Saturday, March 29, 2014

Jimmy Corrigan: Superman 2

Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth is a graphic novel, also known as a comic, by Chris Ware.  I would first bring up the point that it took me a while to get used to reading this novel by the way its set up but between the images ranging in different sizes to the images being flipped to where you have to turn the book a few times to read it properly, it took me quite some time to get adjusted to it.  Once I got accustomed to the novel, I began to see how the character Jimmy went on about his everyday life with everything he had to get accustomed to.  Although, one thing I quickly grasped onto was how the title of the novel states that he is the smartest kid on earth.

 By reading through the story I wouldn’t think that is true and many people probably wouldn’t either.  The reasons being is how he really doesn’t have any friends, no interests, no type of love live, but only a mom who bothers him so much that he gets annoyed.  Having a life like that while being a grown man seems depressing, especially when he even looks way older than the age he actually is and on top of that his dad abandoning him when he was a baby.

When referring to Jimmy’s dad, you still almost get the feeling to wonder why he was hardly in his son’s life to begin with.  He had disappeared for almost 30 years with Jimmy only keeping in touch with him by a few phone calls and a dinner.  The second dinner didn’t even happen because his dad had stood him up, thinking he would get his act together after being away from his son after all these years.  Before Jimmy could get in touch with him again, his father had already died.

You seem to wonder what type of man just walks out on his own child.  Jimmy Corrigan’s mind had to be filled with questions like was he unhappy?  Was he too weak to take care of me?  Did he get tired of mom and that is what drove him away?  Of all these questions, he would never really get to know now.  It has to be hard growing up without a father because kids tend to look at them as hero’s, role models, and even to some Superman.  That’s how I looked at my dad when I was younger.  At times he would look like the strongest man in the world and had all the super-powers.  He would throw me up over his shoulders while I thought I was the tallest guy in the world and pick up things that seemed so impossible for anybody else to do.  That’s just the way your mind thinks when you’re a kid.

There were also times when he would play catch with me outside and do simple things like help me with my homework when it had to be done.  It didn’t take much for my father to become my superman.  Just from him being there alone would be better than him actually having super-powers or being able to fly.  That leads me to believe that maybe that’s all Jimmy really wanted, s superman figure in his life which could’ve been his father.  

  After going through all of that, I surely wouldn’t think he’s the smartest and that’s simply because of his decisions.  But, that’s when his imagination comes in to play.  In Jimmy’s mind, he thinks of himself as being superman, having a really hot girlfriend, being a robot at times, and basically anything people would think of in order to have an exciting life.  By Jimmy visualizing his life this way even though it isn’t happening in reality, gives me the reason to believe now why he is the smartest kid on earth.

While referring back to him being superman and putting that mask on I think can relate to the rest of this novel and how it is portrayed.  For instance, when you’re a kid you tend to think of fictional characters like superman and want to be like him some day.  Who wouldn’t, when you can fly around and be the hero by saving the world and have everyone look up to you.  Since Jimmy was a little kid, you can tell that being someone like superman would always be his goal and after putting on that mask, it gave him an even greater imagination of becoming him.  That’s the key point to when his imaginations started to get broader throughout the years.  As he got older, he never stopped having these imaginations because it’s like he always had that hope that these things can happen someday.

If you think about it, Jimmy had never stopped wearing Superman clothes from when he was younger till when he got older.  He would still walk around with that blue Superman sweatshirt on wherever he went as if he was a young boy still.  He could care less what people think because deep down in his mind he still had that hope of becoming that super hero one day.  Other than him always wearing that sweatshirt, there were also many other issues that lead to his mind being the way it was.

By Jimmy not having friends, a girlfriend, or any interests plays a huge part in the whole superman imagination.  He knew that if he could become superman then the friends, girlfriend, and having an interest in doing certain things would automatically take place and happen without any worries.  The rest of this novel plays out as dealing with loneliness, failure, and fear, but being superman means that you won’t get lonely because you’ll be saving the world, you won’t be scared of failure because you have the physical and mental ability to achieve greatness, and you won’t have fear because you’ll be super-natural and nobody can stop you.

            Lastly, as you read through this novel and examine closely, you will realize that Jimmy never really has a smile on his face.  He always looks confused, sad, lonely, or just flat out absent-minded in life.  These expressions go a long way from experiencing time spent throughout the years with no father, to never having the friends and encouraging people around to keep him uplifted.  That goes back to being Superman and feeling like you’re on top of the world.  If he would’ve had that chance then you would be seeing way more smiles throughout this book from Jimmy and not a lot of that isolated look from him.

In conclusion, Jimmy Corrigan grows up to be a man that still has the mind at times of a child.  He doesn’t live the life that he always imagined because it’s unrealistic and never got a chance to experience anything that was similar to it.  Although, I feel that if he had gotten a chance to do something superman-like rather than just an imagination, he would approach life more differently so he wouldn’t have to feel so lonely, afraid, and annoyed all at once.





Work Cited:

Ware, Chris. Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth. New York: Pantheon, 2000. Print.

Daoust, Phil. "Daddy, I Hardly Knew You." The Guardian. Guardian News and Media, 20 July 2001. Web. 29 Mar. 2014.

Questions and Comments on Danielewski, Week 2

Post your questions/thoughts as comments to this post.  Again:  a paragraph is fine, or a couple if you feel so moved.  You are posting on a question, problem or topic of your choice.  Citing a particular passage is recommended but not required.

Prompts for Danielewksi and/or Project Proposal

Option 1: Theory

Use Marcuse or Heidegger (if you’re brave) - showing good knowledge of your critical source, and making use of specific passages - to make a coherent argument about some aspect of Danielewski. If you wish, you are welcome to engage with Danielewski’s own use of Heidegger, though if you do so you need to read enough of the surrounding material in Heidegger’s Being and Time to make sense of it.

The details of the argument are up to you.

Option 2: Music

Find and purchase “Haunted,” an album released by Danielewski’s sister, whose stage name is Poe. Here’s the iTunes link and the Amazon link. The albums operates, on one level, as a kind of soundtrack for the book. After listening carefully, present an argument re: how some particular part of the reading assignment could be interpreted differently through the album, or vice versa. When writing about music, try to deal with music as such and not just with the lyrics.

Option 3: Project Proposal

If you wish, you may do your project proposal this coming week instead of the following week. Note that the following description of final projects is both extensive and incomplete.

Note: the default format for a final project is an essay. You don’t need to do an essay! You can create a video game, comic book, interactive essay, mock blog, etc., etc. (people have done all of these in the past). But you should read and understand the “normal” requirements first, so you can explain why using some alternative form will allow you to do better/different work.

Final Project Proposal Guidelines for Essays:

Write a proposal for your final project. This proposal might be a little shorter than our usual blog entries (it should still be more than a page long, however). It must include the following:
  1. A bibliography (see below for the number of sources) of your proposed sources, with a sentence or two each regarding how you plan to use those sources. This does not need to be a final list - you are just demonstrating the viability of the project.
  2. A clear statement of your proposed argument, or a limited number of alternative arguments, or a clear question which is intended to lead directly to an argument. This should include the following:
    1. A clearly stated counterargument to your position stated in (2) above, or a discussion of why your question in (2) above is a reasonable way to generate an argument.
    2. A clear statement of why your reader should care about this argument. It might have small or large significance, but it should be clear why you think it’s worth making.
  3. A clear statement of the role that Marcuse, Heidegger, or Dreyfus (or possibly Joy, if you can make a case for him) will play in your essay, including a discussion of at least one passage from the appropriate work. It is not an absolute requirement, but it is a strong guideline, to include this theoretical component in your essay.
  4. If you are revising an earlier draft (again, see below), a paragraph explaining, with specifics, what you plan to keep and what you plan to change, and why. If you are not revising an earlier draft, just explain your argument at greater length.
You can use an outline, or just a regular text document, or a mix of the two. You will be evaluated on this plan, as with any other blog entry.

Broad Final Project Goals

Your final project should offer a serious contribution to the work of the class. It should show both that you understand our collective work, and that you have have your own direction or role within it (although this might even take the form of a challenge). You should have a clear, interesting, and worthwhile argument, which you make using both external sources and texts which we read as a class. Ideally, you will draw on your own individual strengths and interests in this project (including, for instance, material from your own fields of study). You may either begin a project from scratch or revise one of your existing essays, including existing revisions. You should ideally do work which interests you, and which you feel contributes in some way to the class as a whole.

Specific Final Project Requirements:

  1. Your essay must be at least 8 pages long, including at least 5 pages of new material (if you are revising). 8 pages is sufficient; I prefer that you not go above 12 pages, but this is preference, not a requirement.
  2. Your project must include at least 2 additional academic sources (generally, academic books and journal articles) beyond any that you might have used in an earlier revision. If you feel that you’re best off with non-academic sources, please discuss that preference with me. You should, however, do as much research as your argument requires.
  3. Your project must include some close readings of particular passages from at least one literary figure we have read collectively. Some projects, though, will need more close reading than others. Some highly research-oriented projects may do relatively little; some may revolve primarily around close readings.
  4. Most projects should make sustained use of Marcuse.  This does not mean that you need to agree with him, however. “Sustained use” does not mean that this critic needs to dominate your argument; they do, however, need to be part of the conversation, and you do need to show a good understanding of one of them.  If Marcuse really doesn't fit with your project, you should make use of a third academic source instead - ideally a theoretical/philosophical one.
  5. You should display a good understanding of all of your chosen texts, as well as of any relevant class discussions. I don’t expect perfection, and I do expect differences of opinion, but I also expect you to know your material.
  6. Your project should make a single sustained argument from the first sentence to the last. This does not mean you cannot make use of any tangents, nor does it mean that you must continually remind us of where you are, at a particular moment in your project, within the larger argument. Your goals and direction should, nonetheless, by clear, even if they might sometimes become subtle.
  7. Think of this as your lasting contribution to the class, and your opportunity to teach something to the rest of us.
I’m sure questions will arise about all of the above; I’ll do my best both to answer questions you raise in comments, and to revise as needed.

Final Project Proposals for Non-Essay Projects:

If you want to do something other than an essay, you should be ready to work harder, with an even clearer purpose, than those doing a conventional project.

Thus, I expect a 1–2 page description of your goals, of why you want to do something in the chosen form, of your argument (even creative projects, for this assignment, need to have something like an argument), with a paragraph explaining in detail why you expect to do better, more ambitious work by doing creative or formally unusual work rather than an essay.

The Importance of the Father-Son Relationship

The standard model for a nuclear family is the presence of a father, a mother, and some number of children. From this accepted model, the child is expected to grow and develop into a well-adjusted adult, fully prepared to participate in society. However, life is rarely so perfect, and for many children, this form of family life does not exist, leading to various developmental issues and complications. Author Chris Ware’s understanding of the psychological concepts of the father-son relationship, the need for role models in life, and the power of emotional catharsis, coupled with the art of his comic, show that Jimmy’s relationship with his father (or lack thereof) was the cause of Jimmy’s unexciting life, and how interacting with his father led to the changes Jimmy was able to implement in his own life at the end.

The biggest concept to understand when discussing Jimmy’s life is to understand the impact a father figure has on the life of a child. The father-son relationship, while not so lauded as the mother-son relationship, is highly important in the life of a young male. The father figure in the life of a child becomes the person the child will pattern themselves against, and try to emulate. Based upon how nurturing the father is, the child will change how the child develops, and eventually interacts with society. More nurturing fathers lead to emotionally open and happy children (that grow into well-adjusted adults), while distant fathers produce the opposite effect (Mussen). In Jimmy’s life, his father was absent, and without the stable father figure, Jimmy had no real role models to emulate, and therefore developed a less emotionally equipped persona. This is apparent in the sequence of images where Jimmy, about to meet his father, tries to imagine what he will be like (Ware, 30). All 12 men share similar characteristics with Jimmy, from limited hair and similar chin-shapes, but all are distinct, and have what appears to be, varying lifestyles and personalities. Jimmy’s lack of understanding about who is father is, as a person, explains why Jimmy fails to act assertively in most situations. He has never had a real role model from which Jimmy could learn how to behave, and as a result, fails to act. Ware also demonstrates the power of a male role model elsewhere in the comic, through the use of Jimmy’s grandfather. When Jimmy’s grandfather argues with the red haired girl (Ware, 219), this child’s actions mirror the model that Jimmy’s great-grandfather set, where he mistreats women and acts as if they are beneath him. In this case, the child replication the actions and beliefs of the father, who is the child’s masculine role model simply because the father is there, no matter if it is a positive or negative role model. Ware clearly understands the power of a father-figure in a child’s life, and uses it to begin to explain Jimmy’s behavior, as the lack of a real role model for Jimmy stunted his emotional growth.

Without the live-in father figure, Jimmy struggles to find a substitute, and, like many young boys, ends selecting one from pop-culture, here a superhero. Society holds up superheroes as the epitome of masculinity, due to their strength, morals, and the predilection to save the day. Because young children have are unable to completely separate reality from fiction, they often take superheroes as role models, and assume the same ideas, morals, and even gender-roles that the characters exhibit (Baker). From this, we see how young children focus on these types of characters for models. The issue arises when Jimmy actually meets his role model, at a mall appearance. This hero proceeds to take a glancing interest in Jimmy’s life, takes Jimmy and his mother out to dinner, and proceeds to have a one-night-stand with Jimmy’s mother, leaving Jimmy with only a mask to remember him by (Ware, 5). From this sequence, Jimmy learns two things. One, that women are primarily sex objects (as shown by the hero taking in interest in Jimmy’s life only so far as it leads to sex with his mother), and two, that the role models in one’s life will leave without notice. Based upon these two things, Jimmy’s future development is understandable. Jimmy’s isolation and loneliness is a product of his belief that people will not stick around in his life, and his failure to connect with the opposite sex, and to focus on sex exclusively, is a product of Jimmy seeing his role model interact with him only for sex (from his mother). The ideal man the superhero represents imposes its ideals upon Jimmy, who, even at a young age, takes these lessons to heart, even if he did not yet understand it. Even with these issues with his superhero role model, Jimmy persists in using the superhero as his role model even until adulthood, proving Jimmy’s shortened emotional growth. We see that after Jimmy is hit by a car, he imagines that his savior is indeed the superhero, instead of just the driver (Ware, 99). Furthermore, the image of his superhero dying, or letting Jimmy down, both on page 17 for the suicide of the superhero, and on page 15 with the superhero dropping him and his future son, show Jimmy’s belief that even those people he believes in will let him down. In both of these cases, the model used for Jimmy’s personal development has failed him, yet he still immaturely follows the same role model.

Things begin to change for Jimmy when he actually meets his father. The initial meeting does not go well, and for both Jimmy and his father, things are awkward. They fail to connect, and often lapse into silence (Ware, 48). Jimmy’s father is forced to carry the conversations, and overall, all conversation is shallow, focusing only on the superficial, such as the quality of food, or the weather outside. To Jimmy, it seems as if he has no place in his father’s life, as evidenced by his sleeping on the couch, his father forgetting Jimmy was staying with him, and even his clothing shrinking (Ware, 64). Clothing here is significant. When Jimmy is forced to wear his father’s clothing, it does not fit well, indicating to the reader and to Jimmy that Jimmy does not have to be his father (Ware, 64). Later, when Jimmy’s old clothing fails to fit again, indicating to the reader that perhaps Jimmy is changing beyond who he was when he arrived (Ware, 67). The breaking point for Jimmy in this short trip is the sight of his father’s “Number One Dad” shirt (Ware 71) ­­­. To Jimmy, this brings up his abandonment issues, as Jimmy realizes that even though his father was not there for him, he apparently was for somebody else. Jimmy, unprepared for this realization, runs off, and gets injured (Ware, 99). This accident leads to the first occasion that Jimmy’s father does actually come through for Jimmy, as he takes him to the emergency room, and is able to help treat his broken foot. This is the beginning of Jimmy rationally reevaluating his father. Jimmy must start to reconcile his father, as a man, with the father figure he idolized in his younger days as a superhero. Throughout the day, Jimmy learns that his father was a good father to Amy, (Ware, 286), but does also have faults, such as leaving Jimmy, smoking, and mild amounts of sexism. However, the fact that Jimmy is finally able to process the imperfections of is father is the most important part, as it leads to his personality change at the end, and restarts Jimmy’s emotional growth.

Catharsis is the act of reconciliation, emotionally and psychologically, and is noted by a significant release of negative emotion (Claiborn). Jimmy goes through his own personal catharsis after the death of his father, all stemming from his redefinition of his male role model. Jimmy’s father never met up to the image of a superhero that Jimmy maintained for years, yet his father was more immediate and nurturing that the superhero ever was.  This catharsis was Jimmy reconciling that his role model may not be perfect, but it is still valuable to have a dependable pattern to model oneself after. While his father was in the hospital, Jimmy has a real conversation with Amy about Jimmy’s personality, his expectations, and why Jimmy wanted to meet his father (Ware, 320), starting the process of the catharsis, as Jimmy realized he wanted to know who his father was. Here, Jimmy begins to evaluate his own actions, and begins to understand why he acts so peculiarly. Going home after his father’s death, Jimmy begins to take responsibility for his actions after discovering and examining the discrepancy between the ideal and reality, all hallmarks of a true developmental catharsis, as stated by Nichols and Efran (Nichols), allowing him to define a richer, more satisfying life. Jimmy has come to accept that he is not his father, but there are aspects of his father that are worthwhile to copy. Jimmy’s father was a supportive father to Amy, he was responsible later in life, and was able to change into a better man, an aspect that Jimmy can, and did take to heart. By the end of the comic, Jimmy was able to let go of his infantile attraction to Peggy (Ware, 375), moved on from his mother’s dependence upon him (Ware, 373), and was finally able to see a woman outside of a sexual situation (Ware, 378), all actions that would have seemed out of range for the Jimmy the reader encounters in the first 100 pages. True development in Jimmy was achieved, because he was able to move past his childish fantasies about his father, and accept his father for who he is, and that Jimmy can be his own man outside of his father, showing clear emotional maturity.
Jimmy Corrigan, as a character, is initially very plain. He is a passive character, unable to speak to women, and is extremely lonely. All of these attributes are due to the lack of a stable male role model in Jimmy’s life. By interacting with his father, and understanding the man his father was and is, Jimmy is able to reach a catharsis, and is able to move past his problems. Chris Ware masterfully uses both the art of the comic, as well as detailed knowledge of psychological concepts to impress upon the reader the importance of a stable male role model in a young boy’s life. Ware’s novel ends with young Jimmy being carried off by a superhero, a superhero that looks suspiciously like himself. By ending the novel in this manner, Ware acknowledges that the changes in Jimmy are because Jimmy himself wanted to change, but need the catalyst that was interacting with his father, and reconciling his ideal role model with a real person.  

Works Cited:
Baker, Kaysee, and Arthur A. Raney. "Equally Super?: Gender-Role Stereotyping of Superheroes in Children's Animated Programs." Mass Communication and Society 10.1 (2007): 25-41. Web. 27 Mar. 2014.
Claiborn, Charles D. "Dynamic Psychotherapies." Encyclopedia Britannica Online. Encyclopedia Britannica, n.d. Web. 27 Mar. 2014.
Mussen, Paul, and Luther Distler. "Masculinity, Identification, and the Father-Son Relationship." The Journal of Abnormal and Social Psychology 59.3 (1959): 350-56. Web. 27 Mar. 2014.
Nichols, Michael P., and Jay S. Efran. "Catharsis in Psychotherapy: A New Perspective." Psychotherapy: Theory, Research, Practice, Training 22.1 (1985): 46-58. Web. 27 Mar. 2014.
Ware, Chris. Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth. New York: Pantheon, 2000. Print.

Facing Your Father Revision

One of the most universal themes in all of literature, and one that strikes a special chord in the hearts of almost every reader, is the question: “Who am I?”. Ironically, from an early age, children look to everyone around them to give them an idea of who they are and who they are supposed to be in the future. They are too young and na├»ve to look inside of their own selves and discover their identity. Without positive role models early in life, these children’s lack of self-awareness will cause their self-esteem to suffer later on. Chris Ware illustrates (quite literally) this theme in his graphic novel Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth. Jimmy is a 35-year-old, socially awkward man with an overprotective mother who has never met his father. By carefully examining the specific details in the image where Jimmy visualizes the many different potential father figures he could have, the reader can see how not only the absence, but the abandonment of his father when he was a boy has affected the self-esteem of Jimmy and the growth of his character.
            The image tells the reader many things, but one of the most noticeable aspects of it is that the eyes of the potential father figures are blacked out. In fact, no face is seen in its entirety throughout the first half of the graphic novel apart from Jimmy’s face, and later on, his actual father’s face. The black bar covering the eyes of these men make that very apparent since Ware has gone out of his way to make sure that their whole face is not shown. It shows that Jimmy is completely clueless to who his father is at all. After all these years, the prospect of seeing his father causes him to have an active imagination. Jimmy’s father has not even inserted himself into the picture yet, only left Jimmy a note, and already we see ideas flowing around in Jimmy’s head about who his father is, which in turn allows him to come closer to figuring himself out as a person.  Once he figures out the identity of his father, a piece of him that has always been wondering who his father is will be fulfilled. Thus, once he has himself figured out, his self-esteem will increase dramatically, because you cannot love yourself without knowing yourself.
            Another interesting detail to notice is the actual dialogue that the men use in the image. The dialogue flows fluently, almost as if it is the same person speaking, and not twelve different men with their own separate input (although one man has no dialogue at all). This symbolizes Jimmy’s lack of knowledge of his father’s identity, since there is no distinction between the men. To Jimmy, every man he sees on the street is the same and could possibly be his father. He does not have any memories from his childhood of his father that have shaped his image of him, or the image of any man for that matter. One of the reasons that there is a remarkable lack of faces in the novel is that without a father to shape his image of men, Jimmy sees them all as the same. He does not have a solid male role model to compare them to, and thus is often lost socially. This most certainly affects his self esteem, because “For kids who grow up feeling as though their father didn’t want them, they may further convince themselves that no one else will either – that they are not worthy of future accolades or love in life” (“The Long-Term Effects of Being Abandoned by a Father”). The readers can see that this is true of Jimmy, as his encounters with women are far from optimal. He usually makes a fool out of himself while only fantasizing about sexual encounters. Thus, Jimmy’s lack of good relationships with others due to his father’s abandonment leads him to appear incredibly lonely for the majority of Jimmy Corrigan, the Smartest Kid on Earth. This is evident since he is often quiet with not much to say. When Jimmy does finally meet his father, he begins to hang out with him everyday, and Jimmy is now completely aware of what his father’s face looks like. There is no more confusion.
            Moreover, the similar faces represent that Jimmy has a small idea of what his father may look like. Although there are very visible differences between these men, a lot of them have similar attributes. Most of them have a receding hairline or are bald. Many are wearing a suit or a nice polo. A good portion of them even have the same hand gestures, such as pointing to themselves or giving a thumbs up. This tells the reader that Jimmy has a certain understanding of what his father probably looks like. All of these men appear to be older versions of Jimmy projects himself onto his father’s faceless position in his life to fill the void in his life the only way he knows how. Jimmy has been unable to form meaningful relationships throughout most of his life. This may be because, “For kids who grow up feeling as though their father didn’t want them, they may further convince themselves that no one else will either – that they are not worthy of any future accolades or love in life” (“The Long-Term Effects of Being Abandoned by a Father”). Since Jimmy is so closed off from the rest of the world, he has no other important figures or men in his life that he can imagine to be his father apart from himself. When he does meet his father and is able to fill in the blacked-out eyes as well as the rest of the face and body, a part of his life that was previously missing, knowing exactly what his father looks like, will be fulfilled. This will help him come to peace with both his father and himself. Perhaps, he will even be able to open up to more people and form more powerful emotional connections.
            I think it is no coincidence that some of the men in the picture are giving a thumbs-up sign to Jimmy. I believe that this is symbolic of what he needs to see his father do - lend Jimmy his approval. Since Jimmy’s father left him when he was only a young boy, his father never showed that he accepted him in anyway whatsoever. In fact, Jimmy may very well suppose that his father even disapproves of him since he left Jimmy and his mother. Jimmy then believes that he was not good enough to stick around for. Perhaps even worse, Jimmy may have believed it to be his fault. Global Post writes of fatherless children, “Even when their father’s estrangement has nothing at all to do with them, they may convince themselves that it resulted entirely from something they did or did not do” (“The Long-Term Effects of Being Abandoned by a Father”). Jimmy’s father never even gives a reason for his absence, so countless possibilities of why he left must be flowing through Jimmy’s head. He could be thinking about what he could have done differently in his childhood to make his father stay. The possibility alone that it could be his own fault would cause Jimmy to think poorly of himself, but each and every time he thinks of where he went wrong Jimmy’s self-esteem takes another blow. By Jimmy visualizing his father giving the legendary thumbs-up, it is clear to the reader that this is what Jimmy expects when he at last meets his father, or at least his preferable outcome. If Jimmy does indeed receive the sought-after thumbs-up, then he will begin to think more highly of himself. Not only will he feel better about himself, because a thumbs-up is a sign of approval, but he will feel like he is wanted through the eyes of his father, whose affection he has been longing for his whole life.
            Another interesting aspect of the picture that is worth taking a look at is the attire of the men. They are all dressed quite nicely: most are in suits and some are in nice polos. This observation represents the appearance of his father that would improve Jimmy’s self-esteem. If his father looks professional and dresses nicely, then that would raise his father’s social status, and thus Jimmy’s own as well. Jimmy is not a wealthy guy, and if he met his father and he happened to have a high-end paying job such as a lawyer, then not only would that make him a more impressive father, but Jimmy might in turn get some of that money. Of course, if Jimmy himself were wealthy, that too would raise his self-esteem.
            Conclusively, Jimmy has an unstable social life and identity crisis because of his father’s absence in his early life. The image of the men highlights the identity crisis through their blacked out eyes, dialogue, many different faces, attire, and hand guestures. While most people have to find themselves mostly by themselves, having a strong role model of the same sex around while you are still young is a vital step towards identity, and a high self-esteem. The absence of such a figure can result in decreased confidence and a feeling of emptiness, as well as a longing for the certain type of parental affection that they have never known and may never know if their relationship with a parent that has abandoned them is not repaired.
Works Cited
Campbell, Leah. "The Long-Term Effects of Being Abandoned by a Father."
            Everyday Life. Global Post, 2014. Web. 28 Mar. 2014.
Ware, Chris. Picture of many potential father figures. Digital image.
 N.p., n.d. Web. 6 Mar. 2014. <

RE; Superhero, Dying Twice

            Every child grows up with someone they look up to; a role model, a parent, a sibling, relative, and sometimes even a superhero. In the rather bizarre case of Jimmy Corrigan, the same hero that Jimmy looks up to also brings the death of his childhood. These dynamic events can be proven to be instrumental on many of Jimmy’s major character developments.
            The strange story that surrounds Jimmy Corrigan starts with depictions of Jimmy’s childhood. While Jimmy is absent of a father, he seeks immediate satisfaction in the hero Super-Man. Jimmy’s thirst for a role is evident at the car show his mother takes him to. He enters the room in a hurry and skips passed images of scantily dressed women and a vague sign that says “pussy”, all to find his role model, Super-Man. It is finally his moment, here it is, and Jimmy gets to meet the man he looks up to, the best male figure in his life to date. Jimmy’s life only got better as Super-Man fended off his angry mother when she approached. Unfortunately for Jimmy, it was only downhill from there. The next morning as Jimmy realizes his mother and his idol had ‘relations’, he was still young so let us not assume he knew what sex is, his world was broken. The look painted in his eyes was disappointment and sadness. Once again, Jimmy is left without a role model. Studies done by The Prince’s Trust Macquarie Youth Index indicates that young males that grow up without a male role model can show signs of depression later in their lives. The studies show that with positive reinforcements from the same gender, can help a child better understand how they can shape their futures. The findings of this study explain Jimmy Corrigan’s strange life filled with depression, intimacy problems, and lack of self-confidence.
            The story quickly shifts from a young Jimmy to adult Jimmy with no middle ground or preparation. The comic shows his apathetic lifestyle as he just drifts through life day by day noticing close to nothing and doing nothing except talking to his mother on the phone. While the death of his childhood was apparent after Super-Man slept with his mother, Jimmy hold onto his youth with his, what seem to be, daily phone calls with his mother. Jimmy proves to be so shut out from the world yet he still makes time to talk to his mother. Although he shows frustration with his mother’s nagging, Jimmy still makes the effort to communicate with the only person he seems to actually care for. The sudden jump in the story of childhood to adulthood for Jimmy could reflect his immediate and short time to mature. Because of his short lived childhood, Jimmy tries to find aspects of his life that connect to his youth, like talking to his mother and even the Super-Man sweater he wears when he first meets his sister. A specific panel was dedicated to showing the large red ‘S’ on his shirt. This precise moment is exceptionally influential because it’s the meeting of two children of the same father, who lived out separate childhoods. The single thing bringing them together is the person who played a major role in causing the downfall of Jimmy’s life and created a life Amy was blessed to have.
            The Super-Man image resurfaces multiple times throughout the comic in many significant forms. One of the most noteworthy images of Super-Man is the suicide scene that Jimmy watches from his window at work. One day while Jimmy is coasting through life noticing most of nothing, he glances across the way to view a man in a Super-Man costume as he jumps to his death. Ware emphasizes this scene with the size of the panel on the page. In the comic, many pages contain more than five panels; the suicide has two very large images, one before he jumps and a second with the Super-Man lying face down on the street outside Jimmy’s work. This death scene once again reflects the death of Jimmy’s childhood; moments after Jimmy essentially watches his childhood die, he is once again connected to his past when his mom calls to continue to nag him. Jimmy’s disconnected personality again gives short responses to his mother as he seems to be distracted and annoyed.
            Faster than a speeding bullet, the Super-Man images return to Jimmy’s life. Thankfully for Jimmy, the mail truck that hits him is less powerful than a locomotive. When Jimmy finally goes to meet his father who had abandoned him much earlier in his life, his encounter becomes more awkward as he gets hit by a mail truck in front of his father. After being knocked unconscious, Jimmy begins to open his eyes, he is staring up at a man with what appears to be a red face mask, Super-Man has returned. A few blinks later, Jimmy realizes it is not Super-Man but actually just the mailman who hit him. This trick of the eyes that fooled Jimmy was his own desire for a heroic rescue. Jimmy did not want a ‘regular’ person to come to his rescue, he strived for the heroic entrance of Super-Man to swoop in there and save the day and make everything better. Sadly for Jimmy, none of that happened. His father however, did partake in the act of “saving” Jimmy. Directly after the accident, Jimmy’s father took him to the doctor, where further Super-Man images were formed. As Jimmy’s appointment comes to an end the doctor tells him to “take it easy Super-Man” (Ware 122). Jimmy’s parallel lives of stagnant adulthood and wishful child hood are once again brought to surface. Jimmy’s imagination takes flight once again as he gazes at a bird on the window sill; imagining himself flying in the sky, much like a super hero. Like the sudden end to Jimmy’s childhood, the bird suddenly flies into the examine room window and Jimmy is brought back to his sad, gray reality.
            Although the absence of Jimmy’s father gravely changed his life, Jimmy shows intense character development in the end of the novel as he begins to cry as he finds out about his father’s death. Jimmy is even at the hospital with the iconic “#1 Dad” shirt, that played a major ironic part in the discovery of Jimmy’s father. In a way, his father’s death represents the final nail on the coffin of Jimmy’s childhood. Having watched Super-Man jump to his death earlier in the comic and his father dying now, Jimmy is left as an adult with no one to look up to, no one to seek advice from, and no one to call a role model.  To add insult to injury, even Jimmy’s own mother is done with him. When Jimmy returns to Chicago he meets with his mother to finally see her after he continues to ignore her. To Jimmy’s despair, his mother plans to remarry and Jimmy is replaced as his mother’s main man.
            The continuous image of a heroic super hero figures in Ware’s story show the death of Jimmy’s childhood, just like the death of Super-Man via suicide. Through the death of Jimmy’s childhood we can extract why he is so uncomfortable in almost every social aspect and almost mentally unstable as he envisions death, suicide, and murder on multiple accounts. The final scene Ware provides the reader with is an image of Super-Man flying off into the sky cradling Jimmy. Although Jimmy’s life is eroding in front of his eyes, he still imagines and wishes for the one heroic act of rebirth to his childhood.  The ever resurfacing Super-Man image reflects the death of Jimmy’s childhood and his ever trying ability to balance a real life.

The Prince's Trust. "The Prince's Trust Macquarie Youth Index." N.p., 2010. Web. 26 Mar. 2014.

Ware, Chris. Jimmy Corrigan: The Smartest Kid on Earth. New York: Pantheon Books, 2000.

Revision 2 - Dear Esther as an Evolutionary Step for Games

  Dear Esther is an unusual piece of software. Superficially it defies easy categorization. In many ways it functions like a video game, but omits some of the most basic tropes of the medium, which make some critics reticent to call it a game. The label of art has also been withheld from Dear Esther because it requires player input. However, what these groups fail to recognize is that Dear Esther represents an evolutionary step in the medium of video games into the realm of completely unique art. The defining character of this new medium is a significant artistic message conveyed through the collaboration of the player's choices and the designer's systems.
  The first step in defining Dear Esther as an game with artistic significance is to define it as a game. As Allistair Pinsof of Destructoid says of Dear Esther, "yes, it is a game. There are rules and keys and narrative triggers and all those things we come to expect of a $9.99 purchase on Steam" (Pinsof). The argument made here is that Dear Esther should be defined as a video game because that is what it is in form, if not function. Dear Esther is built on the Source video game engine, uses the same control schemes as most first-person shooters, and, superficially at least, asks the player to approach it in the same way they would any other video game (Cameron). In form, Dear Esther takes only the parts of mainstream, or "entertainment" games that it finds relevant to its purposes (Bogost).

  While it eschews some of the trappings of entertainment video games, Dear Esther maintains one of the most important elements of a game, which is player agency. Interactivity is held by many game critics to be the cornerstone of the medium and the mechanism through which games differentiate themselves (Deen). This conceit was actually developed in response to film critic Roger Ebert's declaration that these two states, art and game, are inherently exclusive. Ebert states that, "Video games by their nature require player choices, which is the opposite of the strategy of serious film and literature, which requires authorial control" (Ebert). This definition limits the scope of art to static media such as film and literature, assuming that the work of art must retain its artistic qualities even when unobserved. Dear Esther, however, applies techniques borrowed from art and film to the narrative waiting to be discovered by the player.

  The art of a video game is in the authored design, which accounts for the players choices and invites the player to experience the narrative in the way that the designer intends. By giving the player control, player action is expected. The game needs to react to these actions and then give the player meaningful responses. It is in these responses that the author has space to make the player understand the consequences of their choices. This effect is used usually for immediate gratification in entertainment games, but Dear Esther is what Bogost calls a "proceduralist game" because it uses these responses to invite player introspection. Portal, another proceduralist game, has a moment that showcases this effect very concisely.
The player has spent the level with the Companion Cube, and after possibly developing some attachment to it, is told by GLaDOS that to proceed, the player must incinerate the Cube. The player's choice is then to burn the Cube or stand in the room with the Cube indefinitely. If the player burns the cube immediately, they are told that "You euthanized your faithful Companion Cube more quickly than any test subject on record. Congratulations" (Portal). This response seems designed to make the player question their own empathetic ability. However, if the player chooses to stall without burning the Companion Cube, GLaDOS encourages them to incinerate the Cube with a phrase every few minutes. When the player finally does incinerate the Cube, as this is the only way to continue playing, GLaDOS still tells the player that they had the fastest time. This makes the player examine a different part of their personality, wondering if they abandoned their own values to external pressure. This same response, paired with a different player action to create new meaning, proves that the elements of the game that cause emotional resonance are a product of both the authored design and the player's input.

  To create meaningful outputs to the player's inputs, there must be an author's intent behind the design of the game. The hand of the author is felt throughout Dear Esther in moments when, as described in a review, "you are led, without ever really feeling like you are being led, by subtle visual cues that stand out against the landscape and draw you towards them" (MacDonald). Moments of subtle guidance define most of the experience of Dear Esther, giving the player both the feeling of exploration and the guidance of a narrative. As an example, the initial stretch of beach includes a staircase that blends into the mountainside from the player's initial perspective, but is obvious from the reverse angle.

This guides the player down the beach to a dead end, gives them more narrative content, and guides them to double-back to the staircase. Shades of lighting also give the player clues about what to explore; warmer colors attract the player to the next significant clue like in the circular stalagmite cave. The exit is clearly visible but illuminated in green light, while the yellow-orange glow of the candle and the promise of return make the stalagmites the instantly appealing path.
In truth, all of the architecture and geography on the island is designed with the express purpose of guiding the player through the narrative. These invitations to interact with the world allows the author to deliver the narrative in new, creative ways that maintain the player's feeling of agency. As Nathan Grayson describes in a piece on Dear Esther "taken in conjunction with the option to explore and digest the world as we saw fit, it created a perfect environment for both building this all-consuming curiosity and slowly but surely sating it" (Grayson). By creating systems that respond to the players actions with the intention of providing an emotional and potentially self-reflective experience for the player, the developers of Dear Esther act as artists, and their creation, art.

Dear Esther's authored design shows that in form it is art, but its content proves that it is also, maybe more importantly, art in function. According to Marcuse, "In its advanced positions, art is the Great Refusal -- the protest against that which is. The modes in which man and things are made to appear, to sing and sound and speak, are modes of refuting, breaking, and recreating their factual existence" (63). Dear Esther engages in this refusal by delivering its narrative in a disjointed, non-linear fashion, as well as through the symbolism of objects in its world. The juxtaposition of the realistic, believable environments with the narrator's descent into insanity show the Marcusian refusal at work. They highlight the difference between the fictitious world of Dear Esther and the real world.

  Dear Esther moves video games towards art because it does not simply allow interpretation, it demands it. The narrative is delivered visually through biblical allegories and repetition of symbols like circuits, chemical formulas, gulls, broken spirals and parallel white lines. All of this is accompanied by the disjointed thoughts of the narrator as he seems to slip into insanity, giving fewer answers than questions. These elements are only present to attempt to deliver a message to the player which must be deciphered. It is an artistic expression from the designer to the player delivered by every element of the medium of the video game. The introspection caused by the interaction of player and systems in Dear Esther is incited by all of these devices, and it shows that Dear Esther acts as art through the same mechanics that define it as a video game.
Works Cited:
Cameron, Phil. "Moved By Mod: Dear Esther's Dan Pinchbeck." Gamasutra. UBM Tech, 1 July 2009. Web. 27 Feb. 2014.
Bogost, Ian. How to Do Things with Videogames. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota, 2011. Print.
Deen, Phillip D. "Interactivity, Inhabitation and Pragmatist Aesthetics." Game Studies: The International Journal of Computer Games Research. Game Studies Foundation, Summer 2011. Web. 28 Mar. 2014.
Ebert, Roger. "Why Did the Chicken Cross the Genders?" Roger Ebert Digital LLC, 27 Nov. 2005. Web. 27 Feb. 2014.
Grayson, Nathan. "Dear Videogames, Stop Telling Me Everything." Rock Paper Shotgun. Rock Paper Shotgun Ltd., 29 Aug. 2008. Web. 27 Feb. 2014.
MacDonald, Keza. "Dear Esther Review." IGN. IGN Entertainment, 14 Feb. 2012. Web. 27 Feb. 2014.
Marcuse, Herbert. One-dimensional Man: Studies in the Ideology of Advanced Industrial Society. Boston: Beacon, 1991. Print.
Pinsof, Allistair. "Review: Dear Esther." Destructoid. N.p., 13 Feb. 2012. Web. 27 Feb. 2014.
Portal. Bellevue, WA: Valve Corporation, 2007. Computer software.