Film & Media Studies Theory

Whitman College – FMS 387

Williams’ Applications

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When I read Williams’ section on the girl-victim of horror and the bisexual and adrogenous components, I couldn’t stop thinking of that scene in Scary Movie in which a VERY sexualized Carmen Electra grabs the banana on a table full of other weapons. Seriously, I tried to think of other good examples but in an unfortunately this was the only one I could come up with. In a way this is in line with the phallic symbols that the “girl-victim” (606) grabs which occurs in Williams’ horror film examples. But when thinking about the fact that the Scary Movie series is a total satire ABOUT traditional horror films, it begins to question Williams’ arguments. What happens with comedic horror?


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A million tears

 

“Million Dollar Baby” was the first movie that came to mind when I think of a weepy.  While I have never cried in a movie before, this (and the newest “Winnie the Pooh” movie” made me come pretty close to tears.  However, I’m not sure if the movie works for the theme of excess.  Hilary Swank’s character presents someone who almost had the glory, who almost made it to the top but due to an accident, “we can identify melodrama’s pathos of the “too late!”” (Williams 615).  But because the movie was met with such high critical acclaim, does it fit the “low cultural status” (Williams 605) talked about in the reading?  The movie has an overpowering feeling of sadness that almost feels over the top giving me the impression of melodrama.  But once again, is it “too well done”?


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Todo Sobre Mi Madre

Pedro Almodovar’s All About My Mother explores many of the themes that I noticed throughout Williams’ essay. The film focuses much on motherhood, and the suffering surrounding being a woman. It is clear that she has given up everything to be a mother, and to care for her son, only to have him taken away from her. The film addresses, through her journey back to her origin and attempt to -in a sense- become a mother again, a “parental fantasy of possessing a child” (615), and  “utopian desire that it not be too late to reemerge with the other who was once part of the self” (615). It is, in a sense, representative of “feminine masochistic suffering” as Manuela suffers throughout the whole movie, trying to find herself after her purpose seems to have vanished, bringing tears to audiences’ eyes everywhere. There is, however, “a component of either power of pleasure for the woman victim,” which is established through the themes of female empowerment and success in the film (610).

 


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*Blood Spray* Supernatural

 

I was initially thinking of the Women’s Work fan video that we watched in Gender in the Media last semester but went with this instead. It’s a video of all the deaths and murders in Season 3 of Supernatural (set to some great music also). Supernatural starts most episodes with a gruesome death of some kind yet the target demographic is women ages 18-34.


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“Brian’s Song”: The Male Weepie

In “Film Bodies: Gender, Genre, and Excess,” Williams discusses a breakdown of the “gender-linked” and “gender-fixed” construction of genre (611). Her discussion of the “male weepie” can be seen in a film such as Brian’s Song (1970). In this film, the close relationship between two football players ends with the death of one from fatal cancer. In the melodramatic scene above, Gale Sayers cries as he accepts an award that he received in his late teammates’ absence. Sayers crying is an example of the “activation of the previously repressed emotions of men” (611). In this case, it is the man, not the woman, who is “afflicted with a deadly or debilitating disease” as is usually the case in women’s films (604). This film challenges the traditional portrayal of women as “both the moved and the moving,” for in this case both the moved and the moving characters are male.

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

interior

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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Moulin Rouge, Barbie and the Postmodern Artifact

(Apologies, I could not find a very good video for this particular scene. Skip ahead to around 0:57)

photo-Moulin-Rouge-2001-4

The scene that depicts the opening number of Spectacular, Spectacular is one of many potent examples of postmodernism in the film Moulin Rouge. The play opens with an extremely elaborate set and tens of people dressed in ornate Bollywood costumes. This scene is an example of postmodernism in many ways, but the main aspects of it that I will discuss are its focus on representation and visual aesthetics, and the amalgamation of styles and cultural references depicted.

According, to Malpas, one of the characteristics of postmodern artifacts is their “focus on style and modes of representation” (Malpas, 12) as opposed to focus on a grand narrative characteristic of modernism. The visual aesthetics of this scene are a good representation of the film’s visual orientation; the image of the opening number is really quite spectacular, as the name of the play suggests, but it is clear that the elaborate style is really just performance for the sake of performance. The play is meant to be looked at and to be listened to, and the representation of the performance within the film clearly focuses on these visual aesthetics and over-the-top stylistic choices as opposed to the narrative structure of the play itself.

In addition to its obviously ornate visual aesthetic, the number makes reference to many different cultures and time periods, and it is this amalgamation that produces such a salient sense of postmodernism in the number. Throughout the opening performance, there are continual “ironic citations of older styles…[that] quote pre-modern elements in ways that both acknowledge the traditions from which the contemporary springs and playfully reincorporate them into its futuristic designs” (Malpas, 17). The play is supposedly set in the distant past in India, but the costumes are reminiscent of a cross over between ancient India and an elaborate Bollywood performance; to further complicate the scene, the song that they perform is a Bollywood pop number mixed with the famous song “Diamonds are a Girl’s Best Friend,” traditionally sung by Marilyn Monroe in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes.  This scene consciously and openly draws on a number of different cultural references, and mixes all of the styles together in order to create a number that plays on these references while making them an entirely separate piece.

This postmodernist style is further represented by the fact that all of this mix-and-matching of genres, styles, and cultures occurs on a stage. Traditionally, we think of theatre performances as a form of high art; however, the performance depicted in this scene effectively “breaks down…the ‘Great Divide’ between high art and popular culture” (Malpas, 20) by incorporating pop cultural references in a traditionally high-brow forum. In this sense, the scene of Spectacular, Spectacular’s opening number is very representative of a postmodern artifact.

 

Barbie-Doll-Fashion-ShowI think Barbie (wish I had some sparkles to go on either side of that) is an example of a simulacra. Barbie dolls are a mass produced product, so in that sense there is no true original that exists, but they are also a simulacra in the deeper sense that the dolls are supposedly representative of this “real” girl that we can all somehow emulate when we are young; but in reality the construct of Barbie is imaginary in many ways and comes to represent something that does not actually exist.