|[a] "Reel" worlds RF|
I have always been intrigued by the relation between "ideal" and "real" in our discourse. In 2005-2006, as a reader or two might remember, I taught a three-semester seminar investigating this very relation. You may (or may not) be surprised by the title of that almost fifty-week seminar—Round and Square. Alan Jackson explores at least a few dimensions of "ideality" crushed by stark "reality" in the lyrics below. Take a listen. Again, the video is not half-bad, but please read the lyrics first. Let them soak in as lyrics before watching the video. Please read the "advice" below if you aren't sure how to avoid the video on the first "read."
Here in the Real World
Artist: Alan Jackson
Songwriters: Alan Jackson, Mark Irwin
Good always wins, again and again
And love is a sweet dream that always comes true
Oh, if life were like the movies, I'd never be blue
But here in the real world
It's not that easy at all
'cause when hearts get broken
It's real tears that fall
And darling it's sad but true
But the one thing I’ve learned from you
Is how the boy don’t always get the girl
Here in the real world
I gave you my love, but that wasn’t enough
To hold your heart when times got rough
And tonight on that silver screen
It’ll end like it should
Two lovers will make it through
Like I hoped we would
No, the boy don’t always get the girl
Here in the real world
The song does not exactly push very hard against traditional gender boundaries, but that is hardly unusual in the genre. What it does do is play upon a motif that was very common in an earlier era. "Successful" movie stars were said (in the 1940s and 1950s, especially) to "get the girl." Yes, I know. Nonetheless, try to understand an earlier era, even if you are troubled by its language (and remind yourself that, even then, these matters were not monolithic—people railed against them, even "then"). If we can't hold our own views of the world while still engaging a rich historical imagination, we won't get very far. The cultural assumptions about a male star and female "goal" should be obvious enough. If you watch the video all of the way to the end, though, you might get at least a hint of irony from Jackson and the video makers.
Some of these gendered images persisted, sometimes long after popular culture called them into question. An example of this can be found from back when a certain Ronald Wilson Reagan was running for the Republican presidential nomination in 1976. When his rather mediocre acting career was noted, he would jovially reply that, although he made a lot of "B" movies, he "always got the girl." Hmmm. I am not sure whether to engage the embarrassing triumphalism of his gender imagery or just to point out that, at least once, he got a monkey.
|[b] World RF|
Replying to a Poem by a New Graduate
Lamenting the Loss of His Wife
Yu Xuanji (c. 843-868)
Immortals don't stay long in the world of men;
You've passed another fall, already ten.
Pairs of ducks on a curtain, beneath, her fragrance lingers;
In the parrot's cage her words are not yet stilled.
Morning dew pastes the flowers in a sad face;
Evening wind bends the willows like dropping eyebrows.
Colored clouds come once, then go away;
P'an Yüeh, wistful, is going gray.
—Translated by Geoffry R. Waters
 Wu-chi Liu and Irving Yucheng Lo, Sunflower Splendor: Three Thousand Years of Chinese Poetry (Bloomington IN: Indiana University Press, 1974),287.
Liu Wu-chi and Irving Yucheng Lo. Sunflower Splendor: Three Thousand Years of Chinese Poetry. Bloomington IN: Indiana University Press, 1974.
Sunday, October 16th
Don't Come Home A-Drinkin'
...with lovin' on your mind. We'll have a brief respite from pain as Loretta Lynn belts out her warning in no uncertain terms—next week on Hurtin' Leavin' and Longin'.