Sunday, March 25, 2012

Bippity Boppity Boo! The rich life for you!

Cinderella; we all know the classic rags-to-riches rise tale where the beautiful noble girl (or boy) is mistreated by the family, but ends up marrying the royal due to help from a magical friend. For the sake of this entry I’m going to be referring to the female. The question for this week is whether or not something like this is realistic through magic or marriage. How could a girl stuck in the most demeaning work make it out to live happily ever after?

First of all, magic is not very realistic at all, so that excuse flies out the window already, unless you’re talking about the magic of luck. The common stories like to say that Cinderella makes it out due to her patience, virtue, and persistence. All of that sounds nice; however this explanation leaves out something key: the help that she got from many things. In the Grimm story she receives help from birds, in the Perrault she gets help from a godmother, in The Black Cow he gets help from the cow, and others receive help from various other trees, mysterious people, and creatures. All of these protagonists have major help from someone else and that person’s magic, which again is not very realistic in our realm. Another main factor that sets these Cinderella figures apart is that they were in positions of power before their fall. Simply by being a former noble Cinderella had a huge advantage, especially when she could take the beautiful dresses and gold with her. In these cases she never truly loses everything. This question reminds me of the book Outliers by Malcolm Gladwell. In his book, Gladwell emphasizes that many famous people such as Bill Gates, professional hockey players, and the Beatles are all famous due to their connections and luck at being born at the right time to the right people. Cinderella was born to nobles and provided with the many things she would need to later impress a prince and the people involved in his life. Her marriage is not as simple and lucky as everyone may have thought, thus reducing the likelihood of increasing status through marriage for those who are actually poor to begin with. Therefore, the true rags-to-riches scenario is much less believable in my eyes. A true example would involve a girl born into the peasant class who was then found and married to someone in power with money, and while I’m sure stories like that exist, they are not the ones that were read for class.

So… if it is so difficult for something like this to happen, why does the story exist? Bettelheim argues about the positive effects it can have on sibling rivalry and the guilt a child can feel during youth. That’s entirely possible. The story provides an outlet for the guilt and the idea that things get better. Another possible explanation is that it’s an idea that many can identify with. Who wouldn’t want to rise from poverty and humiliation to something more? As a child it is a fantastic idea that one day you could meet that right person and suddenly be whisked away to a life full of grandeur. Heck, I was determined to become a princess when I was younger, to which I was told that I’d have to marry Prince William or Prince Harry, but I guess now we have Kate Middleton in the way…I enjoyed the idea of being a princess so much that I was even Cinderella for Halloween back in 1995:

And wasn't I cute?! Although I suppose I was lacking the necessary rags before-shot...

So why does something like this exist? Because deep down I think many people across the world would enjoy earning that happy ending, especially if it all it involved would be patience, virtue, and a bit of menial labor. Perhaps the idea of Cinderella is to make the situation seem so grand that we want to attain the riches through working and staying patient, however it also makes it seem unattainable to such an extent, so we’ll make do with just a bit less and still be happy. The extreme unlikelihood of a Cinderella story can be motivational, but perhaps we’ll make our own magic or try harder to find that magic marriage, gold diggers watch out.  

Saturday, March 10, 2012

Visual literature? How does that work?

This week we were visited by Dr. Mark Rust, an ASL professor at McDaniel. He presented to us ASL: Seeing the Voice to explain to us how literature can be presented in ASL . He described it as being literature for the eyes, not the ears.  HOLD UP! Previously we have learned that literature is written and not spoken. As soon as I heard it being called literature, I will admit that I was taken aback and confused. Part of what confused me the most was that the deaf can still read the words on a page; it’s just the hearing part that is different. I suppose it makes sense that for reading aloud it can be performed differently, I was just somewhat confused.

So after my general confusion I decided to just listen and keep my mind open. We learned that ASL was not recognized as a language until 1996. The deaf community was questioning the idea of a phonocentric belief system when one man told them there was after his search. I feel that because of the questioning within the ASL community, I’m allowed to question when I’m told that it’s still literature based on what we have learned. As a note, I’m not trying to say that the stories aren’t still stories with all the same parts; I’m just using what we’ve learned in class as a definition. However, in being open to the idea it is important to further explore.  

In regular poetry there is a written image with margins and incantation sin the speaking voice. In visual literature, that which is used in ASL, the hands, face, and entire body transform to create images and shapes to give the poem. Since rhyme can’t be heard the same idea is given with the facial expressions, speed of signing, and repetition of the signer. In prose images are created by paragraphs, chapters, and books. In visual literature reading becomes viewing, books (a recorded version) becomes video, and papers become performances. Now I still don’t understand why it is considered different, but it certainly seems more interesting. So on to exploring the different styles of visual literature I suppose.

The first major category that was explained to us is the narrative. There are personal narratives, which can be funny/punny. The narrative we were told involved a hearing friend attempting to get out of a ticket by pretending to be deaf, and eventually it caught up to him when the officer could sign. This story and others like it are humorous, yet the butt of the jokes is often the oppressor, usually a hearing person. I understand that there is probably some resentment and some hearing people can treat the deaf community in awful ways, but I get somewhat sad if the same idea is felt all over. I feel that communities being divided based on characteristics are just depressing, and jokes do not really help. Another form of narrative is a cinematographic story which incorporates features of film like close-ups, angles, slow-motion, and more. We watched a clip where a man was describing a ninja and mimicking the shots we would see while signing to give a complete and enthralling story. Folktales are included in this bunch and incorporate the values of the visual language.  

Other major styles are translated works that turn a printed text into a visual language, which can be difficult with literatures such as Lewis Carroll’s The Jabberwocky, and original fiction.

Perhaps the most interesting thing we learned about was the usage of visual language in songs. Apparently in the deaf community bass is quite appreciated since it can really be felt. When translating songs the signs need to carry the same rhythm and should be translated conceptually and not literally in order to be fully appreciated. Seeing the kids sign for the White Stripes song was really cool and the Galludet fight song was also interesting and seemed much more involved than many. I can see why the crowd got so excited.

The next cool bit consisted of stories with constraint. The first kind was an ABC story where the letter signs are used to tell a story. Quite common and fun, they are used in many ways such as telling a story about a snowmobile where an a, e, and s can all be used for hands on the steering bit. In limited handshapes the signer tells a story using just a few handshapes such as a commercial warning to not text and drive. Number stories are similar to ABC stories, but using numbers instead. Fingerspelling is used to personify something, such as coffee and how it makes you feel. These different and quick stories are fascinating to watch and try to understand what is being said.

After the main presentation we were open to asking questions. As a Spanish major I was of course super interested in how signing is in other countries. There are different sign systems for different countries. Apparently many of those other countries need sign systems to a much greater extent. In developing countries it is often the case that 10% of their students need a sign system due to the lack of proper health care. Many missionaries go to these countries and start deaf schools; however this can be a major problem due to the cross-germinating language infiltration. In Zimbabwe alone there are 3 different schools with 3 different sign systems due to 3 different kinds of missionaries. In the Dominican Republic there is an argument going on about how to sign the days of the week: should they use the sign for Monday with an M or and l based on the Spanish word for Monday: lunes. Things like this are hard to get past and can further divide an already fairly divided group of people.

 I hope that all of this is fixed eventually so that many groups can come together and no longer be divided, including the hearing vs the deaf. I still never really decided how I feel about visual literature being literature if it can still be read, but in the end all that is important is that it exists and it is super interesting.

Here’s the story of Luke in Spanish sign language!

Here’s an Argentinean sign language story

And the same story from Paraguay
This is what I find most fascinating, and I hope you do too.

Tuesday, March 6, 2012


So just as a not real blog post that has to do with Snow White, here are links to not one, but two (!) new Snow White movies: One that looks kinda fun: and one that looks kinda gritty
I may be much more inclined to go see these now, especially since they don't seem like they'll be all that bad. Hopefully if they are they'll be so bad it's funny.

That's all for now!

Monday, March 5, 2012

The treasures of the blog of another

So for our midterms this week we’re supposed to read the blog of a classmate and make some comments about it. I had the utmost pleasure to read Once Upon a Time: A deeper look at fairy tales created by Hanna, found here:

So first off: What did I like about her blog? What was I impressed by?

                Hanna, the English major that she is, is talented at organizing her thoughts in a logical way that didn’t have me rereading sentences four or five times like I sometimes have to. I also really enjoyed how she could get so involved with the blog post, yet still providing evaluative information. She also gave many relevant examples from society today to back herself up, especially in the Little Red Riding Hood post, arguably the most involved and probably her favorite to write based on the amount of detail put into it. Hanna is also really good at providing a summary of information such as in the ‘what is a fairy tale?’ and psychoanalysis posts. I’m also impressed by the layout of the blog, especially with regard to the pictures and comments beneath them. Perhaps what I like the most about Hanna’s blog is that you can get to know what she cares about by reading it, and that is truly impressive.

All of that being said, I have to say the things that I think Hanna could improve upon.

First off, I really hope that the disenchantment with fairy tales does not stick, especially since she was such a fan of them at the beginning. It is sad to see such a loss of interest in things once one is made to analyze them in every single way instead of merely enjoying a tale every once in a while. It is true that some things can be enjoyed even more once a deeper analysis is made, however that is not usually the case when what is being read is so against everything you feel. Perhaps to avoid this disenchantment Hanna should try to find some feminist fairy tales? There might be some here, but I’m not sure, I didn’t read them too deeply, but hopefully it actually is something: I’d also like to see some more laid-back or humorous elements in Hanna’s posts, it’s really interesting to read them, however sometimes a lot of information and passion can be a bit bogging, although the “SHE”S THEIR DRUGLORD” comment was really funny, so I guess more stuff like that.

                Overall Hanna can have really excellent blog posts when they involve things that she is interested in , and I hope some of that disenchantment transforms into enchantment once more.  

Friday, March 2, 2012

Snow White and the (six) Dwarves is finally an appropriate title

So this week we’re comparing Rammstein’s music video for Sonne with the Snow White tales that we have read. I want to know how many music videos these guys have made that relate to fairy tales written down by the Brothers Grimm.

So I started watching the video and noticed right away that these gritty, dirty, beardless men are supposed to be the seven dwarves (although I must admit that I did not count them to make sure). 
All photos are screenshots from the music video

 It is interesting that the video starts out with them and not with the birth of Snow White or with the wicked queen/stepmother like the stories do. In fact, there is no evil queen/wicked stepmother in the entire video, nor is there a huntsman to save Snow White! Finally there is a story that could actually be labeled as Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, although our “heroine” has not yet entered. When she finally does burst in there are two things that are extremely different from the tales:

1)      The dwarves are at the table

2)      She is definitely not 7 or 13…
Unless she's hit early puberty due to all the stuff in the food... But look at that fist of fury!

Our normally passive Snow White just barges right in while they are dining and one of them offers the lady a piece of gold (apparently cocaine rock in this video) and she swats this tiny “dwarf” onto the table in an extremely unladylike fashion. Next thing I know one dwarf is on her lap and she is spanking him while the others watch, waiting in fear (and I think that other emotion could be read as excitement?) for their turn.
Their faces say it all... Although her shadow shows the extreme dark side of her.
This is another very unladylike thing that the tales’ Snow White never would have done in her super passivity to male dominance. She also automatically has a more sexual relationship with the dwarves in this manner. To add to her dominance we see Snow White sitting in front of a mirror (!) and showing her stockings while having her hair brushed by a dwarf. While the usage of the comb/brush is similar, it is not this that puts her to rest as it does in the stories. Once again she is wielding her power over them, and they seem completely ok with obliging due to her ...assets. We also see apples sitting in a basket and being cleaned by one dwarf, however they do not receive more importance than that at the moment. Snow White at this time is straight up snorting gold dust that came from what the dwarves were mining as she sits at the head of the table in a position of power usually reserved for males. Then they all start feeling her up and treating her as an unattainable beauty and sex symbol, something that was TOTALLY seen in the originals, except not, although she was objectified by pretty much every male. She also looks somewhat like Jesus right here. another one of those coming to life deals.
Oh...uh...sorry to interrupt your private moment...
Also, in fueling her drug addiction they are not protecting her, rather harming her. Next up she’s in a tub oozing her sexiness and is dead from an overdose, her form in perfect passivity finally. She is seen in a glass coffin, dressed meaning they saw her naked and dressed her (oooh scandalous!), and they put her up on a hill, just like in the tales.
Finally so peaceful...
 There’s a HUGE difference here when one dwarf just starts jamming on an oversized guitar on the mountain in the snow, although perhaps that happened in the Grimm’s tale while the lone dwarf was up keeping guard.
Rock on, little man!
Eventually an apple falls and breaks the coffin and she catches it, suddenly alive once again. It is interesting that and apple is received by her to break the rest as opposed to the apple being dislodged to do so. That’s how the video ends. There’s no horse, no dancing in hot iron shoes, just dwarves jamming out to zombie Snow White.

I'd also like to note the cultural tranfer here as she's dressed as Snow White from the Disney movie. Overall, while strange, I personally find it to be an interesting version and would have liked to see the beginning and ends of the story as we know it, so having that other female and the birth and the prince and the shoes and all of those good things. Although I must say they did an excellent job making Snow White into the queen on her own, it made her a much more interesting character, something that basically all the critics claim she lacks. There is, after all, no one who can harm you more than yourself.