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CAMÉRA STYLO Volume 16

The Cinema Studies Undergraduate Journal University of Toronto

u

2016


CamĂŠra Stylo is the undergraduate journal for Cinema Studies at the University of Toronto. Its purpose is to promote cinema studies at the undergraduate level, and to provide the opportunity for undergraduate students to publish their work related to film studies. This project aims to contribute to an atmosphere of critical discussion, and debate, about cinema at the University of Toronto.

First and only edition, April 2016. ŠCINSSU. Individual essays copyright their individual authors. All rights reserved under the Pan-American Copyright Conventions. No part of this journal may be reproduced or transmitted in any form or by any means, without the written permission of the Publisher, except where permitted by law. Published and funded by the Cinema Studies Student Union. Printed in Toronto, Ontario (Canada).


“I would like to call this new age of cinema the age of Caméra Stylo (Camera Pen). This metaphor has a very precise sense. By it I mean that the cinema will gradually break free from the tyranny of what is visual, from the image for its own sake, from the immediate and concrete demands of the narrative, to become a means of writing just as flexible and subtle as written language… The most philosophical meditations on human production, psychology, metaphysics, ideas, and passions lie well within its province.”

- Alexandre Astruc From an article entitled “Du Stylo à la Caméra et de la Caméra au Stylo” Originally published on March 30, 1948 in L’Ecran Française


Table of Contents Letter from the Editor

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“When Their Eyes Are Shut: Female Homoerotic Desire and Domesticity in Deepa Mehta’s Fire” by Aaditya Aggarwal

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“Music for Murder in Yellow Minor: The Giallo Film Score” by Amanda Greco

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“ Memento: The Intermediality of the System” by Eimi Harris

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“Anarchy on the Small Screen: Temporal Experimentation in Sitcoms of the Internet Age” by Daniel Konikoff

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“Re-examining ‘Revolutionary’ Animation: Disney-Pixar’s Frozen and the Limits of the ‘Modernized’ Princess Tale” by Ruth Levine

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“An Integration of Cinema and Literature: Towards Intermedially Reading the Screen Like a Page” by Brietta Stewart

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Editorial Board Editor-in- Chief Sharif G. Wehbe Graphic Designer/ Illustrator Jules Stacey Facul ty Advisor Dr. Benjamin Wright Editorial / Selection Committee Amber Cicconi Evan Maude Loreica Peralta Sharif G. Wehbe

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Letter from the Editor Throughout the entire 16 years of its publication history, Caméra Stylo has consistently set high benchmarks for creativity, insight, and original cinematic discourse. Caméra Stylo has been issued as an annual collection of ideas focusing upon cinema, social discursive practices and histories, and as a platform for the discussion of the theories emanating from, or surrounding, these areas of interest. From this assembly of published texts within this yearly journal, there have emerged perhaps the most salient explorations in undergraduate conversations concerning cinema. It is a journal replete with keen opinions and filmic analysis. This publication incisively enters the vanguard of cinematic discourse. As we revive the proud legacy of Caméra Stylo, new voices are marshaled forward, insights proffered. It is with the greatest sincerity that I hope that you, as the reader, will both enjoy and appreciate all of the time, effort, commitment to dialogue and the sharing of ideas, which have been offered towards the realization of this year’s publication of Caméra Stylo. - Sharif G. Wehbe

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As a queer text, Deepa Mehta’s Fire discusses the taboo issue of lesbian desire in Indian film. The liberal, universalizing reading of the film would be to read it as a pioneering lesbian love story “from the Third World”. We must, however, go past this liberal, universalizing reading of the film so to find a space that transcends Western assumptions, a space of (postcolonial) female intimacies, a space for queer intimacies of colour. We must find ways of situating this widely circulated, highly scrutinized filmic text as a commentary on feminist queer subjectivity, one that challenges the critical spaces of domesticity, which are often shamed for “suppressing” women’s desire. We need to reimagine these homosocial arenas, instead, as quietly, secretly nurturing female intimacy rather than suppressing it. In other words, we must ask how the depiction of queer womanhood, cultural intertextuality and narrative and visual aesthetic in Fire complicate the White liberal feminist assumption of the middle-class home as a disciplining, hetero-normative site, and the image of homemakers as highly stabilized and controlled female subjects, often ‘unable’ to articulate queer desire. Through considering such questions, we are left to ask: can the “Third World” queer female subject, thus, ‘speak’ on screen? At one point in Fire, the character Ashok watches a theatrical performance of the Ram Leela, the Hindu mythological epic, depicting the life and exile of Lord Ram, Prince of Ayodhya, and his spouse, Goddess Sita. In this scene, Ram has rescued Sita from her abduction by Ravana, the ruthless villain of the upper-caste Hindu epic. He, bound by duty, demands her to walk through fire to prove to him her sexual, and thereby spiritual, purity and chastity. A distressed Sita, shocked that Rama would question her faithfulness, stands the ‘test of fire’ successfully, unmarred in her wifely devotion. Sita here, is not a goddess, of course, but a stage actor, a traditionally male figure dressed as the devoutly feminine and aggrandized goddess so adored and virtuously upheld in popular upper-caste Hindu literature and cultural iconography. Her body, unintentionally gender-fluid in its presentation underlines the historical regulations that prohibit women 9


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from performing in Hindu religious theatre. In the actor’s trail through fire, the goddess’ womanhood is both erased and queered. The symbolism of fire is rife, echoing familiarity with the saffron hues embellishing the film’s every frame: the subdued tones of earth, sun and clay burning on Sita’s afternoon wear and the religious significance of the element of fire to Hindu womanhood, especially in the seemingly ordinary lives of its two pivotal characters, Sita and Radha. This particular scene is only one of the several theatrical performances; one of the meta-theatres, in which the characters create, performs, and views these performances within the film. The Quilt and Fire This paper seeks to imagine Fire as a ‘diasporic woman’s film.’ Directed by Deepa Mehta, a first-generation Indian filmmaker living in Canada, Fire is loosely based on famous Urdu novelist Ismat Chughtai’s 1941 short story Lihaaf. Set in colonial India, Chughtai’s narrative situates itself around a bourgeois Muslim household, with the pivotal character of Begum, the “lady of the house” married to a rich aristocrat. His absence from Begum’s life, and his fascination with young men, creates a sexual rift between Begum and her husband. She shares a deeply intimate dynamic with her foremost companion, and caregiver/masseuse, a woman called Rabbo, as observed by her little niece. Through Rabbo’s regular massaging of Begum’s body, her niece narrates the story of their erotic, sexually coded rituals under “the quilt”, beyond which no one else, but Begum and Rabbo could see. Fire highlights this aspect of “queer female pleasure and desire” 1. Additionally, this ‘quilted’ intimacy that Fire highlights transforms the space of the household, from a nationalist hetero-normative trapping, into a homoerotic site of expression. Mehta’s film, Gopinath claims, was “funded largely with Canadian festivals” 2 all over the world, and enjoyed a “lengthy art house release in major US cities”3. Facing immense outcry from Hindu rightwing religious groups like the Rashtriya Swayamsevak Sangh (RSS), its distribution and exhibition was banned shortly after a brief run in India. Attacks from these groups stated the film’s alleged ‘corruption’ of Hindu womanhood, and its queering of Hindu women’s otherwise sacralized bodies in dominant culture. It is this ‘queering’ of the characters in the film that counters dominant Western imagery of queer lesbian sexuality. It is indeed the very ‘alternative’ sexual practice of the female Hindu characters in the film that appropriates queer models of the Hindu text, 10


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and thereby does not reject, but embraces religious myth as a possible site of queer female sanctuary. Sita and Radha: Queer Stories, Queer Looks Much of Fire draws from the art of storytelling and performance, rooted in the cultural specificity of the rural, and working-class, Hindu demographic. In the expositional scene of the film, a demure child, Radha, sits with her parents in an expanse of beaming mustard fields. Her mother lovingly tells her, “What you can’t see, you can see; you just have to see without looking”. Her mother tells her to try to look for the ocean, as described in a tale about a peoples living in the Himalayas attempting to locate a water body they could physically never really see. Radha’s father, the male figure of their family, sits silent watching the women converse one moment, looking out into the horizon another. Her mother’s story, her call to ‘see’ without any visual cues might be easily misunderstood, and Orientalized as cryptic, mysterious, and magically endemic to indigenous visual practices. In fact, Fire seeks something deeper here, a generational connection, a women’s ancestral inheritance of ‘sight’ one could somehow locate as ‘queer’ and secretive through Radha’s silent father’s absent presence. A grown Radha banks on this very transformative, innate sense of ‘knowing’ that is part of her self-knowledge, when she tells a newlywed Sita, her recently introduced sister-in-law, to prick up her ears for Biji’s (the muted, disabled, aging matriarch figure) bell, which she rings in times of need. In response, Sita asks, “How will I know what she needs?” “You’ll know”, Radha responds, almost channeling her mother’s words: “You just have to see without looking”. She will know, then, it seems. In the very first verbal exchange between the two lovers-to-be the audience hears the echo of a secretive knowledge, a comfort with ‘not knowing’, a sense of confidence in carrying the lack of familiarity in their own bodies. As Radha shuts the door, the viewer discovers a narrative transformation that has already moved the plot forward. The location of the bedroom, first and foremost shared physically and sexually between newlyweds is disrupted by Radha’s commanding, quiet entrance, telling Sita she’ll ‘know’, a radically prophetic choice of word sharing between queer women themselves. Sita’s husband Jatin’s immediate departure on the other hand looms large in the missing male desire, and the directing gaze of the scene. Stories transfer between Sita and Radha as queer texts, 11


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functioning as channels for homoerotic desire and possibility. At one point, Radha and Sita look out into the city from the balcony, in the dead of night, as the latter exclaims her desire to “see the ocean”. “I want to see the ocean,” Sita tells Radha, her gaze directed in a medium over-theshoulder close-up shot towards Radha. Radha responds, looking into the distance, “I tried to see the ocean once.” While this is a common dramatic trope in thoughtful conversations between characters in film— i.e. one character speaking to the other, who in turns speaks away from them— one must also read this aspect in conjunction with how loaded the symbol of the ocean is in the film’s thematic. Radha, in her subdued shades of clothing, does not ‘look back’ often but sees ahead, ‘outward’, searchingly, calmingly, in conversation with herself. Conversely, Sita adorns blazing ceramic “shades”, reflecting the youthful, passionate fire associated with the Goddess Sita. She is constantly seeking answers from Radha, repeatedly asking her questions. In this context the ocean becomes a mysterious site of possibility. After all, Radha has “tried to see” it, and Sita has desired “to see” it. We must then reimagine Sita and Radha as characters that reflect not just their childhood histories, and the visual of an oceanic future that the viewers can never locate, but also as versions of the goddesses they are named after. The role of naming in the film received significant attack from right-wing Hindu groups in India. Radha is named after the consort of Lord Krishna, an intelligent and pragmatic god, known for his flirtations and war strategy in Hindu tales. Sita is named after the Goddess of Earth, who braved exile to wilderness, abduction and stood the test of fire, all to prove to Ram her chastity, loyalty and devotion. Both goddesses are read as paramount symbols of heterosexual female virtue in upper-caste Hindu families, as benchmark standards of expected Hindu womanhood. The discourse established by Hindu women assuming these names, mouthing them lovingly to one another with their desiring, queer tongues, encapsulates disruptive “queer desire in the home” 4 . Queer desire then, between goddess-women in many ways, threatens the very “Hindu nationalist project” 5 that these names and images aim to uphold. When both goddesses are imagined as sexual beings, desiring one another, we come to conceive of these characters as both embracing and debunking religious myth through a queer reclamation of naming itself. Radha’s acknowledgement of Sita’s desires comes to the forefront when she embraces the “ocean.” “I can see the ocean, I can see it”, are words spoken cathartically from Radha’s mouth, as the viewer begins to 12


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understand its queerly metaphorical underpinnings. It is this unspoken, ritualistic storytelling, the mere act of sharing words that seem jarring, alien and strangely incomplete to even the viewers, that transforms Sita and Radha’s religious, traditionally feminine occupation of the domestic space as radically ‘queer’. What operates between the two characters in these exchanges is an undercurrent of viewer curiosity, a lingering autonomy of the plot itself to let certain subtexts remain known to the two women, but unknown to the spectator, at least for the time being. There are, however, certain visual motifs in Sita and Radha’s intimacies that gauge recognition based on hyper familiarity with certain viewers, specifically South Asian national and diaspora audiences. For instance, one of the many tales Sita and Radha share with each other in the film is that of the unconscious king, whose queen picks out needles from his body, until she tires and orders the maid to pick out the remaining few. He wakes only to see the maid, and therefore thinks she is the woman laboring to bring him back to good health. In order to regain her status, the astounded queen, tries to win back her king’s love, and attention. Traditionally a tale about women’s dutiful devotion to their husbands, Mehta places it within a context of Sita and Radha’s relationship; bored wives fasting for their husbands at home, narrating a mundane household myth as to entertain themselves. After Radha recites the tale, Sita dismisses it as being overrated, blaming the king for his pomposity, and the queen for her blind faith. While Sita’s mouthpiece for “modernity over tradition” can largely be seen as problematic of, and somewhat inscriptive to, Western Orientalist definitions of a “liberating” white lesbianism. There is something to be said about the overturning of the religious myth, in light of two homemakers having a sincere conversation. Mehta transforms the act of speaking in this scene when Radha laughs heedlessly at Sita’s distaste. An over-the-shoulder close-up shot, reversed to Sita’s questioning, quizzical face, initiates interaction and an onset of domestic intimacy between these women. The satiric dramatization of Mundu’s working-class domestic male servant imagination is interesting when framing male desire in the text. A sexually deprived Mundu imagines himself as the king of the story, Radha as the queen, and Sita as the maidservant. As Mundu cultivates his imagination, a desire to sexually control his mistresses, through goddess names, develops. Mundu’s heterosexist conception of the tale does not simply interrupt the queer looks exchanged between Sita and Radha as they make light of the story, but also contributes to the disruption of the 13


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domestic space these women readily reside. The ‘lower-class male desiring his mistress’ is a trope that is overused, ridden with class anxieties, in popular South Asian bourgeois culture. Alternatively, Mehta uses the same classist trope for the purpose of expanding the possibility of homoeroticism between Radha and Sita. While Mundu’s gaze is staged behind Radha’s spatial placement in the frame, there is an interaction of male desire as undermined and subverted by an ongoing, mutual, queer mockery of this religious myth shared between the two women. In this light then, how can we aspire to read Mundu’s lower-class desire as furthering Sita and Radha’s homoerotic love, and thereby, potentially, strangely, as ‘queer’? Male Celibacy, Women’s Desire and Queerness in the Postcolonial Family There is a hypervisibility of Sita and Radha’s desire for one another in the film. Amid abstinence, sexual deprivation, and male celibacy, the character of Jatin through his extramarital affair with Suzy, and the characters of Mundu and Ashok, through his spiritual vow, respectively embodies this hypervisibility. While scholars have acknowledged this framing of queer desire as partially insidious, since it promotes the homophobic idea that lack of heterosexual male attention and desire causes women to “turn” to one another, Fire complicates traditional Hindu domestic space as one that must also be seen beyond its restrictive mode of hetero-normative sexuality. Gayatri Gopinath explains that the film places female homoerotic desire “at the center of multiple home spaces.” 6 This challenges the White feminist notion of ‘the household’ as a space to suppress female sexuality. The very act of chance and intimacy in conventional middle-class domesticity is what enables and creates a space for Sita and Radha’s “alternative models of female homoerotic desire.” 7 Through this thought process, the home is seen as being disputed and transformed, reclaimed queer space. At the end of their religious fast, Sita tells Radha how thirsty she is. Radha immediately offers her a sip of water from the cup, a ritual traditionally specified for the husband, who breaks his wife’s fast in the festivity. Mehta appropriates this ritual in a single shot, with Sita’s back facing the camera, and Radha approaching her, placing the steel cup next to her mouth as she takes a sip of water. Mehta uses tradition, and ritual, to excavate a space for queer religiosity. Their gender identity, as assumed by both Sita and Radha, prides itself on their feminine attire, their comfort 14


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with ‘domestic work’ and classically feminine modes of exhibition. Radha gifts Sita a bracelet that she adorns on her wrist while Sita makes Radha up with a bindi and a sari to enact a comical, entertaining musical performance. Therefore, this fasting ritual Hindu women practice for their husbands’ longevity, or Karva Chauth, must be read as a way of employing the domestic space - the balcony where wives search for the moon to pray for their husbands - as a site of homoerotic touch, ‘thirst’ and desire. Gopinath claims, with queer female desire “squarely at its center, the space of home is reworked and transformed from within.” 8 This queering transformation is subverted by certain modes of male surveillance that, for the most part, are considered asexual in the film. While there is something to be said about what the male members of the family ‘see’ or do not ‘see,’ the female homo-social spaces become transformed to homoerotic ones, ironically due to the very gaze of patriarchs. When Sita massages Radha’s feet as an act of intimacy, Jatin and Ashok approve by encouraging it as a display of sisterly affection. Similarly, Radha massaging Sita’s hair sensuously completely transforms the heterosexual image of female companions, or direct family members engaged in self-community care of their femme/feminine loved ones. Selfcare here is evoked queerly, in a medium-long shot of the mirror. Both Sita and Radha gaze at each other, a knowing look where they ‘see’, without spelling the nature of their relationship. These mistaken cues become crevices that queer female subjects can sliver through, Mehta seems to say, in order to exercise their desires and pleasures. Whether it is the productive gendering of women’s labour in the kitchen, where Sita and Radha remain ‘confined,’ or the domestic spaces like the balcony or terrace, where they must go to complete chores like drying and washing clothes; the queer female subject enacts desire through the currency that male rejection, compulsion, and absence often affords them. Against a glowing backdrop of a deep orange dupatta, gleaming like a sunset behind them, Sita and Radha impulsively embrace each other by the clothes-drying line, not simply as lovers, but as women sharing pain/trauma inflicted by their spouses. This scene represents something beyond the realm of the queer homoerotic thematic of physical exploration. We envisage two women shedding their trials and tribulations in the afternoon heat, a trope that is easily coded as a heterosexual expression of homemakers’ sharing ‘female’ grief. Mehta exploits the variety of conflictingly queer and domestically feminine texts to ‘queer domesticity’, not just sexually, as is often the case, but through womanly affection, that 15


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many heterosexual women could also picture themselves performing and practicing with one another. Women Start a Fire Behind Mosquito Nets: Queer Walls and Queer Sex In the previous case, the “fire” hues of the clothing line, the crinkled linen of Sita’s dupatta, offer the film a visual palette and elemental character. One can also witness the embodiment of fire in a conventional sense. The lovemaking scene of Sita and Radha, where Sita lifts open the mosquito net shrouded over Radha’s bed and enters this quiet, private space of nighttime that it seems only she and Radha have access to. In the dimly lit setting, an establishing shot of the bedroom, from a high-level and an overlooking oblique angle, offers a portrait of two beds obscurely hidden in suspended mosquito nets. An oil lamp oozes sunset saffron by Radha’s bed. Here, then, Mehta engages the viewer in Sita and Radha’s experience of pleasure, but Mehta does not invite the viewer into the oftenvoyeuristic visuals of the experience. Drawing from Chughtai’s 1941 short story The Quilt that Mehta garners inspiration from, this scene is not merely a stylistic choice, but one that has serious implications on framing the ‘postcolonial queer female’ subject’s desire. In Chughtai’s story, the little girl viewed the quilt turn into strange shapes and sizes. It also generates bizarre sounds and smells, which are replicated as an intertextual, powerful performance of homoerotic intimacy in this instance. Much like the quilt, the romantic haunting mosquito nets in Radha’s room, that she painfully lifts to gain proximity to her husband, transform into guarded boundaries of queer sexual communion and satisfaction. A lot of what takes place under the quilt between two female bodies is both invisible and hyper-visible. The mosquito nets seem to contain a fire, projected by the well-placed lamp, in the frame. Furthermore, Mehta employs rather conventional and traditional tropes of producing visual pleasure, typical to hetero-normative imagery. Such as the oil lamp symbolizing fire and passion, in order to block out the viewer’s gaze to queer homoerotic making of love under the ‘covers’. Additionally, the bedroom exists as a space to exercise heterosexual desires, established as broken and hollow through Ashok’s celibacy. The two separate beds, only to later be reinforced or rather, reclaimed by Sita’s sexual, loving presence in the bedroom further represent the disruption of sexuality. These models of bourgeois hetero-patriarchy are thus both 16


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appropriated and destabilized to transform the domestic space as a site of homoerotic femininity, and consequently, dwell on the film’s ‘queer’ voices that ‘see’ “without looking”, so to speak. The Goddess Performs For You: Watching Queer Bodies Dance What becomes intensely evident in Sita and Radha’s homoerotic imagery and ‘stolen’ moments of affection is a transformation of home from counter-hegemonic space to a space of queer desire. This transformations allows for the expand possibility of a sincere queer performance. Much like storytelling, the art of performing is central to Mehta’s thematic concerns in “Fire”. It could be argued that Sita’s entrance in to the domestic space initiates a queer discourse of performance, enjoyment and recreation. During her first visit to her bedroom, she takes off her petticoat and sari, puts on Jatin’s trousers, turns on the stereo to play a ‘90s pop music number, pretend-smokes Jatin’s cigarette and dances joyously in front of the mirror. We must stray away from defining this moment as “liberating” simply because she sheds “traditional” wear and accesses a “Western” presentation. Nonetheless, it is compelling to see the mischief and humor that the queer characters themselves associate with potentially queer presentations. Sita’s performance is a result of enjoyment, a need to entertain her, and experiment with jeans. Jeans were a fascinating novelty, especially for middle-class female consumers in the 1990’s India. Similarly, queer presentation is suggested again by Sita’s character, this time as she dons a suit and hat, and dresses Radha up as a ‘damsel’ in a sari, to perform a dance together on a popular Hindi film song. As she presents herself as the hero, and Radha, as the heroine, there is a comical sense of camaraderie and enjoyment that both the queer characters and the audiences feel. There is nothing astoundingly radical here. However, this performance driven queer text also contains viewers of the household: Biji, the mute, ‘immobile’ and aging maternal head of the family, and Mundu, the domestic caregiver. Both parties enjoy this instance of queer performance in the living room. As Sita and Radha engage in a comical display of theatrical romance typical to women’s gatherings, and femaleexclusive celebrations in middle-class South Asian circles, there is a recognition of how the meta-theatre guards and reinstates their ‘secret’, ‘real’ queer lives from others. Under this garb where androgyny meets hyper feminine presentation of the body, and voyeurs like the disciplining figure of the Biji 17


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as the mute feminine presence of the household, one can situate the living room, and women’s recreation as critical acts of safeguarding their secret spaces of homoerotic desire, while ascribing to a legitimized, normative homoerotic performance in an acceptable, laughable way. Yet there seems to be an out-of-body understanding that the queer female subject has about how this simple act of play and dance is somewhat like Radha’s cryptic idea of “seeing the ocean”. The cultural markings are visible, but intensely loaded and bruised with humour, and hence, there is a comfortable denial of any possible sexual attraction between Sita and Radha. Hence, Biji and Mundu can ‘look’, but Radha and Sita actively “see”. The retreat into performing as ancient images of lesbian art that the women of Khush engage in is therefore surprisingly similar to the comically queer dance of Sita and Radha in Fire. The critical question of queer sexual practice in the film remains: how safe is home, and for how long? In what seems like a haunting replication of the Goddess Sita’s test of fire, Radha’s assertion of her queer desire and independence to her husband Ashok follows a kitchen accident where her sari catches fire. An emotionally wounded, distraught Ashok retreats and lifts Biji off the ground, watching Radha’s destruction take place. She looks to him for help, but he watches her ‘stand the test of fire’, almost approvingly so, in accordance with his spiritual beliefs. The performance he once viewed of a male body enacting Sita’s ‘test of purity’ is replicated insidiously in the burning of Radha’s sari. As both mother and son “rightfully” gaze at the “performance” of Radha’s purity being tested, much like Goddess Sita, what comes to mind here is the criticality of queer women in domestic spaces. When does performance— liberating, transformative, powerful— become soul bearing? When does it kill you? And how far can Sita and Radha really “see without looking” and therefore ‘speak without saying’ inside and outside their bodies, inside and outside of their ‘homes’? When do you then, ultimately, extinguish the fire you started? The queered home, it seems, is so safe for its subjects, until it’s devastatingly unsafe.

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1 Gayatri Gopinath, “Local Sites/Global Contexts: The Transnational Trajectories of Fire and The Quilt,” in Impossible Desires: Queer Diasporas and South Asian Public Cultures, (Durham:Duke University Press, 2005), 133. 2 Ibidem, 140. 3 Idem. 4 Ibidem, 158. 5 Idem. 6 Ibidem, 133. 7 Ibidem, 134. 8 Idem.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY Fire. Dir. Deepa Mehta. Perf. Shabana Azmi, Nandita Das, Kulbhushan Kharbanda, Javed Jaffrey. Seville, 1996. Film. Khush. Dir. Pratibha Parmar. Channel Four Television, 1991. Film. Project Bolo: A Collection of Oral Histories of Indian LGBT Persons. Dir. Sridhar Rangayan. Prod. Vivek Anand. The Humsafar Trust, 2011. Film. Chughtai, Ismat, and Tahira Naqvi. The quilt and other stories. Women’s Press, 1991. Print. Gopinath, Gayatri. “Local Sites/Global Contexts: The Transnational Trajectories of Fire and The Quilt.” Impossible Desires: Queer Diasporas and South Asian Public Cultures. Durham: Duke University Press, 2005. Print. 131-160. Burton, David F. “Fire, Water and the Goddess: The Films of Deepa Mehta and Satyajit Ray as Critiques of Hindu Patriarchy.” Journal of Religion & Film 17.2 (2013): 1-22. Print. Arora, Poonam. “The production of third world subjects for first world consumption: Salaam Bombay and Parama.” Multiple Voices in Feminist Film Criticism (1994): 293-304. Print. White, Patricia. “Deepa Mehta’s Elemental Feminism.” Women’s Cinema, World Cinema: Projecting Contemporary Feminisms. Durham: Duke University Press, 2015. 76-88. Print.

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“The sound, it looks wonderful.” — Dario Argento If the colour yellow once evoked the pleasant imagery of bright summer days and blooming bush daisies, it certainly took a dark turn in the cinematic world of twentieth century Italy. Murder mysteries shot in saturated colours depicting grim, twisted nightmares of brutal killings became the new yellow—the giallo film. But before referring to a genre of graphic Italian horror films, giallo, the Italian word for yellow, was used to describe a genre of paperback mystery novels with bright yellow spines and covers introduced by the Milanese publishing house Mondadori in 1929.1 Most of the stories were translations of English whodunits and hardboiled detective novels, including work by Edgar Allan Poe, Sir Arthur Conan Doyle, and Agatha Christie 2 , with translations of Edgar Wallace novels appearing to be some of the most popular during the 1930s and 1940s.3 Despite the fact some critics, such as Alberto Savino, believed that mysteries were “unnatural” and “foreign” to Italian culture, these novels managed to inspire not only an Italian literary tradition with authors such as Giorgio Scerbanenco, Andrea Camilleri, and Carlo Lucarelli 4, but also some of the most terrifying and visually striking films to come out of Italy during the 1960s and 1970s. Gialli frequently cross generic boundaries of crime films, horror movies, and thrillers, and therefore may be more appropriately considered filone, as they are by many Italian critics, rather than part of a genre.5 Meaning large thread, the term filone is used to indicate a looser collection of similar themes and styles.6 Gialli can be more generally related to each other in this way, and thus a film like Dario Argento’s Suspiria (1977) can be called giallo despite its greater resemblance to the supernatural horror thriller. For the most part, however, gialli do have underlining similarities. They can be characterized by their spectacular visual richness, displaying “set pieces” (as some critics call them7) of brutal murder orchestrated with symphonies of gushing bright red-orange blood and musical horror that grips the heart of its viewers and rips their sanity from their chests. The murderous maestro is more often than not an elusive, traumatized mental 23


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case in black leather or latex gloves and a suspicious trench coat. The killer also almost always manages to stay one step ahead of the amateur pursuers, and the victim is almost guaranteed to be a woman whose murder is executed with the intimacy of a romance but with all the finesse of a demented butcher wielding a hatchet. According to Peter Bondanella, “…the world of the giallo is one of cynicism, greed, sexual depravity, and violence: everyone, not just the murderer, has something to hide”. 8 Although a formulaic structure is generally present, the narrative plotting is fairly loose, frequently bordering on a lack of rational sense. Gialli privilege dramatic visuals and music over narrative logic, which arguably is what makes them so memorable. A few great directors associated with the giallo filone include Mario Bava, Dario Argento, and Lucio Fulci. Just as the look is iconic, the sound is vicious and cutthroat. Music has a strong presence—a horrifying compliment to the disturbing imagery. Giallo scores tend to be a whirlwind of repeated motifs that may tread dangerously on the boundary between diegetic and nondiegetic. The music also accompanies the sounds of the murders themselves, which linger in a suspended romance between stabbing knives, choking, and screams of abject fear. Anne Billson describes the giallo sound as “typically an intoxicating mix of groovy lounge music, nerve-jangling discord, and the sort of soothing lyricism that belies the fact that it’s actually accompanying, say, a slow motion decapitation” (Billson, “Violence, mystery, and magic: how to spot a giallo movie”).9 Many of these characteristics are present in the film music for Dario Argento’s Profondo Rosso (1975), written by the progressive rock band Goblin and jazz pianist and composer Giorgio Gaslini. Profondo Rosso exhibits many of the classic giallo narrative tropes with an enthralling score; Goblin’s music is a vortex of repetitive themes and leitmotifs that flow deceptively between the realm of diegetic and nondiegetic. The score frequently combines strange rhythms, atonal colouring, and electronic sound effects that provoke a very corporeal engagement with the film. For the most part, the music is saved for parts of extravagant violence with long sections of silence in between, and rather than enhancing the image subtly, the music charges head-on with the image into the foreground during almost every one of the most dramatic moments. This essay will focus mainly on Profondo Rosso as a giallo (thematically and musically), but will also briefly touch upon Goblin’s musical contribution to Argento’s Suspiria and Tenebrae (1982). After Profondo Rosso, Goblin scored Argento’s Suspiria in which they create a terrifying musical experience with an even simpler, but 24


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possibly more effectively fear-inducing, soundtrack than their previous effort. Goblin also worked on a number of horror films, such as the Italian versions of George A. Romero’s Dawn of the Dead (1978) and a list of B-Movies both in Italy and in the United States.10 [“Furthermore,”] they composed the score for Tenebrae (but they were not credited as Goblin due to contract issues), and Phenomena (1985) along with Bill Wyman, Motörhead, Iron Maiden, and Andi Sex Gang from The Sex Gang Children.11 Other notable giallo composers include Ennio Morricone, who scored Argento’s The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970), and Bruno Nicolai, who scored Emilio Miraglia’s The Red Queen Kills Seven Times (1972). Some historians see a number of early Italian mystery and crime films as antecedents of the giallo film, such as Guido Brignone’s Corte d’Assise (1930), Nunzio Malasomma’s L’uomo dall’artiglio (1931), and Mario Camerini’s Giallo (1933), while others credit Luchino Visconti’s neorealist classic Ossessione (1942) as having started the giallo filone.12 Despite this, Mario Bava is unofficially credited as the director who brought giallo’s violent eroticism to film with The Girl Who Knew Too Much (1963) and Blood and Black Lace (1964).13 Having begun his career as a cinematographer and special effects artist in the department of the Istituto LUCE before turning to directing, Bava’s first gialli introduced many of the traits that would become associated with giallo, such as the amateur investigator, red herrings, the killer’s disguise, and brutal acts of murder against women.14 However, unlike Argento’s gialli and the majority of others that followed, Bava’s first giallo, The Girl Who Knew Too Much, looks and sounds more like a traditional Hollywood film noir. It is shot in black and white, makes use of chiaroscuro lighting, and the music by Roberto Nicolosi sounds more like smoky lounge jazz than Italian horror. Blood and Black Lace, on the other hand, looks much more like the gialli to follow. Shot in lavish Technicolor, the film features music by Carlo Rustichelli, which will contribute to the creeping suspense, but without the intense atonal quality prevalent in later gialli. Bava may have brought giallo literature to the screen, but Dario Argento added a graphic and operatic touch that really pushed the giallo filone forward in the 1970s. Visually, the films’ baroque sets and overthe-top colour palette display some of the most beautiful scenes of bodily destruction. In addition, musical collaborations between Argento, Ennio Morricone, and Goblin would also push and define the giallo sound. According to the documentary Dario Argento: An Eye For Horror (2004), 25


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Argento had a strong appreciation for visually striking imagery and he admired Sergio Leone for this reason. It was Leone who gave Argento his first opportunity to write for movies. Argento co-wrote Leone’s Once Upon a Time in the West (1968) with Bernardo Bertollucci, and this experience inspired Argento to start writing films of his own. His first giallo thriller and commercial success was The Bird with the Crystal Plumage (1970). Argento chose Morricone to score the film, and the resulting music would help define the giallo sound. Morricone was also writing music with Gruppo di Improvvisazione Nuova Consonanza that formed in 1964, which was an experimental music group at the forefront of European modern music based around him, Franco Evangelisti, and Egisto Macchi.15 Morricone’s score for Argento can be described as experimental atonal jazz with haunting disembodied vocals (including frequent collaborations with famous Italian singer Edda Dell’Orso), hard rhythms, and twinkling notes that add a haunting dream-like feel. Combining elements of classical music, jazz, and rock with an atonal edge, the score is reminiscent of future gialli scores. According to John Bender in Morricone: The Thriller Collection (1992), “[T]he giallos [sic] provided [Morricone] with an enhanced psychosexual canvas upon which he could paint some of the boldest concepts of his career.16 Morricone also scored Argento’s Cat O’ Nine Tails (1971) and Four Flies on Grey Velvet (1971). Goblin would then continue to push musical boundaries when they team up with Argento on Profondo Rosso. Argento’s next 1975 giallo, Profondo Rosso, is a classic example of the narrative formula that was present in earlier films, such as The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. First, the plot repeats the trope of the amateur detective. A British pianist named Marcus Daly (David Hemmings i) witnesses the murder of a German psychic named Helga Ulman (Macha Méril), who heard the demented thoughts of her murderer during a psychic demonstration. While returning home one night, Marcus meets up with his drunk best friend Carlo (Gabriel Lavia) in a piazza by the Blue Bar. A blood-curdling scream interrupts their conversation, and Marcus looks up to see Helga being pushed through a window by a killer with a cleaver. Marcus runs up to her apartment, but finds her dead with glass impaled into her throat. The police are called and begin their investigation. Marcus becomes obsessed with the idea that he has seen something important—a painting he believes disappeared from the wall. He then takes it upon i

David Hemmings also plays a similar role in Antonioni’s Blow-Up (1966).

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himself to solve the crime, calling it a personal challenge. He meddles in the murderous affair with the help of a strong-willed journalist, Gianna Brezzi (Daria Nicolodi). Fundamentally, the plot revolves around an elusive, traumatized killer in the classic disguise. The film opens with a flashback to a Christmas stabbing: A bloody knife is thrown at the feet of a child, and the sound of a creepy lullaby accompanies the whole scene. Later, it is revealed that the child was Carlo and that he had witnessed his mentally unstable mother kill his father who wanted her to get psychiatric help. The film thus plays out like a Freudian nightmare, filled with the trauma of youth and the resulting distress in adulthood. Moreover, the killer’s identity is left undisclosed until the end when Marta, Carlo’s mother, reveals herself as the mental case in a brown trench coat and black leather gloves. Also, as is typical of the genre, Marcus is led down a trail of red herrings. He is first driven by an obsession with a missing painting that turns out to be a mirror that reflected the face of the murderer. Marcus is then led astray after a visit to an old villa where he uncovers a disturbing mural of a murder drawn by a child beneath the drywall. He assumes the murderer must be the artist, and he eventually finds out Carlo drew the picture. Carlo becomes the accused and he dies a nervous, but ultimately innocent, wreck. Marcus realises that something is amiss, and in a final encounter with the true knife-wielding maniac, Marta reveals herself to Marcus as the murderer, and she dies in a final set piece of elevatorinduced decapitation. Moreover, the baroque sets, bright colour palette, innovative camera work and point of view shots in Profondo Rosso prove an important feature of the giallo film. Argento had a reconstruction of Edward Hopper’s Nighthawks painting made for the Blue Bar in the film, and there is also a stunning art nouveau villa known as the House of the Screaming Child in the film that stands as an ominous reminder of past trauma.17 Furthermore, the murders themselves are staged like elaborate set pieces that prolong the agony of each elaborate death. Helga’s murder, for example, features her being attacked with a cleaver and thrown to the floor before being smashed through a window. Her neck is stabbed into the jagged pane of glass, and the killer leaves her hanging out the window like a severed head on a spike placed over the ramparts of a medieval castle. Her death lasts about seven minutes alone from the moment she hears a lullaby play to when she dies at the window. Instead of simply hearing her scream and finding her dead later, we are given close ups of 27


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bright gushing blood, the cleaver breaking skin, and glass piercing her throat. The death is a show in itself, and an example of what Isabel Pinedo describes in the postmodern horror film context as the “spectacle of the wet death,” which is the presentation of the violent deconstruction of the body for entertainment.18 In addition, the death of Amanda Righetti is one of the most elaborate violent set pieces in the film. Her murder is unexpectedly executed and combines the theme of childhood trauma with brutal murder. Lasting just under seven minutes from the moment she encounters a doll hanging from the ceiling by a tiny noose to when she finally dies in the bathroom, her murder feels prolonged and tense as the lights go off one by one in her house and a bird flies towards her in the dark (unexplained like the wild birds in Hitchcock’s The Birds [1963]ii). Finally the killer emerges from the shadows, and Amanda is beaten and then has her face boiled in her bathtub. In her final moments, she tries to write the killer’s name in the condensation on the bathtub tiles—the moment lingers until her finger falls with a final squeak. While an atypical way to be killed, it is incredibly effective on film. In An Eye For Horror, it was explained that Argento sought for more creative and perhaps relatable ways to kill off his characters. Not everyone knows what it feels like to be stabbed, but most have burned himself/herself on hot water. The same principle was applied to Professor Giordani’s death. He is first assaulted by a horrible doll on wheels and then has his face smashed against sharp furniture corners before being stabbed through the back of his neck. Once again, if the viewers cannot relate to being stabbed, surely they have accidentally bumped into a sharp corner before. Argento grips his viewers’ attention through displays of murders in suspended time, prolonging the agony juxtaposed with the bright visual beauty of these romantic deaths. Lastly, the film frequently employs a very mobile camera, interesting zoom shots, close ups, and point of view shots from the perspective of the killer. One of the most visually poetic uses of mobile camera and point of view shot is at the film’s beginning. Embodying the ii Argento is often called the “Italian Hitchcock” and, like the English director, he also had his own television series, An Eye For Horror (Mitchell, 94). There are also several nods to Hitchcock’s films, such as close ups of drains in Profondo Rosso that are reminiscent of the famous Psycho (1960) shower scene. Despite the similarities, Argento’s style is not Hitchcock’s. In 1988, Argento said, “Hitchcock… is…more refined. Too refined…I’m not stingy with effects, whereas he’s lean and rigorous. With music… he uses it as a background…which at a certain point comes to the fore, whereas I use it in a much more robust way” (Mitchell, 94).

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perspective of the killer as it moves into an auditorium where a psychic demonstration is taking place, the camera eventually moves out of the auditorium as it embodies the killer getting up from her seat and walking out and toward a sink with a dirty mirror that fogs out her reflection. This type of unclaimed point of view shot that allows us to see through the eyes of the killer is what Carol Clover describes as the “I-Camera” in reference to later slasher films, such as John Carpenter’s Halloween (1978), which was heavily influenced by Argento’s gialli.19 Furthermore, there is a liberal use of zoom shots, such as when Carlo and Marcus hear Helga scream there is a quick zoom-out into an extreme long shot that accompanies the expansive, echoing cry. Additionally, a beautiful combination of close ups and mobile camera appears when the camera pans over small toys and knives on a black table, ending on an extreme close up of the killer’s eye being lined in black. Overall, Profondo Rosso is an enchanting giallo film with its elaborate sets, intriguing camerawork, and disturbingly bloody encounters. Profondo Rosso is not only visually striking, but also musically remarkable. Jazz composer Giorgio Gaslini was originally hired to write the score, but according to Goblin keyboardist Claudio Simonetti, they had begun recording, but Argento said, “I want something more rock in the film,” and thus sought out collaboration with bands such as Pink Floyd and Deep Purple.20 Gaslini left the film and Argento ultimately hired Goblin, who at the time was writing a record titled “Cherry 5” under the band name Oliver (not Cherry 5 like the record said).21 Simonetti explained in An Eye For Horror that much of the music was written before the film was shot and Argento would then play the music on set to inspire the right mood for shooting. Goblin’s music is essential to the creation of Profondo Rosso’s atmosphere, and it not only provokes fear in viewers, but it also inspired fear in the actors before even a frame was captured on celluloid. The score is truly captivating. According to Maitland McDonagh, “[u]nlike Moricone’s score for the first three films, which are designed to act as straightforward (if ironic) counterpoint to the images, Goblin’s compositions are an integral part of the unpredictable diegesis…”.22 The band’s repetitive themes, strange sounds, and progressive rock beats are visceral, taking the foreground with the image during the most dramatic moments, with some themes also acting as a leitmotif for bodily harm. Most of the silence in the film occurs during the calmer moments in between murders, such as when Marcus and Gianna are arm wrestling in 29


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his apartment or arguing in her rundown car. Aaron Smuts notes “Goblin’s accompaniment… [serves] as a transition device into horrific excess characteristic of Argento’s films”.23 This is true since most of the greatest moments of death and panic are met with Goblin’s sporadic drumbeats and musical chaos iii after long moments of musical absence. The music cannot be ignored, and it charges in full blast from the silence and crashes into the image to form a tragic opera of sonic and visual excess. Gabrielle Lucantino separates the music in Profondo Rosso into seven events on page 39-40 of his book Profondo Rock: 1) Jazz band music played by the protagonist, Marcus, that is used simply to characterize him as a good jazz pianist. 2) Giorgio Gaslini’s haunting lullaby “School At Night” that accompanies the murderous flashback as well as present killings. Played from a cassette tape, the lullaby prepares the murderer to kill, the victim to be killed, and the spectators who await the bloody spectacle. 3) Nondiegetic accompaniment, like an orchestra just outside the screen, such as the song “Gianna” that underlines moments between Marcus and Gianna like a leitmotif for their blossoming relationship. 4) Goblin’s songs “Mad Puppet” and “Death Dies.” The former aggressively enhances the violent imagery on screen, while the latter accompanies Marcus on his investigations. 5) Goblin’s “Profondo Rosso,” with its obsessively repetitive melodies, is used for the opening titles and the end credits, as well as during parts closely related to homicide in the film. 6) “Wild Session” performed by Goblin, but written by Giorgio Gaslini that evokes homicidal violence. For example, it is heard when Helga hears the killer’s thoughts in the auditorium at the beginning of the film. 7) Giorgio Gaslini’s “Deep Shadows,” performed by Goblin, is linked to the past, and is heard when Marcus discovered the sealed room of the villa. It is apparent that the film makes frequent use of leitmotifs through several recurring themes. First, there is the child’s lullaby that the killer plays ominously on a handheld cassette player before every crime. Professor Giordani intuitively calls it the leitmotif of the crimes in the film. The theme’s combination of childhood innocence and murderous insanity makes it very effective in building the tension before each morbid set piece. Often introduced by a close up of the cassette player being switched on by the killer’s gloved hand, the lullaby also calls back to the original murder shown during the film’s opening credits in which the shadow of a grisly

iii

See Appendix Fig. 1 for a tracklist of the soundtrack album reissue released by Cinevox in 2005.

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stabbing is cast against a wall to the tune of the lullaby. Then there is also the song “Mad Puppet” that comes on when the murderer actually kills. Upbeat with hammering notes, it charges through the scenes of violent death with nervous immediacy. As such, it plays while the murderer, Marta, kills Helga, Amanda, and Professor Giordani. However, when Marta tries to kill Marcus at the end, no music plays, perhaps as a subtle hint that everything will turn out okay since previous moments of calm or playfulness in the film were often shown without music. “Death Dies,” a ‘sleuthing piece’ played during times of investigation, is characterised by a repetitive bass riff. It follows Marcus when he first explores the villa and when he explores the Leonardo da Vinci School with Gianna. Finally, the main theme of Profondo Rosso is often related to objects of the killer’s trauma, such as when the camera pans over objects of childhood and murder in a flowing visual scene shown twice with variation in the film, and when Marcus finds the child’s mural that fossilizes the moment of past trauma in the villa. In addition to the use of leitmotif, Profondo Rosso’s music often treads within the wilds between diegetic and nondiegetic. The film does this most notably with the child’s lullaby. First heard as nondiegetic music in the initial murder sequence during the opening credits of the film, Helga’s murder introduces the piece again, but this time from a hidden source. A German psychic who is capable of hearing thoughts and seeing things the moment they occur, Helga begins screaming and swaying wildly. Claiming to be hearing the murderous thoughts of the killer, she also seems to hear the sick lullaby that must have been swirling through the killer’s demented brain. Once in her apartment, Helga hears the lullaby once more. Accompanied by several low-angle close ups of a quarter of her face, alternating with eye-line matches of part of her room, her eye looks around suspiciously as she listens. In this moment, it could be assumed that the lullaby is what Claudia Gorbman would call “metadiegetic” (i.e. music from the subjective perspective of a character), since Helga has claimed to have heard the song in her head before, so perhaps she is hearing it in her mind again, and now the viewers are given access to what she hears mentally.24 However, when the killer later attempts to murder Marcus, the viewers are given a quick close up of a cassette tape player, sourcing the lullaby from within the diegesis. Shortly after, Marcus is seen leaving a record store with a vinyl of the lullaby as it plays over the scene nondiegetically. Quickly switching to diegetic again, the lullaby continues to play over a cut to a close up of a record player in Professor Giordani’s 31


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office. The lullaby cuts out when Giordani lifts the needle off of the record. A final switch of perception occurs with the lullaby when Marta motivates a flashback to the day she killed her husband in front of the young eyes of her son Carlo. Here, the opening murder is shown from a different perspective. The stabbing is visible in all its horror right after Carlo plays a record of the lullaby next to the family Christmas tree. This means that the assumed nondiegetic lullaby that played during the opening flashback was actually coming from an off-screen diegetic source. Moreover, this play with aural perception mirrors the giallo’s theme of concealed vision. Foggy mirrors, mirrors mistaken for paintings, and dark shadows that conceal all except for perhaps the eye of the killer in Amanda’s closet, are examples of moments of deceptive/concealed vision. Nothing is ever what it seems in the giallo world, and the same sentiment extends to the music. After Profondo Rosso, Argento teamed up again with Goblin to make Suspiria. Although not a typical giallo, Goblin’s score is definitely worth a mention. Moving away from the typical giallo themes, the film instead indulges a fantastical nightmare in which characters convulse within the bright colours and twisted, expressionistic sets of this supernatural horror-fairy-tale extravaganza. The story of a young American ballet dancer named Suzy Bannion (Jessica Harper) attending a German dance school controlled by a secret coven of witches, is embellished by strange happenings, brutal murders, and Goblin’s chilling compositions. Simonetti said, “the real Goblin sound is in Suspiria”.25 Through a simple soundtrack of hoarse whispers, screeches, howling, and electronic dissonance, the film is elevated, transformed into a terrifying fairy-tale akin to nightmares of the most garishly masochistic variety. Suspiria is one long nervous breakdown with clawing music and bewitching themes. Philip Brophy describes the music in Suspiria as a “hysterical unleashing of noise in libidinal, psychological, and overall mind-bending modes…typically relentless, scathing and excessive”.26 Like Profondo Rosso, Suspiria’s soundtrack plays within the realm between diegetic and nondiegetic— that mystical uncharted territory Robynn Stilwell would refer to as the “fantastical gap”27— by combining off-screen sounds to the sonic chaos that is the nondiegetic music.28 Furthermore, the main theme becomes a leitmotif for witchcraft and the occult, while enhancing the mental anguish of characters with the musical madness. Overall, the score’s excess perhaps succeeds Profondo Rosso’s, expanding onto some of 32


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the more jarring themes of discordant whispers and pained whines and turning them into their own sonic centrepieces in Suspiria iv. The opening theme is particularly powerful with its repetitive combination of hoarse vocals, chilling twinkling note progressions, and ominous drumming that brings to mind the image of a witchy pagan ritual. Furthermore, Dale Pierce notes that the melody is a “twisted version of the old children’s church song ‘Jesus loves me, this I know. For the Bible tells me so’… creating subliminal messages within the brains of the viewers and making them aware of ‘something evil’ in the dancehall, even before the killings and satanic rituals start…” 29. The music takes on its own ominous presence, so horrifyingly corporeal in itself that it feels ready to jump out and stab you in the heart. Argento returned to the giallo filone with Tenebrae (1982), but Goblin’s contribution to the score is very different from Profondo Rosso and Suspiria. Goblin had disbanded in 1980, leaving Argento to ask only three Goblin members, Claudio Simonetti, Fabio Pignatelli, and Massimo Morante, to work on Tenebrae.30 Furthermore, Simonetti was experimenting with dance music at the time, which led to a synthesizerdriven, electronic-rock score with a bit of disco thrown in for good measure.31 Tony Mitchell refers to the score as “turgid and bombastic pomp rock, with Simonetti’s organ effects dominating, while the other tracks provide inconsequential atmospheric effects”.32 Tenebrae’s theme is a completely different beast compared to Suspiria’s theme, for example, Suspiria’s theme could probably turn a depiction of a pleasant seaside picnic into a suspenseful, twisted and tortured Winnie-the-Pooh-meetsHannibal-Lecter story just on its own merit alone. Perhaps Tenebrae’s theme does sound a bit campier than the other scores, but the film itself does not disappoint in the blood and gore department. Finally, Argento’s films were inspired by his nightmares. He would write down his pained dreams and they would become his scripts. His devilishly clever imagination gave cinematic life to truly creative depictions of death and violent bodily destruction. His strikingly vivid imagery and luxurious colour palette like smooth blood-red velvet took the themes and iconography from the Italian giallo literary tradition that Mario Bava brought to the screen and enhanced them into romantic iv In Profondo Rosso, hellish compilations of pained whines and echoed whispers can be heard accompanying a long shot of Marcus researching in the library and before Amanda is confronted by the killer in her home.

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nightmares with operatic grandeur. Profondo Rosso stands as his giallo masterpiece, and its gorgeously disturbing imagery is met by Goblin’s aggressive sonic chaos—whirlwinds of repetitive electronic melodies, sporadic rhythms, and atonal mayhem charge to the forefront with the visual violence, while toying with viewers from the shadows of diegetic and nondiegetic. The music has a life of its own, and it will not stop until the victim is pushing up yellow daisies.

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APPENDIX Fig. 1 Track List: Goblin, Profondo Rosso as listed on the Album Reissue (2001): A1 “Profondo Rosso” A2 “Death Dies” A3 “Mad Puppet” B1 “Wild Session” B2 “Deep Shadows” B3 “School at Night” B4 “Gianna” Album Credits: Giorgio Gaslini composed and orchestrated tracks B1 to B4, Goblin composed and performed tracks A1 to A3, and Giorgio Gaslini conducted tracks A3 to B4.

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1 Peter E. Bondanella, “Mystery, Gore, and Mayhem: The Italian Giallo.” In A History of Italian Cinema. (New York City, NY: Continuum International Pub. Group, 2009), 372. 2 Ibidem, 372. 3 Michael J. Koven, La Dolce Morte: Vernacular Cinema and the Italian Giallo Film. (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 2006), 2. 4 Bondanella, 373. 5 Koven, 5. 6 Bondanella, 374. 7 Bondanella, 375. 8 Ibidem, 375. 9 Anne Billson, “Violence, Mystery and Magic: How to Spot a Giallo Movie.” The Daily Telegraph (London, U.K.), October 14, 2013. 10 Tony Mitchell, “Prog Rock, the Horror Film and Sonic Excess: Dario Argento, Morricone and Goblin.” In Terror Tracks: Music, Sound and Horror Cinema. Edited by Philip Hayward. (London, England: Equinox, 2009), 97. 11 Ibidem, 97. 12 Koven, 3. 13 Koven, 3. 14 Gino Moliterno, The A to Z of Italian Cinema. (Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 2009), 25. 15 Franco Fabbri and Goffredo Plastino, Made in Italy: Studies in Popular Music. (New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2014), 221. 16 Mitchell, 91. 17 Bondanella, 385. 18 Isabel Cristina Pinedo, “The Pleasure of Seeing/Not-Seeing the Spectacle of the Wet Death.” In Recreational Terror: Women and the Pleasures of Horror Film Viewing. (Albany, NY: State University of New York, 1997), 51. 19 Carol J. Clover, “Her Body, Himself.” In Men, Women, and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. (Princeton, NJ: Princeton University Press, 1992), 45. 20 Mat Colegate, “Claudio With A Chance Of Pain: Simonetti On Profondo Rosso.” The Quietus (London, UK), January 17, 2013. 21 Ibidem, “Claudio With A Chance Of Pain”. 22 Maitland McDonagh, Broken Mirrors/Broken Minds: The Dark Dreams of Dario Argento. (Secaucus, NJ: Carol Publication Group, 1994), 32. 23 Mitchell, 93. 36


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24 Claudia Gorbman. “Narratological Perspectives on Film Music.” In Unheard Melodies. (London, England: BFI Publications, 1987), 22. 25 Colegate, “Claudio With A Chance Of Pain”. 26 Mitchell, 95. 27 Robynn J.Stillwell, “The Fantastical Gap between Diegetic and Nondiegetic.” In Beyond the Soundtrack. Edited by Daniel Goldmark, Lawrence Kramer, and Richard Leppert. (Berkeley, CA:University of California Press, 2007), 185. 28 Mitchell, 93. 29 Mitchell, 95. 30 Gabrielle Lucantonio, Profondo Rock: Claudio Simonetti tra Cinema e Musica da Profondo Rosso a La Terza Madre. (Rome, Italy: Coniglio Editore, 2007), 91. 31 Ibidem, 91. 32 Mitchell, 97.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY Billson, Anne. Violence, Mystery and Magic: How to Spot a Giallo Movie. The Telegraph: Telegraph Media Group, October 14, 2013, accessed December 9, 2015, http://www.telegraph. co.uk/culture/film/10377468/Violence-mystery-and-magic-howto-spot-a-giallo-movie.html. The Birds. Digital. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Performed by Rod Taylor, Tippi Hedren, and Suzanne Pleshette.1963. USA: Universal Pictures, 2001. DVD. The Bird with the Crystal Plumage. Digital. Directed by Dario Argento. Performed by Tony Musante, Suzy Kendall, and Enrico Maria. 1970. Italy: Central Cinema Company Film, 2009. Blu-ray. Blood and Black Lace. Digital. Directed by Mario Bava. Performed by Cameron Mitchell, Eva Bartock, and Thomas Reiner. 1964. Italy: Emmepi Cinematografica, 2000. DVD. Blow-Up. Digital. Directed by Michelangelo Antonioni. Performed by David Hemmings, Vanessa Redgrave, and Sarah Miles. 1966. UK, Italy, USA: Bridge Films, 2004. DVD. Bondanella, Peter E. “Mystery, Gore, and Mayhem: The Italian Giallo.” In A History of Italian Cinema. New York: Continuum International Pub. Group, 2009. 372-415. Cat O’ Nine Tails. Digital. Directed by Dario Argento. Performed by James Franciscus, Karl Malden, and Catherine Spaak. 1971. Italy: Seda Spettacoli, 2001. DVD. Clover, Carol J. “Her Body, Himself.” In Men, Women, and Chain Saws: Gender in the Modern Horror Film. Princeton, NJ: Princeton UP, 1992. 21-63.

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Colegate, Mat. Claudio With A Chance Of Pain: Simonetti On Profondo Rosso. The Quietus, January 17, 2015, accessed December 9 2015. http://thequietus.com/articles/17023-claudio-simonettiinterview. Corte d’Assise. Film. Directed by Guido Brignone. Performed by Marcella Albani, Lia Franca, Carlo Ninchi. 1930. Italy: Società Italiana Cines. [No DVD] Dario Argento: An Eye for Horror. TV. Directed by Leon Ferguson. Performed by Dario Argento, George A. Romero, John Carpenter, Michael Brandon, and Asia Argento. Independent Film Channel: 2004. Dawn of the Dead. Digital. Directed by George A. Romero. Performed by David Emge, Ken Foree, and Scott H. Reiniger. 1978. Italy, USA: Laurel Group, 2004. DVD. Fabbri, Franco, and Goffredo Plastino. Made in Italy: Studies in Popular Music. New York: Routledge, Taylor & Francis Group, 2014. Four Flies on Grey Velvet. Digital. Directed by Dario Argento. Performed by Michael Brandon, Mimsy Farmer, and Jean-Pierre Marielle. 1971. Italy: Marianne Productions, 2009. DVD. Giallo. Film. Directed by Mario Camerini. Performed by Assia Noris, Sandro Ruffini, and Elio Steiner. 1933. Italy: Società Anonima Stefano Pittaluga. [No DVD] The Girl Who Knew Too Much. Digital. Directed by Mario Bava. Performed by Letícia Román,John Saxon, and Valentina Cortese. 1963. Italy: Galatea Film, 2000. DVD. Gorbman, Claudia. “Narratological Perspectives on Film Music.” In Unheard Melodies. London: BFI, 1987. 11-30. Inferno. Digital. Directed by Dario Argento. Performed by Leigh McCloskey, Irene Miracle, and Eleonora Giorgi. 1980. Italy: Produzioni Intersound, 2007. DVD. 39


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Koven, Michael J. La Dolce Morte: Vernacullar Cinema and the Italian Giallo Film. Lanham, Maryland: Scarecrow, 2006. Lucantonio, Gabrielle. Profondo Rock: Claudio Simonetti tra Cinema e Musica da Profondo Rosso a La Terza Madre. Rome: Coniglio, 2007. Lucantonio, Gabrielle. “Sempre Nuovi Orizzonti Sonori La Musica.” In Argento Vivo. Edited by Vito Zagarrio. Venice: Marsilio Editori, 2008. 215-23. McDonagh, Maitland. Broken Mirrors/Broken Minds: The Dark Dreams of Dario Argento. Secaucus, NJ: Carol Pub. Group, 1994. Mitchell, Tony. “Prog Rock, the Horror Film and Sonic Excess: Dario Argento, Morricone and Goblin.” In Terror Tracks: Music, Sound and Horror Cinema. Edited by Philip Hayward. London, England: UK: Equinox, 2009. 88-100. Moliterno, Gino. The A to Z of Italian Cinema. Lanham, MD: Scarecrow, 2009. Once Upon a Time in the West. Digital. Directed by Sergio Leone. Performed by Henry Fonda, Charles Bronson, and Claudia Cardinale. 1968. Italy: Rafran Cinematografica, 2003. DVD. Ossessione. Digital. Directed by Luchino Visconti. Performed by Massimo Girotti, Clara Calamai, and Dhia Cristiani. 1942. Italy: Industrie Cinematografiche Italiane, 2002. DVD. Phenomena. Digital. Directed by Dario Argento. Performed by Jennifer Connelly, Donald Pleasence, Daria Nicolodi. 1985. Italy: DACFILM, 2005. DVD. Pinedo, Isabel Cristina. “The Pleasure of Seeing/Not-Seeing the Spectacle of the Wet Death.” In Recreational Terror: Women and the Pleasures of Horror Film Viewing. Albany, NY: State U of New York, 1997. 51-143. 40


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Profondo Rosso. Digital. Directed by Dario Argento. Performed by David Hemmings, Daria Nicolodi, and Gabriele Lavia. 1975. Italy: Incir De Paolis Studios, 2011. DVD. Psycho. Digital. Directed by Alfred Hitchcock. Performed by Anthony Perkins, Janet Leigh, and Vera Miles. 1960. USA: Shamley Productions, 2008. DVD. The Red Queen Kills Seven Times. Digital. Directed by Emilio Miraglia. Performed by Barbara Bouchet, Ugo Pagliai, and Marina Malfatti. 1972. Italy: Phoenix Cinematografica, 2006. DVD. Simonetti, Claudio, Fabio Pignatelli, Massimo Morante, Agostino Marangolo, and Maurizio Guarini. Profondo Rosso Reissue. Goblin. © 2001 Cinevox Records. Vinyl. Stilwell, Robynn J., “The Fantastical Gap between Diegetic and Nondiegetic.” In Beyond the Soundtrack. Edited by Daniel Goldmark, Lawrence Kramer, and Richard Leppert. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007. 184-202. L’uomo dall’artiglio. Film. Directed by Nunzio Malasomma. Performed by Dria Paola, Carlo Fontana, and Elio Steiner. 1931. Italy: Cines Studios. [No DVD] Suspiria. Digital. Directed by Dario Argento. Performed by Jessica Harper, Stefania Casini, Flavio Bucci. 1977. Italy: Seda Spettacoli, 2001. DVD. Tenebrae. Digital. Directed by Dario Argento. Performed by Anthony Franciosa, Giuliano Gemma, and Christian Borromeo. 1982. Italy: Sigma Cinematografica Roma, 2015. Blu-ray.

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Christopher Nolan’s 2000 film Memento is a study into a simple question: what would happen if we could no longer form new memories? How would we function individually and in an environment? Memento follows Leonard Shelby, a man who can no longer form short-term memories, as he seeks revenge on the man who killed his wife in the same assault that impaired his memory. In order to investigate his environment, Leonard creates a system of text and photographs to supplant the contextual information usually accounted for by memory. Studying the system on its own, the viewer can see how the ambiguous nature of these mediums can lead to misinterpretations of reality; we can then see how Leonard takes advantage of the ambiguities in his system, manipulating his identity and isolating himself further into his own artificial reality. In presenting the film in a reverse-order episodic structure, the audience is able to share Leonard’s experience with his system and see how it allows Leonard’s reality to diverge from physical reality. Thus, Memento characterizes the complicated relationship between memory, identity and reality by exploring the communicative nature of these mediums through cinema. The System Because Leonard cannot retain short-term memories, he does not have any context into his own reality and how he got to a specific point in time. Without new memories, Leonard needs other forms of context to operate in a cause-and-effect reality.i So, Leonard uses tattoos and photographs to build a two-level system to represent his reality through a permanent set of facts making up his identity and reflections of his environment, respectively.ii,iii i Memory is context; without memory, we must resort to other sources of information to explain the environment. ii I define reality as how identity and environment interact with each other, particularly how a person perceives him or herself in an environment and how an environment affects a person’s identity. iii Rather than following the order the film introduces the mediums (photographs then tattoos), I want to study the system in the order Leonard experiences daily: tattoos first then, photographs utilized as reminders when needed.

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The first thing Leonard sees about himself, post accident, are his tattoos, purposely ordered so that his body becomes a map to understanding his identity. The first tattoo on his left hand, “remember Sammy Jankis,” utilizes a memory from before the accident so he understands the nature and limitations of his condition. Following his line of sight, Leonard finds “The Facts” tattooed along both his forearms, outlining the exact details of what he must be constantly looking for. Pulling off the rest of his clothes, Leonard finally sees the most important factor of his identity: “John G. raped and murdered my wife,” “find him and kill him.” These tattoos define Leonard’s ultimate purpose, shaping Leonard’s identity as the “investigator” whose actions and decisions are motivated by his goal for revenge and retribution. Leonard then sees the photographs, which are representations of the environment he inhabits. He takes a Polaroid camera with him as he investigates around town, using the images as evidence of relationships with specific external subjects. The nature of those relationships, though, is something he has to supplement with text in the Polaroid’s border. Leonard himself is able to change those captions as needed, and this flexibility reflects the contextual changes of everyday life. A salient example of this is Leonard’s use of photos when interacting with Teddy and Natalie: how Leonard views those relationships change as their treatment of him, whether they are helping or manipulating, evolve. iv For Leonard, this captures the reality he inhabits; by recording what he interprets on the polaroid, the images become accurate reflections of the world. As such, Leonard “navigate[s] the series of unconnected instants that constitute his experience of time by taking Polaroids” that record the context needed to further engage in his environment.1 The system operates on the assumption that these mediums are factually based and that facts can be trusted. Leonard follows his tattoos because of their permanency, trusting that the statements he selected to be inscribed on his body are facts.v He trusts the photographs because cameras objectively capture things as they are in reality, and he believes his captions are facts because he experienced them. 2 Leonard believes his system replaces memory through repetition, using tattoos to reinforce his identity, and a “reason to make [the system] work” while developing iv Given his condition, Leonard’s ‘definitions’ for relationships are largely whether or not he can trust the individual depicted. v Leonard reinforces his belief that the tattooed phrases are facts by defining them as such on his body.

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habits to ensure his Polaroids both represent the surface reality and account for new contextual information.vi,vii The system tells Leonard that he lives in a reality in which he is an investigator seeking his wife’s killer by collecting information from interactions in his environment. System Flaws Leonard believes his system works because “memory can change…and memories can be distorted. They’re just an interpretation… and they’re irrelevant if you have the facts.” 3 The problem with the system is that in believing that the facts must reflect reality, Leonard disregards the ambiguous nature of how facts communicated by the mediums of text and photography must still be interpreted subjectively. Leonard views the relationship between his tattoos and his identity as a reminder of his overall goal. Yet, not all the tattoos are about his identity. Following the bodily map, when Leonard takes off his shirt to see the tattoos on his torso, there are a number of upsidedown phrases that he can read before seeing his mission to kill John G. Those tattoos are instructions for the system, telling Leonard “condition yourself,” “memory is treachery,” and “[the] camera doesn’t lie,” pushing him to incorporate these messages into not only his system but his identity. Rather than Leonard’s body communicating only information, it becomes “[a] medium upon which a semi-random assemblage of disparate signs are inscribed in such a way that their reparability and contingency are foregrounded; their systematicity disseminated.” 4 The tattoos mix system and identity together; Leonard cannot separate his role as the objective investigator from his methodology of using only the objective. Thus Leonard faces circular logic: he only utilizes objective facts; therefore the facts he uses must be objective. Leonard does not question his body; he believes that there is no other interpretation other than the one he reads off his skin. Leonard assumes that the Polaroids he takes are factual because they are objective and are accompanied by facts he can trust as they are vi By using the system repeatedly, Leonard reinforces his faith in the system and ability to progress within his environment even without memory. vii Leonard justifies the system in Memento:“Sammy Jankis wrote himself endless notes. But he’d get mixed up… I’m disciplined and organized. I use habit and routine to make my life possible. Sammy had not drive. No reason to make it work.”

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in his handwriting. Yet, photos are “subject to shifting interpretations which complicate any transparent or mimetic relationship between photographs and their referents.” 5 Leonard’s photographs are meant to account for change, but because his captions are dependent on circumstances, that information “must first be perceived and interpreted before he can make use of it.” 6 Because Leonard cannot recall the context in which he derived his new captions, he risks misinterpreting his own captions. People can also manipulate Leonard’s captions, like when Natalie manipulates Leonard by removing his ability to write a new ‘fact’ under her image, thus controlling her own image in the photograph. Ultimately, the photographs cannot provide Leonard with all the information he requires, therefore he must make judgments based off of incomplete interpretations of the mediums. Since the mediums Leonard depends on for context in the place of memory also require context and interpretation, the reality Leonard inhabits is not the same as the physical reality. Instead, the system creates a reality within a reality. Leonard knows there is a reality beyond his mind; a motivating drive for his system is that he “[believes] in a world outside [his] own mind;” as Leonard himself says, “I have to believe that my actions still have meaning, even if I can’t remember them.” 7 Leonard confirms that he has a place in that reality because he has photographic evidence of his interactions with a world not limited by his memory. He also accepts that he has an identity motivating his relationships with the objects in the photos. Leonard assumes that his tattoos and pictures interact to provide a full representation of his reality, but the problem is that these mediums can only interact through an interpreter. Without his memory providing a consistent interpretation of the mediums, Leonard is free to choose which subjective readings of the tattoos, and Polaroids, to use. Additionally, how to connect his identity and his reality is at question. This system enables Leonard to go beyond interpreting situations, into selecting his connections with reality. Because the objective realities of the photographs, and the texts, do not necessarily match at face value, Leonard is able to live between the ‘gaps’ of the mediums, creating his own reality within a reality. The issue then is that Leonard utilizes the flaws of his system to further diverge his own reality from reality.

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System Dependency The black-and-white sequence in which Leonard describes his system and tattoos a new fact onto his body shows that Leonard is devoted to making the system work; this may be because “through compulsive collecting of tattoos, bodies, and pictures, Leonard thus reveals a sense of ontological fragility…” 8 As long as he is ‘collecting’ information for his system, Leonard can convince himself he is progressing in his reality, and is fulfilling his investigative identity. Yet, Leonard also subtracts information from his system, editing out things that undermine the validity of his system. This curation happens through denial, limitations in identity, and destruction of evidence.viii When Leonard burns the photograph of himself killing the real John G and then turns himself against Teddy by creating Fact 6, we come to understand how much Leonard himself can influence the system to change reality. The audience, with the ability to utilize memory, sees the impact this manipulation has on the future, but Leonard has no idea; no tattoo, or Polaroid, will indicate to Leonard that he has changed the facts. Instead, Leonard justifies this newfound reality to himself: “I’m not a killer. I’m just someone who wanted to make things right. Can’t I just let myself forget what you’ve told me? Will I lie to myself to be happy? In your case Teddy…yes I will.” 9 That is the flaw in the system: without his memory, Leonard is free to manipulate the mediums so they will tell him what he wants. Leonard’s biggest fear is that he will lose control of his system and find something that disproves his identity, as well as his understanding of his reality. In the end, to protect himself, Leonard will continue to subtract, adding only the photographs and tattoos that reinforce his identity and beliefs so that when “faced with the condition of his own limited vision…[he is] unable to comprehend the insecurities that lie beneath them, [and] he cannot imagine how he could have contributed to an alternative outcome.” 10 Only when Leonard has full control of his contextual environment will he fulfill his own reality and only that reality.

viii To save space, I will only discuss the destruction of evidence. Denial is utilized in Leonard’s relationship with Teddy and Natalie; limitations in identity is utilized in limiting how he chooses to remember his wife.

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Cinema as the intermedial experience of Leonard’s system The key to presenting Leonard’s system, with its flaws in regards to the ambiguity of text and photographs and the immense divergence between realities, was the cinematic use of a reverse-order episodic structure. By starting at the end of the story, the audience begins aligned with Leonard: Leonard has no memory of the events preceding him killing Teddy, and the audience has no context to understand Leonard’s situation. The audience is forced to engage with Leonard’s system to understand what is happening in the story; as the film falls in reverse, the audience must utilize Leonard’s tattoos and photographs, formulating interpretations under the assumption that they can trust the mediums because Leonard trusts them. Thus, the audience is only able to interface with Leonard’s reality; they associate Leonard with his detective identity — the one in which he is engaged in his environment to find John G and driven by the desire to avenge his dead wife. The only difference between the audience and Leonard is that the audience can retain information using their memory. As the film steps further back into Leonard’s effect-cause story, the audience sees not only the ambiguities of Leonard’s tattoos and photographs, but they also perceive information that undermines many predetermined aspects of Leonard’s reality. At first, the differences between Leonard’s reality and what the audience sees can be attributed to the inability of the tattoos and Polaroids to capture all aspects of Leonard’s environment; an example of this was when the audience watches Natalie manipulate Leonard by preventing him from updating his photograph from ‘trust her’ to ‘do not trust her.’ Yet, the audience still operates off the notion that Leonard, while mistaken about his environment, still retains his identity, and his mission driving him forward. However, venturing further into the film’s narrative, the audience sees Leonard curating his reality through subtractive methods, bringing doubt to even the nature of his identity. It is only by the climax of the film, or the beginning of Leonard’s story, that the audience is shown the true mechanism that spurred all the events in the film. Teddy completes the total divergence between the system’s reality and actual reality by presenting Leonard through a number of ambiguous truths that shatter his identity, and ix Teddy’s ‘truths’ suggests that it was Leonard who killed his wife, that Leonard had already killed John G, and that Leonard was no longer an investigator but, essentially, a killer.

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present the gravity of what manipulating the system enables him to do.ix Once the audience sees Leonard changing the facts, fully aware of its effects in that moment, they understand the full power of subjectivity in Leonard’s system of tattoos and photographs. The impact of discovering these things in reverse order is that the audience is given a thorough understanding of why Leonard chooses to utilize the system’s flaws the way he does. Leonard’s system operates to maintain a void; Leonard always has to be seeking something, which in this case is vengeance for his deceased wife. However, in order to fully engage with the void as a sensation, he needs to be actively pursuing things to fill the void. This phenomenon is why Leonard forms relationships with manipulative people such as Natalie and Teddy; he purposefully tells people about his condition repeatedly so he can be manipulated and used by someone else under the illusion that they will help him gain more information to solve the void. That is the paradox of Leonard’s system, and the audience can only understand that by seeing the consequences of Leonard’s decisions before the cause. The audience initially sees what Leonard wants to attain rather than what he does to attain the void’s space that he seeks to fill. Ultimately, no matter how Nolan decides to present the story, the flaws in Leonard’s system are going to become apparent for the audience because the audience can retain context in memory. Conversely, had the story been presented in the conventional linear cause-and-effect order, the audience’s perception of Leonard would have been only of the delusional man rather than the human; the audience’s focus would have been focused on how he warps his own system rather than his need for an identity, and a reality he is able to interpret and engage with. The audience’s ability to utilize their memory in piecing together Leonard’s life defines a totally different image of Leonard, “[driving] home the fact that how [the audience] [defines] [themselves] as human depends on [their] sense of time and [their] ability to retain memories.”11 In Memento, the functionality of Leonard’s system shows the complex relationship between memory, identity and reality. The audience sees that while Leonard’s system of ideas makes up for some of the problems of being unable to form short-term identities, neither photographs nor texts are enough to clearly explain everything about Leonard’s world and his relationship to it. Between misinterpretations and purposeful manipulations, the audience that neither photographs, nor texts, is able to communicate everything about a reality. The audience watches as Leonard, without his memory, is able to curate his own identity 49


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and reality, and while ultimately Leonard’s system succeeds in giving him control of his own reality, that reality only succeeds because it isolates Leonard from every other reality in which he is not who he wants to be. This system replaces the intermedial connection between identity and reality. Therefore, by structuring the film as reverse-order episodes, though, Nolan demonstrates the flaw of Leonard’s system and the ambiguities of photographs and text as communication devices, in addition to the magnitude of the divergence between reality and Leonard’s reality and the impact this dual existence has on Leonard as a human being.

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1 Adrian Gargett, “Nolan’s Memento, Memory, and Recognition,” Comparative Literature and Culture 4, no. 3 (2002): 7, doi: 10.7771/1481-4374.1163. 2 Andre Bazin, “The Ontology of the Photographic Image,” in What is Cinema? Volume 1 ed. and trans. Hugh Gray (Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005): 13. 3 Memento, directed by Christopher Nolan (2000; Culver City, CA: Columbia TriStar Home Video, 2001), DVD. 4 Patrick O’Donnell, “Henry James’s Memento,” The Henry James Review 30, no. 2 (2009): 126-127, doi: 10.1353/hjr.0.0042. 5 Rosalind Sibielski, “Postmodern Narrative or Narrative of the Postmodern? History, Identity, and the Failure of Rationality as an Ordering Principle in Memento,” Literature and Psychology 49, no. 4 (2004): 88. 6 John Levine, “Leonard’s System: Why Doesn’t It Work?,” in Memento, ed. Andrew Kania (New York: Routledge, 2009), 51. 7 Memento, Nolan. 8 William G. Little, “Surviving Memento,” Narrative 13, no. 1 (2005): 81, doi: 10.1353/nar.2005.0002. 9 Memento, Nolan. 10 Gargett, “Nolan’s Memento, Memory, and Recognition,” 7. 11 Jo Alyson Parker, “Remembering the Future: Memento, the Reverse of Time’s Arrow, and the Defects of Memory,” KronoScope 4, no. 2 (2004): 245, doi: 10.1163/1568524042801365.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY Bazin, Andre. “The Ontology of the Photographic Image.” In What is Cinema? Volume 1, edited and translated by Hugh Gray, 9-16. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005. Gargett, Adrian. “Nolan’s Memento, Memory, and Recognition.” CLCWeb: Comparative Literature and Culture 4, no. 3 (2002): 1-9. doi: 10.7771/1481-4374.1163. Levine, John. “Leonard’s System: Why Doesn’t It Work?” In Memento, edited by Andrew Kania, 45-64. New York: Routledge, 2009. Little, William G. “Surviving Memento.” Narrative 13, no. 1 (2005): 6783. doi: 10.1353/nar. 2005.0002. Memento. Directed by Christopher Nolan. 2000. Culver City, CA: Columbia TriStar Home Video, 2001. DVD. O’Donnell, Patrick. “Henry James’s Memento.” The Henry James Review 30, no. 2 (2009): 115-128. doi: 10.1353/hjr.0.0042. Parker, Jo Alyson. “Remembering the Future: Memento, the Reverse of Time’s Arrow, and the Defects of Memory.” KronoScope 4, no. 2 (2004): 239-257. doi: 10.1163/1568524042801365 Sibielski, Rosalind. “Postmodern Narrative or Narrative of the Postmodern? History, Identity, and the Failure of Rationality as an Ordering Principle in Memento.” Literature and Psychology 49, no. 4 (2004): 82-100.

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Introduction Television has undergone dramatic changes over the past two decades. 1 Swept up in this change has been the situation comedy, a generic fixture of the small screen whose emergence at the tail end of the 1940s coincided with the invention of the television itself. 2 Sitcoms have come a long way since the days of I Love Lucy (CBS, 1951-1957); in fact, postmodern experimentation has led to the development of new narrative languages of televisual comedy. 3 This essay will focus on contemporary sitcoms and their experimentations with traditional sitcom narration and temporality. Since nonlinearity and temporal distortion are two of the defining features of postmodern fiction, these ‘postmodern’ sitcoms embrace the vaudeville aesthetic of anarchistic comedy, utilizing cutaway gags and talking head segments to transgress classical conventions of the traditional sitcom genre.4 Such experimentations – as exemplified by Family Guy, Scrubs, Arrested Development, 30 Rock, The Office, and more – do not exist in a vacuum: As Melissa Ames argues, these temporal experimentations on TV may be “an aesthetic response to the cultural climate from which they derive.” 5 I will argue that the postmodern sitcom’s digressive, distracted style – heavily indebted to the anarchistic comedy tradition – is a visual analogue of our nanosecond culture, representational of multitasking in particular and the Internet Age in general. Narrative, Temporality, and the Conventions of Traditional Sitcoms In order to analyze the temporal transgressions of contemporary sitcoms, one must first direct attention to the norms and customs of traditional sitcoms. In his insightful book Sitcom: A History in 24 Episodes, author Saul Austerlitz observes that the traditional sitcom is a genre characterized by a paradoxical desire to both overturn the established order and preserve a sense of equilibrium.6 The traditional sitcom - and 55


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its prioritization of eternal repetition and sameness – did not begin in earnest until 1951, with Lucille Ball and real-life husband Desi Arnaz’s first foray into television: I Love Lucy. Lucy was the first sitcom to be shot on film before a studio audience, allowing Ball and Arnaz to perform for an energetic crowd while circumventing the technological setbacks of live broadcasts.7 Not wanting to fracture the studio audience’s experience by stopping to reset the camera, Arnaz conceived to shoot their show with three cameras simultaneously, and brought in cinematographer Karl Freund to design a lighting system that would allow long shots and close-ups to be shot in the same take. 8 This even, flat lighting soon became one of the most immediately recognizable signatures of the traditional sitcom. By not having to change lighting or camera position, classical sitcoms were filmed scene by scene (instead of shot by shot) on a soundstage with inflexible sets, as if the performance was taking place in a proscenium theatre. Positioned between a live studio audience and the constructed sets, the multiple cameras that surrounded – but did not cross over – this proscenium served to spatially “situate” the situation comedy’s action.9 Space is a core component of these classical sitcoms, and the scenes that unfold within them are confined to closed, recurring locations that act as the focal hub of all comic activity.10 This aesthetic repetitiveness and immutability was indicative of broader cultural phenomena. Emerging at the tail end of the 1940s, “the sitcom,” writes Austerlitz, “bore witness to the conformism borne of the horrors of the Second World War. A generation forged in the fire of the war sought placidity and sameness on the home front…[Television] would mirror America, not necessarily as it was, but as it should be: peaceable, middle class, eternally unchanging.” 11 From a storytelling standpoint, classical sitcoms i contain defined character groups, perpetual hijinks (“hilarity ensues”), and a linear narrative. A traditional element of fictional narration, linear progression “carries with it the implication of an arrow of time, pointing from the past to the future.” 12 Linearity in narrative comes down to a “cause-and-effect” directionality to a story’s sequences and events. The conventional sitcom narrative is no exception. Despite minimal academic literature on the precise construction of sitcom narration, one may ascertain the nature of i Over sixty years since its inception, the classical sitcom aesthetic rages on as if still under the spell of the post-war

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sitcom narratives by simply watching them firsthand and observing their predictable, mechanistic narrative patterns. Unlike a film, whose narrative governs its ultimate duration, a television sitcom dictates the amount of time in which a narrative can be told. Only having 22 minutes to tell their stories, sitcom storylines must be established quickly and explicitly through accelerated exposition.13 Narratives are usually broken down into multiple storylines, with each episode having an A-story (its main plot), as well as a B- and C-story which, despite their relegation to lesser screen time, function identically to the episode’s principal arc. A standardized episode in the traditional sitcom model operates according to a commitment to equilibrium, beginning in a state of stasis that is soon disrupted by the introduction of a problem – which is, by the end of the episode, resolved, thereby returning the comedic situation to stasis once again. The reinstitution of equilibrium is driven by the medium’s devotion to episodic (as opposed to serial) narration and the maintenance of diegetic status quo.14 Comedic situations, of course, unfold not only through linear time, but through space, as well.15 As previously mentioned, traditional sitcom spaces are – by virtue of the spatial constraints of a multiplecamera setup and a proscenium-style stage – strictly organized, limiting the action of an episode’s narrative to enclosed, recurring locales.16 This space acts as a sort of “grid,” within which traditional sitcoms establish the topologies of their fictional worlds.17 These worlds are limited to a central locale (usually a couch or an apartment) as well as a handful of surrounding areas, which become the rote settings in which a show’s comedic scenarios may unfold.18 Whether it be the bar in Cheers (CBS, 1982-1993) or Central Perk in Friends (NBC, 1994-2004), the linear narratives of traditional sitcoms are firmly entrenched within seriesspecific diegetic space, and, with the exception of the occasional exterior shot, rarely stray beyond the rigidly constructed soundstage sets. Recent years, however, have seen the emergence of a new brand of sitcom. These new sitcoms are rooted within the televisual traditions of their ancestors and demonstrate a keen awareness of the classical conventions that begat them. Yet they exude stylistic proficiency and narrative ambitiousness that far surpasses the humdrum aesthetics and simplistic storytelling of their humble progenitors. Having broken away from the multi-camera setup that dogged traditional sitcoms, these contemporary sitcoms stand as testament to a movement of postmodernity; free from soundstages and raucous laugh tracks, the sitcoms of the present day have 57


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been granted the liberty to dabble in spatio-temporal experimentation, shattering conventions of the classical school of situation comedy. Where there once stood linear narration now stands narratives rife with temporal disruption, a transition that has introduced a vast array of neologisms into the sitcom’s expressive vocabulary. These fresh additions to the burgeoning sitcom language have cropped up with the resurgence of single-camera comedies. Singlecam comedies overtook multi-cam comedies at the turn of the century, usurping the latter’s position as the reigning televisual format. Singlecam sitcoms offer an abundance of freedom and creative opportunities; not restricted to a limited number of sets, these sitcoms are free to have scenes that take place on location.19 In doing so, they are deviating from the classical sitcom conception of comedic performance as a rehearsed theatrical event.20 Single-camera sitcoms also have more scenes than their multi-camera kin, and these scenes tend to be much shorter, making the story progress at a faster, more exciting pace.21 The enhanced narrative speed of single-cam sitcoms fits well within the Internet Age from which these sitcoms arose. While it may appear counterintuitive to assert that the development of aesthetic televisual form corresponds to deeper historical context, Melissa Ames’ book Time in Television Narrative: Exploring Temporality in Twenty-FirstCentury Programming devotes an entire subsection of essays to this notion, examining “how the cultural climate impacts temporal manipulation on the small screen.” 22 In this section, entitled “Historicizing the Moment,” Ames writes that Lost’s (ABC, 2004-2010) use of flashbacks and “flashsideways” formally parallels the post-9/11 longing to correct mistakes of the past.23 Similarly, 24 (Fox, 2001-2010, 2014) utilizes splitscreens, and a ticking clock, to aesthetically represent “[our] culture’s ever-increasing tendency toward speed.” 24 The single-camera sitcom may be interpreted in similar fashion. Although the rise of the single-camera sitcom does not correspond with the invention of the Internet per se, its rise does correspond with the immersion of the Internet into the cultural status quo. In presenting their stories through increasingly complex temporal frames, contemporary sitcoms “reflect on the ways in which our experience of time is being reconfigured by our engagement with new media technologies.” 25 But what exactly are these temporal complexities that contemporary single-camera sitcoms embrace? They are the “neologisms” mentioned earlier: cutaway gags and their gag-inflected cousin, the talking head 58


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segment. As new weapons in the contemporary sitcom’s comedic arsenal, cutaway gags and talking head segments function as temporal disruptors of linear sitcom space-time. These neologisms may not necessarily be mutually exclusive – not every show with cutaway gags feature talking head segments, and vice versa – but they are, nevertheless, formulaic devices that set contemporary sitcoms apart from their traditional counterparts. Contemporary sitcoms’ stories remain linear, and thus echo classical sitcoms’ three-act structure and “equilibrium-disequilibrium-equilibrium” plotting, but the narrative time over which these stories unfold is rife with temporal disruption. What is most compelling, however, is the deep-seated historical precedent to which these transgressive narrative tendencies may be aptly compared: that of anarchistic comedy. In his book What Made Pistachio Nuts?, Henry Jenkins discusses how early sound comedy, such as the films of the Marx Brothers, represented an early attempt to integrate vaudevillian performers into classical Hollywood cinema, absorbing an aesthetic tradition that did not fit comfortably within typical storytelling conventions.26 The resulting comedy films were “anarchistic,” not in the sense of political radicalism, but rather in the sense of “disordered” style. Anarchistic comedies subordinated traditional film practice, moving from classical Hollywood cinema’s emphasis upon linearity and causality toward a fragmented, episodic narrative championing spectacle and isolated comedic performance.27 The contemporary, single-camera sitcoms have embraced these disruptive traditions of anarchistic comedy, retrofitting both gags and direct addresses – two stalwarts of vaudeville performance – for the modern day. Cutaway Gags and the Digression from Narrative Linearity In anarchistic comedies, the causal logic that structured narratives was dismantled and replaced with narrative “disruptions” that, having no consequence to plot, served only as transitory gags.28 Gags are “sudden, atemporal bursts” of autonomous comic spectacle which impede narrative development, obfuscate the linearity of cause-effect relations, and introduce an alternative patterning of space that competes with our interest in plot progression.29 In other words, gags are digressions from the film’s main story. Occasionally referred to as “inserts,” cutaway gags in contemporary sitcoms exude digressive tendencies, serving as short interludes from 59


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the chronologically unfolding narrative. Verbal digressions often instigate alternate scenarios, tangents, or inconsequential flashbacks employed for the sake of humour rather than plot development. While cutaway gags may seem comfortably at home within the single-camera setup and its quick-paced, myriad, and spatially diverse scenes, they in fact originate from an animated sitcom: Family Guy (Fox, 1999–present). Framed as a family sitcom akin to All in the Family, Family Guy frequently discards plot development in favour of extended non-sequiturs in the form of cutaway gags. This is bound up with the inherent spectacle of animated comedies, which are unencumbered by the verisimilar constraints of live-action representation.30 They can therefore be narratively subversive, emitting what scholar Paul Wells identifies as “a particular form of anarchy.”31 This anarchy has run rampant throughout Family Guy’s thirteen-season run. While it would be difficult to discuss each gag in detail, for each of the series’ 258 episodes ii averages between seven to eight cutaway gags (Watson), we may turn our attention to a few examples, so as to highlight their capacity for the temporal disruption of linearly-progressing narratives. In the series premiere, ‘Death Has a Shadow,’ Meg Griffin, seated at the kitchen table and complaining about the thinness of her lips, asks her mother, Lois, for collagen injections. Lois pleasantly replies, “You know, most of the world’s problems stem from poor self image,” and the scene cuts to “Das Gym,” where a scrawny, weightlifting Adolf Hitler jealously grimaces at a muscular, attractive Orthodox Jewish man. The scene cuts back to the kitchen, and the family’s conversation resumes. Less than one minute later, the episode devolves into a flurry of cutaway gags, as Lois and Brian, the family’s anthropomorphic canine, try to dissuade Peter from drinking at a stag party he is to attend later that evening. “Alcohol always leads to trouble,” says Lois. “Remember that time you got drunk off the communion wine at church?” The episode then cuts to a church scene. As a priest recounts the tale of Job, Peter gulps down the blood of Christ before exclaiming, “Man, that guy must have been drunk 24/7!” Once again, we return to the Griffin family kitchen. “And then there was that time at the ice cream store,” chides Lois. Cut to: Peter, in an ice cream store, collapsing on a table after one lick from a cone of butter rum. These cutaways are, in simplest terms, narratively extraneous;

ii

As of January 1st, 2016.

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they merely elaborate upon what has already been established in the sentence uttered prior to the cutaway, visually supplementing dialogue without offering anything but the pleasure of spectacle itself. Just like the gags of anarchistic comedy, these cutaway vignettes are autonomous, selfcontained units of comic spectacle with their own inverted logic and their own beginning, middle, and end.32 By virtue of their self-containment, these gags are ambiguously atemporal, occurring either in an imagined reality or in an unspecific past. In some instances, the cutaway gag relies upon intertextual readings of pop culture, and requires previous audience knowledge of the parodied text in order to elicit a laugh. Take, for example, a Star Wars-based gag from the episode ‘Chick Cancer,’ in which Luke Skywalker embarrasses a fellow pilot before the Curb Your Enthusiasm (HBO, 2000-2011) theme plays. Holistically speaking, cutaway gags disrupt and distract from the linear progression of narrative – a linearity that exists up until the gag begins, and resumes once the gag has ended. The cutaway gags in Family Guy operate on a separate “meta-diegetic” level; that is, they do not exist within the space or temporality of an episode’s presently unfolding narrative. Rather, they exist either within the “unseen history” of the show itself (such as Peter’s inebriation at church), or as an implausible, standalone tangent whose humour is derived from its irrelevant absurdity, its parodic intertextual relationship to other media, or its “inversion of normal logic”.33 Liberated from the exigencies of live production, animation allows for a more adventurous shooting style than a traditional, multicamera television format.34 Following in the footsteps of Family Guy, some live-action sitcoms adopted a single camera to embrace the faster pace and more visual form of storytelling of their animated predecessors, breaking free from the stylistic monotony of the theatrical, multi-cam sitcom. Some of the series that ensued – such as Scrubs (NBC/ABC, 2001-2010), Arrested Development (Fox, 2003-2006), and 30 Rock (NBC, 2006-2013) – are written to feel like “live-action cartoons” (Picone), energetically circumventing the boundaries that bog down multi-camera production. While Scrubs’ cartoony feel is not wholly reducible to its use of cutaway gags (for example, character movements are often supplemented by Looney Tunes-like sound effects), the gags are germane to the way in which the series is told. Narrated by John “JD” Dorian (Zach Braff), Scrubs makes frequent use of fantasies and daydreams. These surreal digressions begin with JD looking up and to the side, prompting a whirling tomahawk 61


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sound and a rapid cut that is, essentially, a flash of white light. These audiovisual cues also mark the end of a given fantasy. Just like the gags of anarchistic comedy, these imaginative cutaways involve a substantial degree of surprise.35 The absurd gags to which we bear witness are imaginings occurring entirely within JD’s head: unobservable to his fellow coworkers, JD’s fantasies play out within the show’s typical hospital environment, but feature the doctors, surgeons, and nurses with which he works as active characters within his daydreams. Scrubs’ cutaway gags experiment with traditional narrational temporality in compelling ways, puncturing the linear progression of the story by having JD’s fantasies bleed into the diegesis itself. In the season one episode ‘My Super Ego,’ JD and Elliot (Sarah Chalke), standing in the intensive care unit, talk about Nick (Sean Hayes), a new doctor of startling politeness. “This morning, I wanted to kill the guy,” says JD in voiceover, referring to the gentlemanly doctor, “but the truth is, he’s so nice, he probably would have helped me do it.” The scene flash cuts to a nondescript hospital room, showing JD with his hands gripped around Nick’s throat. Nick shouts words of encouragement, all the while issuing minor corrections: “Come on JD, you’re not putting enough pressure on the windpipe,” he barks, and adds, readjusting the grasp around his neck, “come on, you can do it.” Another flash cut brings the fantasy to its conclusion, resituating us – along with a pensive-looking JD – back within the intensive care unit. These cutaways have little function except to serve as absurdist exclamation points to JD’s inner monologue. Linearly progressing narrative time – and the space in which it progresses – is frequently undermined by JD’s fantasies. In these instances, JD’s interior subjectivity is given visual priority over the diegetic “here-and-now,” taking spectators out of the unfolding scene and in to JD’s own distracted stream of consciousness. While no other series since Scrubs has stitched a daydreamer into its narrative to validate the surreal appearance of cutaway gags, these constant asides have nevertheless become an essential component of the contemporary, live-action sitcom’s vocabulary. Just as creative – if not slightly more adventurous – as Scrubs with its use of cutaways was Arrested Development, which would slot in occasional bursts of disconnected imagery as flashbacks or non-sequiturs, often only loosely connected to the ostensible plot. The series’ pilot is teeming with such digressions; when Gob Bluth (Will Arnett) – the eldest son of unlawful real estate mogul and Bluth family patriarch George Sr. (Jeffrey Tambor) – mentions that he is a 62


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member of the Alliance of Magicians, the scene cuts away to a picture of this outlandishly costumed group of illusionists, with Gob holding a sign reading “We Demand to Be Taken Seriously.” Later, from the couch of the Bluth Model Home, Gob informs his brother Michael (Jason Bateman) that he cannot find work as a magician; after accidentally revealing the secret behind a trick, he has been “blackballed from some of the smaller venues.” The episode then cuts to Gob at a child’s birthday party, where an “Alliance-certified” performer – a prepubescent magician who calls Gob a “traitor” – has replaced him. These gags disrupt the immediate spatial temporality of an unfolding scene, and serve as narrative digressions that elicit an immediate affective response, a visceral shock.36 Proof of their narrative insignificance and extraneousness to the plot is highlighted best in Arrested Development’s Season 1 finale, “Let ‘Em Eat Cake.” After Kitty, the Bluth Company’s scheming secretary, claims that George Sr. “promised [her] the company,” the scene cuts to a blank “Footage Not Found” title card, before returning to the chronologically unfolding narrative. In this example, Arrested Development’s cutaways – as well as all cutaways in general – are, in absentia, revealed to be what Seymour Chapman calls temps mort: a moment that “takes time” but does not “make time,” a moment that has no function whatsoever in furthering the plot.37 Through their wholehearted embracement of cutaway gags’ “take time/make time” ethos, a bulk of contemporary sitcoms have come to embrace what is essentially a 21st-century update of the anarchistic comedy aesthetic. In its use of cutaway gags, 30 Rock paratextually elaborates upon the anarchistic roots of contemporary sitcoms by virtue of the authorial presence of Tina Fey, the series’ creator. Just as anarchistic comedies were constructed as vehicles for comic stars to demonstrate their full range of abilities, so too was 30 Rock, which functioned as a vehicle for Fey, former head writer of the famed sketch comedy series Saturday Night Live (NBC, 1975–present).38 Given Fey’s history, 30 Rock’s digressive cutaway gags read like shrunken SNL-style sketches, “built for entertainment purposes only.”39 Each sketch-like cutaway reflexively reminds viewers of the active creative hand behind each episode. Like the comedians of anarchistic comedy, Fey “interferes with the ostensible fiction,” using these digressive “sketches” to transform the narrative spaces – usually a drab writers’ room, or Jack Donaghy’s (Alec Baldwin) lavish office – into impromptu stages for clowning.40 30 Rock borrows its cutaway technique from Scrubs; characters 63


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commonly look up and to the side of the frame, cuing a bright flash of light and a whirling sound effect that signals the separation between 30 Rock’s narrative and its frequent interludes of anarchistic weirdness. Tina Fey’s equally anarchistic new series, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt (Netflix, 2015–present), abandons this stylistic editing, launching into cutaway gags in much the same way Arrested Development did: with a simple smash cut. Despite this difference, both 30 Rock and Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt infuse their cutaway gags with a similar sort of oddness. For example, 30 Rock has the benefit of Tracy Jordan (Tracy Morgan), whose personal instability and unpredictability fuels 30 Rock’s zaniest moments. Tracy’s disastrous appearance as a “stabbing robot” on Late Night With Conan O’Brien (‘Tracy Does Conan’), his resisted arrest in the Chuck E. Cheese ball pit (‘Believe in the Stars’), and his performance of the novelty hit “Werewolf Bar Mitzvah” (‘Jack Gets in the Game’) make him the source of some of the show’s funniest – and most absurd – cutaways. Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, about a girl who is freed from a doomsday cult after spending fifteen years in an underground bunker, often uses this bunker as the setting for its cutaway gags, experimenting with temporality by disturbing the presently unfolding narrative space-time with furtive flashbacks of Kimmy’s bizarre underground hijinks. Highly Distracted, Highly Confessional: Cutaways and Talking Heads in the Internet Age It is quite fitting that Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, in all its digressive glory, premiered on the online streaming service Netflix. Today’s temporally experimental sitcoms have become an accepted counterpart to our Internet culture, in which digressive Googling, compulsive link-clicking, and distracted multitasking have become not only a mode of practice but a startling way of life. This reconfiguration of human experience through engagement with new technology is discussed in Michael Harris’ book, The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection. Harris writes that the Internet Age – which began in earnest in 1999 with the dot-com boom – is characterized by “distraction addiction.” This addiction, typified by a desire to abolish boredom, achieve instant gratification, and end “absence,” has made Internet multitasking responsible for 29% of all media exposure in teenagers.41 Furthermore, the rise of Google (launched in 1998), Wikipedia (launched in 2001), and smartphones has stitched 64


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“ultimate searchability” into the fabric of society, granting instant access to staggering amounts of knowledge and solidifying both speed and volume as Internet norms.42 With the world at their fingertips, people of the Internet Age are growing more distracted; attention spans have shortened, and as a result, irrational unproductivity has flourished.43 Thus, contemporary sitcoms’ use of cutaway gags is a formal parallel of the “continuous partial attention” that characterizes the Internet Age. 44 Embracing both speed and volume through their sheer abundance and rapid-fire delivery, these gags testify that the sitcoms in which they occur are as distracted as we are, as devoted to multitasking as we are, iii and as liable to drift into unproductivity as we are. Also indicative of the Internet Age, writes Harris, is our desire to live out our emotional lives through technologies. “Our brains,” he writes, “are imbued with the compulsion to socialize, connect whenever possible, and technologies allow us these connections – it provides comfort, an opportunity to confess things, and [acts as] a mediator for chaotic elements in our lives.” 45 Documenting personal information about oneself through technology has become ubiquitous; Internet platforms such as YouTube and Facebook “encourage broadcasting yourself and sharing aspects of your life to people beyond your face-to-face community.”46 Take, for example, flash card confessionals, “a popular genre of video in which the creator…confesses private trauma through a series of flash cards bearing Sharpie text.”47 This tendency towards confession has found as its aesthetic analogue the talking head segments of most mockumentary-style sitcoms. Mills identifies this televisual style as “comedy verité,” honing in on certain contemporary sitcoms’ ability to challenge conventional generic form and adopt formal characteristics of other distinct genres – specifically, documentaries and reality television.48 Many contemporary sitcoms, such as Curb Your Enthusiasm and Brooklyn Nine-Nine (NBC, 2013–present) have conformed to the observational mode of cinema verité, by aping the documentary aesthetic primarily through handheld cinematography.49 But it was Ricky Gervais’ The Office (BBC, 2001-2003) that most holistically adopted the form, portraying the fictional documentary crew as a diegetic presence within the show’s world. This allowed characters – such as David

ii i Rapidly diverting attention from the linear narrative to a cutaway gag, then back to the narrative once again, like excess footnotes that disrupt the linear progression of an essay’s argument.

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Brent, the office manager played by Gervais himself – to directly address the camera in interview-style talking head segments. The talking head segment soon became one of Britain’s finest comedic exports; the U.S. remake of The Office (NBC, 2005-2013) brought this narrational technique across the pond, at which point it metastasized, inciting an international mockumentary renaissance as evidenced by The Comeback (HBO, 2005, 2014), Parks and Recreation (NBC, 2009-2015), Modern Family (ABC, 2009–present), Family Tree (HBO, 2013), and Chris Lilley’s many sitcoms. These shows’ devotion to cinema verité operates upon a spectrum (for example, The Office and The Comeback make the camera crew visible, while Modern Family and Parks and Recreation do not), but they all share a commonality in the talking head segment. Talking heads characterize these sitcoms as anarchistic, prioritizing the Internet Age’s fascination with confession through the evocation of the common vaudeville tradition of the direct address.50 While the direct address was vital to vaudeville performance, its shoehorning into classical narration was more disruptive than seamless, as evinced by early sound comedy.51 The same goes for contemporary sitcoms, as the mockumentary style, “a veneer of aesthetic daring over a base coat of old-school sitcom conservatism,” uses talking head segments to puncture linear diegetic temporality. Indeed, these segments have more bearing on narrative and characterization, but like cutaways, function simultaneously as digressive gags.52 Shot in close-up, talking head sequences feature characters – isolated from the rest of the sitcom group – talking directly at the camera, commenting on previous narrative actions or introducing new ones.53 Despite referencing other events that either immediately precede or follow them, these interview sequences are particularly atemporal: their precise temporal placement within the narrative flow is irrelevant, they occur in a diegetic space distinct from that of the principal story, and they do not resolve exactly when in relation to the unfolding narrative such interviews were filmed.54 While the interview technique allows for more narrative exposition and character revelation, talking head segments provide more opportunities for narrative disengagement, fracturing seamless linearity with verbal gags delivered through temporally ambiguous scenes of direct testimony. This disruption is achieved through contrast; like gags, these segments direct the spotlight on themselves.55 Instead of cuing audiences in on the ensuing digression with a flash of white light or a whirling 66


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sound effect, mockumentary sitcoms balance out the jittery handheld camerawork that captures the unfolding narrative with immobile, static compositions of individual characters’ direct testimony to the camera. Like gags in anarchistic comedies, there is, to an extent, no “fixed separation between narrative space and performance space.” 56 While the talking head segments occur either before or after the events unfolding within the episode’s arc, the characters film their “confessions” from within the diegesis itself, albeit in a segregated space away from the narrative action. In The Office, Michael Scott’s (Steve Carell) talking head segments occur from the comfort of his own desk, while in Modern Family, each character grouping – the Dunphys, the Pritchetts, and the Pritchett-Tuckers – delivers direct testimony from the couch in their respective homes, thus blurring the lines between narrative and performance space. From these autonomous locales, characters dispense verbal bursts of comic spectacle, embracing the direct audience interaction that characterized vaudeville’s performer-patron intimacy.57 This link is perhaps most apparent with David Brent and Michael Scott, who regard themselves as more than just managers of a paper company, but as office entertainers. Like the direct address, the self-consciousness of their talking head segments call attention to their chronic efforts to amuse and their interminable yearning for crowd approval.58 While these segments may carry bits of narratively relevant info, and become devices for characterization, they do so at high cost to narrative economy, for they are far more suited to making a pause or digression in the ongoing flow of a story.59 Take, for example, a scene from ‘Soulmates,’ a third-season episode of Parks and Recreation. In this scene, Parks official Leslie Knope (Amy Poehler) offers to take her co-worker, Tom Haverford (Aziz Ansari), out to lunch. Tom asks her if he can have “apps’n’zerts,” at which point the scene cuts away from their workspace and to a talking head segment featuring Tom in a separate office: ‘Zerts’ are what I call desserts [he says to the camera]. ‘Trée-trées’ are entrées. I call sandwiches ‘sammies,’ ‘sandoozles,’ or ‘Adam Sandlers.’ Air conditioners are ‘cool blasterz’ with a ‘z’ — I don’t know where that came from. I call cakes ‘big ol’ cookies.’ I call noodles ‘long-ass rice.’ Fried chicken is ‘fry-fry chicky-chick.’ Chicken parm is ‘chicky-chicky-parm-parm.’ Chicken cacciatore? ‘Chicky-catch.’ I call eggs ‘pre-birds,’ or ‘future birds.’ Root beer is ‘super water.’ Tortillas are ‘bean blankets.’ And I call forks [he says, 67


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pausing for dramatic effect before delivering the punch line] ‘food rakes.’ The scene cuts back to Leslie and Tom’s conversation, and Leslie confirms that Tom may, indeed, “get as many ‘Zerts’ as [he] wants.” Tom agrees to lunch, adding, “Let’s hop in my Gogomobile,” at which point we rapidly cut back to a talking head segment, where Tom slyly looks at the camera and says “Car.” It is this interplay between the diegesis and the talking head segments that render mockumentary sitcoms’ experimentation with linear narrative temporality particularly compelling. The ambiguous future and past from which these segments emerge “form a covalent bond with the present,” so that the temporality of the contemporary mockumentary sitcom as such “becomes non-directional, non-linear, and non-singular.” 60 Talking head segments ultimately deviate from chronological time, prioritizing atomistic verbal humour that operates as insular comedic confessions over the sequential directionality of narrative events. The temporal back-and-forth, however, does not stop there, as The Office and Modern Family’s talking head segments are oftentimes interwoven with cutaway gags themselves. The pilot of Modern Family contains a prime example of this temporal pliability; in a talking head segment that exists outside the principally progressing narrative, Phil Dunphy (Ty Burrell) expatiates to the camera that he is the “cool dad.” The sequence, however, is most assuredly a gag; Phil garbles text message abbreviations, confidently stating that “WTF” stands for “Why The Face?” At sequence’s end, Phil corroborates his “coolness” by adding that he “knows all the dances to High School Musical.” The scene cuts away to another temporally nondescript vignette, in which Phil butchers the choreography to “We’re All In This Together.” This sequence epitomizes the disruptive potential of talking heads and cutaways; these two atemporal gags – one verbal, one visual – destabilize the episode’s diegetic chronology, perforating the narrative’s linearity with furtive comic bursts. Conclusion: Towards a Taxonomy of the Postmodern Sitcom As demonstrated by the above example from Modern Family, cutaway gags have grown endemic across contemporary single-camera sitcoms, so much so that they have even permeated the aesthetic confines 68


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of “comedy verité.” But the contemporary sitcom form is flexible, and, as such, rigid classification is often elusive. Curb Your Enthusiasm, originally conceived as a mockumentary, returned as a comedy series produced with the same visual style but without the conceit of a documentary team recording it and without the talking head interviews of the pilot. 61 Similarly, Veep (HBO, 2012–present) and Brooklyn Nine-Nine are filmed with the same jumpy handheld cinematography indicative of mockumentary-style sitcoms, and neither use talking head segments, but the latter makes frequent use of cutaway gags which, among other things, spotlight police station hijinks and pre-diegetic flashbacks. Whether it is cutaway gags or talking head segments, though, constant asides are now recognized as essential neologisms within the contemporary sitcom vocabulary. Accounting for all the series that employ them is overwhelming; iv for temporal digression is so pervasive that it has become virtually inextricable from the single-camera sitcom as such. Aligned with postmodern culture’s tradition for narrative subversion, the contemporary sitcom is thus inherently anarchistic. Free from the aesthetic limitations of traditional sitcom conventionality, these present-day singlecam sitcoms have become as reliant on autonomous, gag-based, visual and verbal spectacle as any of the Marx Brothers’ earliest sound comedies. And in a highly technologized world in which multitasking, distractions, and online confessionals have become normalized operations of the modern mind, contemporary sitcoms – digressions and all – have taken on a new significance as a formalistic, aesthetic analogue to the cultural climate that brought them forth. Sitcoms are, at their core, about equilibrium; but as long as contemporary sitcoms continue to parallel the Internet Age’s fascination with confession and diversionary distraction, and continue to valorize “taking time” just as much as “making time,” the postmodern sitcom will also remain a paragon of disequilibrium, a secluded televisual niche in which anarchy reigns.62

iv Happy Endings (ABC, 2011-2013) and New Girl (2011–present), for example, also make occasional use of cutaway gags).

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1 Timotheus Vermeulen and James Whitfield, “Arrested developments: Towards an aesthetic of the contemporary US sitcom,” in Television Aesthetics and Style, eds. Jason Jacobs and Steven Peacock (New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013), 103-111. 2 Saul Austerlitz, Sitcom: A History in 24 Episodes from I Love Lucy to Community, (Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2013), 8. 3 Antonio Savorelli, Beyond Sitcom: New Directions in American Television Comedy, (Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc.), 33. 4 Melissa Ames, “Introduction: Television Studies in the Twenty - First Century,” in Time in Television Narrative: Exploring Temporality in TwentyFirst-Century Programming, ed. Melissa Ames, (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2012), 7. 5 Ibidem, 9. 6 Ibidem, 7. 7 Austerlitz, 17. 8 Ibidem, 18. 9 Sergio Dias Branco, “Situating comedy: Inhabitation and duration in classical American sitcoms,” in Television Aesthetics and Style, eds. Jason Jacobs and Steven Peacock, (New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013), 94. 10 Savorelli, 23. 11 Ibidem, 8). 12 Ames, “Introduction,” 10. 13 Nick Redfern, “How do television narratives work?,” Research Into Film, 26 February 2009. 14 Alex Clayton, “Why comedy is at home on television,” in Television Aesthetics and Style, eds. Jason Jacobs and Steven Peacock. (New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013), 85. 15 Colin Irvine, “Why 30 Rock Rocks and The Office Needs Some Work: The Role of Time/Space in Contemporary TV Sitcoms,” in Time in Television Narrative: Exploring Temporality in Twenty-First-Century Programming, ed. Melissa Ames, (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2012), 221. 16 Savorelli, 24. 17 Savorelli, 28. 18 Dias Branco, 97. 19 Martie Cook, Write to TV: Out of Your Head and Onto the Screen, (Massachusetts: Focal Press, 2014), 37. 70


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20 James Walters, “Better or differently: Style and repetition in The Trip,” in Television Aesthetics and Style, eds. Jason Jacobs and Steven Peacock, (New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013), 113. 21 Cook, 37. 22 Ibidem, 10. 23 Melissa Ames, “The Fear of the Future and the Pain of the Past: The Quest to Cheat Time in Heroes, FlashForward, and Fringe,” in Time in Television Narrative: Exploring Temporality in Twenty-First-Century Programming, ed. Melissa Ames. (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2012), 126. 24 Norman M. Gendelman, “Zero-Degree Seriality: Television Narrative in the Post-Network Era,” in Time in Television Narrative: Exploring Temporality in Twenty-First-Century Programming, ed. Melissa Ames, (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2012), 78. 25 Aris Mousoutzanis, “Temporality and Trauma in American Sci-Fi Television,” in Time in Television Narrative: Exploring Temporality in Twenty-First-Century Programming, ed. Melissa Ames, (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2012), 106. 26 Ibidem, 5. 27 Henry Jenkins, What Made Pistachio Nuts?: Early Sound Comedy and the Vaudeville Aesthetic, (New York: Columbia University Press, 1992), 24. 28 Ibidem, 193. 29 Ibidem, 102. 30 Holly Randell-Moon and Arthur J. Randell, “The man from ISIS: Archer and the animated aesthetics of adult cartoons,” in Television Aesthetics and Style, eds. Jason Jacobs and Steven Peacock, (New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013), 137. 31 Ibidem, 139. 32 Jenkins, 102, 105. 33 Donald Crafton, “Pie and Chase: Gag, Spectacle and Narrative,” in Classical Hollywood Comedy, eds. Kristine Brunovska Karnick and Henry Jenkins, (New York: Routledge, 1995), 113. 34 Randell-Moon and Randell, 142. 35 Steve Neale, and Frank Krutnik, “Gags, Jokes, Wisecracks, and Comic Events,” in Popular Film and Television Comedy, (London: Routledge, 1990), 52. 36 Jenkins, 283. 37 Gry C. Rustad, and Timotheus Vermeulen, “Did You Get Pears?: Temporality and Temps Mortality in The Wire, Mad Men, and Arrested Development,” in Time in Television Narrative: Exploring Temporality in Twenty-First-Century 71


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Programming, ed. Melissa Ames, (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2012), 159. 38 Jenkins, 144. 39 Ibidem, 32. 40 Ibidem, 146. 41 Michael Harris, The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection, (Toronto: HarperCollins Publishers, 2014), 28, 40. 42 Ibidem, 80, 86. 43 Ibidem, 128. 44 Ibidem, 10. 45 Ibidem, 54. 46 Ibidem, 69 47 Ibidem, 213. 48 Ibidem, 68. 49 Ethan Thompson, “Comedy Verité? The Observational Documentary Meets the Televisual Sitcom,” The Velvet Light Trap 60.1 (2007): 65. 50 Jenkins, 32. 51 Ibidem, 33. 52 Austerlitz, 352. 53 Savorelli, 67. 54 Ibidem, 71. 55 Jenkins, 106. 56 Ibidem, 146. 57 Jenkins 73). 58 Ibidem, 32. 59 Jenkins, 101. 60 Michael Fuchs, “Play It Again, Sam…and Dean: Temporality and MetaTextuality in Supernatural,” in Time in Television Narrative: Exploring Temporality in Twenty-First Century Programming, ed. Melissa Ames, (Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2012), 82. 61 Thompson, 68. 62 Rustad and Vermeulen, 159.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY 30 Rock. “Tracy Does Conan,” “Jack Gets in the Game,” and “Believe in the Stars.” NBC. 2006-2013. Television. Ames, Melissa. “Introduction: Television Studies in the Twenty-First Century.” Time in Television Narrative: Exploring Temporality in Twenty-First-Century Programming. Ed. Melissa Ames. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2012. 3-24. Ames, Melissa. “The Fear of the Future and the Pain of the Past: The Quest to Cheat Time in Heroes, FlashForward, and Fringe.” Time in Television Narrative: Exploring Temporality in Twenty-First-Century Programming. Ed. Melissa Ames. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2012. 110-124. Arrested Development. “Pilot,” and “Let ‘Em Eat Cake.” Fox. 2003-2006. Television. Austerlitz, Saul. Sitcom: A History in 24 Episodes from I Love Lucy to Community. Chicago: Chicago Review Press, 2013. Clayton, Alex. “Why comedy is at home on television.” Television Aesthetics and Style. Eds. Jason Jacobs and Steven Peacock. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013. 79-92. Cook, Martie. Write to TV: Out of Your Head and Onto the Screen. Massachusetts: Focal Press, 2014. Crafton, Donald. “Pie and Chase: Gag, Spectacle and Narrative.” Classical Hollywood Comedy, eds. Kristine Brunovska Karnick and Henry Jenkins (New York: Routledge, 1995): 106-122. Dias Branco, Sergio. “Situating comedy: Inhabitation and duration in classical American sitcoms.” Television Aesthetics and Style. Eds. Jason Jacobs and Steven Peacock. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013. 93-102.

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Family Guy. “Death Has a Shadow,” “Perfect Castaway,” and “Chick Cancer.” Fox. 1999–present. Television. Fuchs, Michael. “Play It Again, Sam…and Dean: Temporality and MetaTextuality in Supernatural.” Time in Television Narrative: Exploring Temporality in Twenty-First Century Programming. Ed. Melissa Ames. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2012. 82-94. Gendelman, Norman M. “Zero-Degree Seriality: Television Narrative in the Post-Network Era.” Time in Television Narrative: Exploring Temporality in Twenty-First-Century Programming. Ed. Melissa Ames. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2012. 69-81. Harris, Michael. The End of Absence: Reclaiming What We’ve Lost in a World of Constant Connection. Toronto: HarperCollins Publishers, 2014. Irvine, Colin. “Why 30 Rock Rocks and The Office Needs Some Work: The Role of Time/Space in Contemporary TV Sitcoms.” Time in Television Narrative: Exploring Temporality in TwentyFirst-Century Programming. Ed. Melissa Ames. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2012. 218-231. Jenkins, Henry. What Made Pistachio Nuts?: Early Sound Comedy and the Vaudeville Aesthetic. New York: Columbia University Press, 1992. Mills, Brett. “Comedy verite: Contemporary sitcom form.” Screen Oxford Journal 45.1 (2004): 63-78. Minow, Newton N. “Television and the Public Interest.” Address to the National Association of Broadcasters. Washington, DC. 9 May 1961. Modern Family. “Pilot.” ABC. 2009–present. Television.

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Mousoutzanis, Aris. “Temporality and Trauma in American SciFi Television.” Time in Television Narrative: Exploring Temporality in Twenty-First-Century Programming. Ed. Melissa Ames. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2012. 97-109. Neale, Steve, and Krutnik, Frank. “Gags, Jokes, Wisecracks, and Comic Events.” Popular Film and Television Comedy (London: Routledge, 1990): 26-61. Parks and Recreation. “Soulmates.” NBC. 2009-2015. Television. Picone, Jack. “The Evolution Of The Sitcom: The Age of the Single Camera. New York Film Academy. Web. Posted on 24 September 2014. Randell-Moon, Holly, and Randell, Arthur J. “The man from ISIS: Archer and the animated aesthetics of adult cartoons.” Television Aesthetics and Style. Eds. Jason Jacobs and Steven Peacock. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013. 135-143. Redfern, Nick. “How do television narratives work?” Research Into Film. Web. Posted on 26 February 2009. Rustad, Gry C., and Vermeulen, Timotheus. “Did You Get Pears?: Temporality and Temps Mortality in The Wire, Mad Men, and Arrested Development.” Time in Television Narrative: Exploring Temporality in Twenty-First-Century Programming. Ed. Melissa Ames. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2012. 153-164. Savorelli, Antonio. Beyond Sitcom: New Directions in American Television Comedy. Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company, Inc., 2010. Scrubs. “My Super Ego.” NBC/ABC. 2001-2010. Television. Thompson, Ethan. “Comedy Verité? The Observational Documentary Meets the Televisual Sitcom.” The Velvet Light Trap 60.1 (2007): 63-72. 75


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Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt. Selected Episodes. Netflix. 2015–present. Television. Vermeulen, Timotheus, and Whitfield, James. “Arrested developments: Towards an aesthetic of the contemporary US sitcom.” Television Aesthetics and Style. Eds. Jason Jacobs and Steven Peacock. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013. 103111. Walters, James. “Better or differently: Style and repetition in The Trip.” Television Aesthetics and Style. Eds. Jason Jacobs and Steven Peacock. New York: Bloomsbury Publishing, 2013. 113124. Watson. “The 10 Greatest ‘Family Guy’ Cutaway Gags.” This Blog Rules. Web. Posted on 27 June 2012.

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In contemporary popular culture, the word “Frozen” has become synonymous with the Disney Princess franchise as well as Disney’s reestablishment as animation’s leading production company. Since its release nearly three years ago, Frozen has gained widespread international acclaim and popularity within multiple demographics as evinced by its worldwide box office gross of approximately $1.2 billion and its status as the highest-grossing animated film in history, a title which was previously held by Disney’s The Lion King. 1,2 Within months of its release, Frozen earned two Academy Awards, a Golden Globe for best animated feature, and a significant cultural following — it outperformed all eight of the other animated feature films released in 2013, and was the first Disney-led film to outperform a film led by Pixar Studios in the same year (Monster’s University), despite Disney overseeing all Pixar production by this point.3,4 The success of Frozen as a “modernized princess movie” can be examined in various ways, such as its spread through social media, its strategic marketing and its cultural relevance to contemporary gender politics.5 Frozen has received a near-universal reputation of having highly feminist themes for a Disney film and for being revolutionary in terms of its artistic and technological production. However, this essay argues that despite all of its achievements, Frozen re-established Disney as contemporary animation’s headliner by maintaining the Disney status quo built upon decades of conventionality through its themes and artistic depictions. Once Pixar Animation Studios merged with Disney in 2006 to form North America’s commercial cinematic superteam Disney-Pixar, a hybrid animation style solidified itself in the revamped companies’ coproductions, with Disney’s classic hyperrealist, partially hand-drawn (but mostly computer-generated) style complimenting the neatness and complexity of Pixar’s three-dimensional CGI technology.6 Frozen spent a decade in development, although it was produced within the span of two years — an anomaly since it normally takes three years to produce a Disney feature film.7 Co-directors Jennifer Lee (screenwriter for Disney’s Wreckit Ralph) and Chris Buck (director of Disney’s Tarzan) then divided the 79


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tasks of supervising the writing and animation processes, respectively.8 Frozen was regarded as a follow-up to Tangled and Brave, films which also saw young princess protagonists being “modernized” for presentday audiences in Broadway-style musical numbers while demonstrating the new Disney-Pixar merged animation style.9 However, Frozen has been recognized in popular media by differentiating itself from these precursors in its production, its distribution and its narrative content – to an extent. First, to briefly outline the film’s premise: Frozen’s narrative is very loosely based on Hans Christian Anderson’s “The Snow Queen” (incidentally, this was Frozen’s working title).10 The setting is the kingdom of Arendelle in Norway, where the two female protagonists, sisters Anna and Elsa, live as princesses and the sole heirs to the kingdom after the untimely passing of their parents.11 Due to an unfortunate incident during their childhood where Elsa accidentally harms Anna with her magical snow and ice producing powers, Anna has her memory erased and Elsa chooses to cease all interaction with her sister until her coronation years later. However, at the ceremony, Elsa exposes her powers to all in attendance, forcing her to run away from her kingdom to build an ice fortress, where she finds she can be free to accept herself and her highly destructive powers (cue the song “Let It Go”). Meanwhile, Elsa has incited great fear in Arendelle’s townspeople because, in the process of running away, she has inflicted a magic-induced winter on the entire kingdom. Having suddenly understood her sister’s avoidance, Anna believes that the only way to end the winter is to bring Elsa back and have her reverse her magic. The film then follows Anna as she befriends an iceman named Kristoff, his expressive (yet mute) reindeer named Sven, and an anthropomorphized talking snowman named Olaf, who help her on her quest to bring her sister home. Anna also falls in “love” with an attendant to Elsa’s coronation, Prince Hans, who later reveals his sinister intentions to take over Arendelle by imprisoning Elsa for her cataclysmic powers. Eventually, Anna is imperiled when Elsa accidentally delivers a blow of ice to her heart, magically freezing her unless true love saves her life. The film’s climax reveals then that the true love Anna required was not that of a romantic interest, but the familial love of her sister. The story ends with the sisters reuniting, the magical winter subsiding and Elsa’s powers being embraced by the townspeople as she becomes the Queen of Arendelle. As can be easily inferred from this plot, snow and ice play a large 80


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role in the film and as a result, most of the effort involved in its production process dealt with creating a realistic, detailed depiction of snow. This led to Frozen’s animators developing a multi-grid computational fluid dynamics device alongside researchers at the University of California – this invention would become Frozen’s famous snow simulator Matterhorn.12 Using an algorithm-based “material point method” of simulating innumerable amounts of particles colliding on various grids, the fluidity of snow in all of its “organic” states and textures (chunky, wet, fluffy, or dense) was more easily rendered in the film.13,14 Matterhorn was also used to create the reaction of the snow when characters would interact with it— for example, it depicts imprints and debris coming off the snow when a character might raise their foot from the ground.15 Furthermore, snow experts were consulted throughout the snowmaking process. Their involvement led to the creation of 2,000 unique snowflake designs for the film.16 There were many other innovative processes in Frozen’s production; a real reindeer was brought into the studio to assist with the complexities of Sven’s movements, while acting coaches worked alongside the actors to help them develop their character’s voice and physical expressions.17 In addition, animators also hand drew “blocking passes,” two-dimensional key poses of characters either still or in motion that are then used to establish timing and placement in various shots — while some crew members (such as senior animation supervisor Becky Bresee) acted out these poses for the artists.18 Character animators took reference trips to Jackson Hole, Wyoming, where they wore heavy full-length dresses and walked in deep snow to test the snow’s movements and natural reactions.19 They also visited multiple locations in Norway to find key design elements that they could incorporate into the film’s aesthetic.20 This led to Norway’s fjords, or enormous “vertical rock formations,” becoming a primary location for Arendelle, and rosemaling folk art having a significant influence on the architecture, décor and costumes featured in the film.21 Other major influences on the film’s aesthetic include The Sound of Music, which has a juxtaposition of character and environment that is notably reflected in that of Elsa and her environment, as well as the observation of glaciers, their natural colors, and sunlight’s effect on those colors.22, i i The Sound of Music’s protagonist Maria is often situated as being completely alone (and content) in the expanse of Austrian mountains and valleys, despite the turmoil occurring in nearby cities at the turn of WWII. Elsa reflects this in her desire to maintain her solitude amidst fjords and massive valleys of snow, despite the struggles of the nearby townspeople in the face of a perpetual winter.

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However, despite all these unique design features and influences, Frozen is not the only animated Disney film with such a highly complex production process, nor is it the only Disney film that fixates on every small detail to convey a sense of hyperrealism. Disney animated films in general are known for their realism and extreme detail, which usually juxtaposes with the fantastical nature of their oft-magical narratives. In that sense, Frozen does not stand out as a technological marvel any more than its Disney-Pixar precursors, which utilized many of the same methods to achieve a similar (if not identical) animation style, short of a few unique details in regards to the setting, lighting and snow design. For instance, Tangled is often credited with having an extremely complicated process when it came to animating Rapunzel’s many hair strands— a process which translated to Frozen’s production when it was used on Anna and Elsa’s hair movement. In terms of animators acting out character motions to better animate these movements onscreen, Disney has utilized this technique of live-action models for more than half a century, with classic films such as Disney’s Sleeping Beauty as a notable example. Furthermore, when looking at the character animation for Tangled’s Rapunzel and Brave’s Merida, Frozen’s female protagonists have almost exactly the same faces and facial expressions as the aforementioned characters, which indicates that much of Frozen’s animation techniques and styles were drawn from past Disney-Pixar films. Ergo, all of Frozen’s innovative aspects that specialize in creating extreme realistic detail contribute to maintaining the hyperrealist, detail-oriented status-quo of Disney animation studios. On the other hand, one aspect that has supposedly “truly” differentiated Frozen from its predecessors is its social message, which was generated through various interpretations of its themes and narrative as “feminist” and subversive towards classical Disney conventions. The idea of Frozen promoting a more feminist-friendly narrative comes from the film drawing attention to the often-used “love at first sight” trope and immediately turning it on its head when Anna discovers that Hans is not her true love at all. It also arises from the fact that the film’s plot diverges from the typical romance narrative in Disney films which usually contributes to most of the film’s action and results in the Happy Ending, since what becomes central to Frozen’s narrative and plot resolution is instead familial love, a love displayed in Anna and Elsa’s relationship with each other. The female protagonists in the film are given what England, Descartes and Collier-Meek describe in their study Gender Role 82


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Portrayal and the Disney Princesses as a mix of masculine and feminine characteristics that are repeatedly seen in Disney films. For instance, Anna and Elsa’s notable ‘male’ traits are assertiveness, independence and bravery, while their notable ‘female’ traits are fear, shame, emotionality, victimization, tending to appearance and the “collapse into crying.” 23 While the study explores Disney princess films preceding 2010, the authors noted that in later Disney films, although the princesses showed increasingly more masculine traits, they still had more feminine characteristics in their top three most frequently shown traits – such is the case for Frozen and its female protagonists.24 In addition, the authors explain in their conclusion that princesses rarely display assertiveness to a prince character, and that a princess has yet to perform the final climactic rescue scene without a prince’s involvement.25 While Anna and Elsa both show assertiveness towards Hans and Kristoff (which contributes to their feminist interpretation) and even though they play a significant role in the final rescue scene, it is still entirely through the involvement of only male secondary characters that the rescue is able to take place. This is another notable contradiction regarding the feminist interpretation of Frozen – there are only two female characters in the entire film. It is important, however, to note that Frozen is not just a Disney film, but a Pixar film as well. Until Brave’s release in 2012, Pixar had never produced a film featuring a female protagonist. Instead, Pixar’s output consisted of films that concentrated on the themes of male-centered friendship and platonic male bonding.26, ii In these male-centred films, female characters are either co-protagonists or secondary characters, with notable examples being Eve in Wall-E, Dory in Finding Nemo, Jessie in Toy Story 2 (and 3) and Boo in Monsters Inc. In her article “Are the ‘Boys’ at Pixar Afraid of Little Girls?” Haseenah Ebrahim relates these female characters to Lissa Paul’s notion “heroes in drag,” which asserts that female characters take on male characteristics to “subvert traditional female roles.” 27 For instance, Eve’s character in Wall-E is a technologically superior robot in comparison to her male counterpart, because she is independent, faster, goal-oriented and assertive. Jessie’s character in Toy Story 2 is another female character who demonstrates assertiveness, athleticism and bravery. However, making female characters inherently more “masculine” only emphasizes the message that traditionally “male”

ii

Pixar’s Toy Story, Finding Nemo, Monsters Inc., Wall-E, and Up.

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character traits are more valuable than traditionally “female” ones, which in turn deters from a feminist message. Furthermore, the key to making a film truly “feminist” lies in character representation, not just in terms of feminine and masculine traits but also in depictions of race and physicality. Frozen is a female-centered Disney animated film, where the cast is entirely Caucasian and its only two female protagonists are depicted as waif-like, physically attractive, doe-eyed, graceful (except for Anna’s few moments of clumsiness) and talented songstresses. This very same physicality appears in nearly every princess film animated and helmed by Walt Disney himself. iii This pattern reappears in Team Disney-produced films in the late 1980s and throughout the 1990s.iv Even in Disney films which feature princesses of different ethnicities, the princesses still possess all of these physical characteristics.v While the distinct choreography of Disney princesses has added a degree of action and sportiness to its grace and posture as seen in Disney films such as The Little Mermaid, this hybridization of action and grace remains in Elsa and Anna’s movements as they dance, twirl and run, proving that the merged choreography from 1990s-era Disney has yet to change.28 In all these ways, Frozen displays a highly familiar, conventional image of a Disney princess, and relies on a singular subversive aspect in its narrative to give it some progressivity in contemporary issues. To fully understand how Frozen maintains a large amount of Disney conventions, one must remove its one defining narrative aspect from their analysis in order to see how the film’s inclusion of lessnoticeable Disney tropes adds up to a highly conventional Disney film.vi First, Frozen’s central themes mirror those of almost any other Disney film. Magic is a central element in the narrative, with Elsa being labeled as a “witch” for her powers. There is also the inclusion of magical characters like Olaf, Elsa’s ice monster, and the trolls who adopted Kristoff. The timeless and universal themes of self-acceptance, familial love, sacrifice, repression of self-expression, marginalization from society, and the desire to find true love are all explored in Frozen’s narrative. In addition, Frozen’s plot structure follows a simple Disney formula, beginning with the briefly-

Disney’s Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, Cinderella, and Sleeping Beauty. Disney’s The Little Mermaid (1989) and Beauty and the Beast (1991). v The princesses in Disney’s Mulan, Aladdin, Pocahontas, and The Princess and the Frog. vi The defining narrative aspect mentioned refers to the film’s “feminist” outcome in Anna being rescued by the love of her sister. iii iv

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mentioned death of both parental figures, climaxing with the reveal of one character’s true evil intentions and the rescue scene, and then finishing with a happy ending – Cinderella is an example of a Disney princess film that possesses this exact storyline. Frozen even follows Disney’s tendency towards folktale adaptations, since it features a significantly altered account of princesses in a fictitious kingdom. In terms of character conventions, Frozen contains the comic-relief in the anthropomorphized snowman Olaf, the non-verbal yet expressive and helpful animal in Sven the reindeer, an evil, merciless adversary in Prince Hans, and relationships demonstrating traditional heteronormative values – as seen in the pairing of Anna and Hans at the beginning of the film, then the later pairing of Anna and Kristoff at the end of the film. The film’s cast is star-studded, with household names like Broadway star Idina Menzel and A-list actress Kristen Bell voicing Elsa and Anna, respectively. The film’s humor is child-friendly, with implied jokes that adults may find appealing. A more in-depth examination of each of these conventions would show that the majority of Disney princess films possess most, if not all, of these tropes and features. Nevertheless, a brief outline alone demonstrates how Frozen has not produced a ‘revolutionary’ Disney narrative at all. Frozen’s popularity and success may be based primarily on limited “feminist” interpretations and a superficial understanding of Pixar and Disney’s rich histories in both animation production and technological innovation. However, it is Frozen’s marketing and distribution tactics that contributed to its hit status most remarkably. In the article “How Frozen Took Over the World,” Maria Konnikova describes theories put forth by economist Barry Litman in 1983 and psychologist Dean Simonton in 2009 that account for a film’s popularity.29 Litman suggests that a film’s performance is less dependent on factors such as genre and key audience but rather its content, release schedule and marketing. In particular, he emphasizes that content with a degree of familiarity and timelessness, positive critical ratings and a release directly preceding Christmas increase a film’s popularity.30 Litman’s theory arose before the rise of the internet and social media, yet Simonton’s theory takes these two factors into account when it suggests that a film’s story and “social significance,” (information which can be easily found online) are the two largest factors in determining a film’s success.31 In this sense, Frozen achieved all of the factors mentioned; it was released in late November, it presented timeless themes, contemporary issues and characters with relatable traits within a high quality script, and 85


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it gained widespread attention for its more ‘revolutionary’ aspects when people shared their thoughts on the film through the internet and social media. Furthermore, the lawyers associated with Frozen disseminated its music online, leading to the popularization of many of its songs such as “Do You Want to Build a Snowman” and “Let It Go” – both of which topped the international music charts for several weeks.32 Anna and Elsathemed merchandise, such as costumes, clothing, dolls, partyware, school supplies, fruit snacks and bags sold by Disney and other retailers, have also become highly popular, as have the film’s soundtrack and its Blu-ray and DVD releases. An animated short, Frozen Fever (Disney-Pixar, 2015), was released a little over a year after its full-length predecessor, while the production of the Frozen sequel is currently underway with no release date set. There is also a Frozen stage musical production scheduled to premiere in the summer of 2017 (an unsurprising offshoot considering the Broadway fanbase associated with the film and its stars). Frozen is by no means a radical political statement, nor does it present a very large thematic and artistic shift in Disney’s animated feature filmmaking, yet it has earned a reputation as a classic Disney film within the last year alone. Frozen and its success is therefore representative of Disney’s continuous power as a brand, an animation studio, and as an enormous contributor to contemporary pop culture. It also demonstrates the potential for actually “revolutionary” Disney animated films in the years to come.

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1 Ben Fritz, “A Charmed Life for Disney’s Frozen,” The Wall Street Journal Magazine, January 12, 2014, http://www.wsj.com/articles/SB100014240527023 03819704579316722023392130. 2 Maria Konnikova, “How ‘Frozen’ Took over the World,” The New Yorker, last modified June 25, 2014, http://www.newyorker.com/science/mariakonnikova/how-frozen-took-over-the-world. 3 Fritz. 4 Konnikova. 5 Fritz. 6 Carolyn Giardina, “Oscars: With ‘Frozen,’ Disney Invents a New Princess (and Secret Software),” The Hollywood Reporter Magazine, last modified November 27, 2013, http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/news/oscars-frozendisney-invents-a-659175. 7 Fritz. 8 Giardina. 9 Fritz. 10 Fritz. 11 Giardina. 12 Ian Failes, “The tech of Disney’s ‘Frozen’ and ‘Get a Horse!’” FXGuide.com, last modified December 2, 2013, https://www.fxguide.com/featured/the-techof-disneys-frozen-and-get-a-horse. 13 Failes. 14 Emanuel Levy, “Frozen: Setting and Visual Look,” Emanuel Levy Cinema 24/7, last modified December 26, 2013, http://emanuellevy.com/uncategorized/ frozen-setting-and-visual-look. 15 Idem. 16 Idem. 17 Dan Sarto, “The Animation of Disney’s ‘Frozen’: Striving to Capture the Performance,” Animation World Network, last modified October 11, 2013, http://www.awn.com/animationworld/animation-disneys-frozen-strivingcapture-performance. 18 Idem. 19 Giardina. 20 Idem. 21 Bill Desowitz, “Designing the Winter Wonderland of ‘Frozen,’” Animation Scoop on IndieWire.com, last modified October 7, 2013, http://blogs.indiewire. com/animationscoop/frozen-preview-designing-arrendelle. 87


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22 Idem. 23 Dawn England, Lara Descartes and Melissa A. Collier-Meek, “Gender Portrayal and the Disney Princesses,” Sex Roles 64, no. 7/8 (2011): 558-560. doi: 10.1007/s11199-011-9930-7. 24 Ibidem, 561-562. 25 Ibidem, 563, 565. 26 Haseenah Ebrahim, “Are the ‘Boys’ at Pixar Afraid of Little Girls?” Journal of Film and Video 66, no. 3 (2014): 45. doi: 10.5406/jfilmvideo.66.3.0043. 27 Ebrahim. 28 Rebecca-Anne C. Do Rozario, “The Princess and the Magic Kingdom: Beyond Nostalgia, the Function of the Disney Princess,” Women’s Studies in Communication 27, no. 1 (2004): 47. doi: 10.1080/07491409.2004.1016246. 29 Konnikova. 30 Konnikova. 31 Idem. 32 Idem.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY Desowitz, Bill. “Immersed in Movies: First Look: Designing the Winter Wonderland of ‘Frozen.’” Animation Scoop on IndieWire. com. Last modified October 7, 2013. http://blogs.indiewire.com/ animationscoop/frozen-preview-designing-arrendelle. Do Rozario, Rebecca-Anne C. “The Princess and the Magic Kingdom: Beyond Nostalgia, the Function of the Disney Princess.” Women’s Studies in Communication 27, no. 1 (2004): 34-59. doi: 10.1080/07491409.2004.10162465. Ebrahim, Haseenah. “Are the ‘Boys’ at Pixar Afraid of Little Girls?” Journal of Film and Video 66, no. 3 (2014): 43-56. doi: 10.5406/ jfilmvideo.66.3.0043. England, D., Lara Descartes, and Melissa A. Collier-Meek. “Gender Portrayal and the Disney Princesses.” Sex Roles 64, no. 7/8 (2011): 555-567. doi: 10.1007/s11199-011-9930-7. Failes, Ian. “The tech of Disney’s ‘Frozen’ and ‘Get a Horse!’” FXGuide. com. Last modified December 2, 2013. https://www.fxguide. com/featured/the-tech-of-disneys-frozen-and-get-a-horse. Fritz, Ben. “A Charmed Life for Disney’s ‘Frozen.’” The Wall Street Journal Magazine. Last modified January 12, 2014. http://www. wsj.com/articles/SB10001424052702303819704579316722023392 130. Giardina, Carolyn. “Oscars: With ‘Frozen,’ Disney Invents a New Princess (and Secret Software).” The Hollywood Reporter Magazine. Last modified November 27, 2013. http://www.hollywoodreporter.com/ news/oscars-frozen-disney-invents-a-659175. Konnikova, Maria. “How ‘Frozen’ Took Over the World.” The New Yorker. Last modified June 25, 2014. http://www.newyorker.com/ science/maria-konnikova/how-frozen-took-over-the-world.

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Levy, Emanuel. “Frozen: Setting and Visual Look.” EmanuelLevy Cinema 24/7. Last modified December 26, 2013. http:// emanuellevy.com/uncategorized/frozen-setting-and-visual-look. Sarto, Dan. “The Animation of Disney’s ‘Frozen’: Striving to Capture the Performance.” Animation World Network. Last modified October 11, 2013. http://www.awn.com/animationworld/ animation-disneys-frozen-striving-capture-performance.

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Jonas Odell’s short animated film, Never Like the First Time (2006), is composed of four separate parts, each with its own narrative voice-over describing a unique mimetic experience of sexual inauguration. All accounts were first verbally recorded in an interview, and later adapted into the director’s visual interpretation.1 The footage seen is segmented by numbered intertitles between each encounter, producing an effect akin to flipping through the pages of a novel. In each filmic ‘chapter’ various mediums called upon in order to produce a cinematic experience resembling the reading of a book, an effect achieved by restructuring images on the screen as two-dimensional. This integration of cinematic and literary forms results in an obscure mode of representation, and engagement. In having the screen imitate a publication’s tabular surface, the film provokes its spectators to bridge visual gaps together as if reading from a variety of books. Each sexual account is transformed on the screen using different animation techniques, and aesthetics in order to pair the story’s tone with its distinct style. Franziska Bruckner explains that Odell’s animation style results in a “hybrid film” due to a combination of devices, which creates a blurred boundary. This troubles the distinction between each instance, where a certain technique is incorporated.2 For example, within the second and third filmic chapter, rotoscoping— or the technique of drawing over the figures within each frame of a recorded film— is used to fuse photographic, and animated, footage. This filmic device is able to preserve live-action movement that is generally lost in animation films.3 Further, the first and final chapters apply cutout animation by combining diverse material such as digitally refined photographs and sketches, contributing to the film’s paper-thin aesthetic. All segments reflect a two-dimensional picture book quality by using rotoscoping, and graphic cutouts, to create flattened characters. While an interplay between devices often creates a blended composite, each chapter is distinct as the voice-overs implicate viewers in to a unique account of glory, regret, trauma, and nostalgia in reliving the narrator’s ‘first time.’ Although all the film’s segments use 93


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similar animation devices, chapters two and four most clearly resemble reading the diverse tabular surfaces within books. In the second chapter of Odell’s short film, not only is rotoscoping utilized to transform individual photographs into illustrations, but also to maintain the two-dimensional component of the images. The filmmaker mentioned in an interview with VICE Magazine how “the motion of real people rather than animated ones would provide the right feeling for what [he] wanted.”4 Never Like the First Time’s second segment introduces two partners who become progressively intimate over the span of several months. Rotoscoped solely through internally transparent contours, these characters resemble something similar to a chalk-outline at a crime scene. By depriving these outlined figures of detailed features, spectators are guided towards the experience of filling in the gaps of visual representation. When engaged in a book, the reader must use the descriptive words lying flat on the page as instruments to mentally deconstruct the images. By reducing these figures into simple outlines, Odell borrows this important literary aspect of imagination, and implements it within his short film. Furthermore, the technique of contoured rotoscoping affords Odell an outlet to avoid issues of censorship. As the two outlined characters in the second chapter gradually become comfortable in each other’s presence, the figures begin to undress themselves into further simplistic profiles. While removing the articles of clothing, both the couple’s corporeal features and apparel remain outlined as it is scattered across the bedroom floor. As a result, the characters’ nudity remains implicit and concealed. Taking into consideration the fact that these characters are fourteen years of age, one can see how this animated device avoids problematic representation; especially as these characters engage in intercourse. Here, it is evident that Odell forces his viewers to participate cognitively in the film by filling in the gaps of sexual action on screen rather than explicitly sexualizing minors. Similar to combining the reading of an erotic novel, and the descriptive words in to a mental image embedded with sexual content, the film borrows this linguistic technique in having its viewers bridge the outlined gaps together in a cognitive fashion. It is notable note how this film raises questions concerning censorship in one medium, such as cinema, that cannot easily escape obscenities that could be perceived acceptable in other mediums, such as literature. While the textual language utilized by the voice-over explains the occurrence of coitus within the film, the complementary visual language is restricted. The film provokes speculation over the sexual representations across different 94


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media, and raises questions of why a visual image is less appropriate than its correlated linguistic description on a sheet of paper. Odell’s decision to use rotoscoping demonstrates how the contoured figures are represented through both the literal and figural literary term of a flat character. As the outlined partners continue to struggle with intimacy, not only does this emphasize the twodimensionality of the figures, but it also reflects flatness through their undeveloped maturation. Although the partners eventually achieve a mutual goal of engaging in intercourse, neither undergoes personal growth through this accomplishment. Additionally, these characters can be considered rudimentary, as they are not intricately fleshed out onscreen. Juxtaposed with erasing both the facial and gestural representations through rotoscoping, the general method of interpreting a character’s emotional response is also removed. In Odell’s minimalistic implementation of such animation techniques, the filmmaker chooses to ignore these potential attributes and instead accentuate the difference between viewing a screened projection and reading a text. In novels, readers are often given a description of what the characters are thinking, but film spectators are not necessarily equipped with this explanation. Although voice-over narration is present within Odell’s film, the narrator offers more of an objective description of the events unfolding, rather than a channel into the characters’ emotional interiority. Rotoscoping removes the visual filmic quality that tends to substitute the internal dialogue granted within literature. By eliminating the expressive characteristics of the figures, Odell emphasizes the intermedial attributes that could easily be implemented to bridge this emotive gap. In the film’s final chapter, the director moves away from rotoscoping, but maintains a two-dimensional approach by representing his characters through a collage of images taken from vintage magazines, as if pasted in the pages of a scrapbook. Bruckner notes how Odell works with “digital cutouts; however, the aesthetic of the image material – corresponding to the spirit of the 1920s evoked by the [elderly] narrator – is matched to old postcards, fashion illustrations and paper dolls.” 5 Aged newspaper cutouts are layered upon each other as if to create a cinematic portfolio of preserved mementos. The viewer witnesses a cinematic experience similar to that of flipping through the pages of a scrapbook of memories, stitched together to create a patchwork of images. This is further emphasized when the camera zooms in on a close-up of a vintage Polaroid picture in order to absorb the screen into the photo’s previously 95


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static reality, not only suggesting that the film’s diegesis now consists of the animated realm, but also imitating the tangible experience of entering one’s own memories, while reading a scrapbook. When these characters undress, a shot displays clothing fluttering to the floor represented by magazine cutouts, almost mirroring the action of opening a scrapbook and finding foreign objects within its pages. The character cutouts are layered on top of old-fashioned newspaper backdrops. The two-dimensional figures appear to step out of the article, suggesting they are coming to life, and transcending the medium. In such proceedings, the viewer is invited to piece the collage’s events together as if it were a scrapbook. Never Like the First Time creates a unique cinematic experience of reading the projected screen as if it were the pages within a variety of different books. Rather than passively accepting the visual representations presented on the screen, Odell pushes his viewers to actively engage with the two-dimensional images. In closing the film’s ambiguous gaps, the spectators assimilate techniques predominant in literature with the projected lights on the screen. Alongside drawing a tabular comparison to that of a book, the film’s use of rotoscoping, and cutout animation, solicit spectators to recognize that behind each triumphant and nostalgic, or regretful and unwarranted account, is the assertion that one never should truly read a book by its cover. Of the four chapters, both the initial and third account’s aesthetics seem to yield more to its content. Focusing trenchantly on the reaction of one’s peers, the first segment demonstrates the transformation of sexual outlooks by focusing on the supposed triumph that comes with crossing over the liminal state of being sexually inexperienced to that of being experienced. By using characters from two-dimensional digital cutouts, the initial style inaugarates a paper-thin quality that the film consistently preserves. Similarly, the film’s third chapter uses rotoscoping to create characters with inexplicit features. However, the aesthetics and content are coupled to raise awareness of consent and lack thereof. Here, this animated device is used to maintain the literal and figural anonymity of the story’s sexual offender. While the interviewed voice-over hesitantly describes how the nameless perpetrator was never identified, the film uses rotocoping to display the corresponding outlined figure. However, instead of being internally transparent, the physical attributes are filled with typewritten names that rapidly dart across the ambiguous profile. Notably, the film draws a temporal comparison of reading a novel with 96


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reading the projected words on a screen. Particularly in detective novels, readers are easily able to turn back the pages and recognize if some crucial information was overlooked. On the other hand, cinematic screenings do not allow such backtracking. While readers are able to control the speed of interpreting and comprehending a tabular surface, Odell blurs the anonymous figure’s names to challenge the spectator to rapidly absorb the overwhelming amount of information, only to have viewers understand that the task is a lost cause‌

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1 Jeffrey Bowers. “I’m Short, Not Stupid Presents: ‘Never Like the First Time!’ Interview with Jonas Odell.” VICE. 2013. 2 Franziska Bruckner. “Hybrid Image, Hybrid Montage: Film Analytical Parameters for Live Action/Animation Hybrids.” Animation 10, no.1 (2015): 24. 3 Lisa Cartwright. “The Hands of the Animator: Rotoscopic Projection, Condensation, and Repetition Automatism in the Fleischer Apparatus.” Body & Society 18, no.1 (2012): 51. 4 Jeffrey Bowers. “I’m Short, Not Stupid Presents: ‘Never Like the First Time!’ Interview with Jonas Odell.” VICE. 2013. 5 Franziska Bruckner. “Hybrid Image, Hybrid Montage: Film Analytical Parameters for Live Action/Animation Hybrids.” Animation 10, no.1 (2015): 34.

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BIBLIOGRAPHY Bowers, Jeffrey. “I’m Short, Not Stupid Presents: ‘Never Like the First Time!’ Interview with Jonas Odell.” VICE. July. 26, 2013. http:// www.vice.com/read/im-short-not-stupid-presents-never-likethe-first-time Bruckner, Franziska. “Hybrid Image, Hybrid Montage: Film Analytical Parameters for Live Action/Animation Hybrids.” Animation 10, no.1 (2015): 22-41. Carwright, Lisa. “The Hands of the Animator: Rotoscopic Projection, Condensation, and Repetition Automatism in the Fleischer Apparatus.” Body & Society 18, no.1 (2012): 47-78. Never Like the First Time. Directed by Jonas Odell. Filmtecknarna, 2006. Film.

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