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Essay/Term paper: Critical analysis of 'identity risis', and 'oppositional dr

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Literary Analysis Papers

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A Critical Analysis Of "Identity Crisis"
"Oppositional Dress"

In Minabrere Ibelema's essay "Identity Crisis", Ibelema
suggests that the mainstream american culture is so powerful that
all cultures conform to it. Ibelema does this by showing how the
mass media portrays African Americans in relation to their
cultural identity by using situation comedies as a measuring
tool. Of the episodes Ibelema uses very few of them look at
African Americans cultural identity. However, what they do is
briefly address a cultural story line for one episode, but then
revert back to the mainstream anglo programming. On the
otherhand, Elizabeth Wilson says in her essay "Oppositional
Dress" that sub cultures do exist in society and are strong
enough to resist assimilation into the mainstream, and still
exist on their own terms. Wilson proves her point by giving
examples of sub cultures that appeared in society, and she shows
that they still thrive today.On example Wilson uses is the hippie
culture that evolved in the 1960's. She points out that hippies
can be seen today in some areas of the United states, proving her
point. She also mentions other movements like the Gay Liberation
Movement, the Punk movement, and the Skin Heads, who can all be
seen in some form today. In mainstream american culture some
individual sub cultures do get lost in the mainstream, but are
not forgotten, however most oppositional cultures resist
assimilation into the main steam and continue to define
themselves on their own terms.
In Ibelema's essay, he says that the mainstream culture is
so strong that individual cultures assimilate into it. This
proposition is not completely correct. The examples Ibelema uses
are derived from situation comedies that are directed at a cross
cultural mainstream audience. His point is that the African
American culture is nonexistent, or assimilated because African
American cultural values are not expressed fully in these
sitcoms, thus they are a part of the assimilation process.
Because these sitcoms are directed at a cross cultural audience
the assumption Ibelema uses is false. The African American
culture is not lost in america, its existence is found in the
homes of African Americans throughout america and is passed on
through mothers and fathers, and grand mothers and grand fathers.
An opposing view to this argument is Elizabeth Wilson's
essay "Oppositional Dress". Her belief is that sub cultures exist
in the mainstream society, and they dictate their own existence.
Wilson proves her theory by giving example after example of sub
cultures that evolved from the mainstream in both the United
States and Great Britain. These sub cultures usually evolve
around young people that are rebelling against the dress and
views of their parents. For example the Hippie movement of the
1960's started a dress trend that is still seen across america.
They wore bell bottomed pants, flowery shirts, they grew their
hair long, and they supported peace over war. These views were
seen as oppositional to their parents, and thus they became
"Hippies" Another example Wilson gives is that of the Gay
Movement. In the 1970's this movement was in full form. What the
Gay Movement started was the idea of a homosexual or lesbian
person publicly declaring themselves as being gay. One of the
most outrageous ways to do this was to dress in "drag", wearing
makeup, and a dress. These homosexuals broke down the door of
stereotypical gender roles and took on cross dressing as a
defining tool. Over time the Gay Movement took on another task to
reestablish their masculinity. From this came the "clone look".
Clones wore jeans, distressed leather, heavy boots, and were
normally clean shaven with a styled mustache. The Gay Movement
didn't assimilate into the mainstream, it evolved into its own
sub culture that exists today. African americans and other ethnic
minorities also have cultivated their own controversial styles.
Their styles however usually carried with it a message. By the
1940's young blacks developed a distinctive style of dress called
a zoot suit. These suits had exaggerated padded shoulders, peg
top trousers, narrowing ankles, and the were lavishly draped. The
zoot suiters dressed this way to demonstrate against the war
effort. The zoot suiter is a clear example of a symbolic sub
culture that was a statement of ethnic pride, and a refusal to
In mainstream american culture, sub cultures are not lost or
assimilated into the mainstream. They are embraced by those who
participate in them, and evolve over time to suit the needs of
the sub culture. The sub cultures that exist in society aren't
separate from the mainstream culture, but part of it. Elizabeth
Wilson is correct in her belief that sub cultures resist
assimilation, and seek to clarify their individuality on their
own terms.


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