Light and darkness are easy to identify in the world.
Not everything is as simple as it seems. That cute looking kid? Could be the most troublesome child ever. That calm and composed straight A student? Might be the biggest mess. You never know what lies beneath the surface. Assuming that we have defined light and darkness as good and bad, it is not easy to identify what is good and what is bad. If a girl murdered a man, most people would be quick to say that she’s a bad person, and that her actions are full of darkness. But what if this man had been harassing her or attempting to hurt her, perhaps even assault her? Did the girl do something bad by defending herself? Is the act of defending oneself full of darkness? No. Like this example, many things in the world are not simply light or dark. Most actions are a mixture, a portrait made of white, black, and every shade in between. Someone with good intentions might do a bad deed. Someone with bad intentions might do a good deed. Is it easy to identify the actions of the girl, who committed a murder while trying to defend herself, as good or bad? No. Not everything is as simple as it seems.
In your opinion, what is the most effective medium for telling the “Harrison Bergeron” narrative: film or text? Why?
Books have been around for hundreds of years, while films are a much newer medium of sharing stories. 2081 creates a much stronger impact than “Harrison Bergeron”, as 2081 offers more background information and is more relatable. 2081 by Chandler Tuttle is the film adaptation of the short story “Harrison Bergeron”, written by Kurt Vonnegut in 1961. “Harrison Bergeron” is set in 2081, in a world where everything and everyone is equal. This equality has been achieved with the use of mental and physical handicaps for the intelligent and the strong. The story centers around Harrison Bergeron, a genius and athlete, and his actions after he breaks out of prison. There are subtle differences between the two plots, as the story progresses. 2081 has more background information and context compared to “Harrison Bergeron”. In “Harrison Bergeron”, the only background information we get is that “the year [is] 2081, and everyone [is] finally equal” (1). Compared to 2081, where we see glimpses of the government and people living their daily lives, it’s a lot harder to infer things about the current society in the story, and thus makes it difficult to understand what is going on. With better understanding of a society, it’s easier to make connections from another society to ours, which makes 2081 more realistic and relatable when compared to ‘Harrison Bergeron”. In “Harrison Bergeron’ we only get a glimpse of people other than Hazel and George when they “were watching television” (1). In 2081, we get more chances to witness their society. We see people watching the ballet, ballerinas, the military, and many other people living in their society. We see people like us, living in a society that has many differences, but also many similarities to ours. With these similarities, it’s easier to see ourselves in the position of people living in the story, which makes 2081 more vivid and impactful compared to “Harrison Bergeron”.
How might we begin to reject the single stories in our life?
In our daily lives, we see representations of different cultures, environments, objects, and people all the time. What we don’t always realize is that these representations can influence our perspective, limiting us to see only one colour out of a thousand. In order to reject the single stories in our lives, we have to keep our minds open and be aware that what we may hear, may not be the only truth. We learn from Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie’s TED talk that “power is the ability not just to tell the story of another person, but to make it the definitive story of that person”. We hear of her story in America, where her roommate expects that she “did not know how to use a stove.” Her roommate had only heard ” a single story of Africa: a single story of catastrophe” and came to believe what she was told, never assuming that there could be more to the truth. Believing only what we hear can leave us with a lack of knowledge, affecting our judgment to make the best decisions. Mastering the ability to question what you are told will give you power over yourself, overriding the power that people in influential positions wield over us. In order to keep our minds open and aware, we have to question if what we are told is the entire truth. Like we have discussed in class last year, we must ask the question of who; who benefits from sharing this single story? Understanding that there is always more to the truth and questioning who benefits will help us see things from a broader perspective.
Flame in the Mist by Renée Ahdieh
In a traditional Japanese society, women are expected to be proper and obedient, like fragile objects that are traded around by men. Mariko defies all those expectations in the first scene that I chose, where she kills a man. At first, I was disappointed in Mariko’s inability to fight back. It was expected, as she was probably sheltered from combat experiences as a woman, but it was aggravating to read about a woman unable to defend herself from an aggressor. However, I was astonished by Mariko’s quick thinking and the way she doesn’t hesitate to kill the nameless man. During her struggle with the man, Mariko decides that she will “not be bandied about by men any longer” and that she is “not a prize to be bought or sold” (31). Mariko fears being continuously oppressed by men and wants to be in control of her own fate. Mariko’s external struggle against the man is accompanied by her internal conflict regarding whether she should or should not break free of her society’s expectations of women. After the man is dead, Mariko proceeds to throw up, which I found to be realistic; killing someone is bound to be a shocking experience for anyone. Mariko’s unwavering spirit is a characteristic that I admire and wish that I could develop. It was difficult to make a personal connection to Mariko in this scene, as I have not killed anyone before, but if I was put in the same situation as her, I feel as if I would have had a harder time fighting back. Ending someone’s life may be a decision I might struggle to make, and my hesitance may cost me my life.
Even when life seems to be the worst it can get, there’s always something that shines in the darkness; it brings joy and warmth, igniting a spirit that helps you not only get through life, but enjoy it. In Emil by Stuart McLean, Morley meets Emil, a homeless man loitering around the front of her husband’s store. Over the course of 2 years, she builds a friendship with him and learns how he keeps going, regardless of his position in society. Throughout the story, Morley comes to understand that there are always things to find joy in, no matter how lavish or bare your life may be. She realizes this when she understands the significance that Emil’s garden holds for him. Morley first learns that Emil has been planting his own garden when she catches him stealing plants from her neighbor’s backyard. Quickly noticing that he is also the culprit of her missing plants, she asks Emil if he is taking plants to create his own garden. When Emil confirms that he does have a garden, Morley “could see him– the real person”, and swiftly understands that his garden is something he cares about, something that gives him joy (116). Despite the conflicting views of her family, Morley begins to help Emil with his gardening by buying him new plants and planting them, thinking “that they will come in the spring and surprise him” (121). Morley is helping Emil in order to try and contribute to Emil’s happiness by helping him maintain his source of joy, because she understands that no matter what social standing you’re in or how much money you have, everyone has something that they take joy from.
During our last few English classes, I chose to view Star Wars: A New Hope through the gender lens. I found the gender lens to be the most effective lens to analyze the film with, especially because the film portrayed the gender stereotypes of the time in which the movie was released. Throughout the entire movie, there were only three women present. Princess Leia, Luke’s aunt, and a lady at a bar. Compared to the rest of the cast, who were either men or genderless entities, women were scarce throughout this film, their roles brief as well. Luke’s aunt made appearances early in the film and was shown in a stereotypical female role as a housewife. Her scenes comprised of her cooking food, eating food, and ended with her burnt corpse. The second woman, a lady at a bar, was given not even 10 seconds on screen. The woman with the most screen time was Princess Leia, who also happens to be the first central character that appears in the film. Two out of three women in the film hold roles that are stereotypical for females as a housewife and a princess. Princess Leia is in a high position in society, as her title of princess suggests. However, she doesn’t appear to hold any substantial power. For instance, when Princess Leia was rescued and brought back to a rebel base, she did not give any commands and was silent throughout the majority of her time there, contrary to her numerous snarky remarks on the Death Star. Ironically, you would expect that the Princess would give some form of command or display some kind of authority in a rebellion that she is a part of; the Empire seemed to hold Princess Leia in higher regard than the Rebellion. Princess Leia did display actions that bent gender stereotypes, in several situations, she did grab a gun and participate in combat. When she was being rescued by Luke and Han Solo, she was also the one who suggested jumping into the trash chute to escape. However, even though she was able to perform actions that began to break the stereotypes of fixed gender roles in society, she was unable to pull through. Whenever she fired a gun, there was only one time where she actually hit a Stormtrooper. She was also captured immediately after shooting her gun and in other occasional moments in combat, she only ended up blasting inanimate objects. Her quick idea of jumping into the trash chute also ended in another dangerous situation, with Han Solo remarking afterward that he would take no more ideas from her. Portrayed in these scenes, is the opinion that when women are given positions and opportunities of power, women will either end up making things worse or will not be able to make as much of an impact as men would. Utilizing the gender lens to analyze Star Wars: A New Hope clearly shows that women are still limited to stereotypical roles and characters, and are simultaneously seen as incompetent in roles that break stereotypical expectations.