HC6. Genre, Fans, Orientalism, and Neoliberalism in Serenity


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HC6. Genre, Fans, Orientalism, and Neoliberalism in Serenity

  1. 1. Introduction to Hollywood Cinema: Genre, Fandom, Orientalism, and Neoliberalism in Serenity<br />Prof. Julia Leyda<br />September 11, 2010<br />
  2. 2. quiz<br /> Who are the Reavers and how are they portrayed in Serenity?<br />(10 minutes)<br />
  3. 3. I. genre: space western (?!)<br />combines the quintessential American genre with increasingly popular SF<br />both are sub-genres of “adventure” movie<br />both are in part defined by<br /> setting (time and place) <br />iconography (visual motifs)<br />plot formulas and themes<br />
  4. 4. Serenity space western iconography<br />
  5. 5. Serenity space western iconography<br />
  6. 6. SF and western compared<br />set at the frontier, during a time of exploration, expansion, often war or conflict<br />iconography of guns, boots, sometimes old-fashioned costumes<br />stories about quests, pioneering, gunfighters<br />themes of good vs. evil, civilization vs. savagery, justice vs. tyranny (better world clip)<br /><ul><li> revisionist representations of gender, race, class?</li></li></ul><li>other famous space westerns<br />Buck Rogers (1928) and Flash Gordon (1934-)radio and movie series <br />Star Wars series (1977-)<br />clear similarities between Han Solo and Mal Reynolds<br />Star Trek original TV show (1966-) <br />“Space—the final frontier. To boldly go where no man has gone before!”<br />Alien series (1979-)<br />dark, dystopian, mega-corporate mining colonies<br />BattlestarGalacticaTV show and movies (1978-)<br />Cowboy Bebop TV show and manga (1998-)<br />
  7. 7. II. fans and Firefly / Serenity<br />Firefly (2002) TV series on Fox<br />Joss Whedon writer / director / exec. producer (Buffy, Angel)<br />despite huge fan base, canceled mid-season<br />fans bought an ad in Variety and launched postcard campaign<br />because of fan activism Fox released the DVD<br />bestselling DVD, internet fan sites “Browncoats”<br />
  8. 8. fans and Serenity<br />Serenity (2005) movie, same cast / crew<br />Fox still owned the title Firefly<br />DVD extras include story of the fan campaign<br />Whedon and cast often attend fan “conventions” and internet fan chatrooms<br />comics, role-playing games, books, other tie-ins<br />unofficial, fan-made sequel Browncoats: Redemption due for release this September<br />
  9. 9. fans and the entertainment industry<br />Fox TV didn’t promote Firefly enough / well<br />Whedon credits the Universal contract to the enormous activism of fans<br />Whedon and cast identify as fans of the series <br />Hollywood’s commercial aesthetic means pursuit of profitable entertainment<br />21st-century example of interplay between audiences and Hollywood <br />
  10. 10. III. Orientalism<br />19C (-20C) European and American art and architecture depicting themes, motifs, and styles of “the Orient” <br />Chinoiserie, Japonisme, Turquerie<br />sensual, exotic, despotic, savage, distant, archaic<br />critical term in Edward Said’s book Orientalism (1979), further developed in Culture and Imperialism (1993)<br />
  11. 11. The Turkish Bath (Ingres 1862)<br />
  12. 12. Orientalism in Said<br />political vision of reality whose structure promoted the difference between the familiar (Europe, West, "us") and the strange (the Orient, the East, "them")<br />origin of stereotypes of “the Orient”<br />based in power: myth of the Oriental was possible because of European political dominance of the Middle East and Asia<br />
  13. 13. Orientalism as ideology<br /> Orientalism is a pattern of thought in the West that allowed Westerners “to accept the notion that distant territories and their native peoples should be subjugated and … [to] think of the empire as a protracted, almost metaphysical obligation to rule subordinate, inferior or less advanced peoples” <br /><ul><li> link to imperialism, neoliberalism</li></li></ul><li>“the Orient” in Serenity<br />US and China have merged to form the Alliance, governing “terraformed” planets <br />characters speak and understand Mandarin (also some Russian)<br />visual images of katakana and Arabic script<br />casual integration of languages, details<br />River’s martial arts-inspired fighting style<br />especially Inara’s character and mise-en-scene<br />
  14. 14. market on outer planet<br />
  15. 15. port city<br />
  16. 16. extras in Asian costumes<br />
  17. 17. Chinese characters<br />
  18. 18. Inara and Orientalism<br />costume and makeup, mannerisms <br />vocation as a companion, related to tradition of courtesan (rather than prostitute?)<br />traditional femininity, revised?<br />training process similar to geisha or priestess<br />mise-en-scene combines motifs from India, China, Japan<br /><ul><li> how to interpret her character’s “Oriental” visual motifs?</li></li></ul><li>Inara’s Buddhism <br />
  19. 19. Inara’s costume <br />
  20. 20. a more complex orientalism?<br />elements of design trends, popularity of Asian cultures among westerners <br />interest in eastern spirituality: Buddhism, meditation, yoga, martial arts<br />superficial culture: exotic cuisines, tourism<br />fans of manga, anime, “kawaii” culture, and “Japan cool”<br />greater cultural mixing a result of globalization?<br />sign of Japan’s and China’s economic power?<br />
  21. 21. IV. Serenity and neoliberalism<br />neoliberalism: unregulated capitalism + democracy; dominant political and economic system since the 1980s (Reagan and Thatcher)<br />combination of “free” market, privatizing economic policies with democratic political system <br />since the fall of USSR and the “liberalization” of China, neoliberalism prevails in most of the world<br />unlike in earlier 20C, “there is no alternative” <br />
  22. 22. neoliberalism and the Alliance<br />hegemony: ongoing struggle to maintain people’s consent to a system that governs them<br />hegemony here depends on misinformed public: River’s class, the Operative’s beliefs<br />mass media fail to inform public about real inequalities of neoliberalism / the Alliance<br />discourses of enlightenment and development make spread of neoliberalism seem benevolent <br />
  23. 23. neoliberalism and the Alliance<br />wants to bring “civilization” and trade to the outer planets of the (uni)verse (River class clip)<br />Mal stealing payroll of outer planet private security firm working for Alliance (Blackwater)<br />war is over, resistance fighters (Mal and Zoe) lost—now they are outlaws, smugglers<br />
  24. 24. neoliberalism and the Alliance<br />Miranda: secret planet where psychoactive drug added to the atmosphere (like Prozac)—metaphor for maintaining hegemony (Mal broadcast clip)<br />drug overdose killed most, created Reavers<br />Alliance portrays Reavers as savages as westerns did Indians—but we learn that they are also human, and victims of Alliance<br />
  25. 25. the Alliance as evil empire<br />representation of the Alliance as tyrannical, masquerading as civilizing force<br />tampers with River’s mind to weaponize her<br />exploits planets against their will<br />tolerates smuggling, human trafficking, crime<br />massacre Haven and Shepherd Book in revenge<br />hires the Operative assassin to kill Mal and recover River<br />kills Mr. Universe to protect its hegemony<br />
  26. 26. is resistance possible?<br />Mal’s inspiring speech to the crew<br />the Operative’s disillusionment<br />River and Mal’s last scene<br />is the ending happy? is it believable? <br />
  27. 27. representational systems<br />always engage in ideologies of the society in which they are produced<br />often portray conflicts and struggles of hegemonic negotiation <br />2002-2005 post 9/11, post-Katrina, Iraq War, collapse of public credibility of Bush administration (and neoliberalism generally?)<br />is resistance possible? <br />
  28. 28. discussion questions<br /> Discuss the “space western”—what other movies or TV shows fit this description? How do the two genres work together?<br />Discuss the representations of women in Serenity: Zoe, Kaylee, Inara, River.<br />How do the Reavers compare and contrast to Indians in a western like The Searchers?<br />If Hollywood shows Americans what they want to believe about themselves, what do we learn from Serenity?<br />