Posts Tagged ‘Capitalism’


America, the land of the free, is also a land of contradictions.  There seem to be two prominent versions of American lifestyle portrayed in popular culture.  The first is a simple life, where one can live in close proximity with nature, the great outdoors, and away from the confinement of the city.  The other is the life of mass excess, enjoyed by the few who sit at the top of the pyramid of American capitalism.  Weezer’s Beverly Hills embodies the latter America, by detailing the allure of the lives of the rich and the famous in Los Angeles.

               The song is written from the perspective of an outsider looking into this community, who places Beverly Hills on a pedestal when contrasted with his own life.  Whilst Beverly Hills represents extravagant wealth, where Rivers Cuomo (the lead-singer/songwriter of Weezer) comes from ‘isn’t all that great,’ his car is ‘a piece of crap,’ and he even displays a slight prejudice towards his own friends, who are ‘just as screwy’ as him.  This reflects the idolisation of the rich and famous in America.  Small town family values have been entirely rejected in exchange for the glitz and glamour of Los Angeles.  The punk rock grunginess of the music itself adds to the feeling of frustration that some of those excluded from Beverly Hills face.

               Beverly Hills makes the connection between the American worship of money and sex.  ‘Preppy girls’ never gave Rivers a chance.  However, even Rivers himself justifies this shallow prejudice – ‘why should they?  I ain’t nobody, got nothing in my pocket.’  Money is of such importance that it is a prerequisite for any kind of relationship with these women.  However, there are also strict standards for women in this version of America as well.  By setting the music video at Hugh Hefner’s Playboy Mansion, it is evident that the women of Beverly Hills are as beautiful as the men are wealthy.  Beverly Hills is being depicted as a kind of heaven on Earth, where everybody is as successful as they are beautiful.  However, if you don’t meet these standards, you aren’t welcome.

               Whilst many Americans would believe that anyone from the most humble of beginnings can make their way from the bottom of society to the top through hard work, Rivers doesn’t share the same sense of optimism that the American Dream promises.  Rivers wants to be ‘like a king,’ hinting at the idea that the Beverly Hills elite are almost like the aristocracy of America.  This is an interesting idea in a society that was founded against the monarchical structures of the Old World.  Rivers then describes himself as a ‘no class, beat down fool,’ and forever resigns himself to this reality: ‘I will always be that way.’  In a capitalistic society, where there will inevitably be those that are wealthier than others, Beverly Hills captures the resentment of being a low-income earner, whilst simultaneously worshipping the ground upon which the wealthy walk.  Despite being forever excluded from this clique, that’s where they want to be: living in Beverly Hills.

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            Privatized Philadelphia is a dystopian amusement park created with the intention of satirically revealing the pitfalls of the privatization of public education in the city. Each aspect of the park plays on notions of how privilege affects students’ experiences in the school system, the pervasiveness of capitalist ideology and competition, and the corruption of school privatization. From the highlighting of several Philadelphia’s best public schools, to the spotlight on charters, and graveyard of public education, omnipresent criticism of charter schools and the privatization of education permeates each aspect of the park. This park’s goal is to critically explore how the championing of free market as a means of reforming education has created a crisis in the Philadelphia School System.

            The park—run by laid-off Philadelphia Public School teachers—is only accessible by public transportation. After walking throuh metal detectors, the visitors are given one of two ticket levels. For every 100 visitors, 82 receive a Renaissance ticket (mirroring the official percentage of economically disadvantaged students in the Philadelphia School District) and 18 visitors receive a Magnet ticket (representing the experience of more privileged students navigating the school system). Throughout the park, these tickets will provide different levels of access and different experiences to the visitors. Renaissance visitors will walk a long path and Magnet visitors will take a train to Privilege Row. In Privilege Row, there are six different competition based activities revolving around a different theme for each school. Both types of visitors can go into the only non-Magnet attraction, Penn Alexander to play a lottery. The other attractions are only available to Magnet ticket holders. After Privilege Row is the Cafeteria eating area that sells traditional school lunches. Between the Cafeteria and next section of the park is the Declaration of Distress high striker game, in which Renaissance visitors must win the game in order to proceed while Magnet visitors get to go after one turn regardless of the result. Visitors can then enter Charter Circle or Standard Land. In Standard Land, there is a PSSA Rollercoaster, where visitors must go on the ride until they are able to answer irrelevant questions while hanging upside-down. Once they are able to answer these questions, they meet Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) and exit allowed off the ride. There are two parts of Charter Circle: Privatization Park and the Blueprint River. There are several amusement park rides in Privatization Park, each run by different charter companies. Blueprint Boating, is a lazy river ride that takes its name from the School Reform Commission’s financial plan. Visitors will be stuck in their boats, unable to do anything while they watch as the charter schools entirely privatize the Philadelphia Public School System. At the end of Charter Circle, there is a helipad and a gate to enter Cemetery of Closings. Magnet ticket level visitors will board a helicopter to take them over the Cemetery. When they land, they will exist on the Path to College. Renaissance ticket holders must walk through the cemetery. Along the path, visitors will see tombstones marked with the names of the Philadelphia Public Schools recently closed. Towards the end of the path, visitors will also encounter the graves of public education and equity. After they walk out of the graveyard, Renaissance visitors will reach a fork in the road. On one side is the Path to College blocked by a gate with a huge padlock. The other path, which all Renaissance visitors must take, leads them back to the beginning of the park. At this point, they can choose to drop out and leave the park or go through again.

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Growing up, I am sure we were all familiar with the smurfs, a cartoon created in the 1980’s, which first originated in Belgium before being bought over by an American entrepreneur. However, many have argued that the cartoon was actually a form of propaganda to promote communism within society. Although they may be blue on the outside, the smurfs have been accused of being red on the inside, a colour which is commonly associated with that of communism. Firstly, many have commented that the character of Papa Smurf is based on Karl Marx, due to similar physical features such as the thick white beard and also the wearing of the red hat. Also Papa Smurf is a gentle, wise, and knowledgeable village elder/leader or as many have quoted him as being the symbol of a communist dictator since it is his duty is to ensure that all the Smurfs of the village get along and respect each other. Furthermore it can be argued that the smurfs do live within a classless society, in which all means of production are controlled by the people and all people are equal which is seen in regards to the smurfs having defined roles, live in identical houses and dress alike.
The capitalist government in return is represented by the character of Gargamel, who is portrayed as a greedy and ruthless man who wished to use the smurfs to gain wealth. It therefore conveys the idea that capitalism is based on the needs and wants of an individual as opposed to the needs of society. What is perhaps more symbolic is that throughout each episode the smurfs constantly defeat Gargamel, thus trying to emphasize that communism is stronger than capitalism.
Thus communism was portrayed via a cartoon probably without a lot of people knowing it and therefore making them more accepting of the communist way of life. Therefore the smurfs was a form of U.S communism.

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