Abouna: Ocular Introjection

Abouna is a prime example of Fenichel’s discussion of scoptophilic instinct and identification. The film consists of multiple gazes, pauses, and ‘stretching of the eyeballs’. The characters stare into the distance. They stare at each other. More importantly, they stare at us as an audience. The power of the gaze is undeniable in Abouna. Abouna’s eyes, his mother’s eyes, his brother’s eyes, etc., devour us, forcing us to enact what Fenichel calls “ocular introjections”. We internalize the characters, their attributes, their fears, their weaknesses, and their strengths. Essentially, we become the characters. I found this to be quite disturbing. I struggled to observe Abouna because I felt that I was walking through the film with the characters. I was mesmerized by each character who stared at me, especially the mother. Her experience became my own, and it wasn’t until she looked away that I regained a sense of my own being. She had complete control over me. The film also left me with the question of exactly what was I supposed to be internalizing. Should the gaze make me feel the characters’ sufferings? Should I be more conscious of the world around me? Or did the gaze intend to overwhelm me? I continue to struggle with these questions. Abouna is the first film which I felt an uncontrollable interaction with a character.


Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles

I remember talking in class about how many countries view Africa as this place that needs help because it is a “genocide inside a failed state, inside a dictatorship.” However, this view is completely wrong and in fact infuriates many Africans. One book that aims to showcase all that is positive with Africa is one by Robert Dowden titled, Africa: Altered States, Ordinary Miracles. His main motive is to correct the negative stereotypes many have about Africa.He believes that the media only covers the disasters that occur in Africa and none of the positives, creating this negative stereotype of Africa. He believes that “persistent images of starving children and men with guns have accumulated into our narrative of the continent,” and because of continuous reinforcement, a very hard stereotype to extinguish. No matter how much aid industries want to help Africa, they are in fact making the situation look even worse by playing off of the media and vice versa. The main belief that Dowden holds is that “aid agencies, Western celebrities, rock stars and politicians cannot save Africa. Only Africans can develop Africa. Outsiders can help, but only if they understand it, work with it.” He believes we can do other things rather than increasing the number of aid industries that will be more helpful. For example, if the West ends agricultural subsidies, this would benefit the many African farmers who have to compete. Specifically West African cotton farmers suffer severely from America’s cotton subsidies.

Amistad: Meaning

The first time I watched Amistad was for this course. The only previous knowledge I had about the film was the infamous line “Give Us Free”. The first time I heard this phrase was though a joke. Thus, the film’s content surprised me. I was not aware of how vivid most of the scenes were; I wasn’t aware of how historical it was. I also did not expect for the movie to appear that real. The contrast between how I felt when I heard the joke about the phrase in the movie and how I felt when I watched the entire movie relates to our discussion on how knowledge is framed. I entered the film with a comic perspective. As I watched the film, I became more aware of the gravity of the film. The naked bodies, bruises, water, wooden ships, bitter men/women, crying children, and pale faces all structured my knowledge far more than the joke about the “Give Us Free” phrase. My knowledge was framed by a combination of the visual and the oral, and the film garnered more meaning with both the visual and oral present. This observation made me realize how many factors frame knowledge and when one is absent, (in my case the visual), there is no meaning.

Satire: Separating Signifier and Signified

I was watching the episode “Racial Sensitivity” of the ABC show, Better Off Ted, and was struck by the way that satire upsets the narrative expectations that images or certain words bring. The show is follows Ted and his Research Development lab at Veridian Dynamics, an evil international corporation. In this episode, Veridian installs a new automatic system that controls the  doors, the lights, the water fountains etc that operates on a light sensor—that doesn’t pick up Black people. The corporation hires White people to follow the Black people, but this problem occurs…

Throughout this episode, different iconic moments of Racism are re-created or referenced—like a new manuel “Black” drinking fountain. Some characters pick up on the how, um, problematic this policies are, while some characters blithely seem unaware (one of the running jokes of the show is how the bosses only think in terms of money in a distorted reality that ignores most of the customs of reality, like Veronica in the above clip). That these signs don’t quite signify what we expect, but still something related while being very different is confusing, and funny in a very dark way. 

The question I was turning over in my mind the whole time I watching this (and hat I pose to you) is that  I wasn’t certain if the satire separating meaning from image reaffirmed the attitudes it mocked or mocked in a way that challenged them?

Hang Time: What is African? What is African American?

  1. Hang Time illustrates how class and gender roles play into the survival of a family. The protagonist of the film struggles between committing a crime to achieve his dream and legitimately reaching his goal. His father is absent and his family is poor. He believes that in order to survive, he must obtain the American dream. He considers basketball to be his last resort. His story is a common one, especially in America. From the presentation by Queen Latifah to the gym shoes, the movie seeks to imbricate the African experience to an African American experience. This attempt was unsuccessful, and I believe that the connection was unsuccessful because the film ultimately lost control of its own representations. The boy’s role appeared displaced, and it was difficult for me to believe that his only option for success would be recruitment by an American basketball team. His struggle appeared uniquely African American, which didn’t work for him as an African. He didn’t fit the “He Got Game” profile. By saying this, I realize that I am stereotyping. Even as I watched the movie, I found myself pondering the possibility of him having dreams of becoming a basketball star. Like Mary- Ann, I felt it would be more appropriate for him to choose a career in soccer. This film highlighted my perceptions of what is uniquely African and what is uniquely American (specifically African American). For me, this film was evidence that these two representations cannot be mixed.   

Hartsfield-Jackson Atlanta International Airport

So the tennis team left today for nationals in Georgia. I’ve been in the Atlanta airport before but I don’t think I really looked around. However, today, while walking to baggage claim (a reallllllyyyy long walk may I add) there was a section dealing with African art, specifically Zimbabwean art. It was interesting to see that most of the artwork (sculptures) were of people: mostly of mother-like figures holding at least one child. The sculptures were located in the middle of two walkways. Not only that, but there were blown-up photographs of things we stereotypically associate with Africa lining the walls: leopards, elephants, giraffes, tribal masks, face paint. It was a little crazy to see all this in the airport and then see that certain stereotypes are being reinforced. Here are some pictures I found on the Internet of the Zimbabwean sculptures in the airport.



Tomb Raider 2:The Cradle of Life

Tomb Raider 2 is problematic for a number of reasons. The most disturbing, yet fascinating scene for me was the scene where Angelina Jolie is walking through a mystical forest in Africa. As we know, this area is fabricated. As she walks through the forest, strange creatures emerge from behind trees. These creatures eat humans and appear to be savages. These creatures fit into the entire counterfeit apparatus of the film, but they also fit into the all too real misconceptions of Africa. Africa is often portrayed as primitive and the land of savagery. Although created during the early 1900s, a film such as Tarzan also characterizes Africa as an uncivilized continent, and I believe that Tomb Raider perpetuates these same stereotypes. Because these stereotypes of savagery and primitiveness in Africa are available to most people, these creatures could only exist in a land such as Africa. Rarely do you see a movie based outside of Africa with characters such as these.