As HumCore Comes to a Close…

Humanities Core is a class with one of the heaviest workloads that I have experienced not only throughout my high school career, but my college career as well (at least so far). I have learned much and more about cultures that I never had the chance to learn about such as Vietnamese, Filipino, Iranian, and Incan people and needless to say that I am very glad to have learned about them since I am not sure if I will ever get that chance again. I have always put HumCore as a priority against my other classes and no doubt, HumCore has caused much of my stress, tears, and cramping fingers in my college experience so far. I am not sure if it is only because I recently turned in my research paper draft, but at this moment I do not completely hate Humanities Core right now and find myself looking back on my experience in the class as almost fondly. As I mentioned before not only have I learned so much from Humanities Core, but I have made great friends through my different lectures and discussions along the way, where we can all complain and stress together, and makes the workload a little bit more bearable since you feel like you are not the only one drowning. The research project alone can make you feel that way, but knowing that we are all in this mess together really does help. From this quarter alone, we have learned about film, sexuality, refugees, Westoxification, American colonialism, gender frontiers, and so much more. But no doubt the most important thing from Humanities Core is how to be a better writer. The different types of essays given to us throughout the year helps us develop our voices when writing and also helps us find out our strengths and weaknesses in writing. For example, I really enjoyed and did well on the literary journalism essay, but struggled in my writing on the historical analysis essay. As someone who wants a career in film and television, writing is a big component for that industry, and I know that I will definitely need plenty of practice in writing in order to reach my career goals. In our humanities core discussions, it is always fun to hear how people in your class interpreted the material taught in lecture and share their thoughts and ideas. Having different Professors gives us more insight and exposure to different personalities and teaching styles. And if you’re someone like me who has had different discussion leaders in every quarter of humanities core, then you also know that different TA’s focus on different aspects of lecture.

Overall, while humanities core has certainly been a pain, it has also helped open my eyes towards the world around me. From talking about the Romans, to paintings, to barbarians, to the Incas, Gandhi, women and sexuality during American colonialism, Vietnamese refugees, and ultimately to Iranians, if I have never took Humanities Core I will never have the knowledge that I have now on all of these different ranges of topics. And I really must thank everyone part of Humanities Core for all of that knowledge

The Complex Women of Game of Thrones

For my research project, I chose the television series, Game of Thrones, on HBO. As a huge fan of both the books and the show, Game of Thrones seemed like a perfect fit to talk about empire, specifically women in empire. Game of Thrones is a fantasy TV show based on the fantasy novels called A Song of Ice and Fire by George R.R. Martin. David Benioff, who is actually an alumni from UCI, and D.B. Weiss received permission from George R.R. Martin to adapt his novels in a television program, which struggled to find a network until HBO eventually green lighted the series. The show’s rich history, complex characters, and engrossing story lines have made the show into a pop culture hit. The show revolves around a time, similar to that of the Middle Ages, in a fantasy world where different families, or Houses, are competing for the Iron Throne that rules over the country of Westeros. Through this competition, there are deaths, back-stabbing, manipulation, arranged marriages, and secret plotting, along with dragons, magic, and ice zombies. The show tries to convey that in everyone’s power quest to be the top dog or ruler of the country, they are ignoring the fact that a species of creatures are out to wipe out the world, the White Walkers aka ice zombies. In my research paper, I will specially be analyzing the women in the series and how they are defiant from the female stereotypes of the medieval period in this other world. The characters I will specifically be talking about are: Daenerys Targaryen, Cersei Lannister, Arya and Sansa Stark, Ygritte, Melisandre, and Brienne of Tarth.

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Daenerys is a favorite character among many fans who was forced to live in exile all of her life due to her mad father’s reign as King, but discovers who she is be when she receives dragon eggs and becomes the “Mother of Dragons” who is determined to take back the throne that should rightfully belong to her.

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Cersei Lannister, on the other hand, is the queen of Westeros who is obsessed with her power and does everything that she can to stay in power, which includes killing anyone seen as a threat to her; she is manipulative, vicious, and cunning.

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(From Left to Right: Sansa Stark, Arya Stark) 

Arya and Sansa Stark are two sisters whose whole family has mostly been killed due to the Lannisters, Arya, a mere child is preoccupied for getting revenge on those who wronged either her or her family and does not hesitate to kill them, while Sansa was used as a pawn for the Lannisters until she had the chance to escape.

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(From Left to Right: Ygritte, Melisandre, Brienne of Tarth) 

Ygritte, Melisandre, and Brienne are supporting characters, but are still important to the story due to their personalities. Ygritte is a wilding woman, outcasted by her country and forced to live north of the wall, and must hunt for herself (an immigrant story per say). Mesliandre is a priestess, whose only goal is to serve the Lord of Light, and uses spells, magic, and other witchcraft for her religion. Brienne is a warrior women, who is outcasted by society due to her tall stature, “manly looks”, and the fact she wears armor instead of gowns.

So all in all, these women have been have been faced with some sort of oppression from empire and my research project will focus on that oppression and how these characters have or have not overcome that oppression. I will also be highlighting the fact that Game of Thrones’ focus on female characters helped show that women are complex, not stereotypical or one-note, which is unfortunately how many women have been portrayed in various media platforms.

(June 4, 2017 – NOTE: My research paper has changed after I wrote this blog post, while my paper will still focus on women in Game of Thrones and their relations to medieval women and their experience. I will specifically focus on Daenerys Targaryen and Sansa Stark in my research paper, so unfortunately all these kick-ass women will not be talked about, but with so many diverse women in Game of Thrones, that would simply be too much for the research paper. And I feel like Daenerys and Sansa both started out in very similar places and the show had them both evolve into two very different people, who are still very kick-ass and powerful.)

Women and Minorities Work

In last week’s reading, especially the one by Mary Prince, I wanted to highlight how women and people of color are still being unappreciated for most of their hard work in today’s day and age. Due to socioeconomic statuses, lack of promotions, social prejudice, and overall just a lack of opportunities women and people of color do not get recognized for the amount of labor they put in by their superiors. Most CEO’s, presidents, executives, board members, and head of corporations are white males, in fact 85% of them are according to the Harvard Business Review. As you can tell most of the positions that I just listed are ones of high value and power. And it really is just sad to see how there are hardly any women or people of color who have access to that power in the United States. If you do the math that means 15% of positions of power are made of BOTH women and people of color. To think of it, every workplace is like it’s own little empire, they get to dictate someone’s salary, job requirements, who gets to work there, who gets promotions or benefits and who does not.

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There is still stereotypes and social stigmas regarding women and people of color, predominantly that women should first and foremost be mothers and do chores around the house like cooking, sewing, laundry, dish washing, cleaning. While minorities are oftentimes workers in factories, construction, sales or service, who earn minimum wage and may even work multiple jobs and still cannot provide for themselves or even for their family.

And yes, while progress has been made, there is an overall lack of diversity, especially in scientific fields and management positions. There’s also a big problem with harassment in the workplace either with men objectifying or harassing their female co-workers or the racist and degrading comments that some people of color face on a daily basis. In the Harvard Business Review article I used, it states that whenever women or people of color try to advocate for diversity in their own workplace, they are oftentimes penalized and criticized for it, which just outcasts these people even more and lessens the chance to see more diversity in workplaces all across America. Since Trump has gained Presidency I just feel that the tension between whites and everyone else has escalated, especially with the recent protests in Berkeley.

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Violence has been what we have been reverting to in order to display what we believe in and take down the enemy. Yet if we continue down the road of violence, then we are reverting back to times of colonialism, where we try to marginalize and kick out a group of people whether it be Muslims, African Americans, Hispanics, or even Caucasians. Violence just takes society a step back from the progress it has been making towards equality, and while we as a society still have a lot more progress to make – if we start by valuing each other in our work and start making more opportunities for people to advance in their line of work then we are taking a great leap into achieving equality.

Nonviolence and Gandhi’s Passive Resistance

Over the past few years there have been many instances of violence as a form of protest, mostly acted in response to different occasions of police brutality – the most famous one being the Ferguson riots back in 2014. We already live in a violent world as it is, so I’m here to argue that non-violence and unity is the best way to protest the corruption of government, people, and institutions. As Gandhi claimed, I also believe that violence can corrupt us as humans and make us more immoral. The more that we act through violence, the more dangerous we become not only to others, but to ourselves as well. I, and I am sure many others as well, thought for a very long time that acting through violence would be the only way to get any real political change. That what has always been shown to me through movies like The Hunger Games, tv, and in the news. The concepts of riots and uprisings always seemed like the most effective way to rebel since it shows how unhappy and unsatisfied people felt by their government or authority. It was not until high school that I realized that violent protests get much more media coverage because it is more “exciting” and would result in more viewers or more people talking about these instances instead of non-violent protests because non-violent protests are considered “boring.” While I do not believe that we have to adopt poverty, cultivate fearlessness, follow truth, or perform perfect chastity to become a passive resister – I think that if we live more simplistically and worry less about money or material possessions that we have then we can become more humble and would not want to react as violently. I by no means want to spin my own clothes or use candles instead of electricity, but if we do more things for ourself, like wash our own car instead of going through a car wash, then perhaps we can better appreciate the notion of hard work.

In fact, this article from Psychology Today called Violent versus Nonviolent Resolutions states that violent protests end in failure much more than nonviolent protests, and that nonviolent protests have a higher success rate as seen in the image provided by the article below.

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The article also states that nonviolent protests attract more people like women, elders, and those who value safety more – which makes total sense. I know I would feel uncomfortable and unsafe if I was around explosives, fire, tear gas, or police officers armed with shields and batons. As Gandhi also stated, with instances of violence, we are much more likely to cause harm to others than with nonviolence. As a passive resister, the only person we could harm is ourself.

Yet through social media, I am also seeing more awareness and participation in marches and protests like the recent Women’s March, which happened all across the world two months ago. Social media is also a great place to sign petitions to help garner change and makes it easier to spread to others who believe in that cause too.

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So, all in all nonviolence is proven to be a more efficient way protest than violence, which isn’t what I originally thought. And the more we live simply, the less likely we are to react or act violently.

The Power Of Language In Film

As a film lover and with Oscar’s just around the corner, I felt that I should reiterate Professor Lewis’ emphasis on language and how it can both help/hurt empire but through movies. In this year’s Oscar slate, language is portrayed through songs in La La Land, betrayal in Fences, loss in Manchester by the Sea, fighting prejudice in Hidden Figures, and through actual linguistics in Arrival. These high caliber movies represent the most acclaimed and prestigious products of Hollywood for the year. And while these movies will all be presented at this year’s Academy Awards, these movies will never gain the mass audience and box office that big blockbusters have the luxury of having. Any Marvel movie, any Transformers, or Star Wars will gain millions or even billions of dollars regardless of the quality being presented. Every movie, at least in my opinion, should have a lesson or meaning behind it, and blockbuster movies do not always have these lessons, most of the time they are just turn off your brain entertainment. La La Land had a clear message – to achieve your dreams you must make sacrifices. Hidden Figures had a clear message – you can overcome prejudice through your hard work. So all-in-all, this shows two sides of Hollywood – one of merit and meaning, and one only concerned with money.

Here I attached an example of the sheer power of language used in an Oscar movie compared to something usually seen in a blockbuster.

La La Land – Audition (Fools Who Dream) vs Jurassic World: Dinosaur Fight

And while I am not saying there is something wrong with mindless entertainment, I do enjoy them sometimes, it is just that these blockbuster movies most of the time do not use language the same way that independent or smaller-budgeted movies do. These blockbuster movies both help and hurt the empire that is Hollywood, because they made tons of money for them, but hold no real meaning (again I am not talking about all blockbuster movies – just ones like Independence Day 2). Independent and Oscar type movies do the same – they do not make as much money, but they are celebrated and win awards.

Yet there is more to movie language than just dialogue, messages, narration, etc. There is a visual language to movies through shots, technique, camera angles, etc., there is a social language to movies, and history of language as depicted in Language in Cinema: Martin Scorsese’s Essay Explains the Importance of Visual Literacy. Out of all of these languages though, I will highlight what I think is the most important: social language. Practically everyone loves movies, and through things like social media, movie reviews, movie shows, and word of mouth, movies are an integral part of society today. Star Wars would not be a cultural phenomenon without language. The Godfather would not be held as one of the best movies ever made without language. The way people talk to each other about movies shapes how that movie is perceived. Something like the movie Monster Trucks is criticized by people everywhere for being a dumb, useless movie that no one wants to see, while something like Arrival is praised for the acting, cinematography, story, and editing. So as Professor Lewis said language is both a partner to empire, in my case, Hollywood, and it can also be used to criticize that empire.

 

The Importance of the Incas

When Professor O’Toole began her series of lectures with the Incan Empire, I immediately had interest in the topic, especially since about a year and a half ago, my grandparents traveled to Cuzco and Machu Picchu on a vacation. I was excited to learn more about the Inca history and culture, especially because of my grandparents travels. And while I heard a little about Peru from my grandparents and their retelling of the trip, I realized that I never really knew much about the Incas…and I began to wonder why.

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All throughout elementary and high school, our schools focused more on the Mayan or Aztec empires and only briefly touched upon the Incan empire. I had no idea that the Incas could easily outlast any of their enemies and made sure that no one in their empire would starve. So why does the Incas history get pushed aside in favor for the Aztec or Mayans? I took an International Studies class last quarter and my Professor focused heavily on the Aztecs, and ended up only mentioning the Incas. In fact through his brief talk about the Incas, the only thing he really highlighted was that they were conquered by the Spanish Empire.

I think part of the reason teachers choose to focus more on the Mayans or Aztecs is because their is more mysteries or myths about them. In my International Studies class, we read a book called “The Broken Spears,” which heavily focused on eight omens that predicted that the “gods” or Spanish would come and destroy their empire. I also remember learning in school that it is still a mystery as to why the Mayan Empire fell. So while the Incas may lack these mysteries, that does not mean that their history should only be brushed upon and I am glad that Professor O’Toole is diving more into the history and culture of the Incas.

Another reason for the lack of education on the Incas in America may be that the United State’s education system heavily focuses on their history and Europe’s history. Now while focusing on the history of the United States makes total sense since that is the place we live in, I have noticed that in all my World History classes in middle school and high school mostly surrounded Europe’s history. I never got to learn much about the Incas and Andeans or about the Chinese, Indians, Africans, and Australians that make up the rest of the world. As Edward Said in last quarter’s Humanities Core, we as Americans tend to have a Orientalist view of the countries and people in the Eastern Hemisphere. The little things that we do know about these people and cultures we tend to stereotype people of those cultures as only being those things, like the concept of all Asians are smart. Instead we should get an equal opportunity to learn about cultures all over the world so that we as the American population have more knowledge about the world we live in and try to diminish the concept that America is superior to all other countries.

Manifest Destiny & The Revenant

As a Film and Media major, I was so excited that we were going to talk about the movie, The Revenant, in class last week. While the violence is very graphic and it is sometimes hard to understand what the characters are saying (I’m looking at you, Tom Hardy), I do think The Revenant is a brilliant film, especially through its cinematography. The director, Alejandro González Iñárritu, is exceptional, along with the cinematographer, Emmanuel Lubezki (also known as Chivo) who worked with Iñárritu before on his previous Oscar winning film, Birdman (which is also brilliant). As a sort of film buff myself, I already knew that Iñárritu used no artificial lighting in his movie, except in one scene. I already knew the immense struggle the actors and the film crew had to go through because of the weather, which greatly shortened their shooting schedules.

Edit: Here I attached a video from Collider. The video is a short interview with both Leonardo DiCaprio and Tom Hardy and their experience while filming (which starts around the 1:45 mark) .

One thing that I never really considered about the movie though that the Professor really emphasized in lecture, was the integration of a different culture and the whole concept of Mestizo. If the Manifest Destiny had to happen, I believe that Europeans should have been more like the character of Hugh Glass, who is 50% European and 50% American Indian. European settlers should have been more open-minded and respectful to Native American culture and territory. In an ideal world, they would have integrated themselves into a different culture, but because Native Americans were seen as “barbarians” and “uncivilized”, Europeans saw themselves as superior and more powerful than them and took away their land so they could bring more of the European culture into the Americas. Europeans feared Native American’s “savage” way of living, but Native Americans feared Europeans more due to their domination and constant threat.

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The only time Hugh Glass ever fights with other Native Americans is when they pose some sort of threat, either to himself or to the camp he is apart of. And while I think the dream sequences were unnecessary to the film, they do highlight his Pawnee self, and add a sense of fantastical nature, which usually appear in Iñárritu’s films. His friendship with the other Pawnee Native American also showcases that though Hugh Glass is not fully Pawnee, since he is partly Pawnee, he is still considered part of the tribe. And the man helps him out because Glass is one of the only ones left that is part of his people.

The film also emphasizes the environment and surroundings that the characters are in during the time period the movie takes place in, which showcases the beauty and brutality of nature (which is a binary). The picture that I attached below is absolutely breathtaking, but it also shows how isolating nature can be, which is what the Native Americans were going through the time of the Manifest Destiny and are still going through today.

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