Feminism and Mulan

Movie_poster_mulan

It’s cool that Karista and Jordan continued Tyson’s mention of feminism in Disney princess movies because I also found that particular point interesting. It brought to mind my favorite Disney princess movie Mulan, which is strikingly different from the others. Although she is technically not a “princess,” she is, like Karista mentioned of Pocahontas, considered part of that Disney genre. However, Mulan features what I consider to be a very feminist plot. She does not fit into the mold that her society has for women to become a “beautiful” bride and serve her husband in the home. Instead she laments that she “will never pass for a perfect bride, or a perfect daughter” and she wonders “when will [her] reflection show who [she is] inside.” Mulan, instead of getting married, decides to dress up like a man in order to take her invalid father’s place in the war, pretending to be his son. In doing so, she risks punishment of such an act, which is death. While Mulan continually opposes the boundaries her patriarchal ancient Chinese society puts forth, she also proves that a woman’s perspective can offer valuable insight in winning the battle, which she ultimately does when she comes up with the ironic idea of dressing the men in her army up as women in order to sneak into the Emperor’s palace (because no one’s worried about a bunch of women posing a threat) and defeat Khan before he kills the Emperor. She also uses her intellect in devising a way to kill Khan, a man physically stronger than she, by shooting him off on a firework. Anyway, I think this movie was a great move by Disney to break the chain of helpless princesses whose only dream is to meet their Prince Charming and live happily ever after. I always get a little teary at the end when everyone bows down to Mulan after she effectively saves all of China.

This song, amongst others, definitely highlights the dominant patriarchal view that Mulan seeks to challenge and change:

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HiqmZLOaD8o[/youtube]

Madeleine’s Deconstructive Analysis of “Under My Thumb”

under-my-thumb-kirsten-reifeiss

The famous Rolling Stones song articulates the point that the singer, Mick Jagger, holds a new position of power over a girl, presumably his girlfriend. The basic binary opposition here is dominance and submission, the term “under someone’s thumb” literally meaning to be submissive to someone. The lyrics suggest the preferred binary here to be dominance from the fact that the singer smugly suggests all the ways in which he controls his girlfriend, calling her “the sweetest pet in the world.” He states that she “talks when she is spoken to” suggesting that she is polite and docile to whatever he says, that she “does just what she’s told” again suggesting that she is compliant to any of the singers commands, and that “her eyes are just kept to herself” but that the singer can “still look at someone else” meaning that while the singer ogles other women, the girlfriend sits idly by and neither confronts the singer about this behavior nor tries it herself. Overall, the songs over-arching idea is that of empowerment through a person’s gained dominance over a partner who “once had [them] down” (was once dominant themselves).

While the song is typically understood like the above analysis, the text can be read in more ways than just this one. On a basic level, those that view life through a different ideological mindset than that of male rockstars, such as feminists, may look at this song and not see a person’s newfound pride in the gained dominance over a previously dominant person but a more negative message of a man’s suppressive actions towards an outspoken and assertive woman. The way that the singer refers to his girlfriend as a “pet”, “cat” and “squirmin’ dog” can be seen as very debasing terms when referring to a human being. This shows the singer to be less of a powerful, dominant figure and more of an oppressive jerk.

More towards the actual deconstruction of the text, we may allot different meanings to sentences and words that are commonly accepted to mean only one thing in this song. The lyric, “The girl who once had me down,” might mean a girl who once completely understood the singer instead of a girl who was once very controlling of the singer. This replaces the binary opposition of dominance and suppression with understanding and misunderstanding. The lyric, “The way she talks when she’s spoken to,” may put the focus on how it is she talks (i.e., grammatical structures, accent, etc.) when someone speaks to her, rather than the fact that she responds when someone speaks to her. Again, this does not suggest dominance, but the singer fawning over the girl’s habits. Even when Jagger describes her as “the sweetest pet in the world,” this could be an affectionate form of address meaning that she’s dear to his heart rather than she’s domesticated like an animal. The Stones are British after all! These examples show that it is possible to read the song as a singer’s declaration of love for his girlfriend which undermines the original reading of the lyrics. This supports the general idea of deconstructionism that language is slippery and unreliable, and what might seem obvious to us as what is signified is actually an ongoing chain of signifiers that are based on our inherent ideologies. Therefore, we can never establish a True meaning as the meanings are infinite.

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=nYYTLJ8YHi4[/youtube]

“Under My Thumb”

Under my thumb
The girl who once had me down
Under my thumb
The girl who once pushed me around

It’s down to me
The difference in the clothes she wears
Down to me, the change has come
She’s under my thumb

Under my thumb
The squirmin’ dog who’s just had her day
Under my thumb
A girl who has just changed her ways

It’s down to me, yes it is
The way she does just what she’s told
Down to me, the change has come
She’s under my thumb
Ah, ah, say it’s alright

Under my thumb
A Siamese cat of a girl
Under my thumb
She’s the sweetest, hmm, pet in the world

It’s down to me
The way she talks when she’s spoken to
Down to me, the change has come
She’s under my thumb
Ah, take it easy, babe, yeah

It’s down to me, oh, yeah
The way she talks when she’s spoken to
Down to me, the change has come
She’s under my thumb
Yeah, it feels alright

Under my thumb
Her eyes are just kept to herself
Under my thumb, well I
I can still look at someone else

It’s down to me, oh that’s what I said
The way she talks when she’s spoken to
Down to me, the change has come
She’s under my thumb

Say, it’s alright
Take it easy, babe
Take it easy, babe
Feels alright
Take it, take it easy, babe

Madeleine’s Bridge to the Blog: Analyzing The Great Gatsby with New Criticism

In class today we discussed many of the beliefs that New Criticism holds and what is applied when a New Critic interprets a text. The main argument that New Criticism makes is that a work should be understood solely through its textual content and everything outside of that should be disregarded. This includes such things as authorial intention and personal response. The main attribute that New Critics look for in a work is whether or not it holds themes of “universal human significance”. In other words, does the work contain (or expose) timeless truths about the human condition?

So, through the eyes of a New Critic, what can be said about The Great Gatsby? Tyson makes the argument that the novel’s theme is “the inescapable longing of the human condition.” Each of the main characters in the novel, who represent different facets of society, are longing for something that can never be fulfilled. Daisy longs for her “beautiful white… girlhood,” untainted by society and age, in Louisville. Similarly, Nick reminisces about his childhood in the Midwest, a far cry from the corruption that he is now surrounded by. Gatsby longs for the Daisy he loved in his youth which coupled with his dream of a bright, successful future. Even Tom is mentioned “drift[ing] on forever seeking a little wistfully for the dramatic turbulence of some irrevocable football game.”

The problem that I feel is highlighted by these characters’ desires is that they idealize the past and the future. Tyson gives the example of when Gatsby finally sees Daisy for the first time in years and finds that she still loves him, Nick states, “there must have been moments… when Daisy tumbled short of his dreams – not through her own fault but because.. no amount of fire or freshness can challenge what a man will store up in his ghostly heart.”  The idea they have in their mind goes past the point that reality can follow, making it incapable for their reality to match their idea. This makes it so they are perpetually longing for something unattainable which leaves them with a jaded disaffectedness towards the world they live in.

Tyson compares this unfulfilled longing to the last line in the novel,

“So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

She explains that our own unfulfilled longing is the “current” against which we “beat on” in vain.

Do you agree with this assessment of the novel? Is it true to say that we all are pursuing our own green light in the distance? Thinking as a New Critic, what would you establish as the overall theme(s) in Gatsby? Or, what theme(s) in the novel do you feel fail to be universal or speak to the human condition and why?