Blog Post #2: Barbie Doll

In Barbie Doll, Marge Piercy tells the short but upsetting tale of a young girl who did not fit society’s harsh standards. Through this poem, Piercy uses diction and metaphor to convey a strong feminist message that there are harsh standards imposed on women by society, which can be compared to symbols centered around gender from Djuna Barnes’s Nightwood.

To begin, the first line of the poem identifies the subject as the “girlchild,” both words girl and child possessing connotations of innocence. The typical rhetoric of patriarchal societies tends to infantilize women, to make them smaller or younger, as if women do not age or grow; calling women “baby” as a term of endearment exemplifies this tendency. It is evident from just the second word of the poem that Piercy’s use of diction is well executed. The lines that follow continue the innocent, childlike nature of a girl who was “born as usual,” meaning she was interested in what is usually assigned to girls like “dolls that did pee-pee / and miniature GE stoves and irons / and wee lipsticks the color of cherry candy.” The dolls that pretend to urinate highlight society’s emphasis on a woman’s role as a mother, but women are, of course, so much more than just their capabilities to be mothers. Yet, a such a young age, that is what women are reduced to. This is reminiscent of Nightwood character Robin, who not only rejected her role as a mother to Guido jr. but her imitation of a mother to the doll she and Nora shared. Robin was not interested in a life as a woman according to society’s standards, which was evident in her masculine dress and especially in her violent attack on the doll. It is worth noting that again Piercy is drawing attention to the stress of smallness in what the girlchild presented by use of words like “miniature” and “wee.” The lipsticks are also described as being of a “cherry” color, which could be playing on the sexual connotation tied with cherries. Too often, girls are hyper-sexualized at very young ages; for example, little girls are deterred from wearing lipstick because it appears as if they are “sexy.” Though the thought of this is appalling, so much of the expectations but on women are.

Later, the girl is described as intelligent, strong, sexually driven, and possessive of a sharp mind, all attributes typically associated with men. She was “wrong” from the start, much like Robin was as a creature of the night, of otherness. The girl in the poem was “healthy,” yet she was seen as fat by her classmates, which is all too familiar in a society built on the judgement of a woman’s appearance. She was again reduced in a way that a man never would. Applying this to Robin, perhaps in the world she lived in, dressing as a man was Robin’s way of breaking through, of rebelling these societal expectations. While Robin took this approach of crossdressing, the girl in Barbie Doll is told that she should smile more and diet, methods of which involve the girl changing to society instead of society changing to accommodate her. Following these lines, the speaker begins a tonal shift with the lines “her good nature wore out / like a fan belt.” The audience begins to see a break here from the speaker’s infantile, Barbie-like descriptions; what could be more opposite from Barbie than a fan belt, a car piece that stereotypically, men would know about. Along those lines, an actual fan belt is designed to minimize friction with a car’s engine, much like women are supposed to be “coy” and “come on hearty,” as girl was advised to act. Fan belts also run tirelessly inside a car, which is comparable to how women are imagined as tireless machines, especially as mothers. Obviously, these standards are outlandish, which is perhaps why Piercy has the girl “cut off her nose and her legs,” to emphasize the absurdity.

Finally, in the last stanza, the girl dies, presumably because she cut off her legs. She lies on satin, possibly chosen because satin has a sensual, sexual connotation. She’s covered in makeup and a fake nose, how society truly wishes to see her. Even in her death, she is “dressed in a pink and white nightie,” continuing the sexualize infant like girl society fetishizes. She looks pretty to those around her, which is “consummation at last.” In a way, this makes Robin of Nightwood seem more inspiring because though she abandoned her responsibilities and those who loved her, she played by her own rules; she did not fall victim to ridiculous norms that society instills in women like the girl in the poem did. Overall, Robin lived for herself and only herself, a principle many could respect, especially women. “To every woman a happy ending” says the poem speaker ironically, but Robin had an actual happy ending because she was finally her true, pure self. Comparing her character with that of Piercy’s, it is clear that Barbie Doll masterfully combines the power of diction and metaphor to convey a scary yet truthful message about the standards women are held to, a message that unfortunately resonates with women 82 years after Nightwood was written and 47 years after Barbie Doll. Evidently, there is still work to do.

Barbie Doll by Marge Piercy, 1971

This girlchild was born as usual
and presented dolls that did pee-pee
and miniature GE stoves and irons
and wee lipsticks the color of cherry candy.
Then in the magic of puberty, a classmate said:
You have a great big nose and fat legs.

She was healthy, tested intelligent,
possessed strong arms and back,
abundant sexual drive and manual dexterity.
She went to and fro apologizing.
Everyone saw a fat nose on thick legs.

She was advised to play coy,
exhorted to come on hearty,
exercise, diet, smile and wheedle.
Her good nature wore out
like a fan belt.
So she cut off her nose and her legs
and offered them up.

In the casket displayed on satin she lay
with the undertaker’s cosmetics painted on,
a turned-up putty nose,
dressed in a pink and white nightie.
Doesn’t she look pretty? everyone said.
Consummation at last.
To every woman a happy ending.


Barnes, Djuna. Nightwood. Faber & Faber, 2015.

Noah ‘s post #2

By Noah Merenbloom

Welcome to my second reflection! I found our most recent batch of literature and film analysis particularly interesting. The parallels I saw between Dave Chappelle’s stand up specials, the guest lecturer on comedy ethics, and the current political and mass media culture made me question what is appropriate speech and if there is harm in being “too sensitive” or “overly PC.”


Dave Chappelle was the initial figure to open my eyes to this subject. I generally think of myself as someone who is easy going and rarely, if ever, offended by anything. However, upon watching the Chappelle specials on Netflix, I realized that, as a byproduct of my environment, I too had become an uptight, sensitive liberal. Dave spoke about how some things are just funny, even if the speech is not politically correct. Professor Robinson, who spoke on the ethics of comedy, also made me question if I was living an overly sensitive life. She, without hesitation, dropped curse words and did not stutter when reciting the great line, “Kick her in the pussy!”

When I compared Dave and Professor Robinson to what I was molded to believe, I was surprised to feel a tension in myself. It seems that the general message of the mainstream, liberal media that I am exposed to is to refrain entirely from politically incorrect speech at the risk of being labeled a bigot. Donald Trump often speaks without a filter. Certain moments of his speech could easily be labeled as inappropriate or politically incorrect and he is in fact, often called a bigot. Trump responds to these claims by saying that the American left and the mass media it too PC or overly sensitive.

So, how is it that Dave Chappelle and the Professor Robinson,  who are both clear supporters of sweeping equality, tolerance, and generally align themselves with the political left, have the same views on speech as Donald J Trump? This troubled me until I realized that this is what makes Dave Chappelle such a genius comedian. The title of the first part of the special says it all: Equanimity. Dave has already mastered it. He manages to roast Donald Trump using the same language that those against Trump hate. The result is a show that is funny, thought-provoking, and can be enjoyed by anyone.

Now I must find a way to navigate the thin line between reckless and purposeful speech. By erasing the words that offend us, we may be missing some of the greater picture. This does not mean it is alright to be rude to people but I now feel that words are, to an extent, just words. If I balance my words with actions that uphold the values I believe in, then I too can live a life of equanimity and maybe even become a famous comedian.


In this blog post I will be discussing the marxist commentary within the short film Shift by Jonathan Yi.  This film can be found below:

Yi, Jonathan, director. ShiftShift,

I want to bring to attention the description posted with the film on the director’s (Jonathan Yi’s) website.  The film is described as

“An award winning film about the rich, the not so rich, and the poor, and how a privileged middle class kid begins to understand someone else’s suffering. It also explores the false assumptions we bring to class, race, friendship and hatred”.

The film follows Alex Ye, as he works a night job surrounded by blue collared workers, in order to pay for his acting head shots.  The most striking and obvious comparison is made between Alex ad his co-workers.  He is working the job by choice, and doesn’t necessarily rely on it for a living.  The other workers surrounding him throughout the film work multiple jobs each.  Alex gets to see quite literally “How the Other Half Lives” as Jacob Riis, the famous American photographer demonstrates in his book (1890)  of the same name.

Riis, Jacob A., and Hasia R. Diner. How the Other Half Lives: Authoritative Text, Contexts, Criticism. W.W. Norton & Co., 2010.

The compilation of photos vividly depict the slums of New York City at the time the book was published.  The book forced the elite to see the half of the city that they otherwise were blinded to.  Similarly, Alex shows up to his night shift at the mailing center just as blind to the “hard knocks” other’s live with.  We as viewers are able to see this when the conversation comes up about acting classes.    The other workers cannot understand why he would spend that much money on acting classes that are cheaper elsewhere.  The concept of money is blatantly different for the two classes.

Alex recognizes his privilege at the end of the film by not knocking on his rich friend’s door.  He has connections to help get him work elsewhere.  When he sees the gardener in the yard of his friend, he is reminded of what he has learned from his job and opts to find work himself.

The pendulum swings both ways in the film with regards to opening eyes.  The other workers learn not to assume things about Race as well.  I found this a bit ironic for how diverse the staff was as a whole prior to his arrival.  The workers are shocked that Alex does not eat rice or particularly asian dishes all the time.  Even though the Chinese employees opt to do so. I believe that Jonathan Yi is trying to educate the audience of his film about how much we depend on and use race to make assumptions (though many times inaccurate) about someone we have just met.  These assumptions, though unintentionally so in many cases, are racist microaggressions against others.  I believe that through presenting some of the most cringe worthy assumptions in a “day in the life” style film, he forces people to examine how these assumptions play into their own daily interactions.

The film director  (the character)  trying to get Alex to act the role of a Japanese person, played into the stereotype and  the exoticism  that dictates that Japanese people are to be feared (a racist mentality that dates back to WWII).  By requiring him to wear black face there are many layers of criticism at work within this one scene alone.

Short Reflection 2: “Po’ Sandy and The Gray Wolf’s Ha’nt”

Many similarities can be observed between Charles Chesnutt’s short stories “Po’ Sandy” and “The Gray Wolf’s Ha’nt.” These short stories, which appear in Chesnutt’s collection of stories titled The Conjure Woman, take place in the Jim Crow South after the Civil War. The stories are narrated by a white man named John who has recently moved with his wife from the North to the South, specifically to a vineyard in North Carolina. Julius, a black coachman who works for the white couple, often recounts tales that offer insight into slavery and the pre-civil war South. Both “Po’ Sandy” and “Gray Wolf’s Ha’nt” feature commentary on the connection between Julius’ tales and the horrors of slavery, a description of a relationship between two slaves that is torn apart by death, and an ulterior motive advanced by Julius in his tales.

Before Julius begins to tell his tale in both “Po’ Sandy” and “The Gray Wolf’s Ha’nt,” John makes a comment about Julius tales and the insights they offer into slavery. As Julius prepares to tell his tale of Po’ Sandy, John comments that some of Julius’ stories “disclose many a tragic incident of the darker side of slavery” (Chesnutt). Before Julius recounts the story of Dan and Mahaly, John states that Julius stories contained “the shadow, never absent, of slavery and of ignorance” (Chesnutt). These statements by John frame Julius’ tales as commentary on the horrors of slavery and the tragedies that slaves endured. Through John’s comments, Chesnutt reveals that Julius’ tales are not meaningless fiction; they offer insights into the lives of slaves and their relationships with each other and with their masters.

Both stories center on a relationship between an enslaved man and an enslaved woman that is eventually torn apart through a tragic death. In “Po’ Sandy,” the relationship is between Tenie and Sandy. Tenie, a conjure woman, changes Sandy into a tree so that he will not be sent to work for another family. One night, before Tenie can change herself and Sandy into foxes so that they can run away to freedom, Tenie is forced to help a family whose mother is sick. Sandy remains a tree, and before Tenie returns, Sandy’s master orders the tree that is actually Sandy to be cut down for lumber. Sandy experiences, a tragic, painful death as he is cut down. Similarly, in “The Gray Wolf’s Ha’nt,” a relationship exists between Dan and Mahaly, who are both slaves. When Dan learns that the son of a conjure man is interested in Mahaly, Dan hits the son, who eventually dies. The conjure man eventually discovers that Dan killed his son, and he devises an evil plan to exact revenge on Dan. After convincing Dan that a witch in the form of a black cat is disturbing Dan, the conjure man changes Mahaly into a black cat and transforms Dan into a gray wolf capable of killing the black cat. When the Mahaly (in the form of a black cat) arrives at Dan’s cabin, Dan bites Mahaly by the neck and kills her. Mahaly’s bloody, gruesome death resembles Sandy’s gory death upon being cut down.

Additionally, both stories contain an ulterior motive behind Julius’ tales, and this ulterior motive is to save something that John wants to destroy. In “Po’ Sandy,” Julius’ true motive is to prevent the schoolhouse from being torn down because he wants to use the schoolhouse as a church. In “Gray Wolf’s Ha’nt,” Julius’ true motive is to prevent John from clearing up a portion of woods because the woods contain Julius’ bee-tree which presumably supplied Julius with ample honey. In both of the narratives, John discovers Julius’ ulterior motive at the very end of the story. Julius’ use of elaborate tales with ulterior motives demonstrates his high level of intelligence.

Chesnutt’s short stories “Po’ Sandy” and “The Gray Wolf’s Ha’nt” follow a remarkably similar structure with similar plot elements. The similar aspects in these two stories highlight important ideas emphasized by Chesnutt. John’s comments that precede Julius’ tales affirm that Julius’s tales offer insights into slavery. The similar focus of a relationship torn apart by death illustrates the terrible tragedies endured by slaves. The complexity of Julius’ tales that actually hide ulterior motives underscores the intelligence of Julius, an intelligence that was held captive by slavery.



Chesnutt, Charles W. The Conjure Woman. Houghton, Mifflin & Co., 1899,

Nightwood and Ordinary Men

Ordinary Men, by Christopher Browning, tells the story of middle-aged men from Germany who carried out the genocide during the Holocaust. Despite their seemingly cold and careless hearts, most of the men were not in favor their situation, but rather greatly disturbed by it. Some even asked to be relieved from their posts at times because they could not bear to continue on with their gruesome tasks. One of the only positive aspects of their roles was that the Germans did not have to worry about their families, for they were the ones behind the guns. Unfortunately, many Jewish families of the time faced the disheartening realization that their lineages would not likely survive the Holocaust.

The feeling of helplessness for all future generations is something that no man wants to fathom as the outcome of his own lineage. This is seen in Nightwood when Felix is concerned about the end of his family line once him and Guido die. “When the Tree Falls”, one of the chapters of Nightwood, is centered around Felix’s conversation with the Doctor. It is obvious that Felix is worried that his name will not be carried on to any future generations if Guido’s illness worsens. The chapter title can be related to the concept that “if a tree falls in a forest and no one is around to hear it, does it really make a sound?”. In class, the title was discussed with regard to its relation to the Holocaust and the idea that many family trees were falling in this time period. Nightwood was written by Djuna Barnes in 1936, amidst the mounting power of Hitler and the first stages of the ensuing mass genocide. This common phrase can be associated with Felix’s situation because of Felix’s concentrated family tree that ultimately curves back in on itself. Numerous family lineages were completely wiped out during this genocide. Records of the people murdered during the Holocaust were seldom kept. Because of this, many mothers and fathers worried that the lack of any record would result in no “sound” being made when their families were chopped down. For Felix and so many families during the Holocaust, a lack of a surviving family member meant that the family name would be soon forgotten.

While a parent’s hope is to create a life in which his child will prosper, sometimes the parent cannot foster a desirable situation for the child because of uncontrollable circumstances. During the Holocaust era, anyone with Jewish blood was a target of the genocide, so many were quick to put off their parents’ ethnic ties if it meant safety. This concept of not desiring to be a product of one’s parents is evident in Felix. He desires to make his life his own for more personal reasons, to the point that he rejects his family and the life he is “supposed” to live. While Felix denies his familial ties for acceptance, the desire to not assume the identity of one’s parents was common in the Holocaust era. However, in the case of the Jews, they were putting off their family ties for survival purposes. Many half-Jews were hopeful that their non-Jewish side would keep them safe from being victims. The implications of success or failure to hide from one’s Jewish heritage is seen in Ordinary Men. In one instance, a man who was in the role of murderer speaks of his realization that his cousin was a victim. The man who was safe and in control in the situation gained his status by clinging to his German heritage, whereas his relative was far less fortunate and fell victim to his Jewish roots.

Though Felix was not directly affected by the Holocaust, both his desire to escape his parent’s image and his fear of the end of his family tree nearing were sentiments that many Holocaust victims experienced. Presently, both of these themes seem to be prevalent in society as more and more people desire to see an impact come about from their efforts and long to leave behind the societal norms of the past that some of their parents are holding tight to.

The Beasts of Nightwood

The novel Nightwood, a contemporary novel based in the roaring 20’s, expresses the new movement of sexual and self discovery. The novel revolves the mysterious Robin, her many lovers and one peculiar doctor. The novel is set in Paris, Austria, and somewhere in the Midwest of America. The change of setting orbits around Robin’s constant migration from one house to the next. Throughout the novel, Robin, a boyish woman drifts from one person to the next, never settling down in one place, a true nomad. Throughout, the novel the same metaphor is used to describe humans as well as the subjects of the novel. The metaphor being about the connection between being a beast and being self aware. Author Djuna Barnes all throughout the work hints at the idea that humans are or can be simply disguised beasts.

In the beginning of the novel, when the Baron first meets Robin he states after she closed her eyes he “ found himself seeing them still faintly clear and timeless behind the lids-the long unqualified range in the iris of wild beasts who have not tame the focus to meet the human eye (pg. 41). The Baron’s comparison between Robin and a beast translates throughout the novel. The other characters can be classified as beasts as well. Robin, Jenny, and Nora’s beasts are their sexuality. Robin and Jenny in modern society can be defined as bisexual and Nora can be defined as an lesbian. In the 1920’s, homosexuality and bisexuality were deemed inappropriate as well as illegal in most countries. When Nora first sees the Doctor in drag she states “ God, children know something they can’t tell; they like Red Riding Hood and the wolf in the bed (pg.85).” The audience then realizes that the Doctor is a beast; he hides beyond his given gender, avoiding showing the everyday people his true form as a beast or an unnatural woman. Further into the novel the Doctor states “ I began to mourn for my spirit, and the spirits of all people who cast a shadow a long way beyond what they are, and for the beasts that walk out of the darkness alone… (pg. 112)” Those who hide in the dark and avoid showing their true selves live lonely lives, since no one really knows them. You can’t really know someone, if they never show their true self, their beast. Humans generally try to deceive others into thinking that they are normal and are not in any way different; their long shadows hide their true selves. Society typically has strict rules on what is appropriate, especially in the past. Characters like the Doctor and Robin notably hide what they really are in the dark. They use the night as an escape to express themselves in the purest form; they get to be beasts. Those who are deemed not normal by society are not beasts because they are different or regarded as outcasts, but because they are purely themselves. People instinctually try to fit in, however animals and beasts just are. The doctor raises a rather profound point stating “ To be utterly innocent, would be to be utterly unknown, particularly to oneself (pg.147).” Those who hide in self-made shadows may seem like they are hiding their true selves from others, but in reality are just trying to avoid looking in the mirror. The idea that humans are meant to be polished and refine is false; humans are just as much of beasts as lions, bears, and dogs are. We simply are what we are and pretending otherwise, one only hurts themselves and no one else. The Doctor reinforces this idea with the statement “-the more you go against your nature, the more you will know of it…(pg. 172).”

In the conclusion of the novel, the ex-lovers Nora and Robin are reunited. Robin roams near Nora’s home and Nora ends up being led to Robin by a dog. Shortly after seeing Robin, Nora faints. The dog becomes aggressive and then Robin becomes aggressive, sinking down to all fours and growling back at the dog. Robin accepts her true form as a beast, finally welcoming what we all ignore. T.S. Eliot profoundly stated “ To regard this group of people as a horrid sideshow of freaks is not only to miss the point , but to conform our wills and harden our hearts in a inveterate sin of proud (pg.xxii).” The truth of the novel is we are all purely beasts and that is what is what gives us our humanity.

Barnes, Dijuna. Nightwood. New York: New Directions Books, 1937. Print

The Doctor and Robin

Robin is everything the Doctor wants to be but can’t and that’s why he is the one that understands her the most, but it is also why she angers him. The Doctor tries to become a beast but can’t because of the past tying him down. Therefore, he can’t be his true self and must instead hide behind a façade. In contrast, in the beginning, Robin is described as a beast and at the end “becomes” one. She forgets her past and lives a life that supports her desire to control everything, despite it being harmful to both herself and others. This outwardly destructive behavior is different from the Doctor where he tries to help people understand their situation, and attempts to point them in the right direction. So, where Robin destroys others to benefit herself, the Doctor tries to mend them but, at the cost of his own sanity. However, it is the symbolism of the dog and the beast that highlights their connection the best.

While explaining his backstory the Doctor mentions some advice he received from Father Lucas where he was told, “be simple, … life is a simple book, and an open book, read and be simple as the beasts in the field” (Barnes 139). To be an animal means you only have to think about yourself. He could be his true self and live day to day, not worrying about his future or past. However, as he continues the story it becomes clear that he is incapable of thinking like a beast. He ends up in a church crying and realizes he can’t escape from his past, since he is a product of it, and thus can’t fully embrace himself either. This idea is seen again in the last chapter, where Robin begins to act like a dog and faces down a stray at a church. This moment was predicted by the Doctor earlier when he says, “…but though those two are buried at opposite ends of the earth, one dog will find them both” (Barnes 113). While this further connects the Doctor and Robin, the last scene in the book emphasizes how Robin has done what the Doctor could not, she has become a beast. She has been constantly running from her past and looking to change her fate, which is why her past is never described to us and is why she is able to stop thinking and become a beast. She can be her true self and doesn’t have to hide behind a façade like the Doctor does. Even the location where this moment occurs parallels each other. The Doctor comes to this realization at a church, as does Robin. The Doctor rejects being a beast and realizes he is chained down by his past. Whereas, Robin accepts being a beast so that she can be innocent of her wrongdoings and finally be free of her past.

The Doctor and Robin’s dynamic is also seen with how they view children. While their views differ, they are both described as children by Nora. The Doctor is very fond of children and wishes he could have children himself. In contrast, Robin has a child yet abandons him. Where the Doctor loves children and values their innocence, Robin rejects them because they show her everything she can no longer have but strives for, innocence. She also abandons them because a child represents attachment and a future, which Robin dislikes, because then she has no control. The Doctor wants that stability, but can’t have it, while Robin has had it, but throws it away.

Their relationship boils down to the fact that Robin is what the Doctor fails to be because while the Doctor lives in the night, Robin is the night. The Doctor looks to the night as a way to express himself, but can only go so far, while Robin is the night, thus, doing what he cannot. That is why he understands her the best, but also dislikes her, and why in the end she is able to whittle him away.


Barnes, Djuna. Nightwood. New Directions, 1937.

How Dave Chapelle “Cushioned” The Transgender Jokes Within “Equanimity”

Dave Chapelle is one of the most controversial comedians of his time. It seems as if he just says whatever he is thinking, and does not care what people think of it. He talks about various controversial topics in his Netflix special “Equanimity” such as Donald Trump, and race. He talks about people getting offended by his jokes, but it clearly has not affected his popularity because people still seem to love him. This asks the question of just how “controversial” is he? To answer this question I am going to analyze the “on again off again” trend of the transgender bit in his Netflix special.

Dave Chapelle opens his transgender bit with the concept of how being transgender is “kind of funny”. This is something that would probably offend a lot of people because the people that are in this predicament probably do not find it funny at all. Chapelle starts off with this joke because although it is a quite controversial joke, it is just one joke and people can get over it quickly. The next thing he talks about is a letter that he received with complaints about how his transgender jokes offended this specific person. In this bit, he has sort of back-tracked his earlier statement by making himself seem sincere. At this point he talks about feeling bad for making someone else feel bad. His reasoning for doing this is simple; people can only take so much at once. If he did many controversial jokes in a row, he would undoubtedly lose his audience. He would have slowly picked away at them until they were absolutely disgusted with what he was saying. Chapelle was aware of this, and after every controversial joke he makes, he has a bit right after making him look empathetic, and personable. This allows for the audience to tolerate a lot more of these jokes, because they get a break in between.

This trend continues throughout the entire transgender bit of the show. After he talks about the letter, and how the person who wrote it was offended by a specific joke, he continues by telling the offensive joke to the audience. The joke is about Caitlin Jenner and he says many things about her that many people would take offense to, but the audience is fine with it because he has “proved” to them that he is still a decent person and this allows the audience to tolerate more. After the Caitlin Jenner bit, he begins talking about how he has absolutely no problem with transgender people, and believes that everyone has a right to be happy. This is him reeling back in his audience after the extremely controversial joke.

Although Dave Chapelle is known for being very controversial, it is clear that he knows exactly what he is doing. By doing this “on again off again” technique he is ensuring that he is still known for being controversial and saying whatever is on his mind, but he is doing so without going so far as to offend the majority of his audience to the point where they do not like him anymore. He is still presenting himself as a likable person, although his jokes could be extremely offensive. Dave Chapelle clearly has the right technique when it comes to comedy. He is very smart and talented to be able to pull that off and find the right balance.

Brad Lewis- Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock, and the Comedic Model

Dave Chappelle, in his Netflix’s specials “Equanimity” and “The Bird Revelation,” tackles the issue of political correctness in comedy head on. He says just because something is a little offensive, doesn’t mean it can’t be funny. He uses comedy as an effective tool to address many hot topic, political issues of the day. From Donald Trump to the “Me Too” movement, Chappelle uses comedic stories as a method of sharing his views and stances on certain issues. His jokes often lead to an immediate laughter followed by a brief pause as you fully come to digest the actual statement he just made.

With diversity and political disagreements being placed increasingly on the forefront of the news cycle, this model has become almost standard for comedians. They are looking to share their messages and experiences as much as they are trying to make someone laugh.

Especially in a day in age where powerful blacks are called out for speaking their minds on political issues, comedy offers a safe avenue for people of color to speak their minds. Black comedians are able to talk about these issues because they do it in a “joking” manner, but predominant athletes, like LeBron James, are told to stay out of the issues and stick to sports. However, it does not make Chappelle’s messages any less meaningful because he discusses his views in a “joking” manner. Nevertheless, while these comedians are able to speak their mind through comedy, they still must seek the favor of whites often by saying their white fans are not the ones at fault.

Much like Dave Chappelle, Chris Rock follows a similar model in his Netflix special, “Tamborine.” He attacks many issues of race and politics while often being aggressive with his beliefs. Yet throughout, he seeks the approval of his white audience and is given a free pass to speak his mind because what he says is funny.

In particular, Chris Rock begins the show by bringing up the hot topic, racial issue of police brutality. He calls out the sheer number of blacks being killed by the police and jokingly comments that surely the police must think about killing a white man every now and then to even out the numbers. He’s conflicted in his opinion of the police as he’s a black male and therefore, should hate the police. But, at the same time, he owns property and values their protection. He lightens this conflict by joking about gang members acting as his protection when his house is robbed. His ability to bring up an issue and later, play off that issue in a joking manner allows his message to appeal to all audiences. He is even able to appeal to cops by pointing out the extreme difficulty in their job and states that he believes they should be paid more. However, while doing so, he takes another jab by saying we’re getting what we’re paying for. After this plea to all audiences, he finishes the bit on a serious note stating that often the outcome of these events are certain cops being blamed and not the system itself. He cleverly plays of the “bad apple” phrase using pilots stating that in certain jobs, everyone must be perfect as a bad apple means a plane crashing into a mountain.

Maybe his most relevant comments from this bit come from his lines about his “celebrity status” with the cops. From a distance, he’s just any old black man to a cop until they see his face and become instant fans. This joke is a great representation for why comedians get a pass for speaking their minds. From a distance, he represents a threat, but up close, he is a hilarious comedic. His comedy, alongside his plea to his white audience like his statements about cops’ salaries, are his pass to discuss these issues freely.

This pattern continues throughout the show with other issues including guns, the realities of life for different races, and Trump. Mr. Rock, as he asks to be addressed by kids within the special, uses his comedy as a way to speak his mind on political issues. Despite his fame, he seeks to appeal to all audiences often having to cover his bases after making some progressive comments. This combination is the standard model for comedians addressing racial or political issues and because of its comedic value, is often very effective.


Dave Chappelle: “Equanimity” and “The Bird Revelation”

Chris Rock: “Tamborine”

Reflection 2

Molly Cartwright

“Deferred Dream”

What happens to a dream deferred?
Does it dry up
like a raisin in the sun?
Or fester like a sore—
And then run?

Does it stink like rotten meat?
Or crust and sugar over—
like a syrupy sweet?
Maybe it just sags
like a heavy load.

Or does it explode?

                                                                         -Langston Hughes, Collected Poems,1994

       The poem “Dream Deferred” by Langston Hughes explores the possibilities of what can happen when our dreams are denied. He asks if a deferred dream goes away, or if it remains unhealed and festering until the death of us. He asks if our once life-giving dream turns into something horrifying that haunts us, or if our denied dream becomes sweeter with time. Finally, he asks if our dream, heavy with importance, weighs down on our hearts when denied, or if our dream violently explodes when unanswered. This poem can be used to evaluate the consequences of deferred dreams in diverse contexts and provide us with a multitude of answers rather than a definite answer.

Hughes poem is a response to the denied dreams of African American to secure equality. Unfortunately, his question about deferred dreams still remains relevant today being that black Americans have yet to attain their dream of equality. Hughes’ suggestion that deferred dreams may explode is validated by the outburst of racial riots and violence occurring today, such as Ferguson riots, Charlottesville riots, Trayvon Martin violence, and Manuel Diaz violence. After so many failed attempts to end police brutality and oppressive systems of racism, black Americans feel both outraged and helpless as their dream remains deferred. This outrage and hopelessness mixes to create a violent and explosive response.

While this poem provides as a useful tool for evaluating the deferred dreams of African American both in the present and past, it also can be used to evaluate deferred dreams in other contexts. In the context of Nightwood, Nora’s dream of sharing a loving relationship with Robin is deferred by Robin’s addiction to women, alcohol, and other deviances of the night. Nora gives all of herself to Robin and watches her dream become deferred through Robin’s negligence. In the context of Nora’s situation, her deferred dream will haunt her like the lingering smell of rotten meat in Hughes’ poem. Her dream will remain festering and unhealed until the death of her. This can be the assumed pathway of her deferred dream because of Nora’s persistent questions about Robin and her suffering to the doctor. She even continues to pursue Robin in America when she understands her destructive and cruel behavior. She accepts she will not love anyone like she loves Robin. She will not find a better dream than her deferred dream. Her continued longing for Robin represents a haunting deferred dream that will destroy her.

In the context of the short film “SHIFT”, deferred dreams elicit multiple of Hughes’ suggested outcomes. When the boss first delivered bad news, one Asian man was frustrated and refused a slice of pizza. After the next bad news about the office closing down, the same man seemed much more hopeless and accepted a slice of pizza. In reference to Hughes’ poem, this man’s deferred dream caused his heart to sag down heavy with hopelessness. Another man, before hearing the second wave of bad news, was already expressing suicidal thoughts. This man’s response to his deferred dream of economic stability aligned with the explosive response described in Hughes’ poem. Within a similar context, two men expressed different outcomes from a deferred dream.

Within the contexts of the African American experience, Nightwood, and “SHIFT” people express different aftereffects from deferred dreams. The multitude of diverse outcomes are a result of diverse dreams, social contexts, amount of time denied, and whether dreams are held collectively or individually.  These many different responses highlight the possibility for multiple of Hughes’ suggested outcomes to be true rather than just one definite answer. Hughes’ use of a question at both the beginning and the end also suggests the answer is ambiguous. In Nightwood, the ambiguity of deferred dreams is reflected by its open ending. This ambiguity also seems to be a source of suffering as seen by Nora’s suffering from struggling to understand how to handle her deferred dream.  “SHIFT” also ends unanswered just like deferred dreams. All of these open-ended works involving deferred dreams show the overall ambiguity and many possible outcomes of deferred dreams in the face of diverse contexts. The only definite answer that can be given is that deferred dreams result in ambiguity.




Frazier, Charles. Nightwoods: A Novel. New York: Random House, 2011. Print.

Hughes, Langston. “Harlem by Langston Hughes.” Poetry Foundation, Poetry Foundation,

Link to “SHIFT” by Jonathan Yi