Lady Gaga: The Most Wayward Pop Artist of All Time?

Christine Corner

Lady Gaga: The Most Wayward Pop Artist of All Time?

Lady Gaga was born Stefani Joanne Angelina Germanotta on March 28, 1986. In 2006 she released Just Dance and became a sensation. Lady Gaga has grown to become one of the most well-known music artists around the world. Over the past six years she has reinvented herself countless times and each creation is more outrageous than the last. Her music has evolved with her, progressing from dance music to an electro pop mix with classical elements and cryptic lyrics. Her music and style has taken on a more controversial stance, splitting the public in two. There are those who worship her audacious style, incorporating her life into their own, and there are those who think she is an outcast.

Lady Gaga is a wayward American because she goes completely against the grain of current mainstream music. In an industry that thrives on continuous change and diversification, she manages to push the boundaries further than anyone else, stepping out on her own into a new realm. She has been described as “tailor made for the viral age” (Corona 2011).

Artists today strive to be memorable and draw as many people to their music as possible. Other artists such as Christina Aguilera and Miley Cyrus both underwent massive style changes in recent years, some claim in response to Lady Gaga’s fame, but neither succeeded as well as the star herself. Rihanna and Katy Perry are some other artists that, since Lady Gaga’s immense fame, have been getting more controversial with changing hair colour and dramatic videos for their music. These attempts show how big Gaga has become and how evident her success is.

Fashion

Lady Gaga’s sense of style has been something that has played into her wayward image. Just some of her many outfits have included plastic bubbles, armadillo heels, and an ash covered dress (Corona). At the 2010 MTV video music awards, she sported a dress made Lady-Gaga-Meat-Dress_prphotosentirely out of raw meat. Already known for controversial images, the dress was considered a “step too far” for some. Vegetarian societies were offended by the torturing of animals for a dress. Additionally, our consumption practices are such that meat hanging off a body instead of neatly packed in supermarkets does not fit with our reality and is repulsive to most. Gaga wanted to challenge these perceptions of reality.

Gaga is seen frequently wearing creations that look like devil horns and she is seen with an inverted cross on her crotch in Alejandro. This has been a big topic of discussion within the religious community. For a western industrialized culture, America is profoundly religious and many see Gaga’s fashion sense as mocking god.

Music and Fans

“…I like to create this atmosphere for my fans where they feel like they have a freak in me to hang out with…” (Gaga in Corona). Gaga tries to deliberately appeal to those who feel that they don’t fit into society. She creates music that resonates with the wayward people of society. Youth today are drawn more and more to music that “gives the finger to the mainstream” (Hanlon 2008). They want to be part of something different and unique. They want to feel that they are part of something secret. Lady Gaga’s music gives fans a chance to feel that they are part of the in crowd. According to Corona, she creates a subcultural membership where all the little monsters can come together to worship Mother Monster and her art. The wayward in a sense becomes the norm. Fans have claimed that Gaga has created a “safe haven…a loving community,” where “everyone can be who they are.” Fans claim they can “conquer any wall” with her help, and that it was “good to know someone was out there.” They continue by saying, “it’s more than just good music…it’s community.” Many of these fans have been young males and females struggling to “come out of the closet” and Gaga has helped them to do this. However, her support for gay rights has been the agenda of some of the biggest debates about her waywardness. Horn (2010) claims that it is her support for this group that leads to her own sexual identity being targeted.

lady gaga fans

Gaga sees herself as a rebel, defying the norms of music culture. She has created a whole “underground” of little monsters, with herself as the leader. She sings to them about sex slaves in Bad Romance, of violent relationships in Monster. She glorifies murder in Paparazzi, and talks of betraying Jesus in Judas.  These songs are being stamped into the brains of her followers as the new normal but they are wayward ideas. One of the most important things that Hanlon describes as being wayward in music is that not everyone knows who they are. Certainly, this is not the case with Gaga. She has managed to remain appealing to the mainstream culture with dance lady_gaga_jesus_and_judasmusic that is catchy and on point with today’s culture. She has succeeded in doing what Corona claims all artists today need to do, and that is produce something that is memorable and lasting. However, simultaneously, the reason Gaga has remained such an icon in the world of the little monsters is that they think they know her better. They believe themselves to be the true fans, the people Mother Monster designed her music for. Everyone else may know the songs but they don’t know the meanings behind them and they can’t relate.

Various blog posts have shown people’s interest in Gaga’s waywardness. One young woman wrote on her projectinspired.com blog (“Lady Gaga and Her Satanic Message”) that Gaga was “satanic” and “demonic” and that she should be prayed for. She said that Gaga was not a good role model for young girls because she was brainwashing them. The blog states how Gaga frequently invokes the devil in her music and even in her choice of outfits. Lyrics to Gaga’s songs, especially Judas, have been of particular interest by young religious people who claim that Lady Gaga and her followers are going to hell.

 Sarah Rooney, “Lady Gaga’s ‘Judas’ is Evil!” Jan 12, 2012 (original in 2011, taken down because of controversy)

Whether or not you are a fan of Lady Gaga, her unique sense of style is undeniable. She pushes the boundaries further than many artists and continues to produce controversial clothes, videos, and music, making her very wayward.

Suggested readings and videos

Corona, V. P. (2011). Memory, monsters, and Lady Gaga. The Journal of Popular Culture, doi 10.111

Hanlon, K. B. (2008). Alienation Incorporated: ‘F*** The Mainstream Music’ in the mainstream. Current Sociology, 56

Horn, K. (2010). Camping with the stars: Queer Performativity, Pop Intertextuality, and Camp in the Pop Art of Lady Gaga. Current Objectives of Postgraduate American Studies, 11

Dear Mother Monster: A Thank You from All Your Fans July 30, 2012

Lady Gaga- Alejandro (short version) official music video June 23 2010

Images

Lady Gaga meat dress, PR Photos www.fabulousbuzz.com 2010

Lady Gaga with Judas and Jesus www.theinspiration.com May 2, 2011

Lady Gaga’s fans www.collapseboard.com 2011

Warren Buffett

Sarah Trotter

Warren Buffett

Introduction

Warren Buffett is one of the most successful businessmen in the world. He has invested successfully for over four decades and has beaten the stock market every year. Buffett’s total wealth surpassed the millions long ago and in 2008, he was worth $15 billion. His astronomical success can be considered wayward in itself, since the economy usually prevents businessmen from consistently performing well. At a closer glance into Buffett’s life, it is evident that Buffett’s wayward ways began in childhood, his investment style is wayward, and his average ways are wayward compared to the average businessman.

Early Childhood

Unlike most children, Buffett didn’t play sports besides ping pong or play normal games that children play. Buffett took an interest to investment and numbers at an early age and every game he played revolved around this interest. For example, he was able to recite the populations of any city in the almanac when his friend Bob Russell asked. He memorized any and all statistics that he could get his hands on and he loved any games that involved money, like Monopoly.

Buffett’s interest in numbers, money, and patterns led him to buy his first stock, Cities Service, at age 11. Buffett was so advanced in his understanding of investment that while other children his age were playing tag, he was interpreting investment patterns and buying stocks. Warren also went to the horse track with his friend Russell and created a system of tipping horse players. This proved to be successful and profitable, but they didn’t have a license, so it was closed down.

At age 13, Buffett was delivering almost 500 newspapers every morning in only 1 ½ hours. He had a complex but very efficient system for delivering papers. In apartment buildings, he would place half the newspapers on the 4th floor and half on the 8th floor, and then he would deliver them door to door. When it came time to collect the money from his customers, he would give the person at the front desk an envelope for the money instead of going door to door for payments. Buffett earned $175 per month for his newspaper route and he used some of this profit to buy farmland in Nebraska.

As a senior in high school, Buffett and his friend Donald Danly created a pinball machine business in which Buffett paid for the machines to be put into barbershops, while Danly repaired them when they broke. From this business, they were making $50 a week. Most teenagers would not think that running a pinball machine company is fun, but Buffett enjoyed it.

Investment

Buffett’s unique investing style is what really set him apart from the average investor and allowed him to be as successful as he is. Buffett mainly followed the Graham-Dodd theory for investment, which is security analysis. Security analysis is a style of investing in which the expected profit, interest, dividends, and assets are compared to the price for the security. For good investing, a “margin of safety” must be present between price and expected company value. In addition, Graham and Dodd also thought that having a variety of stocks was best for security reasons than having few stocks. The other popular investment theorists at the time were the Chicago theorists. These theorists believed that capital markets are efficient, so one can rely on the stock price as an indicator of the information on the shares. Therefore, the value of all stocks is straightforward and one cannot outsmart the capital market.
Although Buffett was a Graham-Dodd fan, he often deviated from their theory and used his own judgment on investment decisions. For example, even though he always thoroughly investigated a company before buying any stocks in it, he often made risky investments that always paid off in the long run. For example, when Buffett bought shares in Geico, the company was a small company that hadn’t had any success yet. This goes against the security analysis theory because instead “value investing”, or buying shares in a company that had cheap shares and expected growth, Buffett bought a cheap stock that wasn’t expected to see any growth yet. In the end, Buffett’s strategy worked and he profited, but it went against the careful and safe method of Graham and Dodd. Buffett’s Geico purchase was risky also because he sold most of his other shares in other companies when he bought Geico. Putting all his money into Geico was risky, but Buffett knew that he would not make as much money if he did not take a risk. Concentrating on a few companies and putting a great deal of money into them became the typical Buffett strategy and according to Charles R. Morris’s book The Sages, “Buffett preferred to concentrate on fewer companies that he really believed in, and to get a big enough position to have a say when he thought the business was going off track” (69). By making large investments in one company, Buffett had enough power in the company to help determine the company’s decisions when it started to slip. Lastly, Geico is an example of Buffett’s love for investing in insurance companies. Buffett likes to invest in insurance companies because they generate money upfront and this money can be used to invest in something else.

Because of Buffett’s unique and wayward approach to investing, it may seem strange that he believes in the Graham-Dodd theory, but it does make sense because both Buffett and Graham and Dodd believe that investment theories should be disregarded. The best investment strategy is to keep it as simple as possible and be realistic. Looking at numbers and patterns within a company is the best ways to determine whether or not to invest in a company.

In the following video, Ajit Jain explains why he wouldn’t work for anyone other than Warren Buffett. Jain attributes Buffett’s success as a C.E.O. to his rational thinking and reasonable expectations.

Average Buffett

Despite his billionaire status and popularity, Buffett has maintained an average life. Most billionaires spend without a second thought, but Buffett doesn’t believe in frivolous spending. Buffett still lives in the house that he bought when he first got married and he doesn’t spend more money than he has to. Even though he may be frugal, Buffett is not stingy. He doesn’t mind paying his taxes and he believes that the rich like him should pay more taxes. Unlike many rich people, Buffett cares about the lower classes and believes that the tax burden should be put more heavily on the rich than the middle class and the poor. Also, Buffett looks and talks like the average person. He does not try to act sophisticated and educated, unlike other investors and businessmen. At the annual Berkshire Hathaway stockholder convention, investors are invited to ask Buffett questions about the company and his intentions for the future. These investors always tried to stump Buffett by asking complicated questions, but Buffett, “translated the questions into plain English and answered them in ways Average Joes and Janes would understand” (Cepuch, 9). Buffett’s photographic memory allowed him to memorize and retain all this information, but he does not show off like other investors.

Pretty Good for Government Work

By WARREN E. BUFFETT
Omaha

Dear Uncle Sam,

My mother told me to send thank-you notes promptly. I’ve been remiss.

Let me remind you why I’m writing. Just over two years ago, in September 2008, our country faced an economic meltdown. Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac, the pillars that supported our mortgage system, had been forced into conservatorship. Several of our largest commercial banks were teetering. One of Wall Street’s giant investment banks had gone bankrupt, and the remaining three were poised to follow. A.I.G., the world’s most famous insurer, was at death’s door….

You have been criticized, Uncle Sam, for some of the earlier decisions that got us in this mess — most prominently, for not battling the rot building up in the housing market. But then few of your critics saw matters clearly either. In truth, almost all of the country became possessed by the idea that home prices could never fall significantly.

That was a mass delusion, reinforced by rapidly rising prices that discredited the few skeptics who warned of trouble. Delusions, whether about tulips or Internet stocks, produce bubbles. And when bubbles pop, they can generate waves of trouble that hit shores far from their origin. This bubble was a doozy and its pop was felt around the world.

So, again, Uncle Sam, thanks to you and your aides. Often you are wasteful, and sometimes you are bullying. On occasion, you are downright maddening. But in this extraordinary emergency, you came through — and the world would look far different now if you had not.

Your grateful nephew,
Warren

The above excerpted article, written by Warren Buffett himself, shows how Buffett makes difficult and complicated economic issues easy for the common person to understand. He is not concerned about showing off with big words or complicated concepts; he simply wants to address an economic problem in a way that will make sense to the average American. This article also shows how Buffett is confident in the effectiveness of the government.

Stop Coddling the Super-Rich

By WARREN E. BUFFETT
Omaha

OUR leaders have asked for “shared sacrifice.” But when they did the asking, they spared me. I checked with my mega-rich friends to learn what pain they were expecting. They, too, were left untouched.

While the poor and middle class fight for us in Afghanistan, and while most Americans struggle to make ends meet, we mega-rich continue to get our extraordinary tax breaks. Some of us are investment managers who earn billions from our daily labors but are allowed to classify our income as “carried interest,” thereby getting a bargain 15 percent tax rate. Others own stock index futures for 10 minutes and have 60 percent of their gain taxed at 15 percent, as if they’d been long-term investors…

Last year my federal tax bill — the income tax I paid, as well as payroll taxes paid by me and on my behalf — was $6,938,744. That sounds like a lot of money. But what I paid was only 17.4 percent of my taxable income — and that’s actually a lower percentage than was paid by any of the other 20 people in our office. Their tax burdens ranged from 33 percent to 41 percent and averaged 36 percent.
If you make money with money, as some of my super-rich friends do, your percentage may be a bit lower than mine. But if you earn money from a job, your percentage will surely exceed mine — most likely by a lot…

I know well many of the mega-rich and, by and large, they are very decent people. They love America and appreciate the opportunity this country has given them. Many have joined the Giving Pledge, promising to give most of their wealth to philanthropy. Most wouldn’t mind being told to pay more in taxes as well, particularly when so many of their fellow citizens are truly suffering…

My friends and I have been coddled long enough by a billionaire-friendly Congress. It’s time for our government to get serious about shared sacrifice.

Stop Coddling the Super Rich is also an article written by Warren Buffett that explains why the rich need to be taxed more and the lower classes need to be taxed less. In typical Buffett fashion, Buffett uses plain logic and reasoning to explain why the rich need to be taxed more.

In the video above, Buffett discusses the importance of Philanthropy. Despite being a billionaire, Buffett still cares about the needs of the lower classes and is willing to help.

Suggested Readings:

Charles R. Morris, The Sages (New York: Public Affairs, 2009).
Mary O’Sullivan, Contests for Corporate Control (New York: Oxford University Press, 2000).
Randy Cepuch, A Weekend with Warren Buffett (New York: Thunder’s Mouth Press, 2007).
Roger Lowenstein, Buffett: The Making of an American Capitalist (New York: Random House Trade Paperbacks, 2008).
WarrenBuffettBlog, How He is Different, May 4, 2011. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=h8q7XqKu7to&list=UUmCdlO-o9Kxb-hoEKfh4w-Q&index=50
Warren E. Buffett, Pretty Good for Government Work (The New York Times, 2010). http://www.nytimes.com/2010/11/17/opinion/17buffett.html
Warren E. Buffett, Stop Coddling the Super Rich (The New York Times, 2011). http://www.nytimes.com/2011/08/15/opinion/stop-coddling-the-super-rich.html?_r=0
WarrenBuffettBlog, The Future of Philanthropy, May 23, 2010. http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=HlrmDmEwfzg&list=UUmCdlO-o9Kxb-hoEKfh4w-Q&index=33&feature=plcp

Richard Kuklinski: “The Iceman”

Katherine Kearney

Richard Kuklinski: “The Iceman”

Richard “Iceman” Kuklinski (April 11, 1935 – March 5, 2006) was the most dangerous contract killer in America, employed by the crime families of New York and New Jersey.  Although accounts vary, Kuklinski claimed to have murdered over one hundred fifty individuals during his thirty-year career, including a New York Police Department Detective and Jimmy Hoffa.  He earned the nickname “Iceman” by his employers after his method of freezing the victims’ bodies to conceal their time of death.  After his arrest, the nickname “Iceman” quickly gained popularity among the public for a very different reason; the emotionless descriptions of his victims, killings, and methods of operation while under contract with the major crime families.

Iceman 1

“Richard Kuklinski: The Iceman.” Image courtesy of Crime & Investigation Network.

Built to Kill

Like many serial killers, The Iceman experienced severe abuse in his youth from both his mother and father.  Upon witnessing his father murder his brother, Kuklinski fell victim to severe anger rampages.  In response to these rampages, he began beating, torturing, and killing animals for stress-relief and enjoyment.  The Iceman claimed to have murdered his first victim before the age of twenty.  Charley Lane was the leader of a small teenage gang who frequently bullied young Richard.  Fed up with the victimization, Richard beat Lane to death and disposed of his body.  Instead of stopping and reconciling the murder of Charley Lane, Richard gained the mentality “it is better to give than receive” and furthered his violent spree by nearly beating to death other members of Lane’s gang.  When interviewed about Lane’s murder, Kuklinski described the experience as “empowering.”  After this encounter, he described needing very little reasoning needed to justify the injury or torture of another person or animal.

The Career

The Iceman began his official criminal career upon employment with the DeMeo crime family. His talent and skill of murder was quickly recognized and tested.  This test was to kill a random individual in broad daylight.  Upon receiving the orders, Kuklinski exited the vehicle, calmly walked past the man and shot him.  This test marked the beginnings of a long thirty-year career of contract killings. Although fluent with several different lethal weapons, Iceman’s favorite murder weapon quickly became cyanide and torture.

Iceman 2
“Richard Kuklinski”. Image courtesy of Norman Y. Lono for the New York Times, 2003.

After thirty years of work, Kuklinski began to get sloppy and fell victim to an undercover operation, befriending an undercover detective posing as a hit man. Conversations were recorded and enough evidence collected to finally end Kuklinski’s career.

The Iceman’s freedom ended on December 17, 1986 when several law enforcement agencies came together for the arrest.  He admitted to his crimes in court and justified the actions by stating, “It was business.”  Convicted on all five murders he was charged with, The Iceman was sentenced to five consecutive life sentences.  He remained incarcerated until his death on March 5, 2006..

 Not the Average Serial Killer

Richard Kuklinski baffles psychologists and criminal profilers because he is not driven to kill by drugs, sexual desires, fame, or necessity, like the average murderer or serial killer of society.  To him, murder became strictly business and he approached it as a job.  No feelings.  No emotion.  Nothing more than strict business.

In the documentary “The Iceman Takes: Inside the Mind of a Mafia Hit Man,” Dr. Park Dietz sits down with Kuklinski and tries to decipher what it is that makes Kuklinski so different than any other murder in the world.  While speaking with the hit man, it became clear to Dr. Dietz that two personality warps had combined in a rare condition, making him the fearless, emotionless killer he had become.  The first of these disorders is “Anti-social personality disorder,” which is commonly diagnosed by the symptoms of having no conscious, no feelings of remorse or guilt, and the characteristic of violent or impulsive behaviors.  The second detrimental disorder Dr. Dietz believes Kuklinski suffered from is “paranoid personality disorder,” characterized by distrust and anti-social behaviors.  Dr. Dietz explains that the combination of these disorders allow him to complete tasks every other human being fears.  The issue with these diagnoses is that it does not explain how Kuklinski was able to be such a cold-hearted murderer and a loving husband and father of three at the same time.

Iceman 3

“Richard Kuklinski with his daughters.” Image courtesy of CrimeShots (2007).

In a separate documentary “The Iceman Tapes: Conversations with a Killer,” Kuklinski is questioned about a different aspect of his life, his family.  He explains how nothing in the world made him happier than when he was home with his family.  The picture shown here visualizes Kuklinski holding the hands of two of his children; one of them smiling, the other leaning against her father’s body out of shyness.  This image perfectly depicts the love the young girls share with their father.  In a rare scene, the thought of his family and how he has hurt them so badly, makes the Iceman himself cry during the interview.  He describes that the only people he wants forgiveness from is his family, no one else.  With this rare showing of emotions, one can see that the Iceman seemed genuinely remorseful for hurting his family. 

Throughout the chilling interviews, Kuklinski smiles and almost jokes about his killings as if he is proud of what he has done in his life.  He describes feeling nothing as he watched a man die or dismembered him. Even Jeffrey Dahmer was unable to dismember the bodies of his victims and needed to drink excessively to cope.  The Iceman, however, describes no problems whatsoever with dismembering a body and describes eating pizza while doing so on several occasions.

If Kuklinski really was a victim to the disorders claimed, he never would have been able to balance his murderous lifestyle with loving a family they way he claimed to have.  Richard “The Iceman” Kuklinski is nothing more than the most cold-hearted and dangerous psychopath ever to stray from the norms of society and partake in a profession as being the worse nightmare of his targets.

Suggested Readings & Videos

Bertels, R., & Parsons, C. (2009). The social construction of a serial killer. Feminism & Psychology, 19(2), 267. doi: 10.1177/095933509102224

Ginsberg, A. (Director) (2003). The iceman interviews [DVD].

Martin, D. (2006, March 09). Richard kuklinski, 70, a killer of many people and many ways, dies. The New York Times. Retrieved from http://www.nytimes.com/2006/03/09/nyregion/09kuklinski.html

Nevins, S. (Producer) (1992). The iceman tapes: Conversations with a killer [VHS].

Richard, K. (Performer) (2002). The iceman – confessions of a mafia hitman [DVD].

White , J. H., Lester, D., Gentile, M., & Rosenbleeth, J. (2011). The utilization of forensic science and criminal profiling for capturing serial killers. Forensic Science International, 209(1-3), 160-165. doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1016/j.forsciint.2011.01.022

 

The People of the Mesa

Amy Guida

The People of the Mesa

INTRODUCTION:

The Mesa is desert community in New Mexico, 25 miles away from civilization, where the people attempt to live freely by staying off the grid.  The residents are an odd collection of veterans, teenage runaways, divorcees, and single mothers. The bonding factor of the community is freedom.  They live a life mostly free of rules, excepting that you don’t steal from your neighbors.  When a conflict arises the people do not involve law enforcement, they take it into their own hands.  There is a loose hierarchy of elders and “mama energy.”  They are wayward because they live outside our societal norms.  The factors that draw people to the Mesa are a chance for true freedom and the glamorization of the liberation that comes with leaving society. Jeremy and Randy Stulberg document the lives of these people in their movie Off the Grid: Life of the Mesa.

“Off The Grid: Life on the Mesa,” Jeremy Stulberg and Randy Stulberg, 2007.
The Stulberg’s documentary of the Mesa shows the kind of a people that drawn to live on the Mesa.   The people of the Mesa live simple lives.  They have few rules and therefore they believe that everyone should abide by them.  They value the fact that living on the Mesa allows them the freedoms to not conform to the social norms of the masses.  The people of the Mesa believe in America. 

ANALYSIS:

Nestled away in a remote desert region of New Mexico is the Mesa.  On the Mesa there is a collection of a people who decided to leave the “traditional American” lifestyle of nine-to-five jobs, white picket fences, and public schools to live an alternative life style off the grid.  The Mesa has an eclectic group of people ranging from divorcees to veterans to teenage runaways.  The entity that keeps this group together is a desire to forge its own society in what it believes is how America should be run.  The group of individuals on the Mesa built their own homes.  The people of the Mesa get energy from solar panels and firewood.  The Mesa has its own “law enforcement” and rules.  The society arguably functions mostly outside of America.

A working definition of wayward is “disposed to go counter to the wishes or advice of others, or what is reasonable; wrongheaded; intractable; self-willed; perverse” (Oxford English Dictionary).  The Mesa is counter to the advice of others because the members of the group fall outside the expectations of the “typical American.”  They are not working traditional jobs; in fact they often trade for goods rather than use traditional currency. They are a self-willed society.  On the Mesa, getting water is challenge; it takes self-motivation to build your own wells.  No one is going to go get water for you.  The people of the Mesa can be seen as “wrongheaded,” “intractable,” or “perverse” depending on one’s political and social beliefs.  Drug use in rampant on the Mesa.  The Mesa draws people that would traditionally be seen as outsiders.

This act of separating oneself from America is wayward in this the classic definition in that waywardness is living outside the mainstream society.  There are many reasons why people in engage in this wayward behavior of leaving society.  Two of the most prevalent reasons on the Mesa are the glamorization of leaving “the norm” and a desire for freedom.

Into the Wild is a movie based on the book by Jon Krakauer, which tells the story of Christopher McCandless.  McCandless decides to leave all his worldly possessions and move to Alaska after graduating from the prestigious Emory University.  At the end of the movie, McCandless passes away, a victim of the environment that he has chosen to live in.  Despite McCandless’s tragic end, his journey is still emulated by many.  During my freshman year of college, one assignment was to read an excerpt from Krakauer’s novel and write about whether we would entertain the idea of leaving society to find freedom.  Many students came to the conclusion that leaving school, work, and money would be liberating.  This idea of leaving the world behind is prevalent in popular culture.

Baby
“Abe Connally, Josie Moores Dicuss Life Off the Grid,” Huffington Post, 2012

Abe Connally and Josie Moores’ family is quite different from the people of the Mesa.  The family includes mother, a father, and two children.  The reason why they left the tradition American power grid lifestyle is dissatisfaction with having to rely on the government.  This is a similar to the reason why Christopher McCandless left his privileged lifestyle.  Some people just want to prove that they can make it on their own.

The group on the Mesa that I believe was most prompted to move, based on glamorization done by the media, is the “Nowhere Kids.”  The Nowhere Kids are a group of young adults runaways.  One of the glamorized facts of the Mesa is the “mama energy.” “You become an integral part of it Mama energy is a strong energy.  You can’t live out here and be meek. There is so much masculine energy that you need to counter balance it” (Mama Phyllis).  The mamas of the Mesa run the community.  A motherly figure is often what a young adult is looking for when they run away from home.  Another reason the Nowhere Kids are drawn to the Mesa is a man called Stan.  Stan is a pig farmer on the Mesa.  “Some kids need help, runaways… they don’t have a gallon jug to pack water in” (Stan the Pig Farmer).  Stan is known for taking in runaways.  Between knowing that they have a safety net in people like Stan, the “mama energy,” and the media like Into the Wild, a teenager can view escaping to the Mesa in a glamorous way.

America is a country built on freedom.  Our history books are littered with the word, freedom from Great Britain, freedom from slavery, freedom of speech.  The individual freedoms we as Americans pride ourselves on are getting smaller and smaller as time progresses.  There is very little unsettled land; there is no wild west.  Unless you are coming from a middle class (arguably upper class) background your housing options are limited.  “If you are toward the bottom of the pile, the options shrink and fade into significance, especially when the question is whether you should move in next to a crack house or live in your car” (Rosen, 209).   The Mesa allows people to build their own lives.

Freedom is the operative word on the Mesa.  Gun control is minimal; it’s how problems are solved.  Drug and alcohol abuse are rampant.  There is no police force on the Mesa.  The one rule they have is: don’t steal from your neighbor.  The people of Mesa define this as complete freedom.  The people of the Mesa pride themselves as being free.  The movie opens with Maine, a Korean War Veteran, saying, “Where I live is the last place in America that has almost true freedom.”   Veterans fought for this country because they believe in what America stands for.  Maine is proud of his time in the military but he does not like the way America is taking away his freedoms.  He lives in the Mesa because it’s the only place he can be free.

Image 1


“Soth: AS-2008_02zl0173,” Off the Grid, Anne Doran, 2008
This man shows the primitive lifestyle of living off the grid. There is symbolism in his American flag themed scarf.  The photographer Alec Soth takes careful precautions when photographing the people of the Mesa because they are just as weary of him as he is of them.  People that choose to live off of the grid choose to do so because they aren’t satisfied with something in society.  Often times (but not always) their physical appearance is as wayward as their decision to leave the grid.

There is a common image of what America should be.  This image shifts depending who is sharing it, whether it’s the American people or the world outside of America.  Whoever is evaluating this true America is creating the norm but they are also constructing the wayward.  The Mesa on paper in phrases: freedom, looking out for your neighbor, providing for your family.  The Mesa seems to be what people have come to view as the norm.  If you look at the images of this desert with unkempt people and houses built by the untrained, the Mesa becomes wayward. They live off the grid. They are free, but they live off the grid.  Waywardness is as complicated to define as normal. The Mesa is wayward because they chose to live outside of America law enforcement and the power grid.

SUGGESTED READINGS:

Doran, Anne. “Off the Grid.” Art in America; 100.10 (2012): n. pag. Academic Search Premier. Web. 20 Dec. 2012.
Leader, Jessica. “Abe Connally, Josie Moores Discuss Life Off The Grid.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 05 Aug. 2012. Web. 20 Dec. 2012.
Off the Grid: Life on the Mesa. Dir. Jeremy Stulberg and Randy Stulbeg. Indiepix, 2008. DVD.
Rosen, Nick. Off the Grid: Inside the Movement for More Space, Less Government, and True Independence in Modern America. New York: Penguin, 2010. Print.
Rosenberg, David. “Taking the Table to the Farm: Portraits of Radical Off-the-Grid Living.” Behold. Slare, 10 Dec. 2012. Web. 20 Dec. 2012.
Valli, Eric. Off the Grid. N.d. Photograph. http://www.ericvalli.com/. Web. 20 Dec. 2012.

 

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby: The Fathers of Modern Marvel

Kevin Quidor

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby: The Fathers of Modern Marvel

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were Wayward Americans. The emphasis there, is on the were, as today, these two men are responsible for some of the most successful franchises in the history of Hollywood. It wasn’t always that way though. Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were the original creators of the Fantastic Four, the X-Men, the Avengers, and many more of the mighty Marvel Comics characters that society is very well aware of today. These two men weren’t always viewed as some of the fathers of this modern zeitgeist, however, and during the sixties and seventies when they created many of the characters, they were for an ever shrinking comic book reading audience. Lee, a comic book writer, and Kirby, a comic book artist, were not working in a mainstream medium. The two could have been spending their time writing novels, or making hit movies or television shows, but instead, for countless decades, chose to spend their lives working in a much lesser-known medium. This makes their accomplishments all the more impressive, while also showing why these two men might be considered wayward Americans. While these well-known intellectual properties are one side effect of the pair’s passionate work in comic books, the exciting combination of Kirby’s storytelling abilities plus Lee’s exciting script would usher in a new era of creation, and would help to present America with its most successful genre book, the super hero comic.

Stan Lee and Jack Kirby were wayward Americans for a number of reasons.  To begin with, the characters they created were very much unlike any of the other major super heroes that had been on the comic book scene. Stan and Jack’s creations were, as Stan described them, “characters [that were] different in the sense that they had real emotions and problems…and it caught on” (Lacter 96). The Fantastic Four was a family, one who lived, learned, and loved together. Readers could look at Reed, Ben, Sue, and Johnny, and would feel things that they might be feeling in their everyday life, or view scenarios of emotions getting out of control all too common for us real human beings. These were relatable, human characters with real, relatable human problems. Spider-Man was a loner, loser, and a nerd. The X-Men were hated and feared, a common sentiment felt by many racial minorities during the civil rights period of the 1960s and 1970s.

X-Men Issues 8

The X-Men, issue 8, page 5.
(From Marvel Masterworks The X-Men, volume 1, pg. 173, 1964.)

Shown here are human reactions to the actions of some mutants, specifically the Beast in Issue 8 of X-Men. The hatred and prejudice, even when judged against morally right actions, were too strong for the humans to overcome, and these sentiments are a common theme from the inception of the series through to present day comics. Mutants, hated and feared, even when doing the right thing, are seen as dangerous and conniving.

One of the great, longstanding success with these larger than life characters is that anyone can, in at least one instance, find a little bit of themselves in these super heroes. The waywardness, at least for the time, of creating iconic super hero characters with personal problems, concerns over whether one will be able to support themselves and their family, and losing your temper and arguing with others was uniquely a Marvel Comics shtick, and more importantly, uniquely Stan and Jack.

While many super heroes that exist in the Marvel Comics universe could have easily been created for any other medium, the monthly grids of comic books are where they were born. This allowed for a kind of soap operatic style of storytelling, with cliffhangers being dropped at the ends of issues and little nuggets being planted for payoff years down the line. The comic book medium was vital for the birth and proliferation of these characters, and Stan Lee and Jack Kirby’s acceptance of this as fact is a key factor to their waywardness. Comic books were lambasted by the media as corrupting the youth of America, a worrisome idea in the heart of Cold War America, but this did not stop Marvel mighty architects from creating real, living, breathing relationships, nor did it stop Stan and Jack from shying away from the personal problems that arose from the likeness to reality.

Avengers Issue 4

The Avengers, issue 4, page 23.
(Marvel Masterworks, The Avengers, volume 1, page 96, 1963.)

The comic book medium allowed for dozens of stories to be told a month, with hundreds over the course of a year. The periodical format’s absolute embrace by Marvel allowed for a unique experience, one that would have been diluted in formats where actors would be able to make their own interpretations of the art, or where the readers imagination would have to create the pictures Kirby so masterfully presented.

Captain America’s joining of the Avengers shows one of the many interesting aspects of the comic book medium, and that is that they are constantly evolving. That the times change along with the readers instills in them a sense of growth and that these stories and themes and the problems the heroes face, will grow and change along with them. This issue highlights that growth by bringing back a legend from older comics, creating the sense of a living, breathing universe with which many other forms of entertainment media could not provide.

The problem with creating a far out world that still relates to real world problems is that people of all kinds and opinions share in those real world problems. Characters like Captain America of the Avengers was a beacon of American patriotism, and, for a country in turmoil during the time of the Vietnam, Korean, and Cold War, a pro war, pro American policy super hero was an idea many butted heads with. This did not slow Captain America down. The X-Men, minorities among the humans of the Marvel universe, were hated and attacked for being different, while teams like the Fantastic Four and Avengers were praised. Their differences were genetic, something they were born with, something minorities in America have been fighting to overcome for generations. The X-Men, with their humanity amplified by amazing powers and abilities, personified that fight, and even though they were hated by humans, they fought the bad guy so that they might eventually be accepted and find peace. That Stan, Jack, and the rest of Marvel’s comic book creators did not shy away from these issues is another example of their waywardness not just as Americans, going against cultural norms, but as creators, putting their beliefs ahead of what might sell a little better.

Fantastic Four Issue 1

The Fantastic Four, issue 1, pg 9.
(Marvel Masterworks, The Fantastic Four, volume 1, pg, 9. 1961.)

Stan and Jack were busy building worlds in the 1960s and 1970s, using the comic book medium to create heroes and places that would outlast even them. Recently, however, with the advent of the super hero Hollywood movie, their creations have transitioned from little read comics with a knowable character to blockbuster hits. Cyclops, Iron Man, The Human Torch, and Thor are household names now for kids and adults of all ages and backgrounds. With this new found popularity, society has welcomed into their hearts the relatable, real characters created way back then when audiences were much smaller. It could be argued then, that the new mass appeal of these characters might dilute their original meaning, taking out the heart and soul that allowed them to live and created corporate mouthpieces bringing in untold dollars through movies, television, advertising, and merchandising. I would argue, however, that that is not the case, and that the relatability that these characters were born to encompass is alive and well in their interpretations today. The Fantastic Four is still a family that, through thick and thin, sticks together, showing the strength these bonds can create and helping to foster new ones. The X-Men still protect and serve a world that hates and fears them, and though their mission is not over, the purpose that drives them gives strength to all those who might feel pushed down and subjugated. And most importantly, the ideals and morals these heroes stand for are still bright and true, giving kids who grow up with the Avengers something to believe in. Jack Kirby and Stan Lee’s creations were the epitome of a wayward cultural product. While the abstract waywardness these men exhibited may have changed meaning with the times, if they had not gone against the grain back then, their success today might have not had anywhere near the power it will have for generations to come.

People in the sixties were concerned, rightly so, over the ever growing threat the Kremlin and the Soviet Union posed. These were real problems that real people dealt with. Shown here, Sue Storm and Ben Grimm before the four adventures take off for space to be transformed, accidently, into the Fantastic Four. Fear in the face of communism is an ideal that was relatable for readers reading this book at the height of Cold War tensions, and having the characters feel more real than any other comic book characters was something much of Stan and Jack’s work strived to be.

Suggested Readings

Genter, Robert, “With Great Power Comes Great Responsibility: Cold War Culture and the Birth of Marvel Comics,” Journal of Popular Culture. Dec2007, Vol. 40 Issue 6: 953-978.
Lacter, Mark, “Stan Lee: Marvel Comics,” Inc. Nov 1, 2009, Vol. 31, Issue 9.
Lee, Stan and Jack Kirby, “The Avengers, Vol. 1 (Marvel Masterworks),” Marvel Entertainment. New York. 1963, 1964, 2009.
Lee, Stan and Jack Kirby, “X-Men, Vol. 1 (Marvel Masterworks),” Marvel Entertainment. New York. 1961, 1962, 1963, 2009.
Lee, Stan and Jack Kirby, “Fantastic Four, Vol. 1 (Marvel Masterworks),” Marvel Entertainment. New York. 1963, 1964, 1965, 2009.
Steven, J. Richard. “Let’s Rap With Cap: Redefining American Patriotism through Popular Discourse and Letters,” Journal of Popular Culture, Jun 1, 2011, Vol. 44, Issue 3, p606

Tina Fey; ‘Funny Girl’ or butt of the joke?

Jack Slater

Tina Fey; ‘Funny Girl’ or butt of the joke?

If someone was to try and put forward the argument that today, in 2012, sexism and prejudice based on gender are a thing of the past, they wouldn’t face much opposition. Today, in Western societies, we pride ourselves on progressive attitudes towards most things. Of course, there will never be a unanimous tolerance, but society in general has adopted a liberal stance on many things considered wayward in the past, such as women earning money whilst men stay home, there being a marriage where both halves share the same genitals, and the first black President in history. However, what remains a very wayward concept is one that predetermines a woman’s capability of being funny and, as a loose offshoot to this, women who are in control, as both unnecessary and unimaginable. Whether explicitly confining women to a sex devoid of humour or inferring – as can be seen by the reactions to the success of the 2011 female-driven comedic blockbuster Bridesmaids, to give one example – that women can be funny, is a notion that not everybody finds amusing. One woman who is prominent in comedy is Tina Fey. Fey was the first female head writer for the television landmark Saturday Night Live and  is now creator and head writer for the critically acclaimed show 30 Rock. Not only is she heralded as a leading comic of today, she also directly addresses the problems posed to women in comedy, and women who are ‘the boss’, like herself.

Though humour is indubitably a subjective concept, women have often been told outright that it is impossible for their gender to be considered funny. Not ‘funny to’ or ‘funny at’, there are many who think that women are categorically unfunny, including Christopher Hitchens. However tawdry it may seem to speak ill of the dead, Hitchens was known for bigoted opinions, such as his view that women are not funny because humour is simply not a quality of theirs that men are interested by. Writing in his article for popular magazine Vanity Fair, Hitchens wrote about how “the chief task in life that a man has to perform is that of impressing the opposite sex, and Mother Nature (as we laughingly call her) is not so kind to men. In fact, she equips many fellows with very little armament for the struggle. An average man has just one, outside chance: he had better be able to make the lady laugh…” The first point that these views make are that Hitchens makes an assumption about male and female gender roles, and these assumptions made as recently as 2007, when the article was published, are dictated to by the conventional norms of heterosexuality. A man’s main thrill, and function, in life is to entice a female. Hitchens continues in the article to add that “Women have no corresponding need to appeal to men in this way. They already appeal to men, if you catch my drift.” The implication is that women are not funny because there is no need for them to be funny; their worth lies in how they appeal to men physically. This source explores the views of the oppressor of female comedy, one who cannot relate personally. However, it can be said that the views expressed are echoes of a precedent created by women themselves. As explored by writer Kristen Anderson Wagner, female comedy today suffers because “The True Woman, the feminine ideal for much of the late nineteenth century, was known for her morality, passivity, and spirituality, not for her ability to tell a joke.” Wagner identifies that there was indeed an ideal stereotype for femininity, the “True Woman,” and they decided early on that humour was not a quality that they should strive to possess.

It is not just views put upon the brand of female comedy that criticise and challenge the very idea of women being funny, sometimes the women in comedy explore the criticism they face head on from their points of view. Tina Fey knows that women in comedy have opposition, and her comedy subverts the clichéd discriminations leveled at them in an attempt to ridicule it. In one of her Saturday Night Live sketches, Fey confronts the idea that women have to fall into certain categories to become successful, such as being seen as a ‘bitch.’ Addressing criticisms aimed at Hillary Clinton during her Presidential bid, Fey accepts that women in power can be ‘bitches’, but as she puts it, bitches get stuff done[1].

The humour here follows a gender stereotype, but in this circumstance, it is used in retaliation and turned on its head. If a woman is a bitch, it is only because they’ve been made one by the incompetence and bigotry they have endured.

Fey further explores the problems posed to a woman in power in her autobiography Bossypants. On page 271, Fey addresses the way in which sexism and ageism merge when discussing a female in the entertainment industry. She writes of how she knew “older men in comedy who can barely feed and clean themselves, and they still work. The women, though, they’re all ‘crazy.’ I have a suspicion — and hear me out, because this is a rough one — that the definition of ‘crazy’ in show business is a woman who keeps talking even after no one wants to f*ck her anymore.” In a world where it is still hard for a woman to get ahead, it is suggested that even when one can break out of the mold, their days are numbered. This applies to women in all aspects of the entertainment world; a simple Google search of Madonna would result in many articles screaming out for her retirement, and calls to burn her at the stake for being remotely sexual past the age of 50. Moreover with her autobiography, the front cover[2] is another reference to the problems women in comedy face. Fey is portrayed as having comically masculine arms, large and hairy.

Tina Fey

Even as forthright as the front cover, Fey is alluding to the perception of women in power and women in comedy; to be in any position of authority or prominence, they have to lose their femininity and take on the characteristics of a man.

In Fey’s critically acclaimed sitcom 30 Rock, there is a joke that revolves around the hormonal irrationality of women. In the episode, entitled TGS Hates Women, there is a montage of comedy sketches[3] written by Fey’s character for their fictional show within the show that all depict famous women being reduced to caricatures due to their menstrual cycle. This joke works on two levels; one that women and their hormones are often treated in such a way without irony and the second that women are aware that they are parodied in such a manner and use it for their own advantage. By becoming part of the joke, the ones being laughed at through the sketch are not the women, but those who use, and believe, such a gimmicky cliché.  This, simultaneously, poses a dilemma though. Is the message being sent that the only way a woman can really be funny is to try and become part of the joke, instead of being the butt of the joke?

Women in comedy have long been misrepresented. Though there are many leading comediennes today leading the pack and changing attitudes towards women who just want to make us laugh, it would appear that a large proportion of female comedy focuses on the assumptions that women are not funny. To be a woman in comedy means laughing at women in comedy. Whether the irony or subversiveness is understood by all remains to be seen, but the content of the jokes as they explicitly appear do not challenge the assumptions that women being funny should still be considered a wayward thought.

Suggested Reading

Tina Fey, Bossypants, Reagan Arthur Books; 1st edition (April 5, 2011)

Christopher Hitchens, Why Women Aren’t Funny Vanity Fair, http://www.vanityfair.com/culture/features/2007/01/hitchens200701

Kristen Anderson Wagner, “Have Women a sense of humour?” The Velvet Light Trap Fall 2011, University of Texas, University of Wisconsin.


[1] Bitch is the new Black. Frequency.com, http://www.frequency.com/video/bitch-is-new-bl/29452991 January, 2012

[3] “Oh no! My period,” Youtube.com http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=zVgHaTPM38A

Quentin Tarantino

Grace Juli Earl

Quentin Tarantino

Multi-award winning director Quentin Tarantino was born in Knoxville, Tennessee on March 27, 1963. He dropped out of Narbonne High School in Harbor City, California, at the age of sixteen to pursue film making and his career began working as a clerk in a video store in the state’s Manhattan Beach area. His first feature length film, 1992’s Reservoir Dogs, premiered at that year’s Sundance Film Festival and some of his best-known other works include Pulp Fiction (1994), Jackie Brown (1997), Kill Bill: Vol. 1 (2003) and Vol. 2 (2004) and Inglourious Basterds (2009).

Quentin Tarantino’s films are often noted for their use of gratuitous violence and three of his most acclaimed films, Pulp Fiction, Reservoir Dogs and Inglorious Basterds, treat violence in an unusual fashion. Unlike other ‘gangster’ moves or action thrillers, Tarantino’s work is rarely concerned with “violence for the sake of violence”. Instead, Tarantino uses violence to give his characters’ depth and personalities which make such bloody content more morally justifiable. The most horrific (and memorable) scenes of the aforementioned movies – Pulp Fiction’s rape scene, the ear-cutting scene in Reservoir Dogs, and the closing scene of Inglourious Basterds – show that even the most disturbing acts of violence can serve a highly moral purpose. Ultimately, Tarantino is extremely wayward in his treatment of the subject as abhorrent acts such as rape and murder are manipulated to serve as moral guides within Tarantino’s intricately-constructed plots.

Pulp Fiction: Sodomy, Swords and Sympathy

The rape scene in Pulp Fiction is an important moment of a movie defined by its bloodshed as it shows the limits to which even the most violent people can be pushed. Despite the fact Butch Coolidge (Bruce Willis) has just been trying to kill former boss Marsellus Wallace (Ving Rhames), when he finds Marsellus being raped by ‘two hillbilly sadomasochists’ (Davis 63), he sets about freeing Marsellus using a samurai sword to punish the rapists.  In light of an act as emasculating and humiliating as brutal sodomising rape, Butch is unable to leave his former enemy to suffer and inevitably be killed. This suggests that Butch is a wholly moral character but, prior to this scene, Butch had already tried to murder Marsellus and had gunned down Vincent Vega (John Travolta), using Vincent’s own gun.

It seems extremely unusual that Butch would help his sworn enemy through saving his life and affording him the satisfaction of torturing and killing the rapists himself. This shows that Tarantino uses violence to award his characters with senses of justice and morality, rather than to fashionably depict them as masculine or ‘cool’ like in other gangster movies. Instead, violence often seems like justifiable behaviour throughout Pulp Fiction as Tarantino humanises his characters in other ways. The viewer is able to relate to characters like Butch from a moral standpoint as he becomes a “hero” through saving Marsellus and shows genuine compassion and affection towards girlfriend Fabienne (Maria de Medeiros). Meanwhile, the other two central figures in the movie, Vincent and partner Jules Winnfield (Samuel L. Jackson) are more than just small-time gangsters; they are amusing, down-to-earth characters whom the audience can relate to through their conversations involving European McDonald’s (“a royale with cheese”) and the ethics of foot massages. Davis (61) argues that:

‘These moments in their fictional representation afford Vincent and Jules with the trappings of verisimilitude, rendering them into fully realised human characters, rather than mere gangland caricatures. In short, we discover ourselves laughing with them while viewing Tarantino’s film because – aside from the weapons and drugs that mark their world – many of their thoughts and concerns seem not so different from our own’.

This shows that Tarantino’s depiction of Pulp Fiction’s underworld forces the viewer into waywardly appreciating its characters as more than just violent gangsters. Instead, Butch is presented as a figure that uses violence as a means of inflicting moral justice, whereas Vincent and Jules’ violent acts are made easier to digest as Tarantino uses popular culture to coerce his viewer into warming to the characters.

This scene shows that Tarantino feels, in some cases, extreme violence is the most effective solution to a problem. Butch’s process of choosing his weapons, eventually deciding upon the most horrific option available (the Katana sword), shows that he wants to inflict maximum damage upon the rapists. With the honour and pride of Marsellus being so disgustingly compromised, it can only take bloody violence on Butch’s part to rectify the situation and save “innocent” Marsellus. In a situation as extreme as this, violence is the only form of redemption and salvation for Butch and Marsellus.

Reservoir Dogs: Triumph within Torture

Reservoir Dogs was initially banned in the UK as its now-infamous ear cutting scene was deemed too horrific for British audiences. In this scene, Mr. Blonde uses a razor to hack off the ear of an innocent cop the gang has captured after their botched diamond heist, whilst dancing nonchalantly to Stuck in the Middle with You by Stealers Wheel. He then proceeds to douse the cop in petrol before being suddenly shot dead by Mr. Orange, who had been previously unconscious lying in a bloody heap on the floor of the warehouse where the action is taking place.

McKinney (16) argues that in Reservoir Dogs, ‘Violence has emerged as thematic matter, the true meat even of movies that claim to be about something else’ and this is interesting in relation to Mr. Blonde. Even the other ‘Dogs’, themselves violent criminals, feel that there is a vast difference between their ‘professional’ behaviour and that of ‘psychopathic’ Blonde, as Mr. White (Harvey Keitel) declares that ‘psychopathic ain’t a professional’. Blonde is depicted as a character completely devoid of moral reasoning, as shown by the uneasy way in which he dances around the warehouse without a care in the world before torturing an innocent man.

Tarantino is using his characters, then, to suggest that violence is subject to restrictions. He attempts to imply that morality exists even within organised crime gangs, whom society would deem as the most violent group of people. Although at this point in the movie this link is tenuous, as White seems to be most concerned by the personal security threat that Blonde’s behaviour poses, the ear cutting scene certainly validates this idea. Tarantino takes waywardness to a new extreme in Reservoir Dogs as he uses the most violent section of the movie to create its biggest offering of morality.

It is safe to say that the violence in the first part of this scene makes even the strongest of viewers feel uncomfortable. The ease with which Blonde cuts off the ear of the cop – dancing and singing only seconds beforehand – shows us that in certain cases, Tarantino depicts violence as sadistic and senseless. However, the ear-cutting shows the evil lurking within Mr. Blonde’s character and, as Mr. Orange shoots him multiple times, the viewer feels a sense of triumph. The innocent cop’s life is saved, showing that the murder of Blonde is justified.

Inglourious Basterds: The Revenge of the Repressed

Tarantino’s creation of a counterfactual historical narrative in Inglourious Basterds allows for his use of violence to be more than just an expression of morality, like in Pulp Fiction and Reservoir Dogs. Here, through empowering Jews against the Nazis, Tarantino creates a version of World War II which is extremely different from the truth. He subverts American understanding of the war as, although America was aware of the Holocaust, the US focused its war involvement on helping the Allied soldiers and did little to prevent the Holocaust from taking place. Through his creation of the Basterds –a guerrilla fighting unit of American Jews – Tarantino creates a historical fantasy in which the use of violence allows the oppressed to emerge victorious, whilst utterly reversing the devastation which the Holocaust had upon Jews. Richard Brody suggests that:

‘What Tarantino seems to be fantasizing about is this: What if Jews had succeeded in scaring Germans, in being known to pose fearsome physical threats to those who harmed them? Would it have altered the behaviour of the German government and its officials and soldiers in ways that could have led more quickly to Germany’s defeat?’

This supports the idea that Inglourious Basterds uses violence to challenge entire historical events. The movie is far more than just a war film; essentially, it is about using violence to differentiate between ‘good’ and ‘bad’ as war often subverts the boundaries between the two sides.

Other critics have suggested that the role of the Basterds is too farfetched to be taken seriously. Ben Walters (21) suggests that, ‘The Basterds are war criminals, explicitly denying Nazis’ humanity, targeting them for summary execution, and desecrating their corpses by scalping’. When we consider that Lt. Raine (Brad Pitt) continually states that the Basterds are ‘in the business of killing Nazis’, Walters’ perception seems accurate. However, this does not mean that the viewer despises the Basterds for their actions; in fact, the viewer does not falter from supporting the Basterds’ use of extreme violence against the Nazis. As the movie concludes, with Raine declaring ‘this might just be my masterpiece’ before carving a swastika into the forehead of Nazi Colonel Landa, the viewer can only be satisfied that the Basterds have emerged as triumphant.

As Inglourious Basterds ends, the balance between the “good” guys and the “bad” guys is restored through brutality. In the mind of Lt. Raine, it is unfeasible that Col. Landa – responsible for murdering thousands of innocent Jews – will be able to escape to America. Raine therefore carves the swastika into Landa’s head so that, no matter how his life progresses, Landa will never be able to hide his Nazi past.  Tarantino uses the scalping as a means of eternal revenge as he ensures that, even though the war may end, Landa is left with a physical reminder of the atrocities he committed. Violence ensures that Landa will never be able to forget his role as the “bad” guy.

Works Cited

Brody, R. “Guts and Gloury.” The New Yorker 18 August 2009. Article.

Davis, T. “‘Shepherding the Weak’: The Ethics of Redemption in Tarantino’s ‘Pulp Fiction’.” n.d. JSTOR. PDF Article. 18 December 2012.

McKinney, D. “Violence: The Strong and the Weak.” Film Quarterly (1993): 16-22.

Walters, B. “Debating ‘Inglourious Basterds’.” Film Quarterly (2009): 19-22.

Suggested Reading

Coulthard, L. “Torture Tunes”: Tarantino, Popular Music, and new Hollywood Ultraviolence. Music and the Moving Image (2010): 1-7.

Rennett, M. “Quentin Tarantino and the Director as DJ.” n.d. JSTOR. PDF Article. 18 December 2012.

Slotkin, R. “Gunfighter Nation: The Myth of the Frontier in Twentieth Century America.” Oklahoma: University of Oklahoma Press, 1998.