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Lecture 8 Dr. E. Clements 1 School of Arts and Letters, Atkinson Faculty of Liberal and Professional Studies Summer 2009 AK/HUMA 1780 6.0A Stories in Diverse Media Announcements: Discussion Rooms are up and running so please do post your comments and replies to the questions in the lectures and on the PowerPoint slides. The earlier technical problems have been resolved, to my understanding. See the Discussion Protocol and Tips sheet for more information on how to start a discussion thread or fulfill the requirements for this component of the course. Please note that you can respond to the answers of your fellow classmates by clicking the New Response tab from within their post. I encourage you to do so. The more interaction, the better quality of your discussion. I have also posted information on the midterm exam format in the Exam Information folder. Transformation or Limitation? The Stories of Pygmalion and Galatea I have mentioned to you that the character of Salome and the notion of the femme fatale are portrayals of women that have been replayed over and over again. You have looked at paintings by Moreau that were created before Wilde's play and Beardsley's illustrations after the play. I also argued that this fatal woman is alive and well today and so you watched the end of Fatal Attraction as just one contemporary example. As many of you will discuss in your groups, there are many more current representations of this female figure. In the 50s the fatal woman became quite popular in film noir. A version with which you might be more familiar would be a more recent send-up: Jessica Rabbit Lecture 8 Dr. E. Clements 2 the woman who makes the unwitting male detective or dupe (rabbit in this case) go thump, thump. One thing you need to notice in each case is that the femme fatale is always sexual, always the epitome of desire, and always on display. As we also noted last day, this figure seems powerful, to a certain extent. Alex, you will remember, is a 1980s working woman. But it is not a coincidence that these powerful women (Salome would be another example as she is a royal princess) end up as puddles on the floor by the end of the narrative. The femme fatale stereotype typically depicts strong women as evil and/or crazy. Thus, links between female power and madness/manipulation are repeated every time the stereotype is. Ultimately, to say the least, this does not leave a positive impression on the viewer concerning women and power. This negative stereotype, in the end, suggests that women do not know how to handle being in a position of authority in a positive way and provides the apparent solution that the only answer to the problem is to rid society of this seemingly destructive forcehence, Herod's final command in Strauss's opera: "Man tte dieses Weib!" ["Kill that woman!"] So today we are looking at a different set of characters whose types have endured just as long as Odysseus and Penelope, or Salome and the femme fatale. You are also probably more familiar with George Bernard Shaw's Pygmalion than you realize. This tale often surfaces in contemporary, popular culture. In fact, it has been immensely successful throughout the twentieth century. One of the most familiar examples you may have encountered propelled Julia Roberts to stardom. Yup, I am talking about Pretty Woman. A woman from the streets finds rich but emotionally deficient man/mentor who transforms her into a high-society success story. In the Julia Roberts version they fall in Lecture 8 Dr. E. Clements 3 love and live happily ever after, once the male character learns to love the woman for who she "really" is and stop treating her like, to use Shaw's term, a guttersnipe. Her transformation is largely physical and social, his is emotional and psychological. Transformation is usually the objective, not only a plot device but also a theme. The story is a familiar one: ugly duckling turns out to be the "bell of the ball." And in recent years this narrative has become even more popular as reality T.V. has also found ways to partake in the myth. Shows such as Extreme Make Over (either of our bodies and faces, or of our houses) Queer Eye for the Straight Guy (yes, the male gender can also participate in this story of apparently magical transformation), or The Biggest Loser (in its various incarnations), which pulls on the heartstrings with this transformation theme. It is a prevailing story, one we are inundated with on a daily basis, in fact. Eliza Doolittle has changed into Jo or Joanna Schmo from Arkansas and Henry Higgins has expanded into five gay men, but the basic plot is still the same, transform ugly duckling into successful, hip, and functioning socialite. Ovid's The Metamorphoses and a contemporary example See Lecture Summary 8. So, where did this myth come from? Why is it so popular? And why does it get repeated over and over and over again? Well, the idea of transformation has appealed to Western culture for a very long time. One of the first versions of which we know, and from which the male artist figure gets his name, is the story from Ovid's The Metamorphoses, which recounts 250 ancient Mediterranean myths in total. The short excerpt I asked you to read for this week was taken from this work written by a Roman poet known as Ovid in 8 CE, so it's almost 2000 years old. This Lecture 8 Dr. E. Clements 4 version of the Pygmalion story provides Shaw with the basic material for his play of the same name. The Metamorphoses (as you can tell by the word) is all about transformation, about attempting to turn into something else in one way or another. Some other stories from the book include the Daedalus and Icarus myth (the father and son team who were able to fly because Daedalus created wax-made wings. Icarus, however, flew too close to the sun; the wings melted and he plummeted into the sea), as well as the labours of Hercules, encounters with Apollo, Venus (Aphrodite), and even a bit of the Trojan War. As you may have noticed from your reading, we get the bare bones of the plot in the early source text. Like the bards that we learned about from Homer's tale, this particular story in Ovid's text is told by Orpheus, a storyteller who enchants his listeners with his voice and lyre (a stringed instrument). At this point in Ovid's chronicles, Orpheus sings the story of Pygmalion and his statue, Galatea. Like the bard Demodokos from The Odyssey, Orpheus tells stories that are embedded within the larger work of The Metomorphoses. He has just lost his wife Eurydice to Hades in the underworld and after being depressed for a while, swears off women altogether. He sits down on a grassy hill and strums his lyre, singing of three tales of love, one of which is the Pygmalion story. Just before the segment that I gave you, Orpheus informs the listener that Pygmalion, the sculptor, is a resolute bachelor who, quite frankly, hates women, a theme that Shaw picks up with Henry Higgins who repeatedly confirms his distaste for any sort of romantic relationship between men and women. Both Pygmalions, like Orpheus, have vowed not to have relationships with women. This artisan lives in the land of Cyprus, which is the home of Venus, the goddess of love. The island, however, is full of debauchery and Venus is ashamed of it. Because of the inhabitants' rowdy behaviour she
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