Remembering a prominent ISI alumnus
Symposium: False Archetypes, Real Consequences
This article is in response to “What Can Pornography Teach Us About Love?” by Michael Bradley and is part of the symposium, “Sex and the Polis: Perspectives on Marriage, Family, and Sexual Ethics.”
As a postmodern African American author, Toni Morrison critiqued many of the racial inequalities of twentieth-century America. Her book, The Bluest Eye, illustrates the oppressive effects of internalized racism as manifested within impoverished black communities of the 1940s.
Morrison’s characters strive towards socially constructed archetypes of beauty, of “whiteness,” which were rendered wholly unattainable to their caste. In the process, the good and beauty of the present, tangible world were discarded in this pursuit of these false ideals. Reinforcing their very system of oppression, they continue forever frustrated in their vain hopes of reward.
Michael Bradley describes pornography as an eerily similar system of internalized oppression. The deceptive sexual ideals sold by pornographic materials propagate an addictive cycle of destructive, unsatiated desire. While users seek happiness and fulfillment, they instead foster the very force that oppresses and constrains their ability to flourish as human beings.
Morrison’s narrative portrays internalized racism as a continuation of the slave-mentality. By using a nonexistent ideal to detract from the “now,” poor blacks were convinced to tolerate an inferior state of submission. Likewise, the pornographic mentality found in Gordon-Levitt’s Don Jon fosters enslavement to the passions, passing over true fulfillment in pursuit of false promises.
Archetypes, when contrary to nature, can easily lead to oppression of personhood. As The Bluest Eye urges us to reject such false archetypes and value the present world, however flawed, so too with human sexuality. Respecting the dignity of the human person requires the acceptance and embrace of what naturally belongs to us. Trust not in false promises, the path to fulfillment lies within.
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