Warm Bodies: Film Vs. Book

Warm Bodies the film took a different approach to appealing to the audience than the book. Most of the plotlines and characters stayed intact, but there are always differences when adapting book to film. Before diving into two particular scenes I would like to focus on the main characters first. The portrayal of R in the film brought out the sensitive side of the character that allowed the audience to develop a brief and simple relationship with R. This relationship allows for the audience to also understand the need for the character of Julie. Continuing with the portrayal of Julie, her character created the bridge for R to express his thoughts to a living person. This is an element of the film that was captured more easily than in the book. Being able to see the emotions on each of their faces lets the audience know what each of the characters see in the others which then creates a stronger connection between R and Julie.

One part of the book that was not in the film was the fact that R was married just before meeting Julie and has two kids. This part of the book was influential in showing the lack of emotion between zombies. R showed a void in his being by constantly finding ways that he is different from his fellow zombies. This lack of connection between zombies and the notion that love is not necessary in the world anymore and the marriage shows as evidence. R’s meeting with his future wife is described with just sight controlling the emotions: “we pass each other again. I grimace and she grimaces back. On our third pass, the airport power dies, and we come to a halt perfectly aligned. I wheeze hello, and she responds with a hunch of her shoulder” (Marion 9). The connection is created through the undeniable sign of a power outage and a sudden meeting. The conveyors show the endless trek of going nowhere since zombies do not seem to have a purpose in life. Also, R’s obsession with learning people’s names shows he desire to learn more about a person and develop a deeper connection. The conflict of the names is explained with: “another one of M’s undead ironies – from nametags to newspapers, the answers to our questions are written all around us, and we don’t know how to read” (Marion 10). Here we see R’s character struggle with something that separates him from others by wanting to be able to identify others and himself.

I understand why this element of the book was not included in the film due to its complexity it shows. The film replaces the wife and children by having two child zombies follow R in the beginning of the film. They watch as he drives with Julie in the car and this shows one side effect of R having children, that he abandons them in pursuit of Julie. He seems to not appreciate the ways of raising the children and his wife also cheated on him thus, solidifying his choice to go with Julie. By watching a movie it is easier for the audience to pick up on R’s differences with his voiceover thoughts and being able to see the emotions of R and Julie.

Another scene that was not included was the ultimate death of General Grigio. The book describes Grigio’s death as: “they fall together, entangled, and Grigio’s body shudders in the air, convulsing. Converting. His remaining flesh peels away in the wind, dry scraps floating up like ashes, leaving the pale bones underneath…” (Marion 226). Grigio’s death and automatic conversion into a Boney shows his unwillingness to accept that zombies can change, that Julie and R’s connection is the answer to the plague. This isn’t completely about love, it is about fighting not only for survival but for change, an actual connection between the living and the dead.

By not having Grigio die in the film does allow for a happier ending, but I feel it also allows for an influential person in the fight against zombies to publicly take a chance on this cure for zombies. The movie has a more direct salute to the idea that zombies are capable of change. When looking at the audience we can relate that the lack of Grigio’s death could create a “happy ending” which has its benefits to the audience. “A good zombie movie with a happy ending tends to have humans overcoming their petty differences and banding together to quell the unstoppable tide of the undead. In the real world, those Hollywood-style dramas often play out on the international stage” (Gannon 1). This is precisely what happened in the end of Warm Bodies where the living overcame the perceptions of zombies and banded together to fight the real enemy, a Boney.

Warm Bodies is an example of a narrative adaptation to cinema that made changes to tell a story that would be understood and with clear lessons of humanity.

Works Cited

Gannon, Megan. “Diagnosis Zombie: The Science Behind the                              Undead Apocalypse” Livescience.com 8 Aug 2013. Web.

Marion, Isaac. Warm Bodies: A Novel. Atria, 2011.

Final Research Project Proposal

I would like to focus on the term of pictorial embodiment of mental illness trapped inside young adults. To narrow this topic I will dive into the mental illness of depression with relating it to the novel Warm Bodies and possibly its film adaptation as well as the film American Splendor. I chose young adults to narrow my age group of research to fit with Warm Bodies, but this can be adjusted to fit future research. I would also like to look into the aspect of being trapped in the illness. The almost impossibility of communicating or sharing about the illness with others, and the personal and public identity carried with the illness of depression and how these elements effect young adults.

Mental Illness Unit Response

When finishing the graphic novel Marbles by Ellen Forney, I noticed connections in characters to the film American Splendor. The similarities spilled out of the novel and film like Forney’s creativity during a manic state. These similarities stemmed from the characters, the metal illnesses, and the way the characters communicated with their and illnesses. One aspect of both forms of performance to take into account is the merging of comic writing and film. When looking at both mediums Marbles communicated solely through writing and graphic design, where American Splendor related to Marbles with its use of comic writing and occasional borders to bridge any gap between the two performances.

By looking into the characters, Ellen Forney relates to both of the main characters of American Splendor: Harvey Pekar and Joyce Brabner. Both Harvey and Joyce have mental illnesses to relate to that side of Ellen. Their illnesses may not match completely but the similarities between the characters comes mainly from their interactions with other people. One particular scene from American Splendor comes to mind: when Joyce mentions she comes from a very dysfunctional family. This of course brings about her being able to pick up on personality disorders very easily with every person she and Harvey encounter. The film puts together many instances where Joyce points them out. For example when Harvey’s friend Toby is at the door, she declares him with being borderline autistic. I feel this relates to Ellen’s constant identification of the medications she was prescribed by her psychiatrist and their symptoms, recommendations for each, and how they affected her moods. Ellen explains, “bipolar disorder is difficult to treat. Finding the right medications can take a long time, so bipolars may list our med histories proudly, like merit badges” (Forney 181). In this representation of her many trials with medications we see Ellen pulling at the heartstrings of the readers, asking them their emotions regarding the immense amount of meds. “Are you impressed? Intimidated? Overwhelmed?” (Forney 181). The audience is asked what they think and Ellen is putting thoughts in the reader’s head like how Joyce puts an idea and therefore a label on someone, which then inclines the audience to perceive that person the same way.

Another character connection would be highlighting particular relationships between characters. When looking at both performances the relationships of Ellen and her mother and Harvey and Toby stick out. Ellen’s connection with her mother is a way for Ellen to feel stable in her bipolar disorder. She constantly refers to what her mother experienced and frequently turns to her mother in times of distress. Ellen identifies easily with her mother, given their closeness over the years and that she is aware that her mental illness stems from her mother’s side of the family. In American Splendor, Harvey and Toby share an interesting relationship. They both provided solace for each other in being someone to talk to and have conversation. One particular scene that showed part of Harvey and Toby’s relationship, but also captured a theme of the film, was when they sit in Toby’s car discussing the film “Revenge of the Nerds.” The theme in the film of seemingly thoughtless decision making is shown. There is thought behind Toby choosing to drive 260 miles roundtrip to see a particular film or Harvey jumping into a third marriage to a woman he officially met one week prior. I appreciated the line Harvey says to Toby: “what movie could possibly be worth driving 260 miles roundtrip for?” at 50:27. I liked this scene because Harvey was asking a question that was really meant for himself because he was marrying Joyce after one week together. Each of their decisions shows the desire to see a movie they like or to marry someone they feel is right but not looking at the effects of their decision making such as gas mileage or commitment. This relates back to Ellen’s relationship with the many medications she is prescribed. She desires her creativity but does not always take into account the negative effects of her manic and depressive states.

Marbles and American Splendor both delved deeply into how the characters suffering from a mental illness communicate with their particular illness. Harvey and Joyce both communicated with their forms of personality disorders by marrying someone they felt compatible with through a shared appreciation of underground comics. Where Ellen communicated with her illness in many ways. She talked frequently with her psychiatrist, Karen, about whether or not she should share certain information and why must she go on lithium again and again. Ellen even got to the point of Karen being her only outlet for comfort: “I saw Karen once or twice a week, and her office was the only place I could really relax” (Forney 84). Another way in which Ellen communicated with her illness was by drawing from examples of past experiences. One instance she drew from her old job of being a lifeguard: “in college, I was a lifeguard for a summer, and we were trained to stay back from a person who was drowning and in a panic. Chances were good they’d climb on top of you in an instinctual drive to get to the surface, and you’d both go under. You toss them a life preserver” (Forney 71). One way in which Ellen connected to her bipolar disorder was to latch on to a life preserver in the form of a drug when she was drowning in a depressive state.

Overall, Marbles and American Splendor were relatable ways to represent mental illness and to grab the audience’s attention by documenting a life through film or a graphic novel. Communication and relationships were important for the characters of both performances to face the battles of the disorders they are fighting and to essentially survive.

Works Cited

“American Splendor Full Movie 2003.” Online Video Clip. You Tube            2014. Web. 24 Mar 2015.

Forney, Ellen. Marbles. Gotham, 2012.

How R’s Thought Process Compelled his Change

Upon reading the articles on zombies in modern culture and the novel Warm Bodies by Isaac Marion it became difficult to find relations between these works of writing. Warm Bodies is a novel that dives into the mind of a zombie who has little to no memory of his past which makes the reader become consumed in R’s thoughts. He describes his thought process as “this is my great obstacle, the biggest of all the boulders littering my path. In my mind I am eloquent; I can climb intricate scaffolds of words to reach the highest cathedral ceilings and paint my thoughts. But when I pen my mouth, it all collapses. So far my personal record is four rolling syllables before some… thing… jams. And I may be the most loquacious zombie in this airport” (Marion 10). This aspect of the novel was greatly enjoyable; hearing the thoughts of a zombie where conversation was at a minimum. It made the novel unique in its ability to bring the reader into intimate thoughts.

To focus on the character of R is to look into these thoughts. R has the desire to speak and make conversation but in the life of a zombie it lacks necessity. “Living speech has always been a sonic pheromone to me, and I spasm briefly when it hits my ears. I’ve yet to meet another zombie who shares my appreciation for those silky rhythms” (Marion 15). This shows R’s fascination with how humans talk and that this obsession sets him apart from other zombies. This is an important factor that relates to the rest of the book when R begins to adapt into human form. His respect towards human form sparks a revolution that the plague can be fought.

One particular instance in Warm Bodies when R shows that he is capable of changing his ways is the moment when he decides to save Julie. The decision is described as “in this brief moment of hesitation, still warm with the nectar of a young man’s memories, I make a choice” (Marion 19). To which R decides to “smear carefully on a young Living girl, concealing the glow of her life under its dark, overpowering musk” (Marion 20). What this action is exemplifying is R’s character change from how he has been living for as long as he can remember to something different. This change can be shown through examining R’s thought process. A more cynical approach to his life, or rather his death, would be “when the entire world is built on death and horror, when existence is a constant state of panic, it’s hard to get worked up about any one thing” (Marion 36). This thought is in reference to watching his kids start school, after one child was just killed in front of the parents watching. His existence seems depressing. A more positive thought process can be seen with: “she is Living and I’m Dead, but I’d like to believe we’re both human. Call me an idealist” (Marion 42). This thought brings light to a dark existence and the possibility for change.

Now to take R’s thought process and compare it to the revolution in the novel that zombies and Living humans can coexist would be to look at the comparisons between the two species. One can see an element of capitalism in both species. The Living and the Dead modified their education into learning forms of combat and protection. The lack of an actual government allows for the changes to happen based on how the world is adapting. When looking at this effect concerning the zombie plague it can bring a new perspective. “A plague’s utility as a construct for thinking about the spread of capitalism becomes more explicit. The circulation of capital becomes the instrument of plague, as it spreads in the marketplace and trade routes” (Boluk & Lenz 131). This comment focuses on the flow of goods and in the case of Warm Bodies, weapons for the Living to fight with. My interpretation of the presence of capitalism in Warm Bodies is that if the Living fight back then the Dead will do the same. The importance that Warm Bodies brings to light is that winning an endless battle can come from evaluating if there is a different approach to the conflict.

Warm Bodies was a novel written in a way that was hard to interpret since the main character barely spoke, but it was enthralling given its ability to give the character life in his thoughts. The main enjoyment of Warm Bodies came living inside R’s head in the beginning of the novel and being able to see his transformation from a depressed zombie to a dynamic character.

Works Cited

Boluk, Stephanie; Lenz, Wylie. “Infection, Media, and Capitalism:             From Early Modern Plagues  to Postmodern Zombies.” Journal for       Early Modern Cultural Studies 10.2 (2010 Fall-Winter): 126-147.             Web. MLA International Bibliography.

Marion, Isaac. Warm Bodies: A Novel. Atria, 2011.

Harvey Pekar’s Transformation in American Splendor

American Splendor took an interesting approach to the illness of depression. The performances, direction, and cinematography all made the film feel real rather than a Hollywood film blowing things out of proportion. Focusing on the role of depression in the film, it is a hard to portray given its ability to be a part of everyone and its common misconception for being just angry or sad. In the film world “depressives have been largely ignored, partly because nothing much seems to happen to them and partly because non-depressives don’t quite believe in their suffering” (Fulford 1). This is exemplified in American Splendor by Harvey Pekar being ignored in every aspect of his life even when trick or treating as a child. As an adult fresh after a second divorce Harvey describes his life as a “Cleveland file clerk who usually has no money, no girlfriend, no future and no hope (Fulford 1). This shows, at least in his mind, that he has self-diagnosed himself with chronic depression.

Harvey’s character becomes complex even though he directly expresses many of his emotions and views to the audience or other characters. In his work Harvey develops a theme “’ordinary life is pretty complex’” (Fulford 2). Even such mundane things become long, drawn-out decisions such as picking a line in a grocery store. In this particular scene Harvey weighs the options of lines to choose which shows him taking a simple situation and showing its complexity and plethora of options. This one moment sparks the realization that these mundane events in one’s life can inspire creative writing. This is essentially how the film is chronicled. “The resulting film – about the life and work of a file clerk who finds love, family, and a creative life by documenting his everyday existence in a series of comic books – moves seamlessly between biopic, documentary, an animated comic book to create a new form” (Meyer 41). This new form relates back to portraying depression on screen and how it makes the film feel real and the characters on screen come to life in many different forms.

To elaborate on Harvey’s relationship with the audience: “Pekar is an unusual character whose story has led to an unusual film. His life resonates with audiences because he has had the ability to transform a seemingly ordinary existence into something transcendent” (Meyer 43). This quote highlights the dynamic of Harvey and how he changed his approach to life. He didn’t change everything about himself, or reinvent himself, he just looked at life in a different way. One particular scene in the film exemplified his move towards success, when he runs into a former classmate from college whose current life events consist of being wife and mother. He was the college dropout who has now found success in writing and she is now downplaying her accomplishments of a family.

To continue the analysis of Harvey’s transformation through his comics it incorporates the meeting of his wife, Joyce. “What is perhaps most endearing about Pekar’s story is that his comics brought him not only creative satisfaction and a fan base, but it was also through them that he met his wife, Joyce, and his adoptive daughter, Danielle” (Meyer 43). This shows the transformation of a depressed man that led to a meeting of a woman on a similar track. In a way they force their paths to cross with a plan to meet but the connection was instigated with a shared love for creative and witty comics. The marriage and daughter that followed was something that Harvey and Joyce put together in order to fill each other’s void in their lives. One of the director’s, Robert Pulcini, said “’it was through comics that he found a life. There’s something amazing about someone who expresses his entire interior life, and then through that manages to pull a family together. It’s amazing’” (Meyer 43). The film American Splendor showed that depression is an illness that is disregarded and depressives are commonly told to “suck it up” but this film showed the other side. Harvey and Joyce revealed that you can’t always “suck it up,” sometimes you have to let the depression lead you to something incredible.

Works Cited

Fulford, Robert. “Finally, it’s Chic to Have the Blues: Film Based on Life of Harvey Pekar Sparks New Interest in Mental Health” The National Post 26 Aug. 2003: 1-2.

Meyer, Andrea. “The Strange and Wonderful World of American Splendor” Independent Film & Video Monthly (Sep 2003): 41-43.

The Medical and Expressive Side of Bipolar Disorder

Graphic novels have the miraculous ability to tell a story in multiple ways. They can appeal to a reader by having two ways to relate to the story, through words or drawings. Mania and depression are excellent effects to chronical throughout a graphic novel rather than another form of writing. Sometimes words are not enough to be able to show the exact emotion the writer wants the reader to feel, and something like mania and depression are very emotional and hard to describe at times. It is important to realize that this is Ellen Forney’s memoir and I was surprised to find that she felt she did not have a story to tell. In an interview she stated “initially, I didn’t think that I had a story. I had never tried to kill myself, I had never ran down the street naked saying I was God, so I thought, do I really have a story” (Gall 1)? I feel that Forney underestimated the gravity of her experiences and how they could relate to others.

When writing about topics such as mania and depression Forney elaborated from her experiences in order to tell the story. I felt this was important because the truth behind the writing makes it even more relatable to a reader. Forney states “at the time I was really doing my best to keep a grip on things. I was trying to pin things down and figure out what was going on and attain clarity, but my perspective was limited because I was in the midst of it” (Gall 1). I really liked this comment in the interview because it showed what the writer, in this case Forney, was going through in writing something so vivid and personal. Bipolar disorder is something that a person really doesn’t have a grip on, and Forney needed to try her best to contain herself to finish the graphic novel. As a writer Forney has a job to communicate with the reader and have them follow her, with something as distracting and controlling as a mental disorder, this becomes a difficult feat. Forney explains with: “I think being able to look at things clearly now has to do with being outside of that time to a significant degree, and then also to do with years and years of therapy – being trained by necessity to keep in touch with myself and how I’m felling and how I’m doing” (Gall 2). I really liked the final comment of this quote because it shows the struggles Forney faced not only in having Bipolar disorder but also in having a mental illness and trying to write about it. Forney needed to keep in touch with herself but also her readers in order to finish the novel.

To focus on Forney’s medical take at Bipolar disorder but also retaining her expressive writing on the illness, one instance is shown in the frames of Marbles on pages 72 and 73. Here Forney uses literary realism to talk about the drug she has been described, Lithium. An important part of every medication are the side effects to consider and in this case Forney took into account the list as being very long. The side effects are the medical side of the drug and bipolar disorder where the tree trunk drawn alongside of the list shows Forney’s expression of being overwhelmed. Forney then expresses her concern and anger with side effects such as hand tremors, blurred vision, and cognitive dulling. For the first two she says “my hands and eyes were two of my essential working tools” (Forney 72). And for the third she says “how could I work with ‘cognitive dulling’” (Forney 72)? I felt these comments showed Forney’s interpretation and understanding of what lithium was going to do to her, but in a sarcastic way that could be perceived as mania. By the next page Forney was then expressing her depressive state. “The manic-me-then had no power to take care of the depressed-me-now” (Forney 73). These two frames show Forney’s expressive behavior towards the medical side of Bipolar disorder concerning the side effects of a drug. These frames were also able to show her mania and depression when thinking about one aspect of her disorder.

Overall, I enjoyed Marbles and all of the experiences that Ellen Forney was able to account with vivid drawings and descriptions. I appreciate Forney for bringing to light many things I did not know about an illness so prevalent in the world.

 

Forney, Ellen. Marbles. Gotham, 2012.

Gall, Amy. Ellen Forney: Losing One’s Marbles. Lambda Literary, 16               Dec. 2012.

Sontag’s Stigma and Vivian

I appreciated Sontag’s take on cancer and AIDS. This article made me take a whole new perspective on AIDS, even something as simple as the “why me?” questions. “Because of countless metaphoric flourishes that have made cancer synonymous with evil, having cancer has been experienced by many as shameful, therefore something to conceal, and also unjust, a betrayal by one’s body. Why me? the cancer patient exclaims bitterly. With AIDS, the shame is linked to an imputation of guilt; and the scandal is not at all obscure” (Sontag 153). This point in Sontag’s article drives home the emotional and social repercussions of cancer and AIDS. With each disease being able to infect anyone, it still targets certain groups or triggers. For AIDS it was the gay community in its outbreak and now much of Africa is consumed by the syndrome and stigma. As for cancer, many people find themselves as smokers or being diagnose with a strong genetic background in the disease. Both of these syndromes or diseases have their stigma attached and this quote is showing that elements such as the “why me?” question are looked at as if you have lung cancer you must have been a smoker, or if you have AIDS you must have received it sexually. Sontag continues this discussion with “getting cancer, too, is sometimes understood as the fault of someone who has indulged in ‘unsafe’ behavior – the alcoholic with cancer of the esophagus, the smoker with lung cancer: punishment for living unhealthy lives” (Sontag 153). This is a stigma attached to both cancer and AIDS as shameful or being a punishment is that way due to the ignorance of people.

Now taking this stigma discussed by Sontag and comparing it to Vivian of W;t we can see it unfold. Vivian was a well-established character and was living life at a leisurely pace when she was hit with a cancer diagnosis. Vivian did not have lung or esophagus cancer but her cancer did degrade and break her down into almost nothing. Sontag analyzes Vivian’s main focus of Jon Donne’s poetry with: “in pre-modern medicine, illness is described as it is experienced intuitively, as a relations of outside and inside: an interior sensation or something to be discerned on the body’s surface, by sight (or just below, by listening, palpating), which is confirmed when the interior is opened to viewing” (Sontag 156). This effect of the illness is seen when Vivian is visited by her former professor and she asks if she would like to hear Jon Donne and Vivian’s reply is no. Therefore, her professor reads a children’s book and Vivian can only moan and cry at this point when she was once strong. Her professor says to Vivian “I know you do. I can see. (Vivian cries.) Oh, dear, there, there. There, there. (Vivian cries more, letting the tears flow.) Vivian, Vivian” (Edson 78). Finally this shows how the stigma Sontag described is at work with Edson’s character of Vivian.

 

Edson, Margaret. W;t: A Play, 1999.

Sontag, Susan. “AIDS and its Metaphors.”  The Disability Studies Reader. Ed. Lennard Davis. New York: Routledge, 2006.

Prior and Dead Before Dying

To begin, Isak Niehaus gives a good definition of what the article is about: “I observe that persons with AIDS are symbolically located in an anomalous domain between life and death, and are literally seen as ‘corpses that live’ or as persons who are ‘dead before dying’(Niehaus 848). The quotation gives an image of what state people with AIDS are in and that they are neither dead nor living. People with AIDS have been labeled with having a terminal illness due to its mortality rate which is in part to the denial of its severity in certain places of the world such as Africa. “The South African government’s response to the devastating AIDS pandemic in the country is widely recognized as one of denial and also inadequate” (Niehaus 846).

With an understanding of the term “dead before dying” it can now be applied to Prior of Angels in America. First, to focus on the imagery of death, Prior’s first appearance is at a funeral in which he says of the rabbi: “A definite find. Get his number when you go to the graveyard. I want him to bury me” (Kushner 19). This opening scene has the imagery of death by Prior thinking of his own funeral service. He continues in his conversation with Louis when he is talking about Jewish rituals for funeral services, “Oooh. Cemetery fun. Don’t want to miss that” (Kushner 19). This shows Prior’s playful take on death itself and the memorial of the dead and yet another image of death in his first appearance in the play.

To continue, AIDS is also a disease that could be transmitted sexually. This also goes along with the fear that was spread when AIDS had such a high mortality rate and also because sometimes the rate of death was long and dreadful. Niehaus states that “Moreover, sexual mortality is of rather marginal concern in South Afrcia’s numerous Zionist and apostolic churches” (Niehaus 847). The article then continues on to say that “Debby Posel shows rather convincingly that President Mbeki’s denial of AIDS is partly a reaction to racist renditions of Africans as ‘promiscuous carriers of germs’, who display ‘uncontrollable devotion to the sin of lust’ (Niehaus 847). This article is going into detail about the effects of the disease on large groups of people in different areas.

This article is relating to the character of Prior and how he is “dead before dying.” This can be shown with Prior being a homosexual. As a homosexual he was casted into the group, even without the disease, as such as the men of Africa being classified as promiscuous when it is part of their culture or way of life. As for Prior, being a homosexual is not simply a choice he has decided to make, it has become a part of who he is and part of his way of life. In essence, Prior has associated himself with a group in which living a life of death has become a common way of life. Prior also has association to another group: the Jews. This is just another way in which Prior is “dead before dying” since he already has the stigma. “In the paradigms of prejudice both Jews and gays are perceived as highly educated, economically well-off, and disproportionately represented in the ‘cultural elite’ and thus are assumed to be gaining such privilege through corruption and conspiracy” (Solomon 122). Finally, this again shows how Prior is lumped into multiple groups in which the term “dead before dying” means your fate is already determined by what associations you have.

 

Works Cited

Kushner, Tony. “Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes.” Theater Communications Group, 2013 Revised edition.

Niehaus, Isak.“Death Before Dying.” Journal of South African Studies 33.4 (2007):845-860.

Solomon, Alisa. “Wrestling with Angels: A Jewish Fantasia.” Approaching the Millennium: Essays on Angels in America: 118-133.

Cancer Unit Response

Robina Josephine Khalid’s article about military metaphors describes the many ways that cancer can affect one’s body. Another important element of cancer is that it can breach the mind. Khalid elaborates, “If I believe that my body is engaged in contact rather than combat, I might be getting a step closer to the nurturance which Lorde promotes. Such a shift might well be crucial in allowing us to bridge the chasm between an ill body and its perceived war with the mind” (Khalid 710). With this statement Khalid broadens her focus of cancer from more than just an illness that inhabits the body, but also one that can control the mind. This premise goes along with the notion of an optimistic attitude as a way to mentally attack cancer. For an example, “a positive outlook can address helplessness and return some control to a patient. That can help alleviate conditions such as anxiety, depression and despair that often accompany cancer and other major illnesses” (Deardorff 1). Evidence of a mental fight against cancer, and the potential for survival, is present in the film The Fault in Our Stars and the cancer blog Our Cancer.

The Fault in Our Stars showed the progression of a depressed teenager with cancer that was able to grow into a combatant of the disease. Hazel began the film in denial that she had depression even though her daily routine consisted of watching TV and she originally rejected a potential friendship with fellow cancer patient, Augustus Waters. In regards to optimism, Hazel did not only lack it, she rejected Augustus’ fear of oblivion and labeled it as inevitable. One can compare Hazel to the writer, Barbara Ehrenreich, mentioned in the article Optimism Can Help, Hinder Patients who was struggling to find bloggers who shared her view of outrage and then experimented with a negative post for which she was chastised (Deardorff 1). This instance is similar to Hazel’s initial rejection of Augustus’ attempt at a friendship. Hazel does this by saying his desire of being remembered is a waste of time since they are all going to die someday. Hazel’s story progressed with her relationship with Augustus in which he slowly, and dramatically, peeled Hazel’s outer layer of shrewdness and forced her to actually live her life. After this Hazel is pushed towards the friendship that ends up turning into a romantic relationship.

Hazel’s character also compares to Khalid’s military metaphor, “like warfare, then, the imagining of city-as-body has served to legitimize particular forms of hierarchy: there is only one head, and it is the head which is most important (Khalid 706). This quote is pulling at the theory that cancer can control one’s mind if it is allowed the control. In the story of Hazel, she allowed the cancer to have control of her mental state by permitting her cancer to make decisions about her body and her feelings. Hazel was then able to have her mentality take over by letting romantic feelings consume her rather than her cancer.

In comparison to Hazel’s story, cancer blogs are a way for patients to detail their experiences but also find comfort or acceptance with fellow patients. These blogs are a realistic way for people to be optimistic in their fight for survival. The blog, Our Cancer, is full of genuine entries based on experiences of daily remedies, hospital visits, or feelings of loss and grief in the world of cancer. “In fact, one of Lorde’s primary goals in The Cancer Journals is to insist upon speaking the reality of her body: that is, she refuses to wear a prosthetic breast because she believes that doing so polices women from forming valuable (but potentially disruptive) connections based on their experiences” (Khalid 708). Our Cancer, looks into the reality of the disease by rehashing some of the minute details of a person living with or experiencing cancer. One such example is offering advice on using ivory soap to sleep easier at night with cancer. “When I told her about it she thought it was the craziest of ideas. I couldn’t disagree. I also told her, when it comes to cancer, sometimes the wildest approach can sometimes be just the ticket to relief” (Seivers 6). This post shows the dedication to finding simplistic solutions to relief for a cancer patient and that in reality, it is not always a groundbreaking development.

Another important aspect of blogs is the essence of community. In relating this to Khalid’s article this would be an example of how our bodies are like cities. “Body-as-city thus speaks to the kind of creative self-invention that at once exists within particular structures but simultaneously contains the possibility of resistance to it. It merges the political and the personal rather than dichotomizes them” (Khalid 712). Here Khalid gives the idea of integrating into one city or body to be a person but also to be one which can result in a fight for survival of cancer.

Overall, The Fault in Our Stars and Our Cancer represent Khalid’s idea of the body as a city when talking about living with cancer. Even without scientific proof, a positive mindset has become a part of the culture of cancer care (Deardorff 1). In addition, “the effect of all this positive thinking is to transform breast cancer into a rite of passage – not an injustice or tragedy to rail against, but a normal marker in the life cycle…” (Deardorff 1). Hazel and the community of Our Cancer show that cancer is a body that should not be trifled with and is prepared to fight for its survival.

 

Works Cited

Deardorff, Julie. “Optimism Can Help, Hinder Patients.” Chicago Tribune.  23 Sept 2010. Chicagotribune.com. Web.

Khalid, Robina Josephine. “Demilitarizing Disease: Ambivalent Warfare and Audre Lorde’s The Cancer Journals” African American Review (Fall 2008): 697-717. MLA International Bibliography. Web.

Seivers, Laurie Singer. “Our Cancer.” John Hopkins Medicine. (Jan 2015).  Our-cancer.blogs.hopkinsmedicine.org. Web.

The Stigma of AIDS and Don Francis of And The Band Played On

When talking about stigma throughout the film And the Band Played On, a huge focus is the character of Don Francis. First, stigma is defined as “at its most basic level, stigma, is a powerful discrediting and tainting social label that radically changes the way individuals view themselves and are viewed as persons” (Alonzo & Reynolds 304). Don Francis’ character shows the journey of stigma throughout the discovery of the AIDS virus. Don Francis must navigate through limited funds, traumatic past experiences, many battles with doctors and others involved, and the community that is affected by the virus. These many factors are the stigma of AIDS at work to block his endeavors in any way possible.

To begin, Don Francis already has the stigma of disease attached to him with a background of work of various diseases. This is including how the film opens, which is to Francis and a fellow doctor not knowing what is happening to a community of people and having to burn their bodies at the risk of further exposure. This brings in the image of Francis being contained by his medical knowledge and lab suit and mask. In the article Contagion and the Necessary Accident by Bill Albertini, he talks about such imagery, “the physical enclosures of the lab and suit, and their accompanying protocols that dictate self-control, promise to shield vulnerable, porous flesh” (455). This quote exemplifies Francis’ personal dealings with various diseases and the politics of disease. From not having an answer for the locals, to a woman coughing blood onto his arm, to an AIDS patient grabbing his hand, Francis faces an inner battle with himself. He also has many battles with funding and the lack of decent equipment. Albertini’s quote also shows how Francis must obey the rules in place and find other avenues to get the results he needs.

To further the discussion of Don Francis’ character is to look at his encounters and many battles with doctors and others involved in discovering and naming AIDS. Similar to Francis’ battles with minimal to no funding and equipment, he dealt with many people in health related fields in order to close the bath houses in San Francisco. This topic brings in more relevance to the stigma but this one of AIDS itself on the gay community, especially that of San Francisco. At this point, there had been definitive evidence of AIDS being spread sexually between men and bath houses were a known place for gay men to be free. Therefore, the bath houses became a target for health officials including Francis. By his work within this community Francis’ stigmatization began to grow stronger. The following quote of the article Stigma, HIV and AIDS: an Exploration and Elaboration of a Stigma Trajectory by Angelo A. Alonzo and Nancy R. Reynolds shows this, “some individuals stigmatized by illness are devalued, shunned, or otherwise lessened in their life chances because the illness they have, or are suspected of having, discredit their claim to be ‘moral characters’ and one of ‘us’ (305). Don Francis was not infected by AIDS but had the stigma they experienced but in a different way, that of being stigmatized for his research and lack of proof of its accuracy.

This topic then moves into how the community is affected by medical research. Continuing the talk of stigma the community affected the most is that of the gay community. This is explained one way through, “the essential reason for developing strategies to disavow their imputed inferiority is because ‘normals’ construct stigma theories to explain inferiority and account for the dangers they represent” (Alonzo & Reynolds 304). This is how the gay community felt as AIDS was initially referred to as the gay virus. Don Francis needed to navigate this group for most of his actions especially that of banning homosexuals from donating blood. This was due to the knowledge of people being infected with the AIDS virus through blood transfusions. This development also began to widen the groups the stigma was attached to women and children as well. One statement from the film And the Band Played On was: “banning blood from homosexuals won’t protect the blood supply; it will stigmatize it.” This quote was directed towards the stigma of gay men when the doctors were trying to have people recognize that others are being affected and that this is no longer a virus only transmitted sexually.

In conclusion, Don Francis’s work with the AIDS virus was problematic and influential because it caused many rifts and issues in multiple communities and between professionals, but he also was a major impact in determining what the reason behind mysterious deaths was. Finally, Don Francis was stigmatized by AIDS because he fought alongside the victims of the virus and was always trying to turn the stigma into recognition of the virus’ presence in the world.

Works Cited

Albertini, Bill. “Contagion and the Necessary Accident.” Discourse               30.3 (Fall 2008): 443-467, 472. Web.

Alonzo, Angelo, & Nancy Reynolds. “Stigma, HIV and AIDS: an                       Exploration and Elaboration of a Stigma Trajectory.” Social                       Science Medicine 41.3 (1995): 303-315. Web.

And The Band Played On. Dir. Roger Spottiswoode. You Tube. 1993.

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