I’ll just start by saying that I’m frothing at the mouth for a conversation about Ms. Marvel. We’ve talked a lot about the portrayal of teenagers in media, but I don’t think the class has discussed anything that’s so painfully out of touch in such fascinating ways. I think that Ms. Marvel completely fails in addressing its core themes, from growing up in modern America, to coming to terms with and appreciating one’s faith, to dealing with racism and prejudice. I’m hypercritical,
so I’m hoping that our discussion on Friday reveals some flaws in my arguments. I feel that Ms. Marvel fails in fascinating ways, by unwittingly contradicting itself and perpetuating the stereotypes it aims to break. Ms. Marvel reminds me of the new Degrassi show on Netflix, in that it throws every hot-button topic into the narrative without having anything to say about any of it— aside from the general message that being a cartoonishly explicit yet naive depiction of a racist is bad.
I understand that I speak from a place of privilege, but I have witnessed the utter sorrow that racism instills in experiences with my friends from the middle east. I don’t think Ms. Marvel brings anything meaningfully constructive to the table, which is why I’m confused over the almost universal praise it receives. I agree that we are long long long overdo for a prominent muslim super hero, but Ms Marvel largely squanders its premise by portraying Islam as the same conservative, restrictive, and sexist stereotype the comic wants to break out of. Ms Marvel goes out of its way to show how important Kamala and Nakia’s faith and culture are to them, without giving the two any reason to appreciate it. There are reasons to be excited about one’s own religion. Kamala or Nakia might find solace in the beautiful poetry of the Quran, or in how their family’s faith kept them going in the violent past before they were born. Instead, Ms Marvel highlights various negative aspects of the religion, before hand waving them away with the pretense that racism is bad. This sort of argument preaches to the choir of individuals like me who have no ill will against muslims, while completely alienating the country bumpkins who sit afraid in their homes as the sensationalist media spins them story after story about Islamic terrorism. I’m constantly hearing about the problems with Islam, both on the news and in the media, all to distract us from the core issue stemming from western involvement in the middle east. So just this once, I wanted an alternative perspective, a look at what religion means to a young muslim. Instead, I found the same rhetoric I see in every trash television show I binge for fun. And none of this even touches on the bizarre portrayal of teenagers as a whole— meme spouting caricatures who are supposed to save the world, but almost universally fall into the categories of either racist or hopeless criminals following the moronic religion of my-life-is-more-valuable-as-a-human-battery-ism. But I have to check myself before I Shrek myself. I generally gage someone’s level of insanity by what it would take to convince them that their beliefs need re evaluating. I’m hoping that the class discussion reveals a side of Ms. Marvel I didn’t see before. I’d like to talk more about what media gets wrong about teenagers and young adults.
I hate to say this, but the White Space is Not Your Enemy readings were probably my favorite this class. I enjoyed everything from Klosterman and Smith and the rest of the crew, but I feel that the white space readings will genuinely stick with me and improve my skills in the long run. I understand it’s utilitarian to pick these readings as my favori, but I’ve already managed to apply them outside of class in my computer science work. My least favorite reading would have to be Baudrillard’s Precession of Simulacrae. Observe the following quote.
“But this conceals something else, and that “ideological blanket” exactly serves to cover over a third-order simulation: Disneyland is there to conceal the fact that it is the real” country, all of “real” America, which is Disneyland (just as prisons are there to conceal the fact that it is the social in its entirety, in its banal omnipresence, which is carceral),” (Baudrillard, 25).
I put the reading down for a day after reading that quote. The core ideas around the functions of Disneyland are absolutely worth discussing. But Baudrillard obfuscates his core message under a garbage dump of prose.
I have fairly straightforward plans for next semester. I’ll still be a junior, taking 15 hours, and working on a research project. My course load is almost exclusively computer science so I won’t go into details. My general life goal is to find a decent job in industry and use it to supplement the artsy stuff I’m into. I’ll likely finish my thesis here before heading off to grad school for 2-4 years. Something I won’t be doing in the future is taking this class again, so I owe future students a killer topic suggestion. I first throw my support towards the proposed surveillance topic (Comic: V for Vendetta, Movie: Brazil) as I feel mass surveillance and the sanctity of the 4th amendment are becoming increasingly relevant. I think a topic on extended media could prove exciting, looking at something like the television show Mr. Robot and its use of an ARG to reach audiences away from the television. An ARGor alternate reality game acts as sort of an ultra difficult mystery solving experience for those who stumble across it. Wikipedia has a great page on the topic which I’ll link here. That topic would likely be difficult considering how relatively few examples there are. Alternatively, a class about the fall of heroes, or characters descending into darkness would have me frothing at the mouth. I’d recommend the game Undertale for this topic as it provides the player with an authentic descent of their own, and because I feel that games could be further integrated into the class.. I’m sure there are plenty of comics that cover this conceit. If you wanted to get really wild, you could abandon the world of inferior western comic books and check out a manga like Oyasumi Punpun. Of course, this class seems to focus more on American culture, so a foreign work deeply rooted in another culture might not work out. I feel like I should shill for a moment by providing the Wikipedia links for Undertale and Oyasumi Punpun, as experiencing them greatly contributed to who I am today. A fantastic translation of Oyasumi Punpun is available on batoto with the creation of a free account.