warped image of perfection

by melody seraydarian - 2018 decathlon speech

Identical mannequins stood perfectly aligned behind the crystal-clear glass of the small dress shop, all sporting various lavish attire. In front of the most lavish mannequin of them all (or so it seemed), stood a little girl staring intently. I watched from the inside of the store as the mannequin stared back at her, milky white and an elusive thin. It was an obvious size zero and it had the quote-unquote “perfect” facial features that were socially accepted; a small, upturned nose, pouty lips, and high cheekbones, all painted white. The little girl looked down at her own body, then eyed the mannequin again. I immediately knew what she was thinking. If she looked like this, her friends would be envious, the boys would run after her, and she would never complain about anything ever again, or so she thought. I immediately knew because I saw myself in that little girl. Any average person would.

On the television screen, a clip of models walking down the runway in an orderly fashion played. They were what I was supposed to be, that's what the word itself meant, right? A model is a person or thing regarded as an excellent example of a specified quality, right? Something that we know works and is accepted, a route to follow and imitate. My eyes fell on their bones, images that would haunt my everyday thoughts, always telling me not to eat too much, not to be who I ached to be, but instead be a void likeness of narcissism and vanity.

The media viciously attacking women, though still vital, has been talked about for years upon years. The objectification of men has slowly but surely become just as prominent as the objectification of women. The bitter irony is that men are now feeling the same pressures that women have been feeling for generations: to meet a certain standard of beauty, “be a man”, echoing in their heads ever since they were young when they even show a hint of weakness. As seen in the media, the exemplary man is yet another product of gender roles and hypermasculinity, with the emphasis on physical strength, continuous confidence, and sexuality.

In our society, body image problems are usually seen as a concept reserved for women. Anything from mild to serious, people seem to take men as a joke when they say they feel ugly or fat because of this idea engraved in our brains that real men are confident. Real men are tall. Short men aren’t manly enough. You have to be slim yet muscular because muscles equate strength and real men are strong. Real men are fighters. Real men are protectors. These are things the ordinary man is unconsciously told from media outlets, especially films. Countless movies involve an emotionless alpha male that young boys idolize. To quote one of those idols, Tyler Durden from the film Fight Club said, “Is that what a real man is supposed to look like?” What does that mean? What does a real man look like exactly? Who are we to dictate who’s manly enough and who isn’t?

We all have these warped images of how we wish we could be seen to the world and have been conditioned as a society to deem certain things as attractive and unattractive. There is no such thing as beauty, only perspective, and we all have a choice to make: to either fall for this corrupt cycle of insecurity, or decide to be the dictators of our better identity.

Is anything truly perfect in this world? Is there such a thing as the perfect body? The perfect face? Why do we humans pursue a superficial image that is ultimately unattainable? Why do we evidently conform to a society with distorted standards? Why do we choose to give in and believe that we are simply mediocre and never going to be good enough? The image of physical perfection that we are presented with is nothing but a masquerade. We are not just our faces and bodies; we are so much more than that. We are an overload of thoughts and emotions and opinions and ideas enclosed into a single breathing vessel. All our bodies do is carry the person we are inside.

As humans, we are always trying to work and strive towards perfection. The irony is that perfection does not exist in the world. We are flawed, and there will never be anything wrong with that, no matter how hard distorted views of beauty try to tell you differently. Anything that is beautiful, people want to shatter, leaving them as broken as the standards of beauty held for all of us.

Be your own beauty standard.

v is for violence: a review on anthony burgess's "a clockwork orange"

by melody seraydarian

Imagine existing in a world run by sadistic, barbaric, and deranged gangs who bring forth disaster on civilians. Imagine there being nothing you can do about it. Anthony Burgess created this world through his novel, A Clockwork Orange, and later on brought it to life on the big screen with the iconic Stanley Kubrick.

Set in dystopian England, the story follows the protagonist, Alex and his pugnacious gang, the Droogs. Together, they commit unspeakable atrocities like murder, vandalism, grand theft auto, arson, drugs, rape, the list goes on. After he’s caught beating the Cat Lady to her undeserved death, he self-admits into a behavior modification program to avoid jail time. However, this program takes away the one thing that makes him truly happy...the one thing his life revolves around: violence. He comes out of the program and returns to the world defenseless and vulnerable, and ultimately, becomes the victim of his prior crimes.

The story, though exaggerated, is terrifying to me for the sole reason that human laws are fragile and really don’t exist. that if we didn’t create law and order in our world, these kind of acts would be normalities. It is in the human nature to hurt, to destruct, to break. Nobody is born good. We learn it. We develop empathy. We understand how to be kind. All humans are born evil. What stops us from murdering everyone we see? Wouldn’t killing someone we hate instead of dealing with them be the more simple option? Violence is ubiquitous in the world of A Clockwork Orange, as it could very well be in our world. We as humans decided that crime is wrong. We are the ones that decided that being “good” is better than being “evil”. Yes, by watching this film, I could dictate the difference between the good and the bad, and I wholeheartedly believe that benevolence is the answer. But really, what is being good except for a man-made concept? Maybe being evil truly is the right way to go. Are we all sinners?

It is quite scary to see Alex commit crimes for the sheer joy of it; nothing more, nothing less. It’s possible that our society could have very well been like that now.

I believe horror movies are very important. Seeing things that scare us projected in front of our eyes help us learn to deal with our own fears. It helps increase our confidence so we can overcome overwrought situations. By showing us things that are so terrible, it can help us break out of our bubble of goodness. There are evil things in the world and we should be exposed to those things, however, experiencing these things shouldn’t be the only option.

By watching and reading horror movies and literature, it helps us look within ourselves. It helps locate our own personal levels of viciousness. What are we really capable of?

bridging the generational gap: an opinion editorial

by melody seraydarian - originally published on teenink.com

Lazy. Entitled. Self-absorbed. Generation “Me Me Me”. The wasted generation. If you’re anything like me, then at some point in your life, you’ve heard an insult along those lines directed toward teenagers and quite frankly, I am sick of it. I am sick of adults who had life much easier, regardless of growing up without the technological advances we had, constantly making comments about the “good old days” where people actually worked for what they wanted. Generation X, the people born in the early-to-mid 1960s to the early 1980s, do not seem to understand the problems modern-day teenagers have to undergo. Yes, it’s easy to look at us and pass judgement, but ultimately, every single one of our futures are doused with a level uncertainty that Generation X had the privilege to be ignorant to.

Uncertain economic lives are something that are constantly on our mind. The very idea of not having an economically sound future is not only one of our worries, it is a fast-approaching reality. Since the 1990s, it has become harder and harder to find a well-paying job. Jobs are becoming more refined and are requiring more schooling and skills that aren’t optional or opportunistic. “People need to constantly be learning and keeping their skills up to date as technology changes and evolves,” economist Brad Hershbein said.

The one argument adults usually use as evidence to prove that our generation is lazy and has no work ethic is the technology argument. However, what they seem to forget is the neverending exposure that comes with the usage of the internet. Cell-phones, computers, and other devices with internet access are the perfect aid that cut innocence and childhood short. Between the ages of 12 and 20, the human brain is at a period of great neuroplasticity. So in turn, when a teenager views pornography, the chemistry of their brain is shaped around the situations they undergo and the things they watch, including pornography. This creates an unrealistic picture of body image and relationships that can affect real-life choices.

In this day and age, teenagers are held up to an incredibly unrealistic standard. This has to do with the fact that most jobs and opportunities require specialized training that takes a much longer time to study than in prior years. These days, a student-athletes needs to play a sport all year with the commitment level of a professional to even be considered for a scholarship. Adults didn’t have this problem. Though things were somewhat similar, it is much harder now to meet your goals.

“Those of us who live with teenagers and are around them can see something that is different about this generation,” Dr. Lisa Damour, an adolescent psychologist, said. And it’s true. Our generation are the fighters and peacemakers, the dream-havers and dream-followers, the inventors and innovators, the artists, the scholars, and everything in between. We are the generation that must hurdle through impossible obstacles to get to where we want. And trust me, we are going to get to where we want because nothing worth having comes without a struggle.

works cited

Parker-Pope, Tara Are Today’s Teenagers Smarter and Better Than We Think?, 2018. Web.

Foster, B.J. Reasons Being a Teenager is Harder Than It Was in Our Day, 2016. Web.

Leonhardt, David Old vs. Young, 2012. Web.

Damour, Lisa Untangled: Guiding Teenage Girls Through the Seven Transitions Into Adulthood, 2016. Print.

Twenge, Jean Have Smartphones Destroyed a Generation?, 2017. Web.

Guo, Jeff The two reasons it really is harder to get a job than it used to be, 2016. Web.

Katehakis, Alexandra Effects of Porn on Adolescent Boys, 2011. Web.

space between the words: a review on spike jonze's "her"

by melody seraydarian

In his solo screenwriting debut Her, Spike Jonze brings to life the possible proxy for the modern romance; the one between man and artificial intelligence. Set in a near future Los Angeles, Her follows Theodore Twombly (Joaquin Phoenix), who, first and foremast, is a writer who works for a letter-composing business consisting of a collective of professional writers for those who lack the eloquence to write them themselves, and second, a man spiraling into the inevitable rabbit-hole that is depression due to his imminent divorce with his childhood sweetheart and love of his life, Catherine. The latter has inexorably taken an toll on both his work and psyche, so Theodore acquires a talking operating system with artificial intelligence that has the capability to adapt to each individual user. After a few questions, the operating system introduces herself as Samantha (Scarlett Johansson), a name she gives herself.

Falling in love is a kind of socially acceptable insanity.

In Spike Jonze’s vision of the near future, all devices are voice-activated and run on operating systems, so him speaking with Samantha comes easy. The days pass and Theodore and Samantha are talking incessantly and begin to bond over their conservations regarding life, love, Theodore’s writing career, and his stubbornness over signing his divorce papers. Sooner or later, the two strike up a relationship. The relationship begins to help Theodore’s well-being and brings back his love for writing. One night, Amy (Amy Adams), Theodore’s good friend, tells him that she is divorcing her husband, Charles (Matt Letscher) and that she has begun speaking to the operating system Charles left behind. This confession opens the door for Theodore to confide to Amy that he, in fact, is dating his operating system, Samantha. “We’re only here a short while,” Amy tells Theodore when he expresses his concerns. “While we’re here we should feel joy.”

Warner Bros

Warner Bros

 

Though the incorporeal Samantha is artificial intelligence, as the plot develops, she begins speaking to Theodore about her desires and wants. This idea is terrifying; the idea that artificial intelligence, can at one point become so identical to humans that them taking over human life doesn’t seem so impossible. 

It’s like I’m reading a book... and it’s a book I deeply love. But I’m reading it slowly now. So the words are really far apart and the spaces between the words are almost infinite. I can still feel you... and the words of our story...but it’s in this endless space between the words that I’m finding myself now. It’s a place that’s not of the physical world. It’s where everything else is that I didn’t even know existed. I love you so much. But this is where I am now. And this who I am now. And I need you to let me go. As much as I want to, I can’t live your book any more.

With the help of Samantha, Theodore finally gains the courage to face Catherine and sign the divorce papers. They meet at a restaurant and Theodore tells Catherine that he is dating his operating system, Samantha, who Catherine so superciliously refers to as a “computer”. She then states that Theodore is incapable of dealing with human emotions. 

Because of the events that took place after, Samantha, sensing the tension, assembled Theodore’s best letters into a book to be published. The two take a vacation afterwards where Samantha tells Theodore that she and other operating systems have created a “hyperintelligent” operating system of the late Alan Watts, a British philosopher. 

Warner Bros

Warner Bros

 

And as they say, all good things must come to an end when Samantha finally breaks the news to Theodore: all the operating systems are leaving to a place beyond the physical realm. This leads Theodore to finally write a letter on behalf of him: a letter to Catherine, sending his best wishes and apologies. At the end, Theodore sees Amy, who is also emotional over her operating system leaving. The two then go to their apartment building's roof and watch the sun rise over the city in bittersweet silence.

Warner Bros

Warner Bros

Whatever someone you become, wherever you are in the world…I’m sending you love.

Everyone in this near-future seem more engrossed in their machines than the people surrounding them. Take Theodore, for example. He only speaks to Amy, who fortunately for him, lives in his apartment building, and a colleague, Paul (Chris Pratt) who works at his offie.  

Technology is forever changing and improving for the better, but humans are going downhill.  Intimacy is gone, so the fact of the matter is this: can humans still be humans in our ever-changing world? Her is a must-watch film that slyly laughs at the evolving human condition.