Author Archives: kbean

Kylie’s Commentary on Tartuffe

What was interesting to me was how the characters interacted and how every aspect of their character reflected the character’s personality and underlying motivations perfectly.

The most interesting way I saw this achieved was through costuming.  For the majority of characters, the costuming is elaborate and at least close to period-accurate.  Orgon was fancily dressed, but rather frazzled and worn in appearance and costume, as well as character.  His appearance, actions, words and demeanor were tired.  Elmire’s costuming is elaborate but tasteful, with a sweeping dress and delicate embroidery.  Her costuming and appearance, her words and actions–they are all poise and composure.  Mariane was dressed, for much of the play, in a pastel pink dress, and was generally dainty.  Her costuming an demeanor showed her adherence to traditional gender roles that still persists today.

All of these were, if not period-accurate, then close enough to the untrained eye.    Tartuffe and Valere, however, were decidedly not in period accurate clothing.  Tartuffe has the correct outfit, the period outfit, except….he was wearing crocs.  He was wearing black crocs.  Similarly, Valere was wearing an Aeropostale jacket as a cape.  I see this as a delibrate costuming choice to re-emphasize the characters’ personalities and to draw attention to parallels of today.

Generally, we see crocs as something lazy and something almost distasteful.  Tartuffe, by all accounts, was both of these.  It was clear to everyone that Tartuffe was using Orgon, except to Orgon himself.  His head was too far up in the clouds to look down at the reality of his feet, as it were.

Valere, on the other hand, had an Aeropostale jacket.  This fit his character quite well, as the stereotype of that is generally spoiled, cheerful, and occasionally petulant–all things that Valere has been at one point or another.  This is especially appearant in the scene where Mariane tells Valere of her father’s plan to marry her to Tartuffe, in which they both act like children.

(Pop) Cultural Analysis of Lolita

Lolita by Vladimir Nabokov still has much influence today, specifically providing inspiration for the current Lolita fashion trend and subculture.  This subculture revolves around elaborate, extremely feminine dress and childlike attitudes and looks.  This fashion is popular among 20-somethings, especially in Japan.  People who dress in Lolita fashion wear clothing that would typically be seen in a kid’s dress-up box.  It is meant to be something innocent and childlike yet alluring, turning what looks like children’s clothes into something meant to be ‘sexy’.

lolitadress2   For example, this ‘girl’ is most likely in her twenties.

 

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This perversion of Nabokov’s work is nothing new.  In fact, the very thing that launched Nabokov’s Lolita into pop culture, a movie of the same title directed by the (in?)famous Stanley Kubrick, missed the point entirely.  First, he made the title character, Lolita, much older than she was at the beginning of the book.  In the book, Lolita was a twelve year old girl, while in the movie, she was t least 14.  The actress who played her was chosen in part because she looked much older than she actually was.

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Meanwhile, Humbert Humbert, the main character, was played as likable and sympathetic, according to one critic, while the Humbert in the novel was unsound and a pedophile.  Many events were changed in the movie as well, to make Humbert more likable.  Instead of threatening her with reformatory school, he swears to never bring hr there.  Another disturbing aspect of the movie is its genre: dark comedy.  Nabokov’s work is anything but, instead a story of a predator marrying a woman to gain access to her underage daughter, which he then abuses for years. As she grows up during the course of the novel, he thinks she is too old and fantasizes about raping her and then raping her daughter.

This was even used in a perfume ad, sexualizing a child’s body and referring to one of the most famous examples of pedophilia in literature to sell a product that is closely related to sex.  In the ad, Dakota Fanning was only 17.  She is wearing a childlike dress and has the perfume bottle placed in between her thighs.  The designer even said that it was supposed to be “seductive, yet sweet”.  Lola was a nickname for Lolita in the novel, and once again, the designer described Dakota Fanning, still a minor, as a “contemporary Lolita”.   Not only was this profiting off of the sexualization of a minor, but doing so in reference to a novel about the sexualization of a girl who is repeatedly sexually abused and even raped by her stepfather, who is a pedophile.

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Nabokov’s intentions while writing this book are well documented, and fairly obvious from the synopsis and characters.  Humbert Humbert, the main character, confesses that he is a pedophile, although not in so many words.  He says of the 12-year-old, in the first line of the book, no less, “Lolita, light of my life, fire of my lions.”  He marries a woman to get to her stepdaughter, Lolita, who is not the first girl he has pursued.  When Lolita’s mother died, he began pursuing and abusing her in earnest, which continued for years before Lolita was finally able to escape, after years of abuse.  Humbert is seen as unhinged, rambling, unsympathitic, and brutal.  He is seen as a pedophile from the very beginning.  The idea of the novel was to show the barbarity of some men, and the horrible acts that they commit.  Nabokov was dismayed at the sexualization of Lolita by pop culture, as it perverses and even defies the point of the book: how horrible the main character really is.

 

Kylie Bean’s Bridge to the Blog

The class discussion today focused on the major themes and symbols found across all three acts of Ruhl’s Passion Play.

The major symbols we discussed today were the red sky, the fish, the birds, the wind, transportation, and fertility.  We discussed the latter two in greater depth.  The class went into specifics within the third act, with the symbolism of the tollbooth as a symbol of a confessional and communion, and as a place of absolution.  We also discussed the American folklore of highways, rest stops, and toll booths as liminal spaces, adding to the air of the supernatural.  Discussions on the symbol of fertility throughout the novel were separated into male and female.  The main question of this symbol was if fertility was inherently a gift.  We discussed Mary’s suicide in act one, Eric’s relationship with the footsoldier in act two, and the conversation on abortion in act three.  For act two, we focused even more in depth with the interaction between the footsoldier and the German officer as a corruption of fertility as good and pure.

The major themes were on the role of nationalism, war, and violence; the interaction between love, sexuality, purity, and chastity; the interaction of faith and insanity; wounding and death; and lastly, the relationship between sacrifice and salvation throughout the play.

We discussed sacrifice and salvation at length.  One idea that was brought up was that Eric, who played Jesus in act two, was a Pontius Pilot figure in the act, as he claimed that he was free of guilt for Violet’s death because he was ‘just following orders’.  This relates to many questions that were asked during this discussion, but can still be examined in greater depth: Who is sacrificial?  Who or what do people turn to for salvation, and do they receive it?  Who do you confess to?  Who is responsible for the slaughtering of innocent people?  Who is guilty and who is innocent?  And, even more jarring, is anyone?

Kylie Bean’s Marxist Criticism of “Alexander, Who Used to be Rich Last Sunday”

Alexander, Who Used to be Rich Last Sunday is a delightful children’s book about the inherent inequalities within a capitalistic, consumer-driven society, with Alexander as the proletariat; Anthony and Nick, his brothers, as the bourgeoisie; and his parents as the government that enforces socioeconomic inequalities between them. This criticism of capitalism and consumerism, of fundamental inequalities in societies and ideologies, is at the heart of Marxist criticism.

 

 

From the very first line, there is an obvious, inherent inequality between Alexander and his brothers.  While Alexander’s grandmother gave them each one dollar, both brothers already had money and Alexander had none.  This inequality has already destroyed the belief in fairness, and therefore the belief in the American Dream.

He is told to save his money so that he can eventually buy a walkie-talkie, but he is continuously foiled by societal and ideological pressures, by his brothers, and even by his parents.  Alexander, unlike his brothers, is not used to having money to spend. He buys as many fleeting things as possible, such as bubble gum, playing cards (missing two cards), and a one-eyed teddy bear.  He values these many small or damaged things more than the walkie-talkie he could get eventually, as he has no idea when he will be able to buy it, and, more importantly, he would not have anything to show off his newfound wealth.  His brothers, the more financially stable bourgeoisie, not only make fun of him for most likely never going to be able to buy the walkie-talkie he wants, but also continuously call him names and use put-downs to discourage him from trying at all.  They also swindled him out of his money multiple times.  This is a clear example of the bourgeoisie discriminating against and exploiting the proletariat.

Where were the parents in all of this?  They were consistently promoting these socioeconomic inequalities.  They did not punish Anthony or Nick when they were verbally abusing their brother, or even when they swindled him out of his money.  Alexander was forced to give his parents money as punishment for reacting to his brothers’ words and actions in kind.  The guilty bourgeoisie were treated much differently, and much better, than the relatively innocent proletariat.  This is a clear example of a governing body enforcing the inequalities between socioeconomic classes.

At the end of the story, Alexander is exactly where he was before: not owning a nickel, only a few bus tokens.  Instead of trying to change his situation, he accepts it with the vague hope that next time, he will do things differently.  He simply hopes that his grandparents will come again soon—he is still hopeful, stuck again in believing in the American Dream.  In this belief, Alexander, Who Used to be Rich Last Sunday reinforces the capitalistic ideology it sought to criticize, by reinforcing the inability to change the ideology, denying that it is an ideology at all, but rather a natural, if unsavory, order.

Alexander, Who Used to be Rich Last Sunday at once criticizes and reinforces the capitalistic, consumer-driven ideology.  With Alexander functioning as the proletariat, Anthony and Nick functioning as the bourgeoisie, and the parents functioning as the government, it explores many aspects of capitalism: the belief in the American Dream, the exploitation and discrimination of the proletariat at the hands of the bourgeoisie, and the reinforcement of socioeconomic inequality by the government.  However, it fails to present a way out of this cycle, but rather accepts it as an inevitable force or order.  In doing so, it reinforces the capitalistic ideology while still presenting the inequalities and oppression it creates.