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Warm Bodies the movie

Posted by: | April 6, 2015 | No Comment |

Warm Bodies the movie takes a very different approach from the novel when telling this story of new aged zombie literature. The story is about a zombie becoming human again and falling in love. The story has a classic dynamic to the love story and in many ways paralleling to one of the most famous love stories Romeo and Juliet. This story also has an interesting take on the zombie narrative because never have we seen before a zombie turing human again. There were many aspects of the novel that were left out of the movie that held a significance to the story.
One important aspect from the novel that was left out of the movie was the role of Julie’s boyfriend Perry. Perry plays a very important role in the novel because he sort of guides R and gives him memories so he can make a connection with Julie. Without the memories R gets from eating Perry’s brains, Julie would be just another girl. It is the memories, feelings, and guidance R gets from Perry that is the reason why he has made a connection with Julie. Perry even starts to come to him in dreams and they have interactions that guide him into feeling human emotions and connections.
In the movie Perry did not play such a big role. In the movie we see where when R eats Perry’s brains he gets his memories, but other than that we get no defining memory or moment that helps R connect with Julie. In the movie there is this moment before he eats Perry’s brain where he looks at Julie in awe and she seems to have triggered something within R that he finds interesting. In the novel that only happens after he absorbs Perry. R does not benefit from Perry besides absorbing his memories and making him realize that he is different. The film gives audiences a sense that the only significance Perry plays is lending his brain so that R can have memories, in the book he is so much more.
Another important attribute of novel that was not as prevalent in the film is the role of Julie’s dad. In the film we kind of see how distant Colonel Grigio is from the way Julie talks of him, but it isn’t as prominent as it is in the novel. In the novel, we see more of how detached Colonel Grigio is from human connection when his fate is to ultimately become a boney. A person becomes a boney when they are way past the point of being saved and there is no glimpse of human within them. In the novel Julie does not even believe that her dad even tried to look for her while she was gone and that he just wrote her off as being dead, which showed that he is all militant and no emotion.
Colonel Grigio did not seem as accepting towards the zombies and to R in the novel as he did in the film. In the film her dad seemed to come around fast to the idea of helping the zombies defeat the boneys and in the end he does not turn into one. The distance Julie feels from her dad and her boyfriend are the main reasons why Julie feels this connection with R. When Julie connects with R, someone who is dead and not the men closest to her, is essential to the story. The movie does not make that connection very clear to the audience, leading us to think that it is only the connection between R and Julie is what causes the change.

Perry and Julie’s dad are both so distant and sort of inhuman because of the situation they are in and the lifestyle changes the have had to make. The scene in the novel where Julie, R, and Julie’s friend Nora go to the cemetery and R learns about what happened to Julie’s mother is a key part to the story when trying to figure out why these men are unemotional. In this same scene R finds Perry’s grave and he comes to R to let him know that it is up to him to make a change. It also becomes apparent that Perry is in some way apart of R and wants him to make a change for the both of them because he knows that when he was alive that he did not treat Julie the way she deserved. The disconnection of these two men in Julie’s life along with the strong memories and guidance from Perry, and the longing for something more than the typical zombie life from R made for the perfect ingredients to make a change in the zombie world and the real world.

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Mental Illness Unit

Posted by: | March 31, 2015 | No Comment |

Mental illness is an illness that affects a person’s moods, emotions, and thinking that varies between person to person. There are multiple occasions where someone can acquire a mental illness from genetics, environment, stress, traumatic events, and lifestyle. Both American Splendor and Marbles outline the struggles of balancing having a mental illness and still wanting to create and express themselves. These people are basically being told that their personalities are classified as an illness.

Marbles is an autobiographical graphic novel by establish graphic novelist Ellen Forney. In the novel Forney explores her transition through her life from being diagnosed with bipolar disorder to her finding the right medications to stabilize her life. Since she has always thought her personality was unique she was shocked to hear that it is classified as a disorder. Through out the novel she struggles with figuring out whether her creativity and her illness are mutually exclusive.

Marbles is a great example as to why graphic novels are a great attributes to telling stories and exploring the world of mental illnesses. Where words fail to explain their pain or emotions, pictures can tell it all. With a graphic novel the artist can be as expressive or as simple as he or she wants when describing their illness, especially since it is a different experience for everyone. In Marbles we see parts of the book where she is drawn very realistically showing all the expression in her face (33). When she uses the realistic drawings it gives her readers a chance to build a relationship with the real her because we are reminded that she is a real person and not just a character.

She uses different elements of drawings to transition her story from her manic stages to her depressive stages. When she is going through her manic episodes, her drawings very over the top and it is visually stimulating. We can make a connect with how busy the page looks to how she is feeling during this stage. Her creativity is in overdrive during her manic stages and she wants to do so many things at one time. During her depression stages the graphics were very simple with very little facial features drawn on. She wanted to emphasize that she thought she was having a creative block and that she thought her medications for her disorder affected that.

American Splendor is a film that shows how a comic book writer who made his life with depression into a quirky comic book series by the same name (Fulford). The film is a combination of three different art forms, a biopic, a documentary, and a graphic novel film that supplies viewers with multiple degrees of who the characters are from real life to dramatized. The main character, Harvey Pekar lives an ordinary life with depression that he was not clinically diagnosed with but there is still signs of it there.The film is not as direct with pointing out mental illness as Marbles is, but it still plays a significant role. American Splendor also does a great job of bringing light to mental illnesses other than schizophrenia and psychopathy to the public’s attention.

In American Splendor we do not see any moment of diagnoses with Harvey like we do in Marbles, which gives the story an interesting dynamic. Both Harvey and Ellen creative jobs that is influenced by their mental illness whether they recognize it or not. Forney tries to find a balance between her creativity and disorder, and tries not to let one rule over the other. Pekar on the other hand does not even acknowledge it, which greatly influences how his comics turn out and even explains how he is portrayed in the media. The socially constructed self that Pekar has created for himself seems to be different than what the audience perceives him as, which is why blending these three film art forms together gives us a better understanding of who he is.

Pictorial embodiment or the visual representation of one’s self and how they are drawn. Pictorial embodiment can change depending on the context of a situation, and public self will be different than the personal self. Both artist expressed themselves in different ways depending on the social context. The graphics for these stories are so important because the artist use their art as a means of expressing trying to live everyday life with the a mental illness. The graphics make the story more personal and real. The moments where they are either diagnosed or not offers audiences multiple perspectives on how the artist attributes their creativity from. The forms of media they chose to use whether it be a film or novel, also attributes to how the message gets across to the audiences.


Forney, Ellen. Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, & Me. New York: Penguin Group, 2012. Print.

Fulford, Robert. “Finally, It’s Chic to Have the Blues: Film Based on Life of Harvey Pekar Sparks New Interest in Mental Health. Web. 31 Mar. 2015.

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Warm Bodies, a novel by Isaac Marion about a living girl named Julie who gets saved by R a zombie from his fellow zombies. Throughout the story R is feels this constant connection between Julie and him, and needs to protect her. Their connection partly stems from when R ate the brains of her boyfriend, consuming his soul and it being intertwined within him. Together R and Julie along with their friends, help the dead and undead settle their desire to kill one another and come together to end what seemed as though a plague or curse in a post apocalyptic society.
Through out the book, themes of disease and plague tend to stand as a metaphor for something bigger. The story is an allegory conveying a hidden moral meaning. Once both the dead and the living both get tired of the monotonous routine the plague as brought upon them they search for more. The dead aimlessly wander around deserted airport, only to leave when they need food. The living are hidden away in boarded up buildings or their own enclosed cities within a stadium. Both groups, particularly the living contemplate the future when the division between these two groups of people are shifted.
R is a zombie much different than his fellow because he craves the visions he gets from eating brains. It allows him to be a different person and get glimpses of how life was before he was dead (Marion, chpt. 3). He has no idea how or when he died so these visions are the only thing that he has to connect the past with the present. R isn’t a traditional zombie because he has a lingering conscience and still has human characteristic and wants. Even his friend M craves sex, one of the most basic desires.
“Zombies, like plague, are great social levelers and their models of contagion is one dependent on a social model of interpenetration and connectivity.” (Boluk & Lenz, 135). Warm Bodies remind us that even with disease we are all humans. Even R starts to develop feelings for Julie early on and decides to save her and go against his zombie instants. At the end of Warm Bodies when the zombies began to change and become seemingly cured, they don’t have zombie symptoms and they even look different (Marion, chpt.18). I think the moral message is that even behind the disease and symptoms of illness they are still human. Once the living began to see them in a different light they all begin to change.
Warm bodies reminds readers that there is no real division between people and that we all have the same basic human instincts, wants, and need. The concept of zombies in a post apocalyptic world is used as an extreme to represent the polar opposite of the living. Novels have merged away from the traditional sense of the plague and using zombies as a personified version of the plague and their threat of dismantling the social institutions brought by the plague (Boluk & Lenz, 135-136). With Warm Bodies we see the separation of the dead and undead, mainly for everyone’s safety from the plague, but also they want a physical separation from the groups of people because they don’t understand their disease. Never does the living try to help and cure the “zombie disease” they just don’t want any part of it. It isn’t until they have a common enemy in the Boneys and see how the R and Julie, the living and dead, coexist does the social barriers begin to fade. In the end they are all a form of human.


Boluk, Stephanie and Wylie Lenz. “Infection, Media, and Capitalism” 10.2 The Journal for Early Modern Cultural Studies (Fall/Winter 2010): 126-64.

Marion, Isaac. Warm Bodies: A Novel. New York: Atria, 2011. Print.

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American Splendor

Posted by: | March 16, 2015 | No Comment |

American Splendor a film about the life of Harvey Pekar, a common man living with depression. Harvey describes himself as an ordinary Cleveland file clerk that started to write comics about his life. Pekar’s seemly mundane life turned gave him a story to tell, ultimately leading to a family and a popular comic book series. Harvey shows symptoms of depression is never clinically diagnosed, but he opens up his audiences to the world of mental illness. The way the medium of the film is used is something that is not usually done, and it gives the audience more depth into Harvey’s life, as opposed to if the film was one dimensional form of film.
When comparing American Splendor to Ellen Forney’s graphic novel Marbles, we see the characters, their lives, and their mental illness differently. Marbles is a story about a graphic novelist telling her own story with bipolar disorder through her own eyes. We only see her depicted as a drawing. In American Splendor we see three different types of depictions of Harvey. We see the real life Harvey Pekar, actor depicting Harvey and comic book version of him. It is because of his feelings towards his mundane, ordinary life that he is able to make a relatable comic book character.
The film creates this dynamic that audiences have never seen before because it “seamlessly between biopic, documentary, and animated comic book to create a new form” (Meyer, 41). I think by using these 3 ways of introducing Harvey, it makes the audience feel as though we know him well beyond the biopic. I tells his story in a way that is relatable but still entertaining. Telling these stories through these realms of film and comics brings about important issues about mental disorder and how it is. These two stories brings audiences into the lives a real people living ordinary lives with their mental disorders, which makes it relatable.
With Marbles we see what she first hand what she feels and how her disorder affects her directly. It gives the audience a visual representation of her disorder. From her manic stage drawn with so much complexity on the page to her depression stage with a simplistic drawing. I think the audience is constantly reminded of her disorder through one perspective, her own. The audience got see and know what she wanted us too, where as with American Splendor, Harvey’s story is being told through two other people.
The depiction of mental illness in these two forms of media are portrayed every differently. With Marbles, we are constantly reminded of her disorder and how it affects her life and relationships. With American Splendor, Harvey is not even claiming depression and mental illness is kind of the back seat motives driving his life. It is not until his wife points out his disorder and the people around him that we really start to pay attention to the dynamics of these characters. Even though both of these stories depict characters whose mental disorder is the driving force behind their lives and relationships.

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Reading Response 2/28

Posted by: | February 28, 2015 | No Comment |

In Marbles a graphic memoir by Ellen Forney, she tell her story of how she deals with her life after being diagnosed with bipolar disorder. She is already an established cartoonist when she was diagnosed and often struggled with finding a balance in her life and if her disorder would compromise her creativity. Mental health is something that a lot of artist struggle with as mentioned in the book, but not always openly discussed in the general public. A lot of artist describe and express who they experience their mental disorder through their set platform. Even when there are many artist throughout history that do this, there is still some sort of fear or stigma of being thought of as “crazy” or having a “tortured mind”.
In Marbles, Forney struggles to find a balance in her life. She did not know what right medication to take for her symptoms. The graphics in the novel really helped the readers to capture what was inside her head at the time. When she has her manic episodes, the graphics on the page are filled with doodles and images of her with many arms, and just overall visually stimulating. When she does through her depression stages, the images in the book are very cut and dry, and they give the reader the feeling of somberness or unenthusiasm.
One of the main points in the book Forney points out is that she does not want to find balance because that is not who she is (Forney, 45). She is very committed to her artistry and does not what that compromised. For a while she is hesitant to even take the medication she is prescribed or even try yoga. Forney was having a hard time distinguishing herself from the stereotype of “crazy artist” and thought if she gave into those things it she would surcum to that (Forney 71). She uses tortured artist of the past to distinguish a connect between treatment and creativity and to see if she can keep track of her mind with her own mind (Forney, 43).
She talks of many famous artist from the past who also struggle with mental disorders. Some are institutionalized, some hallucinate, and some commit suicide, but the main she draws comparisons to herself is Vincent Van Gogh. Van Gogh a famous painter known for his painting Starry Night, struggled with a mental disorder and often tried to capture his anxieties on paper in his portrait. Forney questioned whether he’s demons helped him create his art which makes her wonder if she can do the same. If she is as she describes “club Van Gogh” using Michelangelo’s name in the title of the book was an interesting choice. The only evidence researcher’s have of Michelangelo’s disorder was in his art, mainly the Sistine Chapel.
In her Lambda Literary interview, she discussed how she wanted the book to help people view therapy in a different light. The support of her psychiatrist was a huge part of her journey because she felt like there were no “social consequences” (Gall). Mental disorders and treatment for it can be difficult to share, especially with family and friends because sometimes people think they are going to be either pitied or outcasted. In Marbles, she did not get the reaction she had thought we was going to get when she told her family and friends about her bipolar disorder (Forney, 145). They were a lot more supportive of her. With the help of her mother, psychiatrist, and artist before her dealing with the same disorder she felt as though she had a sense of community.
She illustrates her cycles of being up and down, inspired and uninspired it is not until she finds the right mixture of medications at the right dosage does she figure out that her creativity can live on. Even though she struggled to renounce who she used to be she become a better person who does not have compromise her art or live at extremes. Being stable and balanced artist does not being boring or losing creativity. At the end of her novel she realizes that she does not have to live the cliched view of the tortured artist with a mental disorder, that many before her suffered through. Art does not always stem from times of pain or extreme happiness but from life itself.

Forney, Ellen. Marbles: Mania, Depression, Michelangelo, & Me. New York: Penguin Group, 2012. Print.

Gall, Amy. “Lambda Literary.” Lambda Literary. Lambda Literary, 16 Dec. 2012. Web. 27 Feb. 2015. .

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With disease and contagion there are a few things that people are afraid of such as the unknown, time, and most commonly an untimely death. These three factors influence how people view diseases and people diagnosed with it. Once it is discovered that a person had a nearly incurable disease they are stigmatized, especially if it is transmitted through sex. AIDS is a common example of this. In Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes, we see a lot of examples about how the characters react to disease and the group of people associated with it, and how some try to escape the stigma and prejudice.
During the 1980’s AIDS was typically associated with homosexuality, often calling it gay cancer. The stigma of AIDS stems from this time where many politicians and religious individuals were convince that it did not affect the mass population. Homosexual men were in a way marginalized because their lifestyle was looked upon as natural and sinful. It seems as though those non supporters outside the gay community tried to distance themselves from homosexuality and the AIDS disease because they did not want to be stigmatized themselves. This left the gay community in a difficult position because they had to fight to get researchers, politicians and even members of the Center for Disease control to help them and further educate people on AIDS.
In Angels in America Roy Cohn, a lawyer who is motivated by power and his reputation does not want to admit that he is a closeted homosexual. When his doctor informs him that he had AIDS he insisted that he refer to his illness as liver cancer because AIDS “is what homosexuals have” (Kushner, 46). He proceeds to tell his doctor that he could use his power and ruin his practice and reputation. Cohn is in denial about his sexuality because he does not want to face the stigma that comes with it, because he knows that he will be ostracized for being who he really is. In Susan Sontag’s article AIDS and its Metaphors, she explains that “every feared epidemic disease especially those associated with sexual license, generates a preoccupying distinction between the disease’s putative carriers and those defined as ‘the general population’” (Sontag, 154). Roy Cohn want to escape losing his influential power by ignoring who he is and the seriousness of his illness.
Fear of the unknown and death are primary factors that drives people away from those they love and even themselves. The relationship between Prior and Louis is a great example of how people want to escape the stigmas associated with AIDS. When Prior informs Louis that he has AIDS, Louis struggles with dealing with his illness then ultimately leaves him. Prior faces a social death before his physical death because one of the two people closest to him abandons him. Louis see the digression of Prior’s health and does not know what else to expect so he decides to leave him because he cannot handle death.
Fear and marginalization seems to drive people away from being associated with a certain social group. Angels in America which is set in the 1980’s when there is still little information about AIDS. Gay men at the time were stigmatized for being promiscuous. People wanted to blame lifestyle choices on why certain social groups are struck with certain diseases, which makes them feel safer. Angels in America exhibits stigma and fear within subcultures during certain period of time.

Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes. 2003. DVD.
Sontag, Susan. “AIDS and its Metaphors.” The Disability Studies Reader. Ed. Lennard Davis. New York: Routledge, 2006.

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Angels in America

Posted by: | February 14, 2015 | No Comment |

In the play Angel in America by Tony Kushner, we follow the lives of a few gay men and their encounter with AIDS and the stigmas, set in 1980’s America. Some characters are openly gay and some are in denial. The character’s jobs, relationships, religion and social lives all affect how they live in a world where homosexuality is looked upon in an unacceptable and also with serious disease affecting the community. In Death before Dying: Understanding AIDS Stigma in South Africa Lowveld, author Isak Niehaus explores and observes the social and cultural stigmas of AIDS and other sexually transmitted diseases in South Africa. He discovers that AIDS and HIV are not primarily associated with homosexuality like it was in the U.S, but with sexual promiscuity.
Through out history, disease and contagion has been associated with starting or primarily affecting only a certain group of people. Traditionally the majority in the United States and in Europe associates disease with the minority, immigrants, homosexuals, and drug users (Niehaus, 846). These groups of people have been marginalized, making it hard for them to receive help or even accept treatment.There is evidence showing that in both South African and the U.S government have often denied and delivered misleading and inadequate information about the AIDS epidemic to the general public. Even in some cases it was not even a main priority, when though thousands were dying.
Communities often outcast those with disease because of the unknown of the disease itself and contagion, and because of the physical and emotional pressure of caretaking a person who is looked upon as “the living dead” (Niehaus, 848). The fear of death always hangs over people’s heads and they often begin to abandon those they love most. In the play Angels in America, Prior Walters an openly gay White Anglo Saxon Protestant contracts AIDS and eventually becomes isolated and ostracized by his own partner Louis. Louis is unable to deal with the emotional stress that AIDS bring. Prior feels hurt because the person he loves the most leaves him during the time he most needs it; when he is in a state between life and death.
As seen in the play, some characters are even in denial about their homosexuality and state of dying. Roy Cohn a successful lawyer who often sleeps with men, refuses to even acknowledge the fact that he is dying from AIDS and refers to it as liver cancer because “AIDS is what homosexuals have” (Kushner, 46). He does not want any part of the social death or stigmas associated with both AIDS and homosexuality because he essentially thinks it is a death sentence. This idea that people who find out they have AIDS or another incurable disease, that their lives are officially over and live with the grim reaper constantly lingering about their heads is a common perception.
There is a lot of political and religious influence on the perception of AIDS also contributed to the marginalization of those with it. Zionist in South Africa thought that AIDS was a form of punishment for people giving into the sin of lust (Niehaus, 851). In Angels in America, Joe Pitt, a chief clerk for the Federal Court of Appeals is often in constant battle between his traditional republican views and his mormon religion and his true sexual identity. His whole life has been a constant battle between who he really is and how that would be perceived in is traditional community.
Ultimately a lot of people have suffered because of the misconceptions of disease, particularly in the AIDS community. Social stigma of death and living with the weight of an incurable disease on your shoulders. People in both South Africa and the United States in some ways isolate and ostracize people with AIDS because of the pain of physically watching someone die, but how is perceived by the community. With continuation of research and treatment, today the social stigma of having AIDS is not as often seen as a death sentence or punishment, and more people are willing to talk about openly about it.

Kushner, Tony. Angels in America: A Gay Fantasia on National Themes. New York: Theatre Communications Group, 1993. Print.

Niehaus, Isak. “Death before Dying: Understanding AIDS Stigma in the South African Lowveld.” Journal of Southern African Studies 33.4 (2007): 845-60. Web.

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Cancer Unit Reflection

Posted by: | February 8, 2015 | 1 Comment |

One of the most devastating time in someone’s life is ever having to hear the words ‘you have cancer’. It can affect people of all ages, colors, and social class. When most people find out they have cancer, they look for some sort of support system. There are many different outlets for cancer patients to reach other patients, to inspire, to share experiences, and just to be apart of a community that understands what one another is going through emotionally. People of all ages use anything from books and films, to blogs and journals as an outlet to share their experiences, and each person has a different way of coping with cancer.
Tig Notaro, a stand up comedian who did a show just days after she was diagnosed with breast cancer. The way Tig Notaro communicates with the audience lightens the intensity cancer brings to conversations. She uses sarcasm and humor as a way to cope. She openly talks about how dating is going to be more difficult, how her friends respond to her cancer, and how it affects her relationships in general. She uses repetition and verbal delivery as a way reassuring the audience that it is okay to laugh, even though she herself has not have much time to process her cancer. She does not having the fighting spirit about her cancer that is typically more mainstream, but she also is not negative. She is real and honest about her feelings and delivers it in humorous way.
In W;t we see a different approach. Vivian Bearing, a professor of seventeenth century poetry. Bearing can be looked at as some what of a recluse; she has no family and no friends other than her professor from college. She uses her intellectual superiority almost as a coping mechanism because that is the only thing she is truly comfortable with. The way she handles her time in the hospital can be viewed as negative because she is so guarded and does not want to let anyone in emotionally.
In W;t, flashbacks are used to give us insight on the person she was before her cancer and she was always a person who valued education over human connect. Edson’s character does not portray the typical cancer story; her character is reclusive, degraded, and often times negative about her life with cancer, portraying a sort of hopelessness to the audience. It was not until when is eating a popsicle with her nurse, do we see her break her hard shell and except some sort of support system (Edson, 69).
The Fault in Our Stars, is a teen fiction written about two teenagers who both have cancer, fall in love and eventually change and influence each other’s lives. Characters Augustus Waters and Hazel Lancaster deal with their cancer in very different ways. Augustus who often times says that he is “afraid of oblivion” wants to leave behind a sort of legacy and be remembered for the person he was and not his cancer. Hazel on the other hand knows that we cannot really leave a grand legacy behind so she lives her everyday life trying to make her parents happy because she wants to leave behind good memories to the people who matter to her. When they meet and fall in love, naturally they start to influence each other and changing each others views and perspectives on their cancer. In the film Hazel evolves from someone who does not really does not live a full life for herself, to doing things for herself and not to make her parents happy. Augustus on the other hand learns that it is okay to depend on others, that leaving good memories for his family and friends can qualify as a legacy.
The Faults in Our Stars is a film that does not glamorize cancer or serious illness like some Hollywood films. Since the audience of this film is targeted towards teenagers, the story line incorporates different elements within the cancer story, such as romance, humor, self enlightenment and self evolution. The cancer and the love story are both prominent elements of this film, which give young adults with and without cancer something to relate to. Hazel begins with a very realistic view of cancer and her life with cancer. She knows that she has limits which is gives the her audience who are typically young adults a reassuring feeling that it is normal not to be invincible, how most young adults think they are. There is no evidence that having a positive attitude helps with survival.
Having a positive outlook is looked at as “having the fighting spirit” and this behavior is typically celebrated (Petticrew, 7). When looking through publications there is typically a bias for positivity when it comes to coping with cancer, making it harder to find publications with negativity (Petticrew, 7). Different forms of performances can involve the audience into how to and what to feel at certain times. All these performances are directed to different audiences and invoke different emotions to their audience, which gives variety to the cancer community, giving them options on who to identify with.

Edson, Margaret. W;t. London: Nick Hern, 1999. Print.

Green, John.The Fault in Our Stars. Dftba Records, 2012. DVD.

Petticrew, Mark with Ruth Bell and Duncan Hunter. “Influence of Psychological Coping on Survival and Recurrence in People with Cancer.” BMJ325:9 (Nov 2002) bmj.com

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Reading Response 2/7

Posted by: | February 7, 2015 | No Comment |

Acquired immune deficiency syndrome or better know as AIDS is the last stage of HIV or human immunodeficiency virus. AIDS was first detected in the United States in 1981. When the virus was first discovered, many thought it was a homosexual related disease, and doctors were not aware that it was transmitted sexually. Since then much research was done and the name of the virus was changed from GRID or gay related immune deficiency to AIDS. Researchers and doctors also discovered that it does not affect just homosexuals and drug users but everyone is susceptible to AIDS and that it is transmitted sexually.

Since the AIDS hysteria in the 1980’s,many Hollywood films have depicted disease outbreaks in movies. In the 1993 movie And the Band Played On, a film about epidemiologist Don Francis who comes to America to develop an AIDS and HIV investigation with the Center for Disease Control and Prevention when it is discovered that an abundant number of gay men are dying from some immune deficiency. Francis who was previously in Africa dealing with an Ebola crisis, sees parallels between the two diseases. Both Ebola and AIDS have caused an epidemic that causes people inherently find someone to “point the finger” or blame for the spread of such illness(Albertini, 447). A lot of movies on disease, contagion, and outbreaks follows a pattern of separation from the certain infected group, hysteria, contamination, and finally the controlling or curing of said outbreak.

Movie makers use movies as a type of performance to convey people’s feelings on how outbreaks or diseases are typically handled. A lot of films including And the Band Played On, depicts how when a illness is first called to the awareness of the masses, some try to distinguish themselves away from a group of people that they think may only be affected by such disease. In the case of the movie, the mass population only thought that homosexual men, drug users, and hemophiliacs were the only ones susceptible to AIDS. It was not until people other than homosexuals started to get infected. Many movies capitalize on the general ignorance of the public and how the doctors, politicians, researchers or even the CDC tries to keep details about keep the public in the dark about certain things, in hopes of minimizing how people worry about it, but in return doing the opposite.

Essentially all films that are about outbreaks or disease, whether it be fictitious or based on real events, it follows this standard or pattern on how it spreads, viewed by the public, and eventually contained (Albertini, 445). People in the 1980’s with AIDS were stigmatized just as Ebola patients are stigmatized today in the United States. Ever since Ebola penetrated the U.S in the past recent months, people’s reactions to the disease that has been affecting African people for years, shows just how uninformed and ignorant the masses are when it comes to diseases and contagion (Alonzo, 305). Films also use their platform to educate how AIDS were initially viewed and handled by people within and outside the gay community, in comparison to how it is viewed now.

Albertini, Bill. “Contagion and the Necessary Accident.” 443-67,472. Print.

Alonzo, Angelo and Nancy Reynolds. “Stigma, HIV and AIDS.” Social Science Medicine 41.3 (1995): 303-315. Web.

And the Band Played on. Dir. Roger Spottiswoode. 1993. DVD.

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Jan 24

Posted by: | January 24, 2015 | 1 Comment |

Tihairra Hawkes
24 January 2015
EN 429

Cancer is a very difficult and taboo subject to discuss, especially with those who have it. People have various ways of expressing and coping with their illness, which affect the people around them. In W;t by Margaret Edson, the main character Vivian deals with her ovarian cancer in an usual way that is evokes little to no emotions within the reader. In contrast, The Cancer Journals by Audre Lorde expresses a different set of emotions to her reader.
In Edson’s W;t, Vivian Bearing, a university professor of seventeenth century poetry with a certain affliction to the work of poet John Donne, is diagnosed with stage four ovarian cancer. Vivian is strict and cold and only seems to only love her work and having an intellectual superiority over others. Bearing is generally uncomfortable with affection or kindness and masks this behind her wit, something she quite comfortable with (Edson, 20). Vivian’s attitude does not necessarily translate into strength to the readers but as a hard outer shell as though she is hiding something deeper inside.
Her hard exterior and ability to bring the complexity of work into her treatment and time in the hospital is unusual. Edson’s use of flashbacks has a way of involving the audience into Vivian’s guilt for the pain that she is in. She’s thinks that because she was so emotionally detached and is uncomfortable with kindness that she is targeted by cancer and the cause of her pain, yet she still has a hard time accepting it (Edson, 34). Her time in the hospital is somewhat degrading to her and rarely do we see this with a cancer patient. The topics of guilt, isolation and the rejection of companionship are not typically discussed in literature of cancer.
Lorde’s The Cancer Journals depicts a wide range of emotions but arises a different response in readers.She records her progress throughout her remission and while she is sad, afraid and even angry she does not let those feeling rob her of “whatever strength can lie at the core of this experience” (Lorde, 7). She believes that women in this situation should not let it dominate their lives, and they should not let breast augmentation keep them silent and let them take a back seat become the woman the were before (Lorde, 14). The overall outcome of strength and wanting her story to help and be an example for others going through the same situation is not a new concept depicted in when talking about cancer.
Lorde is a woman who enjoys her work similar to Bearing, but she also recognizes that it is not her existence. She seems more sure of the person she was before her diagnosis, whereas Bearing did not. Both works tell a story of women with cancer dealing with this crisis emotionally and physically and both recognize the change it has brought upon them, but their overall experience was very different from one another. It is important to recognize that of these women are in very different stages of cancer, which may accost for the difference in reaction.
Bearing does not give much insight into herself or life for the reader to connect with, thus leaving the reader almost unsympathetic towards her. Her character was almost robotic in the way that she did not let anyone in and rejects being vulnerable. Lorde on the other hand shows her vulnerability throughout her journals and tells her audience that “it only remained…to give it voice, to share it for use, that the pain not be wasted” (Lorde, 14). At the end of her journals the reader is left feeling empowered and full of hope, something you do not feel at the end of W;t.
Overall it is important to remember that both women in these works are at very different stages in their illnesses. Bearing is aware that she is near the end of her life and there is not much the doctors can do thus creating a sense of hopelessness. Lorde on the other hand is in remission and still has hope for a future and giving the readers a positive feeling to take away from at the end. Edson’s W;t there was not an emotional connection between the character and the reader to make the audience feel anything at the end. Edson’s decision to make it a play and not a novel gives an interesting effect on how the readers take in the absorb the material, because the readers know it is stylized and not real. On the other hand The Cancer Journals were journal entries so readers know that it is real and have a more authentic connection with it.


Vanhoutte, Jacqueline. “Cancer and the Common Woman in Margaret Edson’s W;t.”Comparative Drama (2002): 391-410. Print.

Lorde, Audre. “Introduction.” The Cancer Journals(1980): 7-15. Print.

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