Diegesis CUT TO [conflict]

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di'e'ge'sis - noun 1. the narrative world of the story 2. recounting, narration

CUT TO [conflict]

# 9 2015

c o n f l i c t

EDITORIAL “Conflict is to storytelling what sound is to music… The music of story is conflict” – Robert McKee, Story As screenwriting guru Robert McKee tells us in his writer’s bible Story, conflict is fundamental to any good story. In fact, he notes that “nothing moves forward in a story except through conflict”. Yet conflict is a complex and multi-faceted concept that invokes all manner of themes and connotations. Broadly, we might first distinguish between internal and external conflicts but, as many of the articles in this issue attest, often the line between the two is blurred. Our CUT TO [conflict] features examine the breadth of conflict on screen from representations of terrorism and terrorists to the heroic figure of the soldier, from the conflicted aging men of the neo-western to the women trapped by limited roles. Collectively they offer up conflict as a cross-generic concept, spanning film and television, war, drama, comedy, animation and science fiction. The articles in PLAY. PAUSE.REWIND. focus on singular case studies with protagonists that navigate internal and external conflicts: a young girl comes of age during the Iranian Revolution, a romantic twenty-something struggles to distinguish fantasy from reality, a misogynistic killer uses violence to subordinate women, a space marine battles a rampaging cyborg, a vigilante cop takes the law into his own hands, while another cop wrestles with the moral challenges of undercover investigation. In SHORTHAND, two writers explore Hollywood’s use of racial stereotypes as a representational shorthand, examining constructions of blackness and whiteness, dominance and subordination. The section also features capsules of four short films about conflict, which engage with bullying, the pressure of an all-male environment and mistaken identity. The articles in AT THE MARGINS address the media representation of femininity, from Ellen Page’s critique of sexual labelling, the sexualisation of young girls and the screen portrayal of female gamers in the wake of Gamergate. In DIALOGUE, we feature the winning reviews from the last Southampton Film Week writing competition and, if they inspire the critic in you, you will find the details of our next competition on page 75. In ENCORE, our writers look closely at acting and performance, exploring the ensemble as a fertile space for familial disputes and exposing the tensions beneath male bravado in detective drama. In FADE OUT, we reflect on the untimely death of the wonderful comic chameleon Robin Williams and introduce the theme for our next issue.

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CONTENTS [conflict]: features 33 A (NEW) MAN’s world: 06 terror-vision: Terrorism on British screens by Sophie Britton

10 men at war: Screening soldiers by Eva Osman

14 A Country for old men: Aging cowboys by Caine Bird

18 Animating conflict: Studio Ghibli’s bid for peace by Laurence Russell

55 sexy too soon:

Bigelow’s men by Thomas Brint

On the sexualisation of girls by Rebekka Malkenes


58 game on:

Challenging the romcom by Luke Batten

Female gamers by Megan Sowerby

38 pulp fRiction:


Violence against women by Nicole Jane Duncan

60 southampton film week:

40 Hardwired: Techno-human conflict by Liam Nicholson

Review writing competition 2014 winners



66 misery loves company:



Dr Who’s trapped companions by Dean Shelley

Four short films on conflict

The (dys)functional ensemble by Lisa Gocher


70 big bad wolves:


Representing Africa by Emily Conner

True Detective’s conflicted cops by Tom Hurdle




Autobiographical animation by Myrto Nika

Subservience Hollywood style by Stacey Rowe

72 inner conflict:



The Shield’s dirty cops by Alex Frohlick

52 challenging the status quo: 74 The next issue:

30 HONOURABLE WOMen: In search of complexity by Daniel Humphreys

Ellen Page’s intervention by Alice Stansfield

Robin Williams by Jack Beetlestone

Call for contributions

75 writing competition 2015: Calling aspiring critics!

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Brought to you by BA (Hons) Film and Television Southampton Solent University

Editorial Team Caine Bird Emma Eaton Myrto Nika Joe Potts Laurence Russell Bryony Salisbury Megan Sowerby Vicky Swain Jordan Thomas

cover image Photographer: Merle Praakli Model: Sean Eccleston For more about Merle Praakli visit www.diegesismagazine.com/ conflict-cover-2015

Editor-in-Chief Donna Peberdy

Managing Editor Darren Kerr

Assistant Managing Editor Caine Bird

The articles appearing within this publication reflect the opinions and attitudes of their respective authors and not necessarily those of the editorial team, BA (Hons) Film and Television and Southampton Solent University

Read our back issues for FREE at:


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CONTRIBUTORS Luke Batten Jack Beetlestone Caine Bird Thomas Brint Sophie Britton Emily Conner Katherine Dale Nicole Jane Duncan Alex Frohlick Lisa Gocher Tom Hurdle Daniel Humphreys Kane Le-Petit Rebekka Malkenes Liam Nicholson Myrto Nika Eva Osman Elliot Robinson Stacey Rowe Laurence Russell Dean Shelley Megan Sowerby Alice Stansfield Jordan Thomas Find our more about our writers this issue by visiting: www.diegesismagazine.com /conflict-writers

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Terror-VISION How recent British cinema has dealt with the subject of terrorism

Sophie Britton • I

n order to understand how cinema deals with the topic of terrorism it is important to first understand the relationship between the British public and terrorism and, in doing so, how we gather our information, whether through TV broadcasts, newspaper or social networks. In Contemporary Debates on Terrorism, Richard Jackson and Samuel J Sinclair (2012) state that terrorism “is the use and credible threat of extreme violence to create a climate of fear to intimidate a wider target than the immediate”, a definition that summarises the current climate surrounding terrorism in the 21st century. It is a threat or use of violence to draw attention to a group’s set agenda, an act that ripples; the trauma inflicted leaves a mark on society. A current and frequently reported threat facing Britain and other Western countries is from radical, militant Islamic fundamentalist factions such as jihadist groups Al-Qaeda and ISIS. These rebel groups commit acts of terror and violence in order to pursue their own agenda of spreading Islam through Western culture. The way in which the British press report on terrorism can be seen as very black and white; there are terrorists and there are victims, reduced to a simplistic moral case of right and wrong. The threat predominantly faced by Britain is from Islamic extremists, leading to widespread fear of the religion as a whole and the generalisation of all Muslims as radical extremists. This has resulted in the demonisation of Islam and Muslims. In Pointing the Finger: Islam and Muslims in British Media (2011), Robert Richardson suggests this negativity is the result of postwar immigration, combined with industrial restructuring that resulted in high levels of

unemployment, causing social fear, anger and leading to Muslims being used as scapegoats. He also discusses the spread of moral panics, a key theme when looking at terrorism in the media, where the media act as scaremongers in order to sell stories. Richardson argues that Islam is perceived as a threat to the current social order, disrupting life as we know it. The concept of moral panics has been investigated at length in order to understand a nation’s fear about an event or time period. The panic that resulted from the London bombings that took place on the 7th of July 2005, an act committed by Islamist suicide bombers, still reverberates through society, heightened by the fact that the suicide bombers were British citizens. In 7/7: The London Bombings, Islam and the Iraq War, Milian Rai (2006) raises a crucial question about why “young men born and bred in Britain, with all the rights and freedoms a British citizen enjoys, could decide to blow themselves up”? The British public did not want a recounting of the events but an explanation for the events. The lack of explanation led to widespread moral panic around the idea of the home-grown terrorist. In Trauma Culture: The Politics of Terror and Loss in Media and Literature (2005), E. Anne Kaplan explores why events such as 7/7 and terrorism have had such a significant impact on British culture and history. Building on Sigmund Freud’s work on trauma and the individual, Kaplan considers the way in which an individual reacts to trauma as key to exploring how society deals with an act of terrorism and the resulting trauma. In turn, this raises the idea of “vicarious trauma”, referring to the experience of those who were

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not present at the time of the incident but who experience trauma as a result of the event. The idea of vicarious trauma is vital in exploring the representation of terrorism in British film after the 7/7 bombings and 9/11 attacks.

output post 9/11 and 7/7, where there has been an increase in films about corrupt governments and domestic threats to Britain as a nation, reflecting the current state of panic Britain finds itself in during a time of uncertainty.

In Trauma Cinema: Documenting Incest and the Holocaust, Janet Walker (2005) defines trauma cinema as “a group of films that deal with a world-shattering event or events, whether public or personal”. Although it might not deal with an event directly, trauma cinema often deals with the social anxieties experienced as a result of a traumatic event. Walker raises the point that trauma cinema deals with traumatic events differently, not conforming to Hollywood’s classical realism but instead retelling the story in an unconventional way and incorporating self-reflexive devices. She describes how the subject of trauma is dealt with in cinema in a “nonrealist mode characterised by disturbance and fragmentation of the film’s narrative and stylistic regimes”. Such strategies ask the audiences to think about the subject matter in a different way, contrasting the binary depiction of terrorism in the news media as right/wrong.

London River (2009) and Four Lions (2010) directly explore the subject of terrorism in post 9/11 and 7/7 British culture. London River deals with the aftermath of the 7/7 bombings via a mother’s journey to try and find her missing daughter. The film engages with numerous social anxieties and clearly represents the sense of moral panic caused after the bombings, firstly through devout Christian mother Elizabeth Sommer’s (Brenda Blethyn) panic over the whereabouts of her daughter, who fails to make contact after news breaks of the 7/7 bombings and, secondly, via her fear of her daughter’s conversion to Islam. Elizabeth represents all the families who had lost or were looking for missing loved ones following the bombings.

Trauma cinema uses unconventional strategies to represent the impact of terrorism. According to Douglas Kellner in Cinema Wars: Hollywood Film and Politics in the BushCheney Era (2011), there has been a post-9/11 global influx of the political thriller and films following the formula of “pitting moral and righteous individuals against corrupt and depraved government officials”. Although writing from a North American viewpoint, Kellner’s argument equally applies to British cinema. A prominent idea is how such films engage with anxiety around government efficiency by arguing that it is the responsibility of the government to protect its population from both foreign and domestic attacks. In British cinema this idea contrasts with more passive reporting, as political thrillers tend to be more explicitly conflictual. British cinema is renowned for its realism and has a long history of reflecting contemporary social anxieties. The trend is evident in the film production

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Her fear over her daughter’s conversion to Islam highlights the demonisation of Islam and Muslims. This is reinforced by the work of Sara Upton in Reframing 9/11: Film, Popular Culture and the War on Terror (2010) who argues that 9/11 changed the way British Muslims were represented in the media, resulting in Britain’s search for the “next terrorist” in order to reestablish feelings of security. The feeling of fear is well represented in London River, most notably in a scene in which Elizabeth breaks down on the phone to her brother after hearing of her daughter’s Arabic lessons at the local Mosque. Elizabeth cries and professes her fear that her daughter has been converted. Her grief about her daughter being missing is equal to that around the idea that her daughter might now be a Muslim. This idea of unmasking the “next terrorist” is clearly represented in Four Lions, which follows a group of jihadist extremists planning to become suicide bombers. Four Lions does not explicitly mention any terrorist event predating the time the film is set, relying on the audience’s prior knowledge of current affairs to help them understand the narrative. Upton explores the idea of how the nation’s search for feelings of safety can be achieved by investigating “physical appearances,

movements, life practices” and, in this way, Four Lions perpetuates the stereotype of the British Muslim as terrorist. The film opens with the all-too-familiar image of a terrorist video message: a man is framed at the centre of a mid-shot, directly addressing the camera in front of a rug hanging from the wall. However, the familiar image is given a sense of levity as the terrorists all speak with heavy Yorkshire accents and appear to be bad at delivering their intended message. Additionally, we see behind the scenes, witnessing the construction of the video message, which breaks the tension as we experience a different side to what we perceive as a threat. Four Lions employs a darkly comic tone to encourage a connection with characters that under any other circumstance would be deemed antagonists. The group do not conform to the stereotypical terrorist as “monstrous, fanatical, driven by fear and loathing” as the terrorist is described in Karen Randell and Sean Redmond’s The War Body on Screen (2008). Instead they are presented as blundering idiots, although the ending of the film nonetheless sees them fulfil their wishes. A theme common in both films is the representation of Islam as a peaceful religion in spite of examples of extremism. London River also shows Muslims in a positive light in the

form of Ousmane (Sotigui Kouyate) who is aligned with Elizabeth through his own search for his child. In the opening scene, Elizabeth attends a church service where the priest reads an extract from the Sermon on the Mount, specifically emphasising the phrase “Love your enemies”. The central message shows the filmmakers’ intentions to bring Christianity and Islam together in the wake of the 7/7 bombings. Ousmane and Elizabeth both grieve the loss of a child and are, despite their different religious backgrounds, united by their mutual grief. London River and Four Lions provide two examples whereby British cinema explores terrorism not by directly and explicitly representing terrorist activities or events but exploring the impact of terrorism on social perceptions. Such narratives engage with moral panics; not the fear created by events but the fear of not knowing when the next attack will happen and a preoccupation with identifying and locating the terrorists in order to feel safe again. These examples suggest that British cinema is more interested in exploring the cultural panic around Muslims in Britain than the acts of terrorism committed by extremists minorities •

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MEN AT WAR To what extent do soldiers in contemporary Hollywood films embody a culturally idealised male?

Eva Osman •


he landing craft doors fly open and soldiers storm, swim and crawl across Omaha Beach to find any form of shelter, struggling for initial comprehension. The tremulous camera finds Captain Miller (Tom Hanks) among a sea of mutilated bodies and tracks toward him as he strides out from the blood red ocean. Sounds of combat fade into clouds as he watches men around him painfully annihilated by enemy gunfire. To his left, a boat and its passengers are alight; the soldiers use the blood-dense ocean to extinguish their flames. An anonymous private screams “What the hell do we do now sir?” They are at war and Miller is their captain, their leader. The war film continues to be a popular and successful genre and Hollywood has produced many spectacles depicting America’s various conflicts as they have been played out on battlefields and in trenches. The Deer Hunter

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(1978), Apocalypse Now (1979), Platoon (1986) and Full Metal Jacket (1987) all illustrate tales of the Vietnam War, while the horrors of warfare experienced in the Second World War have been visited in Saving Private Ryan (1996), Inglorious Basterds (2009) and Fury (2014), among others. The way conflict and the military are portrayed on screen shapes audiences attitudes and perceptions of war and soldiers. It is an exclusively male terrain. Representations of men and masculinity in cinema have been created via social constructs and predominantly displayed as the social ideal. Although these representations are not singular or fixed but are multiple and fluid, the hegemonic masculinity is that of a traditional, strong, reserved hero, a culturally praised heterosexual. The figure of the soldier promotes strength, courage and encapsulates the power of American men.

In America on Film: Representing Race, Gender and Sexuality at the Movies (2004), Harry Benshoff and Sean Griffin write that the “military instilled ideals of masculinity in men themselves, values of aggressive action, suppressed emotion and leadership under duress…in an arena where performance of virile masculinity literally meant life or death”. The war genre underlines and strengthens a triumphant masculinity, a stoic American male. Susanne Kord and Elizabeth Krimmer note in Contemporary Hollywood Masculinities: Gender, Genre and Politics (2011) that the intimate historical connection between the US military and the film industry created “unlikely vehicles of pacifist messages, prone to portray war as an arena of male maturation”. This intimacy has allowed for only certain representations of America at war to be screened, disregarding unhinged violence and focussing on transforming boys into men. War has been portrayed as “an arena of male maturation”. War on screen generates portrayals of dominant masculinity because of military values and ideals and Saving Private Ryan’s Captain Miller exemplifies traditional male virtues. “Although he is courageous in combat, the film does not celebrate his courage under fire, but focuses on his sense of responsibility, his fatherly concern for his men and his strong ethics”, write Kord and Krimmer. Miller has a tic in his hand brought on by nerves, which humanises the male hero. He is not an unbreakable, untouchable human bag of muscle like other representations of hegemonic masculinity such as Sylvester Stallone’s John Rambo in First Blood (1982). Although Saving Private Ryan depicts the Second World War, it was produced in the late nineties and so reflects a more contemporary form of culturally idealised masculinity as well as that of the wartime forties. In their 1990 article “Hollywood Views the Military”, Stanley Rothman, David Rothman and Stephen Powers write that combat movies used the soldier to reaffirm traditional ideas about masculinity and patriotism, emphasising

traditional values of individualism, selfsufficiency, courage and pride. The service provided men with a clear sense of identity. Yet, as academics such as Mike ChopraGant and Donna Peberdy have argued, representations of masculinity on screen are performative. In Hollywood Genres and PostWar America: Masculinity, Family and Nation in Popular Movies and Film Noir (2006), Chopra-Gant understands masculinity “not as an inflexible, essential identity consequent on biological maleness, but as a construct, a complicated assemblage of exterior signifiers, such as clothing, and acquired behaviours that position the male body not as the source of masculine identity but as the site of its performance”. In Masculinity and Film Performance: Male Angst in Contemporary American Cinema (2011), Peberdy describes masculinity as an image to be performed or acted out whereby features such as “surefootedness, inner strength, confidence or purpose” have become qualities to be displayed on the male exterior. Despite the fact that the function of military training is to equip men with the required fitness and skills for combat and to instil irreversible values in them, war films do not explicitly celebrate the male body in the way that the conventional action film repeatedly does. This is evident in characters such as Sylvester Stallone’s John Rambo who spends the majority of the Rambo film series topless, with a contour enhancing shine. Or Bruce Willis’s John McClane in the Die Hard film series, who sports a fitted vest throughout most of his vengeance-fuelled rampages to ensure his muscular definition is visible as he jumps, shoots and punches his way round New York City. Instead of underscoring physical features, Saving Private Ryan praises traditional manly values such as courage, loyalty and a sense of civic responsibility. Captain Miller is not incredibly Herculean, fighting topless with his sleeve tied around his head, but is a leader with an average physique who cares about his men and is looking to return to his wife in Pennsylvania. Ripped and robust actors such as Arnold Schwarzenegger, Sylvester Stallone and Bruce Willis actively encapsulated dominant

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masculinity during the eighties. In Representing Men: Maleness and Masculinity in the Media (2003), Kenneth MacKinnon says that “physical size, strength and ability to endure and use violence effectively suggest that masculine identity is linked to the use of the body as an instrument of power of control”. But at war, despite body training, contemporary soldierly masculinity is measured internally rather than externally. The ideal man in Hollywood today is a violent one. Violence is an important factor in representations of masculinity. At war, killing may be necessary and the moral stance of the individual soldier forms part of his masculine identity. In Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker (2008), male identity is based largely on the soldiers’ attitudes toward death. Staff Sergeant William James (Jeremy Renner) is not afraid of death or war because he understands them both so deeply thus he embodies what Kord and Krimmer refer to as a “fantasy of extreme competence and utter calm amidst danger”, an idealised masculinity. When a group of soldiers in Saving Private Ryan find themselves in possession of a surrendering German soldier, Captain Miller refuses to disregard the military codex that ensures the wellbeing of foreign prisoners despite his men pushing for a violent execution at their hands. Miller blindfolds the prisoner and tells him to walk in the opposite direction of their mission and hand himself in to the first American soldiers he comes across. However, when survivors join Private Ryan’s squad in defending the bridge that will inevitably allow the victor to advance, we see that it is the same German soldier Miller freed that shoots a bullet into his chest. This plot device suggests that decency is lethal and unacceptable as a standard of behaviour at war, and committing violence, often against protocol, should be necessary in a dominant masculine identity. Miller pays the ultimate price.

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Death is an overwhelming presence of the war combat genre. In films made during World War Two it was kept to a relative minimum to maintain the heroism of America by avoiding portrayals of brutality. Going to war celebrates cooperation, which challenges Joan Mellen’s conception of a fabricated single male in her book Big Bad Wolves: Masculinity in the American Film (1977). “We must admire males who dominate others”, she notes, “leaders whom the weak are expected to follow”. War films tend to reject the idea of a “lone wolf ” because of their emphasis on service. They foster an ethos of cooperation and are described by Kord and Krimmer as “a genre in which the denial of self and self-sacrifice are presented as forms of empowerment”. In male presiding institutions such as the military, representations on screen will have a predominantly male cast and so homoerotic undertones are likely to become evident. A knife fight between Private Mellish (Adam Goldberg) and a German soldier in Saving Private Ryan is almost intimate when considering the way the men have been killing so far: from a distance with a gun. As the blade is forcibly driven into Mellish’s living flesh at the hand of the German soldier, the men stop being German and American, Nazi and Jew, but are two men sharing a physically intimate moment, more morbid than their surroundings. Such moments displace the heterosexual dominance of masculinity, although the war genre frequently finds ways to disregard homoerotic encounters and intimate moments of male bonding with an emphasis on family or brotherhood. It has been argued by both scholars and Second World War veterans that Saving Private Ryan achieves a realistic depiction of war populated by a range of masculine identities. The film reveals a shocking historical war that was previously censored and sanitised on the Hollywood screen. Captain Miller, the dominant male with whom we align ourselves, combines ideal hegemonic traits of the forties “Greatest Generation” with a contemporary sensitivity. This displaces and challenges the previously traditional hegemony and allows for the growth and development of a new, fluid spectrum of masculine representations •

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A Country for Old Men A second glance at the retiring cowboys of the Old West reveals an ageless struggle

Caine Bird •


bout halfway through the Coen Brothers’ curious neo-western No Country for Old Men (2007), Tommy Lee Jones’s drowsy, plump sheriff Ed Tom Bell exchanges a few words with his fellow deputy. Nearby, the burning carcass of a car calls the immediate attention of both men; the blistered dirt shifts under their boots as they wearily attempt to establish a narrative for the crime scene. After a pause, Bell despairingly expels, “Well, age will flatten a man”. Spoken in a harsh, grovelling register, Bell’s words come to capture the growing frustrations of aging men in the western genre and culture at large. The film mobilises a portrait of manhood that departs from the traditional narratives of youthful men on screen.

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Writing for The New York Times in 2014, critic AO Scott bemoaned “The Death of Adulthood in American Culture”, arguing that patriarchs are become a dwindling vestige of a bygone generation of men and mature adulthood is seemingly disappearing in western culture. According to his argument, few beloved television characters occupy the last remaining rights of patriarchs. Mad Men’s (2007-) Don Draper (Jon Hamm), for example, enjoys the privileges of the past at the envy of the present. Draper typifies the traditional hegemonic male, who teeters between moral bankruptcy and nonchalant coolness in his slick, grey flannelled suit. Notably, as manhood is situated in a new cultural milieu, there is a developing dialogue between social expectation, age

and the shifting cinematic representations of manhood on screen. Specifically, midlife adulthood is a ritual in the construction of the modern man, exemplified by the new wave of neo-westerns that seek to displace tradition in favour of a new, more complex frontiersman.

the cusp of retirement. Bell’s internal anguish is externalised in his withering physicality. The eerie dream-like passage of time in the Coen’s desert is warped and harsh, evoking Salvador Dali’s painting “The Persistence of Memory”; here, time is at once cruel and unusual.

The western gives space to voice the tales of aging males, a demographic that has largely been side-lined in representation and research. The genre draws from a longstanding tradition, where its generic blueprint graphs the various common conventions, themes, motifs and aesthetics aligned with the image of masculinity. Genre offers a way of organising these conventions and the western has often been stymied by accusations of the genre’s gradual, lulled retirement. Yet a recent slate of neo-westerns suggests an updated take on these flagging traditions.

The dialogue between retirees and conflicted middle-aged men disrupts the traditional scripts of manhood, foregrounding a male identity confronted with new troubles brought on by aging and passing time. Delivering a heart-rending monologue, Bell sighs: “I always figured when I got older, God would sorta come inta my life somehow”. Bell is desperate to be absolved of his responsibilities as an aging man and is trying to better organise his life. Age is a performance that alludes to the growing awareness of his morality. During the speech, anguish ripples through his sunken, pockmarked skin as he vacantly stares into the room, remaining still and stiff.

Clint Eastwood and John Wayne are the two most popular personalities that have emerged out of the western. New Yorker critic David Denby asserts that Eastwood serves as a kind of “mythic-heroic-redemptive figure” for culture, based on his western-steeped repertoire. The catch-all phrase embodies the conventional frontiersman, but also, as Denby notes, is oddly reminiscent of John Wayne, whose career is inseparable from the western genre. Both Eastwood and Wayne have portrayed older men, offering blunt frontier wisdom to those sent adrift in the western’s hazardous slopes. The genre’s U-turn came with a revisionist, ideologically skewered vision of the Old West offered by the Coen Brothers. In their 2010 remake of Charles Portis’s 1968 novel True Grit, Jeff Bridges assumes the character of Rooster Cogburn as Wayne did in the 1969 adaptation, only this time with a drunken wobbliness at the knees and oafish panache. The Coen Brothers’ postmodern barren vista is imbued with their trademark dark sensibility; it is a hazardous, sun-bleached reality, sprawling with infinite possible dangers, threats and conflicts. The plight of man is a recurring feature in the Coen Brothers’ films. True Grit and No Country for Old Men use age as a device for imbuing meaning in their leads. In No Country for Old Men, sorrowful Sherriff Ed Tom Bell is faced with the ticking of the proverbial clock and is on

Jones’s performance of aging is so jarring because it disrupts our social expectations.

For the neo-western, aging is seen as a disruption in the performance of manhood. Renowned twentieth-century anthropologist Erving Goffman suggested in his book The Presentation of Self in Everyday Life (1969) that certain gestures and acts form part of a larger social performance, or “front”, that stem from the everyday. The performance of age could be understood as largely moulded by, as Goffman puts it, the “expectations of the society in which it is presented”. Jones’s performance of aging is so jarring because it disrupts our social expectations of Bell and his profession. The character’s conflict with age contradicts his expected masculine duties: as sheriff, husband and hero. Essentially, he struggles not only to uphold the law, and to be a supportive husband, but also to be a man. Other westerns have exhibited the onset of troubles introduced to the aging male. Rooster Cogburn faces a similar fate, encumbered by responsibilities ushered in by adulthood.

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While Bell quashes every clash with karma, carefully and cautiously avoiding potentially fatal situations, antihero Cogburn rises to the occasion, displaying heroics in the line of duty. Surviving the onslaught of the film’s climax, he endures only to die an unfortunate death of assumed old age. Charles Portis’s introduction of Cogburn in his novel stresses the age of the character when describing his appearance as an “old one-eyed jasper [who] was built along the same lines as Grover Cleveland”. The film likewise takes great pains in capturing the aging Cogburn. Bridges has a coarse appearance that suggests lethargy and neglect, roughened and made worse by his advancing years. We can almost smell his unclean, unshaven flesh. We can almost smell Rooster Cogburn’s unclean, unshaven flesh. AO Scott’s elegy for the adults that once were and the boys that now are is predated by another article he wrote in 2010. In “Gen X Has a Midlife Crisis” Scott identifies the emergence of aging issues for a generation faced with overwhelming change. Indeed, the supposed decline of adulthood could be attributed to multiple causes: the drain on social security, or the yawn between past and present generations

spurred by innovative technologies and media. Aging and the issues that ensue are not exclusive to men, nor should adulthood be situated in opposition to childhood. Rather, in the western manhood is about the absence of childhood, or the need to protect it in the case of paternalism. In 3:10 to Yuma (2007), adulthood is manifest in the form of fatherly duties, as Dan Evans (Christian Bale) escorts a convict cross-country to a penitentiary facility, but is also concerned with the safety of his family. Paternalism is, for these aging men, a tenet of their fatherhood and male identity. Many of these characters engage with a portrait of age that challenges the homogeneity of traditional male figures in culture. The western has long since provided a home for shaping images of aging men that are otherwise not commonly depicted elsewhere in cinema. The more recent depictions of aging masculinity described here actively work to expose the faults with the traditional representation of manhood. With films like last year’s Birdman (or the Unexpected Virtue of Ignorance) or The Best Exotic Marigold Hotel (2011) having their leads battle retirement and other age-related issues alongside the usual tragedies and villains, it seems that the subject of age is waging a quiet war on the western front. Unfortunately, the tropes of yesteryear continue to age only too gracefully •

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ANIMATING CONFLICT Studio Ghibli’s bid for peace

Laurence Russell • A

nimation in the West has long been relegated to children’s films and fairytales. This has cultivated a reputation for animation to be recognised as a genre usually associated with harmless subjects intended for kids, shying away from the more controversial themes of war and violence. This trend is not, however, recognised to the same degree in Japan, where animation forms a large proportion of the content of Japanese media. The locus of Japanese animation culture is commonly attributed to Studio Ghibli, a seminal animation studio founded in 1985, which has recently halted production due to the retirement of its founder and prime

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contributor Hayao Miyazaki. Consequently, this has led to rumours about the studio’s closure. Indeed, this has come as sad news to many given the historic and beautiful works that the studio has produced over the years, with a repertoire of films that have spanned a variety of genres with cross-demographic appeal, a number of which explore more mature themes and extreme violence. One of the studio’s more recent works, The Wind Rises/Kaze tachinu (2013), has been widely described as Miyazaki’s first animated film for adults which, given the sometimes violent nature of his previous work, can only be attributed to its subject matter: the conflict of World War II.

The Wind Rises is based on both a short story The Wind has Risen by Tatsuo Hori written in 1937 and the life of Jiro Horikoshi (19031982), the man who designed the Japanese Mitsubishi A6M Zero Fighter. The story follows Horikoshi (voiced by Joseph GordonLevitt) as he grows up to live through the events of World War II and find love and happiness in a time of tremendous hardship and conflict. This sentiment is mirrored in the film’s title, which refers to a line from Paul Valery’s poem The Graveyard by the Sea (1922) translating as “The wind is rising! We must try to live”. The film drew criticism from multiple sources in Japan upon its release. Some believed Miyazaki was glorifying conflict in the presentation of wartime Japan, whilst politicians felt he was apologising for Japan’s wartime actions. Speaking in defence of the man who inspired the film’s protagonist, Miyazaki explained in a 2013 interview published in The Guardian that “Jiro Horikoshi was the most gifted man of his time in Japan […] He wasn’t thinking about weapons – really all he desired was to make exquisite planes”. In a 2014 essay entitled “War Memory, War Responsibility, and Anti-War Pacifism in Director Miyazaki’s The Wind Rises”, Daisuke Akimoto attributes meaning to the three central pacifist voices in the film: Jiro Horikoshi, a fellow aircraft designer named Giovanni Caproni (Mansai Nomuri) and Hans Castorp (Werner Herzog), a German tourist. These characters are all civilians of the Tripartite Alliance (Japan, Germany and Italy); they are emblematic of the non-conflict pacifists in the axis powers of World War II that disagree with war. They champion for peace in their respective countries; Jiro and Caproni want their aeroplanes to be regarded as marvels of invention rather than primitive killing machines. At one point in the film, Caproni tells Jiro that their dreams of building aircraft are “beautiful and cursed” and forever destined for “decimation and destruction”. Yet, Caproni declares that he would rather live in a world with wonders than without them, implying that the risk of their marvellous inventions

being exploited for warfare was a price he was prepared to pay. Later on, while trying to discover ways to increase the efficiency of the aircraft by reducing its weight, Jiro sadly points out that it would be easier if the plane did not need to be equipped with machine guns. The two scenes express Jiro’s true intentions as a passionate engineer who simply wants to design beautiful aeroplanes and holds serious reservations about the war. This is not, however, the first Ghibli film that is concerned with the events of World War II. Grave of the Fireflies/Hotaru no haka (1988) is considered by critics and audiences alike to be an especially relevant film about the war, and one that Roger Ebert described in 2000 as simply “the most realistic animation film”. Conflict, resolution and peace are recurring themes in Miyazaki’s films. Directed by Isao Takahata, the film takes place during the 1944-1945 precision bombing raids conducted by the US air force over Kobe, where fourteen-year-old Seita (Tsutomu Tatsumi) and his infant sister Setsuko (Ayano Shiraishi) live with their mother. After a particularly vicious raid, Seita and his sister become orphans when their mother is killed by an incendiary bomb, forcing Seita to care for his sister by stealing food. He is too proud to stay with his disrespectful aunt, and unable to go anywhere else. Together they experience the horrors of bombing raids and, unable to find shelter, are starved as food becomes increasingly scarce. In her 2005 book Anime from Akira to Howl’s Moving Castle, Susan J. Napier references the repeated images of overhead planes in Grave of the Fireflies. This consistently reminds the children of the impending threat of war that they are powerless against. As Napier puts it, it “evokes a world that can never be safe”. As Grave of the Fireflies progresses, the conflict wages on and news of the war becomes increasingly hopeless, the slow reality of the war being lost becomes apparent. The children receive news that their father, a naval officer,

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is most likely dead after the destruction of most of the Japanese navy. Napier argues that the implication of this loss “gives depth to the Japanese soul”, describing how Grave of the Fireflies attempts to find meaning and wisdom in the tragedy of conflict and defeat. Themes of conflict, resolution and peace are not limited to these two films and are present throughout Ghibli cinema. One of Miyazaki’s first films, Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind/ Kaze no Tani no Naushika (1984) takes place in a post-apocalyptic world where nature has become especially deadly and poisonous to mankind in an attempt to defend itself with ever-expanding toxic jungles.

is another timeless Ghibli film that presents conflict between man and nature, which is especially relevant in a modern climate of environmental concern and crisis. The film tells the story of an ancient war between the forest - inhabited by sentient wild animals, powerful gods and ancient spirits - and the threat of mankind. The gods and spirits that are defeated or scared away in this conflict represent, as Susan Napier identifies, “how much [human beings] have already lost and how much more they stand to lose”. The forest animals present a genuine sense of anger and resentment toward humans for what they represent: a foreign threat that seeks to conquer nature through a conflict that is seemingly necessary. The film strongly suggests that this mythical battle won by the human race long ago is a sacred tragedy and a mistake worth remembering. Conflict, resolution and pacifism recur throughout Japanese cinema and the animation genre in general. Films such as Journey to Agartha/Hoshi o Ou Jodomo (2012), Patema Inverted/Sakasama no Patema (2012) and Wolf Children/Ōkami Kodomo no Ame to Yuki (2012) exemplify this trend. The conflict/resolution motif is also apparent in Western animations such as How to Train Your Dragon (2010) and Big Hero 6 (2014), which are arguably influenced by Ghibli.

In a 2014 research paper “Learning Peace and Coexistence with Nature through Animation: Nausicaä of the Valley of the Wind”, Daisuke Akimoto compares the toxic spores falling from the trees of the jungle to the snow of a nuclear winter, likens the devastating event that caused the apocalypse to nuclear conflict and draws parallels between the melting super weapon, known as “Giant Warrior” at the climax of the film and the threat of nuclear meltdown. Although criticised by some critics for offering a trite Jesus allegory, the film represents Miyazaki’s early interest with the themes of conflict and resolution. Revered for being the second most commercially successful film in Japan, Princess Mononoke/Mononokehime (1997)

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Hayao Miyazaki’s own pacifism is perhaps best represented in his infamous refusal to attend the Academy Awards after being nominated for Best Animated Feature in 2004 for Spirited Away. Despite winning the award, Miyazaki stood by his decision to not attend, which he owed to his disagreements with the US. He was reported in The Los Angeles Times in 2009 as saying he “didn’t want to visit a country that was bombing Iraq”. The incident represents how Miyazaki cares more strongly for the messages that his films aim to convey than to support their chances of commercial and critical success. His steadfast support for peace and criticism of conflict is not just a theme of his films but also part of his identity as a filmmaker •

WOMEN IN BOXES Isn’t it time to let the Doctor’s companions out?

Dean Shelley • In 1987 critics Helen Baehr and Gillian Dyer edited a collection of original essays for their book Boxed In: Women and Television to “fill a gap” they felt existed in the field of media, communication and women’s studies regarding the representation of women on the small screen. In one essay, Dyer notes how “television is a producer of cultural meanings” and a “major force in the

production of dominant images of women”, suggesting that audiences learn from these images. The representation of women offered in the contemporary Doctor Who series (2005-present) seemingly helps to fill that gap in screen discourse. However, a focus on the various female companions reveals the limited and negative archetypes the show perpetuates.

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Doctor Who is a science fiction television show that centres on, as The Doctor (Matt Smith) refers to himself in the first episode of the fifth series, “a madman with a box”. The “box” refers to the TARDIS, a time machine used to transport The Doctor, a Time Lord, and his companions across time and space. The Doctor’s adventures regularly see him facing a threat, usually something or someone to defeat for the good of civilisation and humanity. One of the benefits of being a Time Lord is the ability to regenerate into a different form, allowing for different actors to take on the lead role. Following the re-launch of Doctor Who in 2005, four actors have taken on the lead role of The Doctor: Christopher Eccleston, David Tennant, Matt Smith and, most recently, Peter Capaldi. Not only does The Doctor regenerate, getting him a new personality and appearance each time, but his companions change too. Although the role of companion is much deliberated amongst fans, and the criteria to achieve the title of “official companion” is often contested, the general consensus is that there have been ten companions since 2005: six female - Rose Tyler (Billie Piper), Martha Jones (Freema Agyeman), Donna Noble (Catherine Tate), Amy Pond (Karen Gillan), River Song (Alex Kingston) and Clara Oswald (Jenna Coleman) - and four male - Mickey Smith (Noel Clarke), Captain Jack Harkness (John Barrowman), Wilfred Mott (Bernard Cribbins) and Rory Williams (Arthur Darvill). What do each of the female companions bring to the images of women being portrayed in Doctor Who? In an essay written for Chicks Dig Time Lords: A Celebration of Doctor Who by the Women Who Love It (2010), Elizabeth Bear suggests that “the Doctor is the crazy cat lady of time-traveling immortals” and she compares the role of the companion to “human pets”. This immediately categorises most of the female representations in Doctor Who as nothing more than mere co-dependent objects that need The Doctor to care for them, look after them and, essentially, own them. After just two series, Rose Tyler’s companionship came to an end when she was left trapped in a parallel universe, sealed away from The Doctor forever. Her love for, and loyalty to, The Doctor help her achieve the seemingly impossible by spending an enormous amount of time and

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effort traveling across parallel universes to try and return to him, much like a lost pet attempting to return home. Another stereotype perpetuated by the female companions is the idea of the “damsel in distress”. The female companions’ complete dependence on The Doctor is reasserted by repeatedly showing them breaking away from him without his permission. Usually, this story arc results in the companions finding themselves in dangerous situations, which The Doctor then needs to rescue them from. Rose, when exploring a spaceship alone, gets knocked unconscious and locked in a room about to be burnt alive. The responsibility falls on The Doctor to save her. The recurring damsel in distress storyline suggests all women are incapable of defending themselves. Indeed the other female companions find themselves in similar situations. The Doctor’s companion in the fourth series, Donna Noble, is persuaded to have her fortune read. However, she accidently creates an alternate history in which she never meets The Doctor and her life is shown to be significantly worse off. In her chapter: “Doctor Who’s Women and His Little Blue Box” in Doctor Who in Time and Space (2013), Antoinette F. Winstead observes that the damsel in distress awaiting rescue is a common trope that will continue to recur in the series because The Doctor “is a heroic role [and this means he has to] save the damsel in distress”. The repetition of this character type suggests all women are incapable of defending themselves and implies that men are essential in protecting and defending their safety. Crucially, the male companions are not beholden to the damsel in distress storyline and are instead often given jobs or titles that recognise their ability to save others. Captain Jack exited Doctor Who at the end of 2005 to star in his own spin-off series Torchwood (2006-2011), where he is in charge of a small team that saves humanity from extra-terrestrial threats. Mickey Smith (Noel Clarke), although referred to as an “idiot” by The Doctor in both

Christopher Eccleston and David Tenant’s incarnations, helps save The Doctor and subsequently the Earth in “World War Three” (Series 1, Episode 5). Mickey’s time aboard the TARDIS concludes when he heroically leaves to pursue a life of leading a group of alien hunters called “The Preachers”. When executive producer Russell T Davies was replaced by Steven Moffat in 2010 a new trend emerged. Moffat began labelling his scripted female characters, which immediately limited their abilities and conditioned their usefulness to that one affixed label. The fifth female companion, Amy Pond, became “The Girl Who Waited” - a label that implies youth, immaturity and dependence. This label is bequeathed to the character when Amy is introduced as a companion, and she waits fourteen years to travel with The Doctor after first encountering him as a seven-year-old. Waiting becomes a running theme and various episodes leave Amy awaiting The Doctor’s return. In “The Girl Who Waited” Amy is separated from The Doctor on an alien planet where she has to wait thirty-six years to be rescued. In the fifth season finale she is imprisoned in the an inescapable prison known as “Pandorica” for 2000 years until The Doctor helps open it. The Doctor consequently defines seven-year-old Amy’s life when he does not return for her. She spends fourteen years trying to convince people her “imaginary raggedy man” was real, resulting in her admission into four different psychiatrists, each of whom insisted that The Doctor was not real.

that women are distressed damsels in need of rescuing and their existences revolve around one man. There are, however, some positive steps being taken. Freema Agyeman was The Doctor’s first ethnic minority companion in its history and the show has also received praise for its depictions of non-heterosexual women. The recurring characters Madame Vastra (Neve McIntosh) and Jenny (Catrin Stewart) are a lesbian crime fighting couple that often assist each incarnation of The Doctor. Quoted in an article that suggested the BBC “should be bold in gay coverage” (2012), a spokesperson for anti-hate crime charity Galop said, “Doctor Who quite often has a gay character in it but it isn’t always an issue or the plotline… it’s just incidental, which has been quite nice”. In 2014, Catherine Tregenna became the first female writer hired for the show since 2008 and Stephen Moffat recently commented in an interview for SFX magazine, “There easily could be a female Doctor. I think the next time might be a female Doctor. I don’t see why not. I think it’s good to do that.” There is hope for the future that the examples of limited images and representations of women being portrayed within Doctor Who may be challenged with more varied depictions •

Dubbed “The Impossible Girl” by Matt Smith’s Doctor, current female companion Clara Oswald is invited to become his companion because she assumes three different incarnations across three different timespans. This is an impossibility and therefore not only confuses but also excites The Doctor. The latest series offers further examples of the subordination of the female companion when the twelfth Doctor (Capaldi) makes numerous references to Clara’s appearance, dryly criticising her looks and belittling her, remarking “You’ve really let yourself go” and making quips about her make-up. These numerous examples demonstrate how Doctor Who offers severely limited representations of women, suggesting

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An ode to freedom

What an autobiographical coming-of-age animation can tell us about humanity, religion and gender

Myrto Nika • F

ollowing the recent bombing of the offices of Charlie Hebdo in Paris by jihadists, religious fanaticism and conflict in the Middle East has once again become a prominent subject, making Vincent Paronnaud and Marjane Satrapi’s animated French biography Persepolis (2007) a film worth revisiting. Based on the autobiographical graphic novel of the same name written and illustrated by Satrapi in 2000, Persepolis offers a unique and rather brave point of view. The story is told through the eyes of a young Marjane (voiced by Chiara Mastroianni), growing up in Iran during the Iranian Revolution and the film openly comments on issues such as the deprivation of freedom, religious fanaticism and gender inequality. An examination of the conflicts that result from such polarised subject material, the impact that the war has on Marjane, and to what extent people who experienced similar situations are affected by their environment, provides an insight into the negative

effects that violence and deprivation of freedom have on society. Conflict in Persepolis is most prominent in the form of war. Early on in the film, Marjane reminisces about her childhood and plainly states, “I remember I led a peaceful, uneventful life as a little girl”. However, this statement is quickly contradicted when, through a flashback sequence, the audience is introduced to the young Marjane at the time of the Iranian Revolution in 1979. At a very young age Marjane has to come to terms with the cruelty of the regime. The Revolution is her first contact with the cruel reality that she and her family

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live in. When the Revolution starts, it offers a glimpse of hope for many people, including Marjane’s family, that things could be better. That hope quickly fades when Islamic Fundamentalists win the elections and the execution of groups of people of different beliefs begins. This has an immediate effect on Marjane as she witnesses a state of fear being established around her and the lives of her loved ones are subsequently threatened. Soon after the Iran-Iraq war breaks out, bombings start taking place and Marjane witnesses the horrors of war, an experience that is portrayed extremely vividly in a scene where Marjane’s house is demolished. As Marjane and her family escape, she discovers a dead body and the screen suddenly goes black, showing only the corpse, consequently underscoring Marjane’s terror. Through the eyes of the young and innocent Marjane, the audience is forced to face the horror and cruelty of war, recalling Ari Folman’s Waltz with Bashir (2008), which features a scene that refers to the Sabra and Shatila aftermath. As these events unfold in Persepolis, a child’s face becomes visible in the ruins of a building. It is a shocking and confrontational moment. The war-time government passes strict laws that force Marjane’s parents to send her to study in Vienna in order to protect her from her outspokenness that would eventually beckon even more trouble. Once again Marjane is deeply affected by

the war but this time she has to leave her family and move to a new, hostile place. Conflict in Persepolis is often attributed to political disputes, especially during the time of the Iranian Revolution. Under the government of the Islamic Fundamentalists many people are executed because of their political beliefs, particularly communists who are considered an enemy of the nation and were hunted and executed as traitors. Among these people is Marjane’s favourite uncle Anoush (voiced by François Jerosme), a man who is repeatedly arrested and eventually executed for his political views. Even in the face of his execution, Anoush advises Marjane to always stay true to herself. His death, while painful for Marjane, becomes a point of inspiration. Through the eyes of young and innocent Marjane, the audience is forced to face the horror and cruielty of war. Marjane’s uncle is not, however, the only loved one that she loses as a result of the cruel political regime. Another uncle, who suffers from a fatal illness that cannot be treated by local doctors, is refused a visa due to his political ideology. The visa would have allowed him to be hospitalised abroad, granting him a chance at survival.

Equally important to the commentary on the deprivation of freedom due to political beliefs is the dialogue the film opens up about religious fanaticism. The government formed by the Islamic Fundamentalists often projects religious motives as an excuse for passing extreme measures and preys on the social isolation of national enemies by labelling them as atheists or as people who ignore the word of Allah. For Marjane, religious and political beliefs are not contradictory but rather complimentary. This is strongly implied in a sequence whereby she faints after a suicide attempt caused by severe depression; in her dream she is having a discussion with Allah and Karl Marx. Religion takes a more active part in film’s conflict when young boys are promised a key to Heaven if they join the army and fight in the war against Iraq. In the name of Allah, the government convinces young men that, as a mother figure tells Marjane’s mother, “if they die in battle they would go to heaven with this key”. The commentary in Persepolis is not offered through a depiction of Marjane being directly affected by religious fanaticism but it rather derives from the comparison between the fanatics and Marjane’s family. Those who blindly support the government in the name of their faith are juxtaposed with Marjane’s family who, even though they are firm believers, refuse to prove their faith by denying themselves goods like alcohol.

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The distinction between Muslims and fanatics is clearly visible. The film also offers a commentary on gender inequality. Even as a child, Marjane is often outraged by the discrimination against women that has been established under the Shah’s regime and is continually enforced after the Revolution. As Heather Lee Schroeder argues in A Reader’s Guide to Marjane Satrapi’s Persepolis (2010), the story offers an authentic insight into the life of Iranian women. As a result of strict laws and beliefs, women are constantly required to be conscious of their appearance and mannerisms to ensure that under no circumstances do they appear provocative towards men. In cases where men deem the clothing choices or behaviours of women inappropriate, women are humiliated, treated as lesser humans, and deprived of dignity and respect. This has a major effect on Marjane, whose personal

views conflict these laws and she refuses to conform to a system that ranks the value of human life according to misconceptions around gender. Through the conflict between Marjane’s free spirit and the repressive laws of the government that decrease the dignity of women, Persepolis manages to underline the hypocrisy behind these measures that fuel gender inequality. In his book War and Film (2008), film historian James Chapman notes that a film can never offer an accurate portrayal of reality. However, Persepolis manages to accurately capture the political climate of Teheran after the Revolution. Through Marjane’s childhood experiences the audience is not only provided an insight into the political conflict in Iran through a point of view that is rarely offered in cinema, but the film also acts as a reminder of the importance of standing up for your beliefs regardless of the cost. The consequences of political

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conflict make Marjane stronger, even when fear leads her to act irrationally and the reminder of the suffering of her loved ones helps her achieve a normal life. Conflict is the driving force in Persepolis and is the motive for commentary on pressing issues in the Middle East. Paronnaud and Satrapi’s film tells a coming-of-age story where external conflict, the Revolution, the Iran-Iraq war, police brutality, as well as internal conflict manifesting in the desire for Marjane to remain true to herself and to her values, is what spurs Marjane to develop. The film explores the horror and anguish that conflict can have on its victims and emphatically underscores the fact that when conflict leads to a violation of human rights, loss of freedom or the fall of civilisation, society is unable to evolve and people struggle to find happiness. Persepolis is foremost an ode to freedom and equality •

ROUGH JUSTICE What side are you on?

Alex Frohlick • T

he crooked cop has been a defining character in the evolution of televised police dramas over the past decade. From the Classical Hollywood film noir Where the Sidewalk Ends (1950) to the contemporary acclaimed drama Training Day (2001), the iconic figure of the dirty cop has been vital to the genre’s development and continued success. Often overlooked in favour of other quality cop dramas, FX’s The Shield (2002-2008) is one of the most intense and engaging series to broadcast outside of the HBO network that has long dominated television dramas. Gaining a reputation from critics and fans as the bigger, louder rival to HBO’s The Wire (20022008), The Shield has a much faster pace when compared to other dramas and prides itself on the relentless tension and action seen in each episode. Similar to The Wire, The Shield focuses on the blurred distinction between good and bad, right or wrong, and interrogates the moral and ethical integrity of institutional forms

of justice and order. The shows vary in their execution of these themes, however. While The Wire utilises subtle metaphors that offer in-depth explorations of political corruption, The Shield organises these complex issues into straightforward good-guy/bad-guy narratives. The Shield is a character study first and foremost, rather than offering a sociological commentary of major aspects of American culture and society as depicted in The Wire. The drama charts the escapades of Los Angeles’ most efficient yet simultaneously controversial specialist strike team. Led by detective Vic Mackey (Michael Chiklis), the strike team’s raison d’etre is simple: to rid the streets of LA from gang violence and any drug related crime. Being assigned such a weighty mission, the team uses decidedly unconventional methods to get the job done. Extortion, torture and even murder are all justified in the eyes of Vic and his wicked crew. Yet, despite the success that these methods bring, the strike team is never in

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short supply of sceptics, potential threats and opponents both on the streets and from within the police department. The world as depicted in The Shield is rife with corruption and scandal. As the show progresses it becomes clear that Vic is not alone in his defiance of conventional moral standards; in fact, he is a product of the environment. Vic has witnessed first hand, and grown tired of, the incompetence and ineffectiveness of standard police protocol. As a result, Vic forms his strike team and takes the law into his own hands. An intimidating, confident and manipulative leader, Vic converts the other members of his crew to adopt his wicked moral ideologies. The strike team becomes a force of nature roaming the violent LA streets. The team manages to maintain not only the highest arrest record but also seize an astounding amount of weaponry and drugs; their alternative efforts certainly produce tangible results. The strike team enforces the law under the pretence of a twisted utilitarian principle: they insist on serving the greater good. The violence, general corruption and crimes inflicted on individuals who withhold important information is justified for the greater wellbeing of LA; they will destroy anything standing in their way. If the death or misfortune of a petty criminal results in gleaning information for a potential drug bust or headline arrest then so be it. For Vic and his team, the morally just outcome validates the immoral means to achieve it. This is a common theme in crime dramas, encapsulated by a morally ambiguous central protagonist from The Wire’s Jimmy McNulty (Dominic West), True Detective’s (2014) Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) and Martin Hart (Woody Harrelson) and Justified’s (2010) Raylan Givens (Timothy Olyphant). This creates an important moral conflict between the audience and the character, where the audience is encouraged to sympathise and support a character with a problematic moral code that comes into conflict with their own. Of all the popular immoral characters, Vic Mackey remains the definitive image of the antihero, with an unmatched determination. Whether extorting gangs for information, stealing from Armenian drug lords or single-

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handedly battling the Mexican cartel, Vic is the ultimate embodiment of the dirty cop. It is, however, the conflict from within the ranking hierarchy of the department that drives The Shield through its eight-season lifespan. From the very first episode Vic oozes confidence. His defiance of police captain David Aceveda (Benito Martinez) in front of the entire department is an early indication of Vic’s rejection of authority and largely inflated ego, which is key in defining his masculine image. This air of self-righteous arrogance collides with other members of the department, most notably being the consistent competition between Vic and the strict, morally just detective Holland “Dutch” Wagenbach (Jay Karnes). For Vic and his team, the morally just outcome validates the immoral means to achieve it. Vic’s alpha male often clashes with Dutch over a variety of different subjects, from casework to personal relationships. The two are polar opposites in nearly every conceivable way. Being a firm believer in good, clean police work, Dutch uses his knowledge of psychoanalysis and psychology to break suspects over a prolonged period of time to gain the information he requires to crack the case. Vic, on the other hand, adopts a far more heavy-handed approach using extreme methods to get results. The other detectives tend to look the other way rather than confront the strike team about their methods; they see the results produced and ask no questions of it. Dutch, however, is often first to notice and investigate any discrepancies with the strike team’s cases. However, Dutch’s vendetta against Vic is not one based on moral principle alone, but also represents a confrontation to his masculinity. During the first season we see Dutch’s failed romantic and sexual advances with women within the department. This comes to Vic and the strike team’s amusement as they prey on him, taunting and pranking Dutch, similar to

how a playground bully picks on vulnerable targets. Despite his best efforts to ignore Vic’s juvenile behaviour, Dutch is eventually forced to confront his issues with Vic and the team. The Shield is, therefore, as much about the modern man’s crisis of masculinity as it is about crime and punishment. In their line of work, maintaining an image of control and dominance is essential to survival on the streets and within the police department. Both environments are ruthless battlefields where power means everything. Throughout, the strike team are forced to operate under the command of multiple disapproving captains, all of which seek to expose and destroy them. The audience are forced to confront their own perceptions of justice as the strike team often break chain of command, the law, and even at times betray their own ethical code. In this regard, The Shield is similar to Breaking Bad (20082013), which focuses on the moral conflicts and ethical considerations of its central protagonist; meth cook Walter White (Bryan Cranston) is inherently reminiscent of Vic Mackey. The two characters attempt to justify their criminal actions and manipulations of the law by protecting those close to them and, as the characters and respective shows develop

and evolve, it becomes increasingly difficult to defend their actions. The Shield presents the audience with a highoctane, unflinchingly ruthless account of the war on drugs on the streets of LA. A source tells Vic early in the first season, “Man, somebody needs to end this war”, to which Vic replies, rather triumphantly, “I intend to”. The strike team transforms from a group of close-knit friends busting down the doors of petty corner boys to a well-trained machine. The Shield is no ordinary police drama. It has the audacity and bravery to tackle highly controversial issues and subject matter and earns its reputation as one of the all-time great television series, echoed by James Poniewozik in his review for Time magazine: “The Shield did what network cop shows have lately abandoned: it created a richly imagined world with continuing story lines, driven by LA’s roiling racial politics”. To some a hero, others a monster, detective Vic Mackey embodies the moral and ethical struggle faced by police officers and detectives in any crime drama. The thin line between good and bad is not simply blurred but rather demolished by Vic and the strike team, leaving it to the audience to draw their own distinction between right and wrong •

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Honourable women Are screen representations of femininity becoming more complex?

Daniel Humphreys • T

he various conflicts in the Middle East have played out on our news screens for many decades and we are reminded of the violence and unrest the Middle East faces on an almost daily basis. The release of Hugo Blick’s The Honourable Woman (2014) is a particularly timely representation of the difficulty the region faces. The BBC drama tells the story of businesswoman Nessa Stein (Gyllenhaal) who has inherited her father’s company. She seeks to terminate the company’s associations with weapons supply, in favour of strengthening communications in order to bridge the social gap and conflict between the Israelis and the Palestinians. Rather than the conflict in Gaza, it is baroness, heiress and honest broker Nessa that is at the forefront of the eightpart thrilling drama. The conflict in the Middle East acts as a backdrop to Nessa’s battle with a traumatic past

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and a continuing search for personal equilibrium drives the narrative. Writer, producer and director Blick cast Gyllenhaal as the protagonist because of what he called the character’s “deep emotional complexity”, a characteristic Gyllenhaal has demonstrated in films as diverse as Donnie Darko (2001), Secretary (2002), Sherrybaby (2006) and The Dark Knight (2008). The Honourable Woman is not just a title. Blick has commented that it does not just refer to Nessa’s “professional status” but is a reflection upon Nessa’s “moral condition”. This opens up the debate about the representation of gender roles on screen. The commonly held belief is that physical distinctions might be natural but the behaviours, personalities and characteristics associated with men and women are cultural and can therefore be changed. As culture and history changes our society, so does the influence it has on our screens. One of the first moments we meet Nessa, she is wearing her baroness robes before entering the House of Lords. A comment is immediately made about the role of women in politics. Just 100 years ago there was not a single female member in parliament. Today, however, nearly a quarter of the MPs in the House of Commons are female and a fifth of the members of the House of Lords are women. Gyllenhaal’s Nessa is more than the hard-nosed archetypal business woman we

see so much of on our screens today. The writing of the female characters in harmony with the unravelling storyline enables them to challenge the boundaries of archetypes and it is this dedication to generously written characters, which makes The Honourable Woman a game-changer in the representation of femininity and gender. All of the characters in the series have different layers that slowly get unravelled as the show progresses, but the female characters are notably given more prominence. Nessa is powerful, smart, emotional, broken and confused. Gyllenhaal has herself recognised that the women in the series are multifaceted and are “so many things, like we all are” and, in Nessa, underneath the thrills, twists and secrets there is an “ocean of real human life”. It is this human aspect that the characters have that alters our perceptions of femininity. Nessa is neither stylised nor stereotyped. Each episode in the mini-series reveals more about Nessa’s past and hidden secrets within her family, business ventures, and the British Secret Intelligence Service. Significantly, most of the characters that have an influence in the development of the story arc are also female. Numerous shows have put female characters that appear to fit into the category of “professional women” at the forefront of their narratives. The Honourable Woman focuses on the most professional of women in Nessa Stein, but usually the

focus of this stereotypical category is that of their “quests for sex, pleasure and romantic love”, as David Gauntlett describes in Media, Gender and Identity. In Sex and the City (1998-2004), for example, Carrie Bradshaw (Sarah Jessica Parker) is a writer and successful career woman but the show focuses in the main on her relationships with men. Two years later the meaning of the “professional woman” took another turn with Ugly Betty (2006-2010), which saw a professional woman’s journey to find her inner beauty. The programme encourages its viewers to not rely solely on appearances - the character was an inspirational role model for young women - but it was nonetheless preoccupied with image. The Honourable Woman focuses instead on personal struggle and asks questions about what it means to be morally just. As we continue through the deceptive and ever-changing storyline, flashbacks and flashforwards are employed to help understand Nessa’s internal conflict, including one particular traumatic event that clearly makes her vulnerable, both emotionally and professionally. Focusing on Nessa’s internal conflict is used as a creative device to provide an insight into Nessa’s character and it also locates the drama in a contemporary time-frame, making her character and story more accessible to viewers. The main troubles Nessa faces are trying to not only do her part in bringing

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peace to Israel and Palestine, but also to find Kasim (Oliver Bodur), the kidnapped son of, we are led to believe, the Stein family’s nanny Atika (Lubna Azabal). In some dramatic scenes occuring midway through the series, it is revealed that Nessa was previously captured and held captive in Gaza where she was raped and forced to bear a child. Her power is significantly undermined by the domination of the males holding her captive. Beneath her pain and distress, her maternal instincts are palpable, adding to the complex representation of womanhood already presented by the series. Atika, who was also captured, is the only other person who knows Kasim’s true identity. After they escape, Atika poses as the child’s mother, establishing a bond between both women that continues across eight episodes. In order for Nessa to remain “honourable” to her ambition of bringing peace to Israel and Palestine, she has to hide the truth about her son and deal with her inner turmoil.

In his 2014 review for Time, James Poniewozik praised Gyllenhaal for her interpretation of a woman who has “learned to keep a roomtemperature face even when she’s melting down internally.” He goes on to say that “only gradually do we learn how much of herself she’s lost in the interest of her cause”. It is this ability to gradually reveal the character, episode by episode, which enhances Gyllenhaal’s performance of this complex woman at the same time as enabling the audience to engage with her human nature. Recent television examples suggest that the representation of females is broadening and there is now more scope for character expansion. Women are the complex and independent protagonists in series such as Happy Valley (2014) with Sarah Lancashire and Gillian Anderson in The Fall (2013-2014). Women are more frequently playing characters that are selfsufficient and do not fall back on the superficial stereotypes that they once did.

The mini-series format allows time for the characters to grow in a way that would be less achievable in a feature film. The eight-hour drama allows time for the characters to expand and be developed. Controlled pacing makes time for conversations, allowing pauses for thought and the cast to reveal the various layers of each character who all become more than they first seem.

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In her Best Actress acceptance speech at the Golden Globes for The Honourable Woman, Gyllenhaal acknowledged the presence of “actual women” on TV. She highlighted what she saw as women who are “sometimes powerful and sometimes not; sometimes sexy, sometimes not; sometimes honourable and sometimes not”. Her comments demonstrate that screen representations of women and femininity are becoming increasingly complex. She went on to say that there is a “new wealth of roles for actual women in television and in film. That’s what I think is revolutionary and evolutionary”. For Gyllenhaal, screen representations are pushing the ideological boundaries and her character Nessa Stein is a clear case in point: powerful, professional, assertive, vulnerable and uncertain, a politician, a hostage and a mother. Most of all she is a human being •

A (New) Man’s world Kathryn Bigelow reconstructs screen masculinity

Thomas Brint • I

n the 1980s, the epitome of masculinity was a muscular and macho version of the ancient Greek Adonis, at least as far as Hollywood was concerned. Seemingly fearless and with the power to kill anyone or anything that stood in their way, actors like Sylvester Stallone and Arnold Schwarzenegger wowed audiences with their display of masculinity on screen. However, in the 1990s, a new role model for men appeared. It was a model that contrasted the figure that was prominent in the 1980s: a sensitive, caring, good-looking, slim and yet,

importantly, still muscular. This type of man could fight his way out of any situation while having the emotional depth demanded in order to really understand a woman’s needs. Both of these types of masculinity oozed power and control. Director Kathryn Bigelow, nonetheless, shaped a new type of cinematic role model for men through her films. In The Cinema of Kathryn Bigelow (2003), Deborah Jermyn and Sean Redmond state that 1991 was a pivotal year for screening the male

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whose representation in fact evolved into this new model of a man. Bigelow’s Point Break (1991) has been widely recognised by critics for offering a fundamental redefinition of masculinity and gender identity. This has been considered to be the starting point of the new model of man that progressed onto our cinema screens. Since Point Break, Bigelow has gone on to direct other action films like Strange Days (1995) and The Hurt Locker (2008), where she continued to screen the male based on this new type of man. Point Break follows FBI agent Johnny Utah (Keanu Reeves) as he tracks down a gang of surfers he believes to be bank robbers. Utah is presented as a strong, good-looking embodiment of this new model of masculinity and the mise-en-scene is constructed in a way that underlines this. Jermyn and Redmond write about the camera cutting and interweaving between Johnny and the leader of the surfers Bodhi (Patrick Swayze), emphasising the way that they use their body language in order to affirm their masculinity. The opening scene displays Johnny in a simulated target arena, killing bad guys and saving the good. He chews gum whilst tensing his muscles in a tight black vest as the rain pours on his wet, smooth hair. Meanwhile Bodhi rides the ocean waves, showing his audacity for extreme sports, and that he is a risk-taker. These are masculine traits of the new man, making him look cool and powerful at the same time. Jermyn and Redmond mention that Bodhi’s character embodies traits that are conventionally considered as masculine and others that are generally regarded as feminine. He is muscular, his hair wavy and blonde and his voice is soft, with a calming, reassuring tone, suggesting that he is sensitive. However, he is also ruthless and powerful yet somehow he manages to retain his sensitivity. There is a definite bond between the two men, even though they are supposed to be rivals. Jermyn and Redmond suggest that Point Break hints a gender crisis in which the main male protagonists form a homoerotic relationship. They are often screened topless together, for example, engaging in game-playing that necessitates close physical contact. They are in awe of one another and recognise each other’s

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hegemonic masculinity; they are both alpha males and this ultimately fuels their rivalry and relationship. The exploration of dominant males has been central to Bigelow’s films and male groups have often been a point of fascination for her, whether being surfers, bikers, police officers or soldiers. In The Hurt Locker, she explores male identity through the main protagonist, Sergeant First Class William James (Jeremy Renner) who leads a bomb disposal team in Iraq. He has a boyish charm and is a maverick but at the same time he remains respected. James’s team are initially wary of him due to his young and naive personality, which they fear that would threaten the safety of the rest of the group in the warzone, however, there is a noticeable transformation in James’s relationship with his team. Bigelow uses this transformative journey to create empathy for James and the main characters as we discover more about his tendency for recklessness. This characteristic explores his relationship with death. He does not fear it and shows passion in doing what he enjoys, hinting that he has emotional depth beneath a rebellious exterior. The exploration of dominant males has been central to Bigelow’s films and male groups have often been a point of fascination for her. In Strange Days, the protagonist Lenny Nero (Ralph Fiennes) is a former cop who receives a data disc that records the feelings and emotions of a murder that he seeks to avenge. Lenny is physically weak, a feature that sets him apart from Bigelow’s other male leads. Like in many of Bigelow’s films, Lenny is a lawful figure chasing a bad guy. In Ladies and Gentlemen, Boys and Girls: Gender in Film at the End of the Twentieth Century (2001), Murray Pomerance describes Lenny as a delicate man. He often gets beaten up and is more skilful at using his words rather than his fists. Nonetheless, Lenny is still a representative character of the new male hero. His piercing eyes display love, a desire to fight and willpower, and these attributes compensate for his lack of physical strength.

He is more than capable of using a gun and has enough drive and determination, which indicates that he would stop at nothing. While Bigelow’s male protagonists are quite different, they share qualities of the new model of man, suggesting Bigelow enjoys the representation of different types of masculinity in her films. Women play an important role in defining the new man in Bigelow’s films. Women play an important role in defining this new man in Bigelow’s films and often display qualities traditionally associated with masculinity. In Strange Days, Lornette “Mace” Mason (Angela Bassett) is powerful, muscular and at times more physically intimidating than men. She is an exceptionally skilled driver and has a quick instinct that helps her avoid trouble. She embodies many masculine traits that Lenny does not seem to possess, consequently reversing conventional gender roles. In Point Break, Tyler (Lori Petty) also connotes power and dominance. Her name is gender-neutral, she has short hair, she takes control and is prone to angry outbursts. However, she cannot cope with the masculine repartee that takes place on the beach when the men play American Football together,

and she leaves, saying that there is too much testosterone for her to be around. She later becomes the damsel in distress when she gets kidnapped and needs Johnny to save her. In presenting stronger, more aggressive women and sensitive men, Bigelow frequently tangles with the conventions of gender identity, questioning stereotypes and established ideas of how men and women should act. The action genre is often perceived as a male targeted genre because of its focus on fast-paced action and violence, yet Bigelow’s action films also have broad appeal on female audiences. Bigelow successfully challenged the 1980s male identity, which was rewarded when she became the first woman to win an Academy Award for Best Director. The new model of the male hero continues to flourish, as it is evident from the portrayals of deeply emotional and mysterious characters like those offered by Ryan Gosling in action films such as Nicolas Winding Refn’s Drive (2011) and Derek Cianfrance’s The Place Beyond the Pines (2012). Bigelow has reformed the way in which male masculinity is portrayed on screen and, in doing so, has revolutionised the action genre. The model of the new man is relatable to both male and female spectators, offering a more realistic and identifiable male character than the hyper-masculine 1980s male heroes did •

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(500) Days of manipulation According to its tagline, (500) Days of Summer is a story of boy meets girl but it is not a love story. However, does the film manage to transcend the Classical Hollywood standard?

Luke Batten •


n Stacey Abbott and Deborah Jermyn’s Falling in Love Again: Romantic Comedy in Contemporary Cinema (2008), Tamar Jeffers McDonald defines the arrival of a romantic comedy where the male is the central protagonist as the “homme-com”, a response to the established “chick flick”. Woody Allen’s Annie Hall (1977) is a cinematic touchstone in this respect and a number of critics have observed the importance of the film in subverting the conventional tropes of the romantic comedy genre. Structured nonchronologically, the narrative follows comedian Alvy Singer (Woody Allen) as he contemplates the reasons that ended his relationship with Annie Hall (Diane Keaton) a year ago. Marc Webb’s (500) Days of Summer (2009)and Joseph Gordon-Levitt’s portrayal of the main character Tom seemingly offer a significant challenge to the dominant image of masculinity defined by physical strength and the subordination of women. The film also displays a non-linear narrative structure. A story about lost love is presented through flashbacks from Tom and Summer’s (Zooey Deschanel) 500day relationship, presented from the male perspective. As stated by the narrator at the beginning of the film, Tom “grew up believing that he’d never truly be happy until the day he met the one”. The finite nature of Tom’s 500day relationship with Summer immediately debunks his belief that finding his one true love will equate to experiencing genuine happiness. Tom challenges the stereotype that men are innately preoccupied with sex, since his desire is for a serious relationship. For Stella Bruzzi, as mentioned in her 2013 book Men’s Cinema: Masculinity and Mise-en-scene in Hollywood, the film conforms to the conventions of the Hollywood melodrama of the 1940s and

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1950s whereby its stylization emphasises the characters’ emotional journeys. In doing so, the film is comparable to Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind (2004), which also follows a nonlinear structure, presenting the good and bad moments of Joel (Jim Carrey) and Clementine’s (Kate Winslet) relationship through flashbacks. Director Michel Gondry employs surrealism to externalise the internal reality of Joel’s memory erasure of Clementine, which also underlines the realism of their relationship. We observe their surroundings physically collapsing around them as they subconsciously try to escape the memory erasure procedure. In (500) Days of Summer, live action is both juxtaposed and integrated with hand-drawn animations, especially in scenes significant in shaping their relationship. When Tom has his first sexual encounter with Summer, a crucial junction in their relationship, he believes that

they are in love and their casual relationship to be considerably more profound and long-term. As he leaves his apartment, a surreal Broadwaystyle dance routine takes place, encapsulating Tom’s happiness and the possibility of what his relationship with Summer might become. Later at a house party, Tom sees an engagement ring on Summer’s hand and he leaves humiliated, as he was under the impression that his invitation to the party was a means to reconcile their relationship. He storms out of Summer’s apartment down the street and pauses, distraught. The scene morphs into darkly shaded hand-drawn animation, emphasising the end of his relationship with Summer and intensifying his false belief in a serious relationship with her. Tom’s worldview is presented as a composite of popular film, music and media influences. As described by the narrator in the film’s opening, Tom has an unrealistic view of love, a view that “stemmed from early exposure to sad British pop music and a total misreading of…The Graduate”. Despite the dance routine scene being a manifestation of Tom’s subconscious, the musical number personalises Tom’s perception of true love and happiness. This scene feminises Tom by accrediting his worldview as a mixture of cultural influences such as the upbeat tone of Hall and Oates’s “You Make My Dreams Come True” and the intertextual use of an animated bluebird, which links Tom’s perception of love to that commonly encountered in a fairy tale. However, during this scene Tom also glances in a shop window and sees Han Solo (Harrison Ford) as his reflection, a film character associated with heroism, charisma and physical strength. The reference challenges Tom’s feminisation even though the representation of the traditional masculine type is fleeting in comparison to the other references. Gordon-Levitt has contested the idea that Tom is a romantic role model saying, “I would encourage anyone who has a crush on my character to watch it again and examine how selfish he is.” The actor believes that Tom projects his obsessive and delusional fantasies onto Summer suggesting that his obsession demonstrates the objectification and sexualisation of women. This supports what Candida Yates observes in Masculine

Jealousy and Contemporary Cinema (2007) as the increasingly common voyeuristic traits and jealous behaviour created by an “unrealistic” portrayal of love in popular culture, particularly as they are found in celebrity magazines. Tom falls in love with the idea of Summer rather than her as a person, despite her openness about wanting a casual relationship with him and her confession that she does not share his views on love or fate. Summer is arguably a “Manic Pixie Dream Girl”, a term coined by critic Nathan Rabin in 2005 to describe a female character that exists solely for the development of the male lead and as an object of desire and idolisation for the male gaze. The contradiction between Tom’s expectations and reality suggests that his idea of destiny is a fantasy. As he begins his relationship with Autumn (Minka Kelly), the parenthetical day count resets, once again presenting relationships as a finite construct and reaffirming Tom’s belief in fate. The film ends by subverting the conventional happy ending of the classical Hollywood narrative. Yet the implication is that Tom is destined to embark on a relationship with Autumn that perpetuates the unrealistic expectations he has held throughout the film. Once again comparisons with Eternal Sunshine can be drawn wherein Joel and Clementine decide to embark on their former relationship, despite knowing that they will eventually resent one another. As (500) Days of Summer reaches its resolution, Tom is still unable to renounce his belief that finding his one true love is the only way to achieve happiness. (500) Days of Summer offers a refreshingly realistic response to the boy-meets-girl standard found in the conventional romantic comedy. The disparity between subjective and objective reality is ultimately ambiguous, however; our palpable reality is always subject to external influences. During Tom and Summer’s final meeting, Tom explains that he cannot comprehend the idea that Summer has abruptly fallen in love with somebody else. She explains: “I just woke up one day and I knew”. “Knew what?” Tom responds, confused. “What I was never sure of with you”, Summer responds. Tom and Summer’s relationship epitomises a universal emotional fallibility, revealing our expectations about love to be unrealistic and manipulated •

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pulp fRiction Screening violence against women: how far is too far?

Nicole Jane Duncan • V

iolence against women on-screen makes cinemagoers uneasy, if not completely deters them. Yet contemporary cinema does not often shy away from exploring and depicting brutal violence against women. For years, audiences have been viewing films that show female characters being bound, gagged, beaten and even brutally killed. Are representations of women as victims of violence becoming glamourised or even normalised? Killer Joe (2011) depicts brutal acts of sexual violence, including the now-notorious scene whereby wife Sharla (Gina Gershon) is viciously forced into performing fellatio on a cooked chicken leg, brandished by Joe (Matthew McConaughey). The controversial scene begins with the psychopathic contractkiller of the title discovering that he has been double-crossed by Sharla for a handsome inheritance fee and pursues to torment and torture her. He roughs her up and punches her in the face, breaking her nose in the process. The film received criticism for its brutality and portrayal of female characters as victims: Anthony Lane for The New Yorker said the film bordered on “abusive farce”, The Wall Street

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Journal’s Joe Morgenstern found it “ugly and vile”, while Mark Jenkins for the Washington Post was disturbed by the “cruel humiliation” experienced by Gershon’s character. Yet critics largely received the film positively. Roger Ebert was “left speechless” after watching the film and called it “one hell of a movie”; McConaughey’s “magnificent” (Betsy Sharkey, Los Angeles Times) and “fierce and ferociously funny” (Peter Travers, Rolling Stone) central performance received the most praise. Two years earlier, Jim Thompson’s 1952 novel The Killer Inside Me was adapted by British director Michael Winterbottom. The 2010 film tells the story of a psychopathic sheriff Lou Ford (Casey Affleck) who engages in a sadomasochistic relationship with prostitute Joyce Lakeland (Jessica Alba). As events escalate, he murders Joyce as well as his longterm girlfriend Amy Stanton (Kate Hudson) and numerous other people who cross his path. Winterbottom’s adaptation proved to be equal parts thought-provoking and conceptually repugnant to audiences and critics, who were angered by how the female characters gained sexual satisfaction from otherwise extremely

sadistic, parasitic and even poisonous relationships. While Kate Muir for The Times considered the film favourably, calling it “the work of stylish, existential brutality”, Ann Hornaday for the Washington Post criticised the film’s “misogynist brutality”, calling it “depraved, made more so by the fact that its female victims are depicted as loving their abuse right up until it turns murderous”. This was one aspect audiences and critics found particularly problematic: that female characters are seen to encourage and somewhat enjoy the violence inflicted against them. In the initial stages of Lou and Joyce’s relationship, he beats her with his belt. At first Joyce screams and cries out in pain before apparently beginning to enjoy the sting of his belt lashes. The depiction of female characters experiencing pleasure from non-consensual violence, culminated in the film being accused of advocating and glorifying the abuse of women through scenes of gratuitous violence. The Killer Inside Me provides a backstory that indicates Lou had supressed his sadistic desires before he came into contact with Joyce, thus it is easy to shift the blame of the unfolding events onto her. The most shocking scene concludes with Lou attempting to murder Joyce by punching her in the face until she is no longer recognisable. By Joyce agreeing to be the subject of Lou’s violence in the early stages of their relationship, it is possible to see how she inadvertently paved the way for its violent and fatal conclusion. What is most interesting is how the film received very little criticism for its depiction of Amy Stanton’s death yet the murder is made especially deplorable with Lou’s misogynistic attitude towards women seeping through his exterior. In one scene, Lou knocks Amy to the ground with two forceful punches to the stomach. As she attempts to regain her breath, not only does Lou seemingly express a lack of emotion, but he also appears content and almost satisfied with himself knowing he caused her pain. It seems the issues critics and audiences had with the film stemmed not from Lou’s brutal torturing of women, but that it was shown in graphic detail and at great length. In their 2012 book Transgressive Imaginations: Crime, Deviance and Culture, Maggie O’Neill and Lizzie Seal argue that violence in The Killer

Inside Me is “not based on ever more creative and gory ways of making the victims suffer”. This suggests the violence employed in The Killer Inside Me was not for entertainment value as much as it was a needed part of the narrative. While the film does not construct the violence as enjoyable (as is often the case in “torture porn” films), it does focus on abuse and violence directed towards women rather than at men. The crime drama does not portray male deaths and violence towards men in any detail nor as explicitly as it does for the women. This argument is observed in Transgressive Imaginations, where the authors suggest the film’s sole interest is witnessing women being abused, mutilated and then ultimately killed. Do these films glamourise or even normalise violence against women? This is best exemplified by the death of Johnnie (Liam Aiken), a young boy Lou murders but stages as a suicide. His death is not shown on screen, instead we merely hear about it from another character. Contrastingly, during Joyce and Amy’s respective deaths, the camera lingers, documenting their suffering; Joyce’s swollen, bloodied face and Amy’s strain and agony as she struggles to gasp for air are captured in overt detail. During an interview for Time Out, director Michael Winterbottom stated it would be “immoral to show violence that wasn’t shocking, violence that seemed enjoyable or fun or attractive or simple or easy”. However, it is a one-sided bias when it comes to gender. Women in The Killer Inside Me are portrayed as little more than expendable victims, sacrificed at the hands of Lou Ford. Regardless of their vicious treatment, Joyce and Amy submit to become Lou’s victims, to be bruised and beaten, to be violated and then killed to the point where we question the part they played in the escalation of Lou’s violence. The violence is undeniably misogynistic but to what extent is its depiction necessary in order to align the audience with the viewpoint of the sadistic protagonist? The violence is presented as brutal spectacle rather than glamourised. There is no doubt that Lou’s actions are despicable •

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HARDWIRED What techno-human conflict reveals about society

Liam Nicholson •


s for the good news, there is no fucking good news!” Angry Bob (Iggy Pop) informs the masses over WAR radio in Richard Stanley’s Hardware (1990). This dismal vision of the future has become prevalent in contemporary science fiction cinema. Hardware displays the earth as a radioactive dystopia and depicts the troubled relationship between humans and machines. Indeed the human/machine binary has recently been explored in Alex Garland’s Ex Machina (2015), which similarly wrestles with the idea that machines may eventually gain conscious thought. Steven Spielberg’s long-awaited adaptation of Daniel H Wilson’s 2011 novel Robopocalypse focuses on the possibility of artificial intelligence becoming self-aware and waging a war with humanity. These texts establish a conflict between organic life and its mechanical counterpart and demonstrate how the cinematic cyborg reflects the transgressive boundary between human and machine. Hardware focuses on a post-apocalyptic Earth ravaged by conflict and calls into question mankind’s dependence on technology. The film begins in a desolate, hostile wasteland seemingly devoid of human life. A

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lone scavenger, known as The Nomad (Carl McCoy), reaps the desert in search of scrap parts. He is the archetypal “man with no name”, a lonely wanderer carrying out a redemptive quest in a vast and empty landscape. Unnatural respiration dominates the soundscape, which is eerily reminiscent of Darth Vader’s (David Prowse) heavy breathing in Star Wars (1977), and further illustrates The Nomad’s dependence on technology for survival. The outcome of his search is revealed to the viewer: we see a close up of a cyborg’s head just as the stock horror trope of a flash of lightning introduces the menacing mechanical antagonist. The junk scavenger is a common type in post-apocalyptic cinema, from Tom Wait’s Engineer in The Book of Eli (2010) to Bruce Spence’s Gyro Captain in Mad Max 2 (1981). These characters reflect humanity’s strained relationship with technology as society and civilization crumble and, yet, there is still a dependence on machinery to survive. In a junk dealer’s workshop in Hardware, space marine Mo Baxter (Dylan McDermott) and his accomplice Shades (John Lynch) attempt to make a quick buck from dwarf scrap dealer Alvy (Mark Northover). It is revealed that the entire

Earth has become a radioactive wasteland and dealing in technology has become one of the few remaining profitable occupations for its inhabitants. The film raises fears about the future of the human race as Alvy shouts to Mo: “can I help it if my mother picked up a dose in the big one?” The exchange implies that Alvy’s dwarfism resulted from nuclear war and its repercussions are still affecting the population. Alvy’s deformity evokes the mutations that afflicted Ukrainians during the 1986 Chernobyl disaster, which is further suggestive of the film’s anti-nuclear stance. The human race is clearly dwindling in Hardware, whereas machinery is thriving and adapting to the hostile environment. After the exchange between Mo and Alvy, The Nomad enters and presents his scavenged cyborg. The robot piques Mo’s interest causing him to barter for it as a Christmas gift for his artist girlfriend Jill (Stacey Travis). Her apartment is a mechanical fortress, purposefully separated from the outside world as she sculpts metal into art. Film scholar Sue Short observes in her chapter “No flesh shall be spared: Richard Stanley’s Hardware” in IQ Hunter’s 1999 edited collection British Science Fiction Cinema, “Jill uses technology as both self expression and self defence”. She utilises technology to isolate herself from the world yet it also doubles as a means of commenting on society, externalising her internal conflict. Jill’s reliance on technology to survive suggests that humanity may become replaced by technology in the future. Technology protects, entertains and comforts her in a world that is becoming ever more dangerous and hostile. Science fiction cinema often forefronts technology as a strategy to explore anxieties experienced by modern society. One example of such sees the growing tension between gender relations as women become more empowered, reinforcing the patriarchal fears of loss of control. This is explored in Hardware through the hyper-masculine violence enacted by the Mark 13 cyborg. As Mo and Jill have passionate sex, the cyborg is activated in a pseudo-birthing scene where Jill’s metallic apartment symbolises a womb. The Mark 13 cyborg embodies patriarchy and attempts to re-establish male power through aggressive force. In a later scene, the cyborg begins to

attack Jill, simulating rape as the robot’s phallic drill is made more threatening by the haunting score. However, Jill becomes empowered and exploits the robot’s vulnerability to moisture in order to destroy it. The government implements a sterilisation programme to enforce a “clean break with procreation” and uses Mark 13 to carry out the purge, instigating a killing spree as part of a political agenda for population control. In science fiction cinema, the cyborg is used time and again as a morally ambiguous soldier to further the agendas of nefarious corporations. A striking example is Alex Murphy (Peter Weller) in Robocop (1987), who is posthumously transformed into a cyborg against his will. Murphy becomes a mechanical puppet for the Omni-Consumer Products corporation in their war on crime. Where Hardware differs is its link with present-day affairs; the antagonist is a government, rather than corporate, agency and establishes a pessimistic uneasiness towards the establishment. As feminist theorist Donna Haraway states in her essay “A Cyborg Manifesto” in her 1991 publication Simians, Cyborgs and Women, the cyborg is the “illegitimate offspring of militarism and patriarchal capitalism, not to mention state socialism”. Hardware clearly offers a critique of government and the use of robotics in the military. The cinematic cyborg is used as a morally ambiguous soldier. Hardware is a relevant piece of technocinema for its cultural commentary and dystopian representation of technology. The public’s ambivalence about technology was common at the time of the film’s release as the implementation of machinery and robotics in modern society was increasing. On a stylistic level, Hardware is a postmodern hybrid of science fiction, horror, the western and MTVstyle music videos that makes it unique when compared with other sci-fi films. The film taps into ongoing cultural anxieties about our bodies and technology and raises fears about whether the machines might take over and control us in a nightmarish version of the future •

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sh or th an d


Simon Ellis 2006

four short films that negotiate external and internal conflictS

Soft is a powerful story about a father/son relationship that takes on the still timely and controversial subject of bullying. The title contrasts the narrative, reflecting more the feeling you are left with after watching it. Filmed using a combination of wide shots and mobile phone footage, the film depicts the graphic nature of violence and bullying in a personal and realistic manner. In its modern take on bullying, Soft is comparable to the feature film Kidulthood (2006), especially in its language and level of violence. We witness a gang of bullies torment Scott (Matthew O’Shea) and then subject his dad Iain (Jonny Phillips) to the same harassment as they follow him to the family home. This establishes a very intense few moments, providing uncertainty about the action Iain is willing to take. The outcome is not what you would expect. The result shows courage and bravery as the oppressors get their comeuppance, sending a strong message about bullying to the audience.

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Michael Spiccia 2012

The world can be a scary place when all you have seen is the worst bits of it. This is the case for the protagonist of the engaging short film Yardbird, directed by Michael Spiccia. It is a moving story about a girl (Mitzi Ruhlmann) with a strange problem that means she must be confined to her father’s junkyard in the middle of nowhere. When she sneaks out one day she encounters a gang of bullies who develop a resentment for her and decide to pay her family an unwanted visit, but they are met with quite a surprise when they take things too far. Yardbird tells an unnerving story about feeling trapped while growing up and the feeling of being different and alien to the world around you, something that can bring out terrible and hurtful emotions when put under the wrong kind of pressure. It is a story that most of us can relate to.

Laurence Russell •

where can i watch?

Visit www.shortoftheweek.com

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Ariel Kleiman 2010

This twenty-minute short follows protagonist Oleg (Albert Goikhman) as he tries to keep his sanity while confined to a Russian submarine for three months with nothing but men for company. The sense of confinement is accentuated with the shaky camera work and tight framing, while displays of nakedness and aggression emphasise the men’s masculinity and bravado. It is obvious the men are lacking a woman’s gentle and calm presence as they try to maintain their humanism. Oleg catches a colleague masturbating over an old tattered picture of his partner. When caught, he brutally beats him. It is evident that she is the one keeping him prudent, whilst being surrounded by men who are slowly turning into savages. The men believe they have hit the jackpot when they spot the body of a woman in the sea. Once retrieved, they are ecstatic, start drinking vodka and begin to laugh and joke while touching her leg sexually. When no one is looking, Oleg submerges her back into the water, protecting the men’s dignity while keeping his conscience in check. The film offers a stark appraisal of a world without women.

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LITTLE TERRORIST Ashvin Kumar 2004

Nominated for an Academy Award for Best Live Action Short Film, Little Terrorist follows Jamal (Julfuqar Ali), a 12-year-old Pakistani Muslim boy. Jamal is unintentionally thrown into the polar opposite world of Hindu-India after attempting to retrieve a ball from the dangerous minefield that separates the two conflicting lands. Initially reluctant to harbour a Muslim in their home, Hindus Bhola (Sushil Sharma) and Rani (Megnaa Mehtta) eventually grant Jamal safety via a swift haircut to disguise him as one of their own in order to fool guards in their search for the “little terrorist”. Set to discordant soundtrack of Western and Indian folk music, writer-director Kumar is able to show us how different the two countries’ cultures are, whether it is language, clothing or hairstyles. Yet, at the same time, it shows us how willing people can be to help one another.

Jordan Thomas • Diegesis: CUT TO [conflict]


THE WAR ON RACE Hollywood cinema has brought conflicts in Africa to the attention of audiences but how fairly have African ethnic groups been represented?

Emily Conner •


he 2015 Academy Awards once again suggested a lack of diversity within the film industry. In a January 2015 Telegraph article “And the Oscar winner is…a white, middle-aged man”, Alice Vincent discussed the absence of nominations for non-white actors in all four categories as well as in the categories for Best Adapted and Original Screenplay, Cinematography and Best Director. Ava DuVernay’s Selma (2014), a film about the Civil Rights Movement, was the only nonwhite film to be nominated for Best Picture. Inequality within the film industry has been a constant issue and the representation of ethnic minorities, or lack thereof, is a topic that continues to be examined in critical approaches to race on screen. Multiple movies have focused on the horrors of genocide, civil war conflict and apartheid in Africa. The most successful and widely

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recognised have been produced by white western directors, such as Edward Zwick’s Blood Diamond (2006) about the Sierra Leone Civil War and subsequent illegal diamond trade, and Terry George’s Hotel Rwanda (2004) about the 1994 Rwandan Genocide. As a nonAfrican spectator watching a film about Africa, it is easy to believe the representations that are being presented to us, without ever visiting the nation and only receiving a select amount of information from the news. Films that portray historical events, such as the South African apartheid, the Rwandan Genocide or the Sierra Leone Civil War, are taken as accurate depictions, yet their representations of African societies are very two-dimensional. In a chapter titled “What is cinema for us?” in African Experiences of Cinema (1996), Med Hondo sums up how the ideologies of EuroAmerican cinema do not reflect African culture,

their way of thinking, or their civilisation as a whole. In Hotel Rwanda the majority of the Tutsi ethnic group are seen as vulnerable and weak whilst a large percentage of the Hutus in comparison are perceived to be ruthless killers with no real purpose to their massacres. Of course this was not the view of all Tutsis and Hutus but with little representation, other than the Hutu protagonist Paul (Don Cheadle) to show the troubled history and complicated situation the nation was facing, it results in a constricted view of both ethnic groups. The film does not reiterate the fact the Hutus involved in the killing are extremists. It also does not show the troubling issues of corruption in the government at this time, instead focusing on the seemingly clear-cut story of evil versus good in relation to the Hutus and Tutsis. As such, Hotel Rwanda follows a traditional Hollywood narrative in which one man faces many struggles and obstacles but eventually comes out on top. Jude Davies and Carol R Smith note in their 1998 book Gender, Ethnicity and Sexuality in Contemporary American Film how western history has denied black people any history other than ones associated with slavery or savagery. The majority of black characters in Hotel Rwanda are enslaved by the warlords and forced to mine diamonds or are living in squalor in order to hide from and escape the rebels. There seems to be little pride in the country. However, the film does accurately portray the distancing of the Rwandan situation from the western world. Colonel Oliver (Nick Nolte) comments that help is not coming to them from the western world because their lives are not considered worth saving. In reality, the UN and western governments did not come to the aid of the Rwandans in their time of need and desperation. The international community largely remained on the side-lines, only sending in more robust troops, in addition to the relatively minimal existing UN troops, months after the genocide had ended. This is a reflection of the large divide between the rest of the world and Africa, as well as people’s lack of urgency or interest in helping out African countries where civil unrest is seen as the norm. A problem that arises when trying to represent black Africans in Hollywood films is how to get the African perspective and experience across

when the story is being told about them from a white African’s viewpoint. In Blood Diamond the lead protagonist is a white Zimbabwean Danny Archer (Leonardo DiCaprio), who uses the Sierra Leone Civil War that took place between 1991 and 2002 to “make his buck” in the illegal diamond smuggling trade. Although he is an anti-hero who partially redeems himself by the end of the film, the audience is drawn into his story and are urged to care about him and his life over the thousands of black Africans who are ruthlessly slaughtered. This is accomplished by maintaining Danny as the lead protagonist. Inviting the audience to see the events unfold from his point-of-view allows us to witness his dramatic personality change from an exploitative dealer to a contemplative and honourable individual. Films that portray historical events are taken as accurate depictions. In a 2007 article for Sight & Sound titled “White Guides, Black Pain”, Dave Calhoun observes how the lasting memory of the film is that of the thrills and spills of a “chick flick” and the dilemmas of the troubled white anti-hero. The relationship between Danny and American journalist Maddy Bowen (Jennifer Connelly) is a focal point throughout the film and is used as a plot device in order to show the positive development of DiCaprio’s character, which overshadows the struggles of the Sierra Leone population. The only black character portrayed in a positive light is Solomon (Djimon Hounsou) who is left to represent the horrors inflicted upon the entire black population. While the impact of the devastation of the Civil War is highlighted throughout - with shocking amputations, striking scenes of machete wielding rebels and the recruitment of child soldiers - such scenes have also been criticised for misrepresentation. In a 2014 article for The Journal of Literary Studies entitled “Violence and Genocide in African Literature and Film”, Maurice Taonezvi Vambe and Urther Rwafa discuss the misrepresentation of African child soldiers and note how Edward Zwick presents the child soldiers as inhuman. In one scene

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involving white South-African mercenaries and government forces shooting the rebel army, mostly comprised of black child soldiers, the audience are made to feel that this is justified and their deaths are unproblematic. The child soldiers are portrayed as cold killers who are willing to shoot women and other children after being told they are the enemy by rebel leaders. Once again, blackness is equated with alien otherness. Neill Blomkamp’s District 9 (2009) takes an alternative approach to representing South African conflict through science fiction. The film is based on the legally enforced apartheid in South Africa between 1948 and 1994 and is said to have been inspired by the real area of District Six near Cape Town where thousands of black South Africans were relocated in order to create a “whites only” area. In the film, aliens (representing black South Africans) are referred to as “prawns” by the humans. As Alexandra Heller-Nicholas observes in a 2011 article “From District Six to District 9: Apartheid, Spectacle and the Real”, the term “prawn” given to the aliens has a derogatory meaning and is taken from an insect which plagued large parts of South Africa. This immediately attaches a negative connotation to the minority group as unwanted pests. The film reflects xenophobia by depicting the alien race as undomesticated and uncultured as they

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deface their own homes, rummage around in waste piles and fight over tins of cat food. Again, non-whites are represented as slaves or savages. The film also received criticism for the representation of the Nigerian community who are shown savagely eating body parts of the “prawns” in order to gain their power so they can use their weapons to become more technologically advanced. As a result Nigerians are represented as primitive and less human than the powerful Multinational Union made up of mostly white South Africans. In a 2009 interview for Salon by Andrew O’Hehir, director Neill Blomkamp defended such scenes, saying he wanted the film to reflect contemporary Johannesburg but this view of a concentrated group results in a negative portrayal of an entire race. Once again, blackness is equated with alien otherness. In all three films, the majority of black characters are depicted negatively as ruthless thieves and murderers or uncultured and uncivilised. Even where white characters are presented in a negative light, the films enforce the importance of white characters over black characters, continuing to uphold the dominant ideal in Hollywood and maintaining associations between Africa and negative historical events such as war, genocide and segregation. This supports the stereotype of the helpless, uneducated and savage African and does little to challenge these negative representations•

serving up stereotype Hollywood has produced several films depicting African Americans in subservient roles but do these films say more about African Americans or the white people they serve?

Stacey Rowe • T

ate Taylor’s The Help (2011) and Lee Daniels’ The Butler (2013) represent African Americans as subservient to white Americans but not straightforwardly so. The Help is based on a novel and is set during the 1960s in Mississippi, a time when Jim Crow laws were enforced, white/black segregation was mandatory and African Americans were treated as second-class citizens. The story revolves around a young white author Skeeter Phelan (Emma Stone) who writes a book based on the accounts of African American maids about their work for white families. The Butler is loosely based on the true story of an African American butler Cecil Gaines (Forest Whitaker) who served in the White House for eight different presidents, a role spanning the Civil Rights Movement, Vietnam and other major historical events. Both films raise numerous questions around the representation of race on screen. Screen stereotypes of African Americans have existed since the beginning of the Classical Hollywood era. Black characters are often represented in a particular way to fit specific character types, categorised by Donald Bogle as “Toms, Coons, Mulattoes, Mammies and Bucks” in his 1973 book. The Toms is usually

the good character that will always do what is expected of him; he is usually selfless, submissive and generous, sometimes emerging as a hero. The Coon stereotype provides the comic relief and is often depicted as being crazy and unreliable. Mulattoes are usually known as tragic, mixed race characters and are generally female. The Mammy is independent, forthright and often overpowering. Finally, the Buck stereotype is made out to be barbaric, violent and frenzied. Although these stereotypes are not as prevalent as they once were, they can still be applied to Hollywood films of today. Bogle’s stereotypes can be seen within The Butler, as the main protagonist Cecil conforms to the Uncle Tom stereotype. He is the good character who faithfully serves his white master and remains honest and wise. Cecil’s wife acknowledges this in her criticism that Cecil is in the White House all day and all night when he should be worried about his own house and family, which has problems of its own. Cecil’s loyalty to his work impacts on his personal life, leading to aggravation from his wife and her subsequent infidelity. The audience gets to see the other side of how being subservient creates repercussions for a servant’s family and home life.

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The Coon racial stereotype is portrayed through the character of Carter Wilson (Cuba Gooding Jr), who provides multiple opportunities for comic relief, whilst Louis Gaines (David Oyelowo), Cecil’s son, adopts the brutal black Buck type. Louis joins the freedom fighters and the Black Panther Party, causing havoc for white people. Ultimately this aligns Louis with the stereotype of the brutal black Buck, known for violence and mayhem. He stands up to white people and his own father because of his beliefs. The Mammy character is evident in Cecil’s wife, Gloria Gaines (Oprah Winfrey). She does not completely fit the stereotype though as she is not subservient to white people and does not look after their children. She does, however, uphold the same attitudes as the Mammy character in the fact that she is headstrong and independent.

argue that the original dominance and power white people had in the times of black slavery is a contributing factor to the continuing subservience of black people to white people. The ideology of the hard-working dominant white male upholds traditional American values and contributes to the stereotype of blackness being equated with subservience and black people being represented as second class citizens.

The Mammy is a prominent character in The Help and the film focuses on the maids looking after the white middle-class children and homes. The two central maids represent the two different sides to the stereotype as described by Bogle. Minnie Jackson (Octavia Spencer) is the typical Mammy: independent, headstrong, opinionated and cantankerous. Aibileen Clark (Viola Davis) conforms to the “Aunt Jemima” figure: polite and goodtempered in nature, contrasting the typical Mammy character type. These two archetypes of the Mammy character are the only racial stereotypes from the Classical Hollywood era that are seen within The Help. This may be due to the lack of black characters that are not maids, and specifically the lack of black male representation within the film. On the other hand, The Butler seems to embrace the racial stereotypes, suggesting there has been little progress in the representation of race. However does the inclusion of racial stereotypes within film suggest an acceptance of racial stereotype or is it a celebration of blackness?

The idea of African Americans as second class citizens in relation to their white counterparts is present in both The Help and The Butler. In The Help, Hilly Holbrook (Bryce Dallas Howard) epitomises white middle class dominance over black people. She is a character that thrives off having power and control and this trait can be seen in the way she treats her white friends as well as her black maids. She is clearly racist, campaigning to ensure all white households have a separate bathroom for their black staff since she fully believes that by sharing toilets with people of another race, she will catch some sort of disease. She also dominates white people within the film, suggesting she has an issue with class and as well as race. The fact that African Americans were positioned as second class citizens in legal terms, allows her domineering to also be socially sanctioned. Hilly’s attitude and behaviour encapsulates the ideological values embedded in society that white people are superior to black people.

Many Hollywood films reinforce the dominant ideology of white patriarchal capitalism. Harry Benshoff and Sean Griffin note in America on Film: Representing Race, Class, Gender, and Sexuality at the Movies (2003) that those in America with the most wealth have the most privilege and power and can use their positions of advantage to keep or increase their economic status and power over generations. They

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Does the inclusion of racial stereotypes suggest an acceptance of those stereotypes or is it a celebration of blackness?

Celia Foote (Jessica Chastain) is the only white character other than Skeeter who looks past people’s ethnicity. She is desperate to have a maid to help her maintain her huge house, but is unable to find one. It is only when Minnie is fired and cannot get a job elsewhere that she begins to work for Celia, and she is grateful that someone has come to help her. Celia respects Minnie as they share the same social placement in the world; Celia is shunned by the white

women due to her lower place in society as she was raised by a lower income family. She can therefore more readily empathise with Minnie. Celia insists they sit together to eat lunch but Minnie demands that they sit separately because of the racial segregation laws and it is the only way of life that Minnie knows. The scene presents a black person who adheres and conforms to social expectations. This suggests that the struggle for black people to be given the same amount of rights was prolonged due to the widespread acceptance of the treatment they received. Relationships between white and black characters in The Butler are represented in striking visual detail. Cecil develops personal relationships and forms bonds with each president that he serves. This is due to his Uncle Tom nature of staying faithful to his master; he sees each president behind closed doors, unlike the rest of America. However outside the civility of the White House, The Butler shows the turbulent relationship between white and black Americans, depicting violence between the two and the fight for freedom represented through Cecil’s son. Yet the film also shows us scenes where it is not just black people who are fighting for freedom but they are joined by white people also fighting alongside them for the same cause. This shows how American ideological values are reflected in generational differences. We are a spectator to the conflict between Cecil and his son Louis throughout;

however, this also implies a deeper meaning to the conflict between the existing ideology and the new ideology that was developing at the time that blacks and whites should be equal. How much changed Classical era?

has really since the Hollywood

Both The Butler and The Help have a lot to say about the representation of race. Cecil, Louis, Hilly and Celia each uphold specific values and personify ideological changes in society. While the films depict the subordination of blackness in relation to whiteness, they also show their white characters as reliant on their black counterparts. This challenges the idea that white people are the dominant race because although black people have been made to be subservient, without their loyalty and skills, many white households would not have been able to run the way they did. These films show that the white people do in fact need black people and they rely on them physically and also emotionally. The films nonetheless show that racial stereotypes and representation on the Hollywood screen have not changed drastically since the Classical Hollywood era


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challenging the status quo LGBT identities have historically been sidelined in cultural representation. Can Ellen Page change that?

Alice Stansfield •


don’t really know what kinda girl I am”. The remark made by Juno MacGuff (Ellen Page) in the offbeat comedy Juno (2007) captures the ongoing difficulties women face in terms of media representation and the pressure it puts on its female audience members. However, this does not just affect women. The quote highlights social tension and issues to do with conformity as a result of the difficulty of understanding where we all fit within society. Mainstream Hollywood films present an expected “norm”. Page herself has described this as “pervasive stereotypes… that define how we are all supposed to act, dress and speak and they serve no-one. Anyone who defies these socalled norms becomes the subject of comment

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and scrutiny and the LGBT community knows this all too well”. On Valentine’s Day 2014, Page called Hollywood out on their double standards for the representation of sexuality at the Human Rights Campaign’s “THRIVE” conference for LGBTQ people (Lesbian, Gay, Bisexual, Transgender, Questioning). She referred to Hollywood as “an industry that places crushing standards on all of us…You hear things like, ‘People shouldn’t know about your life because you’re creating an illusion on screen’. But I don’t see other actresses going to great lengths to hide their heterosexuality”. Any sexuality other than heterosexuality becomes marginalised and pressure is wrongly placed on individuals to admit their sexual preferences.

Off screen, she has been pictured a number of times in hooded sweatshirts, jogging bottoms and lacking specific attention to her makeup or hair. In her Valentine’s Day speech she called attention to the popular media’s response to her non-typical female celebrity look when she was photographed wearing sweatpants with a caption “Why does this petite beauty insist upon dressing like a massive man?” Whether this is even news worthy should be a moot point. This is echoed in Page’s response: “Because I like to be comfortable”. Celebrities should not need to be sexualised all the time and nor do we need to widen the window audiences already have onto their lives. When exploring sexuality it is important to consider the changing cultural ideologies around sex and youth within society and the media. In her article “Sexual Subjectivity: A Semiotic Analysis of Girlhood, Sex, and Sexuality in the Film Juno” (2008), Jessica Willis argues that the film “depicts the transgressive sexual agency of a young girl without substantially disrupting longstanding discourses of femininity”. Teenage sexuality is presented in a lighthearted, relaxed manner throughout and Juno herself is an interesting example of the ways in which adolescent female sexuality is seen within mainstream western culture. The film gives a voice to issues of girlhood and the difficult transition into adulthood. It deals with issues such as teenage pregnancy, sex and motherhood. Juno sleeps with Paulie Bleeker (Michael Cera) and discovers she is pregnant, but does not pressure him into a relationship or expect anything from him, or anyone for that matter. In her chapter “Juno for Real: Negotiating Teenage Sexuality, Pregnancy and Love” in Kathleen Ryan and Deborah Macey’s 2013 edited collection Television and the Self, Robin Redmond Wright notes that “the release of Juno stood as a turning point of sorts, in reflecting the changing social attitudes regarding teenage pregnancy and gender issues”. Wright recalls that “twenty years ago movies and TV shows depicting teenage pregnancy in such a positive light would have been seen as some kind of abomination and probably never have aired”. The same can be said for sexuality more broadly. The representation of LGBT sexuality was practically forbidden as anything that was not

heterosexual was considered as a “perversion” during the Classical Hollywood period. This shows the impact the media has on society and demonstrates that the film industry can change attitudes depending on its representations and how often they are repeated, rather than challenged. “Pervasive stereotypes define how we are all supposed to act, dress and speak”. Juno is less concerned with the boy getting the girl, which would emphasise the importance of heterosexual relationships. Instead, it is about a young woman exploring her body and emotional adjustment to an unexpected pregnancy during her teenage years. Juno does not adhere to a stereotypical female script as we never witness her breakdown over her situation or even any problems with physical development. She remains a strong individual facing a difficult life-changing situation, not a disaster. Ultimately, as Jessica Willis’s semiotic analysis of the film explains, “sexual desire, biological possibilities, and social responses to girls’ engagement in sexual intercourse is still central to the plot”. This does not mean that anybody is objectified within the film. Juno herself is not a stereotypical depiction of femininity and she is not presented as a sexual object. To some extent she also has masculine qualities that challenge her expected feminine qualities. For example, she dresses in a typical masculine fashion which distracts from her body shape and would normally be exaggerated in conventional teenage films. Central to Page’s speech, however, is the argument that the contemporary film industry is not significantly changing its views on sexuality. Although there are films that challenge the boundaries of sexual representation by showing more than heterosexual relationships on screen, such as Brokeback Mountain (2005) and Philadelphia (1993), the representation of heterosexual relationships as dominant and normal prevails. Along with Juno, Ellen Page has played a number of characters that depart from

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conventional female stereotypes. In Whip It (2009), Page once again plays a teenager who is struggling to find her place in society and rebels against her parents to achieve what she really wants. In X-Men: Days of Future Past (2014), the comic book character of Kitty Pryde is brought to life as a young, headstrong individual who is determined to fight alongside the rest of the group. In Super (2010), Page plays Libby aka Boltie, a wannabe sexy sidekick to a failing superhero The Crimson Bolt aka Frank Darbo (Rainn Wilson). Page’s role in Super calls attention to the performance of sexuality on screen. Libby aspires to be like the attractive women in comic books, but rather than being Wonder Woman or Cat Woman, she happily becomes the young side-kick, a less dominant character. She wants to be a hero for what Page outlines in her speech as “standards of beauty… good life… success”, all elements that Hollywood constantly promotes. Libby’s attitudes are mediated by the popular media and she expresses herself through comic book culture. Similarly, Page noted in her speech that she felt pressured about “how to act, how you have to dress and who you have to be. I have been trying to push back, to be authentic, to follow my heart, but it can be hard”. This illustrates how the film industry and similar media platforms mediate popular ideas and expectations that force individuals to strive for a certain ideal image of gender and sexuality. In their 2008 article “Sex, Sexuality, Sexting, and Sexed: Adolescents and The Media,” Jane Brown, Sarah Keller and Susannah Stern comment on the effects of “sexual media among adolescences” and explore the impact of the Internet. They raise the question: “can the act of sharing sexual content be beneficial for teens in any way?” In discussing how teenagers express their sexual preferences on social media, they argue “that sexual self-expression on the Internet can be functional for adolescents”. This returns us to the Hollywood industry itself. Should actors really have to “come out”? Does it change how audiences view them? Media platforms are important in sexual education as television, music, movies, magazines and the Internet enable access to information about sex that previously was not the case.

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Since publicly coming out Page has continued her pursuit of non-traditional female roles and is playing homosexual as well as heterosexual characters. In Freeheld (2015) Julianne Moore joins Page to play a lesbian couple. According to The Hollywood Reporter, Page has been trying to get this film “off the ground for nearly six years”. As well as experiencing pre-production difficulties, the film was apparently denied access to a location at one point as a result of the subject matter focusing on a homosexual couple. Numerous examples on television also point to new possibilities in the representation of sexuality. Gay characters are occupying plot lines in popular shows like Glee (2009-present) and Orange Is the New Black (2013-present). Such examples suggest that anxieties still exist around sexuality that departs from the heterosexual norm but their popularity also suggests that audiences are increasingly open to exploring those anxieties and viewing different stories. Page is an illustrative case study for emerging sexual identities within the contemporary film industry and how both audiences and actors are reacting to the new representations. She is just one celebrity who is pushing the importance of representing alternative representations and sexualities on screen. We seem to have entered an era where the constituents of gender and sexuality are being reassessed •

SEXY TOO SOON On the sexualisation of girls

Rebekka Malkenes • E

mma Watson is just one of many actresses that have been sexualised by the media. In her speech to the United Nations in September 2014, the Goodwill Ambassador for UN Women asked the UN for help. She shared her own story about how the media sexualised her as a 14-year-old girl. In the same month as Watson’s speech, the Geena Davis Institute on Gender in Media, UN Women and the Rockefeller Foundation presented an international study on gender images in film. They found that sexualisation is the global standard for female characters and females are twice as likely as males to be shown in sexually revealing clothing, fully or partial naked. They are also five times as likely to be referenced as attractive. The study found teen females (1320 years old) are just as likely as young adult females (21-39 years old) to be sexualised. Is this the message we want our young girls to receive? There are different ways someone can be sexualised. The American Psychological Association’s 2010 Task Force on the Sexualisation of Girls defines sexualisation as when: • a person’s value comes only from his or her

sexual appeal or behaviour, to the exclusion of other characteristics; • a person is held to a standard that equates physical attractiveness (narrowly defined) with being sexy; • a person is sexually objectified - that is, made into a thing for others’ sexual use, rather than seen as a person with the capacity for independent action and decision making; and/ or; • sexuality is inappropriately imposed upon a person. This is a growing problem in today’s society and the media and film industry play a key role; they have the power to influence young girls and show them what is expected of them. The term “Lolita” entered into public discourse following the publication of Vladimir Nabokov’s controversial 1955 novel and Stanley Kubrick’s 1962 film adaptation. In the novel, Lolita is a sexually curious 12-yearold girl who has an inappropriate relationship with a man in his late thirties. The term has become cultural shorthand for a sexualised prepubescent or adolescent girl who is not yet an adult and is therefore restricted from sexual activity.

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In American Beauty (1999) 16-year-old Thora Birch plays the role of Jane Burnham, daughter to Lester (Kevin Spacey) and Carolyn (Annette Bening). In one scene, Jane undresses in front of her window while her nextdoor neighbour Ricky (Wes Bentley) films her. She lets down her hair and takes off her bra, exposing her breasts. It could be argued that the scene shows that Jane has come to accept her body and her undressing reveals her growing sexual confidence, but the presence of the male onlooker questions this. The implication is that Jane needs Ricky to accept her before she can accept herself. Jane’s best friend Angela (Mena Suvari) also exposes her breasts in the film. Her character is shown as an object of desire for Lester. The first time Lester sees Angela is during a basketball game when she performs a cheerleading routine with a group of teens. His focus singles Angela out and the other cheerleaders disappear until she becomes his fantasy, only dancing for him. She dances seductively, touching herself and undressing. When she opens her shirt rose petals comes out from the opening, partially obscuring her breasts. Other fantasy moments showing Lester’s lust for Angela see her naked, in a bathtub with rose petals floating in the water and floating in a bed of rose petals. Near the end of the film, Lester’s sexual encounters moves from fantasy to reality. The two kiss and Lester

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undresses Angela before she confesses that, in spite of her confident flirtations, she has never had sex before. Lester realises that Angela is just a child. The sexual image that she has constructed is revealed to be an act that she thinks she has to put on in order to be accepted. She is both sexualised and responsible for sexualising herself. Do these films challenge or perpetuate the sexualisation of girls? Chloe Grace Moretz is the young star of KickAss (2010) and Kick-Ass 2 (2013) and was 11-years-old during the recording of the first film. Her character, Mindy aka Hit Girl, is a vicious assassin who wears tight-fitting clothes and a purple wig. Her casual use of strong expletives and general behaviour suggest she has almost none of the traits associated with an 11-year-old. In one scene Hit Girl wears a schoolgirl uniform with knee-high socks and pigtails, acting innocent before killing three men without showing any sign of emotion. It could be argued that the uniform is only used as a disguise to get into the building but the fetishistic connotations of the schoolgirl inappropriately imposes sexuality onto her. In Kick-Ass 2, Mindy develops an interest in boys and would like to get their attention. Mindy befriends a group of girls who ask her if the rumour is true that she had sex with Dave aka Kick-Ass (Aaron Taylor-Johnson). She denies it but they keep asking her about what she did, listing various sexual acts in graphic detail. Brooke (Claudia Lee) asks: “you at least kissed him?” The scene shows how girls are pressured to feel that they have to be sexual early in order to be “normal”. The film demonstrates an awareness that girls are influenced by what they see. One scene in particular mocks the role of the media in influencing how girls believe they should behave and look when the girls hyperventilate over a boy band music video. Brook gives Mindy advice on how to get male attention by wearing skin-tight clothes, being sexy and skinny. Mindy indeed gets a lot of

attention after her audition for the dance team but she does so without dancing provocatively and sexily, sticking to the action moves she feels comfortable with. Brook makes it clear that she is not one of them but Mindy stands up to the girls and tells them that she will not play by their rules. Films rarely show young girls how to use their intellect and skills to succeed. The line between childhood and adulthood has become blurred and we are no longer sure where it sits. In The Lolita Effect (2008), MG Durham states that the new millennium has seen the emergence of a proactive phenomenon: the sexy little girl. She has been celebrated and censured and serves as a symbolic flashpoint for raging debates about gender, sexuality, the definition of childhood and the criteria for social standards of acceptability. Diane E. Levin and Jean Kilbourne note in So Sexy So Soon (2009) that they are deeply worried that children are exposed to sexual images and messages they cannot understand. The gender roles they are exposed to have become increasingly polarised and narrow. This rigid definition of femininity and sexuality is to get girls to focus heavily on sex appeal and appearance, teaching them that their value is determined by how thin and “hot” they are. Studies such as those published by the APA suggest that viewing material that is sexually objectifying contributes to body dissatisfaction, eating disorders, low selfesteem, depression, and even physical health problems in high-school-aged girls and young women. Mainstream films today represent girls and femininity in a very narrow way. Girls are too sexy too soon. Even if some films present this in a comical or satirical way, it is clear that young girls are sexualised at an early age and the prevailing focus on beauty harms young girls. The result is that children “grow up” too quickly and worry about problems that they should not need to worry about when they are so young. Media images show and teach girls that their body is what makes them valuable. Is this the effect we want films to have on young girls? Would it not be preferable to be able to help girls feel better about themselves just the way they are? Children need to be children not adults •

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Game on Revisiting female gamers in the wake of Gamergate

Megan Sowerby • O

ne of the most significant recent news stories relating to the media representation of women is what has been referred to as “Gamergate” – the label given to a series of online attacks and threats against female video game developers, critics and players. Feminist critic and founder of Feminist Frequency Anita Sarkeesian received threats against her life via social media and described it as like being attacked by a “cyber mob”. Gamergate was originally intended to promote conversations about the ethics of game journalism but instead it was appropriated negatively in an attempt to force female journalists and game developers out of the industry. Gamergate calls attention to the marginalised place of women in the games industry, but also the under-representation of female gamers or women associated with gaming. Numerous studies have found that men and women have different preferences when it comes to the types of games that they play. Male gamers seem to prefer violent themes in video games, such as Mortal Kombat and Call of Duty, whereas female gamers tend to reject that level of violent content for more socially interactive games, such as World of Warcraft. As well as liking social games, female gamers reportedly also like “traditional” video games such as puzzle solving and board games. The studies state women dislike games with low social interaction, violence and gender-role stereotyping. However, with games being predominantly designed by males for males,

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options for female gamers and also the depiction of female characters in the game worlds are limited. A study in late 2014 by independent research agency Populus for the Internet Advertising Bureau shows that “52% of people who have played some form of video game in the last six months were female, up from 49% three years ago and pushing women into the majority”. This small yet significant rise is a good signifier to games companies that they should really start thinking about creating more games aimed at women and girls. Screen representation of female gamers is few and far between. Characters have been depicted in films and television shows in different forms from the visual aesthetics of video games, to metaphorically living in a game world, and to ordinary literal portrayals of female gamers. Scott Pilgrim vs. the World (2010), The Matrix (1999) and The Guild (2007-2013) provide three distinctive examples that raise similar questions regarding representation. In Scott Pilgrim, Scott (Michael Cera) battles seven evil exes of Ramona Flowers (Mary Elizabeth Winstead) in order to date the girl he so desperately desires. Based on the graphic novels by the same name, the film takes its visual and aural inspiration from classic nineties games, such as Donkey Kong and Final Fantasy. Ramona is mysterious and care-free. Although she occasionally fights and is clearly a strong character, she is ultimately Scott’s damsel in distress. Scott Pilgrim perpetuates

the idea that video games are a male dominated space. In portraying women as the weaker sex, it allows for sexism to be normalised and it becomes harder for people to recognise and stand against such discriminations. Different to Ramona is The Matrix’s Trinity (Carrie-Ann Moss). The Matrix predominantly focuses on protagonist Neo (Keanu Reeves), a computer hacker who learns his reality is fake and decides to fight against the controllers generating this illusion. Neo is accompanied by Trinity, a strong, smart and capable woman who knows the truth about the Matrix. She is, as Lisa Purse describes in an essay published in Melanie Waters’ Women on Screen (2011), “the active woman”. However, while she plays a crucial role in Neo’s development, Purse argues that Trinity is ultimately “relegated to the position of sidekick and love interest”. Purse’s argument relates to several different films where action heroines and “badass” women have been downgraded to sidekicks and seem to be nothing more than the love interest for the male lead, such as Hit Girl (Chloe Grace Moretz) in Kick-Ass (2010) and Arwen (Liv Tyler) and Tauriel (Evangeline Lilly) in The Lord of the Rings films (2001-2003). Is a web series in a better position to challenge screen stereotypes? Departing from both films, The Guild is a web series that shows different types of women play video games. The series revolves around the lives of an online guild that play for countless hours on a Massively Multiplayer Online RolePlaying Game (MMORPG or MMO). The lead character is Codex (Felicia Day), a shy and nonconfrontational individual who tends to panic under stress. She might not be fighting a villain every ten minutes but she will always come to the aid of her friends, even if it puts her in awkward and very “real life” hostile situations. Codex is an everyday girl leading a normal life and is not behind any man but rather starring alongside them. Although the show does not give you a whole new perspective on gamers, it does allow for audiences to see women both as they play the game and also

outside of it. However, as Dustin Rowles puts it in his review for Pajiba, The Guild may “disabuse many of the basement dwelling, hairy-palmed stereotypes that a lot of us have about gamers, but it’s mostly replacing one stereotype with six… It doesn’t exactly subvert gamer stereotypes, but it just might endear them to you”. It is nonetheless a challenge to the the classical stereotype of nerdy gamers. The Guild is particularly interesting for being a web series made by a woman (Felicia Day) without the financial help of a production studio. This raises a question about whether a web series can potentially challenge established stereotypes such as Hollywood’s preference for strong yet subordinate female characters. Web platforms such as YouTube allow people to freely distribute content that would otherwise not be made or seen without the financial support of a studio or channel. It allows for different and marginalised groups to produce content that would not be considered suitable for a mainstream market and would struggle to be distributed because of the fragile economic system. It gives people a voice on the web that would not normally be heard. As Michael Strangelove states in Watching YouTube (2010), “It is you, it is me, it is our neighbours, our families, our friends (and, all too often, our darn kids) who can be seen on YouTube. It is ever more of the world brought to our computer screens by amateurs and everyday people armed with digital cameras, camcorders, webcams and cellular phones”. As women become more prominent in both the film industry and the video game industry, it calls for a realisation that the way things have been done in the past need to change and evolve. Women should be represented without the need to hide them behind a male character and images of female gamers that depart from typical stereotypes need to be foregrounded. People who used Gamergate as a way of belittling and harassing women should be held accountable for their actions and should not be able to hide behind their computer screens. It is not a question of feminism or about women versus men. We are all human beings and all deserve to be treated equally when it comes to representation and access •

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REVIEW WRITING COMPETITION 2014 Our latest Diegesis Southampton Film Week review writing competition saw an increase in the number of colleges and sixth forms taking part. Students were asked to write reviews inspired by the word “conflict” and the response was a veritable range of reviews, showcasing a diversity of writing. It was certainly a hard task narrowing down the eventual winner and runners up. Along with an opening that grabbed our attention and interpretation of conflict, we were particularly impressed by those students who demonstrated a playful or creative use of words in their review in describing their films so effectively that they evoked the tone and mood of the film they were discussing. The reviews that stood out in particular to us were those which not only started with a bang but were clear, entertaining and focused right through to the end. In third place is Elliot Robinson from Peter Symonds College. Elliot’s review features some wonderfully evocative lines to describe his film’s take on the war but also offers an interesting consideration of some of the film’s factual inaccuracies. In second place is Katherine Dale from Queen Mary’s College. Katherine’s review had an attention-grabbing opening, some strong descriptions with good word play and really good attempts to delve beneath her film’s surface. Our overall winner is a review that ticked all the above boxes – a strong opening, evocative descriptions, good use of word play, a strong structure. Right through to the closing line, the review kept our attention and remained focused throughout. Congratulations to our overall winner: Kane LePetit from Farnborough College of Technology. The SFW competition will be back again later this year! To read more about the competition and shortlist, visit our website:

www.diegesismagazine.com •

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The HURT LOCKER Elliot Robinson • T

he Hurt Locker (2008) has been dubbed a “near-perfect” war film. But does this Hollywood blockbuster truly capture the horrors of war or is it a fantasy of Hollywood entertainment? Set in 2004, this harrowing account of the ongoing war against terrorism in Iraq follows members of an elite US bomb disposal team as they struggle to beat the ticking time bomb which is their life. The film captures the long and painful game of patience endured by soldiers in their ongoing game of cat and mouse. Alongside the strict rule of non-engagement, the ever-present danger of explosives devices is a constant threat for the squad. These inconspicuous packages are hidden amongst the rubble and then detonated by the touch of a button on a cheap mobile phone. With a £10million budget and generating nearly £35million worldwide, the box-office hit immerses the viewer in the harsh landscape of war and makes us feel as though we are part of the team. We have Academy Award-winning director Kathryn Bigelow to thank for this high level of immersion. Her aim was to delve deeper into the minds of soldiers, gaining at least a glimpse of how war affects the minds, hearts and souls of these brave men. The lucky are rewarded with kicks of adrenaline in times of crisis. The unlucky suffer mental breakdowns in the heat and intensity of the sandy dustbowl. The soldiers deal with this stress in different ways. Sergeant First Class William James (Jeremy Renner), the senior explosives disposal specialist, makes careless decisions, such as disconnecting vital communication between fellow squad members on a number

of occasions, and casually cutting a random wire in hope it will diffuse the bomb. He maintains his resolve by living life on the edge. Colonel John Cambridge (Christian Camargo) narrowly escapes a gruesome end following the explosion of a package. The slow-motion shots of the cracking paint on a nearby car and the shivering stones scattered about only increase the intensity of the moment. Specialist Owen Eldridge (Brian Geraghty) fearlessly and foolishly launches himself into the situation, disobeying the orders of his commanding officer, although he is clearly aware of the danger that will follow his heroic gesture. The result of going against his officer’s commands is inevitable. In a Huffington Post article titled “The Hurt Locker doesn’t get this Vets vote”, Iraq War veteran Kate Hoit criticised the film’s “lazy” script and “inaccurate” representations. “For future reference”, Hoit noted, “military personnel do not roll their sleeves up in a combat zone”. While Hoit agreed the film explores the emotions of war, showing genuine human connection in scenes such as when Sgt. James buys a poor quality pirated movie off an Iraqi boy, her final verdict was that The Hurt Locker “is a full-throttle adrenaline rush that is comprised of ditching common sense and the realities of war”. The Hurt Locker was filmed on location a few miles from the border of Iraq. This secures an authentic setting but came at a cost to the crew who had to suffer through filming 200 hours of footage in scorching temperatures averaging 49°C. In the pursuit of realism, Kathryn Bigelow even made the decision to use real Iraqi refugees as extras. Inaccuracies aside, the film succeeds in capturing the human emotion - love, fear, happiness, hate and tension experienced at war •

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The truman show Katherine Dale • T

he utopian dream has been picked and prodded by Hollywood countless times. Multiple films have torn at the face-value fallacy of a model society, delving deeper into what it truly means to be “perfect”. However, The Truman Show (1998) takes this idea to a whole new level, centring on the life of a man whose entire existence has been printed, pressed and doled out to the populace as the “ideal family man”. Truman Burbank (Jim Carrey), an insurance salesman on Sea Haven Island, has the perfect wife (Laura Linney), the perfect house and lives in the perfect suburban town, which is seemingly taken from the front pages of lifestyle magazines. His world soon unravels as the white-picket fences start to crumble and reveal a darker truth beneath the façade. Director Christof (Ed Harris) has orchestrated Truman’s life into a multimedia masterpiece, from his first steps to his college degree. His God-complex drove him to buy the bouncing baby boy as part of a human experiment that the whole world was privy to. The audience (both diegetic and non-diegetic) watch as Truman exposes the carefully controlled environment he has been trapped inside. Neighbouring businesses hiding the hollow pine wood interiors along with radio signals tracking his every move drive the young husband to redefine the term “mid-life crisis”. This film’s message is not just “Don’t trust your neighbours!” but tackles the deeper conflict of God versus Man and the very ideals of perfection.

The Truman Show is rife with biblical imagery. The most prominent are references to Psalm 139, which raises the idea that God can see, hear and control everything. Not only is the Psalm referred to multiple times in the dialogue but in a final act of defiance against the makeshift world Truman boards his boat with the number 139 on his sails. He then embarks on a journey to discover true freedom. These connotations of divinity further support the notion that Christof believes himself to be the rightful father of not only Truman but of the world he created for the masses. The struggle between Truman and his creator reaches further into his past in Sea Haven. Not only did Christof interfere with Truman’s relationship with his father but he also meddled with his love life. Meryl, Truman’s perfect wife, may not have been Truman’s first love after all. The idea of a perfect marriage in Christof ’s view was that of the cheerleader and the band member going against the conventional high school romance. However, his idea of perfection does not meet with Truman’s and, as soon as Christof ’s ploy is uncovered, the memory of his first love resurfaces. This spurs him on to facing his fear of water, another controlled aspect of his life. Every act Truman did that was his, and his alone, challenged everything his “God” wanted him to be. The realisation that no white-picketfence world could be truly perfect caused a universal frenzy, both within the diegesis and out, making Truman a true hero for more than his “Good morning, and in case I don’t see ya, good afternoon, good evening and goodnight!”•

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Kane Le-Petit • C

ity of Life and Death/Nanjing! Nanjing! is the 2009 wartime true story drama directed by Chuan Lu that has won eleven awards and received seven nominations, including multiple awards for cinematography and directing. It has been considered a “modern masterpiece” and a “powerful epic” by many critics. First things first, this is not an entertaining film. This is a brutal, uncompromising and tragic look at The Nanking Massacre, which took place in 1937 China, where Japanese troops tore apart the entire capital in atrocious

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acts of dehumanisation against the Chinese people. Chuan Lu wanted to make the horrific act of genocide as real and as painfully honest as possible. Using extremely long scenes and no music, he forces the audience to sit through the torture and execution of innocent people. These moments of suffering are also accompanied by masterful first person shots, making the viewer feel like a bystander in the crowd or even a prisoner of war walking to their execution. It all creates an absolutely terrifying feeling of dread. The hauntingly beautiful film is shot entirely in black and white, adding to the extreme, unflinching realism of violence committed by the Japanese soldiers, through its documentary

style. Young children are thrown from windows, women are raped, and Chinese soldiers are either shot or buried alive. The director made a brave decision to show these acts from different points of view, ranging from the infamous John Rabe (John Paisley), whose efforts helped over 200,000 Chinese, and his assistant Mr Tang (Wei Fan), to a confused Japanese solider or a raped and beaten Nanking woman. Every emotion that these characters are trying to evoke is felt. It is almost impossible not to be moved at the visual poetry created by the impeccable timing of the beautiful score along with the actors’ facial expressions. Chuan Lu and his family received numerous death threats because of the film’s sympathetic portrayal of the Japanese solider Kadokawa (Hideo Nakaizumi). This sympathetic approach to the character added to the controversy around the film and even caused requests for

it to be removed from the history of Chinese cinema and for all the film’s accolades to be revoked. Some scenes indeed did try to create a feeling of empathy towards the character even though we have witnessed him do some horrific things such as engaging in mass executions and sexual abuse of women and children. What is most admirable about this cinematic masterpiece is its ability to develop these various characters and then bravely kill them off in shocking and startling fashion. It is a clear reminder that the film will not be offering a happy traditional Hollywood-style ending. This is how awful war really is. While not a horror film in a conventional genre sense, City of Life and Death is truly one of the scariest films ever made. It goes to show that the most terrifying monsters in the world are not ghosts or bogeymen but rather human beings themselves •

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misery loves company How August: Osage County creates a harmonious ensemble out of a dysfunctional family

Lisa Gocher • B

eing able to get actors to work collectively as a group in film is something that is vital for the ensemble. It is what forms the basis and helps build the structure of an ensemble film, which relies on its cast to deliver the script to the best of their ability by working harmoniously as one. The ensemble has been described by acting theorist Robert Cohen as a “long-term relationship: a day-in, day-out collaboration in shared living, thinking and creating”. The success of the ensemble depends on actors working together.

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August: Osage County (2013) is a clear case in point but also poses some challenges to this idea. The film, based on Tracy Letts’s Pulitzer Prize-winning play, features a diverse mixture of star performers that allows for individuality to stand out without compromising the ensemble effect. The high-profile ensemble cast includes: Meryl Streep, Julia Roberts, Sam Shepard, Ewan McGregor, Juliette Lewis, Chris Cooper, Margo Martindale, Dermot Mulroney, Julianne Nicholson and Abigail Breslin. Through its narrative of family dysfunction,

the film highlights the importance of working as a unit and for each actor to be aware of each other’s traits so they can perform individually or as a whole when required but in pursuit of a shared aim. A better understanding of the ensemble can be gained by examining the actor’s contribution in terms of performance, considering how they allow each other space in order for the relationships between their characters to grow and how they collaborate to achieve the same goal. In the ensemble performance present in August: Osage County, each character is essential to the plot regardless of their screen time. Julia Roberts is one of Hollywood’s biggest stars but is also highly regarded as an actor. Her acting has been acknowledged with four Academy Award nominations for Steel Magnolias (1989), Pretty Woman (1991), Erin Brockovich (2001) for which the actor went on to win the Oscar, and August: Osage County. The ensemble film provides a space for Roberts to showcase her acting skills as her character, Barbara, is put under the spotlight for a significant amount of screen time. Barbara discovers herself during the course of the film, which is in keeping with Roberts’s established persona. As Susanne Kord and Elizabeth Krimmer note in Hollywood Divas, Indie Queens & TV Heroines (2005) “in many movies, the Julia Roberts character is portrayed as a woman who does not yet know who she is and what she wants. Her lack of identity is usually linked to her desire to accommodate the expectations of other characters or of society at large”. We can see that reflected in her portrayal of Barbara, a character trying to take on all the family burdens while pretending to be someone she is not. Although she seems in control, deep down the issues with her marriage and the relationship with her mother as well as other family matters end up overwhelming her. A key scene takes place where Barbara, her husband Bill (McGregor), from whom she has separated unbeknowst to the rest of the family, and her mother Violet (Streep) discuss the disappearance of Barbara’s father Beverly (Shepard). An argument breaks out between Barbara and Violet, causing Violet to demand

that Bill takes her side. Barbara gives Violet a piercing look as Bill pauses before playing along with Violet in a bid to lighten the mood. Barbara turns to Bill with a look of utter disgust on her face as she watches Violet laugh and walk away. Bill’s character is established in this brief moment as playful and strong enough to assert himself against Barbara’s demands. The scene confirms the aim of the ensemble: to bring individual elements together into one moment. The film encourages the audience to focus on the relationships between the characters instead of focusing on one main protagonist. Ensemble depends on balance and it is vital in an ensemble film to achieve an equal balance of characters developing on their own throughout the film as well as growing together as a unit. Shared purpose in the ensemble is just as crucial as balance, as John Britton notes in Encountering Ensemble (2013). How can individual actors take centre stage without undermining the ensemble? Melodrama is an important performance mode in August: Osage County. In his 1986 essay “Genre and Performance”, Richard DeCordova stated that “performance is perhaps the principal critical standard by which audiences have judged films, and there is little doubt that the melodrama, in its emphasis on acting as expression, has provided the ideal object for the application of such a standard”. He goes on to note how “more than any other genre” the melodrama “incorporates the art of acting”. This underlines how important the actors’ skilful performances are to the melodrama. It is a genre that Meryl Streep has strong links with, evident in her performances in Death Becomes Her (1992), Doubt (2008), The Devil Wears Prada (2006) and Julie & Julia (2009). Although August: Osage County is an ensemble film, Streep takes centre stage in many of her scenes. As Karen Hollinger notes in The Actress (2006), “‘A Meryl Streep film’” is typically very character-driven, often containing a complex,

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enigmatic heroine whose internal crisis provides the central enigma of the drama… and she chooses roles that involve a certain challenge and a character with problems”. Her character Violet suffers from mouth cancer and has become addicted to pain killers. She gives a compelling performance that ranges from slurred and vacant when she is at her weakest to strong and emotionally expressive when she perceives herself to be in control of a situation. Streep has said that when she acts, she enters a “zone” in which she feels “really happy, somewhere deep, deep inside…and transported on some level to a place that is really like being in love”. The ensemble, melodramatic mode and the “central enigma” constructed by Streep come together in a crucial scene where the family sit around the dining table following Beverly’s funeral. Britton notes that “at the heart of the internal dynamic of any ensemble is the relationship of the ensemble to its leader… This relationship is particularly complex when the leader, as is so often the case, is a charismatic figure who ‘drives’ the work of the group he or she directs”. In this case, Streep takes on the role of the leader and directs the rest of the ensemble. Violet sarcastically shakes a bottle of pills in front of Barbara, talking to her in a slow and undermining way, before moving in close to Barbara’s face. The scene erupts as Roberts’ expression changes from stern as she tries to stay in control to a display of pure outrage as she lashes out at Violet, who laughs in her face before realising she may have gone too far. How important is overall screen time for each performer in the ensemble? The scene conforms to DeCordova’s argument that “melodramatic scenes are written as showcases for performance… Suffering, hysteria, and madness not only become topics of melodrama; they also mark out a highly conventionalised space within which the scene of performance can unfold”. The dining room scene enables the ensemble to come alive as the tense and awkward discussion

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between the family ends with Barbara physically brawling with Violet on the floor. It is a chaotic, emotional scene that stands out as a key performance moment in the film for the ensemble. Sam Shepard’s character Beverly also appears to challenge any idea of the ensemble. Actor, director and playwright Shepard is known for his tendency to avoid the public spotlight, which seems fitting for his low-key but prominent role in August: Osage County. He only appears on screen at the beginning of the film, firstly discussing his wife’s needs with her new carer and then very briefly before he kills himself. In the first scene, he comes across as though he has nothing left to live for and is trying to pass the burden of his wife onto someone else. He sits in his chair and even when walking over to his bookcase and door he looks broken and moves with fragility. While his very short screen time seemingly goes against his positioning in the ensemble, the entire plot revolves around him and his decision to commit suicide. This relates to Britton’s idea about balance. He notes that “the ensemble requires negotiation and balance between the individual performers who form it, and the shared language and behaviours that emerges from their interactions”. The film underlines the need for a character like Beverly in an ensemble. Although at first his character appears to challenge the function of the ensemble, the narrative would not work without his character to tie everyone together. When it comes to an ensemble film it is key that the actors collaborate as one in order for it to be effective. The director’s role is to ensure there is a balance between the actors’ performances. It does not matter how much screen time each character gets but it is the balance and collaboration that are important in achieving an overall effect. August: Osage County shows that every performance, whether big or small, is essential in contributing towards a shared purpose. The ensemble still allows for individual performances to be showcased but it is the unity between the cast that allows for a truly captivating performance overall •

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BIG BAD WOLVES Peeling back the tough-guy performance reveals a conflicted masculinity in True Detective

Tom Hurdle • I

n the first episode of True Detective (2014), Marty Hart (Woody Harrelson) describes the different types of detectives: “We all fit a certain category - the bully, the charmer, the surrogate dad, the man possessed by ungovernable rage, the brain - and any of those types could be a good detective, and any of those types could be an incompetent shitheel”. When asked what kind he is, he replies: “Just a regular type dude… with a big ass dick”. Hart’s definition of himself is full of bravado but reveals how masculinity is understood according to various types. As the series develops, it emerges that Hart and his partner Rust Cohle (Matthew McConaughey) display aspects from all the types of detectives Hart describes. Joan Mellen wrote in her 1978 text Big Bad Wolves: Masculinity in the American Film, the dominant male is “superior to women, defiant, assertive and utterly fearless”. The masculinity that Mellen describes is still found in cinema but the range of male types on screen has expanded and it is now clearer than ever that

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what we see is a construction. As Philippa Gates states in Detecting Men: Masculinity and the Hollywood Detective Film (2012), “Gender can be understood as performative, as individuals are expected to suppress their personal characteristics in favour of exhibiting the ones allocated to their gender…fulfilling their social roles”. In other words, masculinity is performed by men in a bid to conform to the norms of society but this also presents the possibility of instability as men struggle to achieve the desired image of masculinity. Such is the man commonly found in film noir and the crime drama. In his book In a Lonely Street: Film Noir, Genre, Masculinity (1991), Frank Krutnik identifies the masochistic hero who displays “problematised - eroded or unstable - masculinity”. This suggests that male characters in film noir struggle with understanding or trying to perpetuate their ideal of masculinity to fulfil expected male social roles. Hart and Cohle are clearly battling to control their unstable masculinity.

True Detective shows how masculinity is performed by displaying whether a character is suppressing or expressing an emotion, revealing whether or not they are in control of their masculinity. As Hart, Harrelson is very obvious when he is trying to suppress an emotion, often rolling his tongue over his back teeth making it look as if he is trying to get something out of his teeth or sticking his chin out slightly and putting his tongue behind his bottom lip, giving the impression that he is biting his tongue. This suppressed anger shows that he is trying to keep control of his emotions, although it is quite obvious to the audience that Hart is not very good at keeping his emotions in check. These gestures take place at moments where his dominance is challenged, such as Cohle’s drunken arrival at Hart’s home, which undermines his alpha male position as head of the table. Marty Hart and Rust Cohle are clearly battling to control their unstable masculinity. A more obvious challenge to his alpha male image is a locker room confrontation between Hart and Cohle. Hart has Cohle pinned up against a locker while Cohle is twisting Hart’s wrists at the same time. Hart tries to hide his pain by briefly shutting his eyes like he is asleep. He again bites his tongue and breathes heavily in order to show that he is in control of the situation before contorting his face in anger as Cohle gains the upper hand. Cohle’s reaction is not to match Hart’s open expression of anger as his facial expression remains relaxed. In fact, he suppresses emotion so effectively it comes across that he does not have much emotion to start with. When he is pinned to the wall by Hart he does not display anger as Hart does but instead calmly checks his pulse with his fingers to his neck, suggesting the encounter was a mental and physical test. Cohle’s emotionless contrasts Hart’s more obvious display of emotion. As Cohle, McConaughey mirrors a performance style often found in classic film

noir. Andrew Spicer notes in his book Film Noir (2002) that Humphrey Bogart “exemplified the new minimalist, pared down acting technique in which his stiff face, perpetually tense, wary, tight-lipped and frowning, is only allowed to occasionally smile”. In a car with Hart talking about religion, Cohle clearly does not reflect Hart’s passion for the debate and looks at his fingernails, not giving away any expression on his face. The unemotional tough guy hides the inner conflict and pressure that will eventually be revealed to the audience. In her essay “Film Noir: Gesture under Pressure” (2010), Cynthia Baron expands on the point saying: “Initially, noir heroes are often distinguished by the light, relaxed qualities of their physical expression. By the end…there is often a weighted quality that conveys the subjective experience of the wiser, sadder but still vulnerable tough guy”. Demonstrating this noir tough guy transformation, Cohle starts (in terms of the chronological order of the events that take place) as strong and focused; his pursed lips do not give away any indicators of emotion and he avoids direct eye contact. By the end of the series, Cohle has softened, he is shown as wiser and makes more eye contact. The unemotional Cohle at the beginning of the narrative offers a stark contrast to a later scene where he breaks down and cries; his body shakes and voice breaks as he holds up a limp hand to his mouth to try and regain composure. True Detective reveals many examples of how masculinity is signified through performance. The crime drama setting defines masculinity as men who are trying to follow dominant ideals of masculinity but struggle to keep them up and are slowly broken down to show their much more flawed, conflicted identities over the course of the narrative. However, these flaws also make them better detectives. Cohle’s unemotional minimalistic approach gives him the focus and clarity to unravel a dangerous conspiracy and Hart’s struggle to prove his masculinity gives him the drive to solve the case. Rather than being their undoing, their conflicted masculinity ultimately makes them more effective •

Diegesis: CUT TO [conflict]



inner conflict Jack Beetlestone •

Robin Williams 1951-2014 C

harismatic, excitable and a multi-skilled performer, on the exterior Robin Williams seemed to be just fine. The tragic news of his suicide in August triggered a staggering amount of tributes from fans, friends, admirers and peers alike. Now over eight months since his death, depression leading to male suicide is slowly becoming more discussed. Yet the issue still struggles to get the full attention it deserves. Williams’s screen persona of the comedic clown compared to his inner depression that eventually led to his suicide highlights the need for recognition of mental illness and the importance of providing encouragement for people to speak out if feeling depressed.

72 Diegesis: CUT TO [conflict]

Roles such as the inspirational English teacher John Keating in Dead Poets Society (1989) highlight a conflict between how audiences saw him on screen and what he was like off screen. Keating confidently uses words to convey his feelings, but Williams clearly struggled to do this when he was out of character. Williams possessed an ability that very few comedic actors display: to seamlessly transition between high quality dramatic and comedic performances. He received widespread critical acclaim along with multiple Academy Award and Golden Globe nominations for his dramatic roles in Good Morning, Vietnam (1988), Dead Poets Society, Awakenings (1990), The Fisher King

(1991) and Good Will Hunting (1997) as well as comedic roles in Mrs Doubtfire (1993), Jumanji (1995) and Patch Adams (1998). For the family audience, his distinct and chameleonic voice as Genie in Aladdin (1992) provided comedy for all ages, with slapstick style humour for the younger viewer and improvised, topical ramblings for the older family member. For his Oscar-winning performance in Good Will Hunting he rejected his usual character type in order to play a complicated, welleducated psychiatrist, showing his versatility and acting ability. Williams continued to show his serious side through his sinister take on the villain archetype in One Hour Photo (2002) and Christopher Nolan’s Insomnia (2002), proving that he could move away from the lovable clown persona that he had constructed throughout his career, starting with popular TV series Mork and Mindy (1978-1982), which proved to be Williams’s big break. Despite all of Williams’s career successes, the lack of knowledge about his depression and the shock surrounding his death indicates that audiences knew little about a man who brought laughter to them on a regular basis. The conflicting depiction of Williams’s onscreen personality and off-screen reality seemed to be the factor that shocked audiences the most. Awareness is slowly increasing for depression with people beginning to accept it is an illness, and this is aided by other high profile cases such as Philip Seymour Hoffman’s drug addiction and resulting death in 2014. Mental health charities and organisations such as CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably), who focus on male suicide in particular, have worked extensively to try and raise awareness about depression and anxiety and use examples such as Robin Williams to create a dialogue about the troubling issue. According to their website, in 2013 male suicide accounted for 78% of all suicides and is the single biggest cause of death in men aged between 20 and 45 in England and Wales. The charity “believe that if men felt able to ask for and find help when they need it then hundreds of male suicides could be prevented. We believe that there is a cultural barrier preventing men from seeking help as they are expected to be in control at all times, and failure to be seen

as such equates to weakness and a loss of masculinity”. These staggering statistics ought to be more widely recognised and if anything good can come out of Williams’s death, it is in calling attention to such issues so that others experiencing depression and suicidal thoughts might not suffer in silence •

For more about CALM (Campaign Against Living Miserably) including how to join the campaign, visit www.calmzone.net

Diegesis: CUT TO [conflict]






CUT TO [recall]

recall, remember, recollect, reminisce, memory, nostalgia, the past, history, remembrance, photographic memory, memory loss, forget, amnesia, Alzheimer’s, dementia, misremembering, missing the past, short-term memory, long-term memory, biopic, historical film, documentary, retro film, films as cultural memory, psyche, mind games, dreams, nightmares, traumatic memories, repressed memories, bad memories, denial, unreliable memories, unreliable narrators, childhood memories, recall prosthetic memory, defective goods, callback, reject, repeal, retract, revoke, withdraw, retrieve, store, archive, memorialising actors, filmmakers and memory, film as memory, the history of film, celluloid, photography, capturing memory... away from her, the bourne trilogy, the butterfly effect, dark city, dexter, eternal sunshine of the spotless mind, the forgotten, forrest gump, the girl with the dragon tattoo, inception, the long kiss goodnight, mad men, the majestic, the manchurian candidate, memento, midnight in paris, mulholland dr., mysterious skin, the notebook, pleasantville, schindler’s list, a separation, shutter island, spellbound, source code, strange days, total recall, trance, vanilla sky, x-men...

for more information, VISIT: www.diegesismagazine.com

IT’s BACK! writing competition 2015 •Do you enjoy watching and writing about film and tv? •Do you want the unique opportunity to get your writing published? •Are you aged 16-18 and at a UK college/sixth form?

•the task

Write a 500-550 word review of a film or television programme inspired by the word [recall]

•the prize

The winning review and runners up will be published in issue 10 CUT TO [recall] in print and online in 2016.


•the deadline

Friday 30 October 2015

•to submit your review

Email us your review as a Word document with your full name, preferred contact email and name of your college/sixth form.

•for more details

Check out pages 60-63 in this issue or CUT TO [skin] for the previous winning reviews. Good luck!

submit your reviews and queries to: mail@diegesismagazine.com


#10 coming 2016

CUT TO [recall]

www.diegesismagazine.com @DiegesisMag DiegesisFilmTVmagazine mail@diegesismagazine.com

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