Tuesday, March 19, 2013

Bal Masqué

The main reason I hate being in any medical setting (hospital, doctor's office, dental office) is the doctors. Not them personally (usually), but how unsettled they make me feel with their medical jargon and their scrubs or white jackets and their impersonal attitudes towards patients. The masks they wear are particularly disturbing to me, and I am not talking about the metaphorical masks we all wear; I mean the cloth/paper coverings over their faces that make doctors even more dehumanizing.

The purpose behind wearing a mask is to hide one's face, disguise oneself as someone or something else. I have often heard that doctors/dentists should not be feared because they're "people too" but the masks they wear make it easy to see them all as one construct because the masks strip away their facial features.

I understand of course that doctors wear masks to prevent infection, but the significance of masks is something I cannot gloss over.

When a person looks at another person, we recognize their facial features.  "Face perception" refers to an individual's understanding and interpretation of the face, particularly the human face, especially in relation to the associated information processing in the brain.

I started thinking about all the villains I have known (in comics and movies, not known them personally) and how many of them are threatening not because of their faces, but because of their masks.

Here's my favorite:

Lord Shredder is one of all my all-time favorite villains. He has it all! A secret past in a far-away exotic land, a lost love, killer instincts, scars (both physical and emotional, I'm sure), and fierce fashion sense. He is as hard and cold as the metal mask he wears, which makes for a dramatic moment when he removes it toward the film's end. Then, the audience is seeing the Man, not the Mask.

If only we could all be as brave as Lord Shredder, and pull off our own masks to reveal the men (or women) we are underneath them. But why would we do that when masks give us so much power?
Masks seem to defy human injury and death (remember how Shredder's hand pops up from the landfill in "TMNT II: The Secret of the Ooze"?) And speaking of an superhuman ability to consistently defy death, how about this dude?

There are four Scream movies in the franchise, and in every one, whoever happens to be wearing the ghost face mask is unbeatable.  .  .until they remove the mask. While wearing the mask, the killer can be stabbed, hit over the head multiple times, involved in a car crash, and yet display no signs of injury. The killers are only able to be defeated after they have removed the mask, which reveals their human fragility.

And here's contestant number three in our little "masquerade" game:

Le Fantôme de l'Opéra is an interesting case because he defies the mask convention. He wears a mask to conceal himself, and yet he he also draws attention to himself repeatedly, terrorizing anyone who stands in his way or in that of Christine's career: remember the chandelier incident?

But the reason behind his behavior is innately human: love. He is in love with his beautiful young protege, and he wants to marry her. Unfortunately, his method for courting her is kidnapping her and taking her to his his cellar dwelling. He plans to keep her there, hoping that she will become attracted to him.  .  .him, the guy in the mask that abducted her.   .  .so he is basically depending on Stockholm syndrome to make his master plan work.

Unfortunately, Christine removes his mask to his surprise to reveal his face, which is described as that of a rotting corpse. He exclaims that she must think his real face is also a mask (because it is so hideous) but the ugliness underneath is actually more human than the perfectly shaped mask that conceals it.

We all wear masks. We wear them to hide things we don't like about ourselves, or to try and be something we are not in actuality.

To end, how about a multiple choice question?

Which one of these masks is the scariest?



The correct answer is "C." Why? Because C is reality, which makes it infinitely more terrifying than any horror movie.


Tuesday, March 12, 2013

Living in the Lens of Literary Theory

Yesterday I was re-reading some of my old papers from graduate school. In my final paper for YA Realism, I discussed the nostalgia factor in coming-of-age stories such as one of my favorite films Now and Then. One of the sources I used was Eric Tribunella’s article “From Kiddle Lit to Kiddie Porn: The Sexualization of Children’s Literature.” Tribunella states that adults wish to re-experience and re-imagine a fantasized childhood. He asks “Who would want to relive childhood exactly as it was lived the first time?”. Who would indeed?! Homework, cleaning your room, fights with friends over thing which, in retrospect are ridiculous.  . .we’d like to re-live our childhood taking advantage of the freedom that we enjoy as adults.

I realized that I am doing that right now. I work as a librarian in a middle school, and I am also an adviser to a group of 7th graders. This job is alot of fun for me: I went on the 7th grade camping trip, I read all the latest young adult novels, I go outside and play 9 square and I laugh at the silly, and often inappropriate jokes that I hear. I told the 7th graders in my group that I love my job because I get to be a middle-schooler again! However, I am RE-experiencing these years with adult freedom. It’s not the real middle school experience, it’s the fantasized version. I have to be in school all day, but I get paid to be here. I don’t have to do any homework. I don’t worry about my new outfit or what boy might like me that day (in fact, I barely wear any make-up). And I don't have to take the bus; I can drive myself! When I go home at night, there are no parents to nag about me math grade or my messy room; I can eat whatever I want for dinner and go to bed at any time I want.

I get to experience the fun parts of adolescence: camping trips, talent shows, a whole week of at Christmas and all summer off, but I am now the child I never was, and never could be because I have the freedom of an adult.

I always view the world around me through the lens of literary theory, but sometimes I forget that I am also LIVING in literary theory.

Monday, February 4, 2013

Women with Baggage

I love how Netflix has a 'memory' of what kinds of shows and movies I enjoy watching. Last year, I wanted to revisit the 90's, so I watched My So-Called Life. Since that show has only a single season, my viewing didn't last very long. From there, Netflix recommended Felicity. That show begins in the late 90's and continues into the early 2000's, so I have a special fondness for it because that is the time period when I, like Felicity, put my high-school life behind me and went away to college.

I recently re-watched a few episodes, and once again Netflix had a new recommendation for me. I am working my way through the CW series Hart of Dixie, which turns out to be very addictive. I liked Rachel Bilson already from watching The OC, and I am a sucker for stories about women who feel like outcasts initially, and then learn to adapt to new surroundings and in the process, open themselves up to new people and new experiences.

I remember seeing previews for the show on TV (back when I still had TV), and the first thing that caught my attention was the ad picture. It immediately reminded me of two other stories that featured a woman, who is thrown out of her usual life into surroundings that she is not used to and does not appreciate.  .  .

 I guess I am not the only person who enjoys these sentimental stories about women falling in love and "finding themselves" in a place where they wouldn't expect to, but I think this story needs a new symbol for advertising because the 'woman with her suitcases' thing is getting a bit overdone.

Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Jacket Wrap

I'm back.

Once again, I could not help but notice 2 book covers with strikingly similar jacket designs, and because everyone I know gets really tired of hearing me discuss books/children's literature/literary theory, I had to blog about it so I don't annoy the crap out of my friends and family.

I first read Laurie Halse Anderson's YA nocvel "Speak" when I was an undergrad. I loved it of course, and I watched the film version when I saw it on television (starring a now uber-famous Kristen Stewart and also a personal favorite of mine, Steve Zahn). I remember looking at the cover of the book, and thinking how significant the design on it was in the context of the story and the symbolism of it.

In the novel, the young protagonist Melinda is the victim of a rape. She is outcast from her former friends and her peers and throughout the majority of the novel, she does not speak to anyone. As an art assignment, she must create a tree of some sort, and as she works on the project, she progresses. Just as her tree grows, so does she; one of the major themes is finding one's own voice.

 Here's is the cover of Anderson's novel:

I could not help noticing the cover of another book today as I was neatening the shelves of the library. I have not read this book yet, but here is the cover:

According to Amazon, this book is about a girl named Megan who has to stay with her uptight grandmother whom she wants nothing to do with. She's determined to get through the visit without any drama, but  falls into a twisted love triangle with potentially fatal consequences. I have no idea what the significance of the tree branch on the cover is, but I do find it rather interesting that the book's cover has been redesigned recently so that it looks like this now:

I think the key seems like a more fitting symbol for a book about secrets, because secrets, like locks, need to be unlocked. The trick is finding the right key.

I might have to pick this book up now and see what it has to offer.

.  .  . By the way, I have TONS of secrets, and I never plan to tell them. .   .like Melinda, I sometimes choose not to speak.  .   .

Sunday, October 14, 2012

 I am a librarian.

I am also a newborn comic book geek.

The latter is a direct result of the first. I found out a few months ago that Batgirl's alter-ego Barbara Gordon (daughter of Commissioner Gordon) is a librarian. I thought "That is TOTALLY FREAKIN' AWESOME!"

A superhero librarian! Delivering literature to the masses! Tracking down overdue fines! Filing books in their proper genres in the most accessible way possible! I think all librarians are superheroes, but Batgirl is an exceptionally cool one.

I wish I could pull off that sparkly, purple spandex!

Seeing myself as a superhero (even though I kinda did before) made me think about who my arch nemesis would be. All superheroes have an arch-nemesis, so I need to find one. Then, I realized I already kind of had one. My earlier posts about teeth in popular culture might have given you the hint that I have kind of a thing about going to the dentist. That is, I don't. Or, at least I didn't for about 12 years.

I am not generally a fearful person. I can handle sharks, snakes, spiders, bats, rodents and other creepy crawlers. I am more than willing to climb onto a horse, airplane or surfboard. I never get stage fright. Small spaces and heights are no problem. But, dentistry is like Kryptonite to me. It makes me sick, it drains my strength, and I am pretty convinced it will kill me some day.

Speaking of Kryptonite, I recently found and bought a 1974 Superman comic book that deals with my own personal brand of Kryptonite. Superman versus a dentist!

 Does Superman need novocaine?

 Poor Superman! The evil dentist slipped him some chocolates that were laced with Kyptonite! Then, once they have him in The Chair, they try to brainwash him!

If Superman can't handle a trip to the dentist, then how can anyone else?

Saturday, October 13, 2012

"I don't get it, I mean where all the other dead people in the world?"

With Halloween quickly approaching, I've been watching alot of movies that are related to it in some way. I am not a religious person, but like almost everyone, I cannot help but wonder what happens to us after we leave this world. So many movies have depicted "the afterlife" in so many ways, and I am constantly trying to guess which one could be the most accurate (assuming there IS an afterlife) or which one I would like it to be.

One of the first movies I remember watching that depicts the afterlife in a very specific, and very imaginative way is "Beetlejuice." When Barbara and Adam Maitland enter the waiting room to see their case manager, they see first-hand how personal each person's own afterlife is. Each person appears as an exaggerated version of how he/she looked upon their death. For example, there's the really crispy dude:

He says he's trying to cut down on the cigs, so I assume that he died because he fell asleep smoking and burned hisself up.

And then there's this chick:

A beauty queen of some sort, who slit her wrists. She must have been the runner-up.

I always assumed that these people looked horrendous in the afterlife as punishment for their bad habits (smoking and suicide, respectively). After all, Barbara and Adam Maitland were trapped in their car and drowned, but they look perfectly normal.

So, bad people look awful in the afterlife, but good people look normal. But what about that poor magician's assistant? You remember, the one who was sawed in half, and gets her legs felt up by Beetlejuice:

She seems to have been the unfortunate victim of an inexperienced performer, so why doesn't she get her legs restored to her in the afterlife? And furthermore, how does she get around all those long twisting, tilty hallways if her head isn't attached to her legs? Maybe she does deserve to be sawed in half forever; maybe she revealed the magician's secrets and this is how he silenced her.

So assuming my theory is true, that good people get to retain their normal appearance, and bad people look like a Tim Burton creation in the afterlife, I wonder what I am going to look like. I think I have an idea:

"Tell 'em, Large Marge sent ya!"

I'm not sure which look would be the bigger punishment.

Friday, October 12, 2012

Shall we floss now, or shall we floss later?

So after I shared my ideas regarding Marxism and teeth with a few friends, we had alot of fun coming up with other examples of how a character's teeth symbolize their socio-economic class and/or morality.

One idea that came up was Austin Powers. Now, I didn't necessarily want to pick this one apart, but it is so obvious that I cannot resist saying just a little bit about it. Austin Powers, bless his crushed-velvet encased heart, is a swinger. He enjoys his lifestyle and takes pride in his promiscuity, which in the 1960's is not necessarily seen as a detrimental trait. His famous teeth, which are crooked and comically horrendous, are definitely intended to make a statement.

"Do I make you randy?"

Now, this initially appears to be a statement about inner-beauty, because the audience comes to find out that Austin is a caring guy, and is actually quite attractive to the ladies despite his teeth. But, for the majority of the film, he IS a swinger, BABY YEAAAHHH!!!!

At the film's conclusion, he is happily monogamous and married, and sporting a newly restored smile. His teeth and nice and white and sparkling, because he has rid himself of the decay associated with sexual promiscuity.

This is getting fun.   . .I wish I'd written a paper on this in grad school.  .  .