Revision: Key Points for MS4 texts Section A - FilmEden Lake, Rollercoaster Films, Aramid Entertainment, 2008As a horror film: • Narrative – isolated location; juxtaposition of victim and ‘monster’ is clearly identified in acts one and two. Act three (Syd Field) however fails to deliver the conventional final act of revenge on the ‘monster’. • Ideology - A film about societal fears (fear of children/broken society), just like all horror films, eg. Dracula/Christianity/fear of sexual perversion; Frankenstein/’playing God’/fear of science. Similar texts include Attack the Block (2010) and F (2009), both deal with ‘hoodie’ culture using a horror film context. • Genre – influence from 1970’s exploitation films such as Last House on the Left (1972/2009) and Straw Dogs (1971/2010). Both are violent and graphic, and have been remade recently showing a desire for horror that has a contemporary setting, and graphic violence. These two films though have a cathartic final act of revenge unlike Eden Lake • Richard Dyer (Genre Theory) – Genre films are pleasurable because they offer an abundance of energy, community and intensity. Eden Lake has this in the form of danger and threat. It is all the more disturbing in that it fails to offer a redemptive ending. Instead, we are repositioned to consider Jenny’s actions (Cooper’s murder) and are denied revenge for Steve’s torture/murder. • The film offers generic verisimilitude – Mise-en-scene (locations, weapons, characterisation) and horror narrative (except for final act) but lacks realism in its cultural verisimilitude through stereotypes (Steve and Jenny leave the city to go ‘up North’ and are met by broad stereotypes of broken homes and abusive families – comparable with ‘red-neck’ horror of The Hills Have Eyes and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre). It does however tie in to current moral panics about ‘hoodies’/young people. Evidence: The Daily Mail review (newspaper infamous for moral panics) “The true horrors we fear day today are not supernatural bogeymen or monsters created by scientists. Theyre our own youth.”Narrative:Characters and roles • Jenny: Primary school teacher; loving; caring; romantic; middle class; professional; (victim/’final girl’-horror convention) • Steve : Professional; middle class; financially secure; (Victim) • Brett: Dominant; aggressive; violent; a leader; criminal; murderer; anti-social; problematic home life (monster) • Cooper : a follower; lacks a father-figure; looks up to Brett; unsure of violence; troubled (Monster or victim?)Chris Tookey in the Daily Mail (Sept 11th 2008) notes that,‘Unlike most horror films, in which the heroes steer themselves into danger bytheir own stupidity, Jenny and Steve behave with complete plausibility and atragically unrequited sense of kindness and social responsibility’Daily Mail reviewLevi Strauss – Binary OppositionStruass suggests that narratives can engage audiences through there use ofbinary opposites.Jenny and Steve Brett and the gangVictims MonsterStable background Unstable background/chaoticDefensive AggressiveLawful ChaoticThis sense of binary opposition breaks down at the end of the second act with thedeath of Cooper at the hands of Jenny.Syd Field: Three Act Structure (Structuralist theory)Act 1: The main themes and plot points are laid out (Beginning-Steve’s injury and Jenny leaving himin the reeds to find help)Act 2: Key confrontations/obstacles (ends when Cooper is killed by Jenny)Act 3: All plot points are resolved (Jenny escapes to Brett’s house and is killed)The third act deviates from horror convention, which would be Jenny acting outrevenge/escaping. This never arrives, therefore a disturbing experience.“It is a violent ordeal nightmare that brutally withholds the longed-for redemptions and third-actrevenges”. The Guardian reviewRepresentationJenny and Steve are constructed as a stereotypical middle class couple (mise-en-scene). This thoughis not a conventional representation of horror victim (i.e. young, female)Brett and his gang however conform to stereotypical image of young petty criminals (‘chav’stereotype). This reinforces hegemonic values. This is in part challenged at the end as Brett’s dadgoes some way to explain his behaviour (conditioned through a violent home life). Too little too late?
Antonio Gramsci : hegemonic values are imposed on a population by those in power. (The media isan agent of power, e.g Film)The film succeeds in playing on current societal fears about young people/knife crime/gangs etc.(Ideology /moral panic )"The culture of violence is real. But for the British media, its simple – bad upbringing or just evilchildren.” Greg Philo, Glasgow UniversityThis simplistic representation of young people is often represented in tabloid newspapers. Thiscreates a moral panic . Eden Lake feeds off this societal fear.Other examples include The Wild One (1953 )- biker gangs, The Warriors (1979) -New Yorkgang violence and Kids (1995 ) underage sex and drug abuse. These films are all concerned withmoral panics, even if they choose to challenge or reinforce hegemonic values.__________________________________________________________________________District 9, Columbia/Tristar, 2009As a science fiction film: • Alien ‘invasion’. This theme has been subverted in that the aliens are stuck on Earth as their ship has broken down. • Juxtaposition of alien and human (narrative). Again, subverted by having the humans as aggressors and aliens as victims. • Iconography of spaceships, robots and futuristic technology. • Set in a modern city. The setting of Johannesburg SA however breaks the convention of using American cities (independence Day, Transformers etc.) • Large, explosive set pieces of action. • Produced by a Hollywood studio-Columbia/Tristar. With this come expectations of what a sci- fi movie should be. Not all of these expectations are met. Many are subverted. • A good example of modern genre film making- audience tired of repetitive formula. This film demonstrates change and subversion. • An unusual hybrid of Sci-fi and documentary. The first 15 mins of the film plays out using documentary conventions: interviews with Wikus’ friends and family, vox pops, graphics, talking to camera (breaking ‘fourth wall’), non-linear narrative (the film is presented in the past-tense. Something has happened to Wikus).Richard Dyer – the film offers escapism in its presentation of fantasy (aliens) and presents a senseof community in bringing together two races (Wikus and Christopher), an allegory for overcomingApartheid.Generic verisimilitude – Sci-fi: iconography; mise-en-scene; themes (alien invasion)Cultural verisimilitude – recent history of South Africa/Apartheid; use of locations (Johannesburg,corporate buildings/laboratories/vivisection (MNU)Themes and Ideology: • The film is about Apartheid. The Alien ‘invasion’ is an allegory for Apartheid. • Apartheid (meaning ‘separateness’). Racial Segregation in South Africa. Enforced by the South African Government 1948-1994. Segregated public services (education, healthcare etc.) Those for Black citizens were inferior. Forced removals from homes/communities. • The ‘eviction notice’ sequence in the first act of the film illustrates this with Wikus representing the Apartheid movement (although tin the film it is MNU) and the Aliens representing black communities. • District Six – in 1966 it was declared ‘whites only’ and 60, 000 people were forcibly removed to the Cape Flats, an area that quickly became over-populated and quality of living was poor.Neill Blomkamp - SA film maker. First feature film (based on his short film Alive in Jo’Berg). Hadpreviously directed a number of short films and advertisement, notably Tetra Vaal, Tempbot andAdiColor Yellow. His films have consistent themes of technology, artificial intelligence and largecorporations with dark agenda. District 9 is consistent with these themes.Narrative theory:Syd Field - Act 1: Beginning – Wikus is sprayed with black liquid Act 2: Wikus begins transformation; discovers that Christopher can help. Act 3: Wikus sacrifices his own safety to Help Christopher and his son escape on the spaceship. Wikus transorms in to an Alien. He ‘disappears’ into District 9.Act 3 leaves the question of Wikus’ fate unanswered. This shows resistance to amore conventional ending to what is a Hollywood studio movie.Levi Strauss – Binary Opposition .Alien MNUVictim Agressor/violentPassive ActiveHigh tech Low techCompassionate RuthlessSlums of D9 Skyscrapers of Jo’BergWikus’ physical transformation from human to alien also reflects his changing politicalviews from aggressive conservative (MNU) to liberal freedom fighter.
Section B – TV textsThe Wire , HBO 2002-2008The Wire is an American TV crime drama series. Acclaimed by both critics and audiences, the showran successfully for five series over a five year period. The show was broadcast on HBO (US); FXand BBC2 (UK)Production Companies: Blown Deadline Productions; Home Box Office (HBO)Distributors: Home Box Office (HBO) (2002-2008) (USA) (TV); BBC Worldwide (2009) (UK) (TV)Genre and representation: • Conventional police show? No , because the narrative focuses on not only the police (McNulty and his ‘wire-tap’ team, but also the crack addicts (Bubs), the dealers (in the housing project), the gang bosses (Avon and Sringer-Bell), and the political elite. • The production is authentic , shot on location in West Baltimore. It utilises had-held camera, diegetic sound (no sound tracks), long takes and a complex but linear narrative. • The Wire is unfiltered by individual characters – we never get dream sequences, internal monologue, or restricted perspectives. In this way, The Wire draws more from traditional workplace dramas like medical or cop shows. The Wire refuses self-conscious techniques like flashbacks and voice-overs common on other programs today. The visual and storytelling style of The Wire is more naturalistic, drawing upon the conventions of documentary and social realism to match writer David Simon’s own background in non-fiction journalism. The series co-creator, Ed Burns, is a former Baltimore homicide detective. • "The show is structured like a visual novel," says Simon, "and these writers understand the complexity of theme." By making the show "difficult", Simon hopes to wean audience off contrived plots and formulaic characterisation of most TV drama, and give them something to chew on instead.Themes and ideology: • The show exposes corruption, drug problems, addiction as well as the up-hill struggle facing the police department. The show challenges hegemonic values that have been reinforced in other police drama series that simplify the narrative to create a clear line
between good (police) and evil (criminal). Gramsci . The Wire readdresses this issue in amore realistic manner. • The Wire refuses to make black-and-white judgements about Baltimore. Its prevailing moral universe is grey. • The show is written by David Simon, former journalist at The Baltimore Sun . He reported on crime and corruption in West Baltimore. This is a significant factor in The Wire’s authenticity. • “A lot of things interest me about the programme: the huge ensemble cast and the fact that there are no stars, the sheer honesty of the writing.” Irvine Walsh, The Guardian.Industry: • The American television industry has traditionally been a closed market dominated by a small number of national networks, making it quite difficult for innovative programming to find its way to the air. • The 1980s and 1990s saw the rise of the multichannel era, with dozens of cable channels entering the marketplace and providing alternatives to traditional broadcast networks. • HBO’s motto, “it’s not TV, it’s HBO.” • HBO defines itself as a premium channel, charging an additional subscription fee beyond the standard monthly cable or satellite bill; in exchange, HBO features no advertising and can include greater degrees of nudity, violence, and profanity than on network and basic cable programs. • The mid-1990s saw a shift in HBO’s strategy – the channel started offering fictional series comparable to the genres of network television, but with an edgy approach • Three programs from the late-1990s paved the way for The Wire: Oz, The Soprano’s and Sex and the City. • All challenged hegemonic values reinforced through formulaic repetition on other networks. Sex and the City: challenged patriarchal ideologies by showing women as dominant, powerful figures; Oz challenged the view that criminals are ‘evil’; The Soprano’s challenged the view that mobsters are devoid of humanity and empathy. All thre are HBO shows. • Between 2002 and 2008 the show attracted a relatively small following of around 4 million viewers in the US per episode. UK fans of The Wire were even thinner on the ground. When the fifth and final season reached its climax last year on the digital channel FX fewer than 70,000 viewers tuned in. • British actor Dominic West, one of the shows stars, criticised the BBC for drowning its schedules with costume dramas and failing to make any "high end contemporary stuff" to rival The Wire. • Thanks to its complexity, many viewers preferred to download episodes or buy each series on DVD so that they could watch it undisturbed or several episodes at a time. Tellingly, all five series remain in the top 40 DVD sales charts on Amazon.co.uk, even though the first series has been available for seven years. The Wire is an archetypal slow-burning, word-of- mouth success. • Types of TV in the US: Traditional broadcast (free); Satellite (free and subscription); Cable • Funding: Commercials and sponsorship; Donations and telethons (!) This is more common amongst smaller TV stations; Subscription fees for premium channels (e.g. HBO) • According to the FCC, as of March 31, 2011, there are 1022 commercial television stations • Broadcast television is regulated by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC). • The FCC awards licenses to local stations. Although broadcast stations can legally air almost anything they want late at night prohibits the airing of "indecent" material over the air between 6 a.m. and 10 p.m—and cable networks at all hours—nudity and graphic profanity are very rare on American television, though they are common on pay television services that are free from FCC regulations and pressure from advertisers to tone down content , and often require a subscription to view. Broadcasters fear that airing such material will turn off advertisers and encourage the federal government to strengthen its regulation of television content. • FCC regulations do not cover subscription channels such as HBO.__________________________________________________________________________ o