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.