Thursday, September 20, 2012

Thesis and Introduction

Assignment #6

Thesis and Introduction


Concerning the issue of consumerism, some people believe that consumerism has a major influence over our sense of self, while others feel that consumerism has no control over our  individuality. According to Fight Club, a novel written by Chuck Palahniuk, it states that individualism breaks down in a controlled society.  Specifically, Palahniuk also argues that counter-culture, such as the cult following that Tyler Durden has, also takes away individuality. His views, thus, are that individuality is taken away, no matter the type of controlled society or system.  

I somewhat agree with Palahniuk's views.  In my view, individuality can be broken down if a person gets too indoctrinated into a system.  For instance, Tyler Durden's after-hours Fight Club breaks men down through violence, then builds them back up through the dogma fed to them by Tyler Durden.  Some might object, of course, on the grounds that those men have the free will to refuse to participate in Fight Club.  Yet, I would argue that those men are already broken by the society they live in, disillusioned and looking for release from their repetitive, materialistic lives. Overall, I believe that they are already prone to have their individualism taken away--an important point to make given that this parallels many different events and tragedies throughout the course of history.


In the modern society that we live in today, consumerism is the almighty, the Alpha and Omega. We purchase all of the things that we need through the money earned from our career/profession/job, completely oblivious that we are in a never-ending cycle that brings little joy. Even entertainment is centered around consumerism, with brand labels and advertising taking precedence over the content itself. Through the practice of consumerism, we start to lose the sense of who we are, as our worldly possessions start to take more precedence over our individualism. According to Chuck Palahniuk's novel Fight Club, individualism breaks down in light of a controlled system, such as modern society's consumer-driven system, or counter-culture's dogmatism.

Palahniuk makes a valid argument; near the start of the novel Fight Club, the protagonist makes the point of listing all of the furniture that he used to own, now blown to kingdom come due to a "gas leak" in his apartment. The destruction of all of his personal property is tragic, but liberating, as the protagonist admits it himself: "And I wasn't the only slave to my nesting instinct. The people I know who used to sit in the bathroom with pornography, now they sit in the bathroom with their IKEA furniture catalogue." (Palahniuk, 43) The destruction of his home is the catalyst to form Fight Club, which serves to liberate men, but to also break them down in order to serve Tyler Durden, the enigmatic creator of Fight Club. Sound familiar? Modern society and the counter-culture of Fight Club both destroy the individuality of the men who are indoctrinated into it, meaning that there is little difference between the two. Palahniuk's message is both critical and honest: Individuality is the first casualty of an ordered system.

Monday, September 10, 2012

The Truman Show: Review

Assignment #5

Review of The Truman Show

At first glance, The Truman Show, starring Jim Carrey, seems to be a poignant take on the (then recent) surge of popularity of reality television. This is only helped by Jim Carrey's comedic acting, characterized by his trademark expressiveness and loud dialogue. However, there is much to be found within this seeming parody of poor television, most notably a single question: would you be content with a sheltered life if you knew that a more dangerous, but free life existed? I believe The Truman Show argues for freedom, despite the dangers that freedom brings. This theme can be observed in the near final scene of the movie, where Christof, the creator of the show, tries to talk Truman out of leaving the set, stating that the world outside of the set is cruel and unforgiving, while the world Truman's escaping is kind and fair. Truman leaves the set, never looking back once.

I feel, as a reviewer, that The Truman Show is completely correct. It is said that familiarity breeds contempt; that couldn't be more right in the case of Truman, who eventually succeeds in breaking out of his prison. The sheltered life simply doesn't offer enough excitement for me, and if I had the knowledge of a more fulfilling, yet dangerous life, I would take the opportunity without hesitation.

The Truman Show is about a seemingly ordinary man living an unremarkable life. Truman Burbank, played by Jim Carrey, has an attractive wife, a car, a mortgage, and a job as an insurance salesman. Truman lives in the neatly manicured and idyllic Seahaven, an amalgam of east-coast architecture and 50's era living. What Truman doesn't know, however, is that he's the unwitting star of a TV show watched by millions, and that the town he lives in is a movie set so large that it is visible from space. Everyone he knows is an actor, and has been since the day he was born. What's interesting about the plot of The Truman Show is the many ways the viewer can interpret it.

A notable quote from the movie is from the character Christof. "We accept the reality of the world with which we are presented." This is an interesting line, as it makes the inherent nature of the movie The Truman Show visible, and as a viewer, raises many questions. Should we accept things at face value without question? Is complacency really preferable to truth? This helps the movie stand out from various other comedy flicks, as it presents the viewer with a myriad of philosophical questions.

The Truman Show is a fine example of how a comedy movie can both make you laugh and think at the same time. The question it poses is also very thought provoking, and not easy to answer. As for me, I wouldn't willingly languish in a prison that I've lived in from birth, even if the prison is safer/less deceitful. What about you, gentle reader? Would you trade your freedom for complacency?

Thursday, September 6, 2012

Alice Hoffman's Lecture

Assignment #4

Alice Hoffman's Lecture

Walking into the makeshift auditorium, a sea of faces greeted me, most of them FYS freshmen, some faculty. The side of the basketball court we were situated on was illuminated by harsh floodlights hanging from the ceiling, not succeeding at making me feel more welcome than I already was. The crowd seated on the bleachers was buzzing as I went up to take my seat, not all that enthusiastic to be there. After a couple of minutes of waiting, one of the faculty went up to the podium and introduced Alice Hoffman, the author of the book The River King, among the other books and screenplays she wrote. Another person by the name of Dr. Pagan then told us about Alice Hoffman's career as a writer. After some applause, Alice Hoffman then took the stage.

The first thing I noticed about Alice Hoffman was how generic she looked. She looked as if she just drove her kids to soccer practice, and came back. She was wearing a small black sweater over a laced purple shirt, with matching black leggings. Mrs. Hoffman looked nice enough to me, kind of like an elementary school teacher. She introduced herself, and then told us a bit about her life. She never really dreamed about going to college, being from a working-class neighborhood, so she took a generic job (the name escapes me) which she quit after working there for half a day. That got a few chortles out of the audience. She then immediately signed up for college, following up her four years there at grad school in Stanford. I gleaned off of this that she was a highly educated woman, even if I didn't like the book The River King.

One interesting fact about Alice Hoffman is that she penned The River King while receiving treatment for cancer, which influenced her greatly in her writing. She likened the metal table she lay on during her treatments to a raft, which seemed like interesting inspiration to the book. "Writing was my only escape," she stated, in a matter-of-fact way. It made sense, as undergoing treatment for cancer is a very painful process, which some people don't even live through. So, that need for escapism in times of strife made sense.

She then started a questionnaire after her introduction, of which I thought dragged out the lecture somewhat. There were several questions which seemed inane, but one of them stood out to me. One of them was from the left side of the bleachers. "Who is the main character of The River King?"

Alice Hoffman's answer was intriguing. She first asked us who we thought was the main character. I was among the group who answered August Pierce. "In truth," she said, "The main character is whoever you want it to be, as I decided to write about a community, not a single character in particular." I thought that was rare, as it went against what I considered was proper storytelling, i.e. fleshing out a main character with other secondary characters supporting the main one. It was an interesting way to write a book, albeit against the norm.

Alice Hoffman also talked about the theme of bullying in The River King, as Gus Pierce was the ultimate victim. She stated that her inspiration for this aspect of the book was from her son, who was a victim of hazing and bullying at a prep school. It made sense, as a lot of writers find inspiration from the people and places around them. "Remaining silent is just playing into the bully's hands," informed Mrs. Hoffman. It seemed that way, as Gus Pierce remained silent during the book, and ended up floating face-down in the Haddan River.

I believe the lecture that Alice Hoffman gave was informative, but failed to captivate me. It didn't help that I didn't enjoy The River King, either. So, with my posterior numb from sitting on a bleacher for an hour and thirty minutes, I left with the crowd after giving token applause to the woman who's book I would promptly forget about after I'm done needing to do assignments on it.

Saturday, September 1, 2012

Consumerism in Different Flavors

Assignment #3

Consumerism in Different Flavors

In this modern era, it's harder than ever to express yourself in a unique way, mostly due to the fact that a multi-billion dollar corporation has already capitalized on your "unique" brand of style. A tour of the website only helps drive that point home, with it's snarky commentary and relatively accurate representation of the scenes that many people ascribe to. In all honesty, it's just selecting the scene that represents "you" the best, then running with it, hawking it's merchandise, music, and style of living. The boundaries between this self-expression and blatant consumerism is non-existent. You either open your wallet to the corporation which sells your brand of clothing, or you knit your own cardigan. This is what I believe my scene to be, done in the style of yourscenesucks.

The Post-Prep
Defining Traits:
Short hair/gelled hair
Superdry hoodie/t-shirt
Casual demeanor
Neutral-colored jeans
Name-brand shoes
Distinct lack of tattoos

This is what would happen if you left a prep with a platinum Visa in a generic department store for two hours. Opting to remain subdued in a world of bombastic expression, the Post-Prep has left the formal style of his khakis and overshirts for the more familiar and simple jeans and a t-shirt combo. The Post-Prep believes himself above the more extreme scenes around him, scoffing at the idea of gauges and piercings, instead favoring a look more likely to net him a job at the local Nordstrom or Superdry store. Really, the Post-Prep is just a prep who lost the cojones to stand out in a sport-coat.


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