Phillip Wade Wilson

Stupid Americans or Stupid Europeans: Commonplace

In America the Marvelous by A. A. Gill, the commonly held notions between the view of America from a European lens is explained.

“Americans are stupid, crass, ignorant, soul-less, naïve oafs without attention, irony, or intellect”

This is a commonly understood way of how Europeans view Americans, and in all honesty, it is correct. The average American who travels abroad does not understand the tourist gaze, the cultural norms of the place they visit, or even the sheer privilege of being an American has on them. Americans typically just make reservations at a hotel, buy a plane ticket, and jet-set off to whatever country piques their interest.

A lot of discussions have been had recently about cultural norms in class and what makes an American feel like an American. As viewed in Tresspass by Theroux, what made him feel like an American was being taken advantage of, and having the unknowing of culture turned against him. When Americans travel abroad, as I stated earlier, they typically do not research before traveling abroad. And due to this, it not only casts them in a negative light for appearing that they are above another’s culture but also puts the tourist at a disadvantage for their lack of knowledge.

Though, as explained by Gill, Europeans also take America for granted due to its advantages. This type of understanding of the world does not simply refer to one nation or area over another, but rather nearly all places. There is this idea of “snobbery” that pervades the ideals of Europeans due to the culture that surrounds western ideals. While there are many problems with America and its schools of thought, the origination of western thought has given Europeans a sense of superiority. Europeans hold certain American aspects in high regard, but they still look down on others. What Gill is explaining is the tourist gaze of America by another western nation and details how the tourist gaze affects Europeans specifically.

Phillip Wade Wilson

Selfie and the way of the influencer: Commonplace

“much of the negativity that surrounds social media and selfies can be contextualised within broader cultures of youth shaming”

Something that I found lacking in this article was the way in which Cardell and Douglas, perhaps, do not fully understand social media from the aspects of Gen-Z. Specifically, I want to highlight the fact that in my generation we grew up using all of these technologies and being exposed to the world at such a young age that had never been seen before. This came at the extent to which parents had difficulties monitoring their children’s internet behavior and many many parenting guides about online behavior came about but none captured what they should have. I remember as a child seeing things I should not have seen, going to sites that I should not have been going to, and having giggles or conversations with my friends at the age of 10 that I definitely was not ready for. Though, these parenting guides on monitoring online behavior were about children texting using codes or acronyms or sending naked pictures back and forth between each other… from experience growing up this was not the issue.

What the selfie and explosion of social media gave to children were lasting internalized traumas of being lesser than or not good enough based on the posts we were seeing from influential figures. I remember opening up Instagram in high school and seeing models and fashion and wealthy people showing me how I ought to live because this is what I should be striving for. Differences were not accepted and even so, in the creation of one of the newest social media platforms, TikTok, its algorithm for who would become a star was based on eurocentric, petit, and wealthy models. Time and time again has it been accused that algorithms created by Big Tech are made with such inherent bias that many are left out and unable to fully join in and interact with the global online community.

Phillip Wade Wilson

Comparison Between Journey into Night and Trespass

I feel in both of these narrations, the Americans are being taken advantage of due to their own negligence, though on the basis of different things. In Journey into Night, I feel that it revolves around Americans being taken advantage of by the system of travel itself (albeit this can be applied to anyone, but he’s American so that’s where I’ll be focusing). In Trespass, the American is being taken advantage of by another culture, and the lack of understanding of society. I wonder if this has to do with something similar found within American society that leads these two to be taken advantage of. 

Sedaris talks about how paying thousands of dollars more gets him stares because of his placement on the plane and the way other passengers and the cabin crew associate with him. What I found interesting is the way he relates to people seeing him in a better part of the plane to seeing regular-looking people step out of a limo. It’s strange the way that we relate wealth and placement on a plane to placement in society and then to importance. Whereas Theroux is being sexually manipulated and then monetarily abused, in part to his own negligence and ignorance. 

This plays into the tourist gaze we’ve been discussing so much in class because of the ways in which both of these men are viewing the world, and how their views are altered as their narration continues. At the start of each of their pieces, both authors don’t seem to have a fully fleshed out idea of how they’re viewing the world or at least the lens they’re looking through for their experiences. Though, in the end, both narrators seem to find what they were lacking before. Sedaris, satirically, details the ways in which he understands class and travel, and Theroux understands that he should look for the signs of when he’s being taken advantage of and not to put so much trust in strangers in a foreign land. 

Phillip Wade Wilson

Race and the Great Outdoors: Narrative

Within the first few paragraphs, Going it Alone by Rahawa Haile made me tear up and want to scream at the world. It’s no secret that the United States still has a long way to go by way of equality and equitability across many facets, but one of the most striking is the racial barriers people of color face that white people do not. While the ending of her essay does seem to add hope and instill a drive in continuing through hardship to achieve one’s goals and desires, the entire time I read this piece I couldn’t help but notice the similarities between her experiences and my boyfriend’s. 

I am in an interracial gay relationship and my significant other faces drastically more discrimination, even for his sexuality, than I do when we venture outdoors. Like many relationships, we enjoy going on long walks, and hiking trails, and hanging out by the river. However, on these outdoor excursions to escape the everyday drag of our academic and paper-writing lives we get looks and clear judgment of disdain from all types of people. Young, old, white, black, foreign, American, male, female… no matter what someone’s intersectionality could be we have probably experienced some form of negative ~vibes~ from them. Even trips outside to the grocery store, if we hold hands we get stared at by many people (we do it anyway and stare right back) and at least four or five extremely shocked people to see two males, one white and one black, holding hands. Although, noticeably the only people who do stop us to tell us we are a cute couple or they like one of our hairstyles or outfits are younger people of color. 

On our hikes around some of the river islands and isles of Richmond, VA (the former confederate capital) noticeably absent from these treks are other people of color and other same-sex or queer couples. My boyfriend, the extrovert, loves to pull me, the introvert, along to talk to random people we see and meet on these hikes yet he not only has to worry about the racism he may come across but the homophobia we both could experience simply because we are who we are. As Haile pointed out people have a sense that black people do not belong in certain areas and this is true, on more than one occasion have we been ignored by someone or looked down upon simply because we are an interracial gay couple. Though, we both experience this in two different ways we connect with Haile’s from-from and black-black experience similarly.

Because we, like she, deviate from the social norms of our respective classifications we too are discounted from everyone else. Dealing with this among the hardships of life in general make it especially hard to find places to take trips and travel. Recently, yes even during the pandemic, we have been planning our next trip (fingers crossed for skiing to be viable in the winter) but there are a few drawbacks whenever we want to travel somewhere. First, we have to look to see if places are gay-friendly because the last thing either of us want to do is have to pretend to be just friends on our retreat. Second, (while my counterpart does not mind) I do not like the idea of traveling to places where racism is worse than the United States because I do not want his experiences on our travels to be different from mine. After these two steps are taken into account, this leaves much fewer options than one would imagine for traveling. It’s crazy to think that in 2020 there are still numerous places where people are disallowed to be people, yet it is what it is and the most we can do is protest and beg for change from stubborn people. 

Phillip Wade Wilson

A Small Place : Vituperation of Colonialism

Throughout the text, I found that colonialism is brought about in the negative light that many times I feel it is overlooked. In my educational career, especially in history and language classes (both foreign and English), the negative impacts of colonial rule are almost always denoted as something much less severe than what it actually was. In her writing, I feel like she explains the numerous ways that colonialism impacted her life, thoughts, as well as political and economic aspects of Antigua as a country. 

What stuck out to me the most is the way in which education in Antigua and in America are similar. As I stated previously there have been numerous times where the awful roles that colonizing powers of the old and new worlds have been downplayed. She explains how this happened to her as well. It made me think about how I have been taught to understand certain concepts about the creation of America and its subsequent ways of continuing to hide its hideous past. She explains that the ways in which history is crafted, by the winners, has seriously damaged the ways in which people all over the world have been and will be able to see themselves. 

To me, I find this extremely concerning not only in this aspect but in the inherent ways that local people are overlooked and not taken into account their full context. As we learned with Iyer, there is a way to escape the tourist gaze in certain ways but we will never truly be able to understand a place or its people without being one ourselves. In Kincaid’s novel, it is clearly evident that this is the case. Even taking a look at the larger picture, outside of her world, the West has always done an excellent job of taking advantage of less fortunate peoples and even industrializing nations as a whole. 

Just look at the lives of the tourists that come to visit Antigua. Ti escape boredom they come to this island nation, yet disregard the hardships the people have to face and look at it with this glamour for the impoverished peoples present. It is quite honestly, sick. I remember on my trip to Belize a few years ago we were on a bus tour going into the mountains and dense forest to cave tube and on the bus ride we passed a very small house a few feet x a few feet and my mother pointed it out and showed it to me. I found it extremely sad that people anywhere in the world have to live like this and I think it instilled me to want to change the world for the better and break the cycle of poverty wealthier nations impose on poorer; however, my mother wanted to take a picture of it because she had never seen something like it before and glamourized the life of the poverty in Belize. And when I explained how it was awful she was taking photos of it she told me I was ungrateful for my “blessed life” rather than seeing how rude it is to pinpoint the less fortunate and photograph them for self-posterity. 

Phillip Wade Wilson

Anthony Bourdain No Reservations – Chreia

In the Anthony Bourdain No Reservations episode where he eats his way through Egypt, I found his tourist gaze to be quite unique. Throughout the entire show he makes references to the pyramids and other famous tourist destinations, yet also includes that he will not be visiting because they are touristy. A common theme among “travelers” but he seems to be unfit of this categorization as well. While he is the host of a television show, so his itinerary is most likely created for him, the way he goes about his Egyptian travels is more along the lines of Iyer than one fully immersed in the tourist gaze.  

A few things led me to this conclusion. First, was his way of talking about delving into the consumption of local delicacies even if they seemed unappealing at first. The pigeon eating, I found to be closer along the “rats with wings” description he gave yet once they showed the preparations my thoughts changed. It looked delicious with all of the spices and rice and even his own description (visual rhetoric at work). The second was the way he went through all walks of life and their consumption of food. He went to the city to eat with businessmen and city folk, then to the rural areas to try local foods from a different Egyptian region, and even to the desert to eat with the Bedouins. All three were very different styles of food, and even more different to the way food is served and eaten in America. 

Phillip Wade Wilson

Gendered Environments – Confirmation

“Advertising’s promotion of overconsumption – most frequently through constructs of gender identity – is a major link between overproduction and environmental degradation”

In the advertisement I am using for my MP2 project, gender roles play a huge part in how the women and men in the advertisement interact with the environment. As Hope explains in chapter seven, “Gendered Environments: Gender and the Natural World in the Rhetoric of Advertising”, when referenced in relation to nature women are depicted as consumers and men are made out to be producers in advertising. This very aspect is present in all the scenes of women and men in nature.

Women are shown to be one with nature. A woman looks over the mountainous region of the Middle East. A woman walks gently in soft sand leaving only a shallow footprint behind her, even being sure to step over low hanging palm leaves. A woman is washing her face in the waters of an oasis as the sun gently shines through on her. All of these representations show women interacting with the environment in a way that shows she has the utmost care for her surroundings and all, like Hope’s characteristics state, are slim and acting passively to nature almost as if they give the earth the consent to dominate them. Hope explains that women are not compared to the earth but rather they are the earth, and in relation to the way men are represented it makes sense they are positioned this way.

Men are the opposite, where women look as if the earth is dominating them, men look as if they are dominating the earth. And as I stated before it should be no surprise women are in a passive position because these advertisements are playing on the gender roles society has semiologicaly created for men and women. In the advertisement I am using for my project, a man takes the lead in a hike through a mountainous region with a woman, a man is already waiting for the woman who is coming outside, a man is diving down into the Arabian Gulf to hunt for clams, a man cracks open a clam and reveals a pearl. In all of these situations, men are not solely dominating the environment but also the scenes where they are interacting with women. Even when the man finds the pearl, the next scene shows a woman wearing what is to be assumed a necklace from that very pearl – they cast the man as the producer and the woman as the consumer.

Though the bigger picture here is the use of these romantic and gender-based scenes to distract from the overconsumption and overuse of our environments across the globe. Many of the ads Hope refers to seem to be targeted toward Americans, yet this advertisement is a global one meant to attract the wealthiest citizens from around the world. Due to the constant construction, oil extraction, and overall global warming, the United Arab Emirates rivals the United States for the largest consumerist and consumptionist nation. While this is a travel advertisement, so the goal is to make it look as great as possible to get people to come, the use of human interaction with pristine waters and endless foliage essentially undercuts the reality of the situation. It makes me wonder, what it would really be like to visit since the advertisement almost seems like a work of propaganda (I have attached it below in a link).

Phillip Wade Wilson

Commonplace – The Role(s) of Gender in Advertising

Understanding where the aspects of the advertisement industry originate is quite intriguing given the role that advertisements have on popular culture and society as a whole. I could always see that women were deemed as “consumers” by the advertisement world given the commonly held notion that women like to shop, and men do not; whereas, men have always believed they need to be the ‘man of the house’ so-to-speak and be the breadwinner for the family. Growing up I always found this idea to be a bit ridiculous for two reasons. The first being I am a man, and I like to shop. The second being that my mother was the breadwinner in my family and was the producer, provider, and consumer not just one thing. Many of my friends who lived in single-parent households understood this as well, the socially constructed idea of gender is just that, socially constructed.

“Nature was controlled by men who were smart enough to exploit its resources for production, whereas women were privileged as the primary consumers responsible for the health of families and the maintenance of new standards of beauty and glamour.”

In my mind, the semiotics of gender, male, female, and intersex all differ greatly, though intersex is often unrepresented even in our society today. For reasons I do not fully grasp myself it seems that most of this is due to categorization and unawareness. As Hill and Helmers stated, men have the power, and women are given the opportunity to consume because of men. It seems that advertisements just proliferate gender and class struggle simultaneously by telling people what they ought to hold as ‘the ideal family’ or ‘American dream’ in their heads. Obviously, in order to advertise something, you must market it to a targeted group and categorize that group because you want the people in that group to buy it and get another advertisement contract to make more money. However, as we have seen in the past with practically any group this is how some stereotypes are created and some stereotypes are exacerbated.

The way advertisements have been marketed toward people, specifically women and men as aligns with the gender roles they established, have backfired occasionally. One that comes to mind is the diamond market. It only became common for men to buy women a diamond ring within the last century or so, due to advertising by using the social norm that the man must propose to the woman. Their advertisement slogan “A diamond is forever” (photograph below of this ad) was hugely successful but this was only in one aspect, engagement rings. Due to their marketing strategy diamonds were given the social construction of being for women from men for a wedding ring. This made it nearly impossible to sell diamonds to men or even to get women to buy their own diamond rings. While consumerism played a huge role in their first ploy to increase sales, because of their use of gender they could no longer push consumerist rhetoric other than to increase the diamond size a man would buy for his fiancée.

I find this commonplace established by the editors is quite brilliant and insightful because it will be useful come time to analyze any advertisement in the future. It seems that gender will always be present in advertising in some capacity, and this reading has given me a few strategies for analysis and what to look for. Since our reading and introduction to semiotics, analysis has seemed a tad easier and definitely useful in the assertion of claims.

Advertisement used by De Beers to be able to sell more diamonds
Phillip Wade Wilson

A talk about guidebooks – Thesis

The work by Ana Alacovska is a clear piece of a thesis. She writes about the industry of travel guidebooks as the print and digital ages begin to clash, and the latter begins to surpass the former. She opens with an abstract to start off her thesis paper and then goes into introducing us to a case where this is applicable. She states how BBC Worldwide took over Lonely Planet and made it better than before because it was able to turn a profit and show growth even during the recession.

She then goes into detail about why the digital age was so useful for travel guidebooks, specifically in the case of BBC Worldwide and Lonely Planet – “digital amateur work and productivity of ProAms”. What this did was give a mass amount of knowledge and know-how to amateurs because of the newfound ease of social ability that made understanding and carrying out tasks that would typically be done by a professional, able to be done by an ‘average Joe’. While not mentioned in the reading, an example of this would be the use of Trip Advisor and Yelp by many people today. Wherever anyone goes, they can write reviews on a restaurant, hotel, or even amusement park… this has made use of the collective’s ability to socialize and present information to each other in order for a better understanding to come about. No longer are hotels and restaurants catering to one or a few critics but the saying “everyone’s a critic” now rings true and places can now utilize this, especially in the travel industry.

Throughout her thesis she presents the counter-arguments to the thoughts she is pushing forward, however simultaneously she refutes them and proves how she is correct, and these counter-arguments are not. To where this appears in the text it is easy to point out because her paragraphs of refutation always start with “In contrast”, “However”, “Nevertheless”, and often the dialogue inserted is a way to initialize the refutation. These can be found in every section of her writing and she provides about three or four refutations per section, giving the reader three or four reasons to agree with her. I find this very interesting and smart because oftentimes people say “give me three good reasons” for or against something so I find it much better to do this than one overarching rebuttal to her claims.

In her conclusion, she states much of the same things that she did in her abstract and opening, but she puts it in the context of what she has stated. Assuming that the reader has read her entire paper before getting to her conclusion she makes references to her arguments and the refutations she made as well as emphasizes her original argument about professional and amateur writers within the guidebook industry.

Phillip Wade Wilson

The Happiest Place on Earth – Impersonation

As I walk through the gates, I can already smell the scents being blasted onto Main Street USA. The confectionary shops, the sweet aroma, is drifting outside the park and into my nostrils filling me with the childlike wonder of going to the fair. It gives me this nostalgic feeling as if I’ve been here before, of course, I have as it’s my seventh time at Walt Disney World, but I mean it’s sending me to my younger memories, not of this place but others. As I scan my magic band and the mouse ears go from white to bright green, I’m able to enter.

The first thing I spot is these large mascots of famous Disney characters taking photos with all of the park guests. When I stop and think about it, it is so odd we know there are humans, most likely dripping in sweat because the heat index is near 100 degrees F today, inside of these costumes yet we are so excited to give them a hug and refer to them as if they were the real character. Not to mention those who pretend to be the princes and princesses who we can actually see, and while they do give a striking resemblance to the princes and princesses from the films it is still odd we put ourselves in this ‘Disney magic’ that should really be called ‘Disney make-believe’. Nonetheless, these characters, especially when they just pop into restaurants to take pictures with you while you eat, add an extra layer to how unique this theme park is to every other in the entire world.

I have never seen a large amount of trash, more than two ‘unhappy’ workers a day, or even felt unsafe while at the parks. The worst thing about them is the egregious lines that take up most of your day, and yet somehow, we are all ok with waiting 120 minutes for a five-minute ride… I can say in all honesty, I’ve waited in the same 120-minute line back to back. The sheer attention to detail that is present in these parks is my reasoning and my rationalization. While there is always construction going on or something being expanded, I just think about how much better it will be when I come back.

I tried impersonation here because I really the way David Wallace writes. He has this openness in his writing style through tone and diction that doesn’t hold back. He’s willing to tell every detail about something that occurred, even if it makes him look silly or strange. I enjoy the way he detailed his interactions (or lack thereof) with Petra and how he tried to see how they would know when to clean his room. I found this to be such a curious thing to do, but I see why he would do it because I too am fascinated by this process. Reading this part was what pushed me to try impersonation, I think I got some aspects of his writing, but it’s not fully realized yet. I attempted to compare his way of writing to one of the times I went to Walt Disney World two summers ago.