This chapter considers the predictable and the banal: the political nature of everyday life. It begins by sketching Breaking Bad's contemporary American landscape. The show draws on the sad reality plaguing much of the American heartland, which, coincidentally or otherwise, correlates broadly with levels of disaffection with the establishment. The chapter then touches on important issues of race, health, and drugs in the US and in Breaking Bad. It analyses the politics of masculinity in contemporary US society. Further, the chapter introduces feminist and critical gender literatures, arguing that the personal is political. Breaking Bad has clearly, for better or worse, made a powerful discursive intervention into America's enduring and contemporary political debates. Finally, the chapter explores Walter White's own personal journey from emasculated husband and disrespected teacher to alpha male drug kingpin and cold-blooded murderer.
To recount America's relationship with the screen under Bush, Obama, and Trump, this chapter is structured in three parts. It first recalls the televisual events of 9/11, which had such a dramatic impact on US society and politics as well as the film and television industries. The chapter revisits the theme of propaganda and assesses the prevalence of films and TV focused on conflict during the War on Terror. Second, it explores Obama's frequent use of popular culture and his relationship with shows such as Homeland. The chapter recalls Obama's popular-culture fluency, across a variety of roles. Third, turning towards Trump, it outlines how we might make sense of his relationship with the screen, which is at once apparently straightforward and infuriatingly obscure. The chapter provides information on the symbiotic relationship Trump has with popular culture and the impact of his presidency on the very notion of fictional television.
This chapter explores the theme of realpolitik, as the prioritization of the practical in the pursuit of power, over the moral or ideological. First, it recaps what is at stake for fictional television and world politics in their interlocking: namely, the role that popular culture plays in enabling, shaping, and delimiting political possibility. The chapter reminds readers that fictional television can close down as well as open up space for thinking and acting otherwise in world politics; fictional television can amplify as well as contest dominant discourses. Then, the chapter explores House of Cards and Game of Thrones in turn, asking how it is that each of the shows constructs a particular world politics and to what effect. On this final point, it returns to the initial discussion to consider whether the shows are encoded and decoded as reinforcements of dominant discourses, or whether they are 'read' as cautionary tales.
Beginning film studies offers a critical introduction to this academic discipline for undergraduate (and other) readers coming to it for the first time. Written accessibly, it ranges across key topics, theories and approaches in film studies. For this new volume, the author has thoroughly updated the first edition, writing fresh case studies, tracking and evaluating recent developments in the study of film, and providing up-to-the-minute suggestions for further reading. The book begins by considering film’s formal features (mise-en-scène, editing and sound) before moving outwards to discuss narrative, genre, authorship, the star, and film’s ideological engagement (its staging of class, gender, sexuality, race and ethnicity). Later chapters on film industries and on film consumption – where and how we watch movies (not least in the digital age) – reflect and assess the discipline’s recent geographical ‘turn’. The book takes a global perspective, illustrating its arguments by reference to film cultures ranging from Hollywood to Bollywood, and from the French ‘New Wave’ to contemporary Hong Kong. Each chapter concludes with a case study, exploring such topics as sound in The Great Gatsby, narrative in Inception and ideology in Blue Is the Warmest Colour. The superhero movie is studied as a genre, and Jennifer Lawrence as a star. Beginning film studies is also interactive, with readers enabled throughout to reflect critically upon the field.
The conclusion considers the impact of digital on film production, exhibition and consumption. The growth of the digital requires us to rethink with particular urgency the relationship of film to the real. Film studies should, in general, be vigilant in the face of celebratory, even utopian accounts of film production, exhibition and consumption in the digital age.
This chapter tracks important shifts in thinking about the nature and locus of authorship in film. The first section is devoted to ‘auteur theory’, recounting its emergence during the French ‘New Wave’ and acknowledging its importance. The next section, however, identifies several major problems with auteurism, including its evaluative basis (rather than scientific rigour) and its romantic, individualistic account of creation that flies in the face both of film’s collaborative production and of post-structuralist pronouncements of ‘the death of the author’. Yet the section that follows rehabilitates the figure of the cinematic author (in strong if not overbearing form), recognising the different contributions to this end by analytical philosophy, feminism and legal studies. The chapter’s final substantive section considers ‘digital authors’ – both directors endowed with still greater powers by such phenomena as the DVD ‘Director’s Commentary’ and viewers able to unsettle films by various means that include discontinuous watching on DVD and the production of film-related fan fictions. Finally, these various models of film authorship are tested in a case study of the directorial work of Ang Lee
If genre is an analytical category or formal property shared with other art forms, it has long proved especially important to film. The first of four substantive sections here considers attempts to devise taxonomic and iconographic models of film genres, and assesses their explanatory force. A second section positions genres less as quasi-scientific categories than as provisional labels attached to groups of movies by diverse interest groups: it asks, therefore, who gets to enjoy definitional power in such situations. The section that follows is preoccupied by genres and history, exploring both the internal history and evolution of a genre and the complex ways in which that genre is related to broader historical shifts and tendencies. Subsequently, discussion takes place of the continuing analytical viability of the idea of genre (in the face of some critics’ claims that we live now in a period of filmmaking characterised not by strict generic demarcation but by generic assemblage or hybridity). The chapter’s case study, bringing together and testing these various conceptual strands, is of the superhero movie.
This chapter aims to introduce and evaluate a number of approaches to gendersexualityraceclass in film studies. It is crucial now for film studies to explore the multiple articulations of class with other ideological registers. As Chuck Kleinhans puts it: ‘Today Marxism seems most dynamic when it combines its analysis of class with an analysis of gender, race, national, postcolonial, and other issues raised by progressive social-political movements’ (1998: 111). The chapter concludes with a case study of Blue Is the Warmest Colour (2013).
This chapter acknowledges the centrality of narrative to the aesthetics and economics of film industries globally. Thus, while an early part of this chapter considers non- or even anti-narrative strands of cinema (these ranging from the early ‘cinema of attractions’ to surrealist and other avant-garde experimentation), the majority of its space is dedicated to exploring and evaluating key aspects of cinematic storytelling. Successive sections consider analytical approaches to character (particularly formalist and cognitivist strategies), to cinematic staging of time, and to endings in cinema. The last of the substantive sections is devoted to ‘narrative and power’: who, exactly, narrates a film, and with what worldly consequences? To test the adequacy and usefulness of those approaches to narrative presented earlier in the chapter, the case study that follows is of the form taken by storytelling in Inception (2010).
Chapter 10 gravitates towards the last three items on Miller et al.’s agenda for a reconfigured film studies: namely, the geographically and historically dispersed activities of ‘receiving’, ‘interpreting’ and ‘criticising’ that take place during film consumption. The chapter concludes with a case study of film consumption in Loughborough.