The Death of Nostalgia: Mortality and Expendability in Stranger Things [SPOILERS: Seasons 1,2,3 and Breaking Bad]

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The Duffer Brothers have streamed their way into becoming somewhat of a household name over the last three years. With the creation of Stranger Things, they have added to the recent 1980s revival that has swept across the US and the nostalgia that has come along with it. It has leavened the nerdy subculture of the past thirty years, to which I whole-heartedly ascribe. Though I am a 90s kid, I grew up with older siblings who are 80s kids, and by association I assimilated 80s pop culture. Due to my upbringing, I find this show, in many respects, entertaining, thrilling, witty in its references, and overall a very binge-worthy show that caters to older and younger generations alike. The Duffer Brothers have most definitely created a cultural and historical phenomenon that will likely entertain viewers long after streaming services become obsolete and everything from movies and television shows to music, books, and the news is projected directly into our brains. Though this show does deserve high praise in many regards, I find certain aspects of it hard to reconcile with. The biggest issue I have with the series as a whole has to do with one word: expendability. Through looking at the series and how it deals with death and mortality, we can understand whether expendability is a good thing for the series or a sign of weak writing.

Death is, whether we like it or not, a huge part of horror, thriller, and even sci-fi films (genres where Stranger Things falls into). So, in order to properly evaluate this aspect of the series, there are two methods of addressing violence and death that need to be discussed.

The Rambo Effect

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I grew up watching classic parody films from Airplane (1980) to Robin Hood: Men in Tights (1993). One movie that I remember watching scores of times on a taped VHS (with commercials included), was the 1993 Hot Shots: Part Deux. In it, Charlie Sheen plays Topper Harley, a hyperbolized and parodied version of Sylvester Stallone’s John Rambo. Only instead of fighting police officers in a small town, soviets, and Afghan rebel forces, Topper is up against Saddam Hussein and his cronies. During a scene in which Topper is helping POWs escape a POW camp, he goes all out and starts killing every single enemy soldier in droves. With his first kill a kill count is started and multiplies at a ridiculous rate with arcade noises playing in the background. He hits milestones like “Equal to: Robo Cop,” “Equal to: Total Recall,” and finally the screen flashes with “Bloodiest Movie Ever.” The scene is full of hilarious kills like a man having a bulls-eye painted on his chest and his backside as well as a part where Topper runs out of bullets in his machine gun and just decides to throw a handful of bullets at approaching enemy soldiers successfully taking them out. Each of the enemy soldiers that are killed are tallied and counted and nothing else is said about them. They are faceless, numberless, and in the end absolutely expendable. This scene depicts death, and excessive and gratuitous violence in a flippant way to bring viewer’s attention to the ridiculous nature of the violence in movies like Rambo. When death tolls reach astronomical levels, the value of individual life decreases because it takes too much time and effort to recognize and place lasting value on people. They become expendable.

Kaiju Killings

Along with the shoot-em-up type films like those in the Rambo franchise, it is important to consider how mortality is displayed when huge monsters are involved. Stranger Things is no stranger to monsters that are gigantic in size and have a knack for mass destruction. However, before dissecting the Demogorgon and flaying the Mind Flayer, let’s look first at everybody’s favorite radioactive lizard, Godzilla and what are known as the kaiju.

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Godzilla and the kaiju (including Mothra, Rodan, King Ghidorah, and Gamera) are monsters that gained notoriety during the post-WWII years in Japan. They were born from Japanese folklore and brought to the spotlight in film originally as a metaphor for the devastation of nuclear war. In Japanese monster films, and especially in the many American adaptations of the Godzilla films, the populous in the wake of these monsters and their battles are disregarded and are not the focus of the film. Most monster films rely heavily on the fights between Godzilla and Mothra or any of the other kaiju. Because of the minuscule nature of humans compared to the massiveness of the kaiju, a whole city and its inhabitants can be utterly wasted, and no one will really bat an eye because the battle between the monsters is a lot more intriguing than the individual plights of the humans on the ground.

To further this method and its glazing over of individual deaths, let’s look at the American 2014 adaptation of Godzilla. After an incredible five-season run with Breaking Bad, Bryan Cranston went from dorky, loser Hal in Malcom in the Middle, to Heisenberg: Methamphetamine King-Pin. When my brothers and I saw that Bryan Cranston would be in the new Godzilla movie, we were more than a little excited. Cranston was shown in the trailer as playing a big part in the film. We were ready to see what Walter White would do against the King of the Monsters. Our expectations were immediately crushed when Cranston’s character bites the dust in the first fifteen minutes of the film. A younger, lesser-known actor ended up being the lead for the movie. Though he was the protagonist, the focus was not as much on him as it was on the final fight scene where Godzilla thrashes the MUTO and vomits a torrent of flames down its throat. I still loved the battles, but I left the theater wondering whether it was even necessary to have humans in the film at all.

So, what do Godzilla and Rambo have to do with Stranger Things?

Simply, it’s monsters, violence, destruction, expendable mortality, and the macabre.

Not so simply, it’s what Edgar Allan Poe defines as “the single effect.”

In his 1842 review of Nathaniel Hawthorne’s Twice-Told Tales, titled “The Importance of the Single Effect in a Prose Tale,” Poe expresses that “in almost all classes of composition, the unity of effect or impression is a point of the greatest importance.” When Poe speaks of this “singular effect” he means that rather than worrying about a plot in a story it is more important first to make sure that the story is unified in the impression and feeling it leaves on its reader/viewer. For Rambo movies, the singular effect is a feeling of grittiness that leaves you with dirt and mud smeared on your face with the taste of blood in your mouth. With Godzilla movies, the feeling is that of awe and captivation at how huge the monsters are and how awesome the fights are. Sometimes, especially in the case of Godzilla films, this singularity of effect is done at the expense of character development and viewer-character connection. This isn’t always the case, and it isn’t always a bad thing. In relation to Stranger Things, Poe suggests that the most powerful stories, the ones that leave “an intense or enduring impression,” are those that can be enjoyed in one sitting. In his own words, he states that “this unity cannot be thoroughly preserved in productions whose perusal cannot be completed in one sitting.” Many Stranger Things fans will agree to this point, and some people might be unwilling to admit it: you probably binged Stranger Things (seasons 1-3) in one sitting. This isn’t necessarily a bad thing. It proves Poe’s point: a good story is one that is enjoyed in one sitting and one that presents and maintains that singular effect. The Duffer Brothers establish this effect through implementing the Rambo and Kaiju methods of mortal expendability. There’s blood, violence, destruction, monsters, and death; and the people who are mortally affected by these elements are sidelined so that the real singular effect can be presented: nostalgia for the 80s and the horror film genre.

Justice for Barb/Bob/Alexei/Billy/Hopper/Random Citizens of Hawkins, Indiana

Considering this idea, Stranger Things has been criticized for its lack of closure and “justice” for certain deceased or supposedly deceased characters. Though the deaths in Stranger Things aren’t on a massive scale, this principle can still apply considering the gravity of the events taking place in the Hawkins. Season 1 rocked viewers with the death of Nancy’s best friend, Barb, who was just trying to keep Nancy safe. Chapter 2 of season 1 ends with Barb disappearing. Chapter 3 begins with showing her being dragged into the swimming pool by what we believe to be the Demogorgon. It isn’t until the end of the season that we find Barb dead in the Upside Down. Despite the search for Will being the focus of the season, many viewers, myself included, found everyone’s disregard to Barb’s death disturbing and unjust. Shannon Purser, the actress that plays Barb remarked in a tweet that “Barb wasn’t supposed to be a big deal.” Regardless of whether Barb was a big deal or not, many people believed that because Barb didn’t deserve to die, that she needed to be redeemed somehow. Barb blew up on the internet, and a hashtag of #JusticeforBarb and #ImwithBarb became trending to the point that the Duffer Brothers paid this injustice a quick visit in the beginning of the second season. Even with this second-long candlelight vigil, Barb’s death is disregarded, and she remains a plot device, an expendable character. Her character isn’t developed as much, signaling that she is non-essential. Using characters as plot devices, or just a means to further the plot, isn’t anything uncommon in fiction or film, but when these plot devices are brutally murdered without any repercussions viewers get upset and feel that “justice” has not been served. In the case of Barb, it was her character, not the actress, that was dealt with unjustly. Shannon Purser is not an A-list, bigshot actress. When this is the case, even though the death is viewed as not resolved, the stakes are lower because both her character and the actress are just another face in the crowd.

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Barb isn’t alone in being dished an undue demise. What happens when you bring someone on the other end of the acting spectrum? What if you enlist an 80s icon? In Season 2, we are introduced to Bob Newby, played by none other than Sean Astin: Samwise Gamgee, Rudy, Mikey Walsh. He’s the happy high school friend of Joyce turned love interest and ultimately turned tragic casualty in the fight against the Mind Flayer. Compared to Barb, Bob’s character is more developed, has more screen time, and serves a higher purpose than Barb did. Where Barb’s character was solely a plot device to show viewers what would happen if someone was not saved from the Upside Down, Bob is the happy, easy-peasy pseudo-father figure for Will Byers who ends up sacrificing his life to save Joyce and the others from the demodogs. Viewers are given more time to connect with Bob. He is basically the Rudy of Stranger Things.

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The Duffer Brothers didn’t completely forget the deaths of characters like Bob and Barb. They do pay service to them in small ways (missing photos of Barb in season 2 and the “Super Bob” drawing on Joyce’s fridge and the minor flashbacks she has in season 3), but they are short-lived. It seems as though the surviving characters either don’t care or are so overwhelmed with the new monster from the Upside Down that they don’t have time to mourn.

With season 3, we see the deaths of minor and major characters alike. Two members of The Hawkins Post are taken over by the Mind Flayer, are both brutally destroyed by Jonathan and Nancy, and subsequently melt into a living blob of human organs and flesh and join to the massive flesh creature terrorizing Hawkins. We meat Alexei, a Russian scientist who is captured by Hop, Joyce, and Murray, who helps them crack the code to stop a laser from opening the portal to the Upside Down. We get to know him as the smiley, cherry-Slurpee-loving, soft-hearted scientist. He serves his purpose and is shot dead during episode 7 by the Russian T-1000 thug who eventually meets his maker at the hands of Hop. We see several random members of the Hawkins community be taken over by the Mind Flayer and melt into human soup and congeal together with the poisoned rat population to make the bigger flesh beast the kids encounter during the last couple of episodes of the season. Billy, the bad boy and mom seducer, who becomes the host for the Mind Flayer, is killed in a last second act of self-sacrifice to save the whole group after being convinced by Eleven that he isn’t a bad person after all. And, finally, Hopper who, after defeating the Russian Terminator is supposedly vaporized during the explosion following the shutting down of the Russian laser pointed at the gate to the Upside Down.

So, what are we to do with a show that kills off minor and major characters at the drop of a hat? What does that say about the Duffer Brothers’ concept of expendable mortality?

The Death of Nostalgia

Before we get into this, Stranger Things isn’t the only show that has unexpected and tragically unjust deaths for major and minor characters. As an example, Breaking Bad, one of my personal favorites, kills off minor characters like Jesse’s friend Combo, Jesse’s two girlfriends, drug dealers, Gale Boetticher, and a couple of junkies (to name a few), and major characters like Mike Ehrmantraut, Gus Fring, Hank Schrader, and supposedly Walter White himself. Each of these characters, minor or major, was killed unexpectedly. Even the deaths of people like the junkie that Jesse kills with an ATM seem to serve a greater purpose than just furthering the plot. In this case, Jesse gains notoriety and people are more willing to pay him for the meth. The deaths serve a two-fold purpose: 1) further the plot, 2) aid in character development. The difference between these deaths and the deaths in Stranger Things is that the deaths in Stranger Things fail to address the issue of character development.

There aren’t any apparent lasting repercussions for Barb’s death, Bob’s death is only grieved for a second in season three, and who’s to say what will happen in season 4 as a result of Hops death and Billy’s death, not to mention the deaths of the dozen or so random “flayed” townspeople. Now, I could say that Stranger Things fails at presenting what might really happen if a town were to be invaded by Demogorgons, and therefore it is a failed show. Maybe the Duffer Brothers don’t care. Maybe they are heartless people who want to pull the mortal rug out from under your favorite characters. I could say that the Duffer Brothers are mediocre at best in developing characters or at least overdeveloping characters that are only going to end up being killed right after we are introduced to them. But, there’s no such place as Hawkins, Indiana, the Upside Down most likely doesn’t exist, and since it’s a work of fiction the Duffer Brothers can do whatever they want. It’s their show. If they don’t want the people of Hawkins to hold a massive candlelight vigil for Barb, Bob, Hop, and the poor flayed citizens, then that’s their choice. I could be angry about this, but after a lot of thought (maybe more thought than I probably needed to invest in this show), I’m fairly certain that there’s a reason why human mortality in Hawkins is treated in a Ramobian and Godzillian way.

Like Edgar Allan Poe states, Stranger Things seemingly has the aim of instilling in viewers a “singular effect” of nostalgia for a bygone childhood (either experienced or not experienced by its viewers) and a longing to go back to that time. With the deaths of both major and minor characters, the Duffer Brothers seem to be toying with the idea of connecting not only with the past (and in this case a mostly imagined past), but with characters in this imagined past. By eliminating characters with no remorse and diminishing the value of individual characters, the Duffer Brothers suggest that whether we like it or not, we can’t feel completely comfortable in a time and place that we feel nostalgic over. They combine the feeling of nostalgia with feelings of dread and terror by mixing 80s pop culture references and an undying fear of the Russians with grotesque and terrifying creatures from a twisted, mirrored reality that reflects back cracked and distorted. These two “singular effects” oppose each other and project the viewer’s perception of 80s pop culture into a Dutch angle. Everything is just a bit off kilter. The feeling presented through Stranger Things might be like mixing water and oil, but the fusion of these two effects allows for the Duffer Brothers to question the extent to which nostalgia serves as a positive influence in our lives, especially when we live in an age when no matter what decade you are born in, you have access to centuries of information and the annals of history can be read, researched, and assimilated into your life in seconds.

 In regard to nostalgia, what Stranger Things does right is exactly this: it blends good memories with bad memories. The 80s weren’t all Dungeons and Dragons, arcades, and New Coke. They were also the Berlin Wall, Nancy Reagan, the Iran Hostage Crisis, Carl Sagan and his nuclear winter theory, and the Challenger Explosion. Maybe what the Duffer Brothers are trying to say is that our memories of the past shouldn’t be painted by just the good. They might even be a bit flayed at times. Maybe our memories, individually and collectively, are a conglomeration of the good things, the bad things, and the stranger things.

Off-Gridding: You Don’t Matter and That’s Okay

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There’s something in us that yearns to be recognized and valued. Even the humblest among us feels at least in some degree the need to be needed. Despite what many of us have been told in our lives about being a unique snowflake with value beyond compare and you are the center of your life’s drama, this isn’t entirely true. I’m not here to say that nobody matters. Everyone has value, and everyone needs to be viewed as important. We are individuals with highly distinguishing features and frailties that make us who we are. They define us and help us understand ourselves and others. Nobody can and should dispute or disregard anyone’s personal value. I’m also not here to preach that “you are one insignificant grain of sand on a beach, and no one will ever care about you and you matter less than you think.” While there is some truth to that statement (there are currently seven-billion+ people currently living on the earth, mind you), we sometimes don’t feel valued and that’s okay.

Recently, I’ve taken the steps to establish more of a web presence on online communities like Twitter, Instagram, and even Reddit. I’ve used these platforms to find and connect with people like me: the nerdy, book types who write about literature. However, I’ve mainly been using these platforms to promote and share my analytical and creative writing as well as a podcast I do with a friend of mine. As good as I think I am at writing or putting together a podcast, the content I’m producing usually falls on blind eyes and deaf ears. Also, I’m not using this as a way to throw blame or shame at people who don’t like my stuff. You can like or not like what you want. I can’t force you to do anything.

but you're wrong and I hate you

I’m using this to set the stage for something else, so don’t feel like I’m trying to coerce you into following me on Instagram, Twitter, or giving me those sweet karma points on Reddit. I’ve realized that the number of followers I have or the amount of likes I accrue doesn’t and shouldn’t be a deciding factor in my worth as an individual or as a creator. It’s honestly my dorky intellectual habits and pursuits are in part what define me.

I learned this lesson recently when I accidentally left my phone at my apartment when my wife and I went to one of her photo shoots. We left around 11:30 am. The location was about an hour and a half drive from our apartment, so we had some time to talk about our week and how things were going. One of the things we talked about was what we were going to do about replacing a tire on my car. A few days earlier, I had driven home from work and run over a bent metal plate that had fallen off of a truck in front of me. The metal punctured my front left tire, but I didn’t know that the tire was flat until two days after the incident. I wanted to know how much a tire would cost to replace. I reached into my pocket to check my phone, and as fate would have it, my phone was not in my pocket. I asked my wife what time we would be home, and she said that we wouldn’t be home until around 10 or 10:30 pm. Dread sunk in. I was off the grid. I had unintentionally gone rogue. To make things more intense, my watch had recently stopped ticking. I was phoneless, without any concept of time except for looking at the shadows being cast by vertical objects, and kind of without any way of knowing how much tires cost. In the same instant, I thought, “I’ll probably get text messages that I need to answer, calls, notifications on Facebook, Instagram, Twitter, and Reddit. How am I going to respond?”

Luckily, I had something to read while my wife was working her magic, and we were able to spend unadulterated time together between the wedding and the reception. We went to Ramen Haus in Odgen, Utah, chilled out at a library, and ended up eating sandwiches from Walmart at around 9:00 on our way back. We got to talk to each other, listen to each other, and just spend time. It was refreshing, but even toward the end of the evening, I still had the thought of “what have I missed? Did anyone miss me?”

To my surprise, the only notifications I received the entire day were from my news app. Nothing. Silence. My mother had called earlier in the day three times, but after no success in reaching me, she called my wife. Even then, I was not asked about and my wife was able to answer my mother’s questions. I was off the grid and nobody noticed. For about five seconds I felt like my attempts at establishing a web presence were a waste and that no one would ever like anything I posted ever. I felt like no one cared that I was gone. After those five seconds, I thought back on my day: the ride up to Ogden, the reading, and most importantly the conversations I had with my wife and the time I got to spend with her. In that moment, the notifications faded, and I was reminded that my personal value doesn’t come from the likes I receive or the followers I amass on social media. I didn’t matter that much online that day, but on the ride home, my wife thanked me for coming with her and told me that she appreciated that I took the time to come with her and just be there. What started as an accident, ended in a nine-hour step back off the grid from what I thought mattered. I saw more clearly that evening that what really mattered wasn’t my interaction on the web with complete strangers, but my interaction with the woman I love. I realized that even if all my followers unfollowed me or stopped liking my posts, I would still have her.

So, if you feel like you don’t matter or that your presence online is defining you, take a second and step off the grid. It will give you the perspective you need to understand that even if you don’t matter all that much in the grand scheme of social media, you can define yourself and understand your value. Unplug, step away for a while, and try your hand at off-gridding. You never know if someone close to you needs you to just be there with them.

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[Close Reading Rainbow pt. 4] Coming to Grips with Reality in Julio Cortázar’s “The Night Face Up.”

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Sometimes reality is scarier than any nightmare we might be having. This was definitely the case for many writers in South and Central America during the 1960s and 1970s. Citizens of countries like Chile, Brazil, Uruguay, and Argentina suffered under military dictatorships that negatively impacted these nations economically, developmentally, and even academically; many of these affects are still being felt by Latin Americans today.

From 1966-1973, Argentina was rocked and shaken by the military dictatorship of Juan Carlos Onganía. Through a military coup, known as Revolución Argentina, Juan Domingo Perón, the then president of Argentina, was ousted and exiled to Spain. In the wake of this sudden shift in power, Onganía made his mark on the economic, industrial, and academic history of Argentina. Due to the Argentine University Reform of 1918, students and professors had autonomy over the university and could establish a governing body over the university that was separate from the federal government. This all changed on the night of July 29, 1966.  Hundreds of students and professors from the University of Buenos Aires were violently forced out of the university by police officers led by Onganía. Following the removal of autonomy from the university staff and students, many of Argentina’s best and brightest academics were either forced to emigrate or emigrated on their own free will to other Latin American countries, Europe, and the United States. This night would later be named “La Noche de los Bastones Largos” or “The Night of the Long Batons.” As a result of Onganía’s regime, Argentina was flipped on its head and continues to suffer the consequences of this dictatorship.

The following spring, on April 22, 1967, a story by Argentinian writer Julio Cortázar was published in The New Yorker titled “The Night Face Up.” The story chronicles the events of a night where a man crashes his motorcycle, is rushed to a hospital, receives treatment, and drifts in and out of consciousness between 1960s Argentina and “the war of blossom,” a time of ritualistic human sacrifices which occurred during the time of the Aztecs. At the time of the story’s publication, Cortázar was living in France, where he wrote and published many of his short stories and novels. Cortázar was a proponent and patron of the arts and education. His work primarily focuses on understanding the nature of reality and dreams/nightmares. According to Lois Parkinson Zamora, in his work “Cortázar is attracted to the visionary energy of the myth of apocalypse, to its revitalizing power: Its transformative vision becomes for Cortazar the central metaphor for the artistic imagination operating under extreme conditions of personal and/or political crisis” (92). Cortázar, just like many of his contemporaries, recognized the traditional and ritual-like nature of establishing military leaders, called juntas, in Latin America. Life under these regimes was nightmarish, apocalyptic, and extremely frightening, and Cortázar sought to understand the complexities of living a normal life under abnormal circumstances; living two realities at the same time. Many critics of Cortázar’s work have linked him to Bohemian writer Franz Kafka due to Cortázar’s ability to tell stories that, according to fellow Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges, “Very subtly… [attract] us to his terrible world in which happiness is impossible” (21). Borges goes on to say that the world in which Cortázar writes is “a porous” one where “human beings are interwoven with each other…. Cortázar delights in playing with the stuff we are made on, time. In some tales, two temporal series flow along and intermingle” (21). These ideas of time and two temporal and very different realities flowing together permeate his fiction and simultaneously serve as a window into the nightmare that many Latin Americans struggled through during the regimes like that of the Revolución Argentina.

In examining the combination of these two realities, Cortázar pits heavy and light imagery against one another like water mixing with oil to underscore the difficulty in straddling two alternate realities. In “The Night Face Up,” the man who “does not have a name” (66) experiences a rupture of consciousness and reality due to a traumatic near-fatal motorcycle collision when a woman steps into an intersection during a green light. On impact, the man’s “vision went. It was like falling asleep all at once” (67). He is shot into what the narrator explains later as a “a void… an emptiness he could not manage to fill” (73). The nurses and doctors in the hospital, those whose job it is to operate on his broken arm and provide him with an X-Ray, are juxtaposed with the priests and warriors bent on capture him and sacrifice him in his dream. In the hospital, his nostrils are filled with “that hospital smell” (68); smells that usually connote cleanliness, safety, and healing. Whereas, his supposed dream is marked by “a confusion, as of one drawing all his sensations, for that moment blunted or muddled, into himself” (71) and “the smell of war” (69). The smells are antithetical. The man’s senses present a duality in his perception. On the one hand, he is slightly marred by a motorcycle accident, yet is covered in bandages and awaiting treatment. On the other, he is a Motecan warrior escaping the hands of murderous priests who want to sacrifice him to one of their many gods. The heaviness in the dream state stands in stark contrast to the relative lightness of the hospital room.

This dual and entirely inverse relationship between the two realities is furthered in the way that the man interacts with people in the dream and in his perceived reality. After his accident at the beginning of the story, the men that help him “encouraged him cheerfully with jokes and assurances” (67). The atmosphere surrounding the event is not serious in the slightest. They laugh and talk about how the bike is more banged up than he is; despite having broken his arm. Though these jokes and encouragements seem to serve as a welcome reminder that this man has just escaped death, the narrator makes it clear the “Voices” from which the jokes and the encouragements were coming from “did not seem to belong to the faces hanging above him” (67). This can be seen as just a lag in perception as a result of trauma. However, people living under oppressive regimes and oppressive individuals experience similar dislodged realities. They hope that the life they were living before the coup can go on as it did without any repercussions. These dictators like Onganía, as aggressive and oppressive as they were, worked to improve the infrastructure of the country. Despite the upgraded infrastructure that comes with some oppressive military-run governments, the cons almost always outweigh the pros. The citizens under the regime also recognize, just like the students and professors from the University of Buenos Aires, that regardless of improvements in national infrastructure, the reality of these regimes is the suppression of ideas and the forceful removal of democratically granted autonomy.

Like these students and the professors, the man in “The Night Face Up” is confronted with a split reality: he is both a civilian with a broken arm in a hospital and a Motecan warrior avoiding the sacrificial altar. The pros of the hospital are that he is being taken care of through modern medicine; the con is that his arm is broken, and he has a fever. The solitary pro of being a Motecan warrior is that his right arm isn’t broken; the cons are that he is in the dark, he needs to follow a difficult path to escape, he can’t stay awake in the hospital, and the obvious prospect of being sacrificed. In the story, he doesn’t have a choice as to which reality he actually inhabits. In the end, the man finds himself drifting further into his dream, described him as being pinned at “his wrists and ankles…. staked to the ground on a floor of dank, icy stone slabs” (73). The whole night, both in the hospital and in the dream world, he is in the same position: face up. He is passive in both realities, and ultimately realizes at the end that he is not a man from 1960s Argentina as the narrator leads readers to believe at the beginning of the story. Rather, his reality is the one where he is being sacrificed, face up.

Because of the regimes that existed in Latin America during the 1960s and 1970s, many Latin Americans felt like they were face up on the sacrificial alter while at the same time trying with all their might to fight back against this reality. The terror and frustration felt by the people of Argentina during Revolución Argentina provides an important framework for Cortázar’s case study on dual realities in many of his stories. Just as Lois Parkinson Zamora states, “these episodes subtly transmute themselves into a descent to the cellars of behavior, to Its remote irrational sources, to an immutable essence – magic, barbarous, ceremonial – of the human experience that underlies rational civilization and, under certain circumstances, rises up to disturb it” (92). They allow readers to see what life could be like and ask themselves which reality is worth accepting and which is worth denying. Unfortunately, many people remained in Argentina during the seven years of Onganía’s dictatorship and suffered like the man in “The Night Face Up”; left to their fate at the hands of a nightmarish dictator who pushed citizens down as they tried to wake up and remain face up. Thankfully, people like the students and the professors from the University of Buenos Aires and people who fought for freedom against oppressive juntas were able to wake up, escape the nightmare, accept the correct reality, disrupt the tradition of military regimes, and help usher in a less terrifying era for Argentina and other Latin American nations.

Works Cited

Borges, Jorge Luis. “Preface to Julio Cortázar’s Cuentos.” Critical Essays on Julio Cortázar. Edited by Jaime Alazraki. G.K. Hall & Co., 1999, pp. 21-22.

Zamora, Lois Parkinson. “Art and Revolution in the Fiction of Julio Cortázar.” Critical Essays on Julio Cortázar.“ Edited by Jaime Alazraki. G.K. Hall & Co. 1999, pp. 92-114,

Cortázar, Julio. “The Night Face Up.” Blow Up, and Other Stories, Random House, 1967, 57-66. (Print) (Online, I used the online version for citations)

 

Long Time No Sea

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Well, for those of you who take the time to read this blog *cough* my mother, family members, and close friends *cough*, or those of you who read what I write through following this blog, the last nine months have been crazy. So much has happened to this millennial. I will be posting more essays, little quips, and random thoughts more consistently from here on out.

So, to recap: I reconnected with a girl that I met at an academic competition my senior year of high school (ca. 2014). I added her on Facebook, she messaged me, we texted back and forth for two months, and we went on a few dates that involved snow cones and which were better between our respective hometowns before I left on a two-year mission for the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints. We didn’t really keep in touch. We wrote back and forth a couple of times, and then there was radio silence for a solid two and a half years (ca. 2016). We bumped into each other at BYU at the Harold B. Lee Library. An awkward encounter ensued where she “forgot” my name. Come to find out, she told me later that she said that because she was nervous and thought that we weren’t friends anymore. We made contact again a year later where an uncomfortable Facebook message fiasco occurred. I was bowling with some old high school friends; she was in my hometown watching a basketball game; I invited her over to go bowling, she said no thanks; she offered to meet up that coming weekend, I didn’t respond.

Well, after five years of near reconnections, we finally came together at the end of last summer (2018). After spending the day with my family in Deer Creek Reservoir, we had our first post-awkward stage date in Provo. I took her to Costa Vida (unbeknownst to me it was one of her  favorite restaurants). I had been on a string of pretty lousy first dates up to that point and was pretty calloused. I didn’t break eye contact with her. My whole attitude the whole date was “I’m not going to look shy or nervous. I’m going to get to know you, you’re going to get to know me, and you are going to like it.” She later told me that this approach was a bit intense and intimidating. Anyway, the date was as she told her brother that night “perfectly adequate.” I drove her home, and we had a conversation about politics (she studied political science at BYU). I brought up corrupt government officials in the Philippines and how the new president was kind of a crook. I was expecting her response to be something to the effect of “That sounds horrible! I hope that someone does something about him. He’s committing tons of human rights violations.” But, nope. The response was: “I don’t know. I think everyone needs to just be cool with each other.” I had no clue what I should say in response. I nodded and gave a half smile. She didn’t look at me. I dropped her off, gave her a distanced hug, and drove off.

Eight months later, we’re best friends, married, and working to afford the expenses that come with being a married couple. Although there have been ups and downs throughout, I wouldn’t have had it any other way, and I’m beyond grateful to be married to the one woman who makes me laugh, makes me feel cool even though I’m about the nerdiest bookworm around, and loves me enough to help me work through my flaws and inadequacies. Meghan, much love for you. Also, kind of a major plug, my wife is a wedding/engagement/elopement photographer. She is amazing (I’m not just saying that because I’m married to her). Check her out at @meghanbeattyphotography on Instagram and check out her website at http://meghanbeattyphotography.com/. If you or anyone you know is interested in getting photos taken look no further. Not only are her photography skills on point, she is so fun to work with and will make your experience one for the books.

Along with this, I started a podcast with a friend of mine, Sam Jacob. It’s called “The Lit-Knitters.” We look at the connections between television, movies, music and classic literature. If you enjoy what you’re reading here, you can find us on Spotify, Stitcher, and most every podcasting platform including Apple Podcasts. Give us a listen and leave us a review and a rating where you can. We’ll be wrapping up our first season by the middle of the summer. A blog will be up shortly with weekly posts regarding the show and each individual episode.

Sorry again for the pregnancy long hiatus. School and love happened. On second thought, I have nothing to be sorry about. I’ll post again on Thursday. Keep an eye out for posts from both me and The Lit-Knitters. I’ll be posting on here every Tuesday and Thursday and The Lit-Knitters is still TBD. Again, check Meghan’s photography out and book her for your wedding, receptions, engagement, elopement or anything in between. See you all on Thursday!

 

New Episode on Podcast

This post is a lot late than expected. Life sort of happened this week. Things got busy, but I was able to get this edited and posted. Honestly, the hardest thing about maintaining a blog or podcast or anything on social media is just that. Maintaining. It takes time and dedication and sometimes it feels like a drag keeping things up. If I’m being completely real, I’m doing all of this to keep my mind thinking while I balance working an oftentimes mentally arduous job and a job that requires no brain power but sucks the physical energy out of me. Such is life. Anyway, I hope you all enjoy the episode. Per request of a coworker, I will be attempting a rhetorical analysis on an Instagram post of hers. In the next couple of weeks, I’ll be both posting new content on this blog and recording audio for older posts, so stay tuned!!

p.s. The new episode is up on SoundCloud at this link: https://soundcloud.com/user-62785598/mortality-and-expendability-in-stranger-things

-Jace