Film & Media Studies Theory

Whitman College – FMS 387


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“The Dark Thrills of ‘True Detective'” and A Killer Legitimization Via Auteur

“Just a few years ago, Pizzolatto — an intense, hyperverbal dude with a serious Faulkner jones — was in a very different place. Before he became the creator and showrunner of True Detective…Pizzolatto was the author of a little-read novel, Galveston…and had a tenure-track job teaching literature and creative writing at tiny DePauw University, in Greencastle, Indiana” (“The Dark Thrills of ‘True Detective'”). 

 

Aside from blatantly stating that producer/professor Nic Pizzolatto is the “creator and showrunner” of the new HBO series, True Detective, Jonathan Ringen’s article frames him as the auteur of the show itself by highlighting aspects of him as they relate to those of the characters and story. For example, Ringen draws parallels between the setting of the show, various scenes and even character perspective as specifically relevant to the life of Pizzolatto. He observes that, “Pizzolatto set his tale in a place he knows well: the swampy, oil-refinery-studded coast of Louisiana, where he grew up in a deeply Catholic family, obsessed with comic books and The Twilight Zone” (Ringen). Not only does he explicitly identify the physical location that Pizzolatto and True Detective share, but also brings to attention sources of conflict and content within the narrative as they ground themselves in Pizzolatto’s childhood. The inclusion of the “deeply Catholic family” and his obsession of “The Twilight Zone” allow the reader of the article and viewer of the show to draw their own similarities between the two, remembering that characters of True Detective such as Rustin Cohle are at extreme odds with the devout religious practices of the region. Drawing comparisons between the life of Pizzolatto and his show indicate Ringen’s belief in his auteurship as well as a form of legitimization.

 

This legitimization of television, as discussed by Michael S. Newman and Elena Levin’s chapter on “The Showrunner as Auteur,” occurs through the alignment between the personal experience of the showrunner and the show itself. Making these connections filters the “fictionalized narrative” of the show and is able to “further guarantee the artistry of individual production and downplay the collaborative nature of industrial media-making” (Newman & Levine). As stated before and again in this quote, the relationship between the personal experiences of the showrunner and the content of the television show not only claims the isolated auteurship of that showrunner, but also legitimizes the show in that it is considered unique to the artist rather than industrialized. By primarily focusing his article around Pizzolatto’s background, Ringen makes the argument for True Detective’s legitimacy through the showrunner’s auteurship and personal relationship with its content. 

 

To further observe this argument for auteurship and legitimization through the individualized differentiation provided by the show’s creator, the remainder of Ringen’s article on Pizzolatto’s creation of True Detective practically speaks for itself. He concludes the piece by emphasizing that both Season One and Season Two are entirely written by Pizzolatto because he has become so invested in his work that he cannot possibly see how others might contribute (Ringen). This not only suggests that the work is entirely his own rather than the product of a team, but also that the work itself is so genius that multiple artistic contributions might actually weaken the product. As an article entitled “The Dark Thrills,” it is clear that Ringen’s favorable review of the show is, at its core, a legitimization of the show through the attribution of its successful qualities to the unique and isolated artistry of its showrunner and auteur, Nic Pizzolato. In light of this argument, the viewer is more likely to respect the show as a piece of art that is separate from and even superior to other, mainstream television, not to mention the validity of television as an art form itself. 

 

“The Dark Thrills of ‘True Detective’” by Jonathan Ringen (Rolling Stone)

http://web.a.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.whitman.edu:2048/ehost/detail?vid=3&sid=b3e54c9eb51e-437b-9e3c-2109e1370d52%40sessionmgr4003&hid=4107&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=aph&AN=94997644

 

 

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“The Dark Thrills of True Detective” and Its Killer Legitimization Via Auteur Theory

“Just a few years ago, Pizzolatto — an intense, hyperverbal dude with a serious Faulkner jones — was in a very different place. Before he became the creator and showrunner of True Detective…Pizzolatto was the author of a little-read novel, Galveston…and had a tenure-track job teaching literature and creative writing at tiny DePauw University, in Greencastle, Indiana” (“The Dark Thrills of ‘True Detective'”). 

 

Aside from blatantly stating that producer/professor Nic Pizzolatto is the “creator and showrunner” of the new HBO series, True Detective, Jonathan Ringen’s article frames him as the auteur of the show itself by highlighting aspects of him as they relate to those of the characters and story. For example, Ringen draws parallels between the setting of the show, various scenes and even character perspective as specifically relevant to the life of Pizzolatto. He observes that, “Pizzolatto set his tale in a place he knows well: the swampy, oil-refinery-studded coast of Louisiana, where he grew up in a deeply Catholic family, obsessed with comic books and The Twilight Zone” (Ringen). Not only does he explicitly identify the physical location that Pizzolatto and True Detective share, but also brings to attention sources of conflict and content within the narrative as they ground themselves in Pizzolatto’s childhood. The inclusion of the “deeply Catholic family” and his obsession of “The Twilight Zone” allow the reader of the article and viewer of the show to draw their own similarities between the two, remembering that characters of True Detective such as Rustin Cohle are at extreme odds with the devout religious practices of the region. Drawing comparisons between the life of Pizzolatto and his show indicate Ringen’s belief in his auteurship as well as a form of legitimization.

 

This legitimization of television, as discussed by Michael S. Newman and Elena Levin’s chapter on “The Showrunner as Auteur,” occurs through the alignment between the personal experience of the showrunner and the show itself. Making these connections filters the “fictionalized narrative” of the show and is able to “further guarantee the artistry of individual production and downplay the collaborative nature of industrial media-making” (Newman & Levine). As stated before and again in this quote, the relationship between the personal experiences of the showrunner and the content of the television show not only claims the isolated auteurship of that showrunner, but also legitimizes the show in that it is considered unique to the artist rather than industrialized. By primarily focusing his article around Pizzolatto’s background, Ringen makes the argument for True Detective’s legitimacy through the showrunner’s auteurship and personal relationship with its content. 

 

To further observe this argument for auteurship and legitimization through the individualized differentiation provided by the show’s creator, the remainder of Ringen’s article on Pizzolatto’s creation of True Detective practically speaks for itself. He concludes the piece by emphasizing that both Season One and Season Two are entirely written by Pizzolatto because he has become so invested in his work that he cannot possibly see how others might contribute (Ringen). This not only suggests that the work is entirely his own rather than the product of a team, but also that the work itself is so genius that multiple artistic contributions might actually weaken the product. As an article entitled “The Dark Thrills,” it is clear that Ringen’s favorable review of the show is, at its core, a legitimization of the show through the attribution of its successful qualities to the unique and isolated artistry of its showrunner and auteur, Nic Pizzolato. In light of this argument, the viewer is more likely to respect the show as a piece of art that is separate from and even superior to other, mainstream television, not to mention the validity of television as an art form itself. 

 

“The Dark Thrills of ‘True Detective’” by Jonathan Ringen (Rolling Stone)

http://web.a.ebscohost.com.ezproxy.whitman.edu:2048/ehost/detail?vid=3&sid=b3e54c9eb51e-437b-9e3c-2109e1370d52%40sessionmgr4003&hid=4107&bdata=JnNpdGU9ZWhvc3QtbGl2ZQ%3d%3d#db=aph&AN=94997644

 

 


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Jennifer’s Body

“…the sadomasochist teen horror films kill off the sexually active ‘bad’ girls, allowing only the nonsexual ‘good’ girls to survive. But these good girls become, as if in compensation, remarkably active, to the point of appropriating phallic power to themselves. It is as if this phallic power is granted so long as it is rigorously separated from the phallic or any other sort of pleasure. For these pleasures spell sure death in this genre” (Williams 610).

Jennifer’s Body (2009) serves to both prove and challenge William’s brief hypothesis on “sadomasochist teen horror films.” Jennifer, the evil antagonist, portrays excessive sexuality and is ultimately defeated.  The initially unsexualized protagonist, on the other hand, is the girl who defeats her. Although her nonsexual image certainly situates the character in a ‘good’ girl category, this film does not imply her complete abstinence from sexual engagement. Perhaps it is evidence of changing times, but William’s understanding does not fully account for this ambiguity. Still, as a reward for being a ‘good’ girl in a monogamous relationship and not using her feminine wiles to seduce hordes of men, the protagonist wields an almost phallic power at the end of the movie as she impales Jennifer and finally defeats her.


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The “Male Weepie”

 

The movie 50/50 is a prime example of William’s notion of the “male weepie” as articulated on page 611. The movie is centered around Joseph Gordon Levitt’s character who is diagnosed with are rare spinal tumor and given a 50% chance of survival, fulfilling the obvious melodramic role of the sick woman. He and his best friend, played by Seth Rogan, deal with the implications of his diagnosis, and display genuine care for each other, engaging in the “activation of the previously repressed emotions of men” and break the taboo against “male-to-male hugs and embraces” (611). By doing so, the characters help usher in a “new femininity of men” (611).

Furthermore, this was one of those films that made me leave the theater like oh shit man, all the feels, all the feels up in here. Thus, banking on personal experience, this movie is a serious “male weepie.” 

ALSO:

BROGRABS

 


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Wild Paternity

While reading Williams I was reminded of this scene. I think that this is an example of a “paternal weepie.” It shows the taboo of men expressing emotion and is very similar to a maternal weepie (611). There is “wild paternal displays” as Denzel Washington will do anything, even sacrifice his own life, to save his son’s life (611).


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Terror and Seduction

NBC’s new TV series Dracula is a good example of a basic fantasy, according to Williams’ definition, because it is set during a period in the past that actually occurred, but with the added element of folklore and myth (Williams, 613). In addition, Dracula touches on the original fantasies exemplified in all three genres that Williams discusses (horror, pornography and weepies). There are the obvious elements of “horror” in Dracula’s minor habit of killing lots of women in order to feed off of them, but this is also mixed with a hint of pornography in the sense that his methods lure these women into the throws of ecstasy with a distinct aura of primal seduction before he murders them to quell his own desires. Then, there is the added twist that he is in love with one particular woman who he has waited endlessly for, but his “quest [to reconnect with her] is always tinged with the melancholy of loss” (Williams, 615) because she has no memory of their past life together and she is in love with another man. Thus, it also exemplifies a form of male weepie, as he continually struggles with the concept that his desire (in many forms) is futile.


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Maternal Blunt

When reading Williams’ essay, I was reminded of talking with my mom about the climax in Rian Johnson’s Looper. In the scene, Emily Blunt stands in front of Bruce Willis’ gun, sacrificing herself to save her fleeing, psycho-problem child(who is actually an über terrorist in the future, or something…). My mom hated that the screenwriting presented supposedly genuine female characters that gained strength and power solely through motherhood and self-sacrifice. Williams introduces; the concept of “maternal pathos” in relation to woman’s films, stating “a well-known classic is the long-suffering mother of the two early versions of Stella Dallas who sacrifices herself for her daughter’s upward mobility(607).[my italics]” The inclusion in Looper proclaims a perceived awareness that posits mother as hero, her sacrifice also her power. The film takes satisfaction in acknowledging the maternal form as “superior” to the vapid, beautiful, physical object form, but doesn’t inform of feminine strength derived from other sources. The film remains satisfied with this perceived “layered” portrayal of maternal femininity, discounting the presence of the trope as its “action” genre deters thorough viewer scrutiny that might be activated in the viewership of specifically “body genre” films, i.e. weepies.