A New Fantastic Point of View

As a child, Aladdin (1992) was one of my favourite movies. It taught me lessons like not letting social classes define you and that wealth shouldn’t change who you are. Let’s not forget that that every race which isn’t Caucasian is inferior and, often, evil.

Hold up, that escalated quickly, didn’t it?

Looking at the history of media, Western entertainment has often been at the expense of other races or cultures. Take, for instance, ‘blackface’ humour which was popular during the 19th century which wasn’t a good time to be black- millions of Africans were enslaved by Americans. According to Mahony (2009), “a style of theatre known as ‘minstrel shows’, in which actors would dress like ‘black people’ by exaggerating the size of their lips, wearing torn clothes and using burnt cork or shoe polish to blacken their faces, began to emerge as a popular form of entertainment.”

During the civil rights movement of the 1950s and 60s, it dawned on people that ‘Blackface’ humour “was politically incorrect, any hint of blackface humour has become the subject of widespread public criticism” (Mahony, 2009).

Yet, we don’t see a problem with our children watching Disney movies like Aladdin.

The first lines spoken in Aladdin, “Oh, I come from a land, from a faraway place… where they cut off your ears if they don’t like your face. It’s barbaric, but hey, it’s home” summarise in a nutshell the movie’s not-so subtle message: that Arabs are a separate, inferior, sub-human race.

The shop merchant who persecutes Aladdin for the theft of a loaf of bread declares: “I’ll have your hands for a trophy, street rat!” Similarly, Princess Jasmine takes an apple from a store to give to a peasant child and the shop owner raises his sword menacingly, prepared to decapitate her arm immediately on the street.

The depiction of violence as normal in the Orient is further substantiated by the Sultan’s acceptance of Jafar’s claims to have killed Aladdin. Calling the incident an “outrage”, he says simply that he wishes to “put this whole messy business behind.” Violence, therefore, is not only commonplace in the Middle East, it is trivialised as “messy business”- an occurrence unworthy of distress.

Perhaps, as Aladdin suggests, it’s time for “a new fantastic point of view.”

References:

 

Aladdin, 1992, John Musker and Ron Clements, USA, Disney Pictures.

Mahony, Melanie. (2009). ‘What’s all the fuss about “blackface”?’. Crikey. http://www.crikey.com.au/2009/ 10/08/crikey-clarifier-whats-all- the-fuss-about-blackface/.

 

Being the ‘Other Woman’

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Everyone, meet Casey. Casey, meet everyone. Casey is my boyfriend, an Apprentice Electrician for Rail Corp. We have been together for four years, but I have a dilemma.

I am the other woman.

She’s thinner than me. Her skin is silky smooth. She always seems to glow vibrantly, whether it’s when she’s waking up him at 5 am or serenading him with a gentle song at 11 pm. She’s also much smarter than me. He can ask her virtually anything and she’ll find the answer in 5 seconds. Tops. On top of all that, she never leaves his side. He’s always bringing her on our dates, giving her far more attention than he’s ever given me. And she’s in this photo.

Four-inch Retina display. Wifi and Bluetooth connectivity. A6 chip. Eight megapixel camera. Yes, that’s right.

3pmfbx

Siri is my competition.

Don’t worry, before you label me the ‘overly-attached’ girlfriend meme, I am kidding. Mostly.

I am being quite genuine though as I suggest that our connections to media are becoming more important than our connections to people. All those living in a developed nation have a ‘media space’. Media spaces differ between people and places. For instance, in the above photo, Casey is using his iPhone 5 (home-wrecker) whilst we have dinner at Thai Centric to purchase tickets to see ‘This is the End’ after our feed.

I’m being a bit unfair to Casey. I use my iPhone compulsively as well. Sometimes I catch myself unlocking my phone, only to realise that it’s purely out of habit and that I don’t really need to check anything.

I’ve suggested that our connections to media are becoming more important than our connections to people. Perhaps, though, this is because our connections to media, in turn, connect us to people. Our iPhones facilitate our lives. You can buy a pair of socks on eBay, book tickets to see a movie and tell your 396 friends on Facebook that the socks came in the wrong colour and you couldn’t wear them to the movies.

I struggle to identify a period in which we are not in a media space. Even as I sleep, my phone sits nearby, ready to wake me for work or uni. It saves important notifications for me in the morning, such as acquiring a new Twitter follower or getting 20 likes on my new profile picture. I sleep, but my media space does not.

I suppose I can’t be too mad about Casey and Siri. I’m using her too.

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References:

  • Apple Inc, ‘iPhone 5’, 2013,

http://www.apple.com/au/iphone/

You’re the one, Neo.

I am about to tell you something truly shocking. In all honesty, it will leave you reeling. When you read these words, you will be left a trembling mass of uncertainty and fear. Life will never be the same again, I guarantee it. It’s not too late to stop, to close this blog and flick back to Facebook or 9GAG. This is your chance, take it or leave it.

I guess you left it.

Are you ready?

We are in the Matrix. Right now.

matrix-bullets

Image source: neo1210.wordpress.com

Alright, not the 1999 movie with Morpheus and Neo with all its bullet-dodging, physics-defying glory. Thank God that’s not real, the thought of the belly-button violating metal worm would be enough for me to permanently vacate Earth.

worm

Image Source: bijjuchalapicture.blogspot.com

Ew.

The Matrix I’m talking about has enveloped you since birth. It is so ingrained in our psyche that we barely notice it. I don’t know who you are or what you do, but whether you’re a university student (like me), a builder, a teacher or even a Catfish, (don’t let anyone tell you what you can and can’t be), you will have your own personal Matrix.

Whatever you do, you probably have Facebook. Maybe you scroll through your news feed when you’re still trying to wake up, the knowledge that some of your friends had to be up earlier than you being slightly comforting. Maybe you’re a Twitter fanatic and inform your 593 followers “Omg. Can’t believe I stayed up till 2.30 watching Teen Mom. #hatingmyself #8.30lecture #killme.” Perhaps you switch the TV on while you’re scoffing down some breakfast, grunting a good morning to whoever is unlucky enough to have to see you at this hour. Driving to work you’ll listen to the radio. Once there, you’ll greet your colleagues or classmates and hear about who slept on the couch last night.

Bam, that’s your Matrix. We are a component of dozens of networks every day, networks which dictate what is and isn’t acceptable for us to say or do. Networks are impossible not to be a part of in this century of technology and social media. In the words of Castells, “networks appear to be the organising form of life.”

Even in prehistoric times, back when Homo Erectus was sharpening spears for hunting, networks (though basic) structured the society. (I’m making this claim from a strictly preliminary understanding of early humans. Perhaps I underestimate their social complexity). Today, the integration of information technology with society has resulted in the formation of networks, the kind of which have never before been possible. Now, simply by turning on our TV, logging on to Facebook, attending a lecture, speaking to a group or Tweeting, you are participating in a network. Whilst we are aware  that technology does not determine society, certain social structures would not be possible without these technologies (Castells).

human-networks1

Image Source: semsamurai.com

 This image is a typical Facebook network. Users are connected to one another by being ‘friends’ and can share information by updating their status or commenting on others’ statuses or pictures.

This theory, I’m sorry to say, is not mine. It can be attributed to Manuel Castells who discusses this concept in ‘Why networks matter.” He’s right on the money when he says, “Networks are the Matrix.”

Einstein-about-technology-and-communication

Image Source: rawforbeauty.com

Castells isn’t the only one who has observed the significance of networks in society. Jam van Dijk, author of The Network Society, defines the concept of a “network society” as a form of society which organizes relationships in media networks, resulting in the replacement of personal communication by digital technology. You have to admit, he has a point. I don’t know if you’ve looked up from your phone while walking through the mall to see that everyone is just like you; hand permanently extended with iphone firmly grasped. We’ve already begun to adapt obstacle sensors, whereby we are somehow able to maneuver around people and fixtures without looking at them.

Perhaps a day in which we do not have to leave the house at all is on the horizon. We will be able to attend work through video conferencing and let everyone know that we’re not dead yet with constant status updates. “Mum just told me to go for a walk outside. I was like, ‘what’s “outside”?’ lol.”

My grandmother often laments that she is the “last of the letter writers.” Sometimes I feel sorry for her, caught in an unstable world of technological and social change in which she does not understand the power of her unused mobile phone. What’s more alarming is that one day, we will be in her position. We will not understand our children and our children will not understand us.