Tuesday, February 16, 2016

What Would Aristotle Say about Rocky Horror Picture Show??

Rocky Horror Picture show is a satirical comedy of old science fiction cinema and 1950's rock music. It is a celebration of alternative lifestyles, focusing specifically on human sexuality and gender roles. One of the main characters, Frank-n-Furter, is a manipulative and dominant (yet lovable) transvestite who owns the house in which everything goes down. During their stay at Frank-n-Furter's castle, Janet and brad, two clean cut lovers, "lose their innocence" and open their minds to an array of taboo life experiences. By Aristotle's definition of comedy, they would be the comic heroes, since they began as reasonably likable (but somewhat boring) characters, and expanded their horizons to a whole new world of opportunity. Although this is true, there is a flaw in this analysis, since the end of the movie is neither positive or negative, but actually really inconclusive and confusing. The end of the movie subtracts a lot of the original credit that was granted to Frank-n-Furter's chaotic style, since by the end, Frank-n-Furter is exposed as a manipulative murderer who is actually very unhappy. Janet and Brad are definitely a lot more sexually advanced than when they started out, but the end begs the question of what they actually gained from their experiences at the castle. RHPS is a satire as well as a dark comedy, but most importantly, it is revolutionary, full of energy, and a lot of fun to watch.

Spaceballs and Aristotelian Comedy

Comedies, like tragedies, can deepen our understanding of the human experience. In my opinion, Spaceballs does exactly that. In addition to fulfilling the modern definition of comedy, it also fits into Aristotle's definition. In the film, a less than perfect protagonist named Lone Starr meets up, through some unusual circumstances, with Princess Vespa. The plot revolves around trying to return the princess to her home planet and trying to defeat Lord Helmet. Through their journey, they deepen one's understanding of the human experience. The most important thing that the film reveals is the ability of people to work together to achieve a common goal, even when one dislikes the others in the group.

The Era of All Things Romance: The 1940's



When it comes to Romantic Comedies/Dramas, personally I’m a fan of the classics. This prompt made me begin to look at these films, that I’ve seen each over a dozen times, with a new set of eyes.

I did some homework and re-watched a couple films, and in that have noticed that these strong female leads are often shown more powerful in the "comedic" situation and more importantly, over themselves. You can't help but wonder if this was meant to add to the comedic material.
In works such as His Girl Friday, Blithe Spirit, Arsenic and Old Lace, and the well known (pictured above) A Philadelphia Story, the female leads often play the “straight man”--a term used in comedic works to describe the one character whose responses range from aplomb to outrage, or from patience to frustration. They make their partner look all the more ridiculous by being completely serious.

It was funny for the audience of that time to see the men struggle and the women have the control (until of course he finally reached her and she melted into his arms).

While Rom-Coms can be seen as nothing but airy cinematic fluff that fill your heart with desire and your head with false hope, there is a lot to be said for how these “light-hearted” films comment on gender, class, etc. in a very palpable manner that becomes useful when doing such studies.

And as a side note, while there is most definitely a huge correlation between the love stories seen in romantic comedies and “love delusion” or fabrication by the average viewer--that isn’t to undermine the art of the films in anyway. And it quite possibly might be another reason why these films are in fact forms of art, and powerful ones at that.

Monday, February 15, 2016

Dark rom-com

Just like tragedy is a necessary element of life, comedy also serves a purpose. Without both tragedy and comedy, we wouldn't have a full emotional spectrum. Of course, some of the best movies have a little bit of both. Throw a little romance in there and you get, not a rom-com, not a black comedy, but a..... dark rom-com? I can't think of a better example of this genre than Harold and Maude. This movie employs gallows humor and romantic tropes to make the audience laugh at an already-strange relationship.

The romance aspect of the movie does not fit the classic rom-com mold, as neither of the characters are conventionally attractive and one of them is elderly. The film deals heavily with the topic of death, yet somehow still manages to be lighthearted. It holds value as a comedy because it shows that a movie doesn't have to be all laughs to be funny and profound.

Friday, February 12, 2016

Meaningful Comedy in the Royal Tenenbaums

I defend the idea of an Aristotelian comedy as a meaningful art form.

In order to further elaborate on this statement, I will use the movie "The Royal Tenenbaums" by Wes Anderson as an example of a long-term comedic work. The Royal Tenenbaums is an absolutely fabulous movie from 2001, and is a comedy/drama film. The film revolves around an eccentric family, including most notably three uniquely gifted children, and their weird father. The film follows these children through their disappointing and at most times absurd failures and trials in life and how they navigate their complex and messy family life.

This comedic work is a great example of why comedy is so important as an art form. Although this movie uses mostly ironic and absurdist humor, its message is ultimately one to be taken seriously. The movie endeavours to show the reader that our lives will never be as perfect or as successful as we envision them, and our perfect fairytale endings that we may want are not always what is right for us in the end. The movie also dwells on the fact that it is important to not take things so seriously. For instance in the movie, the father Royal Tenenbaum is clinging on to the idea that his estranged wife might still want him back. Eventually through a series of absurdly funny tragedies, Royal realizes that he needs to let his wife go. One of the younger Tenanbaums ends up marrying his adoptive sister, which while comedic and absurd, shows that we need to step out of the box sometimes in life to get the ending or the happiness we desire. The film also urges us to confront our failures in life with humor and the ability to move on in many instances. For example, one of the daughters, Margot hides her past and her smoking from her neurologist husband which she views as faults, but this changes in the end when Margot ultimately decides to pursue her adopted brother for true love. In a more dramatic example, Royal never really connects and gets the family he so desperately wanted at the beginning of the movie but like most things in the movie, he moves on by divorcing his wife and accepting his fate.

Although comedy may convey life lessons or important messages in silly ways, the message is no less important.

I highly recommend this movie to anyone interested in Wes Anderson films in general or absurd or ironic humor,

Drake & Josh

One of my absolute favorite comedy shows is Drake & Josh. As silly as it is, it does live up to Aristotle's definition of comedy. It is a show I have grown up with that actually has taught me a lot, despite how many people view the show.

The show consists of two brothers, Drake and Josh. Drake, his mother and sister join Josh and his father to begin a new family, in a similar situation like The Brady Bunch. There's Drake, the cool brother who gets by on dating plenty of girls, never doing homework and playing in a band and then there's Josh, the very smart, loser-ish, awkward brother. Aligned with Aristotle's definition, the characters in this family aren't anything out of the ordinary. They come from a typical family of five, live in a regular house and go to high school. Simultaneously, the show explores the problems and situations that regular people commonly find themselves in. Dealing with high school drama, girlfriends, popularity, school and a pesky sibling.

Personally, this is one of the most realistic shows about teenagers that I watched as a child. Many shows such as Hannah Montana (the lead character is secretly a superstar!) and Gossip Girl (I will never understand how the characters never went to school, but all ended up at Ivies). Drake and Josh went through many situations similar to how my high school career went. Dealing with sports tryouts, your first babysitting job, dating in high school and also dealing with siblings.

The main reason I feel that it is a successful example of a comedy is because of the rise of both Drake and Josh. Each characters had their highs and lows, but the show stressed that you cannot be like just one of these boys to succeed in life. Although Drake was definitely the more popular and well liked boy, he went through many school problems. And Josh was definitely the not-so-cool guy, but he was doing very well in school. In different episodes Drake would be seen studying with Josh, or Josh would be learning tips on how to pick up girls. Each character appealed to the audience because everyone could see a little bit of Drake in them, but also a little bit of Josh. I cannot remember a time when I had a specific favorite character, because I felt that I related to both characters.

There was a lot of humor involved in this particular show, and that along with the many lessons I learned from it is the reason I value it so much. It was on air from 2004-2007, but there are still re-runs of it that I still watch today.


Your Job's a Joke, You're Broke, Your Love Life's DOA...

As most of us have,  I grew up watching Friends, a sitcom about the life of six ordinary friends living in New York. Even from the first episode there is clearly a rise in fortune of a sympathetic central character, Rachel. When Rachel abandons her fiancee at the alter and leaves the life of wealth and privilege she has grown up with for a waitress job, the audience begins to cheer for her and continues cheering for Rachel until season 10 when she has a job with Ralph Lauren.

 Friends' comedy ranges from finding, and failing to find, new boyfriends and girlfriends, saying the wrong name at the alter, carrying a couch up the stairs, climbing down a fire escape, getting fired, finding new jobs, and simply sitting in a coffee shop. It is able to use satirical, romantic, farce, and on occasion even black comedy (when a Friends member has mortified them self beyond belief) to made the audience laugh. By the end of the episode everything is (usually) resolved and the friends are back on the familiar couch. The audience feels a satisfaction that Joey and Chandler finally chose a new kitchen table, the gang has finally sat down for thanksgiving dinner, or that Rachel got off the plane. Simple everyday tasks are made funny by everyday people.

Friends is a perfect example of Aristotle's idea of comedy because this comedy does involve a celebration of human sexuality, love, and has a rise in fortune of all the characters, not just Rachel. Joey becomes a successful actor, Ross finally lands his dream girl, Monica and Chandler finally have children, and Phoebe finally finds a family. 

Thursday, February 11, 2016

Laughing Through the Snow

Modern romantic comedies are the best example of Aristotle's comedy in our modern society. Aristotle described that the central structure of a comedy involves a character who ascends in a more positive direction, learning truths about humans along the way. I think that a good example of Aristotle's criteria is the movie The Holiday starring Cameron Diaz (Amanda), Jude Law (Graham), Kate Winslet (Iris), and Jack Black (Miles). *Side note: some people may consider this a christmas movie, I strongly believe it is not, even if it is I am still denying that Christmas is over so that does not matter anyway.* During the course of this movie the two female principal characters undergo this positive assent which Aristotle describes.

At the very beginning of the movie Amanda has just broken up with her cheating boyfriend who is upset with her lack of being able to cry. Iris is caught up on a work colleague she unrequited love for yet, this colleague continues to drag her along by taking advantage of her, something she views as him caring for her opinion. Iris also finds out that this colleague is engaged to someone else and, of course being the author of the engagement section of the journal they work for, has to write about it for the paper. Throughout the film, both characters have extremely low moments, including an attempt at suicide, but, as time goes on, they develop an emotional vulnerability and confidence respectively as they maneuver new relationships and friendships. By the conclusion of the film, both women have developed into stronger, (semi-)independent women. This is one of my favorite movies and I strongly encourage everyone to go watch it now.

Not Just For Laughs

If you have not seen  How I Met Your Mother yet and plan on watching it then DO NOT READ THIS.

Although I am not normally a huge fan of sitcoms, How I Met Your Mother is one of my favorite TV shows. It is about a guy named Ted, the comedic hero, who is telling his kids the story about how he met their mother. Ted and his friends are constantly getting into strange, funny, and awkward situations as Ted searches for the perfect woman. However, almost every time he tries to date a girl something goes wrong.

Eventually, towards the end of the series he finds a girl named Tracy. Everything seems to be going great and eventually they marry and have children. But, she dies of illness. Years later Ted's love for Robin, one of the main characters and former girlfriend of his, is rekindled. And they end up together.

Although parts of How I Met Your Mother are more serious, it is still a Aristotle comedy. It also teaches the audience that although things don't always turn out the way we want them to there is almost always a silver lining.

Parks and Recreation Isn't Just Fun and Games

When I think of a comedy, I think of Parks and Recreation. I think the fact that it is a series adds to the development of characters and values so the underlying meanings can sink in over time. Leslie Knope starts off as an employee in the parks department and ends up working her way up to city council woman and eventually runs for governor of Pawnee, Indiana. Her rise did not come without numerous lessons, sometimes subtle and sometimes blatantly obvious.  Also, the wide array of characters and personalities worked to highlight the endless absurdities of human actions.

One of the characters, Jerry, is always being brutally made fun of by everyone in the office. The attacks are often cringe worthy for the audience while the actors seem unaffected by the relentless ridicule. But then the irony kicks in. We find out that Jerry has a beautiful wife and three beautiful daughters. He is so incredibly content with his life that the constant stream of jokes bounces right off. Jerry's unwavering happiness make it incredibly clear to the audience that one's priorities should lie in finding a happy life and having a family you love.

I personally think that comedies are more effective than tragedies in most cases. People often feel uncomfortable when confronted with serious issues in ways that are overwhelmingly terrible. In many cases that causes people to shut down or shy away from the real problem. But when people are able to laugh about the ridiculousness of human faults, I think it paints a clearer message. By making important serious messages more approachable, I believe they will reach more people effectively. While many of our comedies today don't seem to have any purpose besides making people laugh, A well written satire or comedy can be shockingly effective. At least I personally feel like I became a better person from watching the comedy in Parks and Recreation unfold.

The Vow

I think the movie The Vow is a good example of an Aristotelian romantic comedy. After getting in a car crash, Paige loses all memory of her relationship with Leo. Their marriage is tested, but they end up reuniting. While there is a happy ending, the movie does not show Leo and Paige remarrying or professing their love again. Rather, they decide to get dinner together when they happen to meet outside of their old favorite restaurant.

I like The Vow more than other romantic comedies, and find it more meaningful, because we learn more about the characters and their relationship. We learn about Paige's hobbies, passions, and quirks as Leo tries to help Paige remember her life. Although not much is explicitly stated about Leo, we learn a lot about his character by how he treats Paige after the accident. As Leo tries to win Paige back, we see the routines that make their relationship unique and more realistic.

The Vow definitely has some of the stereotypical romantic comedy aspects, but it says more about human nature than just that "true love" lasts a lifetime. It shows how easily we can lose ourselves, and the necessity of genuine relationships to help us recenter our priorities. It also shows how we often hurt the ones we care about most, whether intentionally or unintentionally. Paige's family betrays her trust, which she finds out after she moves in with them, and Paige hurts Leo by going back to her previous fiancĂ©. Although the relationship between Paige and Leo is romantic, I think the movie comments on what valuable human connections in general look like. In the end, Leo just wants Paige to be happy, no matter which "version" of herself she chooses or if she chooses to be with him. I think that it's meaningful to know what type of relationships we deserve, and The Vow argues that we deserve relationships that will last through changes in appearance, personality, and lifestyle.

Arrested Comical Development

A television that sticks out to me as a comedy is Arrested development, especially as a farce. The absurd characters and intricately connected plot line point towards this type of comedy. The characters step on each others' toes and bug each other to no end, but by the last few minutes of each season all the problems that have occurred in the last episodes resolve, and the values that really matter become clear.

This relates to the Aristotelian comedy as an art form, because the comedy shows how one shouldn't live their life. IN the example of Arrested Development, every character's traits leads to challenges that could have been easily avoided if they weren't so wacky. The comedy can serve as an example of what not to do.

How to Relearn Some Knowledge in 10 Days

I think romantic comedies are the best modern day representations of Aristotle's dramatic comedies. The principle idea behind these works is when the comedic hero's journey allows the reader to have a greater understanding of greater human truths. Romantic comedies have the best potential to teach lessons about the simple human truths that exist among every person. One of my favorite romantic comedies is How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days with Kate Hudson and Matthew McConaughey. Throughout the film the main character Andie (Kate Hudson) attempts to write an article regarding all of the common mistakes people make when dating others. However, realistically speaking there is no universal human truth that has a legitimate message relating the important points in human life. I think that Aristotle's dramatic comedies were the original romantic comedies and our movies actually are like remakes of the originals.

The Comedic Elements of Zoolander

One of Ben Stiller's most well-known films, Zoolander, was widely received with positive reviews praising the comedic elements of the film.  However according to Aristotle's definition of comedy, a comedy is a story of the rise in fortune of a sympathetic central character.  While Stiller's character Zoolander is certainly sympathetic, the problem with Zoolander's characterization as a comedy is the main character's rise to fortune.  In order to determine whether or not Zoolander would be considered a comedy in the eyes of Aristotle.  Although Zoolander did not gain any fortune in the monetary sense of the term, he did come across a great deal of success throughout the course of the film.

Although Aristotle's definition of comedy in his Poetics states that comedy must involve the nature of human sexuality as well as the triumph of eros, which Zoolander certainly has, in the end, the basic formula for a comedy is said only to involve a happy ending. Even though Zoolander is filled with its fair share of cartoonish pratfalls and lewd jokes, it is in its purest essence, a satire with all of the elements that Aristotle believed a comedy should possess.

Ezekiel 25:17

Comedies are just as important as dramas. An example of a meaningful comedy is the 1994 film Pulp Fiction. In the film every character have their personality faults but we as the audience seem to feel sympathetic for lives that they lead and at the end wish the best for all. 

Throughout the movie the scenes are shot in preludes. It follows the life of seven characters in Los Angeles, and all there lives are connected by one man Marsellus Wallace. The comedy in the film is classified as dark comedy. It follows the story of two hit men, Vincent Vega and Jules Winnfield, who are on a mission to get a suitcase that belongs to their mobster boss, Marsellus Wallace. In another story-line, Butch, an aging boxer, is paid by Marsellus Wallace to throw a fight, but he instead crosses Marsellus Wallace by winning the fight and then has to leave town from the consequences. The film intensely focuses on conversations between characters that reveal both a dark comedy style of humor and their perspectives on life. The film's title is a reference to the pulp magazines and crime books popular during the twentieth century, that where known for their vulgar dialogue and violent nature. The director's unique style of remarkable dialogue, extensive use of violence, non-chronology scene placement, and powerful, relate-able character creation add to the central theme of how chance governs the plot and contributes to the formation of social views.

Comedy and Gender Roles

Based off Aristotle's idea of a comedy, I believe Sydney Pollack's 1982 movie Tootsie fits the definition. Since my family does not have Netflix, I am usually stuck watching older movies on random channels (think channels 852-944). But, I was pleasantly surprised by this movie.

In this comedy, the comedic hero is Micheal Dorsey (Dustin Hoffman) who is struggling to make it in the New York acting biz. Micheal is a very hardworking, respected guy; but his only drawback is that he is a perfectionist, thus making him a little difficult to work with. In the movie, in order to find work, he dresses up as an older woman, calling himself Dorothy and auditions for a role as a female hospital administrator for the soap opera Southwest General. 

In the movie, Micheal ends up getting the job as a woman. I don't really want to go into the details of the movie because I don't want to give the plot away. But, he ends up falling in love with one of his co-workers while he is being a woman.

I believe Tootsie fits the definition of an Aristotelian comedy because Micheal, despite his imperfect character is a very charming, likable hero. And, he isn't a rich guy either. He is simply an average guy trying to make it in the show biz, just like the other millions who are doing the same. Also, the movie is filled with many ordinary characters such as Micheal's friend who is a struggling actress as well and his roommate.

And, the movie also has a heavy emphasis on gender roles. Because Micheal is a acts like a woman for most of the movie, he is able to experience life as a woman. I believe the movie does an amazing job of showing viewers the differences between the lives of women and men, as well as their remarkable similarities despite those differences.

Paradise

I've always been interested in the idea of the "universal myth"; a story that crosses all geographic and cultural lines. One of my favorite examples is the concept of paradise. A  physical location that is, in every conceivable way, perfect. But to achieve this perfection, one must suppress all the flaws that makes them human, leaving behind an artificial mirage with only one goal: maintain the status quo. This concept has always been fascinating to me, so naturally I've been drawn to films that feature it, my favorite example being the film "Hot Fuzz".
Released in 2007, the movie stars Simon Pegg as a by-the-books cop who is transferred to a small, quiet village outside of London after his peers decide his stellar arrest record is making them look bad. Pegg is obviously not happy about the change, especially given how the excitement of police work is the only thing that makes him happy anymore. Soon, however, things start to turn dark, and after a series of increasingly gruesome murders, Pegg discovers that this town, that has maintained the "best village" award for several years, has kept their record by killing anyone they deem not up to their standards. The movie culminates in a huge shootout that is essentially Pegg against the entire town, including the priest and the sweet old lady who owns the inn where he was staying. The movie's writing is genius, presenting the best rendition of "paradise" I've ever seen, and it was a comedy. I HIGHLY recommend it to those who have yet to see it.

Romantic Comedies are Alright

Aristotle's dramatic comedies revolve around a character's positive assent in which the reader is able to learn general human truths along the way. I think the best contemporary examples of these are romantic comedies.  One of my favorite romantic comedies is Sleepless in Seattle. It's a wonderful movie. I can't help laughing at goofy Sam (played by Tom Hanks) or breaking out into smile with Jonah as his dad finds love. I think it's a wonderful movie, but I'm not sure that it has any revolutionary message on general truths concerning the human condition. I think that dramatic comedies were revolutionary before romantic comedies became a genre consisting of a general formula providing new ways to rehash the same morals.

Is Trading Places Both Entertainment and Education?

The movie Trading Places, starring Eddie Murphy, Dan Akroyd, and Jamie Lee Curtis would probably be considered a "comedy" by today's standards. But then again, almost everything that attempts to make the viewer laugh is considered to be a "comedy". Today's "comedy" does not have to teach anything, and it does not even have to make an intelligent point about society. It just has to attempt to make the viewer laugh and then it is automatically stamped as a "comedy". However, I think that Trading Places is more than today's comedy. It fits the definition of dramatic comedy according to Aristotle and is meaningful.

Trading Places in my eyes has not just one sympathetic character, but two. Two old men place a one dollar bet that they can change the homeless Eddie Murphy into a successful stockbroker, and a successful stockbroker, Dan Akroyd, into a homeless person. Although the movie has one character rising and the other appearing to fall, in the end both rise and destroy the old men's lives for messing with their lives. Also, at the end of the film, Dan Akroyd and Eddie Murphy realize that even though they might appear to be completely different people, they are really not different from each other. The movie satirizes the cutthroat nature of the old men who are major stockbrokers, and how they are willing to ruin lives over a one dollar bet. It also shows that regardless of appearance two humans are really not all that different from one another.

This movie exemplifies exactly what Aristotle had in mind when writing his definition of a comedy. It entertains the viewer with laughs, but also teaches a valuable lesson with characters who the viewer can sympathize. If comedies follow Aristotle's guidelines for comedy then they will likely be meaningful works and can teach as much as a tragedy can.

Do Wa Diddy Diddy

Dramatic comedy is a meaningful artform as it can demonstrate to us elements of our society that are ridiculous and stupid. Without dramatic comedy, there would be no one pointing out the idiotic parts of our society in humorous ways.

Stripes, released in 1981 starring Bill Murray is an aristotillian satirical comedy in every sense. John, played by Bill Murray, is a cynical new york taxi driver with no respect for authority who begins the film with losing his job, car, and his girlfriend. Soon after, with nothing left to lose he decides to join the army in an attempt to improve his fortune. After passing basic training, he and his platoon are sent off to europe to show off the latest military technology. Of course this all goes horribly wrong when the new technology falls into the hands of the Russians, but John saves the day and becomes a famous military hero. 

Stripes is a classic example of a satirical dramatic comedy because the protagonist of the film begins as a poor nobody and ends the film as a famous military hero. Throughout the course of the film John proved his character through his perseverance through the intensive military program. Although his problem with authority made his journey much more enjoyable for audiences.

Dr. Strangelove

When thinking about comedy in today's sense, I tend to think of movies that revolve around farce or slapstick humor. When it comes to these types of comedies, I find that people either really like them or absolutely hate them. While some find these movies to be hilarious, others find these movies to have no real meaning.  Whether these films are liked or not, a good portion of them would fit into Aristotle's definition of comedy.

Dr. Strangelove (Or How I Learned to Stop Worrying and Love the Bomb) is a 1964 satirical black comedy that differs greatly from the slapstick comedies of today. The movie centers around fears of the Cold War. While most of the modern farce comedies are considered comedies by Aristotle's definition, I don't think that Dr. Strangelove is a comedy by the Aristotelian definition. First, the ending of the movie is not particularly happy. A device known as the "doomsday" machine goes off and sends the world into a state of nuclear fallout. This point, in itself, basically eliminates all possibility of the film being a comedy by Aristotle's definition. The only possible way the film could be seen as having a happy ending is if you recognize the fact that Dr. Strangelove is bound to a wheelchair. At the end of the film, he stand and shouts, "I can walk!" Now, this would be considered a rise in fortune for a central character, but, just after, his fortunes are dashed along with everyone else's because of the activation of the doomsday device. Also, there isn't really a comic hero, and the majority of the characters in the movie are not ordinary people. 

So, I conclude that Dr. Strangelove is not a Aristotelian comedy. However, in my opinion, it is a great example of comedy, and if you have not seen it, you should get around to seeing it!

Nothing Adam Sandler Makes is Comedy

Okay, technically almost every movie Adam Sandler is in is a comedy, in the barest sense of the meaning of the word. He always plays the comic hero- a below average, ordinary guy (who's only "charming" because he interacts with a child once in a while, or maybe because he's been cheated out of something he deserved) who gradually, through various trials (defeating aliens in Pixels, acting heroic during dream sequences in Bedtime Stories) is seen rising in fortune. He also always ends up married or in a relationship by the end of the movie (also, the relationship/marriage is often with a woman who initially dissed him or wrote him off as a lame deadbeat, which she was correct in doing because that's what he actually is). His movies generally tend to fall into the farce and romantic comedy categories of comedy (if we're actually calling his movies comedy, which we aren't). Some movies, like Ridiculous 6 or I Now Pronounce You Chuck and Larry might be making attempts at being satirical, but they fall short due to stupidity combined with genuine offensiveness.

Adam Sandler's movies are simply too stupid and bizarrely identical (seriously, he's the same character in every single one of his movies) to be considered real comedy. They rely too much on sexist jokes, immature humor, and making fun of others' misfortune (basically, general stupidity). Calling them comedies is an insult to the entire genre.

Here's a fun article that basically encompasses how I feel about Adam Sandler.


Perspectives

I think at least part of the importance of literature, or movies, or a story in basically any format, is the ability to show a different perspective. Besides the few laughs or tears you might get from a comedy or tragedy, the greatest impact of a good story is to show you things from someone else's perspective. This isn't exactly Aristotle's ideas of a "catharsis" after a tragedy, but I think it's related-- you feel "fear and pity" watching a tragedy because you are at some level understanding the perspective of someone who inevitably ends up in a terrible situation. 

Comedies can show you a different perspective as well as a tragedy can. Maybe a comedy might tend to show a different perspective from a tragedy, but that's what makes having both more important. And if you think that tragedies are somehow more meaningful than comedies, then to me it just sounds cynical, and maybe you should go read/watch some comedies for a change. 

I couldn't really come up with a particular comedy to defend. Also, and this is a bit of an afterthought, but when people write tragedies they're probably at least attempting to put in some kind of greater meaning (regardless of whether they succeed) while there are at least some comedies that are made just for entertainment, which might contribute to comedies being seemingly meaningless, when really it just means you have to look harder for a better comedic story. But that's just a theory. 

The Green Years by A.J. Cronin

The essence of Aristotle's definition of a comedy is as follows: a comedy is a story of the rise in fortune of a sympathetic character.

Before reading King Lear,  we were asked if we believed that a tragedy is the best way to convey meaning. I stand by my answer then that the story of a tragedy does stay with people and haunt them for longer. I do, however, also believe that comedy is a meaningful art form.

I believe that tragedy conveys meaning better than comedy because people seem to take more away from a bad experience than from a good experience. Many times, a comedic story is just taken as a fun light read that just reaffirms people's belief that everything will end up well and everybody will get a happy ending. A tragedy makes readers rethink their previously held beliefs and look again at what they thought was right and wrong, and their way of life. But the only lessons to be learned aren't that everything is doomed, and people are evil. There are also stories about struggle that don't always end in death and failure, but success, and reading these stories are just as necessary as reading tragedies.

The novel The Green Years by A.J. Cronin is one of these novels. It is a superb book--and the fact that the author shares my last name makes it even better. It is a story about an boy who is orphaned when his parents die from consumption. He is originally from Dublin, Ireland, and when he moves to Scotland he is met with many hardships. As well as being very poor, he is one of the very few Catholics in a predominantly Protestant town, and is met with some very strong negativity because of this. I don't want to give away the whole story, but because I have classified it as a comedy, it obviously ends well.

I loved this story and believe that it teaches some greats lessons and gets across very valuable meaning. I highly recommend it to everyone!

Challenge: Find Two Rom-Coms Where Characters Learn Significantly Different "Lessons"

It's hard for me to come up with a comedy in which we truly learn something about the world. In the romantic comedy 27 Dresses, Jane, a frequent bridesmaid, is in love with a man who decides to marry her younger, "prettier" sister. Eventually another guy notices Jane and after many sticky situations they end up getting married. 

Jane would be considered the comic hero since she was able to get past the loss of one guy and find another one who viewers probably like better. Although she is happier than before and maybe learned a lesson or two alone the way, I don't this movie, or any other romantic comedy, "enhances our understanding of human nature" because they're all virtually the same. They're all simply about finding "the one" and that teaches me nothing about the world besides the idea that if one relationship doesn't work out for me, I'll soon find another one with a friend or co-worker that I hadn't really noticed before. 

I'm not saying I don't enjoy watching these movies, because they're definitely some of my favorites, but I won't defend them as a meaningful form of art. 

Crazy, Stupid, Comedy

Comedies are definitely just as meaningful as tragedies. As a future (hopefully) screenwriter with comedy as the preferred genre this is a topic I care a lot about. Through comedy people are able to view and criticize human nature and society without the weight of death associated with tragedy. Comedies inspire hope and change unlike tragedies which serve as a terrifying warning.

As a comedy enthusiast, lots of television shows and movies come to mind when thinking about comedies that serve to enhance the understanding of the world but, keeping in the theme of our current novel "Pride and Prejudice" by the mother of modern romantic comedies, Jane Austen, I chose a romantic comedy. "Crazy, Stupid, Love"  is a movie that explores the complexity of relationships, especially long term ones, time and ageing, and what dating in today's society looks like. The movie centers around a man whose wife asks for a divorce. The problems that arise before and after the divorce and the relationships between the characters operate as a mirror. Viewers are encouraged to feel as the characters do and to realize some growth along with the characters.

It's hard to do a summary on how a work is meaningful without spoiling it. I highly suggest watching the movie if you have given up on comedies actually meaning something. I also suggest watching it if you are a true fan of romantic comedies. I even suggest you watch it if you don't have anything to do right now.

Finding Nemo

I think the movie, Finding Nemo, fits Aristotle's definition of a comedy. This movie is about a clown fish named Marlin who loses his wife and family and is left with one surviving child for him to raise, Nemo. I think Marlin classifies as the comedic hero in this movie. People assume he is funny because he is a "clown" fish, but ironically he is not. His son has a small weak fin that he feels insecure about. Him and Nemo don't exactly fit in with the other fish and on top of that Marlin is super protective of his son. This ultimately leads to Nemo acting rebellious and getting taken by Australian fishermen. The movie proceeds with Marlin's journey to find Nemo.

The many sea creature characters in Finding Nemo classify as ordinary people. Marlin becomes friends with a fish named Dory. Dory suffers from short term memory loss. Marlin and Dory encounter a shark who struggles with his new vegetarian diet. While trapped in a tank in a dentist's office, Nemo encounters many fish who have flaws. These flaws include being scared of their surroundings, hating filth, having an obsession with something, having a temper, and thinking their reflection is their sister. All these characters struggle with things that ordinary people typically do.

Finding Nemo ends with a happy ending. Marlin and his son, Nemo, are reunited and all the remaining fish in the dentist's office were able to escape. Him and his son finally fit in with the other fish. They learn that everybody has flaws and it is okay to be different.


Boring Comedies



While searching on google for a comedy I have actually seen, I had to keep scrolling through the list of movies until I got to “Groundhog Day” made in 1993. I just never watch comedic films because they usually don’t match my sense of humor and aren’t so entertaining. I can’t discredit all comedies but “Groundhog Day” is definitely one of the worst movies I have ever seen. I think it was the repetitive nature of the film that really bothered me, but it also wasn’t entertaining to watch the main character improve throughout the film. I prefer less predictable types of entertainment with some sort of evil or interesting twist, so I usually watch thrillers or something.

However, I do enjoy satirical comedic shows like “It’s Always Sunny in Philidelphia,” “Malcolm in the Middle” or “The Office.” I think the main differences between these shows and Aristotle’s idea of a comedy is that it is relatable because the main characters are not necessarily getting any better. The two shows don’t show characters rising, but they portray the realistic, relatable flaws of everyday people. These forms of satire, rather than whatever type of “comedy” a movie like “Groundhog Day” is, are much more worthwhile.

It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia!

Dramatic comedy is a meaningful art form. Take, for example, the television show It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia. This show is very quick satirize the morally deprived nature of human beings. Let's examine a specific episode: Gun Fever Too: Still Hot. This episode starts off with one of the main characters, named Frank, appearing on a local news channel and talking about how he was almost robbed. He says that he was able to scare the robbers away by firing gunshots, and proceeds to tell the T.V. audience that they should go down to a local gun shop to buy some guns to keep themselves safe while they still can, because the liberals in Washington are making it impossible to buy guns.

The other main characters in the show (Charlie, Mac, Dennis, and Dee) watch the newscast and react in different ways. Charlie and Mac think that Frank is right, and Dennis and Dee think that he is wrong. They proceed throughout the episode trying to prove to themselves and their opposition that they have the correct view, and halfway through the episode, Frank appears on the news again to give a similar message. By the end of the episode, Charlie and Mac and Dennis and Dee all change their mind about gun control, flip-flopping sides. As the argue with each other, they see Frank and try to bring him into the argument. When they talk to Frank, he explains that he doesn't give a shit about the gun issue; he had recently bought stock in the local gun store, and worked people into a frenzy over guns so that he could make big profits.

This episode satirizes both the politics involved in the debate over increased gun legislation and the questionable and greedy nature of people in general. It helps enhance our understanding of morality in a clever, entertaining manner. Comedy can be just as meaningful as tragedy.

School Of Rock



A contemporary example of a comedy that illuminates the human condition is School of Rock, starring Jack Black. This movie follows ¨loser¨ Dewey Finn who uses his friend´s identity as a substitute teacher to make the money he needs to pay his rent. He is a down on his luck kind of guy who the audience initially both loves and hates. He has a dream to make it big in the music industry but was recently kicked out of a band he created. So begins the comedic life of Dewey Finn...

As a substitute teacher Dewey Finn teaches his students to ¨stick it to the man.¨ In doing so, he empowers his students and wins over the audience who begins to root for his success.

In a twisted way, Dewey Finn fulfills his dream of establishing a career in the music industry. He always thought he would be performing, but instead finds he has a passion and a talent for teaching music. This movie teaches its viewers not to let anyone tell you how to live your life and to never stop doing what makes you happy.

Star Wars

While there is no question that tragedies such as King Lear are meaningful works that have a lasting impact on the view, the effect of a comedy is less clear. I believe that tragedies are capable of larger impacts than are comedies due tot the nature of their content. Watching a flawed hero fall from power and ultimately lose just about everything has a larger impact on a view than does watching the rise and usually marriage of a comic hero. That being said, I do believe that comedies can come close to achieving the impact that tragedies typically make.

I believe one example of a modern day comedy is Star Wars. While some the films have tragic components to them, others such as A New Hope, have a more comedic aspect. The movie follows Luke Skywalker, an average young man, as he battles to defeat Darth Vader and free the galaxy from the galactic empire. Although the movie does not end in marriage, it does show the rise of Luke and his journey to fortune. The movie makes many lasting impacts on the viewer and therefore I would classify it as a successful dramatic comedy.

Fargo's, Lester Nygaard

Fargo, FX's series inspired by the Coen Brothers, begins with the story of a most ordinary, middle-aged Lester Nygaard. He works at a boring insurance job, his younger brother boasts his greater successes, his wife emasculates his every move, and his high school bully, Sam Hess, continues to torment him. The viewer soon realizes that Lester lives a pretty tragic life. That is, until he happens upon Lorne Malvo, who instructs Lester to take action. Malvo hints that killing Sam Hess and his own wife may be the solution. Weirdly, the audience is still charmed by Lester’s Minnesotan quirks as he smacks a hammer on his wife’s head and kills her, whilst muttering “Aw heck, oh jeez.” 

This is just the beginning of Lester’s rise in fortune and his proof of real worth, as Aristotle puts it. I won’t give too much more away, but Lester’s power increases with suspense, until you feel angry with yourself for ever being manipulated by his spell. Fargo as a piece of art, uses dark comedy to teach us about the subjective natures of evil. Key and Peele also show up around the 5th episode for more of the comedy's desperate foolishness.

Part of Fargo’s complexity is that Lester’s rise ultimately leads to his death, and the underdog policewoman, Molly, who had the right instincts about Lester all along, turns out to be the comedic hero. Lester dies pathetically, Molly is promoted, and the viewer feels satisfied. The irony, satire, and overall absurdity in dark comedy forces us to reflect on what the comedic hero encourages us to value. Most comedic heroes use these tactics to teach the downfalls of placing too much valor in the what is considered to be "serious," which is maybe why we feel so good afterwards.

Maid in Manhattan

What makes something meaningful? Many philosophers have pondered this question and have come up with their own interpretation. Aristotle wrote that a work is meaningful if it creates a larger understanding of the world or human condition. Specifically, he argued that a comedy, in addition to a tragedy, can fit this criteria. A dramatic comedy follows the story of an person with average morals that deals with real life problems, that person rises in fortune in some way, and the work enhances our understanding of the human condition or world. In my education so far I have been biased to think that only tragedies are meaningful pieces of literature. After reading Aristotle's ideas, I am defending the movie, Maid in Manhattan, as a piece of art.

In the movie, sympathetic Marisa Ventura is a single mother who is a maid at the Beresford Hotel in Manhattan. She is encouraged by her friend to try on an expensive coat from one of the guest's rooms, right as senator hopeful Christopher Marshall walks in. He mistakes her as a rich woman and they spend time together. Eventually the truth that she's a maid comes out and the management at the hotel fires her. Marisa's son persuades Christopher to give her a second chance and asks him at his press conference whether people should be forgiven for their mistakes. At the end of the movie Marisa and Christopher are a happy couple.

This movie develops a perspective of society as a place where love can extend "barriers" of class or circumstance, but also a place that should not underestimate insights from young kids. It was Marisa's son that pointed out the larger idea of forgiveness (when it is and is not due), and even referenced former president Nixon. I would say this movie is an exception to the trend of movies in the 2000s. The mid to late 2000s had some romantic comedies that were more comedic just to be funny. Maid in Manhattan I felt has more underlying ideas about class, first impressions, and forgiveness. Overall, Maid in Manhattan is no King Lear by Shakesphere, but I would argue that both are meaningful works in their own way.

Creed

SPOILERS for Creed ahead. You have been warned.

One of the biggest movies from last year was Creed, a movie that continued the famous Rocky franchise. It followed Adonis Creed, the son of Rocky's friend Apollo, as he tried to become a boxer. At the beginning of the movie his mother won't allow him to, and as a result no trainer in his hometown of  Los Angeles will train him. He decides to move across the country to Philadelphia, where his aim is to enlist his father's friend Rocky to train him. He is very brash and undisciplined, and as a result is not a very good boxer. Adonis can't any fights without a trainer, and Rocky refuses to train him. But after weeks of Adonis training alone, Rocky changes his mind and agrees to help. Though Adonis isn't receptive of Rocky's methods, he learns to trust Rocky and begins to improve.

All this time Adonis has been going by his mother's last name, Johnson. He is feels that using his father's name will prevent him from making his own legacy. However when heavyweight champion "Pretty Ricky" Conlan offers to fight him with the caveat that Adonis takes his father's last name, Adonis hesitantly agrees. In the fight for the title, Adonis does better than anyone expects, but loses to Conlan by decision. However the impressive showing teaches everyone that Adonis Creed is for real, and it appears he has a bright future ahead of him.

Creed clearly fits Aristotle's definition of a comedy. It doesn't use crude humor, or even much humor at all. But Adonis fits the role of the comic hero. He begins unhappy, not a talented boxer, and resenting his father. However by the end he clearly has a great future in boxing and has come to accept his father's legacy as a part of who he is. He is the most ordinary of ordinary people, found by his mother in the foster system, and the audience cheers his rise to stardom. It is these qualities that make Creed a comedy, with Adonis as the hero.

The Princess and the Frog

One of today's examples of a great comedy (and also one of my favorite movies) is Disney's The Princess and the Frog. The movie follows Tiana, a poor waitress from New Orleans that dreams of one day owning her own restaurant. She meets a prince, who promises to get her the restaurant she has been trying to save her money for if she can help him turn back into a human, because he of got involved in some voodoo rituals and was turned into a frog. Though they hit some bumps along they way and getting them both back to their human form takes longer than they expected, they eventually succeed. And although they had hardly gotten along when they first met, they eventually fall and love and get married, and open the restaurant Tiana had been dreaming of together.

This is a perfect example of a comedy because Tiana, a likable, hard working woman manages to go from poor and taking on multiple jobs and shifts, to finding the love of her life and opening the restaurant she has always wanted. The story leaves you with the satisfaction of watching a deserving character get all she wanted in life and more. She was able to prove everyone wrong that had told her her dreams were not achievable by opening the business she had always talked about, and was able to make it incredibly successful.

Tragedy Shmagedy

When I was in middle school and we started reading novels in class, I started to see a pattern: every single book we read was sad. "Sad" could range anywhere from To Kill a Mockingbird, which features some pretty depressing death scenes, to Elie Wiesel's Night, which tells the story of the Holocaust. Each book was serious, depressing, or - officially speaking - tragic.

I got pretty upset about this. I had started to realize that many scholars of English literature only considered serious works to be "good" while funny books weren't even worth discussion, and that didn't sound right to me at all. Why did a book have to make you sad in order to be meaningful?

I think that comedies are just as important to culture as tragedies. Stories that make us laugh or make us satisfied are perhaps even more powerful than stories that make us cry. The power lies within the author's ability to make the reader laugh at surprising things, or be satisfied by an ending that they didn't expect.

In order for a story to teach you something, it has to end in a way that you can't see coming. The easiest way to do this is to create a tragic ending, because there are infinite ways to ruin your characters' lives. But creating an ending that satisfies the reader in a way they didn't think could satisfy them can teach them even more about themselves, and the world, and all the range of emotions within it.

Ratatouille

Who doesn't love a good Pixar movie? I've never really considered any Pixar movie a comedy. It's a kids a movie. Kids movies have a genre all their own. However, Ratatouille was ranked as #27 on Rotten Tomatoes's (a movie review site) on their list of top comedies, which got me thinking. I believe that Remy, the rat-chef is truly a comedic hero. He is an average, but pompous rat. He believes he can do better than his other rat counterparts, and he does. He successfully becomes th chef of his own restaurant, but not without the help of his good friend Linguini. Remy is a true underdog. Rats are gross and dirty-- no one wants them near their food and yet he becomes a world class chef, even though he had to overcome many, many obstacles to achieve his goal. The idea of a rat becoming a chef is ridiculous, and yet Remy succeeds. Remy shows are that we are not always confined to the box that we are born into. Rats can chefs!

Humorous and heartwarming, Ratatouille is a comedy that fits Aristotle's classic definition of a comedy and encourages watchers to look beyond their horizons and dream big.

Wednesday, February 10, 2016

Started from the Bottom

A recent movie I saw this past weekend was St. Vincent with Melissa McCarthy and Bill Murray. I really enjoyed it because it had some humorous parts as well as some serious and realistic parts. A quick summary of the plot is that Vincent (Bill Murray) is a gambler and a drunk that has no money. He lives in a broken house that is dull and boring. Maggie (Melissa McCarthy) and her son Oliver (Jaeden Lieberher) move into the house next door. When Oliver loses his keys he has to ask Vincent if he can stay with him until his mother returns home from work. Vincent eventually becomes Oliver’s babysitter and they form a close relationship. Vincent impregnates a hooker so he begins to prepare himself to become a father. With the help of Oliver, he quits smoking constantly and eases up on the drinking and smoking. In return, Vincent teaches Oliver how to stand up for himself and become a man because his father is not really in the picture. However, his addiction to drugs and alcohol lead him back down a terrible path. He has a stroke in his home and is found by Oliver and his mother. Between Oliver, Maggie, and the hooker/lover, Vincent regains full mobility and lives a happy life with his new child and wife. 

I would consider St. Vincent a comedy according to Aristotle because it is a story of the rise in the fortune of a sympathetic central character. While at first a viewer may not see Vincent a someone they admire, they realize his previous struggles and come to appreciate him more. Specifically, after they realize that he was in the army and saved over 200 soldiers and when he has his stroke. A comic hero does not put much effort into making the audience like them, but rather the audience comes to like them based on their actions. Vincent is a comic hero because he does not perform any actions that make people want to like him. His drinking and smoking around Oliver makes people think he is irresponsible and stupid. Another criteria for a comic hero is that the person needs to be an ordinary person. Vincent is not privileged or have any special talents so he can be considered an ordinary person and therefore a comic hero.

I think this movie is an example that people can really change for the better. They can grow and change, which creates more opportunities for themselves to become successful. They can be successful in life by achieving happiness, earning more money, or even finding true love. A comedy is simply the satisfaction of deserving people succeeding. Vincent clearly succeeds in his life because he has a son, overcomes his alcohol and drug problem, and lives a happy life with his wife and neighbors.

Pee Wee Herman's Big Adventure And How It Defends Aristotle's Comedy

Comedy is a very broad topic and there are a plethora of types of comedy. Aristotle defines comedy as a story of the rise in fortune of a sympathetic central character. In a comedy, there is a comic hero that gains the support from the audience even if they're a person of little charm or worth. Aristotle also suggests that comic figures in a comedy are average in their morals and are ridiculous. However, the most sympathetic comic figures, according to Aristotle, end up proving their real worth through their character in different situations.

Specifically, a Farce Comedy is one containing absurd characters, hilarious improbability, and a plot full of wild coincidences and complications. Based on Aristotle's definition of what a comedy is, Pee Wee Herman's Big Adventure is a comedic film that meets Aristotle's criteria and enhances our understanding of the world such as the human condition, human nature, etc.

Pee Wee Herman is about a main character named Pee Wee who throughout the whole movie, has an obsession with his bike. Even though Pee Wee is a childish man who values his bicycle over everything, he still is someone who fascinates the audience and rises in fortune. Through his whole journey, not only do his friends sympathize with him, but the viewers are forced to because he is so passionate. He ends up losing his bike while visiting his friend and his life completely goes downhill from there. The rest of the movie is his adventure recovering his bike. He initially believes that his evil neighbor who always loved his bike stole it, but a movie cast ended up taking it for their set. By the end, Pee Wee was able to get his bike back.

This movie is a comedy and it is meaningful solely because it helps us understand the world. In life, people own precious things that they take great care of. It's part of human nature to love someone or something, and this comedy enhances this idea through a ridiculous character who loves his bike a little too much. The plot is crazy and Pee Wee goes through many hardships to finally reunite with his bike. Pee Wee is ultimately able to prove his real worth by showing his determination and bravery in his quest for his bike. Comedy allows us to understand parts of life through humorous characters and stories. Pee Wee Herman's Big Adventure not only proves Aristotelian comedy to be true and important, but it also gives us perspective on people's priorities and decision making through humor.

While You Were Sleeping

If you know me, you know that I'm a romantic comedy enthusiast, particularly those of the late 80's through the early 2000's. (The golden age of rom coms if you ask me!)

A lot of people think that these movies are trash and carry no meaning or significance, but I am willing to fight to defend them, especially While You Were Sleeping.

A young Sandra Bullock plays an adorably frumpy cat-owning Lucy, who works as a token collector at a CTA train stop. She fantasizes about a dapper rush hour regular, Peter, one day sweeping her off of her feet, but on Christmas day, he gets mugged and pushed onto the tracks, unconscious. She rescues him, and at the hospital, a nurse tells the doctors that Lucy is Peter's fiancee so that she can visit his room. Due to a series of misunderstandings, Peter's entire family is led to believe that Lucy actually is Peter's fiancee and treat her as one of their own.

If you are familiar with Aristotle's requirements for a comedy, you would be expecting Lucy to marry Peter when he wakes up, move from her tiny apartment to his fancy penthouse in the heart of Chicago, and live happily ever after.

Rather than following this path, Lucy (and the viewing audience) falls in love with Peter's carpenter brother, Jack. After quite a lot of tumult, Jack and Lucy (shocker!!) end up together and get married.

Although this movie does not necessarily follow all of Aristotle's guidelines for a comedy (Lucy doesn't marry the rich lawyer and move up in class and social status) Lucy remains the comedic hero by following her heart and gaining a family.

Tuesday, February 9, 2016

The Tragic Comedy of Edward Scissorhands

In my opinion, Aristotle's definition of a dramatic comedy is very true, and is still shown in works today. In TV and movies, there are tons of moments of dramatic comedy, some go unnoticed while others are more prevalent. I do believe that dramatic comedy is an important art form.

One of my favorite movies, that I have always considered a dramatic comedy is Edward Scissorhands. As strange as this movie may seem, there are so many underlying themes and ideas that really help to prove the points of a dramatic comedy. To go along with Aristotle's defintion, the movie shows ordinary people, a teenage girl named Kim and her family and friends, having their life turned upside down by a robot-human with scissors for hands, making Edward the comic hero. 

The movie focuses on Kim and Edward's life together, and Edward helps to make Kim realize what things in her life and who is important. But, the movie has some dark elements, such as the fact that Edward is constantly taken advantage of because of his lack of social skills, but these things are seen as funny. Edward would be the tragic hero because of his change over the course of the movie, but in the fact that he stays humble and brings a funny light to a pretty otherwise saddening movie is what makes this a tragic comedy.

This movie helps to enhance our understanding of the world. The movie gives such clear lessons about knowing who to have in your life and the problems of judgement. All of this is brought through somethings comedic, tragic, or both. Without the parts of comedy, this movie would be very depressing and not relay the message as well. I really do agree with Aristotle's definition of a tragic comedy and I think that Edward Scissorhands  really does portray this.

Little Miss Sunshine

I will be analyzing one of my favorite movies, "Little Miss Sunshine," in defense of the idea that dramatic comedy is in fact a meaningful art form. Aristotle decided on two main elements that define a comedy: all the major characters must be ordinary people; and the circumstances of the protagonists life go from bad to good. To quote the article given to us on comedy, "A comedy is a story of the rise in fortune of a sympathetic central character."

"Little Miss Sunshine" is the story of a very ordinary family, each member having their own set of problems that they deal with throughout the movie. In this movie, I consider the protagonist to be the same as the comic hero, youngest daughter Olive Hoover. She has been invited to compete in the "Little Miss Sunshine" pageant all the way out in California. She snags the respect of the audience with her seven-year-old charm and they are therefore rooting for her [and her family] the whole film. The only way to get Olive to the competition is to have the entire family pile into their beat up VW bus and take the trip together. An outrageous, hilarious, and completely lovable adventure of course ensues. SPOILER ALERT! Although the family just barely makes it to the pageant in time, and Olive does not even come close to winning, the ending is so fantastic and funny that its a happy ending without technically being a happy ending (one would expect for Olive to win).

One of my favorite things about this movie is how real all of the characters are. Their emotions seem realistic and valid and the entire movie is this weird mix of happy and sad. To me, the movie has always been very on point when it comes to accurately demonstrating human emotion and relationships, without being overly dramatic or unrealistic. Besides being a great thing about the movie, this closeness to how human nature actually is also strengthens the movie as a meaningful work of dramatic comedy. "Little Miss Sunshine," in its following of the comic hero and her totally average family, is an underdog story with a twist. While Olive did not win the pageant like she wanted, the audience still gets the feeling of satisfaction that typically comes with a comedy and seeing commendable people succeed.


Thursday, February 4, 2016

Music as Poetry: Message Man

h! Eh! Eh! Eh!
Eh! Eh! Eh! Eh!
No no no no no no (Eh! Eh! Eh! Eh!)
Yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah yeah (Eh! Eh! Eh! Eh!)
The loser hides behind
A mask of my disguise
And who I am today
Is worse than other times
You don’t know what I’ve done
I’m wanted and on the run
I’m wanted and on the run
So I’m taking this moment to live in the future
Release me from the present
I’m obsessing, all these questions
Why I’m in denial
That they tried this suicidal session
Please use discretion when you’re messing with the message man
These lyrics aren’t for everyone
Only few understand
"Message Man" by Twenty-One Pilots is a poem. The lyrics use rhyming, metaphor, and inference in order for the singer to illustrate his meaning of the song. He rhymes certain phrases that connect with each other, either because of what they are describing or if they are connecting key phrases or ideas. Rhyming allows a listener, or this case reader, to connect all parts of the song because they have a pneumonic device to trigger their memories of other lyrics. In terms of metaphor, the entire song is a metaphor for communication. The singer is trying to explain that because of assumption and blurred lines between people and ideas, a person can be constantly misunderstood. That leads to feelings of anxiety and discourse for most parties involved. Pilots uses inference when describing how people need to be careful with the things they share and who they share them with. He knows from experience that when that doesnt happen, trouble usually follows.

Twenty-One Pilots is a great band, and their whole album "Blurryface" is amazing. 

Wednesday, February 3, 2016

Men Search

In the semi-autobiographical novel, A Man’s Search For Meaning, Viktor Frankl describes, in detail, the daily brutality, horrors, and humiliation that stripped so many people of their dignity and humanity in the concentration camps as well as his own struggle to find a sense of meaning in the face of such lifeless horror.
Frankl shares that eventually one's normal reactions to the shock, pity, and disgust, simply shut down and he/she is left in a state of relative apathy. The reader then begins to think that with only callousness can one endure such horrific circumstances. However, in spite of the tragic circumstances, Frankl suggests that the type of prisoner one becomes, regardless of the brutal constraints, depends on some interpersonal decision, not just unchangeable environmental conditions. According to Frankl, even at a time and place where every bit of freedom seems to have been stolen, in the even most deprived conditions one can find: the freedom to choose one’s attitude toward one's own suffering.
While reading Frankl’s piece, I couldn’t help but relate it to an excerpt taken out of Henry Miller’s Wisdom of the Heart. A collection of short stories and essays that he wrote during World War II.

“There is an illusion of ‘end,’ a stasis seemingly like death. But it is only an illusion. Everything, at this crucial point, lies in the attitude which we assume towards the moment.”

-Henry Miller (1891-1980)

Monday, February 1, 2016

Singer's Solution to Poverty

I really liked Singer's solution to world poverty, although it was quite provocative and blunt. Although the notion of Americans and the rest of the world giving up everything excessive except for the bare necessities in favor of money to charities is harsh advice, it does hold some merit in that it would most likely greatly reduce world poverty. However I have some concerns to this theory. This theory completely eliminates the idea of wealth or surplus besides food and shelter. This may seem melodramatic, but this could potentially slow down the evolution of society. If we applied this theory, we would eliminate technology which has helped civilization grow for centuries. Isn't part of evolving as a society finding things to do with our wealth and surplus other than living for basic survival? Although it does of course seem reasonable to donate money to children, I feel like donating until we all only survive with bare necessities is not a practical or ideal solution.

Singer and Poverty

With the growing problem of wealth inequality Peter Singer offers a solution, although it is somewhat controversial. His solution is that everybody who has any money to spare should give it to charity in order to alleviate global suffering, While this solution certainly seems like it could work, there are quite a few flaws. For one, it is a pretty unrealistic solution. Almost nobody in today's society would even want to give up all of their extra money to someone else. Many would prefer to split that money between things they want and charitable donations. In fact, the US donates more money to charity as a percentage of income then any other country. In addition, it makes no sense within our current economic system to even attempt such a solution. In any mixed market economy it makes no sense to give all of our money to charity because then there is no way to support most of the industries within the economy.

I think that the appropriate response to the crisis brought to light by Singer is somewhere along the lines of what we have been doing so far. Of course, there are still many problems in the world. But, the solution isn't to spend every cent not spent on necessities on charity. The solution, in my opinion, is to further encourage charitable contribution without saying that you need to give x amount in order to actually make a difference.

Why Can't We All Be Saints?

I believe singer's fundamental argument is that we have internalized the ideologies on which capitalism is based. We, like Bob and his Bugatti, believe we are entitled to all of our unnecessary possessions because we have bought them with our hard-earned money. Material possessions have become extensions of our identities (like the cars we choose to drive or the clothes we choose to wear) and have become increasingly difficult to part with. We are perfectly content with our excess.

In reality, we have simply gotten lucky. We live comfortable lives and have opportunities to make money because of where and when we were born. Humans' access to food, water, and shelter is based on something arbitrary. Singer's response is simple: no individual is inherently more entitled to the basic necessities of life than another. One's excess is another's deficit. I think most of us would agree, yet we are unable to shake the entitlement that capitalism has instilled in us.

Unless we actively work to uproot the system of capitalism from our lives, we are perpetuating it. We are all aware of its detrimental effects and its illusory nature. Singer's thesis is radical and idealistic, but it is only unrealistic if we want it to be. There is no reason why we can't all be saints.

Fixing Poverty

Singer's argument is very passionate and inspiring, but the thought of suffering and not being allowed to enjoy my life as comfortable as you want to, because someone doesn't have what you have will never ever happen. Not for the reason of that everyone is too selfish but because life doesn't work that way. Nothing is ever just given out. Sadly hunger is a very serious topic and is plagued around the world in many nations, but there must be a better solution to the problem than to pull an ole "If I cant have it you can't either", type system.

A Gradual Help

As much as I enjoyed Singer's writing, I couldn't help but feel attacked by him. I have a job and therefore do have the extra $200 in my bank account that Singer keeps referring to, but does it mean that now, by not donating it, I am subjecting a child to death? It made me feel dirty and embarrassed that I might otherwise spend that money on a want of mine, rather than this child's need- even though I am only 18. Of course when I get older, and have a steady job I will have the extra $200 again, which I have already planned on sending to starving children. I can't stand to watch the UNICEF commercials knowing that when I get an uncomfortable hunger between fourth and fifth period it is significantly different from what these children are feeling. But, Singers argument that a man would rather save his car than a child floored me. I couldn't even imagine the type of person that could choose his car over a person's life and not feel an immense amount of guilt for the rest of his or her life.

 I can't believe that Singer wants every person to chuck tens of thousands of dollars overseas each year (and frankly, I doubt he cuts his paycheck in half as well as he expects us to do). But, if we could instead get thousands, or millions, of people to give a tens- a hundred dollars each as a community, couldn't the people be more willing to donate next time if we did it collectively? Something simple as a go fund me could raise millions of dollars if everybody, instead of buying their $10 Starbucks breakfast, donated the same amount. And then again donated in the next week. Fishing out thousands as Singer wants at once turns people away because they are suddenly short that much, while just a couple here or there is a gradual decrease.
Even so, one shouldn't give all that money to one charity. If the money is spread among local, national and world charities, yes one will not get as much, but by only donating to starving children overseas we are forgetting about problems in our own backyard. To some people helping animals in rescue shelters in their own town, or war veterans will make more of an impact to them than a child they will never meet, and that decision is entirely up to them.

The Meaning of Suffering

"Man's Search for Meaning," by Viktor Frankl, is the story and journey of a man being held in an Auschwitz concentration camp. The author explains how the mindset of a man can alter the longevity of their life and how they go about living it. The book poses the question,  "How was everyday life in a concentration camp reflected in the mind of the average prisoner?" Frankl uses a psyhcotherapeutic method that involved identifying a positive purpose or goal and then actively imagining how one could achieve it. He believed that the mind had more impact on one's life, rather than physical experiences or ailments. He summarizes that a prisoner goes through three stages while part of a concentration camp: they experience shock when first entering the compound, then apathy which motivates them to act in ways that only keep themselves and their friends alive, and finally the loss of morality or personality which leads to delusions of liberation or survival.

But Frankl does support the notion that there is value in suffering. It can teach you that regardless of the condition of your life, a person must maintain a look on the future, in order to survive the present. In the simplest terms, suffering allows a person to hope, which is an extremely powerful and inspirational force in the right circumstances.

In King Lear, the suffering Lear experiences leads him to realize his past follies and acquire a sense of empathy and remorse. He would not have fought against his evil daughters or repaired his relationship with Cordelia if he had not experienced a sense of dread and sorrow. Even though he died, he finished his last few hours with his daughter who he truly loved, and who loved him back.

A Rich Man's World

Before reading the article by Peter Singer I had a pretty strong opinion of money. My father works in finance and growing up in a decently conservative household I've always felt that donations are always nice and greatly appreciated, but not always necessary. Not that my family never donates to any causes, but we are just fairly particular in what we choose to do with our money. Yet, we definitely are the type of people to spend money on lavish vacations and home construction/re-modeling.

After reading this article my opinion was not altered to a huge amount. Great points were made about donating money and the benefits of it, but sometimes it seems all too distant to me. I'd much rather help with a local organization where I can see what my money is doing and how it is affecting people. The tough thing is although there are certainly plenty of problems/poverty in the United States, there are greater struggles abroad that Americans are donating to help to. It can often be difficult to donate your money when you're not seeing any of the results. Who exactly are you helping? What exactly is your money being used for? Personally, this is what would make me a bit reluctant to donate. 

I personally felt that this article was a bit to the extremes. Truly, my mind does not work exactly as Singer's does and I am not constantly thinking about how each and every decision I make will affect my life and those lives around me. Additionally, I live from my parent's money so it is not typically up to me what money we donate, etc.

Someone also made a great point on the blog about donating your time rather than money. This is an especially great idea because it gives much more of an experience and can help you realize what people are going through and you're helping people face to face rather than just giving money and that's it.

Oceans Away

Peter Singer's article discussed what our obligations are to help people who are less fortunate than ourselves. He used a couple different metaphors to explain his point. Both metaphors, the one in which the woman has to decide whether or not to take back a boy she unknowingly gave to an organ peddler and the one in which the man has to decide whether or not to save his car or a distant child from a runaway train, can be easily compared to our personal decision of whether or not to give our money away to help dying people. However, it is hard for people to see it that way. We consider the woman a monster if she does not take the boy back and the man evil if he chooses to save his car over a child. Yet it is not often that people choose to give their money away to charities that could save a child's life instead of spending it on themselves. The children seem so far away that they hardly exist in our minds and we are always doubtful that our money will even do anything to help them. We are also stuck in the mindset that we don't need to give away our money because other people will do it for us. Why give $200 to a charity if someone across the country will give that charity $1,000? Someone else will always make up for our shortcomings. With that mindset, no money will ever be donated to charity and thousands of children's lives will not be saved. We all hope that we would choose to save the child over our car, but it's easy for us to say that while sitting at home on a nice couch with oceans obstructing our view of the endangered children. I agree with Singer's general argument, a privileged person does have an obligation to give a portion of money away to those who need it much more than them. But I don't know how much they should be obliged to give. As someone who lives off of my parents' income, it is harder for me to know what a good amount is. But I like the analogy of giving a substantial amount of money away to parts of Bob's body being amputated by the train. Eventually, the privileged person will no longer be living a comfortable life. If their life is more comfortable than the dying person in another country, should they continue to  give more? I'm not sure that I know the answer.

Distribution of Wealth

In King Lear, Lear declares that his surplus of wealth should have been used to lessen the gap between those in poverty and those of wealth. This more even distribution of wealth would thus give every person the equal chance which they deserve. Peter Singer mirrors this ideal in "Singer Solution". He proposes that those who have excess funds, rather than spending it on themselves and luxuries, that have become so common in American's daily lives, they should donate the money that is not spent on necessities to a worthy cause which will save the lives of impoverished children. 

While, in theory, this concept is simple and easily accomplished, it also has faults. These faults lie within the behavioral patterns which our society has so carefully bred. In our modern, materialistic society, having more expensive products within one home is a sign of prosperity which in turn implies favorable social standing. Being programmed with a mantra of "more, more, more" our wallets are open to those items which impress rather than good moral standing. It is often not until someone is put in a position of the less fortunate that they want to help the less fortunate. Just like in King Lear, people are not willing to give up their opportunities to have these extra luxuries until they have already lost it.