Saturday, March 31, 2012

Friends With Money



Friends With Money, a film written and directed by Nicole Holofcener in 2006. Friends with money represents different lifestyles, relationships and the problems a couple can face. The film features four female friends from different social classes.



Social class
was expressed by wealth, education and occupations. The first scene in the movie was a scene of Olivia (Jennifer Aniston) cleaning houses. We saw Christine (Catherine Keener) in her office writing , which gave us an idea of her job as a television writer. Jane (Frances McDormand) the third character works as fashion designer. Franny (Joan Cusack) a housewife who does charity work. In all three occupations, social class was clearly displayed, where Olivia from the lower class, Christine and Jane from the middle class and Franny from the upper class. Wealth was the result of a good job. At some point in the movie they were delivering the idea of the more wealthy you are the less problems you have, and we saw that when Christine and Jane were talking about Franny and Matt (Franny’s husband)’s relationship and how they have a problem-free life.



Conspicuous consumption
also took a place in this movie, we saw Franny’s husband buying their daughter a 95-dollar shoes, Jane’s husband buying her a fancy handbag for her birthday and Olivia’s addiction with Lancôme products.



Conspicuous leisure
was shown in different ways through the restaurants they go to, buying tables in fundraisers events, women wearing designers’ dresses and jewelries and men wearning elegant suites and ties.

Friday, March 30, 2012

Bureaucracy and Education



            Seeking knowledge is an important task in life, as education becomes the building block of any field in life, from planting to architecture and so on. Not knowing about sociological theories and how does it shapes our understanding of life could block us from seeing things that lies beneath the word ‘education’ or educational institutes.



            Educational institutes usually work with the same guidelines. They all have rules; they’ll ask you what to do and what to prevent yourself from doing. Therefore, students or faculties are not the ones who put the guidelines for their actions in the campus; the one who has the ‘control’ is the dean, the owner of the university or someone who is responsible for the education in the country. Therefore, educational institutes tend to be utilitarian organizations that are classified also as bureaucratic. Students go to school, universities or any other educational institute in order to seek knowledge or gain a degree; hence educational institutes are utilitarian. Educational institute put guidelines and goals for achieving a higher rank of education and students graduating with a high degree in order to compete with other institutes and raise their honor, therefore they’ve a goal or value to achieve by having a certain control on the students, so it’s bureaucratic.

            But is educational institutes being bureaucratic and utilitarian is beneficial or helpless? From the point of view of society, guidelines set by educational institutes can cause social conflicts, as some rules might seem fair to one and unfair to another. For example plagiarism, as some people might get affected if someone copied their work without them knowing and at the end, the plagiarist and the victim of plagiarism will be responsible. However, from the point of view of the functionalist, rules and guidelines are necessarily for helping people to achieve a certain point as they put certain tasks with certain deadlines so that employees or students won’t delay their work and would learn this much in this time. But that also bring us back to the fact of being controlled by these guidelines that are set by someone in a higher statues, therefore, we cant satisfy both sides, education always have a functional purpose and a conflict.

            Not only the large educational institutes such as universities have rules and guidelines, however, even school nowadays provides student with a small book full of guidelines and rules to be followed. When I used to be in primary school or even secondary school, in Qatar schools never had a full book that tells you what to do and what to prevent from doing, but when I got to high school at the year 2007, guidelines and rules were filing life. Not only my high school “Al-Bayan” had a book full of guidelines, but also online courses, social and educational centers…etc. all had policies. Having such policies, didn’t allow me or any other person seeking knowledge to do what we actually want to do, as we all had to do this and that at that certain deadlines and if we didn’t do things the same why, we fail. Therefore, it’s not a choice to follow what it is giving to us if we want the knowledge or the degree; it’s a must or else, game over. 


            In someway or another, we can’t do everything we want to do without following anyone’s rules. There is always someone who leads us around. Can be negative, but also positive, as if we break all the rules and we did whatever we wish, we lose organization in life as well as everyone will have his/her own revolution. 

Thursday, March 29, 2012

AnimeQtr Event

Last week an Anime event has been held in VCUQ's atrium. The event was organized by a group of people, some were students from education city, and some others out of education city(they formed a group in FB long time before planning the event)  And I got the chance to participate in the event by selling my artworks/drawings.
The event mainly consisted of different events where people would gather and solve quizzes, play video games, or show their artwork or sell goods.


I noticed that at the event, people basically didn't know one another, yet they've interacted with each other as if they knew each other for a long time. I'm going to try to see it in a sociological way, and that these people bonded with each other without much thinking(which lead us to social interaction, a method of way people interact with one another.) They formed an in-group; group of people who share same interests(which is interest in Japanese animations and cartoons in this case.) and they're also classified as otakus(which is a term used to refer to people with obsessive interests, particularly, anime, manga, and video games.)


I think these people were acting very friendly with one another because they shared the same social status or position at that event, they all got the chance to cosplay, participate in the events there of video game tournament and some quizzes. And also as fans. They probably wouldn't have acted the same way if they were around people of different interest(I know I wouldn't) they know that not everyone is interested in anime and even some people consider anime fans "weird"(I actually heard that from a classmate just before the event started, and I became defensive, because I'm also a fan of anime, so thats the solidarity that I felt with other anime fans) and I'm going to quote what that person said to another person while talking about the event, " I've never really seen an anime fan that's normal, they all act weird."
Since I participated in this event as a person who sells their work, I got to meet different people. It was really interesting to see that even though they all share same interest, they came to me with different motivations. Some people came to talk to me about business opportunities, while some others wanted to buy my work, and some just wanted to look at what I had. Even though they shared the same interest, they were all different.


Finally, I want to say that I think the event was a really successful one, it's the first of its kind in Qatar, even though it was not sponsored it was a success alhamdulel-Allah. Plus what I also think made the event succeed was the big number of people who gathered for it (I believe more than five-hundred people visited VCUQ that day/night) I think it's just that when people share the same passion+position, things can work out very well (though people were from different ages and professions, I believe that they were considered equal that day, because they gathered as fans that day, not as professors, students, nor anything else.)
I hope that in the future, more events like this one will be held. It's really nice to see people of the same interest interact with one another.

MOU-ed Over


"Football, the beautiful game, is in a world of it own and follows the mores that exist in a typical bureaucratic system."
The above quote is a lie.

Football...well, sure it is the beautiful game, but it also has high end politics that are powerful enough to bring up a nation in the eyes of the world, unite social groups, raise the players' social status to that of idols, and even bring down a community or country that takes the sport very seriously.

However, a football club is, in reality, a bureaucratic, for-profit company that sells tickets and merchandise to fans who come to watch the players who are marketed as celebrities. The clubs hold assets, with annual profits that can go as high £255.7 million as Arsenal Football Club in England reported last season. FC Barcelona of Spain, though, reported 420.2 million euros in the 2009-2010 season. They spend on the stadium, facilities, staff, players, their home and away kits, and managers. Every penny spent has to be calculated for carefully due the ridiculously high amount of risk involved.

Steve Macfarlane @ Arsenal FC (source: Flickr)



Interesting, isn't it?

So what happens when they don't spend right? Quite naturally, they report losses. In extreme cases like the Glasgow Rangers, it can even lead to bankruptcy. The footballing spirit of the community falls because hearts are broken. Ticket sales drop sharply, and players leave to save either their own careers or even to bring some much needed cash into the  club, as Kaká famously did for AC Milan back in summer of 2009. He moved to where losses and the global recession did not exist: FC Real Madrid, currently managed by the uber-popular José Mourinho.


Mourinho's case needs to be highlighted, with regard to bureaucracy. A football club is formally run by the President or Board of Directors, who make the decisions as to what manager to bring in, kits, and most of the other things I mentioned in the start of this post. Mourinho prefers to have a lot of dominance in any social grouping he is put in. It doesn't matter what the hierarchy declares he is. He likes to have things his way.

The characteristics of a bureaucracy are pretty clear cut. There is a set division of labour, authority is always hierarchal, positions are filled based on objective criteria only, every decision made is duly recorded and there are written rules.

In Real Madrid, the hierarchy and bureaucracy exist, but, at the same time, they don't really. President Florentino Pérez actually (and unnaturally for him) broke the mores of this type of stratified organization by actually giving Mourinho (a.k.a. The Special One) full rein. This way, Mou now makes larger decisions than what would normally be allowed. He also disregards Perez's warnings and defames others in press conferences if he, or his team, were attacked in anyway - that's him exercising some informal negative sanctions.

Well, yes, he does protect his players. Although, there is a sense of alienation where the President is involved. 'If you don't win, you are axed'. The players become tools for various marketing strategies for the sake of high profits in an organization where only few monopolize the power. Classic oligarchy.
Mourinho does not really seek to eliminate this, but he does not abandon the players either. He serves as a link between the two groups. In the end, the players end up weeping like girls when he decides to leave (Drogba custard, anyone?) .

This is just an example of how an organization actually works in reality.

To be very honest, wherever I look - for me, and for Mourinho - true bureaucracy is either extinct, rare, or completely non-existant. Oligarchy, however, does commonly exist in a lot of places, and certainly so at Real Madrid.

Brian Davidson of brazilfooty asks this:
"Is a little bureaucracy a good thing?"
That I don't really know. Perhaps you might have an answer for him~

Is there more to ROTA than just the projects?


In sociology class we study a variety of topics by scanning through the chapters. I found the recent class to be the most interesting class from the previous classes. I say this because I learned something new and interesting that never captured my attention. We spoke about Organizations in terms of Formal and Informal organizations. The discussion looked at Voluntary organizations and Utilitarian organizations.  ROTA is an organization that best defines theses two kinds of organizations according to Sociology. 

“Towards Education for all…Today, Tomorrow, Forever” is there priority mission statement. I am currently a non-paid worker for ROTA (Reach Out to Asia) and this experience gives me a valid explanation of judging the type of Organization it is in our society. The organization has a hierarchy of employees where some are paid to run the organization, while most do voluntary projects to create awareness of the illiterate people who are less fortunate or hard working laborers to get proper education. My job in ROTA is to educate eighteen cleaning staff members of Education City twice a week. These workers are mostly recruited from Sri lank and possess low skills in communicating with their colleagues or people in charge of them in English. They fail to understand certain vocabulary that is very important in order for them to do allocated tasks.

Therefore, I am an individual who gives 2 hours of her time to help these workers learn a few English words, so that their bosses and employers have an easier time communicating with them. ROTA is also a utilitarian organization. A utilitarian organization indicates that the organization has a specific goal/ purpose and implies that some members get paid for running the few aspects of ROTA and is usually a matter of individual choice. I can strongly say this organization is not a Coercive organization. The aim of ROTA is to increase access to educationalfacilities in a crisis situation. The chairperson H.E Sheikha Mayassa bint Hamad Al-Thani and a few other Board members provide guidance and direction for the charity.

Since the organization is a utilitarian organization, this means they are Bureaucratic. A bureaucratic organization indicates that an organization has forms for everything, a lot of paper work, policies, procedures, and deadlines. This organization incorporates all of those attributes in order for an individual to be a non-paid employee, or part of a quick volunteer project. The organization strictly believes in their aim and ways to achieve that aim. The organization has to be bureaucratic because they are dealing with a large number of people of different knowledge skills and areas. They have to deal with the volunteers and the people who need the voluntary assistance. They have to try and get people to sponsor their notion and they work forward with that support and funding’s. Qtel and Vodafone are so far the most spoken about sponsors for the projects of ROTA.












ROTA is a non-profit organization, and thus there is a limit of trust and liability issues that have to be kept under control and supervised regularly. These benefits of having rules is a functional point of view, a positive way to see an outcome in every bureaucratic organization. There is an achievement, which is education that is given and received by a range of individuals.

Although, if there is too much bureaucracy pushed towards the organization, there tends to be negative issues with the organization called Social conflicts. The social conflict in ROTA is that there might be some Asian countries who do not get the privilege to receive the same sort of education everywhere. 

One reason to this is that they might not have enough students or people to do the voluntary work of teaching in those specific regions. Or, they might only get a visit of help once a year that has the possibility to hold an event of teaching. The picture of the Map above shows the different regions that ROTA has visited to help educate more illiterate individuals.

In Doha Qatar itself it becomes a social conflict because many Indian schools barely receive information about ROTA trips abroad or several local projects because the organization only picks people who have a certain amount of skills or study in Education City. Education City most of the time tries to get university or Qatar Academy students to participate in these projects, in order to build their Community and Service skills and approaches. The picture below is of a Carnegie Mellon University student teaching the cleaning staff of his University. As a teacher myself, I have noticed that there are no teachers from The College of the North Atlantic or Qatar University. The next picture identifies how serious ROTA takes their educational services because it shows the training sessions that occurred for all the upcoming teachers in Education City.

Visit this link to watch how Education city demonstrates enthusiasm for Reach out to Asia: http://www.youtube.com/user/reachouttoasiatv?ob=0&feature=results_main

“Make a Difference and take Action” says ROTA.

Wednesday, March 28, 2012

Identifying the social status of consumers to know their buying decision : a useful tool used by designers


I live in the households of college students. I am cool, trendy and minimalistic. Students find me stylish and friendly. They love spending time with me and look up to me for ideas. Students say to me that the greyish silver suit, which I wear usually to university, looks good and matches with my personality. It makes me look handsome, honorable and slim.
I am also a best partner for all the design professionals. My compatibility and hardworking ability inspires them. I allow them to multi-task and give them a clear view of the latest up to date information. They consider me crisp and clean.
For many businessmen, I speak of elegance, efficiency and intelligence. I am a commodity that is most sought after. Therefore, I keep working hard to keep up with the pace and inform them about the latest and upcoming trends.”  Mr. Mac Book Pro.

This was an exercise that we did in our graphic design class in order to identify the target audience behind a product. It was important to analyze what our consumers wanted, observing what social status they belonged too, and then start an advertising campaign for it. When I chose Mac Book Pro as my object of study, I described its character that fits to certain groups of people who have similar social status. Social status is the recognition attached to one’s position in society. It can be either ascribed or achieved. Ascribed statuses are those that are inherited at birth like gender, age and ethnic identity. While as achieved status is earned by living in the society. Like for example name, profession, income, education, civil and marital status are terms that we accomplish from our surroundings. I began by analyzing three target audiences: college students, design professionals and businessmen - and took their specific qualities to see how this object, defined as a character, socializes with them.

Furthermore, I interviewed some college students, design professionals and businessmen to see how their master status (dominant position) plays an intense role in their parts of life. By viewing the consumer’s characteristics, like their opinions, attitudes, interests, hobbies, needs, values and lifestyle I could easily motivate consumers to be friends with my character Mr. Mac Book Pro. This exercise helped me in designing an advertising campaign that was persuasive and targeted my audience. 

Similarly, with Nescafé, (my second object of study for the same exercise) I suggested a different name to my character according to its unique personality that targets a certain audience.


A slim young women with dirty blonde hair and a great athlete, Nariana knows how to take care of her physique. She is a health and fitness advisor, who not only conducts morning shows, (being a morning person) where she teaches exercises but also answers calls and gives the viewers beauty tips according to their skin type. In one of her interviews Nariana says " In order to live longer one should wake up early, do yoga, train and after taking a shower treat yourself to some healthy food." I think this best describes her true personality because she is always so active, full of energy, fresh and smells beautiful. Wearing a pure golden ring on her finger with fully manicured nails, Nariana looks fabulous. 

In this exercise, I had given Nescafé a different name and a character so that she could easily mingle with a young and active age group. This group believes in waking up early in the morning, starting fresh with their daily chores and maintaining a healthy lifestyle. 

These exercises not only helped me design an effective campaign but also enhanced my power of observation and understanding of different social statuses that reflects on the consumer’s buying decisions. It also made me see how sociologists can divide people in groups according to specific social statuses, and see the buying power towards a particular product or brand. In sociology there have been a lot of discussions and in depth case studies on the social status of a person to identify their buying decision. Below here is a video that will further help to define my point of view to you.

"We've Got The Power"


In our last Sociology class, we discussed women and gender. Considering how there is an overwhelming majority of females in our class, the topics on femininity, neo-feminist cinema and power were highly intriguing.

I have witnessed and experienced a significant amount of sexism, not only from males but females too. Mothers in particular. They seem to conform to their roles as being housewives and homemakers; cooking and cleaning are an integral part of a married woman’s daily routine. Men, however, conform to their roles as being the breadwinner of the household. If men are placed in a situation where they can’t be the providers of the family they will submit to playing no part whatsoever in helping around the house. This is because they feel emasculated and since socialization portrays working around the house as a female’s responsibility, men would rather be useless than serve a purpose.



I have first-hand experience, in my own household, of my brother telling me to make him meals because I’m a female. I have also experienced something similar from my mother. She advised me to learn how to cook earlier on, in order for me to provide meals for my future husband. Parents, and the family, are the most prominent agents of socialization in any individual’s life. This explains how people can justify that they’re right for whatever reason – may it be on buying a house or car, or making the right choice on a certain issue - because their parents have cautioned them on what is right and what is wrong.


This week I attended the student-faculty dodge ball game. Seeing as the majority of students are female, some male students expressed bitterness because they saw this as disadvantageous to the students’ team. “The only reason we’re losing is because we have so many girls on our team,” said one male.


Men seem to be under the impression that women can’t exert physical power. This is mainly due to socialization – movies such as Rambo and the Expendables convey masculinity through strength and violence. But even when women play roles that show ‘power over’ others, which means getting others to do something even when they don’t want to, it isn’t interpreted in a serious manner. This is mainly because men find women playing aggressive roles attractive, and almost all of these roles played by women are sexualized.



Although the faculty won the dodge-ball game, there were quite a number of females on their team as well. The males on the student team purposely targeted the females on the faculty team, assuming that they would be the “weak” point. But the females played a large role in contributing the large number of points the faculty team won by, which shows that it is merely a social construction that “women are physically weaker than men.”

The Girly Truth


In today’s post, I will analyze the 10 common girly traits found in girly or neo-feminist films. In my post, I look for these traits in The Ugly Truth. I will give examples in each of the 10 traits when applicable because this will allow for readers to better understand what I am referring to when I use my examples to explain the traits.


1.    Women’s appearance is a crucial aspect of her identity?
In the course of the movie The Ugly Truth, Abby cannot find her perfect man who fits all ten of her checklist criteria. The entire plot revolves around how she will eventually get the man of her dreams by changing her appearance, which as a result will reflect her new identity and attitude. Mike is her guide and he is the one who emphasizes the importance of her appearance and how she has to change a lot about herself to get the Doctor she has her eyes set on. 
2.    The female succeeds in her goal of marrying the man of her choice?
What’s interesting about this movie is that Abby succeeds in obtaining the man of her dreams but realizes that he wasn’t the man of her dreams after all. Instead, Mike is the right man for her. She does eventually end up with Mike and at the end of the movie we don’t actually witness a wedding but the idea of marriage is implied.
3.    The protagonist is a single woman who works for a living and whose work in some way defines her?
From the beginning we can tell that Abby is a single, uptight workaholic. She is a producer for the KSXP news company. When her boss told her the bad news that he may need to kill the show, she immediately considered canceling her date and staying home to think of ideas to raise viewer ratings for the show.


4.    The ability to shop is a tool that enables the female to resolve conflict and achieve her goals?
The main goal in The Ugly Truth is for Abby get the man of her dreams, which for the most of the film Collin, the doctor. Mike takes her shopping and helps her change her look from the woman “operating heavy machinery” to the attractive lady that is desirable.

-->

5.    Consumer culture offers a magical place where everything goes right?
After Abby changes her look and identity through appealing to consumer culture and going out shopping, everything begins to go right. When Collin comes over to see why she never called him back earlier that day she greets him at the door wearing a tight black dress that compliments her body. In that scene we see that he starts showing interest in her right then and there because he asks her on a date to a baseball game.
6.    There is ambivalence about the role of romance, marriages and work in a woman’s life?
Abby is trying to balance out her professional life with her personal life. Throughout the film we see how she tries to be the independent, confident workaholic while still having a girlish feel to her through her endless search for her perfect match. She believes in true love and that she will find it when she finds the man that fits all ten of her checklist criteria. In one of the scenes Abby has to give up her romantic getaway with Collin for work reasons. Her boss asks her to accompany Mike to his interview with Craig Fergusson and she does as her boss requests. During her time with Mike, she realizes she is in love with him and not Collin and that’s when things become quite complicated for Abby and she is put in a position where she has to choose.
7.    The film takes place in a large well-known city?
The Film takes place in the capital of the state of California, Sacramento, which is the sixth largest city in California.
8.    There is a theme of personal transformation?
This is definitely evident in the events of the film. Both Mike and Abby help each other to transform to the better versions of themselves. With Mikes help and guidance, Abby is able to transform to an attractive, desirable woman who can get the guy of her dreams, Moreover, she learns that check list items don’t matter in the face of true love.
At the beginning of the film Mike comes off as a misogynist who does not believe in true love. The time he spends with Abby allows him to discover how amazing she truly is and therefore ends up falling in love with her. Because of Abby, Mike is transformed to a man in love.
9.    The plot contains a “do-over” in which a past mistake is resolved?
The mistake that takes place in The Ugly Truth is that Mike lets the elevator moment slip away because when he goes to Abby’s room to talk to her about it, Collin greets him at the door. Abby tells him that Collin surprised her in the hopes that Mike would tell her to leave Collin and be with him but Mike fails to do so. In the end Mike fixes his past mistake on the hot air balloon by admitting to Abby that even thought she drives him crazy he’s in love with her.
10. There is a sense of nostalgia of glorifying the past?
Not applicable.


9/10 of the common traits are found in this movie, definitely making it fall under the genre of the girly film or the neo-feminist film.

Monday, March 26, 2012

Neo-Feminism in Confessions of a Shopaholic

In Confessions of a Shopaholic (2009), the lead character, Rebecca, is a recent college graduate who is deep debt because of her shopping addiction. Ironically, She lands a job as a financial advisor in a New York magazine. Rebecca lies about her credentials to be able to get the job to support her addiction as well as to pay the bills. As a perfect Hollywood love story, Rebecca falls in love with her boss, who happens to be a rich entrepreneur. Although the film is about a young woman’s struggle against her typical feminine addiction, the end result is that she gets together with a rich guy who would be able to support her. She also becomes famous by doing her articles and lands an interview on national TV.
This film contains the traits that “constitute the ‘commonplaces’ of the genre, and which are linked to the neo-feminist paradigm,” (36) as Hilary Render mentions in her book Neo-Feminist Cinema. 1. Although the film is clearly directed at a female audience, Rebecca’s character “underlines appearance as a crucial aspect of feminine identity” (36). She’s always dressed fashionably, has makeup on, hair done in perfect waves, and acts in the typical feminine way that is socially constructed. The film begins by her speaking about the dream of owning nice shoes. 2. The ‘marriage plot’ is another trait included in this film. Rebecca ends up with the rich handsome guy of her own choice, who happens to also be in love with her (if only life worked that way). 3. “The protagonist is usually a single woman who works for a living, and whose work in some way defines her; however at the same time regardless of the role she plays, she is distinguished by her girlish personality and looks” (36). Rebecca lands a job as a finance advisor—a job that would typically call for a serious look, but our lead keeps her colorful, ‘girlish’ sense of style through out the film. Even during an important luncheon, Rebecca is dressed in a white suit and high heels, unable to escape her girly attitude and cheery personality. 4. One of the most important traits is the consumer culture presented in the film. This trait, according to Radner, is crucial in the setting, “as well as often providing tools that enable the heroine to resolve her conflict” (37). Rebecca connects with her boss in the scene she helps him shop for the important luncheon. Her addiction and knowledge helped her gain the love of her life.

Loverboy

According to Jean-Anne Sutherland and Kathryn Feltey one definition of the most commonly understood notion of power in women’s films is Power-To. It is a when a woman can recognize the extent to which her actions determine her fate, and she cane come to know her own sense of agency and recognize her autonomy (120). After watching Loverboy (Micklin Silver, 1989) I decided to apply this concept to the male character of the film. Randy Bodek is a pizza delivery boy, who discovers himself through showing love to rich unhappily married women and gets paid for it in return. The film has three prominent features that apply to women’s films regarding the power-to notion, and were discussed in Sutherland and Feltey’s book.
First feature is to separate from his life, culture and traditions. Randy drops out of college and is back to his hometown where he works at a pizza place. After one woman asks him to spend the night with her he realizes his power of satisfying other women, and above that he is getting paid for it. The second feature is waking up from years of unconscious living, and finding agency where there was little. Given that he was always in bad relationships with women. He finds his power after interacting with older women. What pushed him to go in that direction is the need for money. The third feature is discovering himself through the discovery of his sexual self. After “delivering pizza” to over 40 women, Randy discovers his performing and emotional skills that he never knew he had, and uses his maturity to get back his girlfriend. He lacked the real knowledge of his personal empowerment until he recognized the control he has over the consequences of his life.

Saturday, March 24, 2012

Mirror Mirror - A "Girly-Film?"


Last night I went to watch the movie Mirror Mirror, an adaption of Disney’s Snow White. After our discussion about feminism and the “girly-film” genre, I decided to see how well this film fit into that genre.  The girly-film genre reflects and reinforces the backlash against feminism through socialization.



The girly-film genre has ten common traits, five of which I have found in the movie Mirror Mirror. The first trait I found in this movie was that appearance is a crucial aspect of her identity. This is one of the main themes of the film, as this can be seen in the movie’s antagonist, the Queen (Julia Roberts). The Queen is obsessed with her appearance, as she spends all of her money, as well as taxes the villagers for their money, on her vanity. This is also the reason she hates Snow White (Lily Collins), as she is threatened by her beauty. These women’s appearances define their characters in this film, as well as motivate the Queen and her actions.

The second trait I found was that the female lead succeeds in her goal of marrying the man of her choice. Snow White falls for Prince Alcott (Armie Hammer). Although he falls for her as well, their relationship is complicated as the Queen wishes to marry him in order to solve her financial problems. Snow White also becomes the leader of the Seven Dwarves, the bandits who jumped and robbed Alcott. The Queen puts Alcott under her spell and almost succeeds in marrying him. Snow White, however, prevails and ends up winning the “man of her dreams.”


The third trait I found in common was the theme of a personal transformation. This is the most common trait in any girl film genre. This personal transformation usually implies a makeover, which symbolizes a shift in the character’s personality as well. Snow White has been locked up in a tower all her life. As a result, she is very quiet and cannot stand up for herself. When she joins the Seven Dwarves, they transform her by changing her look. They also train and teach her how to fight. This signals the personal change in Snow – that she is no longer a coward and is strong enough to face her oppression.



The fourth common trait I found was the “do-over,” in which the character resolves  a past mistake. When Snow first tries to stand up to the Queen, she fails and is ordered to be killed. However, Snow is given a second chance in which she faces off against the Queen. This time, she is ready and defeats the Queen, taking back her kingdom and saving all the villagers.

The fifth and final trait I found was the sense of glorifying the past. At the beginning of the film, before the Queen took over, it was said that the villagers were always seen singing and dancing. Once the Queen took over, there was no reason for them to do so. When Snow wins at the end, the film ends with her singing a song, in which everyone in the village joins in and starts to dance. This signals a shift back to a time of happiness – a time where all the villagers did was sing and dance.

This film shares several similarities with the girly-film genre. Although it shares a few differences, it can be said that Mirror Mirror is a “half girly-film.”


Friday, March 23, 2012

How Bollywood is defined by the improbable

Lagaan



This Hindi word for “land tax” became a household name in 2001 with the release of a namesake Bollywood movie. Lagaan, Once Upon a Time in India takes the viewer on a very believable time-travel to the Indian subcontinent of the Victorian Era. The movie revolves around poor villagers coerced to pay backbreaking taxes to the British and their struggles to rise above the oppression.



Lagaan instantly turned into a box office hit, grossing a considerable $9009043. It was hailed by Britain’s Empire magazine as one of the “100 Best Films of World Cinema” (Top Earners 2000-2009, retrieved from BoxOffice India.com).

This 3 hour 40 minute historical fantasy was described by the New York Times as “a carnivalesque genre packed with romance, swordplay and improbable song-and-dance routines” (Somni Sengupta, New York Times, retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Lagaan)

Using Lagaan as an archetype for all Bollywood movies, this blog is about the “improbable” and how it has become an integral part and parcel of Hindi cinema.

The “musical drama” Lagaan owes much of its length to a varied assortment of songs and dances, as do most Bollywood movies-- a concept that a western audience is not very comfortable with.

Consider, for example, the following love song between the leads Bhuvan (Amir Khan) and Gauri (Gracy Singh), with particular focus on Elizabeth (Rachel Shelly), the easily discernible British actress.



When Amir Khan was asked about the reaction of Londoners to this particular song, he flashed an amused smile at the camera and said, “I heard that audiences in the theatres began to laugh. They just didn’t expect to hear Elizabeth sing.”

One important characteristic that sets Bollywood movies apart are certainly the tedious and elaborate song and dance sequences. It is particularly peculiar seeing a bunch of well-choreographed dancers twirling around the leads. “I don’t get it,” says American student and avid-movie watcher Kathy Rivera, “The songs merely attach an unrealistic quality to the movies. What’s the point?”

The answer is rooted in a number of influencing factors, from varied levels of production and musical style to commercial life and audience reception.

That previous sentence was not intended merely to to add to my word count. Though it may sound complicated, the whole idea boils down to the way society is reflected in these movies. Indian culture is profuse with color and movement, hype and activity, as is evident in most festivals, like Diwali (festival of lights) and Holi (festival of colors), to name a few.

Holi:


Diwali:


These aspects of society are mirrored in Bollywood movies through the highly ”improbable” dance and music. Such vibes and moves are best illustrated in the following song clip that shows Bhuvan and Gauri in a traditional Dandiya Ras dance.



The colorful songs are “firmly embedded in an Indian popular culture and are an integral feature of the genre, akin to plot, dialogue and other parameters” (retrieved from http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Music_of_Bollywood). Hindi cimema, in other words, not only shows you singing and dancing, it is about singing and dancing (Sociology Goes to Movies, Rajendra Kumar Dudrah, p48).

The many “disparate modes of story telling are bound in a coherent whole by songs” (Sociology Goes to Movies, Rajendra Kumar Dudrah, p48). Thus, they serve the dual purpose of stringing various movie elements together. It would not be wrong to say that songs are to Bollywood what a soliloquy is to a Shakespearean play-- they confer a certain metaphorical voice to the character’s actual emotions and sentiments.

Consider for example, the song Mitwa (Friend), from Lagaan:



When translated it means:
Mitwa, O Mitwa
Friend, O friend

Tujhko kya dar hai re
Why do you fear?

Yeh dharti apni hai
This earth is ours

Apna ambar hai re
Ours is the sky.

Tu aa jaa re

You come on…

The lip-synced song brings Bhuvan's sentiments to limelight as he calls upon fellow farmers to stand up against the subjugations of the British. Through the song as a medium, he reminds them that the country is theirs and they needn’t be intimidated by any outside forces. It coherently pieces the movie together, as the next scene shows the villagers responding to his call and following his lead.

Furthering the storyline, the next song “Chale Chalo” (Keep Going) shows Bhuvan and his friends perspiring away as they ready themselves to face the British in an upcoming match of cricket, a challenge that will decide their fate.



But these filmi songs continue to be "derided" in Western movie circles, often being blamed for “unrealisticity.”

I chanced upon an interesting comeback on a Sociology blog site (http://thesocietypages.org):

"I still hear Western film buffs argue that lip-synced songs somehow make a film unrealistic. Let’s get one thing straight — the use of music in Western films is no more realistic than in Bollywood films. We don't walk around hearing music matched to our mood in real life, but Westerners accept the fantasy because it is familiar."

Although Bollywood takes it one step further, often heavily peppering movies with songs, the dance and music are “essential aesthetic elements of the film… that draw on a stock of Indian cultural and social references and elaborate them through aural and visual spectacles” (Sociology Goes to Movies, Rajendra Kumar Dudrah, p63).

Thursday, March 22, 2012

Down With Love: Feminism or Neo-feminism


Down With Love (2003), a romantic comedy set in early 1960’s can be described as a perfect example to establish the feminist movement that emerged in the 60’s. All the components of the ‘second wave’ feminism are portrayed in this film. According to the story, Barbra Novak (Renée Zellweger), an feminist writer wants to publish her new work “Down with Love”, basically a book that is capable of freeing all women and empower themselves by teaching them how to be able to ‘enjoy sex without a commitment’. The entire purpose of the book is to create a feminist world in order to boost the morale of women in workspace and in community in general. This concept of the movie is similar to the idea of the second wave feminism being a sexual revolution for women.




However, according to the plot, the message of feminism tends to fluctuate back and forth between second-wave and post-feminism, which is more accurately named as neo-feminism. Because Barbra Novak exploits her sexuality in order to obtain her goal of empowering women as well as expose the real identity of her arch rival Catcher Block (Ewan McGregor). She turns out to be a very manipulative character, and besides that she also deviates form her own principles (from the one’s she mentions in her book) in order obtain her goal. Thus establishing the post-feminist notion of “sexuality is a source of power”.