Shawshank redemption resistance of dominant ideology.

The film “Shawshank Redemption” is an American classic that has topped the IMDb’s top movies list since 2008. Despite it’s positive ratings, the movie completely failed at the box office upon its release in 1994 (it had a production budget of 25 million dollars yet the domestic total gross only got up to 28 million after 3+ years) . I believe that the cause of this is the political opinions of critics (there will be more detail on this in the next paragraph) during 1994 and the slow/long pace of the movie. The movie tells the story of Andy, a banker who was wrongfully accused of murder. He is thrown into a prison and is forced to adapt to this environment. The movie is a critique of the American justice system and its treatment of inmates and prisoners, Most stereotypes on prisons display them as a place where only the strong survive. This setting of extreme violence gives people the idea that most prison inmates are the worst people on the planet which is a subtle strategy of dehumanisation. 

From the 1970s to the 1990s, the justice system was focusing on a new threat of men of color coming from the inner cities and lower income residential districts. This made the justice system focus on extreme strictness on law breakers which led to the skyrocketing prison populations and the mass incarceration of criminals, no matter the severity of the crime. The movie did not fully describe prisons at the time of the release date (for example, the movies prison population was mainly made up of white/caucasians) but it was still a criticism of corruption in prisons. Despite this, public support for being “tough on crime” was high at the movies release date and most people did not care about the inhumane treatment of law-breakers because of the common belief that this kind of harsh and difficult treatment was necessary for rehabilitation (spoiler: it was not). Since it was a movie critical about the justice system in an era when people wanted tough on crime policies, a movie humanizing criminals was bound to have some negative critics. 

The other reason this movie did not do well in the box office is because people are less interested in slow paced emotional movies. Prison movies especially are often made to show  violence and action between prisoners in a theme where only the strong survive. In addition to this, prison is a relatively unknown place to most ordinary civilians (and movieviewers) so media and movies created the general opinion that prison is such a horrible place. This may explain why the existence of prison in a film is often also the location where violent action happens. The shawshank redemption, despite fully criticizing the use of violence, abuse, rape, and psychological torture in the prison environment, unlike some other films does not make the audience focus on these harsh aspects of the story. It still showed how it could happen, but instead of completely focusing on these things (like most action movies would), it still focuses on the main characters great achievements. This made the movie unique but also extremely unconventional when comparing it to most prison films. For example, midnight express, another popular prison break film, shows a man sent to prison for reasons that are unfair, yet this movie made back much more money than shawshank. I believe this is because because unlike The Shawshank Redemption, which criticizes the united states prisons, Midnight Express criticises turkish prisons and a foreign government, making it much less controversial in hollywood upon its release.  The story of Shawshank Redemption may have simply been too new of an idea in the film industry to have the overwhelming success that it has now. 

The movie criticizes multiple points about prison: the cruel treatment of inmates, the corruption of authority figures in the prison/justice department, and the ways in which the prison exploits others for its own benefit. Throughout the film the audience is presented with the following: two deaths caused directly by the guards and warden, food in the prison cafeteria filled with worms or maggots, prisoners are not being given the resources to properly rejoin society, (this leads to one of the characters to commit suicide once he leaves prison due to his lack of experience or knowledge with the real world), severe beatings by guards, and torture by use of solitary confinement. The movie also shows a warden who uses the people in his prison to gain money. This is especially obvious in the case of the main character who is almost forced to help the warden and the guards financial situations once they discover he has skills in banking. Andy later has evidence for his innocence and demands to have another trial but the warden does not let him because andy is the one person who is aware of all the bribes and financial transactions the warden has received over the years. Despite all of these horrible things and events, the movie somehow manages to divert our attention from them. While the events of the film create a negative opinion towards multiple characters, the movie almost always moves past these dark moments and show the audience how Andy cleverly solves all of the problems he encounters. This is how the film resists dominant ideologies of the time when it was released.

Dark Souls 3’s Relationship to Mental Health

In a society that values power and achievement, young people sometimes struggle to find their way to those outcomes. As a result studies show increasing incidents of mental illness among youth. According to a federal study (Journal of Abnormal Psychology, 2018),  depressive episodes among teens rose from 8.7% to 13.2% between 2005 and 2012.

Dark Souls 3 is a fantasy role playing game made by FromSoftware. Having sold 13 million copies, the game has a cult-like fan-base. At the 2017 Game Awards it  was nominated for four different awards, including Game of the Year. 

Many popular video games today are power fantasies, meaning they enable players to embody characters with powers greater than their own, empowering them to accomplish unimaginable things. Rather than elevate its players, Dark Souls in stark contrast, makes its players feel weak and insignificant. While power fantasy games speak to the gamer masses, Dark Souls provides a refuge for  the 20% of youth (NAMI, 2019) struggling with depression, anxiety and other mental health issues.

 Dark Souls is known for its extreme difficulty and its dark and depressing tone. Many of its themes reflect the thoughts and feelings of people with mental health issues like depression. 

This paper highlights the darkness and tragedy shared by Dark Souls and those experiencing mental illness. In addition it exposes the stigma of mental illness and how that plays out in our social structures. Finally, it illustrates how the game offers players relief by providing possible coping mechanisms useful when dealing with their real-world mental illness.

The main objective in Dark Souls is for a player to perform an act called the “linking of the fire.” Successfully “linking the fire” lifts the curse of the undead, but only for a time. So just like the tragedy of mental illness, “linking the fire” is a dark, daily grind that never fully disappears. The flame like mental health challenges ebbs and flows. The character you play as is called an unkindled. Unkindled are people who had previously attempted to link the fire, but failed and were burnt to ash. The fate of the unkindled is analogous to the way many people feel about depression. People with mental illness often experience anxiety, insecurity and a sense of never being good enough. A Dark Souls character, Hawkward the Deserter echoes similar sentiment when he suggests “We unkindled are worthless…And they’d have us seek the Lords of Cinder…We’re not fit to lick their boots,” referring to the Lords of Cinder, responsible for linking the fire.   

During Dark Souls players often fight alone, perpetuating a sense of being isolated and weak with seemingly endless waves of enemies trying to kill you. There is almost nobody left in the world who is sane, and players only company are horrifying creatures. This pervasive sense of isolation while playing Dark Souls mimics the isolation and social exclusion felt by  many people facing mental illness. According to Oliver Drakeford Therapy 80% of teens report feelings of loneliness, and nearly a third of teens report these feelings as persistent and painful. 

Historically, society has placed a stigma on people with mental illness. Despite our growing understanding of it, many negative views of mental health issues still stand. Media in many cases contributes stigma against mental illness, by perpetuating fears that people with mental health issues are dangerous. Media reports often link mental illness with violence, or portray people with mental health problems as criminal, evil, or very disabled and unable to live normal, fulfilled lives. That said, other forms of media, such as video games like Dark Souls offer opportunities to educate, raise awareness and increase support for those with mental illness.  Overcoming hardships is an essential part of the game. The game’s mechanics encourage players to face their troubles. During the game players face monstrous beasts that seem impossible to defeat. And when a player is victorious, the game rewards him/her with a sense of overwhelming accomplishment and the words “Heir of Fire Destroyed” is blasted over the audio track, increasing the player’s strength. 

Furthermore, Dark Souls also gives players the opportunity to seek and receive help from others. In game, you can use things called summon signs to get help from others in order to overcome seemingly insurmountable obstacles. These summon signs only appear when another person playing the game decides to take the time to help somebody else.

Dark Souls connects many of its themes to mental health issues today. Of course it’s not the only work of culture to do so. For example, the book Still Life Tornado by A. S. King reveals the struggles of a teenage girl, Sarah, overwhelmed by the challenge of an abusive home life. In addition, the movie Frozen, introduces a main character Elsa who believes her ice powers make her a bad person. So she creates a life of isolation to keep herself from feeling anything. Finally, an online community called The Mighty ( surveyed it’s more than 2-million members who all face mental health challenges, about songs that helped them deal with depression. Mental health is a serious issue facing young people today. Fortunately, many elements of our culture, like music, books, movies and video games offer avenues for teens to learn more, find coping strategies, and discover they are not alone.

Cultural Analysis of “Boys Among Men”

Boys Among Men, a New York Times Bestseller, has an overview of how NBA players that were drafted out of high school had their own story and experience and changed the NBA. Written by Jonathan Abrams, the book was released was in 2016. The book displays a message that says, High School basketball players should attend college before going professional into the NBA. This period lasted from 1995-2005 where it was very popular and still talked about today. The biggest stars who were known for being drafted out of high school during that period were: Kevin Garnett(1995), Kobe Bryant(1996), Tracy McGrady(1997), LeBron James(2003), and Dwight Howard(2004). The book promotes the dominant ideology that going to the NBA out of high school is a big risk and without college, it would be hard to fall back on something for someone if something was to happen to them.

High school basketball players should be removed from high school 1 or more years before going pro because of many risks that would be taken while making the decision. Every athlete is not going to be a star but the big stars had their own success. My thesis explains how every basketball player is not guaranteed success when they skip college.

The Mind of Sherlock Holmes: The Man Society Doesn’t See

By: Hunter H.

The famous BBC television show Sherlock, created by Mark Gatiss and Steven Moffat, became a great success in the UK and then throughout other countries. Airing from 2010-2017, the show would win 21 awards, including seven Emmy awards. The show brought the books of the Sherlock Holmes series, by Arthur Conan Doyle, into the marvelous modern life, adding more drama and twist. Benedict Cumberbatch, would win multiple awards for playing the role of Sherlock Holmes and Martin Freeman, another famously talented actor, would play Dr. Watson. The Sherlock Holmes fan-base would increase, more Sherlock books would be sold than ever before and the show would receive highly rated reviews. But as the popularity of this British television show would increase, no one would look into the true personality characteristics of Sherlock Holmes. Sherlock Holmes would break all the stereotypes of the “ideal man.” and even though society would like it or not, he would become the most well-known fictional character since 1887.

The show would dispose the stereotypes of the lead male role, becoming the hero who always gets the girl at the end, but Sherlock holmes is portrayed in the opposite way. Sherlock was given the personality of a sociopath, a person with a personality disorder manifesting itself in extreme antisocial attitudes and behavior and a lack of conscience. Sherlock is not given the ideal standards of how a stereotypical man in production films and tv.

The first thing to notice in the show about Sherlock Holmes, is his lack of wanting romantic or sexual connections with anyone. Sherlock Holmes would always pay attention to his work and to his partner, Dr. Watson, which gives some evidence to him being asexual/aromantic. But the major evidence to this subject is in the episode, “A Scandal in Belgravia”, which introduces the very flirtatious dominatrix character, Irene Adler. Irene Adler would have a fond over Sherlocks Holmes, trying anyway to flirt with him, but there would be no romantic interest of response from Sherlock Holmes. Another character who has flirted with Sherlock Holmes since the beginning of the show would be Molly Hooper, a co-worker of Sherlock Holmes who worked in the morgue of a hospital. Molly Hooper would show signs of bashful flirting to get Sherlock’s attention, but Sherlock would never really pay any mind to Molly’s acts. 

Sherlock Holmes style of behavior would be seen as alienated or freakish to the eye of society. Sherlock would never have a “normal” conversation, always saying what’s on his mind, which would most likely be brutally honest to the people he is speaking to. Sherlock would have some traits of narcissism, but would never take the credit while working with Watson.  The bond between Holmes and Watson is very close, but society believes its too close. In most of the episodes of season 1, there would be jokes of Holmes and Watson being in a homosexual relationship. The stereotype of a close bond between two people only has to be a relationship and not relationship does not help reality of society because it makes people assume that a close friendship is right away a relationship just because they were laughing together during a conversation or more intimately they would hug. This is a problem in the media today, having people be naive enough to believe that there is a relationship between two people just because they hugged. . .

Sherlock Holmes is one of the many show/book series that presented a male that is known for being socially awkward. Other show/movie characters are Scott Pilgrim from Scott Pilgrim vs. The World or Newt Scamander from Fantastic Beast and Where to Find Them. 

Angels Are Everywhere

Chance the Rapper is a very popular musical artist based in Chicago, Illinois. He is a strong advocate from African Americans and the people that are struggling currently in the heart of the city. Chance produced his 3rd album in May of 2016, Coloring Book. This album won Best Rap Album at the 2017 Grammy awards and was an inspiration to many. A popular song that came out of the album, was ̈Angels¨. The song talks about Chance ́s life and the atmosphere in Chicago. His perspective is very positive and powerful revolving current ideas about Chicago about how African American citizens are presented as a threat.

The music video and song is going against the ideology that African Americans in Chicago are dangerous/unsupported. Chance and another singer, both of whom are black, talk about how  ̈I got angels all around me¨. This specific line in the song speaks about how Chicagoan may not the dangerous and demeaning people they are brought out to be. When Chance says, ̈Clean up these streets so my daughter can have somewhere to play,¨ he speaks about how everyone, no matter where they are from, all have the best intentions at heart. 

In conclusion, the song Angels, by Chance the Rapper is a true story to chance ́s perspective because it demonstrates the idea of how people are not these dangerous beasts living in Chicago. People are all trying to live life and raise their kids in a positive and safe world. However, it’s easy to look blindly at Chicagoans as very unethical and morally wrong. In this story, there is no moral and the point is that everyone is just living and surviving in the world but it may just be seen in different ways. 

The Incredibles 2 and Breaking Dominant Ideologies

In The Incredibles 2, the main characters are the mom, the dad, the daughter, the son, and the infant. The main story is continued from the first movie where the family takes down a giant robot before it destroys the city. This film has followed the trend of breaking the stereotype of the “American dream” where the family functions well and the father works and the mother stays home. 

The mother is invited by some million dollar corporation to fight crime because the CEO believes superheroes could change the world. The movie breaks the ideology of the man being the breadwinner, and the mom staying home. The father is forced to stay at home with the kids. As the dad struggles to keep the kids on track with schoolwork and relationships the mother is out in the city saving people and fighting crime. While the mother is out she worries her husband is having trouble. At one point in the movie the dad cant keep track of the baby because he is teleporting around the house. This shows a stereotype of fathers being bad at managing home life

This movie breaks the dominant ideology of the mother staying home. The women being dominant also applies to the Hunger Games where the main character is focused on survival and is not worried about anything else.

The ideologies behind “The Hate U Give”

Over time the American culture has been seen as many things, but there are good and there are bad. A big discussion in American culture that is often neglected is the talk about racism and how it is still at work today. My artifact is the book The Hate U Give by Angie Thomas. This book shows a different side of the story, which is often pushed to the side to make the white man look good. This book talks about how even though the world thinks we are all equal, we clearly aren’t. This book talks about how the killing of a black man is justified by the protection of the white cops and the issues everyone is talking about. This reflects resistance against ideologies by showing racism is still a big part of our country. Most other ideologies are about black men selling drugs, black men and women doing drugs, black men being a danger to the society, and black people being THUGs. Thomas supports and rejects ideologies against black males and females. 

Thomas supports the ideologies that black people are dangerous, that black people are thugs, and that black people sell and do drugs. She supports these ideologies by showing all the riots the black people start and how they lose control of themselves and start breaking and messing up the environment around them. She shows that black people are thugs because of the gangs and gang wars that go on within the story. Ms.Thomas also supports the ideology that black people sell and do drugs when she says in the story that one of the main characters name Khalil is selling drugs. She also supports the ideology that black people do drugs when she says in the story Khalil’s mother was doing drugs along with half the town. 

Angie Thomas rejects some ideologies such as all black people do drugs, all black people know what they are doing and sell drugs because they want to, and that black people are poor because they don’t do what they need to do to succeed, and that black people are dangerous, and that black people are thugs, and the She rejects the ideology that all black people do drugs by showing the families fighting to get the drugs off the streets of their hometown. She also rejects what I think is the most dominant ideology which is black people know what they are doing but they just choose to sell drugs. Thomas proves people wrong and rejects that ideology by taking us through the life of people who struggle. For example, in the story two main characters were talking Starr and Khalil. Khalil walks into the party with new clothes “looking good” as the ladies at the party says and Starr asks him how he got the money for all of that stuff he had and he says “ I took on a new job” meaning he was selling drugs for the biggest ganglord by the name of King. What Starr didn’t know and later found out was that Khalil’s mom stole from King and the only way to save his mom from being killed was to sell for King. What most white Americans don’t seem to realize or want to realize is that black people are living in a world made to go against them/us.

Yes I do understand that there are very famous black people out there that are rich, but whenever someone brings that up they never ask such questions as: What did that person have to endure to get to where he is? What hate was shown towards him? What racism did that person face just to be accepted? How many times was that black person knocked down? And how many times did they have to get back up? There are many things black men and women have accomplished and i will say many are recognized for that, but the one thing that is truly never recognized is the journey it took for them to get there. Another major Ideology that Ms.Thomas rejects is that all white people understand or know when they are saying something racist. She shows this in her story when Starr and her friend Maya get into an argument because Maya was saying racist comments but didn’t understand what was wrong with what she said. She says that she feels bad for the cop being hated on and his family for killing Khalil, but the bad part about that was that she never once mentions Khalil’s family. She told Starr maybe Khalil deserved to die. I think this rejects the ideology that all white people know what they are doing because Maya clearly didn’t know what she was saying was wrong. That just showed how racism is taught at home and how it’s being passed from parent to child in every generation.

Most people use THUG as an abbreviation. It was originally said by Tupac “The Hate U Give Little Infants Fucks Everyone” This can mean so many different things to so many different people but to most black people it means whatever the world set us up with or gave us as kids is what we give back when we are older. That means the hate, the anger, the feeling of being singled out and hunted. These ideologies have been used and spoken of for a while but most never listened. This book was written to all people. It was written to the black people to show that they aren’t in the wrong for any protest they want to do. But it’s also written to the white people to show that this is what goes on in the real world, and that we have a chance to stop it but it’s up to all of us as a whole. Although some ideologies are supported, many others are rejected. We can clearly see that some ideologies still remain out there but it’s time for the younger groups to step up.

Cultural Analysis on Telltale’s “The Walking Dead”

Telltale’s The Walking Dead (the video game) came out on April 24, 2012. Although Telltale’s “The Walking Dead” shows and supports the stereotype that men have to be the protectors and that they have to protect children and females and that females are supposed to stay in the background.They broke that traditional stereotype by having a young female lead the story, raise a kid, and lead groups to safety. Telltale slowly resists the dominant ideology that men are the protectors and providers. It shows how after “Lee” died, Clementine provided for herself for years and even raised a kid during an apocalypse at a young age.

Telltale’s “The Walking Dead” reinforces the dominant ideology that men are the protectors and providers. The games shows this by showing how “Lee” and the other men provided for their groups, protected them and made all the decisions. For example, “” says that “Lee commonly displays throughout the series is the ability to be compassionate and altruistic, primarily portrayed in his relationship with Clementine, devoting most of his actions, and eventually his life, to ensure her safety. Lee can direct death threats toward anyone he believes is a danger to Clementine and can be generally aggressive to most characters.” According to “” it says that “Over several years, she becomes a guardian to Alvin Jr. (AJ for short), a child whose parents died in the apocalypse, and comes to raise him as Lee did with her.”

“The Man You Could Smell Like”

The popular Old Spice commercial: “The Man You Could Smell Like” was released on February 4th, 2010. The 30-second commercial has a muscular man as the main focus point talking about how you should smell like a man and not a woman, but you can only do that by wearing Old Spice. While the Old Spice commercial does break some stereotypes of what the perfect man is, it primarily reinforces damaging ideologies about expectations for men in American culture; because the commercial is saying that all men have to smell the same.

The commercial does reject the idea that the perfect man in America has to white and strong because in the commercial the main focus is an African American. However, the commercial promotes the stereotype that you smell like a man, and all of these great things happen to you. As seen in the commercial the man used old spice and he ends up on a boat with a handful of diamonds. Then right before the commercial ended the man says, “Stop smelling like a woman and start smelling like a man,” implying that all men in the world have one smell. The commercial also has a comedic manner to it so making fun of what the perfect man should be.

These ideologies of a perfect manare now used in many other commercial and not just body wash, such as Axe, Degree, Gillette, etc, The creators of these commercials get an attractive human being put the product in their hand and tell to tell other people to buy it on camera.

Large Oof: A Dissection of Gender Roles In “Friends”

The episode of Friends, “The One With the Male Nanny”, promotes the ideology that men must be manly and not show their emotions. Friends was a very popular show that ran from 1994 to 2004, raking in an average viewership of 52.5 million people. Clearly, Friends was a very influential show, but were all of its influences of viewers really positive? On November 6th, 2002, the episode “The One With the Male Nanny” was released. The episode was the 6th of the ninth season, right around the peak of its popularity during its run time. This episode is quite controversial as in it there is a new character, Sandy. Sandy is a male nanny who is hired by two of the shows leads, Ross and Rachel. Sandy is a very qualified, caring nanny, but he makes many of the male characters in the show, upset. The episode ends with Ross firing Sandy because he makes him very uncomfortable. This episode is controversial because it promotes the sexist belief that men should not show their emotions, or do things not typically perceived as manly. 

First of all, Ross automatically assumes Sandy is a girl. He is quite stunned when he opens the door to find a man. This shows the stereotype of how a man shouldn’t be a nanny or do anything feminine. Ross is perpetuating this untrue and unfair stereotype by assuming Sandy is a girl, and then reacting in a very shocked way when he was not. 

When Rachel is trying to convince Ross to hire Sandy, even though he’s a man, she says, ”so what he’s smart, hes qualified, give me one good reason we shouldn’t try him out!” Ross counters this by saying, “Because its weird!” Ross is countering all of Rachel’s logical and rational claims by saying its weird for a man to be a nanny. This shows a lot of sexism and how even the most qualified person who could be amazing at work, can be shut down because of their gender. The dominant ideology of ‘men should not do things perceived as feminine’ makes it so less qualified people get jobs that more qualified people who are seen as the ‘wrong’ gender for the job. This is both idiotic and unfair. 

When speaking about Sandy later in the episode, Ross says, ”He [Sandy] is too sensitive!” This is said by Ross in a very angry and almost disgusted tone. It shows how he and many others believe it is wrong for men to have emotions and be emotional. It shows how it almost disgusts many people to see an emotional man. It is spreading this message to the shows millions of fans, creating more people who will stereotype men this way. To show developing men that they must bottle up their feelings or they won’t be seen as a man could be very harmful. To show them they can’t be vulnerable or they will be called weak or a pussy. It is entirely unfair.

This is how the episode of Friends, “The One With the Male Nanny”, promotes the ideology that men shouldn’t do things that are perceived as feminine. It is so important to not promote this ideology because even today men are called weak and laughed at for showing emotions. Men need to be taught it is okay to be sensitive or emotional because when they bottle up their feelings that could lead to them exploding and lashing out, which leads to domestic abuse. Men can be sensitive. Men can be emotional. Men can cry. The people now need to accept it. 

First Days of School Mix

And speaking of music and mixes and soundtracks, I put together my own First Days of School Mix — new music that puts everything in perspective and provides some needed boosts of inspiration. Any new songs I should add? Anyone have their own back-to-school soundtrack?

Music Poetry, Thanks to Last Year’s American Studies Class …

I don’t know about you, but I like to have a soundtrack to pretty much everything I do. And in that spirit, a class should have its own soundtrack.

But a soundtrack is personal — or at least should reflect the community that listens to it. So our class soundtrack is going to come from you — in the form of a Music Poetry assignment we will get to later in the first semester.


Welcome to the blog for our American Studies class. We will use this space to continue conversations from class and to start new ones. Here is where we can be critics, builders, and even just consumers of American history and culture.

So, what’s a blog? And how will we be using it class? For information on blogging and how to join and post to our blog, see “All About Blogging.”

We’re looking forward to a great year.

Make sure you check your e-mail for your invitation to join the blog. Also – and this is very important – the first step you should take after you accept the invitation is to edit your user profile so that you control how your identity and your communication preferences.  Click on the icon in the upper right corner of the browser and edit your profile

You can fill out as much of it as you want, but the only requirement is — under “Identity” — make sure your “Display name” is your first name and last initial only — so we provide some anonymity while still allowing your classmates and teacher to be able to identity who you are. For example, change “Bernie Heidkamp” to “Bernie H.”

The Old Blog is Dead! Long Live the Old Blog!

For many years, we used the Blogger platform for the American Studies blog. Since it is owned by Google, it integrates pretty seamlessly with your Google accounts — which made it easy to use, in some respects — but it is a very limited and bug-ridden platform. So this year, we have decided to construct a new class blog from scratch using the most more powerful and stable WordPress platform.

If you are interested, though, in seeing what past American Studies students have been thinking and writing about, feel free to wander over to the old blog.