Exploring the Social Imagination

Wednesday, April 13, 2016

Gendered Role Expectation in the Social Imagination

Role Expectation is necessary in the social imagination; otherwise, we would never be able to live a true social reality one of interesting diversity and gendered roles. When you see a doctor or nurse or policeman in uniform you know what to expect. The same applies to men and women. We need to expect certain truths about men/women on any everyday and on any given day. This generates stability in the social imagination.

Yet, if you see a man in a dress or woman with a kilt or clothes that are 'gender' free  you may not know what to expect or if you can expect anything that would make you feel good about yourself as a member of a socially defined group, or feel safe and or comfortable with those around you. Role expectations provide a means for understanding and creating a way forward in a relationship with other people.

Sure, if you don't expect anything, you won't be disappointed. But such perception by a group leads to social reality's  deconstruction. Of course, you can argue that yes, deconstruction is happening for a purpose which is to rebuild a society where people live pretty much equally in gray non distinction. People would be coming and going without commitment, without direction, without set goals and or certainly without the means for sustaining themselves by/in their own definition.

More than 20 years ago, a film came out called Dead Man starring Johnny Depp. Dead Man is the story of a young man's journey, both physically and spiritually, into very unfamiliar terrain, a place which he does not know what to expect. The character played by Depp came to be called "William Blake" in the film through  an encounter with a native American. Before that, Blake travels in the very beginning of the film to the western frontier of America to a town called Machine. He speaks with another train passenger about his destination and that person tells Blake that Machine is the end of the line. This is very important line in this film and for Blake. The description of Machine as such encourages us to expect what will happen to Blake.

The native American that Blake soon meets is named "Nobody". It is then that the Johnny Depp's character receives his pseudo-name "William Blake" as "Nobody" believes this man "Blake" to be the dead English poet of the same name. Another clue for the audience... if of knows the real William Blake's poetry then one will know what to expect for this Blake- tragedy. Watching the events that happen to Blake are in sequence due to a lack of expectation; and because of those sequences, we see Blake being transformed into a hunted outlaw, a killer, and a man whose physical existence is slowly slipping away into a gray zone.

All these events happen out of a lack of expectation. The character does not know what to expect in the town of Machine as he was told earlier it was the end of the line, he does not know what to expect from a woman he meets and then dies, and he does not know what to expect from "Nobody" as "Nobody"comes and goes sometimes helping Blake and sometimes abandoning him. After all, his name is nobody. Blake's world becomes cruel and chaotic.

So, without expectations, we become nobody to everybody and the world becomes cruel and chaotic. It does not become more stable, it does not become more friendly or beautiful... just nicely gray. And, that is how the film ends with Blake alone floating away in a wood canoe in a sea of gray water and gray light.

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