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Critical analysis of identity crisis

Critical Analysis Of "Identity Crisis" and "Oppositional Dress"

In Minabrere Ibelema's essay "Identity Crisis", Ibelema suggests that the

mainstream american culture is so powerful that all cultures conform to it.

Ibelema does this by showing how the mass media portrays African Americans in

relation to their cultural identity by using situation comedies as a measuring

tool. Of the episodes Ibelema uses very few of them look at African Americans

cultural identity. However, what they do is briefly address a cultural story

line for one episode, but then revert back to the mainstream anglo programming.

On the otherhand, Elizabeth Wilson says in her essay "Oppositional Dress" that

sub cultures do exist in society and are strong enough to resist assimilation

into the mainstream, and still exist on their own terms. Wilson proves her point

by giving examples of sub cultures that appeared in society, and she shows that

they still thrive today.On example Wilson uses is the hippie culture that

evolved in the 1960's. She points out that hippies can be seen today in some

areas of the United states, proving her point. She also mentions other movements

like the Gay Liberation Movement, the Punk movement, and the Skin Heads, who can

all be seen in some form today. In mainstream american culture some individual

sub cultures do get lost in the mainstream, but are not forgotten, however most

oppositional cultures resist assimilation into the main steam and continue to

define themselves on their own terms.

In Ibelema's essay, he says that the mainstream culture is so strong that

individual cultures assimilate into it. This proposition is not completely

correct. The examples Ibelema uses are derived from situation comedies that are

directed at a cross cultural mainstream audience. His point is that the African

American culture is nonexistent, or assimilated because African American

cultural values are not expressed fully in these sitcoms, thus they are a part

of the assimilation process. Because these sitcoms are directed at a cross

cultural audience the assumption Ibelema uses is false. The African American

culture is not lost in america, its existence is found in the homes of African

Americans throughout america and is passed on through mothers and fathers, and

grand mothers and grand fathers.

An opposing view to this argument is Elizabeth Wilson's essay "Oppositional

Dress". Her belief is that sub cultures exist in the mainstream society, and

they dictate their own existence. Wilson proves her theory by giving example

after example of sub cultures that evolved from the mainstream in both the

United States and Great Britain. These sub cultures usually evolve around young

people that are rebelling against the dress and views of their parents. For

example the Hippie movement of the 1960's started a dress trend that is still

seen across america. They wore bell bottomed pants, flowery shirts, they grew

their hair long, and they supported peace over war. These views were seen as

oppositional to their parents, and thus they became "Hippies" Another example

Wilson gives is that of the Gay Movement. In the 1970's this movement was in

full form. What the Gay Movement started was the idea of a homosexual or lesbian

person publicly declaring themselves as being gay. One of the most outrageous

ways to do this was to dress in "drag", wearing makeup, and a dress. These

homosexuals broke down the door of stereotypical gender roles and took on cross

dressing as a defining tool. Over time the Gay Movement took on another task to

reestablish their masculinity. From this came the "clone look". Clones wore

jeans, distressed leather, heavy boots, and were normally clean shaven with a

styled mustache. The Gay Movement didn't assimilate into the mainstream, it

evolved into its own sub culture that exists today. African americans and other

ethnic minorities also have cultivated their own controversial styles. Their

styles however usually carried with it a message. By the 1940's young blacks

developed a distinctive style of dress called a zoot suit. These suits had

exaggerated padded shoulders, peg top trousers, narrowing ankles, and the were

lavishly draped. The zoot suiters dressed this way to demonstrate against the

war effort. The zoot suiter is a clear example of a symbolic sub culture that

was a statement of ethnic pride, and a refusal to assimilate.

In mainstream american culture, sub cultures are not lost or assimilated

into the mainstream. They are embraced by those who participate in them, and

evolve over time to suit the needs of the sub culture. The sub cultures that

exist in society aren't separate from the mainstream culture, but part of it.

Elizabeth Wilson is correct in her belief that sub cultures resist assimilation,

and seek to clarify their individuality on their own terms.



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