The problem is not simply that the Singularity represents the passing of humankind from center stage, but that it contradicts our most deeply held notions of being. –Vernor Vinge
Films tend to reflect the time in which they are created. Despite the setting or content, it is common for films to portray topical concerns or contemporary public interests. This is especially true of the typically allegorical science fiction genre. Science fiction texts can almost always be interpreted as political or social criticism. The combination of film’s mass media platform and science fiction’s cultural insight creates a unique medium for peering into the public’s mindset at a point in time.
One such public fascination is artificial intelligence (AI), which can be interpreted as a computer system that is able to perform tasks that would normally require human intellect. Interestingly, the idea of humanistic artificial intelligences or cyborgs existed in the science fiction genre long before the invention of the electronic computer. Films such as Metropolis explored the potential fusion of man and machine as early as the 1920s. But never before had artificial intelligence been so commonly portrayed in the mass media as in the latter half of the twentieth century.
“I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore!”
I cringe when considering the number of written works that have utilized Howard Beale’s most famous quote. However, as a blogger it is my duty to once again regurgitate culture and hopefully provide some small new insight.
I watched Network for the first time long ago and only just today did I get around to re-watching it. To be frank, by its conclusion I found myself far more disturbed and distraught than I ever expected to be. I’m aware Network has always been praised for its incredible quality as a film, but it was on this recent viewing that I was able to grasp the rest of it’s merit as a prophetic text. Network is a film that can reduce even the most steadfast idealist into an anxious nihilist.
“They say you’re a man with true grit,” Mattie Ross states bravely to the burly U. S. Marshal, Rooster Cogburn, in Henry Hathaway’s 1969 film, True Grit, starring John Wayne. True Grit is a western, a genre that has preserved the masculine soul of the late 19th century United States’ western frontier. Largely as a result of the Gold Rush and Oregon Trail, the frontier became known as a land to which men could escape and re-secure their male identities. But as industrialization spread to the west, the heroic frontiersman of old died out and the memory of the old west was embalmed within the western genre. In the spirit of the frontier, films such as True Grit craft a world where masculinity is well within reach, and appeal to both the obsessions and fears of the male audience. However, as a result of changing frontiers, the ways those ideals are presented and manifested have changed. This is evident through the 2010 Coen brothers remake of True Grit.
The content of advertisements reveals a great deal about a society. They reflect the culture’s attitude towards race, gender, and class, in addition to how individuals are expected to behave in the society. Advertisements are out to sell, and the notion of being relevant to the lives of the audience is paramount in influencing consumers. For this reason, advertisements can so effectively expose characteristics of a civilization’s culture. However, advertisements rarely depict ordinary lives. Rather, they show idealized, embellished models of the attitudes, expectations, and behaviors of the various groups. Characters in advertisements are not everyday people, but rather symbols of how that race, class, or gender is expected to be. This causes an often invisible disconnect between real life and the lives of those depicted in ads. As a result, the idealistic stories told through advertisements end up crafting a society’s culture in addition to merely displaying its attributes. (more…)
To foreigners, I imagine apple pie, hamburgers, cheap beer and Coca Cola are the most typically American foods. And while it would be uncommon to find apple pie in my belly, they do to some extent embody the American national identity. However, in creating their generalizations about America, outsiders often overlook a crucial culinary character: the hot dog. I find this remarkable, seeing as how the hot dog makes its way to just as many burger joints and barbecues as hamburgers do. And I’m sure many would argue that hot dogs are just as succulent as hamburgers (myself included). Yet, abroad, they aren’t quite as powerful a symbol of America as a hamburger or apple pie.
The hot dog is very a humble food indeed, to remain quiet while it’s grill-mate, the hamburger, gets international fame and glory. After all, I’d argue both are equally delicious and a staple of American cuisine. Perhaps it is this humility that prevents the hot dog from spreading across the world as a proud symbol of America. It simply doesn’t embody the arrogance of the United States like greasy burgers, SUV’s, George Bush, and the other big American symbols do. But like I mentioned above, hot dogs are everywhere in this country, and I’m sure many Americans feel that the hot dog is to some extent, as strong a symbol of national identity as the apple pie. So why does it get less recognition as an American staple? (more…)