Critical Analysis Of

‘Identity Risis’, And ‘Oppositional Dr Essay, Research Paper

A Critical Analysis Of “Identity Crisis”


“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


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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