Wednesday, October 31, 2018

Comfortably Numb with an Infected Humanity by Michael O’Malley

In a world where helpless civilians are constantly mutilated by poisonous gas, people are bullied to the point of resorting to suicide, and children are being ripped apart by bullets flying through their classrooms, it is easy for faith in humanity to be cloaked in clouds of hopelessness and sorrow. However, even in the darkest of times, light can be found. For instance, after tragedies meant to disband people and destroy hope—like the plane hijackings of September 11th, 2001, the Parkland High School shooting, and the Boston Marathon bombings—people did not give in to fear and let their hope be destroyed. They decided instead to continue living their lives as normal and band together to comfort each other, showing humanity’s natural inclination to aid one another. What about the people who commit these acts of terror? While it may be easy to conclude that they are naturally evil, bad people, this is not the case. These “bad guys” are simply sick, broken people. Broken by what exactly? The answer is simple, yet it is hidden in plain sight: civilization. The minds and souls of people are constantly being contaminated by flawed civilizations which function around unnecessary competition and determine your worth according to how much physical stuff you have. The film Swept Away, directed by Lina Wertmuller, focuses on the ways that civilization can destroy a person and shows what happens when someone’s humanity becomes ill. Wings of Desire, directed by Wim Wenders, focuses on the contrary, however, and shows not how civilization can destroy people but how little efforts to restore humanity to its natural state can make a big difference. Swept Away and Wings of Desire convey that humanity is not broken in nature, but instead is diseased by the unwritten behavioral constraints of society which idolizes a “power to prevent” lifestyle and demands that material wealth and socio-economic competition the supreme aim of life. This illness can be cured.

The idea that humanity is naturally good is proven to us every day in our own lives. For example, as I was sitting in Hofstra University’s Student Center, I was reading an article about a school being shot up during a gun-protest walkout and began to doubt my faith in humanity. How could humanity possibly be naturally good if whenever people try to make a difference it is immediately shot down? After convincing myself there is no hope for a cure, I packed up my things and began to leave. As I was walking away, a random lady stopped me and handed me a meal voucher, saying “Go get yourself a lunch; it’s free.” It was at this moment that I realized I had been wrong for concluding humanity is evil because everywhere there are people who naturally feel inclined to help each other, even if they are strangers. Not only from this did I learn that humanity must be naturally good, and it is just plagued by civilization, but I also discovered that my mind had been transformed by society. My initial reaction to this stranger doing the right thing was that I did not need a voucher because I already had a dining plan of my own. However, before I could decline her offer, I stopped myself, realizing that my mind had been taught to think in a materialistic way; my immediate behavior was to ask myself, “Can this benefit me?” By thinking in a selfish and materialistic way we as people not only prevent ourselves from curing humanity but prohibit others as well by putting them down for trying to help others.

The concept that the flaws of civilization disease humanity is also often featured in today’s music and cinematography. In modern music, such as Jon Bellion’s song New York Soul (Part ii), we are warned not to adhere to civilization’s unfair and destructive “power to prevent” rules. Bellion delivers a message for all of the kids who are being raised in psychologically and spiritually damaging societies: “Let me give the kids just a little help/tell 'em money is not the key to wealth/cause if it can stop the pain how the fuck did you explain the bunch of millionaires that killed themselves” (Bellion). The flaws of civilization being expressed through modern music culture is not a new thing and can even be traced as far back as the band Pink Floyd, an English rock group which became active in 1965. Throughout their album, The Wall, a discussion of civilization’s brainwashing and ruining the minds and souls of people can be found in many of their songs, including “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2” and “Comfortably Numb.”  “Another Brick in the Wall Part 2” is the story of how civilization infects their pure and innocent minds; it even features a chorus of schoolchildren shouting the lyrics: “We don’t need no education/we don’t need no thought control/no dark sarcasm in the classroom/teacher leave those kids alone” (Pink Floyd). “Comfortably Numb” has a similar message; it is the story of a man who has already been destroyed by the behavioral constraints of his society and explains that in his world “there is no pain,” stating how he has become “comfortably numb” (Pink Floyd). This resonates with the modern world because we have become desensitized. When Columbine High School fell victim to a shooting, people felt tremendous pain whether they were involved or not; however, with schools being shot up so often now, the victims are viewed as “statistics” instead of living, breathing souls. With terrorist attacks becoming a more prevalent reality, it is not uncommon for a person to respond to the statement, “There was a shooting today,” with shallow questions like: “Where?” or “How many people died?” Society itself has become comfortably numb.

Lina Wertmuller’s Swept Away focuses on a communist, working-class man, Gennarino, who is constantly belittled by a bourgeoise woman named Raffaella. Swept Away was pretty comical in the beginning, but it quickly transformed into a film so disturbing that it was nearly impossible to watch, and yet I could not peel my eyes away from the screen for even a minute. When the two opposing characters shipwreck on a deserted island, we are shown how sick and twisted Gennarino has become due to his oppression in a “power to prevent” civilization. A “power to prevent” society is the more traditionally taught idea in which competition between individuals must be present, and individuals must repress themselves and others in exchange for a healthy society; however, it has quite the opposite effect. Typically, for a “power to prevent” civilization to function, both the oppressed and the oppressors must be present. A “power to prevent” lifestyle is based on the thesis that in order to succeed in society, one must “step on the backs of others” to “climb the socio-economic ladder” and rise in status. The theory embeds into the minds of the people a proposition that, in order for one party to gain, another party must suffer. For instance, throughout most of American history, America has based its civilization on an oppressive “power to prevent” system of capitalism; specifically, in relation to African Americans. Throughout all of American history, African Americans have been systematically oppressed and “put down” by the white upper and middle classes; slavery, sharecropping, poll taxes, literacy tests, black codes, convict leasing, Jim Crow laws, and more have all been in effect with the sole intention of keeping one class of people down in order for another to prevail. The conservative “power to prevent” capitalism which America has run on for much of its history would eventually lead to the Great Depression due to the formation of monopolies and an insufficient flow of currency as a result of an oppressor-oppressed based society.

In the context of the film, most people would be distressed on an uninhabited island; however, Gennarino sees the shipwreck as a blessing and uses it as an opportunity to “get ahead” because in his new habitat the normal unwritten constraints of society are turned upside-down. For once, Gennarino is at the top of the social ladder. While from an outside perspective it is clear that Gennarino and Raffaella’s chances of survival would increase greatly if they joined together as equals, Gennarino has been worn down by civilization so much that he is unable to rid his mind of the damaging oppression which he has dealt with his entire life; instead of joining together, Gennarino would rather inflict oppression on another person even after knowing how damaging it is. The effects of civilization on Gennarino are first shown in the scene when Raffaella says there must be some law against letting others go hungry and Gennarino responds: “If there was such a law they could put all of the wealthy people in the world in jail, but, since there isn’t, all you see in jail is the poor” (Wertmuller 49:20). While less evident, Raffaella’s mind has also been contaminated by the effects of societal competition. Rather than treating Gennarino like her equal when they shipwreck, Raffaella still ignorantly hangs on to her “power to prevent” ideology and treats him as a servant where the unwritten rules of society do not pertain.

Not long after showing how corrupted the two characters’ minds have become as a result of their flawed civilization, Swept Away features a sickening rape scene in which Gennarino first violently abuses her and then makes Raffaella beg for him to have sex with her. When viewing this scene for the first time, it was unbelievable. I even thought to myself, “This is ridiculously unrealistic. No one would ever act this way to another human being over as a result of their social status,” but if that were true, then school shootings and rape would not be a real worldly issue. Lina Wertmuller, a progressive feminist, was attacked for including these types of scenes and titled a traitor to the cause; however, she was simply misunderstood. These scenes were not included to belittle the value of women, but to show how deeply our humanity can be deranged from living in these “power to prevent” civilizations which do not only demand us to “act in a savage way to another version of ourselves,” but require us to create status (Gordon). In the rape scene, we are truly shown how deeply scarred Gennarino’s mind and soul are. After every punch, he exclaims: “That’s for causing inflation and raising taxes and hoarding your money in Swiss banks instead… and this is for the hospitals where the poor people can’t get in… and that’s for raising the price of milk and cheese” (Wertmuller 1:08:30). No human being would ever naturally beat and rape another person, but after being constantly belittled and dehumanized in a “power to prevent” civilization, Gennarino does so to establish dominance and put his own ill mind at ease.

Whereas Swept Away focuses on the many ways that civilization causes humanity to fall ill, Wim Wenders’ Wings of Desire focuses on how humanity can be cured. Wings of Desire is the story of two angels, Damiel and Cassiel, who watch over civilization and eternally attempt to ease a diseased humanity. The film spends a considerable amount of time presenting scenes in which the two angels aid distraught people laced in the pain of enduring their broken souls. For instance, in the very beginning of the film, there is a scene which takes place on a train full of working-class people who struggle to earn enough money to survive. Wim Wenders allows the audience to hear what is going through the minds of the train’s passengers who are overcome by the problems created from their own artificial habitats. The scene highlights this by showing one woman worrying: “How will I pay? With my small pension?” (Wenders, 23: 30). Damiel finally settles on trying to console a man who has lost everything in his life including his family, friends, and his faith. The man thinks to himself: “You’re lost. It can go on for a long time. Abandoned by parents. Betrayed by wife. Friend in another town. Your children only recall your stutter. You could hit yourself as you look in the mirror” (Wenders, 23:35). This man has become so hopeless that he is willing to inflict physical pain on himself, a common action in modern civilization. When Damiel sits next to the man and puts his arm around him, the man feels the hope he had lost and thinks: “I’m still there. If I want it. If I only want it. I can drag myself out again” (Wenders, 23:40). This scene symbolizes how everyone in society goes through the same type of pain, and if people would just care for one another, then suffering could be relieved, or at the very least be greatly minimized. It does not take an angel to treat another with kindness. In “power to prevent” civilizations people are told to mind their own business and care for no one but themselves, and if someone does try and reach out to another person, they are shamed. If this idea does not seem realistic enough, try giving a smile to a stranger passing by in your own life; many will look at you like you are insane.

Wim Wenders makes sure to exaggerate how much “power to prevent” societies have desensitized people in the scene where a man has been in a motorcycle accident and is dying on the street. Even though a crowd of people is surrounding him, no one even tries to help him. Although it is likely that none of the bystanders could actually save the man, they could have at least tried to comfort him so he did not die alone. Instead, they simply stared at the man like he was a freak and watched the life fade from his eyes. It is only until an angel comforts the man in his time of dying that someone else steps in to help. Wenders makes a point to show that this is how sick humanity has become. Even nowadays, while it is a much less intense scenario, if someone at a grocery store very obviously could not reach something from the top shelf, almost everyone would feel inclined to help them, but very few people would actually do something. Meanwhile, most people would just brush it off with a quick “not my problem.”

Perhaps the most important scene in the film is when a man so broken by society decides to commit suicide. This scene is absolutely pivotal because for the first time even an angel cannot save an already-broken man. Every person in the film up to this point could feel the divine presence of Damiel and Cassiel; however, this man’s mind and soul were so deeply ruined that he could not even feel “hope’s” head resting on his shoulder. When it is shown what the man is thinking before he takes his own life, the audience can see how ill his mind is because he is only able to ramble about nonsense: “It’s cold. My hands were always warm. A good sign. It crackles underfoot. What time is it? The sun’s setting. Logical. The west. Now I know where the west is” (Wenders 1:08:17).  Wenders purposely waited a full hour to put this scene in the film to show a reality of civilized existence. Although the audience would think that the man would be saved because of one angel, they are proven wrong. This is to show how often times people will see someone in distress, whether it be in their own lives or on the internet and wait for some other “angel” to come along and help solve the problem, rather than just stepping up and doing it themselves. Perhaps if this man was cared about by others or simply asked how he was doing prior to this event he could have been saved. It is from this scene that the message of the entire film is clear, and more importantly, Wim Wenders gives humanity the key to cure itself.

To cure humanity, it will take more than two angels. Every single person must make an effort to be an “angel,” which does not mean that people must sprout wings and be touched by the hand of God, but instead they must simply give little efforts to make life better for one another. To save a broken humanity, civilization must abandon its “power to prevent” lifestyle in exchange for a “power to join” lifestyle based on love and feeling: for one another, life, and for humanity in its entirety. An example of a “power to join” lifestyle is exhibited through the first time Damiel and Marion meet as human beings. Not once does either of them mention the fact that Damiel is an angel and Marion is a mere human being. Instead, they accept each for who they are and are able to look past their major differences through the power of love. The first step to curing an ill humanity is to recognize that it is not okay to ignore the fact that our current “power to prevent” lifestyle is destroying the minds and souls of human beings, and change will not happen by itself. It is up to everybody to give a little bit of effort in their everyday lives to make a big change.

Works Cited

Jon Bellion. “New York Soul (Part ii).” The Human Condition, 2014.

Pink Floyd. “Comfortably Numb.” The Wall, Apr. 1979.

Pink Floyd. “Another Brick in the Wall, Pt. 2.” The Wall, Apr. 1979.

Wenders, Wim, director. Wings of Desire. 1987.

Wertmuller, Lena, director. Swept Away (1974). English Dubbed. YouTube, YouTube, 19 Feb. 2017,

Sunday, October 28, 2018

I Dare You: Reflections on Identity by Emily Rivera

Who am I? There is no string of words that I can use to define myself, but I think that is the best definition.  How can one define what is always growing, continuously re-shaping, changing in such a way as to defy category or logic?  Over the past three months of college I have come to define myself as an individual capable of learning, re-thinking past behaviors and changing my future. Harriet Lauler, authors Gloria Anzadua and Alan Watts and bloggers Kelsey Picciano and Morgan Parker have challenged, enlarged, and resolved my sense of personal identity.

In the movie The Last Word Harriet Lauler says, “This is saying good morning, and what does that really mean?  Please don’t have a nice day.   Have a day that matters.  Have a day that’s true.  Have a day that’s direct.  Have a day that’s honest.  A nice day, mmm-mmm.  You’ll be miserable. [...] Have a day that means something” (Pellington).  This strong, independent woman goes after what she wants while challenging others to reach their true potential.  She dares the people around her to be themselves and to take a leap toward something they have always wanted but never had the courage to grab.  She understands that “wonder is not a disease” (Watts 3) but the cure. All my life I have been afraid to go after what I truly yearned for out of fear of making a horrible mistake. Just like Kelsey Picciano in “Forging a Whitmanic, Post-Traditional, Bisexual Identity,” I felt empty due to my lack of accepting myself, which further prevented me from being who I am.  I would hesitate to speak when it truly mattered and stay in situations I knew I should get out of.  I felt like my tongue had “become dry [from] the wilderness [...] and [I had] forgotten speech” (Anzadula 3).  Paralyzed in my state of silence, I felt out of place not only due to my own hands holding me by the throat, but from my unexplored culture.  My mom, a single mother, raised me, and although I admire her courage of walking away from someone who did not and could not provide what she needed, I never learned of my Puerto Rican roots.  I am a latina who cannot speak Spanish, a latina who cannot cook arroz con frijoles, a latina who cannot cherish those sobremesas. You would never guess the amount of times someone said, “No sabes tu lengua? ¡Qué vergüenza!” I hated every second of not being able to be my entire self. I blamed myself. I did not feel good enough to make my dad stay. 

In my senior year of high school this perception that I was the problem started to change.  Out of my curiosity for psychology, I learned about cognitive behavioral theory. It explains how a thought leads to an emotion which causes a behavior. For example, let’s say the boyfriend left the toilet seat up after numerous times of my asking him to remember to put it down. It causes me to think, “He does not respect me or care about my feelings.” Upset and mad, I later lash out at him for the possibly incorrect conclusion I drew from the evidence. If I could think differently about the situation, I would act and feel differently. Instead of deciding that he does not care, I could realize that mistakes happen. Since it does matter to me, I could tell him how well loved I feel when he does put the seat down, that even little things that he does for me mean so much. By sharing a positive experience of his behavior and taking responsibility for my own, I initiate rather than react in a submissive role.  Learning this theory helped me realize we have to be honest with the people around us because most relational issues are due to misconceptions of what is expected. In order to have better relations it is necessary to have the courage to freely talk to our loved ones about our emotions and thoughts. It also helped me understand that it was not really my fault that the man who was supposed to be my father did not understand responsibility and commitment. If he does not know me, I cannot blame myself for his ignorant choice.

Even though cognitive behavioral theory helped me get over my problems with my biological father, I have not yet applied this method to my lost culture. I not only have to live with that, but I also have to live with being the only one of my kind. All of my siblings are only half of me, which has made me feel out of place. Just like Gloria Anzadua, I could not identify with the standards in my life; I was on my own in a house that did not feel like a home. Reading about Gloria's struggle taught me that I have to embrace myself as who I am, so that I can become who I want to be. I have to create my place in the world instead of waiting for it to be thrust upon me; I need to have the courage to say you are wrong and not falter under my own weight. That form of family is not necessarily blood, but the people who push you to do better in life and love you no matter what.

All these events occurring in my life can be viewed as a problem that can never be solved, but in my eyes, they are lessons faced and learned. They are moments in my life that made me who I am today. I may have a terrible biological father, but I have an amazing stepfather who loves me and cares about me, and without the hardships faced from that, I would not have been able to appreciate and return that love as much as I can and do now. I may not have grown up with my culture, but that does not mean I have to live without it. As humans, we fight for what we want, and if you do not get it, you did not want it badly enough to sacrifice and push yourself to success. There is so much to gain from everything. Let us appreciate different points of views on moments in life and let them help us grow as individual instead of tearing each other down. There is so much pain and pleasure in one moment that you just have to choose which one you will embrace. The mind is your only limit; how much are you holding yourself back?

With my new self-confidence, I realized that “many of my views did not align with [others] ... but this does not make my views wrong” (Picciano 2). I have a very different mindset compared to some of my peers. I take every moment given to me and make it a positive. One cannot control everything. This is not a bad thing; it is what makes life interesting. There is no need to dwell on a mistake, mishap, or conflict. Learn the lesson, solve the problem, and move on. Every second you spend upset about the past is a second you cannot get back. It is understandable that we have to accept our feelings before we move past them, and maybe I am being too harsh, but one cannot live in the past forever.

Even with this hard-won resolve, I kept asking myself why I still was unable to be defined. Reading Alan Watts helped me realize that “we need a new experience, a new feeling of what it is to be I. Just as sight is more than all things seen, the foundation or ground of our existence and our awareness cannot be understood in terms of things that are known” (Watts 6-8).  I now understood that I cannot follow others onto a path and call it my own, that I cannot tell someone to point me in the direction I should be going in my life, that I have to buckle down and make a choice, and that it is okay if it is the wrong one, because the best part is we can always start anew. If we do not like where we are, we have to have the courage to make the change.  Being an undecided major in college you get either one of two things: you need to figure out what you are doing with your life as soon as possible or not stress about finding your career path because it will find you. I just need to experience as much as possible so that I can learn what my place is and what it is not. Alan Watts says, “He doesn't want to find himself too quickly, for that would spoil the game” (Watts 9).  If I knew too soon what I wanted with my life, the game would not only get boring, but I would not have the chance to grow past the first layer of who I am if it was easily given to me. The most important lesson to take away from this is to engulf yourself in things that scare you, be afraid, but do not let it stop you from taking a chance on yourself. You do not need to find yourself, but to create yourself (Sivan).  

I may not know who I am entirely, but I do know parts of my identity.  I have “overcome the tradition of silence” (Anzadua 8); I have grown from pain and learned to embrace myself as well as every moment given to me. I have to create, not follow, and I need to take chances to reach places I have never explored. Reading Morgan Parker’s blogpost, “Invisible Girl, made me realize even more about who I am and who I want to be. Her words touched parts of me that I did not even know existed. She says, “She speaks not for the ears of others, but for the indulgence and dignity in hearing her own voice. She speaks the statements, she speaks the movements, she speaks for all the empty throats of the woman whose voices were drowned out by the heavy lull of time’s ignorance. She is a powerful force beckoning us towards a greater purpose yet still forcing us to find it on our own” (Parker 1). The respect for herself and for others is enchanting. Although I have much self-respect, I have had my moments of weakness. I may be viewed by my peers as a “woman who is strong, independent, and selfish in the best way” (Parker 2), but I let a man take this all away from me. This semester I got involved with a player whose charming smile lured and led me on to believe we had something real only to discover he kept cheating on me with three different girls. I avoided my torturing experience of disappointment, anger, and hatred. These feelings hit me hard when they surfaced.  I felt like everything that was not being felt grabbed me by the throat and choked all the emotions out of me that I was trying to hide. Still, it was better to blame myself for his wrong doings than actually put blame where it was due. I knew that I was seeing what I wanted to see instead of who he actually was, but I did not yet “learn to listen without fear to the voice inside [me] instead of smothering it” (Freidan 11). If I wasn’t so caught up in trying to win someone not worth winning, I would have realized that I do not need to prove I matter to someone who does not even care about me. This moment gave me clarity to trust myself in the face of adversity: “This is how we keep our tongues untamed and our feet planted in the ground. We must walk [...] with eyes wide open, a heart impenetrable and arms outstretched with fingers to grasp only what [we] want and palms to cast off that which [we do] not” (Parker 2-4). We make that choice. We choose who we become. One should not falter due to fear of speaking up for oneself.

Who exactly am I? I am a girl with a big heart, a girl who is not ashamed of who she has become, a girl who puts herself out of her comfort zone at the slim chance of finding something amazing, a girl who is passionate about the expression of emotions from others, a girl who became a woman. If someone was to paint who I am, I would be the crease in a trumpet player’s forehead as they slip into a dancing melody; the wonder in a child’s eye when they see something for the first time that they love; the strokes of a brush from a painter who has no idea what tomorrow will hold but continues in the belief that something magical may happen; the hope in a mother’s eye when they see the doctor walking toward them with news on her dying son; the tipity-taps from dancers who slide to the beat of their souls instead of the music; the gust of wind rippling under a bird’s wings in flight; the pushing and pulling of the ocean under a boat heading towards its new destination; the warmth you feel in the arms of a person you love. I am a sunrise and a sunset at the same time, bleeding colors that have not been invented yet. I am a mistake, yet I am a lesson. I am everything, yet I am still nothing. I may not entirely know who I am, but I do know that when you are born into a world you don't fit in; it is because you were born to help create a new one. Dare to change, dare to create, dare to destroy, dare to be who you are. Never be ashamed of your past because it is beautiful as you are beautiful. You may not see the value in yourself, but you do have it. You have to work for it; be courageous enough to face your fears hidden in the deepest corners of your mind. Be courageous enough to find out who you are, and once you are able to do that, refuse to settle for anyone who does not see, accept, or embrace the beautiful being that you are and have become because you worked too hard to let anything else happen otherwise. Never stop working, never stop learning, never stop daring. 

Works Cited

Anzaldua, Gloria. “How to Tame a Wild Tongue.” (n.d.): n. pag. 1987. Web. 06 Dec. 2015.

Freidan, Betty. “Women Are People, Too!” Good Housekeeping. N.p., 09 Aug. 2010. Web. 06 Dec. 2015.

Parker, Morgan. "Invisible Woman", Taking Giant Steps, N.p., 9 Sept.2016. Web.

Pellington, Mark, director. The Last Word. Performances by Shirley MacLaine, Amanda Seyfried, and Philip Baker Hall, Bleecker Street and Myriad Pictures, 2017.

Picciano, Kelsey. "Forging a Whitmanic, Post-Traditional, Bisexual Identity", Taking Giant Steps, N.p., 28 Jan. 2016. Web.

Watts, Alan. "Inside Information." The Book. ABACUS ed. London: Sphere, 1973. N. pag. Print.

Friday, October 26, 2018

Screw Women, Man: Power Dynamics in “Swept Away” by Alexus Rogers

At the end of the day, women have caused every single problem known to man. Since the dawn of time, women have been the symbol for temptation and sin. Starting off with Eve tempting Adam and causing their expulsion from Paradise, women produce nothing but the downfall of mankind. In Lina Wertmüller’s film, Swept Away, the male protagonist blames the wealthy female, Rafaella, for everything wrong in his life. Serving as one of her personal waiters, Gennarino shoves her harsh insults into an overflowing bottle of fury. Stranded on an island with this catty spitfire of a woman, Gennarino finally lets loose all of his anger towards her. Giving her a piece of his mind, he explains why he despises her so: “When you were on the yacht like so many pigs lying in the sun with your tits hanging out... Like we were animals, not men. But I think you pigs knew. Every one of you pigs knew we were men not animals. You must have been very pleased turning us on so much that it was unbearable” (Wertmüller, 1:05:26-1:06:35). Gennarino’s sexual frustration is well deserved. To see a topless Rafaella and not be able to do anything about it can drive a man crazy, as it did in his case. A gorgeous woman such as herself taunts every man within viewing distance. However, “Gennarino hates the thing he’s attracted to” (Gordon).

stranded on a deserted isle with no means to get her usual coffee and caviar, Rafaella must find a new source of food. Gennarino, our male lead, easily catches fish after fish. He gloatingly eats his crab while the starving Rafaella watches. Proving his superiority over her and his worth, Gennarino captures the heart of Rafaella. During my first time watching the film, I could see the devotion and admiration Rafaella held for Gennarino. Being able to ensnare food
and Rafaellathrough brute force, Gennarino encompasses the true stereotypical man. Masculinity at its finest is a bit on the sensitive side, and any threat must be immediately eliminated before masculinity becomes soft and weak. Despite constant beatings for her disobedience, “She becomes attracted to Gennarino’s abuse of power and begins to view it as a positive display of masculinity” (Farajollah, par. 5). For a woman such as herself, in an environment where she can do nothing but rely on the man to furnish the necessities, her instincts convince her to love Gennarino. Thus, she does, much to my contempt and desire for her to find her own way of providing for herself. Repugnance pumped through me as I watched the scene in which Rafaella begs Gennarino to “sodomize” her. In Roger Ebert’s review of the film he interprets her request as to telling the audience, “Woman is an essentially masochistic and submissive creature who likes nothing better than being swept off her feet by a strong and lustful male” (par. 5).

Before women can grow a sense to fight back, society teaches them how to surrender themselves to others. Every girl dreams of marriage and being tied down to someone. If she does not dream it up herself, then she is told to do so. In the words of Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, “Because I am female, I am expected to aspire to marriage. I am expected to make my life choices, always keeping in mind that, marriage is the most important” (Adichie). Society mocks the women who do not marry. Kids will run up to her and yell “spinstress” while egging the scarily secluded woman’s house. The adults will ask her if she regrets not having any children. They will poke and prod her until she feels ashamed of not giving life to a woman’s purpose. The moment she was born, a woman has committed to offering up herself to the career of a happily married mother. Society has deemed it so, and Rafaella chose to let her eyes wander. Punishment must ensue. Gennarino makes sure of that, beating her for every sin she, or the rich, has enacted.
Moreover, brazen and combative women such as Rafaella must be tamed. She must fulfill her righteous duties in life. Not bearing children was her first mistake, and now she allowed Gennarino to catch her checking him out. Raising his fist towards her and raining down hell, he ensures she gets the message society has been screaming at her since the beginning: submit or suffer. Rafaella seemingly goes along with every one of his whims. Throughout the film she assures Gennarino of her love, going so far as to tell him, “I’ve never felt so good. I never want it to end. I love you” (Wertmüller, 1:26:00), when he suggests returning to the mainland. Needing proof that he is indeed manlier than her husband, Gennarino wants to chip away at Rafaella until she is nothing but his. In society’s eyes, the ultimate man would be able to do so without batting an eyelash. Proving his masculinity, Gennarino convinces her to go back to the mainland. Whilst there, we get to see the true nature of Rafaella.

Satisfyingly, Rafaella falls back into her old routine with her husband. When she throws Gennarino aside, I began to wander if she ever truly loved him. Being a romantic, I always want true love to prevail, yet I never got the sense that she had him in her heart. Moreover, I never felt her love towards her husband either, especially in the ending where she barely acknowledges him. When she glanced her husband’s way and then back at Gennarino’s longing stare for the last time, I realized she loves neither of them. The person she loves is herself. Her skill in surviving through any means necessary, including feigning devotion, emphasizes her self-love. In the scene right before she throws herself under Gennarino, she stares out at the waters, and in that moment I believe that she realized that she must fight back. As a woman, she does not need to prove masculinity or femininity. She must fight for herself. If she fights with her survival in mind, she can outsmart Gennarino and thrive on the island until she gets to the mainland. Wertmüller demonstrates the sophistication and decades long build-up of the feminist movement in Swept Away when she alludes to society’s viewing of women as their permanent scapegoat. Outsmarting mankind at their own game, women play into the submissive role while fighting to survive and thrive, just as Rafaella does with Gennarino. According to Roger Ebert, “She finds herself powerfully attracted to the situation; she's been spoiled so long, it's almost a relief to be ordered around” (par. 4), yet I would argue that she never truly does anything she has not convinced herself into doing. Everything she does is a rebellion against society and Gennarino. Wanting to remain in control, Rafaella implores Gennarino to sodomize her before he decides to do it himself. She goes above and beyond, and in doing so remains the one in control, mentally at least. Rafaella seduces not only Gennarino into believing that she truly loves him but the audience as well. Roger Ebert falls under her spell, dismissing her actions at the end as one of the mysterious things women just do sometimes (par. 8).

Adhering to the overarching theme, Rafaella’s case only goes to prove that when a man takes away a woman’s control and convinces her that she needs him in order to survive, then the woman will delude herself into having feelings for him. It helps that Gennarino is easy on the eyes. Rafaella was infatuated with Gennarino's aesthetic. Since the beginning, she was sexually charged for him. He was a forbidden fruit that she could not have because he was too dirty or too savage. Her sexual desire for him sparked a fire in her heart that she could not contain, especially when that fire was the only thing keeping her alive. In this sense, she saved herself by loving him. The fight or flight, freeze or fawn response is a normal human reaction to life-risking events. She used her instincts to her advantage. Her inborn intuition allowed her mind to fight on while her body feigned submission. Furthering the point, “Her mind was, in fact, merely colonized by the influence of Stockholm Syndrome” (Farajollah par. 4), which causes a captive to empathize with their captor in order to survive. Submission can give a captive the edge they need to last until rescue, which is something Rafaella takes advantage of. Without deluding him into the distraction of her body, Gennarino may have caught on to what she was doing. “She was smart enough to see the future and to think ahead, while Gennarino was stuck only seeing what was in front of him” (Gordon).

Throughout the film, Wertmüller brings forth examples of women resisting vassalage. From the opening scene of the film, Rafaella questioned society. She argued politics with the men and afterwards stayed up late to gamble while her husband slept. Embodying everything a woman should not be, Rafaella held true to her nature even in moments where the audience thought she gave up. Wertmüller, a fighter through and through, directs the movie through the lenses of the beguiled party. Movie reviewer Samantha Storms emphasized, “With this film, the negative light that is shed upon women such as Rafaella is not a symbol of inhibition, but an indication of forward movement and progression within a corrupted, subjugating culture” (par. 7). Societal expectations extort women into achieving nothing more than a person to be subjugated by the ambitious. Men are raised to be ambitious and to surmount anyone in the way of their success. Without eliminating these standards for each gender, there cannot be personal success and happiness for all. Wertmüller brings to light this aspect of our society through her film. She illustrates the battle between man and woman for dominance and equality respectively. The end goal for Rafaella is to survive in the wilderness and to be on or above the same playing field as men.

Works Cited

Ebert, Roger. Swept Away by an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August Movie
Review (1976) | Roger Ebert.

Farajollah, Ariana. “An Abused Woman's Colonization and Declaration of
Independence.” Taking Giant Steps Press Blog, 7 June 2017.

Gordon, Paul Kirpal. 12 Mar. 2018. Class discussion.

Storms, Samantha. "Passion’s Dark Side: Roeg’s Walkabout vs Wertmüller’s Swept
Away.” Taking Giant Steps Press Blog, 08 Dec. 2016. Web.                                     

Wertmüller, Lina. Swept Away. Perf. Giancarlo Giannini and Mariangela Melato.
Medusa Distribuzione, 1974. YouTube. YouTube, LLC, 28 Aug. 2014. Web.

“We Should All Be Feminists.” Performance by Chimamanda Ngozi Adichie, TedX,
TedTalks, Dec. 2012.

Monday, October 22, 2018

Interpreting "Swept Away": Where Is the Grey by Jennie Golub

The black and white clothing in the film Swept Away is as much a character as Gennarino and Rafaella. To start, the black and white clothes are allegorical for the film is clear-cut: there is no in-between. One either is communist or capitalist, poor or rich, man or woman. The absence of the color grey in the film is substituted by a surplus of the colors black and white. Peculiarly, under this façade, Gennarino and Rafaella’s love-hate relationship is ambiguous like the color grey, as is the complexity of the characters themselves. Even the island in itself serves as a grey playground of role exploration for the characters. Despite the challenge of analyzing color symbolism due to their interpretative and ambiguous nature in Swept Away, it appears that the colors black, white, gold, and the absence of grey are all meant to provide insight into Gennarino and Rafaella’s strange duet in addition to the individual character’s respective journeys.

Just as black and white are stark contrasts to each other, so too are Gennarino and Rafaella. Poor male communist Gennarino stands at the bottom of the socio-economic hierarchy, a blunt comparison to wealthy capitalist female Rafaella—or in the words of Gennarino, “Me, poor black trash, and you, rich white bitch.... You, the great lady, and me, a mere minion….  Everyone in his own place” (Wertmüller, 1:32:44). It is no coincidence that during this scene, both Gennarino and Rafaella are wearing black shirts with white pants. 

Generally, in western culture, the color black embodies negative qualities. Marketer and designer Jacob Olesen writes, “Black is the color of the hidden, the mysterious and the unknown. It creates a sense of mystery and keeps things to itself, hidden from the rest of the world” (par. 2). First, it is clear that their relationship suffers from severe trust issues. Gennarino is a ticking time-bomb who can abuse Rafaella either physically or verbally at a moment’s notice. In fact, toward the end of the scene mentioned earlier where Gennarino compares and contrasts himself with Rafaella, he tests her loyalty, as he often does, by declaring, “You and me are an item only because we’re here, and that’s it” (Wertmüller, 1:33:10). Gennarino announces this self-fulling prophecy to Rafaella in which she would never be caught dead in public with a filthy Southerner like himself. How did Gennarino come to such a resolute conclusion regarding their relationship? Where is his evidence? Quickly Rafaella reassures, “I might love you even more,” and as usual, Gennarino uses her declaration of love against her instead of letting it guide the relationship to a healthier state by barking, “Even more? So, you were lying when you said you loved me completely” (Wertmüller, 1:33:25). Suffering from a heavy dose of insecurity, Gennarino’s negativity goes beyond fictitious statements: he dismisses Rafaella as well. For instance, Gennarino disparages her by declaring, “If you lie... I’ll kill you” (Wertmüller, 1:33:34).  Of course, Rafaella is deeply unsettled by this threat although she does a great job masking this fear as she can never tell whether he actually means what he says. She quips back to him, “You’ll kill me?” and Gennarino confirms that he is indeed capable of turning the abuse up to a lethal point (Wertmüller, 1:33:38). This proclamation of negativity is a way for Gennarino to put down Rafaella as well as illegitimatize their “love.” In addition, shortly after they have sex, Gennarino is seen sewing a black garment that appears to be Rafaella’s (Wertmüller, 1:31:52). Although the briefness of the scene may not leave much of an impression on viewers, the moment is allegorical for Gennarino sewingor rather rebuildinghis power-to-prevent mentality. Sex is a step couples often use to become more intimate with one another; Gennarino and Rafaella’s sex leaves him with the option to join her, but sadly Gennarino chooses to reject her. It is as if the barriers of their former selves had been knocked down, allowing them the choice to embrace each other, but instead Gennarino rebuilds his barriers out of fear of the unknown. It is no wonder they are both wearing black shirts: both of their intentions are mysterious to one another. Neither of them can decipher whether they are in love or if it is just a means of survival for Rafaella and power play for Gennarino. This double meaning of intentions is further exemplified by the white pants.

Olesen reports, “In color psychology, white is the color of new beginnings—wiping the slate clean” (par. 3). Both of the characters accept their new life to an extent. Rafaella understands that, until someone rescues her and Gennarino from the island, she has to lay low and adhere to Gennarino’s brutish mentality and rules as a means of survival. Gennarino, on the other hand, accepts his newfound power that he is delighted to abuse. The new beginnings presented by the white pants are cancelled out by the mystery and secrecy of the black shirt.

Notice that not once in the movie is an article of grey clothing seen. Olesen writes, “From a color psychology perspective, the color [grey] is a compromise—it is either black or white. It is the transition between the two colors” (par. 1). Gennarino, nor Rafaella, are ever seen wearing grey because they never achieve a conventional positive or negative relationship, or as Olesen says a “compromise.” Instead the colors black and white clash into each other. If the characters ever loved each other, it was never fully. If they loved each other, then Wertmüller might indicate a newfound equality and acceptance in the relationship through the color grey. Beyond the new role reversal, the white pants could have been allegorical for a newfound love, but the secrecy of the color black rejects compromise. Being that Gennarino bears this power-to-prevent mentality, the color grey never materializes because he denies equality despite claiming to be a communist. 

The scene just discussed is followed by Gennarino asking Rafaella for her gold earring to which she obliges (Wertmüller, 1:33:56). Although the color gold has numerous redemptive values such as “success, achievement and triumph in color psychology,” (Olesen, par. 5) it can also carry negative connotations such as “disparity between rich and poor, untrustworthiness, self-righteousness or egotism” (Olesen, par. 5). Under normal circumstances, the gold earring would be symbolic of newfound equality and acceptance, but their relationship never achieves a grey equality. If the gold earring is representative of the disparity between rich and poor, then Gennarino is no longer a “communist”—if he ever really was—and is attempting to strengthen his power over her the same way she used to dominate him. Notice that Gennarino asks Rafaella for the earring; it is not as though she simply volunteers it. Somehow the gold earring makes him feel superior, as though he is demanding power from Rafaella; it is the cherry on top to appease his fragile ego. Gennarino is thirsty for power, and the gold earring serves as a material award of sorts to boost his ego. While achievement is a positive characteristic of the color gold, his egotism cancels out the redemptive values of gold just as black cancels out any positivity brought about from white. Gennarino’s acceptance of the gold earring is explicitly him retrieving wealth. In other words, the earring is as close as Gennarino will ever get to wealth or even equality. The gold earring eases Gennarino’s painful reality that outside of the island he will never achieve anywhere near the same caliber of wealth and power as Rafaella. The colors are reflective of more than just Gennarino and Rafaella’s unusual relationship, but more specifically they provide a glimpse into the individual character’s respective journeys. 

The island shakes Gennarino and Rafaella out of their rigid roles that were previously enforced by civilization and forces them to do some soul-searching. The gold earring moment abruptly transitions to Gennarino and Rafaella in pure black clothing embracing each other (Wertmüller, 1:34:23). The scene depicts a feeling of loss further emphasized through the addition of a sad whistling tune and the camera pan over the desolate sandy dunes. Olesen states, “Teens often have a psychological need to wear black clothes at the stage of their life, where they go from childhood innocence to the sophisticated adulthood. It means the end of a part of their life and the beginning of something new. It allows them to hide from the world, while they discover their own unique identity” (par. 7). While Gennarino and Rafaella are well past the age of adolescence, they are both embarking on individual soul-searching journeys as a teenager would. The characters are at a liminal stage in their development, and the island acts as an agent of change in their lives. Essentially, the reason Gennarino and Rafaella are on this soul-searching journey is because of the island. Without the island they would remain in their black and white roles. In particular, Gennarino seems to be the most visibly conflicted by his new identity. On the one hand, Gennarino wants wealth and power as seen in the gold earring scene. On the other hand, he is a devout communist as mentioned repeatedly throughout the film. The dreary desert is metaphorical for Gennarino’s confused and conflicted state of mind; the gloomy whistling and isolated desert are purposeful accents to his feelings of loneliness brought about by his inability to trust Rafaella. At the same time, he wishes their “love” was genuine and not just an aftereffect of their being stranded on the island.   

Undeniably, when Gennarino is tightly holding Rafaella as she peacefully sleeps in his arms, the way he gazes at her is loving, yet mournful and regretful (Wertmüller, 1:34:50). Gennarino’s ego denies him the ability to reveal his true feelings for Rafaella; his affection is only shown when she cannot witness it. Gennarino is unsure of how to love her. As his problematic feelings for her arise, he acquires a cruel self-defense mechanism in which he belittles her instead of embraces her. On a more dramatic note, he may be incapable of loving another at all. He has a wife who selflessly adores him, yet he degrades her for “ruining his image” the moment they are reunited (Wertmüller, 1:40:36). The absence of white clothing in the scene is to signify that the opportunity to publicly and unashamedly love Rafaella has closed. The sadness that is conveyed in the scene is to accentuate Gennarino’s reluctant acceptance of this unfortunate reality where his ego denies him the power-to-join her. Seeing Gennarino’s struggle to love reveals that the problem is not actually caused by his lover; it is a dilemma with his ego.

Gennarino never wears grey because his own state of mind is at war with itself and fails to reach a cognitive compromise. Gennarino grievously gazing at Rafaella (Wertmüller, 1:34:50) uncovers that he is not only incapable of love, but he also is conflicted over whether or not he loves or hates her. First, Rafaella represents everything he claims to despise: capitalism, independence, wealth, and power. Confessing his love to Rafaella would be the equivalent of saying that he loves everything she stands for. Gennarino confirms that he sees Rafaella as a walking emblem of greed and power when he suffers from a fit of rage, beats her mercilessly, and declares, “Don’t you understand you have to pay for everything?” (Wertmüller, 1:08:41) leading him to air a list of grievances regarding the injustices inflicted on the poorer class caused by wealthy people. Rafaella, running for her life, cries, “Am I responsible for all the ills of the world?” followed by a resolute “Yes” from Gennarino (Wertmüller, 1:09:28). Taking into account Gennarino’s public stance as a poor but loyal communist, it is no wonder why he is unable to wholeheartedly love Rafaella. Essentially, if Gennarino were the communist he proudly claims to be, he would not have created this obsolete man-is-greater-than-woman hierarchy. Gennarino relishes having power, but he hates being powerless. Knowing that he will never have power outside of the island, conquering Rafaella—who is exceptionally objectified by him—is as close to power as he can get. By making her less-than, he feels bigger. Through the power of the color white (new beginnings), Gennarino could reach a cognitive compromise, but he allows the color black to consume him, leading to his inability to make a decision as alluded to by the absence of grey.

Finally, Gennarino confesses his love to Rafaella, but it is too late (Wertmüller, 1:44:09). Gennarino is practically begging for Rafaella to return to the island with him and pretend that they never left, but as indicated by her black and white shirt, time is up. Wertmüller places Rafaella in a shirt that yet again never achieves grey but instead is composed of small sharp lines of white and black. Though hard to tell, the shirt appears to consist of more black than white. The role reversal brought about by the island is steadily reverting back to its original state, as is Rafaella. The trauma Rafaella endured on the island will most definitely be an emotional scar she will carry for the rest of her life. That being said, the fading of white in Rafaella’s shirt reveals that the healing process for her has already begun and that she is receding into her old ways of life: luxury, independence, and power. Furthermore, the urgency in Gennarino’s request (or rather his desperate plea) to escape back to the island that gives him the upper hand is ensued by the notion that he knows all too well that she is re-adopting her former role quicker than imagined. The omnipresent power dynamic that looms over Gennarino and Rafaella’s love-hate relationship ultimately retreats back to its original homeostatic state.

The lack of grey emphasizes the metaphorical grey. The overabundance of the black and white clothing is unnatural, just as the uncertainty of their relationship is abnormal. The characters individually and as a couple never come to a grey compromise. For instance, at the end of the film Rafaella chooses to wear black because she does not want to change. As explored in the last paragraph, for what reason would Rafaella go back to the island with her abuser? There is nothing rejuvenating or positive about going back to the island with Gennarino as the color white would suggest, and so she chooses black regression. Conversely, Gennarino never even chooses a color and instead continues to wear black and white clothing for the duration of the film (Wertmüller, 1:48:31). He thinks that he loves her, but at the same time he is still unsure. He impulsively wants to return to the island because, although he struggles to admit it, he hates being powerless, poor, and Southern. However, he has already established a life as a poor Sicilian communist. In the end, Gennarino’s inability to make a genuine and definite decision costs him both Rafaella and his Sicilian wife. The characters overemphasize wearing black and white because they wish they could be as single-sided and clear-cut as black and white. Gennarino and Rafaella avoid the greyness that they each possess like the plague because the color grey is incredibly messy and unclear. Does grey consist of more black or white? What are the specific values grey possess? Overall, grey does not have “X” amount of black or “Y” amount of white, and the same goes for Gennarino and Rafaella because people, as well as their relationships, are messy.

The colors black, white, gold, and the absence of grey all work in conjunction to add depth to the film. The plethora of black and white is to illustrate the severe reluctance the characters have toward change. The characters could have had a shot at a loving relationship if they embraced the new slate of white, but they do not. Instead Gennarino and Rafaella’s relationship is always in a state of conflict just as the colors black and white are. If the characters came to terms with their roles, they could have achieved some value of the equality that grey enjoys. While the man versus woman power play is prevalent through the film, the color gold is to represent the other power dynamic in the film: poor versus rich. Furthermore, the glistening state of gold reveals Gennarino’s muddy unstable ego. The absence of grey is to highlight the reality neither character wants to face: the ambiguity of human nature such as their needs, desires, and feelings. After becoming accustomed to the narrow roles Gennarino and Rafaella have come to accept and define as “normal,” the characters struggle to accept new beginnings (the color white). The characters long for a simple black and white solution in which everything and everyone has a place and a specific role, but that is not the case. Gennarino and Rafaella overcompensate for this natural, yet unwanted, chaos through solid black and white garments. The actuality is that, similar to the color grey, no person is a single color just as no relationship is either; instead there are multiple colors and compromises that make up each person and relationship that are vague and undefinable. The color grey does not have a set amount of white or black and few things do for that matter. So, when you think of the color grey what shade is it? Is it a light or dark grey? I bet the shade of grey you are thinking of is different than the one I imagined.

Works Cited

Gordon, Paul Kirpal (KP). 12 March. 2018. Class discussion.

Olesen, Jacob. "Black Color Meaning – The Color Black." N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Mar. 2018.

Olesen, Jacob. "Black Color Meaning – The Color White." N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Mar. 2018.

Olesen, Jacob. "Black Color Meaning – The Color Gray." N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Mar. 2018.

Olesen, Jacob. "Black Color Meaning – The Color Gold." N.p., n.d. Web. 23 Mar. 2018.

Swept Away. Dir. Lina Wertmüller. Perf. Giancarlo Giannini, Mariangela Melato. Medusa Distribuzione. 1974. Web.

Sunday, October 21, 2018

Tainted Roots: A Woman of East Indian Heritage Eyes “Swept Away” by Drashti Mehta

"You can be the servant for me because women were meant to serve men!" (Wertmüller 00:59:32). Creating controversy among its crowds at its initial release, Swept Away is known notoriously for offending feminist audiences. As the overwhelming tone of the patriarchy created its prominence in Lina Wertmüller’s film, I was reminded of the oppression that branches from my own ancestral roots. I was lucky enough to have the opportunity to grow up in the United States and not fall into the submissive patriarchal culture of India. However, as a bystander in my own culture, it dawned on me that the character of Raffaella was merely exposed to the oppressive patriarchal cultures many women endure worldwide.

For centuries, India followed a caste system, and despite their differences, the one thing they could all agree on was that women were inferior to men, a view that the male characters in Swept Away seem to be strongly in agreement with. According to an article from the from the Huffington Post, "The vast majority of Indians (64%) are of the view that the role of women in society is to become good mothers and wives and they should focus mainly on home" (par. 2). When a girl is born in India, she only has one purpose in life: to be trained to make the perfect wife and mother to her future husband and kids. From as young as seven-years-old in certain parts of India, girls spend their days with their mother learning to cook and clean, so they may be the perfect servants to their husbands in the future.

Wertmüller opens her film with Raffaella in a heated, politically based argument with her husband. As she expresses her anti-communist views and beliefs on abortion policies, her husband is shown immediately proposing his rebuttal in an attempt to belittle her opinions (Wertmüller 00:04:24). It is from this scene that Wertmüller manages to carry the theme of women's oppression throughout the film. Similar to Raffaella, women in India were often discouraged from speaking their minds, particularly in political matters. Furthermore, they were expected to adopt their husband's political beliefs after marriage. Raffaella's independence deteriorated as she became dependent on Gennarino much like the millions of Indian women that were forced into an arranged marriage.

Gennarino was quick to recognize that Raffaella wouldn't be able to survive without his assistance in obtaining food and put her to work. It was in the next few scenes that Raffaella’s life reflected the life of the average Indian woman. While many filmgoers and critics would argue that Gennarino was abusive towards Raffaella when he made statements such as, "My pants do get dirty and someone has to wash them" (Wertmüller 00:54:25), household labor is part of everyday life for many women in India. Additionally, I noticed in class that many of my peers began to feel bad for Raffaella when Gennarino demands chilled water and cooked fish (Wertmüller 01:04:57). Upon observing their negative reaction, I began to doubt my feminist qualities: was I a bad feminist for not being phased by Gennarino's demands for food, or had I simply come to view this as a societal norm through witnessing my grandmother perform these tasks on a day to day basis throughout my childhood? In many parts of India, it is not uncommon for the man, the financial provider in the family, to come home from work and rest while the wife prepares dinner. Furthermore, in smaller villages, the wife is expected to serve her husband and in-laws dinner and wait until they are finished before she seats herself.

As unfortunate as it may be, societal norms in India run deep with patriarchal characteristics. In many Hindu communities, the idea of "until death do us part" is nonexistent, for if the husband is to die first, the community expects the widow to partake in the practice of sati, a self-sacrifice ritual for the recently widowed woman. She commits suicide by burning herself with her husband, so they may be together in future lives (Kashgar, par 3).  Many women must additionally endure a virginity test on their wedding night. In this degrading practice, a newlywed couple is expected to consummate their marriage on a white towel while immediate family from both sides wait outside. If she does not bleed during intercourse, she is considered impure and her husband is allowed to divorce her for her impurities (BBC, par 4). Historically, a woman in India has never been seen as an individual; if she is not under the control of a man, she does not exist. Women in India were expected to abide by the rules set by society and do nothing more. However, it is knowledge of these practices that allows me to say that Raffaella is deeply feminist for sticking by her beliefs and opinions.

Film critic Roger Ebert criticizes the film for being anti-feminist: “Although Lina Wertmüller is a leftist, she is not, apparently, a feminist" (par 5). While many people may agree with Ebert's statement, I personally connected with a statement made by Samantha Storms in her analysis of Swept Away and Walkabout: “The negative light that is shed upon women such as Raffaella is not a symbol of inhibition, but an indication of forward movement and progression within a corrupted, subjugating culture” (par 6). Raffaella is the epitome of feminism.

At the moment in which Raffaella left Gennarino, I felt as though she symbolized freedom, reassuring women worldwide that the patriarchy only exists until we women fight for our rights and put an end to it. “Some women can escape social conformity and become conscious of the incredibly sexist, patriarchal society we live in. Others are trapped and are incapable of realizing their true identity because they are the product of someone else’s identity formation” (Solis, par 2). Wertmüller's film conveys the message of oppression through Raffaella.  This is not an anti-feminist film or the story of a damsel in distress; it is a statement. It's time for women to rise above the submissive culture they have been pushed into and receive the equality they deserve.

Author Drashti Mehta (left) and friend Manjari Parikh

Works Cited

Dutt, Rimin. “A Shocking 64% Of Indians Think Role of Women Is to Become Good Mothers and Wives: Survey.” Huffington Post India, Huffington Post India, 17 May 2017,

Ebert, Roger. “Swept Away by an Unusual Destiny in the Blue Sea of August Movie Review

Farajollah, Ariana. “An Abused Woman’s Colonization and Declaration of Independence in Swept Away.”

Kashgar. “The Practice of Sati (Widow Burning).” Kashgar,

Solis, Lola. "Is Feminism the New F Word? From Resistant to Responsive." 

Storms, Samantha. "Passion’s Dark Side: Roeg’s Walkabout vs Wertmüller’s Swept Away,”

“The Fight to Ban a 'Humiliating' Virginity Test for Newlyweds.” BBC News, BBC, 1 Feb. 2018,

Wertmüller, Lina (Dir.). Swept Away. Perf. Giancarlo Giannini and Mariangela Melato. Romano

         Cardarelli, 1974.