Wednesday, November 21, 2007

Blog Post Number 8

“A thoroughly beautiful woman and a thoroughly homely woman are creations which I love to gaze upon, and which I cannot tire of gazing upon, for each is perfect in her own line”
~Mark Twain

We all have problems being looked at or stared at, but yet it is so easy to point and stare at others. The talk in class about Laura Mulvey’s idea of the gaze intrigued me to find out more about this topic. She argues that the “pleasure in looking has been split between active/male and passive/female.. presenting ‘woman as image’ (or ‘spectacle’) and man as ‘bearer of the look’. Men do the looking; women are there to be looked at.”(Mulvey 1992, 27). Her primary focus is that of the gaze between the sexes; the male is the gazer while the female is the object to be gazed at. She talks about how this gaze objectifies women and I must say I agree on some levels.

Now I’m not here harping as a hardcore feminist, but the idea got me thinking about society today. Take for example the show Deal or No Deal. What better way to demonstrate Mulvey’s theory then through a typical episode of this game show. Here we have twenty six beautiful models holding a briefcase filled with a certain amount of money. All twenty six females are put on display for the contestants. Not to mention they are all dressed identically from head to toe; a tiny dress, push up bras, hair done up and makeup plastered on their faces. These women are seen as objects put on display simply to decorate the briefcases. And for what? To draw in viewers of course. What better way to target the male side of their target audience then draping beautiful women all over the set? These women are further objectified because they hardly talk, and when they do it’s as one voice; “Hi Howie”, with a big grin on their face. They serve no other purpose but to hold the case of money; leaving once their case has been picked. They are simply objects of the male gaze desire.

Because women are aware of this male gaze, it causes them to change their actions and behaviors. These girls would never be seen without their makeup and fancy outfits or hair done. And why? Because they know they are being looked at and so are always trying to present themselves the best they can. It changes the way other women see themselves as well because they desire this male gaze on themselves and so it seems the only way to do so is the pretty outfits and heavy makeup. “The male gaze is 'determining', and female figures appear in accordance with male fantasies -- they 'connote to-be-looked-at-ness’ as in conventional erotic spectacles like strip-tease.” (

We don’t just see this idea of the male gaze and looking on television and in films, what about Playboy? Again girls are posing for the male gaze. They are objects of male desire. They are objectified and only seen for their looks rather then who they are as a person. I mean common now… what guy really looks at playboy bunnies and says “man I bet they have a great personality”. Now like I said before, I’m not harping out feminist views. This could be argued in the reverse way with Playgirl Magazines. But when was the last time we saw twenty six gorgeous men as the center of a game show?

We justify objectifying these women and staring at them because they are a part of television. We’ve seen it before with Bob Barker and his beauties. It has become normal to see women decorating prizes and so we no longer question it when twenty six beautiful women are presented before us as decoration. Because it’s a game show it must be okay. Because everything in television is ‘not real’ and therefore the rules are apparently different.

I just found Mulvey’s point still lies true in today’s society. Although women have a lot more rights now a day then they used to, they are still typically gazed at by men and in turn objectified causing them to change their ways.

Tuesday, November 20, 2007

Blog Entry Number 7

To me this film did two things. On the one hand I think it was good in depicting the New Guineans, their way of life, and their rituals and traditions. On the other hand, I found it raised a lot of ethical issues. I felt as though these people were being put on display like animals at a zoo.

I’ll begin with my first viewpoint. The film, much like media such as National Geographic, sets out to document the people of New Guinea and their primitive culture. It is trying to represent
the truth about their lifestyles in comparison to the Western culture. “The film is an attempt to demystify the touristic search for authenticity and detached experience of the other.” ( This film shows the gap between two very different groups; the white upper class western and the other. By making this film, the director is taking the viewer to a world many people don’t know a lot about. We are able to see their traditions and way of life. Showing the tourists bargaining the prices down and then hearing the interviews with the New Guineans allows us to see from the New Guineans point of view just how hard their lifestyle is. Hearing how angry the one New Guinean woman was about the tourists not buying her gifts allows the viewer to see how hard it is for these people to make money.

I found it interesting that the New Guineans seemed to know quite a bit about the tourists but yet the tourists seemed to know nothing about the New Guineans. As this weeks article stated, the film is “about rich Western tourists on a cruise along the Sepik River in Papua New Guinea and their interaction, or lack of it, with the local villagers” (Lutkehaus, 423). They seemed almost dumb and treated the New Guineans like they were less of a human than themselves. At one point, there was an encounter between Waukau, one of the New Guineans, and a tourist. The tourist “gently touched the young girl's wrist. ‘Dear, are you a real Indian?' she asked. 'I hope you don't mind my asking. But you look so American'” ( Not only does this seem insulting and make the tourists look stupid, but it also shows how Western Society is moving in on the New Guinean land so much so that the people are starting to look more ‘American’. This weeks article strengthens this point by saying that “Westerners' need to reassure themselves of their superiority over others who are different from themselves and of the dominance of Western culture in the postcolonial world” (Lutkehaus, 425). This leads into my next viewpoint.

My other viewpoint is focused on the ethical side of all of this. Watching this film made me think that the people of New Guinea were being put on display. These tourists traveled all this way to see these people and they sit there taking pictures of them, similar to what you would do with animals at a zoo. Okay, yes I agree it is always interesting to travel to other lands and see the way people live, their rituals, and traditions. However, the way the people of New Guinea were portrayed, even in the title of the film, seemed a little unethical. Cannibal Tours, when I first heard it seemed like people are going to tour a village of cannibals. What really struck me was when one of the New Guineans was being interviewed, you could see in the background a tourist slowly move into the frame and start taking a picture of what was going on. I found it so distracting and almost rude. The camera man told the New Guinean that one tourist is photographing him right now and the New Guinean just froze. The way the people of New Guinea just so easily posed for the pictures and just stood there allowing the camera to stare at them managed to creep me out because it’s like they have become so used to being watched that now they just accept it and pose. There was one scene that the camera just zoomed in real close to a child and for about thirty seconds (though it seemed so much longer) the child just stared into the camera. It’s almost like they are unsure what to do when a camera is shoved in their face, but can you blame them? Technology is unfamiliar to them. The one New Guinean that was interviewed mentions how he did not understand why the tourists were taking pictures. These types of things are foreign to them and for tourists to just come into their land and start taking pictures of them just doesn’t seem right. The New Guineans “complain that tourists have attempted to pat up their hair and arrange their clothing before photographing them” ( What was so sad about it all, however, was that the New Guineans are ALLOWING tourists to take pictures of them and their sacred land (ie the spirit house) in exchange for money. It seemed to me almost like prostitution. It showed how Western society is closing in on the East and trying to assimilate them to the Western society’s ways. These people are in such need for money that they will sell their culture for it.

Another very disturbing part of the film was when the woman tourist wanted to take a picture with all the naked children. Although it is part of the New Guineans traditions to not always wear clothes, I found it a little disturbing when she kept saying she wanted a picture with these naked children and continued to say “oh they are so cute”. She classified them as a whole rather then individuals and she just pointed out to one child and said “here take a picture of me with that one”. But yet when the cameraman asked her to get closer to them to fit in the shot she responded to him “I think they’re close enough”. It really pointed out the “otherness” of the Eastern society. It was like she was afraid to get close to them. I found that a little disturbing.

The end of the film was rather disturbing as well. The fact that the tourists were all on the boat dancing around with their faces painted like native masks seemed to me like they were poking fun of the New Guinean culture. The New Guineans clearly painted these masks onto the tourists to give them a touch of their primitive culture before they left. However, it just seemed as though (stripped down to almost nothing and dancing around the boat laughing) that they were mocking the traditions that they seem to know very little about.

What bothered me too was how the tourists were talking about how the New Guineans need help to become more modernized. It seems as though they are not able to live their lives the way they are used to. Instead of continuing on their traditions from their ancestors, their land
is taken over (i.e. the sacred things destroyed because the commissioners thought it was devilish) and they are forced to become more modernized. It is hard for them to now maintain their primitive cultures because they are forced to let go of the past and assimilate to the west. The primitive “other” no longer exists because of this, yet they are still viewed as “the other” to the Western society. We see this through the fact that they are now seen wearing clothing instead of nothing at all (although some still do), through interaction with the technologies of the west and through the need for money (something that would never have been an issue to their ancestors).

Money is an issue for the people of New Guinea and you can clearly see the Western influences being forced upon them. They are not able to live the way their ancestors did because it is not approved of in society today. One thing I don’t like about the Western society is how we always feel we can bargain down other countries commodities when we go visit on vacation. When I went to Cuba so many white Westerners were trying to bargain down souvenirs from the town’s people. To me this just seems so selfish. Western Society is so much more well off then these Cubans (obviously if they are able to AFFORD a trip) yet we feel the need to not pay them the full price because we know they want to sell these items. This is their only income for many of them. We won’t even pay them the full price they deserve and we wonder why they aren’t as well off. As one of the New Guineans stated, they don’t go to our big shops and try to bargain down our prices. Yet we think we have the right to do it to them. I think this is just wrong. These people have worked so hard on the stuff they have made and we aren’t even willing to pay them entirely. They do not understand how the tourists have so much money and to them it is simply because of the location they live in. “The New Guineans have no money, and this fact is used to frame their articulations of identity in spatial terms: the tourist’s money isn’t earned, it’s simply a fact of the place where the tourist lives, just as a lack of money is a fact of the place of the New Guineans” (

Blog Entry Number 6

“The piece documents a critical time of racial division and civil unrest, not to place blame for what happened, but to help the process of healing through a kaleidoscopic and sympathetic rendering of different viewpoints.” (

Anna Deavere Smith took an interesting approach to documenting the Los Angeles Riots. She took an approach similar to Stud Terkels, but instead of writing down the interviews, she performed them. “Anna Deavere Smith's ground-breaking solo shows blur the lines between theater and journalism, using text from real-life encounters to create gripping portraits.” ( I think this was a better approach because not only was it more interesting but it gave you a clearer picture of what the people were actually like. We are able to see it rather then just try and picture the words we are reading as it adds background to more then just words.

The idea of her portraying interviewees individually rather then showing the actual interviews made the viewer focus more on what she was saying rather than the look, race etc. of each person. Although she took on strong stereotypes when performing the interviews, I found this helped to paint a picture of what the interviewee was like. When I closed my eyes I almost forgot it was her performing, especially with the Korean representations because of the strong accents she applied to her speech.

But was this a real representation of truth? It is someone PERFORMING so how is that truth? I would argue this is a representation of truth because she is simply repeating or reiterating what the interviewees said to her. She is representing the truth of the event from the perspective of the people who were actually there. I think this represents truth more so than the media would because its stories from the people involved not an outside source. Playing devil’s advocate, we must also look at it from the perspective of what did she leave out? Just as the media can alter the news to their liking, so too can she. Anna Deavere Smith edited the interviews and took what would aid her on stage and be a good performance (similar to Terkel editing his paper so that it works the way he wants it to). How then, is it a representation of truth if she is changing it to her liking? I would argue that it is still a representation of truth because she is not changing what was said just simply choosing the best parts of the interview that would best help paint a picture of the riots, and what would best help the interviews to flow together, telling a story about what happened and what people were feeling during the riots.

Similar to Terkel, she interviewed many people about the Los Angeles riots (for Terkel he interviewed about working), interested in what these people had to say. She was interested in the community’s reactions to the riots, rather than just the overall riots themselves. I think that her approach was important in providing the public with the other side of the story. Her approach brought so much more depth and insight about the riots than the media ever could have done. It is so hard to get your voice out in the media because they edit so much; Smith’s approach allowed the community’s voice to be heard. The media is interested in the facts of the riots which tends to be very one sided. They take their information from an outside point of view and don’t necessarily get ALL the facts straight. The media is very selective in what it will show in order to shape its story a certain way. News stations tend to be very politically one way or the other and will shape their story in such a way that it aids to this point of view. What Smith allowed was for the public to see the ‘real’ or ‘other side’ to the story. She was on foot in the neighbourhood interviewing real people that were actually involved in the riots. She gets the perspective of a wide range of people in order to get a better sense of what actually happened and hear everyone’s voice; African Americans, Koreans, Caucasians etc. She brings all these different people involved in the riots together through her performances to create a story about the truth of the event. She talks to people involved in the riots, as well as the Korean store keepers whom were affected by the riots even though they had nothing to do with the issues at hand. The media didn’t necessarily mention much about the Korean store keepers, but Smith goes in and talks to them to find out how they feel about all that happened. As said in class, just by listening to people you can find a great deal about the world. Smith allowed us to learn about how the riots affected the Koreans, something that, had she not listened to what they had to say, the world may never have heard. Smith talks to all these different people to get their opinions and how they feel, showing a side to the story the news does not show. We learn facts and different opinions about an event that took place. Seeing it from so many different viewpoints allows the public to form their own opinion and not be forced to believe what the media wants us to believe.

The story that really got to me was the anonymous juror. She grasped the emotions of the juror so well, the emotion in her voice, even bringing tears to her eyes. It was such a believable performance. I think that she chose the perfect part of the interview to perform. It gave me goose bumps hearing about the hate mail blaming the jurors for the deaths during the riot. But what really disturbed me was hearing about the letters the KKK sent to the jurors supporting them and asking them to join them. It was creepy to think there are people out there like that.

I liked how, similar to Terkel, Smith maintained the dialect of those she interviewed. She took it further though and added costumes, settings, and accents which helped to paint a picture of the type of person she was performing. She takes on their personas, quirks, and mannerisms as she acts them out, emphasising what she calls the extraordinary speaking acts from the interviews. For example, when she is interviewing Elaine Young she mimics her twitch in her eye as she is speaking, as well as her obnoxious nasally voice. With Mrs. June Park she takes on the Korean accent and the anger that was felt towards the loss of a husband. With Charles Lloyd she takes on his fast paced speaking and excitement in his voice. “Smith also portrayed former Los Angeles police chief Daryl Gates, Rodney King's aunt, a Latino artist, and many others; pieces performed in Korean and Spanish--which Smith studied for the play--required super-titles. "As she has narrowed the cast of characters for this show," observed Taper director Gordon Davidson in Performing Arts, "she has come to
embody each of them, recreating the rhythms of their speech; absorbing them into her bones" ( All of these quirks help to paint a picture of who she is performing and make the performance that much more real to the viewer. She weaves together fragments of interviews to create a story about an event – the Los Angeles riots.

Blog Entry Number 5

This movie made me really angry. It was a clear cut case of police brutality and racial prejudice. Just watching the home video made my skin crawl. The cops were brutally beating Rodney King. I may not fully have known what happened prior to the taping, but what I saw was in no way necessary. The movie explained how Rodney King had been speeding but this does not justify such a vicious beating on behalf of the police. They claim that he was on PCP but yet there was no evidence of this in his blood stream. In my opinion after watching that trial, Powell was the one “on drugs”. He seemed so stupid and spaced out when they were questioning him. Right there would be enough for me to realize that what we were looking at was downright police brutality. Throughout the video he gets up many times and the police claim this was a threat to them. Maybe he was just trying to recollect himself after such a beating! But instead the police kept attacking him. I’m sorry but when there are twenty one police men to one person that is in no way a threat to the police men. When we first saw the video I didn’t realize Rodney King was black. The girl sitting beside me turned to me and asked if he was black and right then I knew we were both thinking the same thing. The only way the police could get away with this would be if the person was black. We see this racial injustice throughout the entire movie. Not only do the police get away with the beating of Rodney King, but they are heard on tape saying “it’s like gorillas in the mist” and saying how his appearance made them think he was an ex-con. In addition, the trial was moved out of L.A. and into the suburbs where the majority of the jury would be white. White jurists would find Rodney King guilty because there, innocent white police men would never do such a thing without a justified reason right? Wrong.

What made me so angry was that throughout the case they kept drilling things into the witnesses and making the problems of police brutality so visible yet nothing was done about it. At one point the prosecution questioning Powell kept asking what he meant by gorillas. Powell seemed to “play stupid” throughout the entire encounter and it made it so obvious that he meant it in a racial way. Just by showing the video should have been enough to find the police men guilty. The shear fact that once Rodney King was being beaten even after he was down on the ground and didn’t look like he was moving is clearly police brutality. The two police that were witnesses said there was no reason for the brutality and the top police officer said that there was no reason for the policemen to beat Rodney King so badly. How then, with all this evidence AGAINST the cops were they found innocent? It’s of course because the majority of the jury was white trying to decide if a black man was guilty against a group of white cops.

What makes me so angry is that everyone thinks that police are always good, but there are many corrupt police hiding behind their police badge, police that completely cross the line. A good example of this is in the movie Crash with the corrupt police man who has a problem with black people. This problem does not only exist in movies, for example in Tianimin square when the police go so far as to run over the protestor with a tank because he would not get out of their way. Or take the case that recently happened where the gentleman at the airport, who had been waiting for ten hours for his mother’s luggage, couldn’t speak English and was getting very frustrated, was tasered by the Vancouver Mounties who thought he was acting erratically, and died in the airport. Once I saw this on the news it made me so angry. I don’t believe that police officers should be allowed to use tasers. The news stated that seventeen people have died this year because of tasers. How does this not make them illegal then? There are other ways to control people! Even though the police may have just been doing their job, they still killed someone for basically no reason at all. This happens all over the world every day and we cannot allow police to get away with things simply because they are authority figures.

I found it interesting the way the prosecution decided to present the whole video at once in order to play on the courts’ emotional side, while the defence played it frame by frame using a more technical approach. I found both of these were effective. Every time they showed the full video I was so angry and upset with what I saw. However, the defence would show the video frame by frame, detaching you from the emotional affect of the video. All the facts and evidence shown made me think that maybe Rodney King was in the wrong and the police were simply trying to defend themselves. I started to think that maybe Rodney King was on drugs and was taunting the police (i.e. when he laughs at the helicopter) since they explained that when on PCP you become hulk like and King was able to keep getting up after being tasered and badly beaten. However once the prosecution showed the video in its entirety, again, I was once again emotionally so mad and brought me back by their side. I did find the defence did a good job at trying to discredit the head police officer and make Rodney King look guilty. However, before seeing the video, my mind had already been made up and after seeing that video I don’t know how ANYONE could find the officers innocent. It just made me so angry to see something like that and I am so disappointed in our legal enforcement system that they would allow something like this to go overseen and let those cops free.

Saturday, October 13, 2007

Blog Entry Number 4

A picture is worth a thousand words... but does it really represent reality? We all take pictures... family gatherings, birthdays, holidays, vacations...but we never stop to think of it as documenting our life. I have literally thousands of pictures and yet never realized I was making a story, a documentation of my life. We take pictures for so many reasons. Whether it is to remember a funny time, keep our relatives up to date of our lives, or just to add to our collection. We are capturing the real and presenting it to those who want to see it. But is it really the real? Do pictures really capture all that happened at that moment in time? I would argue that it does not. When we look at a family picture, we don’t see all the hassle that went on to get everyone together and to smile and look nice. We don’t see all the fighting that probably took place, the baby crying, and the frustrated parents. All we see is one happy family standing in a picture. It is a representation of what we WANT to be real; a sort of fantasy family. “Our memory is never fully ‘ours’, nor are the pictures ever unmediated representations of our past” (Family Snaps, pg 14). It’s that picture perfect family that everyone strives for but in reality there is no such thing. Only those who were there can faintly remember what actually went on, but as time goes on that fades away too and all we remember is that picture perfect family.

The camera has become part of the events now. “There is no attempt to conceal the process of picture-taking – participants present themselves directly to the camera in an act of celebratory co-operation” (Family Snaps, pg 4). Hardly ever do we go somewhere that we are not bound to be capture on camera. Everyone wants to preserve the event as long as they can. And now with the introduction of the digital camera, people can take thousands of pictures at a time, go back and look at them and choose what to keep. We now have this ability to edit the pictures on the spot to get the best image. But is this then a representation of the real? Again I’ll argue against it. How are we representing what really went on at the moment in time when we have deliberately posed for the picture, taken it many times and then gone and edited it??? Back before digital cameras the pictures used to capture reality because you could not change or edit the picture. They told a story, showed reality and truth. The pictures were chosen carefully because a roll of film only had so many pictures whereas with digital cameras now you can take thousands of pictures.

But the camera is good in representing our past. It is here that we “gaze at layers of our past being” (Family Snaps, pg 2). We don’t really remember much of when we were younger, but looking at picture albums (from a time when digital cameras were not around especially), we can begin to piece together our past. We see pictures of family events, family members that maybe have passed away, things we did when we were younger etc. Although it does not represent the entire past, it gives us a sense of who we are. I’ll look back at pictures from when I was a baby all the way until the age I am now, and that is how I put together my past. I remember things based on the photos I see and it helps me realize who I am today. “We invest our own album with the weight of childhood experience, searching it for information, pouring into it our unfulfillable desires” (Family Snaps, pg 2). It helps you to see who you are and where you came from. Without the camera, we would not have this ability to remember the past as well as this.

Not only does photographs help us to remember, but it allows us to keep our relatives that live far away up to date on our lives. Many of my family members have blogs which they post images of their new babies, events and different chapters in their lives. It allows us to somewhat experience it with them from a far. Pictures are also used to help prove someone was somewhere, as well as the images help to make sense of the world around us. “Snapshots are part of the material with which we make sense of our wider world” (Family Snaps, pg 10).

Many times we add captions to our photos when we put them in an album. We talked in class about how a photograph needs to have some sort of caption to explain the context because everyone will have a different interpretation based on their own subjective opinion. Adding a caption to photographs helps to make it a little easier for others who are looking at the picture to understand what was going on at that time and see the image the way the photographer wants it to be seen. Adding captions to our old photographs helps also give more context to our life because it helps explain what we are seeing and explain that moment in time. I could look at my baby pictures and interpret it how I would see it; however my mom may have written a caption to it that gives me further insight into her view of the event since she was there at the time.

They say pictures are worth a thousand words and can help to remind us of the past. Not necessarily of exactly what happened at the time, but we can use these images to piece together from our memory the rest. With every picture taken, you are adding to the documentation of your life.

Saturday, October 6, 2007

Blog Entry Number 3

While reading this book, my initial reaction to be honest was that I was bored out of my mind. I didn’t know much about the jobs that were first being explained and I was rather bored hearing about some of them. However, as the book went on, the jobs became more interesting and I became fascinated with what people had to say about their job. His collection of stories had such a powerful effect on portraying the reality of the work force. He chose people that HE found interesting, and these people opened up their lives to the reader, allowing them to join in their work experience. I was surprised at how much personal information these interviews had, with such detail that you don’t normally hear about a job.
I found Studs Terkel has an interesting approach to documentaries. He uses the interviews to portray truth in the work force, and truth through so many different people. Instead of just simply hearing about the basics of a job, he works to find out what many different people like and dislike about it. The jobs are not sugar coated, but rather the truth is portrayed to the reader. I like how he has organized his interviews by certain categories, or chapters and subtitles such as communication, cleaning up etc. He groups his interviews in such a way so that you get to see different people’s viewpoints on similar jobs. Although it is a little outdated, it allows you to see how the life back then was; both the good and the bad times. Studs Terkel says that a job is a "search of a daily meaning, as well as a daily bread" (pg 11), and these interviews allow you to see how back then (and even today in a sense) people weren’t just looking for a paycheck but also meaning in their job and a sense of fulfillment.

This book is exactly what it says... people talking about what they do all day and what they like and don’t like about their jobs. They talk about their daily tasks at the job, what they enjoy and dislike, and issues that arise (sexism, racism etc). It seemed that in some cases many felt they had the worst or hardest job and felt trapped within it. Jim Grayson tells Terkel that on the assembly line “you’re nothing to any of them (the foremen). That’s why [he] hate[s] this place” (pg 167). Louis Hayward, the washroom attendant, says “no, I’m not proud of this work. I can’t do anything heavy. It would be hard to do anything else, so I’m stuck” (pg 108). On the other hand though, many felt they had the best jobs and wanted to show off their abilities. Phil Stallings says “I don’t mind working at body construction. To a great degree, I enjoy it. I love using my hands – more than I do my mind. I love being able to put things together and see something in the long run” (pg 162). This book allows you to see how working means so much to many people and how it is a big part of life. With many of the people interviewed it allowed you to see how meaningful work was to them and how it gave them a sense of purpose. Serving others was all these people needed to be happy. Seeing the end product and the gratitude was all many of these people cared about. I liked how the book was not just straight question and answer type interviews because this allowed the person to dive deeper into what interests them and reveal certain truths about their jobs and see how some were very passionate and emotional about what they do (such as Maggie Holmes, the house cleaner who was so upset that the white family expected her to do things that they never would such as get down on their hands and knees and clean the floor. Maggie states in her interview “now this bugs me: the first thing she gonna do is pull out this damn rubber thing –just fittin’ for your knees. Knee pads-like you’re working’ in the fields, like people pickin’ cotton...I ask her where the mop is. She says she don’t have no mop. I said. ‘Don’t tell me you mop the floor on your knees. I know you don’t’” pg 114). This quote not only shows the emotion Maggie feels for her job, but because Terkel wrote the book in the dialect of the employees, it allows you to feel like they are actually talking. Instead of correcting her speech when typed up, he kept it in its form so you get a better picture of the person he’s speaking to.

This was neat to learn more about different jobs and hear about them from the actual workers point of view. It allows you to see many of the realities of the workplace. With some jobs I felt such sympathy for the workers. Many of the workers went through so much and put up with so much, while at the same time taking care of a family on such a low income. Their employers had no idea what the people were dealing without outside of work, what it was like to be sick and still working, or having lost a loved one and still return to work; but at the same time didn’t care. To them their employees were like robots, just there to get a job done. If they had a problem, they began to phase out humans and replace them with machines because machines would not need time off. Many were older men doing hard labor and talking about how it has caused them long term pain. Some were talking about how their jobs were degrading and depressing. When some of the women were talking, you could see how they were subject to sexism, many talking about how they either did not get paid as much as men even for the same job, or some talking about how the men would hit on them all the time. Take for instance Terry Mason, an airline stewardess. She tells Terkel that “even when they pinch us or say dirty things, we’re supposed to smile at them. That’s one thing they taught us at stew school. Like he’s rubbing your body somewhere, you’re supposed to just put his hand down and not say anything and smile at him” (pg 46).

I noticed to that many of the older employees mentioned that they are such hard workers and will work overtime, long hours, never show up late and never take a day off in years because their job means so much to them. Frances Swenson, the hotel switchboard operator, states “the kids today don’t work like the older women. They take a job as it comes. If they want to work, they work. If they don’t they fool around…the older women are more loyal, they’re more conscientious, they don’t take time off” (pg 34). Hobart Foote, while talking about his job as a utility man, states “I think one reason for our absenteeism over here right now is the second shift. We got this young generation in here. Lot of ‘em single, and a lot of ‘em…They’re not settled yet, and they just live from day to day” (pg 170). Many of the older workers comment about how they are not making much money but to them it doesn’t matter because they love what they are doing. However with the younger people, they leave when they want, take days off when they want etc., because to them it is just a job. You can notice here the generation gap and how working has changed over the years already. Because this book is out of date we can really see how work back then, and for the older generation today, was so different then it is today.

Terkel adds in his own observations throughout the introductions and interviews, about what he sees and the workers reaction to what is going on around him. He also comments on certain things about the worker, whether it be their appearance, background information about the person and just observations made. This allows you to sort of draw a mental picture and learn a little about the person. It allows you to be in the spot that Terkel is in.
This book gives you a further insight into the lives of so many. It has made me look at people differently. I realized that when I go out for dinner or to a store, I don’t know anything about these people serving me and sometimes I won’t be as nice as I can be. But now I find myself a little different. Just the other day a telecommunications worker called me from Capital One. This company calls me at LEAST once or twice a week and I usually get so fed up. But after reading about the switchboard operator and how they say no one understands how hard that job is and how for once they would just like a hello how is your day going, I couldn’t just say “sorry I’m not interested”. This book was not only interesting but educational and it helped me gain insight into the workforce and have a lot more respect for many people in many different jobs. There is no such thing as useless little jobs. There is no such thing as little people; all people are equal and contribute a service to society in their own way. All these jobs link together like a chain and without them the chain would fall apart.

Friday, September 28, 2007

Blog Entry Number 2

The second film, The Act Of Seeing, really pushed my comfort zones over the edge. You are almost literally staring death in the face. My first initial response was to look away. I have a very weak stomach and so at first it was hard to watch the film. However as the film went on I became adapted to the images and I was ok to watch them. I found it funny that everyone was so grossed out by the film yet all it was showing was the insides of a human being, what’s inside each and every one of us. It made me wonder why everyone responded to the film that way. Why is the human body something that makes us all so uncomfortable? I guess because the obvious fact that what we were looking at was dead, but the insides of the body were the same as what’s inside all of us. My guess is that because we don’t see these things every day (whereas a doctor would probably be ok sitting through this film), it makes us uncomfortable. But we become so desensitized to blood and guts from movies we watch so why is this any different? Is it because we know its real and not just makeup? I think the way the movie was filmed also played a role in making us so uncomfortable because it was just so in your face and seemed like raw footage just thrown together.

Brakhage really did a good job of making you feel like you were in the room while the autopsy was taking place. He took the act of seeing ourselves and human beings to a new level, and turned it into something that we found so hard to watch. "It is a film rigorously about seeing. It remains at a literal level of confrontation with a truth" (Testa 171). Yet because of human’s desire to watch, it was hard to look away. You don’t want to watch but yet you can’t pull yourself away. t’s almost as if he took the act of seeing, something we all enjoy doing so much, and forced us to see something we don’t want to.

I personally began to find the film interesting because you could see things that you never really get to in every day life, and learn more about the body. Brakhage’s film was a very good example of realism in the sense that it was a live autopsy portraying real life as it happened. He’s forcing the reality of death on the viewers, a topic that is so scary to many people, and that can almost be scarier then the images themselves. It gave you the sense of actually being there because we were able to see all the body parts so closely. “Brakhage's films are usually silent and lack a story, being more analogous to visual poetry than to prose story-telling” ( This is an interesting technique to use in documentaries because it portrays truth in a different sense then many other documentaries. You were forced to watch the images and your head filled in the blank space where the noise would go. Because there is no noise there is nothing breaking your concentration and nothing to distance you from what you are seeing. All you hear is the reactions of people around you. The lack of sound prevents you from knowing what is coming next. The idea that he is not telling a story is rather interesting because you as the viewer has to take it for what you think it to be. The fact that the film was silent really amplified the fact that the film goes so far out of our comfort zone because it kept the connection between you and what you are watching, whereas dialogue seems to distance you from the images. The film gave you almost nothing BUT these shots of blood and guts which the director framed strategically so that the audience would perceive the film a certain way. The part of the film that I found the most rough was the fast edits that were made. The camera did so many cuts that it became to make me dizzy and sick (though the cuts the director threw in such as the coroners coat etc., was a good break from all the blood and guts). I could clearly see what the readings this week were saying, about the contrast between red and white (the blood and the covering up of the body with the sheets, or the blood then the shot of the coroner’s lab coat).

What struck me a little though was if this film went overboard. Just as Titicut Follies it raised a few ethical issues. Was it right for Brakhage to film these dead bodies? Although the faces are so ripped apart it would be hard to try to identify them, they are someone’s sons, daughters, mothers or fathers. It would be so hard for those family members to watch this film. Know one wants to have to deal with seeing their loved one ripped open after they already have to deal with the loss of that family member. It just pushed so many boundaries and really did push the comfort level of what we are used to seeing, which I gather is the point Brakhage was trying to go for.

In this film, along with Titicut Follies, the directors used quite a bit of extreme close up and close up shots, I think to make a point and emphasize what they are showing. In Titicut Follies I think that the extreme close ups on the faces and the mouths of those talking helped to emphasize what the inmates were saying and their emotions. His filming technique allows you to feel as if you were actually there when all this was taking place. “The "rhythm and structure" of Wiseman's films pull the viewer into the position and perspective of the subject” ( In The Act of Seeing, I think the close ups were to really emphasize what we were seeing and further push us out of our comfort zones. He zooms in uncomfortably close to the bodies to give the viewer a totally different approach then just passively watching the autopsy take place. By going so close it forces you to really see the body, since the parts are completely filling the screen. I did find it neat though that at some points Brakhage would frame a shot so that only part of the body was shown just beyond the coroner’s lab coat, so to maybe give us a break from seeing so many close up shots of blood and guts. Similarly, Wiseman used this technique of framing one of the inmates on half the screen singing and the film the inmate was watching behind him on the other half of the screen. In both films there was a wide variety of different types of shots the directors used which both contributed to the effect the directors were going for and helped to emphasize the sense of the real.

Tuesday, September 18, 2007

Blog Entry Number 1

The first film, Titicut Follies, I found a little dry. I found it hard to watch because it was hard to understand some of the people talking, the camera moved around a bit and the story line was a little dry. It was hard to see what Wiseman was trying to get at, especially because at parts it was hard to tell who was an inmate and who was a guard. Also the part where they shove the tube in the one man’s nose made my stomach turn and I had to look away.

By the end of the film I could sort of tell what Wiseman was trying to go for. As stated in Barry Grant's article, "the idea of the movie came out of the absolute sense of shock about what Bridgewater was about...and the film works to evoke a similar response in most viewers" (Grant 239). I was appalled by the fact that the doctors kept saying that the cure for the inmates was more medicine, especially when the doctor said "we should increase his tranquilizer dose". I was appalled by the fact that the patients kept trying to tell the doctor they were fine and all that the doctor could say was that they must be crazy to think they are sane and so their medicine dose should be increased.

The movie did a good job of portraying truth in the institution, and showing what we, as outsiders, do not see on a daily basis but what is going on behind the walls of the institution. However one is to pose the question of ethics here and whether or not Wiseman had the right to film these patients who could not give consent themselves. "...Titicut Follies typically shows us disillusioned and shattered people treated impersonally and disdainfully...the image of Jim being forcibly shaved metaphorically suggests the conforming pressures of institutional processing" (Grant 251). I feel that the patients were exploited in this film because they were shown at there most vulgar point, many stripped of their clothing and taunted by the guards. "The force-feeding of Malinowsky and the insistent filming of the naked Jim are particularly vivid instances of this 'tactlessness', so pronounced in Titicut Follies" (Grant 249). Although yes this is a good film because it brings awareness to the issue, I feel that consent should have been given by family members etc. (I may be wrong and Wiseman MAY have gotten consent not sure). Also, the article we read said that there were several suicides later that year so it makes me wonder if the film did anything to bring awareness because nothing seemed to have changed.

We also talked about how the film undermines the expert (doctors etc). I feel that it did a little because at times I couldn’t even tell who was a doctor or guard and who was a patient because they patients seemed so knowledgeable (talking about the war, politics etc). “Wiseman has a unique style of filmmaking. His films seldom utilize any predictable or overt narrative structure. He does not interview his subjects, nor does he narrate or comment on what happens. This style of filmmaking is often referred to as the observational mode” ( His style is just that, an observation of what is happening in the institution that people are unaware of. Direct footage that is shown as it happens displaying real life without any interuptions. I think that Wiseman has an interesting film style, and his lack of interviewing and commenting on the events allows the truth to unravel in real time without any interuptions, and allows you to draw your own conclusions because he does not himself comment on the footage. Because Wiseman just went into the institution and started filming with no set agenda, he was able to capture real life events as they happened, thus portraying truth in its entirety. Although Wiseman edited it out of order and probably manipulate the footage to his advantage (edited in a way that makes the doctors seem worse then maybe they are?), the film overall did display the truth of the institution to the world. Wiseman has been quoted in an interview saying “I think I have an obligation, to the people who have consented to be in the film ... to cut it so that it fairly represents what I felt was going on at the time in the original event” ( In this sense we see how the film was a representation of what he saw when he was in the institution and how this documentary is a portrayal of realism. He didn’t force an idea on you but rather allowed you to draw your own conclusion (although yes he may have given us limited footage to work with). Although I think that interviews could have been beneficial to give the viewer some back story and, as some people in class said, humanize the inmates, I feel that his approach was a good technique to use in a documentary that is meant to show truth as it happens.