Colonialism and Subjectivity

Colonialism and subjectivity Coming from a white working class background I feel far removed from ideas of colonialism and find it impossible to comprehend how anyone could possibly think that forcing ideas, beliefs onto others is acceptable. Despite me being so far removed I can’t help but feel so uncomfortable when colonialism is mentioned because although it wasn’t directly me, I’m lucky enough to call ‘GREAT Britain’ my home, and what is so great about colonising the world.

Writing Desire

The techniques used in Ursula Biemann’s Writing Desire may look a little busy and out of place yet they are all chosen for a specific reason. The way Biemann shows the selection of race, age and physical appearance on screen really shows the way in which people can be selected as commodities. Although Biemann is discussing a challenging topic she does it such a way of keeping the ‘mail order brides’ identity save by instead showing the typical western male more likely to purchase the mail order bride. The way music is used in the film is really provoking and enhances the way in which we feel. The fast pace of the music identifies the fast paced world we live in. The dark undertones of the techno beat really enhances the subject matter of using humanity as a commodity.

Film Essay Proposal

Our film essay is about youth’s anxieties towards the changing world in which we live. With different factors such as, technology, war, politics, pollution, identity it’s very easy to feel anxious and lost. Our initial idea was to take the concept of mail order brides from the lecture but after a lot of thought we knew that we wanted to make a essay film that was a bit more personal to our subjectivities and more relevant to the changing world in which we live. With group members from all over the world there are so many subjectivities to play with and we thought it would be a good idea to have these subjectivities placed in a narrative that was natural to the individual so to do that we would have group members speaking in their own language. We really want to outline that despite these anxieties youth can unite and overcome these anxieties and change the globalized world in which we live. Footage that we’re going to use will be predominantly found from vimeo and youtube, we will use an arrangement of shocking footage and news reports to form our argument and combining them with imagery that enhances our argument and leaving the audience with profound thoughts.

Repression of Mental Illness

I luckily remember very little from my childhood, it’s incredibly evident that I along with many have buried all painful and uncomfortable memories to the very depths of my consciousness. I wouldn’t argue that I had a terribly traumatic childhood, I’ve always been a very deep and profound in comparison to others around me. I’ve always had trouble expressing what and how I feel and how deeply these emotions control and dictate my daily life. I never thought I was normal, per say what even is normality? In adolescence I was advised that all these feeling were normal, a phase, a blip. I was promised they would pass. I reached 18 and had begun to develop an increasingly rapid pattern of destructive behaviour directed towards myself to cope with these intense feelings and in effect, block them out. I lived for the weekend, I lived for the ice cold pints and sweaty nights, the constant jaw ache and blurry bright lights. I repressed the constant feeling of apathy with the only thing I was capable of getting excited about: altered states of consciousness or to quote Jip from Human Traffic(1999), ‘getting more spaced out than Neil Armstrong ever did’.

Freud believed that repression was a psychological process adopted by the mind to defend from harm, Dally and Watkins (1986). Leon Wurmser (1974) argued that ‘drug abuse is the use of any mind-altering drug for the purpose of inner change’. Wurmser goes on to describe that ‘[he] considers all compulsive drug use an attempt at self-treatment’(835). The idea of self-medication is nothing new, humanity has been self-medicating since time began, be it the shamans or literary icons, recreational drug use has always been around. What I’m particularly interested is why escapism from my own identity was of such importance to me. I have been diagnosed with Borderline Personality Disorder, a mental illness. At the time of my habitual drug abuse I didn’t explicitly know what I was repressing, yet since my diagnosis I’m now aware of how I was trying to repress my overwhelming psychotic confusion and paralyzing emotions.

Being considered to have a personality disorder does not come without it’s challenges, especially with the language boundaries. The word disorder explicitly means ‘a state of confusion’, having to define myself as an individual whose personality is in a constant state of confusion is quite degrading in one’s own opinion. To relate this to Paul Abberley’s(1987) article Oppression and Social Theory of Disability, Abberley quotes

‘This[ …] rejection of ‘impairment’ as a viable form of life and to the ’commonsence’, ‘natural’ and ‘unconscious’ nature of ideologies of impairment, disability and handicap. This rejection of the authenticity of impared life forms is exhibited both in the obvious forms of what Dartington, Miller and Gwynne (1981) call the “less than the whole person” view, and it’s inverse, the ‘really normal” ideology, which finds it’s expression in everyday life in the exceptionalism of ‘but I don’t think of you as disabled’, denying a key aspect of a disabled persons identity in what is intended to compliment. ’ (1987:9)

Although physical disability and mental illness aren’t necessarily the same in the way they are treated socially, I empathetically relate to the concept of being denied a part of my identity. If I didn’t disclose my mental illness, then people wouldn’t know. I recall talking about some symptoms to some of my peers and them adopting the ‘but you seem to be coping fine, maybe you’re over it’ approach. One of the symptoms of Borderline Personality Disorder is addiction, although the self-medicating benefits of substances sometimes alleviate the mental pain they can also enhance and amplify many of the symptoms. In adolescent substances were an incredibly valuable crutch in coping with trauma and I found solace in films that reinforced that ideology. Trainspotting, Pulp Fiction and Human Traffic were very important to me in evaluating and revaluating my life choices and helping me define the line between too little and too much. ‘Freud (1930), described that narcotics as a means of coping with pain and disillusionment’ Wurmser(1974:830) Human Traffic helped me make sense of my mental state of the time, and if there was a particular scene that highlighted my mental state it would be ‘The weekend has landed’.

Human Traffic is a cult film that appeals to the ‘other’ and are not necessarily explicitly popular to the mainstream. If perhaps this had been a film targeted towards the mainstream, then the characters would have been portrayed as being more deviant. Bob Pease(2010) explains that:

‘The normativity of privilege provides some insight to the process of ‘othering’. Othering is a method of portraying difference as if it were in some way alien to that which is normal. The flipside of the ‘other’ are the insiders who constitute the privileged group. Pickering (2001: 73) reminds us “that those who are ‘othered’ are unequally positioned in relation to those who do the ‘othering’. The latter occupy a privileged space in which they define themselves in contrast to the others who are designated as different”.’ (2010:13)

Perhaps what is so radical about the film Human Traffic is the fact that it is set in the 1990’s when rave culture was at its pinnacle in the Uk and deviant behaviour, like substance abuse, was considered the norm. Human traffic offers an interesting paradigm where in fact the mainstream could be considered ‘the other’ in contrast to the group themselves. Unlike the film, I have always considered myself different, and could have ‘otherness’ tendencies, I have never been part of a big friendship group or as Jip calls them ‘[his] chosen family’. I have only ever experienced relationships on an individual basis and I have always yearned to be part of a group, (another symptom of BPD). Human Traffic helped me transcend me to a fantasy in which I was a part of the ‘chosen family’.

Although my bpd won’t be going away anytime soon I have found new ways of dealing with it and film narratives and education are key in helping me to cope and understand myself through a psychoanalytic framework and deal with issues more efficiently.

References

Abberley, P. (1987). The Concept of Oppression and the Development of a Social Theory of Disability. Disability, Handicap & Society, 2(1), pp.5-19.

Dally, P. and Watkins, M. (1986). Psychology and psychiatry. 1st ed. London: Hodder and Stoughton.

Human Traffic. (1999). [DVD], UK: Justin Kerrigan.

Pease, B. (2010). Undoing privilege. 1st ed. London: Zed Books.

Wurmser, L. (1974). Psychoanalytic Considerations of the Etiology of Compulsive Drug use. Journal of the American Psychoanalytic Association, 22(4), pp.820-843.

 

Blood in the Mobile

This week for our assignment we were required to watch a Danish documentary, ‘Blood in the Mobile’. Before watching it I knew little to nothing about the minerals that constitute towards the making of a mobile phone and perhaps naïvely nothing about how the sales of these minerals are funding wars in the Congo. After finishing the documentary I am left disturbed, I had planned on buying my sister a phone for Christmas, but as I search on my laptop for the best phone at the best price I can’t help but think that while I’m sitting here as a white woman in a western context searching for gadgets from the comfort of my bed the atrocities that must be endured on the other side of the world to meet my demand.

How can we live so comfortably awaiting the arrival of the new fad gadget while there are children being crushed by these mines, there are men being killed and women being raped to supply our demand. The fact is these workers go to mine these minerals in the hope of a better life, more money and a comfortable safe home. The interview with the young lad Chance had been working in the mine since he was 13 years of age in the hope to afford his own house. As outlined in the documentary-armed groups man the area and charge commission and tax on what the workers make leaving them with little, meaning they are trapped in the circle and never able to leave the mining camp.

How is it possible that a multimillion-pound industry can allow so much inequality at the bottom of the pyramid? But hasn’t it always been this way? The bit that really makes me feel sick is how the big industrial companies manage to remove the humanity from these workers because they cannot see them – Out of sight out of mind. Technology is such a powerful tool that can be used to bring the world closer together and that can be seen through globalisation but in fact it feels like it could be driving us apart. In the western world, at the top of these big corporations they are probably run by someone who works 9 til’ 5, five days a week, with sick pay and holiday pay, at the end of the day when they go home to their family it’s not their problem. Yet for the poor child who has to grow up without a father, or the poor woman who was repeatedly raped after armed gangs killed her husband, their problem lives with them for every hour of every day. I can’t even imagine what it would be like to have to go to work every day down a mineshaft and wondering if this will be the day it collapses on top of me. I must admit that without having watched this documentary I wouldn’t have had any idea about the atrocities, I was bind to the whole issue. Because of how far away the Congo is from the UK and because of how biased the western media is, they’re not going to show such atrocities while the man at the top is making all the profit.

What was incredibly apparent from watching this documentary was how the journalist, Frank was passed from pillar to post with regards to the subject, no one wanted to admit fault in relation to the issue and without recognising their own faults how could a resolution be made. The terrible thing is I wasn’t shocked by what I saw before me, it’s almost become something to expect from the world and it horrifies me to see myself tapping these words away… There are so many injustices and inequalities in this world and I personally cannot see it getting better any time soon. The exploitation that is carried out across the world puts the money into the pocket of the rich and the workers are left to suffer…

The Gaze

Lacan and Freud are the prominent theorists in which all psychoanalysis, media and communication theory is based. Without freud’s work on the Id and the ego, teamed with Lacan’s work on the ‘Real’ the ‘symbolic’ an ‘the imaginary’. Theorists like the notorious Laura Mulvey couldn’t have produced such an important work as ‘Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema’. There is on going debate as to whether or not Mulvey’s work on ‘The male gaze’ is considered to be apparent today due to some problematic inconsistencies in the claims Mulvey makes, yet despite this, cinema wouldn’t be where it is today without her work.

Mulvey’s (1975) concept of ‘The Male Gaze’ that the cinematic context works as an embodiment of the experience, and suggested that there were pleasures that the cinema offered the spectator. That being ‘scopophilia’, ‘in which looking itself becomes a form of pleasure’.(1975:806) Mulvey goes on to explain Freud’s ideas of voyeurism, ‘desire to see and make sure of the private and forbidden’ Mulvey relates these ideas to the context of the cinema and expands on Freud’s later ideas of ‘The peeping tom’:

‘Although the instinct is modified by other factors in particular the constitution of the ego, it continues to exist as the erotic basis for pleasure in looking at another person as object […] voyers and peeping toms, whos only sexual satisfaction can come from watching, in an active controlling sense an objectified other. (1975:806)

Mulvey’s prominent argument is that to be embodied though the cinematic state of voyeurism spectators must subject themselves to ‘the male gaze’. This works through the way the spectator sees within the second look, watching the film. Yet all looks that Mulvey outlines constitutes to ‘the male gaze’. The third look which is seen onscreen though the characters perceptions, Mulvey states ‘Women are simultaneously looked at and displayed, with their appearance coded for strong visual and erotic impact’, where as male protagonists are to be considered as active. (1975:809). Mulvey saw women’s place in Hollywood cinema to be represented through phallocentric order, as the symbolic ideal of the woman has connotations of castration that is seen to be threatening by man. Women are seen to be a signifier for the male other, Mulvey explains:

‘bound by a symbolic order in which man can live out his phantasies and obsessions through linguistic command by imposing them on the silent image of woman still tied to her place as bearer of meaning, not maker of meaning.’ (1975:833-834)

It could be argued that there is some reason within Mulvey’s work yet due to the fact Mulvey biasedly ignored films which were exceptions to her rule meant that ‘the male gaze’ is problematic in it’s delivery. Willmen(1976) challenged mulvey’s concept of the male gaze by stating that ‘even the classic American cinema can mobilise both the sadistic and the fetishistic modes of looking in relation to figures other than images of women’ (1976:102). The fact that the spectator within the cinema context must identify with the male in order to be embodied is problematic due the fact that Mulvey disregards the concept of a woman perhaps feeling embodied by identifying with a present female character, or perhaps the female spectator could have sexual fantasies towards a female character, Mulvey’s paper although highlights issues of the patriarchal institution that is cinema but also reinforces these issues by not taking into consideration the other.

Mulvey argued that there were three prominent looks that occurred when engaging in a cinema context:

‘the camera as it records the pro-filmic event, that of the audience as it watches the final product, and that of the characters at each other within the screen illusion.’ (1975:843)

Willmen (1976) extends on this and suggests that there are four looks within cinema, which are apparent instead of three:

‘The fourth look is not of the same order as the other three, precisely because the subject of the look is an imaginary other, but this doesn’t make the presence of the look any less real’ (1976:48)

Willmen’s concept of the fourth look is derived from the fourth wall within cinema, the fourth wall is considered to be the holder of illusion as if the fourth wall is broken, (the characters talk to the audience), the suspension of disbelief is broken along with the illusion and the spectator is more conscious of the spectacle. Goldsmith(1998) elaborates on Wilman by explaining:

‘the direct address of the porn film, in offering itself to be looked at, invigorates the fourth look to the point where the position and activity of the viewer are threatened, and the viewer risks becoming the object of the look’(1998:7)

The fourth look in cinema is the concept of the film spectacle looking back to the spectator. In an article written by Goldsmith summarises Willmen’s concept of the fourth look:

‘The fourth look is the look which marks itself in the light from the projection reflected back on to the faces of the audience and ‘constitutes the viewer as visible subject (107)’ (1998:6)

I found the fourth look while watching the live action adaptation of ‘The Jungle Book’ (2016), not the entire picture, but a particular scene, when Mowgli must leave the pack.

 

Raksha, Mowgli’s adopted mother begs for Mowgli to stay and exclaims that ‘This is the only family he has ever known’. Pathetic fallacy is at play within the scene and the heavy down pour teamed with the somber music creates an emotional reaction within myself. Raksha says ‘never forget this, you’re mine to me, no matter where you go or what they may call you, you will always be my son’. It’s at this point I find a tear rolling down my cheek and the emotional reaction becomes too poignant to fight off anymore.

In an article by Wheeler Dixon (1995) he quotes Ladlow that ‘This is a film about you, not it’s maker’ (1995:2) I can see how the film has sparked an emotional reaction in myself because of my subjectivity and events that have occurred in my life which make this scene resonate so deeply within myself, Dixon continues to elaborate on camper:

‘As a function of this “looking back” we (the viewers) are, “in a sense… more aware of our own reactions [to the film] than we are of the film itself” (camper 76-77)’

The way in which a scene with predominantly CGI characters can move me so much says less about the film and more about me, it’s not that I’m moved so strong because of what’s happening in the film but more because of what has happened to me. Because I have been left behind by my family before, I can feel the same way the character Mowgli must feel and I only with that I had someone say to me what Rashka said to Mowgli. It might seem really strange to some that a film about a young boy living in the jungle can make me so emotionally provoked, but I think it says a lot when put in relation to Mulvey’s ideas. I am a white western female and I identify with a young boy in the jungle, Mulvey would argue that this cannot be the case because I’m not identifying with my gender. This makes me think that the concept of the fourth look is more prominent in todays cinema and it makes sense that some films will provoke more of an emotional reaction in some and not in others. Our personal subjectivity and social context play a major part in how the film looks back at us. Our whole lives, events, family history, traditions all make up our identities as individuals and in turn this will then affect how we watch a film and what characters we identify with. I was never aware before how or why I have such strong reactions to certain films before where my peers haven’t, now I know it’s all down to how the film looks back at me combined with my subjectivity that sparks an emotional reaction. I think it will be so interesting now that I’m aware of this fourth look, I will be able to decode and acknowledge these emotional reactions and understand myself a lot more.

Mulvey, L. (1975). Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema. Screen, 16(3), pp.6-18. The Jungle Book. (2016). [DVD] Disney: Jon Favreau.