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There is new/reiterated information about your collaborative project in Canvas and above under the Assignments tab.

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

Some Gatsby Afterthoughts

Special thank yous to Adrienne for planning (and silverware), to Rachel for the best potluck contribution, to Ashton for bringing the DVD, and to Tedward for valiantly taking home all leftover food so no one else had to carry it.

Confession: I did not expect to like the DiCaprio/Mulligan version at all.  But I did.  A lot.  It’s  gorgeous, of course.  And both Gatsby and Daisy were significantly more human in this version–reinforced even in simple ways like the fact that Nick repeatedly called Gatsby “Jay,” which is not true of the novel or Redford/Farrow movie.  As a result, Leo-Gatsby seemed more vulnerable, his carefully constructed world on a much shakier foundation.  I had loved Redford-Gatsby, but he is a cardboard man, and Leo-Gatsby showed the work it took to be Gatsby.  And Mulligan-Daisy was both much more likeable and more awful, since her guilt for Myrtle’s death is more profound if she isn’t simply a twit.

Still struggling with how I feel about the Nick-in-a-sanitorium invention.  And with the combination of explicit information about the 20s for an ignorant American viewing public being carefully woven into the film, only to be juxtaposed with radically anachronistic elements (not the music– I liked that much more than I anticipated).

Both Toms stink.  Bruce Dern-Tom is not nearly enough of a “brute,” to use Daisy’s word.  And Joel Edgerton-Tom is not believable as old money– would Tom Buchanan ever wear dirty polo clothes to a dinner with guests?  No way.  Very interesting difference in George Wilsons, one of whom is so beaten down and lost and the other of whom is a man ready to kill.

It has already been well established that I can find a phallic symbol anywhere.  But please, people: Nick and Gatsby on the porch with a huge white column between them (Redford version)??  The sharing of one cigarette??  Etc. etc.  Don’t even get me started psychoanalyzing Gatsby’s wombish swimming pools, in which he meets his death.

Lastly (maybe): why did Leo-Gatsby say “old sport” to rhyme with “Colbert Report”?  That was awkward.

Robert’s Marxist Analysis of Chumbawamba – She’s Got All The Friends That Money Can Buy

[youtube]http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=byXI2sHTYug[/youtube]

This song, I find, is espousing a number of Marxist ideals. The chorus “She’s got all the friends that money can buy, she’s the apple of her Daddys eye” is referencing not only that a member of the Bourgeoisie more often than not has friends among the proletariat only because it allows those members of the proletariat to “get close” to that money , hence ” The family money has a magnetic pull”. It is also implied that this theoretical “She” has friends among the bourgeoisie only due to the fact that “she” is also a bourgeoisie, because as a human being her value in this case is dictated by her sign-exchange value.  The line about being the apple of her dad’s eye is also talking about her sign-exchange value that is, her father only values her for the increases in status she will grant him once she is married off to some one of even higher status within the bourgeoisie.

The line “And both her faces–so easy on the eye” is talking about how “she” wears two faces, presumably one for interacting with the proletariat to maintain her apparent connections there and the sign-exchange value that such interactions grant her. (Rather like Tom Buchannan in this way).  The other face she wears for interacting with her fellow bourgeoisie where she undoubtedly discusses her unrivaled contempt for the proletariat.

“Style has a price without much change … If you have to ask then it’s out of your range ” Is talking about the folly of consumerism. The latest style is the new hot thing that you must have! But it’s really no different than what preceded it. In addition the cost of acquiring this new style is irrelevant to the bourgeoisie.

“Well, you can buy your friends, but I’ll hate you for free Hate you for free” This line is speaking to the hatred the proletariat should be expressing towards the kind of bourgeoisie this song is talking about. Its placement late in the song is meant to bring the hatred that the proletariat has to a boil as they have had time to think of an example in their day to day life about the bourgeoisie that irritates them.

 

The end-cap on the song (that is only in the album version) refers to two other major Marxist elements.

“You see, it’s magic, and it shouldn’t work

I still look at it most surprised it does”
The magic referenced here is the illusion that by befriending the bourgeoisie a member of the proletariat can ascend to the bourgeoisie. The continual surprise is aimed at the proletariat that is still buying into the lies of the bourgeoisie that keep them in their current place; unwittingly supporting the bourgeoisie. The final lines ” Pass it along, pass it along ” Are asking the bourgeoisie in a tongue-in-cheek way to “pass along” their wealth to the masses because they are ” make[ing] too much money”.

Mary’s Psychoanalysis of a Song: Suspender Man by Steam Powered Giraffe

Time for a longer than expected post that’s not about Gatsby!

Some background: The most basic description of Steam Powered Giraffe is this: they’re a musical group trained in pantomime, and half of them are professionally costumed as steampunk-ish robots. (Check out their youtube videos if you want to see them in action!)

“Suspender Man” was written by one of the group’s main performers: Bunny Bennett, who plays the male robot character of Rabbit. She is openly MTF trans, and has explicitly stated in an interview that she has planted a lot of symbolism and supposedly blatant references to her female identity in this song. I’ll analyze what those might be and how they relate to the recent things she’s told blog readers about herself. Due to copyright reasons, I cannot post the song’s mp3 here, but here’s a link to the lyrics. I will gladly play it for us in class sometime if anybody’s interested.

The song starts off with the Suspendered Man appearing out of nowhere in the bayou. It’s apparently a very strange night since “the gators were all drinking tea in a dreamy pantsless glee” when Bunny’s robot character, Rabbit, discovers the Suspendered Man. The gators defy the concept of gender by being naked during their tea party and show right away that Bunny isn’t comfortable with society’s expectations. This idea of freedom is portrayed as feminine due to the tea party the ‘gators are participating in; tea parties are considered a female activity.

The Suspendered Man himself is dripping with male imagery: “the biggest red suspenders I ever did see” and a banjo “holstered” in his hand. Banjos are an obvious phallic image, and suspenders prove to be a symbol of conformity throughout. The Suspendered Man is the epitome of maleness and initially draws Rabbit in with saying how his “banjo has shown [him] the promised land”, implying that maleness is “Right”. To get him to start playing, Rabbit flips a coin into the Suspendered Man’s tip pot, which in itself is a yonic symbol in need of other analysis. This indicates how Rabbit currently subscribes to inherent male symbolism and how Bunny used to for years. The Suspendered Man then starts the music in a masculine, wild manner: “He plucked those strings and belched a giggle/He tapped his foot, howled like a hound/Igniting up the unholy sound.” 

The chorus verses start with how Rabbit has “never never…ever heard anything so great” as the masculine symbol of the Suspendered Man playing his phallic banjo. (That was not a sentence I expected to write…) The chorus insists that everyone wants suspenders and a banjo because of how awesome this mysterious bog-man is. An entire crowd “swarmed the swamp and was tossing in coin after coin” when they heard him play. The crowd is subscribing to the idea of standard heteronormativity; not only are they all abusing the poor tip jar, they all want more suspenders to keep their own identities literally suspended and hidden from others (symbolized here by pants), and a Freudian analysis would say that everyone wants a banjo due to an improper development during the phallic stage, leading to penis envy.

Near the end, the Suspendered Man disappears, leaving behind just his suspenders and banjo. The band says “that’s what he gets for selling his soul to the bog”, where the bog is a metaphor for the  mire of mixed genders/identities in the real world. He died for the social ideas of normativity to appeal to others, but it changed who he was until he faded completely away. The same concept could apply for Bunny: she has since stated that she made herself completely miserable by trying to convince herself to identify as male for years because it was “easier”.

The last few lines end up meaning that trying to change one’s true identity is like trying to do gypsy magic: it just won’t work. One of the very last lines is also a sign that Bunny has made a decision about herself: “You could wear a dress, and have no need [for identity suspension]!” She has concluded that being comfortable is just as important as fitting in, but sometimes you cannot do both. The background vocals even state that “the alligators had it right/wearing pants, it sure does bite,” going back to the idea of freedom and nonconformity being a release, but not ideal for every day use.
Freud would have a field day with Bunny herself, but I’m not going to do that here since I don’t know enough about her life to be able to say “x is probably because of y during stage z” in his style of analysis.

Change to Applied Theory Post Assignment

Hey folks–

I am changing the TIME that the applied theory post will be due, starting this week.  Instead of being due before class on the assigned day/theory, the posts will be due no later than midnight on that day (that is, AFTER class if you wish to wait).

Choose Dates/Topics for Applied Theory Posts!

This is another Doodle poll; for each theory listed, up to three students may sign up.  The link for the 9:30 section is here, and the link for the 11:00 section is here.

The basic gist of this assignment is as follows:  Each student will be assigned to one specific theoretical movement early in the semester and a schedule will be posted on the blog.  On the day we read about that theory, you will post to the blog an analysis of a film, song, or children’s book that is clearly informed by the theoretical questions and vocabulary for that critical group.  500-750 words.

Canvas now has an assessment rubric for this assignment, and there is a word document with the assessment criteria on the Rubrics page under Assignments above.

Psychoanalytic Theory and Marxist Theory, both in Week 3, are available if you want to do this assignment early!

Mary’s Bridge to the Blog: Gatsby Discussion

Today’s discussion started with Fitzgerald’s biographical information—from his infidelity and alcoholism to his and Zelda’s ennui and rampant partying.
Someone suggested that Fitzgerald is like Tom, and Zelda is like Daisy but if it’s really considered, they were more like Gatsby and Daisy: Zelda was a rich girl from the South, Fitzgerald a military boy from a poor Midwestern family. He made a fortune to win her back. The biggest difference is that they did get married, but shortly after that their relationship went to hell in a handbasket.
My biggest question is: how biographical is “The Great Gatsby”? We know that Gatsby despises social structure because society expects him to stay in his place and essentially never rise above it. When he does rise above it, he is met with scorn and dislike from those who have always had status and are of old money. Gatsby himself finds his fortune through illegal means, such as gambling and bootlegging, despite the fact that many readers assume he is a Good Guy. He profits financially from this line of work, but I’m not sure he profits socially, especially not when everyone starts to get the hint that he’s a bootlegger.
Does Gatsby reflect anything about Fitzgerald himself?

We know that Gatsby is actually similar to Nick up to a point, as Nick finds himself despising the Midwest (like Gatsby did) and comes to the East to find himself or find a career. If Gatsby does symbolize something about Fitzgerald, does this mean that Nick does as well? The huge difference between them is that Nick is still poor, and goes home to the Midwest at the end, and develops the same cynicism many people developed after witnessing the extravagant carelessness of the Jazz Age. Nick talks about working at his father’s business and marrying a girl from his hometown. Then he goes to New York to leave everything behind, but finds that New York is awful for him and runs away home to leave New York behind him. Does this evaluation of Nick prove that he exemplifies good ol’ Midwestern values like family and contentment? Or is this simply how Nick copes with everything: by running away (albeit temporarily)? It seems to me like he’s a bit defeatist by the end of things, but still has an admirable hope within him that can be rekindled if he gets away from the kids (because let’s be honest: Tom, Daisy, Gatsby; they’re refusing to grow up in some ways because society has told them to) in New York and back to calmer society in the generic Midwestern town he’s from.

The idea that the rich characters are refusing to grow up is shown in their varying levels of practicality. Gatsby is immensely practical …until he falls for Daisy. Then everything he does is for Daisy and Daisy alone, no longer for his own self-improvement. Daisy is a bit foolish and romantic at the start of the book, but by the end her own cynicism has caught up with her and she only sees one outcome of the altercation with Gatsby and Tom: stay with Tom because it’s the socially right thing to do.
Speaking of Tom, what about him?
He’s not romantic (he was never going to run away with Myrtle), nor is he necessarily practical (rents an apartment for Myrtle’s excessive amount of purchases bought with his own money, but not for her living self). Yet he still seems to be childish in some manner. Any ideas?

We also discussed symbolism of color and the place of women, ultimately ending full-circle by re-discussing Fitzgerald and whether he was racist himself, or if his characters are just a product of the racism of society. Sadly, I don’t have the space to discuss those in-depth.

Feel free to discuss any of the above (including those last points I haven’t elaborated on)!