Monthly Archives: February 2015

Nubia: Wonder Woman’s Black Sister by Kelsey Miranda

During our class discussion on Wednesdays we mentioned the new Superman vs.sfnubia Batman movie features Wonder Woman as a main character.  The actress who was casted for the role is Israeli actress Gal Godot. A good choice but in class we discussed how songstress Beyoncé Knowles would have been better. During my frantic Google searches of why Beyoncé was not cast as Wonder Woman, I came across something interesting.

In 1973 the writers of the Wonder Woman decided to change her origin story revealing that she was not the only Wonder Woman.  WW Issue #204 “The Second Life of the Original Wonder Woman” the cover depicts a fully armored woman ready to kill Diana and they are surrounded in an arena of Amazons.  In the background there is Hippolyta stating “Unless I revel there are two wonder women, my daughter Diana will die!” In this issue Diana’s memory and powers are restored after the efforts of her mother, Hippolyta, bring Diana back to the Paradise Island. Prior to this issue, Wonder Woman was living as Diana Price and gave up her Amazon powers to live in the “Man’s World”. Memories of her life as an Amazon disappeared until flash backs of her birth come back “as Hippolytasculpted a toddler girl and Athena endowed her with the powers of the gods.”[1]  Issue 204 hints that Diana is missing a part of her birth story. Diana gains back her memory and reasserts herself as Wonder Woman but is interrupted by armored woman who claims she is “Wonder Woman of the Floating Isles.”

iamnubiaThe armored woman challenges Diana in a series of games. While Diana and this mysterious armored woman are sword fighting and the armored woman defeats and knocks the sword out of Diana’s hand.  In a position to kill Diana, she stops and reveals herself as Nubia.  This is the first time Nubia is introduced in the comic book. Hippolyta’s immediately recognizes her long lost daughter who was captured by long time enemy of the Amazons, Ares god of war. In the origin story of Nubia, at the same time that Diana was created out of white clay Nubia was created from black clay by Hippolyta.  Aphrodite gave both babies the gift of life and beauty but Nubia was immediately captured after her creation by Mars. Nubia is Diana’s black sister but Hippolyta only refers to Diana as her daughter. Kind of messed up of Hippolyta especially being reunited with your long lost child! Nubia returns to the floating island where she is the leader of male warriors. Nubia’s life away from Paradise Island depicts a life of loneliness.

In WW #206 “War of the Wonder Woman” the cover shows Diana and Nubia chained together at the ankles and wielding swords at each other. In the background there is Ares face and it seems that Nubia is being controlled by Mars to kill Diana and destroy the Amazons.  Interestingly Mars chooses Nubia, Diana’s sister because he knows that she is the only woman with enough strength to challenge and destroy her. Nubia’s sword is the only weapon that can counter act Diana’s lasso.  Nubia and Diana cross paths again and we find out that Mars raised Nubia to be an “”instrument of vengeance against the Amazons — whom I hate because their ways of love — will eventually destroy my ways of war — unless I annihilate them first! Nubia will do this for me!”[2]

In the Midst of the fight Diana recognizes that Nubia is wearing a ring that belongs to Ares and it is being used to control her. Diana changes her focus to destroying Ares’s ring. Once the ring is destroyed Nubia and Diana realize how fearful Mars is of women and their peacemaking ability.  Mars disowns her at the end of the issue and Nubia decides to lead her “warriors into ways of peace!”[3] The two do not decide who carries the title of Wonder Woman but share a “sisterhood” like alliance instead.

Gloria Steinem’s article “Wonder Woman” discusses the influence comic books especially Wonder Woman had on her life. Writing during the 1970’s in the midst of the women’s movement and the civil rights movement Steinem connects second-wave feminism to Marston’s Wonder Woman. “While Wonder Woman symbolizes many values of the women’s culture that feminists are trying to introduce into the mainstream, strength and self-reliance for women; sisterhood and mutual support among women; peace fullness and esteem for human life.”  Steinem dismisses the concept Marston created that women are better than men and argues that the social hierarchy must be eliminated so individuals can be free of assigned roles because of race and sex. Marston’s use of Mars to display how men are threaten by women which the writers in the 1970’s show but also how women maybe standing in the way of other women.

This is an interesting concept because of the time period of 1973, after the passage of Roe V. Wade there was a significant split in the woman’s movement.  I agree with Jill Lepore the writer of “The Last Amazon” that passage of Roe v. Wade narrowed the movement. “If 1972 was a legislative watershed, 1973 marked the beginning of a drought.”[4]  Pro-life feminists and Pro-choice feminists separated but also many minority women thought of the women’s movement as white heterosexual women’s movement.  This created splits between Black feminists, Chicana feminists, and Lesbian feminists to split from the women’s movement to discuss other inequalities such as race and sexuality.

It also poses an interesting concept of Mars the male figure that is everything nubia_2012that Wonder Woman is against creating divides against women. How Nubia was “brainwashed” by Mars for his agenda against the Amazons. Hmmm. It may possibly a reference to anti-feminist women during this 1970’s creating more conflict with the women’s movement. Unfortunately this is the last we will see of Nubia in the Wonder Woman comic until the late 1990’s and 2000s. After talking to my friend Leo, who has been reading the “post-crisis” Wonder Woman he says that Nubia becomes Wonder Woman of an alternative DC world and may be modeled by Beyoncé. Can you see the resemblance?     [5] [6]


[1] http://www.carolastrickland.com/comics/wwcentral/misc_indexes/nubia/nubia.html

[2] http://www.carolastrickland.com/comics/wwcentral/misc_indexes/nubia/nubia.html

[3] http://www.carolastrickland.com/comics/wwcentral/misc_indexes/nubia/nubia.html

[4] http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/2014/09/22/last-amazon–

[6] Final Crisis #7 (2009) // DC Comics (Earth 23)

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Wonder Woman as Feminist Icon: Two Different Perspectives by Calvin Thrall

Our class discussion about whether or not Wonder Woman truly is a feministwonderwomanimage icon really made me think about the complexity of the question – Wonder Woman was created by a man, after all, and she behaved differently under different writers and in different time periods. We know that William Marston created Wonder Woman with feminism in mind, but could a white man in the early 20th century even really grasp the concept? Is Wonder Woman a feminist icon?

I have two separate answers to this question – though they might sound like they are in opposition, I believe that they are equally true and equally important. I arrived at these answers by splitting the question into two questions, the first of which being: Is Wonder Woman a feminist icon in 2015?

My answer is a resounding no.

Analyzing past media (movies/articles/books/etc) through a feminist lens is an important practice for the furthering of modern feminist theory. It allows us to better understand the prejudices and biases of a time period, and by extension to better understand the problems in our society today. It’s also true that it’s just as important to critique past works of feminism as it is to critique non-feminist media; modern feminism is no longer the “if you educated women they’d be better wives for men” argument that Mary Wollstonecraft once wrote about. Wonder Woman can be critiqued in just the same way. Yes, it’s true that she is a woman and a superhero; it’s also true that many of the plots of her comics (at least in the 40s) aimed to teach lessons of gender equality.

But Wonder Woman was never quite allowed to be as strong or as capable as the male superheroes that she associated with – she was secretary of their league, she had to stay home when they went war. Wonder Woman is also problematic when viewed from an intersectional standpoint. As Gloria Steinem points out, the Wonder Woman comics tended to get racist and jingoistic around wartime, while she still claimed to be a supporter of human rights. One hardly has to watch the news for 5 minutes in the U.S. nowadays to understand that we still do the same thing when it comes to our depictions of Muslims. Perhaps the patriotism of the 40s simply won out over the attempts at feminism (for example, though Wonder Woman is Amazonian she’s also… a white American woman?), or perhaps a nonwhite or non war-supporting heroine just wouldn’t have sold comics at that time. Either way, Wonder Woman certainly does not pass inspection when it comes to the standards of feminism in 2015.

Question #2: Did Wonder Woman symbolize the ideals of Western feminism in the 1940s?

My answer here is yes, absolutely. Wonder Woman has a lot of flaws that are important to acknowledge and keep in mind, but in my opinion she was a positive step in the advancement of feminism in the United States. Perhaps Wonder Woman presented a slightly watered down version of the ideas that were really circulating among feminists at the time, but she offered a strong and independent female icon to a world that desperately needed them. Wonder Woman never explicitly tells her readers to dismantle the patriarchy or to use birth control, but consider what she does do: she encouraged woman to earn their own living, to join the WAVEs or WAACs, and she (at least originally, under Marston’s control) demonstrated to her young readers that women can be just as successful without a husband or children. Her existence alone as a female superhero allowed girls to see that world as one that they belong in too, instead of the boys’ club it used to be (and mostly still is, sadly).

The image I’ve included, the closing panel from 1944’s All-Star Comics #22, is an example of Wonder Woman’s progressive nature relative to her time period. Does she follow this creed unfailingly? No, she doesn’t; but she played an important role in bringing feminist ideas to the general public, and inspired many women (like Steinem) to defy the patriarchic order and learn about feminist theories. 70 Years from now, that which we believe to be progressive now will probably be considered conservative and problematic, as it should be. There is merit both in acknowledgment of Wonder Woman’s faults and her successes, and though she’s lost her status as a feminist icon, her American iconicity is undebatable.

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Rolling a Natural One: Wonder Woman and the Weighted Dice by Elizabeth A Yazvac

In Dungeons & Dragons, players roll dice to accomplish actions. Simply put,Wonder Woman breaking the chains! rolling a higher number increases the chances of success. On a 20-sided dice, rolling a natural 20 (a 20 is displayed on the die) means instant success! Not only success, but really awesome things happen. On the other hand, rolling a natural 1 means instant failure. And not only failure, but bad things happen to your character, too. Reading about Wonder Woman, her origins, and her evolution made me think about the role that women play in comics and the Fantasy genre, and how it so often feels like we are constantly rolling a natural one.

In the same way that Dungeons & Dragons characters are appealing, superheros are popular because of their power; they can accomplish things that the audiences cannot, and that makes them cool! Wonder Woman’s creator, William Marston, made her powerful but also a model of “strong, free, courageous womanhood”, making her even cooler! (Lepore 1). Yes, she has Amazonian super strength, but she also has to be talented enough to successfully execute her plans (Steinem 204), so no rolling natural ones allowed!

When talking about the appeal of comics, Martson brings up the concept of “wish fulfillment,” claiming that wish fulfillment is tied to human emotion, and emotions are exactly what comics play at (Martson 39). While reading that passage, all I could think about was how true it was for my own experiences with my Dungeons and Dragons character.

I started playing Dungeons & Dragons in high school. I had given up attempts to stifle my inner nerd (I planned my senior prom… and made the theme outer space) and decided that not only did I want to play D&D, but I wanted to chop as many imaginary goblins in half with my imaginary enchanted two-handed battle axe as possible. But as I got to creating my character – Ellywick Silverleaf, half-elf, fighter class – I realized that I didn’t want to make her a one-dimensional killing machine. I wanted her to be a complex and multi-faceted killing machine.

Much like my own struggle to find balance between femininity and the Fantasy genre, I wanted Ellywick to have all the power that I don’t (wish fulfillment!) but still be a relatable female who wants a husband, children, and a modest castle in the hills. So, I created Ellywick to be a symbol of “strong, free, courageous womanhood”, because other symbols like her were, and still are, so lacking.

Sexy Woman D&Dd and d

Wish fulfillment is not something that only appeals to men. Just as much as my brother liked video games, so did I. Wonder Woman, obviously, appealed to female audiences, but female audiences were also reading Superman and Batman, and they continue to do so today. Yet, despite large numbers of female comic book fans, women continue to hit a glass ceiling (keeping in line with the theme of this article, I am imagining women like lasers unable to penetrate the Gungan deflector shields at The Battle of Naboo).

Gloria Steinem discusses the importance of Wonder Woman in her own formative years, reading about a character that (“Great Hera!”) was a woman with an active role (Steinem 204). But, today, Wonder Woman fails to achieve the fame of her male counterparts, instead being tossed into the background of a Superman/Batman mashup movie and being subjected to fashion critics looking at her outfit more than anything else.

Early on in my creation process of Ellywick, I almost made her a man. I wanted her to be as strong as possible, and that seemed to better fit a male persona. But this, I realize, is exactly Martson’s point. That “not even girls want to be girls so long as our feminine archetype lacks force, strength, power” (Marston 42). We need to stop rolling natural ones for ourselves, stop accepting worn-out, sexist roles for our female characters, and demand that the efforts of early Wonder Woman not be in jest.

wonder woman

 

Photo credits

Woman Woman breaking chains: Gardner, Dwight. “Her Past Unchained.” The New York Times. 23 October 2014. http://www.nytimes.com/2014/10/24/books/the-secret-history-of-wonder-woman-by-jill-lepore.html

D&D Character 1: Dungeons and Dragons, armour and underwear.http://blog.rhiannonlassiter.com/2012/09/12/dungeons-and-dragons-armour-and-underwear/

D&D Character 2: DeviantArt. http://www.deviantart.com/morelikethis/artists/149223458?view_mode=2

Wonder Woman comic: Asselin, Janelle. The ‘F’ Word: Wonder Woman’s Feminism Shouldn’t Be Covered Up. Comics Alliance. 2 July 2014. http://comicsalliance.com/wonder-woman-feminism-meredith-finch-david-finch-dc/

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Wonder Woman’s Costume Woes by Jenelle Janci

Throughout our classroom discussions of Wonder Woman, there’s one thing that continues to bother me: the irony of her skimpy, sexualized costume.

While Wonder Woman is a model for feminism, I can’t get past the icky feeling of knowing the male gaze was upon her before she even hit the page. Her creator, William Moulton Marston, and her original illustrator, Harry G. Peter, were both male.

“The obvious remedy is to create a feminine character with all the strength of a Superman plus all the allure of a good and beautiful woman,” Marston wrote in “Why 100,000,000 Americans Read Comics.” It’s as if Marston couldn’t think of a way to show Wonder Woman was, well, a woman without baring her thighs and giving her an ample bosom. This quote from Marston also worries me, because it suggests that a woman must be beautiful in order to be good and liked by readers.

Even in modern depictions of Wonder Woman, her breasts seem to be the most prevalent thing about her. In this collection of Wonder Woman art, a few (like the image I’ve embedded from the collection) even feel a bit pornographic to me. While it’s not fair to judge the original based on later depictions of her, these sexualized images show how these artists think of Wonder Woman today. Those meanings are attached to her status as an American Icon.

 

There’s a clear double standard when it comes to the worth of a superhero and his or her body. Spiderman seems kind of scrawny to me, and Superman gets to enjoy the modesty of his muscles being covered up. The only instance I can recall of male superheroes’ body parts being hyper sexualized, the characters were “ambiguously gay.”

An article published on pop culture news site “AV Club” suggests Wonder Woman’s costume was inspired by pin-up girls in the 1940s (the time of Wonder Woman’s creation), and that any oddly kinky comic strip scenes of her being tied up and escaping them was a metaphor for women escaping social injustices. That’s all fine and good, by why do I have to see the top of her breasts for that metaphor to work? The answer is: I don’t. I’m more likely to believe a second explanation offered by the same article: by making her sexual and attractive, male readers will feel positively toward a female superhero. Gag.

While it’s not hard to argue the stupidity of wearing a skimpy costume as temperatures begin to drop in late October, our discussion of Wonder Woman will surely have new meaning when I see women dressed up in less-than-modest costumes depicting her on Halloween. While becoming a recognizable Halloween costume is one of my personal benchmarks of what makes something an American icon, it’s hard to ignore the irony of women dressing in skimpier versions of an already scantily clad female superhero who was meant to represent feminism.

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Mhy She Reabs Cowics (Don’t worry, you read that correctly) – by Alisha Evelisse Rivera

The article that stuck out the most for me this week was the one written by IMG_2789 (1)William Moulton Marston himself.  What interested me in “Why 100,000,000 Americans Read Comics” was where Marston discusses how comics help students improve in school, more specifically in English. In his research he explains how “Excerpts from superman have been used successfully in teaching English in public schools” (Marston 42). This interests me because I have used graphic novels and comic books to help my sister.

IMG_2790 (1)My little sister was diagnosed with dyslexia when she was in first grade. People don’t really understand what it means to have dyslexia. Even today it’s kind of hard trying to wrap my head around the difficulties that she has to go through. Dyslexia itself is such a fluid concept and it means something different for every person that has it. For my sister, it means that the she confuses her d’s, p’s and b’s, w’s and m’s. It also means that when she reads, words will flip and letters will move around when they aren’t supposed to. She’s had moments in her life were people, especially kids, have made fun of the way she spells or reads. When she was in middle school, her teacher belittled her in front of her entire class because of her disability.

So my sister worked harder than I’ve seen anybody work to get amazing grades, but it still wasn’t enough to stop those negative comments. People can kind of be evil that way. Plus, dyslexia doesn’t really go away. People just learn to work around it. My sister carried this negativity everywhere, and like Gloria Steinem expressed in her article, she needed something or someone to empower her. So, I did some research, and I read an article that explained that graphic novels and comics help dyslexics read faster and comprehend more. It’s because, like Marston points out, all comics are visual: if a dyslexic can’t understand what they’re reading, they have pictures to help them along.

gNKAeUrWe were both pretty apprehensive about trying it out, because she’s not the comic book type. She honestly didn’t think it would work, and I was afraid the “pinup” female superheroes would have a negative effect on her (Lepore). But it actually worked. I ended up getting her about six graphic novels, and one of them, Injustice, contained Wonder Woman. Not only did the visual aspect of the graphic novel greatly improve her reading, but she also noticed that she could read faster because every letter was capitalized and the words had different fonts. The pages seemed “cleaner” because they contained color so the letters weren’t as confusing compared to a black and white page.


IGAU9_16As I was preparing for this blog, I asked her how she felt about Wonder Woman and her reply was that she really liked Wonder Woman in Injustice, despite thinking she would hate her. She like her because she would try to talk things out with the bad guys before fighting, and only resulted in fighting as a last resort. My sister also felt as though she could be equal to anyone, despite being dyslexic and being female, because Wonder Woman is in a team full of guys and she was still considered their equal.

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Liberal Superheroes by Alexander Matthew Cabrey

As we talked about Wonder Woman’s feminist roots, I began to think of the roots Liberal Hero stancesof superheroes in general. Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman are D.C. Comic’s major superheroes who emerged in late 1930s and early 1940s. At that same time, the U.S. is coming out of the Great Depression under the leadership of Democrat President Franklin Roosevelt. President Roosevelt enacted a number of different reforms to help relieve the economic depression in the New Deal. Living through this kind of drastic change to American lifestyles clearly influenced the creators of early superheroes. Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman appear to be representations of the desire many Americans had for a type of “safety net” for the people, just as the New Deal programming was doing prior to the creation of superheroes

LiberalHerosDemotivationalEarly Superheroes represent an individual who is protecting the people, generally within one city, but they usually put the well-being of the people before their own. These heroes could even go as far as being described as a safety net for humankind, just as those who lived through the Great Depression wanted a safety net after falling on hard times. Superheroes were beginning to be made in as vehicles of liberal American desires, or even borderline socialist desires. Their actions towards for betterment of Americans clearly have some liberal undertones, especially when you look into some of the villain counterparts to major heroes.

Superman, Batman, and Wonder Woman each have at least one villain counterpart who represents some conservative beliefs of the late 30s and early 40s. Superman has Lex Luthor, a business tycoon who uses his wealth and knowledge to combat Superman. Lex Luthor was first introduced to the comics in the 1940 and has stuck around as Superman’s archenemy. Batman has The Penguin, a business owner and criminal under-lord, and was introduced to the Batman universe in 1941. Wonder Woman’s villains in the early 1940s usually stem from her feminist background, but Cheetah represents both ideas. Cheetah is an aristocratic woman and philanthropist who becomes obsessed with Wonder Woman and feels eclipsed by the attention Wonder Woman receives. Cheetah may not be as popular a villain today, like Lex Luthor and The Penguin are, she still represents the same rhetoric as the other comics. This borderline socialist rhetoric may have lost its influence in comics today; it still can be seen today in the history of these first Superheroes.

Marston told many that Wonder Woman is a feminist icon, a point that can’t be argued, but is inherently representing a liberal agenda as well. Wonder Woman may not have villains who represent liberal enemies in her early comics, but her feminist background gives her a liberal, potentially socialist, feel. Wonder Woman has been utilized by liberal feminist publications, like Ms. Magazine, affirming the liberal position for her and other even other superheroes. This liberal influence superheroes have may not be so obvious to many people, especially those who aren’t interesting in comic books, and gives it an interesting flavor when looking back through their history.

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It was all a Dream…by Annie B Persico

What is the American Dream? White picket fences? Success? Financial stability? OrNotorious-BIG-with-his-daughterthQMQPT97B can we bring it all down to a more basic understanding? The need to survive is what drives humanity, survival of the fittest is what determines evolution.  Whether it be emotionally, physically, spiritually, nationally or independently: America from its conception has been trying to survive. This achievement of survival is what constitutes the American Dream.

In the immortal words of Biggie Smalls- we are presented with the idea of the American Dream as an achievement of survival: 

 Yeah, this album is dedicated to all the teachers that told me

 I’d never amount to nothin’, to all the people that lived above the

 buildings that I was hustlin’ in front of that called the police on

 me when I was just tryin’ to make some money to feed my daughter…

 

That album was a culmination of his struggle to survive. And in those lyrics, we see the Migrant Mother. We see Carter Revard. They survived.

The “problem” with poverty in the U.S. is that we see those who suffer from it as incapable of achieving the American Dream. But those in poverty are the people that are illustrating the American Dream of Survival the best- the Migrant Mother and Biggie were just trying to feed their kids—and eventually they did. Carter Revard was just trying to overcome the sadness and depression of the Dust Bowl, and he won by writing poems about privies.  The relation is astounding; in fact it is influences of people who survive that poverty that developed my understanding of the American Dream.  Poverty is suffering, we see it illustrated in the words of Biggie and Revard, in the image of The Migrant Mother, but understanding their ability to overcome it is what really constitutes THE American Dream to me.

Uh, damn right I like the life I live

‘Cause I went from negative to positive

 

He might as well have said “Cause I achieved the American Dream, do you know what I Mean?…” (but I’m not sure that would have sold as many records…)

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Dreaming of Success in America by Sarah Klein

While the “American Dream” remains a stereotyped ideal of success in the back KingRAKBradleyetalof all Americans’ minds, in reality it takes on a varied definition for each individual. I always imagine the American Dream consisting of immigrants, rags-to-riches and achieving success through hard work. In reality though, that is not how the American Dream has manifested itself in my family.

On my mom’s side, I am the first-born American, as her family is from Canada. My grandfather grew up on a farm and a single mother raised my grandmother. They live comfortably now and came from backgrounds where they had to work hard for what they earned.

My dad’s side is where it gets slightly more interesting. I am 3rd generation American. My great grandfather immigrated to America from Poland in the early 1900s. He came with a suitcase and little to no English speaking skills. By the time my grandmother was born in 1928, he owned a candy factory and was to become the conductor of the Philadelphia Orchestra. He went on to own the radio station WDAS where my grandfather worked as general manager. The station worked closely with Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. for the advancement of civil rights.

My grandmother eventually owned a jewelry magazine; my aunt and uncle own a contracting company; my parents own a small community newspaper. With such great achievements in my personal history, it is ingrained in me that the American Dream is to be independent in business and life. Success is found through owning one’s own business and striving to do good for the community.

My version of the American Dream differs greatly from that of the Migrant Mother’s. As Florence Thompson was struggling during the Great Depression, the main goal was to keep her family fed and alive. When her children achieved enough success to buy her a house, she refused because she, “need[s] to have wheels” under her.

Thompson’s American Dream differs from the norm and mine as she actually refused to own a house. Ownership is a huge part of what makes up America and being American. From the beginning, explores came to America to obtain land and power. When pioneers ventured out West, they hoped to own land and obtain new wealth. In the 1950’s when suburbs were exploding, people dreamed of owning homes, cars and innovative appliances to make their lives better. The American Dream of ownership can take any shape or form, but remains constant throughout history.

Thompson’s refusal of the typical American Dream represents an entire segment of Americans who cannot find success through traditional means. Thompson worked hard her entire life and barely had anything to show for it at the end, besides of course the survival of her family. The problem that many impoverished Americans face is the endless cycle of never receiving the chance to break free from poverty, a problem that the archetypical American Dream simply cannot solve.

(Photograph from family records. My grandfather Bob Klein is second from the right, to the right of Dr. Martin Luther King Jr. along with other important members of the community. Early 1960s.)

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Migrant Mother- May the odds be ever in your favor, by Brittany N. Cozzens

When looking at Dorothea Lange’s Migrant Mother photograph I couldn’t help blog 2but feel despair for this poor woman and her children.

This image, while taken during one of the most turbulent times in our nation’s history, does not reflect the “American Dream” that I picture in my head. For many, the foundation of their vision of the American dream for lies in having shelter, family and money. But when looking at Migrant Mother and reading Carter Revard’s autobiography Winning the Dust Bowl, it made me wonder about Revard’s reference of the Dust Bowl being a game. How is it that those that truly needed help, like Florence Owens Thompson (Migrant Mother) weren’t getting it? Was getting some kind of government assistance a stroke of luck?

From here, my mind threw together all of these different images of being a poor farmer, doing a grueling trade every day all day even though no significant money was really being brought in; a mother with hungry mouths to feed; a widow; and other people in other parts of the country having resources but not giving them away.

And then it clicked.

Florence Owens Thompson and her situation is very similar to that of Katniss Everdeen’s family in the Hunger Games. Mrs. Everdeen, like Florence Owens Thompson, was a widow who had children to fend for, though she could barely provide for herself. Her family lived in District 12 and was known for coal mining and migrant mother was a pea picker like many others in her area. Both worked tirelessly but couldn’t leave. This is not the ideal image of the American Dream.

Meanwhile, there were people in the Capital (in both places) that were well off; eating food served by those that had nothing. These people in the Capital were living the American Dream, while others who were much worse off got no aid. Is this how we understand America to be? Those who have resources choosing to maintain their unrestrained lifestyle rather than give to those who are desperately in need in, such as the coal miners of District 12, the pea pickers and orange grove farmers in California?

Part of the problem of poverty, as addressed through Dorothea Lange’s photo, in Revard’s poems, and in the Hunger Games is that those with resources are not willing to give them up in order to better support someone else. This is not how I want American to be pictured through any medium. Getting assistance shouldn’t be a stroke of luck, or “if they odds are in your favor,” it should be because someone is in dire need and because people care. The American dream is something that Americans should help their fellow Americans try to achieve rather than just leaving people out in the dust.

 

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The Great Depression, Poverty, and the American Way by Nicole Thomas

If I had to define the American Dream, I would define it as being able to have tamerican_wayhe opportunity to be successful (however you might find fitting), having the opportunity to be free to express yourself, and being able to live independently. These things require some financial stability. The migrant mother photo contradicts my own idea of the American Dream, and I’m sure it also does so to the rest of the world. The Encyclopedia of American Studies entry on “America Perceived” states that “The perception of America as a land of economic opportunity was broken only during the years of the Great Depression.” The migrant mother photograph does a really good job in representing that sudden change in view of America with the coming of the Great Depression.

The Depression was full of inequality between the rich and the poor, and whites and blacks. African Americans were hit very hard by the Depression, and because of discrimination, they often had to give up their jobs to white workers. The image below is from the Depression, the background shows the happy all white family of four as the “American Way,, and in the foreground is a line of jobless African American and migrant workers.

In the Migrant Mother photo, I see poverty and depression, but I also see strength and perseverance. In the selection of readings from Carter Revard, he mentions “bridges” frequently. On page 132 in the Going to College section he says “we should remember that a small group of persons who have shown themselves unusually able to learn from the regular curriculum what their teachers want them to learn are supposed to include the bridge-builders, the language-translators, the power-transformers who will help us get across time and space and the rivers of Babylon to significant others, even as we are swinging dangerously into the future.” Revard is trying to get a certain point across about the Great Depression. The hard working impoverished people in the United States, like the Migrant Mother, were able to survive, even when the odds were against them. They were able to build the bridges to the future by surviving the Dust Bowl. The people were able to push the widely ridiculed President Hoover out, and bring Roosevelt in. After elected, President Roosevelt promised his “New Deal”, creating several programs to help end the depression, including an effort to eliminate discrimination.

Although I define America as a land of opportunity and success (overall), the “American Dream” and the ability to live the “American Dream” did not come without sacrifice. Going back to the America Perceived entry, although the rest of the world viewed America as “young, fresh and full of possibility,” they also viewed it as “immature” and “lacking history.” The Great Depression is a prime example of our “New World” and the flaws that were (and still are) in it. Because America was youthful and young and new, it made many mistakes.  And through those mistakes, America created its own history and learned what was good and what was not good for the nation. After spending some time with the Migrant Mother and the Great Depression, I have come to find that as Americans, we really are (as Revard puts it) a nation of “bridge-builders” and “language translators” and we continue to pave our way into the future, trying our best to decide right from wrong. We strive to learn from the people of our past, like the Migrant Mother, in order to build more bridges towards the future of America. At first glance, America (easily and simply) seems like the land of opportunity and independence, but when we take into consideration what we had to go through as a country to get to where we are now, that is what defines America.

 

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