Saturday, 11 January 2014

American Studies Blog Week 12

American Studies Blog Week 12
            The text selected as representative of a contemporary version of The Great Gatsby is the film Casino Jack. The film is loosely based on a real story and focuses on the career of a political lobbyist called Jack Abramoff who was eventually charged and imprisoned for fraud in 2006 for conning the Native Americans out of 85 million dollars. Several similarities can be found between the two tales; in both, for example the main characters acquire wealth through illegal means, live lavish lifestyles, but ultimately end up suffering the consequences as a result of relationships with women and because they have pushed the boundaries. For example, Gatsby’s relationship with Daisy eventually led to his death and in a similar manner, the affair of Abramoff’s partner Michael Scanlon with the stewardess leads to his girlfriend leaking information to the Federal Bureau of Investigation and to Wall Street journalist Susan Schmidt, resulting in Abramoff’s lies being exposed and his subsequent imprisonment. The two characters are also involved in the murder of other people, though in both cases they are unwilling participants and are not responsible for the crime themselves.
            What both texts serve to highlight and criticize is the way that American society is prone to judge success primarily in terms of money and status.  They seem to be suggesting that the manner in which Americans define success means that people such as Gatsby and Abramoff, who to an extent have good intentions, end up committing actions that are corrupt and characterized by lies and manipulation.
So Casino Jack shares several similarities with The Great Gatsby and this means it can be considered to be a contemporary version of the novel. However it is important to note that as this is a movie, it is probable that it is not an entirely true representation of all the facts of the Abramoff case and that certain elements of the film may be skewed or invented to appeal to the tastes of the audience. As such it is somewhat problematic to claim it as an accurate critique of the case and for that matter of American society.

American Studies Blog Week 11

Research, post and analyse any advertisement or commercial for a contemporary consumer item in the USA (for instance, food, a gadget, clothing, an ornament, etc.) Pay special attention to the “values” the item claims to hold as American.

This video by the Italian Car Company Fiat attempts to sell its product as something “American” by portraying it as being representative of the Italian immigrant settlers who arrived in America, beginning with Columbus and continuing in greater numbers in the late 19th and early 20th centuries, thus making it appealing to the audience on the grounds that it is a product synonymous with their identity and cultural heritage. Though the title “Immigrants” makes it appear as though the product is something that is meant to appeal to all Americans, it is possible to discern that a more specific target audience may in fact be Italian-Americans/Americans of European descent who predominantly live on the East Coast in cities like New York, Boston and Philadelphia. There are several links to this Italian heritage that we can identify within the commercial. For example, we can see that the commercial begins in Italy, after which the cars fall into the Mediterranean before presumably crossing the Atlantic and reappearing in several locations across America, notably New York,. This is obviously a reference to the voyages people from southern Italy in particular made across the Atlantic to America, but it is also probable that it is representative of Columbus’s voyage considering his Italian heritage and the fact that the company is Italian. In addition, the first car appears under Brooklyn Bridge in New York that is again suggestive of the link to Italian Americans, whilst the line “The Next Wave of Italians has come to America” is another clear link. We could say that the message of the commercial is to suggest that by buying this car, one is establishing a link to the founding of the country, both in the time of Columbus and that of later immigrants as just like them it has crossed the sea and arrived in the New World.
Beyond the Italian community, the commercial is designed to appeal to Americans in general by suggesting that people come to the New World to have ‘fun’, since the concept of entertainment is embodied in American life through elements like Hollywood, Disneyland and so on. This is one aspect of the American Dream that would appeal to all those living in the U.S.

Wednesday, 11 December 2013

Jersey Shore... The Modern Gatsby?

Day time on the Jersey Shore coast line of New Jersey is a place for young families, fun, sand and sea, a place for indulgence and a great place to let your hair down... until night fall and then it becomes a mixture of sex, drinks, parties and fights which I believe is the new Gatsby. The one thing we must highlight before I go any further is that Gatsby is fiction which touches on the realities of middle class America however this is a reality show and although some of the scenes may be cut out as they are not very dramatic, the clips I am about to show you are completely real and did happen.

First of all I aim to talk about the alcoholism, the key to America has been through alcoholism, Gatsby era found itself in a prohibition where the country seemed to be within a meltdown, we can see in Jersey shore however that alcoholism is also a meltdown, 50% of the members of the cast have been arrested for being 'drunk and disorderly.' It is shown through a negative portrayal of alcohol in both that alcohol is a problem that is as much at large as Gatsby era and has the same effect, the parties may seem glitzy and enjoyable but when you scratch the surface there is nothing but problems in alcoholism.

Secondly, fights and anger seems to be a trait that comes hand and hand with a party life style, we see in Gatsby, Gatsby starts to lose his mind and also his temper and loses his polite reputation, although we know through bad press that this is not similar to Jersey shore, the amount of fights of passion through drunken and adrenaline filled nights end very badly and make them all lose out. At the end of the day, most have a horrific reputation and have received bad names for themselves, just like Gatsby did when he lost his temper. 

Finally, a relationship, the next clip is very uncomfortable as I would not expect any acts of abuse to be televised on air, but the relationship of 'Sammy' and 'Ronnie' was a whirlwind of anger, because of their party lifestyle they could not communicate properly as a couple. Also when they got mad, they got very mad, because alcoholism heightened their arguments, an abusive relationship was formed. This could be seen as similar to Gatsby, of course, the representation of a man having a physical control over a female at this time was normal where it seems very uncomfortable to see now in a modern setting, there are similarities between the relationships in Gatsby too.

In conclusion, I feel like the modern day Great Gatsby is Jersey shore, it shows the issues of 'high living' and alcohol and shows the demise in a persons reputation and their relationship with others. Although Jersey Shore is very dramatic and entertaining to witness, we cannot hide the underlying issues that lie within allowing a lot of the abuse and fights to be aired. We can argue that Americans may be very similar to those of Gatsby era however with the development in society in the meantime it is shocking to see that there has been very little development in morals, and even perhaps even less morals to begin with.

Thursday, 5 December 2013

American Consumerism... Is America just a product?

When looking for advertisements for American products I can remember an advert I saw myself on television why caught my eye and interested me. A visit California advert, ironically not a specific product you would find in a factory or within a persons house or on a persons body however it made me think that the Globe itself is becoming a product that everyone can own just a little bit of.

Within this advert what caught my attention was the use of 'dream,' something ultimately American, the use of 'space' as they were the first allegedly to explore space, but what really caught my eye was the things that were more covert. A black family, a tipi in a tree which would have been used by Native Americans, a surf board. Although most of the advert seems typically American, actors, explosions, the sun, sea and sand, what caught my eye was the fact that they almost unknowingly added about everything that was wrong about America and California within the advert too. Using a Black family although odd seems to sum up the progression of America, the surf board a symbol almost stolen from Australia and New Zealand seems to be a symbolism of America. Using a Native American symbolism is also odd, something that shocked the world so much about America has become a symbol of positivity, being at one with the nature around them, it is almost like they are using the ideas and life of native Americans to show how America is at one with the nature around them even though in many ways this may be seen as false.
However, the most important question to ask is has consumerism become so much that it is not just products that are being sold across the globe, it is also the countries themselves, come have a slice of California pie for two weeks and consume some memories from it too. Consumerism is becoming so much that we must advertise the best parts of our own country and America seems to be pioneering the way for this new consumer product... their own country! I choose the Christmas M&S advert because it is advertising M&S the branding. The advert itself is a consumer culture as it makes the audience desire the clothes that are being advertised in the trailer. The trailer uses many methods to get its point across like celebrity endorsement which will make the audience want to buy the things that are in the advert. But by showing the clothes in a fairy-tale like world it is expressing a differentuality to the audience by saying if they buy these clothes from this brand they will feel like they are in a fairy tale and have the chances of meeting there prince charming. The value of the advertisement is to maybe show the male generation some clothes that they would possible buy for their girlfriends or wives. The branding is known world wide so when they see the iconic symbol in the corner they know exactly where to go to buy these products, the adverts are like advertising for Christmas shopping due to it’s theme. The brand even gives itself a more Christmas name “magic and sparkle” which is still similar to it’s actual branding (M&S).


Starbucks is an American global coffee company and coffeehouse chain based in Seattle, Washington. Starbucks is the largest coffeehouse company in the world, with 20,891 stores in 62 countries, including 13,279 in the United States, 1,324 in Canada, 989 in Japan, 851 in the People's Republic of China, 806 in the United Kingdom, 556 in South Korea, 377 in Mexico, 291 in Taiwan, 206 in the Philippines, 179 in Turkey, 171 in Thailand, and 167 in Germany.

Starbucks locations serve hot and cold beverages, whole-bean coffee, microground instant coffee, full-leaf teas, pastries, and snacks. Most stores also sell packaged food items, hot and cold sandwiches (and mugs and tumblers)

From Starbucks' founding in 1971 as a Seattle coffee bean roaster and retailer, the company has expanded rapidly.

Starbucks, which is one of the largest coffee chains in the world, also has a loyalty program with the most success in the United States. Millions of consumers around the world drink coffee daily and Starbucks continues to cash in on the popularity of this energy drink. More people go to Starbucks for a coffee, the more they are rewarded with "My Starbucks Rewards" which is the famous Starbucks loyalty program.

Creation of Starbucks App, on iTunes.

Friday, 29 November 2013

Crevecoeur and the 'Land'... Is work what it used to be?

A clear sense I got from Crevecoeur when I read Letter III 'What is an American' is a freedom and ability to work for yourself, to live off your own private owned land, to farm and feed yourself and the rewards you would get from this would be incredible.

'They receive ample rewards for their labours: these accumulated rewards produce them lands: those lands confer on them the title of free men.'

'The American is a new man, who acts upon principles; he must therefore entertain new ideas a opinions. He has passed to toils of a very different nature, rewarded by ample subsistence. This is an American.'

My view on these quotes is that both similarly use the word 'reward,' working off the land will earn you something worthwhile, something you want, it will earn you something that will make you feel happy. 'Labours,' 'lands,' 'nature,' all seem to point to a view that Americans will work one on one with nature and the rewards and freedom that come out of it are blissful. Many moved from Europe to America to be free men, to work for themselves and not others and personally this seems to me to be idealist. You gain your own rewards, you do not have to share your hard work with others, just yourself and your family. If America was founded upon these philosophies I believe America is more 'European' than Europe. For example: 'The US Government breaks employment into groups, for example there are 235,086 Civilian noninstitutional employees as of 03/31/09' ( This shows me that a very small percentage of Americans do not work for others or their society or companies, showing that very few Americans work for themselves any more or off of the land. As America has developed it has become the super power Crevecoeur's ideas of what Europe was like, work is not for yourself anymore, nature is unimportant and working off the land is not the first choice of livelihood anymore. Personally I think this is a shame.

Reading further into this thought I looked at how an American could go about living off the land and looked to a website called 'EHow' a website which helps people to be more creative and artsy and live for themselves, at first glance at this instruction website there was no mention of any permanence. 'Ever gotten the urge to quit the rat race and live in the wilderness? In
fact, it's very difficult for a solitary person to live comfortably off the
land.' (
From the offset it tells you it would be 'difficult' to live comfortably off the land and almost tries to put you off not living within society. All of the points also point towards buying things from society to help you to live independently, like going on a course within the wilderness and buying many tools to help you in the process or even point 11) 'Keep an apartment in Manhattan for those times when you need to get away from it all.' This all points to consumerism that even if you want to escape society and live for your self you should still give to society to help you towards it.

Nowadays Crevecoeur's idea of living off of the land is null, people will buy from supermarkets, work for society and not for themselves and their family will most likely continue this chain further. Thus showing that work and the 'land' are not what they used to be.