Category Archives: Pop Culture Notes

What Type of Way: Post-Structuralism and Rich Homie Quan

Since its release in 2013, Rich Homie Quan’s masterwork, “Type of Way” has drawn the attention of rap-enthusiasts and literary critics alike. It could be argued that “Type of Way” is a vapid song whose vague lyrics refuse even to describe how, exactly, the speaker feels. It has been said that Rich Homie Quan’s song does not state a particular feeling, rendering the lyrics “feel some type of way” meaningless. After all, doesn’t everyone always feel some type of way? As the author refuses to describe the particular type of way the narrator is feeling, the entirety of the song is unclear. Which type of way does the speaker feel, critics wonder, and to what intensity do they feel this way? However, a closer, and critical, examination of Rich Homie Quan’s masterpiece reveals its true genius. The profound nature of Rich Homie Quan’s “Some Type of Way” is revealed only through a thorough and theoretical examination of the idea of a “type of way”; a detailed reading reveals that describing an emotion as “some type of way” is the only way to truly and accurately describe a feeling.

Approaching the song from Sign Theory, as described by Saussure, we can see that by intentionally neglecting to name a particular feeling, Rich Homie Quan creates a positive, and therefore unique, relationship between his feelings and the words used to describe it. Saussure describes the nature of speech by saying that, “in language there are only differences. Even more important: a difference generally implies positive terms between which the difference is set up; but in language there are only differences without positive terms” (Richter 848). In Saussure’s view, concepts in language are defined only by what they are not; in is in because it is not out, hot is hot because it is not cold. Were Rich Homie Quan to name a particular emotion in his song, he would be defining his feelings only in the negative, describing them only as not being other feelings. However, our brilliant song-master does not do this. Instead, Rich Homie Quan leaves the particular way that he is feeling unnamed, thus refusing to define it in the negative. Thus, “some type of way” becomes a positive statement, eliminating the arbitrary nature of language and defining feeling on its own terms.

Similarly, a reading in the tradition of Foucault indicates that referring to a feeling as “some type of way” does not create arbitrary distinctions between feelings, thus accessing the “thing in itself” of feeling in a way that naming a particular feeling does, and can, not. According to Foucault, the act of creating a word creates a conceptual distinction, thus creating a category. These distinctions define ideas by their similarities, thus ignoring their differences. In creating the category of “cat”, one groups a series of animals by their similar characteristics, ignoring their individual differences is size, temperament, and color. Foucault argues that these distinctions are manufactured, and necessarily inexact. Rich Homie Quan rejects this convention, however, by refusing to categorize his feelings. By feeling “some type of way”, as opposed to “sad”, or “happy”, Quan does not create categories that ignore the complex and fluid nature of feeling, describing feelings as they are in reality.

After thoroughly analyzing “Type of Way”, it is clear that the song is a masterwork, calling into question our ideas of feeling and the nature of language. In this work, Rich Homie Quan forces us to wonder, should we really create distinctions between feelings, or should we reject our false system of naming, thus accessing feelings as they are, not just as they are described to be? These age-old questions have yet to be answered, but perhaps Rich Homie has brought us just a little closer

Or, you know, it’s a really awful, vague song. Either way.

Works Cited
Richter, David H. The Critical Tradition: Classic Texts and Contemporary Trends. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2007. Print.

Curl Up With Something Yummy for Valentine’s Day

A good book!

Rumor has it that Valentine’s Day was just upon us. Rumor, I say, because Valentine’s Day has never been my thing: I’m a romance year round kind of person. And while lots of people like to get their romance on with a partner, I’ll admit I’m picky enough that I want  the freedom to chose my own adventure.

In honor of Valentine’s, or if you’re like me, simply because you’re an addict, I thought I’d share some romantic book recommendations based on what I’ve been reading lately.  If the thought of romance or Valentine’s Day fills you with horror, come find me and I can recommend something suitably edgy and decidedly non-romantic.

chefs_tableFor some lighter, yet adult romantic reading, I’d recommend Chef’s Table, by Lynn Charles. In it we meet Executive Chef Evan Stanford and Patrick Sullivan, the head cook at Johnny’s Diner. Over the course of their careers and lives they’ve each lost sight of something – for Evan, the connection to his roots and Patrick, passion and drive that take him beyond the contentment of diner cooking. Evan meets Patrick when he’s feeling burnt out and disconnected from what he loves, and in him sees an enjoyment in cooking he hasn’t felt in a while. Shared interests become friendship which then turn into romance. Enjoyably, this book won’t put you through the ringer; instead in it we get two characters falling in love and challenging each other to achieve and enrich their dreams. This book is a light read, romantic, sexy, and a great mental getaway.

selection_cassIf you’re in the mood for something fun and romantic and dig Young and New Adult, I’d recommend the Selection Series, by Kierra Cass.  Here we have your usual dystopian world, but this one is more of a dystopia meets The Bachelor setup.  Thirty five girls are selected from various castes to come live in the Palace and “compete” for Prince Maxom’s heart. Sounds swell right? Any girl would die for this…except maybe American Singer, for whom being selected means leaving behind the boy she loves and a family that depends on her income for survival.  This series was a fast read, and despite the rebel attacks, very fun.

mcrae_malteseMaybe you’re feeling like you want love with a little grit, or romance with a little edge? I recently read the first two books of what’s going to be a six book series – Starling and Doves, from the Love in Los Angeles series by co-writers Racheline Maltese and Erin McRae. In Starling we meet Alex Cook, a PA on who works on a primetime TV show. When the showrunner of The Fourth Estate plucks him from behind the camera, Alex quickly, and resentfully, becomes a star. He quickly falls into a relationship with Paul, one of the show’s main writers, and just as quickly baggage they’re both carrying pulls things apart. This book is written in a more spare style and definitely breaks some romance novel conventions. These books get a bonus for inclusion of polyamorous characters, which I never see. I will warn that they both, especially Doves, have some darker themes.

outlander_gabaldonIf you are really dying to know what my favorite romance of all time is? Head over to read Outlander, by Diana Gabaldon. Picture this: the year is 1945 and Claire and Frank Randall, recently reunited after years of service in the war, are on their second honeymoon in Scotland. You’ll have to bear with me for the part where I tell you that Claire accidentally falls back through time to 1743, because while time travel might not be your bag, but I think that’s just because you haven’t met Jamie Fraser. This book (and series) is rich with historical detail and intrigue, and the start of my favorite romantic pairing of all time.  Espionage? Check. War? Check? Hilarious, frustrating, infuriating, terrifying, mesmerizing and loveable characters? Check.

load_the_dice_gemelLast but not least, for those of you how want to get your kink on for the holiday, I’m going to recommend the episodic book, Load The Dice, by Moriah Gemel. If you’re curious about BDSM, or want to read something that really focuses on important community structures – such as Safe, Sane and Consensual BDSM – as well as a romantic kinky story, maybe skip going out to see 50 Shades of Grey for a more responsible portrayal of this lifestyle. It’s sexy as heck, it’s a character study, it examines the development of trust and love, and it’s very well written.

Regardless of where your holiday takes you – to bed with a good book in my case – I hope you enjoy your romance responsibly!

Five Nights at Freddy’s: A Rhetorical Analysis

I’m not a fan of the horror genre. In any mode. I don’t like horror films, I don’t like horror TV shows, and I certainly don’t like horror video games. So, it was probably a bad idea for me to play Five Nights at Freddy’s, reportedly the scariest game in the history of scary things. I knew it was a bad idea when I started playing; after all, I had once had a nightmare from having watched the commercial for a Scooby-Doo movie.

Regardless, I played it. I played it, and it was terrifying. I spent several days thinking (and having nightmares about) nothing else, trying to determine why it was so scary. As a result, I have decided to embark deep into the realms of my favorite pastime, overanalyzing the rhetoric of pop culture. Are you ready kids? It’s time to talk about rhetoric, horror, and giant singing robots.

The premise of the game is quite simple, as is often the case with examples of effective psychological horror. You, the player, have just been hired as the night-watchman at a children’s themed restaurant, a la Chuck-E-Cheese. The facility is inhabited by large, animatronic animal figures, who apparently sing and dance during the day. It’s difficult to understand why they were selected to entertain children during working hours, considering that they become vicious murder machines at night, but no one ever claimed that this game made sense. Anyway, your job is to get through five nights (from midnight to six in the morning) without getting attacked by one of the creatures. Your only lines of defense are the two doors on either side of your control room, which you can open and close. You also have access to the security cameras, which go in and out of order, and the hallway lights. As a result, you can see the robots coming, then shut the doors to prevent them from reaching you.

Unfortunately, using any one of these things costs power, which you have very little of. To survive the game, you have to manage your power effectively, while trying not to lose track of any of the robots. If a robot enters the room, it will appear suddenly and emit what can only be described as a shriek, before the screen goes black.

It’s ridiculously hard.

Many aspects of this game fall very clearly in line with the conventions of the horror genre. There are flickering lights; grainy, black and white cameras; creepy children’s toys; jump scares; and unexplained noises (most notably the occasional singing and approaching footsteps of various robotic animals). Five Nights at Freddy’s operates entirely within the horror genre; there are little to no aspects of the game concept or aesthetic that are outside of the typical scope of horror.

However, the ways in which the game mechanics, also not particularly unique, and the aesthetics combine into one, cohesive experience results in one of the most immersive games I’ve ever played. Because there are so few actions you can take (close the doors, check the cameras, and switch on the lights), you are forced to become fully integrated into the world of the game and cannot be distracted by extraneous features. Surviving the game requires constant vigilance and attention to detail, which leaves you extra-sensitive to the jump-scares. There is no player–avatar and very little setting; there is only you, the cameras, and the enemy. As the game progresses, occasional flickers of the eponymous Freddy figure will flash momentarily in front of your eyes, simulating your growing fear and near-hallucinations.

Are you horrified yet? Because I am.

Are you horrified yet? Because I am.

All of these features are effective at creating an eerie atmosphere and sudden moments of fright, but the true genius of this game relies on the information-resource trade-off. To obtain more information about the whereabouts of the figures, you must use power. If you focus all of your power on the doors, you lose information. Moreover, you must often open the doors back up once you believe the puppets have left, making you feel even more vulnerable to an attack. To make matters worse, because you are so limited in both capacities, you never feel fully comfortable with either your resources or your information. Sometimes you have no choice but to lose information, as the cameras stop working or robots move just outside their reach. As the night progresses you slowly run out of power, knowing that when it is entirely gone the doors will open, the lights will turn off, and the robots will get you. When I played, the increasing sense of dread that I experienced as my power got lower and lower went so far beyond what I expected from a video game. I was running out of power. I was running out of power and there was nothing I could do.

Just before I lost the game, I was circulating through the cameras. I saw that the bunny was approaching on my left, but was not particularly close. I heard singing from the kitchen and quickly shuffled through my cameras to the right. I didn’t see anything. I immediately turned on the light right beside the door and there it was. The ducky. I managed to get the door closed and went back to the cameras, looking for the bunny. I couldn’t find it. I flipped through all of the cameras on my left, literally shouting, “Where is he? Where’s the bunny?” Deep down, I knew where he was. He was already here. The ducky was in the room with me. I switched views from the cameras back to the control station, only to have the bunny pop out in front of me and emit its demonic howl of triumph. I was dead.

Needless to say, I spent the rest of the night hiding under my covers, thinking that every creak or bump I heard was the approaching footstep of a murderous rabbit.