Category Archives: Ideology

American Roman Noir (225)

Both A Kiss Before Dying (KBD) and The Grifters are examples of what William Marling has called the American roman noir. Noir in this instance echoes another genre, film noir, and refers to a whole repertoire of narrative elements including settings, characters, plot devices, and diction. More generally it signifies a degraded moral condition and a pessimistic, even deterministic, view of the world. The noir universe is one where dark impulses drive action and appearances are often deceptive. Though romans noir often play out in the demimonde— cheap bars, casinos, shabby boardinghouses, etc.– moral darkness also pervades sun-struck suburban streets and opulent penthouses.

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The relative size of the text on this sign is a semiotic code. In other words it shapes our understanding of the message. The phrase “And Keeping Costs Down” has greater visual presence– and thus signifying power– than “helping to keep people healthier”.

Other codes include the color blue and the image of the woman. In terms of the latter, note that the model pictured is older and she has a pony tail, a sign connoting youthfulness and action. She’s apparently next to a weight rack, which by the principle of association “belongs” to her. So “helping to keep people healthier” (not healthy, healthier) has been relegated to the realm of personal exercise. “Healthier-ness” is asserted as the responsibility of the individual (“lifestyle”) rather than taking the form of collective, active intervention on the part of a health care system.

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The Process

From the Las Vegas Democratic debate. How many of my students understand what this means?

TODD: Guys, guys, we are at the end here. We are at the end here. I’ve got to let that one go.

We are less than two weeks away from a national primary. And I want to ask all of you this simple question. There’s a very good chance none of you are going to have enough delegates to the Democratic National Convention to clench this nomination, OK?

If that happens, I want all of your opinions on this. Should the person with the most delegates at the end of this primary season be the nominee, even if they are short of a majority? Senator Sanders, I’m going to let you go last here, because I know your view on this.

(LAUGHTER)

So instead, I will start with you, Mayor Bloomberg.

BLOOMBERG: Whatever the rules of the Democratic Party are, they should be followed. And if they have a process, which I believe they do…

TODD: OK, I’m trying to do this yes or no to make it fast.

BLOOMBERG: … everybody else — everybody can…

TODD: So you want the convention to work its will?

BLOOMBERG: Yes.

TODD: Senator Warren?

WARREN: But a convention working its will means that people have the delegates that are pledged to them and they keep those delegates until you come to the convention.

TODD: Should the leading person?

WARREN: All of the people.

TODD: OK. All righty. Vice President Biden?

BIDEN: Play by the rules.

TODD: Yes or no, leading person with the delegates, should they be the nominee or not?

BIDEN: No, let the process work its way out.

TODD: Mayor Buttigieg?

BUTTIGIEG: Not necessarily. Not until there’s a majority.

TODD: Senator Klobuchar?

KLOBUCHAR: Let the process work.

TODD: Senator Sanders?

SANDERS: Well, the process includes 500 super-delegates on the second ballot. So I think that the will of the people should prevail, yes. The person who has the most votes should become the nominee.

TODD: Thank you, guys. Five noes and a yes.