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Farewell to Decency

liberty

One of the things I hate the most is being told what to read and for that reason one of my least favorite books that I’ve ever been forced to read his Farewell to Manzanar, the story of the Japanese girl whose family was placed into the internment camps and living through the internment camps. Now, I think part of the reason I hated it so much is because it made no sense that the book would be relevant to my life in 2003, 2004, 2006, 2008, 2010, and 2011 (all years I had to read the. Book). Boy, was I wrong … and, of course I was wrong, because why would anything that makes any sense be the norm with Donald Trump as our president. He is literally pushing an agenda that forcibly removes children from their parents. He is pushing an agenda that decided that it is okay to remove infants from their parents WHILE THEY ARE BREASTFEEDING. These are asylum seekers trying to seek refuge in the United States from being victimized, killed, raped in their home countries. Yet the President continues to demonize these asylum seekers.

To make matters even worse, the prison guards at these facilities are refusing to allow our elected officials entry to the detention centers and witnessing firsthand what is happening at these gross, unconstitutional prison camps. I cannot believe that this is happening. I cannot believe that we live in a world where 44% of Americans are in favor of this principle. I used to wonder how this could happen, how America would sit back and let a whole group of people be imprisoned for merely existing, and now I know. It’s not that people aren’t speaking out against this. All four living First Ladies, many politicians, and advocates are speaking out. The problem is that people are supporting this egregious human rights violation and letting it go.

The inscription on the Statue of Liberty states “Give me your tired, your poor, your huddled masses yearning to breathe free, the wretched refuse of your teeming shore, send these, the homeless, the tempest – tost to me, I lift my lamp beside the golden doors.” I grew up in awe of the Statue of Liberty, the hope it meant for millions. It no longer holds that hope, that promise, the American Dream. It represents an idiocracy, a racist, misogynist, xenophobic nation.

At this point, I’m willing to give Donald Trump his wall, if only for keeping families together at the border and for DACA. I know the addage that if you give him what he wants once, he will keep asking for more, and who cares. I’m more concerned with the torture that is happening at our borders than with the ego of a “man” who leads by the advice of Nazis.

I used to think that Farewell to Manzanar was no longer relevant to my life because it could never happen today. I wish that was case in 2018. Unfortunately, it’s not, and thus, we have lost all decency.

Communication Analysis for Hamilton

The following is a rhetorical analysis for class that I turned into a Communication Analysis for the 2016-2017 NCFA Speech Season. As this was copied from the original document, there will be some formatting inaccuracies. 

In Hollywood, there is a long lasting trend of whitewashing in movies. Roles that are written and meant to be played by people of color are frequently given to white actors, under the impression that higher revenues are associated with whiter skin. For instance, recently, white actors like Johnny Depp and Rooney Mara were cast in roles portraying Native American characters. On the surface, it may just appear like the studio is choosing big name actors that are more likely to draw crowds. However, at some point it crosses the line and points towards institutionalized racism. This is most clearly seen in casting posts, which will specifically seek white people for auditions, and leave out actors of color, regardless of talent. This not only reinforces the idea of a racist system but also limits opportunities for minorities to break out of these Hollywood- and socially- imposed barriers and make a change to the status quo. However, when a role is advertised for a person of color to audition, it is not uncommon to see public backlash and online claims of “reverse racism.”

History books, for the most part, are written and taught as a reflection of the majority, white men, which do not always adequately represent the values of the whole nation. In high school classes, many times students are taught an extremely skewed version of history that does not seek to capture varying views. It is not until college where only sometimes more classes are offered to give wider perspectives, which could potentially lead a person of color to not feel as represented as other groups, primarily those of European descent. However, “history is happenin’ in Manhattan” (Miranda, 2015). The hit Broadway musical Hamilton, written by Lin Manuel Miranda, details the rise to the top of a historical figure, from “bastard, orphan, son of a whore” to treasury secretary. As opposed to a lot of the media being created today, Hamilton offers a refreshing display of minority talent. Through the integration of hip-hop, a music style whose origins are with people of color, Miranda is able to retell a well-known story. In this way he also integrates people of color in ways they have not been before, in both a historical setting and in pop culture. Hamilton’s impact is still being seen and has truly made a continuing splash on the entertainment industry, which includes: winning a Grammy award, being sold out until January 2017, and being nominated for a record breaking 16 Tony awards.

Considering the context in which it arose, there should be no surprise that behind the success has also come controversy. The show purposely sought out to gather a diverse cast of Latinos, African Americans, and Asian actors to portray the Founding Fathers. This has made it a target for complaints about traditionalism and authenticity because on a poster the main cast does not have white skin, as did the founding fathers. However, the show, while taking certain artistic licenses with the character and out of era musical styles, still serves to represent the time period quite accurately. If the story of Alexander Hamilton happened today, there would definitely not only be rich, white men in the “room where it happens” making all the laws and decisions for us. To be able to adequately comprehend the learning ability that Hamilton has in getting students interested in history, a thorough understanding of how Hip-hop encourages learning. To do so, the model “Critical Race Thoery, Hip Hop, and ‘Huck Finn”: Narrative Inquiry in a High School English Classroom,” by Jennifer Martin will be broken down and applied the show.

“Critical Race theory, Hip Hop, and ‘Huck Finn’: Narrative Inquiry in a High School English Classroom,” by Jennifer Martin can be appropriately applied to the hit Broadway musical “Hamilton” due to the importance of the use of race in teaching students not only how to adequately be aware of the social injustice in the world toward minorities, but also to help students get engaged in their learning (Martin, 2014). Martin explains that through the Critical Race Theory, understanding hip-hop and the nuances within it helps students to adequately understand classic literature, such as Huckleberry Finn. This model shows that, in racially diverse, schools, students are able to examine white privilege, of both others and themselves, if applicable. First Martin explains that her model is a model of Critical Race Theory, and clarifies that “Critical race theory is a lens allowing for the interrogation of social, educational, and political issues by prioritizing participant voices” (Martin, 2014). Furthermore, Martin explains that, when viewing an artifact through Critical Race Theory, students gain the ability to challenge traditional ideologies of race. Finally, Martin explains that viewing an artifact through the lens can be disruptive to the deeply ingrained ideologies of some of the students.

Lin Manuel Miranda, author of Hamilton, has also served to challenge people to think about race through a different lens. Primarily by utilizing people of color in traditionally white roles for characters such as Alexander Hamilton, Marquis de Lafayette, Christopher Columbus, Aaron Burr, and John Laurens. As mentioned above, the story is told through the use of hip-hop as the main medium of the show. Through the use of this model, it is clear to see that the way students are learning by using hip-hop and Critical Race Theory, the quality of education is greatly growing. For instance, to ensure that students got the opportunity to view this show, a grant was donated to provide New York City students with $10 tickets to see the show. In fact, over 75,000 students from New York are participating in this program.

The first pillar of the model is that of prioritizing participant voices. This means much more than simply making sure that every voice is heard. This also means to prioritize the voices of those who are suppressed. Hamilton is absolutely a part of this. Through the use of actors of color, namely Leslie Odom, Jr., who plays Aaron Burr, and Christopher Jackson, who plays George Washington, Miranda gives these traditionally white characters a whole new voice by changing the way that these characters would communicate with each other, and a voice that resonates with students. Aaron Burr, the senator from New York who ultimately shoots and kills Alexander Hamilton, has some of the best songs in the musical, which Mr. Miranda explained was the main intention in writing the Aaron Burr character.

To further elaborate, in the cast, there is only one role for a white actor, King George. It appears that King George is purposely put in this role as a dichotomy to the other characters. Thematically he may be Great Britain asserting control over the colonies but on a deeper level he seems to represent the oppressive hands of the white majority trying to hold down minorities. Even his songs further highlight the difference between him and the rest of the more diverse cast. For instance, his songs, “You’ll Be Back,” “What Comes Next,” and “I Know Him,” are all songs that are traditionally considered to be show times. This represents an evolution within Broadway with how hip-hop is changing perceptions of what is appropriate for musicals; essentially, not only is America revolting in   story but the play itself is revolting against what is traditional acceptable on Broadway. With the rest of the characters all performing raps, including two rap battles, it is clear from the show’s success that many of traditional Broadways barriers may be being broken. Arguably, the show would not have had the same level of success with an all-white cast because it would lose many of the undertones that make it so impactful. Hollywood would try to argue differently, as a reflection of the normal casting values that seem to exist, however, Hamilton is proof that opportunities for success rely far more on talent than skin color. In addition to that, Hamilton serves to provide a voice in history to underprivileged and underrepresented ethnicities through the incorporation of hip-hop and race in the show.

Martin’s second pillar is, when viewing an artifact through Critical Race Theory, students gain the ability to challenge traditional ideologies of race. As previously stated, by having actors of color play traditionally and historically white characters, it provides students the ability to view history in such a way that they are able to adequately and critically challenge the traditional ideologies of race. Transforming months of negotiation into a club style rap battle really shows students the kind of back and forth that goes into making huge decisions. Hamilton employs this method twice. The first rap battle takes place early in the second act of the show, and it details the fight to establish a national bank and assume the debts of the states from the Revolutionary War. Thomas Jefferson, played by Daveed Diggs comes in after serving as ambassador to France, and fights with Hamilton through the entire show, setting up the confusion to the conclusion of the show, and the historical end to Alexander Hamilton.

The second rap battle is conducted mid-way through the second act of the show, and brings the audience into the fight, arguing whether or not to go to the aid of France in the French Revolution. Again, the arguments were between Alexander Hamilton and Thomas Jefferson. By having these two characters engage in the negotiation and legal process by working out their issues in the form of rap battles, Miranda is able to teach students, who had been taught that hip-hop is unacceptable and inherently bad, that hip-hop can be good, worthwhile, and teach students in a whole different manner than previously utilized. In fact, it legitimizes the genre as an art in ways it has not previously been. For some students, reading out of a book and being tested on the materials is enough. For others, the visualization of the story of the founding of America, as told with actors who, previously, would never be able to perform in a show about the Founding Fathers, give students new tools that will help them to adequately challenge the roles of race and racist ideologies that are passed down to them. By telling the story of the founding of America through a diverse cast, a true reflection of the world in 2016, completely breaks down the walls of traditional racial ideologies. Also, it further pushes students to question motives for racist practices in the first place. For instance, if Hamilton is able to exist in today’s world, with the level of acclaim it has gathered, why isn’t the rest of the media trying to incorporate diversity to this extent?

The final pillar of this model is that viewing an artifact through this lens can be disruptive to the deeply ingrained ideologies of some students. One of the main reasons for the grant allowing New York students to go and see Hamilton, was to show kids how people of color could be successful on Broadway, which is a predominantly white industry. Giving students the ability to see various actors of color play these roles gives them so many more opportunities than a textbook can teach them. Various songs start with emphasizing Hamilton’s disadvantages followed with his success, with “How does the bastard, orphan, son of a whore and a Scotsman dropped in the middle of a forgotten spot in the Caribbean by providence, impoverished in squalor, grow up to be a hero and a scholar?” (Alexander Hamilton) and “How does the bastard, orphan, son of a whore go on and on grow into more of a phenomenon?” (A Winter’s Ball) and “How does the bastard, orphan, immigrant, decorated war vet unite the colonies through more debt?” (What’d I Miss) (Miranda, 2015) By emphasizing that Alexander Hamilton grew up impoverished and orphaned, yet grew into the first Treasury Secretary of the United States, George Washington’s right hand man, and married to the daughter of one of the richest men in New York, Miranda is able to challenge the stereotypes that the students in New York seeing the show will have firmly ingrained and encourage them to fight the status quo. So, they are being taught a straightforward lesson that, regardless of your background, accomplishing your dreams is possible. However, perhaps the subtle message is more empowering, that regardless of whether or not you seek to work in an industry dominated by a certain type, there are still opportunities. By using Lin Manuel Miranda or Javier Munoz, the two actors who portray Alexander Hamilton, both being Latino actors, it thoroughly destroys the deeply ingrained ideologies of race and growing up poor, inspiring students and everyone who sees it that, no matter how you grow up, anyone can succeed, even if they grow up penniless like Hamilton or sought to write a hip hop musical like Miranda.

Hamilton serves to offer a direct visualization of the “Critical Race Theory, Hip Hop, and ‘Huck Finn”: Narrative Inquiry in a High School English Classroom,” model by Jennifer Martin. By applying the show to the three main pillars of the model, prioritizing participant voices, challenging traditional ideologies of race, and disrupting deeply ingrained ideologies, it is obvious that Hamilton does all three. By using actors of color to play traditionally white characters, emphasizing rap and hip-hop to tell the historical story, and repeatedly pointing out that Alexander Hamilton grew up in poverty and rose to the top, while being portrayed by a Latino actor, all three pillars are evident. Hamilton is hopefully just the beginning of this phenomenon, opening the door for others to do something similar or even more revolutionary. As stated before, “history is happenin’ in Manhattan, and we just happen to be” living in a time where the racial divides in the country can be adequately addressed and maybe even destroyed through the utilization of pop culture.

 

Works Cited

Martin, J. L. (2014). Critical Race Theory, Hip Hop, and “Huck Finn”: Narrative Inquiry in                      a High School English Classroom. Urban Review: Issues And Ideas In Public                            Education, 46(2), 244-267.

Miranda, L. M. Hamilton: Original Broadway cast recording [MP3]. (2015). New York.

 

Grad School

Hi there. Long time no talk. I’ve been a little busy. I am officially in grad school at Sacramento State University. While I loved my upper division undergraduate classes and classmates, I can truly say that at Sac State, I feel like I am home. My cohort is amazing and we have fantastic conversations. I will update with my thoughts as the semester and program continues, but for now, I’m two weeks in. I’m still a graduate baby, but I’ve talked to many of the faculty members, and have had excellent conversations with the instructors.

Debate Reflections

Over the last two nights were the first round of Democratic Debates for the 2020 Election Cycle. I thought that overall they were interesting, although night 2 definitely had more gumption than night 1.

Reflections from Night 1

It is clear that Elizabeth Warren was the favorite not only of the crowd and moderators, but of the debaters themselves. When she spoke, everyone paid attention and watched her with intensity. She was calm, collected, and spoke with purpose.

Beto is pretty much done. He thought he would win fans over with speaking Spanish, but he ended up alienating the crowd. Not to mention, he spoke Spanish rather poorly in the debate.

The surprise standout from night one of the debate was Julian Castro. I thought he did exceedingly well, and he basically buried Beto. I saw at one point that his Google searches increased by 2400% within the first 30 minutes of the debate. Overall, strong showing by Castro.

Bill de Blasio also did well, but currently, nothing he said sticks out to me. I only remember that cause I put it on Facebook.

The other candidates were mostly ok. Many of whom I still don’t know who they are or what they stand for. My official rankings for the first night are as follows:

Winners: Warren, Castro, De Blasio

Middle of the Pack: Booker, Inslee

Losers: Beto, Gabbard, Klobuchar

Reflections from Night 2

Night 2 was a lot more action and bang for the buck. I was impressed mostly with Harris and Buttigieg, and I admitted there that it was possibly confirmation bias, but was informed by many that they agreed about Pete, so I’m glad about that.

Kamala Harris emerged victorious from night 2. There is no doubt about that. She, like Warren, stayed strong and collective, and nearly killed Joe Biden. However, Joe Biden also got a good snipe at her being a prosecutor, which is something she will need to address, and soon. She doesn’t exactly have a great record of Democratic ideologies when it comes to criminal justice.

Mayor Pete did well. He was the most well spoken, most organized, and most collective. He was asked the hard questions and responded with heart and genuine remorse for what’s happened in South Bend. Eric Swalwell, who I liked, annoyed me with his insistence that Pete could fire the police chief, despite Indiana law. Many people dislike the glare that Pete gave Swalwell, but I thought it was a true human moment.

Joe Biden needs to leave. No one wanted him before the debate. No one wants him after the debate. Swalwell nailed this on the head, quoting Biden from when Swalwell was 6 years old speaking to the California Democratic Party Convention being that we need to hand the party over to the next generation. While I loved him as Vice President, Biden simply has lived his life on the wrong side of history.

Tonights results:

Winners: Harris, Buttigieg

Middle of the Road: Swalwell, Bernie

Loser: Joe Biden.

Final Thoughts

This was just the beginning of a long and arduous political circus, and I am excited to see a less crowded Democratic field, hopefully by the next round of debates.

Overall Winners: Warren, Harris, Castro, Buttigieg

Middle of the Pack: Bernie, Inslee, Yang, de Blasio, Booker

Losers who should drop out immediately: Everyone else. Biden, Klobuchar, Williamson, Beto, Bennet, Bullock, Delaney, Gabbard, Gillibrand, Hickenlooper, Messam*, Moulton, Ryan, Swalwell, and Sestack*.

*Did not qualify for the debates.

The Right Fears Buttigieg

Recently, there have been a number of articles coming out that prominent right wing figures such as Jacob Wohl have been paying students to make up accusations against Pete Buttigieg. Why would they be doing this? They’re afraid of him. They know he can beat Trump, and his momentum is terrifying to them. And it should terrify them. Buttigieg is surging in popularity. His fanbase is growing by the day, and he has some big names in his corner, such as Oprah and Ellen DeGeneres. It isn’t hard to see why either. He’s exciting. He’s new. He’s young, progressive, and draws a lot of media attention. He’s the democratic candidate that people want to have a beer with. He’s very reminiscent of Obama in 2008. And they could never accept that. So they fear him and smear him, except he’s clean. So they make stuff up. So that’s how you know they’re scared.

Democratic Candidates for 2020 as of April 5, 2019

Bernie Sanders – old as balls and not a Democrat. Should back away from the spotlight and let someone new have the time.

Kamala Harris – Love her, but she doesn’t have support of the middle of the couuntry. The coasts love her.

Beto O’Rouke – DNC Sweetheart, but isn’t getting the momentum hoped for.

Warren – Great legislator, great policy maker, terrible choice for president because the majority of the country doesn’t like her.

Cory Booker – at this point should drop out. I legit forgot he was running for president.

Amy Klobuchar – too moderate.

Julian Castro – legit forgot about him too

Gillibrand – A great candidate, but I don’t think she has a chance of winning.

Jay Inslee- who?

John Hickenlooper – again, who?

John Delaney – I like his ideas, but I don’t think he’ll get it.

Gabbard – too anti-LGBT

Tim Ryan – who?

Andrew Yang – I love his ideas of UBI, and I think his running will put that on the map for the DNC, but he won’t get the nomination.

Marianne Williamson – Who?

Wayne Messam – again, who?

Pete Buttigieg – great choice. He is well articulated, has a history of working with both parties without compromising his own values. Growing in popularity. My choice.

 

*Joe Biden – Honestly shouldn’t run. Too much crap about him right now. Hasn’t announced.

SCOTUS and Another Reason to Love Mayor Pete

It is undeniable that the Supreme Court is a mess. Merely look at how the Senate treated Merrick Garland simply for being nominated by President Obama and how it treated Trump’s nominations. The Senate is it’s own story, but for now, I want to present a couple of ideas for the Supreme Court.

First, in case you don’t know, there are currently 9 Justices on the Supreme Court. This number is not dictated in the Constitution. There can be more, there can be less, and that is important later on in this post.

There are two viable solutions to the, well, clusterfuck, that is the United States Supreme Court. First is one that I have thought of and presented in collegiate debate, and the other is the idea of Democratic hopeful Pete Buttigieg.

My idea for the Supreme Court runs on term limits. This would require an amendment to the United States Consitution, but makes it easier for presidents to get their nominees through. This idea is that Justices may serve an 18* year term on the Supreme Court, so that every 2 years, there is a new Justice. Each president would be allowed to nominate two Justices per term, every two years. If there were to be a vacancy due to death or retirement, that seat would be open until there were the full 9 justices (say, Justice 3 passed away in his term, rather than the most tenured justice leaving the post at 18 years, they would leave at 20 years). Current justices would be retired out in order of ascension to the bench.

Pete Buttigieg’s idea, however, is much more diplomatic and balanced. His idea for there to be 15 Justices. 5 of the Justices would be nominated by Democrats. 5 Justices would be nominated by Republicans. The remaining 5 Justices would have to be approved unanimously by all other Justices sitting on the court. This would not require a Constitutional Amendment.

Something needs to be done about the Supreme Court, and clearly there are solutions to how to fix it, but whether they will be used or not is a totally different story.

Until next time,

Scott

Who the Hell is Mayor Pete?

I have never been excited for a presidential candidate before. The 2020 Presidential Election is going to be my 4th election where I am able to vote, and I am finally passionate and excited about a candidate.

In 2008, I had just turned 18. McCain had secured the Republican nomination, and I was not excited for him. I was a naive Republican, and so I voted for McCain. Thankfully, he lost.

In 2012, I was supporting someone who I don’t even remember, and I voted third party because I was a Republican, but couldn’t stand Romney. Thankfully, he lost.

In 2016, I supported Kasich. I wasn’t excited about him, but I supported him. When Trump secured the nomination, I realized that the party that I had been a member of because of my mom and her husband’s (not my dad’s, who died in 2000) beliefs and had been brainwashed to think like them not only no longer mirrored my own values, but hadn’t mirrored my values since I was 17 years old. I registered as a Democrat. I wasn’t excited about Clinton, but I voted for her, because the opposition was a literal sack of shit.

Now, for the 2020 Presidential race, I am excited and all in for Mayor Pete Buttigieg from South Bend Indiana. Don’t know how to pronounce it, don’t worry. Pretty much no one can. By the way, it’s Boot Edge Edge.

But the question I have been asked, and many of us who are supporting Mayor Pete are asked, is why him? I can’t speak for them, but I can speak as to why I support Mayor Pete.

First off, he’s a millennial. He is a candidate who knows that any decisions he makes as President, he is going to be alive to deal with the repercussions. If he is elected President, he would be the first mayor and the YOUNGEST PRESIDENT EVER. He is the same generation as I am, and he has more experience under his belt than the current occupant of the White House.

Secondly, he is an Afghanistan veteran, and he took a leave of absence from being mayor of South Bend to serve a 7 month tour as an intelligence officer in Afghanistan. He knows what those who have served in this war style are going through, and he’s gone through many of the post effects. In his book, The Shortest Way Home: One Mayor’s Challenge and a Model for America’s Future, Mayor Pete explains his return from Afghanistan, and many of his experiences mirror that of my brother’s.

Thirdly, he is the first openly gay Presidential Candidate in American history. This is huge, especially with him being from Indiana, the state of Mike Pence and “religious freedom” laws that allow for discrimination against the LGBT community. Buttigieg and his husband, Chasten (who, by the way, is an amazing person to follow on twitter) were married in 2018. When he is asked about Vice President Pence’s blatant homophobia and discrimination, Buttigieg responded to Stephen Colbert,

” [Pence] is a nice guy to your face, but he’s also just fanatical. 

I mean, he’s written that cigarettes don’t kill and he seems to think that the universe was created a few thousand years ago and that people like me get up in the morning and decide to be gay.

And the thing about it is, if that was a choice, it was a choice that was made way above my pay grade. So, what he doesn’t realize is that his quarrel is with my creator. My marriage has moved me closer to God and I wish he respected that.”

The God that I believe in is one of love and acceptance, and that is what the Bible teaches. The God of Pence, and of most organized religions, is one that encourages us to hate and discriminate his own creation. That’s not the God I believe in, and clearly not the God of Buttigieg.

Fourth, and this is a small point, he’s a small hometown boy from Indiana. So am I. I live in Sacramento now, but my formative years were spent in Taylorsville, Indiana.

Finally, he’s awesome. There is no dirt on him. The worst that anyone has on him is that he criticized Hillary Clinton for failing to acknowledge that there are issues in America that aren’t being met by the DNC and that he said he wants to educate Chick-fil-A on their anti-LGBT stance because he likes their chicken.

So, in conclusion, I’m all in favor of Pete Buttigieg. And, if you can’t remember that it’s pronounced Boot Edge Edge, you can just call him 46.

Another Injustice

On Saturday, March 2, 2019, the investigation into the officer who shot and killed Stephon Clark, another unarmed black man, was concluded. Not surprising to anyone, the police officer was absolved of the issue. Another black man is murdered, and another police officer is not being held accountable. This has to stop. We need a society where you can be save in your own back yard. We need a society where it is not a crime to be anything other than white. We need a society where they do not use unknown circumstances, such as suicidal thoughts or seeking out drugs, to justify entering a mans back yard and killing him. This is enough. We are tired of it.

The Dark Culture Rises

This was a paper I had written for my film rhetoric class nearly a year and a half ago. I just found it.

The Dark Culture Rises

What happens when the inmates run the asylum? This question has been asked for a long time, and one film that really examines the possibility of this is the final installment of the Christopher Nolan The Dark Knight Batman series, the Dark Knight Rises. The cultural impact that this film has had, specifically in the ever growing superhero genre, is huge. This series of films, but especially The Dark Knight Rises, really opened the doors into what the superhero genre could be, giving way to the Marvel Cinematic Universe to take the genre to where it is today, most recently with blockbusters such as Captain America Civil War. Furthermore, the film examines some deep rhetorical questions, such as who culture belongs to and whether or not you can assimilate into a culture and be on the same field as someone who was born into that culture.

The film takes place eight years after the events of the Dark Knight and the death of Harvey Dent, whose death lead to the Dent Act, granting the Gotham City Police Department the ability to essentially eradicate organized crime in Gotham. However, Commissioner Gordon shows that he is feeling more and more guilty about covering up the heinous crimes committed by Dent in the Dark Knight. When the time came to reveal the truth about Dent, Gordon decides that the timing is wrong and changes his mind. This speech would have happened at the mansion of Bruce Wayne, who had become a recluse following the death of Rachel Dawes in the Dark Knight film. He had retired from wearing the cape and the cowl as Batman. The first time seeing Wayne in the film, it is after Anne Hathaway’s character, Catwoman, or Selina Kyle, breaks into his room and steals his fingerprints to give to Wayne’s business rival John Dagget, through an assistant. In return, she was supposed to be given the software to give her a blank slate, a rather significant subplot of the film. However, Kyleis double crossed by Stryver, the assistant, and he attempts to kill her, but makes the mistake of using a kidnapped senator’s phone, which brings he police to the bar where they were meeting. The resulting gunfight had police, along with Commissioner Gordon, follow the criminals who were with Stryver down into the sewer, where there was a gunfight and explosion, leading to Gordon being captured and brought to Bane,t he leader of the renegade group. Bane finds the speech regarding Dent’s actions on Gordon’s body before Gordon is able to escape. Gordon is found by John Blake, who is then promoted to detective by Gordon. Bane uses the fingerprints attained by Kyle to drain his account in an attack on the Gotham stock exchange. As Wayne is contemplating what he should do, whether he should return to being the Batman, his butler, Alfred Pennyworth, explains that Rachel had intended to marry dent prior to their deaths in an attempt to convince Wayne that he should not return to his role as the Batman. In regards to his company,  had discontinued a clean energy project after discovering that the reactor for the project could be turned into a weapon, and the asks Miranda Tate, a board member for Wayne’s foundation, to take over the company. She agrees, and in doing so, opens Wayne up to Bane’s trap. Bane reveals to Wayne that he is going to fulfil Ra’s al Ghul’s mission to destroy Gotham, armed with what is left of the League of Shadows. Wayne and Bane engage in a one on one fight, where Wayne is left crippled before being transferred to a prison that is practically impossible to escape from. The inmates of the prison explain to Wayne that only one prisoner had ever escaped, the child of Ra’s al Ghul. Wayne assumes that the child is Bane. In another underground attack, Bane is able to lure the entirety of the Gotham police department, minus Commissioner Gordon and Blake, underground where he traps the police department before killing the mayor of Gotham and having Dr. Leonid Pavel, a nuclear scientist, turn the reactor core from Wayne’s clean energy project into a nuclea bomb, which he uses to take Gotham hostage and is able to isolate Gotham from the rest of the world. He uses Gordon’s speech about Dent and reveals the secrets to Gotham, causing them to develop deep mistrust of the government and the police force. Bane releases the prisoners of Blackgate Penitentiary, which then turns to anarchy. The rich of Gotham have their assets seized and are put on faux trials by Jonathan Crane, who was the Scarecrow in Batman Begins, the first film in the trilogy. Crane sentences all of them to death. Meanwhile, in the prison, Wayne spends months recovering and training, eventually escaping from the prison. He enlists Kyle, Blake, Tate, Gordon, and Lucius Fox to assist him in stopping the detonation. Wayne tasks Kyle with getting people evacuated from the city and instructs her to save herself, but Kyle refuses since Wayne will not go with her. Wayne dons the cape and the cowl and returns to fight Bane as Batman, where he overpowers her, at which point the plot twist occurs, revealing that Katherinee Tate is actually Talia al Ghul, Ra’s al Ghul’s daughter. Bane is merely her security who helped her escape from prison. She uses the detonator for the bomb, only to reveal that Gordon was able to block her signal to keep the bomb from detonating. The film concludes with Wayne flying the bomb over the bay before it explodes, making Gotham think that he is dead, but he’s not, as he moved to France with Kyle to live a normal life.

There are a few reasons that this is a significant cultural film. First, it draws similarities to terrorists being thrown in prison, in terrible conditions, without being convicted of any crime. There are a few similarities between the prison that Bruce Wayne is put into and the prison that is used in Captain America Civil War. According to Brian Sanford’s article “The Death of Captain America: An Open-Ended Allegorical Reading of Marvel Comic’s Civil War Storyline,” the prison that was designed for prisoners in Captain America was made so that escape was virtually impossible. However, the Guantanamo prison is also made to make it so that escape is virtually impossible and uncomfortable. This is the same as the prison in the Dark Knight Rises. It is made to be virtually inescapable, but Wayne, Tate, and Bane are the only three people to have escaped the prison. This draws the similarities to Guantanamo Bay because the people imprisoned in Guantanamo are done so in very uncomfortable conditions, as well as in ways that are in blatant violation of basic human rights. Because of the way that the prison is designed and set up in The Dark Knight Rises, it is clearly not designed to ensure that the prisoners are comfortable in there, but rather to be locked up and forgotten as an enemy of those who put them there.

Even more so than the disregard for human rights aspect of this, the prison in the Dark Knight Rises draws parallels to Guantanamo Bay because, as the article states, the people directing the prisons, whether the CIA in Guantanamo Bay or whoever is in control of the prison that Bruce Wayne is put in takes great care to ensure that the  prisons are outside of any legal jurisdiction, so that any laws that would govern prisoner rights can be avoided and ignored to do what is best for the prison, rather than ensuring that basic human rights are being met for the prisoners.

Another rhetorical conclusion that this film is able to draw is that of dealing with grief and depression. The reason Batman is Batman is because he is scared of bats. He dons himself with the image of that which scares him the most so that he can use that to scare the criminals of Gotham, who he targets after his parent’s death. Christopher Nolan, the director of the Dark Knight series, explains that Gotham is a realization of Wayne’s grief. This is shown through the dark colors palette of the film. Alfred Pennywether, Wayne’s butler, even states to Wayne in the film, “I never wanted you to come back to Gotham. I always knew there was nothing here for you except pain and tragedy.” Because the film series takes place in Gotham, and nothing happens for Wayne that is positive for his life. Even the conclusion of the film, after the nuclear bomb explodes is a scene that I originally thought was a copout for the director, but now realize why it is so important. The film ends with Bruce Wayne happy, going to the café that Alfred talks about in his fantasy, married to Selina Kyle (Catwoman). The significance for this is that the happiness takes place out of Gotham. It is in France. He leaves Gotham. According to Benjamin Winterhalter in his article “The Politics of the Inner: Why The Dark Knight Rises is Not a Conservatory Allegory,” Winterhalter explains that all of Gotham, all of the memories and all of the structures, are meant to be a representation of Wayne clinging to his grief (Winterhalter, 2015). This resonates rhetorically because it explains that, after experiencing a traumatic experience, such as the loss of a parent or a loved one, you need to be able to move on. That could mean so much as leaving the area where the grief occurred, especially if the place you lived at is a large part of the grief, like Gotham is to Wayne, considering the amount of influence his father had on the city.

Finally, the question remains about what happens when the inmates run the asylum. As stated before, the Dark Knight Rises shows this occurring. It shows what happened when the criminals who were locked up in Blackgate Penitentiary are released and take over the town. The results in the film are obviously negative, as shown with Crane being the judge, sentencing all of the rich to die. This is going to reign true any time that there is a direct representation of those who don’t know how to lead end up leading, similarly to the current reign of Donald Trump. He and his croneys have no experience leading, and that is showing in the leadership style. Trump and his cabinet are acting like the criminals from Blackgate Penitentiary getting out and attacking anyone who thinks differently from them, trying to seclude the United States from news organizations that question him, and keeping non-Americans out of America. This rhetoric cannot stand.

The Dark Knight Rises was definitely influenced by culture in a myriad of ways, but most importantly the influence was that of a culture that is willing to accept those who tout justice when they really are only out for blood and revenge. Culture is defined as “Culture is the whole complex of distinctive spiritual, material, intellectual, and emotional features that characterize a society or social group. It includes not only arts and letters, but also modes of life, the fundamental rights of the human being, value systems, traditions, and belief” (Buhmann,  There is no adequate reasoning why the people of Gotham accepted the organized crime associates, including the police force being accepting, other than being complacent. The crime did not directly affect them, and so they don’t need to worry about it. This is the same as the conservative mindset that we see today. Trump’s policies aren’t affecting them, and thus they don’t care about the impact. When the policies do impact them, then they will learn to care, but as of now, the culture of not caring what is going on as long as it does not directly affect you is clearly the influence of the film. When the culture does impact you, such as it did with the murderer killing Wayne’s mother and father, he started to care about the injustice in the city and took it in his own hands to make sure that the city became safe and that the organized crime took a major hit.

However, a major criticism of the genre that I agree with is that the superhero movies make us rely on others to make the world better and that we have no choice other than to rely on them. In his book Global Entertainment Media, Artz argues that superhero movies, while entertaining, enforce the hegemonic view that the government needs to stay supreme and that we need to rely on the government to make our lives better rather than working for ourselves (Artz, 2015).

Despite having a clear and concise definition of culture, there is not one for pop culture. However, pop culture can described as what we view as in and has an influence over our culture. Superhero movies are absolutely a large part of pop culture. The influence they have had on our society is clearly shown by the success of the genre, from the Dark Knight series to the Avengers series to the X-Men series. All of these movies are clearly evident that the Dark Knight series opened up the genre to be a large aspect of pop culture, influencing us by showing that we need the superheroes to make our lives better rather than make sure that we are working to make the world better.

 

References

Buhmann, A Hellmueller, :; Bosshart, L. (2015). Popular Culture and Communication Practice. Communication Research Trends, 34(3).

Artz, L. (2015). Global Entertainment Media: A Critical Introduction. Chickester, West Sussex: John Wiley & Sons.

Nolan, C. (Director). (2012). The Dark Knight rises [Video file]. United States of America:          Warner Bros.

Swafford, B. M. , 2008-11-20 “The Death of Captain America: An Open-Ended Allegorical        Reading of Marvel Comic’s Civil War Storyline” Paper presented at the annual meeting                     of the NCA 94th Annual Convention, TBA, San Diego, CA Online <PDF>

WINTERHALTER, B. (2015). The Politics of the Inner: Why The Dark Knight Rises is Not a             Conservative   Allegory. Journal Of Popular Culture48(5), 1030-1047.    doi:10.1111/jpcu.12339

Top Books of 2018

It is so easy to get caught up in the nitty gritty of politics. Sometimes, we just need to sit back and read a good book. While I don’t read nearly as often as I used to, nor do I read nearly as often as I would like, I still think I can adequately make a list of my top books that I have read this year.

  1. The Hate U Give – Angie Thomas
    1. I read this to assist my girlfriend with an assignment she had, and I got so sucked into the book. I loved it. The portrayals of police brutality and how racism can be so ingrained in some people make this book the top of my list. Together, we need to take action against police brutality.
  2. Fantasticland – Mike Bokoven
    1. This novel about a theme park after a hurricane and the violence that ensues is reminiscent of the Lord of the Flies, and shows that even today, this thirst for violence and protection still exists in our society.
  3. 14 – Peter Clines
    1. This novel is simultaneously creepy and intriguing, and brings to light the question about whether or not we are alone, and if ours is the only dimension in the universe.
  4. The Rooster Bar – John Grisham
    1. I am a huge fan of John Grisham, and this novel about law school dropouts still becoming lawyers and making a mark in their community is an absolute must read.
  5. A Higher Loyalty – James Comey
    1. Say what you want about Comey, but the man can write. I don’t really like James Comey. I think he was influential in ensuring that Trump secured the presidency, but, after reading his book, I can understand his reasoning for his actions.
  6. The Pen is Mightier 1 and 2 – J.A. Capriani
    1. This light hearted comedy series follows the protagonist who gets his hands on a magic pen, and he does what any guy would do with it, makes himself look good and has a lot of sex.

Clearly, my tastes are very ranged. But I hope you’ll take some time and read one of these books. And if you, let me know.

Again and Again and Again

Last night, in Thousand Oaks, CA, 11 people were murdered in the 304th mass shooting incident in 2018.

Today, there is a flood of mental health posts, again, on Facebook and Twitter. Again, it’s because of mental health issues. If only we could do something to help people with mental health issues. If only we could do SOMETHING to stop these mass shootings. If only there was some kind of common sense law that could pass or something.

Except that there is. But the reason that congress won’t do anything, the reason that America won’t fix this issue, is because it’s easier to blame a non-factor than it is to face the multi-million company that funds campaigns. This isn’t about saving lives, its about saving funds. Congress won’t do anything because they’re cowards. I can’t even name every mass shooting in my lifetime.

I remember as a child, after Columbine happened, being taught what we would do if a shooter came onto campus.

I remember as a child, after Virginia Tech happened, being taught what we would do if a shooter came onto campus.

I remember as 22 year old, after the shooting in Aurora, Colorado, going to see the Dark Knight Rises, and seeing the increased security, ensuring that a repeated attack doesn’t occur.

I remember in 2015, after the Roseburg, Oregon shooting, while working at a high school library, asking about what we should do in the case of a mass shooter, the chilling response the Assistant Principal told me, that we should get as many kids as possible in a small storage closet, and leave the rest to fend for themselves.

In 2016, the Pulse Nightclub shooting.

In 2015, San Bernardino.

In 2017, Las Vegas.

In 2018, Marjory Stoneman.

In 2018, Santa Fe.

In 2018, Trenton.

In 2018, Jacksonville.

In 2018, Pittsburgh.

In 2018, Thousand Oaks.

This is disgusting. We need to fix it. And we need to fix the problem. The problem isn’t mental illness. There are millions with mental illness who have no desire to kill anyone (myself included). The problem is guns. But, again, it’s easier to blame the non-factor than it is to blame the money.