Utopia in 1984 by George Orwell
Utopia is the act of having an imagining community which is in possession of highly desirable qualities when it comes to its citizens. Whereby, this is a perfectly designed place with totally no any problems arising from or even within it. Such type of places emphasizes on the equality in governance, the economy and justice and these are usually achieved by the proposal and implementation of variously based ideologies. (Orwell)
But this seemed to be going all wrong and totally the opposite of what was expected among the citizens of Oceania, for the place turned to be full of suspicions, curiosity, discomfort, anger, malicious behavior and the worst of it all is the loss for true love. Frequent riots and misconducts would occur therefore turning civilized and humbled people into becoming barbarians and savages.
George Orwell deeply and extensively explains it all in his novel, 1984, describing how some of the citizens were being turned against their very own government plus its officials that is when they came to the realization of the corrupt ideas plus falsehoods that were being exercised by the Utopian government. This was being achieved by the government coming up with insane and unrealistic laws that mostly favored them since they were the ones in power, harsh and heavy punishments were formed and this was mostly targeted to force a sense of fear in the citizens of Ocean and the worst part is that their rights were ripped and taken away from them this way they could not complain or even sue the government’s evil practices in the city. The citizens became powerless and less worthy in the eyes of the Utopian government. (CRAM )
The police of Ocean was very strict and keen to arrest anyone who has broken the rules or decided not to act as he or she expected to according to the rules that were forced on them. This type of system resulted in people feeling like both their privacy plus individualism have been brutally stolen from them by the very same police. Most of them felt as if they will become inhuman and totally erased away from the earth’s surface, in case they commit something wrong. (CRAM )
According to George Orwell’s novel, Oceania is divided into specifically three classes and these are; the inner party, the outer party and finally the proles. From the three classes, the inner party is the ruling class since it generally controls the Thought Police plus it maintains all the Outer Party members to be under the constant close supervision and this was mainly achieved through the advanced technologies such as the telescreen. While on the other hand, the proles were put to be living in a relatively depressing condition but the funny thing is that they were not being as monitored as the outer party members and all these were done in order to start up a revolution of better and highly qualified people both mentally and physically.
Dystopia is the place where people are not treated well and fairly, therefore making it be a place where it is full of fear and unhappiness. Dystopia is the total opspoite of Utopia as discussed earlier on. George Orwell warns us of how greed and high power can lead to turning off an individuals’humanity. (Cardona)
All due to power, people are able and willing to do everything that is necessary for their strength in order to achieve the controlling of other people’s actions and thoughts. He clearly talks of the authoritarian regimes so that we can be totally aware of their existence and fight against such evil acts so that we can gain back our freedom. He continues by motivating us that we do not have to allow political regimes or people intervene in our own lives and that we can think and the reason for ourselves plus grow individually without their interference. And this can be achieved by having a voice in the society, whereby he is not encouraging for people to be part of the aggressive and oppression movements which are still being seen to be existing globally.
George Orwell further warns us that as the people of the modern era we should very much aware and alert of the injustices that a dictator intends to enforce on us. He enriches our mentality by mentioning that nobody belongs to anyone, and therefore we should not allow any person to tell us about what to do or not do especially if it is against our own will. (Cardona)
He extensively says that at some point the media may fool us, plus the government may be having an eye on every move made at all time, and if any person tries to complain of the unjust ways of the government a death threat may be thrown to the people. But still, he insists that we should not allow anybody control and manipulates our mind, as the book ends with Winston saying that he loves a big brother.
In conclusion, from George Orwell’s point of view, it is evident that there are some individuals who are always ready to control and oppress others by taking away their freedom and rights. And this can be seen from individual politicians to the government as a whole, and therefore we should always be alert of what goes on in our country and be ready to fight against that which is intended to be against freedom and benefit of the people. I highly advise that every citizen should take George Orwell’s advice, of equality and fairness, to be a challenge that it will be strictly followed and monitored both individually and a nation.
Cardona, Fabyana. What is Orwell Warning Us Against, and How Does He Achieve This? 15 December 2014. 7 December 2017 .
CRAM. Oceania Citizen in 1984 Essay. 11 December 2016. 7 December 2017 .
Orwell, George. 1984. London, Oceania: Arcturus Publishing Limited, 1949.
My Pursuit of Happiness
Thomas More’s multifaceted work Utopia has historically been subject to numerous interpretations. The main focus has primarily been on its religious, social, and political references by scholars. Although well founded his work also touches on a gender that was not universally accepted at the time, the women in his Utopian society were allowed liberties but they were still restricted in numerous ways. His progressive outlook with a desire to better his world and produce a more productive society stands out among his fellow writers during a time that was still considered the dark ages was a literary marvel. Numerous writers such as Plato in his work Republic introduces a society that produce active members of a community and improved lives and living conditions as a whole. An envisioned and improved urban industrialized world such as this would produce an ideal environment among a repressed society that catered only to the aristocratic upper class of England during More’s time. A fair and just society within the grasp of More’s mind could be laid out in verse but to actually present it as just for both sexes proved to be more of a challenge. However, Utopia’s patriarchal view still deny women an egalitarian right to More’s envisioned world. As individuals and as a citizen, men have been given an adventitious ability to live by their own merits and achievements. Men have greater access to politics that once was dependent on entry through aristocrat connection and birth. On the contrary, women have not been granted such liberties and are still mostly restricted to their traditional roles in the home. They also remain inferior and dependent on their male counterparts in the new imagined world of More. In contrast More has not created a Utopian society for women like he has done for men but actually a dystopian one that cannot allow women to pursue individual goals of freedom that would allow academia or government to play a larger personal role in their life. It seems that More does not partake in everyone’s pursuit of happiness or enlightenment as one has been lead to believe in the beginning of his liberated society. Therefore, More’s commonwealth as he describes it, does not do justice to both sexes. Men have always held a role in government and their community which directly correlates to the education given to them. More continued this in his Utopian society by allocating education to men and women but placing more emphasis on the role a man would play with his education. Women who were educated were viewed unjustly during Mores time period because to men it meant they were not focusing on their primary roles as mothers and wives. A woman’s children and her husband were of the utmost importance to her and she should not busy herself with such foolish ideas of academia thought most men. In other words, a woman needs to subjugate to her husband and children with a desire to remain obedient, diligent, and have no interest beyond the home. Although, More did give women a broader and more progressive role in his utopian society such as giving them an education, allowing them to work, and opening up military service they still remained a larger fixture within their home. More choose to educate his daughters but it wasn’t quite the progressive image he portrayed in his Utopian world. He still believed that their education would help them fulfill their lives of being a better wife and mother. Plato, who was a Greek philosopher, wrote his Republic that touches on another type of utopian society. It was written in similar fashion to More’s Utopia in regard to the role of women. Athens, Greece had adapted an early form of democracy but still much like More’s England only allowed men freedom to an education, politics, and religious endeavors. The roles given to women in both men’s works are more shared and productive than the roles given to women during each man’s contemporary societies. They each agreed that all sexes should have equal parts in developing and sustaining an ideal society. Plato’s views were in fact more equal to men and women than More’s, he argues that the only difference between men and women is a physiological one-women are able to give birth (Plato) More showed a view that was dominated by his religious background that did not occupy Plato’s era. More did distinguish women and men differently because his devout Catholic views that encouraged women being subservient to men. Thankfully, More did give equitable marriage to his citizens with a need for both parties to agree to the marriage which would have been unheard of in sixteenth century England. Women in the patriarchal society of sixteenth century was told who to marry and it had to be an advantageous move for her parents otherwise the marriage would not be granted. Therefore, More’s insistence on equal opportunity for both sexes have his ideas still falling short of equality among women. He felt that women were to have Christian virtues and values. More also pushed for women to perform their duties in the home such as meal preparation, child rearing, and household chores. (More) In this encouragement it deflects from his want to present women and men as equal and productive members of society due to the fact men are still not involved in the home or child rearing. The want for women to create their own path and their own identity was growing ever more strongly in sixteenth century England. Women had no way of creating an identity for themselves if they were considered property of their father and then their husband. They would then only become labeled as a wife and mother, nothing else could a woman embody at this time in history. More still did not give women the chance to go beyond the image and position given to them by men and society. His utopian society still gave way to a hierarchical foundation even though women worked and fought alongside her husband at times. The only title a woman could hold was as a priest when they would be admitted into priesthood, which was extremely rare. More truly left a woman in the traditional and domestic role known to them and left no room for them to enter public roles beyond that of priesthood. Although, the aforementioned did occur it was again on rare occasion when women are widows in advanced age this way she would still be able to carry on being a mother or wife (More). They are no longer a wife and her children no longer need her, so she can devote herself to God. Women were not in the public eye even with the label of priest, so it was not necessarily a beneficial role to a woman. However, in general a woman was very much treated along the same lines in a patriarchal way in religion as they were in everyday life. They were subject to admitting their sins to their husbands and be forgiven, however, it was not clear if husbands had to admit their sins to their wives. (More) Women’s subjection to their husband would indicate man’s belief that they need guidance in their spiritual journey due to them being weaker and subject to sin that they would be unable to turn away from if given the chance. The unfavorable position a woman filled in religion was due in part to the very beginning of the Bible, in the book of Genesis, when Eve ate the forbidden fruit and her subsequent downfall because of her sin. This type of thought is more dystopian rather than utopian for women and completely gender biased to a man’s intellect and inferiority to the weakness and lack of self-control a woman is subject to without a man’s guidance in her life. Even though More’s work alleges to have created equal ground for women intellectually and morally keeping them confined within their stereotypical roles does not allow them to participate or be productive in the commonwealth as a citizen. More’s utopian themes in essence has actually been presented in a way that does not improve women’s roles and in fact is in direct opposition to his image of an improved state of being for the citizens in the commonwealth. It elicits the dystopian world mentioned previously where a utopian world is truly not something that is attainable. More seems to indulge in elevating women in his community because he saw potential in their abilities in society but still keeping restricted to the mainly to the home as a wife and mother. His views would come to fruition after decades and centuries of when his work was published. Women’s roles may have been greatly restricted during More’s time and the fact that he held to the social patterns known to him, however, time would prove to be a woman’s friend and ally. Literature, government, and the home would be greatly affected by the ever-increasing roles women would soon identify with in the future of human civilization. More’s honorable and noble attempt to address gender issues does not create an uplifted and inspired woman with potential to make a place in his commonwealth. He aims and desperately lands on a better world for men only with a perfect woman who falls directly under her husband. Her actions are strongly influenced by her husband and societies unjust views of a woman’s place and the way she should act. Conforming to this dystopian agenda would allow the woman to suffer and keep her hopeless instead liberating her into a life of political and socioeconomic reform. Two reforms that should never have been restricted to a woman at any time in history, including an education and a reasonable life outside of being a wife and mother.
Main Messages Of Thomas Morer’s Utopia
Thomas Morer’s, Utopia, examines the fundamental ways in which a society works and maintains itself. Utopia exposes the insanity and evils of Morer’s society by painting an alternative, the ideal society. There was a time and place in England where the wealthy were extravagant and the poor were worse than poor.
The rich were getting richer and the poor were getting poorer. Under the ruling of King Henry VII, there was an enormous gap between the wealthy and the poor. Majority of the people where homeless and poverty stricken. Then came the ideal society which uses rational thought alone in political, religious practices, and in society. The Utopian political structure was revolutionary compared to any of Europe’s. Decisions were made to benefit everyone in the Utopian society. There was no such thing as financial superiority since Utopia, had no form of money. Values were placed on human life rather than possessions. Through Utopia, More illustrates a fantasy, an alternative way of living for the people.
Utopian society, portrays a nation based on rational thought. Utopians believe that human life is of a higher value than that of material possessions. For example, in the conversation with the lawyer and Hythloday, the lawyer praises English laws for hanging of thieves. Hythloday answers, It seems to me a very unjust thing to take away a manr’s life for a little money, for nothing in the world can be of equal value with a manr’s life (More, ebook). Hythloday states that the capital punishment in which England is enforcing is too harsh and theft should not be the cause of the death penalty, and death will not stop a person from stealing in order to provide food for their family. In regards, they should find other options to punish these people because it will only eliminate crime not the criminals. Hythloday offers other options like making sure everyone has enough to eat which goes in hand with the Utopian policies in which everyone has and shares everything, not one citizen in Utopia has more or less than someone else everything is shared equally. Because of this no citizen of Utopia will suffer or ever be short of utilities, food etc. Utopians believe in equality and it is one of the many things that sets it apart from England.
In addition, Utopian society has eliminated wealth, Utopians do not believe in financial superiority therefore, there is no form of money. Since wealth does not exist neither does private property, Utopians have established communal property instead. Hythloday states, …as long as there is any property, and while money is the standard of all other things, I cannot think that a nation can be governed either justly or happily (More, ebook). Hythloday states that since there is no private property wealth does no exist which is one of the main reasons why the civilians of Utopia have happiness. Where there is private property happiness among the people will not exist and more problems will arise among the society. But since Utopia is an establishment of communal property, the civilians do not care about being rich. Therefore, greed does not exist and people will not have to worry about financial issues, which will lead to no greed or corruption in the society and everyone will be happy.
As stated before, Utopia is not like any other civilization they do not believe in social classes and hierarchies. Every citizen of Utopia is equal and works the same amount of hours and lives in identical houses so no one feels higher than others. As Hythloday described it, …yet they do not wear themselves out… as if they were beasts of burden…but they, dividing the day and night into twenty-four hours, appoint six of these for work, three of which are before dinner and three after… go to bed and sleep eight hours (More, Ebook). Unlike England, Utopia follows this schedule rigorously. Utopians do not believe that human beings should exhaust themselves over laborious work so everyone splits up their work to help one another not only to benefit their society, but to help their neighbors and people from their community because that will help their community prosper. Unlike England, where the poor tend to work many hours of harsh work and still not make enough or any money at all, while the rich and wealthy barely work and still have tons of money left over. That is exactly what the Utopians do not want to happen in their society which is why they do not believe in social classes and hierarchies. In the Utopian civilization everyone helps one another and contributes to their community which in all helps it grow, and leaves no room for beggers or for people to be homeless. However, the same cannot be said towards England.
In addition, Utopia is tolerant of many religions however they are all similar in that they all believe in one God. All the religions practice tolerance of one another which keeps the peace in Utopia. Religions are able to try to convert others into their own faith only by means that they do it quietly and politely. If the person denies conversion that religion is not allowed to attack other religions or cause violence of any sort. One believe that Utopians do not accept is atheism because it is seen as immoral. Utopians believe that if one was atheist that person would act selfishly and would seek physical and mental pleasures which could disrupt the peace.
One similarity exists between Utopian religion, Calvinism, and Lutheranism and that is faith. For example Utopians believe, the soul of man is immortal, and that God…therefore, appointed rewards for good and virtuous actions, and punishments for vice, to be distributed after this life (More, Ebook). Utopians have faith in the afterlife in which God will punish the bad and reward the good. No matter what religion they all have faith in one god. Calvinism and Lutheranism both believe in justification by faith only. However, all Utopian, Calvinism and Lutheranism differ, but are similar in that they do not accept atheism. For example, in the article John Calvin: On Predestination Calvin states, Whence we infer, that they who know not themselves to be God’s peculiar people will be tortured with continual anxiety (Calvin, 1). Calvin states those who do not believe in the word of god, salvation, or in an afterlife will live in torture. In addition, the article The Tower Experience, 1519 Luther states, “The justice of God is revealed in it, as it is written: ‘The just person lives by faith.’” the justice of God is that by which the just person lives by a gift of God, that is by faith (Luther, 1). Luther states, that God will forgive us if one has faith. Once again stating the justification of faith that all three; Utopians, Calvinism, and Lutheranism have in common.
There are some people in England who would not approve of a society like Utopia. Due to the fact that Utopia abolished some of the things that England people take pride in. For example, Utopia eliminated money from their society and private property. Clearly, in Europe the rich are very prideful when it comes to money and their private property so a society like Utopia would not suit them or benefit them in any way. Another important aspect about Utopia is that they centralize the common good of all in their community, not just the private. Utopians like to see everyone in their community prosper, not just one group of individuals like England.
In that matter, people like the King, the Pope, and the wealthy would not agree or accept Morer’s model state. This group of people belong to the upper class, have tons of money, and power in their society. A society with the rules and values of Utopia would not suit them due to the fact that Utopia believes in equality. In England, the rich get richer and the poor seem to get poorer. People like the King and wealthy seem to benefit from the poor, so they would not want to see or be in a place where their just as equal as someone who is poor. Not to include the fact that if the wealthy including the King, were to live in a society like Utopia their power and riches would be nonexistent because one Utopia abolished money, social classes, and hierarchies;three things that people in England take pride in. In conclusion, a society like Utopia would not benefit them, theyll end up losing everything they prioritize. Since they wont be able to get richer nor have people to make them richer everything and everyone would be equal.
Transcendental Wild Oats
Transcendental Wild Oats is a satirical work of art which was derived from Alcott’s personal experience within her own family. The success of this story is based on the validity of the themes discussed, as well as the style of narration used to construct the story. For one, Alcott’s point of view in the story and the third person narration allows her to discuss the utopian experiment.
From her point of view, she observes the actions of the characters in the story, and reports it to the audience in a manner that comes off as reproaching the reckless venture, one that almost destroyed the family and the actions of the man who risked exposing his daughters and wife to poverty, anxiety and ostracism (Mills, 2007). Alcott speaks from experience. She understands the problems that arise from gender inequality from firsthand experience.
The story applies irony to critic situations intended to culminate in a utopian world but which failed to support this premise. For example, Timon expressed his dissatisfaction with the consumption of animals, publicly yelling at Jane, claiming that eating a fish tail could nourish the world tiger in her bosom (Alcott, 2011). He is depicted as a critic of the vegetarian lifestyle. It is also ironic that the quest for a utopian world leads to a further loss of female freedom. Sister Hope worked tirelessly doing extra work at night so that the men could avoid working in the farm, which helped them save time to explore their individual inner natures ( Michael, 2016). The utopian world which was sought after in the Fruitlands was aimed at providing equal rights to all individuals of the community, but it was ironic that, while the animals were freed from suffering by being excluded from their diet, women continued to suffer in labor, not only carrying the burden of their lives, but also that of the men (Michael, 2016).
The story applies a combination of tones from a satirical, comical and even serious tone depending on the effect that the author desires to achieve. The combination of tones can be seen as a creating difficulty in the communication of humor to the reader. The fact that the text does not wholly work as a parody, satire of burlesque (Mills, 2007) allows the author to switch between effects, so that the context dictates the kind of tone that the author picks, and consequently creates different ideas of approach towards different issues in the book. For example, the text opens with the description of group’s journey, which is a serious tone, forming a foundation for the comical and satirical exploration of the actions and decisions made by the individuals of the group after their settling. The author later picks a comical approach to expose the irony in the ideas expressed by the vegetarians, those who were trying to protect animal rights while simultaneously neglecting the rights of their fellow human beings by overworking and underappreciating the labor of women. The fall of the imagined Utopian Fruitlands is described in a satirical tone, juxtaposing the ideas in the beginning of the establishment of the new world with the reality that the individuals had seen in the end. This is emphasized by the conversation that comes at the end of the book, here the author proposes that Apple Slump would be a better name for Fruitlands (Alcott, 2011), as they had failed to achieve the utopian system as they had envisioned.
The organization of the events surrounding the establishment and the failure of the utopian world as desired by the characters of the text is another aspect of the story that contributes to its effective conceptualization as well as the communication of ideas. The story is largely themed on the inequality of men and women, where the success of the feministic approach is dependent on the organization of the plot. The text is organized in a way that allows the reader into the ideas that supported the construction of the utopian system in the very beginning. It describes aspects of the lifestyles adopted by the characters in an effort to support the system, such as the elimination of meat from the diet, while following the life of Sister Hope and her interactions with the rest of the characters, and especially those that pointed out her struggle in labor to support the system (Alcott, 2011). The fact that the plot includes the collapse of the Fruitlands completes the thought that including some members of the society in the plan of creating a utopian world while exempting some of the members who are equally participants in the fulfillment of this system creates a humorous imbalance which finally results in failure. The plot acknowledges the fault in the imbalanced ideas on which the individuals of Fruitlands created their system by pointing out that a woman’s selfless desire to support everyone does not help to support the group of women in the society, and this imbalance finally leads to the collapse of the whole system.
Utopia And Its Main Themes
- 1 Introduction
- 2 Thomas More’s Utopia (A Man for All Seasons)
- 3 Cervantes’ Don Quixote
- 4 Shakespeare’s Hamlet (Mel Gibson film)
- 5 Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz (Netflix series)
- 6 Descartes (Vatel)
- 7 Voltaire (Amadeus)
- 8 Conclusion
- 8.1 Works Cited
As simplified by Kanas (2018 pp.104), humanism is the ethical and philosophical perspective with emphasis on the value of human beings, either individually or collectively. Thus, this paper discusses various viewpoints on humanism in terms of religion, social classification, and utopia and gender equality. The philosophers being discussed include the likes of Shakespeare, Sor Juan Ines, Descartes, and Voltaire. The authors ask diverse questions on humanity, most of which are answered in this paper.
Thomas More’s Utopia (A Man for All Seasons)
Thomas More wrote utopia’ as a means of revolutionizing the European society, particularly in the Renaissance whereby the likes of Da Vinci, Galileo, and Michelangelo had made strides in art and science. While the text on utopia was not meant to be an antitheist, Sir Thomas More directed his intentions on the changes taking place at the time. Sir More’s beliefs went against King Henry VII’s divorce and the need to claim the church, whereby he argues, the church is a spiritual supremacy determined by God [A Man of All Seasons, 1988].
Religion informs Thomas More as a pious and religious man, who did not tolerate other faiths and convictions. Although not displayed much in the movie, Sir T. More was known for his campaigns against heresy, and he even burnt six heretics. Despite his religious view, Thomas demonstrated humanism by standing for God’s work over King Henry VII, who was his dear friend. He believed in servicing the people over personal love a trait that lacked in the king. Hence, regarding the possibility of utopia, it depends on an individual’s definition and perspective on the word utopia. Personally, I do not think utopia can work, because the world cannot be perfect. The world will forever consist of human beings, who are characteristic of imperfections. In essence, we cannot eliminate faultiness in the world without getting rid of human beings.
Cervantes’ Don Quixote
Don Quixote’s difficulty recklessness and inability to understand is attributed to his idiocy and the belief in imaginary things. Sancho Panza keeps acting as his sidekick because his aspirations to become a governor, which Don Quixote promised. As an uneducated lad, Sacho believes Quixote’s madness, and this leads both of them into crazy adventures. Unluckily, Sancho Panza starts to believe in Don Quixote’s imaginations whereby he starts to see Dulcinea be truly the Don’s lower. The concept of the relationship between Don Quixote and Sancho Panza still exists in today’s world.
While Sancho acts as the realist, Don Quixote represents the imaginative individual who prefers living in a fantasy world by occasionally escaping the reality. While Sancho starts as a timid person, he later succumbs to Don’s imaginations. Sacho doesn’t stop the Don and he instead says, I am myself of peace and never fond of feuds and quarrels (Cervantes and Smollet,). Readers easily understand Don Quixote as a representation of different things. He first starts as an imaginative person, but later realizes his stupidity. As a peasant, I would most probably think of Don Quixote as a dreamer, which is a good thing; however, the manner at which he persists on imagining things is excessive and thus he needs some doses of reality.
Shakespeare’s Hamlet (Mel Gibson film)
We have not inherited much of Shakespearean performances and attention to the audience. Rather, we have managed to develop and evolve our works to fit the modern setting. Concerning humanism, nothing is different from Shakespeare’s time of writing Hamlet and today’s world. For instance, Machiavelli’s rules are notable in Hamlet, which is evidenced through Claudius. As a way of securing his position as the heir apparent, Claudius married Gertrude and then killed his brother so that he could take over the throne. Thus, this is Machiavelli’s rule of obtaining whatever you want at all cost.
On humanism in Hamlet, the To Be Or Not To Be’ speech is a reflection of a humanistic viewpoint whereby Shakespeare (via Hamlet) believes that we are all agents of our lives and humanity in general. Because of this, the movie Hamlet feels modern to me, especially with the stressful meltdown Hamlet goes through. For instance, he cries, Am I supposed to put up with this crap forever? Just feels like it would be easier to end it all now (Hamlet, 1990). Such suicidal and sentimental expressions are timeless.
The Hamlet film questions the divinity of kings whereby Shakespeare depicts Claudius as an unfair king, who considers little of others’ feelings and thoughts. The king particularly restrains the women’s freedom and desires. It is unlikely to classify Hamlet as a misogynistic play; however, it clearly indicates Claudius’ misogyny. Both Gertrude and Ophelia have minimal power due to social, economic and legal restrictions, which end up placing women in difficult situations.
Sor Juana Ines de la Cruz (Netflix series)
Sor Juana Ines benefits from both Spain’s ruling class and Mexico’s culture because this allows her to get the best of both sides. For instance, she received support from both the elite and the peasants and only received resistance from the church and misogynistic men. Without the viceregal, she would not have received the education she needed, and with Mexico’s cultural up bringing, Sor Juana Ines became popular and her views were supported across the country. Unluckily, it this representation worked against her when she could not have a particular group to stand for her.
Regarding her point and what she wanted, Sor Juan Ines defended the education rights for women and even openly criticized men who condemned prostitutes yet privately hire their services. Her thoughts on the church would be valid today and understandable because education is accessible for all genders both men and women. Moreover, her views on educated women’s role in the church would be welcomed in today’s world (Paz, 1988). Women no longer struggle the way Sor Juana Ines did, which makes her a great example of the importance of an educated woman in a society. Her determination to learn and become educated would be impactful to peasants, who would work hard to make similar achievements.
Descartes’ definition of truth is the rationalism that we do not need real-world experiences to have knowledge. Well, this trivial did not surprise me because most of us learn of something through teachings, reading and wise thoughts. However, the fact he dismissed experiences as non-requirements in acquiring knowledge was amazement. Luckily enough, after scientific research to challenge Descartes’ views, it definitely makes more sense regarding the acquisition of knowledge. That is, as opposed by Locke, real knowledge is a result of nature and thus an individual cannot gain knowledge solely on thinking.
After watching the movie Vatel, it is clear that humanism does not apply to everyone. For instance, Mr. Vatel could not marry Anne de Montausier due to the difference in their social statuses (Vatel, 2000, 00:59:12). Moreover, Descartes’ rationalism differs with Louis XIV’s absolutism whereby the latter is more about social stereotyping whilst rationalism is based on actions and opinions detached from religious and emotional response.
Voltaire’s cynicism is still referenced in the modern world because it critiqued the unfair balance of leadership power and biased taxation, which are applicable in today’s context. In his book, Candide, Voltaire demonstrates deism whereby he describes God as a Dervish sending a ship with goods to another country, but without the worry of mice or condition of the ship. Voltaire believed in a God that lacks supervision, hence deism. Religious representation in Candide is important because the travel to Eldorado indicated a world without religion and yet the society operated in a delightful manner.
If Voltaire were a Catholic, his fate would have been different. Perhaps, he would have been martyred, and he definitely would have faced resistance from the church, just like Sor Juana Ines. Nonetheless, with his belief in an overseeing supreme, maybe Voltaire would have been spared for having different opinions. However, I doubt the probability of this pardon, mainly because heresies were serious offenses during those times. More importantly, it is vitally significant to understand that Voltaire did not rail against Christianity, but he rather criticized the institution, which was corrupted (Voltaire and Fern, 2009).
The Candide story reminds me of the movie Vatel. In a similar manner, Candide is denied the opportunity to marry the love of his due to their differences in social class. Both Amadeus and Vatel support Voltaire’s cynicism whereby social stereotypes are rampant amongst society. It also confirms Voltaire’s definition of an unfair humanism among people, which makes it difficult to understand from a religious point of view. For instance, in the movie Amadeus, Salieri cannot understand how God would grant Mozart with so much talent despite practicing hedonism (Amadeus, 1984, 01:15:38). Better yet, Voltaire’s depiction of humanism is notable in his writings whereby he believes in defending someone to the death despite disagreeing with their thoughts and beliefs.
Based on movies, lectures, and readings, I agree that art matters a lot and that without it, humanity would lack culture and identity. As reiterated by Gombrich (1987, pp.221), every society uses art to address issues that influence its cultural form, from which philosophers can debate upon thus expand human knowledge to other regions. In the current world, being an artist means the capability to build and create something that expresses feelings and emotions. I honestly believe that an artist does not necessarily have to perfect something, but he/she ought to move to a new and different creativity.
Today’s artists are mostly self-taught and business oriented, thus proof of a tremendous change in the artistic world. Moreover, the definition of being an artist has evolved whereby the term has become more fluid and does not have a fixed definition. Unlike the past, an artist was someone who produced drawings, music, paintings, and sculptures with the intentions of earning money or simply for fun. However, the definition of being an artist is more about anyone who is skilled enough to complete an impressive artistic task and occupation.
In essence, the culture of art has widened up in the past decades and it no longer exclusive to painters and sculptors. Today, an artist is anyone in the careers such as writing, acting, singing, photography, poetry and directing of movies. It has become less of inborn talent and passion, and more about a career. Art has also evolved to be technologically advanced, which has enabled artists to create more beautiful works than ever before.
- A Man of All Seasons. Dir. Robert Bolt, Globe Theatre: New York (1988). Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2BRHuUD
- Dir. Milo Forman. Barrandov Studios: the Czech Republic, (1984) Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2SwQ8NJ
- Cervantes, Saavedra M, and T Smollett.The History and Adventures of the Renowned Don Quixote. Ware, Hertfordshire, England: Wordsworth Classics of World Literature, (1998). Print. pp. 258-269; Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2GauoWC
- Gombrich, E H.Reflections on the History of Art: Views and Reviews. Berkeley: University of California Press, (1987). 217-302 Print. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2Qy8aSE
- Dir. Franco Zeffirelli. Icon Productions: United States (1999) Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2BdeMgT
- Kanas, Nick. “Spirituality, Humanism, And The Overview Effect During Manned Space Missions.”Acta Astronautica16.3 (2018): 87-156. Web. 5 Dec. 2018. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2RBr08N
- Paz, Octavio.Sor Juana. Cambridge, Mass: Harvard University Press, (1988). Print. pp.23-109. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2FYcWow
- Dir. Roland Joffé. Gaumont Film Company: France (2000) Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2QeYXiR
- Voltaire, and Ella Fern.Candide, or Optimism. New York, N.Y: Chartwell Books, (2009). Print. pp.11-72. Retrieved from https://bit.ly/2ARoIuP
Ontario Street Comics: The Comic Book Utopia
- 1 Ontario Street Comics: The Comic Book Utopia
- 2 Works Cited
Ontario Street Comics: The Comic Book Utopia
Art is the means in which individuals can express themselves through their creative medium. Philadelphia has earned its place as an outlet for these artists and their creations. From the sculptings of the Calder family with their piece The Swann Memorial Fountain down in Logan Square, or Robert Indiana’s iconic Love statue in its own respective park; there’s no shortage of creative talent within the city of Philadelphia.
Public art is something that has always been an interesting attraction for its residents and its tourists. Whether it be seen out in a public space or in a traditional setting like one of its museums, it’s there for the public to consume and learn from and possibly invoke deeper thought. Another form of art that has garnered more and more attention recently, but has been going strong since its inception is comic books. Since the recent influx of superhero movies that have come out over the last ten years, more and more people have begun to take notice of comic books and the culture surrounding it. Ontario Street Comics, a store that has been serving the Port Richmond area for over thirty years is a haven for everything comic related. By involving itself through various different programs in its surrounding community, Ontario Street Comics has solidified its place as a public art space not only for the residents of the Port Richmond area to appreciate, but also newcomers to the area as well.
Having been in the business since Nineteen-Eighty Nine, Ontario Street Comics prides itself in appearing as open and as welcome to its customers as possible. In its early beginning Ontario Street Comics started out as a warehouse for jeans, which then evolved into the flea market that William Fink would inevitably turn into Ontario Street Comics. Fink states in an interview that due to the comic book business expanding quickly, we needed to keep taking over more space for the comics over the other type of merchandising(Fink). From the outside it looks like just another old warehouse, but its massive poster of Hugh Jackman as Wolverine on the left side of the building signifies this is something far more interesting. If its poster doesn’t tell you that its a comic book store, then the white buick with the giant store sign mounted to the roof will. As soon as you walk in the door you’re greeted by one of the employees who works there. It’s a family run and operated business by it’s owner William Fink accompanied by his wife and sons. After you’re in the door however that’s when the fun really begins to start. Think of those candy store trips as a kid and you get a sense of what to expect when you visit Ontario Street Comics. Pop culture posters line the walls of the store, while boxes and boxes of comic books adorn the multiple shelves. One could spend hours upon hours just looking around this store and as William Fink states many of our customers with a lot of free time do(Fink).
In addition to providing an all around great comic book store experience, Ontario Street Comics also makes great strides in supporting its community through different programs. Sam Dunnington, a local Philadelphia journalist states in his article about various comic book stores in South Philadelphia that Fink’s alter-ego is a 216 year old pirate that’s active on Ontario Streets Facebook page, where he auctions comics and promotes literacy and cosplay events to 6,500 fans. Last year, he gave 900 new comics to Webster Elementary School up the street. Fink states in an interview that the pirate thing started in the 1990’s. We used to have a meeting each month of comic collectors/customers. We used to recommend comics that were coming out soon. One month I recommended a Batman comic where Batman, Robin, The Joker, & Catwoman were all pirates! There were lots of ARRR’s from the people in attendance and it just sort of spiraled out of control after that. This level of absurdism and playfulness speaks volumes to that of Fink’s character, as not only a comic store owner but as a person. Fink and his family care deeply about their store and especially the area its located in. It’s because they care so much about their community, that they host a variety of events to bring everyone together. Events such as free comic book day are not just to celebrate the importance of comics as an art form, but to encourage people who are not that well off to come celebrate. Fink states in an interview that our store is in a tough area of the city. Some of the people in this area don’t have much disposable income. Our free events give them something to do with never an obligation to make a purchase. The simple act of giving away free merchandise in most businesses, is in some form or another trying to also get you to purchase something. This is not the case with an event like free comic book day. According to an interview between journalist Jana Quinn and Joe Fields, the founder of free comic book day; there are three goals of the event. Joe Fields states that the first is To invite new people of all ages into our stories to get something for free and to hopefully discover titles and characters they’ll want to come back to again and again. The second goal of the event is To call back former comic book readers to reignite their love of the comics entertainment medium. Lastly the third goal of the event is To thank our many regular comic book readers and give them a party with the coolest party favors ever!. Ontario Street Comics goes above and beyond these guidelines when it comes to free comic book day, as everyone that works there cares about literacy and the good that comes from it. Literacy is another important aspect to Ontario Street Comics that is shown through their cosplay events.
In Buffy Naillon’s article How Do Comic Books Promote Students Literacy Skills, Buffy goes on to talk about the validity of comics and graphic novels in the classroom. On the acquisition of skill sets aspect of the article, Buffy states Teachers have discovered that writing comics creates an avenue for students to develop important skills in reading, writing, spelling and vocabulary building. Students also get a better grasp on harder-to-teach concepts such as point of view. Finally, through the use of comics, they also learn about literary devices, which helps them to create engaging plots and write better dialogue for their characters. This idea of comic books being literacy Literacy is invaluable to Ontario Street Comics, as it’s shown through their cosplay events hosted at their store. These events also include giving out free comic books, with their cosplay event Superheroes read too! being aimed to encourage kids to read. Fink says that many of the people who participate in cosplay, make their own costumes and props. That in itself is an art form. Local artists can also set up shop in front of Ontario Street Comics, where they’re able to sell their artwork and comic books. By allowing them to share their work at Ontario Street Comics, it’s giving them an opportunity to touch on old fans excitement for new material as well as attracting new fans unfamiliar with their work. Not only does Ontario Street Comics give back to their community at their store, their reach extends into the school system. Fink states We also give comics to a few schools that use them to promote literacy and their art programs . These events are not only key in bringing together members of the community, but to new people as well. According to Fink the local community certainly seems to enjoy our events. Many of our cosplayers have also met people and made friends at our events (Fink). By creating such a warm and inviting atmosphere, Ontario has embodied itself as more than just a comic book store, but as a literary institution in a social setting. This sense of camaraderie and community is also seen on social media through Ontario Street Comics facebook page.
Ontario posts daily updates to what new stock they have for the week, as well as posting videos of preexisting boxes of inventory that some may have missed. These videos are filmed by William Fink, and in them gives a clear idea of what the comic looks like and its pricing based on the condition of the item. Fink says that we don’t hide anything here at Ontario, what you see is the truth and nothing but it. Regular and even new customers are of great importance to Ontario Street Comics, as its whole foundation relies on customer service and interaction. With the recent rise in digital streaming of comic books, some comic book shops have taken a hit from it. On the subject of this matter Fink says some customers do read lots of digital comics, and some do digital and paper, but thankfully many people still prefer paper comics. Fink also mentions that reading digital comics is just not the same as a paper comic. I will stop selling paper comics when they pry the last one out of my cold dead hands!. Ontario Street Comics also has a separate page for its Pirate Bay Auction, a page where people can bid on different items either from the store or from the back catalog that they have. As well as keeping the community up to date with what they have to offer, Ontario also uses its power of social media to help those struggling in the community. While Ontario Street Comics has only been on facebook since 2016, it’s made a tremendous effort to reach out and help residents and longtime customers who’ve experienced traumatic events and struggles with personal health. Just recently Ontario Street Comics set up a go fund me page, for one of its longtime customers Donald Forrest who just began his battle with cancer. On their post William Fink says that He is a great guy and often sold some of his comics on Ebay with the proceeds going to charity (Fink). Another go fund me page was established to help with the bills of an aunt whose niece and nephew were shot while trick or treating a couple blocks away from Ontario Street Comics. In this post Fink expresses This kind of crap should not happen! Especially to innocent kids caught in the crossfire on Halloween! Hoping that the both make a fast and complete recovery (Fink). Displays of generosity like this are what reinforces the ever growing character of the store.
Ontario Street Comics is more than just a regular comic book store, it transcends past that into something far greater than itself. As a public space and business, its main goal is to draw in customers to browse and buy different products. It exceeds that stigma by going above and beyond what a comic book store should be like. Established non-profit programs such as Free Comic Book Day and Super Heroes Read Too!, are there to not only promote a positive message through literacy but to also bring together new people. Other happenings like cosplay events and promoting local artists and their work, also work to promote literacy and connect new people. Altogether Ontario Street Comics has earned its place within the Port Richmond area, as not only a public space for residents and non residents to enjoy, but as a literary institution that thrives on bringing positivity to its store and the surrounding area. It’s also unique in the fact that what makes my store different is no other comic shop is run by an insane 216 year old pirate (Fink).
- Dunnington, Sam. South Philly Comics Is Hosting Its Own Funeral, but It’s Not a Death Knell for Other City Shops. Billy Penn, 1 Sept. 2017, billypenn.com/2017/09/01/south-philly-comics-is-hosting-its-own-funeral-but-its-not-a-death-knell-for-other-city-shops/.
- Quinn, Jana. Interview With ‘Free Comic Book Day’ Founder, Joe Fields. Promotional Products Blog | Quality Logo Products (QLP), Quality Logo Products, 30 Sept. 2014, www.qualitylogoproducts.com/blog/interview-fcbd-founder-joe-fields/.
- Naillon, Buffy. How Do Comic Books Promote Students’ Literacy Skills? Synonym, 26 Sept. 2017, classroom.synonym.com/comic-books-promote-students-literacy-skills-5952.html.
- Fink, William. Ontario St. Comics. Facebook, 03 Dec. 2018, www.facebook.com/pg/OntarioComics/posts/?ref=page_internal.
- Fink , William. Ontario Street Comics: What About It? 03 Dec. 2018.
- Fink , William. Aisle Pictures of Ontario Street Comics . Facebook, 17 Aug. 2013, www.facebook.com/OntarioComics/photos/a.548635725185512/548635735185511/?type=3&theater.
Utopian Societies in the Shakers and Oneidans
As America entered the 1800s, the drive for expanding their horizons and the search for distinctive cultural traits to call their own had never been higher. (Int, https://www.ushistory.org) The push for self-improvement had communities coming together and creating exclusive clubs, societies and associations. (Engels,4) This allowed them to share their controversial and maybe even taboo ideas.
They thought by completely reorganizing a society it would morph into a Utopia. (Jennings,3) Utopia derives from Greek meaning an imaginary place where everyone and everything is perfect. (Int, www.merriam-webster.com) Most of the original utopias were created for religious purposes, like the Shakers and the Oneidans. (Holloway, 17) These communities strived to become free of sin and to communicate with higher beings through religious conversion and will power. (Engels,6) These communities were like snowflakes, each being unique in their own way, yet still only a tiny piece of ice. Though their traditions may seem unorthodox, they are just expressing their religious beliefs as a community.
Both the Shakers and Oneidans practiced communal living, where all property was shared. (Int, www.history.com) Oneidan Community member Harriet Worden recalled, “the building of a home was the first enterprise that enlisted the whole Community; and it was one in which all were equally interested. All labored; the women no less than the men. (5) This goes to show that within the building of the first Oneida community mansion, men and women were treated equal. At this point in time, this was a big step toward gender equality for women. Since communal living was so important to the Oneidans, they required all their members to eat with each other at the common table for every meal. (Holloway, 188)
Not long after its construction, the first Mansion House became overcrowded. In addition, the Community’s population had reached one hundred and seventy members. (Klaw,48) The Oneidans decided it was time to upgrade and expand the Mansion House. The ideas for the second house were discussed during evening meetings, with them eventually settling on a plan for an Italianate Villa-style Mansion. (Worden,40) In 1861 the Community began construction of a larger, brick-based Mansion under the guidance of Community member and architect, Erastus Hamilton. (Worden,42)
The second Mansion House was forty-five by sixty feet and three stories high. (White,26) The first floor housed an office, reception room for visitors, library, and guest bedrooms. (White, 29) Individual sleeping rooms for community members were arranged around multiple communal siting rooms on the first, second and third floors. In fact, sleeping room assignments were rotated periodically to preempt member attachment to a specific room. (Worden,58) A five-story Italianate-style tower was added and located at the northeast corner of the House, overlooking the land.(White,33) Many additions were made to compensate the growing community, like a south wing was added in 1869, and in 1877 the last addition was added and designed by Lewis W. Leeds, by this point the community was close to 300 people.(White,26) Communal space was important to the Community, and thus the most defining interior feature of the second House was a two-story Family Hall with a capacity of about seven- hundred people, which also served as the daily gathering place of the whole Community. (Engals,22)
Why Do Utopian Societies Always Fail?
Every utopia – let’s just stick with the literary ones – faces the same problem: What do you do with the people who don’t fit in?(Margaret Atwood) Autopia is impossible; it’s a place where everything is perfect. Everyone’s the same, which means: No war, no racism, no deep feelings, and uniqueness. Utopias must eliminate human qualities completely in order to achieve sameness.
Erasing human aspects means that it isn’t perfect anymore; it becomes a dystopia, a utopian world plunged into chaos??’in disguise. It is human nature to have feelings such as greediness and selfishness; doing away with them will not only just eliminate them, it will also eliminate deep feelings of happiness, joy, and love. If the human race tries to create a utopia, what happened in these 3 texts, The Giver, Harrison Bergeron, and Logan’s Run, will definitely happen to us.
Utopian societies will never be achieved. For example, in The Giver, by Lois Lowry, Jonas asks his family unit, Father? Mother? Jonas asked tentatively after the evening meal. I have a question I want to ask you.’ What is it, Jonas?’ His father asked. He made himself say the words, though he felt flushed with embarrassment. He had rehearsed them in his mind all the way home from the annex. Do you love me?’ (…) Your father means that you used a very generalized word, so meaningless that it’s become almost obsolete,’ his mother explained carefully.(Lowry p.159, 160) Love is such an important aspect of human life, yet Jonas’ community did away with it. Color, weather, geological features, and feeling are all deleted from their lives. Clearly, utopias always have some human characteristics erased.
Even if you have built a so-called utopia, there are people who cannot be contained. In Harrison Bergeron, by Kurt Vonnegut, the world they know is equal. No one was smarter, better looking, stronger, or quicker than anyone else. This was due to the work of the Handicapper General, which made everyone where handicaps, such as tiny mental radios that were tuned into a government transmitter sending sharp noises to keep over intelligent people from thinking. Their son, Harrison Bergeron, was truly exceptional. Nobody had ever born heavier handicaps. He had outgrown hindrances faster than the H-G men could think them up. Instead of a little ear radio for a mental handicap, he wore a tremendous pair of earphones, and spectacles with thick wavy lenses. (…) In the race of life, Harrison carried three hundred pounds. (Vonnegut L.42-46) There will always be people who break free from the bonds of their society.
As Margaret Atwood has said, there are always people who don’t fit in. In the TV show Logan’s Run, Logan begins to question the ways of his society, like the reason for the renewal of people aged thirty. He tries to question his brother, but he got shut down. He meets Jessica, and they escape together from the City of Domes (their society) into the outside world to find a place called Sanctuary. The Elders of the city ask Logan’s brother to find Logan and Jessica; in return, he gets to replace an Elder once they die. In a utopia, you must satisfy everyone with mostly the same things.
Techno-Utopian Society Demonstrated in Black Mirror
In November 2018, millions of iPhone users got their hands on Apple’s new product. The iPhone XS was created to run better, faster, and smarter than past products. The 21st century world craves the desire to obtain a techno-gadget with the newest features.
Walking through Times Square in New York City or Islington in London, it is easy to observe hundreds of thousands of individuals starring down at their rectangles of phones. This observation is what sparked Charlie Brooker’s idea to create the hit television series Black Mirror. The title of the show was inspired by the black screen that appears when a techno-gadget is turned off. It represents a dark reflection of a technology obsessed society.
Black Mirror is a science fiction British television series that was created to represent the drastic changes in technology that have occurred over the past ten years. Brooker noticed in modern contemporary television themes of romance, crime, and other timeless genres encapsulated every channel. But no show reflected a techno-modern culture in a way that was intriguing to viewers. Black Mirror takes place in an allegorical future but is supposed to show frightening similarities to current societies, representing that it is a near future. Black Mirror has the ability to discuss uncensored issues since it does not take place in current time. Another hit television series, The Twilight Zone’s ability to have freedom fascinated Brooker, which he discussed in many interviews and articles.
Serling, a brilliant writer, created The Twilight Zone because he was tired of having his provocative teleplays about contemporary issues routinely censored in order to appease corporate sponsors. If he wrote about racism in a southern town, he had to fight the network over every line. But if he wrote about racism in a metaphorical, quasi-fictional world suddenly he could say everything he wanted (Brooker, 2011).
Brooker desired that same freedom in his series, Black Mirror, which explains why each episode exaggerates new social norms and challenges current ones.
While Black Mirror originally aired on the British television program Channel 4, its themes are meant to represent western culture as well. It originally aired on Channel 4 in December of 2011 but after two seasons Netflix bought the program and aired two more seasons starting in October of 2016. Viewers are currently anticipating a fifth season which was announced in March of 2018. Since airing on Netflix the show has gained more popularity especially among young adults, both male and female.
Throughout this paper, the system’ in Black Mirror will be in reference to the state controlled power of technology that enables citizens to behave and abide in organized ways. Additionally, the lower class’ will be in reference to the class of people who are not in control of the system. Although each episode in Black Mirror is different from the next, an overarching theme of the consequences of a technology driven world is present. The consequences arise from conflict that lies between the existence of two social classes. There exists a controller and a subject, where the controller holds power in the system and the subject is submissive to the system. The utopian societies in Black Mirror demonstrate the double-edged sword of technologya vehicle used by those in power to manipulate and used by lower classes to rebel.
Upper Class Manipulation
The state control in Black Mirror creates a system of inequality where abused power is used to manipulate the minds of the consumers of technology. Numerous episodes in the series represent the dominant control of a system run by those in the highest class. The fifth episode of the third season, entitled Men Against Fire, explores absolute control in which the system forces the middle class to believe in a pseudo apocalyptic world that they have to defend. Main character, Stripe, plays a solider in the military. Like similar Black Mirror episodes an implant is put into their brains. The implant, MASS, is only for those in the military and manipulates them into seeing certain people as zombie like figures called roaches, who are believed to be genetically inferior. Regular citizens do not have the implant but believe in the roaches by falling into the misconception of argumentum ad populum based off of propaganda. Stripe and the rest of the military are instructed to find and kill the roaches. During a battle between a roach and Stripe, the roach shines a LED light into Stripe’s eyes causing it to counteract with MASS. Stripe begins to see the roaches as humans and realizes the deception within the government. Stripe is brought to a room where the state exercises their control by forcing Stripe to either allow them to erase the memories of his new found knowledge or incarceration. The ending of Men Against Fire reflects the unbeatable power of the system. Stripe had no way to escape and had to surrender to control. In a techno-utopian society the difference between classes would cause destruction of democracy. In Lee Drutman and Yascha Mounk’s article, Will Robots Kill Democracy?, they argue that advanced technology will dissipate the middle class causing democracy to fail.
Advanced democracies like the United States would be transformed by the rise of two widely different strata of society with very little to keep them connect: A smaller upper class would largely rely on technology to serve its needs. Meanwhile, a large lower class will have very little of value to offer a shrinking labor market (Drutman and Mounk, 18).
Since Black Mirror is meant to similarly reflect today’s society, the message in this episode warrants a conversation to discuss the consequences of technology. Meaning if technology continues to overpower humanity, democracy will fail time and time again and only the small upper class will benefit. Brooker relayed this theme of hopelessness among those not in power in a few of his other episodes.
Nosedive, the first episode of the third season, mirrors a chilling parallel society to current society in which each person receives a rating out of five stars based off their interactions with other people. Everyone is responsible for rating each other and only a certain rate allows for special accommodations for housing applications, airports, hospitals, and other public services. Although there does not currently exists a system in which everyone is ranked, Instagram, Facebook, and Snapchat exercise different versions of that system. Popularity is based off of likes and followers which can lead to potential branding offers between men and women and high end companies. Just like many social media users, main character, Lacie, obsesses over her rating. She appears overly nice to the people around her but still falls short in meeting the required 4.5-star rating for her dream apartment. When invited to be the maid of honor at her former best friends wedding, where guests are only highly rated, she knew a perfect speech would put her above 4.5 stars. During her journey getting to the wedding, minor setbacks kept occurring, compelling her to change her happy go-lucky attitude to a frustrated and angry version of herself. Her rating quickly drops to where she is no longer invited to the wedding. Showing that only those who oblige by this structure will thrive. The desire to appear happy and content to others through social media is consistently present in today’s society where most social media users only post about the exciting and happy moments of life. The system, yet again, accomplishes the downfall of another subject, in this episode, Lacie. Although Lacie tries to defeat the system, she ends up physically imprisoned, however, paradoxically free from the imprisonment of her own black mirror. Brooker demonstrates what is required to achieve in a techno-utopian culture and can only be done by being in charge of the system or being an obedient subject of the system. In Black Mirror, Brooker shies away from a feel good ending in hopes to illustrate the penalties of a technology driven society.
Another episode that articulates a hyper-capitalized system occurs in the second episode of the first season, entitled Fifteen Million Merits. This episode takes place in a society where citizens, wearing all grey sweat suits, are required to cycle on a stationary bike all day to earn merits’ that can buy extra privileges. Second class citizens take on custodian roles in which they do not cycle and are publicized with yellow sweat suits and hats as well as their excessive weight. Main character, Bingham Bing Madsen, robotically walks through his daily routine where he is constantly surrounded by advertisements of pornography clips called Wraith Babes’ and of the game show, Hot Shot’. The only way to turn off the advertisements is to spend merits, which sounds remarkably similar to how current society buys premium versions of accounts to cut out disrupting ads. Only those who can afford it receive the privilege of an ad-less lifestyle. Throughout the episode, it is repetitively advertised that when fifteen million merits are earned it is possible to enter into the variety show, Hot Shot, judged by citizens of the elite class. The winner of the game show is promised fame and wealth, escaping the repetitive lower class lifestyle of cycling. Bing longs to disassociate from his daily routine. As he finally earns enough merits he overhears his only girl friend, Abi, singing beautifully and pulls a romantic gesture by giving her his merits to enter the show. After Abi’s performance, the judges convince her, along with the virtual crowd of other elite members, to pursue a career as an adult actress on Wraith Babes. Bing watches in disturbance and frustration as Abi accepts her new career. Representing the desperation of a lower class citizen dreaming to escape the confinement of lower class statuses. Throughout the next few weeks, due to Bings lack of merits he is forced to sit through advertisements of Wraith Babes and watch Abi perform on the show. He punches a mirror in distress and pockets a shard of glass. Bing determinedly works at earning back fifteen million merits to earn another spot on Hot Shot’. Once on stage he performs a rebellious speech discussing the corruption of the system all while holding the shard of glass to his throat. Instead of dismissing Bing’s performance the judges offer him a spot to perform his concerns on national television. The episode closes with Bing sipping a class of orange juice in his high class apartment.
[Fifteen Million Merits] portrays state power as being omnipresent within the overall structure of the society in which the main character resides (Huber, 14). The judges of elite upper class status encourage consumerism of technology as well as its dividing implications of class. In Bourdieu and Adorno’s article, Converging Theories in Culture and Inequality, Adorno argues when consumers are allowed the opportunity for artificial satisfaction through technology it breads blindness to the overwhelming presence of an imbalanced society (Bourdieu and Adorno, 43). This drastic imbalance between classes can become dangerous for the current democracy that the United States prides itself in.
Men Against Fire, Nosedive, and Fifteen Million Merits are just a few examples of episodes where Brooker sparks the conversation about the threat technology has between classes, by giving ultimate power of manipulation to the small upper class and depressive imprisonment of the large lower class. Although the ideas of Black Mirror seem so far away from current time, similarities present in every episode insinuate the direction our culture is headed. The terrorist groups that run Palestine, teach children from a young age to hate Israel and neglect aid, which shows the naiveté of individuals conforming to a corrupt society in the presence of war, similar to Men Against Fire. While the struggle with the infatuation of likes and followers’ becomes a competition among young teenagers in today’s western culture, it is evident in the lifestyle Nosedive illustrates. As well as the current options to buy premium accounts and VIP memberships to websites urges the consumerism mindset, only to be free when money is not a concern, just like the grey jump suited citizens in Fifteen Million Merits. In different ways every individual is represented in Stripe, Lacie, and Bing, showing that if the world is filled with technology driven submissive characters, Black Mirror will no longer be a show about the future, but instead about the present. While Black Mirror does show the dark side of technology it also portrays a side of technology that is used by lower class citizens to rebel against the system.
Utopian Motives In Mad Men TV Show
Mad men is one of the best American quality television shows. The long list of awards and positive critiques have shown that the show itself is a masterpiece, created with great dedication. This television series does not only have an authentic and interesting story plot but also a beautiful visual lushness of the mise-en-scene.
This paper focuses on analyzing a few mise-en-scene techniques such as music selection, scenes editing, lighting, costume selection, and camera angles. Among all the well-structured episodes, Babylon seems to be the first episode that really pulls the attention of the audience to the show. This is where some of the major secrets are slowly revealed. The development of important characters is also sharpened and solidly evolved in this episode, as well as the idea of utopia. The well-structured mise-en-scene of Mad men makes the storyline comes to live in the heart of the audience. Babylon is beautifully created by writers Andre Jacquemetton and Maria Jacquemetton, and director Andrew Bernstein. As stated earlier, this episode opens to many crucial secrets. The opening of Babylon reveals the child version of Don Draper via a flashback to Adam Whitman’s birth, who is Don’s younger half-brother.
Additionally, the audience also has a glimpse at Joan and Roger’s complicated relationship since they have been sleeping together for a while. Perhaps most importantly, the real Peggy and her characteristics are finally introduced. The audience starts to get a sense of what she is about and where she is heading to. Unlike Joan, who uses her sexy appearance to get what she wants, Peggy utilizes her intellectual to earn her status. There is a quote from Mad Men and Politics, written by Linda Beail and Lilly J. Goren, that said: [T]he more complex television shows are the shows that spark conversation and dialog, the discussions are not about how funny a show was the night before or how tragic, but actual conversations about the complicated situations in which complex characters find themselves and what they choose to do in those situation (17). This quote applies well to Mad Men series, especially this episode. Babylon spends great effort on creating sophisticated mise-en-scene details to enhances the development of each characters and their situations, which makes the show one of the best complex TV shows. Meanwhile, Don and Rachel’s relationship is also getting more interesting. They want to be together but cannot be together, just like the idea of Utopia that Rachel points out – the good place as well as the place that cannot be.
Indeed, the idea of utopia plays a crucial part in this episode. It is one of the big themes in Mad men. It does not simply refer to a romantic relationship but gears more toward a figurative meaning, namely the struggling toward a better life of every character within in the series, perhaps the audience as well. This theme is what makes Babylon special. The precise structured mise-en-scene in this episode helps deliver the idea of utopia so well that it might actually haunt the audience. Especially the last scene, where the song “The Waters of Babylon” is played. So beautifully haunting. Among all well-structured scenes, there are a few outstanding scenes that really bring up the haunting feelings toward viewers. This paper will do close readings of two rich scenes from the Babylon episode. The first scene is from 23:55-26:32, when all the girls from Sterling Cooper offices are used as testing subjects on Belle Jolie’s new lipstick lines. While all the secretaries are busy trying out the new merchandise, many men of the company are spying on them in a separated darkroom with a one-way mirror that connects their room to the girls’ room. Freddy Rumsen, a copywriter at Sterling Cooper, is the one that asks the chicken to test out those new lipsticks. Unlike the other girls, Peggy sits quietly observing the rest excitedly putting on the new lipsticks. When Freddy asks her some questions, Peggy replies that I’m very particular. I don’t think anyone wants to be one of a hundred colors in a box.
Additionally, she also refers the trashcan full of used tissues as the basket of kisses. Through this conversation, Freddy sees a great potential of Peggy and utilizes her writing talent. The detail of the story in this scene such as being observed without knowing already sounds scary. Yet, the precise mise-en-scene construction somewhat lifts up the haunting effects. First of all, let’s focus on a shot of this scene at 23:55. The effect of double spying in this shot might give the viewers a weird and contradictory feeling. Some will find that it is wrong to spy on others, and in fact, many people don’t want to share their life to public view. However, many people tend to have an interest in spying on others’ private life such as stalking social media, checking the chat history of your loved ones’ or scrolling down the log of calls received. Thus, even when the audience might feel annoyed by the immoral actions of the executives, ironically, they are also publicly spying on the character’s lives, just like the male characters are freely watching the girls doing their own things. The setting of the darkroom is very similar to that of the cinema. The men at Sterling Cooper are sitting watching the girls through a huge one-way mirror, located in the center of the wall, which reminds the audience of big screens in cinema or TV screens. Some of the male characters also judge the appearance of the female characters. Similarly, the audience also judges the characters while watching movies. The only difference between this fictional shot and real life is that the audience is fully allowed to spy on the characters’ lives, which is one of the beauties of the film industry.
Therefore, the scene in the darkroom creates an annoying yet indescribable joy, the joy of learning forbidden knowledge without getting caught. Moreover, the similarity between the setting of the darkroom and the cinema, in addition with the point of view shot, purposely invite the audience to join the men in the darkroom as well as to observe the girls’ activities together as the camera shifts its focus to the girls’ room. Secondly, multiple shots of Joan from the first scene tells a lot about her characteristics. She wears a sexy tight-fitting red dress. This unique bright red dress within the scene emphasizes her power gained from her appealing outlook. From 25:25 to 25:27, she purposely leans forward to the table which is located in opposite direction to the mirror to show her curves and her sexy bottom part. The camera moves from her hair to her bottom part really highlights her sexy appearance, as if she is selling her body to those who are observing her movement. When she is showing off her body, the camera catches her face in a close-up shot at 25:29, which reveals Joan’s head and shoulder in central focus of frame. Her smug facial expression, caught in the frame, proves that she knows the men are watching her from the darkroom. The low-angle shot at 25:29 shows that Joan is in control; she has certain confidence at winning the male’s attention.
Psychologically, the effect of the low-angle shot somehow makes the subject within the frame look more powerful. Moreover, the suitable amount of brightness on her face indicates that she is satisfied with her actions. In other words, she has a full control over what is happening. Joan is also an excellent actress. She successfully performs an act within an act. The shot at 25:40 in the first scene really captures her acting skills. She pretends that she is only looking at the mirror to check on her self-appearance, and that she doesn’t know there is a bunch of executives on the other room watching her. Additionally, the fact that she is waiting until the end of lipstick testing session to make her move proves that every step is carefully calculated. She knows that there is a better chance of getting more attention from more people at the end of the session than at the beginning. She is a very clever woman who can utilize the power of her appearance and her acting skills to manipulate the male characters.
Moreover, unlike the shot at 25:29, part of Joan’s face is dark and shady in this shot, which makes her look a bit mysterious and pretentious. Mysterious in a way that might attract the male characters. Yet, it also reflects her pretentious performance that she’ is putting on. Another important character in this room is Peggy, who is totally out of those frames that have Joan as the center. Equivalently, Joan never appears in frames that have Peggy as the main focus. This might indicate that Joan and Peggy have very different personalities and perspectives. While Joan’s red dress emphasizes her seductive body and how Joan uses that advantage to obtain her power, Peggy’s outfit reflects her seriousness in the workplace. Peggy wears a dark color and high-neck dress with a light gray-blue collar, which is very similar to the image of the typical work clothes. At shot 25:54 – 26:10, Peggy is sitting in the corner of the room, observing other female workers excitedly testing out the lipsticks. These two details imply that Peggy is different from the rest and she is, in a sense, isolated. At shot 25:54, the blue shelf and the blue box of tissue match well with Peggy’s outfits, which creates a pleasing view for the audience.
Additionally, office supplies such as book, pencil, and lamp are also placed in her frame, which emphasizes that Peggy is diligent; she is the type of people that prefer to gain power based on her own works and her intellectual talent. Another interesting detail that helps compare Joan and Peggy is that both of them have their own frame that captures the backs of their heads. While Joan has her hair tied in a fancy tight round ball (25:24), Peggy has a very simple ponytail hairstyle (25:59). This indicates that Joan invests a lot more effort and time in her appearance compared to Peggy.
Moreover, Peggy’s frame focuses on the nape of her neck with little appearance of skin. Joan’s frame shows the majority of her skin since she is wearing a low-necked dress. Their outfits and styles clearly suggest that they are the opposite of each other. While the scene settings, outfits, and camera angles describe the differences between the two girls, they are somehow connected by the underlying song.Lipstick by David Carbonara is a beautiful combination of muted trumpets, punchy trombones, low flutes, snapping fingers, walking bass lines, one-handed laconic piano playing and the Hammond organ (Smith). The song provides a sense of rebellion. The first few notes of the song, which are very light and attractive, start when Joan begins her sexy performance. Then Peggy comes in at 25:51, exactly when the song shifts its melody to create a stronger, more colorful, and yet still attractive feeling. Both of them are in the same song, but they are presented by different sets of melody. They are both rebellious in some ways; they both want to become something better: earning a better position, getting a better salary, having a better life, perhaps approaching their utopia. The different melodies within the song emphasize their unique ways of getting what they want. The effect of Lipstick is intelligently integrated into this scene to create unique feelings of the audience toward each character as well as to foreshadow hints of what is coming next. The second scene is from 44:30-45:07. Don Draper comes to visit Midge, his mistress.
Then Roy, who is Midge’s friend, shows up and asks them whether they would like to come to see Midge’s friend performance. The three of them finally agree to go watch the performance in the Gaslight Cafe together. During the time staying at the Cafe, Roy continuously antagonizes Don and keeps criticizing the emptiness and the blatant lie of the advertising industry and the mass consumption. Their intense conversation ends when The Waters of Babylon song starts. While the song is performed, several scenes are integrated and transitioned smoothly: a scene with Rachel rearranging the men’s ties at her stores, Betty putting lipsticks on her daughter Sally, and lastly the affair of Joan and Roger at the fancy hotel room. The following paragraphs rise its interests in how music and scene transition helps the audience have a better insight into Utopia. Before getting into the music and scene editing analysis, let’s have a look at the physical setting of this scene.
The location of this scene is the Gaslight Cafe, located in Greenwich Village, NY. Every little details and actions happened in this scene creates a nostalgic feeling for those who understand the hippy culture of the 1960s. The clothing, the style of chair and table, the stage setting – all reflect the hippy coffee style. One specific example is that the Gaslight was called a basket house. People who performed there would pass around a basket at the end of their performance in hope of getting paid. Their only income source is from the audience and not the coffee store (Beacham). The shot at 43:58, when Midge puts money in the basket for the reading poem performance, recalls perfectly the basket house in the 1960s and the culture of the hippy community. In the book Mad Men, written by Gary Edgerton, there is a quote that said: Madmen’s visual design brilliantly implements historical signifiers. It speaks the visual language of the era (56). This quotes has expressed perfectly how madmen use many little visual effects to present the historical aspects as well as the cultures of the 1960s.
While not being seen, music can really enhance the visual and the story construction of the scene. Using The Waters of Babylon as a closing song creates a haunting and trapped feeling to everyone, including the characters and the audience. The song is the lamentations of Israel (Jewish) in exile. They were living in an oppressive and isolated condition. They were always longing for a better life. Similarly, every character within Mad Men is trapped and isolated in one way or another. For instance, Midge follows the beat generation which is a community that has its own rules and is totally separated from the normal society. Peggy is not familiar with the New York culture; she can not fit in. Don Draper is the true exile. In the bar, Don’s outfit and lifestyle are very different from the rest. He is literally separated from the hippy environment. Moreover, he has been truly exiled since the moment he killed Dick Whitman, his old-self, in hope of achieving a better life. Yet, that better life is still nowhere to be found. The effect of the song is so strong that it traps Don’s attention, who, a few seconds ago wanted to leave the bar. In addition with the zoom-in camera movement from 44:29 to 44:34, the audience has to stop paying attention to the storyline for a moment, and simply listen and feel what the music gets to say. Moreover, since the camera movement stops at the medium close-up shot, focusing on Don’s face, the viewers have to question what Don has in mind.
Then, they are most likely to join him on journey of thoughts on the topics of isolation and Utopia. The transition between multiple shots really helps emphasize the different approaches to the idea of utopia. The scenes of Don, Rachel, and Betty are perfectly blended one shot into another using the dissolve transition technique. Applying the dissolve technique in this scene conveys a strong connection between them; and how they are all tied to The waters of Babylon song. As discussed earlier, Rachel and Don’s ambiguous relationship is very similar to Utopia; they want to be together but cannot officially be together since Don has his own family and a beautiful wife, Betty. Another way to understand Utopia is through Rachel’s Jewish related culture. She understands what it is like to be a part of a culture but not be part of that culture, which is a very lonely feeling. She does not fully belong to the American culture nor the Jewish community.
Thus, putting the shot of Rachel right after Don’s enhances the isolation theme and the longing for the desire that they both can never have. The shot of Betty putting lipsticks on her daughter gears more toward the nostalgic feeling. While Don and Rachel’s relationship represents the desire for a happier life in the future, Betty desires something from the past. The image of a mother doing makeup for her daughter is very common. Thus, it is likely that Betty is missing her happy childhood. Although Betty’s family has not been introduced, we still can assume that she believes she had a happy childhood experience. The real childhood is not necessarily a happy one. What matters is what Betty remembers and believes. And this shot shows that she wants to live in that happy childhood moment again; the moments that can never be revised. They all long for the perfect land, the better and happier life, either that unrealistic idea is derived from the past or future. That better life is just like Utopia – an unrealistic place that only exists through our minds. In conclusion, the precise use of the mise-en-scene such as scenes editing, lighting, costume selection, and especially music selection helps emphasize the development of character in the first scene and the utopia theme in the second scene. Mad Men is one of the better shows that utilizes the use of mise-en-scene to reinforce the characteristics of each character and to foreshadow bigger story plot.
Additionally, the use of music in both scenes and the simulation setting between the darkroom and the cinema really forces the viewers to react emotionally to the story. It has created a solid bridge that connects the audience to the series in a mysterious way. Moverover, while watching the show, viewers have a chance to partially live in the world of Mad Men because the realistic and the fictional details are smoothly mixed together, expressed through the perfect uses of the mise-en-scene.