Monday, November 8, 2010

Foucault & Popular Culture

This might seem like a ridiculously naive connection to make, but while I was reading Foucault's selection from Discipline and Punish: The Birth of the Prison, I couldn't help but think of Ken Kesey's One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest. Having recently read the novel for my Contemporary American Literature class, its themes are still echoing through my head. The emasculation and infantilization of the male psychiatric patients by Nurse Ratched, portrayed brilliantly in the film version of the novel by Louise Fletcher, reminded me of Foucault's references to "technicians of behavior" at Mettray whose sole responsibility it was to take away the individuality of the children. Indeed, the most tragic scene in the novel is at the end, where McMurphy has been lobotomized and therefore robbed of his unique personality.

Another reference to popular culture appeared in my mind while reading the selection as well, and I thought of the film version of A Clockwork Orange. Alex's experience with the Ludovico technique while in prison, which destroys his free will, resonated with me. These "therapies" that have been socially accepted as "useful" for psychiatric patients and violent prisoners alike seem so similar to the techniques used at Mettray which Foucault described.


  1. Here's some more pop culture connections!

    Take a look at this Geico commercial, which finds R. Lee Ermey revising/sending up his famous disciplinary role from Full Metal Jacket.

    Oh, uh, parental advisory and all on that FMJ clip.

  2. I've never seen "Full Metal Jacket," but I have seen the Geico's pretty funny and it also definitely represents an important connection to what I was talking about.