Janhabi Mukherjee

Analytics, American Express. MBA, IIM Kozhikode. UCG NET-JRF, English Literature. BA, MA, Presidency University.

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    Latest Articles

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    Duality in horror, and the ending of Peele's 'US'

    Duality (doppelgangers, alter egos) is a common theme in thriller/horror texts and films. This goes as far (or further) back as the Victorian period (Dracula and Van Helsing as mirror images/Jekyll and Hyde), and continues today (The Nun, Valak and Sister Irene as foils to each other/the twins in Malignant).

    ‘US’ (2019) deals with doppelgangers – every citizen has one, and these ‘Tethered’ counterparts live in dire poverty in the tunnels beneath the city. They are ‘savage’ and ‘monstrous’, unlike their peers who live among us.
    Peele’s film has strong themes of class and social inequality.

    The ending, however, reveals that the protagonist of the film was never one of ‘us’, but in fact a tethered doppelganger who had switched places as a child. Unlike the rest of the Tethered, she speaks and moves fluently, behaving ‘civilised’ as opposed to ‘savage’.

    There is clear commentary in this twist of how the environment and social upbringing of an individual can create a stark contrast in how their identity, behaviour, and habits are formed: The protagonist turned out so different from the rest of the Tethered, only because of the economic and social support she recieved as she was brought up.

    How does this twist impact the themes of duality present in horror and thriller genres? Does it make us reflect differently on the monstrous villains we see in Michael Myers or Dr Hyde? Does it make us reconsider their motivations?
    Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde/The Unborn, for example, are strongly contextualised by economic and political commentary.


      Newspeak, 1984, and Big Brother

      Orwell’s 1984 ends with an in depth record of Newspeak, the language imposed upon citizens by the novel’s fascist government.
      Examples are:
      1) ‘renaming’ words (such as ‘concentration camp’ being changed to ‘joycamp’)
      This is interesting to analyse in light of the social theories which speak of how language constructs reality – if we refer to a concentration camp as a ‘joycamp’ for long enough, does that change the way we think of it? (eg. The Sapir-Whorf hypothesis which suggests that the structure of language shapes the speaker’s worldview or cognition/ Wittgenstein’s famous ‘the limits of my language mean the limits of my world’/etc)

      2) reconstructing words to make them ‘noun centric’, such as eliminating the words ‘cut’/’cutting’/etc, and making them ‘knifing’/’knifed’ and so on.
      Not only does this reduce the number of words we have at our disposal, it also limits the flexibility of language. To give a basic example, ‘cutting edge’ is an adjective that highlights the word succeeding it – ‘knifing edge’ instead places the focus on the knife. In due time, it is likely that ‘cutting edge’ as a concept itself may become obsolete in the absence of the word ‘cut’.
      These ideas are relevant in most linguistic analysis, but there may be scope to analyse them in the light of current corporate and social structures. For instance,
      – ‘Sending a message’ is a phrase that has largely given way to ‘inboxing’ or ‘DM’ing. Does this restrict the way we think of communication at large? Is there a potential future where written communication becomes unthinkable without monopolies such as Meta intermediaries? What of ‘Googling’ or ‘Xeroxing’ (instead of ‘looking for information’ or ‘making a photocopy’)?

      – Do the words corporates use modify our understanding of social structures? When Facebook switches the name for a user’s personal page from ‘profile’ to ‘timeline’, do we think of the personal page as less static and virtual, more a tangible piece of our lives?

      – Censorship in both mass media and private social media. Instagram and Google by default blur out posts containing certain words and images (‘Safe Search’) – there is little regulation as to what these words/images must be. Is the possibility that by routinely hiding these terms and visuals, the user’s reality is reconstructed to erase certain perspectives and realities?

      • Thanks! Edited for clarity and given a specific thesis and some examples. – Janhabi Mukherjee 7 months ago
      • This is a really interesting topic! The complex linguistic concepts you note are ones that are not so readily and commonly explored in pieces that I have read about 1984, and I think they could make for a very fruitful article. This is just a bit more of a general question about where you see or intend these concepts to be rooted: is 1984 a lens through which you think your potential thesis should be explored, or was it just a springboard for more generalized questions? Either would still make for a great analysis! I was just wondering what role 1984 is meant to play in such analysis. – mmclaughlin102 7 months ago
      • Thanks! I honestly think either approach could be taken dependiong on what the author wanted to focus upon. I was thinking of it as more of a springboard (beginning with the 1984 dictionary and taking up questions of language, reality and social structures) initially. But usingit as a lens to focus on more specific examples or instances (eg. how do 1984's lingustic concepts play out in situations like the current multiple antitrust lawsuits against Google) could also be a fruitful analysis. – Janhabi Mukherjee 7 months ago

      I watched you Nae Nae, now what? - Is the lack of lyrics a reflection on the attitudes of today's popular music listeners as a whole?

      Comparison between songs that are more recent and ones that are older throw up a large number of differences in terms of lyrics. One prime difference is that newer songs have an increasingly decreasing (heh, see what I did there?) number of lyrics.
      Examples –
      ‘You a Stupid Hoe’, ‘Turn Down For What’, ‘Now watch me whip, now watch me nae nae’, ‘I know you want me, you know I wan’cha’

      Is this constant reduction in the number of words in a song a reflection on
      a) Our memory – we can’t remember words to songs anymore, or it seems like a waste of time to do so.
      b) Our attention span has dropped so low, that we can’t be bothered to listen to music that isn’t composed of repititive phrases, we can’t be bothered to exert the effort to figure out what longer, more extensive lyrics say.
      c) Just bad taste.

      Is it a combination of all three?
      Is it a different reason altogether?
      Is there a more complex reasoning behind this?

      • I think the simplicity of minimal and shallow lyrics isn't exactly a reflection of our intelligence more so that it's necessary for certain moments. There are several music genres that thrive with complex, poetic lyrics such as Hip-Hop, Alternative and arguably some Pop music and they are highly praised. Kendrick Lamar, Big Sean and Kanye West are insanely successful rappers if for nothing else then for the complexity of their wordplay. All of the songs you listed weren't created with the intention of making people come to profound revelations; they are simply dance songs. The only job they have is to get you to shake what your momma gave you and they do it well. – sastephens 8 years ago
      • I agree with sastephens. I think different genres of music are meant to satisfy different drives and relate to different moods. That's why if someone has an eclectic taste in music, he or she can more easily adapt and access a range of different personas than someone with a more limited musical palette. There are certain songs that are meant to be shallow, but incredibly catchy and there are deeply meaningful songs that aren't designed to get burned into listeners' brains via radio overkill. Obviously, there are those instances where songs are both catchy and deep (and it's really terrific when that happens, but not every song has to do that to be a good song). I do agree that there's a trend recently of repetitive, catchphrase-type songs. It may be an attention-span thing as you mention since our tech-obsessed world is dealing with that problem as a whole. I've heard this trend's been happening with movie titles for that very reason. – aprosaicpintofpisces 8 years ago
      • I think its a combination of bad taste and the fact that it will simply make millions of dollars. Those songs are what dominates the charts. They aren't groundbreaking; they are just meant for a night out. And that's fine, but it would be great to get back to songs with more substance. That's just how our culture is right now. The attention span is decreasing. I like to believe that there are still a lot of people who respect and identify with great lyrics. Right now it's the trend but I think people want more depth in a song. – joshmccann 8 years ago

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      Latest Comments

      So much of Lana’s old work has these themes, but her more current work goes beyond and often freely criticises more explicitly I feel – Looking for America, or Woodstock in my Mind, for instance are openly disapproving of the prevalent social and political structures.

      "National Anthem” by Lana Del Rey as a Commentary on American Nationalism and Political Structures

      I think the source material from Ed and Lorrane Warren also revolves strongly around these themes – especially since we don’t see Christian messaging in Wan’s previous work.

      The Conjuring Universe - Religion, Horror, and Annabelle: Creation
      The Conjuring Universe - Religion, Horror, and Annabelle: Creation

      But what’s a horror movie without scares?

      The Conjuring Universe - Religion, Horror, and Annabelle: Creation

      Yes, I also felt bothered by the problematic messaging of the victims of the Salem witch hunts being actual witches.

      The Conjuring Universe - Religion, Horror, and Annabelle: Creation

      Yes – this is possibly the first of the Conjuring movies to have physical and permanent consequences of the haunting.

      The Conjuring Universe - Religion, Horror, and Annabelle: Creation

      Thank you! This is such a huge compliment. 🙂
      I’ve always found that horror is a treasure trove of social and cultural commentary.

      The Conjuring Universe - Religion, Horror, and Annabelle: Creation

      You hardly need to look as far as Ed and Lorraine Warren to find liing proof of that.

      The Conjuring Universe - Religion, Horror, and Annabelle: Creation