1. How does your view of the main character change throughout the course of this film? What does this movie say about its the themes of motherhood and justice? And what do you think the mother’s small tin of acupuncture needles symbolizes?
My view of the mail character did not change significantly throughout the course of Mother. That is, my judgement of her did not change significantly but the film did provide opportunity for more detailed understanding of her character and her motivations as the film progressed. From the beginning of the film you can see that this mother is a bit obsessive, and at the end of the film you can pretty much see that this mother is a bit obsessive. The meat of the story tells us that this mother is obsessive with a criminal twist, and that she herself may be responsible for her son’s cognitive limitations. They do not let us know if his cognition was delayed prior to being poisoned at age five, but if he was not and that did happen as a result of her attempted infanticide/suicide then her obsession with his safety and wellbeing makes more sense. I think that this movie is either a bit misogynistic in it’s constant disrespect for her actions or intentions, or this movie is commenting on cultural and perhaps misogynistic tendencies to disregard women and mothers of her age and social status. Perhaps the film is also commenting on that society’s justice or law enforcement systems by asking us to think about how many things were unfair socially for the victim of the murder, the mother, and the son. I think that the mother’s small tin of acupuncture needles symbolizes her secrets. The tin appears several times referencing her illegal use of them as she is not certified to be a practitioner with those needles in use. They appear again when confronted with her son’s painful memory of being poisoned by his mother and as she confronts her shame about this secret as she wants to use the needles to release those memories. Finally, they are a component in her meeting with the old man she ultimately murders and burns. I am curious about this old man’s picture on the girl’s phone. Was he a John? Did he engage in sex with a teenager? I think that question leaves more questions about her actions that we think were done out of preservation for her son’s life outside of prison. Even if she killed that man only out of preserving that secret (once again the needles are present), was he a nice old man or a pervert? Finally her boy preserves her secret as she did for him by collecting that tin of needles from a crime scene. She is shamed by this in the last scene of the movie before getting on the bus and performing acupuncture on herself. Mother was a pretty weird movie.
1. In Silko’s “Yellow Woman,’ what do the stolen beef and the Jell-o have in common? How do these elements break the prevailing mood?
I think that perhaps both the stolen beef and the Jell-o are both symbols of modernity. In this story, the main character is struggling with being identified as the Yellow Woman and sort of hangs on to clues that she is still in fact in her own day and age where things exist that did not exist in the days of these ancient tales which included the Yellow Woman. She references vehicles, there is mention of the kidnapper’s Levi’s and so forth. I think those things serve to break up the prevailing mood of being in this sort of eerie ancient story. Stolen beef is only stolen beef because in the modern day there are such things as cattle ranchers, and Jell-o certainly is not an element of folk lore. I think these elements exist in the story exactly for the purpose of breaking the prevailing folk lore-ish mood.
2. After reading Saadawi’s “In Camera,’ how do you feel about Leila Al-Fargani’s father? Upon what evidence do you base your judgement?
The main character in this story semi-regularly references the anti-authoritarian views of her father and that he purposely taught these political views to his daughter. For me, this makes me feel affection for Leila Al-Fargani’s father because he took her seriously enough as a person to convey these lessons even though she is his daughter and not his son. When in court he does not claim her and rather behaves sort of cowardly, I didn’t loose affection for him immediately because it’s hard to see what good this would do. Upon retrospect however, had he stood and declared that he was her proud father, this may have served Leila’s spirit. Even though she was searching and searching for her mother, had he spoken up it may have given her the assurance of her mother’s love as well and this would have been a good thing for her. Ultimately, while the father seems decided that both she and him would be better off dead because of his perceptions of her lost virtue, I still don’t loose all affection. He was a dad in a horrible situation, probably doing his best and unknowing of how best to handle it.
3. What is the importance of the title of the story “Death Constant Beyond Love’? What does it tell us about the stories central thematic concerns?
This story seems to be really concerned with the Senator’s looming diagnosis and impending death, as this is the theme that opens the story. I’m not even very convinced that the Senator really loves this girl he meets, but rather that he is grieving his own mortality and searching for something to feel good about. Throughout the story, death is constant and love is barely there, though he does make a last ditch effort to have it. I think the title suits the story but isn’t a very complex one.
1. It is clear through Kafka’s descriptions of Gregor’s life at home that his relationship with his parents lack warmth. Kafka descriptions clues the reader in that while the family was initially grateful that Gregor was able to provide for them, it eventually became a simple transaction. Gregor’s relationship with his father is mostly that of a financial provider. Kafka describes Gregor’s father as an elderly man who can no longer work. Gregor, left with the burden of being the only one in the household who is able to support the family financially, feels pressure from his father.
Figuratively speaking, the hissing sounds coming from Gregor’s father represent Gregor’s feelings of hostility and pressure coming from his father. As Gregor’s father tries to push Gregor into his room with his cane, Gregor cries out “If only there hadn’t been those unbearable hissing sounds issuing from his father! They caused Gregor to lose all orientation.” The hissing sounds coming from his father echo the pressure that Gregor feels from his father.
2. In the opening section of The Metamorphosis, Gregor has transformed and the story explains some family dynamics. Those dynamics change as Gregor’s condition becomes less of an incident and more of a permanent state. They come to support themselves without him and eventually come to sort of live apart from him, who they consider to be an “it”.
3. While it may have been useful for Akhmatov’s Requiem to be available as a protest during the relevant time, I think most good social or political commentary is extremely valuable in future generations as history unfolds to really be imitations or attempted corrections of the past. We are always fighting the last war.
4. Rilke’s command at the end of his poem “Archaic Torso of Apollo” can be interpreted as a call for the viewer of the sculpture to carry with them the significance of of the “brilliance from inside” that Rilke describes as radiating from within the sculpture. The godlike description of Apollo in this poem evokes a sense of the watchful eye of a godlike presence. This poem rests on the concept that the beauty of the sculpture comes from the fact that we cannot understand the Apollo’s brilliance. Rilke’s refrain of “otherwise” tells us that the power of this sculpture comes from the fact that we cannot know the significance or the nature of the “brilliance from inside” that glows in Apollo’s torso. This godlike power is brilliant because we are not able to understand it. The viewer, having witnessed this power, must now live their life differently. Rilke commands us to live our lives in awe of the things we cannot understand.
I think Dante probably learned about the depths of hell and the consequences of sin. I suppose that’s a pretty obvious answer, but that’s what I see in the poem. When Dante and Virgil are climbing out and back towards earth the poem says, “We never thought of resting while we climbed”. So after nine circles of some serious trauma exposure, as exhausting as that must have been, the journeying men are booking it out of there. Dante the character was exposed to evidence that there is corresponding punishment in hell to one’s sin on Earth. More broadly, there is corresponding consequence to our actions in life. Dante learned that this is not the sort of thing to take lightly, either because it will result in damnation or because our actions and behaviors in life matter and have effects.
What I learned from this poem is that through the lens of Dante’s day and time, the view of sin is very absolute and lacks the perspective that I think is necessary to really judge what consequences of actions may or may not be. We all know that decisions are complex, that most situations lie in a shade of grey. That is not to say that right and wrong don’t exist to some extent or that there aren’t real consequences to what is referred to as sin in this context, but I think extremism can be really dangerous and I see this story as sort of extremist viewpoint in terms of sin and sinners. For instance, in no worldview of mine is there the possibility that “sodomites” are swimming in any part of hell for homosexuality.
The heroes Achilles and Hector were both headstrong warriors, fighting for honor in the epic The Iliad. Achilles born with an unbridled rage and super human strength is the Hero of the Achaeans. But his pride and arrogance leaves him unable to act. Achilles even curses his own allies out of rage for a slight of honor committed against him by his own commander. Achilles is a prideful and selfish hero, leaving little thought of the Achaeans that fight for life around him. Achilles, being born half-god heeds his own call to glory, giving up on hope of a simple life for one of honor.
The hero Hector on the other hand heads a call to duty. Hector fights for Troy out of love of his people and desire to protect his family. Hector is such a hero to his people he inspires them to fight, and leads them through a gruesome war for survival. But, Hector has his own flaws. Filled with a bloodlust of his own and desire to win Hector becomes reckless. Causing him to disregard the risk to his men and lead them to doom. Hector cannot live with himself after his loss at battle, and soon becomes victim to Achilles. Hector was defeated by his own arrogance when he decided not to heed the omens sent by the gods. It’s these flaws that relate Hector and Achilles together. Both of them share in the arrogance that ultimately leads to their demise.
What brings Achilles back from his rage after disgracing Hectors body is not Priam himself, but Priams plea for Achilles to think of his own father. Achilles is doomed to die in distant enemy lands, far from his own father. The thought that Peleus, much like Priam, would suffer if Achilles were not returned brings our hero to his senses. It is at this point that Achilles has matured. He realizes he’s destined to die and learns to accept it. This acceptance leads Achilles to strife for honor above glory. As he, like Hector, will die someday too.
I believe The Iliad at its core is a story about two men trying to balance the code of the warrior with the code of family. Achilles, a born warrior destined to walk the path of the warrior, longs for a peaceful life where he may life many years. Very similar to Hector, who is forced by fate to walk the warriors path, wants nothing more than to be a father to his son. The largest difference is how the two characters try to balance both codes. Hector tries and tried and tried to be the best warrior he can be to protect his family, but is weighed down by this burden. In the end Hector is ashamed and refuses to retreat to the safety of Troy and instead waits for Achilles where in his final moments, he decides to run again. Hector cannot let go of his family and still refuses to accept death running till he is tricked by the Gods to stand and fight. Achilles on the other hand spends most the war deciding if he should in fact take part of the war and seal his fate; to die an early death on the battlefield. Ultimately it takes the death of Achilles dear friend Patroclus to force Achilles to action. Achilles learns that he must accept death if he wishes save the people around him. Admitting during his ride to battle that he knows what is at stake and is ready to accept his fate. I believe that The Iliad shows that neither these characters could walk both paths. Hector strives to be the warrior to save his family, but is blinded by the warrior’s code and refuses to retreat; failing his family. Achilles eventually gives up on his desire to lead a long life and accepts his fate; failing his family, but winning the greatest honor.
What movies can you recall–besides The Matrix, which was mentioned in the lecture notes–that follow the thread of The Hero’s Journey? When you cite your film, or films, be sure to judge whether or not you believe the general formula was appropriated well or poorly; and, moreover, describe a few scenes that match some of the stages of the journey, such as done in the video in the lecture notes.
- Many films follow the guidelines of a hero’s journey; the basis of a plot is the presence of a protagonist and antagonist, and the fight for a certain objective, or sometimes, good between evil. My belief of a well generated formula for a plot includes events that create a rollercoaster of emotions for the reader/viewer/audience, a series of events that can cause the largest amount of surprise or theatricality. It is the never-ending satiability of Hollywood: to create a film that is not boring (to do that you need considerable or wisely used budget and talented directors/producers) and not predictable. On the other hand, some films or television series takes these ideals and push them to the limit. For example, the recent series called “NipTuck’ is entertaining but terribly upsetting. The show started out with a certain level of excitement and had to keep up, revealing disturbing twists like adultery and incest and birth defects. But, that is a tv show, with the opportunity to extend the journey of characters much further than a movie’s ability. Some great example of the hero’s journey in films are Crusades movies, which exhibit the Hero’s journey without fail; “300,’ “Gladiator,’ “Kingdom of Heaven.’ These men (note, all men) all faced a situation that caused them to enter action, or follow the “call to adventure,’ the first with fairness and independence being threatened, the latter were faced with a tragedy that left them with no hope. But throughout the films, these men went on adventures that evolved their character. The evolution of a protagonist’s character is where the Hero’s journey is questioned, because sometimes the character expresses the progress inefficiently. These men all reached a threshold, as their lives all changed dramatically. My favorite of these films is Gladiator, because the entire time the protagonist is torn between his imprisonment and his desire to have his revenge on the king, a perfect example of challenge and temptation. This revenge is only possible if he continues his imprisonment and is patient. Not to mention, the scenes of action is a good visual for the Hero’s badassery. The endings all present a death of some sort to signify closure; some literally, as in “300,’ and “Kingdom of Heaven,’ and some figuratively, as Orlando Bloom in “Kingdom of Heaven’ rides off down the mountain with the disparaged Queen, and their destination or future plans are indeterminate. But Gladiator is still my favorite example, as his death brought serendipitous feelings of atonement as he is reunited with his family in the afterlife. I think the main differences between stories about heroes is the endings; they all end fairly differently. A hero can die at the end and still be a hero, or he can run off into the sunset or be reunited with his home village to be surrounded in glory. It seems to me, although there is “a hero’s journey,’ there doesn’t seem to be a specific hero’s ending.
- Do you believe current cinema either meets or fails to meet the human needs expressed in the four functions of mythology? Those needs would be: the need for mystery; the need for a picture of the universe in which human beings belong; the need for a picture of our society in which each person belongs; the need for a picture of our own psychology that helps with the transitions of a human life, from childhood to adulthood, from adulthood to death. Can movies meet any of these needs? Why or why not?
- Movies strive to meet these needs; Hollywood spends billions to recreate these philosophical needs people have. Movies themselves are a mini picture of the universe, with characters and emotions thrown in, a place for people to lose themselves. A person may never be able to travel through the stars and come into contact with alien life forces, but when they watch “Star Wars,’ they can. Or look at the plethora of scientific films, documentaries on history or sea life or even illegal substances. Information is readily accessible to most people in the world, and by watching current cinema we are satiated by our needs for mystery, living precariously through these fictional lives. In fact, it could be argued that the media is oversaturating our desire for adventure and mystery, and causing it to be absent in our actions, creating a domestic society. And just as this could be argued, so could the belief that violence and adventure in cinema (as are common traits of the Hero’s journey path), and video games are causing more violence and unrest in our society. At that point though, you just have to decide if violence is inherent in the world. As Joseph Campbell points out, violence and evolution has been happening before humans even came onto the scene, so to excuse ourselves from this behavior is taking ourselves out of the god’s hands. In fact, in a book called “Ishmael,’ this very same point is made, while the main character follows a loose hero’s journey. But, instead of spoiling the ending of that book like we did to the movies above, you guys will just have to read it =)
The story of Gilgamesh has many great examples of the Hero’s Journey in it. The Hero’s Journey in Gilgamesh starts with the character Enkidu. Because Gilgamesh was such a terrifying King men begged the goddess Aruru to create an equal who can stand up to Gilgamesh, and so she creates Enkidu. Enkidu is strong and wild like an animal. Enkidu’s call to adventure begins when he is seduced by the harlot Shamat. It creates a desire in Enkidu to be human, and to become part of their culture. Enkidu hears of the evil King and challenges Gilgamesh. After a great brawl Gilgamesh and Enkidu gain respect for each other, becoming true comrades. They have both under gone a transformation, these two men who had stood unparalleled could now consider each other their equal. Just as Enkidu had gained a culture and society by finding a friend in Gilgamesh; Gilgamesh gained a sense of maturity and place to fit into society by finding a friend in Enkidu. This is just the begging of the Epic of Gilgamesh but already a brief cycle of the Journey has been displayed, while setting up the rest of the Epic to build into more and grander Journeys of the Hero.
I believe all the Functions of Mythology are alive in the Epic of Gilgamesh. The start of the epic is clear attempt to feel accepted into society. Gilgamesh must grow and mature to be accepted to be seen as an adult, and not an angry child. And Enkidu must learn to be civilized, and learn how to belong into society before he can be accepted to Uruk. The need to explore our own psychology is represented greatly by how ambiguous Gilgamesh’s success is. Gilgamesh was able to stop the Bull of Heaven with the help of Enkidu, but in turn Gilgamesh lost Enkidu to the grips death by angry gods. The Epic of Gilgamesh is a great example of how the Functions of Mythology can be used to increase the value of stories, by creating a world where we can reflect on our own trials and tribulations.
I think it’s clear that Gilgamesh’s is a success. Even if Gilgamesh believes he has not gained what he was looking for in his quest. The quest itself was Gilgamesh’s reward. By the end of the story Gilgamesh goes home to write of his adventure; of its success and misfortunes. Gilgamesh has come to terms with his mortality, and at the same time his desire for adventure has waned. Gilgamesh with coming to terms with his mortality learns that to live on you must pass on what you have learned to the next generation; which is Gilgamesh’s form of immortality. I believe this is a huge success and well worth the trade for the Plant of Life. Gilgamesh learns from Urshanabi that living forever does not bring peace, but that peace is found from the deeds you accomplish.
The movie, “Thank you for Smoking’ is a story of an un-likely hero. Nick Naylor is a lobbyist for big industry Tabaco who users the power of ‘spin’ to sell cigarettes to anyone and everyone. To quote Nick himself, “Every time I’m on a plane I try to convince the guy next to me to pick up smoking. I figure with how much he’ll be spending on tobacco soon I just paid for my flight.’ This is what makes Nicks journey interesting. It’s not a journey of adventure or action, but more of morals and ethics.
Nick’s journey begins when his ex-wife chooses to re-marry, which causes Nick to worry about his relationship with his 12 year old son. Nick sets course and takes his son with him on a month of business trips so that he can spend more time with his son. During this trip Nick tries to be a positive role model for their son, showing him around the big cities, and teaching his son the art of ‘spin.’ But Nick ends up showing his son the dark side of the Tabaco industry as well. Making Nick question his own plans with his son. This is where Nick meets his threshold; can Nick still be a positive role model for his son and still work for the Tabaco industry?
Nick becomes the target of an assassination. Kidnapped on the streets and forced to wear enough nicotine patches to poison him. Nick is left on the streets to die; hospitalized Nick soon wakes from a coma. But, the doctors say because of how much nicotine was introduced to his system if he smokes another cigarette he could die. This is much like a supernatural aid for our hero, or even a rebirth. Nick is forced to stop smoking by an outside force, which changes his perspectives. Nick begins questioning why it is the Tabaco industry he is fighting for.
Soon after the assassination attempt, private interviews with Nick are released to the public that destroys Nick’s credibility. Nick falls into depression until his son helps him recall the integrity in his job that everyone deserves a strong defense. Nick has come to his realization, that even if he’s not proud of what he’s done he’s taught his son that everyone deserves a fair fight. Nick returns to Capitol Hill to defend the Tabaco industry in a senate committee hearing for the FCC and makes a strong argument against the use of poison labels on cigarette packs. Nick, after finishing his last job for his employer, quits and leaves the Tabaco industry behind with the goal to defend people he doesn’t have to hate; to be a better role model for his son.
I believe that good cinema meets the human needs expressed in the four functions of mythology. Movies easily create universes in which humans belong with a distinct picture of society. In the example of “Thank you for Smoking’ the movie doesn’t have to try very hard to establish those functions; as they are largely based of our culture anyway. The mystery behind is movie is how the power of argument is used. The movies main premise is that if you argue well enough you can win any battle, which makes people beg the question; can the Tabaco industry be right? When by the end your left with more of psychological question of what makes an answer right or wrong? Good movies leave should leave the viewer thinking afterwards, and by using the human needs expressed in the four functions of mythology it helps movies invoke those deeper questions we have about ourselves or about society.