Monday, February 27, 2012

Modern (Not) Versus Traditional

Since this week’s reading was about family, I decided to observe the socialization found in my own family. In class we discussed how in most societies there is a stereotype of the father being the breadwinner and the mother being the one who stays home and takes care of home-related topics. In the U.S, this has become less common and moreover, many countries are moving farther away from this ideology. In my blog post, I will talk about how being brought up in an Arab home has affected the way I think when it comes to family related matters.
In my own family, I notice that my parent’s roles are alike in some aspects but are different in others. For example, both of my parents are employed however, they have very different household responsibilities. My father is the one who provides us with a house but my mother turns it into a home. My father provides us with a quality education by enrolling us into the best schools but my mother comes home from work and helps us with our homework. Simply put, my father pays bills and my mother pays attention.
Growing up in a semi-traditional, semi-modern Arab family, I formed specific assumptions concerning what my role would be as a wife and mother and what my future husband’s roles would be as a husband and father. I know that as an Arab woman I am expected to know how to cook, clean and take care of the children at a minimum. Additionally, I am expected to work since more and more women of my generation are entering the workforce. I am expected to marry a man of the same social status as that of my own family or higher. My future husband is expected to have received an education equivalent to or higher than that of the one I did. He is also expected to be a workingman who can provide for his family by ensuring a house for them, good education for his children, and a comfortable lifestyle in general.
After taking a closer look into my own family, I realized how I am influenced by the modernization found in my generation yet still connected to my Arab roots. Societies are in fact shifting away from the old stereotype of the male being the breadwinner and the female being the home caretaker. However, they are not completely letting go of their traditional views.

Thursday, February 23, 2012

Everybody works but father

“What does your dad do?”

“My dad? Uh, he’s a lecturer,” I looked down at my feet, which were making patterns in the playground’s sandy grit.

“Oh, what subject does he teach?”

“Language,” I muttered, gritting my teeth. I knew what was coming next.

“Interesting. Where?”

“Well,” I was thinking fast about how I could change the topic, “He doesn’t teach anywhere as of now…”

For as long as I can remember, that was the one reply I had for that seemingly harmless “where does your dad work” question. I was beginning to give up hope that my answer would ever change.

“Uh, no, he doesn’t work right now.”

It did come up more often back then in high school, when I was in the process of interacting and developing a social identity.

And it wasn’t a pleasant question.

“Oh, he’s a lecturer. Hey, I love your shoes! Where did you get those from?”

Dad had a history of being constantly in and out of jobs. Six months here, two months there, yearlong gaps in between. Looking back now, I think I can pin the inconsistency on spikes in he-cession.

Nonetheless, it was to transform my societal outlook forever.

That was the time that saw my dear mother become "Mrs. Dad" when circumstances made her take over as the family breadwinner. She worked round the clock—7:00 a.m. to 2:00 p.m. at her workplace, then longer hours back home.

My dad?

That is the funniest part.

His shift would begin everyday at around the same time, lasting the same number of hours.

Only, he would make breakfast, sweep and mop, tidy rooms and prepare lunch. I think he could have related very well to the following review from the 1983 comedy drama film, Mr. Mom:

“Jack soon finds himself overwhelmed with laundry, cooking, cleaning and other household chores. He is frustrated with the never ending menial tasks. His only social contracts around the house are his children and though he tries to engage them in work, he is often left feeling frustrated and alone. Jack shouts at his wife, ‘My brain is like oatmeal. I yelled at Kenny today for coloring outside the lines! Megan and I are watching the same TV shows and I’m liking them! I’m loosing it.’”

Only, I must say, life wasn’t all that rough. Mom and dad adapted to the bizarre responsibility transverse. I did too.

Before long, I had spent 12 years living in this role reversal. Although the family responsibilities clearly appeared uncomfortably topsy turvy to me…..well, I was okay. It was just the way my family worked—dad cooked and cleaned, mom brought in the money. I was habituated.

Yet when that question was asked, I would always be “thinking fast about how I could change the topic.” One more time, I used to brood, and I’m going to snap. “No, my dad doesn’t work for god sakes!! Only mom does. But you what? That is okay with me! Because they have managed to make it work so well…”

Come to think of it, although it was always okay with me, I knew, even as a fifth grader, that it would never be so with society.


That rigid structure of standards and values everyone wishes to be a well- integrated part of.

If you function out of norms, you are the odd one out.

For all those years before my father finally got a steady job, my family and me-- despite being financially well off-- were the odd-ones-out.

That is how society is fundamentally structured. The male and female spheres of responsibilities have been laid out quite distinctly, almost as a stringent law of nature that has to be respected and abided by. The man pays the bills; the woman takes care of the children. She can have a career, which is becoming increasingly common these days, but home and hearth still remain the top priority.

Although this concept is increasingly changing in today’s fast-paced, modernizing society, an absolute gendered division of labor in the private realm is still a difficult idea to digest.

“I just think that’s absurd,” said sociology professor Geoff Harkness, and I couldn’t agree more. What’s wrong so long as a family manages to function?

But modern society is yet to catch up with the notion. I think we were a family at the wrong place at the wrong time. Hopefully, a few years from now, society will be much more receptive to the idea.

Oh and dad, if you are reading this, I just want you to know that you make the best pea and potato soup ever.

Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Thai Chi and My Mother

According to some people, excluding me of course, Chinese food could be considered a therapy for the soul, something to worship. So after begging my mother to take me to a Chinese restaurant to have a taste of the holy food she agreed, and she even told me that she knows a great place in Villagio: Thai Chi.
My mother was positive that this restaurant is the best in Doha, I didn’t bother to ask why so I went along. After arriving in Villagio, I noticed that it is indeed the coolest looking restaurant compared to those around it, and the waitresses were wearing beautiful qipao. The restaurant was packed. We had to wait for 15 minutes to be seated. In those 15 minutes I was looking at the costumers in the restaurants, and since it was the 14th of February (Valentine’s Day a.k.a National Sports day in Qatar) the place was filled with couples. Except for an old man who was dining alone. I never paid attention to the nationalities of the costumers though.
I probably went through the menu ten times before I actually settled on an order: noodles and sweet and sour chicken, I honestly didn’t know what to order, everything seemed so delicious. My mother on the other hand gave the waitress the benefit of the doubt and let her choose for her. While waiting for the food my mother kept looking at an Asian couple next to us. She kept telling me about what they ordered: “oh look, they ordered tea, do you think we should? What is that? A soup, we should’ve gotten soup too, it looks good” and went on and on about it. Finally, I asked her why did she choose this place in particular for us, her answer was very simple: because I saw a lot of Chinese people eating here, so it must be good. *Awkward silence*
I looked around and indeed, more than half of the people dining here were Asian, coincidence? Maybe. But since when do we judge a restaurant depending on who eats there? According to my mother, that’s how we know the good restaurants from “fake” ones. I personally think that the race of the costumers has nothing to do with the quality of food. Authenticity on the other hand is important, if I were in a foreign country, I would certainly go to middle-eastern restaurant, regardless of how good the food is there, if the place reminds me of home I will be a regular costumer there. So maybe that is why.

Hollywood Classical Style As A Product Of a Sexist Culture

Classical Hollywood filmmaking style is considered by analysts to be that of a male's gaze. For example, the framing of shots as well as the editing style seem to be executed with a male (gendered) characteristics, hence excluding or marginalizing the female characteristics. And example of a male gaze shot would be a tracking shot of a woman's body, which mimics the (typical, heterosexual) male's eye movement. Movies with central female protagonists of course explore the female gaze, such as Humoresque (Negulesco, 1946) starring Joan Crawford. The film revolves around her relationship to a younger violinist, and the film is filled with concert scenes, where Crawford 'gazes' at the handsome talented violinist. While this movie acknowledges the female gaze, the filmmaking style has to contain and negate this gaze, which could also hint at desire. Crawford's gaze at the violinist is almost always undermined or nullified, and that is done using several different techniques, most obvious is the Crawford's character's near sightedness. She always has to wear her glasses when she's looking at the violinist:
Another technique is the framing, in which Crawford’s gaze is obstructed by framing her between two men. This is a negating technique, in which the men’s gaze at Crawford is supposed to nullify her gaze at the violinist:
This classical style is a product of a global culture, a sexist one, in which a male’s gaze is justified and allowed, whereas a female’s gaze is suppressed and unacknowledged. In the early Hollywood movies, especially those that follow the Hays code, the female characters are punished for now following the norm and what’s expected of them, such as being virtuous and respected. In Humoresque, Crawford’s character is punished by death, and what validates that death is that it was a suicide, hence self-inflected. Again, this suicide undermines the female psyche in the film discourse.

Sunday, February 19, 2012

The Full Beauty Salon Experience

In contrast to almost everyone else I know, my mother doesn’t enjoy going to a beauty salon. When I asked her why, she replied saying that it was always an awkward experience for her where she was always stared at by all the other employees in the hair salon and felt like the hairstylists would ask so many questions that she had no choice but to eventually answer and tell them about her personal life.

The more I thought about it, the more I realized a beauty salon was the perfect setting for a sociological experiment. I asked my mother to book a hair appointment for me and also asked her if I could accompany her to her next appointment at the LaDuree Salon at La Cigale Hotel.

While my mother was getting her hair cut, I observed my surroundings and tried to figure out what the social norms of a beauty salon were.  There’s a conventional procedure that most beauty salons follow if you’re getting a haircut: first, the receptionist greets you. After she/he confirms your appointment, you’re asked to sit down and wait your turn. This is really the only time you’ll have to yourself, so you’ll pick up a magazine and flip through pages. In Qatar, they usually ask you if you’d like to order anything – usually a drink. After a few minutes, you’re asked if you want to wash your hair. After your hair is washed, you’re seated for the cut.

I found the hair stylists themselves to be the most interesting aspect of the salon. I realized that they tend to be overly friendly, they listen to what you have to say, and not only do they probe you with personal questions about their lives, but they share a lot of personal information about their own lives. (I can guarantee what any woman who has ever gotten a manicure or a pedicure at a salon has been asked at least once whether or not she has a boyfriend).

 As it is portrayed in several different films, such as Beauty Shop, a hair salon is usually a place where people aren’t afraid to speak their minds. This explains why the hair stylists themselves are so intrusive with their questions – this is what’s normal for them. Even looking at the layout of the salon, I noticed that the waiting area and chairs are usually placed in front of where the haircuts are taking place. This allows multi-way conversations to take place, as other people are able to overhear conversations.

During an interaction between the salon owner and the hair stylist, I found myself relating the “beauty salon industry” to the entertainment industry, in which I found the hair stylists very similar to music artists, actors, or even filmmakers and the owners to the big corporations that own everything. The relationship between the owner and the stylist reminded me very much of the company conglomerates and music artists. The owners only seem to care about themselves and the money they make, as do production companies.   

When it came time for my own hair appointment, I decided I would defy the social norms of the salons and see what sanctions I would receive in return. After my mother greeted the receptionist, my mother and I went and sat down, waiting for my hair wash. My mother’s hand automatically reached for a magazine. I looked around the room and noticed that two of the other hair stylists were staring and my mother and me. Instead of looking away, I met their stare and tilted my head slightly. I’ll have to admit, holding that stare was very difficult and awkward, but eventually, they both frowned and looked away, staring a conversation with one another.

A woman passed by my mother and I and asked if we would like to order anything. Before my mother could politely decline, I asked the woman if there was a menu I could look at to order food from. She gave me a strange look and apologized, saying they only served water and coffee.

After I had my hair washed, the hair stylist, Lawrence, came up to me. He asked me how I wanted to cut my hair. I told him I just wanted it trimmed. He proceeded with a joke, asking me if I wanted to cut it as short as my mother’s (my mom has a pixie-ish hair cut). My expression remained the same. He hesitated, upset at the fact that I didn’t laugh at his joke. He took the joke even further and asked me if I wanted to shave my head. I paid no attention to him. He frowned and started to cut my hair.

Throughout the haircut, he tried to start a conversation with me. I only replied with one-word answers, and at times, I wouldn’t even give him an answer. I don’t think I’ve ever had a faster hair cut in my life. It seems that by breaking the norms, I made him uncomfortable enough for him to just want to get rid of me as soon as possible.

I don’t blame my mother for not liking the “beauty salon experience.” I realized that it can be quite the awkward experience for someone who doesn’t like to be social with strangers. If you do participate in the conversations, you’ll feel uneasy. If you choose to ignore the norms and conversations, then you’ll receive negative sanctions from the employees, making your experience just as unpleasant. However, despite the potentially socially awkward situation, if you're looking for a good haircut - then this is definitely the place to go.

Saturday, February 18, 2012

How Villagio Cinema pays its bills

Recently, I heard a very interesting fact about Villagio Cinema. Villagio Cinema when it first opened had very reasonable prices, talking more specifically when it came to the food & beverages provided to the public, for example a plate of Nachos cost 15 Riyals.
After couple of months that the cinema was running, everything went up. What do you think the reason was? Trying to make more profit or maybe trying to cover the cost? Well I was told, that the real reason was that the electricity-water bill was too high up, that the cinema had to try to cover it's cost, and also make profit.
Therefore everything went up, from food and drinks. The plate of nachos went up from being 15 QR to 35QR overnight. Now, actually doing the reading, and discussion in class, Qatar is slowly using the factor of going to the cinema as not only cover cost, but also money making. According to our class reading, commercializing or maybe making film market in Qatar is happening slowly. The film empire that is all over the world, is coming to Qatar, and it's there to cover the costs of business in Qatar. Maybe there isn't as much product placement in Qatar, but in the cinema, there is so many different ways to cover costs and make money.
I googled and found that Villagio Cinema has a website, and even the website has advertisements in it. Yet again a way that Villagio Cinema making money, from people wanting to just watch a film. I attached a screen shot from the website showing the advertisements.

Friday, February 17, 2012

Culture and Gender Boundaries

On the 14th of February, Qatar celebrated its first official National Sports Day. As many went out to join in on the activities, all over Doha, culture flourished across the streets. From early morning till late in the dusk evening, people showed off their athletic abilities and their sense of fashion and culture.

But wait, how can everyone just go out and have a great time while still maintaining their cultural and Islamic bounds? Well in Qatar, people sure knew how to do that.

As I walked around through Aspire Park with my family, I was constantly shown the diversity in this country. How foreigners fit so perfectly with Arabs or locals was very amusing to see and experience.

The children had their playground and an area specific to celebrate the Sports Day filled with trampolines and bouncy castles. They jumped and screamed and laughed, one might consider the boys and girls to be of one generation, one unity. There is no gender line to cross when you’re that young, but then they realize this, as they grow older.

The gender line was clearly drawn later as I saw a group of men and women sitting together, but not with each other. There had been a certain distance between them. The women were covered up in the traditional Abaya, while the men wore their traditional Thobes.

Other families across the park didn’t seem to mind the gender line, however you can see the pattern occur to the different families. Every family was sitting closely compact together. Leaving sufficient space between them and the other families at the park. This proves that people not only follow gender boundaries, but also social norms.

The people cheered and waved at the marathon participants as they ran by them on the track. Some people even booed off ones who had tried to cut through the grass and not run with the other participants. I must be honest, I was one of those boo-errs, it just wasn’t fair!

Thursday, February 16, 2012

"The ruling ideas are the ideas of the ruling class."

In recent news, Qatar has been reported to have one of the highest densities of millionaires in the world. I found this extremely interesting because apart from the fact that Qatar has won the Fifa World Cup 2022 bid, it sheds light on its economy. But I’m sure that these statistics are exclusive to only Qatari nationals.
Article on Qatar having one of the highest densities of millionaires in the world here

As part of an assignment I had to do for my journalism class, I asked a couple of people what they thought about this report. Many people seemed glad that Qatar was making the news. Some people seem to feel that in comparison to other nations people in Qatar have better incomes. Others felt that if the media want to place Qatar in the limelight, then other aspects could have been focused on, like tourism.

Although it may seem to the international audience that the residents of Qatar are very well to do and experience upward social mobility, it isn’t entirely true. The vast majority of the population is comprised of expatriates, mainly laborers and workers. International news never seems to touch upon the increasingly dreadful conditions that the workers live in, maintaining their rather low level of social mobility.

Indeed there are some cases of upward social mobility. An example would be the occasional raffles hosted by various grocery or department stores in which a member of the working class may have won a Land Cruiser through sheer luck. Lulu and Family Food Center usually arrange these raffles. Another example, which is not inclusive to expatriates, is inheritance. If a member of the royal family, who is currently attending university or high school, inherits a fortune from his parents, then he will experience upward social mobility.

There is also an issue of job security in Qatar. If, for example, an expat is laid off or dismissed from work, then they have to leave the country unless they can sign another contract within a certain period of time. So, many expats are concerned about losing their job and what their situation will be once they have to leave.

Despite Qatar being a tax-free nation, the affordability of goods to working class individuals is not very feasible. Laborers and domestic workers usually reside in shared accommodations – at least 10-12 per house. Recently there has been an influx of workers in Qatar, which means that there will be even less housing to accommodate them.
Article on the increase of workers in Qatar here

Many locals have also protested against laborers living in residential areas for the reason that they lack respect towards local values and traditions. This can be viewed as an example of hegemony, when the culture and ideology of a dominant group are transmitted and accepted in ways that make them seem natural. Except in this case, the dominant group is stating that the tradition is not being followed.
Article on laborers being moved out of residential areas here

The issue of laborers is growing in Qatar, and many other expats are aware of the situation. While interviewing people for my story, one person said that Qatar should focus more on the issue of social stratification rather than the wealth of the people.

Glass Ceiling barriers Can Be Broken!

When sociologists study gender, they focus on male-female differences in behavior and appearance that have been socially created. Sexism has brought many inequalities to women, especially within areas of education, work and politics. By sexism, I mean the belief that one sex- and by extension, one gender- is innately superior to another, justifying unequal treatment of the sexes. The concept of gender stratification becomes evident, as there tends to be unequal access to power, prestige, and property on the basis of sex/gender.

The notion of glass ceiling could be the reason for gender inequality. In this case, glass ceiling is an invisible barrier that keeps women from reaching the highest ranks of jobs or industries. This may be the case with some women, but not with all women, certainly not Mercedes Duerineckx. She is the founder and CEO of the International and well known, Art Wanson Gallery. She has created a luxurious platform for all art expressions, under the trademark of excellence, tradition and exclusivity.

Women tend to face gender discrimination within higher education, but Duerinckx didn’t. She got her Business Administration degree in Tourism.

Duerinckx’s education and Art Wanson Gallery is not her only accomplishment. She has been awarded businesswomen of the year 1992 in Morocco, Founder and CEO in real state industry 1985-1992, and the executive member of Spanish Chamber of Commerce in Tanger.

She said that growing up in a multicultural family has helped her become who she is today. Duerinckx was born in a Spanish family in Morocco and later on moved to Spain and France. In sociological terms, she was raised in a highbrow culture, with a diverse cultural background.

Wednesday, February 15, 2012

Happy February 14th!!

So, there’s a new holiday in town- Qatar now celebrates a “National Sports Day.”

Everyone gets a day off on February 14th. Yes, February 14th, the day that the rest of the world would consider as Valentines Day. Coincidence? Maybe. But, some people say it’s just a way to stop people from celebrating Valentines Day, which is not a day of celebration on the Islamic calendar.

Qatar’s locals and a lot of its society are of Islamic background and culture, which is also how the monarchy works here, according to the Islamic Sharia. Even though children grow up in Muslim homes and are socialized into a Muslim-like atmospheres, but that doesn’t mean they are cut off of televisions and the Internet. Most of the cartoons, shows and movies they watch come right from the US, where they learn about days like Valentines Day and Christmas. A lot of the malls and shops also use these holidays as marketing strategies to attract customers, not forgetting that a lot of the community in Qatar is not Muslim. You would see Christmas trees in malls on Christmas Eve and heart shaped cakes in bakeries on Valentines Day. All this factors definitely play a part in the socialization of these children and teenagers as they grow up.

What about these kids who are now going to grow up with a totally new holiday? Will they forget about Valentines Day and just celebrate the National Sports Day instead? When I went out to witness February 14th this year, I kept an open eye for the way people celebrated it, whether it was for Valentines Day, or the National Sports Day. All work places, universities and schools took the day off. A lot of these places celebrated with an all day of sport activities. However, I turned on the TV and went online and the rest of the world was still celebrating Valentines Day. I walked into Dunkin Donuts and it served “always” and “forever” heart shaped donuts.

I went out for dinner and there was a romantic feel to the restaurant and a lot of candles everywhere, not footballs and basketballs.

I’ll be looking forward to seeing how February 14th will be played out in the coming years. For now, all I can say is that Qatar might be celebrating National Sports Day in the morning, but most of the people and restaurants and still celebrating Valentines Day during the night!

I guess this is could be good news for the boys, no more spending money on your girls on the 14th of February. Just grab your trainers and “sport buddies” and go out for a run!
Happy National Day, Qatar and for the rest of the world, Happy Valentines Day!

Tuesday, February 14, 2012

Gender-neutral children?

Gender is a very controversial issue in today’s world. Many women find themselves more masculine than what’s acceptable in the society, and many men find themselves more feminine that what’s acceptable in the society as well. These rules that society forms creates many stereotypes about the two genders that may limit the chances they have in life. For example, the glass ceiling prevents many women from achieving high management position just because of their gender. Likewise, in some countries, men are forced to serve in the military for two or more years, which takes a lot of the time they can use for studying or working.

Despite these rules that society entails about gender and identity, many people choose to deviate. Some females and males dress and act in the way society thinks how the opposite gender should. So, because these people are breaking social norms, they get sanctioned, formally or informally. If these deviations happen in Saudi Arabia, for example, as a sanction, these deviators will be sent to the authorities. On the other hand, if these deviations happen in Lebanon, the deviators are likely to get sanctioned informally from people around them.

Moreover, a number of parents have been trying to raise gender-neutral children. They refuse to tell the gender of their baby. They dress them in both female and make clothes. Paint their room with gender-neutral colors, as well. One of these parents live in the United Kingdom, and they taught their kid, Sasha, to absorb both genders into his identity. They tried to keep their child’s sex as a secret, but once the kid entered school they had to announce that their kid is a boy.

Many people critique these parents who try to raise a gender-neutral children. They claim that its unfair that parents make these decisions for their children, because it may make them look as freaks in the eyes of their schoolmates and get them bullied at school. When they grow up they can choose to adopt some aspect of the other gender or change their gender if they want, as they say. But even if the parents choose to raise their child according to the gender rules assigned by the society, they are still making the decision without their kid’s approval. The only difference is that the chances are less that they will get bullied at school.

The question still remains whether it’s possible to raise a gender-neutral child in today’s highly gender-polarized world. If the person is gender-neutral, which restroom will he/she use, and which gender should they check in application or official records?

Monday, February 13, 2012


When I was in 6th grade, our final class project was to map out our life and where we would be in 20 years. Appropriately titled, “This is your life,” the project was supposed to be a fun way to map out our future. Each student basically designed his/her own ‘American Dream,’ complete with the notion of the white picket fence.

Naïve is an understatement. I think I may have been delusional at the time, with my desires of becoming a forensic scientist (remember the days of CSI?). Alas, I can't be too harsh on my 6th grade self, mainly because, at the time, Qatar was not in my vocabulary, much less on my radar of places I wanted to go.

My visions have definitely changed, but the conceptual ‘American Dream’ still lives on. As a through-line in American historiography, everyone, at some point, has had his/her own interpretation of the American dream. Hollywood may have been the first one to exploit the dream for financial gains, but its trajectory through American history is older than the nation itself.

As early as the 1700’s, Benjamin Franklin’s aphorisms in Poor Richard’s Almanac depicted sage advice for Americans. Pithy phrases like “He that has a trade has an estate” and “Industry, perseverance, and frugality make fortune yield.” This brings us back to Weber’s protestant work ethic in defining capitalist nations and their work/spending habits.
Franklin’s key to life is summed up in hard work and education. Can Franklin safely promise these outcomes? Not really, but he isn’t the only one who has tried. American writer Horatio Alger wrote wildly popular ‘rags-to-riches’ stories in the 19th century. In modern times, Hollywood isn’t the only one to portray the gleaming American dream. Nas’ 2003 song, “I can” has the same message. “I know I can…Be what I wanna be…If I work hard at it…I'll be where I wanna be,” sung by a chorus of children.

Part of me wants to believe that the American dream is a possibility for everyone. But at the same time, how high is the deck stacked against those who try to achieve upward social mobility? Talk to any Occupy Wall Street protester and they will give you one set of answers. Talk to a Wharton Business school graduate and you will get a completely different answer.

Everyone wants to be The Joneses

In this blog post I will be talking about conspicuous consumption and conspicuous leisure in the movie, “The Joneses”. In this movie a self-marketing unit working on increasing the revenue of other companies hires a fake family to promote for their products. The Joneses, who are living the American Dream, come to this neighborhood with the company’s products, fancy cars, clothe. They have to live in a fancy house and get the job of making others want the products they have done. Throughout the movie, we see conspicuous consumption appear when The Joneses wear and use purchases such as phones, jewelry, food, ect, making people around them impressed.

From the readings and especially the movie we watched previously, “Six Degrees Of Separation”, we always see how highbrow culture consumers tend to sell their life style to people of lowbrow culture. Yet, in this movie, we see fake, high social class family trying to sell their lifestyle to their upper class neighbors. “If people want you, they want what you’ve got”, and according to that The Joneses manage to be the most popular and wanted people in the town by making connections with store owners, throwing parties and making friends, impressing them with the things they own and make them want to own those things as well.

The increases in revenues of these companies are measured by numbers, calculations and graphs. Each member of the fake family is asked to get the highest numbers possible. The fake family did not display class and status through the things they have, yet, they also practiced high-culture pastimes as we see the man of the fake family playing golf, and play classical music.

In short, the movie, “The Joneses” shows us how people of highbrow cultures live, and the effect they can have on each others’ decisions. As known such movies are pointed to people of lowbrow culture, but in real life such life style affect people of highbrow culture too.

Sunday, February 12, 2012

The Glamor of the lowbrow culture.

Fight Club blew my mind. It felt like a 136-minute rollercoaster ride. And if anyone ever said that Inception was intense, it wasn’t. Inception is an animated movie meant for children in comparison to Fight Club. I spent an hour later going over scenes, reading the script online and trying to figure out whom Jack is.

If the concept of social mobility has ever been appealing in a movie, this movie isn’t it. Social mobility is the movement of an individual up or down the social class system- either by marriage (like in The Lady and the Tramp, when the tramp moves up in social class) or by becoming the rocket scientist that you always admired (October Sky). Either way, movies have always been about upward social mobility or finding the American dream.

The American dream ideology: a set belief that through personal effort, a person can achieve upward social mobility. Disney is the perfect advocate for this idea. Walt Disney’s riches to rags story has 100,000 people in front of its Cinderella Castle every New Year screaming, “Dreams come true.”

Fight Club is NOT a Disney movie.

David Fincher, director of some of our generation’s most brilliant movies: Seven, Panic Room, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo, The Curious Case of Benjamin Button and The Social Network has also directed Fight Club.

Based on the book that Chuck Palahniuk, American author, wrote, the movie reflects Palahniuk’s life. Having grown up in a broken home and been the member of a rebel group called the Cacophony Society, his experiences and ideas seep through the movie with so much pain, cynicism and honesty.

The problem with the American Dream ideology (among many others) is that a lot of people who do work hard never see their dreams come true. This movie is the contraflow of every inspiring American Dream movie that you have ever seen- The Pursuit of Happyness, It Could Happen to You and Rocky.

Fight Club is the product of the rage of every person that never got what they dreamt of.
“We've all been raised on television to believe that one day we'd all be millionaires, and movie gods, and rock stars, but we won't. We're slowly learning that fact. And we're very, very pissed off.”

It is the story of an unnamed man- an insomniac, an over-stressed employee of “a major car company,” a man who is alone in the world. He talks about life, about how he wishes it would end – in a mid air collision when he’s on a business-related flight, having his coffee with a single serving cream, a single serving pat of butter, next to his “single serving friend.”

The unnamed man defines himself as a pathetic, mindless consumer who is sold out by clever pieces of furniture from IKEA. Desperately in search for a cure to his insomnia, he attends mutual aid movements for dying people so he has someone that he can talk to, someone he can cry with. Hitting rock bottom was the key. “Losing all hope is freedom.”

On a business trip, in a plane, he meets Tyler Durden- a man who is the opposite of everything that our Ikea man is. They talk about Durden’s work: making soap. Durden talks about how explosives can be made from “simple household items.”
Our protagonist is fascinated. Entertained.

Back in his city, he heads to his condo only to see it blown apart into pieces, nothing left of anything that he ever had. He calls Tyler Durden, and 3 pitchers of beer later; Fight Club was born- all because none of them had ever been in a fight before.

Tyler Durden and the unnamed man begin to live together in an old, abandoned house that is about ready to fall apart. “By the end of the month, I dint miss TV. I dint even mind the warm, stale refrigerator.” Durden begins to teach the narrator how money doesn’t matter and that we were never meant to be special. His philosophy was that fear is futile and that if you fear anything, you must master it.

“You are not special. You are not a beautiful or unique snowflake. You are the same decaying matter as everything else.”

Our Ikea man finds that he no longer cares about anything any longer- threatening his boss into giving him a check every week of the year and getting into a fight every week was all that mattered anymore. That was his freedom.

“You are not your job. You are not what’s in your bank account. You are not what you own.”
In the end, we find out a lot more about our unnamed-Ikea-protagonist-guy and everything we have ever known is all a confusing zero. Chuck Palahniuk has taken The Iron Cage of Rationality to a new level where “white collar slaves” are everything but attractive.

Karl Marx was disproved in this movie when he said that the ruling ideas are the ideas of the ruling class.

You need to watch it- going to college is not going to make sense anymore.