Tuesday, May 12, 2009

A Cultural Study of "Because I Said So."

A Cultural Study of "Because I Said So"

“Identity is the essential core
of who we are as individuals,
the conscious experience of the self inside"
(Anzaldua 1017)

Gloria Anzaldua is a Chicana American writer who describes her experiences growing up directly related to being from Mexican heritage and growing up in Mexico. She discusses her life in depth in her essay Borderlands/La Frontera. The following essay will draw parallels between Anzaldua’s cultural experience versus the cultural experiences of the three sisters and their mother in the romantic comedy film “Because I Said So.”

In American society it is a social stigma to be single no matter what age you are. One even sees second and third graders having "boyfriends" and "girlfriends" and engaging in older-than-they-are activities. The older one gets, the harder the world is on he or she. Woman in their thirties and fourties are made fun of and even sometimes called "spinsters" because they are single. It is not socially acceptable to go to a restaurant, movie or other places by yourself (especially if you are a woman). There are several instances where this is true and it is very prevalent in films and on television shows today.

In “Because I Said So” Daphne Wilder (Diane Keaton) is the single mother of three adult women Milly (Mandy Moore), Maggie (Lauren Graham) and Mae (Piper Perabo). Wilder is your regular crazy mother that cannot seem to stay out the business of her three daughters. Of course, she is only doing this because she loves them and is perhaps very overprotective because she had to raise three daughters by herself after her husband left her. She says about her sex life with her husband that, “He said he didn’t have all day, and he worked nights” (Because). This could explain the complex she has and why she is being an overprotective mother.

Anzaldua says, “Culture forms our beliefs.” This is very evident in “Because I Said So” since throughout the entire movie Daphne Wilder is trying to find a mate for her daughter. She says that “I don’t want you (Millie) to end up like me." Millie’s two sisters Maggie and Mae have already been married and therefore buy into the games that their mother plays throughout the moving and truly believe that their younger sister needs a man in her life to be happy. I think that they believe this to be true because that is how they have been raised by their mother.

In the opening scene of the movie, the three sisters and mother are at Maggie’s wedding. Mae, of course, has a date and Millie is left by her lonesome self. It takes seconds for Wilder to point out a possible suitor for Millie that has apparently been staring at her all night. Her mother doesn’t simply let her enjoy the wedding, but is rather on hyperactive watch for a man for Millie to "hook up with," so to speak. Millie ends up upstairs in a private room with the man that had been watching her and her mother calls her to remind her that she is not perfect by saying, “And don’t forget you have one breast smaller than the other!” (Because). Millie’s mother has taught her, perhaps and most likely because of her own experiences that as a woman, especially a single woman, she is not good enough for the world –not good enough for anyone. There are several more scenes like this through the movie.

For instance, during a scene where all the girls are in a massage palor together, they are instructed to undress and get in robes so they can be massaged nude. Wilder refuses to take her granny panties off, that her daughters have made fun of. Wilder is caught by the massage woman telling her daughters that they “enhance the female form” (Because). One can tell by the things Wilder says that because of the way she was raised, and the culture of her life, she thinks differently than her daughters. She believes different things to be true about the world than her daughters do. A good example of this is her prudeness and her choice to wear granny panties. A few minutes later in the ladies’ locker room Millie gets a phone call and comes back upset and crying because her boyfriend has broken up with her. This sets her mom off on a rant telling Millie that she doesn’t want her to be alone and that she “doesn’t deserve crumbs” (Because).

This only upsets Millie and her sisters that are convinced her knight in shining armor is venturing his way into her life, just not now. Millie ends up storming out of the massage room and comes back to tell her mom that she had decided that she’s given up on men and wants to be just like her mother. She wants to be single and she will be happy to be that way. Her mother nearly has a nervous breakdown when Millie admits this and decides to take matters into her own hands since it is not nearly possible for her daughter to become a single spinster like her mother.

For some reason Wilder thinks that being single and “ending up” like she did is a horrible fate to live out. Anzaldua, who admits to being a lesbian in the course of her essay says, “The queer are the mirror reflecting the heterosexual tribe’s fear: being different, being other and therefore lesser, therefore subhuman, inhuman, non-human” (1019).

Wilder’s daughter Millie is the tribe’s fear of being different. She is somehow believed to be lesser by her mother, and perhaps all of society on a greater scale because she is a single young female. Our culture in the United States is inherently stuck believing many social stigmas such as one is lesser if they are single. In Anzaldua’s culture, her Mexican family and relatives believe “The culture and the Church insist that woman are subservient to males” (Anzaldua 1018). It seems our cultures really do form our beliefs.

It is not until Millie stops falling into her mother’s trap and begins to think for herself that she is happy. When she starts to think for herself she realizes that she doesn’t need to be dating just to date, but rather she can find a mate she is in love with because that’s what she wants to do, not because it’s what she should do. She does not have to be a product of society, but can rather think for herself.

“I will no longer
feel ashamed of existing.
I will have my voice:
Indian, Spanish, white.
I will have my serpent’s tongue

my woman’s voice,
my sexual voice,
my poet’s voice.
I will overcome
the tradition of silence”
(Anzaldua 1027)

Anzaldua says, “I had to leave home so I could find myself, find my own instrinsic nature buried under the personality that had been imposed on me” (Anzaldua 1015). Gloria Anzaldua was not able to be herself until she left Mexico and her family and relatives behind. She was not able, until then, to think for herself.

Growing up in Mexico with parents of specific beliefs helped create a personality that was “appropriate” for the time and place Anzaldua lived in. This is much like the personality Millie creates for herself when she is trying to please her mother by living her mother’s beliefs. I also think that this is ultimately why Millie ends up dating two men, instead of the one she really enjoys spending time with –and maybe even loves.

“Most of us unconsciously believe
that if we reveal this unacceptable aspect of the self
our mother/culture/race will totally reject us” (Anzaldua 1020)

This is precisely the problem Millie Wilder faces in “Because I Said So.”

Our cultures define our beliefs –they define what we wear, who we spend time with and even how we talk. Our cultures may even determine which institutions we find ourselves participating in. Culture determines which schools we go to, what we eat and the way other’s perceive us because of all these things. Although, there is hope. One does not have to fall prey to ideas society places on him or her. We all have the free will and right to choose to do and be whoever we want to be. Anzaldua came out to her friends and family telling them that she was a lesbian and now writes for the greater good of people much like herself all over the world to help them recognize that they are not alone. Several popular films, such as “Because I Said So,” have ideas of culture and cultural identities playing a prevalent from roll in the movie and on a closer look reveal such things. It is our responsibility as viewers to pinpoint such themes and ideas and recognize that our society is not perhaps the beautiful and fair society we think it is, but rather a society that requires us to use critical thinking and our powerful minds to decipher that which is good for us, and that which is not. It’s the idea that:

“The ability to respond is what is meant by responsibility,
yes our cultures take away our ability to act

shackle us in the name of protection.
Blocked, immobilized, we can’t move forward,
can’t move backwards.
That writing serpent movement, the very movement of life,
swifter than lightning, frozen”
(Anzaldua 1021)

Works Cited

Andzaldua, Gloria. “Borderlands/La Frontera.” Ryan and Rivkin. 1017-1030.

Because I Said So. Dir. Michael Lehmann. Perf. Diane Keaton and Mandy Moore. DVD. 2007.

Ryan, Michael. Literary Theory: An Anthology. Ed. Julie Rivkin. Grand Rapids: Blackwell Limited, 2008.

Friday, May 1, 2009

Ethnic Studies Presentation.

I worked closely with Luisa Umana to put together the project we presented on Friday. First, I carefully read and analyzed the two readings assigned for our theories and tried to pull whatever I could from that in order to present a coherent presentation to the class.
Luisa found two videos having to do with Orientalism: both cartoons and both being opposite in each other in nature (meaning one has views of Orientals as barbaric and the other shows Westerners the same way). Allow we weren’t able to show these videos in class, you can view them below:

Further, to tie in “Borderlands” to the project we decided to put together a game that we called “Four Corners.” The point of the game was for the class to decide which four things: gender, religion, culture and social class affects them the most when a series of questions are asked one at a time. I tied this part of the presentation together by explaining, using the words of Anzaldua, that “Culture forms our beliefs…[and that] we perceive the version of reality that it communicates (Anzaldua 1018).

Work Cited
Ryan, Michael. Literary Theory: An Anthology. Ed. Julie Rivkin. Grand Rapids: Blackwell Limited, 2008.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

Subordination of the Feminine in "Because I Said So."

Because I said so is a film about an overbearing mother who is all too eager to ensure her daughters are happy by making sure they are all with men --and in relationships. According to Irigaray, "One must assume the feminine role deliberately." In this case, the “feminine roll” to be assumed is being a partner to a male.

Essentially, society has created this mother (Diane Keaton) into a woman that believes her daughters must be in relationships or with men in order to be happy, healthy and prosperous in their lives. This very fact brings the "subordination [of women] into an affirmation" (795). That is to say, the mother is affirming the idea that women are subordinate creatures by falling into the myth that they need to be with men to be "independent creatures."

This mother, perhaps without realizing it, is exploiting her daughters to the subordination of women. “For to speak of or about women may always boil down to, or be understood as, a recuperation of the feminine within a logic that maintains it in repression, censorship and nonrecognition” (796). Irigaray believes that if thought patterns continue as such, subordination is a thing that will never go away.

Work Cited
Ryan, Michael. Literary Theory: An Anthology. Ed. Julie Rivkin. Grand Rapids: Blackwell Limited, 2008.

Wednesday, April 1, 2009

Thirst, Water and Post-Structuralism.

Derrida's idea of the signified and signifier are much like the idea that one cannot truly have a complete appreciation for water until they have known intense thirst. Without water, or liquid, it could be argued that one could not know what thirst actually is or exists. Because of the idea that no truth can be realized without another, "...as a result, [it] will always be incomplete" (258). That is, each truth will be unfinished, so to speak. "If every object derives its identity from its difference from other objects, then every thing or object and every idea or concept refers to something else to be what it is" (259). This means that no thing, object or thought can be complete on its own.

In the case of thirst, this truth cannot be known without water. If one is thirsty they quench this thirst with water, therefore learning what it is to thirst and what water is. Without water, this new gained knowledge would be very difficult to obtain. "...[A]ll reality is textual...That is, it is made possible by difference..." (259). This ties in closely with Derrida's idea of "inside" and "outside." It would be very hard for one to know the truth of an inside without realizing what outside actually is, or using outside to explain was inside means.

Work Cited
Ryan, Michael. Literary Theory: An Anthology. Ed. Julie Rivkin. Grand Rapids: Blackwell Limited, 2008.

Monday, March 16, 2009

Target and Capitalism.

During the late 1800s, when Karl Marx was publishing a lot of his works, socialism was an idea that laid in stark contract to the capitalist world that had developed. Socialism was the idea that everyone's basic needs: food, shelter, etc. would be taken care of. Socialism and capitalism are still both very prevalent in our society today.

Today, corporations like Target and Wal*Mart represent capitalism and its best. This means that large companies are getting rich off of us, the shopper. The Target commercial below is a great example of capitalism in our society. First of all, most of us are very familiar with Target, the brand, and such even if we do not shop there on a regular basis. Further, this commercial is catchy, cute and fun.

If we look more closely at the text it is easy to point small things out that seem to be out of place. The commercial starts out in a clean, middle-class suburban area with several cars (presumably driving to target). As the commercial continues, several prices roll. The premise is that Target can offer YOU a "brand new day." The hidden meaning, of course, is that this new day is going to cost you a pretty penny.

Therefore, the low class continues to struggle despite the optimistic view the capitalist Target commercial seems to hold. It is a sad day, but a true day when we realize that capitalism is probably creeping in the shadows of several of the commercials we watch every, in the food we eat and perhaps even in the pillows we rest our heads on at night.

Work Cited
Ryan, Michael. Literary Theory: An Anthology. Ed. Julie Rivkin. Grand Rapids: Blackwell Limited, 2008.
YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. 16 Mar. 2009 .

Tuesday, March 3, 2009

The Unconscious Mind and Dating.

The unconscious is an extension of self that is only partially accessible in one’s own thoughts. The best example of the unconscious being tapped, so to speak, is through dreams. Some people even live out the thoughts, hopes and needs of their unconscious minds. The unconscious mind holds back one’s feelings, wants, memories and urges. This is why people are able to live in a civilized society and not like animals.

Freud introduces a self that “learns to repress…instinctual drives and the conscious desires they instigate.” This new or other self “mold[s] aggressive and sexual impulses as well as an initially grandiose sense of self to the demands of life with others” (389). In Freud’s study of patients with neurotic symptoms they usually “engaged in behavior that frequently embodied desires or fears.” The constant repetition of this “suggested that the patient was in the grip of something outside his awareness or her control” (390). In this case, the patient is unable to control their unconscious mind. I believe little parts of our unconscious minds come out in every day life, even in situations like dating.

In Kelly Clarkson’s “Since U Been Gone,” it is made evident in the lyrics that the girl in the song is with her boyfriend for reasons that are beyond her control. Perhaps she wants love and feels like a “boyfriend” can provide that. It is possible that she did not receive enough attention and or love from her parents when she was younger and therefore feels the need to reach out to anyone that will love her now. Once the girl realizes the boyfriend does not fulfill her desires or needs, she can “breathe for the first time.” Her revelation aids her in finding herself and figuring out that she does not need a boyfriend to be happy or to feel loved.

"Since U Been Gone" music video on youtube:

Work Cited
Ryan, Michael. Literary Theory: An Anthology. Ed. Julie Rivkin. Grand Rapids: Blackwell Limited, 2008.
YouTube - Broadcast Yourself. 3 Mar. 2009 .

Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Defamiliarizing Young Female Actresses

There is a certain sense of truth that science provides the world. Of course, this is not the only truth that exists. There is another kind of truth, found in art. “Art provides access to a different kind of truth than is available to science, a truth that is immune to scientific investigation because it is accessible only through connotative language (allusion, metaphor, symbolism, etc.) and cannot be rendered in the direct, denotative, fact-naming language of the sciences” (3). Defamiliarization, or thinking outside the box of generally or commonly known knowledge is a form of art.

In the case of celebrities, such as Lindsay Lohan, society is used to accepting that her archetype, the young actress making films, is simply there and not effecting pop culture or culture in a negative way. Although, she is in fact creating fame for herself by acting as an inappropriate role model, especially to young girls. It is not until we step back and take a closer look by defamiliarizing ourselves from the situation that we see the harmful causes of young actresses setting poor examples in the media.

Lindsay Lohan, Hilary Duff and Mylie Cyrus are just a few young actresses that have been in and out of rehabilitation centers, have publically gone through eating disorder ordeals and barely wear enough clothes to amply cover themselves when they leave their homes. But, what does the average person notice about these girls? They notice that they are pretty, famous, and in the movies that our children are growing up watching. It is important to defamiliarize ourselves with these young actresses and celebrities on the greater scale so that we can fully understand how they are effecting our lives.

Work Cited
Ryan, Michael. Literary Theory: An Anthology. Ed. Julie Rivkin. Grand Rapids: Blackwell Limited, 2008.