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Y200 Politics and Film. February 24, 2011. Key Questions about Culture. What is the relationship between mass or popular culture and the broader culture of society? What is the role and importance of film in popular culture at different periods in history?

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Y200 Politics and Film

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y200 politics and film

Y200 Politics and Film

February 24, 2011

key questions about culture
Key Questions about Culture
  • What is the relationship between mass or popular culture and the broader culture of society?
  • What is the role and importance of film in popular culture at different periods in history?
  • Can film makers exercise power or influence through their privileged access to cultural production?
early beliefs about the power of film
Early Beliefs about the Power of Film
  • In its early days, as with photography, people assumed that film was an accurate representation of reality
  • The early response to films was so strong that many observers thought that film could play a key role in politics
  • The first attempts to use film explicitly for political purposes were during World War I
  • The use of film for propaganda purposes by the Nazis and by Stalin was a continuation of this tradition
  • In the US, the private film industry volunteered its services to the government
historical films
Historical Films
  • We have seen a series of films about fictionalized historical events
  • In the midterm, one of the questions dealt with the relation between a specific film (Apocalypse Now) and the director’s claim that the film “is Vietnam”
  • Some argue that a film like “The Hurt Locker” is an accurate portrayal of the war in Iraq; others disagree
  • How should we think about such claims?
key question about history
Key Question about History
  • Is there such a thing as “objective” history?
  • If so, how does one differentiate objective from subjective history?
  • Assuming objectivity is possible, how do social institutions and popular myths (as reflected in cultural artifacts) push the telling of history away from objectivity?
history as a unifying myth vs objective history
History as a Unifying Myth vs. “Objective” History
  • The importance of a shared understanding of history in maintaining social cohesion often conflicts with the internal need of the community of historians to entertain opposing viewpoints in the interest of “objectivity.”
film as myth
Film as Myth
  • What is the role of myth in society?
  • What role does myth and mythology play in the stories told by films and other artifacts of popular culture?
  • How do myths change over time to reflect new or different understandings of reality and/or history?
  • Swiss psychologist Carl Jung (1873–1961) tried to understand the psychology behind world myths. Jung asserted that all humans share certain innate unconscious psychological forces, which he called archetypes. Jung believed that the similarities between the myths from different cultures reveals the existence of these universal archetypes.
claude levi strauss
Claude Levi-Strauss
  • Myths reflect patterns in the mind that are characteristic of all humans, and therefore all human societies.
  • Most myths reflect mental polarities (pairs of opposites):
    • Good vs. Evil
    • Heroic vs. Cowardly
    • Male vs. Female
  • People who agree with Levi-Strauss were called “structuralists”
joseph campbell 1904 1987
Joseph Campbell (1904-1987)
  • Early writings on Native Americans
  • Major work: The Hero with a Thousand Faces
  • two different types of mythology:
    • myths that "are metaphorical of spiritual potentiality in the human being
    • myths "that have to do with specific societies“
  • George Lucas was strongly influenced by Campbell’s ideas, especially the importance of the heroic quest or journey in mythology
heroes in star wars
Heroes in Star Wars
  • Han Solo
  • Luke Skywalker
  • Princess Leia
  • Yoda
  • Obiwan Kenobe
the empire nazi colors and demonic makeup
The Empire: Nazi Colors and Demonic Makeup

Color scheme:

grey, red, black,

and white.