Changes

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Link to “Changes” by 2pac

Tupac “2pac” Shakur recorded “Changes” in 1992 amidst the beating of Rodney King and the following LA riots .  The song was released in 1998 as a CD single nearly two years after his death in 1996 and topped charts world wide.

The instrumental track beneath the lyrics is not necessarily political commentary, but it does provide a somber and calm attitude.  The song isn’t sad or angry, but contemplative and introspective.  2pac raps about how nothing has changed in regards to the white vs black political stage.  2pac urges millions of listeners:

“…We gotta start makin’ changes

learn to see me as a brother instead of two distant strangers

and that’s how it’s supposed to be…”

2pac is calling for the unification of every person instead of the precedent of distinct racial interactions. This is when 2pac’s “authentic activism” moves listeners to make changes right now (Stanford).  He understands that no one person can change the political climate, but if everyone makes an effort, then the changes in respect and tolerance will be obviously apparent.

 

 

 

We Shall Overcome (as performed by Joan Beaz)

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On April 1963 Martin Luther King was arrested in Birmingham, Alabama.  At the time Alabama was still racially segregated.  MLK had been organizing a nonviolent campaign against racial segregation.  He was met with rough conditions and treatment at the Birmingham City Jail.  A local news paper ran a statement by eight white Alabama Clergymen that criticized MLK and his protest methods.  MLK responded to the newspaper in a open letter written on scraps of paper provided to him at the jail.

The letter defended the civil rights movement’s nonviolent strategies were moral righteous and that people must break unjust laws.

The song “We Shall Overcome” wasn’t necessarily  written in the 60s, but was performed by various artists in the 60s.  It may be the protest song of the decade as it could be applied to any protest.  Joan Baez performed the song in August 1963 possibly in response to MLK’s letter from Birmingham Jail.  The lyrics were published in 1900 by Charles Tindley as a gospel hymn.  The lyrics are simple and speaks of freedom, peace, being unafraid,  and most of all overcoming adversity no matter how long it takes.  “We shall overcome, someday.”

“Tribal” Tattoos

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Tattoos seem to be the most evident example of appropriation of a culture. “The word tattoo is actually derived from the Polynesian word ‘Tatau'” (source).  The whole concept of tattoos in the modern western world are a derivative of Polynesian culture.  The first image from freetattoodesigns.com has little to do with polynesian culture and to the unworldly seems to fit the exotic and typically associated asian-pacific islander theme.  I’m sure that the concept of balance has allusions somewhere in Polynesian culture, but the yin-yang symbol definitely did not originate there.  The top most image resembles the curvy and non-linear symbolism of water and ocean waves, but Polynesian tattoos tend to be less flourish and more simple geometric designs like the lower image of a traditional Hawaiian pattern.  

The reasons for tattoos may have been bastardized as well.  The artist performing the ink transposition was equipped with little more than a single bone or tooth needle. the process took much longer, so getting a tattoo simply because the canvas owner thought that a design was “cool” was rarely the reason.  Usually the markings were for war, tribal identification, divine worship, or commemoration of events or loved ones lost.

 

The Kid (Filmmaker: Charlie Chaplin, 1921)

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The Kid was Chaplin’s first attempt at creating a dramatic comedy.  It was first featured in 1921 and according to kanopy.com was met with “heavy studio resistance” being that the studio had presumed that the film would be a flop.  Contrary to the studio’s presumptions, The Kid was very popular and saw wide spread approval from audiences.  The main themes from Chaplin’s film seem to be that women can do no wrong, the working class can be happy without wealth, and that the wealthy are only interested in money and are probably morally corrupt.

The very first image of the film is a single mother presumably with a child born through wedlock being banished from what looks like a hospital or nunnery.  The next scene shows the mother abandoning her baby in an unattended vehicle.  The vehicle is then stolen by car thieve who find the child and abandon it near a dumpster in an alley.  Objectively The thieves and the mother have essentially committed the same act.  The audience must assume that the mother abandons her child out of love, while the thieves abandon the child because it will complicate their con.  Therefore, the audience is forgiving of the mother and disgusted by the thieves.  Historygroup4 speaks about how women should not need a man to have equal opportunity. Perhaps if the mother had been married before having the child, this story would not have happened.

Five years later in the film it is revealed that the mother is now a star performer.  This ties into the theme that the wealthy only care about wealth but is superseded by women doing no wrong.  The now famous and wealthy mother seeks to find her lost child, John, and offers a $1000 reward for the return of the child.  As long as she attempts to correct her wrong she is exempt from the contempt of the audience.  She is willing to offer nearly twice the average salary at the time which can either mean that she has too much money or that she is willing to pay anything to get her child back.  She is met with no scorn from the audience because she fits the narrative of the innocent compassionate mother.

Other examples of wealth being associated with the morally corrupt are the country doctor, the orphan asylum owner, and the shelter owner.  All of these individuals look wealthy.  The doctor wears a black suit with a top hat, the orphan asylum owner wears a monocle and nice three-piece suit, and the shelter owner is rather corpulent.  These men are also morally abject in some way.  The doctor cares about the child’s living conditions and deems the Charlie Chaplin, the tramp, is unfit to raise the child because he is not the biological father and because he lives in squalor.  The orphan asylum owner has no remorse for separating families to earn more income from the government.  Lastly the shelter owner has no reservation to abduct John for money even after charging him and the tramp for a single bed.  All three of these men seem to allude to the idea that wealth will corrupt you.

The last theme is that the working class and the poor can be happy without wealth.  This is most notably demonstrated by the tramp living an almost carefree lifestyle while appearing to imitate middle class life.  After raising John for 5 years, the tramp and John developed a very close and loving relationship.  In the dream sequence, the tramp and everyone in the working-class neighborhood are angels and everyone is happy and dancing.  This suggests that they are in paradise regardless of the lack of wealth.  Wealth must not be the source of happiness even though it’s presence can make life a little easier.

At the end of the film, the tramp is invited into the mother’s home.  Joyous music plays and the film ends.  According to Sternheimer, this story fits the Horatio Algers formula.  A morally worthy tramp and hardworking woman find their way to wealth.

 

 

Works Cited

Sternheimer, Karen. Celebrity Culture and the American Dream: Stardom and Social Mobility. Routledge, 2015.

Historygroup4. 2015, https://historygroup4.wordpress.com/

The Kid. 2018, https://sdsu.kanopy.com/video/kid/

 

 

The Asexual Mother (The Shining, Stanley Kubrick, 1980)

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Wendy Torrence is portrayed by Shelley Duvall.  Throughout The Shining Wendy is always shown fully clothed with loose fitting garments.  She may resemble a nun with only her head and hands showing.  Many scenes are shot with a lower camera angle which suggests that we are seeing what Danny, her young son, would see.  Therefore Danny’s mother is not sexualized and understood to be an asexual guardian.  This nun-like appearance contrasts with the hypersexualized naked woman apparition that appears to Jack, Wendy’s husband (Jack Nicholson).   Jack can expect nothing sexual from his mom-wife and this combined with Jack’s inability to express his feelings turns him into an exaggerated cliche of the male oppressor.  Jack wields a wood axe while donning blue jeans and red plaid, a typical homage to a lumberjack.  Wendy wields a kitchen knife presumably because it may be a weapon that she had the most time with in the kitchen where the cliche woman would spend her time.

Near the end of the film, Wendy contradicts what Williams suggest.  Wendy does not become the androgynous she-hero and kill the axe-wielding Jack, she actually becomes more “womanly” and incapable.  She runs from the threat avoiding confrontation. While Jack is frozen by the elements, Wendy is frozen by fear.  For good measure Kubrick “tortures the women” just as Williams alludes to through Hitchcock, by providing Wendy with impossible and supernatural imagery.

 

Train Wreck [#1]

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4 AM on June 22, 1918

A train collides with another.  The front train is stopped while the rear train steams at 35 mph.  The engineer of the rear train dozed off and missed the warnings.  Many of the wooden cars are derailed and after a few moments the kerosene lanterns consume the wreckage in a bright inferno.  Eighty Six people are either crushed to death or smothered by flames.  A survivor, Joe Coyle, weeps on his knees.   His aspiring All-American baseball team, scattered, scorched, crushed, and few.  Most of the team did not escape.  The others among the dead were simple passengers on their way to Hammond.  The dead were exhumed from the wreckage and were all buried in a mass tomb in Chicago.

Parts of this story are false.

Joe Coyle was a clown and he weeps for his lost wife and daughter.  The baseball team was the Hagenbeck-Wallace Circus.  The dead are circus performers not simple passengers.  The mass grave, however is real.

Do you feel worse for the baseball team or the circus?

Was the mass grave simply the easiest and most cost effective solution?  Did the survivors have a say? Or was the decision made by a different authority?

Perhaps it is just culturally acceptable to bury “the others” together as an incoherent group.  Just as through Orientalism, all “Moslem” people are portrayed as uniquely indistinguishable packs of animals (Orientalism, Edward Said).  So to must all circus performers be easily lumped together with no individuality.  A singular grey clay is easier to categorize than many colors mixed.