last sets of teeth to grow in, and they’re often impacted, so later in life, almost all of us have to have the dreaded procedure.

I was 22 years old and didn’t have insurance that covered procedures;, so for me, the removal of wisdom teeth had to be a budgetary affair. My dentist said he knew a guy. Oral surgeon in training. Had to get a number of contact hours in to meet the requirements of his program, and removing wisdom teeth was considered something he could do unsupervised. I remember there was a rule he had to follow: no an anesthesia. I had to be awake for the procedure. But people do it this way I was told. He’d give me a Valium, I’d feel like I was asleep, all would be right in the world.

I showed up for the day of the procedure with my friend Mike–as the Valium would render me likely incapable of driving. I remember now, the receptionist at the dental office had captured my withered, blackened heart at that time. She would look at me with these big blue eyes, smile, and I never heard a thing she said. Well, when I checked in, she said something like: “The doctor is running late. Run and get something to eat. Blue eyes, beautiful smile, blue eyes,” or something like that.

Mike took me to McDonalds and we pounded down a couple of McDoubles, because, you know, I was 22 and could do that.

We returned to the office, met the surgeon in training, and he asked where we’d been. I said, “Oh, since you were running late, the receptionist said to run and get a bite to eat or something. So we ate some cheeseburgers.”

The surgeon in training didn’t take this well. Began rubbing his balding head. He said, “Oh no, no, no, this won’t do at all. Not at all. We must reschedule.”

“Sir,” I said. “I am a manager at Blockbuster video–to get this time off–today and three more days in a row for recover–that was a feat, I tell you! Why must we reschedule?”

“You ate! You can’t eat before this. The Valium won’t work. You can take it, but it won’t work. Your cheeseburgers might get tranquilized, but you, my friend, will not.”

“But she said…” my friend Mike said gesturing to the receptionist.

“I said something like bread,” she said from behind the counter. Blue eyes, smile, blue eyes. Anger too! Oh no.

My mind scrambled. “I’ll take the pill. It’ll work. You’ll see.”

Despite his hesitation, the oral surgeon agreed. And we were off. I took the pill, went back to the room, rested in the chair, and sure enough, I began to feel something. A stirring in my brain. A numbing in my body. I knew it would work.

The procedure began. And all that something I had felt before, that numbing? It fled. Ran away. As the surgeon jacked my mouth open with some device that wouldn’t allow me to clamp down–after he numbed me–he began digging in my gums. And wisdom teeth, it turns out, don’t just come out a tooth. They come out in pieces. They are cracked and broken and jackhammered, and pieces of teeth and blood sprayed on his mask. Sweat formed on his brow.

All effects of the Valium gone, I suppose he saw something reflecting in my eyes. Horror? He brought in a second assistant. She sat down in a chair beside me and just held my hand. He brought in a woman to hold my hand! I didn’t flinch, though. I let him work. For two hours he removed slivers and chunks of gigantic teeth, but it was the roots, he said, the roots were the biggest he’d ever seen. Like the roots of a horse tooth. He brought in the beautiful receptionist and my friend Mike to look at my impressive roots.

So much pain, black smoke pouring from my mouth, but I continued on, wondering what it would be like to have real insurance.

Finally, he stopped. He took off his tooth and blood-soaked mask and said, “There is one tooth left. Upper right. I cannot do this anymore. It is too much. That tooth is not impacted. So it will remain. I cannot subject you to this anymore.”

“I can handle it,” I said around the mouth apparatus.

“You are stitched and sewn, here are two subscriptions for Vicodin. You will need them. Don’t talk or the stitching will break. Keep gauze in your mouth so clots can form. I will be here the rest of the day before returning to Denver. Call if you need anything.”

So Mike and I left. I felt particularly strong that day. Like I had done something most people hadn’t done. So I continued to play that role. I acted as if there were no pain. Of course, I filled the prescriptions. I b.s.’d with Mike, told him that’s how a man does an operation. Mike told me to stop talking. At the time I thought he was concerned I would break my stitching, in retrospect, I think he didn’t want to hear what I was saying.

I did break my stitching from talking too much. We had to go back to the oral surgeon in training that Friday afternoon. We caught him in the parking lot as he was loading up his car to head back to Denver.

“You may have to go the emergency room,” he said. “I can’t numb you. All my equipment is loaded…”

I looked at him, looked at Mike, imagine blue eyes looking at me from somewhere, and I said, “Just do it. Just stitch it. No numbing.”

He did it. And it hurt. But whatever.

I learned something that day–a fundamental lesson to my own self, to my own sense of being and history. I learned to never eat McDonalds again.

But then, these painful extractions, these lessons and formations of who we are in distinct moments, is this not what Smith meant with her epigraph: “What is past is prologue.”

What I did not know that day cost me.


Subculture in America pt. 2

When taking the time to consider the film Absolute Beginners and its depiction of the Notting Hill riots as a kind of rock opera compared to the novel’s depiction of a darker, more somber toned version of events, we see the conflict of image vs. word. Consider MacInnes’ descriptions: “Quite decent, respectable people they seemed, too: white-collar workers and their wives, I expect, who’d probably been out to do their shopping. Well, they saw the lads get in the Spades’ car, and drive it against a concrete lamp-standard, and climb back in their handy little delivery vans, and drive away” (246). The crowds of white collar workers, quite civilized, escalating racial violence. “Then came another incident–and soon, as you’ll understand, I began to lose count a little, and, as time went on, lose count a bit of what time was, as well” (247). The narrator’s loss of time seems to be a loss of existential identity in the temporal landscape–but it is not silly. The crowd is searching for violence. For a subject to exact violence upon.


“Well they weren’t disappointed long. Because out of the Metropolitan Railway station–the dear old London Transport, we all think so safe and reliable–came a bunch of passengers, and among them was a Spade” (247). The subject to be brutalized. “A boy of my own age, I’d say, carrying a holdall and a brown paper parcel–a serious-looking kiddy with a pair of glasses, and one of those rather sad, drab suits that some Spades wear, particularly students, in order to show the English people that we musn’t think they’re savages in grass skirts and bones stuck in their hair” (247). What is to be made of the image of this poor victim, so much in contrast to the vibrant silliness of the film’s West Side Story-ish portrayal of the Notting Hill riots?


I remember an American movie from 1979–The Warriors–a film based on Sol Yurik’s dark novel about gang warfare. The film became a greatly exaggerated version of the book, a musical or fantasy, if you will, as the director felt no one would allow him to make a direct adapation. Hollywood lore posits violence and rioting broke out in response to the film despite its fantastic tone. Fear of glorifying gang violence on the bigscreen became a talking point in the media even though the Warriors depicted gangs of mimes on roller skates, rednecks in overalls, and a weirdo who wore beer bottles on his fingers. This fantastical version of gang warfare in New York sparked fear and debate about how violence should be depicted on screen.

Whether or not this ultimately affected the 1986 adapation of MacInnes’ Absolute Beginners is certainly worth debating, but the spectacle of seeing rioting, the imagery of gang warfare displayed as an actual dance number, allows us to wonder.

America’s subcultures in the late 70s and 80s were marked by fear and violence. Gangs prowling the urban America. To show the reality of this on the bigscreen would be to glorify it–or so people believed.


Works Cited

MacInnes, Colin. Absolute Beginners. Allison and Busby, 1980.

The F Word – Naomi

For much of my adult life, I have been very independent. After graduating from high school in Hawaii, I moved to Kentucky for my undergraduate work (yes, I know this sounds crazy on many levels). After I got my degree I moved to Colorado, because, why not? I made these choices on my own and I paid for it on my own. I have worked continuously from the time I was 16 until I turned 34 when I quit the career I obtained a Masters Degree for, the career I worked in for 12 years and was objectively good at. I quit this career which I had dedicated almost half of my life in pursuit of to be a housewife and stay at home mom. And when I made this announcement to my friends and family I heard a resounding intake of breath followed by the somewhat insulting question, “But I thought you were a feminist?”

Yes. I thought so too. And I am. But it depends on who you ask, I guess. In her essay “Feminism with a Small f”, Buchi Emecheta discusses some of her philosophy surrounding the concepts of feminism and what they mean to her. She writes, “Being a woman, and African born, I see things through an African woman’s eyes. I chronicle the little happenings in the lives of the African women I know. I did not know that by doing so I was going to be called a feminist. But if I am now a feminist then I am an African feminist with a small f” (175). So, maybe I am a white middle-class feminist with a medium f? Can feminism really be only one thing and does it matter who provides the definition?

This essay resonated with me, particularly the passage where she states, “We need more Golda Meirs, we need more Indira Gandhis, we even need more Margaret Thatchers. But those who wish to control and influence the future by giving birth and nurturing the young should not be looked down upon. It is not a degrading job” (180). Making the choice to stay home with my children was an incredible privilege and I recognize that. And that does not make my contribution to society any less than if I had stayed in the workforce and put my children in daycare. I have struggled with feeling like I’m doing a great thing for my kids while at the same time feeling like I’ve been subordinating myself and degrading the work women have done for years to create equality with men.

I could continue rambling on about my fears surrounding what I’m doing to and for my three daughters. But I will end by saying that Emecheta confirmed in me that I am neither doing something extraordinary, nor am I doing something derogatory by choosing to nurture my children at home.

Emecheta, Buchi. “Feminism With A Small ‘f’!.” African Literature: An Anthology of Criticism and Theory. 173-185. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2007. MLA International Bibliography. Web. 20 Oct. 2016.

Hate is NEVER Okay. This Is England Movie Response–Meghan

This Is England, directed by Shane Meadows, was an interesting movie that triggered a lot of different emotions for me. Throughout the entire movie I was really concerned about Shaun’s mother’s parenting style. She gave me some hope when she went to the cafe to confront the gang for cutting Shaun’s hair…but then she left him with them! I was pretty shocked by that. I’m not a parent, so I can’t judge; however, I feel like you wouldn’t want your young son (I think they said he was twelve?) being influenced by and hanging around much older kids. So that was surprising. I was also really sad for Shaun the whole time. He obviously didn’t have a full grasp on what was going on with the Skinhead gang. I thought is was a really low blow for Combo to convince Shaun that in order to make his father proud he had to be an extreme nationalist and hurt innocent people. It was truly a tragic movie.

Furthermore, I would like to draw everyone’s attention to a quote from one of the boys (I’m sorry I don’t remember his name–I think they jokingly called him Tubby?) at the Skinhead meeting. After the meeting was over, one of the boys asked if the other believed everything the men were saying about nationalism and sending immigrants back to where they came from. The other boy replied (this might not be exactly the words he used, but it is pretty close) “if it wasn’t right, all these people wouldn’t be here.” He was referring to the Skinheads and defending that they were right because there were lots of people who believed it. Of course, we could brush this off and say it was just a child misunderstanding and following authority figures. However, let’s say it’s more than that. I think right now, specifically what has been going on in our own country, it is an important time to look at this mindset and identify how problematic it is. I would like to give a brief anecdote of something that happened over the past weekend:

For this anecdote, I will not name any names in order to respect the anonymity of the people involved. Over the past weekend, an African-American employee at a company that will also remain anonymous, was racially discriminated against by a customer. The employee offered assistance to the customer that had just walked in and the customer denied his assistance saying that he would wait for “the white guy” to help him. Without arguing, the employee accepted and told his coworker that the customer was waiting for his help. Meanwhile, the employee went into the backroom and came out a few minutes later. When he came out, the same customer called him “the N word” and continued to do so. The employee rightfully became offended and asked him to leave. The customer did not leave and proceeded to call the police and tell them that he would “shoot [the employee] myself if they didn’t get here fast.” Luckily, the police arrived quickly and arrested the customer.

This is unfortunately a very true story. Perhaps it is a coincidence that this happened soon after the election. However, it seems too me a little too coincidental considering all the hate that has erupted this past week.

I do not want to get into a political battle, nor do I want to offend anyone. I will say that there has been much hate and negativity from both sides of the spectrum and violence is never the answer to problems. Unfortunately, I think the mindset that the kid in the movie brings up–the “everyone else is doing it, so it must be right” attitude–is terrifying and very applicable to what is happening in our country. Just because one thinks a behavior is acceptable does not mean that it is. I know that everyone in our class understands that, my intention is not to talk down to anyone. However, I think this it is unacceptable that so many members of our country are giving in to this idea.

It should never be okay to treat another human being the way this employee was treated in the anecdote. The hate rhetoric that has come from this election is unacceptable. I am by no means saying that everyone who voted for Trump is a bad person–I don’t believe that at all. However, I do believe that it is ignorant to disregard the behavior and hate rhetoric that has been going on among our fellow Americans.

Another quick anecdote: Last week, the day after the election, I was talking to someone who told me about an experience her friend had earlier that morning. She said her friend was at a gym and two men next to her winked at her and one of them said to the other, “now that Trump is President, we can grab that anytime we want.” They said this within hearing range of the woman.

This is also unacceptable. It makes me sick to think human being can see other human beings as objects. Though this is nothing new, it is still upsetting. It concerns me that so many people have found an excuse to be shitty people in the name of Trump’s Presidency. I will stop there because, like I said, I have no interest in arguing.

Anyway, the point I am trying to make is that hate is NEVER okay. I think the movie This Is England, depicted a realistic and sad example of the hate that can exist in humanity. I think it also represented how meaningful words and actions are. Far too often, I think people forget that words and actions matter. Not only do your words and actions effect how the world sees you, but how you see yourself. This is America and we need to change our words and actions so we do not lose what we have fought long and hard to protect.


International Youth: Absolute Beginners–Meghan

At the beginning of Absolute Beginners, a concept of universal youth is introduced when the narrator is having a conversation with Mr. Pondoroso about “the bomb” on pages 30-31. The conversation goes like this:

Mr. P. grew a bit vexed

“But you haven’t been to America, have you!” he exclaimed. “Or to Russia, and talked to these young people!”

“Why do I have to go, mister? You don’t have to travel to know what it’s like to be young, any time, anywhere. Believe me, Mr. Pondoroso, youth is international, just like old age is. We’re both very fond of life.” (31)

Considering “youth” is an important concept to this novel, I think this conversation is important to the rest of the novel. It appears to be a pretty bold statement to claim how all of the world’s youth acts and feels, especially not having been anywhere. However, his last sentence is very interesting: “We’re both very fond of life.” This is a pretty vague statement and equates the feelings of old and young people, which is something that he clearly differentiates in the rest of the novel. I’m not sure where to go with that idea, so I’m going to leave it floating around if anyone else wants to jump on it.

Anyway, I think the idea “youth is international” is a fascinating concept. In my own childhood/early teens, I always wondered what is was like growing up in other countries. I have always had a desire to travel, though, unfortunately, I have never had the opportunity to venture outside the U.S. So, having never been anywhere “cool” or “exotic,” I have always  wondered what life is like around the world. Particularly, when I was much younger, I wondered if other parents were as, let’s say, involved as my own. I knew what my friend’s parents were like–mostly similar to mine with the exception of a few “cool” parents. However, I was always curious of the parent-kid dynamics abroad. The media often portrayed free lifestyles of the youth around the globe–of course, particularly with young celebrities. Though I haven’t thought of these particular ideas in awhile, I was reminded of them while reading this novel…

I think the narrator’s perspective is really interesting. At times, I found his commentary on everything a bit know-it-all-ish and slightly pompous, which bothered me. However, after thinking about it more, I realized his attitude towards everything, especially older people, was so perfectly representative of the attitudes that kids have even nowadays. With that in mind, not only is youth international, it is also timeless. Not to make any generalizations or assumptions, but I think it is fair to say that there is always a chasm between generations that can cause a disconnect between older and younger people. For example, my parents may be frustrated by some of the choices I have made in life, but their parents were likely also frustrated by the choices they made. I think we kind of mentioned this in class on Thursday–there will always be a disagreement between generations about how to live life.

Anyway, back to youth. The assertion that “youth is international” is kind of cool to think about. If we go along with the narrator’s idea, it means that every kid around the world is facing some kind of disconnect with their parents, some kind of love tragedy, some kind of social issue, some kind of rebellion, some kind of struggle to “fit in,” or acne (Haha. But, really though). I think this idea continues into adulthood, too. Everywhere in the world people are struggling with jobs, money, family, politics, love, health, etc. But, people are not only universally struggling, they are also universally enjoying being “fond of life”: spending time with friends and family, going on adventures, making new memories, eating ice cream, or whatever. I think people too often get caught up in their own problems and don’t appreciate the positive aspects of their lives or realize that their problems really aren’t as big as they seem.

That was a bit of a random tangent, sorry. But, I would love to hear other people’s thoughts on these ideas. 🙂


Also, here’s something silly. I typed “youth” into Google, unaware that it is the title of a song, and the first thing that popped up was this music video. It’s definitely not the kind of music I listen to (so don’t judge me) and it is very teenybopper-ish (if that can be a word), but I found it to be strangely applicable to Absolute Beginners. It kind of gives the idea of “youth” being a universal concept among young folk–specifically because of the line “my youth is yours,” which I interpreted as youth (potentially experimental youth? or something) is an experience that everyone goes through. Anyway, if you can bear it, take a gander.

Taking a stab at Subculture–Meghan

I wish I would have been in class last night because I am sure I missed a really interesting discussion on Hebdige’s Subculture: The Meaning of Style. For the record, I wasn’t playing hooky, I have been fighting a cold all week and yesterday and today have been my worst days (I am voiceless and sneezy and headachey). Anyway, I found Subculture to be a really fascinating collection of essays. I know I read a few excerpts in an undergrad theory class, and I am pretty sure I remember reading some Hebdige in Chaves’ theory class last spring. I am going to try to do a little analysis/interpretation for this post. I am not the best when it comes to theory related things, so bare with me if I choke and completely misinterpret. Instead of responding to the whole book, I would like to focus on Chapter 6 (pages 90-99).

Here is a quick overview of the chapter: In a simplistic view, this chapter mostly discusses the language  used in subcultures, the attention drawn to subcultures by media, and how media represents subcultures in commodity and ideological forms. When media gets a hold of a “subculture story” they run wild and misrepresent the community. This can be done either by creating a “commodity” out of the subculture’s appearance and style or by labeling and making a subculture appear to be threatening or deviant to an orderly structure. Basically, subcultures are being “othered” and exploited by media simply because they are different from the norm.

I am particularly interested in the following quote that was used in the beginning of the chapter:

“Subcultures represent ‘noise’ (as opposed to sound): interference in the orderly sequence which leads from real events and phenomena to their representation in the media. We should therefore not underestimate the signifying power of the spectacular subculture not only as a metaphor for potential anarchy ‘out there’ but as an actual mechanism of semantic disorder: a kind of temporary blockage in the system of representation.” (90)

First of all, I love the comparison between subculture and noise. I have heard this comparison before, likely in one of the previously mentioned classes. “Noise” has a negative connotation of disruption; thus, subculture disrupts the flow of the “sound” in culture today–which is articulated as “interference in the orderly sequence.” Although subculture is seen as noise, I think it plays an important role in society, which is obviously what this book is articulating. Without subcultures, life would be pretty boring. This sounds cliche, but think about how much our entertainment revolves around subculture and “being different.”

Furthermore, the above quote articulates an interesting perspective of subculture’s as a “mechanism of semantic disorder.” This idea is really interesting to me because subculture is being directly related to the function of language. If we look at society as whole metaphorically as language, subculture is spicing up the lexicon and syntax of the language (is that cheesy?). The language (society) might get jumbled up a bit, but it still functions–or, at least, it will be able to function again. The fact that subculture is a “mechanism” implies that there is a specific use for it. A “mechanism,” according to a quick Google search, is “a system of parts working together in a machine; a piece of machinery.” Thus, subculture is an important piece to the machine that is society. This means that the “noise” that subcultures create and the disruption they cause is all a part of the system that makes the wheels of the machine turn.

Now I’m going to switch gears a little bit because I’m not sure if I was on the right track with that. Considering this book was written in 1979, I think our interpretation and perspective on subculture has changed a bit. Of course, I can only speak for myself, but when I hear “subculture” I do not immediately associate negative connotations. I guess I kind of view society as made up of a bunch of little subcultures. When you think about it, any group of people can be a subculture: academics, vegans, goths, body builders, hippies, athletes, etc. I understand “subculture” is supposed to be that which goes against the “norm.” But, really, what is normal nowadays? Who are we to place people into categories of normal and abnormal? Sure, there’s some weird shit that people do, but just because it is weird or “abnormal” to me doesn’t mean it is to someone else. I might be missing the point here or going off topic (cut me some slack because I don’t know what conversations happened in class last night), but I think it is interesting that humans have the need to place other’s in boxes.

Here’s a fun video of the “weirdest subcultures around the world.”

The Third Man (late response)–Meghan

Well, this is really late but I am going to post it anyway. I wrote my response in my head after class last week and I think I convinced myself that I had already posted a response (oops!). Anyway, I thought our discussion at the end of class last Thursday (when we were talking about whether or not we liked the film or the book better) was really interesting. If I remember correctly, it was about a 50/50 split between who liked the film better and who liked the book better (give or take a few votes). I would like to defend my reasoning for liking the book better (not because I thought I was under attack, but simply because I think it is interesting that the film came first and I was still a fan of the book).

Initially, for some reason, I was under the impression that the book came before the film. I think this happened because I read the prologue a week or two before I read the actual book and I completely forgot that the prologue says the film came first and was the “completed” version. Perhaps, this influenced my opinion on liking the book better than the movie–but let’s ignore that because I have some specific reasons I liked the book better. In general, I am not a big movie-watcher and prefer reading or watching short TV show episodes (this, of course, could also influence why I liked the book better).

Anyway, the main reason I liked the book better is because of the insight that we get into the character Martins. Though the film had many interesting depictions of what was going on with Martins, I really enjoyed the kind of “split personality” that was present in the book. Martins had a few different personas that he put on in the book and I thought it was hilarious that he pretended to be Mr. Dexter so he could have a place to stay for free. I felt a lot more in-sync with with Martins character and I liked that we could see what he was thinking throughout the novel.

Also, I thought Calloway was an effective narrator for the story. His narration gave the novel more of a “detective story” feel, and I thought that was kind of fun. I think having the film narrated by Calloway would have been an interesting touch, but then that would have made him a more central figure in the film than he was.

I also thought the relationship (or lack thereof) between Martins and Anna was a lot more problematic in the book. This is something that Eric discusses in his blog post Rollo’s Problematic Relationship, so I will not spend too much time here. Martins continues to make crazy rationalizations in the book on why he and Anna should be together. He does not accept her rejection and cannot come to terms with the fact she does not want to be with him. I don’t think this was as obvious in the film–and maybe it wasn’t supposed to be since the film came first.

I guess what I am trying to say is that I appreciate both the film and book as separate entities, but it is difficult for me to see them as the same story. I guess this makes sense because, ultimately, they really are different stories. I think the novel is more humorous and provides an interesting perspective of the characters. I think the film is certainly artistic and demonstrates a lot of motion and emotion that is not necessarily seen in the novel (specifically with the prater wheel scene). After reading the book, seeing the film, and discussing both in class, I am still a bigger fan of the book. As I said, I appreciate the artistic elements of the film, but I like being able to interpret the characters and visualize them in my head rather than watch them be created in front of me. Maybe this is weird.

(Sub)Cultural Appropriation – Naomi

I had a really hard time thinking of something specific to write about for this week’s post, because Subculture: The Meaning of Style is so full of sociological information, my head was spinning. Thankfully, I read Simon’s paper and decided to consider the concept of appropriation of subcultures.

In the book, Hebdige details a variety of subcultures that emerged in England in the 1960-70s. In chapter 6, he discusses the idea of “the commodity form” which is “the conversion of subcultural signs (dress, music, etc.) into mass-produced objects” (94). This, combined with questions posed by Simon, got me thinking about cultural appropriation as it relates to these subgroups.

For the “punk” kids, style was described as safety pins, blue hair, spikes, etc. There was an “otherness” quality to this that made the members of the group stick out. All of this could have the effect of creating fear in those around; those not belonging to or understanding the subgroup. Enter Hot Topic. Now, every neighborhood kid (or adult) could cruise on down to the mall and buy a $35 ripped t-shirt or faux vintage Ramones hoodie. Are you dying to own a pentagram leg belt? They’ve got you covered! Just stroll past Sears and stop before you reach the Mrs. Fields cookie shop. All major credit cards accepted! No more do these people have to think about what it means to belong to a group or subculture. The appropriation of the style necessarily strips the shock factor, or “otherness” from the group. Because these subcultures emerged due to perceived problems with the capitalist nature of society, I think that the commodification of the signs of the subculture eliminate, or at best water down the message of the group.

And now, this:

Also, a funny comic:

Hebdige, Dick. Subculture: The Meaning of Style. Routledge, 1979.

Audience Complicity

Simon Cropp

Apparatus theory is a film theory that gained popularity in the 1960s and 70s, and while it has many names attached to it–Althusser and Lacan for example–it is Jean-Louis Baudry’s “The Apparatus” that provides perhaps the strongest singular position on apparatus theory.

The theory itself is Marxist in nature–and it maintains an audience complicity with what is seen and absorbed from the film screen. For many of the theorists who explored cinema through apparatus theory, the audience would largely be made up of the proletariat, and the film would likely have been constructed through the institutional forces of the capitalist superstructure thus perpetuating the ideological foundations of those in power.

For Baudry, the film becomes much like Plato’s allegory of the cave. The viewers are transfixed in a dark place, haunted by images on a screen they cannot fully understand, but the viewers forget themselves in this moment. They become part of what they see on the screen. No longer is the viewer his or herself, but now he is transfixed on the screen–a piece of the ideology at play (Baudry 111).

Our discussion of The Third Man in class on Thursday led me back to Baudry’s view of film and apparatus theory. The spectator as a prisoner to ideology was a powerful concept to me when I first came across it, and I consider this theory to be at work in interesting ways when Martins meets Lime at the Prater amusement park, and they take their infamous Ferris wheel ride. I searched for this theory during class, but it had been too long since I had studied it. I needed to go back and read Baudry’s article again, but as I went over the text, the connections came back.

The director Carol Reed positions the camera at the base of the wheel early in the scene, so we, the viewer, are looking up at the massive structure. This framing is very much in line with Baudry’s apparatus theory–we don’t often realize how complicit we are–as viewers–with the film’s ideological functions. Reed positions us at the base of the wheel with all of Lime’s “dots.” We don’t realize this is happening, especially if we are the intended viewer of this film–the ones who saw it originally. Locked in a dark theater with a massive screen looming in front of us.


It is not until Reed takes us to the top of the wheel, puts us into the position of power with Lime that he subverts the ideological function of the film industry’s hegemonic role in culture. Reed’s positioning of Lime’s monologue against the proletariat, but also positioning Lime in such a negative light–literally and figuratively–creates an inverted ideological structure of the powerless assuming a role of the all-seeing eye.

In the case of this scene, and with Baudry’s apparatus theory at our disposal, what becomes fascinating, is the viewer functions as the film’s third man. We are complicit now with Martins, and whatever ideology he takes from his time with Lime is the ideology we inherit as well.


Works Cited

Baudry, Jean-Louis. “The Apparatus.” Communications, no. 23, 1975, pp. 56-72. Duke University PressSummon, cameraobscura.dukejournals.org.unco.idm.oclc.org/search?author1=Baudry&fulltext=The%20Apparatus&pubdate_year=1976&volume=&firstpage=104&submit=yes. Date accessed 22 Oct. 2016.

Many Levels of Brow – Naomi

There is a very humorous scene in The Third Man, where the protagonist, Rollo Martins, is speaking to a group of book lovers about his writing and his opinion of other authors. What is so funny about this scene is that Martins is speaking about authors and genres that would be considered “lowbrow”. When asked about his favorite author, Martins replies with the author of Westerns and another of the panelists tries to pivot to a more refined poet (92-3). This got me thinking about the literary canon and acceptance of (other than highbrow) literature.

As someone who has taught high school English for over a decade, I have to say that I appreciate the existence of the literary cannon. I think that it is helpful to have a list of works that are deemed valuable to read and be studied. And I think that (for the most part) these are the works that should be taught through high school. When people  have a common background of literature, it helps with allusion and understanding of many other things in society (history, politics, Saturday Night Live, etc). The canon makes modern satire much easier to understand, because a presumably large portion of the population are familiar with what/who is being satirized.

That being said, I don’t think that the canon is an exhaustive list of literature for people to read and I don’t think that all literature needs to be “highbrow”. I’m going to out myself as someone who read the entire Twilight series and liked it. These novels were not well written and lots of literary types like to make fun of Stephenie Meyer because of it. Meyer is probably okay with the criticism knowing that her franchise has sold over $6 billion worldwide. People wanted to read these novels; millions of people wanted to read these novels. It is unlikely that any of the Twilight series will ever be taught in any educational setting, but not all writing needs to be, and I think it’s wonderful that people are reading anything at all.

Getting back to the novel at hand, I enjoyed The Third Man and I appreciated its many levels of discussion and interpretation. I think that our class decided that this book would be “middlebrow” and firmly outside of the canon. All of that can be true, and I think that everyone in class got something out of studying this (somewhat forgotten) novel at the graduate level.

Greene, Graham. The Third Man. 1949. Penguin Books, 1977.