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A Blog About Culture

Recognition, Situation, Identity, Reality

Sometimes my life is filled with pretense. There are many social and cultural (and most likely psychological, if I’m being honest) factors at play that contribute to the pretense, but the examples that are more disturbing to me come when I am all alone – because then I’m only pretending to myself. There’s something insatiable about my mind. If I think about a matter too much, if I allow myself to deconstruct it to its core, it is hard for me to find value or meaning. I’m frustratingly, minimally functionalist in that way. The sensation of enjoyment is one with which I frequently grapple, and it’s the one to which I refer when complaining about pretense in my world.

It would be easy to blame the media of capitalistic societies. I won’t go there. Okay, I’ll go there a little bit. I remember reading about the power of cultural construction of pornography, musicals, and other utopian fields of the entertainment industry. Richard Dyer contends that these media create problems so that they can be solved neatly on-screen. These problems actually refer to real issues in the world, such as racial or class differences, and this “arousal” of real crisis Dyer calls “playing with fire.”

Entertainment does not simply give people what they want; it also partly defines wants through its orientations of problems. – Linda Williams on Richard Dyer

I wouldn’t stop at entertainment. Our own cultures create situations in which we are “supposed to” feel, react, or act in certain ways. The categories of leisure or enjoyment aren’t immune. Just because a movie character on-screen feels better about a breakup after eating a tub of ice cream doesn’t mean I’m going to. Just because my friends find some kind of pleasure out of a mug of cocoa on a rainy day doesn’t mean drinking one will make mine. I’m a twenty-something – all we do is go to bars, but are we actually enjoying ourselves there? Sam and I talked about this into the wee hours of the night. We’re aware of the inconsistencies; we all know that life’s not like the movies, and we know that people have differences of preference. So where do our ideas of “fun” come from? What am I doing putzing around my house taking bubble baths and drinking hot chocolate, thinking that those activities will make me more “relaxed” or “fulfilled?” How much of my life do I actually like and how much do I simply “do” out of a pretense spawned by my own culture?

It occurs to me that most of the examples I just listed rather typify the gender to which I identify, femininity. I recognize that, but won’t discuss it too much right now. I’m running a bubble bath.

  • Besides in the entertainment media, which ways do our cultures dictate our lives of leisure?
  • Do cultures support those who react favorably to their constructs (i.e. those who follow what they’re “supposed to do”)?
  • How do gender politics affect solitary leisure?

Read the reference:  Hard core: power, pleasure, and the “frenzy of the visible,” by Linda Williams  (Google Books)


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