Sigmund Freud became famous in part thanks to his theory of the psyche and one of its component the id. But of course, understanding it is no easy task. Me in particular, I find reading his essays and books about the id really hard to comprehend the concept. So I decided to instead use a different method, one that has always been successful at teaching me new things: cartoons.
To me, Phineas and Ferb is more than just a regular cartoon made for children to laugh. It contains, to my surprise, quite a large amount of references and allusions to real-life events and studies, demonstrated in humorous ways that allow me to be entertained and learn new things at the same time. And the episode “Monster from the Id” finally answers my prayers when I want to study Freud.
The id is described as “the unorganized part of the personality structure that contains a human’s basic, instinctual drives” (all credits go to Wikipedia for that). Therefore, what would the id of Candace be if she has one? I was surprised, actually, to find out that it is a monstrous, hideous-looking version of herself who hunts Phineas- and Ferb-head gazelles in her subconscious. After all, Candace has always been obsessed with busting Phineas and Ferb ever since the show began, so by the definition above that can be qualified as a drive for her id. Baljeet’s interpretation of the id also fits perfectly to the way Freud described it, in a simpler way of course, for children and me to understand. The song in the episode even mentions “repression” – another Freudian concept – and “psyche” – the very first time I heard of it. And Buford’s last line “I don’t care what Freud said about your selfish need for satisfaction” wraps the episode up beautifully with what I later came to learn as the “pleasure principle”. I never thought I would say this, but thanks to a cartoon, I finally understood Freud.
With the upcoming Star Wars movie, it only felt right to try to make some sort of connection between our readings and the prolific series. I find that traits of Rousseau’s work can be found in the the series especially in the original trilogy. First and foremost, owe could begin by looking at the Empire. Throughout the movies, the empire is the face of evil in the movies as they are constantly hunting the protagonists in the films. What the empire seems to show is a reflection of the civilized society as Rousseau described which is a society that is corrupt, brutish and violent. There is a single character within the series that fully contradicts the state of the empire through his state of living: Yoda. When the audience first sees Yoda, he is a little green man who lives in isolation from the rest of the world on the planet of Dagobah. Living far away from society, Yoda can be perceived as the most wise character in the franchise. While Yoda may not be the absolute idea for Rousseau’s vision of early man in the fact that he is capable in critical thought but in his way of life being lacking in most forms of technology shows a form of the appreciation for Rousseau’s belief that the peak of man being a less modern version of man.
Another example of Star Wars showing appreciation of Rousseau’s work in the film is through the most disgusting character in the entire film, Jabba the Hutt. Jabba is arguably the most vile and disgusting character to ever grace the silver screen. Jabba reflects, the fear emitted from Rousseau’s work considering the progression of man. Rousseau believed that as man progresses, they slowly lose their athletic ability that allows them to survive without any technology. Jabba is portrayed as fat, lethargic, slug who talks so slowly that it’s almost like getting the air he needs to form words is an effort. Despite this, Jabba is an extremely powerful and influential person where he lives. He Has many people at his fingertips to do his bidding despite the fact that he is a vile creature. Also when reflecting back on the empire, one could also say that The emperor himself is the best example of the modern man in how he is. The emperor is first of all, a frail seeming old man (discounting what we see of him in the prequels) which as with Jabba shows the loss of human physical prowess. The emperor is also constantly vying for more power from the force. These two characters seem to display an agreement with Rousseau as to the state of modern man.
May the force be with you.
In Hoffmann’s The Sandman, one of the most obvious aspects of the story that is brought to our attention is how much uncertainty the reader has about the events occurring in the story. The story depicts a young university student who is haunted by the memory of certain childhood events connected to the events of his father’s death. He is haunted by the seemingly malicious figure of Coppelius and it gradually sends him spiraling into psychological madness.
Personally as I read this story, it was noticeably chaotic. Although the narrator of the story is not Nathaniel himself, there is no sense of understanding the true events of what was occurring. At some point when I was reading the story, it was almost as if Nathaniel’s insanity was epidemic. There line between humans and automatons became blurry. It was hard to discern what was real and what was a hallucination. Even as we read about how Nathaniel falls madly in love with Olympia, his feelings feel so real that we begin to question the basis of their relationship. I found it deeply unsettling to read a story through this perspective. It had me reflect on personal dreams or imaginations that evoked a strong emotional response and the basis of where they stemmed from. Hoffmann alters the structure of the story to emphasize the uncertainty that the uncanny creates. I think that Hoffmann successfully proves a point; Humans are incredibly responsive to the concept of uncertainty. On some fundamental level, humans are deeply bothered by what they do not know, on what they can not understand. I think that this short story did a really incredible job of portraying that.
I have found that we read, and I wrote, a lot on human nature, the state of nature, and man’s inherent tendencies to be good or bad… or neither. In thinking about what I believe is really true on this subject, I always end up thinking about it slightly more biologically than, say, Rousseau or Hobbes.
My first thought is usually that man’s primary objective must be to survive as a species. Man must survive and procreate. So therefor, we cannot be naturally evil. We cannot want to intentionally harm others and the human race. But then I debate that maybe our biological goal is less concerned with humans as a species and more concentrated on individual survival. Therefor, man would not inherently harm oneself and probably would not intend to act negatively towards others, unless their success as a human was at risk. So maybe it can be argued biologically that man is inherently competitive and filled with self interest for the purpose of survival. But I still generally chose to acknowledge man as inherently good with the intention of supporting mankind as a race.
I agree with most books we have read that man’s most innate tendency is that of self preservation. But, I guess the question to be answered is whether it is self preservation as an individual or self preservation as a member of a greater community… I don’t think there is an answer on the realities of human nature, but I do believe the only place we will find implications of an answer is in our biology.