Sunday, December 29, 2013

Camille Paglia and Hallmark America

by Meg Sonata

Support for Camille Paglia's maverick views on feminism comes from an odd source during this holiday season. While she decries the emasculation of the American male in speeches and articles, the Hallmark channel has been presenting a series of movies which depicts Christmas as the quest for traditional romance between the sexes. 

Typically, the plots of these films portray women struggling for independence while simultaneously seeking a life-mate to join them in celebrating the difference between the sexes, too. Synchronicity between these forces would not be so startling--except Paglia has championed her lesbian cause for years, while Hallmark could have dramatized the difficult road to Bethlehem, but didn't. 

When polarized forces reverse course together, is a cultural movement afoot in America? Will women strengthen by championing men to stand up and be strong defenders of the women in their lives? Sounds like a good plot to explore in the New Year! 

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Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Meet John Doe: The American Dream in the Media Age

by Meg Sonata

This famous film leaps across decades to explain America to itself. The hero, a stalwart Gary Cooper, plays a nonexistent character in a media drama. The heroine, the beguiling Barbara Stanwyck, discovers the secret to creating a media sensation. Politicians hide behind the curtain of good intentions, fiddling with the cords of manipulation. Like the Wizard of Oz, Meet John Doe rips away the facade of ideals, leaving an expose in their place.

How do perfectly honest souls end up conspiring to fool their fellow citizens? This question reverberates through every scene of this troubling movie, which begets quandaries faster than a hunting dog can find fleas. Cooper's face becomes the icon it already is here. Stanwyck's face, too, bespeaks eternal adoration. So, an innocent public falls for anything their idols say. But what kind of plot is this, when the stars set out to imitate John Q Public?

Released in 1941, the plot tracks the transformation of a Mr. Nobody into a character who unwittingly launches thousands to do his bidding. From start to finish, the John Doe played by Gary Cooper never manages to know exactly who he is, for he progresses toward the realization of a columnist's memory. Her father gave her the words which she places in John Doe's/Gary Cooper's mouth, to fantastical effect. Voila! Daddy rises from the grave!

Yet who is really the reporter's father in this film? His words endorse a Good Neighbor policy, domestically practiced in the USA. In the background of memory, however, lurks that biblical indictment: Just who is my neighbor? Is he the criminal hanging on the cross next to Christ's? Or is she the beautiful scoundrel whose face launches ships for a hellacious war? Do my neighbors include pally pols who would do anything but die for my vote?

The film's famous director, Frank Capra, pivots the action toward a single choice: Gary Cooper must become the fictional character he has pretended to be, in order to win mass acclaim. Finally, he must decide if he is up for committing suicide on Christmas Eve, the threat written into the plot handed to him by his own personal Eve. For dramatic tension, this film is hard to beat. What does it mean to say: "Never say die"? See the movie, and see! 

Saturday, December 7, 2013

Edward Snowden's Neighbor: Spying in America

by Meg Sonata

When I was a teenager living in Cassadaga, NY, a tiny village in Western New York State, I experienced the same oversight described in Der Spiegel today. The title of their lead article shows the same editorial restraint which characterizes this detailed expose. It might have been sensationally labeled "Paranoia and Xenophobia in America." Instead, it quietly introduces "Woman at the Window: Judging Edward Snowden from Next Door."

The woman of the title is Joyce Kinsey, whose occupation appears to be unemployed hairdresser in Der Spiegel's expose, but should be recorded as "spying on her neighbors." With a clear sense of entitlement to know her neighbors' every move and intention, Mrs. Kinsey innocently lays out for the author, Alexander Osang, a recipe for fascism which will leave Germans screaming after their WWII experience with neighbors reporting suspicious activity to Hitler's faithful followers, especially his storm troopers with the death's head on their helmets, the dreaded SS. 

Osang doesn't need to state that this woman doesn't watch the History Channel or read Der Spiegel. There, 
regular features appear addressing Germans' prolonged attempt to come to terms with loyal citizens sending 
their fellow human beings straight to the gas chambers and mass murder pits. Her world view derives strictly 
from the American mass media, along with the proclamations and suspicions of her relatives, according to her own statements in Osang's numerous direct quotations. 

The more one reads of Osang's litany of Kinsey's complaints against Snowden, the more horrific her isolation becomes. She is propelled into the spotlight only due to a whistle-blower's determination to examine US surveillance practices. Thus, she unconsciously reveals the ignorance of a popular base supporting spying on everyone and his mother worldwide, without a single consideration for the consequences of mindless nosiness. Nathaniel Hawthorne had Kinsey's number in The Scarlet Letter, but how many Americans have read that expose recently, too?

This writer has read that masterpiece, as well as Charles Dickens' A Tale of Two Cities and Shakespeare's Macbeth, where ancient women stir the pot of trouble whenever they can. Her own case of neighborly surveillance defied that stereotype, since a lone man spread the blinds in the house next door every time she came home from a date. He very obviously, too, shut the blinds when she entered her house. God knows the latest employment figures in the US don't begin to assess the need for worthwhile jobs in the United States of America.