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.

Can Can-can: The Incongruous and Eclectic Representation of Moulin Rouge

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PART ONE: As a postmodern artifact, Moulin Rouge can be considered an example of both postmodernism and postmodernity. Under postmodernism, it questions both the stylistic choices and artistic representation (Malpas 9) as it is, in itself, a challenge to the style and representation of film, musicals and the nature of storytelling. Although film does not strictly fall under Malpas’ categorical examples (architecture, art, and literature) of postmodernism, Moulin Rouge aligns itself with common traits and key phrases used to define its goals and effects upon viewers. A specific scene through which these can be identified and analyzed is the introduction of the Moulin Rouge itself, illustrating a whirlwind of colorful, provocative dancing and renditions of popular music from eras other than the setting of the film.

One of the opening scenes of Moulin Rouge, the structure (or rather, lack thereof) within this chaotic environment embodies the innovative stylization that will pervade throughout the entirety of the film. First of all, the cinematography and way in which the scene is edited plays with the use of time and space as the viewer experiences them, not unlike the postmodern architecture that Malpas describes. Rather than the barren, purely logical construction of space that stresses the modern desire to carefully create and redefine the world, this scene quite literally breaks down clear cuts between shots, emphasizing a flourish of montages over meticulous misc-en-scene. Additionally, the activities on screen are sped up or slowed down at seemingly incongruous points within the scene, challenging time and perhaps one of the most inherent structures of the world as it is experienced by the individual as incontestable reality. The ostensible irrationality of time and space directly contrasts the essence of modernity as it is exemplified through simplistic and utilitarian architecture, challenging its deliberate construction of the world with chaotic frivolity.

Although Moulin Rouge is not a piece of art in the form that Malpas primarily discusses (that is, paintings), it can certainly be considered a work of art within the postmodernist era as an apparatus of new media. In relation to the terminology surrounding the artistic representation of postmodernism, however, both this scene and the film as a whole overtly demonstrate the eclectic nature of postmodern art. Eclectic, as defined by the Oxford English Dictionary, is that which “borrows or is borrowed from diverse sources.” Perhaps the most obvious example of this underlines the variety of eras from which the musical score is derived. While the film declares itself to take place in the years of 1899 and 1900, this scene alone draws from contemporary musicians such as Lil’ Kim, Pink and Nirvana that in no way emulate the musical style of this historical location and period. In this way and many others that (unfortunately) will not be addressed in this post, Moulin Rouge is explicitly eclectic as a majority of its content is both diverse and distinct in exterior origin.

(Oops! Almost forgot!) PART TWO:  Simulacrum & The Movie Theater

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The movie theater as a simulacrum is demonstrative of all four orders of simulation, and as an audience enters the darkened space to lose themselves in a combination of images on screen, these combinations reflect a basic reality while both perverting it and masking its absence in the form of film.


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The Work of Abjection: Dracula

Dracula is an elicitation of abjection through the horror film, demonstrating its three primary forms as outlined by Creed. First and foremost, however, abjection is understood as “the breaking down of a world that has erased its borders: fainting away. The corpse, seen without God and outside of science, is the utmost of abjection. It is death infecting life. Abject. It is something rejected from which one does not part, from which one does not protect oneself as from an object” (Kristeva 4). Abjection stresses ambiguity in that it exists to dissemble and threaten the structure of the world. Already, Dracula himself is the manifestation of this example in an even more grotesque, abject form. Because he is not living he is a corpse, which in itself behaves as the “utmost of abjection,” a constant reminder to the living that life exists in the perpetual danger of being absent. However, this corpse does not behave as the traditional structure of the world deems that it should, instead carrying out the actions of a living body by taking the blood of others. This example is also definitive of abjection in horror films specifically, for “the horror film abounds in images of abjection, foremost of which is the corpse, whole and mutilated, followed by an array of bodily wastes such as blood, vomit, saliva, sweat, tears, and putrifying flesh” (Creed 253). The corpse, or Dracula, not only lacks life and therefore threatens it, but breaks down the established borders of “alive” and “dead” by simulating cannibalism and consuming the bodily fluids of others that are often the things of abjection themselves. Additionally, Dracula illustrates the third way in which Creed speaks to abjection as the mutilation of the maternal figure. The victims of Dracula’s cannibalistic actions are often young, beautiful women who are not only subjected these actions but forced to perform them upon Dracula himself. They are defiled and mutilated by the abjection, thus becoming the abjection and carrying out its function.


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The Absorption of the Gay Rights Movement

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Coming from the perspective of a liberal arts college, supporting gay rights within our community and elsewhere seems implicit to the values of the student population. However, the movement of gay rights has been absorbed and standardized within the “progressive” parties of the preexisting power structure, both political and economic, to obtain increased support and profit. According to John Storey, “this is a clear example of the process Gramsci called hegemony: the way dominant groups in society negotiate oppositional voices on to a terrain which secures for the dominant groups a continued position of leadership…”(93) Although the push for gay rights was an initially unpopular, oppositional voice to preexisting political and cultural structure of rights within the United States, growing support has allowed for its absorption into the interests of dominant, capitalist powers. For example, political figures of high authority, such as President Barack Obama, have publicly announced their support for equality as it pertains to gay rights, increasing their political popularity among the liberal base from which they claim to originate.

On the other hand, massive economic powers are beginning to do precisely the same, brandishing their company emblem at gay Pride parades to identify with onlookers  suggest their own worthiness of support.

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Lastly, the entertainment industry jumped on the gay rights profit-bandwagon long before other factions of political society and private organisms, such as banks. Musical artist Macklemore produced the hit song, “Same Love” in 2012, claiming over 82 million views on his YouTube video alone. Although he may not have produced this song with anything other than the pure intention of making an argument for gay rights, he is now featured on the cover of Rolling Stones magazine and has made over $8 million dollars in the course of his career.

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The popularity of his song in mainstream media, open support on behalf of politicians and blatant promotional exploitation by private corporations not only suggests the growing support of gay rights, but the absorption of the movement to usurp that support and maintain dominance.