Fight The Power?

Do The Right Thing does more than just illustrate a day in the Bed-Stuy neighborhood of Brooklyn during the 1980s. It shows how racial tensions and unnecessary hatred can tear us apart, all in the matter of a day. It is a frightening expose of how easily people can be driven to commit acts of violence, and how it never solves anything.

Something that struck me deeply in the film was the song that Radio Rahim constantly played on his radio, “Fight the Power” by Public Enemy. The racial groups in the film–the African-Americans and the Italian-Americans especially–felt that the “power” that needed to be fought was each other. Throughout the film, there was obvious hatred and bigotry on each side, leading to palpable racial tensions and ultimately violence. However, all of this was unnecessary. Why must the different racial groups blame each other for their personal problems and failures? I felt that most of the characters were lazy and deplorable, and brought this upon themselves. I don’t understand why they couldn’t just work together and live in harmony with each other. Obviously, their hatred did not solve anything. Rather, it just made the relationships between the ethnic groups worse.

The true “power” that must be fought in the film is this narrow-minded bigotry exhibited by most of the characters. The violence that occured at the end of the film did not surprise me in the least. The film would’ve been much more poignant if the characters actually shed their prejudices and learned to treat each other with the respect that every human being deserves. The film shows that such harmony is possible through the friendship between Vito and Mookie. Although one was black and one was white, they were like brothers and accepted each other for who they were, instead of hating each other for the color of their skin. That’s the way every character should have been in this this film.

Therefore, I think that no one in the film did the right thing. They did not “fight the power.”

Richard II and Macbeth

Richard II is, of course, one of Shakespeare’s historical plays. However, it has much of the same themes that are illustrated in one of Shakespeare’s most famous tragedies, Macbeth.

Both Richard II and Macbeth contain the character of a power-hungry king. King Richard seems similar to King Macbeth in that both do anything to assert their authority (even murder) yet are essentially weak. Richard uses the theory of divine right to justify his actions, much like Macbeth tries to use the witches’ prophecy to justify his actions. Both characters also rashly invade other lands and do things without thinking them through. Richard also banishes his enemies and spends extravangantly, just like Macbeth.

John of Gaunt reminded me of Banquo. He is Richard’s friend and uncle, and tries to to correct Richard when he commits a rash act, but Richard doesn’t listen and inadvertently causes Gaunt’s death. Like Banquo in Macbeth, it seems as though Gaunt (and his son, Bolingbroke, who was banished by Richard in the beginning of the play) will indirectly get his revenge later on in the play.

Also like Macbeth, Richard has his dissenters, those who plan to rebel against him. Bolingbroke, along with the the Earl of Northumberland, Lord Ross, and Lord Willoughby, plan to stage a royal coup in England as soon as Richard leaves to invade Ireland. This mirrors the invasion of MacDuff and his army in Macbeth. At the end of Act II, Richard is cornered by the Welsh army. It seems that nothing but ominous things are in store for Richard…

Don Juan: A Comedy About Religion

Although Moliere’s famous play Don Juan is considered a comedy, it nonetheless has very strong and serious messages. The play was so scandalous for its time that, in fact, it was banned after only fifteen performances.

The play centers around Don Juan, a manipulating womanizer, and his servant, Sganarelle. Don Juan is a hedonistic atheist, seducing women into “marriage” and abandoning them after he gets bored. Sganarelle secretly does not approve of his master’s lifestyle, and tries to get him to change his ways several times, but to no avail. Sganarelle eventually foresees the demise of Don Juan, but refusing to listen, Don Juan dies horribly and is dragged to Hell for his misdeeds.

Moliere’s play clearly has a serious meaning: we must be moral, pious, God-fearing people, or else we will face punishment and damnation. Don Juan is the ultimate sinner. He breaks laws, ruins women, destroys marriages, and tears families apart. Towards the end of the play, he also adopts a false “religious” front, so he can continue his immoral ways behind a facade. Therefore, he is also a hypocrite, which, perhaps, in Moliere’s opinion, is his greatest sin. Sganarelle is like Don Juan’s faulty conscience. He vehemently opposes Don Juan’s blasphemous ways, but does not have the courage to actually confront him about it.

Written during the seventeenth century, a time when religion practically governed society, the play would seem to be a work that many would appreciate, since Don Juan does “get what he deserves” in the end. However, many were shocked at the boldness with which Moliere treated the subject, and the play was pulled off the stage for being “offensive towards religion.” Despite this, Don Juan teaches a message of morality and faithfulness in religion. The beauty of Moliere’s play is that this strong message is craftily stated in a comedic, clever drama.

The Chelsea Hotel: A New York Icon

New York is home to many iconic hotels, but one that stands out for its role in the worlds of art and music is the Hotel Chelsea. This historic landmark opened in 1884 as an apartment building, but when that business venture failed, it was reopened as a hotel. At the time when it was built, it was the tallest building in new York City, standing at twelve stories tall.

The hotel is a red brick structure with elaborate wrought-iron balconies, an homage to Gothic architecture. Most famously, the Chelsea Hotel was home to many culture icons. Writers who lived there were Mark Twain, O. Henry, Dylan Thomas, William S. Burroughs, Arthur Miller, Tennessee Williams, Gore Vidal, Jack Kerouac, and Simone de Beauvoir. Actors and directors who lived there include Stanley Kubrick, Ethan Hawke, Eddie Izzard, Uma Thurman, Dennis Hopper, Elliot Gould, Michael Imperioli, Jane Fonda, and Edie Sedgwick. The hotel is most remembered for its place in music history. Musicians such as Patti Smith (who lived in the hotel with her soulmate, photographer Robert Mapplethorpe), Virgil Thomson, DeeDee Ramone, Edith Piaf, Joni Mitchell, Bob Dylan, Alice Cooper, Janis Joplin, Jimi Hendrix, and Sid Vicious (who infamously stabbed girlfriend Nancy Spungen to death in the hotel in 1978) called the hotel home at some point in their careers. The Hotel Chelsea’s staircase is lined with the work of artists who have lived there, including Frida Kahlo, Edie Sedgwick, and Robert Mapplethorpe.

The exterior and interior of the Hotel Chelsea

The Chelsea Hotel very much reflects the new artistic movements occurring in New York City at the time. It had an independent, fresh, bohemian air to it. It was a place of change, reform, and revolution.

Fun facts: Apparently the ghosts of Nancy Spungen, Dylan Thomas, and Eugene O’Neill haunt the Hotel Chelsea…

-Sarah Allam

The Arrival: A Story Of Immigration

Shaun Tan’s “The Arrival” tells a story that is familiar to all Americans: that of immigration and coming into a new world, not knowing what to expect. However, it is the way that the story is told that makes this graphic novel so compelling.

The story revolves around a man who tearfully leaves his behind his wife and young daughter in order to look for a better life in a faraway land. Once he gets there, he is thrust into this strange, foreign world with a different alphabet, odd creatures, and fantastic, whimsical architecture and technology. Of course, our hero is quite lost and confused at first, but throughout his stay he meets other people who describe their immigration stories to him, and he also befriends a strange white tadpole-like critter who helps him out along the way. In the end, his wife and daughter come to live with him, and the story ends with his daughter helping out another immigrant get their start in the strange land, just like her own father got help from those around him.

Of course, the most striking aspect of this book is that it contains absolutely no words. The story is told entirely through pictures. I believe that this is Tan’s way of showing that the story of immigration is everyone’s story (especially immigration to New York, since the strange land in his story seems to symbolize Ellis Island) . It was experienced by at least one person in our families, and shapes our culture and personalities. The main character is an Everyman figure, representing all immigrants. It doesn’t matter what language we speak; we are all bound by this common thread of a history of immigration and starting a new life in a new land. The pictures also help the reader to immerse themselves more in the book and relate to the main character on a deeper level. Since we have to decipher the meaning of the pictures, we are more attuned to the moods and feelings of the main character as we follow him on his adventure. Didn’t you feel lost and frightened with him when he encountered the spiky fruits and couldn’t read the picture language of that land?

The story also seems to have no sense of a time period. The style and dress of the characters hearken back to the late nineteenth/early twentieth century, and the artwork in the book is either black and white or sepia-toned. However, the technology and machinery that are central to life in the strange land are so advanced they seem straight from a fantasy. This shows how the central idea of immigration will always remain the same, regardless of the passage of time.

“The Arrival” is a unique read that presents an old story in an entirely different, more meaningful way.

Foer and Adams: Using Art To Communicate About 9/11

Without a doubt, 9/11 was a very jarring event. It was sudden and shocking and millions did not know how to deal with the plethora of feelings
inside them afterwards. Therefore, I found it quite interesting that both Foer and Adams used art to try to make sense of things, for themselves and others.

Both Foer and Adams (through writing and music, respectively) attempted to reach out to their audience and help them clear up the confusion and chaos within them (“give them a sense of serenity”, to paraphrase from Adams’ interview). Both works also place great emphasis on memory, and how these memories link all of us, who in some way were affected by the tragedy. In his interview, Adams suggests a connection between the living and the dead. Both were transformed by 9/11. Therefore the title of his song “On The Transmigration of Souls”, he means all of us as well, the individuals who have changed because of 9/11.

Since both Foer and Adams focus on memory, they use different mediums to get this point across. Foer’s work contains text, photography, and manipulation of words on the page. Adams’ work contains music, recitation, and photography as well. Both are firm believers in the saying “a picture is worth a thousand words”.