Mirror, Mirror on the Wall

By Zach Cole. Originally published at Zach Cole's Site.

“The Scourge of ‘Relatability’” by Rebecca Mead takes aim at individuals’ laziness in reading. This short article proposes that our complaints about works of art not being “relatable” are nonsensical. Mead says it is a failure of our imagination when we do not easily relate to a text or a play, and that authors do not necessarily create their works so that we can mirror ourselves against them. In summation, Rebecca Mead argues that it is silly to complain that a work is not relatable because the author of the work did not create a story intended to emulate the reader’s life.

0129203_PE283223_S5I agree and disagree with Mead’s attack on the concept of “relatability.” I will first explain how I disagree and then proceed to explain why I agree. I disagree that it is unfair for a reader “to demand that a work be ‘relatable’.” It is perfectly justified for a reader to want to read a novel or watch a play in which the reader can relate to a character or an experience of one of the actors. Along the lines of what Sigmund Freud said, we seek to identify ourselves through imitation of another figure in works of art. Thus, the reader is justified in demanding that a work be relatable.0012E_Freud_Foto

On the other hand, I agree with Mead that the rejection of a work due to a lack of reflection with a character is “our own failure.” We cannot give up on books, plays, or movies! There is a character in each of these forms of art with whom we can identify, and it is our job to find that character. Like Mead says, if we reject a work because we cannot identify with a character, then we are not stretching our imagination to its full potential. When we give up on a work of art, we are not willing to try hard enough. We assume a story will be cut out just for us. But if this were the case, there would need to be an infinite number of stories worldwide. I agree with Mead that we need to take a step back, realize that stories are not custom made, and then delve back in and let our creative juices flow in an effort to identify with a character.

I will now back up my agreement and disagreement to Mead’s claims with references to “The Yellow Wallpaper,” by Charlotte Perkins Gilman. Gilman’s text depicts a mentally insane woman who is stuck in a room decorated by yellow wallpaper. The woman is babied by her husband John, and she thinks there are women crawling in the walls, aching to be released from behind the yellow wallpaper. By the end of the story, the woman has stripped all the walls of the yellow wallpaper and has fully lost her sanity.Yellow-Wallpapers-yellow-34512615-2560-1600

First, I will utilize Gilman’s story to explain the reasons I disagree with Mead’s notion that readers should not complain when they cannot identify with a character in a work of art. It is fair for a reader to want to identify with a character in a work of art because that is what we do. We find someone who lives similarly to the way we live because that excites us. In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the narrator and main character is a woman who has a mental illness and is confined in a room. Not many people can identify with this. The narrator is cared for by her husband and a woman named Jane. She is in a room of yellow wallpaper and she thinks women are crawling in this paper. Only a handful of individuals can identify with this situation. In order to be able to identify with it one must have a mental infirmity. The woman in this story goes insane over yellow wallpaper and I don’t know how many people go crazy over something this trivial. Thus, it is justified for a reader to complain that “The Yellow Wallpaper” is lacking a character which the reader can relate to. The story will not be intriguing to someone who has never felt what the narrator is feeling.

Now I will discuss why I agree with Mead that a reader is a quitter if he or she rejects a work because he or she cannot find a character to identify with. In “The Yellow Wallpaper,” the reader can identify with the narrator on a broad level. Though the narrator is mentally deranged and stuck in a room of yellow wallpaper (something which does not occur in many people’s lives), the wider scope of the story is that the narrator is trapped and driven insane by something trivial. We can all identify with this, and therefore the reader needs to work harder to identify with broad themes in a work of art. While very few of us have mental illness and are trapped in a yellow room, we all have something tiny that ruffles our feathers and this is what the reader can relate to. I agree with Mead that the reader ought to work hard, stretch his or her imagination, and find at least a theme to identify with in a story before giving in. Again, a character who we perfectly identify with will not be handed to us on a silver platter. We must search for this character or what this character is going through in order to relate to a work of art.Principessa3

912 words. I’ve outdone myself

By Zach Cole. Originally published at Zach Cole's Site.

You Americans. What’s your forte? I certainly can’t tell. You seem to be good at many things, yet bad at many as well. I listened to one of your “podcasts,” or whatever you call them. That shit doesn’t make any sense! What, you string together a bunch of stories about people’s lives that don’t matter? And who the hell was the boring narrator? I didn’t need to hear him introduce the stories for me. It ruined the surprise. Anyway, I thought the setup of your episode was strange. 20 stories in 60 minutes? Why not tell 3 good ones in 60 minutes? I don’t know if I was supposed to focus on the monotonous narrator or the quick-yapping story tellers. But who cares about that? I would like to offer my thoughts on the specifics. I’ll let you know what I learned about your culture and values. Each of the stories told me a little something. A little glimpse into your fascinating world. I’d rather call the stories chronicles. Is that okay? Good.

You might think I’m a shoddy writer. You’d be wrong. A quick writer, yes. Brief, yes. But not shoddy. By no means shoddy. I get to the point. I tell people what I think.

Of course, you probably want me to introduce myself. My name is Anton Ego. I’m a critic of culture. Some call me Critical Anthropologist. I’m more commonly esteemed for my life as a food critic. I am located in the city of Rats, in southern France. The city of the scurrying pests. The food is almost half as bad as the city’s name.

Enough of that. I’m really just trying to hit my mark of 500 words. Professionals cut corners too, you know. I will begin now. I give you my Cultural Critique of the Americans.

First, I would like to talk about your creativity. I didn’t know your people could imagine, play, and innovate at the age of 60. That old man, Kerry was his name, and his swamp imitation. It was great! Not often am I impressed. It seems to me there are remnants of childhood in all of you. Also, Chuck Klosterman’s game, “Monkees Equals Monkees,” was fantastic. How intuitive. Comparing rock bands to television shows is really something! And Chuck was no young boy. Yet still imaginative. Lastly, Susan Drury’s “Swap and Shop” radio show seems like an economically sound move. It does not require fancy buildings brimming with employees that need to be paid. Over the phone people can make sales and purchases, forcing individuals to grow closer to one another. A multi-dimensional invention at its finest. Economics and socializing in one!

Now don’t get your hopes up America. While you are astoundingly creative, you are also undeniably dishonest. You will probably deny your dishonesty (which is an act dishonest in itself), but Brent Runyon’s recording of the little devils in the library supports my claim. It is almost too easy for you to lie. The two babysitters couldn’t even tell the truth to each other. Enough of this, however, I’m getting angry.

I like to write in patterns. Since I began by complimenting your creativity and followed by insulting your honesty, I will now offer another compliment. But this compliment goes singly to the Neo-Futurists. That pair from Chicago was hilarious. They had me laughing out loud.

“Statement. Statement. Statement.”

“Clarification question.”

“Panicked bullsh*t explanation!”

How cleverly accurate! We let our emotions get the better of us in arguments, yet never say what we are feeling in words. This pair did just that and it was ironic, truthful, and comedic. Bravo, Chicago.

That concludes my compliments.

What I really want to discuss are your flaws, America.15

You’re self-centered, and easily distracted. You crack under pressure. And you quite frankly don’t give a shit about others. Not to mention how defensive you can become. The blurb from “Blunt Youth Radio” proves the existence of what the Neo-Futurists were pretending to do. Emotional arguing. Weak arguing. You lack a backbone, America.

Where to start? I’ll begin with your selfishness. Everything’s about you, isn’t it? Tate Donavan certainly thinks so. What sort of idiot deduces that a random couple knows about him and wants him to take a picture kissing the girl? He didn’t even think to take the couple’s picture.

You crack under pressure, America. The 1,200 army cadets at West Point prove this notion. How embarrassing. These are “top notch” high school graduates? It isn’t that hard to recite your name followed by a couple of words, yet these newbies are fearful and can’t think straight under stressful situations.

Finally, America, you don’t care about others. You really don’t know Matt’s name by now? The guy you pass 40 times a day in his stationary position at the printer. That’s just rude. Someone you work with deserves more respect and you know it. Figure out who your peers are, call them by their names, and show at least a smidgen of dignity.

That wraps it up for me. I have given you my Cultural Critique of the Americans in honesty and straightforwardness. I know I was as clear as possible. I hope you do more than reflect on what you read. I hope you act on it.

I now head back to Rats to indulge my better self in food critiquing. I’d send back some fine eats, but I’m too selfish. Maybe a hint of American runs in us all.Anton_Ego_Typing

Comment on The Woman in the Walls by Zach Cole

I think you powerfully argued how Gilman’s writing portrays gender roles and perceived norms. In the late 1800’s, men certainly assumed dominance over women, and men were thought to rise to confidence, while women were supposed to be intellectually weak. I agree with Gilman’s denunciation of a male-dominated culture. I thought you comments on Gilman’s depiction of John’s dominance over the narrator were insightful. I loved your sentence, “In light of this faulty model of classification, where manhood denotes excessive confidence and womanhood denotes utter feeblemindedness,” because it ringed out the bitter truth of gender expectations in a well-written fashion.

I love your use of the three pictures. I think the first picture of Gilman as a large, powerful, stoic woman does a lot to back the claims you make in your paper and the claims Gilman makes in her writing. The pictures of the girl in the yellow wallpaper and the woman’s body over John are from the story, and the picture of the woman over John shows women not equal with men, but rather above them.

Your piece was nicely laid out into equally sized paragraph and your incorporation of quotes was timely, necessary, and moving. In your paper, you could have done more to describe the way Gilman denounces the conventional constructs of man. You write that these constructs exist, however, you don’t delve into why they exists or why it is important that they exist. At the very end, you say that the narrator’s loss can be seen as a failure. What loss are you talking about and why is it a failure if in the end she is standing over her husband?

Emotivation

By Zach Cole. Originally published at Zach Cole's Site.

June Howard, in her Keywords for American Cultural Studies entry titled “Sentiment,” says that “psychological responses are emotion’s most intimate aspect.” She notes that when we are moved, or spurred into an emotional response by some stimulus, our experience manifests itself in our bodily response. While emotions are highly personal, people worldwide experience them. Our generation absolutely responds to sentimental things the same way our parents’ generation did and the same way our children’s generation will. Our response to sentimental stimuli is a universal phenomenon, and although the stimuli may change, emotional responses and physiological reactions are, have always been, and will continue to stay the same.

Eric Thomas is a motivational speaker who travels the country delivering high energy messages of inspiration for athletes and other professionals. His messages are widely available on YouTube and very accessible. Thomas’s speeches revolve around the idea of “success,” and how it can be achieved through determination and commitment. Thomas is incredible in that he can move people into action by preaching an expression that is seen as cliché and overused: hard work leads to success. Though we hear the terms hard work, success, motivation, and passion all the time and they may seem unreachable, Thomas sorts through them in a way that is educational, intelligent, and inspiring.

Thomas is a humble man and he often cites himself as an example of ordinary in his speeches. He took 12 years to graduate from Michigan State’s undergraduate program, and he is neither afraid nor offended to let people know. Importantly, however, he says that his college tenure defined him because it forced him to work three times as long and three times as hard as his classmates, which is why he has an advantage over them.

Thomas’s raspy, out-of-breath voice, his humble appearance, and his profound speeches that look at success and hard work from novel angles are what make him a sentimental speaker. Thomas has a wheezing, breathless voice because he gets so involved in what he is saying. When I listen to him speak, the mere sound quality of his voice is inspiring because Thomas pours his heart into each word he says. At times he mixes it up and speaks slowly and softly for dramatic effect, but on the whole, Thomas is riveting and enthralling because of his raspy yet powerful voice. As I mentioned before, Thomas is a humble man. He speaks in black sweat pants, a t-shirt, and a Detroit Tigers baseball hat. He always wears a hat, which gives people who listen to him something to look forward to. Most importantly, Thomas delves into the concepts of hard work, success, and determination in a radically different way from what we are used to hearing, which I will cover in the following paragraphs. It is the words in his messages that truly inspire others and myself. While his voice and humble nature add to his inspirational effect, Thomas’s words are what serve to empower.

One of Thomas’s most powerful speeches is his “Breathe” speech. In this speech, Thomas talks about a young football player seeking success. Thomas opens his speech saying the young football player called a fitness guru saying he “wanted to be successful.” The guru told the football player to meet him the next morning at the beach. The young player arrived at the beach at four the next morning ready to workout. He had on his football cleats, a pair of pants, and had set up cones to run around. The guru, however, took the player down to the water, and walked him in about waste deep. At this point the football player was confused and asked the guru why they were doing this. Of course, the young player had contacted the guru so he could become successful, and walking in the water wasn’t going to do the trick.

The guru led the player into the water even further, until the player was shoulder deep in water. And then neck deep. The guru then grabbed the player and shoved his head under the water. The guru held the player’s head so that he couldn’t breathe. And when the player started scratching and clawing at the guru because he was about to pass out, the guru lifted the player’s head out of the water. The guru told the player, “When you want to breathe as bad as you want to succeed, then you’ll be successful.”337770738_640 This quote, which Thomas in fact made up himself, is the defining adage of Thomas’s philosophy. Thomas is widely recognized for this statement and it is brilliant. Breathing is necessary for life. We must breathe in order to live. What Thomas is saying is that success must be necessary for life if we want to succeed. We have to want to succeed so badly that we can’t live without success, and this is the crux of Thomas’s inspiration.

The one glaring limitation to Thomas’s method is that he cannot do the work for anybody. No matter how much he preaches, how enthusiastic he gets when he talks, at the end of the day, each person will have to decide for himself or herself whether or not they are willing to put in the work to achieve their goals.

Thomas’s speeches give me chills because of the way he describes how hard we have to work to get to where we want in life. Though his message is directed towards high level athletes and people with professions, I am still inspired. Sometimes I listen to one of his talks to motivate myself to do homework. Yes, that sounds embarrassing, but sometimes I need an extra push and Thomas provides that nudge for me.services_1920x1080

Comment on The Creeping Woman by Zach Cole

This piece of writing is very similar to “The Yellow Wallpaper,” yet it has a few marked differences. You are clearly writing about a nervous, crazy woman, who is possibly depressed, and she becomes more afraid of her husband as the story goes on. I love how you make John out to be creepy and meddlesome. In the end, the woman escapes the wallpaper, and it would have been nice if she and John had gotten into a fight. Your piece nicely showed the progression of both the woman’s declining sanity and John’s increasing anger until it hit a climax, which is why I wish there had been some big resolution. Your use of quotes drew me into the story, and the many short paragraphs kept me engaged. Often times, large chunks of writing will discourage me from reading any further, so I thought your setup was appealing to the eye.

Follow me if you can

By Zach Cole. Originally published at Zach Cole's Site.

It is very seldom that the Dollar Devil is good and lets me alone. Of course, he is just like John and he is not possible to avoid. Looked at in one way, he need only be told that tetanus is nearly always caused by mechanical injuries in order to believe I am sick! Part of the mischief lies with climatic conditions, and he said that after the wall-paper was changed he would go down to the cellar and deal with the drought.

Men have confessed to me that for twenty years they had built this great city on a morass. I have seen it anew. I ask you to note carefully the expression and figures of the streets. The industry and energy are the essential quality of this new home.

The Secretary of War said, “Your exercise depends on your strength, my dear.” Is it any wonder if asylums for the insane gape for such men? This too frequent practice of immature men hardly lets me stir without special direction.

Many years ago I heard Mr. Thackeray sat up straight and getting angry enough to do something desperate, peeled off all the paper. That silenced him for a few moments. Another reason why too prolonged use of the brain is so mischievous is seen in this embarrassing condition of automatic activity of the cerebral organs. In the daytime it is tiresome and perplexing. Before attempting to indicate certain ways in which we as a people are overtaxing and misusing the organs of thought, I must use my will and self-control and not let any silly fancies run away with me. Whenever I have closely questioned patients or men of studious habits as to this matter, I have found that most of them, when in health, recognized no such thing as fatigue in mental action. “I am not aware,” writes a physician of distinction, “that, until a few years ago, I ever felt any sense of fatigue from brain-work which I could refer to the organ employed. As if I couldn’t see through him! I wonder if they all tear about here!

 

Gilman, Charlotte P. “The Yellow Wallpaper.” Project Gutenberg, 25 Nov. 2008. Web.

19 Feb. 2015.

Mitchell, Silar W. “Wear and Tear Or, Hints for the Overworked.” Project Gutenberg,

17 Aug. 2004. Web. 19 Feb. 2015.

Comment on The Orientation and Persona of My Domain by Zach Cole

Angelique, I thought you did a great job introducing us to your site. Your site is simplistic but rich with thought, which is just the way your video tour was. You spoke softly and calmly, yet powerfully. Your tour was nicely split into four slides, and you took your time to describe your front, Home, and About Me pages, which all made perfect sense. The main thing I got out of your tour is that you wanted your writing to do the talking, not the design of your site. I loved the Stephen Hawking quote, and you explained nicely the reason for the picture with the bicycle on the front page. One suggestion I have if you give future tours of your site is that you explain why you have certain things in certain areas, for example, why the tabs for the Home and About Me pages are at the top of your site as opposed to being on one of the sides. Besides that, your tour was fantastic and I can’t wait to read more of your posts!

Identity: Gotham Needs Me

By Zach Cole. Originally published at Zach Cole's Blog.

“Can you identify the man?”images

“Well, he had blue eyes and brown hair. He was probably 6 feet tall and had a thin mustache. He was wearing brown boots and had on a black leather jacket. He had on a dark blue baseball cap and was wearing shorts. He was a thick man with very muscular legs.”

This encounter between police officer and witness occurs regularly. After a crime is committed, witnesses are brought into the police station to assist in identifying the culprit. This form of identification is physical identification, and it is just one of the many ways people can be identified.

Identity defines the nature of someone or something. The word “identity” is used in a broad scope of arenas. There are mathematical identities, gender identities, cultural, social, and sexual identities. Identities come in all shapes and sizes and serve as a way to tag someone. We seek to identify others and ourselves to get a better understanding of what they or we are all about.

Identity belongs to everyone and everything, and it is important to note that this word is a means of categorization. We identify people based on skin color, race, religion, gender, sexuality, who they spend time with, and even what their college major is. There are limitless ways to identify someone which is what makes this word so important. Humans want to categorize things neatly. We like order. So, we use identity to place ourselves and others into bubbles of being.

We need to do more to understand identity because knowing a word that serves to categorize people exists will help us to undo our tendency of categorization. Our need to classify people into groups leads to stereotypes, stigmas, and hatred. When we identify someone who is unlike us, we see him or her as lower. Understanding identity as a means of classification will allow us to see past these groupings and to be culturally and socially aware.

Another reason we need to understand identity is because knowing our own identity is answering a fundamental existentialist question. Especially in the adolescent era, we seek to know who we are, what we stand for, who we want to associate with, and what our lives will consist of.

Lastly, we often hide our true identity, fearful that being who we are is unpopular. Though concealment of self is seen as cowardly, it is necessary for Batman in “The Dark Knight.” Bruce Wayne, the filthy rich billionaire who is Batman, acts like a filthy rich billionaire so no one suspects he is Batman. How could an ignorant, self-centered billionaire be Gotham’s hero? Wayne, however, is the masked man in the bat suit, and when he is in his Batman role, he talks in a deep growling voice to conceal his identity. Batman conceals his identity because he does not want to take credit for his acts of heroism, demonstrating the occasional upside to concealing one’s identity.