No Future?

The Aura of Todd Haynes

"In even the most perfect reproduction, one thing is lacking: the here and now of the work of art--its unique existence in a particular place. It is this unique existence-and nothing else--that bears the mark of the history to which the work has been subject" (Benjamin, 253).

"On the one hand, film furthers insight into the necessities governing our lives... on the other, it manages to assure us of a vast and unsuspected field of action" (Benjamin, 265).

"Contemplative immersion--which, as the bourgeoisie degenerated, became a breeding ground for asocial behavior--is here opposed by distraction" (Benjamin, 267).

"Men make their own history, but they do not make it just as they please; they do not make it under circumstances chosen by themselves, but under circumstances directly found, given and transmitted from the past" (Marx, 595)

Synthesis and the synthetic

indieWIRE: I feel that "Far from Heaven" may be one of the biggest, most experimental mainstream films of all time. Do you think it's fair to call it experimental?

Todd Haynes: Yes, because it refuses a lot of familiar narrative touchstones that makes us feel like we're watching a genuine drama: contemporary codes of naturalism, psychological realizations, redemption, and any sort of heroic victory. So it refuses all of those things and maintains a completely synthetic language that comes directly out of the world of film. And yet it's done in complete faith that that language in some way embodies more potential for emotional feeling than anything that mimics what we think of as reality. In other words, people talk about this film in relation to sincerity verses irony. And I think it's different. I think it's about the intense feelings that only come from synthetic film language, that only come from artificial experiences that we know from film, but we nevertheless invest with intense feeling.


The Street Scene / The Mirror / Implicative Spectatorship

"I want to turn to this process by which the look of surveillance returns as the displacing gaze of the disciplined, where the observer becomes the observed and 'partial' representation rearticulates the whole notion of identity and alienates it from essence" (Bhabha, 89)

"It is important that one of the main features of the ordinary theatre should be excluded from our street scene: the engendering of illusion.... What is involved here is, briefly, a technique of taking the human social incidents to be portrayed and labelling as something striking, something that calls for explanation, is not to be taken for granted, not just natural" (Brecht, 122)

"The child, at an age when he is, for a time, however short, outdone by the chimpanzee in instrumental intelligence, can nevertheless already recognize as such his own image in a mirror. This recognition is indicated in [] illuminative mimicry" (Lacan, 1)

Paranoid Interpretation: See Errol Morris on inadvertence of cinematic quotation

Almost the same but not white (89)

Sarah Jane brings in the snacks.
Sarah Jane at the 'library.'

Mimicry is at once resemblance and menace (Bhabha, 86)

The Imitation of an Imitation

Robert Stahl's Imitation of Life, 1934
Douglas Sirk's Imitation of Life, 1959
L'Imitation of Life, a Hell in a Handbag production

Is post-modern tragedy the imitation of an imitation of an action? (pace Aristotle)
Is it the normative condition, since life itself comprised of twice-behaved behavior? (Schechner)
Is the encounter with duplication unheimlich?
Or is this sort of repetition, as Marx would say, farce?


Phrase: from Imitation of Life

Sarah Jane: "I'm someone else! I'm white...white...WHITE!"

Sarah Jane has this complex with being a person of color. She just wants to be white and tries to assimilate to the lifestyle of a white person. This reminded me of the mirror stage and the struggle there after with how one sees themself. Maybe at one point Sarah Jane was happy with who she was, like when she first realized who she was.

Word: Rumors

Both Imitation of Life and Far From Heaven are written with characters who are afraid of what they are and the gossip that can expose them. Both films show high society with its parties and dresses but both also show how beneath that superficial layer is the malicious judgment of others. There is a caricature presented in Far From Heaven of the perfect family that is easy to spot as to good to be true. Characters conform to society in order to keep the rumors at bay. Any variation from the norm can cause ruin. Everyone decides to mimic each other in order to keep their own version of sanctity in their communities, whether it is along the lines of race or sexuality.

How do you see things?

"Maybe I should start seeing things the way they are, not the way I want them."

In Imitation of Life, Lora is fighting to find what she wants from life, theater, fame, love, and family. All of these become cross roads for her. When Steve is trying to convince her to give up on theater she says the line. I found that this line was prevalent in looking at Sara Jane's character as well. She does everything she can to be white. She doesn't want to tell anyone that she is black because she does not see herself that way. She feels like she is being oppressed just for being black, so whenever she has the chance to be white, she takes it. Sara Jane is acting on the belief that if she sees herself one way that everyone else will see her that way too. However, like Lora has to admit, she needs to start seeing things the way that they really are.

After hearing this I think of Plato and his belief in the two worlds. Like the cave there are the way things are and then the way that we see them, the shadows. So my question to you is, what is your viewpoint on your life? Do you see things the way that they are or the way that you want them to be?

WORD: Pass

. To exceed in excellence or worthiness; to surpass in some activity, quality, or degree

3. trans. To exceed or overstep (bounds, limits, rules, etc.); to deviate or digress from; (fig.) to go beyond (one's province, knowledge, etc.). Also intr.: to deviate, stray (obs.).

a. Of a person, or a soul or spirit: to go to one's spiritual destination.

Sarah Jane's one wish in life is to pass as a white person. Neither her mother nor Lora Meredith can understand why she would want to be something that she is not. But Sarah Jane is white, that's what she sees everyday. She doesn't act at all like her mother and if her mother is the meaning of black (in her adolescent mind) than she wants nothing to do with it. She wants to pass, she wants to exceed in excellence and be worthy of humanity, that is whiteness. Sarah Jane wishes to marry her imago and her physcial self, and the only thing keeping her from doing so is the one-drop rule. She refuses to surrend her person to what others think that she is, namely her mother. Her passing is not only to "overstep bounds, limtis, rules" by becoming white, but to pass as a human being in a society that wants to categorize who and what people are and are made to do/be. It just so happens that passing for her means playing her white double.

PRECIS-How Imitation leads to tragedy

I think that the film "Imitation of Life" speaks loudly about the consequences associated with imitation. Not only can imitation take away from the authenticity of the original, but the film demonstrates how imitation can lead to tragedy. The film associates imitation with many negative characteristics such as shame and disownment . For instance, the daughter is ashamed of her black origins so she tries and succeeds at passing herself off as white in many situations throughout the film. Furthermore, the daughter ends up disowning her mother because she blames her for shame. Bhabha would agree with the way that imitation is depicted in the film because, for him, imitation and mimicry aren't positive. Also, in light of Bhabha, the film forces the viewer to psychoanalyze Sarah Jane to try and understand her self-image. Does her mimicry result in an "incomplete" and "virtual" self-image? I would argue that it does because she never blames herself for her inability to accept who she is and her origins, she blames her mother. She feels like her mother exposes who she really is, so she disowns her until the end of the film when she realizes her guilt after her mother's death. To me, the mere fact that she imitates and camouflages herself as a white person is demonstrative of an "incomplete" self-image, which is reminiscent of Bhabha's definition of mimicry as ambivalent. Sarah Jane tries to be white to reflect an image of herself that is appealing to her and, so she thinks, everyone else. However, mimicking a white person only allows her an "incomplete" and "virtual" self-image because she knows that she isn't white. 

Imitation of Life

Imitation of Life presents an interesting juxtaposition of mimicry. Sarah Jane is an example of Bhabha's concept that mimicry is not a prefect "re-presentation." No matter how much she tries to appear white, something always reveals her true identity. To use Bhabha's term, there is "slippage" between her imitation of whiteness and actually being white.

Lora Meredith also practices mimicry by making a living as an actress. In her case she is praised and rewarded for this skill. The main difference between these two cases of mimicry is that Lora Meredith is not expected to create a perfect "re-presentation," yet Sarah Jane must if she wants to be viewed as a white person. This juxtaposition further speaks to the double standards of race that are explored in the film.

Far From Heaven

Honestly, I'm so wrapped up in the movie itself that I'm having difficulty comparing it to any of our previous texts. An obvious one, however, is Bhabha's concept of colonization and attempting to have others imitate in order to fit in being represented by the gardener's failure to do so. Kathleen's husband, Frank, also fails in his attempts to fit in by imitating the "norm." Even Kathleen is at odds with the rest of society that wishes her to fit into a mold. THe ending solidifies the failure on both accounts by not allowing any of those who tried to fit in actually do so. 

PRECIS: You can pick your friends but you can't pick your family

A great example of Bahbha’s mimicry of perfect mimicry as being unattainable is demonstrated by Sarah Jane from Imitation of Life. Her mother is black and her father is described as being almost white and Sarah Jane resembles her father in that she herself appears to be of Caucasian descent. During the entire movie, Sarah Jane pretends to be of the white world, trying to fit in with the kids in her class and date boys who are white. In spite of her efforts, it is almost always discovered that she is, in fact, black. Her imitation, or mimicry, of a white person is okay, but she cannot fully fit in because she has to hide her mother from everyone she hangs out. Her mimicry of the white world is one that can only ever be imperfect, no matter how well she can pretend. The black ancestry always ends up somehow intruding into her imaginary world where Sarah Jane imagines she has a white mother. Only when she disconnects herself completely from her mother can she live the life of a white person. However, the cost is that she has to give up her mother, the only family she has. The only way she can mimic the white world is if she gives up a large portion of who she is, the part which is centered on her love for her mother. The ultimate price is paid when her mother dies and Sarah Jane did not know until it was too late. Even when she felt as if she belonged in the white world, she was not fully in their world because white people are able to have their family with them too. Sarah Jane could never have everything she wanted because she was always trying to get rid of a part of herself; her imitation was always just that, an imitation.

Phrase: "I always fall in love with my leading ladies."

After Lora's theatrical debut, she and the writer, David, share a moment where they each profess their love for one another. However, David says "I always fall in love with leading ladies," and Lora responds "And maybe that's all this is, but I'm loving you tonight." This conversation only showcases the sense of imitation and illusion throughout the movie. Everything about Lora is in a sense of "now," and her conversation with David is simply another example of that. Lora constantly does what she think will help her succeed, but as a result, it is impossible to decipher what about her is real and what is not.

PHRASE: "...stop acting, Mama...stop being the martyr..."

PHRASE: "...stop acting, Mama...stop being the martyr..."

In this scene of Imitation of Life, Susie is calling out her mother, Lora, on resorting to acting rather than actually confronting their issues. This statement that Susie makes reflects the theme of the movie in imitating life. Is imitation a flawed version of reality, as Bhabha suggests in his writing, or is imitation actually reality itself. In the movie, it seems that Lora's acting or imitation is, in fact, her own reality. Susie begs for her mother to come out of this imitation, but, when Lora breaks down and Susie's resolve to confront her mother on becoming real crumbles, it is obvious that Lora's imitation and reality are inseparable.


“That conflictual economy of colonial discourse which Edward Said describes as the tension between the synchronic panoptical vision of domination – the demand for identity, status – and the counter pressure of the diachrony of history – change, difference – mimicry represents an ironic compromise.”

The colonizer wants to create a distinctive “other” that can be recognized as similar to the colonizer, but clearly not the same. The points of difference between the colonizer and the colonized can be what eventually reflect poorly on the ways of the colonizer.

The irony of colonial mimicry is when the camoflouge of mimicry eventually turns the mimicer into the observed. Bahba talks about this effect of mimicry, in that the reflection of the naturalizer, things can be highlighted which make the naturalizer seem unnatural.

When the colonized take on the role of the observed, they often disgard their own ways of life in order to take on the ‘normal’ habits and culture of the colonizers.

“In ‘normalizing’ the colonial state or subject, the dream of the post-Enlightenment civility alienates its own language of liberty and produces another knowledge of its norms.” (86)

When the observer becomes the observed, there is a shift in power that throws off the entire colonial backbone, this shift cannot be remedied until the point of interdiction, which will return the colonized back to their way of life, and allow them to throw off the repressive glove of colonization.

I used Mean Girls to represent this idea of colonization and mimicry as a mockery as well as a tool of camoflouge and the struggle for power. The following clips go along with the sequence of events described above.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=UpkA3bADtrk&NR=1 : 3:45, Kady love

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=5S0MehzTqVk&feature=related : 2:00, boob cutouts

Scene montage: Kady wearing a pony tail and her reg clothes, Kady wearing the giant pink shirt, Kady dressed as a monster amongst the skanks, Kady falling into the trash can, Regina telling Kady she is a less pretty version of her.

Above: The distinctive “other”

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=um7Aj8BdaiI&feature=related 3:35, rules of being a girl

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iowxMm9fXx4&feature=related : 6:40, less pretty version

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cND6MjsngjY&NR=1 4:40, overthrow of power

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=GAYAQnlrT6I&NR=1 :10 , :50, just like Regina

WORD - Handkerchief


Merriam-Webster defines a handkerchief as:

1 : a small usually square piece of cloth used for usually personal purposes (as blowing the nose) or as a clothing accessory

Othelle see’s the handkerchief he gave to Desdemona as much more than a simple clothing accessory. He sees it as defining of their love. In telling her the story of the handkerchief and it’s magic powers, he seems to be implying that if she were to lose it, he would stop loving her as the Egyptian charmer warned his mother that his father would stop loving her if she lost it. He is of course trying to scare her because he believes her to be cheating on him with Cassio.

The fact that he is threatening her here is only reinforced later when he says that his father gave the handkerchief to his mother.


The Implications of Camouflage

Flattering to the owl?

"As Lacan reminds us, mimicry is like camouflage, not a harmonization of repression of difference, but a form of resemblance, that differs from or defends presence by displaying it in part, metonymically." (90)


Precis-- Repeat but not reproduce

Bhabha discusses how mimicry is not reflection, but rather it is the attempt to not completely reproduce but it is the act of reproducing while showing the difference. Sometimes it is used for mockery because of this reason, look to SNL and their portrayal of Sarah Palin in the last election. Bhabaha then goes on to talk about in the colonial era the rulers attempted to have the colonized people imitate their way of life, their culture and to ultimately be a portrayal of the ruling country. All of this was done while still hoping that the colonized wouldn't completely remove their culture; in this was were colonies using mimicry. Look at the Iraq War, US Forces are there to help the Iraqi people be more Americanized, yet they don't want them to loose their heritage.


WORD: "Camouflage"

In his work, Bhabha uses the word "camouflage" not only in the main body of his text, but also in an explanation of "mimicry" by Lacan (85). Just as the OED refers to the use of camouflage in war-related instances, calling it, "the disguising of any objects used in war, such as camps, guns, ships, by means of paint, smoke-screens, shrubbery, etc., in such a way as to conceal it from the enemy," so Bhabha compares the use of the word to refer to its similar partial covering and obscuring of the original as the result of mimicry.
Bhabha speaks of the concept of colonialism in a "'not quite/not white'" fashion, mentioning the partiality of the "racist gaze" that leads to a uncomfortable, raw view of blackness as such a difference from whiteness, (but with a shade of similarity, as in 'menace'), that fear is reached (92). The use of the word camouflage reveals this idea of an obscured, almost deformed partial representation.


I don't remember the exact quote, but it is during the scene towards then end when Craig is in John Malkovich's body for several months and a reporter is doing a voice over to demonstrate all of the accomplishments that Craiog/John has achieved. During one of these segments John is giving a puppeteering master class and is criticizing one students efforts by saying something like "the puppet's motions have to be an extension of your own self". This is a great way to state not only the social importance that Craig was trying to bring to the world of puppeteering, but it also functions as a way of showing the relationship of being inside John Malkovich's head. One doesn't merely idly watch what John does, instead the spectator engages themself to the point that they become an extension of John Malkovich.


Homi Bhabha highlights a concept that we have come across before, only this time we are presented with the role of the performer in the context of colonialism. Bhabha understands that mimicry is an extension of oneself, it is not a process of becoming someone else. Bhabha distinguishes it by saying that it, "comes from the prodigious and strategic production of conflictual, fantastic, discriminatory, 'identity effects' in the play of a power that is elusive because it hides no essence, no 'itself" (90). Mimicry is an act, just like acting on stage, and its purpose is not create a didactic essence, but rather to hide its differences in the performance. Colonialism works great as a context to present this idea and Bhabha's interest in how the "splitting of the discourse" (91). is dealt with helps to explain this concept.

Précis: Mimicry is the highest form of flattery... err I mean menace

Bhabba's essay on the concept of mimicry in the light of the colonial era takes on a truly contorted form. Bhabba unveils that mimicry's structure is based upon its own ambivalence, founding mimicry not upon its reflection of culture, but the fundamental flaw that actual replication is impossible. Bhabba insists that "[m]imicry repeats rather than re-presents" (88). This suggestion tears any authenticity from the roles portrayed by colonial subjects before they can even make an attempt to mimic. Through the Freudian lens Bhabba applies, the mimicry subjects do perform thus becomes "the representation of a difference," facing tribulations of racial stereotypes (89). Bhabba asserts that the colonial discourse attempts to use mimicry as a basis for advantage in cultural assimilation, but through an analysis of the colonial discourse, the failure was evident from its conception, creating a menace through mimicry.

Word- Colonial


1. of, concerning, or pertaining to a colony or colonies: the colonial policies of France.
2. of, concerning, or pertaining to colonialism; colonialistic.
3. (often initial capital letter) pertaining to the 13 British colonies that became the United States of America, or to their period.
4. Ecology. forming a colony.
5. (initial capital letter) Architecture, Furniture.
a. noting or pertaining to the styles of architecture, ornament, and furnishings of the British colonies in America in the 17th and 18th centuries, mainly adapted to local materials and demands from prevailing English styles.
b. noting or pertaining to various imitations of the work of American colonial artisans.
6. an inhabitant of a colony.
7. a house in or imitative of the Colonial style.

(as well as)


1. the control or governing influence of a nation over a dependent country, territory, or people.
2. the system or policy by which a nation maintains or advocates such control or influence.
3. the state or condition of being colonial.
4. an idea, custom, or practice peculiar to a colony.

Sarah Knoth--Word

Metonymy: “A figure of speech in which one word or phrase is substituted for another with which it is closely associated, as in the use of Washington for the United States government or of the sword for military power.


 Bhabha’s piece “Of Mimicry and Man” is an interesting discussion of the use of mimicry in colonial and cultural development. In other words, I found that Bhabha’s argument spoke about mimicry as almost a kind of governmental propaganda, which is to say that these half-truths are a “partial presence, which is the basis of mimicry, articulates those disturbances of cultural, racial and historical difference that menace the narcissistic demand of colonial authority” (88). It seems that government, colonial discourse etc. etc. are always caught in translation---caught in metonymy. There is the “question of the representation of difference is therefore always also a problem of authority” (89). Because there are so many ways of representation, authority can be skewed.  He says, “In mimicry, the representation of identity and meaning is rearticulated along the axis of metonymy” (90). Identity and authority are caught up in this articulation of metonymy, but metonymy itself is sometimes hard to articulate.  


Partial: not total or general; incomplete; a component (from dictionary.com)

Homi K. Bhabha refers to different aspects of mimicry, of uncertainty, as something that is partial. He provides us with his definition: "'incomplete'" and "'virtual'" (86). Everything about mimcry is incomplete because it is simply "farce," something that merely substitutes for another. Bhabha refers to Charles Grant's ideas regarding Christianity for Indians, which includes a desire for a "'partial' diffusion of Christianity, and the 'partial' influence of moral improvements" (87). There is an underlying idea that if we refuse to allow something to be complete, a thought, a belief, then we can stay completely in control, and we can decide what mimicry exists.

Presentation- Nick Sexton- Bhabha

In his essay “Of Mimicry and Man,” Homi Bhabha argues that the efforts made by colonizing nations to civilize and convert natives results in mimicry, which he defines as “almost the same, but not quite” (86).
• Colonial mimicry is defined as: “the desire for a reformed, recognizable Other, as a subject of a difference that is almost the same, but not quite. Which is to say, that the discourse of mimicry is constructed around an ambivalence; in order to be effective, mimicry must continually produce its slippage, its excess, its difference.
• “…Mimicry emerges as the representation of a difference that is itself a process of disavowal” (86).

Furthermore, Bhabha states that mimicry “…fixes the colonial subject as a partial presence” (86). Bhabha defines this “partial presence” as “…both incomplete and virtual” (86); thus, the colonial subject is never fully recognized by the colonizers as an equal.
• Bhabha gives the example of Charles Grant’s efforts to convert Indians to Christianity. He quickly found himself “caught between the desire for religious reform and the fear that the Indians might become turbulent for liberty…” because of what they were being taught by the Bible about civility and morality.
• “Grant paradoxically implies that it is the ‘partial’ diffusion of Christianity, and the ‘partial’ influence of moral improvements which will construct a particularly appropriate form of colonial subjectivity. Inadvertently, Grant produces a knowledge of Christianity as a form of social control” (87).

The Nightmare Before Christmas
• Jack’s role in the film is very reminiscent of the section in Bhabha’s essay that quotes Macaulay. Bhabha says, “Macaulay can conceive of nothing other than ‘a class of interpreters between us and the millions whom we govern- a class of persons Indian in blood and colour, but English in tastes, in opinions, in morals and in intellect” (87). While the people of Halloween Town are not being colonized by the people of Christmas Town, Jack acts as an interpreter of the customs and beliefs of Christmas Town.

Link to Clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sP5hVGA3WAg

• When Jack sings about his confusion concerning the customs and traditions of Christmas he says that he’s read the books about Christmas and still can’t seem to grasp it. He can’t reproduce the feelings he felt while in Christmas Town; thus he chooses to mimic them.

Link to Clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=e7RYZvHpImM

• In the scene where the creatures of Halloween Town begin to “make Christmas,” it is apparent that their understanding is only a partial one. Furthermore, it calls to mind Bhabha’s concern about the effect of mimicry on the real thing, what he refers to as the “authority”. He says that mimicry can produce “…another knowledge of its norms” (86). In other words, by mimicking the customs of Christmas Town (rather poorly), the creatures of Halloween Town threaten the normal understandings of Christmas and what it entails.

Link to Clip: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aKAxikZmY-0

Phrase - Mimicry is at once resemblance and menace.

The last paragraph of page 86, is crucial when discerning the relationship between this particular article and the rest of the class.  Mimicry in itself tied back to Freud's mirror stage and Lacan's unreal versus imaginary musings as well as the obvious link to Being John Malcovitch and Craig's fixation with puppets, but the underlined phrase at the bottom of 86 brings it all together  - answers why a discussion of colonial discourse could possibly relate to our study of aesthetics. 

Just like with most all the other aesthetic principles we have covered, there is a fine line between it and its opposition, whatever it happens to be. The "area between mimicry and mockery," creates an arena for both flattery and farce. Like Plato's discussion of knowledge falling into the wrong hands, this discourse on mimicry suggests there are two sides to every coin, whether it's  a form of art or forming of a nation.

Bhabha phrase: "almost the same"

Bhabha uses the phrase "almost the same but not white," on page 89. This reminded me of the one-drop rule that has been repeated thousands of times in every US History and African American Literature class ever. In the early to mid-1900s anyone with any amount of African ancestry (even one drop of blood) would be considered African American and be given the same rights and treatment. Someone with "one drop" could look white but be considered not, and they would therefore be "almost the same but not white." As Dr. Lester says in Being John Malkovich, they are "forever doomed to watch the world through someone else's eyes." They are in a way forced to mimic the life of an African American and be treated as such.

John Malkovich musings

What is so appealing about being someone else? If this were possible to be someone else for a time would I want to? These are questions adressed by the film Being John Malkovich. What seems to special about being another person stems from a person's contempt or unsatisfaction with the person they themselves are. For a woman, being John Malkovich is a chance to be a man. For a man, being John Malkovich is the chance to be someone else besides themselves, and inherent in the otherness is a betterness. However, a part that was for me, one of the most interesting parts of the movie was the chase scene through Malkovich's subconscious. All of those stragne strange experiences made up who Malkovich is, but as the subcounscious implies, they are not part of the conscious and so the character's who got to inhabit him were unaware of all of his repressed past experiences. So the attraction of being John Malkovich, by this logic, comes from the chance to be a person with no past traumatic experiences to be bothered by.

PHRASE: Almost the same but not white: the visibility of mimicry is always produced...

"Almost the same but not white: the visibility of mimicry is always produced at the site of interdiction.  It is a form of colonial discourse that is uttered inter dicta: a discourse at the crossroads of what is known and permissible and that which though known must be kept concealed."  I think Bhabha is saying that we may look one way and act another.  Mimicry would be someone of one dissent acting and following the rules of another.  We can try to be what we are not to fit in but by doing so we are only mimicking and not being truly ourselves.  Also, since we are only imitating there is no way to keep up the behavior without finally giving in and becoming ourselves or being "found out."  We try to imitate to prevent certain things from happening but those things are going to happen whether we are acting one way or acting another.  

WORD: mimicry


1. the act, practice, or art of mimicking.
2. Biology. the close external resemblance of an organism, the mimic, to some different organism, the model, such that the mimic benefits from the mistaken identity, as seeming to be unpalatable or harmful.
3. an instance, performance, or result of mimicking.

as for Being John Malkovich


1. a person who manipulates puppets, as in a puppet show.–verb (used without object)
2. to work as a puppeteer, by making puppets perform.

Word: Colonial (discourse)


European colonizers tended to construct the identities of colonized peoples and lands as other: undeveloped, primitive, and immature; as homogeneous objects, rather than sources of knowledge. The colonizer, too, was represented—as having a duty which entailed both financial and emotional cost (and for many these costs were very real). Colonial discourse analysis critically examines the role played by these representers and representations in colonialism and imperialism.

Interesting... I always thought of colonial in terms of imperial expansion. In colonized people than, you find not mimicry, but mockery.

Phrase: Bhabha

“The discourse of mimicry is constructed around an ambivalence; in order to be effective mimicry must continually produce its slippage, its excess, its difference” (86).

In other words, mimicry, or superficial resemblance, is based on simultaneous and contradictory attitudes, and is an effective form of social control when it produces a difference between actual and theoretical output. Mimicry does not "re-present." Bhabha goes on to state that “mimicry emerges as the representation of a difference that is itself a process of disavowal” and is “a complex strategy of reform, regulation and discipline, which ‘appropriates’ the Other as it visualizes power” (86).

WORD: Puppet

Dictionary.reference.com defines puppet as:
pup·pet   (pŭp'ĭt)  Pronunciation Key  
  1. A small figure of a person or animal, having a cloth body and hollow head, designed to be fitted over and manipulated by the hand.
  2. A figure having jointed parts animated from above by strings or wires; a marionette.
  3. A toy representing a human figure; a doll.
  4. One whose behavior is determined by the will of others: a political puppet.
Obviously the 5th definition fits the best description of John Malkovich behaving as a puppet.  Throughout the movie his actions and speech has been controlled by someone else.  The puppeteer, Craig, has enough mindset to be able to completely control John without John being able to take back control.  I think it has more with Craig's desire for Maxine than his skills as a puppeteer that allows him to control Malkovich.  I think all the different people that end up in Malkovich's mind represent the different personalities of his self-conscious.  It's like he's not ever completely in control of himself. All of the people he wants to be and all of the people he once was are what controls him.  He is never acting in the present and now.  He is always acting from past and present beings.

Word: Mimicry

1. a. The action, practice, or art of copying or closely imitating, or (in early use) of reproducing through mime; esp. imitation of the speech or mannerisms of another in order to entertain or ridicule.
b. An act, instance, or mode of copying or imitating; a product of imitation, a copy.
2. Biol. The close external resemblance of an animal or plant (or part of one) to another, or to an inanimate object; a similar resemblance between parts or features.

Mimicry in Bhabha's essay is defined through its ambivalence, or doubt, where the "other" gains its power through the duplicity of visualization in regards to colonialism. Bhabha discusses James Mills's History of India with Christianity being introduced into India's caste system, where Christianity acts as a form of "social control. Mills quotes, "that 'partial reform' will produce an empty form of 'the imitation [my emphasis' of English manners which will induce them [the colonial subjects] to remain under our protection.'"

Bhabha goes on to discusses how "mimicry repeats rather than re-presents" and how the "menace of mimicry is double vision which in disclosing the ambivalence of colonial discourse also disrupts its authority."
I couldn't help but think of Freud's Uncanny when reading Bhabha's Of Mimicry and Men in the form of the doppelganger and the double. However here the fear isn't finding an imitation of oneself, but by juxtaposing English culture, religion and mannerisms onto another culture, in order to "civilize" it.

Précis: To be John Malkovich

Andy Kaufman, the screenwriter for Being John Malkovich loves to play on the idea of physical presence in the mental conscious of a person (as undoubtedly seen in his subsequent films, Adaptation & Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind). These scripts present unique moral and philosophical dilemmas pertaining to the mental conscious that the audience will never face. Though, these films also raise real issues regarding identity and truth. For example, Being John Malkovich uses an example of the character Lottie, who experiences physical masculinity in her voyage into John's psyche. This experience causes her to question her own gender and sexual identity. She claims that seeing life through another's eyes made everything make sense; her vision of the world cleared for her to see the truth about her identity. In turn, the screenplay seems to question humanity's singularized perception, and criticizes personal experience as being the only truth.


Phrase: "The menace of mimicry" (I could not really choose just one)

Metonymy-(A figure of speech characterized by) the action of substituting for a word or phrase denoting an object, action, institution,etc., a word or phrase denoting a property or something associated with it; an instance of this (menon). In other words, it is an instance of substituting an attribute/part of something, or something associated with that something, for the thing itself.
(This definition may prove useful to understanding what the "menace of mimicry" is.)

"The menace of mimicry is its double vision[...]And it is a double vision that is a result of the partial representation/recognition of the colonial object" (88) Say, in this case, the "colonial object" is the black man.
"The menace of mimicry[...]is a desire that reverses 'in part' the colonial appropriation by now producing a partial vision of the colonizer's presence, a gaze of otherness which liberates marginal elements and shatters the unity of man's being through which he extends his sovereignty"(88-89). The "gaze of otherness[...]shatters the unity of man's being," and he can thusly only see himself in parts which represent a greater whole, in the fragmentation of his identity, as opposed the the "myth of the undifferentiated whole white body"(92).
"The observer becomes the observed and 'partial' representation rearticulates the whole notion of identity and alienates it from essence," since that essence is now based on 'parts' of an identity, attributes of it which cannot define the whole of a man's identity. It is this metonymic practice of 'partializing' the colonial object's identity that creates the bread of identity crisis found in Othello, for instance. The notion of the observer (that is, the colonialist/observer of the colonial object) becoming the observed (observed by the colonial object) is very critical in a play where the question of whose gaze defines the identity of the tragic figure. Bhabha points to the problems of assigning one quality to an entire race when he talks about "metonymies of presence (90). Othello becomes the observer of the Venetian men and mimics a representation of them, thereby creating an inauthentic reality for himself, by problematically "rearticulating 'reality' as mimicry" (91).