Tag Archives: society

What stories represent and what they tell us about ourselves

This week I wanted to discuss something on the more serious side of writing and representing the real world through story. So without further ado, allow me to take to the stage of the blogging world.

Gorgmenghast.

peake2

The name quietly stirs in your mind as you read the tale of its 77th Earl, Titus Groan. Complicated words, but colorful imagery. Small events and tragedies, we take for granted in our epic fantasy tales but under the careful magnifying glass of Mervyn Peake’s imagination, you feel its weight on your tired eyes.

The Gormenghast trilogy is quite different from your standard fantasy epic, even if you put in A Song of Ice and Fire in the mix. When you read it, you can see why publishers at the same had a hard time categorizing it. This was one of the reasons that prevented these novels from being published and recognized in writing circles.

If I described the Gormenghast trilogy, on face value it wouldn’t stir much interest let alone be considered a treasure in the literary world. Yet, while I read Gormenghast, I was wondering why the story stirred something inside of me. The writing and description was extraordinary but something about the story made me realize its true value.

I couldn’t put my finger on what is was though.

The story is about the life Titus Groan from birth to….well until the author died and never really completed the series. However, it shows how his life is ruled by rituals and traditions that have lost their meaning. Somehow, everyone in the castle goes along with this, as if its some sort of law.

Gormenghast was and is the law. Defying it, challenging it and any form of rebellion was unheard of that it even drove Titus’s father mad.

There is no escape, only submission.

mervyn peake illustration of dr. jekyl and mr hyde

After reading a bit about the author’s life,  I learnt that in his early years he lived in China. The way Gormenghast, the castle, and all its inhabitants live separately from the rest of society sort of reminded me of the Forbidden City.

Then it hit me.

No questions, go along with everyone, obey traditions that have lost any meaning and relevance in today and forget any individual happiness?

Maybe I’m over thinking this, but it felt like the story was representing a sort of Gothic form of collective societies. I’m not saying all collective societies are bad or every single characteristic they possess makes them bad. But anything in excess is usually bad, even individualism (I’m looking at you Ayn Rand).

atlasshrugged200

Back to my point, the Gormenghast novels seemed to resonate with some of my childhood (and even adulthood) experiences regarding collectivism. I grew up in a culture that emphasized on following traditions to the point that they had, figuratively, broken life down into an ordered grocery list. If you fall out of line or do something not accepted or done before, you risk being ostracized.

From a psychological point of view and personal experience, this conflict between choosing for yourself and following what the group does come at a price regardless of the choice you make. Now, if you reject certain traditions not only are you ostracized but you also, within your community, loose that sense of assurance you’re accepted. Maybe to some people that doesn’t sound so bad, but it can have devastating effects on a person’s emotional health.

And forget about ‘middle ground’ in these situations. It’s a dead concept.

Gormenghast offers readers a story about a family, specifically a boy, whose whole life has been planned before he takes his first breath. The senseless rituals he has to commit to have lost all meaning but no one dares question carrying them out or their relevance.

This reminded me of several arguments when I questioned certain traditions and mentalities about the collectivist society I was born into. Any direct question was pretty much met with the same answer (maybe an adverb or adjective if I was lucky):

Because that's what's best because- *insert rest of answer*

Because it’s what’s best because- *insert rest of answer*

This was especially true if I brought up about the role of women in today’s society. Out of my own stupidity and the sweet taste of rebellion (plus the added bonus of pissing off relatives), I wanted to insist certain values were….quite Victorian in nature.

Though doing this would’ve been more productive use of my time:

normal_headdesk

Nevertheless, books like the Gormenghast novels capture difficult concepts to weave into a story, let alone be the central theme.  Also, certain values that are morally grey are harder to come across effectively. But its these stories that bring a wealth of culture and the ability to look at ourselves and the world around us more closely.

It is these stories that we keep in our hearts and minds much longer than your standard white knight saves the world from dark wizard.


Nostalgia Critic best sums up Twilight

A blogger discussing Twilight these days is as old of tale as “Once a upon a time, an internet troll started a flame war”. It’s a dangerous risky domain for any blogger to enter.

Proceed with Caution

I made this sign 😀 I’m so proud!

But if you’re a MANLY blogger, you have to go. You have to get your numbers up. You have to piss off half the internet at one point in your blogging life. This doesn’t mean you can’t proceed with caution.

1001 things to do on the internet before you die: Contribute to the One does not simply Meme. CHECK!

1001 things to do on the internet before you die: #24 Contribute to the One does not simply Meme. CHECK!

Sooner or later I was bound to write about it and contribute to the discussion without sounding like the two most popular arguments:

I couldn't find a 'good' argument pic for Twilight

I couldn’t find a ‘good’ argument pic for Twilight. I don’t want to try too hard.

The only argument I can find for the ‘good’ part is the usual escapism stuff.

Yes, we know, we know:

Twilight is popular and the sales figures speak for themselves.

Twilight is bad because it sets women back 100 years (I agree).

All these arguments have been said and written, discussed and fought over long before a certain blogger decided to enter the scene.

Before I go on, I’d like you to watch Nostalgia Critic’s short editorial piece on Twilight

I’ll just…help myself to avoiding my PhD work in the meantime.

How to avoid PhD work

Done?

I agree for the most part with the Nostalgia Critic. He mentions towards the end of the video that (I’m paraphrasing here) ‘for every moron that believes Twilight represents what life is, dozens are moving on’.

I don’t agree there Mr. Nostalgia Critic.

Last post I linked everyone to a certain book which discusses how media does affect young people.

Yes, people do move on and do change, however, people unconsciously believe what the media portrays there is some underlying truth applicable to their life.

Maybe you don’t believe me. Fair enough. So I’ll ask you this, just observe the people around you and yourself. Especially when it comes to their love life.


Beauty Racism

I’m going to go out of a limb and say that you might have experienced the same kind of racism I’ve dealt with either directly or indirectly.

Today I’d like to write to you about something I call “Beauty Racism”.

When people think ‘racism’ I imagine most people immediately think of skin color or ethnic origin in terms of job roles, socio-political roles, etc. But today, I want to write about a different kind of racism that has spilled from history, social-politic roles and stereotypes to the perception of beauty.

During my undergraduate years, I noticed the guys often went after young ladies with fairer skin. I also heard about several women complaining to dermatologists about wanting to “be white”. This was because being ‘fair’ or ‘white’ was equated with success and, more importantly, in certain collective societies: beauty.

Growing up, I’ve learnt through the subtle and not so subtle messages that people valued women with fairer skin. And it wasn’t just me who picked up on that. One of my childhood friends told me about a nine year old girl who used 4 or 8 bottles of a product called “Fair & Lovely” a month.

What is “Fair & Lovely”? The commercials speak for themselves:

Other commercials, especially the Arabic ones I’ve come across, show pretty much the same scenario about a woman not getting the glamorous job or the handsome man until she uses the product and becomes…’fairer’. I haven’t come across the men’s version of these commercials until I searched youtube.

From my experience, beauty racism mainly deals with skin color but also ethnic origin which affects other physical features such as hair type, nose, you get the idea. I’m sure there’s another side to the proverbial coin (being bronze, etc). So, I’d like to open a social dialogue on this topic to incorporate other people’s experiences’ including men’s perspectives.

Everyone has heard of the famous quote “Beauty is in the eye of the beholder”. Just as individuals have different tastes in food, music, clothing, books etc so do their perceptions of what is considered ‘beautiful’ or handsome. As these tastes evolve over time, so do someone’s perception of ‘beauty’. Remember when you were a teenager? Did you look for the same features in potential partners as you do now? Do you or any of your friends find the same men and women attractive? (If you do, good luck with the competition!)

This can become a sensitive topic as I’ve read in forums some people are not attracted to certain features and asked does that make them racist?

So what is “Beauty Racism”?

The Merriam-Webster online dictionary defines racism as “a belief that race is the primary determinant of human traits and capacities and that racial differences produce an inherent superiority of a particular race” or “racial prejudice or discrimination”.

If you reject someone on the basis of your classification of them into a specific ‘race’ because they possess certain physical traits (skin color, hell even eye color) which makes you superior or the person inferior in some way (beyond physical appearance)…

Then yes, you are racist.

If you reject someone  because you don’t find that particular person physically attractive to you and not categorize them to a particular ‘race’ then that’s based on what you find beautiful. Remember, beauty is in the eye of the beholder. But also keep in mind inner beauty.

I’ve seen some beautiful and handsome people, regardless of skin, ethnic origins just the person’s individual physical beauty, but their personalities made them ugly.

Very ugly.

I’ve also seen the opposite, at first glance not particularly attractive but their inner beauty made them more than beautiful in the physical sense.

Sadly, this topic can become messy.

Easily. I lost count how many drafts I wrote for this post.

So, how do we appreciate a person’s natural beauty without the perfect abs, cultural blabs, or photoshop ads?

Study art.

Specifically, human anatomy. Study the human body as a whole of an individual to see a different beauty the media has failed to capture. Go to photostock websites or Deviantart to try and see a variety of models.

Charcoal Drawing

Charcoal Drawing

For the writers out there, I believe studying art can help with writing. It can help ‘teach’ someone how to describe a character’s figure more than “She was lean,” or “He was robust,” and so on.

Need proof?

Read the Gormenghast novels or the short story “Boy in Darkness” by Mervyn Peake. He used his art skills in his writing to provide more vivid descriptions.

So, have you experienced anything similar with beauty racism? To any gentlemen readers out there, what issues have you dealt with?


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