Supplemental Viewing: Memento

Natalie: What’s the last thing that you do remember?

Leonard Shelby: My wife…

Natalie: That’s sweet.

Leonard Shelby: …dying.

Memento is about a man named Leonard Shelby, who is on a strange search to find and kill the man who raped and killed his wife. Leonard awoke one night to find his wife out of the bed. He heard struggling coming from the hall bathroom, so he grabbed his gun. When he busted into the bathroom, he saw a man over his wife, who was being suffocated. He immediately shot the intruder, and when he went to assist his wife, he was attacked from behind by another man. His last normal memory is lying on the bathroom floor and watching his wife die.

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Role Psychology and Kindred

After our discussion on Friday about the roles that are developing in Kindred, I started to wonder about roles themselves. When I was in psychology in high school, we discussed roles and related experiments pretty in depth (to the point that I still remember three years later). Anyway, Wiki defines a role is “a set of behaviors, rights, and obligations as conceptualized by actors in a social situation.” It is clear that Dana and Kevin are being pushed into new roles when they travel back in time together, but I am curious in seeing how their relationship is influenced by those roles. I immediately think back to a controversial experiment called the Stanford Prison Experiment(click for detailed slide show!) that was carried out by Phillip Zimbardo in the summer of 1971. The aim of the experiment was to study the psychological effects of becoming a prisoner. However, it gave a startling insight on the impact of roles.

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Here’s a brief summary of what took place:

Twenty-four men deemed psychologically stable were picked out of a pool of applicants who agreed to participate in a 7-14 day experiment (they got paid, btw). The basement of the psychology building at Stanford was converted into a prison. The local police department assisted in the experiment, and participants were actually hunted down and arrested on the morning of the first day. They were taken to actual holding cells at the police department, and all the normal procedures such as booking took place to make the experience feel real. Later, blindfolded prisoners were transported to the basement. The “prisoners” were just half of the men involved; the other half were given the roles as “guards.” Though the guards were instructed not to physically harm the prisoners, they were allowed to use other means of gaining control. The guards were not trained on how to act, they were given free reign on how to operate. The makeshift guards turned to psychologically humiliating the prisoners. Things got so bad that by the sixth day that it was called off by Zimbardo himself.  

With this knowledge, I am really curious to see how Kevin and Dana’s relationship turns out. A big question that is asked about the prison experiment is:

What happens when good people are put in an evil place? 

The Ante Bellum South is a pretty evil place, and I feel like Kevin and Dana are pretty good people as far as I can tell minus the whole passively referring to an abusive relationship thing going on. According to the experiment, the participants fell completely into their roles. I also wonder if Butler had any knowledge of this experiment since it was conducted a few years before the book was published. Let me know what you think!

Here’s a 30 minute documentary if you have time!

Psychological Significance of Time Travel

Within the class, I ask myself frequently about the psychological consequences that would come along with time travelling. I have been thinking about the function of time travel to the consciousness of the characters involved in the stories that we have read. I am aiming to write my paper on this topic, so this blog is mainly for me to work out my ideas. Feedback and additional ideas are welcome. =)

  1. Rip van Winkle- I saw his time travel as a metaphor for consciousness. He seemed to not really care for attempting to change anything about his life or take any responsibility. For example, when you get in the car to drive somewhere very familiar, you might get to your destination and ask yourself if you remembered any of it. Now think of that as a lifetime. He goes through years and years doing the same old thing, and he doesn’t realize it. He “wakes” up, and then he finds himself falling right back into another routine.
  2. The Time Machine- This yelled Freud at me. However, I was trying to pinpoint the relative times in which these ideas would have been published. I’m not sure if Wells would have read it first and then implemented it in his book or if it was just a natural process as he described humans. According to Freud, there is a conscious and an unconscious mind. The unconscious mind is full of impulses and suppressed memories, where the conscious mind is what you think of as the mind. I see the Eloi as the conscious mind, where the Morlocks make me think of the unconscious mind. There is always a power struggle between the two, and I think that point is pretty clear in the book.
  3. Slaughterhouse Five- We had discussed how the format of the book can be considered a model for Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. In addition, it reminded me also of the Freudian idea of suppressing memories, and how it took the novel a long time to actual get to the memory that was so traumatizing: the Dresden bombing. The format reminded me of hypnosis, where the memory is slowly worked up to its entirety.
  4. Primer- Putting my huge dislike for breaking laws of nature aside, I wonder what it would be like if there were two of the same person in one moment in time. Would either of the copies dominate consciousness and who that person is? Would it be an average? Also, the characters in the movie seemed pretty stressed out at the idea of anyone, or themselves for that matter, seeing the double. I am not sure about an psychological term that I can piece with these concepts, but I feel like it is important to think about.

I don’t know if I would necessarily include all four ideas within it; I feel like maybe just two would be sufficient. For now, I am trying to develop these ideas a little better and maybe read up on some psychology concepts. Feedback welcome and appreciated!

Length, Width, Height, and Time- the Four Dimensions of Our World

I naturally try to look at logistics of the idea of time traveling, especially the science involved. I was pleasantly surprised when reading The Time Machine at the amount of explanation that Wells attempted in the beginning behind the concept. I was initially interested in his definition of time as the fourth dimension, which I have heard before, but never mentioned specifically as “duration”:

Any real body must have extension in four directions: it must have Length, Breadth, Thickness, and–Duration. . . There is, however, a tendency to draw an unreal distinction between the former three dimensions and the latter, because it happens that our consciousness moves intermittently in one direction along the latter from the beginning to the end of our lives. (Wells, The Time Machine, page 2-kindle edition)

It leaves me to think about the ways in which I think about the three dimensions that I’m quite acquainted with. They all seem very linear in both directions to me. I mean, you’ve got up and down, forward and backward, and side to side. With that in mind, and the thought of time being the fourth dimension, then would it be like a two way street also? Can someone move freely forward and backwards? Continue reading