Melinda Smith 16537529 Media Analysis, 101719 Tutorial Presentation Report Alice in Wonderland (2010). Source: IMDB (2010). Tim Burton’s recently released adaptation of the story Alice in Wonderland diverts from previous portrayals of this narrative, extending and altering its focus to more greatly reflect current contexts. In order to create discussion around this film in its broader social, cultural and media contexts we may investigate the filmic choices that have been made and how these are reflected in the specific elements of the film. Through a process of decoding and deconstruction we may come to understand that “the reader is as important as the writer in the production of meaning” (Hall, 1997, p.33) and that we actively interpret a matrix of different elements according to cultural and individual qualities as part of the ‘media matrix’ (Dallow, 2010). In order to explore these themes we may focus in on one character in particular, the Mad Hatter, and more specifically on the qualities and themes that surround this character and why he is the main focus of the 2010 film adaptation. It was mentioned in the class discussion that there are two strands of thought relating to this; the role of the character and the role of the actor. The character can be described as crazy and erratic and this was described by the class as reflecting the current social context, while his eccentric dress and individualistic style was also described as reflecting social and fashion trends. This shift in character focus was also identified as an attempt to be new, while it may also be related to the concept of Alice as being worn out and of greater relevance to the context of the original novel, rather than the current context. This shifting focus reflects what Shohat and Stam (1996) refer to as how “perception itself is embedded in history. The same filmic images or sounds provoke distinct reverberations for different communities” (p.163).
Melinda Smith 16537529 The second strand of thought relates to the actor Johnny Depp and concepts of commoditisation and meta-‐narratives. As Depp is a well-‐known actor his image can be said to be of much greater value than the relatively unknown Mia who plays Alice. As he is featured in several other films and has developed a high Hollywood status, this actor also carries with him a meta-‐narrative, a series of ideas, themes and connotations, which form pre-‐existing expectations that will influence the way we relate to and interpret this character. Similarly, the director Tim Burton also has a set of texts which he has created and that are associated with his name. It is by investigating questions such as these that we may examine films on their structural level to better understand how and why particular filmic choices are made and their implications more broadly. Another layer is added to this when we consider the range of films that Burton and Depp have worked together on in the past, including Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005) and Edward Scissorhands (1990), and which have created a set of expectations regarding the individualistic and expressive nature of the character of the Mad Hatter. This matrix of discourses and the associated ideas reflect the way that films “tell us about current ideologies of media culture and consumer society” (Dallow, 2010). Charlie and the Chocolate Factory (2005). Source: Show Biz Spy (2009) Edward Scissorhands (1990). Source: Kaminski (2009) As we interpret images we are actively decoding through associations, where “much of the meaning potential in visual communication comes from metaphorical association” (Machin, 2009, p.186). This is evident as we deconstruct the signs within a specific scene from the film, the Tea Party, which reflects the first time that Alice and the Mad Hatter interact in the film. In the discussion we identified cinematic techniques, such as the large and centred size of the Mad Hatter, who often stares out to the audience with large eyes-‐ an image that is enhanced with the layering of 3D. Colouring is also important and his bright orange hair and make-‐up causes this character to stand out against a grey background. The camera also seems to follow this character and shift and change in a way that reflects this upside-‐down world, which in turn reflects the very nature of the film watching experience as we allow ourselves to be pulled into this filmic world.
Melinda Smith 16537529 Alice in Wonderland (2010): Tea Party Scene. Source: Disney Movie Trailers (2010). We also briefly discussed the qualities of 3D as it attempts to make this medium of film more dynamic, new and engaging in order to immerse audiences in the story and forget the very structures and forms through which we are actively constructing meaning. There is a paradox that exists in 3D, where this layering attempts to make this experience more real as we engage with rather ‘unreal’ worlds. Peter also described the role of 3D as part of broader political discourses as cinema attempts to remain ahead of home viewing experience. This rivalry is evident in the recent advancement of television to 3D viewing and remains a dynamic and continually developing element of these visual media forms. It is important also to note the processes of globalisation that take place as this typically Hollywood Disney texts is interpreted and decoded by different cultures; as well as on an individual level. As Hedetoft (2000) notes, “Contemporary cinema, like all other types of visual mass communication, is increasingly embedded in discourses of globalisation” (p.278). Notions of globalisation are relevant to this film because of its international release and its interactions as an originally British story with an American director, a British Premier, and Australian, American and British lead actors. Familiarity with Hollywood films allows us to deconstruct this film according to norms and cues and means that with this set of pre-‐existing images and ideas “a spectator comes prepared to make sense of a narrative film” (Bordwell & Thompson, 1993, p.90). These films reflect American values and ideas but have also been adapted by audiences to their own culture through interpretation. Through processes of globalisation there is a cultural matrix that is created, which consists of different layers and relationships between cultural elements. Some of these may include the personal way in which we have come into the meaning with the story, whether it was being read the story as a child, as well as the way that this story has been referenced and integrated into all other types of media and the cultural sources and roles of
Melinda Smith 16537529 these. Burton himself was quoted as saying “I knew more about [Alice in Wonderland] from listening to music and bands and other illustrators who would incorporate that imagery into their work”. It is important to investigate these and how they have contributed to our interpretations. This may be an interesting point for further research and discussion. Therefore, there are many discourses at work within this film and these interact within a social, cultural and political matrix. By creating discussion around specific elements of the film we may come to understand the different levels and relationships between these and the active processes of perception and globalisation within this dynamic and constantly developing media narrative form.
Melinda Smith 16537529 References Bordwell, D & Thompson, K. (1993). Film Art: An Introduction. 4th Edn. New York: McGraw Hill. Burton, T. (1990). Edward Scissorhands. US: Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. Burton, T. (2005). Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. US: Warner Bros Pictures. Burton, T. (2010). Alice in Wonderland. US: Walt Disney Pictures. Dallow, P. (2010, March 9).Celluloid Fantasies. From Media Analysis: Lecture Week 2. Dallow, P. (2010, April 27). From Visual to Virtual. From Media Analysis: Lecture Week 9. Disney Movie Trailers. (2010). Alice in Wonderland: Tea Party. YouTube. Retrieved from http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=KBmLViALjhk. Hall, S. (1997). ‘The Work of Representation,’ pp.15-‐64 in Stuart (Ed.) (1997). Representation: Cultural Representations and Signifying Practices. London: Sage. IMDB (2010). Alice in Wonderland: 2010. The Internet Movie Database. Retrieved from http://www.imdb.com/media/rm2237566464/. Kaminski, D. (2009, April 4). Tim Burton’s Alice in Wonderland: Movie Trailers. Hollywood Actor Prep. Retrieved from http://www.hollywoodactorprep.com/blog/wp-‐content/uploads/2009/07/edwardscissorhands.jpg Hedetoft, U. (2000). ‘Contemporary Cinema: Between cultural globalisation and national interpretation,’ Ch 17, pp.278-‐297 in Hjort, Mette & MacKenzie, Scott (Eds.). (2000). Cinema and Nation. London: Routledge.
Melinda Smith 16537529 Machin, D. (2009). Multimodality and theories of the visual,’ pp. 15-‐64 in Jewitt, C. (Ed.) (2009). The Routledge Handbook of Multimodal Analysis. London: Routledge. Shohat, E. & Stam, R. (1996). ‘From Imperial to the Transnational Imaginary: Media Spectatorship in the Age of Globalisation.’ In R. Wilson & W. Dissanayke. (Eds.) (1996). Global/Local:Cultural Production and the Transnational Imaginary. NC: Duke University Press. Show Biz Spy. (2009). Michael Jackson Didn’t Inspire Johnny Depp’s Willy Wonka. Show Biz Spy. Retrieved from http://www.showbizspy.com/article/188675/.