Vulgarians 101: A Course for Future Leaders of America
A dystopian syllabus for an inevitable future at a hypothetical university.
Students, I’m sure you share in my excitement as we prepare for the 2017-2018 school year. Here at ___________ University, we have always prided ourselves on our unabashed understanding of the purest of educational goals: enlightenment is never cheap. Our mission statement has always been clear: If you have the money, we have the time, energy, commitment, and focus to provide you with the education you need in these end times. This can be a cruel world for like-minded soldiers in the Army of Truth. We are marginalized, profiled, and misunderstood. The leaders of ________University are agents of change in that we know how to maintain. Our truth is marching on, and nothing will stop us from restoring our nation to pure bloods, pure minds, and maximum earning potential.
The common understanding (long since disproven by researchers here at _______University) is that wealth and the display of it is shameful. We have been told to hide the fruits of our labor, to conceal the beautiful diamonds, the smooth automobiles, and the golden buildings. We have been told to transfer funds to off-shore holdings on the Cayman Islands or in Swiss Bank accounts. The history of our greatest Vulgarians, up to and most clearly exemplified by Donald J. Trump, is a narrative of limitless triumph in the face of ruthless enemies. By tracing the development of our people, our mindset, our sensibility, students will reach a universal understanding: Greed is not only good, Gordon Gekko. It’s essential.
Please see our Blackboard page for ISBN codes, purchase links, and specific titles. It should go without saying that the majority of our readings will be from Donald J. Trump’s The Art of the Deal. Students will also be expected to accumulate at least 300 contacts in their LinkedIn profiles, keep a traditional journal of their success, and film everything. This is a visual world, students. Words are useful in great books (see only: Trump, Donald J.) but the energy expended in reading is best used elsewhere. Please note that this is at the heart of ______University. We have books, and we suggest them, but we understand the value of your time.
Weeks one through three: The Roots of the Vulgarian
The 1968 film Chitty Chitty Bang Bang based on a book by Roald Dahl, featured the country of Vulgaria. While common consensus and general opinion have concluded that this is a dreary, execrable film of no discerning value, we have a different perspective, the correct point of view (note our very calculated use of the words “common” and “general”. ) Chitty Chitty Bang Bang is a wonderful film set in 1910 about a scrappy British widower inventor (Dick Van Dyke) and his ability to turn darkness into something sunny and creative. The kids are lovely, the songs hummable, and it should have gone on for hours.
The greatest part of Vulgaria is that the streets feature no children whatsoever! This is a land that has learned to turn things around by eliminating those horrible cretins from the streets. We know the inventor’s children are acceptable but only because they meet our standards (blonde, blue-eyed, obedient.)
In our class, we will focus on the scene where the Child Catcher (masterfully played by Robert Helpmann) gets the children off the streets. We will zoom in, fade out, and capture still images. Students will paint renderings of the moment the children are captured. Write narratives from the perspective of an imprisoned street urchin. If budget permits this semester, we will have an optional field trip to Vulgaria. That it apparently does not exist is of no use to us. We have visited, and we have proof.
Optional text: François Rabelais's The Life of Gargantua and of Pantagruel pentalogy of novels. Though the characters are technically giants, there is still something refreshingly vulgar about them. We like that. We embrace that.
Weeks Four through Six: Vulgarians and Body Image
It has been understood that Vulgarians are unabashed and unafraid, that they go commando without any awareness of propriety and with no governor on their daily comments. What, then, do we make of the Vulgar heroes whose ability to express themselves was thwarted by their conscience? This impediment to full expression was transferred to a caloric appetite that recognized no boundaries.
We will pay close attention to the evolution and presentation of such Vulgarians as Jabba Jesilijic Tiure, more commonly known as Jabba the Hutt. This crime lord, this gangster of Tatooine, wanted the head of Han Solo served to him on a platter with a full garnish of wiggling slimy green things.
Jabba appeared in Star Wars: Episode VI - Return of the Jedi (1983), the special edition of Star Wars: Episode IV - A New Hope (1977) , and Star Wars Episode 1 - The Phantom Menace (1999). There were other appearances, in visual form or otherwise, and we will explore them all. Students will keep journals, engage in COS play, and fully embrace Jabba the Hutt as the emblem of a Vulgarian unafraid to be himself.
Weeks Seven through Nine: Vulgarians in Music
Michael Lee Aday, better known as Meat Loaf, is a Vulgarian of the highest order who has been singing and entertaining the world since the mid-'70s. He is big, bold, brash, bombastic, and full of the piss and vinegar that Americans have long embraced as theirs. From his appearance in 1975’s The Rocky Horror Picture Show, his breakthrough 1977 album Bat Out of Hell and everything else, he embodies the greatest principles of Vulgarians: take what is yours. Tell your woman you will do anything for love but you won’t do that. You do have standards.
Late-period Elvis Presley, squeezed into his sequined jumpsuits like a claustrophobic Polish sausage, was the standard-bearer of Vulgarianism in music. A highlight of our school year at _______University, for students in and outside of this course, has always been our trip to Graceland in Memphis, Tennessee. See all the jumpsuits. Breathe in the stale air of the Jungle room. Marvel at this display of a poor boy made obscenely rich who never looked back, never walked away, died while on the toilet in August 1977 at 42 years old, his intestines clogged to the brim. This was the essence of a true Vulgarian.
Musically inclined students will be able to perform their own interpretations of Meat Loaf and Elvis Presley songs. Assessment of said performances will be based less on musical capability than the uncanny and admirable willingness to fake it until you make it.
Weeks Ten through Fifteen: Donald J. Trump
The final six weeks of this class will be devoted to the continuing presence of Mr. Trump as metaphor, fact, and eventuality. Who is this man? Will he be re-elected President in 2020? How did this humble son of a New York Real Estate developer grow to become the most viable and sincere Republican candidate for the 2016 Presidential election?
We will focus on the aforementioned text, explore the growth of Trump University, Trump Casinos, and Trump Ties. The groundbreaking TV series The Apprentice, and the dramatic, natural, organic conflicts of Celebrity Apprentice will be examined from many levels. Who were the people? Why did they work together? How did Mr. Trump come up with such ethical decisions of who to fire and who to crown winner? How far in the stratosphere will his Presidency take us? Are we worthy of taking the ride?
We will examine Mr. Trump's conflicts with Univision reporter Jorge Ramos, Fox TV anchor Megyn Kelly, and comic Rosie O’Donnell. We will dissect Mr. Trump’s proclamation that Mexicans coming to the United States (legal or otherwise) are all rapists and murders. We will read singer Ricky Martin’s editorial response. Please read the following pair of suppositional scenarios, choose one, and offer a 300 word response:
Scenario 1: Your wife has returned from the Trump Rally and found that her face will not return to normal. The moment he came into view, her face froze in an extreme simulation of orgiastic ecstasy. Your baby, held up in your wife’s hands as an offering to Mr. Trump, was blissfully oblivious to everything. Your mother, holding a sign which read “Thank you Lord President Trump”) has come to terms with her daughter-in-law’s condition. Mr. Trump’s powerful yet unashamedly clammy hands left a mark on your infant child’s cheek, and at times you see a malevolent glow from them, pulsing a hellish red in the dark of night.
How do you adjust to this new normal?
Write a letter to your child in which you justifiably compare the scene from this photograph (probably staged but it’s not for you to say) to great religious moments, like Jesus healing the lepers. Place yourself in the moment, and create a glimmer of hope in all this useless, artificial beauty.
Scenario 2:You attended President Trump’s historic Inauguration on January 20, 2017. Several weeks later, as the deluge of fake news from the failing New York Times infected the minds of so-called judges and politicians in the swamps that have yet to be drained, you attended the Presidential Victory rallies and glowed with the warmth of the pre-election season anticipation. The Muslim Ban roll-out targeting seven countries was flawless, ICE officials were provided with the means to do their jobs, and in the winter of other people’s discontent, you understand that all the elements are in place for you to find your brothers and build Heaven on Earth.
What role will you play in this new world? How fervently will you stay with your President as he continues to build the strongest cabinet, the hugest consensus, the best big time reward at the end of the rainbow?
Create a plan of action, a manifesto of steps, and indicate why the unprecedented election and leadership of President Trump means anything is possible.
Bi-Weekly quizzes (multiple choice, short answer) 8 quizzes, 10%
Mid-term (short essays, multiple choice questions) 30%
Final exam (see above, cumulative and speculative) 30%
Presentations (visual, powerpoint, filmed or mixed media) 20%
Attendance / Participation / Sincerity 10%
The concept of “office” in my time is different than yours. When I was a student, we visited our professors in their 3rd floor dusty spaces, a stained brown bookcase in one alcove stuffed with exhausted huge volumes of collected works that inspired and motivated only other professors, other readers, other off-key singers in the choir. We had an audience with our mentor / role model / sensei, and we knew the moments were precious. At times, he pulled a volume from his bookcase and flipped the pages to some random wisdom. We didn’t hear the words. We just rested in the security of the academic breeze.
Today, out of necessity, an “office” is anywhere. The faculty here at _________University is eagerly awaiting the final construction of Wisdom Towers, where all truth will be stored, all meetings efficiently scheduled and promptly conducted. For the 2017-2018 school year, we look forward to meeting students at times to be announced in parks, coffeehouses, reasonably-priced restaurants. Wherever and however two or more are gathered in the name of enlightenment, we will all get what we need.
Vulgarianism is a goal to be realized, and students enter with the understanding that they are not yet there. A true Vulgarian bloviates, pontificates, recklessly consumes people and food and ideas and situations for his own benefit, with no empathy or consideration of consequences. It is the belief of the instructors at _________University that our students will listen and respond accordingly. There is grace and dignity in passivity, in absorbing what you are given with respect and appreciation. Be forewarned: we will respond accordingly if you disrespect us in your essays, your presentations, your short essay ruminations. You don’t want to take us to the boiling point.
Academic Honesty and Integrity Statement:
We know what’s out there. We know about the writing services, the hungry Grad Students desperate to write your paper for the proper price. We understand that exams are shared, disseminated through all sorts of devices, and we are at peace with that. Please understand that if you are found to have plagiarized or otherwise fully absorbed and re-appropriated the work of others for your own purposes, you will be punished to the full extent of Universal Academic Law. For further details, please refer to _________University's Twitter page. It’s amazing how effective a threat to stay respectable as a student can be in 140 characters or less.
Final Thoughts and Course (Student) Expectations:
Here at _______University, we implore our students to understand Vulgarians in the context of history, what they’ve done for us, and how they will be remembered. We also strongly hope that you embrace your own inner Vulgarian. The future will be an unavoidably dark place, but an acceptance of Vulgarians and Vulgarianism will make it tolerable.
Class outline and plans are subject to change without advance notice (please see Blackboard for details) and ________University does not offer a money back guarantee. You will be satisfied.
We are wholly independent, with no corporate backers.
Simply whitelisting PopMatters is a show of support.
Splash image from the poster for Wonder Boys (2000)