Sunday, December 9, 2012

The decline of the American Dream

The decline of the American Dream is one of the main features in the novel The Great Gatsby.  Novelists of the time often wrote about the American Dream, is a positive scene. Fitzgerald explores both the positive and negative effects of the American Dream. On the surface the novel is a romantic story with scandal and affair but it also explores a much deeper meaning of the desire to want more, and the feeling of never being satisfied!  Post World War One morale was low as was the economy this effected the popularity of the novel at the time, people did not want to read about the excess of disposable income and the desire to want even more materialistic items! The novel is of the typical American Dream era, and examines the ideas of prosperity and material excess. However Fitzgerald illustrates how the idea of having everything you desire can still leave you feeling empty and wanting more. This emotion is expressed through the character of Gatsby, who appears to have all the materialistic items his heart desires but he is missing an important element of happiness; love from Daisy, something which money cannot buy. Leaving us with the question, as Gatsby has come from a background of wealth does this mean he cannot achieve the idea of the American Dream? And does this mean he already has achieved it, in being rich and successful due to his background? And finally does this mean the American Dream does not provide you with everything?
The characters in the novel each represent the social trends in America at the time, and how the different forms of class act with one another, behavior of which still exists in today’s society.  Gatsby and Daisy cannot be together as they are from different social classes. Gatsby throws extravagant parties, in order to lure Daisy in, he has a desire to spend and succeed.  The novel explores the idea that any class can obtain wealth this is a feature of the American Dream, and even though Nick becomes successful and rich and in the eyes of some, it could be said that he has achieved the idea of the American Dream yet he still returns to Minnesota. He does so because it is said that during the time Minnesota was where American values were not being forgotten about or disposed of. Which is what is happening to New York at the time.
Post World War One, the economy rises and there is more available disposable income, Fitzgerald illustrates how this does not always bring a positive effect.  

The popular American reality TV show ‘Laguna Beach’ represents today’s idea of ‘Old money’. The series gives viewers an in site in to what it is like to live in Orange County, and how young teens live off their parent’s money. The teenagers illustrate images of fabulous, extravagant lifestyles and are living the idea of the American Dream. There are similar features which appear in both The Great Gatsby and Laguna Beach, which are; Wealth, popularity, excessive spending and the idea of old money. Two of the most famous teenager in the series is still popular today.
Lauren Conrad is a character in the series who was preserved as the more down to earth character however she did have some materialistic values. Lauren Conrad lives in Los Angles California today after obtaining a degree at the Fashion institute of design and Marketing. Lauren has published several books and has two of her own fashion lines. I believe Lauren Conrad is a modern adaptation of the character Nick in the novel, although Lauren has come from money, she aims high and succeeds in aspects of her life, to become successful in her own right.

Heidi Montag another character from the series, also has many materialistic values, and after the Laguna Beach series come to an end, Heidi follows the footsteps of Lauren Conrad and moves to LA, where she too enrolls in a university course. However she later drops out and things start to go downhill for Heidi. During 2010 Heidi, underwent ten plastic surgery procedures in one day! Heidi's idea of perfection was becoming so over the top that this created a great deal of hype in the media, and still today the media are fascinated on the excess of Heidi’s extreme make over! Heidi explains in an interview that “In America you can do what you want” Making us think is this a belief which is shared by many American citizens, and is the result of this belief resulting in American citizens taking such drastic measures to improve their self image?  I believe the character of Heidi, shares many similarities with the character Gatsby, although she has been exposed to a life of wealth and financial security, there is still something she believes she is missing, much like the character Gatsby who feels he is missing something in his life although his is something money cannot buy! The transformation of Heidi Montag shows the negative effect of the America Dream, in that having money does not provide you with everything. 

The Great Gatsby In Relation To Present Day America

'The Great Gatsby' was written by American author F. Scott Fitzgerald, and takes place in the Spring of 1922, over a period of two months. Today, it is seen as a 'Great American Novel', and 'The Modern Library' named it the second best English-language novel of the twentieth century.

In relation to today, 'The Great Gatsby' has many features that can still be relevant today. For example; racism is a huge factor in the novel. Tom Buchanan (Daisy's husband) has evidential racist opinions 'it's up to us [white people], who are the dominant race, to watch out or these other races will have control of things' (Page 17). This suggests that Tom is very racist, and not only that, is very
power orientated, and wants to have the dominant authority. This is shown on Page 10; 'among various physical accomplishments, had been one of the most powerful ends that ever played football at New Haven - a national figure in a way'. The statement suggests how Tom views his own social status, which is also potrayed as an important factor in someones life due to the author also mentioning this point. In relation to the quote about racism; this corelates to present day America, as racism is still ambivalently questioned in America, with people suggesting they feel that due to circumstances like the re-election of Obama; that racism has ceased in the US. Nonetheless, there has also been proof that racism is still a huge issue in America, with the RT poll (2012) finding that 51% of American's express racist attitudes, which is an increase from 42% in 2008, when the US elected it's first American President ( The poll also finds how 'white people' stereotype black people, which is potentially what Tom is doing. Furthermore, Nick (the author) expresses racist attitudes; 'a limousine passed us, driven by a white chauffeur, in which sat three modish Negroes, two bucks and a girl. I laughed aloud as the yolks of their eyeballs rolled toward us in haughty rivalry' (page 55). The terms that Nick uses are degrading, he doesn't even categorise the different genders using 'lady or gentleman' which he would of done if they were white. Also, Nick suggests that he 'laughed aloud', as if it's funny that black people can ever believe they can compete with the white race, due to his acknowledgment of a 'white chauffeur'. The implication that Nick believes the characters are the wrong way round as both characters cannot see behind the ethnicity. However, in that era, racism was rife and was hard to escape, even with protesters like Martin Luther King. In today's current era, moreover, racism revolves more around generations learning from older family members to be racist and I believe also a problem with dominance, due to the rise of racist feelings after Obama's first election in 2008.

Another issue that 'The Great Gatsby' tackles is how the 'roaring twenties' contrived of a materialistic culture, shown through the parties that Gatsby throws and the relationshipa of the characters. This is shown through Daisy and Tom's marriage, Daisy chose an empty relationship with Tom instead of spending the rest of her life with Gatsby, who she truly loves. Her relationship does show other readers how money cannot just make you happy; 'She [Daisy] never loved you [Tom], do you hear', he cried. 'She only married you because I was poor and she was tired of waiting for me. It was a terrible mistake, but in her heart she never loved anyone except me!' (Page 137).  This shows shows how although Daisy loved Gatsby, she was willing so sacrifice her love to be in a relationship just for the money, which made her unhappy but happy at the same time (lack of love but she had materialistic objects).  In the novel, Gatsby tries to entice Daisy by throwing huge parties, which suggests that even Gatsby realised that the only way to get what he wants is to flaunt his cash.  This can relate to today due to the overwhelming culture of brands in America; for example, products like the Applie ipad are seen as a trend, in which many people want to endorse, just to be part of a generation with the same materialistic items.  Furthermore, consumerism in America is what people today categorise the US with; restaurantes such as McDonalds are now a global franchise and brands such as Microsoft, Nike, Disney, Google and Amazon are all founded in America; yet is known world wide.

The Great Gatsby - Own Topic

When looking at themes from the Great Gatsby, I pondered on a film that is contemporary and modernised.

The film G (Christopher Scott Cherot, 2002) is an American drama film that is, indeed, loosely based on F. Scott Fitzgerald's The Great Gatsby. Its contemporary and is a film that deals with the hip hop subculture of America. This is a pivotal text to analyse because it shows the themes of The Great Gatsby being expressed in subcultures of America that have developed over time since the novel was written.

The film is mainly about a hip hop artist trying to win back the love of his life. The leading woman in the film is based on Daisy Buchanan. Thus, this deals with one of the main themes of the novel.

With this in mind as being an overt adaptation, I thought it would be a good idea to suggest the American TV Drama series Boardwalk Empire to be a significant example to ponder.

First, Boardwalk Empire is not necessarily an adaptation of The Great Gatsby, however, the series deals with the "Roaring Twenties" and the bootlegging era that the novel is set in. Aspects such as prohibition and the decline of the American Dream are issues that are highlighted in Boardwalk Empire and also The Great Gatsby. Importantly, this also correlates with F. Scott Fitzgerald's portrayal of the 1920s being socially and morally deprived which, similarly  is explored in Boardwalk Empire.

Above all, one could argue there has been a spate of TV dramas, Films and other sources of entertainment that have contained themes of The Great Gatsby and focused on these specifically. In particular, a 2013 film is yet to be released with Leonardo DiCaprio of the Great Gatsby. It poses a question of whether the novel will loose its authenticity or not. Its clear that this era of American History is a period that holds fundamental significance.

The Great Gatsby - My Own Post

After reading The Great Gatsby I straight away went to watch the trailer for the new film. I wanted to see after reading the book how it was interpreted into modern film, which sometimes can be a total success or a complete failure. It's the case most of the time that the book is always better than the film as it can't always be represented to it's full potential. The reason I decided to look at the way the book has been put onto the big screen is because there are so many different ways that you can portray characters and locations from books from your own imagination and understanding of the text.

There have been two adaptions of the book into film, the first film was released in 1974 and has a very vintage feel to it. The 2nd and the more present version is the newest and undoubtably better produced version of the novel. It is said that the novel is still relevant today with the introduction of movies like this that will also introduce the story to a new generation of people; some of  which haven't read the book and some (children/teenagers) who have never heard of the novel before.
Originally I had my own image of all the characters and locations in The Great Gatsby and it's almost weird to see how they have been interpreted into the movie, for example I would have never chosen Leo DiCaprio as the role of Jay Gatsby because I always saw him as a slightly older man with a more powerful demeanour. It's from within these actors and actresses that help you understand the story in more depth. The idea is that the morales of the story are given in a way that a new generation can understand and consider. Although the American Dream and the Jazz age of the 20s are irrelevant today, through film The Great Gatsby can be told again to a newer audience and have it's ideas and premises explained, it could also help reintroduce the idea of the American Dream and explain to people that not everyone succeeds, and corruption and greed aren't necessarily the greatest ways in achieving that.

In my opinion I think that a film adaptation of a book is always a great medium to further engage the audience. It's a great way to take an old text and help explain how it's importance when it was written can be reflected onto a modern society. I still think that when this film is released it will be a great way for people to be introduced to the story of The Great Gatsby so they can learn more into the 'American Dream' and early 20s America.

The Great Gatsby (1974)
The Great Gatsby (2013)
The Great Gatsby Official Website

The Great Gatsby- Own Comparison

The Great Gatsby shows a clear divide in social class, it shows the lives of the wealthy and the big extravagant parties that are held by them. It is very rare that people are considered by what political view they may have or what religion they follow, many nowadays are more aware and concerned about how they are perceived socially. As we can see that Jay Gatsby is very wealthy and living a life that many would envy him for having.

In the book there are two distinguished locations that we hear about, East Egg and West Egg. These Two areas are consistently compared to each other, East Egg is associated with 'old money', highest in class whilst  West Egg is known for being self- made rich. This lead to East Egg people constantly looking down on West  Egg people because of this. Money can not separate people within this book however if the person is not educated to the highest standard then we start to see the division in class.

The two locations can be seen within reality T.V programmes today, Made in Chelsea ( Old Money, East Egg) and Jersey Shore (New money, West Egg).
Made in Chelsea
Made in Chelsea is about cast of people, who are considered rich, glamorous and privileged. Many are from privileged backgrounds, coming from private schools and having they're parents successful businesses to help them achieve the social class as they use 'parents' help to buy into this lifestyle. Parties are considered to be extravagant and stylish with a touch of class to them.

Jersey Shore
Jersey shore is a programme about a group of unknown people who where placed together simply for a T.V show. Since the show has started many of the cast has now made millions from one the show and two by going off making their own businesses creating them even more fortune.
Parties here are not the same as 'East Egg' there more outgoing and less class.

I think that these two examples are good way to view the difference in the book between old money and new money. You can have so much money but then to have a high social class, added features like education  is also needed to be considered when viewing class.

Sunday, December 2, 2012

Consumerism in the USA - Call of Duty: Black Ops II

Call of Duty: Black Ops II

Call of Duty is undoubtably the biggest and most popular modern computer game on the planet. Every year there is a new title that is released, which switches between Activision and Treyarch - two large American video game production companies based in Santa Monica, California. The games themselves are based on war in the modern era and not so distant future, using advanced warfare technologies and weaponry. The games are a big hit around the world with the multiplayer aspect, which draws in millions of players of different genders and races. 

The advert that I chose is the first live action trailer released for the game, which is following the trend of the first Black Ops game having Jonah Hill star as a 'rookie' or 'noob' soldier and then go through the ranks in a similar fashion to how the game presents. The games are very American to start with, and they always have been. They usually feature American soldiers that go around the world fighting for their country usually in places that America is known to have had issues with, particularly the middle east. To me this shows a very controversial manner of 'modern warfare' in the killing of Middle Eastern people, Russians and other cultures that America is known to have fallen out with. 
This advert features one prominent American Actor, Robert Downey Jr. and a American YouTube star Kyle Myers (FPSRussia), which highlights a very important part of the commercial, showing that these people are linked to the games can influence people to buy the game. The sense of knowing that your favourite movie star is featured in a game could say to people that 'he likes the game, therefore I'm going to buy it'. The idea of war in America gives the very strong suggestion of the power of America and how prominently they feature in such games and advertisements. 

One thing that stood out to me was the different people that were included. The actors that were chosen all look different and to me show a snapshot of the American people, with a black man, a spanish/mexican man, two American ladies and the rest being white males. This again shows American values in that they are a very mixed and diverse culture, so again the advert tries to reach out to as many different classes and races of people. Another thing that I noticed was the glorification of warfare and how relaxed or 'chilled' out the people seem. It reflects highly on how these types of games are presented into modern society, in that the idea of blowing someone up in a game seems relatively enjoyable, fun and easy. There appears to be no suffering at all in the commercial but rather the complete opposite, however when compared to the real idea of war that isn't the case at all. It again shows how in American culture that war is a common and normal process in that because they are the most powerful country in the world they aren't shy of the fact that they are going to be a significant part of the world's conflicts. Again another thing I spotted, which relates back to an American horror movie is that at the end of the advert the guy stands there with a shotgun and says 'Zombies...Groovy' which is a direct relation to the film 'The Evil Dead' whereby the main character Ash's catchphrase is 'Groovy'. Although this doesn't have much to do with the game or war I thought it was an interesting thing to throw in as the film is a cult classic in America and was directed by Sam Raimi who is a prominent American director. 

Lastly the caption at the end - 'There's a solider in all of us' to me shows the idea of American's being that all mighty race of people that soar above anyone or anything else. Although this game is produced worldwide and played by people around the world, the main focus of those people is America and Europe (particularly the United Kingdom); both of which are known allies in the scheme of warfare. The United Kingdom being the 'little brother' in this can also be reflected on this idea of 'There's a soldier in all of us' whereby we followed and joined the USA into the war in Iraq for example. 
The advertisement overall glorifies America as this country that is so familiar with warfare and conflict that it almost doesn't seem to be something to worry about and something that could be shown in an advertisement like this to American people and make them want to buy the game. To me it also shows  passion behind the idea of America being this huge superpower with all these fancy weapons and fancy technology that they could definitely use it all to their own benefit if they needed too, and they aren't shy of showing that off. 

A contemporary consumer item

The American, commercial for the iPhone 4S is an example of an American contemporary consumer item which illustrates aspects of typical American values. The iPhone is presented as an invention which has many useful, unique and effective technical features which can help the individual in everyday life events and obstacles. The iPhone is presented as helpful, quick, up to date and modern, organised, efficient and time saving, with the new features developed for the phone. These are all aspects which I believe many Americans feel are important in life, the idea that a gadget or device can help you become more organised, save time and is overall a useful and helpful form of technology is important. Many Americans like the latest technology and something which is new and unique, the iPhone sells its self as being all of that in this short commercial. There is a contrast of different people in the commercial, which is also another American value I believe, as it shows how diverse America is as a nation and is showing and understanding and recognition to this. The commercial effectively demonstrates the understanding by having a range of different people, in the commercial, Young to old, the difference in races and gender but also accents, showing how the iPhone is used by a range of different people, from all across America. The people in the commercial ask what might seem relevant and non relevant questions, to Suri the software provided on the iPhone 4S which the commercial is advertising. The questions are everyday random questions which imply, the iPhone can help you in all everyday scenarios. One of the women shown in the commercial asks the question “Will I need an umbrella for New York” this implies the phone is ideal for people on the go and possibly people who may be travelling. A man from the commercial instructs Suri, to tell his wife he is going to make it, giving the impression he is a busy family man possibly, and with the use of the iPhone he is able to stay in contact with his family and his wife and continue to live a busy lifestyle. I believe that in todays modern society with the demand of new and updated technology, people are becoming more lazy, and the idea that the new iPhone has effective software which can help you to become a more time managed, organised, knowledgeable and efficient person. Finally the commercial ends with the statement that it’s “The most amazing iPhone yet”, the use of the word ‘The’ being singular makes the consumer feel that the statement must be true. The word ‘yet’ in the statement implies that there is more amazing technology to come, in the upcoming iPhones. It also gives the viewer the feeling that they must buy this item as it is ‘amazing’.

Consumerism in America

Pepsi Advert 2004

When looking through a variety of Commercials for American items, I finally decided to choose an advert from Pepsi where they have set out the advert of three gladiators to fight it out to get the can of Pepsi. What I found particular interesting in this advert, was that this was played in America in 2004 and celebrities that was used, are three world known American Female singers, Pink, Beyonce and Britney Spears.

I believe the idea behind the Commercial was to create three powerful women in which they brought down the Emperor and then finished the advert on drinking the cans of Pepsi. So here there are a variety of ways that Pepsi tries to draw in the audience, this is seen with the three American singers showing power and integrity to bring down the Emperor. Possibly this is also appealing for Women to drink the drink to discover the feeling themselves.
Analysing it further, I see that the Emperor is played by a Spanish singer Enrique Iglesias, possibly showing power over other nations. As Americans are patriotic this could appeal to those who want to show there 'dedication' to America, showing the ever growing support for there country again showing another example of consumerism in America.

The Singers all sing bits of the Song which is a cover of Queens 'we will rock you' this song well known within the world, but the fact that the three singers with powerful voices, sing this throughout the advert gives the commercial more emphasis on power and strength that Pepsi is suppose to give you as an American. 

Consumerism in America

Coca Cola Christmas Advert.

Coca Cola with out question are one of the worlds biggest companies and therefore they are a huge consumer product within the United States; futhermore, Coca Cola is a product that appears in nearly every other major consumer chain for example McDonalds, KFC and more. This particular advert is one that is know world wide however I still believe it demonstrates some American values. 

The Coca Cola Christmas advert appears on television screens every year without fail and for many this denotes the beginning of Christmas, when the red trucks appear, the guy in red won't be far behind. The advert demonstrates clearly numerous happy families throughout the advert, celebrating the holidays together. This is one American value that is evidently still around; the idea of during the holidays families are together and celebrating them as one, the idea of a family bond is hugely symbolic within America and is very important to them. 

Futhermore, the main slogan of Coca Cola is 'Open Happiness' and it is clear that the Christmas advert tries to demonstrate that these particular trucks represent happiness; that when the trucks arrives that happiness arrives with them. Happiness while not a clear American value is still one that is hugely important, and not just to the American public, but viewers throughout the world.  Perhaps also, the Coca Cola trucks arrive is seen as somewhat of an event, an event that many families queue the streets to see, an idea that Americans do continuously, 4th July and Carnivals being one. Therefore the advert appeals to Americans this way, demonstrating their arrival as something to be celebrated, a moment when numerous families queue the streets just to get a glimpse of the red trucks as they drive through. Also within the advert, it is not just a younger generation that is shown, a wide range of demographics is focused on, showing that Coca Cola, is focusing on everyone and for everyone; this goes back to the idea of family and bonding throughout the holidays, all of the family being together.

Coca Cola is such a big consumer within America and throughout the world that it is impossible to get away from them, from making adverts for the London 2012 Olympics, to sending advertising to them moon. However, I believe it can be safely said that when Christmas time comes, for me most certainly, I keep an eye out for the red trucks of Coca Cola, so that I know Christmas is finally here.

Consumerism In America


[kuh n-soo-muh-riz-uh m]    
1. a modern movement for the protection of the consumer against useless, inferior, or dangerous products, misleading advertising, unfair pricing, etc.
2. the concept that an ever-expanding consumption of goods is advantageous to the economy.
3. the fact or practice of an increasing consumption of goods: a critic of American consumerism.
Above is the 'Official Story of Stuff (2007)' which to start with talks more about the statistics and the formation of Consumerism.  However, around 12 minutes in, the video refers to economist and retail analyst Victor Lebow, who states:
'Our enormously productive economy demands that we make consumption our way of life, that we convert the buying and use of goods into rituals, that we seek our spiritual satisfactions, our ego satisfactions, in consumption. The measure of social status, of social acceptance, of prestige, is now to be found in our consumptive patterns. The very meaning and significance of our lives today expressed in consumptive terms. The greater the pressures upon the individual to conform to safe and accepted social standards, the more does he tend to express his aspirations and his individuality in terms of what he wears, drives, eats- his home, his car, his pattern of food serving, his hobbies.
These commodities and services must be offered to the consumer with a special urgency. We require not only “forced draft” consumption, but “expensive” consumption as well. We need things consumed, burned up, worn out, replaced, and discarded at an ever increasing pace. We need to have people eat, drink, dress, ride, live, with ever more complicated and, therefore, constantly more expensive consumption. The home power tools and the whole “do-it-yourself” movement are excellent examples of “expensive” consumption.'

This suggests how America has flourished over the years and become a society based on materialistic ambitions, wants and needs.  Furthermore, the video explains how all areas are conflicted by this notion; even the Government, as the video portrays how Eisenhower's Government would rather spend their money on attracting and advertising consumer good to increase America's wealth, instead of focusing on healthcare or eductation. 

Above is the US advert for Pepsi, which is a very popular and well known brand all over the world.  The advertisement focuses on two people who are seemingly eligible to walk into different circumstances and take part in the momental situations, due to the fact they've drank the drink. This is suggesting to the audience that Pepsi is a brand that targets the younger generation who want to be have these 'exciting experiences'.  Also, it features Nikki Minaj, a popular artist in the US, which would also target the younger generation and suggests that as Minaj drinks this drink, so should you.

This advert highlights how consumerism, not just in America, generally focuses and advertises to the younger generation; because of reasons like how companies compete, and to target younger people is almost like 'catching them early', and to almost persuade them first to like their product.  Also, younger people are more than likely to be busy and want the sugar rush. Lastly, it targets a generation that all want to have the same things, eat the same things and drink the same things.  To target a young person is an attempt to persuade the whole cohort of younger people to choose their brand. 



Thursday, November 29, 2012

A Contemporary Consumer Item

Whilst looking through commercials for American consumer items, one that particularly stood out for me was a Ford commercial. As Ford is one of America's largest based automaker, I thought it would be intriguing to analyse the "F-150 Way Of Life" commercial.

First and foremost, the commercial is narrated Denis Leary, who speaks confidently and uses slang words such as “ain't”. He sounds aggressive, almost like he is ranting. As he speaks, the words crash into each other, moving quickly in and out of the scene.
The most pivotal statement starts at the beginning when he says:
 OK. Odds are if you’re one of the people in America with a pickup truck, it ain’t a luxury, it’s a way of life. And chances are you’re not making money pushing a pencil, or hand modeling. You’re actually working for every dollar and need your truck.”
This is implying emasculation for workers in America and to become masculine they need this truck.

This article provided me with a proficient insight into what the advert stands for in relation to the values of America. Most specifically, the article identifies the notion of "American Superiority" holding a fundamental impact among American values that is underpinned with strength, power, and adventurousness.
Moreover, the article indeed states these characteristics are historically American values and synthesise with masculinity. Thus, this commercial excels at expressing American values through a consumer item that is significant in America.

Lastly, when the commercial says "well, the eagle has landed." Its worth noting that the article reveals the commercial is utilising a homage to Neil Armstrong’s famous quote upon landing Apollo 11 on the moon, a very formidable and patriotic moment in American history.
To this end, the Ford F-150 commercial is an important consumer item to ponder when considering the values it claims to hold as American.

Sunday, November 25, 2012

The American Dream

“If you’re walking down the right path and you’re willing to keep walking, eventually you’ll make progress” President Obama

The quote by President Obama is an effective example of how the idea of the American Dream is still presented today. Many ideas and aspects involving the idea of the American Dream, feature in presidential speeches and speeches made by other inspirational speakers.  The American Dream is also a belief which is also shared by many of the citizens in America today, and has been a belief which has stayed strong since the eighteenth and nineteenth century. However like during the eighteenth and nineteenth century there are also many people who are skeptical of the idea of the American Dream and merely see it as a myth or even a lie!

The quote depicts many ideas which create the overall idea of the American Dream, the idea that if you work and try hard you shall be successful in the long run. The idea of the American Dream is also represented in the novel Ragged Dick by Horatio Alger, in a number of different ways. The vision that if Dick, works hard and puts time and effort into succeeding then, he shall be successful in the long run. Dick’s, success is emphasized by the comparison to his friend Johnny’s lack of success, Johnny also shows little examples of the concept of the American Dream in his life. The character Dick made progress through his strives to succeed and be successful, continuous hard effort and determination but also honesty. All of these help to create the impression of the American Dream.

Obama supports Algers presentation of the American Dream in a number of different ways, through the reference to the path being presented as a path to success and to the overall goal and achievement that is the American Dream, much like Dick’s overall goal and aim in life. The words which present most powerful to me in the quote are “Keep walking” implying that the journey to achieving the American Dream can be long and hard work an effort is needed in order to achieve it. Much like the events which are presented in the novel Ragged Dick, Dick has to overcome certain obstacles but after hard work and determination he is eventually successful. Dick’s transformation reflects on the idea that the American Dream becomes a part of one’s life. Both the quote from Obama and aspects from the novel Ragged Dick show examples of how the American Dream is seen as a goal or and aim, but it take time and determination to achieve it. 

The American Dream

The American Dream is a notion of early American history that nationally represents prosperity and success. To achieve the American Dream you would have had created something from nothing regardless of your background. In a more contemporary view the American Dream is hard to pin point and to describe. It was difficult to find an article or some evidence that backs the idea of the modern American Dream in a positive manner. I found an article on Forbes that explains the complexity of the American Dream and how now in a modern context not many people would experience it.

'The American Dream of the past inspired hope and optimism. When you you could believe that anything was possible, it became easier to dream. While I wholeheartedly encourage people to continue dreaming (and dream big), you must be aware that the infrastructure and resources of that past are either gone, much more difficult to access, or in the process of being recreated'

The statement that I found neither dismisses the American Dream or really stands in favour of it. It leans more to the idea that the American Dream is still alive and well but has been reformed to fit a modern day context. The world of politics and corruption has twisted and moulded what used to be such a dream of 'ease' and now is something that has to be worked for on a new level of commitment. When you look back on the foundation of the American Dream you see that people could prosper and achieve from owning a plot of land and creating a business from it. In the 21st century you have to contend with millions to achieve to the likes of Richard Branson whom of which is regard as a 'modernised' personality who has achieved the American Dream. The article goes onto explain how it's not only a visualisation of what you want to achieve but you have also got to have the right credentials, attitude and responsibilities to have a chance, which really criticises the notion of the original American Dream and being able to achieve it.

When you put this into comparison with Ragged Dick you see that Dick was a very fortunate young boy, despite not achieving what he wanted entirely he still made it from the streets of New York to becoming a man in a suit with a job. The core of the ideas are still there, the idea of wanting to achieve, not necessarily to become rich but to become 'something'. However the ease in which became apparent in the 1800's that it was literally 'Rags to Riches' has become pretty null and void in a modernised context. The idea that Dick was a boot-black and after a period of just over 9 months in the book was able to achieve what he did seems so obtuse nowadays, however he appeared to be 'too' lucky in the people he met embraced him with open arms, but you could see this as a product of his personality.

In society today it would be regarded as improbable for someone who is homeless and working on the streets to be fortunate enough to relive the notion of 'Rags to Riches', especially with a corrupt government and an economy that is teetering in and out of control. Many say that the belief is there and if you work hard enough you can achieve it, but how hard do you have to work and will all the hard work pay off?

A Contemporary Statement Doubting the American Dream.

 "Americans now widely believe that merit, hard work and determination are not enough to get ahead. There is a pessimism that says the Dream will not be there for the next generation. The Dream has been hi-jacked."

 "54% of the public believes that it is impossible for most people in the U.S. to achieve the American dream"

In 1993 Bill Clinton proclaimed 'The American dream that we were all raised on is a simple but powerful one – if you work hard and play by the rules, you should be given a chance to go as far as your God-given ability will take you.' However, in 2008 newly appointed President, Barack Obama says 'Many of the American people believe the American dream is slipping away.'  The situation that America find its self in economically gives a clear indication that the American dream is falling apart, and Americans themselves are beginning or already doubting that the American dream is even achievable.

 Referring to the first statement, it is clear the the American dream in America's current situation is disappearing, that the public are losing faith in a dream that they have held so dear for generations. Even more apparent the idea that the American dream is becoming less and less relevant throughout the generations means that soon it will no longer exist. The problem with having one particular 'dream' that you try and apply to every American and every society is that it does not take into account the influencing factors. America today is in the midst of a recession, the idea of becoming a home owner for many Americans is unachievable, paying for medical care, getting an education, achieving a high paying job, all things that are reliant on the economy. Therefore it is easy to see how the 'dream' can be lost; today's generation will move away from the current 'dream' because its unachievable in the current economic climate...another dream is then formed...which is then passed onto the next generation...and so on until this dream is unachievable. The American dream is never the same for long, therefore it is easy to see how the original American dream is being doubted in 2012, and arguably the original American dream is dead, replaced by a new, relevant and achievable dream. 

Applying this to 'Ragged Dick,' who epitomised the original American dream, is practically impossible. The novel today seems like a fairy tale; the society that 'Ragged Dick' triumphs in does not exist. Ragged Dick achieves what he achieves through charisma, luck, and wit...these are things that will get you no where in America society today. 'Ragged Dick' in a way patronises society today, presenting an America that no longer exists, no longer can be achieved. A handful of Americans will achieve the American dream, through luck and wit, they will be the 'Ragged Dick's of the 21st Century, however the majority will not. 'Ragged Dick' cannot even be applied to today's society due to the ever changing dream; the dream that 'Dick' is able to achieve within the novel is not the same as American's are striving to achieve today. The fairy tale of a boy going from 'rags to riches' literally is a fairy tale. There will never be an American dream that can be applied to every American from every generation, there will only ever be an American dream relevant to the time, an American dream that will quickly disappear, quickly change, and once again become unachievable for many Americans.

A Contemporary Statement Doubting The American Dream

In the above video, Obama states that the 'American Dream' is; 'shared in big cities and small towns, across races, regions and religions.  That if you work hard, and can support a family; if you get sick, there will be healthcare you can afford.  That you can retire with the dignity and respect that you've earnt.  Your children can get a good education, and young people can go to college, even if they dont come from a wealthy family'.  Here Obama explains that he feels the American Dream is still alive because people are willing to work to support themselves and their family, and that this is still rife in today's American culture.

However, this can be argued on many different levels.  How is the American Dream doubted? Examples like couples buying their first property is seen as one of the many steps people take in their life when they want to succeed.  Due to the economic state of the country, although still very wealthy, many citizens struggle to do such an act.  This is because of the 'real estate collapse' which hasn't been this bad since the depression in the 30's.  This could perhaps suggest that the essence of the American Dream can potentially be doubted as the aspirations for people that want to succeed could be dented, due to economic issues and such.

A proclamation which suggests that the American Dream is in jeopardy, is 'hard work alone is sometimes not enough to become financially successful in America' which is opposite to what the mythical dream really stands for.  Most people would associate the dream with connotations of been able to support themselves, their family, being financially stable and able to exert their wealth in manners such as property.  This statement above is quoted in the American paper; 'The State' which is based in South Carolina, in which the paper references the 'Winthrop University Poll'.  The statement also refers to the 54% that agree with this, which is just more than half.  This shows how a lot of citizens are struggling at this moment to support themselves, not even their families, which surely implies that the American Dream is failing?

The American Dream can be related to 'Ragged Dick', who almost lives the dream by succeeding in life, as he started out as a 'boot-black' and in the end, managed to get a good job and educate himself.  Although in the novel, this is mainly due to the luck he has by meeting wealthier gentleman who want to help Dick and also because of his own kindness, it still suggested to the younger generation that this dream is attainable if you work at it.

However, this questions the relativety of this work, as today, the 'rags to riches' concept could still work, although it is a different era, with different laws and opportunities available.  For example, children have to go school and they aren't able to work, in which in 'Ragged Dick' both examples wouldn't be in effect. 

 This picture suggests how many people could have a lack of faith in the concept of the American Dream.  In which the result of the concept is now unattainable; in todays economic climate and everyday struggles in today's society, it could now be seen as a mythical perception of American culture.

Read more here:

Friday, November 23, 2012

A Contemporary Statement doubting the American Dream

After researching the Phrase 'The contemporary American Dream' I came across an on-line article with this statement which says the following; 

"What is startling is that these bright, ambitious youngsters just don't believe that talent and hard work are enough to ensure they will ever have a shot at that mythical American Dream." 

The statement here is very much doubting the American Dream, believing that in today's society, Youths have lost belief in the dream and think that 'something more' is needed to achieve this. Because the youngsters believe that they will not achieve the dream. many do not try hard or work hard as they have no trust in the so called 'dream' becoming true.   
The fact that the word 'mythical' was used in front of American Dream possibly shows that the Phrase is now the past, it's history and would be questioning whether it's still occurring in the current America. 

Applying this to Ragged Dick, Where the 14 year old Dick wanted to become more than a 'black boot' still applies today.

" Isabel wanted more than the dream -The Dream is to work, to have a home, to get ahead, you can start as a janitor and become the owner of the building."
The statement here can apply to the notion of what Ragged Dick supplies to the audience the belief in going from 'rags to riches' Many Americans still believing that America shall supply them a perfect life, believing they would go from nobody to somebody although as like Dick, the dream can happen for some but not all. The notion can be argued in today's contemporary society that it does not indeed exist for most as many American's are working multiple low paid jobs to make sure that there family are living a comfortable life. 
"the multiple, low paid jobs that their parents must do simply to get the rent paid and put food on the table.
Here it shows that the ideologies that is set out in Ragged Dick are somewhat changed today's society. Not everyone are able to achieve the dream and however hard individuals are working many are still in Alger's words 'Ragged' than achieving rich.

Thursday, November 22, 2012

A Contemporary Statement Doubting the American Dream

When looking for a statement in regard to "the American Dream" I came across a website that was doubting "the American Dream" in today's society.

"Although the thought of the American dream inspires and encourages growth, it has become unrealistic and unachievable. The saddest part is that many Americans believe that that this ridiculous goal can be achieved."

This statement is overtly doubting "the American Dream" and completely dismissing the claim that it cannot be achieved. As harsh as the latter part of the statement may sound, this article is demonstrating how the possibility of achieving desired goals is scarce in America at this existing time. Moreover, the article goes on to discuss that in early America, "the American Dream" meant having a plot of land, having enough money to live comfortably, and having a job that would provide enough money to clothe and feed the family. Then goes on to say, most specifically, that nowadays "the American Dream" has turned into greedy materialism.

To apply Ragged Dick the article addresses that Americans still believe in the notion of "rags to riches."

"This phrase might have applied in earlier times when "riches" were seen as a place to live and enough money to support the family, but modern day "riches" are now nearly impossible to reach."

This statement is further establishing the articles argument by saying stories like Ragged Dick are presented as being true in the sense of how it was in the 19th Century, however, this doesn't bear much relevance in the present day.
To this end, one can make the assertion, in sense, that the ideas presented in America today don't match the ideas presented in Ragged Dick because of the concept of "rags to riches" fundamentally carrying different meanings to how it formally was. On the other hand, a contrast can be made as the article points out that "the American Dream" can be split into "the American Dream" itself and "the American Goal." 

"The American goal is a reasonable goal for many families of varied social and economic classes. My definition of the American goal is a safe home, a job that supports the family, enough money to pay the bills, etc. The American Goal allows families to live comfortably without being too materialistic or greedy."

This last point made in the article is pivotal as, simultaneously, the position of the writer changes by pointing out a notion in America that is more than likely to be achieved. Most importantly, the quote relates to what Horatio Alger Jr. states as being in the "Riches" which could argue these ideas presented today do match those considered in Ragged Dick.

Monday, November 19, 2012

Gun Control

I have found two separate websites that promote both for and against arguments for gun control in America. This particular policy is something that is heavily debated throughout the country because of the strong beliefs in being able to have a firearm and those who are against firearms and want to reduce gun violence and create different ways to reduce Americans from using guns.

The first website I found is pro gun control and that is the CSGV (Coalition to Stop Gun Violence). Their website is clearly laid out with a lot of social networking keyed into its front page. Their aim is to basically stop gun violence all together through 'research, strategic engagement and effective policy advocacy'. As the site is a campaigning site it gives you a lot of emotive description and statistics to help you buy into to believing that guns are a bad idea in the wrong hands. I personally believe that guns should be illegal everywhere, however making things illegal then increases the 'want' for them, which results in an increase in crime. Again, the site is very up to date with advertising it's policies and what they do. They have all of the big social networking feeds on their site to give instant sharing access to people around the world, as well as signing up for emailing lists etc. The CSGV gives great detail into their policies and how they believe they could help to get around gun crime and reduce it overally. One of the policies that I liked the look of was to have all bullets stamped with a micro-stamp to help identify the perpetrators of using guns in a harmful and unjust way. When you look at it, it basically looks like a modern day campaigning website but with a different focus, in which this time is guns.

The second website is an anti gun control website which is highly in favour of gun ownership and the belief that Americans should be able to bear arms due to the second amendment. This website similarly to the first one gives a really high level of information to help back up their thoughts and beliefs as to why they are against gun control and how they justify how having a gun helps them in their day to day lives. Their aim is to defend the second amendment and to persist in keeping guns as a part of daily life in America. They have fought to put extra guns on planes and to help lift bans on firearms in a huge variety of different contexts. The website itself is pretty boring and I couldn't find any solid history about the organisation, which then didn't help me in actually wanting to read into the website. Their statement is pretty clear from what you read in what they do in that they appear old fashioned and by the book. They believe that as Gun Owners they deserve the right to be able to bear arms and to have a gun for their own personal use to protect themselves if needed.

To me the debate is pretty ridiculous. I believe that if guns are legal that yes, people should be allowed to have guns to protect themselves and their families if needed. But then the issue of people that use their firearms on others in inhumane ways, which is probably the biggest problem to have to deal with. Many gun owners don't believe that the idea of a firearm is the problem for such crimes but the individual themselves. I think that is a fair statement, but I would say that if a firearm is so easily obtained, would that person have used their firearm against the law or not?

This a video of Rapper Ice T explaining on BBC News that he believes that people being allowed to own guns isn't directly consequential for mass killings such as the recent shooting in Denver. Ice T is obviously a person who supports the idea of firearms and being able to carry one, however I think his argument is invalid in that yes, people do use explosives to kill others; but having a gun legally in your possession is a ridiculously easy way to kill people if you needed to. If someone was to buy all of the ingredients in a store to make homemade explosives they would get a look of suspicion, however if you went to a gun store, bought a gun and some ammunition this would be as common as buying a loaf of bread or some milk.

Here is a really interesting debate from Piers Morgans show with Ted Nugent who is a famous musician. He is an extreme Republican and is heavily supportive of guns and is known as a redneck and a keen hunter. He is very patriotic hence his very well researched argument into gun law and the second amendment. The video shows an interest perspective coming from someone who is very supportive of having guns and someone who is rather in the middle and sees guns ultimately as a bad thing.

Sunday, November 18, 2012

Gun Control In America

Gun Control In America

The picture above shows people protesting at the Supreme Court in Washington to increase the amount of guns in the US.  They are awaiting the Courts decision on the DC handgun after a ban on June 6th, 2008. The Court had a 5-4 ruling in favour of the guns, affirming an individual right to their own firearms. Other pro-firearms have also bills have been subjected in many states in the last four years, including; Virginia, whose General Assembly approved a bill to allow people to carry firearms into a restaurant or bar that serves alcohol and Arizona and Wyoming are considering the right to let people carry handguns without a permit.  Furthermore, states Tennessee and Montana passed legislation in 2009 to exempt their states from the federal regulation of guns and ammuntion made, when sold and used in the state, according to the Times. ( )

 On the NRA's website (The National Rifle Association), their trailer for the year is composed of two men that have served in the U.S. Army, who have now found freedom in truly becoming an American.  Although the video shows clips of the men using gun's and at the end of the video there is advertisement on the freedom of guns, the video doesn't actually mention firearms.  It consists of the men talking about the freedom of being an American, which can be correlated to their petition for less regulations on guns.  It is meant to persuade people that the point of having freedom as an American is to also have the right to bear arms.

The video on YouTube above is Pro-Gun advert from the Patriot Resistance, which is transcripted from the perspective of a criminal, which adresses the viewer of being in danger without a gun to defend themselves. This is the official website for the Patriot Resistance/ Action which claims to be 'one of the nation’s largest conservative social action networks, serving hundreds of thousands of citizens every month. We are united by our passion for re-establishing Constitution-based liberty'.  The network and the group intend to persuade people on different issues, for example; gun ownership.  They believe that every American should have the freedom to be who they like and own what they like, in assistance with their views.
This picture is from a pro-gun blog, and suggests that without the protection of guns, you are unable to defend yourself from armed criminals.  This however, disincludes the fact that most murders happen in the home, which includes relatives murdering someone in their family.  Nonetheless, the image shows they feel in a sense that they believe the right to bear arms is the only way to protect innocent civilians from being injured or killed due to another gunman.  This link shows how Obama is attempting to ratify an anti-gun treaty, which means that all firearms should be regulated.  The video shows discussion between senators, clips of Obama's speech and people's views.  This shows how divided America is on this issue, seperated by states, delagates, Senators and citizens.  For example, the Senator of Wyoming is very pro-gun and has said he will do anything to 'stop Obama' having this Bill ratified.
However, other campaigns against gun-control, like the Brady Campaign, who proposes that 'we should make it harder for convicted felons, the dangerously mentally ill, and others like them to get guns in the first place'.  They want to do this by 'We can do this by passing laws such as requiring Brady criminal background checks on all gun sales; banning military-style assault weapons; and strengthening law enforcement’s efforts to stop the illegal gun market, like limiting the number of guns that can be bought at one time'.  The campaign attempts to persuade people using the crimes that have been committed, for example, they use tragic events like the 'Wisconsin Spa Tragedy', where 3 women were murdered at the Azanza Spa and Salon in Brookfield.  The campaign compare the fact that a background check on guns takes precisely 40 seconds to do, in which those 40 seconds could have saved the victims.
This picture was used for the charity 'Trident' which opposes gun ownership in the USA.  The image was meant to shock due to the information given on the label, and to express to people in the US that this is who the guns affect, because it's the innocent people that get hurt. Their opinion is to show that although some citizens have used their gun in self defence or in defence of their home or family, innocent people like children have been murdered due to gun regulations allowing certain people to own firearms.
This picture is from an anti-gun website, which also provides statistics on the facts if you own a gun, etc.
The stats show how owning a gun can even exmplify your chances of being murdered by a gun or your children getting killed because the fact is that most murders occur at home, and if you own a gun, it could more than likely be a source for that.