June 13, 2008
The Working Poor in Mexico No Rest for the Working Poor
By Laura Carlsen
Globalization continues to break down its own myths, especially in developing countries.
In Mexico, the promise of more jobs withered shortly after NAFTA went into effect, when it became clear that displacement outpaced job generation. Now, its twin promise—that globalization would create better jobs and improve standards of living—has finally committed public suicide as well.
Ford and General Motors change their operations in Mexico. Ford announced a major investment in Mexico of over $2 billion this week. Alongside the self-congratulatory remarks of industry representatives and government officials, was an interesting tidbit of information. According to an AP report, at the Ford plant to be expanded in Cuautitlan—on the outskirts of Mexico City where the cost of living has been going up sharply—workers' wages would be cut in half from their current level of $4.50 an hour. Mexican union leaders stated that this was necessary to compete with China.
The same week, General Motors announced a $1.3 billion investment in its Coahuila, Mexico plant and the creation some 875 jobs (note the low job-to-investment ratio). It also announced the eventual closure of plants in Janesville, Wisconsin and Morraine, Ohio. The Mexican press noted that the company first hinted at the closure of its plant in Toluca, which elicited an immediate promise from the union leadership to accept wage reductions. It soon after announced it will remain open but cut back on operations and lay off some of the workers. Although the new contract terms were unavailable at the time of this writing, the trend is written on the wall.
Messenger, Christian K. The Godfather and American Culture: How the Corleones Became "Our Gang" New York: State University of New York P, 2002. 173-206.
Chris Messenger’s book, The Godfather and American Culture: How the Corleones Became “Our Gang” focuses on the tremendous impact The Godfather has had on American culture. While The Godfather proved to be influential on the screen, Messenger chooses to detail the powerful popular culture effect that has reverberated since the movies premier in 1972 to the present day. In particular, the chapter entitled “The Godfather and American Culture: How the Corleone’s Became “Our Gang” attempts to explain how a family, who resorts to gruesome violence and is one of the leaders in illegal gambling rackets, is so beloved even among the most unexpected, scrupulous individuals. He suggests that the Corleones become “Our Gang” mainly because onlookers aspired to exude many of the chief attributes and tenets of the Corleone family such as respect and power. Although mafia involvement is not typically viewed in a positive light, Messenger contends that a unique emotional connection is established which is rarely associated with such illegal and corrupt activities. For example, male dominance and authority in the family and household settings displayed initially by Don Corleone himself and eventually by his sons are particularly appealing traits to American men today. With the rise in the role in women in the latter half of the 20th century and into the 21st, men find a certain emotional reassurance in the controlling male figure.
Coppola presents the viewers with a precarious situation as the family members are both proponents of murder and traditional, loyal family values. It is possible that often the Corleones are granted such clemency because their heinous actions are justified as means of necessities to protect and provide for family members. In one instance The Don remarks, “Do you spend time with your family? Good. Because a man that doesn't spend time with his family can never be a real man.” Had Coppola not included extreme characterization to reveal similarities among the average viewer and the Corleone family, few would be found cheering on these “good” murderers. In general, those who came to admire the Corleone family were successively persuaded by Coppola to view mafia involvement as a mere daytime job; just as one’s character is usually not judged on their profession, viewers should look beyond the traditional Italian-mafia stereotypes and into the caring, trustworthy natures of the Corleone family members.
The Corleone Chronicles: Revisiting “The Godfather” Films as Trilogy, written by Pheobe Poon examines the structure of the narrative of each of the three Godfather movies, what separated these films from other gangster films of the time as well as the legacy that the three movies have left behind.
She starts her analysis of the films by taking a look at their typical narrative structure. Her examination leads her to break the films in four different acts, exposition (prologue), disruption (conflict), transition (bridge), to restoration (conclusion). The film, like other gangster films share some similar motifs, centered around the search or attempt to attain the American Dream through various illegal acts. In this way, in “The Godfather”, Michael Corleone’s character, although calculating and exacting, is transformed into a tragic hero. In this way films are not meant to glorify the gangster, but elicit an emotional response through an understandingof the charaters.
What Poon suggests sets “The Godfather” apart from other movies of its genre is its strong concentration on the family. Vito Corleone although calculating and at times barbaric is not simply portrayed as such. Rather because of the emphasis on the organization as a family, he is seen as the patriarch, the father figure instead of simply the boss. Furthermore, the characters, especially Michael and Vito are not merely acting out of revenge or avarice, but rather are convinced of the necessity of a strict moral code. This moral code comes through a history of ethnicity, being Sicilian. This ethnicity and concentration in a family allow for these characters to become protagonist as the audience can identify with some of their beliefs even if they can’t identify with some of the actions.
Call#: Van Pelt Library PN1998.3.C67 P48 2004
This article, written by Phoebe Poon, looks back at the overall success of The Godfather trilogy. The purpose of this article is to analyze the films as a whole as well as the way in which The Godfather established itself from other gangster films of the era.
Poon argues that although the movie is often characterized as a gangster film, it holds very key differences which set it apart from others. In the initial part of the article, she analyzes the trilogy and breaks each individual film into four sections. This pattern is repeated in all three movies and provides continuity throughout the trilogy, which in itself helps to differentiate it from other gangster films.
Poon goes on to address the issue of “family” that is found throughout the trilogy. This aspect of family helps to distinguish The Godfather from other crime films, as in most of these films; the protagonist is surrounded by hired mercenaries. However, the men working with Don Vito are trusted family members, creating a deeper and more meaningful bond between them. She goes on to state that, “the term gangster to the don would insult his style of leadership, which is vastly superior” to other gangsters.
Other important characteristics of the film helped differentiate this trilogy from other films. Poon mentions the attention to the culture of the Italians as important. Coppola does not portray the Corleones with stereotypical characteristics of Italians. Rather, he adds a degree of authenticity by accurately portraying Sicilian culture.
The differences that this essay highlights help to explain the reasons why The Godfather is critically acclaimed. The detail and depth that this film shows helps to separate it from other gangster genre films, and puts it in its own class.
Call#: Van Pelt Library PN1998.3.C67 P48 2004
Norris, Margot. “Modernism and Vietnam: Francis Ford Coppola's Apocalypse Now.” MFS Modern Fiction Studies 44:3 (1998): 730 - 766
Margot Norris fully examines and reviews Coppola’s extraordinary film in this article. She attempts to voice Francis Ford Coppola’s critique on the Vietnam War not only through the dialogue inspired by Joseph Conrad’s Heart of Darkness, but also through the undermining themes and images of the film itself. Even though most people contend that Apocalypse Now is a loose interpretation of Heart of Darkness, Norris claims that some of the seemingly random and meaningless scenes in Apocalypse Now actually mirror themes and passages from Conrad’s novella. She dives deep into the psychedelic and dark imagery of Apocalypse Now and analyzes not only the changes made by Coppola and screenwriter John Milius, but also the true meaning of scenes and images that can be directly traced to Heart of Darkness.
One of the main differences Norris finds between the source novella Heart of Darkness and Apocalypse Now can be found in the character changes and the implications meant by these changes. The change in setting also stands as one of the most glaring differences. Norris contends that changing Marlow (a company man) to Willard (a military man), the accountant (a flamboyant ridiculous symbol of colonialism) to Lt. Colonel Kilgore (a ridiculous man of carnage), and the setting of colonial Africa to war torn Vietnam and Cambodia was meant by Coppola to comment mainly on the darkness and evils of man’s violence, exemplified by the Vietnam War.