We’ll Always Have Disneyland

As Keanu Reeves repeats time again with an impressive lack of gusto in the third Matrix picture: “Everything that has a beginning has an end.” And, after an entirely-too-speedy few months, I must bid farewell to Comm 2302. Before I do though, a brief glimpse into my desired future; next semester, I’ll be taking classes for my English major (including a Ulysses seminar, God help me), as well as an Asian Religions class, and Business Stats to fulfill the dreaded math requirement. If all goes as expected, I’ll head to London sometime my junior year for a study abroad program, an absolute dream for an Anglophile like me. To walk where Virginia Woolf walked….oh, here come the goosebumps!! And, if all goes as desired, twenty years from now I’ll be both a professor and a successful writer whose books draw a considerable following while inspiring significant social change. So realistic, right?

Wherever I wind up in the future, I’ll be taking ideas from this course with me. As far as aesthetic ideas go, I’m not likely to forget the good ol’ match cut anytime soon. Now that I know what they are and how they work, I spot them everywhere–including in Lincoln, which I saw last weekend. As a shot of a lobster being cracked open segued seamlessly into a shot of a gavel banging, it was all I could do not to shout out “Bernard Dick! Bernard Dick!” I’m also fascinated by some of McCloud’s ideas about comic books, which I’ve fallen hard for after this class. In particular, I loved his discussion of “the gutter”, and how it encourages audience participation. By filling in the blanks between panels, we instinctively become actors in the very story we are reading, shaping the course of the narrative in tandem with the characters on the page. I already enjoyed comics, but here I learned what really makes them tick–the unique abilities of the form that distinguish it from other types of art.

Of the theories we discussed in class, one stuck with me like no other–the multiverse. To accept Morrison’s theory is to decide that no story stands on its own–it is simply one strand of events, one possible direction in which things could have gone. Thinking of stories in this way is incredibly liberating. Characters and narratives are no longer exclusive to their original author, but open to all, free to be altered or rethought or improved upon, each character living multiple lives in multiple worlds according to the dictates of the author’s boundless imagination. What a great way to democratize art! I was also highly intrigued by meme theory, mostly because it confirms what I’ve long believed–our legacy lies not just in our literal offspring, but in the ideas, attitudes, and actions we’ve given birth to, and the ways they’ve effected other people. If meme theory is true, then we can’t really know the extent of our influence, and thus must be mighty careful about how we exercise it.

I can honestly say I enjoyed just about everything we read for this class, though Baudrillard could’ve used a little more explanation. I found his ideas regarding reality interesting (particularly the fake hold-up scenario), but they were cloaked in what seemed like some of the most willfully obscure prose since the days of Kant. Also, while we’re talking about reading, I should discuss an author I wish we’d read–Marshall McCluhan. We discussed him so much that not reading him seemed like the Comm equivalent of teaching a pop music class and ditching the Beatles. Okay, that’s a tad hyperbolic, but still.

Magic Kingdom? Not so much...

Magic Kingdom? Not so much…

Now, about that package. Firstly, as some of my classmates noted, I’d look up the address. Scratch that. First, I’d have a small panic attack. Then I’d look up the address. Upon doing so, I’d realize that it came from Disneyland–the place Baudrillard once said existed to convince us that the rest of this country was real, when in fact, it’s all pure simulation. If we take Baudrillard’s definition that this life is by its very definition a form of fiction, then our life story is, in essence, fiction about fiction. Or, in other terms (drumroll, please)–metafiction. That’s what this “Johnny B.” person’s trying to get me to realize, and the stills from Truman Show and Animal Man only serve to hammer that point home. Just like Buddy from Animal Man, I must come to terms with the fact that this world isn’t real–and, additionally, there isn’t any such thing is “real”, only what we see through our mediated conscious. Happy holidays, folks!

This class has made me a better writer. It’s made me a more adept user of technology. But most importantly, it’s re-instructed my eyes, just like the glasses in the John Carpenter clip we watched on the first day of class. It’s help me grasp the underlying ideologies and assumptions that have shaped our world, and, of course, the ways in which media can both reinforce and rebel against those ideals. Like any good liberal arts course, it’s given me a better understanding of my place in the word. Where do I go from here? I think it’s appropriate to let Woody Allen, who I’ve written so much about in this course, have the final word;

“Students achieving oneness will move on to twoness.”

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