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.