Author Archives: ksmucker

Kate Smucker’s Bridge to the Blog

Today we spent class talking about the Marxist criticism approach, as well as exploring different ideologies and the associations in which those ideologies enforce. The marxist criticism focuses on the impact of both the society and the economy in a work. This critique also pays attention to the time in which the work was produced. The history behind the literary work translate into it’s meaning and helps explore the materialistic views portrayed. We spent a large portion of class talking about was the normalization and even naturalization that ideologies can hold in societies. Ideologies can motivate societies in ways of which it’s citizens aren’t even aware; they are impactful, but also mostly invisible.

An example that stood out to me was through the Nike controversy of labor practices. As a society, we are culturally conditioned to consume. Simultaneously, we consume with a certain level of numbness and a willful ignorance that blinds us from seeing what our consumption is promoting. In this case, as we buy Nike’s and build up the brand, we also continue to oppress the hands behind the operation, the laborers. As someone who is not only wearing Nike shoes, but also a Nike shirt, I’m calling myself out as well. Dr. Scanlon put it in a way that stuck with me, “What if we came together and protested companies like Nike…things would probably change as soon as tomorrow”! For me this was eye opening, because it is so true. As citizens in a society comprised of consumerism and commodification, what if we just stopped buying things we didn’t necessarily need? Would consumerism still thrive if we called out companies? As I started looking more into this case, specifically with Nike, I found this video. While it is twenty minutes, it plays right into the Marxist criticism and pretty much all the ideologies we touched on today. It’s also a really interesting watch, even if you’re not an avid Nike consumer.

Something we didn’t talk about as much in class is the idea of false conciousness.  I feel as though this directly relates to the Nike controversy because of what it is. False conciousness, or a false ideal, holds the purpose to “promote the interests of those in power” (Tyson, 56). In other words, it’s an ideal that has failed, yet hasn’t gone away. This then sparks the question of do ideals ever truly go away? Or do they just expand off of each other? Do they go away by becoming a collectively unconcious societal view? Or do they reinforce themselves within the unconcious because we don’t realize what we’re doing?

Kate Smucker’s Marxist Criticism of Lorde’s “Royals”

Economics is the basis of Marxist Criticism, which comes from the ideologist Karl Marx. He believed in the separation of classes in terms of socioeconomic status, further; that the lower class attempts to obtain power while the upper class is interested in retaining what they already have. These opposing aspects take that of the proletariat and bourgeoisie. Marxism encompasses many ideologies including classism, patriotism, consumerism, as well as more. Consumerism is an ideology that gives the idea that individuals are only as good as what they buy. Within consumerism, we see capitalism and the use of commodification. In a recent and widely popular song by Lorde, these ideas are clearly exploited.

Through “Royals”, Lorde gives examples of how celebrities embrace the lifestyle and culture of superiority through items and stuff, for lack of better term. Released in 2013, the song was written in a time that reflected consumerism and capitalism as thriving aspects of our nation’s economics. There was an increase in consumer spending that was the most from 2010-2013 (taken from MarketWatch). In her lyrics, we specifically see her say, “but every songs like: gold teeth, grey goose, tripping in the bathroom, bloodstains, ball gowns, trashing a hotel room”. In other words, these songs are talking about sloppy adventures in obtaining fame and exploring such fame through alcohol and drugs. She continues to say, “we aren’t caught up in your love affair”, because she is unable to relate to these desires; thus expressing her critique of classism.  Again, her critique is that people are viewed in society in terms of their monetary success and further claims that money increases how people view you.

As someone who grew up without the luxury of money, Lorde paved her way and seems to reinforce the ideology of the American Dream. Coming from nothing, working hard and making it in the industry as a well known singer is the classic rags-to-riches story our society thrives on. The “American Dream” certainly promotes the belief in classism and capitalism, in that with hard work and dedication, anything is possible for anyone. This idea is conveyed when she says, “It don’t run in our blood”. Since she wasn’t treated with these commodities and such luxuries, it’s clear Lorde is sending a message that she doesn’t crave these things, despite working hard to get them.

Another idea expressed is that of cultural conditioning. We, as a society, reiterate consumerism and conspicuous consumption when we chase after and attain lavish lifestyles. This lifestyle choice continues to reinforce trends found in the oppressors versus those oppressed. With fame and fortune, also comes power, which Lorde makes clear is not something all should wish to obtain. After all, ideologies are passed through structures, and some see the industry of music as one of the largest and most impactful.

In closing, there is a clear reinforcement of capitalistic and classist values being critiqued within these lyrics. Whether it is up to Lorde to condemn or expose these values is open to interpretation. However, as an artist she is entitled to the message she intends to portray. This work invites others to see a side of the lifestyle people classified as bourgeoisie carry out. Her call to action is found when her lyrics imply her desire to be “Queen Bee” and “Ruler”. She wants to show that pop culture is not about materialistic lifestyles and that she “crave(s) a different kind of buzz”.





Great Gatsby?

After reading The Great Gatsby the second time around, I’ve really learn to appreciate Gatsby’s characterization for his many layers, rather than liking him because of his place in the novel as the main character. But the question I’ve had since I first read this novel, is what makes it great? What makes Gatsby so great? Is it his luxurious lifestyle, his grand mansion, bright yellow car? Or is it something deeper like his unwavering love for Daisy. Even though we can label Gatsby as a fraud and inauthentic in his ways, his love for Daisy was true. He changed his whole life in order to impress Daisy and make her fall in love with him.

I wonder if there was an ironic intention in the title. Since “Gatsby” was a fake name, is the word in front of it also fake? Was this an ironic placement to show that Gatsby was great at being fake?

In any way, here are some reasons (according to BuzzFeed) of why this novel is so great.