Sunday, August 28, 2011

"If Peter Pan were here, I'd set anchor in his heart!"

I think for my 3rd installment of my Capt. Hook series, I’m going to have to talk about the cartoon series Peter Pan and the Pirates. This series was broadcast on the Fox network in the early 1990’s and I was in love with it. In my Picturebook class, we read a text which discussed the reality of when popular stories are accompanied by different illustrations than the classic ones. For example, there are numerous renditions of The Wizard of Oz which have different illustrations than the famous WW Denslow ones, and there are more than a couple picturebook versions of The Velveteen Rabbit which do not have Margery Williams’ original pictures. In literature and film, Peter Pan is often depicted as having either blonde or light brown hair and outfitted in green. The Peter Pan from this series had long brown hair in a ponytail and wore brown. Wendy also looked quite different, wearing a pink dress instead of her usual white or light blue nightgown, and likewise, the Captain Hook from the series was a far cry from the traditional one.

For starters, he looks like he hulked up or hit the gym or something. Captain Hook is usually seen as leaner with a more dapper appearance. This Captain Hook is huge, and aside from his white ringlets and his lace cravat, there’s little reference to his gentlemanliness. He was voiced by Tim Curry which I cannot decide the significance of. True, Tim Curry’s terrifying clown character in Steven King’s IT gave me nightmares and established him in my mind as an actor capable of portraying terror on screen, but he’s also the guy that’s in Rocky Horror Picture Show, Annie and my personal favorite, Home Alone 2. Does Tim Curry’s involement make it more legitimate, or more ridiculous?

As you can see from his face, this Captain Hook was pretty angry most of the time. Rather than a calculating, cold-hearted villain, he seemed like more of a hot-head. I remember one episode in particular that really captured my imagination: Peter Pan and the lost boys find a skeletal hand still clutching a sword, and they relaize this is the hand that Peter famously severed from Hook’s body. I do not remember if they explain how it came to be there instead of in the crocodile’s innards, but this series was an alternate imagining of the story anyway.

Wednesday, August 24, 2011

It's a Small World After All

I was pleasantly surprised today to see an article in the New York Times about one author’s somewhat closeted love for dollhouses.

J. Courtney Sullivan writes fondly about the dollhouse she received for her seventh birthday. My mother tells me that I did have a dollhouse when I was very young, according to her it even had electricity but I sadly do not recall this. What I remember is the cardboard dollhouse I made myself out of a huge cardboard box that had built in compartments. My mom brought it home from work one day and I instantly knew what I was going to do with it.

I set to work: using wrapping paper as wallpaper, cutting up towels (sorry, Mom) for linens and carpets. I bought dollhouse furniture at dollar stores and made beds out of sponges. It was inhabited by my very large collection of Troll dolls.

Sullivan refers to her enthusiasm for tiny things as “an embarrassing secret obsession”. I sympathize with her in this way. I LOVE building dollhouses, but it’s not something I just go around telling everyone. I don’t introduce myself by saying “Hi, I’m Erin and I collect dollhouses”. Some people have no idea that I have this hobby. And fortunately, the people that do know think it’s creative and charming (or so they say). My long-time boyfriend should be cannonized because he’s lived among dollhouses for years now and just accepts it without questioning now. Although, I do joke that someday I am going to start wearing black stretch pants, white sneakers, and a T-shirt that says “Love me, love my dollhouses”. (I actually saw a shirt like that once.)

But today after reading Sullivan’s article, I started reflecting on why I have this love for dollhouses, and why I feel the need to continue this hobby. What satisfaction does it give me? Well, I study children’s literature. I am not in the MFA program like many of my classmates; I prefer to read it, and write ABOUT it, but not create any myself. My classmates regularly get the wonderful feeling that comes when you create your own world. Imagine how JK Rowling must have felt while she was creating the vast land of Harry Potter. They create their own stories, characters, rules, realities, etc, and their writing is a window into the world they have created. I envy their ability to do that. I also enjoy creating my own worlds, but instead of sculpting the workings of my imagination into words on pages, I need to be more visual and tactile, and so I create a physical depiction of my worlds as I envision them. They are tangible and real, but they’re 1:12 scale of the human world.

I think humans need this ability to slip into other worlds. This is the motivation behind reading stories, watching television shows and films, getting involved in theatre, role playing games and online games alike, etc. We embrace it so openly when we're young- playing with dolls, imagining ourselves to be whatever we want. I never cared when I was little who saw me playing with dolls or pretending to be a Ninja Turtle outside. I suppose as we grow older we suppress this desire, and find socially acceptable ways of satisfying it.

watching TV shows= normal.

A 29 yr old running around outside with mask over her eyes using a long branch as a sword= not normal.

Perhaps my “embarrassing secret obsession” with dollhouses is not understandable to everyone, but I can justify it by explaining the normal psychological need for imagination and creative expression that I think everyone has in them. I am not JK Rowling, but I am happy in my own little worlds.

Tuesday, August 23, 2011

"The Most Flamboyant Captain Hook Ever"

Obviously, I had to begin my blog post series about Captain Hook by discussing Hook as Barrie created him: in drama, literature, and imagination (his own as well as collective). Instead of skipping right to the Disney rendition, which is probably what most people think of, I decided to discuss Cyril Ritchard’s portrayal of Hook instead. I remember watching this version on television when I was little, thinking it was strange and wonderful at the same time. I enjoyed all the music and dance numbers, but some parts of it were unfamiliar to me- what is with that weird ostrich thing? I guess it’s called a Neverbird but I didn’t know what it was then.

Anyway, I also vividly remember my confusion at seeing Captain Hook dance around. Isn’t this guy supposed to be scary and fearsome? I know that this Peter Pan was a Broadway musical; in fact, Ritchard received a Tony award for his Captain Hook. This version is wonderfully campy, and extremely kid-friendly. What kid could possibly be afraid of a pirate that waltzes and sings silly songs?

When I did a quick search on Cyril Ritchard, and one of the first links that came up read “Cyril Ritchard: The Most Flamboyant Captain Hook Ever” and I had to chuckle because I think most people would agree. He doesn't seem terrifying in the slightest, but like a vain primadonna. His stage make-up is caked on, he makes the other pirates carry him around on a chaise, his colorful wardrobe and his painted on mole (or as Lady Gaga says about her own "it's not fake, it's surreal") make him a rather unlikely villain.

And what about the lyrics to his Tarantella?

"Oh!- when was such a princely plot concocted by another
to murder all the boys and keep the Wendy for our mother"

In Barrie's novel, Smee promises Wendy that he'll save her if she'll be his mother, so this film version is consistent with that idea.  . .but Smee is supposed to be a bumbling sidekick, not an evil genius. The idea is creepy enough on its own: a kidnapped pre-pubescent girl playing mommy to a fully grown man that helped capture her.  . .too much Oedipal complex and Stockholm syndrome to disentagle right now. But Ritchards' gleeful singing makes the idea pretty unbelievable anyway since he's the least threatening pirate of all time.

I don't really think this Captain Hook needs a mother- I think he needs a better chorus line.

Wednesday, August 10, 2011

Historic Preservation vs. Hyper-Preservation

Apparently, some people want the Berlin wall back.

They do not want communism to return, but they want some trace of the infamous concrete structure left for posterity, and because some tourists become disappointed when they’re not able to locate the original site of the wall.

After the wall was breached in 1989, the people quickly removed all tra ces of it in the name of newfound freedom and democracy. My concern is not really regarding the threat of communism or that the wall is an insult to democracy, but rather in the way which humans strive to protect history and feeling a constant need to preserve it and commemorate it.

I remember having this discussion numerous times in my graduate History classes. Where is the line between honoring history and over-preserving it? I think the best example of hyper-preservation is Gettysburg. I love Gettysburg. I’ve visited numerous times, and I always get swept up in the romance of the city: reenactors in 19th century costumes everywhere, horse drawn carriages, the Jenny Wade house (she was the only civilian killed during the battle). My favorite time to visit is in the fall, when there are candle-lit ghost tours aplenty. But if you look at the battlefield, and the town as a whole, there are monuments, plaques, and markers EVERYWHERE. I understand that we like to preserve certain occasions in our past, and pay tribute to people who lost their lives, but when we try to preserve everything- like the location of each separate battalion as they engaged each other- doesn’t that detract from the authenticity of the place? How can the essence/memory of it be ‘preserved’ if we constantly erect new concrete structures all over it? It seems counterproductive. Where do we draw the line between commemorating history and hyper-preserving it, so that eventually anything that ever happens to anyone will need a plaque or marker?

In regard to the Berlin wall, the article states that some citizens fear a “Disneyland” effect of the wall restructuring; they are afraid a symbol of division and repression will become a tourist attraction. A check mark on the list of “Oh, yeah, I’ve seen that”. There are streets in Germany that have cobblestone lines embedded in them to designate where the wall once stood, but still some people feel it’s not enough. The wall came down 22 years ago. Is that enhough time to really allow for society to reflect back on history and decide that this piece of it must be preserved? If not, then what is the proper amount of time that should pass? When do we actually decide that an event has so much historical significance that it must be preserved? If we decide too soon, in the heat of the moment or in some passionate after-math, then we’d have to preserve everything. Don’t we need the passage of time in order to evaluate history, measure it, and consider the effects and implications of it?

As time goes on, we view things/events/people differently. For my Historiography final paper, I compared biographies of Lincoln: from the earliest hagiographic ones to the extensive Sandburg one, to the revisionist ones of the 1960’s, ending with one of the newest ones (at that date). Needless to say, they were all very different in tone and critical value.

How people felt about the Berlin wall in 1989-1990 is obviously not the same as they feel about it now. But how are they going to view this edifice in 5, 10 or 50 years from now? Will they be grateful they preserved it, or will they see it as a hollow gesture to appease tourists? Eventually, a time will come when no one in Germany will have been alive when the wall fell; how are those people going to view a restructured version of it? Will they understand and appreciate the gesture the same way as the people there now?
I guess what I am trying to tease out of this writing is determining the qualifications for preservation. Who or what? What’s the significance, and how significant is it in the greater scheme of history (local, state, national or world)? When should it begin?

As always, questions but no answers. . . .

Tuesday, August 9, 2011

Captain Hook, who and what art thou?

I just found out the other day that there is a two-part Peter Pan prequel film titled Neverland being released soon. The story reveals the never-before-told story of how Peter Pan becomes the eternally youthful, flying, love-interest for human girls and fairies alike. The film features Kiera Knightley’s voice as Tinkerbell (I’ll withhold my thoughts until I see the film), but I am looking forward to seeing Bon Hoskins once again portray Mr. Smee. I think something that interests me even more than seeing Peter Pan’s past though is seeing the past life of Captain Hook. Don’t get me wrong, I LOVE Peter Pan (even portrayed him in a home-made neighborhood play when I was little), but the dark enigma of a fierce pirate with a hook for a hand is very alluring. That description makes old Hook seem like nightmarish monster, so let’s not forget that he is obsessed with a pre-pubescent boy, and is deathly afraid of a particular reptile.

As my own personal tribute, I am starting a small series of posts in which I discuss the various renditions of Captain Hook that literature, film, and popular culture have given us.

I think it would be a sin if I did not begin the series with a discussion of Barrie’s original Captain Hook. Obviously, Barrie wrote the play Peter Pan, and so Captain Hook was a dramatic character. Since I was not there, or even close to be being alive, in 1904 when it debuted in London, I cannot do it justice. So I’ll start simply by looking at the cover of the 1911 novelization of the play.

The title page to the novel shows the cast of characters. The Darling family is centered. I think it’s interesting that none of the family members is looking at the viewer. They are depicted in various degrees of profile. I also find it interesting that Nana the dog is centered, and that she does look directly at the reader. It’s like saying that out of the family members, Nana, the dog, is the most stable one.

Captain Hook is outfitted in his typical garb, from his buckle shoes to the feather flourish in his hat. He does not look out at the reader either. In fact, his gaze is fixated on Wendy. But isn’t his nemesis Peter Pan? Indeed, but his boy enemy seems unperterbed, and seems more focused on looking at Mrs. Darling, a quintissential mother, who is holding Michael on her lap. Wendy looks up at her father, who is pulling away from her, and their eyes are locked in a diagonal line. Yet the larger diagonal gaze is accomplished by the gargantuan Captain Hook, who appears to be twice the size of Mr. Darling (and yes, size does matter). In fact, now that I look closer at Wendy’s profile, it’s not 100% clear that she is only looking only at her father. Is it possible that she is looking past her father, as he pulls away from her, to lock eyes with the malevolent man lurking on the left side? Obviously, left has the popular connotation of being evil and sinister, while the right is often associated with goodness and divinity. Take that a step further- Captain Hook lost his right hand, the ‘good’ one’ to the crocodile. It’s like saying if he had a any goodness or humanity in him, it’s been replaced with coldness and hardness.

The way that Captain Hook and Wendy are engaged on this cover, with Mr. Darling pulling out of their line of vision, definitely brings up the very Freudian stage tradition of having the same actor portray both Mr. Darling and Captain Hook.

Barrie describes Captain hook as having a "handsome countenance", and also relates that he has impressive diction, alluding Hook’s Eton education. This pirate is a gentleman and a scholar! Though he might be handsome and educated and eloquent, he was described in Barrie’s speech (the speech is titled "Captain Hook at Eton") as disgusting. Is he disgusting because of his bloodlust, or is there something even more threatening about him? Yes, he has a very sharp hook that has many homely uses, my favorite one is combing hair, and he uses it to gut people. But his dark locks and his very blue eyes, as Barrie describes them, make him very seductive too, and perhaps that is where the real danger lies in Captain Hook.

This blog post barely scratches the surface of Captain Hook and his position in literature, film, pop culture and imagination, both individual and collective. There are so many other things to be said for this favorite villain, so I am going to try and give him a fair shake (but only his left hand, not his right!) by looking at other portrayals and presentations of him.

Monday, August 8, 2011

The Validity of the Written Word

I stumbled across this unfinished email conversation from a couple years ago. My good friend J (who has been a great cheerleader for me, in my years as a student, grad student, adjunct, and now back to grad student again) and I were discussing the validity of literature.

I posed a question to him regarding the value of any piece of literature: is some literature better than other? Why? How do we know? And who decides?

Obviously, there are a number of awards which are designed to congratulate authors/illustrators on jobs well done, and also these awards make people want to read the book because we automatically figure it's good because "hey- it won an award".

We debated about various genres of literature, and i remember him saying something along the lines of a Danielle Steele novel being theoretically as 'good' as any classic piece of literature, because it can  be interpreted/analyzed/criticized in the same way.

So if this is true- that all literature has validity, then WHEN does it actually become valid?

Is it when the author writes it down on a page? Did Anne Frank's thoughts become valid literature as soon as she wrote them down, never intending anyone else to read it?

Is it when someone else reads it? She never intended anyone else to read her diary, but it one of the most famous books in the world.

Is it when we read it critically? Does applying a literary theory make any text valid? If so, does that the book I wrote about unicorns and mermaids when i was 10 is just as valid as any other piece of literature?

Once again, I have no answers, only questions.

Sunday, August 7, 2011

Thinking Too Much About Random Lines in Comedy Movies (again)

I was watching Baby Mama today (that movie has not been ruined for me yet by any school stuff) and I experienced a very slight deja vu when Carl tells Angie (regarding a pregnancy scheme): "Sweetie, you're not smart enough to pull this off."

It immediately reminded me of the line in Legally Blonde when Warner tells Elle (regarding an internship at a law office): "You're not smart enough, sweetie."

I know that these are fictional characters in comedy movies and I've probably already thought too much about this, but who could possibly think that inserting the word "sweetie" could soften an insult in which a man tells a woman she's too dumb to succeed, so why bother trying?

Saturday, August 6, 2011

I just read this article “Back to School Gadget Guide”:

I know that this a Yahoo! Shopping guide, and not a legitimate news article, but the fact that it is included in Yahoo! News alongside news of Gabrielle Giffords ongoing recovery and tea party developments makes it seem a little more legitimate, because people are going to read it as a news piece.

I am going to try very hard not to make this into a “When I was in school. . . . .” rant like all old people, but something about this article really bothered me.

Oh, OK- I’ll allow myself one little rant-ling: When I was in school, my back to school list included notebooks, pens and pencils and new uniforms. No fancy electro-thing-a ma-bobs!

There, now it’s over.

Some of the things in this guide make sense. For example, a good printer is definitely something useful. I don’t think “my printer wasn’t working” is a valid excuse for a lot of teachers. I also agree with the inclusion of the external hard drive (the one is this article is especially pretty, too) because anyone that’s ever had a computer crash or lost a flash drive or forgotten to save a paper knows a lot of back-up is good.

But since when is a $100 razor a school supply?

And the Mac Book Air would definitely wipe out my own budget- but apparently “if you want to get the epitome of style, form and functionality” then your kids need it.

This brings me back to a recent discussion I had regarding societal pressure to have the latest and greatest technological accessories, and kids (or even adults) that do not have them getting ridiculed.

E taught in Maryland for 3 years, and he was also a basketball coach. On a bus ride home from a game, he noticed that all the kids were listening to Ipods, except one kid who had kind of a beat-up Discman. I don’t know if anyone said anything to him, but even if they didn’t, how must that student have felt?

It is not the same as an adult that chooses not to buy a a Kindle or a Droid. I choose to have a crappy cell phone b/c I know I don’t need a fancy one to feel connected to anyone. My ugly little Trac phone works just fine for coordinating dinner plans and calling AAA when the Silver Tongue is sick, but people make fun of me for it. Even I make fun of myself for it. I might as well have one of those old-people Jitterbug phones with just 2 giant buttons on it: home and 911.

It seems like these two giant words CONSUME and TECHNOLOGY are two sides of the same coin- or crisp $100 bill.

Friday, August 5, 2011

Queerness in Pre-Code Hollywood

I am still coming down from my summer course-trying to process everything I absorbed in an intense month-long class.

One thing I’ve become very interested in recently is Queer Theory. I don’t remember learning much about it in my undergraduate classes- but maybe that’s b/c that was at least six years ago and I was struggling with other theories at the time (reading Derrida for the first time almost killed me.) It didn’t come up a whole lot in my graduate history courses, only in the form of the LGBT movement and how it developed out of Second Wave feminism. When I started my current degree program, they sky opened up and let loose, especially when my nightmare-inducing lit crit presentation was due.

But not long ago I started becoming really interested in pre-code Hollywood. It started, of course, with my adoration for Clark Gable, and I was trying to find some of his earliest films to watch.

 Isn’t he dreamy?!

I ended up ordering Night Nurse from Netflix, and the DVD included a documentary about pre-code movies and all the awesome stuff they had in them. . .all the awesome stuff that the Hayes Office demanded be removed from films post 1934. Aside from references to drugs, pre-marital sex, child abuse, and some men punching women (awesome in movies for action and drama, but not awesome in real life obviously) there were references to gay culture and lifestyles.

Now, these movies weren’t celebrating it- it is true that they used it as a form of comic relief. For example, a man and a woman are dancing. A handsome man approaches the couple, and asks if he may cut in. Then, he dances away in the arms of the man and the woman is left standing there, befuddled.

It was not a deep examination of gender or sexuality, it was a cheap laugh. But when the Hayes office began censoring films in the mid 1930’s, there weren’t references like that allowed anymore. And I am left wondering which one is worse- using it a source of humor, or refusing to acknowledge that it exists? I don’t have an answer- I am actually wondering.

The Hollywood censorship ended up crumbling in the late 1960’s- or did it?

Last week, I was watching one of my favorite ‘90’s childhood’ movies Now and Then. (Devon Sawa was OK, but I still prefer Clark Gable.) I went to Internet Movie Database to look up trivia on it, since I cannot watch any movie anymore w/o doing that, and I read that Rosie O’Donnell was upset with how her character was treated. Supposedly, the character of Roberta was supposed to be portrayed as a lesbian, but at the last minute a line was looped in that says “she lives in sin with her boyfriend”. First of all, I disagree that living with a boyfriend is a “sin”- am I going to end up in Hell because I share my life and home with my beloved E? But getting back to the main point- this is an example of how we still censor children from anything that’s not “normal” – whatever normal means.

I had always assumed that because I didn’t know what Queer Theory was that I had never been exposed to it before- and it turns out that it’s all around, I just never recognized it.

**By the way, I am fully aware that my long-time crush on Clark is strange. I am lusting after the same man my grandmother did when she saw Gone with the Wind seven times in the theater. And yes, he was dead for 22 years before I was even born- that is a minor inconvenience, but it does not detract from my devotion.

Thursday, August 4, 2011

You Gotta Love Unintentionally Dirty Children's Books!

Like I've said before, I enjoy the blogs Vintage Books My Kid Loves as well as Jacket Knack. Sometimes when I get bored, I sort through my vintage books and look at the illustrations. I was doing this recently and I grabbed this book from the shelf.

The cover is such a pop of color, with Puss in Boots in the foreground, and a little knight in the background. Dick and Jane doppelgangers encroaching on the picture- telling the1950's parents who would have seen it in a toy shop or drug store: "Yes- your children will enjoy this book!"

It contains  a number of classic fairy tales, such as Hansel and Gretel, Snow White, Beauty and the Beast, etc. but this page definitely surprised me:

Now of course, I know that 'ass' means 'donkey', but I could not help laughing when I saw this.

And then, I read it in my giggly state and it just got worse.

I'll leave you with a quote from the book:

""Just wait until I feed my ass," said Jack.

Little Women (not the book though)

One of the things I like at my job is the cart of library books getting withdrawn from the Nonfiction section. Every few days, the old ones get sent away, and new ones are selected to be withdrawn for a number of reasons. The usual reasons are outdated material or poor condition.

Today I was browsing through them, and I found a psychology one that is getting the ax: The Girl Within by Emily Hancock. She writes:

“At the buried core of women’s identity is a distinct, vital self first articulated in childhood, a root identity that gets cut off in the process of growing up.”

She goes on to state that women come fully into their own and become truly themselves only when they recapture the girl we were in the first place- before she got all cluttered up.

I guess I can understand the part about getting “cluttered up”- growing up certainly makes us collect baggage. But I do not feel disconnected from my childhood self at all. In fact, sometimes I feel too attached to it. It seems foreign to me that some women can get so far from the girl they once were because it often seems as though society tries to keep women as girls forever.

Many marriage ceremonies still include the tradition of a father giving his daughter away to a husband, and even some of the more PC ones have the officiant asking “who presents this woman in marriage?” and both parents answering. If/when I get married, I’ll present myself in marriage. And then there is the old adage: “My son is my son ‘till he gets him a wife, but my daughter’s my daughter all of her life.”

I realize this is supposed to be an expression of parental love, but what does that say about the daughter? The son is able to grow up, get married (or not), have a family (or not), and no matter how old the daughter gets and where she goes and what she does, she will always be viewed as a child? How is that flattering?!

And what about the habit of referring to grown women as “girls”? I am guilty of this, and I wonder why/when/how it started. My grandmother once wrote in a letter to me that she recently had lunch with “the girls”; she and her friends were all in the 70’s at the time. This is so confusing to me because in another respect, we are constantly pushing girls (as in children) to grow up so quickly. We barrage them with adult-themed messages through media, we always tell them to act like “young ladies” and “to grow up”, and it’s becoming increasingly clearer that they feel the pressure to grow up at younger and younger ages. Does anyone like hearing third graders talk about dieting?

So we tell them, through words and example, that they must grow up, the understand this, they strive to appear and act older than they are, and then we still view them as eternal children? And it’s not as if it is men doing this to women; they might do this, but we do it to ourselves as well.


After I wrote the first part, I took a brief break and flipped through a Marie Claire magazine.  As I flipped through it, in a weird coincidence, I was accosted with this advertisement for Marie Claire Enfants:

I know that it’s French, not American, but “enfantes” translates to “little children”. Doesn’t this girl look like a miniature version of a runway model? The outfit, the make-up, the knowing look that you’re looking at her.  .  .I am not blaming the French because is it really so different than all the advertisements we have for young girls’ clothing in Gap Kids commercials and the tiny skinny jeans and tank tops that we sell to 8 year olds?

Wednesday, August 3, 2011

Social Perception via Facebook

For all my fears about technology and what it is doing to society- is it possible anymore to talk to someone w/o them texting someone else?- I do have some favorites:

I love my GPS. I have always been directionally challenged. I grew up in Rochester, NY and I still don’t know my way around it. I have gotten lost in my car so many times it is impossible to count, and the GPS saves me from all that fear, lost time, and humiliation (b/c everyone knows I can’t find my way out of a paper bag).

I love my laptop. It makes doing schoolwork so much easier.

But I think my favorite technological advance- the one I cannot live without- is Facebook.

I LOVE Facebook. I wish I could live inside my Facebook page.

Recently, someone tried to take my picture, and as I turned away and said “no”, like usual, she cried exasperated, “But you have pictures all over Facebook!”. She thought that it was something personal against her, like it was the fact that she, in particular, wanted to take a picture of me, when in fact it doesn’t have anything to do with her. It’s all about control.

When I post pictures of myself on FB, it is because I want those on there. The picture was taken, I saw it in advance, I decided I don’t look like too much of a creep, and I decided to share it my friends.

And now I understand why so many people are also obsessed with Facebook- it is because on Facebook we can control how the world sees us. We can post the most flattering pictures, we can decide which portions of the personal information to fill out- if you do not want to share something, you simply do not type it in.

The things that we do share influence how other people in FB world view us- I tend to post a lot of movie quotes and funny videos, and poke fun at myself a lot, and my profile picture is either one of me smiling and having fun, or it is some pop culture reference that I think is representative of some part of my personality. The pictures I post are usually of my crreations and projects, or my pets or other people that are near and dear to me. I try not to post too many status updates that are negative or whiney or scary angry because I do not want to be seen as that kind of person. I hope that other citizens of Facebook view me as a quirky, creative, and delightfully ditzy. In the world of Facebook, I want to be a loveable village idiot.

So then I started thinking about other ways in which we try to control how others see us-

-we choose to wear the clothes we do based on how we want people to perceive us. I dress one way for work because I want to be thought of as professional, I dress another way when I go out on the town because I want people to find me easy on the eyes.

-we control what we say. Well, most people can- I sometimes have the Bridget Jones thing happen. But overall, we say what we do for a reason, and more importantly, we can lie, and outright manipulate what people think of us. Just as we choose what to say, we can also choose what NOT to say.

-the cars we drive. Cars, like so many other things, are status symbols, and I have known people that obsess about their cars, and what the cars say about them. I have no idea what other people think about my car- a 2003 silver Cavalier which I named The Silver Tongue, but to be honest I don’t care that much. It gets me from point A to point B safely, and that’s all that matters to me.

How many other ways do we try to control how others see us? It’s an infinite list, and I am sure I am guilty of many ways, but Facebook is by far the most fun.

Tuesday, August 2, 2011

Part 3 of Erin's Weird Fascination with Catholic Figures of Authority

I spent four days in Boston at at conference. This is the only picture I took:

I was walking to my campus by cutting through Emmanuel College's campus, and I walked right by this statue of a nun. I love photography, and I love nuns so it seemed like a good fit. But as I continued to walk through the campus, I realized there were a number of religious statues placed all over it.

Obviously, the statues are not alive. I can do anything I want in front of them, and they can't do anything about it. Their carved eyes see nothing. But it made me reflect upon the idea of having them all over the place. Why are they there? Why do Catholic schools put then all over the place, and why are so they often elevated on carved corbel shelves in Catholic churches? 

Because it feels as though they're looking at you all the time. It feels as though they are a constant surveillance system (much cheaper than security cameras, too). Religion, Catholicism and many others, operates largely on guilt. If you're in Church (or in St. John the Evangelist school or Nazareth Academy) and you do something wrong, someone always sees you. Maybe not the priest or a teacher or principal, but these statues are always there, and it makes you feel guilty, and the idea is that you'll confess and monitor your own behavior.

Enter Foucault's panopticon.

A true panopticon is one building in the center of a prison, but the idea of it is the same.  It "allows an observer to observe (-opticon) all (pan-) inmates of an institution without them being able to tell whether or not they are being watched" (Wikipedia to keep it short, and because this is a blog not a school paper).

Replace "inmates" with "students" and you've got a built-in system of control, even when no other person is around. I think the statues at St. John's worked better than the Naz ones, b/c teenage girls are too self-centered to look around- they are almost always looking at themselves. 

I have always wanted to find a life size statue that I can put in my living room. Kind of like the one that Demi Moore has in "Ghost". That could probably be a psychological insight- they simultaneously creep me out and fascinate me, and I want one in my house?

It doesn't matter anyway because Eric does not share my enthusiasm, so I doubt I'll ever get one.

Monday, August 1, 2011

My Body Frenetic

Well, after many months of neglecting this blog, I decided to update it once more. This blog so often acts as a last resort for me to express some thoughts/ideas I have when;

1. No one else understands

2. No one else cares

3. There were some people that kinda cared, but they stopped listening to me talk because i kept going on and on and on.  .  .I can be delightfully manic if I have the right topic.

I am still a grad student, feverishly pursuing my MA in Children's Literature in the magical city of Boston. I swear, every time I drive over the Tobin Bridge and see the city skyline, I feel like Dorothy when she sees the Emerald City. My semester classes finished in May (A- in my Picturebook class, as a follow-up to my last post), but I decided to take a summer class, which culminated in a long weekend, four days to be exact, of lectures and seminars.

It was a wonderful weekend- despite the fact I slept on the floor of a non-air conditioned dorm room- and I had many magical moments with my fellow classmates, and we gorged ourselves on signed books, many nerdy discussions that only Child Lit people understand the importance of, and wine. The theme of the class was The Body Electric, and it only reinforced a thought I've had all along:


Let me explain. Ever since I started this degree, I have learned more than I ever thought possible, and I assume I will continue to learn much in my remaining time there. But to be constantly engaged with so many different literary theories.  .  .that stuff doesn't just slide off you at the end of the day. It sticks. FOREVER. And now doing activities which were insignificant before, and watching movies which I long ago put in my 'stupid humor' file seem so valid.

For example: the movie It's Pat! (based on my fav. SNL character) is completely destroyed for me now.

 Ever since I had to do my hour and a half presentation on gender theory, I can no longer watch that movie with my eyes glazed over. Now when I watch my DVD, all I can think about is constructs of gender, and performativity, and.  .  .before I know it I am outlining a paper on Otherness in Saturday Night Live Skits.

The theme of my summer class was The Body Electric- every single book and article we read for a month was related to the theme. And I am already seeing side effects of this class and its theme. Today, to relax i watched The Little Mermaid. And ALL I could think about is Ariel's body- who controls it? her father? the sea witch? Ariel? As i was sinking further and further into this train of thought, I missed my favorite song and had to skip back.

So I got up to review my movie collection, and come to terms with another batch of movies I will never be able to watch passively again. I know that themes of the body can relate to almost anything in the world, but there are a couple which will never be the same for me again. The one I am saddest about?

Mrs. Doubtfire.

How can I ever watch this wonderful movie of my youth again without all this theory sneaking up on me?

Particularly the scenes in which Robin Williams dons the rubber 'old woman body suit' thing, and the scene in the end when his old lady face peels off as he rescues Pierce Brosnan from choking on a spicy piece of shrimp. I'll sit down with a snack, and before I know  it I'll be drafting a paper on artificial bodies or something. 

It's a losing battle to enjoy small pleasures.

On a closing note, I fully expected a dance scene to break out at this institute this weekend- I thought for sure people would be doing the electric slide in Java City.

Maybe graduate school doesn't ruin EVERYTHING.  .  .