Theorizing the Body

The Vitruvian Man

by Casey Sloan

We rely on images of the human body in advertising, in art, in visual arguments, and, quite simply, in navigating everyday social life. Over the years, many philosophers and theorists have grappled with questions like: What constitutes the body? Can the body think? How is the body produced? Why are some bodies more socially acceptable or desirable than others?

What's Haunting Dove's Real Beauty Campaign?

Image from Dove's Real Beauty Campaign. Unconventional models of various body types, ages, and races stand, smiling, against a white background

Image Credit: People's Lab

Every image is haunted by the excluded. Every social movement is haunted by flaws. After reading Avery F. Gordon's Ghostly Matters: Haunting and the Sociological Imagination and Nivedita Menon's Recovering Subversion: Feminist Politics Beyond the Law, I became a bit haunted by the possibility of subversion. These two texts tell us that ghosts, in various forms, are absolutely everywhere, and after ruminating on their content and methodologies, I started to see ghosts, too.

Erasing Wyldstyle: Heteronormativity in the LEGO Movie

artist's depiction of the anatomy of a LEGO figure. Part of a skeleton and some organs are visible

Artist Jason Freeny's LEGO Anatomy Model

Image Credit:

In my last post, I laid out the theoretical groundwork of biopolitics for a critique of the subversive potential of the LEGO movie. Biopolitics, or the epistemological and sociopolitical forces that determine how individuals understand bodies and “life,” lets us examine both the LEGO movie's own critique of social constructivism and comment on the movie's failure to adequately separate itself from static models of gender and sexuality.

The Building Blocks of Biopolitics: The LEGO Movie, Empire, and Multitude

A post for The Lego Movie, featuring main characters Emmett, Wild Style, and others

Image Credit: Forbes

Not only did seeing The Lego Movie (2014) lodge the parodic pop song “Everything is Awesome!” firmly in my skull, it also sent me scrambling for a way to intelligently theorize the film's highly sophisticated commentary on politics, capitalism, gender and the body. I emerged from my search with a brief history of biopolitics firmly in hand, and, with “Everything is Awesome!” still running through my head, I will now start assembling the theoretical pieces needed to construct an insightful critique. Part 1 of my ruminations on The Lego Movie, then, provide an introduction to the theories I'll be using in Part 2. Stay tuned, all, because EVERYTHING IS AWESOME. Hopefully these posts will nicely compliment Scott's awesome thoughts on how The Lego Movie capitulates to some disturbing movie cliches in the name of creativity.

The LEGO Movie, Narrative, and Children's Play

A girl holds up a chaotic lego set. Text across the image reads "Look what I built with LEGO." Smaller text reads "And look at that look on her face. That's pride smiling" and "LEGO is a toy they never tire of, a toy that stimulates creativity and imagination for years."

1978 LEGOS Ad. "a toy that stimulates creativity and imagination for years." Source:

Sometimes, it’s hard to separate a film from the circumstances in which you watch it. In my case, I saw it as a father of a 1-year-old, sitting at the Alamo Drafthouse, following a preshow that included one of the early advertisements for LEGOs, then a European import newly reaching America’s shores. On multiple levels, I kept thinking of how much The LEGO Movie might represent a low point in both how we imagine children’s entertainment, and how we imagine children themselves.

Laura Palmer, wrapped in plastic

Ronette Pulaski from Twin Peaks

Image still from Twin Peaks episode two.

Inspired by Casey's Halloween post on gender in the horror genre, I'm continuing to riff on the same theme; I'll talk about boredom and violence, truck stop killers, and, of course, Laura Palmer.  

So I just finished watching Twin Peaks. I'm behind the times in tackling this one, but now the show is up there on my list of favorites. That said, while watching over the past few months, I couldn’t help but notice that the underlying message seems to be: Young Women who display independence and/or sexual curiosity will probably be murdered by a deep woods demon. Laura Palmer is only the first casualty. By the series’ end—no serious spoilers here—we have to wonder what will become of our various other heroines. Audrey Horne, Donna Hayward, Shelly Johnson. And of course there remains the question of questions: How’s Annie?

Two Sex-Scandals: Focusing in on the Problem

Arnold Schwarzeneggar and Maria Schriver

AP Photo/Chris Pizello via NY Daily News

Given the increasing hullaballoo surrounding this week’s two sex-scandal stories (Strauss-Kahn and Schwarzenegger), this image of Schwarzenegger and soon-to-be ex-wife, Maria Shriver, strikes me as paradigmatic of how these scenarios seem to play out: focus in on brooding, somber (occasionally apologetic) male politician; blurry, out-of-focus female victim in the foreground.  While the impetus behind these stories is supposedly exposing  the men that “done them wrong,” it’s often the women who suffer most from the media backlash.

(Re)Composing Bodies - Giovanni Bortolani's Fake Too Fake

human back with leaf

Giovanni Bortolani, from the Fake Too Fake series

Using some seriously inventive (and at times disturbing) photoshop, Italian artist Giovanni Bortolani has created a series of photos about the composition of the human form.  While the image above suggests a relationship between the body and the organic by superimposing a leaf skeleton on a man's back, most of Bortolani's photos in the series explore bodies in terms of that which is "fake" or constructed.  The images in Fake Too Fake are jarring, but they ask us to consider what we're doing to our bodies in this age of plastic surgery and diet pills.  NSFW (and somewhat gruesome) material after the jump.

The call is coming from inside the House!

Check out a new political ad from the Clinton campaign:

You've never seen sports bras like these.

I ran across this via, and thought these almost-ads needed to be on the website. The backstory for these ads is that an ad agency pitched them to a running company, which passed on them. They are advertising sports bras, supposedly in a humorous way. They seem menacing to me:

a woman with a bloody nose

See the other two ads after the jump:

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