Tuesday, February 28, 2017

Mean Girls: High School in a Nut Shell

Nothing says high school like four girls ruling the school and making fun of everyone else's little flaws and insecurities, right? Wrong! Sure, there is gossip and drama here and there but it is nothing like the movie Mean Girls portrays. In the movie, four girls, known as "the plastics", are the top of the food chain at their high school. They wear pink on Wednesdays, drink on the weekends, eat only low-fat foods, and fight over the hottest guys at school. 

Anyone who goes against the plastics has their own label that they have to deal with. There are the jocks, the nerds, the goth kids, and so on. No one is just simply a teenager. And, when it comes down to it, the plastics end up turning on each other and exposing flaws that each member has in order to retain popularity and be the one left "on top". 

What's the point of all this nonsense, you ask? I think that it's pretty clear that the whole story line is a hyperbole in itself. It exaggerates the stereotypes of high school, emphasizing the bad parts primarily. Doing so in a friendly manner allows the audience to understand the message that the creators were trying to convey while not getting offended or uncomfortable. 

The movie is able to touch upon some very important topics even if it does not seem like it right off the bat. It teaches its audience about unnecessary social hierarchies that are sometimes created in high school. All that this creates are students who do not feel as though they can be themselves and people fighting to put others down so that they themselves can rise up. It also conveys the message that high school is a tricky time and that being a teenager is hard enough. There is no need to get involved in drama or other bad situations, since all that does is take away from the high school experience.

By over exaggerating high school stereotypes, the movie Mean Girls is able to emphasize important messages in a way that is easy to understand and talk about.   

Onions Have Layers

The Onion is an illegitimate news source known for its satirical commentary on everything from elections to popular culture. In an article featuring references to food stamps, the Onion captures the judgmental position many hold towards those who need to use food stamps. The article, titled "Woman A Leading Authority In What Shouldn't Be In Poor People's Shopping Carts," illustrates the dramatic class divisions present in today's society.

The parody features Carol Gaither having said every classist comment in the book, several of which appear in a single paragraph:

"Sources said that Gaither, in addition to being a noted scholar of how the indigent squander her tax dollars at the supermarket, is able to detect with astonishing frequency instances in which poor people claim they are unable to pay their own grocery bills yet, seconds later, pull out a brand new cell phone that's far nicer than the one Gaither herself owns. Moreover, as one of the most respected voices concerning the poor's flawed eating habits, Gaither reportedly possesses the ability to instantly assess when people on public assistance keep coming back to the same fatty foods that pretty much explain how they came to look like that in the first place."

These assumptions prove that the fictional woman, like her very real peers, are willfully ignorant when it comes to the struggles of those in poverty. It does not occur to Gaither that the poor can own 'luxury' items because they may not always have been in poverty, and that in places where there are many below the poverty line are often located in 'food deserts', unable to access much food with any nutritional value. Her later comment generalizing that all poor people have too many children to feed ignores the fact that too many women in poverty have little to no access to birth control, much less abortions. The use of irony in the final sentence where an acquaintance of Gaither's says, "If only these people could be as perspective as [Gaither] is." This presence of irony effectively calls out those who think they know everything about navigating daily life in poverty, despite the fact that they have never been in poverty. In taking a cynical view of these actions, the Onion effectively discourages its readers to act in this way.

15 Million Merits

Recently gaining more attention, Black Mirror episodes are primarily satirical commentary on different aspects of society and the way it functions. One episode that stuck out in particular for me is "15 Million Merits." Beware - spoilers and details about the episode are ahead.

"15 Millions Merits" is the second episode of the first season of Black Mirror, and was originally released in 2011. It is set in a dystopian future in which most people must ride exercise bikes to power their world and earn merits, which are their form of currency. Their society is highly driven on the amount of merits one has, and what they can buy with those merits. People can also use merits to skip advertisements that come on screens while they are riding the exercise bikes or in their rooms.

The main character, Bing, is a man who has inherited 12 millions merits after his brother died. The plot really begins when Bing meets Abi, who is an incredible singer. One of the most expensive items  a person can buy is a ticket to perform on a game show called Hot Shot, which costs 15 million merits. Bing convinces Abi that she should audition, and gifts her a ticket. She performs after being drugged with a compliance drink called Cuppliance, and the judges tell her that they have no place for an "Above Average Singer." They then offer her a position as an adult actress which she accepts, and following this, Bing returns to his room without Abi and with hardly any merits. This becomes an issue when a pornographic commercial featuring Abi comes on the screen in Bing's room, and he is unable to skip it because he does not have enough merits. Following this, Bing begins to save up his merits until he can afford a ticket to Hot Shot for himself. Bing begins by performing a dance routine, and at the end of his audition breaks down and delivers a speech, which you can watch here.

The entire episode, and especially Bing's speech, is a commentary on how we place so much emphasis on material things that truly have no substance. We as a society have become heartless; we can feel nothing in violence portrayed by media, we can buy into a system that thrives on an imaginary concept of worth, and we can separate ourselves based on how much of something we have. Additionally, there is an element of body image and how it plays into a person's abilities and worth, which strikes many similarities with what we value today in our society.

Following Bing's speech, the judges applaud him for his "performance" and offer him his own show, where he can talk freely about what he thinks is important. He accepts, and is removed from his everyday position of cycling, in addition to getting a larger room with an actual window. All of this goes to show that when offered, even those who think they have figured out the system will still buy into it when given a good opportunity.

Tuesday, February 21, 2017

Comedy in a American Workplace

The Office as a comedic show based on a paper company in Scranton, PA.  The day to day antics are caught on camera by a disruptive film crew following the employees of the office around.  Although the average episode doesn't fit into the Aristotelian definition of a comedy, the shows plot turns into one.

As the show progresses farther and farther along the quick jokes and small pranks stay included, they're pushed out of the limelight as the lives of the individuals become the real focus.  Pam and Jim become the most recorded and the "film crew" tells the couple that they are the reason they're still filming after ten years.  The obstacles that their relationship face is the plot of the show in the later seasons, allowing The Office to slip under the Aristotelian definition of comedy.

The show fitting under this definition not only adds to it, but was also very important for the viewers of the show.  As it continued the small short-lived laughs are not enough to keep an individual watching.  As the plot comes into focus and Jim and Pam's lives are followed, interest is regained.  The finale drops the curtains in front of a happy family, moving on from the office that they'd worked in for all the years on camera.

Monday, February 20, 2017

Is that an American Dad?

Don't you just love America. Land of the free and Home of the Brave? Men all around generous selfless and will help everyone they come past. Women freedom to be themselves and do what they want. Teenagers or young adults know how to become better leaders. Also, the best pets you can ever ask for. We do such a great job selling America being great but according to American Dad that is not the case at all.

In American dad we have Stan Smith who played the average American Dad but it is the complete opposite of what people think of men are. He is foolish, stereotypical, selfish, hilarious (without trying to be) and just an overall jackass we see in many rich white males. He also has a gun everywhere he goes and uses it without any cause. Francine smith is the average housewife who cooks and clean on such a routine that it might actually kill her if she stops and has to constantly make herself look good to please her husband. She also has to please everyone. Then you have Steve and Haley. Steve a dorky kid whose hormones levels are so high he might be able to hump anything at this point and Haley a stoner who pretends to care about the planet and others until she needs to make personal sacrifice. Heck Roger the alien who is by far the funniest character in the show might be more human than he is portrayed.

Yet this story is portrayed the way it is to shown. That Americans are not these great people like people in other countries may be. Each episode tends to focus on one character attributes and a little of the other ones. So for this example I will be using Stan Smith episode when he thought his next door neighbors were terrorist. The episode is very hilarious I will give it and will be shocked if you don´t laugh. However, the episode is about to middle eastern couples who just moved down the street and immediately he thinks they are terrorist. He frisked them, hid cameras in their house and even locked them up behind an electrified fence. How crazy can you be. Than you have the Francine tricking everyone that it's a party idea so everyone won´t hate them. The show is really funny, but shows that men like Stan Smith think everyone is out to get them and is so delusional that they will do anything to keep them in check.

The show has some interesting things about how Americans function. As bad as I want to say that this is not true it is and a lot of people can't handle the truth. It's easier to process things like this through comedy because it's not suppose to be taken seriously. Many grown people watch shows like this and will laugh without knowing that they are laughing at themselves because that's exactly how they act.

Sunday, February 19, 2017

Humor At The Office

The american television hit show The Office, is a nine season long comedy that displays the life of ordinary people in humor kind of way. The show takes place at a paper company in Scranton PA, where an idiotic boss, Micheal Scott, dwells in the life of his employees. The Office is set as a documentary, to persuade the audience of its realism to exacerbate the ordinary lifestyle portrayed though the characters. Some of the main employees include Jim Halpert, Pam Beasly, and Dwight Schrute who are some of the most popular characters in the show. Throughout the series, the audience experience the life of a not so typical office, from the diverse personality intermix in an ordinary setting. For example throughout the series Jim Halpert, a sarcastic prankster, pranks Dwight Schrute, an eccentric salesman, for his entertainment in a professional workplace. This kind of interaction between a diverse set of characters gives the show its humor.

The show continues to use the interactions between the characters as entertainment but toward the end of the series, Aristotle's definition of a comedy becomes relevant. As the seasons continued the ordinary life at the office is mostly static, but to keep things interesting, minor problems occur, like the bankruptcy of the company to engage its audience. Towards the last few seasons their ordinary lives become some what more interesting as they find love, their dream career, and fulfillment in their lives. From this, Aristotle's definition of a comedy becomes true. From ordinary lives, the characters rise up to pursue their dreams and fulfillment, which in some sense we are all trying to acquire.

The office is a wacky tv show, that is worth the watch. Its humor derives through ordinary people with  unordinary interactions and at the same time fulfills the definition of comedy that Aristotle describes. The characters come from somewhat of a low point as they continue their lives at a paper company until they find what they where looking for at the end of the series, making this series a true Aristotelian comedy.

Friday, February 17, 2017

"Good Morning, Good Evening, and Good Night": Defending Dramatic Comedy

Peter Weir's movie, The Truman Show, details the life of Truman Burbank. Truman was raised from infancy to adulthood by a corporation in an improbably ideal, utopian community known as Seahaven. As Truman grew up in this simulated community, his life was filmed for a television show aptly named “The Truman Show”. When Truman finally discovered the truth about his existence, he decided to escape. The movie concludes with Truman escaping Seahaven, leaving one reality for another. In his escape from Seahaven, Truman is depicted walking on water and climbing the "stairway to heaven". Truman represents a character with tremendous agency. The movie opens with Truman questioning his very existence. The movie closes, however, with Truman determining his existence. He makes a transition from being powerless to being all-powerful - a god. Thus, The Truman Show may be considered a dramatic comedy in the Aristotelian sense as it depicts a significant rise in the fortune of a sympathetic central character.

The Truman Show conveys several critical messages, albeit usually in a satirical way. Especially in light of the inauguration of Donald Trump and the "alternative facts" phenomenon, public debate over the way the media manipulates public opinion, embellishes stories, and deliberately creates fictions that masquerade as facts is widespread. The Truman Show encourages individuals to accept information as being true only after it has been closely examined - in other words, to be skeptical. The Truman Show also conveys the idea that - just as Seahaven was unreal - commercialization and the "American Dream" are false and hollow concepts. In today's world, corporations prescribe guidelines for how individuals should think and act in order to push product. The Truman Show’s message serves as a call to action. Individuals should actively resist the prescribed “realities” forced upon us. Thus, although The Truman Show depicts a world that is unreal and contrived, its messages, nevertheless, remain universally relevant.

O Comedy Where Art Thou?

I absolutely think that comedy enhances the modern world. My choice for this post is the Coen Brothers' film, O Brother Where Art Thou? (OBWAT), and it fits Aristotle's requirements for a comedy well enough to make my point.

The protagonist, Ulysses Everett McGill, of OBWAT is by no means a spotless hero, but he has loads of charm. He is a witty man who was thrown in prison for practicing law without a license, so he is very charismatic. Everett manages to escape, and the movie details his road back to his family, to remarry his wife. The film does end with him reconnecting with his wife, so it ends with the promise of a marriage, the way a true Aristotle comedy should. (However, she is sort of bickering with him, even in the last scene). 

This happy, but realistic, ending provides one of the reasons comedy enhances our world: it gives us something to draw hope from. People can look at Everett, someone who is in a bad situation with a seemingly unreachable goal, and watch him succeed using skills he already had. 

The same way that we can value tragedy for reminding us of the shortcomings of man, comedy can make us think that we can overcome the obstacles that are in our way. In modern days, comedies also usually make us laugh and uplift us. I am not sure why people perceive tragedy and suffering as more important or poetic than comedy and happiness, but I can say with confidence that OBWAT tells just as complex a story has many renowned tragedies without having to end in spectacular deaths.

I Believe I Can Fly

The film Eddie the Eagle (2016) is a perfect example of a dramatic comedy by Aristotle's definition. Throughout the film, Eddie struggles to accomplish his dream of becoming an olympic athlete. Eddie is an average man who goes on an adventure to pursue his goal. He is pushed back by many people in his life, specifically his dad, who say that he is wasting time and will never be able to be successful. When he leaves his house, Eddie eventually ends up at a ski jumping place. When Eddie starts, he is really bad and is lucky to not die on his first few ski jumps. When he fails, an old olympian begins to train him and he progressively becomes a better athlete.

Aristotle's definition of a dramatic comedy is fulfilled in the end when Eddie reaches his dream and becomes an olympian. Eddie goes from being a terrible athlete with no assistance to an olympic ski jumper against all odds. With the definition of Aristotle's dramatic comedy, Eddie is the main character who works hard to have a rise in power and success. Throughout the movie, Eddie has no support until he gets to the Calgary olympic games. Against all odds Eddie reaches his lifelong goal and fulfills Aristotle's definition.

Eddie the Eagle is an excellent example of Aristotle's definition of a dramatic comedy. The main character Eddie makes an effort to become something from nothing, with motivation from his dreams. Against all odds, this story is a feel-good story that has an underlying Aristotelian comedy. 

It's Kind of a Funny Comedy

As Aristotle defines it, "A comedy is a story of the rise in fortune of a sympathetic central character." Now, in order for a character to "rise", they must first start at a low point. It's Kind of a Funny Story, starring Keir Gilchrist and Zach Galifianakis, starts at the lowest of lows. The movie begins with the protagonist, Craig, an extremely depressed high school student, attempting suicide by considering jumping off a bridge. Due to pressure of applications, his social life, and his not-so understanding parents, Craig reaches his breaking point. As Craig checks himself into a metal hospital, viewers start to feel sympathy for Craig.

Things begin to brighten however, as we are introduced to Bobby and Noelle, two characters whose crude humor and vivid smiles shine light on Craig's situation. As more days go by within the hospital, Craig pushes away his negative thoughts and starts dwelling on his possibilities. By the time it's time for Craig to check out, he is a vastly different person. He even begins dating Noelle, completely eradicating any emotions he had towards his ex-girlfriend.

This gradual dramatic, but also comedic, rise in fortune is exactly the comedy Aristotle is defining. It's Kind of a Funny Story, is the eventual rise of a sympathetic character, which almost perfectly replicates a traditional comedy in the modern era.

Mad Comedy in a Mad World: How Monty Python and the Holy Grail Redefined Comedy

Upon the mere mention of the film Monty Python and the Holy Grail, several lines or images may come to mind. Whether you remember the Knights Who say Ni, the horrifically silly battle with the Black Knight, or the clapping of coconuts to simulate horses, two aspects of the movie consistently remains present: the normalization of the abnormal and the "abnormalization" of the normal. The rest of this post will contain SPOILERS, so do not read this if you don't want to be spoiled on the ending of the film.

Before tackling the way the Holy Grail presents itself as being purposefully unhinged from reality, I must analyze the aspects it shares with Aristotle's idea of the comedy. The plot is rather simple: Arthur, King of the Britains, gathers together the Knights of the Round Table to search for the legendary Holy Grail on a mission from God himself. Despite the timeless charm of the story of a quest for greatness, the film flips the story on its head by focussing more on comedy than characters and making the quest amusingly unfortunate.
Almost none of the main characters of the film fit the role of Aristotle's idea of the lowly-yet-witty hero. King Arthur comes across as an over-pompous leader trying to solidify his role in the story, while also trying to maintain a sane disposition in an insane world. He proudly debates with peasants about his own right to rule Britain in the face of more feasible, modern forms of government an recruits Sir Bedevere the Wise for proving that witches must weigh the same as ducks. He initially seeks to gather a group of knights to go to Camelot, but claims that the idea is "too silly" after a song-and-dance number within Camelot. Arthur acts as the story's straight man and gives definition to the story. In this manner and many others, the Holy Grail sets up a binary between the grounded quest for the Grail and the insanity of the world of Arthurian England. As to the story involving a rise in the protagonist's fortune, I'd like to discuss that as I discuss the ending.

Whereas most story-driven comedies rely on character chemistry for humor, the Holy Grail rightly relies on the skit-like challenges spread throughout the knight's quest and its own satirical take on the traditional film narrative. The scene that best represents how the film generally represents absurdity, in my opinion, is the witch scene. When the scene begins with a village attempting to claim that a costumed woman is a witch, the skit is grounded to something relatable in a nod to the Salem witch trials, which is further emphasized by Sir Bedevere's attempt to seek logic in the situation. However, Bedevere's claims, which include that witches must float in water and that they are made out of wood quickly drag the scene back into the absurd. Bedevere's final conclusion that witches must weigh the same as ducks provides some solace to the situation, as the woman has essentially been acquitted of witchcraft. Yet, in the final scene where they weight the woman and duck, the peasants claim that the woman is a witch before the scale equalizes, showing the hopelessness of logic in the world of the Holy Grail. This exchange parallels the relationship between absurdity in reality in the film; any attempt to drive the story in a reasonable direction are swiftly thwarted by either the shattering of the 4th wall or the natural absurdity of the Middle Ages. The ending however, is what truly makes it distinct from other comedies.

The Grail is found at last, but in a castle controlled by the French soldiers from earlier in the film. A numerous amount of soldiers appear from the horizon out of nowhere ready to fight for Arthur, presumably in a grand, final battle to conclude his quest. However, before the battle can even start, a modern day police car drives in front of the moving soldiers, who then take Arthur into an armored van and drive away the rest of the soldiers, who cower in fear despite outnumbering the police. The reason for Arthur's arrest: the slaughter of a historian attempting to narrate the quest early in the film. As the historian's wife points out Arthur as the man who killed her husband and the rest of the knights are arrested, a police officer approaches the cameraman, shuts off the camera, and ends the film. In complete contrast with Aristotle's comedy, the Holy Grail ends in complete and utter failure for the main protagonists in a twist completely out of left field. This failure, however, is not completely unprecedented. Arthur and his knights are extremely unsuccessful in each of their battles, running away from the French, the white rabbit, and the Black Beast of Aaaarrrggh, so the twist isn't in complete opposition to the story.

Overall, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, is not only a satire of the fantasy film genre, but of logic and reality itself. The frailty of both concepts in the film open up the boundaries to the jokes that can be made and give the film its unique identity. The zaniness of many of the films scenes are emphasized by cheap effects, a unique visual style, and an overall sense of confusion that keeps the audience unaware of what will happen next, but able and willing to laugh. These elements not only make the film funny, but also memorable. The images of a tall imposing figured stopped in his tracks by the word "it", a stubborn knight who calls a draw after losing all of his limbs, or something as simple as coconut halves to imitate the sound of horse hooves will always be linked back to this film. All in all, Monty Python and the Holy Grail shows how comedy should altogether be a formless concept defined by those who weld it - comedy has no formula.

Ryan Gosling, Aristotle, and Russell Crowe

The Nice Guys directed by Shane Black, is an action comedy based in late 1960s LA. The plot revolves around a hit-man with a conscious who is portrayed by Russel Crowe. And a father, scam artist, and private detective, Ryan Gosling. The two of them have a similar case that a starts to get messy and they have to join forces to battle the Detroit Auto Company, mob, and a dead porn stars legacy.  The two are a diatomic duo, who take pleasure in jabs and amusing remarks. Terribly ill prepared for their case they spend most of the film stumbling around in the dark looking for a light switch in order to understand the maze of questions and missing ends of their case.  To our standards this film easily fits our definition of comedy, making us laugh and cheer on our heroes or sad detectives. But does it hold up to Aristotle views of how comedy should be portrayed. I would argue that yes it does. The film focuses on these two characters and how their lives improved in the face of adversity. The film also lends its hand to a social problem's and questions of individuality.

Family Guy: Satire full of Idiocy

If you have ever watched Family Guy then you may have reported losing brain cells due to the stupidity filled into every episode. Peter who is the main character is a middle aged working man that is borderline mentally disabled. The whole show is his wacky adventures and situation that he puts himself and his family through. Most people think it is a stupid show for the less gifted minds of the world but if you pay attention to some of their gags then you will see that they actually have a real message. In the first episode "Death has a Shadow" Peter gets fired from his job from sleeping on the job thus allowing dangerous children toys to be released to the public. He then files for welfare and realized that they gave him way to much money per month. He decided that instead of telling the government he will spend the money every month to allude suspicions. He is caught and right before he is sent to jail his youngest son Stewie uses a mind control device to trick the judge into declaring Peter not guilty and letting him go home. It is very silly and kind of funny but the message in the story was to make fun of the people who steal taxpayers money by being on welfare to avoid getting a job. This was not intended for people who actually need welfare. This was intended for individuals who lives off the government and rips off taxpayers when they are fully capable of getting a job and supporting themselves. At the end they take it a step further by stating that next time he will do a sexual harassment suit or a disability claim. He pokes fun at people who file fake sexual harassment charges and disability claims to steal money from the government. Family Guy has a lot of messages filled into every episode and understanding the messages help you appreciate the show more.  

Juno: Meaningful and Funny

Aristotle defines comedy as an increase in fortune of a sympathetic main character. A typical Hollywood version of this is the romantic comedy, where the main characters, who the audience roots to be together throughout the movie, finally do at the end. However, recently, there has been a shift away from this typical comedy, to comedies that are a little more intense and dramatic. In these comedies, the comedic elements serve to lighten the experience for the audience, while more intense themes a and character experiences are explored. This recent trend is now most popular in TV shows, but one movie that fills this, and fits both the mold of a romantic comedy, and Aristotle's definition of comedy is the movie Juno.

The comedy in this movie is its central point, and is developed through the main character, Juno’s journey dealing with her pregnancy in high school. The comedy come through the situations she is put into and her response to them as well as her relationship with the other central character, Paulie. Most of the humor comes from the sarcastic tone of Juno’s dialogue.

The movie delves into more intense topics as it shows Juno’s journey trying to decide what to do after an unwanted pregnancy. It gives insight into the human and emotional side of a polarized issue, but through Juno’s sarcastic dialogue, it keeps this discussion grounded. Not only does Juno’s character keep the portrayal of intense situations funny and lighthearted, but the nature of the movie as a romantic comedy allows for the exploration of these themes, without it becoming the main focus of the movie. The movie does have the typical romantic comedy ending, where the two main characters, despite their struggle, end up together. But this in fact enhances the movie, along with the sarcastic main character, allows the movie to present a deeper understanding of a person’s struggle that keeps the audience engaged, amused, and happy.

Groundhog Day: A Romantic Comedy

Groundhog Day, directed by Harold Ramis in 1993, stars Bill Murray and Andie MacDowell. This comedy involves the Bill Murray, playing Phil Connors, a weatherman who travels to a small town in Pennsylvania to cover a Groundhog Day festival and Rita Hanson, a news producer. After some interesting time stops, Phil and Rita fall in love and leave the town together. 

On the way to the town, he grumbles about having to go on this assignment and his coverage is mediocre at best. He wants to leave but a storm prevents them from traveling back to Pittsburgh. Phil Connors fits Aristotle's idea of a comic hero. The citizens in the town fit his idea of ordinary people. They are all going about there day. Some work in the diner, others are delivering the mail, some are headed to work. One steps into a big puddle on their way to work. In the morning, he wakes up on Groundhog Day again. He goes throughout the day thinking he is in a dream but wakes up the next day back on Groundhog Day. He realizes he is stuck in the town and everyday starts back at Groundhog Day. In order to try and break the loop, he commits suicide dozens of different times. This always fails and he starts to fall in love with Rita. After a seemingly perfect day, it starts all over again.

Bill Murray then commits himself to helping the town and spends years honing different skills, such as becoming a piano master, mechanic, and learning when and were someone would be choking in a restaurant. He wakes up one morning and travels around the town with Rita and is always in the right place at the right time. He tells her that no matter what, he will always love her. The two then leave and when they wake up in the morning, it is finally the day after Groundhog Day. 

Groundhog Day is a meaningful art form that expresses a bigger meaning of what is the purpose in life. Phil Connors lived the same day over and over again and did whatever he wanted. Over time, he began to use his predicament as a tool to help others. Little by little he starts to help people in the town. He fixes a car, saves a choking man, and makes everyone else have a great day. He learns compassion for others and what he can do for others in his lifetime.

Waiting For Guffman Leans More Toward Tragedy Than Comedy

Waiting For Guffman is a film by Christopher Guest about a director, named Corky St, Clair, with too much confidence in his abilities and too little actual directing talent trying to get the best performance out of a cast of untalented amateur actors in a poorly written musical. Somehow, Corky and the actors believe that this play will be their big break into the acting scene and seek to impress a talent scout scheduled to attend their opening night.

Over the course of the preparations for the play, a lot goes wrong. Bad acting, people dropping out last minute, and, in one final stroke of bad luck, the talent scout's flight is delayed, and he never even watches the show.Over the course of the film, Corky and the actors are so sure that their show will be a hit and open up a new chapter of their lives, but in the end, their dreams are dashed.

The cast goes back to their lives before the play: waiting tables, retirement, and, in Corky's case, running unlicensed film memorabilia shops. Using Aristotle's definitions of comedy and tragedy, the cast rose up, in classic comedy style, to one successful performance before a surprisingly receptive audience and then fell back to where they started which, considering where they started, is a tragic ending to their story.

The only ray of hope for the cast at the end of the film is seen in the final moments of the film when the individual cast members discuss what they are doing with their lives after the play. Luckily for them (and for the viewer) all of them seem to have moved on from their dreams of performing.

The Heathers (Musical): Dark Comedy

The Heathers fallows Veronica Sawyer as she navigates her senior year of high school at Westerberg high in 1989. The story follows Veronica's interactions with the Heathers, a group of popular girls all named Heather, Ram and Kurt, two brainless football players, Martha, Veronica's obese best friend, and JD, Jason Dean, a messed up solitary boy who interests Veronica.

The story has some of the aspects Aristotle's Comedy. Veronica Sawyer is an average student at Westerberg High, she is somewhat nerdy but doesn't hold an extreme position by any means. Like Aristotle's comic heros Veronica does rise up, after helping the Heathers, and asking a boon of them, Veronica is accepted into their ranks as a "4th Heather". There she gets the popularity and untouchableness of the Heathers but also has to pay for it all by losing her old friends (Martha) and acting as a 'Heather'.

But unlike Aristotle's comedies The Heathers does not end with marriage and happiness. Actually the Heathers follows more of a line of Aristotle's tragedies. Four out of the eight principle characters die, and one of the others attempt suicide. On top of that many of the scenes are situated in rather social situations like the cafeteria or a public bathroom, where as bedroom scenes and more intimate scenes are used quite a bit more in Aristotle's comedies (The Heathers does have it's share of those as well).

Although the Heathers does not really fit Aristotle's definition of comedy, it is still funny. By listening closely to the songs, mainly those in the first act, and an audience member will be laughing. It won't be a laugh of joy, or just of the sheer hilarity of the situation, but rather a laugh of uncomfortably.  At the same time many of these uncomfortable, but funny situations, tackle issues that happen in a setting such as High school. The Heathers talks about issues like: Drug and Alcohol use, Consent, Popularity, Homosexuality, Sexuality, Revenge, Relationships (between friends, Master/Servant, Lovers), to name a few.

The Heathers ends with a hopeful message about being able to be kind even as a teenager without losing who you are and where you stand in the world of High School. And also a message of Forgiveness. In the end even though the Heathers does not follow Aristotle's definition of Comedy to the T, it still is a comedic musical with a message.

Wes Anderson's Truest Comedy

Wes Anderson's 2014 film "The Grand Budapest Hotel" is perhaps the most pure comedy I have seen in sometime. Warning to those who have not seen the film this post will contain spoilers. To begin let us define comedy, I am speaking of Aristotelian comedy in which a character begins the work in low standing and ends up in a much better position by the work's end.

In the case of "The Grand Budapest Hotel" Zero Mustafa is the main character who, as his name implies is a man with nothing, no family, education, or prospects. Zero is taken in by the film's other protagonist M. Gustave who teaches Zero the hotel trade. As the film goes own the two form a close bond as their adventures lead them to great fortune and great loss. In the end of the film Gustave is killed and Zero is left the richest man in Zubrowka (the imaginary country in which the film is set.)

In the film's final act it is revealed Zero feels very lonely in his own massive hotel. The character's sadness is the revealed to be woven through the film and the film's moral is revealed. I enjoyed the film greatly and see it now for what it is a perfect example of Aristotelian comedy with a unique twist worked into the film's conclusion.

Blades Of Comedy

The 2007 movie Blades Of Glory follows two rival figure skaters who partner up in hopes of becoming champions. Will Ferrell and Jon Heder play the two main characters, and they make audiences of all ages laugh out loud. However, laughs are not the only thing that make a comedy, at least according to Aristotle. Aristotle wrote that a comedy is a story of the rise in fortune of a sympathetic central character.

Blades Of Glory opens with two skaters who are down on their luck. They gone as far as they can individually and have no more will to skate. In Aristotle's terms, they are starting from the bottom. This establishes sympathy from the viewers. There are a ton of jokes in between, but these two skaters end up as a duo and win the gold medal. This is an example of a sympathetic character rising up in fortune. They started as bums, but ended as gold medalists.

In this sense, Blades Of Glory is clearly a traditional comedy according to Aristotle. It is a rise of two lovable characters. Not all comedies in modern times are like this though, so it is fun to analyze and find the history and tradition in a new and funny movie.


Bo Burnham has a dark humor that many find funny but also that many find to be very offensive. Though he is very crude and attacks every group of people he can, he always does so with purpose. He is most well known for his work in his 2013 work, what., but he has much more material that has been released as audio. Bo Burnham's work does not fit the traditional definition of an Aristotelian comedy; it doesn't contain the rise and fall of a character and sometimes there is not a happy ending. His work is still comedy. It fulfills the definition of an Aristotelian comedy because he will usually have an important message at the end of each work he produces.
In his third full work, WORDS WORDS WORDS, Burnham plays on words to his advantage while still giving this meaningful message. In his song "What's Funny," Burnham mocks traditional stand up comics and, more specifically, the kinds of jokes that they make. His lyrics throughout WORDS WORDS WORDS are all funny but provide a much deeper meaning for society. Burnham acknowledges what stand up comedians usually talk about by making similar jokes to them, but then he asks the audience "what's funny?" This question brings the audience to question themselves and what they are laughing at exactly.
Similarly, in his work what., Bo Burnham has a song called "Sad" where he points out the comedic nature of tragedy. Throughout the song, he names several tragedies ranging from a blind man named Rich to the Holocaust itself. At the very end of the song, he says "tragedy will be exclusively joked about/because my empathy is bumming me out." Burnham acknowledges the nature of the laughing at horrific events, thus commenting on what society is likely to laugh at and wants the audience to realize the severity of the situation.
In all of his work, Bo Burnham is commenting on society and how flawed it truly is. While he never gives idea on how we can fix the problems at hand, he wants people to know what they are doing wrong even if they aren't always aware of it. His humor attacks the public in the best way possible.

Is Best in Show a Comedy? Spoiler: The Answer is Yes

Before learning about Aristotle's definition of a comedy, I rarely thought about what made a comedy a comedy. In my mind, I would classify any movie that made me laugh as a comedy without recognizing the common aspects present in almost every comedic movie I have ever seen. But after learning a comedy, as defined by Aristotle, is a story of a rise of a sympathetic and ordinary hero that ends in marriage, I soon realized just how many movies fit this description including a favorite of mine, Best in Show.

Best in Show is a mockumentary following five couples and their dogs to and during the Westminster Dog Show as they compete for the award of "Best in Show." Because it is in the mockumentary form, I initially doubted it would fit the description of an Aristotelian comedy but, surprise surprise, it does. Although all five couples play a starring role, the main ones are Gerry and Cookie Fleck, an ordinary, middle-class couple who have a terrier named Winky. The Flecks story arc best fits that of the Aristotelian comedy as Winky wins his category and eventually is named best in show even after Cookie is injured and Gerry (who literally has two left feet) has to walk Winky in the finals. Similarly, three of the other four couples win their categories. Most of these people, despite their quirks, are good people who are average in some way and many feel like underdogs in the competition. One couple's arc even ends in an actual marriage, but you get the feeling the more important "marriage" is that with the dog as the characters who succeed in the competition are the ones who truly love their doggos.

As for being a meaningful art form that enhances our meaning of the world, Best in Show, like many comedies, reveals aspects of human nature through its oddball characters but, for me at least, it makes us question our motives. For the viewer, this movie paints dog shows as a fun event, but ultimately a rather shallow one that brings happiness to a select few while bringing stress and anger to many. This made me wonder what types of activities we all do, not out of love or true passion, but (like the characters of Meg and Hamilton Swan) simply because we have a void to fill. Of course, for me personally this was a very meaningful movie because it introduced me to my life-long passion, competitive dog-breeding (and naming types of nuts).  

Juno as A Meaningful Comedy

Aristotle defined dramatic comedies as having a protagonist with average or below average morals whose life goes from bad to good. A movie that fits with Aristotle's definition of a comedy is Juno. The movie Juno, is about a teenage girl confronting an unplanned pregnancy by her classmate Bleeker. With the help of her best friend Leah, Juno finds her unborn child a “perfect” set of parents: an affluent suburban couple, Mark and Vanessa, longing to adopt. Luckily, Juno has the total support of her parents as she faces some tough decision and ultimately figures out where she belongs.

Juno is a meaningful movie because it is different from many other movies portraying teen pregnancy. Juno does not portray Juno as a weak teenage girl who was coaxed into having sex. Instead, Juno is the one who purposely initiates the sexual encounter with Bleeker. Additionally, Juno is not a clueless girl who did not know that sex comes with a risk of pregnancy. Juno was aware that sex could lead to pregnancy so she made sure to take pregnancy tests early on so she would have time to clearly think through any options she might have to face. When Juno discovers she is pregnant, she does not pick fights with her parents or go through a rebel phase instead she calmly tells her parents about her pregnancy and takes responsibility for her actions. Lastly, Mark and Vanessa, the parents to be, worry about the moral mood swings and unreliability presumed in most pregnant teenagers but Juno keeps her word and gives them the baby. 

Thus, Juno shows us that not all pregnant teenagers are helpless. Pregnant teenagers are able to make important decisions concerning their children and their lives. Juno shows that teenagers can have healthy mindsets that allows them to accept the consequences of their actions.

Shallow? As If!

The movie Clueless, at first glance, appears to be an array of first-world problems mashed up into one hour and a half long story. The main character, Cher, faces a series of occasionally over-dramatized setbacks with some jokes added for comedic effect, and in the end finds love with a boy she despised at the beginning of the film.

Upon closer inspection, however, Clueless has several examples of feminist undertones which can be observed throughout the movie, which itself is an unapologetic display of feminism through three female friends obsessed with clothes, makeup, shopping, and boys- stereotypical "girly" interests. Cher is unafraid to say no when her suspiciously touchy guy friend (Elton) tried to force himself on her. She, Dionne, and Tai had a straightforward, judgement-free conversation about sex, with no shame or stigma surrounding those who have had sex or those who have not. Cher's character development is most evident when she uses her popularity for good by helping out a disaster relief fund near the end of the movie.

The feminism in Clueless is surprisingly quite ahead of its time. Cher and her friends have "girly" interests, yet they are proud of it and their individual character growth by the end of the movie does not affect these interests in the slightest. The film's display of female friendship is quite ahead of its time. It is pictured as effortless, in how Cher easily incorporates Tai into her friendship with Dionne; trustworthy, based on the previously mentioned conversation about sex; and strong, because of Cher and Tai's heart-felt make-up. Clueless is a representation of female friendship and everyday life that is rare to see today. It is genuine, though sometimes over-exaggerated, and does not use femininity as a punch line.

Thursday, February 16, 2017

How Greek is Roman Holiday?

When you hear someone say "romantic comedy", what do you think of? My mind immediately turns to Audrey Hepburn and Gregory Peck crashing through cafe tables and veering in front of buses on a runaway scooter.

1953's Roman Holiday follows Ann, the princess of an unnamed country, goes on a tour of large European cities. Frustrated with her busy, controlling schedule, she sneaks out of the embassy to experience Rome on her own. Under the influence of a sleeping drought, the princess, under the alias "Anya Smith", is taken in by an American reporter who takes her through Rome. The film, preserved in the US National Film Registry, is a regular on "Best Romantic Comedies of All Time" rankings. The film even calls itself an "immortal comedy-romance" on its promotional posters, but just how comedic (according to Aristotle) is Roman Holiday?

No one can deny the like-ability of Roman Holiday's heroine, Princess Ann, and, though she may be royalty, Ann longs for a freer, more ordinary life. Ann's "nobility", like Aristotle's comedic hero, is not derived from her blood, but from her charming personality, endearing quirks, and free spirit. In addition, despite her royal status, Ann's desire to escape, if only briefly, the pressures of her life is very ordinary. Ann does not face politics, death, serious betrayal, or other extraordinary problems. Her romance with Joe Bradley is, in less elegant terms, textbook dreamy, yet inaccessible due to Ann's royal obligations.

In a classic romantic comedy, Ann and Joe would find some way to overcome their barriers, reconcile, and marry. This plot point, however, is where Roman Holiday diverges from the classic definition of comedy. The film ends with Ann ultimately deciding to return to her royal responsibilities and bidding Joe farewell. Joe watches Ann's final interview, Ann secretly professes her love and admiration of Joe, and Joe is left alone, to wonder what might have been. The film's ending nearly disqualifies it from Aristotle's definition of comedy. However, Ann is still young, lively, and bright; abandoning her life in blind pursuit of love, while it may have been romantic, would not have been wise. Ann will, instead of providing the audience with the easy satisfaction of seeing true love prevail, carry her "Roman Holiday" as a fond memory, and retain some of the youthful abandon that carried her through her adventures. Things might seem more glum on Joe's end, but this is Ann's story, a story that launched Audrey Hepburn into fame because of its resonance.

The notion can seem bleak, but almost everyone has something they've given up on. Maybe not every dream meets Hughe's prevised fate. Roman Holiday manipulates the comedic form to deliver an important, albeit concealed message. The true comedy in Roman Holiday isn't Peck's "Mouth of Truth" gag, or Joe and Irving giving up the pictures of Ann, but in Ann's growth: learning to balance responsibility and freedom.

Aristotle and the Modern Comedy

Aristotle's reflection on the elements of comedy include factors such as; the main characters lives changing from bad to good and the main characters leading normal lives. I believe that the romantic comedy "27 Dresses" follows both of these descriptions perfectly. The movie follows Jane, the woman who embodies the idea, "always the bridesmaid, never the bride". At the beginning she is unhappy, as she is in love with her boss (George), who she ends up accidentally setting up with her sister (Tess). Tess consistently lies to George about her life, to the point where they do not truly know the other person. Jane finds love when she meets a cynical journalist (Kevin), who at first she bickers constantly with, but in the end marries.
"27 Dresses" is the perfect example of Aristotle's definition of comedy, and I believe it to be a good example of why Romantic Comedies are a meaningful art form. At the beginning of the movie, Jane has no self respect. She takes care of everyone before herself to an unhealthy extent, especially when it comes to Tess. Although she cares for others so much, she is extremely unhappy, despite the notion that caring for others makes oneself happy in return. Therefore, at the end of the movie, when she ruins Tess and Georges relationship by telling the truth about Tess, her selfishness cannot be seen as a desire to end up with George as she turns down his affections soon after, it is her coming to the realization that being a good person does not mean being a doormat. This important human truth is aided by her marrying Kevin in the end because Kevin advocated for her sticking up for herself instead of treating her like an assistant as Jane's other friends did. Therefore Jane falling for Kevin is a symptom of her growth and not as major as Jane's own self realization that she is important and deserves happiness as much as her friends around her.

10 Things I Love About Comedy

In the 1999 film Ten Things I Hate About You, you meet several comedic and powerful characters in the melting pot that is Padua High. Typical to most Romantic Comedies, this film is centered around a high school love story. At first the characters hate each other only to fall for each other in the end. Aside from the climax ,*SPOILER* when Kat Stratford (our main character) finds out Patrick Verona (her love interest) lied, the film is jam-packed with humor. To make it better each character has his or her own varied form of comedy. When it comes to Kat Stratford she is very sarcastic and blunt with her humor, compared to Michael Eckman who is just a crazy high school goofball. To put this film against Aristotle's idea of what a comedy is, I say this film is 10/10 a comedy.

Aristotle believed that in order for any form of content to be a comedy it must add more depth to our understanding of the world. 10 Things I Hate About You is centered around a high school senior girl who, in the most basic terms, feels no need for any men in her life. She is a feminist, very intelligent, hardheaded, woman who quite frankly scares just about all men away. When Joey Donner offers Patrick Verona a bet to become Kat's prom date ( so Joey can take Kat's sister) this is when things get more interesting. At first it was about the money but of course as soon as Patrick and Kat spend more time together they fall for each other. This shows the audience that people can change us for the better and that the judgements people have on us may be incorrect. As the film progresses, of course Kat finds out that Patrick lied but learns to forgive him because his actions of love stuck with her.  The viewers really get a chance to learn and grow with Ka t Stratford throughout the film, which only adds more emotion and realism to this work of dramatic comedy. So if you are looking for a good movie to make you laugh and teach you some new ways of life, I would highly recommend 10 Things I Hate About You! 

Love Actually: Actually Pretty Meaningful

Love Actually is one of the most popular romantic comedies in America, especially with its holiday theme its hard not to love. Although it is a crowd pleaser, it makes you laugh, cry and even cringe, it also teaches its audience a great deal about the human experience and human nature itself.

As Love Actually shows its different characters and their stories of love, different aspects of human nature, both painful and happy, are revealed. One of the most powerful scenes for me is when Juliet discovers that Mark, her husband's best friend, is in love with her because all of his footage of her wedding is focused on her face only. This scene evokes painful sympathetic painful emotions in the audience for Mark. Although this may be a tough scene to watch,  it shows the audience the uncomfortable truth about how love doesn't always end the way we had expected it to. Movies don't often depict this kind of one-sided love, so its inclusion in a romantic comedy like Love Actually is unique and powerful.

Another character form Love Actually also shows the less popular, painful side to love. Karen finds out that her husband, and the father to her two children has a much younger mistress. As Karen weeps to a Joni Mitchell album, the audience is again shown a painful side of the human experience. Not only does the movie again show us a form of one-sided love, but also the sorrow of heartbreak and the death of love.

Love Actually is a meaningful art form because it shows the audience the more uncomfortable and painful scenes to depict a more honest view of the true human experience. Although some characters to have happy and joyful moments, Love Actually also shows us heartbroken and hurt characters so as to honestly show us the truth about love.

The Greatest Comedies Reveal How Small We Really Are

I am no fan of Aristotle's. I vastly prefer Plato as a thinker and theorist in the Western world. But since we are here to discuss literature and not the widespread mental illness known as philosophy, I must recognize the impact Aristotle had in shaping the compositions and interpretations surrounding Western literary works.
For this post, I am supposed to either defend or dismiss the dramatic Comedy as Aristotle defines it. I believe that Dramatic Comedy can be a meaningful form of art just as a Tragedy is because our lives are simply not tragic. If art always depicted an Aristotelian Tragedy, then it would mostly invite pity parties and crocodile tears, nor would it deepen our insight about the world around us. In other words, art would be quite limited if it only depicted Tragedies. There are aspects of life that are above the notions of a Tragedy. If my story was about a man sitting alone in silence in a meadow while doing absolutely nothing except for staring at a blade of grass for a long time, then smile at the end, it would be a meaningful art form that is a not a Tragedy, but a Comedy. What I think is great about meaningful Comedies is that they can move us not through poignancy as Tragedies do, but through compelling us to look at the beauty around ourselves and simply be happy about it.   

Dante Alighieri's Divine Comedy is one of the most elegant works of Western literature, and it also happens to function as a Comedy. The entire poem is separated into three parts: Inferno, Purgatorio, and Paradiso. At the very start, Dante is "lost" both literally and metaphorically, but he is rescued by the poet Virgil. In Inferno, Virgil guides Dante into the underworld, where people suffer in a form of poetic justice. In Purgatorio, Virgil guides Dante as they ascend the Mountain of Purgatory. In Paradiso, Dante is guided by Beatrice, a woman he deeply admired, through Heaven. In the last lines of the Divine Comedy, Dante meets face to face with the Trinity God. As he finally understands the mysteries of the universe, Dante's soul is aligned with the love of God in such a way that is so awe-inspiring he cannot express in words.

Although the idea of Divine Comedy being a Comedy is disputable since it does not fit any of its sub-categories, it does fit Aristotle's requirements. Hell, the title even gives it away for those not convinced. It begins in a state of loss and danger, then ends with the soul's journey to Heaven, and we know that it was going to end this way to begin with. Now as for whether this is a contemporary work, I do not think that it should be an issue. It still is an important work of modern Europe, more so than any of the romantic and slapstick Comedies, be it foreign or domestic, that spawn nowadays. That is not a knock on those other works as much as it is my way of praising Dante's work. I will explain why it should be held with such high regard in the West.

What frustrates me about current trends in literature is the heavy focus on humanity more than everything else. What I mean is that stories, conflicts, and thoughts have been largely humanitarian for the past two hundred to three hundred years, especially now since human rights are now a greater concern now than ever. Most Comedies, let alone all works of art, center around humans. Perhaps I am just being closed minded or "full of shit" as my aunties would jest, but I think that older works of literature are usually better because they tend to either focus on the world itself with humans sidelined or they integrate said material as powerful influences in human dramas. Mythologies from around the world are based on higher powers, spirituality, and the beauty of life itself. The older that a story is, the less likely it will portray humans on their own as the greatest points of interest whenever they are present. This is why I am picky towards most - but not all - contemporary works of art.

This is where a modern work such as the Divine Comedy steps in. Not only does it deepen our insight of the world, but the Divine Comedy attempts to delve into realms that are beyond our knowledge, comprehension, and material existence. It should not matter if we never come across such planes of existence exactly as Dante described them. So the poem in its entirety does not demand for its readers to be Christians, as pagan motifs are depicted throughout it. However, this is not to say that Dante thinks we as humans are insignificant, because all Renaissance thinkers emphasized the powers of men in their poetry. We tend to believe that everything revolves around ourselves, and yet it does not. We also tend to believe that we know many things about the world, and yet if science and religion have taught us anything, it is that we know next to nothing about the universe and our placement in it, and I think Dante wanted to get that point across to readers as long as his work remains. We see this theme prevalent throughout both Inferno and Paradiso. Ultimately, I see the Divine Comedy as the journey of the soul through something much larger than ourselves. This "something larger than ourselves" can be many things; in Dante's perspective, it is an entire universal order and our placement in this order. Just as how it was like with Dante at the end of his Comedy, we should feel delighted once we come face to face with something so vast, mysterious, beautiful, and divine.

Other works that this can be compared to are The Epic of Gilgamesh and the Ramayana, though I chose not talk about those because they are much older than Aristotle, and therefore were not written to be Comedies. I would also include Shakespearean plays such as The Merchant of Venice and A Midsummer Night's Dream to compare to Dante's grand poem, but I did find his Comedies (albeit only the ones I've read) to pale in comparison to his tragedies. 

Aristotle Lives In Brooklyn

According to Aristotle´s definition of a comedy, having a good laugh is not the end goal. Instead, a comedy must simply portray the rise of a sympathetic character, typically of an ordinary person. Although the 2015 film, Brooklyn, elicited quite a few laughs from me, in its essence, it is an Aristotelian comedy. More specifically, it has all the characteristics of a romantic comedy. Although I am often embarrassed to admit that I find romantic comedies enjoyable, fearing the stereotype of a typical teenage girl, I can proudly declare that Brooklyn is one of my favorite movies.     

The movie follows Eilis and her immigration to America, specifically to Brooklyn, from a tiny town in Ireland during the 1950s. Although after watching the whole movie, it is clear to see that it is a comedy, in the first several minutes, I was convinced everybody was going to die. I did not really know what the movie was about, and the somber music that soared while the camera panned over a quiet Irish town screamed tragedy to me. However, I could not have been more wrong. Eilis is sponsored by an Irish priest in Brooklyn, who sets her up with a job and a home. After Eilis settles into her new life, the movie falls into the traditional plot of a romantic comedy. Eilis meets Tony, an Italian plumber, and form an instant connection that translates into what appears to be a genuine romance on screen. However, the movie reveals itself as a vessel for enhancing our understanding of the world when tragedy changes the tone of the film. 

As it turns out, I was not completely wrong when I assumed there would be death in the movie. Eilis´s sister suddenly dies and she goes back to Ireland, leaving Tony, now her new husband, behind in Brooklyn. Now, this may seem like a traditional rom-com roadblock, but the way Eilis handles herself in reveals the adaptability human spirit and what it means to have two homes. When she arrives in Ireland, she is overcome with guilt and recognizes that her mother needs her to stay, so she cuts ties with Tony. It seems like the movie will end with her staying in Ireland, and I have a very distinct memory of giving my sister my phone so I would not look up the end. In my opinion, this does not make her less of a sympathetic character, in fact it transforms what would have been a very good romantic comedy into a movie that works on many levels. In many romantic comedies, the end goal is clear: get the guy, get the girl, get the job etc. In Brooklyn, however, Eilis faces innumerable gray areas and she often stumbles. 

Although (spoiler) Eilis does go back to America, the movie does not end with her meeting Tony again. Instead, it ends with her on a boat, the same way the movie began. Reducing the emphasis on the romantic aspect of this romantic-comedy and focusing on the rise of a sympathetic character is what truly elevates it to a level of comedy that makes you see the world differently, at least for two hours.  

Measuring the Comedy in Measure for Measure

Measure for Measure by William Shakespeare, in an Aristotelian sense, is an traditional romantic comedy. The main lovers, Claudio and Juliet, are separated at the beginning of the book, but they eventually are reunited and wed each other at the end of the book. The main characters, of which there are multiple, all rise in fortune by the end of the play. Many of the characters have problems with morality. One of the main characters is a Duke, which breaks the "ordinary people as main characters" tradition, but he is disguised as a Friar for a large part of the play which is a humbler position. Even though it follows the traditional rules of a romantic comedy, does it really apply to modern day?

While the Duke is disguised as a Friar (checking the state of his territory), a subordinate named Angelo takes power. He sends a man, Claudio, to death for impregnating a girl, Juliet, before they are married. Claudio's sister Isabella, a nun, attempts to convince Angelo to take mercy on Claudio; Angelo becomes entranced with Isabella and says if Isabella sleeps with him, he will spare Claudio. Isabella, who is supposed to be chaste as a nun, rejects this idea, but it turns out Angelo has a woman he engaged and then left for dead when she lost her dowry. This woman sleeps with Angelo instead of Isabella, and, through a series of mistaken identities, everyone lives happily ever after, including Claudio.

But is this relevant? And is it actually funny? A man forcing himself onto a woman in exchange for her brother's life and then planning to kill her brother anyway doesn't seem very funny to me. I would say that, though this play does follow the traditional rules of comedy, it puts a positive, comedic spin on something that is disgusting. It actually gives a dark message about self-control and how good things can happen to those who did not hold their word (as things ended well for Angelo). So, for this example of dramatic comedy, I would say it does not say anything redeeming about human nature or society.

Aristotle Disney

Through Aristotle's definition of comedy children's Disney movies are the perfect fit. When you think of a children's Disney movie you think of Snow White, Cinderella, Sleeping Beauty, or The Lion King. All of these movies are something very similar. They start off with a sad problem to make the audience feel sympathetic. As the movie progresses, in all the examples listed above, the protagonist starts to learn more about themselves. For example in Cinderella, a fairy comes along to get Cinderella to the ball to meet the prince. She tries to revert back to her servant work, but the fairy pushes her to go to the ball and find the man of her dreams. She ends up happily ever after with the prince. In all of the examples the same thing happens. The girls finds the popular guy, they marry, and then they ride off into the sunset. Or in the Lion King's stance he becomes King.

Disney movies relate back to Aristotle because Aristotle defines a comedy as a story of the rise in fortune of a sympathetic central character. Disney movies could not fall into that definition any better. Disney movies are not tragedies, although some come close. They do not depict a downfall of a good person. In the end the good character comes out on top and the bad character is left below where they started.

Comedy is a meaningful art form, as Aristotle defines it. Some people today look at comedy as just making you laugh, but if you take a closer look the meaning all reverts back to Aristotle's definition. At the end of the work you feel better about yourself than you did when you started watching. Whether it may be someone getting hit in the face with a pie or a Disney movie, comedy is a meaningful work of art under Aristotle's definition. Without it I have no clue where we would be today as a society.

There Is No Lesson To BEE Taken From A Comedy

Can you really find meaning in every comedy? Is there really a comedy that is not created just for the sake of entertainment? Can a bee teach some sort of life lesson? The answer is..of course not!

"The Bee Movie" is a DreamWorks Animation movie that came out in 2007. The movie is about Barry B. Benson, a college graduate, who has come to a point in his life where he has to choose the career that he will be taking on for the rest of his life. Although every other bee is able to choose a spot in the workforce of the bee hive, Barry struggles to accept his fate of a monotonous life and decides to take the courageous leap into the Pollen Jocks workforce (bees who fly into the world outside to collect pollen). Ultimately Barry thinks that he found some bigger purpose for his life, a very false assumption.

Now according to Aristotle's definition of a comedy, "The Bee Movie" follows the guidelines of a comedy (Barry being the sympathetic character who rises to a better position). However, for one to think that this animated movie about a bee has a larger meaning, that person would have to be completely crazy. There is no message to take, no greater human truth, no moral lesson to be taken from this movie. One might possibly be able to suggest that the movie insults businessmen and businesswomen who work a repetitive, and boring 9 to 5 job, but there is not much to take from that. No matter how hard one tries to search for the true meaning Barry's story, they will not find one or they will not find one that is worth the dreadful 91 minutes it takes for the movie to end.

Is comedy more meaningful than tragedy? Well, if we take a look at "The Bee Movie" the answer is clear as day. NO! This animated film was created simply to entertain those who have a lot of time to waste on a movie. It was created to place money in someone's pocket, whoever that may be.

Giggles With The Gilmore Girls

What do a cup of coffee, a teenage mother, a Yale graduate, a sleepy town, and another cup of coffee add up to? (Warning, spoilers ahead!)

Gilmore Girls is a lighthearted comedy that begins with 16 year old Rory, and 32 year old mother Lorelai struggling to pay for Rory's attendance to a private high school, in order to help her accomplish her dream of graduating from Harvard.

Throughout the series, we see Lorelai struggle to maintain a relationship with her parents, who are paying for Rory's education in exchange for Friday night dinners, while she accomplishes her dream of owning an inn. During this time, Rory's dream shifts from attending Harvard to following in her grandfather's footsteps and going to Yale.

Following Aristotle's guidelines for comedy, the show ends seven seasons and a four part Netflix special later: Lorelai has her inn and is finally married to Luke, Rory graduates from Yale, and is working on a book before she reveals a big surprise which brings the show full circle.

How I Met Comedy... Or Didn't

Four years ago, How I Met Your Mother released its final episode which left many viewers in shock. The moment we have all been waiting for was quickly taken away. Ted, the narrator who we waited nine years for to find his wife, found her, but then she seemed to have died much more quickly. In the final moments, we see Ted and Robin (his girlfriend from the very beginning of the show) leave for a date without ever getting to see the long term romance between Ted and his wife.

The show, at the time, definitely satisfied my conception of comedy. It had hilarious jokes alongside random and silly events that just made it funny. It was the funniest (and, really, the only comedy) I had seen. However, if comedy, according to Aristotle, demonstrated the rise in fortune of a sympathetic character, then How I Met Your Mother wasn't cutting it for me.

Sure, we see Ted advance in his career and eventually find love with his wife (who's name I don't even remember because that's how insignificant they made her seem to me). But then she dies. This part seems more tragic than comedic. I suppose we can account for his rekindling his romance with Robin as the ultimate rise, but the rise at the expense of the titled Mother didn't seem comedic.

Throughout the nine seasons we get to see Ted and Robin act as a couple, but we were lead to believe they didn't work together. If we group this show into the romantic comedy, then Ted and Robin would apparently have to be meant for each other. Are we supposed to just ignore all the other times their relationship didn't work out? Are we supposed to believe there was love all along when we didn't get the chance to see it develop in the final season? Maybe I am wrong and there was love all along; I was just blind to it.

Additionally, Ted may have passed the ordinary person role of comedy, but as for a sympathetic central character- that is debatable. I never really had the biggest appreciation for him. Yes, he was a reasonable guy, but he was never my favorite. In fact, I found him as one of the more annoying characters of the central group. I feel like the other characters could have been more sympathetic than Ted for many viewers.

Maybe the whole show was a satire for how, in this day and age, people don't marry the right person all the time; or maybe the message in the end was that a person will always find their true love regardless of the path it takes to get there. But, I cannot group it into Aristotle's definition of comedy.

Regardless of Aristotle's definition, How I Met Your Mother is still a fantastic show, and by far, funnier than Pride and Prejudice.

Does It Really End?

Many classic pieces of literature are comedies. One such piece is The Graduate, directed by Mike Nichols. Although it is not a typical romantic comedy, there is indeed romance, and a central character whose fortune eventually rises.

The central character in question is Benjamin Braddock, a recent college graduate who, from the beginning of the movie, is very uncomfortable with being a recent college graduate. His parents and their friends constantly celebrate his academic successes, but he is unaffected by them, and knows that they have little significance in the adult world he has been thrust into. Despite his academic success, he can not seem to find contentment. He begins a purely sexual relationship with an older woman, a friend of his family, and goes on to date her daughter at his parents’ request. He falls in love with the daughter, and, obviously, things get complicated.

Overall, the movie has many insights into the phase of life that Benjamin is in. It humorously illustrates all the awkward and fumbled interactions between him and “real-world” adults. It poignantly explores the sense of pointlessness that comes with post-college realizations: that having a career or relationship is not an end-all be-all when it comes to happiness, and that many things are glorified when we anticipate them, but are not actually meaningful when we finally experience them.

In the end, Benjamin elopes with the daughter, against his and her parents’ wills, right before she marries another man. In the last scene, they sit together in the back of a bus, her in a wedding dress, both of them smiling and giggling at the impulsivity of their decisions. This ending is what makes The Graduate a comedy, and is what leaves the audience with a warm, satisfied feeling. However, it is only effective as a snapshot into the lives of the characters. It is easy for the audience to assume that this last-scene-giddiness lasts the characters the rest of their fictional lives, but that is highly unlikely. The problem with comedic endings is that, in a non-fictional life, such endings are only happy moments that pass and evolve. The rest of the movie is filled with tension, anguish, and conflict, as is a fair portion of many people’s lives. In reality, happy endings are not endings, but brief respites from unrelenting absurdity. Who knows when Benjamin will develop the same post-graduation ennui in his post-marriage life?

The Breakfast Comedy

In the classic, 80s, coming of age story, The Breakfast Club tells a story of five kids stuck at school in Saturday morning detention. Each kid has their own story that leads to them finding a common ground. It's the high school story. The "nerdy" kid, who struggles with experiencing failure and admits to trying to kill himself. Quite the opposite, is the jock, the wrestler who faces enormous pressure to be his father and to show no weakness. Then there's the "weird" girl or the girl without a lot of friends. It is revealed that she is neglected by her family and shows up to detention because she has nothing better to do. The popular girl admits that she is pushed around at home by divorced parents, but does little to fix her stereotypes of poise, perfection, and modesty that so nicely allow her to ignore her fellow detention-mates during school. She does however break character towards the end when she kisses the bad boy of the group. He's a bully with problems of abuse at home. Together they are a brain, an athlete, a basket case, a princess and a criminal.

Each character begins with a stereotype, but through the movie their deeper problems that I touched on above are revealed. They are able to connect over these issues through a comedic day of fighting, talking about sex and getting high in the library. By the end of the movie each character, more or less, has come into their own and learned something.

Ordinary, common people reach some kind of better place by the end of the story. This constitutes comedy as far as Aristotle is concerned. If anything, these characters are a little worse off than the average high schooler and make for even better comedic characters.

The question that stumps me is how much of a comedy is this? Is the teenage coming of age story truly a growth that allows for a comedy? It can even be argued that once these kids come back to school on Monday they will forget what they learned at detention and mold right back into their stereotypes. The Hollywood director wants the audience to think otherwise, but as a teenager that is supposed to relate to these characters I am conflicted. I try to think how much a Saturday morning sharing my deep secrets with strangers that I ignored for the last four years could change my life.

The iconic scene at the end when Bender, the criminal, walks away with his fist in the air seems to show growth. It leaves the audience with a good feeling in their heart, a feeling of inspiration, that I believe is enough for Aristotle. There's even romance when the athlete ends up with the basket case and the princess kisses the criminal.  This reminds us that we all have a chance at love, perhaps the greatest cliche a movie can have.

At the very least, I am confident when saying this is not a tragedy. These characters are seemingly rock bottom when we first meet them and there's no where worse for them to go. This is a feel good movie that brings everyone back to high school and reminds us that teenagers have feelings. I really want to think that these characters gained confidence and a sense of community after their day together. If that is how this movie was intended to make the audience feel, then that sets a good example for comedy by Aristotle's definition.

The, The, The... The GRINCH!

According to Aristotle, there are certain things a production has to include in order for it to be considered a comedy, like the rise of the main character, a happy ending, and some comical language.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a modern remodel of the beloved Dr. Seuss' tale of a creature in Whoville named The Grinch. The Grinch isolates himself since childhood because of his differences from the rest of the town, and he decides he is going to ruin Christmas because of his public humiliation and abhorrence of the town and the citizens residing in it. He especially hates the holiday because of the Who noise, phony sentiment, and wasteful materialism. The green Grinch is reluctantly joined by his dog, Max, and carries out his mission until he finds a hitch in his plans: Cindy Lou Who and her ability to make his heart grow three sizes bigger.

Although the Grinch is a classically humorous movie, it contains many deeper meanings that fit into Aristotle's definition of a comedy. The Grinch includes satire, which, by definition, is a type of genre that is usually meant to be humorous and uses that platform to draw attention to wider issues in society. In the Grinch specifically, Dr. Seuss uses satire to talk about the insidious gross materialism that he observed in today's society, particularly during Christmas time. Christmas is supposed to be about family, love, and togetherness. Instead, people were obsessed with gifts and completely forgot about what really mattered. This becomes more apparent when everyone awakens to no gifts Christmas morning, and, for the first time, do not worry about gifts; they worry about being together.

Another factor that goes into Aristotle's definition of a comedy is the rise of a hero. In this case, it is the Grinch. At the beginning of the film, the reclusive Grinch does nothing but shift through trash and have a big mechanic monkey slam his head in between two metal plates. It becomes blatantly obvious that he is bored and lonely because of his self-inflicted isolation. However, after his heart becomes larger, (thanks to Cindy Lou Who), he eventually becomes a loved citizen of Whoville, where he also becomes happy and finally feels like he belongs.

La La Land's Life Lessons

Nominated for 14 Oscars, La La Land is, at least in the minds of many critics, one of the best films of the year. It had what the Academy loves most: A focus on Hollywood itself, and incredibly long takes. There has been significant debate about whether it deserved the 14 nominations, but there's another debate right along side it.

Is La La Land a comedy?

In many aspects, it easily fits the mold. We have two sympathetic comic heroes in Mia, portrayed by Emma Stone, and Sebastian, portrayed by Ryan Gosling. The audience is attached to them from the get go and really invested in their characters' development. While Sebastian may seem like a pretentious loser at first, we eventually grow to love him and his passion for Jazz. As for Mia, the viewers can immediately relate to her struggles, even though most of us have never given up our lives to move to Hollywood.

Mia and Sebastian also represent normal people, just two twenty-somethings chasing their dreams in southern California. They aren't movie stars or famous musicians, just regular struggling artists like everyone else. They aren't yet faced with the challenges of upscale Hollywood life, but they endeavor the same Layman's troubles that any one of us do, no matter the situation.

But here's the controversy, and, be warned, spoiler ahead: They don't end up together. We spend the whole movie rooting for these two people and their relationship just to see it end in the final act of the film. And sure, this may not match the typical Hollywood script or the traditional comedic style of a marriage at the end, but it makes the work meaningful, and doesn't detract from it's stance as a comedy.

At its core, a comedy is the rise of a central sympathetic character, or in this case, characters. While they don't end up together in the end, they both achieve what they were striving for the whole time. In fact, their success is what causes them to split, and without their departure from one another, they wouldn't have seen their dreams come to fruition. We do still see the rise of these two characters, despite their loss of each other.

Besides, if they stayed together, it would be just another Hollywood romance story, something the world has too many of already. But now, it's something that's more realistic, something more close to home. It reminds us that we can't have everything in life, and sometimes achieving our dreams comes at a cost. Everyone makes sacrifices in their life, and we see Mia and Sebastian's played out on screen. Sure they don't end up together, but in the end they're not sad. Nostalgic with a touch of melancholy, sure, but not sad. And, as an audience, we learn a lesson. We see that even though we don't have everything, we can still have a happy ending.

A Walk in the Woods

I don’t consume a lot of long form comedy. The books I read are funny sometimes, but the main point isn’t to amuse or make a social commentary through satire or irony. One book that stands out to me though is “A Walk in The Woods” by Bill Bryson. While it is nonfiction, the humorous commentary provided by Bryson puts the book under the label of comedy.
The whole work centered around using irony and satire to examine both backpacker culture, as well as society’s perception of wilderness and exploration. “A Walk in the Woods” does a lovely job of pointing out the irony in society’s treatment of nature, and enhances our understanding of the world in a meaningful way. It felt like Bryson was just as bemused by humanity’s behavior as he was by his own. His writing came from a desire to examine, not to mock.
“A Walk in the Woods” is an outlier though. At least to me, pieces of satire often feel shallow and petty. The work is meant to ridicule and belittle, without a suggested solution or any personal involvement of the author. Bryson mocks himself more than he mocks the system, whereas other comedic works such as Family Guy or the Onion prefer to eagerly point out flaws without any personal stake. I feel as though a lot of comedies seem to come from a place of anger and mockery, making them shallow and less effective.
A truly funny comedy can enhance our understanding of the world, as long as it is motivated by interest rather than cruelty.

Bridal Sisterhood

When it comes to romantic comedies there are very few movies that pass the Bechdel Test.  The Bechdel Test is an evaluation in whether or not a film or other work of fiction portrays women in a sexist way or characterizes them by gender stereotyping.  To pass the Bechdel test a work must feature at least two women, these women must talk to each other, and their conversation must concern something other than a man.

One of the strongest female friendly rom-coms I´ve stumbled upon is Bridesmaids.  Primarily because it displays one of the most grotesque yet honest scenes on television, proving that yes, women poop too.

This movie features not one, but seven leading ladies as bridesmaids.  And yet, many of the conversations had did not involve the groom or any other men at all.  This movie illuminated a topic that usually does not get a lot of love in romantic comedies.  Female friendship and or the bond of sisterhood.

This movie was written by women (Kristen Wiig and Annie Mumolo) and made for women.  The women betrayed in this story are heavily flawed and spend the majority of the film trying to figure out who they are along with the world and all of its influences on them.  

This film exposes the truth.  Women are humans just like anybody else.  We make mistakes, we don´t always have the answer for everything, and we´re not objects that are going to sit around and be told what to do.

The protagonist, Annie, ends up with the guy in the end but instead of a ¨happily ever after¨ feel, the film ends with a, ¨happy for right now¨ tone.  Which in my opinion, is much more realistic.

Aristotle defines romantic comedies as a meaningful art form.  All in all I agree with him, as long as the women in the film are treated with respect.  From the beginning of time, society has formed stereotypes for women.  Films, media, and other social platforms that follow those stereotypes only inflate and plague the minds of girls wherever it can reach them.  Meaningful art forms such as Bridesmaids should be praised for the messages they are spreading and expand on those ideas instead of the poisonous ideologies that have been a part of society since the beginning of time.

If you would like to learn more about The Bechdel Test, please refer to the link below 


You Aren't Laughing? Inconthevable!

According to Aristotle's definition, for a piece of performance work to be classified as a comedy, it must simply include a likable-enough character who ends up rectified and happy by the end of his or her story. The most common type of comedy takes form in the Romantic Comedy, in which the center plot is a love story between usually young, attractive and destined-for-each other couple who are kept apart due to pesky extenuating circumstances. Nevertheless, the two surpass all obstacles between them and end up living happily ever after. "The Princess Bride" certainly fits the bill of this type of entertainment.

This cinematic masterpiece depicts the epic tale of a young stable boy's rise to higher-level bandit-hood as he attempts to steal back the woman whom he fell in love with before she was taken away to be married to the evil Prince of the Land. Wesley, as he is known, and his Buttercup lived on a farm for years while he secretly adored her from a far. Then, literally two weeks before Wesley is drafted into the military, Buttercup realizes the love she has for him and the two vow to find each other again and spend the rest of their lives together no matter what blockades presently stand between them. Buttercup is left alone for sixty days - mourning the loss of her love - until she is brought to the palace where she begins the process of becoming a princess. In that time, Wesley assumes the identity of the Dreaded Pirate Roberts whose legacy is infamous among sea travelers. Buttercup is kidnapped by looters (who comprise three of the best movie characters ever written) and they hold her captive, declaring they will return her only after they receive a generous bounty. After battles of sword, wit and strength, Wesley is reunited with Buttercup and the fire of their love is reignited. Their happiness does not last long as the pair is promptly hunted down by the Prince's army; Buttercup is returned to the palace and Wesley is thrown in the Pit of Despair (a kinky torture chamber and brain child of the Prince's six-fingered right hand man). Wesley fights some more people, the men he battled with to save Buttercup find him and rescue him, the trio of men meet up with some miracle workers until, finally, they storm the palace and save Buttercup before she is wed to the disgusting Prince. The two ride off into the sunset to live happily ever after.

Now that the plot is understood, the question becomes what, if anything, this movie has to say about the inter workings of society.  The answer is yes and the reasons are what make the movie as well-received and beloved as it is. Buttercup is not your typical 'damsel in distress' nor is Wesley your typical hero. Buttercup is an agent in her own right. Though she requires a man for her salvation - what woman during that time period didn't? - she takes risks and experiences sorrow and torment of her own and through it all, never gives up hope that justice will rule. Wesley, on the other hand is a stable-boy turned fraudulent robber. He was trained in the art of deceit that, combined with sword skills and a hell of a lot of good luck, allowed him to exploit people and get what he wanted from them. He is driven by his unwavering love for Buttercup but little else. This juxtaposition of a female psychological hero and a capable male love bird speaks directly to the gender roles that tend to dominate society. The fact that the pair end up happily together is representative of the ideal that love that is meant to be overcomes all. In this way, "The Princess Bride" is a comedic tool.