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Cms 298 presentation Cms 298 presentation Presentation Transcript

  • Chapter 8: Simulational Selves, Simulational Culture in Groundhog Day Manica Hing CMS 298 Fall 2013
  • Introduction Chapter 8 is a rhetorical analysis of the 1993 film Groundhog Day. The film centers on Phil Connors, a selfish and egotistical TV weatherman, who finds himself in a time loop in which he relives the same day, Groundhog Day, over and over again.  The chapter uses both culturecentered and feminist techniques in its examination of the film as a cinematic satire of the simulational nature of our culture.  The film critiques the simulational and its implications in regards to real life. 
  • What Does Simulational Mean? A simulation is “an experience that is self-contained, referring mainly to itself”(p.247). A classic example of a simulation is a video game. When we play a video game, we temporarily detach ourselves from reality and become immersed in the world of the game. The objects we find in the game world are representations of the objects found in reality. We understand that the objects are representations and serve no purpose outside of the game.  For example, you may control the movements of a sword in a way that mirrors the movements of a real sword, but you do not associate the “game” sword with any particular sword in reality.  The events that take place in a game are simulational and have no direct connection with reality. 
  • Simulational Environments  “Industrialized cultures with capitalist economies that have a heavy dependence on electronic media for entertainment share a significant characteristic, and that is that they are increasingly simulational” (p. 247) Such cultures include the United States, Western Europe, and Japan.  In addition to media, various leisure activities are also simulational. For example, amusement parks, shopping malls, and spectator sports are all simulational. Each simulational environment is its own little world. We are involved these simulational worlds as long as we are in them but have little to no effect on us once we leave them.
  • Into the Simulation  The film Groundhog Day begins with shot of streaming clouds. Clouds are one of the earliest forms of simulation (p. 248). Clouds morph into various shapes, and some of them take on shapes that to us resemble other things, such as an animal like a dog or an elephant.  The film is a metaphor for a life of social disconnection and selfabsorption, some of the main characteristics of a simulational culture.
  • Phil Connors the Weatherman The main character is Phil Connors, a weatherman for a television station in Pittsburgh. The film introduces him acting in a simulation pertaining to his profession.  The film audience first sees him talking and gesturing in front of a blank blue screen but given its context we know that he is doing a weathercast. The screen then changes into the smaller screen of a television where the map is now visible to us. The map itself is another simulation. We know that the map is an illustration of the real state rather than a live image of it.  The simulational world of the weathercast ends when the cameras on set shut off and Phil heads out the door. 
  • Punxsutawney The day before Groundhog Day, Phil, along with his producer, Rita, and Larry the cameraman, head to Punxsutawney to cover the yearly emergence of the groundhog. In the van, Phil complains to the others about having to do this assignment year after year.  Phil’s comments are indicative of another characteristic of simulations and that is repetition. The annual emergence of the groundhog is simulational because it occurs on the same day every year (p.250). 
  • Punxsutawney Phil Punxsutawney Phil is the groundhog of groundhog day.  Phil the groundhog is a simulation. The residents of Punxsutawney gather every year on February 2nd to see Phil emerge from his den and prognosticate whether or not there will be six more weeks of winter. The people assume that the groundhog is the “same” groundhog from previous years, but the truth is that groundhogs do not live forever, and just like his predecessors, Phil will die in a couple of years and be replaced with another groundhog.  Despite the indubitable fact of Phil’s eventual demise, simulation tells us that it is the “same” groundhog. To them there is only one Punxsutawney Phil. 
  • Social Disconnection  Phil’s cruel, ironic, and coarse demeanor keeps him from connecting with others and developing sincere relationships.  On the first Groundhog Day, Phil encounters the kind landlady, Mrs. Lancaster, who, in an attempt to make friendly conversation, says to him, “There’s talk of a blizzard.” Phil then mockingly gestures at an imaginary map, reenacting his weathercast to point out to her that there will be no blizzard.  On his way to the Groundhog Day festivities, he comes across Ned Ryerson, an insurance salesman and a former classmate. Phil assumes that Ned recognized him from television and tries to ignore his persistent badgering regarding their high school connection. Phil then says, “Thanks for watching.”  Phil assumes “that people relate to him not at a personal level but in terms of his fame within the simulational world of television”(251). In both situations, he denies social connection because of his refusal to disconnect from his professional simulational self.
  • Self-Absorption  Like most of us, Phil Connors lives a simulational life. In addition to the repetitive nature of his existence, he is completely self-absorbed. All he talks about is himself and he does not care much about others. He also insults people on a regular basis and is consistently rude to everyone.
  • Self-Absorption  When the blizzard that was not suppose to happen according to his forecast hits the town, Phil and the crew, while on their way back to Pittsburg , discovers that the roads are closed due to the increment weather, and that the only thing they could do is go back to Punxsutawney. Phil gets out of the van and confronts the officer on the road. The officer asks him, “Haven’t you listened to the weather?” To which Phil replies, “I make the weather!” He is disconnected from the actual situation as a result of his continual engrossment in a simulation associated with his professional role as a weatherman (p. 251). He places himself above others and refuses to accept the fact that he had made an error despite all the tangible snow surrounding him.  After the road incident, Phil attempts to make a long-distance phone call but finds out that the lines are down because of the blizzard. He tells the telephone company that surely they must keep some lines open for celebrities and emergencies, and then goes on to say, “I’m a celebrity in an emergency” (p. 252). Phil is an egocentric individual and his selfcenteredness will contribute to the endless cycle he will soon find himself in.
  • Groundhog Day...Again  “The experiences of Phil Connors that are about to unfold become a commentary on all our everyday experiences, and a warning to be alert for their simulational dangers” (p. 252).  On Groundhog Day, Phil becomes trapped in a simulational loop as he literally finds himself repeating the same day again and again.
  • “What if there were tomorrow?” “No tomorrow...that would mean there would be no consequences, there would be no hangovers, we could do whatever we wanted...”
  • The Value of Simulation     After having experienced the shock and confusion regarding his situation, Phil comes to terms with the fact that he will be waking up to same day everyday. He soon realizes that since there is no tomorrow, he could do whatever he wanted without any consequences. In real life, one of the major reasons people find simulations to be “fun” is because simulations do not have consequences. As the famous saying goes, “What happens in Vegas stays in Vegas” and similarly what happens in the simulational world stays in that world. This is perhaps what makes simulations, like video games, so appealing. For example, you can play a game and commit certain acts via a simulated character that in reality could have severe consequences. In the game world, you can slice an enemy with a sword but if you did that in real life, you would probably be charged with assault or attempted murder. You could also leave the game world anytime you wanted. You can leave the sword, the enemy, and everything else inimitable to that world behind and continue on to another dimension.
  • The Value of Simulation     Upon his realization that his actions would have no consequences because there is no tomorrow, Phil immediately leads the local police on a wild car chase. He does end up getting arrested and put behind bars but on the “next” day, he wakes up and finds himself back at the inn as though nothing had happened. He had experienced a “game over” moment with the police but then the “game” had reset itself and Phil is able to start over. The resetting of each day is signified by the clicking of the bedside clock from 5:59 to 6:00 am and then playing “I’ve Got You Babe.” Phil continues his reckless behavior by sucker punching Ned and indulging in an array of unhealthy foods. Phil also uses his newfound “freedom” to study the security surrounding the loading of an armored car in order to find the best moment to rob it, which he does. He uses the stolen money to satisfy his selfish desires, such as buying a Rolls Royce. Another attractive feature of video games, and of simulations in general, is the ability to repeat the experience. For example, you can reenter the game world simply by pushing the power button on the gaming system. You can also start over, and use past experiences to improve your gaming strategies that could help you go on to the next level.
  • Phil and the Groundhog  Eventually, Phil reaches a point in which he no longer sees the lack of consequences as a sign of freedom but as a sign that his life has no meaning because ultimately everything he does do not matter because the day will reset itself so that there is no tomorrow, and since there is no tomorrow, there is no future to consider.  Phil desperation and anger begin to take over. He smashes the bedside clock to no avail and gives a bitter on-camera monologue, and he says, reflecting on his own situation, “There’s no way that this winter is going to end. As Long as this groundhog keeps seeing its shadow, I don’t see any other way out” (p. 256).  The legend holds that if a groundhog sees its shadow, winter will continue for six more weeks, and if the groundhog does not see its shadow, is not given a token of itself, and can thus look to matters in the world around it, will there be an early spring (p. 256).  The groundhog seeing its shadow represents the simulational self as a product of narcissism. In the context of the film, Phil Connors continually “sees his shadow” by thinking only about himself and it is not until he turns away from his “shadow” and thinks about the lives of those around him that he begins to break out of his temporal prison.  In continuation of his frustration, Phil kidnaps Phil the groundhog, steals a pick up truck, and drives the both of them off a cliff. The truck plunges into the bottom of the cliff and erupts into flames. Phil then finds himself alive the next morning at 6:00 am, as though back from the dead. Phil then makes several attempts to commit suicide. He tries electrocuting himself, stepping in front of a truck, and jumping off a building, but even death could not release Phil from the simulational world. The film is emphasizing to the audience the pointlessness of simulations.
  • A Feminist Perspective  In the simulational loop, Phil exploits women by employing a strategy similar to the one he used to rob the armored car. He extracts information from the women about themselves, and then uses the information the “next” day to make it seem as though they have some connection in order to seduce them.  For example, he asks a woman named Nancy for information regarding her high school and then the next day says to her that he went to the same high school and uses the details he had given her the previous day to establish the connection.
  • A Feminist Perspective Phil also tries this strategy to seduce Rita, his real desire. At one point he takes her to a bar to find out what her favorite drink is. He then surprises her the “next” day by ordering it. The scene repeats several times, and each time is slightly different from the last from the changes Phil makes to the scene in an attempt to improve the situation.  Nonetheless, his strategy to seduce Rita fails as highlighted by a brief episodic sequence of Rita slapping Phil from each day.  Towards the end of the film, Phil begins to feel some genuine closeness to Rita as he tries to explain to her his predicament. They spend the day together and as she is sleeping next to him, he leans over and tells her that she is the “kindest, sweetest” person he knows. This is “an important first step in his recovery” (p. 257).  The film positions authentic relationships with women as and antidote to a simulational obsession (p. 254). 
  • “Maybe it’s not a curse, just depends on how you look at it.”
  • Out of the Simulation  Phil turns his life around near the end of the film. He begins thinking less about himself and more about others. He starts to use his “find the right moment” strategies to help people rather than manipulate them as he did before. He studies the patterns of the town so he could be on the spot when those in trouble need help. He arrives on time to help a group of elderly women by changing the tires of their car. He also saves a kid falling from a tree and gives the Heimlich maneuver to a man choking in a restaurant.  He also gives money to a homeless man he had passed by numerous times, but it is when he discovers that the man dies that day that the harsh reality of the world sets in. Phil tries to save the homeless man by buying him food and giving him CPR when he finds him dead in an alleyway, but despite his efforts, Phil could not save him from his inevitable fate.  Phil also tries to better himself. He takes piano lessons, reads literature, learns languages, and make ice sculptures.  As Phil dances with Rita on the evening of the final day of the time loop, he is warmly praised by the people he had helped that day. They then meet Ned Ryerson as they leave the hall. Ned is happy because Phil had bought insurance from him.  The next morning, as usual, Phil wakes up at 6:00 am and hears “I’ve Got You Babe” playing on the radio but this time, he discovers that Rita is still next to him. Her being there meant that he has finally established a true human connection with her, and this connection has pulled him out of the simulational loop and onto the day after Groundhog Day, February 3rd.
  • Conclusion  The film is a rhetoric of simulation. Phil’s life reflects the simulational culture a lot of us live in. “People today are preoccupied with self and selfish interests, obsessed with entertainment and its technological underpinnings, unable to make real human connection” (p. 258). Therefore, the film focuses on the negative side of simulations. It shows us that a simulation is an illusion of freedom and that it is actually a detachment from reality. The film advises us that it is important that we deviate from our simulational selves and form human connections with others to find real meaning in life.
  • References Brummet, Barry. Rhetoric in Popular Culture. Third ed. Thousand Oaks, Calif.: Sage Publications, 2011. Print.  Groundhog Day. Dir. Harold Ramis. Perf. Bill Murray, Andie MacDowell. Columbia Pictures, 1993. DVD.  Google Images 