Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Do Admissions Officers Discriminate Against Asian Americans? | The Harvard Crimson Admissions Blog

Do Admissions Officers Discriminate Against Asian Americans? | The Harvard Crimson Admissions Blog

In response to several recent news reports about a potential bias against Asian Americans in admission, Nhu from the Crimson Admissions Blog interviews some InGenius Prep former admissions officers to see what truth there is to it behind the scenes.

Monday, April 28, 2014

Applying Emotions to Applications | The Harvard Crimson Admissions Blog

Applying Emotions to Applications | The Harvard Crimson Admissions Blog

Check out our most recent post on the Harvard Crimson Admissions Blog chronicling the emotional reactions of various InGenius Prep former admissions officers like Jean Webb!

Below, you'll find some commentary from Noah Greenfield, the co-founder of InGenius Prep about the sentiments shared by our former admissions officers in the Crimson article and how this was part of the impetus for him founding the company:

I was involved in making decisions for summer programs at Columbia and Yale. What was surprising to me was just how easy the decision making process was. The good applications were just so good - everyone who got into these competitive programs (from about 250 applications for 20 spots each) stood out far above most of their peers. It was only when some students contacted me after they were not accepted and asked me to help them understand what they might improve that I realized that a good number of those rejected students had the exact same numbers, extra-curriculars and experiences, etc., that the WOW students had. But, the difference to me was that they couldn't figure out how to communicate it to us in a WOW fashion. We might have taken a closer look if they had, but why would we bother when a) we were busy with other aspects of the program b) the great students were so compelling they were no-brainers?

The idea of the people behind these applications being probably equally qualified, but having less polished application materials made me uncomfortable for a long time. It would really keep me up at night that I seemed to be making such snap judgments based on such a small sample size of information. What I take solace in, though, is that a lot of that polish reflects the “extra mile” that students can go to in order to make sure their application truly stands out as a WOW application instead of one that just has like many others status upon review. I also realized pretty quickly that this phenomenon isn’t unique to the admissions process. It’s prevalent in job applications, almost any competitive or selective process in the world, and almost any important decisions that a businessperson or professional makes. Decisions are always made on sub-optimal information and often with limited resources and time, so preparation, persistence, and presentation are just as important as performance.

Saturday, April 26, 2014

How the Clippers and the NBA Should React to Donald Sterling's Most Recent Racist Outburst

Donald Sterling is well-known for his outlandish remarks, largely unsuccessful stint as owner of the Clippers, and not-so-subtle racism. He's been sued in federal court for it and he's been caught on tape and on camera saying some pretty outlandish things. He even was sued by Elgin Baylor for asking prospective coaching candidates how they think they'd be able to "coach these N***ers?"

Here's his latest transgression:

  - Watch More

While Sterling holds back on some of the more virulent racism that may or may not be going through his head during the conversation, he very clearly exhibits the type of "plantation owner" mentality that has unfortunately plagued professional sports leagues like the NBA and NFL for years. This, along with Dan Gilbert's 2010 Summer rant against LeBron (which is a less clear example of racism, and a more clear example of an arrogant man who has often demanded a higher platform when he speaks in public), are unfortunate reminders of the omnipresent specter of race-related issues in sports and society today. The idea that Sterling conveys to this woman on the phone--that it's OK for him to associate with these people because they work for him and ostensibly make him money, but not for her  to so because she is a "delicate woman" is problematic on many levels including but not at all limited to the following:

1. Blatant sexism  - "delicate woman," telling her who she can and can't be seen with or photographed with

2. Acknowledgement of his friends' racism - whoever tipped him off to the picture clearly was just as racist and may have triggered this reaction on the part of Sterling

2. Plantation mentality - it's OK to smile and shake hands with Magic Johnson and cheer for his non-white players and coaches because it's all part of a money-making enterprise over which he (thinks he) has total control

4. Subtle implication of the "Dangerous Minority Other"- by framing his girlfriend as the "delicate woman" and dictating her behavior, he juxtaposes that imagery with that of an over-aggressive, untrustworthy, dangerous, and/or violent minority (in this case, a black man)

Everyone has recognized him as the worst owner in the NBA for quite some time, but no one has done anything about it because the narrative has always taken the shape of "Sterling hasn't producde a winning team more than twice in the past 30 years" rather than "Sterling thinks of himself like a plantation owner." However, quietly, everyone in the upper echelons of the NBA has recognized him as the racist he truly is.

Frankly, there's nothing much they really could have done about it besides send him official warning letters or small (relative to his $1.9b net worth) fines much like employees' minor infractions are dealt with by companies. However, this isn't the case anymore in the era where players are fined for every little behavioral infraction, on and off the court. The NFL (and the Eagles) fined and suspended Riley Cooper for his comments, which weren't nearly as hateful as Donald Sterling's pervasive racism. Cooper was outcasted (at least temporarily) by his team, and other teams relished the chance to hit him (which you can't really do in the NBA unless you are Josh McRoberts or Nene) and it was at least somewhat of a teachable moment. Under David Stern's leadership, Sterling has enjoyed a type of "ownership immunity" that not even coaches, GMs and other front-office staff, and certainly players have enjoyed. It's almost like he's in the CIA, but hiding under the blanket of "diplomatic immunity."

While I think that some of the NBA's (and NFL's) policing of the personal lives of its players (except when it involves serious allegations of criminality) is an overstepping of its authority, it's warranted in many cases. It's especially warranted because these conduct policies are codified in the leagues' respective collective bargaining agreements, and so both sides have agreed that it is reasonable and bargained for it to some extent.

However, this situation is particularly poignant because it doesn't just involve some random racist remark (which would still be deplorable, of course,) but it involves Magic Johnson. Magic Johnson has been an ambassador for the game, and is responsible in large part for the huge growth in popularity of the league (and thus, by extension, the owners' fortunes to the extent that they run their teams as profitable businesses). For an NBA owner to tell his girlfriend (or paramour, if you're feeling particularly NSFW Game of Thrones-ish) to not bring Magic Johnson (or any other minorities) is absolutely a relevant and disciplinable offense in the NBA.

However, Adam Silver (as representative of the owners' and thus partially as representative of Sterling) is put in a strange position here. This will be the first major crisis of his tenure as commissioner, and I'm sure he will be in close consultation with David Stern about what he should do. His range of actions is fairly limited, but he should still take them. Then, he should facilitate or at very least rely on the groundswell of anti-Sterling sentiment that will undoubtedly arise across the league and try to push Sterling out of the league. Whatever the punishment should be, it should be a fine levied directly on Sterling, and not a punishment on the players (i.e., forfeiture of future draft picks, etc.)

While we might ask players to take a stand---and I'm sure some high profile players will---it's a very difficult position to put them in for them to be asked to boycott (lose money), forfeit (lose money and set back their basketball careers), not want to play for the Clippers (which would either make turn the Clippers into a team of non-minorities willing to tolerate Sterling's racism, and also make basketball players have less opportunities by limiting the already limited amount of roster spots available - i.e. jobs), or make a symbolic gesture against their owner and boss (risking contract extensions for anyone but the biggest star players). However, the high-profile players, like Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, and DeAndre Jordan can and should organize a symbolic action in defiance of Donald Sterling to encourage the groundswell of popular opinion necessary to force Sterling to publicly apologize, step down, sell, or some other appropriate course of action.

Chris Paul is in a unique position as leader of the players association, but it's unfair for him to have to focus on something like this in the midst of an important playoff series. However, those are the realities of life. Despite the bad blood between the Clippers and Warriors, I'm sure that Doc Rivers, Mark Jackson, and their respective players would be more than happy to cooperate to denounce Sterling's action by doing something like delaying the start of the game, wearing anti-racism patches or insignias on their jerseys, or demanding a public apology from Sterling in order for the game to begin. If both teams were to cooperate on something like this, it would force the league to do something. And, in order to protect the image and profitability of the league, they would certainly do whatever they had to do to Sterling in order to make this awesome playoff series go on. The winner of the other side of the bracket needs an opponent, and they aren't just going to let them go on with a bye if these two teams refuse to play.

Some options are as follows for the players/coaches, and should be led and organized by the prominent players: 

1. Immediately file a (possibly, class-action) employment discrimination lawsuit on behalf of the NBA Players Association against Donald Sterling for creating a hostile work environment and a litany of other offenses. This wouldn't require much effort from Chris Paul and he could have legal counsel do it all, file something preliminary for the signaling effect, and continue pursuing the litigation after the playoffs. The NBA should also be named as a defendant in this lawsuit in order to force their hand.

While I haven't dug into the mechanics of how this would go down, I'm almost certain that it could happen in at least some productive fashion. At very least, it's a legal strategy that forces the NBA to take action on what it should have taken action on decades ago. Any kind of retaliation (not extending contracts, defaming them, docking them pay) by Sterling against players would be a serious violation of employment discrimination law. (An interesting thing to note, depending on how this recording was actually obtained, is its admissibility as evidence in a court proceeding.

This evidentiary issue would be a non-issue if Sterling tries to issue some kind of public acknowledgement and/or apology, which I'm sure his PR people and the rest of the Clippers organization will highly recommend he do...better consult with counsel about that first, Donald.) It's also possible that the CBA prevents such a suit, but there are almost certainly ways around that, and the CBA probably includes an arbitration clause under which Sterling would almost certainly lose in front of a neutral arbitrator. The CBA, however, might not apply if there is some kind of antitrust related action or really weird incarnation of a shareholder derivative suit or fiduciary duty suit initiated the rest of the owners of the NBA. It's pretty uncharted territory because of the "acceptable monopoly" status of major sports leagues in the United States and the associate anti-trust exemptions, to say the least, but it should definitely be tested. Sterling would almost certainly countersue claiming anti-trust violations, but it wouldn't seem like he'd have much sympathy from any judge, jury, or the public. The suit and the publicity would probably have such a negative spillover effect on his other business ventures that he'd voluntarily settle.

2. Engage in multiple symbolic gestures against Sterling, organized by players and coaches from both teams. Doc Rivers and Mark Jackson have the media clout, respect, and personality to be able to pull this type of thing off. Symbolic gestures would include: delaying the start of the game, refusing to take the floor until a public apology (in the arena) was issued by Sterling (should he choose to attend the game), wearing anti-racism patches on their jerseys, and wearing a symbolic article of clothing or accessory. If both coaches could wear something like this, or players/coaches could give a speech to the crowd before a game, that would also be highly public and highly effective. This might be an area where the NBA can look to the anti-racism campaigns of European soccer teams for some inspiration.

Also, I'm sure there are owners out there like Mark Cuban that can come out and denounce Sterling and demand action. I'm sure there are already a couple who have (or at least, I hope that is the case). Billionaires, as you can see, aren't scared of voicing their opinions loudly and publicly. Guys like Cuban are great for the NBA because they'll tell it like it is. Time to lead the charge, Mark.

It sucks that Chris Paul, Blake Griffin, Doc Rivers, Magic Johnson, and other guys are in this super awkward position, but there couldn't be a more likable and accomplished group to lead the charge against Sterling.

Griffin, an affable superhero, and his sidekick should take action immediately. Having the team collectively "do the Blake face" to show their disapproval for Sterling would be hilarious, but not enough.

While Blake and Chris are busy with the playoffs, maybe they can enlist Cliff for an assist, "inspire a new generation of that can't deny the power of an assist, and truly get us to a better state." (Note: this isn't intended to be a Kia or State Farm ad...just a relevant, and kind of stupid joke to demonstrate the media power of guys like Griffin and Paul.)

Update: Doc Rivers' reaction is totally expected and understandable because Sterling's behavior shouldn't get in the way of these players and coaches' aspirations. However, there's still room for some symbolic behavior that will go a long way. DeAndre Jordan and Doc Rivers have done a good job in sending the message that this isn't OK, and won't be tolerated. But, there's still much more to be done. A show of solidarity from Mark Jackson and the Warriors organizations would be terrific to see. Others players have stepped up as well, and should be commended for it. Kobe would be a great person to lead the charge to kick Sterling out of Staples once and for all - Kobe is very poised, intelligent, and immensely respected. He also happens to be able to lay claim to the shared Staples Center as "his house" (continuing the legacies of several incredible Lakers teams before hime, including Magic's Showtime Lakers) without pissing too many people off.

LeBron, as the best player and highest profile player in the league, said there's no room for Donald Sterling or people like him in the NBA. Pretty strong condemnation in a sea of fairly tepid and measured reactions today:

See Doc's comments here (because I imagine the team will not be commenting as Doc explains):

Friday, April 25, 2014

Great Article about InGenius Prep in the Yale Daily News

Check out this great article about the founding of InGenius Prep by Rachel Siegel in the Yale Daily News.

Rachel discusses InGenius's partnerships with Teach for America and other non-profit organizations as well as its core business model.

The InGenius mission of increasing access to higher education by placing affordable admissions consulting on the same plane as test prep (and thus, the same prevalence) is well articulated in this article.

How to Choose the Right Law School for You

Here's a link to the article that Dave Hall - from Velocity LSAT - and I co-authored for Above the Law's Career Center about how to choose the right law school. Obviously, with good options come difficult choices. But, people shouldn't rely on rankings to make these incredibly important life choices. Hear what Dave and I have to say about the types of things you should consider when you are making your decision on the ATL Blog here.

Thursday, April 24, 2014

College Recruiting: Not Just for Athletics

For those of you not familiar with policy debate, here's a sample of what it's like:

It might seem ridiculous, but it's incredibly competitive, difficult, and requires effort and dedication akin to that of a (great) Ph.D dissertation in order to remain elite.

You can find a PDF version of the print article from Rostrum here and a copy on the InGenius Brain Blog here.

Wednesday, April 23, 2014

Hear E.K. Tell You About InGenius Prep's Essay Editing Services

E.K. got into his top choice (and only choice) program - a selective school within his college that was available to the most qualified members of the junior class. He signed up for the Gold Essay Editing Package after hearing of InGenius Prep on the web when he decided he could use some help to polish his essays before submitting. Hear directly from him about the process of working with InGenius and his counselor who attends Harvard Law School:

That's the InGenius advantage summarized perfectly by one of our clients. Keep in mind, this is InGenius Prep's most affordable, and most limited services, and it still both drastically outdoes and underprices any competitive service.

Within 18 hours, E.K. got back his essay with almost a hundred redline edits and 20 or so general comments as well as an instruction template for how to move his essay to the next level. You can see what a sample essay would look like after an InGenius counselor brings his or her expertise to bear on it working closely with the student here.

Another sample essay after it got the InGenius Gold Essay Editing treatment can be seen in completely redacted form below:

Tuesday, April 22, 2014

Great Tribute to Craig Sager - Get Well, Soon!

The TNT and ESPN/ABC broadcasting teams, along with several players, have epitomized class in dealing with the unfortunate and sad news about Craig Sager's illness. The latest is that he will be in the hospital undergoing treatment for leukemia for at least four weeks. He first felt ill reporting a Mavs-Spurs game two weeks ago, and consulted with the Mavs team doctors who sent him to the hospital.

Sager has been a great, tenacious reporter for decades and everyone has had their fair share of fun with his colorful, wild outfits (even people taking selfies with him passed out in hotel lobbies). The usually soft-spoken (at least to the media) Kevin Garnett had this to say to Sager a few years ago:

However, Sager's outfits are a metaphor for his effusive personality and his career of fierce reporting. He's truly made his mark.

Even the tight-lipped Popovich, who barely gives Sager and others three words in a normal regular season in-game interview, spoke directly to Sager during a sideline interview with Craig Sager, Jr. during the playoffs. From such a great coach and man like Popovich, this is the ultimate gesture of respect and admiration.

Get well soon, Craig.

Thursday, April 17, 2014

Heat Three-Peat Preview: A Healthy Wade

There's a lot of talk around the league about the Heat looking (and performing) the worst of any of their four seasons together in the Big Three era. While it's probably true, the Heat area also the healthiest they've ever been going into the playoffs with the most robust lineup they've ever had. In their first year together, the critical players were fully healthy (with the exception of Bosh and Haslem) down the stretch, but Mike Bibby, Zydrunas Ilgauskas, Jamal Magliore, and Joel Anthony were all getting big time minutes. To boot, Bibby shot the worst from 3PT of not only his career, but also the history of the playoffs. In the other two runs, Miller, Bosh, Wade, and other role players had nagging injuries or worse. This made the Heat have to pull out heroic performances from LeBron and Wade as well as standout role player performances from Battier and Miller at crucial times. Chalmers, as always, shined in the spotlight.

This year, despite the lack of continuity and rhythm, the team is completely healthy. Bosh and LeBron logged some pretty heavy miles down the stretch, but have now had more than a full week off before the beginning of the series. Bosh is going to get worn down a little in the first round against Charlotte, but no one is really going to tax LeBron unless he's asked to guard Jefferson in crunch time. Wade, barring any setbacks, is looking spry and ready to dominate like he did against the Mavericks in 2006 and 2011, and in key games against the Pacers two years ago.

I have no doubt that the Heat find their rhythm after the first series. The East is the worst it has been in decades and the Heat are pulling the Bobcats and then probably the Nets (or if they're lucky, Toronto). They'll have home court in both of these series. If Toronto manages to beat the Nets, the Heat will have a good chance of sweeping both opponents in the first two rounds and being fully rested for their matchup against Indiana (assuming they don't continue their free fall in the playoffs.) Oh, and anyone who thinks the Nets are really a threat because they won 4 games by less than 3 points, you're nuts. Remember when the Bulls and Celtics clobbered the Heat in the 2011 regular season...well, they were much better teams and the Heat dismantled them each in 5 games.

As much as the Heat-Pacers rivalry has been hyped up, the Pacers truly aren't the threat to the Heat that the media makes them out to be. When Lance Stephenson is your best answer to a healthy Dwyane Wade, and Roy Hibbert can't dominate the undersized Udonis Haslem, you're going to have some serious problems.

The West is more concerning though. Miami won't have home court against any team that's likely to make it out of that conference. Every team except one team concerns me - the Oklahoma City Thunder. Miami made short work of them two years ago in the Finals and that was when they had Harden, who's now one of the best players in the league. Durant can't win the series on his own (much like the Lebron-era Cavaliers), and Westbrook will take just enough of Durant's shots to complicate things even further. They can't exploit the Heat's size weakness because Ibaka's offensive skills haven't developed enough and Kendrick Perkins is simply a big dumpster parked at the rim.

As crazy as it sounds, I'd probably prefer to see Miami play the Spurs rather than the Clippers. The Clippers, if they can pull it together, are young, athletic, great shooters, and exploit the Heat at point guard and center (their two biggest weaknesses). Jamal Crawford can make even the best defense in the league useless with his crazy shotmaking ability, and DeAndre Jordan and Blake Griffin might just clip the wings off of the Birdman. On the other hand, the Spurs are older and Manu Ginobili looked like he needed to be carted off in a wheelchair after each game in last year's finals. While Ray Allen won't always be there to bail us out, Tony Parker also wont' make scoop shots from 16 feet away from the basket while on the ground and smothered by LeBron. Danny Green won't shoot like the 2011 Mavericks again either. And, Marco Belinelli is overrated.

Remember, with all the talk about the burden being on LeBron, we haven't seen a full-strength Wade in the Big Three era playoffs in full takeover mode. He had the best Finals performance ever, far better than anything Jordan ever did in the Finals, let alone the Playoffs. If he's healthy, the Heat win. It's that simple. He'll be extra motivated to make sure LeBron doesn't even have the thought of leaving this summer. As much as he seems to like the ridiculous nickname "Three," he's going to start making it "Four."

Sunday, April 13, 2014

Championship-Caliber Loyalty: A Building Block of Success

Dan LeBatard eloquently substantiated what Heat fans have known for quite awhile. The organization is predicated on loyalty, which has cultivated a culture of success. You can check out LeBatard's countless examples of the how the Heat organization takes care of its own or you can just think of the fact that they paid Joel Anthony--the hardest worker on the team by far--the fifth highest salary on the team after LeBron, Wade, Bosh, and Mike Miller back in that historic free-agent haul. Joel Anthony doesn't even make the active roster on almost any other NBA team. In some sense, it's safe to say that Joel Anthony was the crucial ingredient in the Heat's championship recipe (by only some of his own doing).

I wrote recently about Riley and Arison's loyalty to Haslem, often called the heart and soul of the Heat, in not trading him to the Nuggets a couple years ago and more recently, not trading him to the tanking Sixers for Evan Turner's expiring contract. Any other team would have jumped at the opportunity to trade the aging, undersized veteran forward/center for a potentially rising star who could add critical wing depth for a playoff run. Not the Heat, though. Not only do they immediately benefit from Haslem's resurgence (see below for the type of defense that can be expected of him), but more importantly, they benefit from the impending re-signing of the Big Three. Riley's "paying it forward' will pay dividends with more championships, and more crucial free agents looking to be a part of the Miami Heat family.

For all the hate that's spewed at the Heat, you can't knock the fact that they are hands-down the most loyal NBA franchise, possibly the most loyal franchise in sports altogether. And, the guys that are there now are an integral part of that ethic of loyalty, team-work, and family that started from the top-down. When it comes time for a role player to make a choice on where they want to be next season, or for a star like Wade to choose where he wants to spend the waning years of his career, Riley's history of loyalty and the culture he's built in Miami will be almost as much of an attraction as the team's championship pedigree. 

The man even showed loyalty to Michael Jordan, hanging his jersey in the rafters of American Airlines Arena. He recognizes greatness and pays homage to it. He recognizes hard-work and rewards it. And he'll continue to accrue more rings than he can fit on any of his digits.

This is a philosophy that extends far beyond basketball, and is the lynchpin of dozens of successful companies. That's why Arison is on board to give Riley full control of his "company" culture.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Handling Disciplinary Addendums in Law School (and Other) Applications

If you're applying to college, law school, medical school, business school, or really any school/job and have to write an explanatory addendum about a disciplinary sanction against you, this article and video editing example might be helpful.

In the video, I will take you through a successful top law school applicant's near-final draft of her disciplinary addendum about an alcohol-related violation. You can find other similar advice on my other admissions tips site and the InGenius Brain Blog.

Thursday, April 10, 2014

SAT Subject Tests: Post for the Dallas Urban Debate Alliance Students

Interested in finding out what the SAT subject tests are all about and what you'll need to do to prepare for them? Check out my latest post in a series of blogs for the Dallas Urban Debate Alliance students.

Here's the short version:

1. You can time the test date such that it pretty much coincides with your school exams. If you're taking biology in your junior year, you should think about taking the SAT II for biology at the end of that year (or that semester).

2. Take tests in subjects you are interested in. This will not only help you perform better, but also could help you place out of certain introductory courses when you get to college.

3. Prepare for them as much as you would prepare for the SAT. They're very important!

Wednesday, April 9, 2014

The Menace Beneath the Ordinary: Hitchcock's Saboteur (Part Three of Three)

The third method Saboteur employs to criticize fascism involves the dichotomization of characteristics of the democratic Allies and fascist members of the axis such as love and hate, good and evil, right and wrong, just and unjust, and other conflicting concepts. When a butler escorts Kane upstairs into a room with Tobin in the Sutton mansion after failing to escape, Kane, with a defiant patriotic zeal, characterizes the fascist ideology as violent, deceptive, and destined to be defeated:
You certainly make it sound smooth and easy. Well, that's a trick. I know the results of that power you believe in. It killed my friend and is killing thousands like him. That's what you're aiming at, but it doesn't bother you - I can see that. Because you really hate all people… Love and hate. The world's choosing up sides. I know who I'm with. There are a lot of people on my side. Millions of us in every country. And we're not soft. We're plenty strong, and we'll fight standing up on our two feet and we'll win: remember that, Mr. Tobin. We'll win no matter what you guys do. We'll win if takes from now until the cows come home.
This type of polarizing rhetoric lends itself to the cause of rousing the American spirit by fitting the Axis powers within an idealized framework of  “good” versus “evil,” which is historically one of the most effective ways to galvanize support for war. As Roeder describes, “this dichotomized way of seeing linked images Americans devised of the enemy with those they devised of themselves…if the enemy was treacherous, cowardly, and heartless, Americans were fair, courageous, and caring” (88). In addition, the circus freak scene guides the audience’s disdain toward fascism when the midget demands that they turn Kane over to the police while suggesting that a democracy would never condemn Kane to such a fate. Another instance of political imagery that ascribed to the dichotomized mode of sight involved the juxtaposition of the recurring motifs of fire and water throughout the film.The film links the Nazi saboteurs to fire right from the opening scene in which Fry burns down the munitions factory in California. Conversely, Kane’s successes often involve water, such as his escaping from police by leaping from the bridge into the water and his triggering of the fire sprinklers in the Sutton mansion to escape.  Ultimately, this symbolic contrast of fire and water culminates inside the torch of Lady Liberty, which just so happens to be surrounded by water; thus, the “as Fry hides inside the statue, the symbolism is that spies hide under the cloak of liberty.”
The idea that everyone can do their part in the war effort, what Roeder refers to as a “cast of millions,” certainly appears in Saboteur. A clear political overtone of the film is that individuals can do their part in the war and guard against sabotage. At the end of Kane’s heroic journey, the audience leaves with “with the saboteur’s lunge to death, the hero’s (and thus America’s) grasp on liberty seems reaffirmed.” As Roeder describes, “the persistence of the happy ending in some of the bleakest Hollywood war stories demonstrated the strength of forces bending wartime imagery into polarized patterns.” Following this trend of polarization, Hitchcock pits an ordinary, patriotic American Barry Kane against the devious Nazi infiltrators Fry and Tobin to embody the larger struggle between democracy and fascism.
Taken as a whole, Saboteur captures the sentiment of wartime paranoia and the sociopolitical realities that accompanied America’s rise from beneath the shroud of neutrality and entry into the fray of World War II. Amidst lurching from wartime propaganda and moral allegory to contextualizing the evolving cultural realities of the era, the film succinctly summarizes the climate of the United States. The movie levels a tripartite assault on the spuriousness and power-mongering qualities of fascism by exalting democratic values and American ideals, transposing popular caricatures of loyal Americans and saboteurs, and positing all differences within a dichotomized framework.  In this “parable of identity,” Hitchcock attempts to impel people out of complacency by embellishing the film with his own touches of patriotism and warning that anyone around them could be a wolf in sheep’s clothing. In some ways, the movie represents a fusion of his British patriotism with American culture (both political and social). The master, in typical fashion, reveals “the menace beneath the ordinary,” but along an American itinerary.

*Citations Omitted

Monday, April 7, 2014

The Menace Beneath the Ordinary: Hitchcock's Saboteur (Part Two of Three)

Secondly, the film subtly inverts popular caricatures and stereotypes of loyal Americans and saboteurs, thus symbolizing the deceptive nature of fascism. There are two important components to fascism’s deceptiveness related to this film: the looming threat of subversion and the way in which fascist dictators mask their true intentions with populist rhetoric. Saboteur seizes the opportunity provided by the undercurrent of wartime paranoia; in doing so, the film demonstrates that there may be seditious citizens anywhere within American society and draws a broader metaphor to the illusory nature of the fascist promises. In the film, as opposed to saboteurs being depicted as disgruntled, marginalized members of society, Hitchcock portrays them as respectable aristocrats and socialites like Charles Tobin and Mrs. Sutton. On the other hand, the “normal Americans” who enthusiastically aid Kane along his journey are “idiosyncratic and largely peripheral members of society who either live in isolation, like Phillip Martin, or in rootless travel, like the truck driver who first picks Kane up, and the group of sideshow freaks who later hide him from the police.” Whereas Kane is concerned with justice and remains “youthful, passionate, and idealistic,” Tobin himself admits that he seeks “power…as much as [Kane] want[s] [his] job, or that girl” and is “willing to back his tastes with the necessary force.” Generally, the film exhibited that “fifth columnists can be outwardly clean and patriotic citizens, just like normal Americans.”
Moreover, Hitchcock contributes to his audience’s distrust of fascism by adroitly understating, humanizing, and highlighting the duplicity some of the saboteurs.  For example, the affable Mr. Freeman idly chatters with Kane about his son’s haircut and the man guarding Pat Martin in the American Newsreel Company office mutters, “I hope we can get rid of her soon…I promised to take my kid sister to the philharmonic.”

Yet, the most delicate expression of fascism’s spuriousness lies in the persistent imagery of abstract and specific visual patterns referring to the Statue of Liberty (Deutelbaum, 1984, p. 63). In the abstract sense, the shadows in several scenes “radiate outward in a sunburst effect” that closely mirrors the Statue’s diadem. As for concrete images resembling the statue, Tobin’s constant readjustment of his towel in the scene at his ranch is strikingly similar to the drapery of Lady Liberty’s gown. Likewise, the prominent banister in the Sutton mansion “echoes the curve and closely-spaced openings of the viewing ports inside the Statue’s diadem.” Additionally, the image of Fry’s outreached arm when dangling from the Statue significantly parallels Lady Liberty’s upraised arm. These visual manifestations of Statue’s components tend to appear in association with the saboteurs rather than the patriotic citizens, signifying that “these parts of a bogus Statue of Liberty are hidden among other images in much the same way that the film’s saboteurs – bogus Americans – are hidden among the Americans they superficially resemble.” By manipulating plot themes, character personalities, visual techniques, and dialogue, Hitchcock “casts a general aesthetic truth about the uncertainty of appearances into a utilitarian cautionary tale declaring the need for viewers to reconsider their presumptions about the loyalty of individual on the basis of their appearances” in order to combat the fascist threat.