Archive for May, 2010

Gender role critique in ‘Neuromancer’ [short version]


Set in a future that is arguably dystopian and not too far fetched, the representations of power, race and gender within William Gibson’s Neuromancer (1984) can be seen as a reflection on and critique of the state of those that were current at the time of writing. As LeBlanc (1997:2) points out, ‘cyberpunk, as a genre, it is not only about the near future— it is about our own time.’

Donna Haraway, whose Cyborg Manifesto (1991:2) posited that the ‘cyborg is a creature in a post-gender world’, also claimed that Neuromancer offers a radical critique of current gender roles. In arguing where Gibson is implicitly criticising, accepting or ambivalent in this respect, this essay will examine his representation of men and women and search for underlying bias in the characters’ descriptions and fates and their adherence or subversion of the gender roles assigned them.

Case is a traditional —if unwholesome— [anti-]hero that Gibson wants us to like. Someone who has paid harshly for a mistake, Case’s killing of three people in Chiba is glossed over as part of his downward spiral and not dwelt on. It is in relation to Molly, however, that differences emerge. In a reversal of traditional roles, Case is the passive, non-violent, controlled one, though he has to ‘will himself to passivity’ (p.72) to receive Molly’s simstim sensorium. Despite the contention that Molly is just a vehicle for him (Stockton, 1995), Gibson portrays the power and control as belonging to her.

The few named female characters include Molly, Linda Lee, 3Jane, Marlene, Michèle and (Flanagan, 2000) the Matrix itself. Women are depicted as sexual objects, from the ‘free’ Linda Lee and Molly to the ‘forced’ wives of the sarariman, who are required to wear sackcloth and sport artificial bruises (p.154) and the meat puppets who endure sexual (ab)use, though technology can cancel-out their conscious awareness of it.  Molly’s recollections of her ordeals are possibly a reminder that no matter how they try to fix it, actions such as these always leave a mark somewhere.

Conversely, the reader is meant to like Molly. She is portrayed as good, strong and independent. She is not a sexual trophy for Case, she is his bodyguard. This is a major contravention of the protection and safety role that men traditionally occupied in relation to women. Molly is the one who initiates the first sexual encounter with Case and in another transgression of generally accepted gender roles, it is Molly who leaves Case at the end of the novel.

She would not have the ability to truly break away from the female stereotype, however, without her body’s enhancements. To become a street samurai, a ‘working girl’ (p.41) she first had to be another kind of working girl, a meat puppet, in order to be able to afford the expensive surgery (Cavallaro, 2000). Molly sacrifices and utilizes her body in order to attain the power and status generally afforded only to men. This kind of trade-off had been the norm for decades at the time Gibson was writing.

All of these factors seem to suggest that Molly is a strong new type of woman, however she can be perceived as a cautionary tale, i.e. be like her and become isolated. Therefore, although Gibson seems to be criticising women’s various sexual or abused roles and celebrating their liberation from them, he nonetheless includes a corollary.

Overall, Gibson seems to criticise current roles such as the militaristic macho man and the sexually abused woman and encourages subversion in liked characters, i.e. Molly and Case. However, subversive but unliked characters are punished and as Kamioka notes, even though Gibson ‘hates’ the status quo, ‘his balancing act accepts [it] … as inevitable and unchangeable.’ (Suvin 1991 in Kamioka, 1998:65).

© 2009 Geo S. Willis

Full version and references

Animation: [heteronormative] gender stereotypes?


Found this while looking for revision material. Yes on YouTube. What’s wrong with that? Anyway, it amused me because as much as I’d like to disagree with the simply animated and aptly orchestrated message, it wouldn’t be funny if it wasn’t largely true*

That said, it may be more true for hetero[sexual]s than gays.

Then again, there are a hell of a lot of stealth lesbians and gays out there, some –but not all– of which may indeed merely have their gender roles reversed from heteronormative folk.

Is the issue clear?

As mud. Always has been, always will be.

Diversity rocks :):-

Pink ribbons for swords and the Greens’ view for the world


Time for me to take a short break from revision (phew)…

The Guardian today are running an  article (by Aida Edemariam) on Caroline Lucas, the first Green party member to become a member of parliament. The interview reveals some, perhaps not surprising insights into what it’s like for a new MP in British parliament:

“It felt a huge privilege and an honour. It felt like this was what the Green party had been working for for over 30 years, and here I am walking over the threshold. It felt archaic and out of touch with reality, it felt historic. It felt like the beginning of school.”

The new MPs were shown some of the ropes – the coat-hooks, with their pink ribbons on which to hang swords, the chamber, where they were formally inducted, and which was never meant to hold 650 MPs – in fact, it can’t, and one of the many things they were told was how to secure a seat on the green benches for a day: turn up for 8am prayers, receive a prayer card, and mark a seat with it.

She, like many new MPs, has no office as yet, and, as the lone Green, no whips’ office to help her get one. “I mean, tradition is nice, but we’ve got to have a workable parliament for the 21st century.”

Turn up at 8am to get a prayer card and use it to book a seat? Sounds rife with the potential for childish squabbling, but then, having seen parliamentary debates on television, I suppose that’s not surprising. That there are still ribbons for swords to be held on shows a link to heritage, but surely a little modernisation is in order. As Lucas says, it is the 21st century. In contrast to this is the Green’ manifesto, which is not all about recycling and saving the planet as other political parties would have you believe. This is Edemariam’s interpretation of it:

The Green party is a party of social justice as well as of environmental continence, and it argues that one cannot happen without the other: the manifesto articulates a world in which maximum wages in any corporation can be no higher than 10 times the lowest, the railways will be nationalised and the NHS de-privatised; where most people cycle and ride trains, have decent pensions and are paid a living, as opposed to a minimum wage. Reading it is, in fact, like entering an alternate world, in many ways a very attractive world, if somewhat slow (they would impose a maximum 55 mph on motorways), somewhat earnest and obsessed with detail.

I’m not sure whether I think this is a futuristic vision or an historic one, but maybe I’m being swayed by the 55 mph thing. I’m certainly all for earning a living instead of minimum wage and that the highest wages in a corporation can be no larger than ten times the lowest. I’ve no idea whether that would work, but it certainly sounds neat and proper.

It shall be interesting to see how Lucas fairs – will she be a successful trail blazer for other Greens to follow? Or will she become mired in the daily squabble for a seat?

Comment: Liberal-Conservative coalition government deal


Photograph: Christopher Furlong/Getty Images

…which surely is a contradiction in terms, right? Anyway, it’s going to be interesting to see what happens next. This is both the first time the Liberals have made it to office and the first time the UK has had a coalition government in decades. Not to mention the all-to-late bowing out of Gordon Brown. Change, with any luck, is afoot.

The Guardian yesterday had a run down of the deal the two parties have made, including the concessions each has had to accept.

Deficit reduction

This is the focus of many people’s attention. The coalition has agreed to cut spending rather than increase taxes and those cuts will include, among other things, tax credits for higher earners (why do they need them anyway?).

Spending review for the NHS/schools and a fairer society

Increased funding for the NHS will go down well, but ‘scrutiny’ of the Trident nuclear defence system may prove to be a mere placatory device for the Liberals.

Tax measures

Increase in personal allowance for income tax is a definite plus for those of us who earn low wages, although the Conservative’s proposal to (frankly) positively discriminate against married couples —albeit hetero- or homosexual— has also made it through the negotiations. This recalls the old “married-man’s tax” of bygone years, reaffirming in some minds the true meaning of the name ‘conservatve’.

Banking reform

This seems to boil down to regulatory reform, the introduction of a banking levy and the encouragement of a competitive economy, all of which will hopefully reverse the damage done by Labour. With a one-year reporting period, it’s going to be a long wait before we see any real change.

Immigration

Another key word in this election, the coalition deal merely states this:

We have agreed that there should be an annual limit on the number of non-EU economic migrants admitted into the UK to live and work. We will consider jointly the mechanism for implementing the limit.

We will end the detention of children for immigration purposes.

At last, some sense. I’m not saying it should be a one-in-one-out system, but you’d think that someone would have considered the idea of a cap before.

Political reform

The parties will bring forward a referendum bill on electoral reform, which includes provision for the introduction of the alternative vote in the event of a positive result in the referendum, as well as for the creation of fewer and more equal sized constituencies. Both parties will whip their parliamentary parties in both houses to support a simple majority referendum on the alternative vote, without prejudice to the positions parties will take during such a referendum.

Voting by proportional representation seems the fairer way to do it, if it’s as simple as you vote for the party you want in and who ever gets the most votes wins. If they don’t ‘pass the post’ they would have to form coalitions such as the one we have now, but it would make voting simple enough for the masses to understand. There may even be a ‘point’ to voting for those that would not normally do so, e.g. Liberal supporters.

Pensions and welfare

Retirement age is rising to 66 by 2016 for men and 2020 for women. This seems unfair in many ways and a long way off for me, but no doubt it’ll come [too] soon enough. A later retirement age reflects the nation’s need for more tax to be paid, but also reflects the modern (and increasing) longevity of the human race. The problem with a set retirement age is that, while some people will be financially/physically/mentally ready for retirement (at any set age), others will not and ageism, while frowned upon heavily in terms of employing new staff, it is still rife.

Education

The best bit? Increasing the possibility for social mobility.

Relations with the EU

No further transfer of sovereignty, defence of the national interest,

We agree that we will approach forthcoming legislation in the area of criminal justice on a case-by-case basis, with a view to maximising our country’s security, protecting Britain’s civil liberties and preserving the integrity of our criminal justice system. Britain will not participate in the establishment of any European public prosecutor.

Oh, and we’re not taking the Euro in this parliament :):-

Civil liberties

Scrapping the ID card scheme, next gen biometric passports and the fingerprinting of kids in school (they were doing this?!), restoration of rights to non-violent protest and safeguards against the misuse of anti-terrorism legislation all point to a reduction in the ‘big brother state’ we’ve been sidling into for a while now.

Environment

Lots of goodies here, including mandating a national recharging network for electric and plug-in hybrid vehicles and increasing the target for energy from renewable sources, including marine energy.  The Liberals are permitted to maintain their anti-nuclear power stance without fear of reprieve or triggering another general election.

So…

We live in interesting times, times of change. Hopefully, maybe even possibly, for the better.

Video: ‘The art of corporate mind control’… Paranoid?


Some of you may have seen this video before. It presents what could easily be described as a paranoid* view of the world we live in today. Let me know what you think. Is this how it is? Partly? Or is this all preposterous nonsense?



* some might say, just because you’re paranoid, doesn’t mean they’re not out to get you. Just a thought.

Film Review: ‘Snatch’ (2000)


[This is a critical evaluation written for uni.]

Snatch (2000) was directed by Guy Ritchie and boasted a star-studded cast including Vinnie Jones, Jason Statham, Brad Pitt and Benicio Del Toro.

The scene is set by Turkish’s voiceover (Turkish acts as omniscient narrator throughout) and the intro to the film, where Turkish and Tommy are sat before an unknown man, effectively depicts a lot about the characters’ personalities through their behaviour when not directly involved in dialogue or interaction. Turkish’s narration provides all the necessary character backgrounds required for the story.

The film successfully invokes humour, this is done usually through irony or satire such as the killing of Boris (which takes eight bullets, playing on Boris’ ‘immortal’ moniker) or Turkish’s sarcastic explanation of why he needs a new caravan (having lifted the rusted door out of it’s hinges, Tommy asks what’s wrong with the one he’s got, Turkish replies “Oh, nothing, Tommy. It’s tiptop. It’s just I’m not sure about the colour.”)

Snatch makes much use of camera angles and lighting to create atmosphere and a distinct style, for example, filming from the point of view of the dead Frankie Four Fingers. Another key player in creating atmosphere in the film is the music. The Stranglers’ ‘Golden Brown’ denotes the spiralling into unconsciousness of Gorgeous George and the spiralling into trouble of Tommy; a repeated folk/Jewish style piece is used to control pace (such as the steady increase leading up to the three-way car collision or an easier pace for scenes without tension); ‘fun’ music is used for scenes involving bungling e.g. Sol and Vince’s bookie heist.

Ritchie clearly borrows a lot of stylistic elements from the six years previous Pulp Fiction, seen in the use of cultural markers such as the musical score and (over-use of) ‘mockney’ and the mixing of the mundane with action, e.g. when Turkish accidentally scuffs Brick Top’s shoes, the latter complaining that he had just had them polished.

However, despite its professional, polished feel, Snatch does lack professionalism in several ways. Some characters appear homogenous e.g. Tony, Brick Top and Turkish; this can be seen in the way they speak i.e. the lengthy metaphors, sage imparting of wisdom, the mixing of child-like talk with sophisticated words with crass London-lad language and even the pace of their speech, suggesting the need for more players in the tale than the writer could individualise. Examples of this include:

“I fail to recognize the correlation between losing ten grand, hospitalising Gorgeous, and a good deal” and  “It’s an unlicensed boxing match. It’s not a tickling competition” (Turkish);

“You’re on thin fucking ice my pedigree chums, and I shall be under it when it breaks…”, “Goody gumdrops…”, “…You got to starve the pigs for a few days, then the sight of a chopped-up body will look like curry to a pisshead… Hence the expression, “as greedy as a pig” (Brick Top).

The film is also riddled with errors, e.g. when Vincent, Sol, and Tyrone get into the car before they rob the bookies, Vincent’s turtleneck is gray. When they crash into Franky Four Finger’s van, his turtleneck changes to burgundy (continuity), the diamond is referred at the beginning of the film as 86 carat, but at the end as 84 carat (factual) and Franky Four Fingers is seen several times with five fingers (factual). In addition to this there is the fact that despite all the shootings there appear to be no police in London and certainly no visible women, creating a lack of realism. Overall, Snatch (2000) certainly comes across as sleeker and more professional than its predecessor, Lock Stock and Two Smoking Barrels, however it is equally as certain that there are many flaws in the piece.

Photos: Mudfight!


Remember when you were a kid at school and there was even the vaguest hint of a scuffle somewhere on the playground? Everyone would flock to see what was going on and to chant ‘fight! fight! fight!’ at the brawlers until a teacher came over to put a stop to it. Well apparently that behaviour is not limited to playgrounds, nor to children.

These photos are from an incident very similar in formula to that above, but this time involving adults and a lot of mud. What started as a few people watching a playful mud-slinging contest ended up as a dense ring of onlookers. It even made it to the big screens by the stage.

The victor…

The usurper…

The reassertion of victory…

%d bloggers like this: