Tuesday, April 21, 2015

Resources for April 21, 2015




Last Year at Marienbad Dialogic Cinephilia (France/Italy: Alain Resnais, 1961: 91 mins)

Bakhtin, Mikhail. "The Dialogic Nature of Consciousness." (Excerpts) Dialogic Cinephilia (April 16, 2015)

Bergen-Aurand, Brian. "20 Great Anarchist Movies That Are Worth Your Time." Taste of Cinema (April 18, 2015)














Hughes, Darren and Michael Leary. "Claire Denis." Movie Mezzanine (2015)


Monday, April 20, 2015

Thursday, April 16, 2015

Last Year at Marienbad (France/Italy: Alain Resnais, 1961)




Last Year at Marienbad (France/Italy: Alain Resnais, 1961: 91 mins)

Hudson, David. "Alain Resnais, 1922 – 2014: The director whose impact on cinema is immeasurable was 91." Keyframe (March 2, 2014)

Polizzotti, Mark. "Last Year at Marienbad: Which Year at Where?" The Current (June 23, 2009)

Schlöndorff, Volker. "Making of Last Year at Marienbad." La Règle du Jeu (July 23, 2010)






Mikhail Bakhtin: The Dialogic Nature of Consciousness

Bakhtin, Mikhail. The Dialogical Imagination. ed. and trans. C. Emerson and M. Holquist. Austin: University of Texas P, 1981.

{MB—The utterance} tastes of the context and contexts in which it has lived its socially intense life (293)

---. Problems of Dostoevsky’s Poetics. trans. C. Emerson. Minneapolis: U of Minnesota P, 1984.

Everything that pertains to me enters my consciousness, beginning with my name, from the external world through the mouths of others (my mother, and so forth), with their intonation, in their emotional and value-assigning tonality. I realize myself initially through others: from them I receive words, forms, and tonalities for the formation of my initial idea of myself. … Just as the body is formed initially in the mother’s womb, a person’s consciousness awakens wrapped in another’s consciousness. (xx)

Truth is not born nor is it found inside the head of an individual person; it is born between people collectively searching for the truth, in the process of their dialogic interaction. (110)

I am conscious of myself and become myself only while revealing myself for another, through another, and with the help of another. The most important acts constituting self-consciousness are determined by a relationship toward another consciousness (toward a thou) … The very being of man (both external and internal) is the deepest communion. To be means to communicate … To be means to be for another, and through the other for oneself. A person has no internal sovereign territory, he is wholly and always on the boundary: looking inside himself, he looks into the eyes of another or with the eyes of another … I cannot manage without another, I cannot become myself without another. (287)

Monologism at its extreme denies the existence outside itself of another consciousness with equal rights and equal responsibilities, another I with equal rights (thou). With a monologic approach…another person remains wholly and merely an object of consciousness, and not another consciousness. No response is expected from it that could change everything in the world of my consciousness. Monologue is finalized and deaf to the other's response, does not expect it and does not acknowledge in it any decisive force. Monologue manages without the other, and therefore to some degree materializes all reality. Monologue pretends to be the ultimate word. It closes down the represented world and represented persons. (Bakhtin: 292-93)

The dialogic nature of consciousness. The dialogic nature of human life itself. The single adequate form for verbally expressing authentic human life is the open- ended dialogue. Life by its very nature is dialogic. To live means to participate in dialogue: to ask questions, to heed, to respond, to agree, and so forth. In this dialogue a person participates wholly and throughout his whole life: with his eyes, lips, hands, soul, spirit, with his whole body and deeds. He invests his entire self in discourse, and this discourse enters into the dialogic fabric of human life, into the world symposium. (Bakhtin: 293)

Wednesday, April 15, 2015

Resources for April 15, 2015

Wolin, Sheldon. Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism. Princeton University Press, 2008.

Wolin, Sheldon. Politics and Vision: Continuity and Innovation in Western Thought. 2nd ed. Princeton University Press, 2004.

Palmer, Lorrie. "Attack the Block: Monsters, Race, and Rewriting South London’s Outer Spaces." Jump Cut #56 (Wineter 2014/2015)

The Story of Stuff (USA: Louis Fox, 2007) ["From its extraction through sale, use and disposal, all the stuff in our lives affects communities at home and abroad, yet most of this is hidden from view. This is by design. The Story of Stuff serves as an introduction to the underside of the current world of mass production and consumption, exposing the connections between a huge number of environmental and social issues — shedding the light on the hidden processes behind our modern world. How can we create a more sustainable and just economy?"]

Doyle, Sady. "Game of Thrones, Meet Tony Robbins." The Baffler (April 14, 2015)


"Love is a temporary madness; it erupts like volcanoes and then subsides. And when it subsides you have to make a decision. You have to work out whether your roots have so entwined together that it is inconceivable that you should ever part. Because this is what love is. Love is not breathlessness, it is not excitement, it is not the promulgation of eternal passion. That is just being in love, which any fool can do. Love itself is what is left over when being in love has burned away, and this is both an art and a fortunate accident. Those that truly love have roots that grow towards each other underground, and when all the pretty blossom have fallen from their branches, they find that they are one tree and not two." Corelli’s Mandolin (1994) by Louis de Bernieres


Old South - Documentary Official Trailer from Danielle Beverly on Vimeo.




Gross, Anisse. "Mary Harron [Screenwriter, Director]." The Believer (March/April 2014)

Burp! Pepsi v. Coke in the Ice-Cold War (UK: Alan Lowery, 1984: 60 mins) ["Pepsi vs. Coke in The Ice Cold War traces the history of the worldwide struggle for soft drink supremacy by the Coca Cola Company, against the backdrop of World War II. The war was the perfect vehicle for Coca-Cola distribution, including to the Nazis. Bottling plants on front lines were paid for by the US war department. Nixon got Kremlin supremo, Khrushchev, to pose drinking Pepsi, which became the first US product made in the Soviet Union. In 1949, Mao kicked Coca-Cola out of China. President Carter got it back in 1978. In Chile, Pepsi Cola’s boss ran a daily paper which was used by the CIA to help Pinochet’s bloody coup…"]

Romney, Jonathan. "Away from the picture: Mica Levi on her Under the Skin soundtrack." Sight and Sound (November 28, 2014)

Holocaust Remembrance Day 2015: Gene Klein Remembers

Please Remember: Holocaust Embrace Day (article provided by Smith Publicity)

Gene Klein (with Jill Klein, author of We Got the Water: Tracing my Family’s Path through Auschwitz)

It has been 70 years since I was liberated from a Nazi concentration camp. I was just a teenager then; I’m 87 now. Holocaust Remembrance Day is April 15th, and I have been thinking about what I want you and your loved ones to remember about the Holocaust. I speak frequently about my experiences, and I am able to remind people about what happened, provide them with vivid descriptions, and answer their questions. But I am among the last of the survivors, and one day—sooner than I would like to think—we will all be gone.

Here is what I want you to remember after we are gone, when our memories must become yours, so that future generations will have the knowledge and compassion to avoid the mistakes of the past:

Please remember the life we had before it all started; before the name-calling, the bricks through the windows, long before the cattle cars and the camps. I was born into a middle class Hungarian family in a small town in the foothills of the Carpathian mountains. Our town was charming. We sat in outdoor cafes on summer evenings, and skated on the river on winter afternoons. My father owned a hardware store, was an avid soccer fan, and loved to tend to his garden. My mother took care of my two sisters and me, and was preoccupied with getting me—a naturally skinny kid—to eat more. We were not wealthy, but we had everything we needed. In the most basic of ways, we were not unlike you and your family. And we felt as secure as you do now.

Please remember that all of this was taken away. Within a few weeks in the spring of 1944, my father’s store was confiscated, my Jewish friends and I were told that we were no longer welcome at school, and we were forced to wear a yellow star. Then we were forced from our home, crowded into cattle cars, and taken to Auschwitz. When we arrived, the men were separated from the women, and then my father was separated from me. My father had been a POW in World War I, and during his years of imprisonment he learned to play the violin and to speak five languages. He was intelligent and humorous. I loved him the way any 16-year-old boy loves a wonderful father. The way you love your father, if you are lucky enough to have a good one. So imagine this: a man in a black uniform sends you to one direction and your father to another. You don’t know why, until the next day a veteran prisoner points up at the smoke coming out of a chimney and says, “Your father is up there.” Please remember my father.

Please remember that it is terribly easy for one group to strike another group off the roster of humanity, to see others as vermin or pests, as an affliction that must be destroyed. It happens again and again. And once it does, people are capable of inflicting terrible hardship and pain on others, and to feel they are righteous in doing so. None of the SS officers who ordered me—a starving teenager—to carry heavy steel rails up a hillside thought of themselves as monsters. They were adhering to their beliefs, and they were serving their country. We must be constantly vigilant for the descent that takes us from self-righteous beliefs, to the dehumanization of others and into the sphere of violence.

Please remember that while we are capable of all of this, we can also rise to amazing heights in the service of others. For two weeks I had the good fortune to have a respite from hard labor while I was assigned to work with a civilian German engineer who was surveying the landscape where future roads would be built. He saw the terrible conditions I was living under and decided to help. Everyday he hid food for me from the SS kitchen where he ate lunch. Chicken, milk, rice, and cheese left under a bench in the back corner of a barracks. He cared, he took a risk, and he saved my life. Please remember him.

And finally, remember that no one should be judged because of his or her nationality, religion or race. We were sent to the camps because propaganda was believed, individuality was erased, and hate was rampant. When asked if I am angry with Germans, I think of the German engineer, and know that individuals must be judged by their own personal actions. If I can hold this as a guiding principle after what happened to my family and me, then you can, too.

Please take my memories as yours, share them, and carry them forward. It is by doing so that you can help keep the next generation from forgetting, and help fill the space that we survivors will leave behind when we are gone.

Tuesday, April 14, 2015

The Game of Thrones (HBO TV Series: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, 2011 - )




The Game of Thrones (HBO TV Series: David Benioff and D.B. Weiss, 2011 - )

Doyle, Sady. "Game of Thrones, Meet Tony Robbins." The Baffler (April 14, 2015)

Goldman, Michael. "Harsh Realms." American Cinematographer (May 2012)

Williams, Joseph. "Fantasy Worldviews: From Middle Earth to Westeros." Fare Forward (September 4, 2013)



Monday, April 13, 2015

Resources for April 13, 2015

Lenten, Jessica. "Phenomenology and the films of Andrea Arnold." Real/Reel (August 1, 2012)

Blackburn, Sugie. "The Power of Love, Choice, and Courage: A Good Reason to Read the Harry Potter Stories." Dialogic Cinephilia (April 13, 2015)

Becknell, Sarah. "Whiplash: Perfection is Immolation." Dialogic Cinephilia (April 13, 2015)

Rivard, Ryan. Anchorman II: An Expose in Truth Dialogic Cinephilia (April 13, 2015)

Rhodes, John David. "Great Directors: Peggy Ahwesh." Senses of Cinema (December 2003)

Johnson, Chalmers. "Inverted Totalitarianism: A New Way of Understanding How the U.S. Is Controlled." Truthdig (Excerpt and other resources posted on Dialogic Cinephilia: April 13, 2015)

Jones, Kent. "Hiroshima mon amour: Time Indefinite." The Current (June 23, 2003)

No Logo (USA: Sut Jhally, 2003: 42 mins) ["In the age of the brand, logos are everywhere. But why do some of the world’s best-known brands find themselves at the end of spray paint cans and the targets of anti-corporate campaigns? No Logo, based on the best-selling book by Canadian journalist and activist Naomi Klein, reveals the reasons behind the backlash against the increasing economic and cultural reach of multinational companies. Analysing how brands like Nike, The Gap, and Tommy Hilfiger became revered symbols worldwide, Klein argues that globalisation is a process whereby corporations discovered that profits lay not in making products (outsourced to low-wage workers in developing countries), but in creating branded identities people adopt in their lifestyles. Using hundreds of media examples, No Logo shows how the commercial takeover of public space, the restriction of ‘choice’, and replacement of real jobs with temporary work — the dynamics of corporate globalisation — impact everyone, everywhere…"]

Hudson, David. "Breathless @ 50." Notebook (May 28, 2010)



Breathless (France: Jean-Luc Godard, 1960)




Breathless (France: Jean-Luc Godard, 1960: 90 mins)

Brody, Richard. "An Exile in Paradise." The New Yorker (November 20, 2000)

Dreyfuss, Hubert. "Phil 7: Existentialism in Literature and Film" (University of California-Berkeley Lectures: Spring 2006)

Hudson, David. "Breathless @ 50." Notebook (May 28, 2010)

Knudsen, Tyler. "What I Learned from ... Breathless." Press Play (February 3, 2015)








Hiroshima, Mon Amour (France/Japan: Alain Resnais, 1959)




Hiroshima, Mon Amour (France/Japan: Alain Resnais, 1959: 90 mins)

Barker, Jennifer Lynne. The Aesthetics of Antifascist Film: Radical Projection. Routledge, 2013. [Get through interlibrary loan]

Caruth, Cathy. Unclaimed Experience: Trauma, Narrative, and History. Baltimore, MD: The John Hopkins University Press, 1996. [Available in the BCTC libraryPN771 C338]

Dreyfuss, Hubert. "Phil 7: Existentialism in Literature and Film" (University of California-Berkeley Lectures: Spring 2006)

Jones, Kent. "Hiroshima mon amour: Time Indefinite." The Current (June 23, 2003)








Chalmers Johnson -- "Sheldon Wolin's Inverted Totalitarianism: A New Way of Understanding How the U.S. Is Controlled"

(Sheldon Wolin's Politics and Vision, 2nd ed., is one of the best political science/theory books I have read. I plan on reading it again and I am going to get his new book described below... which seems essential for understanding the corporate dominance of our political process.)

Inverted Totalitarianism: A New Way of Understanding How the U.S. Is Controlled
By Chalmers Johnson
Truthdig



We now have a new, comprehensive diagnosis of our failings as a democratic polity by one of our most seasoned and respected political philosophers. For well over two generations, Sheldon Wolin taught the history of political philosophy from Plato to the present to Berkeley and Princeton graduate students (including me; I took his seminars at Berkeley in the late 1950s, thus influencing my approach to political science ever since). He is the author of the prize-winning classic Politics and Vision (1960; expanded edition, 2006) and Tocqueville Between Two Worlds (2001), among many other works.

His new book, Democracy Incorporated: Managed Democracy and the Specter of Inverted Totalitarianism, is a devastating critique of the contemporary government of the United States -- including what has happened to it in recent years and what must be done if it is not to disappear into history along with its classic totalitarian predecessors: Fascist Italy, Nazi Germany and Bolshevik Russia. The hour is very late and the possibility that the American people might pay attention to what is wrong and take the difficult steps to avoid a national Gtterdmmerung are remote, but Wolin's is the best analysis of why the presidential election of 2008 probably will not do anything to mitigate our fate. This book demonstrates why political science, properly practiced, is the master social science.

Wolin's work is fully accessible. Understanding his argument does not depend on possessing any specialized knowledge, but it would still be wise to read him in short bursts and think about what he is saying before moving on. His analysis of the contemporary American crisis relies on a historical perspective going back to the original constitutional agreement of 1789 and includes particular attention to the advanced levels of social democracy attained during the New Deal and the contemporary mythology that the U.S., beginning during World War II, wields unprecedented world power.

Given this historical backdrop, Wolin introduces three new concepts to help analyze what we have lost as a nation. His master idea is "inverted totalitarianism," which is reinforced by two subordinate notions that accompany and promote it -- "managed democracy" and "Superpower," the latter always capitalized and used without a direct article. Until the reader gets used to this particular literary tic, the term Superpower can be confusing. The author uses it as if it were an independent agent, comparable to Superman or Spiderman, and one that is inherently incompatible with constitutional government and democracy.

Wolin writes, "Our thesis is this: it is possible for a form of totalitarianism, different from the classical one, to evolve from a putatively 'strong democracy' instead of a 'failed' one." His understanding of democracy is classical but also populist, anti-elitist and only slightly represented in the Constitution of the United States. "Democracy," he writes, "is about the conditions that make it possible for ordinary people to better their lives by becoming political beings and by making power responsive to their hopes and needs." It depends on the existence of a demos -- "a politically engaged and empowered citizenry, one that voted, deliberated, and occupied all branches of public office." Wolin argues that to the extent the United States on occasion came close to genuine democracy, it was because its citizens struggled against and momentarily defeated the elitism that was written into the Constitution.

"No working man or ordinary farmer or shopkeeper," Wolin points out, "helped to write the Constitution." He argues, "The American political system was not born a democracy, but born with a bias against democracy. It was constructed by those who were either skeptical about democracy or hostile to it. Democratic advance proved to be slow, uphill, forever incomplete. The republic existed for three-quarters of a century before formal slavery was ended; another hundred years before black Americans were assured of their voting rights. Only in the twentieth century were women guaranteed the vote and trade unions the right to bargain collectively. In none of these instances has victory been complete: women still lack full equality, racism persists, and the destruction of the remnants of trade unions remains a goal of corporate strategies. Far from being innate, democracy in America has gone against the grain, against the very forms by which the political and economic power of the country has been and continues to be ordered." Wolin can easily control his enthusiasm for James Madison, the primary author of the Constitution, and he sees the New Deal as perhaps the only period of American history in which rule by a true demos prevailed.

To reduce a complex argument to its bare bones, since the Depression, the twin forces of managed democracy and Superpower have opened the way for something new under the sun: "inverted totalitarianism," a form every bit as totalistic as the classical version but one based on internalized co-optation, the appearance of freedom, political disengagement rather than mass mobilization, and relying more on "private media" than on public agencies to disseminate propaganda that reinforces the official version of events. It is inverted because it does not require the use of coercion, police power and a messianic ideology as in the Nazi, Fascist and Stalinist versions (although note that the United States has the highest percentage of its citizens in prison -- 751 per 100,000 people -- of any nation on Earth). According to Wolin, inverted totalitarianism has "emerged imperceptibly, unpremeditatedly, and in seeming unbroken continuity with the nation's political traditions."

The genius of our inverted totalitarian system "lies in wielding total power without appearing to, without establishing concentration camps, or enforcing ideological uniformity, or forcibly suppressing dissident elements so long as they remain ineffectual. A demotion in the status and stature of the 'sovereign people' to patient subjects is symptomatic of systemic change, from democracy as a method of 'popularizing' power to democracy as a brand name for a product marketable at home and marketable abroad. The new system, inverted totalitarianism, is one that professes the opposite of what, in fact, it is. The United States has become the showcase of how democracy can be managed without appearing to be suppressed."

Among the factors that have promoted inverted totalitarianism are the practice and psychology of advertising and the rule of "market forces" in many other contexts than markets, continuous technological advances that encourage elaborate fantasies (computer games, virtual avatars, space travel), the penetration of mass media communication and propaganda into every household in the country, and the total co-optation of the universities. Among the commonplace fables of our society are hero worship and tales of individual prowess, eternal youthfulness, beauty through surgery, action measured in nanoseconds, and a dream-laden culture of ever-expanding control and possibility, whose adepts are prone to fantasies because the vast majority have imagination but little scientific knowledge. Masters of this world are masters of images and their manipulation. Wolin reminds us that the image of Adolf Hitler flying to Nuremberg in 1934 that opens Leni Riefenstahl's classic film "Triumph of the Will" was repeated on May 1, 2003, with President George Bush's apparent landing of a Navy warplane on the flight deck of the USS Abraham Lincoln to proclaim "Mission Accomplished" in Iraq.

On inverted totalitarianism's "self-pacifying" university campuses compared with the usual intellectual turmoil surrounding independent centers of learning, Wolin writes, "Through a combination of governmental contracts, corporate and foundation funds, joint projects involving university and corporate researchers, and wealthy individual donors, universities (especially so-called research universities), intellectuals, scholars, and researchers have been seamlessly integrated into the system. No books burned, no refugee Einsteins. For the first time in the history of American higher education top professors are made wealthy by the system, commanding salaries and perks that a budding CEO might envy."

The main social sectors promoting and reinforcing this modern Shangri-La are corporate power, which is in charge of managed democracy, and the military-industrial complex, which is in charge of Superpower. The main objectives of managed democracy are to increase the profits of large corporations, dismantle the institutions of social democracy (Social Security, unions, welfare, public health services, public housing and so forth), and roll back the social and political ideals of the New Deal. Its primary tool is privatization. Managed democracy aims at the "selective abdication of governmental responsibility for the well-being of the citizenry" under cover of improving "efficiency" and cost-cutting.

Managed democracy is a powerful solvent for any vestiges of democracy left in the American political system, but its powers are weak in comparison with those of Superpower. Superpower is the sponsor, defender and manager of American imperialism and militarism, aspects of American government that have always been dominated by elites, enveloped in executive-branch secrecy, and allegedly beyond the ken of ordinary citizens to understand or oversee. Superpower is preoccupied with weapons of mass destruction, clandestine manipulation of foreign policy (sometimes domestic policy, too), military operations, and the fantastic sums of money demanded from the public by the military-industrial complex. (The U.S. military spends more than all other militaries on Earth combined. The official U.S. defense budget for fiscal year 2008 is $623 billion; the next closest national military budget is China's at $65 billion, according to the Central Intelligence Agency.)

Foreign military operations literally force democracy to change its nature: "In order to cope with the imperial contingencies of foreign war and occupation," according to Wolin, "democracy will alter its character, not only by assuming new behaviors abroad (e.g., ruthlessness, indifference to suffering, disregard of local norms, the inequalities in ruling a subject population) but also by operating on revised, power-expansive assumptions at home. It will, more often than not, try to manipulate the public rather than engage its members in deliberation. It will demand greater powers and broader discretion in their use ('state secrets'), a tighter control over society's resources, more summary methods of justice, and less patience for legalities, opposition, and clamor for socioeconomic reforms."

Imperialism and democracy are, in Wolin's terms, literally incompatible, and the ever greater resources devoted to imperialism mean that democracy will inevitably wither and die. He writes, "Imperial politics represents the conquest of domestic politics and the latter's conversion into a crucial element of inverted totalitarianism. It makes no sense to ask how the democratic citizen could 'participate' substantively in imperial politics; hence it is not surprising that the subject of empire is taboo in electoral debates. No major politician or party has so much as publicly remarked on the existence of an American empire."

To Read the Rest of the Review

More:

To Read Democracy Incorporated

To Read Politics and Vision

Ryan Rivard -- Anchorman II: An Expose In Truth

Ryan Rivard
English 102
Professor Michael Benton


Anchorman II: An Expose In Truth


Truth is subjective, and reflects personal, moral, ethical, cultural and social aspects. Truth statements contain all manner of information and perceptions, depending upon who is defining a particular truth. Perhaps the writers of Anchorman II (2013) read Immanuel Kant, a 18th century german philosopher who contends that reason, based on experiences, determines morality or Michel Foucault a 20th century French philosopher, who explores the role played by power in shaping knowledge. The low brow antics of Anchorman II mirror the premises put forth by Foucault, Kant, and other intellectuals who question the nature of truth.

Anchorman II, a comedy set in 1980, opens in New York City. After Ron Burgundy is fired by the network he worked for, he moves to San Diego, California, where he works as a master of ceremonies for Sea World. Ron is a washed up alcoholic, who, after a failed attempt to commit suicide, is offered a job as anchorman for the new upstart cable news network, called GNN. Ron takes the job and heads back to New York City to reclaim his status as a top notch news reporter.

GNN is a references to CNN. CNN was founded in 1980 and quickly established itself as an innovative news station.(CNN Launches) CNN went through a phenomenal growth period in a short 13 year period, rising from an insignificant underdog to a dominant force of network control.(Tyndell: 2004) As Anchorman II accurately depicts, reporting cable news in 1980, proves to to be ratingless.

Pitted against the entrenched major network news services of the day (ABC, CBS, NBC), GNN needs a different approach. Faced with the first days of dismal ratings, the cable news owner does not know what to do. The graveyard shift, fortunately, has the newscaster, Ron Burgundy (Will Ferrell), in that time slot. By stupidly blurting out, “let’s not give them what they need, let’s give them what they want” (Anchorman II), the sociopathic star of the film, inspires the network producer to use this type of new format for presenting news.

This inspiration comes from Ron’s first days at GNN. The antagonist, Jack Lime (James Marsden), confronts Ron in the crowded news office. He goads and bullies Ron, and then finally begins a chant of “cry”, “cry”, “cry” The entire staff participate in this chant. An infuriated Ron, in the heat of anger, blurts out, “I bet we make better ratings than you do today” Jack Lime takes the bet and the new programing format is conceived. This is the first catalyst in Ron’s life, and produces a negative effect in the film. Ron is willing to do anything to save face.

After the first graveyard shift broadcast, the broadcast producer rushes in and terminates the graveyard shift employees for their irresponsibility. Later, when the station owner and producers review the first day’s ratings, they find that the graveyard shift has smashed all other broadcast time slots. Ron and his team are brought back to GNN and they are given a prime time spot with a hefty pay raise. Ron is an instant success. Thus, begins the mentality of dumbing down the news content from boring, depressing real news, to creating pure valueless entertainment.

Ron begins to change the format of all the broadcasts, adding useless graphics, such as stock tickers and market evaluations that continually update. These new graphics give the viewer a perception of being smart, creating in-the-know viewers, interested in the heady concepts of stock values and market conditions. The inference is that only smart, successful people watch these types of broadcast, which, in effect, strokes the viewer’s ego, reflecting society's mentality and interest in entertainment and fantasy.

This mentality of giving people not what they need, but what they want, infers that they (the broadcast audience) are incapable of critical thinking. What the film plot shows is that the audience wants to be told fairy tales and fantasies, but not the truth. This is one of the subtexts of Anchorman II. GNN with its new programming format sets the pace for the future of the rest of the networks. Reality, unfortunately, has mirrored this film over the last couple decades in our social news media.

In this film, Ron Burgundy can do no wrong! Every aspect of his over the top broadcasts are hailed as revolutionary and cutting edge in media news. The following weeks, after Ron Burgundy’s initial phenomenal success, an interesting occurrence takes place between Ron and his co-host of the show. They decide to smoke crack cocaine on air during a live broadcast. The parallel to this is what Ron states as he smokes his first hit, “I can’t seem to get enough, I just want more and more”. This is an excellent example of what the broadcast news media does to its viewers; addicting them to valueless entertainment and leaving the viewers wanting and needing more.

Though the film is a comedy, an underlying component of the film presents itself; the idea of greed dictating the ethical concept of social responsibility. This ethical concept, shown in Anchorman II hints at a process of reinventing social truth and society as a whole, inferring that the network news media is reshaping viewers into what the media wants the viewers to be. Dumb addicts that need to have their daily fix of news (crack), becomes an integral plot of Anchorman II, with the network owners and executives of the 1980’s seeking ratings over integrity. They willingly trample social responsibility and addict generations of viewers to their type of news broadcast.

After a year as GNN’s anchorman, Ron becomes the recipient of an award. He is full of himself, prideful and arrogant. Ron accepts the award and, as part of the award presentation, he figure skates while playing the flute. Ron flawlessly performs counter turns, butterfly jumps and countless other precision figure skating moves. When Ron’s antagonist throws an electrical cable onto the ice, he trips over it and falls. The audience, who a minute ago loved him, now laughs at him, showing the fickleness of those whom he called friends and colleagues.

This is Ron’s second catalyst in the film and it produces a positive effect in his life. Humiliated, Ron has an epiphany of what is truly important to him. Now, he has to make a decision about what direction his life is going to go in. Ron’s new direction, has him fighting to get free from the network that controls his life. He has to battle the spin off shows produced by cable news network. This battle, ultimately, is about Ron’s awakening to the importance of his life. The dilemma he now faces involves his choosing career and success over his family.

Ron Burgundy makes his choice and, because he chooses what is diametrically opposed to the networks philosophies, he is forced to battle his way out of the sinuous monster he helped create. Ultimately, what is shown in this part of the film, is the redefining of social values of family and truths by the networks. The network’s only agenda is, of course, ratings.

The networks, as depicted in Anchorman II, become the bearers of societal truths, and the understanding of physical reality, much as have our own present day news entertainment media. The network entertainment and news media promote the norms about life and how to live them correctly, reporting what behaviors are normal and expected from the members of our society.

Removing critical thinking skills and telling everyone in society what they must think to conform to society's expectations encourages them to obey authority and never question what is presented as truth. Ultimately, the meaning of social truth is this: Truth equates to power. Those who have power control society’s truth, and “[e]ach society according to Foucault’s view, develops a conception of truth that is determined variously by the economic forces that are prevalent in that society, the political and ideological influences that prevail”. (Oliver: pg 142)

To some extent, the media’s influence, as depicted by Anchorman II, illustrates an aspect of our modern culture. The phenomenal ratings, satirized in the film, accurately reflects what our society wants; entertainment, not the relevant social issues of our culture. In essence, the door of social control has been opened by society’s drugged up, sleeping masses, leaving those who want to define and reshape the perception of societal truth an opportunity to confine society’s reasoning ability.

Anchorman II, illustrates the cause and effects of a culture that is no longer enlightened by socially responsible truths, a society that wants distraction from the realities of the truths that surround it. Interestingly, Immanuel Kant pondered this very question in an essay published in a Berlin newspaper in 1784, “Was ist Aufklarung? (What is Enlightenment?)”. Kant was interested in postulating this question to his culture: What is a person’s personal responsibility to his or her own self reasoning? “Enlightenment is man's release from his self incurred tutelage.” (Foucault: pg 31) In other words, a person who was enlightened did not need someone else to reason for them, or define their personal truths. This is part of the satire of Anchorman II, and is how the viewing audience of GNN is portrayed.

Laziness and cowardice are the reasons why so great a portion of mankind, after nature has long since discharged them from eternal direction, nevertheless remains under the lifelong tutelage, and why it is so easy for others to set themselves up as their guardians. For this enlightenment nothing is required but freedom, and indeed the most harmless among all things to which this term can be properly applied (Kant, quoted from The Politics Of Truth: pg 29).

Anchorman II illustrates a new society, shaped by the sociopathic nature of the films protagonist. It is then capitalized upon by the ruthless network owner, showing the sociopathic nature of human greed and the willingness to exploit every aspect of decency, including twisting truth to fit the networks agenda. The film accurately portrays a contemporary phenomenon in today's social media news, the quest for ratings at any cost.

Posited with the information of how the mass media is manipulating and redefining societal truths, Kalle Lasn and Bruce Grierson published an interesting cultural hypothesis: Long ago, originality, thought and inspiration sprouted, blossomed and withered away, “leaving mankind in a permanent crisis of meaning. A dark room, [where no enlightenment remains and] from which we can never escape.” (Lasn & Grierson: pg 37)

Faced with the reality of living in a “dark room [where no enlightenment remains and] from which we can never escape”, society might, if they were aware, resist those who have the power to addict with drugs and lies and who dumb down society's perception of the truth, as presented in the comedy Anchorman II. If the population were ever to awaken to the prison in which it exists, it would realize that relief from that prison would be society's demand for freedom.

Having had an epiphany to this truth of social news entertainment, because of Anchorman II, has unfettered me from the concepts of how and why society’s truths have been reinvented and often diluted. After spending my life chained to these social concepts of constraint and expectation, I find it difficult to comprehend the meaning of this new freedom and how one is to live free. I surmise that this is a problem for all newly freed prisoners, resisting the need for the institutional comforts provided by the regimented social norms of the prison.

Anchorman II depicts the way truth can be dumbed down and ultimately manipulated. Ideally, an understanding of truth should be easier in this age of information. However, searching for truth, or the multifaceted presentation of subjective truth, can be overwhelming. It seems that everyone has an opinion, and the opinion that seems to count the most in our society comes from sources that present themselves as social media authorities. I find it ironic that a film, as obviously low brow as Anchorman II, conveys such relevant truths. The plot line was filled with over the top antics. However, I honestly believe that this film could not have been made any other way. The depiction of such truths would not allow for an accurate portrayal of their lies and deceptions. Even though the film was dismal at best, once the main plot line became apparent, I was hooked.


Works Cited


CNN Launches (Googloe Document: June 1, 1980)

Foucault, Michel. The Politics Of Truth. Los Angeles, CA, Semiotext(e): 2007.

Lasn, Kalle & Grierson, Bruce. "Malignant Sadness." Adbusters (June/July, 2000)

Oliver, Paul. Foucault: The Key Ideas New York, NY, McGraw-Hill: 2010.

Tyndall Andrew, et. al. "Network TV Audience." State of the Media (2004)


Filmography

Anchorman II (USA: Adam McKay, 2013: 119 mins)

Sarah Becknell: "Whiplash: Perfection is Immolation"

Sarah Becknell
ENG 102
Prof. Benton


Whiplash: Perfection is Immolation


We live in a world of rapid transformation, high demand, and the harsh pressures of our society. Our culture has such high expectations that it is easy for anyone to become a perfectionist. Ann Smith, a specialist at Everyday Health, simply explains what is now a very common epidemic in our culture:

Perfectionism is a trait that causes us to find comfort in order. When it is overused as a way to cope with anxiety or stress, it can have serious consequences. For example, perfectionists have a deep need to “get it right” and as a result it can interfere with relationships and opportunities in life. It can especially make your relationship with yourself difficult. Perfectionists often do not allow their real selves to be known because they fear they may look foolish or incompetent….Anxiety about mistakes- or fear of making mistakes- can preoccupy their minds and make relaxation impossible (Smith).


Damien Chazelle, an American director, captures the essence of how being perfect can take a toll on our bodies in his 2014 movie Whiplash. This film follows the life of Andrew, a first time music student. Andrew is accepted into a renowned jazz band, The Studio, as a drummer. Soon, it becomes a cutthroat position; his conductor, Terrence Fletcher, uses force and fear to push his students to be perfect. What drives the human mind to submit to other’s wills in order to become perfect? Could it be past failures, or the fear of being a “nobody”? Andrew’s vision of perfection turns into an obsession, where he is not at all bothered by Fletcher’s force. Instead, he uses it as his goal of being great- and making up for his father’s failure of being a writer. Why is he willing to do whatever it takes to become perfect or master his craft? Becoming a perfectionist is unhealthy, and will eventually damage you inside and out. To understand Andrews’s unhealthy obsession, we must know what perfectionism is as a behavior. The idea of being perfect is, according to the Canadian Psychological Association, “a chronic source of stress, often leaving the individual feeling that he/she is a failure.” Some students have high standards set by their parents, and if they fail to meet those standards they feel like they are an embarrassment. On the other hand, some students set high goals for themselves. This could be because of their parents past or present failures and successes. The students could feel pressured to excel to their parent’s accomplishments, or rise above their failures. In this case, Andrew sets the high goal of being perfect at the drums, which is mainly driven by Fletcher’s force. Andrew associates his father’s failure at being a writer as to what he might become if he is not perfect at his profession.

Perfectionism can eventually lead to many severe symptoms. This person will do anything to make something flawless. This can include spending countless hours of going over the same piece, taking time away from other commitments. Spending so much concentrated time on a subject can possibly make the person skip meals, or get little to no sleep to get the subject finished, which causes severe bodily damage. Perfectionism can cause low self-esteem, eating disorders, sleep disorders, anger, and even depression (possible suicide). Andrew pushes his body and mind to the limits to reach his goal. Perfectionism can be classified as a disorder itself. In fact, perfectionism is a symptom of OCD (Obsessive Compulsive Disorder), anxiety, and over twelve other classified disorders. Perfectionism does have its perks, but in the end, it can cause you to fail more than you anticipated.

Andrew’s family contributes to his low self-esteem. In one particular scene, his family is around the dinner table. While Andrew tries to talk about his upcoming band competition, the family turns the attention to his two same-age cousins who are football players. His uncle ridicules him about not having any friends and how music is not purposeful. Derision like this is what drives people to become perfectionists- to prove that the disbeliever is wrong and that they can be successful. Perfectionists cannot accept themselves for who they truly are- thus, creating the first step into the low esteem “spiral”. According to Marilyn Sorensen, PhD, a psychologist and self-esteem recovery specialist, low self-esteem is:

An irrational and distorted view of self that affects the person’s assumptions, interpretations, perceptions, conclusions & beliefs about himself or herself as well as others. This can result in a person being very critical of self and others and/or using poor judgment in decision-making (Sorensen).


In Andrew’s family, he is the only musician. This makes him feel left out, due to his family’s love of sports. In school, Fletcher’s force provides enough low self-esteem for Andrew. On Andrew’s first day in the Studio Band, he cannot tell if he is dragging or rushing the tempo. Fletcher in turn throws a chair at Andrew’s head. He then asks Andrew to count a simple 4/4 beat. When Andrew reaches the 4 of the beat, Fletcher smacks him in the face and asks if he hit him before or after the fourth beat. Andrew starts to cry, and Fletcher uses hateful words and comments to embarrass him in front of the whole band. After class, Fletcher says that discipline makes great players. Andrew overlooks the low self-esteem and writes it off as chastisement.

Eating disorders can be a result of trying to attain perfection. Perfectionists spend excessive amounts of time on a specific entity to make it flawless. Some people believe that they are so busy that they do not have time to eat. Others skip meals just to use the time they would have used for eating on whatever project they are working on. This can create disorders like Anorexia Nervosa. Anorexia can create severe health damage, which can include fatigue, amenorrhea, constipation, bad skin and hair, seizures, dehydration, and poor heart health (Timberline Knolls). Some people have ritualistic behaviors with their food where they can only eat a certain food or amount of food that “allows” them to do well at what they are trying to accomplish. Eating too much is also a symptom. If a perfectionist is depressed, he/she can either eat too much or too little food which still damages their physical and mental abilities.

After Andrew is accepted into the Studio Band, he removes his bed and mattress from his dorm to create room for his drums. This was just the beginning of Andrew’s sleeping disorders. Most of Andrew’s practices are at six a.m. and nine p.m. each day. In addition to his two practices a day, Andrew has classes and homework/studying to do. But with all of the pressures that Fletcher inflicts, Andrew spends almost every waking minute practicing on his drum set, leaving little time for sleep, food, and classwork. In one scene, three drummers including Andrew are competing to play in the upcoming competition. The music is a very fast paced beat that requires a lot of muscle to complete. When none of the three men can drum as fast as the song demands, Fletcher forces them to stay until one of them gets it right. Like a cycle, if one of them cannot play fast enough, the next one gets up immediately to try to beat the other two. The three drummers stay from nine p.m. until three a.m. drumming nonstop until one of them gets it right- the night before the competition. Eventually, the drums are covered in blood and sweat. The other band players are also required to stay in the room until one of them gets the drumming correct. Andrew finally plays it correctly, and Fletcher tells him that he has only a couple of hours to sleep until the competition that morning. On the bus to the performance, it is clear that he is exhausted- but instead of resting, he practices by drumming on his knees. Because he is spending most of his time practicing, and the other half worrying if he is good enough, Andrew loses sleep. All of the anxiety over the music will make him sleep deprived- causing insomnia. Statistically, 30% of Americans suffer from insomnia, while almost 50% of the entire world suffers from it (Silver). Some side effects of insomnia include depression, anxiety, short attention span, are more prone to accidents, and headaches (Mayo Clinic). Andrew believes that losing sleep will give him more time to practice, but in reality less sleep means he will not perform up to his highest potential when playing.

On the day of the biggest show of the season, and the day after Andrew and the three drummers stay up until three a.m. to get the drumming speed correct, his bus breaks down half way to the performance. This immediately puts Andrew into an anxiety attack. He rushes to a local car rental shop, and in a frenzy, accidentally leaves his drum sticks at the rental office. When he gets to the concert hall, Fletcher says that if he isn’t on stage and ready in ten minutes, he will destroy his career- ultimately making him a “page turner” the rest of his time there. Andrew notices that he forgot his sticks, and drives back to the rental shop before he has to be on stage. Andrew, about to turn into the parking lot of the concert hall, is hit by another driver. His car flips, and after a minute Andrew crawls out of the window, grabs his drum sticks, and runs to the building, ignoring the other driver’s demands to stop. Andrew steps onto the stage just in time for the performance, but is visibly hurt and bloody. Due to his injuries, Andrew is not able to play well. Fletcher stops the other players, and tells Andrew that he’s done for. The pressure from music and his drive for wanting to be the best causes Andrew to snap at that moment. He tackles Fletcher while on stage in a fit of rage. Martin Antony and Richard Swinson, authors of When Perfect isn’t good enough: Strategies for Coping with Perfectionism writes that:

…Perfectionism puts people at risk for becoming angry more easily. If you tend to have high standards that are ridged and inflexible, you are at risk for not having your standards and expectations met. Not being able to achieve the goal is one of several common triggers for anger (Antony and Swinson: 174).


Perfectionists become mentally unstable. The self-disappointment and pressure they put on themselves will cause them to be irritable, angry and all together insecure. Perfectionists suppress all of their emotions to seem like they are perfect, but eventually all the pressure will cause them to snap- just like it did with Andrew. Scott Kiloby, author of Living Realization, states that:

Perfectionists often recoil away from conflict, choosing instead a more familiar mode of interacting- complaining and judging. The anger right under the surface turns to judgment before it reaches the point of being expressed. And this is how the suppression happens. All that energy of anger just lies around tucked away, fueling more and more judgment (Kiloby).


This anger and judgment causes Andrew to push away his family members, his girlfriend, and annihilates the chance of having friends. Andrew tells his girlfriend that she will keep him from being the best he can be, and that she will ultimately start to hate him for not spending time together. The attitude of a perfectionist mimics the personality of an introvert. After Andrew’s tackling episode on stage, and being removed from the college, he slowly dips into depression.

Earlier in Whiplash, Fletcher announces to the class that one of the best players he had previously taught has passed away. Later, after Andrew’s incident, a lawyer reveals that the man who had passed away had hung himself after being depressed for a long period of time. Perfectionists go through a cycle. They want everything to be perfect, and will eventually develop anxiety over the situation. They will ask themselves if their work is good enough, and they will worry about being ridiculed. Ultimately, they will fret so much over the situation that they will lose all confidence and slip into depression. Andrew experiences this depression after being removed from the band. He quits playing the drums and packs them away. He spends most of his time walking around, sitting in his apartment, and trying to make amends with his ex-girlfriend. Andrew feels like he has no life purpose and nothing to put his time and energyinto anymore.

Charlie Parker is Andrew’s drumming idol. In Whiplash, Fletcher repeatedly tells Andrew the story about how Charlie became famous. Joe Jones threw a cymbal at Charlie’s head for not playing up to standard. He was laughed off the stage, but the next day he got up and practiced and went on to be one of the greats. Fletcher says, “So imagine if Jones had just said ‘Well that’s okay Charlie. That was alright. Good job.’ But Charlie thinks to himself: ‘Well I did do a pretty good job.’ End of story. That, to me, is an absolute tragedy” (Whiplash: 2014). Fletcher tells this story to Andrew over and over, and eventually Andrew relates that without Fletcher’s abuse, he will not become the next Charlie Parker. Kenneth Ginsburg, M.D states that “pushing towards perfectionism undercuts the core ingredients needed for success.” Being cookie-cutter slashes our chance of creativity and culture. Imagine a world full of completely perfect people. You can’t imagine a world like that- because a perfectionist strives to be better than others. It’s a cycle. In retrospect, that world would be lacking of culture and originality. We were designed to be imperfect, and the sooner we accept it, the more healthy and happy we will be.


Works Cited

Antony, Martin, et al. When Perfect isn't good enough: Strategies for Coping with Perfectionism. New Harbinger Publications, 1998.

Ginsburg, Kenneth. “The Toxic Race to Perfection is Damaging Our Teens”. Psychology Today (October 22, 2011)

Mayo Clinic Staff. “Diseases and Conditions: Insomnia”. Mayo Clinic (April 4, 2014)

Perera, Karl. “Overcoming Perfectionism”. More Self-Esteem (ND)

Scott, Kiloby. “A Perfectionist’s Call”. Living Realization (2013)

Silver, Rich. “4 Essential Facts about Insomnia.” Sleep Passport (No Date)

Smith, Ann. “Why Being a Perfectionist Can Make You Depressed”. Everyday Health (July 25, 2013)

Sorensen, Marilyn. “Questions and Answers about Low Self-Esteem (LSE)”. The Self-Esteem Institute (ND)

Timberline Knolls Treatment Center Staff. “Anorexia Symptoms and Effects” Timberline Knolls Residential Treatment Center (ND)

Filmography

Whiplash (USA: Damien Chazelle, 2014)

Sugie Blackburn -- The Power of Love, Choice, and Courage: A Good Reason to Read the Harry Potter Stories

Sugie Blackburn
ENG 102, Professor Michael Benton

The Power of Love, Choice, and Courage: A Good Reason to Read the Harry Potter Stories

It began with the sound of a twinkle and a pop as each street light went out with a flick of Albus Dumbledore’s silver cigarette lighter in the movie Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone. Our imaginations were ignited and my daughter and I were forever hooked on the Harry Potter stories. A well told story, either read in a book or viewed in the cinema can have an impact on a person that stays with them for their entire life. My daughter began her road to reading with the Harry Potter series. She found the movies and books engaging because she could relate to the characters and their struggles. To my great dismay, I had learned that the Christian community was pushing for a ban of all Harry Potter movies and books. I am not a fan of blanket censorship, so I decided to read the books myself. The story revolves around Harry Potter and his two friends Ron Weasley and Hermione Granger. His friends stick with him through everything, and even though their friendship has its ups and downs they support and love Harry through it all. It is his bond and loyalty with them that gives Harry the courage to face the evil with in and the villain who is Voldemort. As the stories evolved I realized that there were three recurring themes. Surprisingly, magic isn’t the one that stood out the most instead it was the powers of love, choice and courage.

An article in the New York Times titled, “Harry Potter Tops List of Banned Books” states that the Harry Potter series was one of the most challenged books of 2000 (Maughan, 2001). The stories put witchcraft in a positive light and that seems to be the main objection for most of the Christian community. "It contains some powerful and valuable lessons about love and courage and the ultimate victory of good over evil," said Paul Hetrick, spokesman for Focus on the Family, a national Christian group based in Colorado Springs. "However, the positive messages are packaged in a medium -- witchcraft -- that is directly denounced in scripture" (Kurtz, November 6, 1999). Many Christians take the Bible literally. It is not only a guide for their spiritual life but a reference for how they should live. The Harry Potter series is a fiction, and is considered fantasy. I believe in a person’s right to religion just as I believe in the freedom to choose what we want to read. The Bible is clear about free will so that we might choose whom we want to worship and I believe banning something is taking away the right to choose. I don’t think a child should be forced to read the Harry Potter books, nor do I think it is right to ban the book from our libraries and schools. There is a concern that the books will encourage children to delve into satanic practices. Lord Voldemort is a kind of devil who practices the dark arts, but he is not put in a positive light. I think children would want to be the opposite of anything this villain represents. Voldemort is defeated in the end because he underestimates the power of love and that is a reason to read the books, not ban them.

As the Harry Potter story unfolds it reveals that love is the one thing that completely eludes Voldemort. It was Lily Potter’s love for her son that protected Harry from Voldemort’s killing curse, and it was Snape’s love for Lily that made Voldemort vulnerable to his enemies. No one truly understood Dumbledore’s complete and unwavering trust in Snape. As the spy for both Dumbledore and Voldemort, one had to wonder what Snape’s true motives were. He again and again protects Harry, but why? Love can be a strong motivator, and even though Snape’s affections were not returned he clearly loved Harry’s mother, Lily. Love is not just a feeling, it’s a choice we make and then choose to act on. The complexity of Snape’s character is a perfect example of that choice. Snape’s love goes through an evolution. It starts off as one who selfishly wants Lily all to himself. After reporting to Voldemort about the prophecy of the child, Snape then seeks Dumbledore’s help to save Lily. Dumbledore asks Snape why they didn’t spare the mother in exchange for the son but Snape assures him he tried that already. He has no concern for Lily’s husband and child. Dumbledore’s response to this is disgust; he knows Snape is only concerned with getting what he wants. He is changed once he commits to being the double agent and begins the battle against Voldemort. [As a double agent, his whole life is an act of love and self-sacrifice.] Snape’s love for Lily leads him to make choices that protect Harry and gradually become his redemption. In the end we see him as more of a hero than a villain (Deavel: 58-61).

Those who believe that we reap what we sow would say that Voldemort got what he deserved: death. Not just a death of his physical life but of his afterlife as well. At King’s Cross, in a scene from the Deathly Hallows, there is a tiny, pathetic creature whimpering under the bench. Harry makes an inquiry of the creature and Dumbledore says that it is beyond help. In a margin of a copy of Psychology: Briefer Course, William James, an American psychologist and philosopher wrote this, “Sow a thought, reap an action; sow an action, reap a habit; sow a habit, reap a character; sow a character, reap a destiny” (Walls: 252). Basically, we are the sum of our choices. If our choices become the essence of who we are, then Voldemort didn’t just do evil, he also became evil. His terrible and sad fate was the one he chose. Like Voldemort, Harry also has a sad and unloving childhood and is faced with making choices caused by events out of his control. It is Harry’s choices that make him good despite the things that happen to him. The Harry Potter stories reveal that both Harry and Voldemort had troubled and less than ideal childhoods, but they took very different paths. In a scene from The Order of the Phoenix, Sirius Black illustrates some of the wisdom imparted in the stories. Harry opens up to Sirius about his anger and his growing fears about this link he seems to have with Voldemort. Sirius goes on to reassure Harry with a few choice pearls to help him discern between good and evil. He goes on to say that Harry is a good person who has had bad things happen to him, something I think most of us can relate to. He also mentions that we all have both light and dark in us, but it is the sum of our choices that make us who we are. Sirius is understanding and compassionate towards Harry’s situation without crippling him with pity. In just one scene we gain two pearls of wisdom: one is that it is not what happens but how we deal with it that matters; and two we learn that although control is an illusion the power of choice is not and it may take a lot of courage but we can choose what is right over what is wrong.

In the first volume of the series, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, the students are sorted into their houses and Harry joins the Gryffindor’s by choice. At first the sorting hat is going to put Harry with the Slytherins but it takes into consideration Harry’s choice. One defining feature of the students in Gryffindor house is courage. It takes a great deal of courage for Harry to be able to make the choices he has to make. He displays another kind of courage in a scene with Harry and Luna in the Order of Phoenix. Harry begins to cut himself off from his friends, feeling that he is alone in this fight with Voldemort, and although his friend Hermione reaches out, it is Luna’s words of wisdom that light the way. Luna and Harry meet at the beginning of the school year and learn they have something in common, they can both see the Thestrals. A Thestral can only be seen by people who have witnessed death. Harry seems more receptive to Luna’s friendship and states that she is among the few who understand. Luna says that it would be in Voldemort’s best interest if Harry felt alone and cut off from his friends because if it is just Harry then he wouldn’t be much of a threat to Voldemort. There is a courage and humility in being vulnerable. What Luna suggests it that there is strength in numbers, especially when surrounded by people who care about you.

Harry displays another type of courage when he questions the authority of Dolores Umbridge. She is clearly an elitist who thrives on power and the suffering of others. The Minister of Magic is so driven by fear he will do anything to refute the fact that Voldemort is back. He sends Umbridge, a sinister character, into the heart of Hogwarts to dethrone the Headmaster, Albus Dumbledore. She also refuses to teach any defensive magic to the students, who feel that now more than ever is the time to know how to defend themselves. At this point Harry could not feel any more alone in his fight with Voldemort but what he learns is that it really isn’t just all about him and that he doesn’t stand alone. With the nudging and support of Hermione and Ron, he takes initiative and begins a class on defensive magic for anyone who is willing to learn. It is not only courage that is displayed, but hope. They chose not to feel defeated and give in. Hermione’s character doesn’t spend a lot of time dwelling on problems but rather solutions, and she brings important life skill principles to the stories. She doesn’t let Harry give up, she supports him with her solution-oriented mind and shows that with a little extra hard work, smarts and courage there isn’t any problem that can’t be attacked. There is little risk in following the crowd, it took a great deal of courage for Harry and his friends to stand up to the unjust rule of Professor Umbridge. Speaking of unjust rules, it would be such a shame to ban these stories. They teach us that love can give us the courage to make the right choices. These stories show that friendship means you don’t have to go through life alone. I think everyone can agree that these principles are valuable lessons to learn. Even without the great underlying depth of integrity these stories are fun and imaginative, and thick with wonder that can ignite a young and old imagination. Again I’m reminded of the scene where Albus Dumbledore takes out his light deluminator and puts the light back in the street lamps. He shows that light can be given and taken away. Banning books, takes away the freedom to choose.


References

Deavel, Catherine Jack and David Paul Deavel. “Choosing Love: The Redemption of Severus Snape.” The Ultimate Harry Potter and Philosophy Hogwarts for Muggles. ed. Gregory Bassham, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2010: 53-65.

Kurtz, Holly. “Harry Potter expelled from school.” Denver Rocky Mountain News (November 6, 1999)

Maughan, Shannon. “Harry Potter Tops List of Banned Books." The New York Times (February 8, 2001)

Walls, Jonathan L. and Jerry L. Walls. “Beyond Godric’s Hollow: Life after Death and the Search for meaning.” The Ultimate Harry Potter and Philosophy Hogwarts for Muggles. ed. Gregory Bassham, John Wiley & Sons, Inc., 2010: 246-257.