Applied media analysis 2

I would like to use this time  to make a post that produces an argument about how the film industry repeatedly promotes the same views over and over again through it’s films. While I will be discussing Hollywood in this scenario, mainstream films produced through the film industry, I also want to reflect on the ‘new media’ independent film industry’s role in promoting the same story-lines, and how even though indie films can have similar plots, they also present it in a different or more original way. From what we’ve discussed in class, I believe that Sloan’s article on variations of a story can best represent the underlying theme that I’m discussing.

Specifically, I will be reflecting on the idea of how one is supposed to fall in love, or how a loving relationship between two people is supposed to be, according to films. There are many popular mainstream Hollywood films as well as a couple independent films which all contribute to the exact same unrealistic or idealistic beliefs of love/attraction/affection. Each film involves something of this nature that contains underlying lessons to viewers (if you do this, then this happens etc.), of which have been promoted throughout more than one films.

Hollywood is creating a stigma: specifically of how people expect ‘falling in love’ to happen in a certain way, and sometimes how ridiculous the process is. I believe the independent film, Swiss Army Man has a different definition, yet similar enough to provide a compare and contrast. The film is about Hank, who is hopelessly stranded on a deserted island, finding Manny, a talking corpse who asks questions about life and possesses conveniently life-saving flatulence, and their adventure together in the wilderness on their way back to the mainland. The indie film premiered at the Sundance Film Festival in January 2016, shortly after of which the indie-film production company A24 bought the rights to the film and released it to the public in the summer. The budget for the film was $3 million and earned around $5 million in the box office; compared to Hollywood films this is a very low budget which is one of the trademarks of the usual ‘indie’ film.

According to Hollywood, through romantic comedies more or less, there are specific ways to find love. In this article by Roxanna Coldiron, these ways can be broken into 4 lessons; Lesson 1: “If you really, really love someone, you should stalk them until they love you back.” Not only does this not work in reality, if someone actually did this they would most likely be arrested. There is such a thing as ‘cyber-stalking’ nowadays, it’s even recommended before actually meeting a blind-date so you can actually know something about the complete stranger before meeting them, which is made accessible to us due to the rise of technology and social media. While ‘Facebooking’ (looking up people’s profiles on the social media app Facebook) someone is at least a little bit approved by society, using GPS to find someone and stalk them until they love you is not. This exact thing can be seen in the movie The Sweetest Thing, which came out in 2002 with a budget of $43 million, earning about $69 million in the box office (The reason I’m including budget and box office numbers is in order to show the difference in all of the big budgeted Hollywood films compared to indie). Lesson 2: “Men and women cannot just be friends.” In basically every mainstream Hollywood film where a man and a woman are friends, they more often than not end up together at some point in the film. “It implies that being just friends with a someone of the opposite sex requires a future romantic response if the other person earns your favor, which starts getting into the territory of sexual entitlement and creates another set of problems. No one is ever owed sex or love” (Coldiron). Movies like When Harry Met Sally (1989, budget $16 million, box office $92.8 million), He’s Just Not That Into You (2008, budget $40 million, box office $181.1 million), Post Grad (2009, budget $15 million, box office $6 million) or Friends With Benefits (2011, budget $35 million, box office $149.5 million) all question whether or not men and women can be friends, or be friends who just have sex, and not fall in love; none of these keep the friendship and they all end up in relationships. Lesson 3: “You must constantly test someone’s love to prove it is true.” This lesson exhibited in films like How to Lose a Guy in 10 Days (2003, budget $50 million, box office $177.4 million) and Think Like a Man (2012, budget $12 million, box office $96.1 million), completely disregards the element of trust in a relationship, and almost always backfires in the films. It promotes dishonesty, and an expectation that whether or not your significant other will do something for you will prove “if they really love you”. Lesson 4: “You either need a fabulous facade to reel him in or to get a complete makeover before he can fall in love with you.” This is the ultimate plot in many RomCom films where the ‘dorky’ girl gets a makeover and becomes the ‘beautiful mysterious girl” which causes the male lead to realize he’s head over heels for her. In the movies there are two ways a girl can do this: by changing her looks to accommodate the male lead’s expectations of ‘the ideal woman’ she either shows her best self or she pretends to be someone she is not. This is exhibited in a range of films such as Maid In Manhattan (2002, budget $55 million, box office $154.9 million), She’s All That (1999, budget $10 million, box office $103 million), Pretty Woman (1990, budget $14 million, box office $463.4 million), Mean Girls (2004, budget $17 million, box office $129 million), Clueless (1995, budget $12 million, box office $56.6. million), and hell even the story of Cinderella has a makeover that wins a prince! Our culture already idealizes women, providing a list of expectations that women are supposed to somehow meet. It’s unrealistic and ridiculous.

Something that indie films have done well is approach the ideal (how love works) that Hollywood has set up and adapt it in a very different way. Something that Sloan talks about is how there can be variations of things, some more fiction than others, such as particular stories. I believe with this philosophy in mind that Hollywood is not very subtle with the recycling of the 4 lessons, while with indie they maybe recycle the plot (of how love works) but present it in ways that do not correlate with the 4 lessons previously discussed. Although a film is a film, and so there is bound to be similarities in plots, indie or Hollywood, but there is differences in these films as well. For example independent films are known for their quirky explanations of a particular story, of which is brilliantly seen throughout the film Swiss Army Man. Similarities to this film and Hollywood ones are certain filming techniques used, such as Montage. During a montage in Hollywood RomComs it’s usually to show a quick pace timeline of the two characters spending time together falling in love, however in Swiss Army Man it’s used to show how the two male characters depend on each other for survival, and is laced with background music of which they are singing about the montage, subtly and comedically nudging at the fact that it is a montage the viewer is indeed watching. Also in the film, a contributing theme is love, and in a few particular scenes one character provides to the other a definition of what love is and how it usually works between two people. In the video provided in the link above, the idea of love is demonstrated accurately through what is normally identified as what indie films usually do, which is change the stigma that Hollywood tries to set up. While still romanticized, the characters provide a more realistic process of ‘falling in love’, essentially once compared to Hollywood’s 4 lessons, of which this definition does not apply.



One comment

  1. bboessen · December 14, 2016

    Intriguing use of Sloan here. Count it. You might be interested in more works on genre and the idea of repeated stories cropping up in new ways. There are some links here to some of the issues we discussed last semester with noir as well.


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