Monday, March 19, 2012

Triple Ecks

So after doing the reading for class today (“History of Sex” by Michel Foucalt) it got me thinking about the varying views on sex the society I live in has. For the sake of argument, I’ll label the main views that I’ve noticed as “conservative”, “liberal”, and “balls-to-the-wall” (a heavily scientific, Latin term). These labels don’t correspond with politics or religion or anything like that, I’m just using them for the sake of convenience. The views as they correspond to me start small (as in the group of people I hang out with, my family, my classmates) and can expand somewhat to my city, state, and even my side of the country. They can still apply on a larger scale, but need to be watered down somewhat as I obviously do not have much knowledge of how the societies of, say, Papua New Guinea view sex. I’m also leaving out sexual preferences (i.e. fetishes and LGBT, etc.)

For the conservative view, it seems that sex is an acknowledged and pleasurable activity, but one that is not often spoken of directly and somewhat embarrassing. It isn’t really a shameful activity anymore, just one that isn’t openly or brazenly discussed. It’s recreational but really only after marriage. Relationships are monogamous and again, usually only consummated after getting married. Sex shouldn’t be “on display” as much as it is, not nearly as omnipresent.

For the liberal view, sex is openly talked about with very few areas of subtlety.  Relationships are usually monogamous but often are not. People have multiple partners and there is no shame or embarrassment involved. Sex is very much a recreational activity and marriage is not a requirement even after settling with one partner. Images of sex don’t generally faze anyone and are more regularly accepted and disseminated.

For the balls-to-the-wall view, sex is completely open and all over the place. Rather than shame or embarrassment, there is pride and an anything-goes mentality almost. Multiple partners are the norm and monogamy is almost looked down on – marriage is almost considering restrictive and arcane. Sex is fully recreational and non-restrictive. Images of sexuality in all media are fully embraced.

These are certainly not tried and true and are heavily unscientific, but moreso just trends that I’ve noticed. Even as I’ve grown up I’ve noticed that there’s overlap and that each view has progressively incorporated and expanded new areas. The media has certainly become even more over-saturated with sex and with promiscuity. It’s in music, television, books, films, clothing, advertising – it’s permeated everything. It’s possible that I’ve noticed it more simply because I’ve gotten older and naturally have become more aware, but I get the feeling that when I’m middle aged I’ll feel that it’s become even more saturated. I’m sure this is not an exclusive phenomenon as some of our parents have surely noted.

Monday, March 5, 2012

Project, Group Project

So for the last few weeks, my group and I have been working on our project for our Pop Culture class. As I mentioned in a previous post, our topic is James Bond and in particular, Casino Royale. We’ve met a handful of times before class and communicated through email. We each took a separate concept involved with Bond and went in our own directions with it. I decided to look at Casino Royale, and Bond in particular, through the lens of theory, namely Saussure and Derrida. Today in class, for my part of the presentation, I’ll be discussing how Bond’s views of the world begin very structuralist but by the end of the novel, become post-structuralist.

For my contributions to the group, I helped break the novel down and analyze it as a whole. I helped divide the novel into possible chunks or areas of discussion that we could be interested in exploring. I helped in discussions with connecting and comparing the novel to the 2006 film and also brought up some interesting differences between the many iterations of Bond throughout the years. Other people in the group aided me in some areas of my own topic and I also provided feedback on theirs. During the meetings, we all contributed some ideas and feedback to each topic while also constructing the general form of our presentation as a whole. As I’m not especially proficient in power point creation, I mostly helped there by giving feedback and suggestions on the structure and aesthetics of the power point presentation that the others made. 

Bond initially has no difficulty differentiating between good and evil, hero and villain. His experience in the war, as well as all his training, has made it clear to him that the US and England are the heroes and that, at the very least, the Russians are now the villains. This is very Saussurian in that Bond knows that he and his country (and their allies) are good and since Russia is not an ally, they are clearly evil. He is able to define who the heroes are by comparing them to those who aren’t, and vice versa. However, after being tortured by Le Chiffre, Bond’s view changes dramatically. As he is recovering, he has a very interesting discussion with his French police aide, Mathis. Bond says that when he was younger it was easier to tell the difference between good and evil, but it isn’t so easy anymore. He says that somewhere, Le Chiffre was the hero and Bond was the villain and what Le Chiffre was doing was heroic. He says politics and patriotism and everything have an influence over the previous line of thinking but that he is finding it too difficult to differentiate anymore. Bond’s crisis of identity is so great that he decides to resign rather than try to solve his psychological and ideological dilemma. He finds the line not so easily drawn anymore and seems to be very much a post-structuralist. Bond now thinks in a Derridian fashion in that the terms hero and villain and good and evil don’t really have any meaning anymore because the definition is literally different for every single person and changes for them from one instant to the next, giving the concepts no true and universal truth.

Monday, February 27, 2012

Jerry Maguire ♥ Dorothy Boyd

Recently in class we watched clips of the movie Jerry Maguire. I admit, I haven't seen this movie before and understand that this likely puts me in the minority. Of course, I do know of the famous quotes: “Show me the money!” “Did you know the human head weighs 8 pounds?” and “You complete me”/“You had me at hello.” I am, after all, in a pop culture class.

Anyway, we were directed to discuss how Jerry defines love, what he feels love to be. As we jumped around from scene to scene, I noticed something, something that Jerry himself plainly stated when, later in the film, Rod Tidwell asks why he married Dorothy Boyd:

                        Then why'd you get married?  I'm
                        asking you as a friend.
                               (shaking his head)
                        You're jabbing at me.

                        I'm sorry I asked.
                        No, I'm going to answer you.  You
                        want an answer?  I'll give it to
                        Loyalty.  She was loyal.
                        Everything grew from there.
                        That's an answer.
                        Damn right.
                        For loyalty, you buy a dog.  For
                        love, you get married.

Earlier, when Jerry is speaking to his soon-to-be ex-fiancee Avery, he foreshadows his decision:

                        So honesty is outlawed here, I
                        can't be honest?
              She turns and exits again.  He follows.
                        Tell you what -- I'd prefer
So to Jerry, love is defined as loyalty, hence his decision to marry Dorothy after he breaks up with his fiancee, Avery. During Jerry and Dorothy's marriage, Jerry is highly affectionate to Dorothy's son, Ray, but is fairly distant and aloof to her. The two begin to fight and eventually wind up separating, as Dorothy loves Jerry but feels as though he doesn't return her feelings. Jerry's conversation with Tidwell however, eventually makes him reassess how he feels about Dorothy and what it means to really love someone. Jerry's business relationship with Tidwell eventually blossoms into a full-blown friendship after Tidwell's breakout football game and Jerry comes to the realization that he truly does love Dorothy and that his romantic feelings, while initially developing from loyalty (especially after she stayed loyal to him by going out on a limb and leaving Sports Management International with him after he had been fired) eventually grew into something beyond loyalty and into love.
Jerry's concept of “love” stemmed from the relationship he had with his fiancee, who was materialistic and brutally honest (though she added the “brutality”). His concept of love was certainly given shape with an influence from his line of work, where people back-stab and gossip and double-cross on a daily basis. Jerry certainly did have feelings for Dorothy and married her as a sign of loyalty in return for hers. He viewed the marriage almost as just another business deal, though obviously with more attachment. Luckily, though, Jerry was able to discover, with the help of Tidwell, that love is not just loyalty, and that it goes beyond just sticking by someone.

Monday, February 20, 2012

Blog, James Blog

The group project that I’m involved in for class covers James Bond, in particular Casino Royale, Ian Fleming’s first novel featuring the spy. I’ve been well acquainted with Bond for many years now and have likely seen every film at least once at some point or another whether it was on TV or in the theaters. When I think “spy”, I immediately think of “James Bond” and all that comes along with him – fast cars, gorgeous women, super villains, guns, Q, pithy one-liners, awesome technology, martinis, misogyny, tuxedos, and so on. James Bond IS spydom.

  Admit it -- you're humming the theme right now

After reading the book, I started to wonder how much of an impact Bond has really had on the concept of secret agents and such.  After some searching (some credit goes to Wiki here), I found some pretty amazing facts. Here are some that caught my attention. Per Wikipedia:

  • It is estimated that since Dr. No, a quarter of the world's population have seen at least one James Bond film.
  • "Bond ... James Bond", became a catch phrase that entered the lexicon of Western popular culture: writers Cork and Scivally said of the introduction in Dr. No that the "signature introduction would become the most famous and loved film line ever". In 2001 it was voted as the "best-loved one-liner in cinema" by British cinema goers and in 2005, it was honored as the 22nd greatest quotation in cinema history by the American Film Institute as part of their 100 Years Series.
  • The twenty two James Bond films produced by Eon Productions have grossed $4,910,000,000 in box office returns alone.
  • Sean Connery is, far and away, the best of the Bonds. Then follows Roger Moore, Pierce, Brosnan, Daniel Craig, Timothy Dalton/George Lazenby, Peter Sellers, and then the rest. This hierarchy is non-negotiable, you fools.

Perhaps not all of the information on Wikipedia is factual (*ahem*…), but the major fact that stood out to me was that it is estimated that a quarter of the world’s population has seen at least one Bond film. As of today, the estimated world’s population is estimated to be at or above 7 billion people. That would mean that at least 1.75 BILLION people have seen at least one Bond movie. Considering the franchise has lasted multiple decades, gone through numerous incarnations (radio, TV, novel, film, and has been revived by Daniel Craig in the last few years with the next film Skyfall  due out this year, Bond has certainly made a global impact and changed the way people view spies, espionage, secret organizations, super villains, and maybe even challenged female naming conventions. There have been parodies, such as the Austin Powers and Johnny English films. But Bond has also inspired numerous other spy films and television shows such as The Man from U.N.C.L.E. and I Spy. With over 20 films made so far and no apparent sign of stopping, Bond will continue to drink his vodka martinis, sleep with women, and stop world domination all while keeping a cool head.