society + Doctor Sleep [2019]

curtesy of YouTube

This post is going to be a little different than what you’ve seen before. We’ve looked at music, American society, and even a couple of slang terms. I figured well, I also love movies, so why the heck not do a movie section? Of course, movies tend to be a lot longer than songs and so I’m not going to analyze every line from the screenplay of Doctor Sleep (but you wish!). Instead, I’m going to focus on some elements and imagery from the movie and explain how these things relate to American society, or maybe what they reveal about the culture.

Sound interesting? Sure it does! So let’s keep reading.

I’d also like to point out that this is mainly for English students or foreign people who are curious about American society, just as a warning that some things may sound redundant if you are an English-speaker or American. Though, of course, anyone is welcome!

Doctor Sleep — not to get confused with Doctor Strange — is a supernatural horror movie written and directed by Mike Flanagan. It was made in 2019 and is a sequel to The Shining from 1980. Well, that took long enough! Besides the fact of it being a sequel, I want to mention this because The Shining has been a definitive cultural event since it came out. Not everyone has seen the movie — in fact, lots of people I know haven’t, which is mind … POOSH — but pretty much everyone recognizes at least some of the scenes from this movie.

credit from Fandom, here

The sinister opening music from the score … the waves of splashing blood pouring through the halls … the twin girls staring down the hall with their evil eyes … Jack Nicholson screaming “Here’s Johnny!” as he axes down a door. I mean, there are just too many iconic scenes to go on. The popular impact of The Shining makes today’s subject so significant too, even if it’s a mere sequel.

Just like with its predecessor, Doctor Sleep has several iconic scenes and shots, including a girl running her hands through the mental “files” of her witch foe, people flying in and out of each other’s minds, and the iconic “REDRUM” spelling itself so ominously on the cracked walls. But back to the topic: What does this movie say about America? Well, let’s see…

One noticeable aspect of the movie is the different regions of the country we see the characters going to. Stephen King, who is the author of the books, is from Maine, a state in New England. If you notice in the movie they’re mostly in some town in New Hampshire. There are little brick buildings, central church chapels, and cute little parks in the middle of town. This layout is of the classic New England town. Given the fact that Danny, the lead character, goes there to cleanse and heal from alcoholism, you can tell that these places are considered locations where you can live peacefully, get away from the noise of the city, and enjoy the fall leaves. On the other hand, when Danny is in Florida, he gets high on drugs and alcohol all the time and sleeps around with strange women, which lets you know how other Americans might view Florida. That’s also where the creepy True Knots are first seen attacking that little girl. Sorry, Florida. Harsh.

a field like you might see in the Midwest, Photo by Lawrence Hookham on Unsplash

Later on, they go to Colorado which is full of mountains, forest, and pretty lakes, while we go to Iowa and see nothing but cornfields and baseball diamonds. This probably wasn’t on accident, because Iowa and the Midwest, in general, are seen as centers for agriculture and farming, especially corn. They are also seen as the “heartland” of America, which is why you get such an important symbol like baseball there. A poor boy gets abducted in Iowa, and what happens to him also has something to say about our society.

I don’t know if this started in the U.S. or was brought here by Eastern Europeans, but gypsies are a controversial topic from this movie. Sometimes as kids, people are told to watch out for gypsies because they eat children or some nonsense. True to the myth, that’s pretty much what happens in the movie. Gypsies are based on the ethnic Roma or Romani people, but often any group of people that travel around together without any kind of direction or stability are generally considered gypsies. Especially if they’re in a trailer.

a trailer-home, Photo by John Mark Jennings on Unsplash

Trailers have a lot of importance in America. People use trailers to travel long distances, go camping, and to live in, amongst other things. A popular notion too is that “gypsies” or just people without any stable home roam around the country in a trailer. The scene of the True Knot picking up the boy in Iowa as well as the scene where Danny arrives with Abra, the other main character, at her home, shed light on this. Abra’s dad has a little freak-out session and nearly tries to kill Danny.

These two scenes show how kids in America are taught to deal with strangers (Don’t get into a car with them) and how parents react when they see their children, especially daughters, with strange adults. This seems logical, but I have seen in some other countries that kids interacting with unknown adults is not the most outrageous thing that could happen. No one wants their child to get abducted, but I notice in America, parents seem to be especially cautious in this sense compared to some other countries. Maybe this is because there are tons of cases of child abduction, child molestation, and child abuse that parents become especially protective. Children are a lot less likely to talk to strangers, even if they are genuine and nice people, because of this worry that American parents tend to put into their heads. I blame investigative shows like 20/20 and channels like Investigation Discovery (ID) for this, but I guess they have good reasons.

classic neon movie theater, Photo by Jeff Pierre on Unsplash

I don’t have too much else to say. You could see how Abra’s house was really big and nice, a sort of “classic American home” at least nowadays. We also saw some racial diversity in the movie, kind of lending to the push for more diversity in movies and media in recent years. I think that’s cool. Danny works at a convalescent home (commonly an “old folks home” or “retirement home”) helping the seniors go to sleep … forever. This is more of a Western thing, I think, where it’s acceptable and even pretty common to send old people to live in these care facilities instead of taking care of them at home. The movie theater where the girl, Andi I think, gets recruited to the True Knot team of vagabonds is a kind of classic American movie theater. You get the big neon sign out front with the movie titles on it, a ticket booth, and a big theater house full of seats and balconies and whatnot. Other than that, many Americans like a good scare, a good thrill, a mystic tale of spirit-suckers that get defeated by a living mansion burning to the ground. Or was it a hotel? Those hats the True Knot were wearing are kind of in style with certain hipster communities. I’ll talk about them another day.

I left the trailer up top if you’re interested. Also, did you notice anything else about Doctor Sleep that speaks on American society or society at large? And if any of you saw this movie, what did you think of it? Tell me in the comments, or email me at tietewaller@gmail.com. Stay well!

“20 Dollar” [M.I.A.]

A flag featuring both cross and saltire in red, white and blue
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Flag of Sri Lanka
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AK’s and goat fry. Read the song lyrics below and learn some new English idioms, phrases, or cultural explanations. And don’t forget to watch the video and read more below!

War! War! War!

Talking about y’all’s such a bore

  • *Talking about you all is …

I’d rather talk about moi

  • “Moi” means “me” in French.

Like do you know the cost of AK’s up in Africa?

  • I’m sure you know, AK’s, or AK-47’s, are a type of assault rifle, probably the most referenced rifle in pop culture. Also, saying “up in” someplace is just a more colorful way to say “in” someplace. The “up” has no real meaning here.
AK-47 – Wikipédia, a enciclopédia livre
An AK-47 from Wikipedia

20 dollars ain’t s*** to you

  • 20 dollars isn’t… Saying that something “ain’t s**” or “isn’t worth s***” means it isn’t worth anything, doesn’t mean anything, or it has a super low value/cost.

But that’s how much they are

So they’re gonna use the s*** just to get far

  • To “go far” or “get far” usually means to become successful. “You have a great voice! You’re going to go far.” It can also mean to escape a current situation.

Is gold, diamonds helping ya?

  • *Are gold and diamonds helping you? “Ya” is a popular way for many English speakers to pronounce “you” informally.

Don’t you like my bandanna?

  • A bandanna is usually worn on the face of criminals, like bandits. It can also be used by liberation fighters, protestors, or rebels, which is what I assume M.I.A. is referring to.
Classic Black Paisley Bandana | Apparel @ Hoo-rag
A pandemic-style bandanna from Hoorag

My stains hang low, on my shirt’s like “Ay-ya-ya!

  • “Stains” might represent bloodstains, as with someone who has been fighting a tough battle. This phrase probably comes from a song by Jibbs called “Chain Hang Low.” It’s a hip-hop song that came out a year before this one, so it might have influenced M.I.A.’s lyric here. Stain rhymes with chain. That last “ay-ya-ya” is just something you might say if you’re stressed, upset, or confused. Listen to “Chain’s Hang Low” here.

Got monkey brains and banana

  • *I’ve got… “Monkey brains” or “banana brains” is another way of saying that someone has disorganized and wild thoughts, or that they’re a little crazy. A similar phrase is something is bananas. “This beat is bananas!”

I’ll hit you with my antenna

  • She is talking about a radio antenna. To “hit” someone, besides physically striking them, can also be to figuratively strike them. You can hit someone with a song, with some advice, or with your opinion, for example. Basically, M.I.A. will “hit” us with her music and her style on the radio. Also, hitting someone with a thin metal stick, like an antenna, makes me think of beating or whipping someone for discipline.

I put soap in my eye

Make it red so I look rawr-rawr-rawr!

  • I can’t tell if she’s saying “rawr” or “raw.” Either way, her red eyes will make her look scary, intimidating, or really cool. “Raw” in slang also has these meanings. “Rawr” is the sound a big cat makes, like a lion or tiger. Could be something to do with the Tamil Tigers, a guerrilla group in Sri Lanka that influenced M.I.A.’s family and ancestral country.

So I woke up with my Holy Quran and found out I like Cadillac

  • The way she says “Cadillac” almost sounds like she’s saying “Allah,” meaning God in Arabic. This plays with the previous line about the Quran. Cadillac is an American brand and a representation of a strong, American product. This line might mean that she read the Quran (the Arab/Eastern world) and decided she preferred the Cadillac (the American/Western world). Or, she read the Quran (religion) and decided she preferred a Cadillac (consumerism, buying things, earthly things). There could be a lot of interpretations from this quick lyric.

So we’re shooting until the song is up

  • If something “is up,” that means it ends. This is represented in the phrase, “You’re time is up.” Your time is finished.

Little boys are acting up

  • To “act up” is to be bad or misbehave. Kids are good at acting up.

And baby mothers are going crazy

  • This is related to “baby mama” which is a very popular way to refer to the mother of someone’s child. It has turned into a pop-culture reference to a certain class of people that is uneducated, has lots of babies outside of marriage, and is usually lower class or has bad taste. “What are you gonna do if you quit school? Turn into some guy’s baby mama?”

And the leaders all around cracking up

  • *And the leaders are all around … To “crack up” here means to laugh a lot, or laugh really loudly. “That joke always cracks me up!”

We goat-rich, we fry

  • *We’re goat rich… “Goat rich” isn’t a very popular term at least in American English. I can imagine that it refers to someone who has a lot of goats or livestock (animals for farming and produce). So M.I.A. and the people she represents are not rich in money, but have lots of livestock and make money in a simple, humble, and traditional way. In lots of poorer countries or regions, people still live off of trading and raising animals. Also, adding “rich” after a noun means that you have as much wealth as that thing. “I’m not Zuckerberg rich, but I make good money.”

Price of living in a shanty town just seems very high

  • *The price of … A shanty town is a type of improvised community for people who are either poor or live in extreme poverty. They are usually made of wood, tarp and other plastic, or anything sturdy enough to build a small improvised home. In some countries, these communities can be more dangerous, hold gang activity, trafficking, or just have bad sanitation. Another word for the same idea is “slum.” Shanty towns often start as temporary camps or communities that evolve over time into permanent neighborhoods or miniature towns. That’s why the price (emotionally, or for one’s wellbeing) of living in one can be high.
Shanty town along the Mekong River - Picture of Sundance Riverside Hotel,  Phnom Penh - Tripadvisor
A common shanty town/slum, TripAdvisor

But we still like T.I.

  • T.I. is a famous rapper from the U.S. who represents Atlanta, Georgia. This line can mean that even though they live in poor conditions, they still listen to American music, or hip hop, and still like to have fun.

But we still look fly

  • To “look fly” is to be dressed really nicely or have good style in appearance.

Dancing as we’re shooting up

  • Again, the “up” doesn’t necessarily have meaning. They might be shooting “up” into the sky, or shooting up a place (shooting it a bunch of times). This is similar to the idea to “beat up,” meaning to beat or hit a bunch of times.

And looting just to get by

  • To “loot” is to steal. It’s more of an old-fashioned word, and in the U.S. it reminds most people of pirates who would loot other ships. Also, “loot” can be an informal term for money, in general. Of course, to “get by” means to survive some situation or to get through something difficult.

With your feet on the air

Your head on the ground

Try this trick and spin it – yeah!

Your head’ll collapse when there’s nothin’ in it

And you’ll ask yourself

Where is my mind?

  • These four lines of the chorus were taken from a song by Pixies, “Where is My Mind.” Besides that, it’s just a really cool, trippy, interesting thing to put into a song. Listen to “Where is My Mind” here.

Where is my mind?

Where is my mind?

War! War! War!

Who made me like this?

Was it me and God in co-production?

My Devil’s on speed-dial

  • To have someone on “speed-dial” is to have their number saved and easily accessible. Basically, it means they’re the first person you call when you want something or they are your favorite person to talk to.

Every time I take the wrong direction

All I want is one thing and that is what you got

  • *that is what you’ve got. Or *that is what you have. To me, it also sounds like she could be saying “and that is what you want.” Either way, she wants what someone else has or desires.

Sometimes I go lose my mind, and I feel numb

There’s 24 hours in a day

  • *There are 24 hours …

I used to spilt it 8, 8, 8

That’s 8 – work, 8 – sleep, 8 for play!

Now I give it all it takes

  • To “give it all it takes” is to put in full effort, try as hard as you can.

Got people on the Internet with a new lack for the intellect

  • *You have people on … People on the internet have created a new way to be stupid, basically (lack of intellect). It almost sounds like she’s saying “a new life for the intellect,” but I’m not sure. “Lack” makes more sense to me, it sounds more like what she says, and it’s funnier.

People judge me so hard ’cause I don’t floss my titty set

  • *so hard because I don’t … To “floss” something means to show it off to others. This was before the “floss” dance, but it might be related (?). Titty is kind of a controversial word, and to lots of people, it can be offensive. I just wanted to note that it is a woman’s breast or boob.

I was born out of dirt like I’m porn in a skirt

  • I almost forgot to mention! So “dirty” can refer to something that is covered in dirt and has bad hygiene. It can also mean something that is naughty, sexual, or sleezy. So “dirt” here has a double meaning.

I was a little girl who made good, well au revoir, adieu

  • To “make good” is to make success or be successful at something. It usually has to do with monetary success. “Au revoir” and “adieu” mean See you later, and Goodbye in French. In many places of the English world, France is seen as a place that is rich, fancy, and high class. M.I.A. repeating French words in this song can be a reference to how other people might see her as fancy and high class now that she is making music on the radio and becoming famous. For her, this was especially true in the late 2000s.

I put people on the map that never seen a map

  • *that have never seen … Also, to be “put on the map” means that someone gets discovered by lots of people. They become a landmark much like the Statue of Liberty of Eiffel Tower (since we’re talking about France).

I’ve showed ’em something they’ve never seen

And hope they make it back!

  • “Make it back” here means to survive some wild situation, to come out on top, and to overcome. Think of a soldier “making it back” home after a war.

Then the lyrics repeat.

Sooo … This song is close and dear to my heart. It’s a song that made me fall in love with M.I.A., partly because of the weird and crazy instrumental, buzzing sounds, and her ominous chanting all throughout the song. But the lyrics are certainly a big source of my love for this song. It’s kind of a random song and the lyrics touch on multiple different issues. Most of the song is about M.I.A.’s newfound success and international fame, and how she is dealing with it. She talks about her humble beginnings, places she’s been and how hard life is in those places. She’s made success, but she doesn’t forget where she’s been. She definitely won’t let her listeners forget that there are places in the world where people make a living frying goats or where guns only cost 20 dollars, even if in the world of fame and fortune, that cost means almost nothing.

What did you think of this song? Can you understand her struggle between ridiculous wealth and cruel poverty? Do you know what M.I.A. stands for? Let me know in the comments! As always, if you want to send me a message or suggest a song for me to do next, please send me an email! tietewaller@gmail.com

Oh, and please listen to this song!