Powerpoint Koven


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Powerpoint Koven

  1. 1. An Introduction to the Study of Urban Legends and Popular Cinema Dr. Mikel J. Koven University of Worcester
  2. 2. Studying Urban Legend films <ul><li>Unlike other folktale forms, specifically the Märchen, straightforward film adaptations of urban legends is difficult </li></ul><ul><li>We – as analysts – need to know the general corpus of urban legendary in order to know when we find the stories in film </li></ul><ul><li>We also need to know the general morphologies folklorists use to study the urban legend in order to explore potential cites of newly emerging legends </li></ul><ul><li>Not just about knowing the stories, but also knowing when something smells and perhaps functions like a legend </li></ul>
  3. 3. Embedded Narratives <ul><li>Since urban legends tend to be quite short, they can often be included in popular films as narrative asides or embedded action </li></ul><ul><li>Embedded as dialogue ( Night Moves ) </li></ul><ul><li>Embedded as action (ostension) ( Gremlins ) </li></ul>
  4. 4. Embedded Narratives <ul><li>Need to be diligent for urban legend examples in non-folklore films (not specifically about folklore subjects/ narratives) </li></ul><ul><li>Dialogic narratives – where the urban legends are spoken within the dialogue </li></ul><ul><li>Ostensive narratives – where the urban legend is demonstrated in the film as action </li></ul><ul><li>Meatballs : sitting around the campfire telling the hook story (dialogic); Tripper finishes the story by showing that his hand is actually a hook to scare the other counsellors (ostensive) </li></ul>
  5. 5. Single Strand Narratives <ul><li>Films which attempt adaptation of a single urban legend into a 90-minute film. </li></ul><ul><li>Because of the relative shortness of the legend stories (again, unlike the Märchen), a single urban legend is usually insufficient for a feature length film </li></ul><ul><li>Short films based on single legends – Liz Adams’ Side Effect – version of “The Hippy Babysitter” </li></ul>
  6. 6. Extended Narratives <ul><li>The most common form of single-strand narrative is the extended narrative </li></ul><ul><li>This takes the legend as its starting point, and then extends the narrative further by showing ‘what happened next’ or what the repercussions were </li></ul><ul><li>When a Stranger Calls (1979) – takes as its starting place the “babysitter and the man upstairs” story and then follows the characters 7 years later </li></ul><ul><li>Remake (2006) doesn’t try to extend the narrative like the original, but draws out the story to a full 87 minutes. </li></ul><ul><li>The Curve/Dead Man’s Curve (1998) extends the story of the “Suicide Rule” to explore the repercussions of murdering one’s roommate and trying to make it look like suicide </li></ul>
  7. 7. Resultant Narratives <ul><li>Where the film narratives gives the background story to the urban legend </li></ul><ul><li>The events leading up to the legend </li></ul><ul><li>Legend is almost the ‘punchline’ to the story, the revelation of what the film narrative actually was </li></ul><ul><li>Paradise Lost/Turistas (2006) </li></ul>
  8. 8. I Know What You Did Last Summer (Gillespie, 1997) <ul><li>An interesting variant on the resultant narrative structure: </li></ul><ul><li>Four teens are hunted down by a hook- carrying murder who blames them for the hit-and-run death the previous summer </li></ul><ul><li>Prior to that fatal accident, the four are sitting telling urban legends around a campfire and tell “The Hook” </li></ul><ul><li>So does the hook-carrying killer evolve out of the hook-handed killer story (resultant narrative)? But then why do they already know this story? </li></ul><ul><li>Precognitive resultant narrative? </li></ul>
  9. 9. Structuring Narratives <ul><li>The urban legend acts as a structuring framework for the film’s narrative </li></ul><ul><li>Dead Man on Campus (1998) – comedy which uses the “suicide rule” legend </li></ul><ul><li>Various comic scenarios from trying to find a suitably suicidal roommate </li></ul><ul><li>Legend provides the framework, the comedy fleshes it out </li></ul>
  10. 10. Fusion Narratives <ul><li>One urban legend narrative is rarely enough to pad out a full feature </li></ul><ul><li>Where two urban legends are fused together to extend the narrative </li></ul><ul><li>Any more legends included and the film becomes multi-stranded, but a fusion of two still works for a (largely) single stranded narrative </li></ul><ul><li>Alligator (1980) – fuses the “Alligator in the Sewers” with the “Pet abductions for medical experiments” legend (to explain how the sewer-gators mutated </li></ul>
  11. 11. Multi-Strand Narratives <ul><li>Several urban legend narratives used in a combination of the narrative strategies outlined previously </li></ul><ul><li>Can either be anthology / portmanteau films </li></ul><ul><li>Or in multiple fusion narratives </li></ul><ul><li>Wherein multiple legend texts (more than two) are fused, in diverse ways – some dialogic, some ostensive – to create the overall feature film narrative </li></ul>
  12. 12. Urban Legend (Banks, 1998) <ul><li>Uses a combination of ostensive and dialogic urban legend narratives </li></ul><ul><li>Typical teen slasher film (post- Scream ) </li></ul><ul><li>Main structuring narrative : serial killer using urban legend recreations as MO </li></ul><ul><li>“ Killer in the Backseat”, “Aren’t you glad you didn’t turn on the lights”, “The Boyfriend’s Death”, “On-air murder”, “Kidney Theft” </li></ul><ul><li>Ostensive motifs </li></ul>
  13. 13. Ostensive and dialogic UL motifs <ul><li>While the killer is using urban legends to murder the students at Pendleton College, other UL motifs circulate within the film </li></ul><ul><li>Ostensive: “Bloody Mary”, “Pop Rocks & Coke”, “The Death Car”, “Dog Exploded in Microwave”, “Car-Lights Initiation” </li></ul><ul><li>Dialogic (legends discussed): “University Cover-ups of Campus Murders”, “Spider Eggs in bubblegum”, “Richard Gere & the Gerbil”, “Babysitter and the Man Upstairs” </li></ul><ul><li>Dialogic/Ostensive: told , but told as action – baby aspirin used to replace birth-control pills, unusual sexual position causes partners to get stuck, etc. </li></ul>
  14. 14. Candyman (Rose, 1992) <ul><li>Another multiple fusion narrative </li></ul><ul><li>Also mixes ostensive & dialogic motifs </li></ul><ul><li>We hear (dialogic) “the Hippy Babysitter”, “Alligators in the Sewers” </li></ul><ul><li>We see (ostensive) “Razorblades found in Halloween candy”, “Killer bees”, even an odd echo of both Gelert and the “Choking Doberman” </li></ul><ul><li>We hear and see (dialogic/ostensive) both the Candyman story (based on “Bloody Mary”) and “Child Emasculated in Bathroom” </li></ul><ul><li>Candyman himself is both a revenant and “the Hook-handed killer” – as well as a male variant of Bloody Mary </li></ul><ul><li>Unlike Urban Legend , this film is more unified as a narrative </li></ul>
  15. 15. Anthology/Portmanteau films <ul><li>Fairly self-evident: an urban legend is used as one (or more) of the stories in portmanteau films </li></ul><ul><li>Nightmares (1983): “Terror in Topanga” is “The Killer in the Backseat” </li></ul><ul><li>Campfire Tales (1997) is slightly more interesting – all the stories are ULs </li></ul><ul><li>Framing narrative of campfire tales </li></ul><ul><li>“ The Hook”, “The Boyfriend’s Death”, “The Vanishing Hitchhiker” </li></ul><ul><li>Fusion narratives: “Shannon’s Friend” fused with “Human’s Can Lick Too” </li></ul>
  16. 16. In Summary <ul><li>Embedded narratives: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Dialogic </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Ostensive </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Single-strand narratives: </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Extended Narratives </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Resultant Narratives </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Structuring Narratives </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Fusion Narratives </li></ul></ul><ul><li>Multi-strand narratives </li></ul><ul><ul><li>Fusion Narratives </li></ul></ul><ul><ul><li>Anthologies/Portmanteau films </li></ul></ul>
  17. 17. Thank you.