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Tuesday, 9 June 2015

Who Are You?

There is a post that I hope to finish one day about the High School in US Films. Okay, actually, it's more a quote an article on that topic and insert my responses a la, well, there are too many to link. There's even one based on a Buzzfeed video. But I mention this because one of the most fundamental and striking things about that particular genre is the social hierarchy. That is, there are jocks/cheerleaders (the male and female equivalents) at the top, and nerds and geeks down at the bottom. In between there is a host of other different identities that may or may not include the obligatory Goth. Possibly there is a rebel who transcends the standard hierarchy: too tough to push around, too disinterested to push anyone around. You know it. If you don't try the likes of Mean Girls or Glee or something.

I don't really believe that this system above exists, even in America where this output invariably comes from. More realistically you are going to get something like what happens in Harry Potter where there's your central friend group (Harry, Ron and Hermione), some people you might not get on with so well (Draco, Gregory and Vincent), some better friends (Neville, Luna and Ginny in particular) and everyone else who is basically your friend (think the likes of Seamus, Anthony and Ernie). A lot of people probably don't have the second category so much (I can't really say that this was the case at college, although it did exist in primary). Even more realistically there will be a bunch of loose clusters of people and a few people who drift between a number of different clusters to help emphasise just how much they overlap. This can cause problem at uni though because this way of making friends, based on continual interaction in person, doesn't really happen for people outside halls. But, before we go further, why do people accept the stereotype promulgated by US media?

Well, one of the other striking things about the media is the uniformity and small-scale. My school had 2000 pupils give or take a few hundred: my cohort was roughly the size of my primary school (around 400). In these media depictions we deal with enough characters to meet and remember and everyone knows each other. Spacially everything's also fairly restricted (and this is a point in the article that inspired the as yet incomplete other post) so everyone's thrown in together (this helps create the article's prison metaphor). These aren't realistic but once we accept the media's invitation to accept these facets the above makes sense. Suddenly, people are defining themselves with respect to a population who they are basically never apart from. This is a bit like me at primary with only around 50 people in the year and we spent most of our time in a class with half of them. But the point to take away from all this set up is identity. Everyone has an idea of who they are and that idea is heavily influenced by the people around them.

Identity is a pretty big and powerful word but, generally, I don't think people really every voice their identities unless it comes under tension. Remember when Unigene complained about Asian Excellence? That is, to an extent, the exact sort of challenge that causes people to deal with their identities. Imagine, for instance, that Unigene defined himself as one of the smart people (and this is a reasonable interpretation of the character going by a number of the scenes within the sketch come to think of it). Suddenly, when confronted by the fact that at university there are a lot of clever people and a harder workload, Unigene stops doing as well whether absolutely or relatively. Now, to an extent, I am projecting/reading myself in here. This is, in some ways, my experience. I've had it twice, actually. Firstly, and less seriously because I could become one of the smarter people, when encountering the eventual dux of my college way back when and then again when dealing with the maths courses at uni and one or two essays/course marks. I guess this is reinforced by the fact that my one time closest friend (and eventual dux at the college he went to) who I reckoned should've been dux at primary now seems leagues ahead of me whereas back at primary this was not an idea I entertained. One's self identity, then, in my view, tends to a rather vague and fairly broad assessment like: a smart person. This identity is challenged by changing circumstances... by meeting more smart people, by finding more challenging things for instance.

People, of course, define themselves in a variety of ways. One of my friends, who defined himself similarly, seems to be embracing his ethnicity to a greater extent than is usual and certainly previously (although this was always a feature of him). I am... you know, I am not sure. I guess I am trying to be a smart slacker now. Which is why I really should get to be so I can get some sort of half decent study in for subjects I am woefully under-prepared for Thursday's exams on. This is a bad identity but, I guess, it's better than trying to, as one might at school, become a behaviour problem... which is a common reaction when dealing with the fact that one's perceived role is saturated. I think I saw this happening although the chronology, now that I think about it, doesn't quite add up. The dude in question and I had a, shall we say, complex and occasionally hostile relationship. On at least one occasion it came to blows... my younger self was reasonably quick to resort to violence. Which is, in fact, how this question plays out in Digimon Adventure where we have tension between Matt and Tai, which is largely as a result of Matt's struggle with who he is. On one hand, Matt openly talks about how everyone else seems to have grown whereas he hasn't (this is a different aspect of identity). On the other, we get a less explicitly explored aspect of why one can and, perhaps, should parallel Tai with Jack and Matt with Ralph (Izzy and Joe as aspects of Piggy and Simon). We see it also in this clip from Avatar (the real one). I am, though, not going to pretend that this particular blog post is anything more than a layman's exploration of a quite complex topic.

Harry, out.

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