This stuff’? Oh, ok. I see, you think this has nothing to do with you. You go to your closet and you select out, oh I don’t know, that lumpy blue sweater, for instance, because you’re trying to tell the world that you take yourself too seriously to care about what you put on your back. But what you don’t know is that that sweater is not just blue, it’s not turquoise, it’s not lapis, it’s actually cerulean. You’re also blindly unaware of the fact that in 2002, Oscar de la Renta did a collection of cerulean gowns. And then I think it was Yves St Laurent, wasn’t it, who showed cerulean military jackets? And then cerulean quickly showed up in the collections of eight different designers. Then it filtered down through the department stores and then trickled on down into some tragic “casual corner” where you, no doubt, fished it out of some clearance bin. However, that blue represents millions of dollars and countless jobs and so it’s sort of comical how you think that you’ve made a choice that exempts you from the fashion industry when, in fact, you’re wearing the sweater that was selected for you by the people in this room. From a pile of “stuff.”
Meryl Streep as Miranda Priestly in David Frankel’s The Devil Wears Prada.
I think people in my class might be a little surprised to see this on my blog. It’s not really the sort of International Baccalaureate Philosophy Internal Assessment stimulus I would immediately think of. Having said that, it is probably proof that you could write your essay using nearly anything as your non-philosophical text.
I more than appreciate that this might not be everyone’s ‘cup of tea’ but it is a pretty beautiful insight into (at least part of) what it means to be a person. I was made to think of a whole lot of philosophy: Wittgenstiein on behaviourism, Sartre’s account of intersubjectivity but perhaps more than anything (and this will be less surprising to my students) I thought of Kierkegaard on consciousness.
This Danish philosopher used the word ‘despair’ to describe human existence that manages to fulfil our created potential of becoming a ‘self’. Some people describe this as the gap between the ‘me I am’ and the ‘me I could be’. But ‘gap’ is a problematic word… It makes you think of le Néant in Sartre. And it is clear to see this influence of the Dane on the frenchman but Kierkegaard is talking about the way the two relate together. It is the relationship that can constitute myself. This is the difference between atheistic and religious existentialism. We know that SK thought we were created with and for this relational ability – that it is part of our design but also our potential (Evans). In 1846 he wrote that
“people in our time, because of so much knowledge, have forgotten what it means to exist”*
This is perhaps more true now than then, but in this clip Sandra Bullock shows she is not one of (or at least knows people that are not) those people. ‘Despair’ is a word that ‘turns off’ a lot of new Kierkegaard readers but what he means is not what one might initially think.
The tension that SB talks about, the ‘struggle’, is very close to what SK is on about. Now Kierkegaard thought that we could either avoid this reality or tackle it head on but only ever in a ‘difficult’ way. It is only the struggle towards a goal, the ‘relationship’ with that goal, that refuses to bury oneself in an objective system and does not hide from the ‘torn apartness’ of subjective experience that allows a human to claim to be a self in any real way.
To my shame I only watched this recently and it was, in my humble opinion, a quite brilliant picture. Each of the main characters would be more than sufficient for an Internal Assessment or even an Extended Essay in IB philosophy.
Where to start though…? Again, this is the sort of film that will draw one’s own philosophical persuasions to the surface, but I would expect that most philosophically literate members of the audience will be prodded into reflecting upon existentialism. Perhaps because of my own areas of particular interest, I found myself thinking about the relationship between Sartre and Kierkegaard. Kevin Spacey’s character undergoes a change. He realises he is free to do what he chooses and he begins a journey towards living authentically. Despite initial impressions, there is also an ethical dimension to this change; this is most noticable when he decides not to sleep with his daughter’s friend. This authenticity is placed in stark contrast with the Colonel, who moves in across the street. He is clearly deeply unhappy and (partly due to his belief in the Divine) is an emblem of the inauthentic life – lying to himself about even his own sexuality.
There are also a number of characters living by systems, or what Kiekegaaard would have called ‘ethical frameworks’. These people spend every part of their energy trying to realise a self-created goal. This, as the Dane points out, is a project doomed to failure: either one realises the goals and find this unsatisfactory (causing despair) or spends a whole life struggling and never reaching (equally as bad). Anyway before I feel myself being drawn into my own essay I will stop. Watch it.
This would make a sweet internal assessment. And you could do it on almost absolutely everything we have talked about in the core theme, and some of the stuff from the ethics section. Most obviousLy you might want to look at the point where “Ceaser” becomes a person. Clearly the makers of the film think it has something to do with communication, but this far from solves the question as he is able to communicate long before the climatic moment where he utters his first word.
And then there’s the moment where Ceaser asks through sign, whether he is The opening sequence almost reads almost like a recent telling of John Locke’s…