Friday, May 15, 2009

Orientalist approach to Under the Same Moon

The term of Orientalism is defined as a Western ideology of other countries, Eastern predominantly. Orientalism is the basis of how we perceive things from other cultures without ever knowing about them or being part of such cultures. For example, one might have the idea that Africa is only associated with wild animals and half naked African people. One might also associate Native Americans with feathers, chanting, buffalo skins and Pocahontas; these are the stereotypes which the American culture has asserted through television, art, literature and when speaking about the 21st century, the internet. The term of Orientalism was focused upon by Edward Said in the late 1970’s, who introduced Orientalism as solely identifying with the Orient. “Orientalism can be discussed and analyzed as making statements about it, authorizing views of it, describing it, by teaching it, by selling it, ruling over it: in short, Orientalism as a Western style for dominating, reconstructing and having authority over the Orient” (Said 873). Of course, although the definition of Orientalism structured resolutely on only the Orient, over the past three decades, that ideology has expanded to cultures around the world not only the Orient. As previously mentioned, some may correlate Africa with the wild, not placing in mind that there are more civilized and industrialized areas within the country.

Examples depicting Western thought are predominant, not only on television, but in films and literature. An example would be portrayed in the film “Under the Same Moon” or in Spanish “Bajo la Misma Luna.” Directed by Patricia Riggin, this film tells the story of a Mexican mother living in the United States who often wishes to be with her son. The situation is vice-versa with her son. Carlitos, her son, often wants his mother and pressures her to come back to Mexico to be with him. With his grandmother’s death (who was the only person that took care of him), he takes the money his mother often sent him and goes on a journey to the United States; mind you that Carlitos is only about nine years old. As mentioned before, Orientalism usually has to do with Western ideologies supporting diverse cultural views but in the film’s case, it is the Mexican point of view of the United States, which means that other countries are subjected to having Orientalist perceptions of the West. The director of “Under the Same Moon”, Patricia Riggin, begins the first scene from Carlitos’ mother, Rosario, crossing the border. It is dark and she along with a group of fellow illegal immigrants, swim through a deep river only to be greeted by agents of the border patrol. When hiding under a bush, Rosario stays still and quiet, listening to the commotion before her. In front of her, one of the immigrants gets captured by an officer who says “Welcome to the United States, Juanito.” Just from the first scene, it is evident that the perception that the director is attempting to portray of Americans is that they are racists. In an article by Pamela Nice, she explains the Orientalist perceptions Americans portray in films, and in “Under the Same Moon” it is a reversed Orientalist perception, Mexican to American. “‘Evil’ Arabs in American Popular Film is an analysis of selected American films to prove author Tom Semmerling’s main point: the portrayal of Arabs in American cinema since 1973 reveals more about Americans and their Orientalist fears than about actual Arabs” (Nice 1). Nice explains that because Americans lack the perception of real cultures, such as the specified Arabs, they are afraid of the superficial image that they are exposed to.

In “Under the same Moon”, the border patrol officers, which depict Americans as a whole, are seen as racists. The insinuation of Americans as insensitive racists does not stop in the first scene of the film. Rosario is depicted as a woman who cleans houses for a living, but not just anyone’s houses, big rich white women’s houses. One of her employers decides to let her go to which she begs the white women to keep her. With no avail in convincing the white woman to keep her, Rosario requests that she be paid for the previous week she worked. The woman arrogantly says “No, I don’t think so” and walks away. As Rosario attempts to stop her and tells her how unfair she is, the white woman then turns around and states “What are you going to do about it? Oh I see, you don’t have any papers now do you?” The director pursues to depict Americans as not only racists but unfair people insensitive of others. Just like people in the United States are often exposed in films that depict cultures they have never seen (such as “Gladiator” with Russell Crowe) so are countries like Mexico and perhaps this movie, as touching as it is, in a very diminutive aspect, it is able to present stereotypes about Americans. In the scene previously explained, there are two sides of the stereotype; White people might be racists but they are wealthy.

Throughout the movie, all of Rosario’s employers were white women with big houses. There are two sides to the film which is Rosario’s side that has a better depiction of the United States since she lives there, and her son’s side in Mexico. Mexico in the film is less modernized than the society in the United States. This does not mean that Mexico is completely uncivilized of course, but it seems the director purposely exemplified Carlitos’ side poorer than Rosario’s in order to excuse Rosario for being in the United States and excusing Carlitos for wanting to be there with his mother. The setting in Mexico is full of people selling on the streets, having small shops and the presence of chickens by people’s houses reduced its industrialized perception. Carlitos’ friend is even poorer than he is, and it is evident when he shows his worn apart and toe-peeping shoes. Here, Patricia Riggin, the director, implicates the poorness of Mexico which excuses anyone’s reason to leave as previously mentioned. It would not have made sense if the setting was within rich Mexican folk; if that was the case then what would be the point of going to the United States to look for a better life? The director wanted to relate the immigrant struggle and she did so by not only depicting a child’s life in Mexico but his ambition to find his mother.

Before secretly departing to the United States, it is perceived that he is friends with a woman who is not only a tailor, but a “coyote” or smuggler. She is visited by two Chicanos or Americans with Mexican descent, who offer to pass children across the border just because they have citizenship. This scene exemplifies the corruption of not only White Americans but by all types of Americans. The Chicano people who are young college students are rejected by the smuggler woman to which she states how “they think they are better than us because they have papers.” This is a direct quote regarding American corruption and the Orientalist view within the story that the director enhances. What is interesting about this perception is that American egocentricity is portrayed through a White woman (the woman that fired Rosario) in the United States, and Americanized Mexicans (which are closer to being White than Mexican) in Mexico. It is an obvious juxtaposition that evidently fits the concept of Orientalism.

Further in the film, after the Chicano students are rejected by the smuggler woman, Carlitos contacts them to cross him; the smuggler woman will not cross him because she promised his mother she would not. I digress. He gives them the money that his mother sent him and they depart. After a hot ride inside a dark compartment, the students have their car towed at the border line for unpaid traffic tickets with Carlitos still inside. The selfishness of Americans is further embedded because to save themselves from arrest and losing the money Carlitos gave them they walked away, leaving him to suffocate inside an empty van. The power of money that surrounded Americans was what made them even more selfish. “Orientalism can also express the strength of the West and the Orient’s weakness—as seen by the West. Such strength and such weakness are intrinsic to Orientalism as they are to any view that divides the world into large general divisions, entities that coexist in a state of tension produced by what is believed to be radical difference” (Said 884). The director has depicted immigrants with economic weakness and they pursue to be part of the Western strength; of course, the insinuations of American corruption and power do not cease as the film progresses. Carlitos manages to escape the van at night, surviving suffocation; unfortunately, he drops the remaining money he had left in his pocket as he runs. Going into a charter bus station he spots a White American man who offers to take him to his destination for $100. Having realized he dropped the money, the White man, who seems to be a drug addict becomes angry and takes Carlitos to a drug dealer in exchange for drug money. The writer of the story and the director could have easily chosen a Hispanic, an Asian, or even a Black man but the fact that the depiction of corruption through a White man furthers a stereotype towards American people. Such examples strengthen as the film progresses. The Orientalist view of power through this film indeed has an upper hand when it comes to monetary power thus the meaning of Orientalism which clearly defined as Western ideology conquering other views, the Orient, is exemplified in “Under the Same Moon” regardless of the fact that the perception is reversed.

An interesting notion about the Orientalist approach is that it is supposed to be the West conquers the Orient. The West is thought to be specifically in the United States but geographically, the West does not only include the United States but Mexico as well. Because Mexico is also on the West side, would this mean that the Orientalist perception of power depicted in “Under the Same Moon” was not only against the United States but also against Mexico as well? Probably not. This is because the juxtaposition of the film was not only the Orientalist view of Mexico towards the United States, but the fact that the film has increased the power of the United States over Mexican citizens through economy. The juxtaposition would have been much different if there was equal monetary power from both sides. For example, if Carlitos was a rich Mexican boy who perhaps needed to catch a flight to his parent’s second home in California, but then again as mentioned before, the plot wouldn’t have made that much sense to begin with. “Orientalist thinking does not entail a denial of the differences between ‘the West’ and ‘the Orient,’ but neither an evaluation of such difference in a more critical and objective fashion. ‘The Orient’ cannot be studied in a non-Orientalist manner; rather, the scholar is obliged to study more focused and smaller culturally consisted regions” (Sered 3). The latter quote basically explains that if the culture is smaller (at least from an Orientalist point of view) because evidently the United States is the most expanded culture of them all, it would definitely perceive Mexico as a bit smaller, regardless of the fact that its geographical location is closer to that of the United States. Of course, being a Hispanic director, exposing the story of immigrant and familiar hardship, it is obvious why she would give Mexico the upper-hand it depicting its side of the story while exemplifying how much harder Hispanic immigrants have it when dealing with wealthy American people.

At the middle of the film’s plot, Carlitos is taken in by a drug dealer, because as mentioned, the White addict traded him in for drug money. Fortunately, a local Hispanic woman takes Carlitos off the hands of the smuggler and takes him to her house. There, she has many other immigrants to which she provides food and shelter. The embrace of Mexican culture and humility is portrayed through this woman, exemplifying through her actions, goodness and generosity of immigrants; this is yet another juxtaposition of the reversed Orientalist traits. Earlier in the film, Carlitos’ mom, Rosario is robbed of her work money by her employer and Carlitos encounters a strange White man who attempts to trade him off for drug money. The generosity of the Mexican woman is a clear juxtaposition of reversed Orientalist goodness. The next scene after the woman takes Carlitos exemplifies American corruption. The men in the house work in a tomato company and take Carlitos with them. All being immigrants, they are put to work by a White man whose brief appearance is putting the men to work in the first place. Once more power is exemplified and given to the White man. As the men diligently work, one of them frantically shouts “La Migra!” or the “immigration department!” to which they all run out. With the fear and commotion upon these men, Carlitos hides under stacks of plastic tomato carriers. While he hides, the film temporarily focuses on the action that the border patrol agents take upon the men. Some officers roughly haul the running men to the floor, others beat them with their batons and while all this is happening, one can see the power of the White man and the fear on the immigrants’ faces. Interestingly enough all of the agents are White, there is no minority within their power. The capturing of immigrants in this scene not only exemplifies the differences of culture and power, but the White man’s stop of the immigrant’s life and work in the United States. This knowledge is what embeds fear on the fleeing immigrants, the captured ones, ultimately the ones hiding, specifically Carlitos. “The discourse and visual imagery of Orientalism is laced with notions of power and superiority, formulated initially to facilitate a colonizing mission on the part of the West and perpetuated through a wide variety of discourse and policies. The language is critical to the construction. The feminine weak Orient awaits the dominance of the west; it is a defenseless and unintelligent whole that exists for, and in terms of, its western counterpart” (Sered 2). As mentioned in the latter, the weak await, perhaps sub-consciously, the dominance of the West, in the film’s case, the await of the immigration department.

As the border patrol officers leave with the captured men. Carlitos and a man who also hid walk off together away and far from the tomato company. Throughout all of these happenings, Carlitos’ mother has absolutely no idea the trials her son is facing. After a few days of searching for his mother, Carlitos and his counterpart sleep in a park only to be awakened by police officers who attempt to take him into a police station. It is obvious that the strife throughout the story is caused by the White man. This perception is depicted in an article by Eve Mullen in which she describes how American films have popularized themselves into constantly being heroes, and in her article she depicts Tibetan Buddhism. “The Tibetans themselves become voiceless non-agents in their own struggle for independence or survival. Instead, the western rescuers are allowed to be the heroes of the Tibetan cause, edifying the American self-portrait as one of a strong moral champion nation in which equality and justice are forever upheld” (Mullen 2). Although the officers think they are doing good in detaining the boy, they are actually preventing his search for his mother. Carlitos’ counterpart sees this and throws a cup of coffee to the officers. They arrest him and Carlitos runs free. Rosario has recently found out his son is missing but decides to stand next to a local phone booth where she usually talks to her son to see if he’s there. Having described the setting to her son on the phone a week earlier, the boy and his mother reunite. The Orientalist way of the ending of the film is the fact that regardless of what the Whites tried to do, Carlitos triumphed and beat all the odds. The director of “Under the Same Moon” did not let the “villains” win and that is the most Orientalist basis of the film.

Works Cited
Mullen, Eve L. "Orientalist Commercializations: tibetan Buddhism in American Popular Film." October 1998. Journal of Religion and Film. May 2009

Nice, Pamela. "Reality Checks on American Orientalist Film." 2006. Aljadid: A review and record of Arab culture and arts. May 2009 .

Said, Edward. "Orientalism 1978." Ryan, Julie Rivkin and Michael. Literary Theory: An Anthology. Berlin: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 1998. 873-886.

Sered, Danielle. "Orientalism." 1996. May 2009 .

Friday, May 1, 2009

Orientalism feeds stereotypes

The concept of Orientalism is not only stagnant in one area, meaning that it only focuses on the Orient but around other countries and even within our communities. What we see on television or what we understand about other cultures is corrupted. As Americans, for example, we have westernized ideologies of other countries. For instance, if one was to simply mention Africa, what are the first thoughts that prompt? A lion? A giraffe? A black naked man with a wooden spear? What about Australia? Many people think about kangaroos! How far has the concept of Orientalism gone? “The principal product of this exteriority is of course representation: as early as Aeschylus’s play The Persians the Orient is transformed from a very far distant and often threatening otherness into figures that are relatively familiar (in Aeschylus’s case, grieving Asiatic women). The dramatic immediacy of representation in The Persians obscures the fact that the audience is watching a highly artificial enactment of what a non-Oriental has made into a symbol for the whole Orient” (Said 875). What we understand about culture is relied upon what we see or what culture we are a part of; this does not only work for Americans though, how the United States is portrayed artificially has a lot to do on how many other countries view us as well.

Orientalism is a theory which inevitable feed stereotypes. Stereotypes target not only cultures but races, gender, and religion. Edward Said exemplifies his Orientalist approach through instances such as The Persians play and has uncovered the effects of primarily Westernized ideologies regarding diverse cultures. In the video posted, Orientalism is expressed. Because the protagonist is black, his co-workers burden him with stereotypes such as giving him a basketball, a rap CD, a waffle maker and yelling “Happy Kwanza.” It is an example of an exaggerated Western ideology that will always be eminent.


Said, Edward. "Orientalism." Ryan, Julie Rivkin and Michael. Literary Theory: An Anthology. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 1998. 873-886.

Snow White the ideal

In Gilbert and Gubar’s “the Madwoman in the Attic”, the stereotyped forms of women are portrayed. They are mentioned to wear masks and disguises in order to gain acceptance from male dominated society. Women must assimilate men to be successful and be ridiculously feminine in order to fit that role. One major character (which was mentioned within the text) was Snow White. As we know, Snow White is a princess. She is beautiful, soft-spoken, giddy, and can sing. She cares for seven men and they look up to her for many reasons. They love her because she can cook, clean and dance. Snow White is the ideal stereotype. If a woman is not the ideal, then she is subconsciously considered a monster such as her evil stepmother; stereotypes leave no grey area. “both the submissive feminine symbols (witches, evil eye, menstrual pollution, castrating mothers) and the feminine symbols of transcendence (mother, goddesses, merciful dispensers of salvation, female symbol of justice)” (Gubar 598). Further in the reading, Gilbert and Gubar also exemplify another character, Honoraria, who is another female stereotype. Just like Snow White, Honoraria, as well as many other female icons have no sense of self.
Fictional characters such as these have women not only submit to feminine stereotypes but also have them enjoy their submission. This is very true…in all forms of seriousness…when did Snow White complain about cooking and cleaning for the dwarves? “Of course, from the eighteenth century and on, conduct books for ladies had proliferated, enjoining young girls to submissiveness, modesty, selflessness, reminding all women that they should be angelic” (Gubar 600). Snow White exemplifies complete selflessness which is a role that even within our modern day, is still focused upon. Many women have been in masquerades of submission for a very long time

Works cited

Gubar, Sandra Gilbert and Susan. "The Madwoman in the Attic." Ryan, Julie Rivkin and Michael. Literary Theory: An Anthology. Oxford: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 1998. 596-611.

Tuesday, April 21, 2009

analysis 6: The perfect girl

The femenistic ideaas and theories of Judith Fetterley and Luce Irigaray focus on the idea of mimesis. Fetterley discusses the notion that American literature, specifically, is predominantly male. The forms and indications within American literary context are targeted as male. Through a femenist perspective, males have robbed women the opportunity to distinguish literature as a female instead as a male; they have done this by pushing women aside in literary context and most of all through religion. " To read the canon of what is currently considered classic American literature is perforce to identify as male. Our literature neither leaves women alone nor allows them to participate" (Fetterley 561). Of course, this type of feminist ideology was not enough for Luce Irigaray, who states that women are forced to submit to mimesis. Women have to assimilate societal male functions to be acknowledged and succeed within their communities. "...a direct femenine challenge to this condition means demanding to speak as a (masculine) 'subject'...-the cover-up of a possible operation of the femenine in language" (Irigaray 570).
In the clip above, a girl has an enormous crush on her co-worker and so she flirtatiously approaches him. Having paid no attention to her. the girl then goes back to her work cubicle to talk to her friend about it. They then listen closley to his cubicle and overhear him. He states that he wants a girl that could shut up, watch sports and drink beer, the steretypical role of a man. The girls then go to make a transformation of his desires.

Fetterley, Judith. "On the politics of Literature (1978)." Literary theory, an anthology. Malden, Mass: Blackwell, 1998. 561-69.

Irigaray, Luce. "The power of discourse and the subordination of the Femenine (1977)." Literary theory, an anthology. Malden, Mass: Blackwell, 1998. 570-73.

Saturday, April 4, 2009

Analysis 5- Foucault's Panopticon

From Michel Foucault’s “Discipline and Punish”, his idea of Panopticon as punishment was that higher authority such as the government, had the right to punish or threaten anyone with things such as unemployment, This of course is a general implication. Thoroughly speaking, the Panopticon would punish according to their class level; the harder workers would not be punished, for example. This notion, would presence large difference within a certain community. “The Panopticon…makes it possible to draw up differences, among patients, to observe the symptoms of each individual, without the proximity of beds, the effects of contagion confusing the clinical table…” (Foucault 417). Even though its way of “discipline” varies, it creates some type of order as well.

The term of Foucault’s Panopticon would be depicted in George Orwell’s The Animal Farm in which the pigs create a government that is centered to provide equality (communism) for everyone else such as the farm animals. As time passes, the pigs are consumed with power and prevent any type of revolt by giving phony reasons of why they should continue working hard and presenting threats; one example would be when the pigs sent a sick horse to a doctor which was later revealed that he was sent to a slaughterhouse instead. This threat scared many and they worked twice as hard. “No one believes more firmly than Comrade Napoleon that all animals are equal. He would only be too happy to let you make your decisions for yourselves. But sometimes you might make the wrong mistakes, comrades, and then where should we be?” (Orwell 69). The pig sugar coats his dictatorship so no one would dare to even question him. This piece of literature is evidently much more connected to Marxism in terms of communism but the governing rule of the people, or in Orwell’s case, animals, Foucault’s Panopticon is present.

Works Cited

Fouocault, Michel. "Discipline and Punish." Ryan, Julie Rivkin and Michael. Literary Theory: An Anthology. Berlin: Blackwell Publishing Ltd., 1998. 464-487.

Orwell, George. The Animal Farm . New York: Penguin Books Ltd, 1996.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Marxism: Overthrowing exploitation

Karl Marx’s philosophy was not to encourage communism but too simplify and point out who had rights and who did not. “Marxism is the theory of how the normality of our everyday world, with its quiet routines and rituals…is riven within by what Marx called ‘class struggle’” (Ryan 232). The bourgeoisie had money to control laborers or the proletariat. Marx then explained why workers revolted and it is then why this ideology assimilates to the clip posted. See although the bourgeoisie are wealthy, their wealth derives from the workers they exploit; without them the rich are powerless. In the clip, taken from the movie “Born in East L.A.”, Rudy [played by Cheech Marin] is an American born citizen who is mistakenly sent to Mexico. In this clip, after many attempts to get back to the United States, he gathers up hundreds of immigrants and crosses the border together with them. This is where the Marxist point emerges.
The bourgeoisie, as mentioned, exploit their workers with their power. One single worker against the rich is powerless but a mob of prols who stop working in protest may greatly affect the upper class. As the movie concludes, we see that two Border agents [the bourgeoisie] in vain attempt to stop them and Rudy as well as his girlfriend end up going back to East Los Angeles. I thought it was great way to portray an aspect of the proletariat against the bourgeoisie. “What the bourgeoisie, therefore, produces above all, is its own grave diggers. Its fall and the victory of the proletariat are equally inevitable” (Marx 260).

Works Cited

Marx, Karl. "The Manifesto of the Communist Party (1848)." Ryan, Julie Rivkin and Michael. Literary Theory: An Anthology. Berlin: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 1998. 260.

Ryan, Julie Rivkin and Michael. "Introduction: "Starting With Zero: Basic Marxism"." Ryan, Julie Rivkin and Michael. Literary Theory: An Anthology. Berlin: Blackwell Publishing Ltd, 1998. 232.

Marxist presntation analysis: Resorces

Our class presentation was on Marxism and in order for everyone to make sense of Marxist ideas we all placed diverse branches that affected a community with Marxist ideals. For example I did resources. Although it was a challenge because Marxism is indulged in complexity that we had to simplify Marxist terms such as the usage of resources regarding class status. I worked on resources and understood the correlation the term of resources had with status. By this I mean that if a member of the Bourgeoisie, a doctor to specify, lost his job, besides his knowledge, his resource would be the medicine because others in need of medication could purchase from him/her and could make profits. A proletariat, a farmer, is working for money obviously; his job would be the only resource. If the landowner faces economic issues, he lays off workers. The landowner’s resource is his land but the farmer, he lost his job thus his resources. In examples such as these, I have simplified the idea of resources through a communistic approach so not only my group and I are able to understand but everyone else.
My contribution to this besides comprehension of resources in Marxist terms would be the following. Along with the packet my team created for the chosen groups, I have pointed out the resources they obtain. These resources are petty until they realize their value. Once again there are the examples of the farmer and doctor. The doctor’s resource would be his medicine, alongside his paid wealthy home and knowledge of medical practice whereas the farmer must make sure of his stability of his job. The analysis of the effects cannot be seen but in Marxist terms one can predict the results.