Author Topic: Wonder Woman  (Read 421 times)

Offline kimmy

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Re: Wonder Woman
« Reply #15 on: June 11, 2017, 01:51:37 pm »
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Ok, I am suddenly disarmed.  Now I'm not sure if my assessment of this genre is from being out of touch.

Certainly my facebook feed is FULL of status updates about superheroes, and this super lady in partcular.  I was ascribing that to the fact that most of my friends (Facebook friends that is) are liberal humanist moralists, but I realize that they are also much younger than me.

Are we indeed at a point where our cultural icons - even our FANTASY icons - matter ?  Or is this just a fad.  I'm considering it.

I think that our cultural icons, by definition, matter. Otherwise they wouldn't be icons. Fictional, fantasy, real-life, these are just minor details in the larger picture.  People might consider LeBron James an icon because he represents the peak of excellence in his field, perhaps he represents other things such as the power of determination and hard work, I don't know, I'm really not a basketball fan.  You mentioned Murphy Brown... was she an icon? I was rather young when she was at the peak of pop culture, I don't really recall much... in hindsight I think I was pretty dense at the time even by little-kid standards.  People might see Murphy Brown as someone who embodies traits they wish to emulate. She's a strong and independent woman who makes her own choices and takes no crap.  I think that the same can be said of Wonder Woman.  One is obviously a fantasy character and the other is less obviously a fantasy character, but I don't think that is a significant detail in determining the extent to people identify with these characters or are inspired by them.


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TV sitcoms in the 1960s turned escapist and fantastical (Bewitched, I Dream of Jeannie, My Favourite Martian, Gilligan's Island, Beverley Hillbillies) until the cultural zeitgeist couldn't run away from issues, or assign magical housewives to send them away.  Then, in the 1970s, sitcoms (starting with All in the Family) tackled social issues head-on.

Ok, so let's take I Dream Of Jeannie and Bewitched for a moment.  Doesn't the fact that these became big hits say something about the audience?   I am of the assumption that these were shows created up by male writers, approved by male TV executives, and embraced by largely male audiences...  bearing that in mind, isn't there something we can conclude about the culture of the day?  I think there are people who make entire careers of doing that sort of analysis. 

I Dream of Jeannie and Bewitched might not talk about a single socially contentious issue in any episode, but I think the existence of the shows and their popularity in their time is in itself a form of social commentary, and possibly a more significant comment about the society they existed in than any conscious social commentary the writers might have inserted into an episode.  As I said earlier, I think our dreams and nightmares and fantasies say more about us than our conscious attempts to describe ourselves.



As for Tackling Social Issuestm I think there's a certain level of delusional self-importance involved when writers set out to "tackle social issues".   "This week on a Very Special Episode of Diff'rent Strokes, we're tackling drugs!"   One of Willis's friends has obtained a joint, and Willis wants his friends to think he's cool, but after a "Watchoo talkin bout Willis???" and a lecture from Mr Drummond, Willis realizes that being cool isn't the most important thing. Problem solved! Issue tackled!

I don't think that issues get "tackled" in the space of a half hour moral lesson... I think that "tackling issues" is a long term project. I think that Ellen DeGeneres has "tackled" homophobia by building empathy and rapport over a span of many years.   Archie Bunker is another one that's before my time, I've only seen clips... but I gather that it depicted a dialogue between tradition and conservatism and progress and liberalism that went on many years. 

And I don't think that overt attempts to "tackle" an issue are especially effective anyway.  I don't think that setting out to create a fictional environment that shows racism is bad is as effective as creating a show around a black family that people find likeable and relatable and building empathy for the situation.  I don't think that an overt attempt to "tackle" homophobia would be as effective as Will ^ Grace or Ellen were.   And I don't think having someone lecture people about female empowerment is as effective as simply presenting empowered females-- be it Murphy Brown, or be it the newer generation of active and assertive Disney princesses, or be it Wonder Woman.


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Of course, my reluctance to accept them comes from my distaste for the genre but you are right.  They have always been with us.  They could also be a fad, though, and they are certainly an outcome of the underlying infrastructure that produces films.  ie. demographic tastes, cultural mining, potential for large revenue.

Well obviously movie and television studios are in the business of making money, and their interest in tapping into whatever trends stems from a desire to make money, not to effect social change.  Their success or failure in these ventures-- their assessment or misjudgment of what the public is craving-- provides information that we can analyze.   Is the success of the current Wonder Woman movie a signifier?  Was the massive failure of the recent female-led Ghostbusters movie a signifier?  What went right for one and went wrong for the other?


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I think that the value and impact of stories is unknowable, and I think that people will pay attention to what they will pay attention to.  I just have a hard time wrapping my mind around the idea that pure fantasy would be as impactful to an adult as even a realistic drama such as 'Inherit the Wind'.  'Schindler's List', 'Birth of a Nation' or Philadelphia.

But again, I'm reconsidering this.

I think that "issue movies" can be powerful, but they can also be trite or preachy and terrible.   I thought that "Schindler's List" was incredibly moving and powerful.  The ending, with the candles in the darkness, where they showed his legacy... the people who survived, and their thousands of descendants, because of him... was pure waterworks for me.  I couldn't contain it.  The power of one man to make a difference, even in the midst of all that horror... was so profoundly uplifting.  Part of it was that it was simply superb film-making, but I think that for me at least a part of it is that this was a real man who did a real thing that changed so many lives.  (I was also quite moved when I read the account of the man who stood up and shouted "**** you, I'm Millwall!" when the terrorists stormed into the pub in London last week. This drunk soccer fan attempted to fight the terrorists with his bare hands, buying everyone else time to flee out the back. He ended up in the hospital with many cuts, but who knows how many people he might have saved?)

On the other hand some of the attempts to create gripping emotional drama just don't affect me at all.  I can only vaguely remember seeing Philadelphia, for example. For whatever reason, it just didn't ...  I dunno.  I agree that discrimination is wrong and that this man was treated unfairly, and I think that depicting this situation was a noble goal, but maybe it just didn't connect for me because it felt preachy.  Obviously most didn't feel the same and the movie was recognized as being a great artistic success, but it just didn't move me in the way that Schindler's List did.


For me the "value" is not in the effort to depict something important or noble, it's in the effect it has on me as a viewer.  Schindler's List was valuable for me, not because it told a story about a courageous person, but because for me it was a profoundly moving experience.  Philadelphia, for me, was not nearly as valuable and not because the subject matter wasn't important but rather just because it wasn't personally moving for me in the way that Schindler's List was.

Mad Max: Fury Road, for me was "valuable" because even though it didn't involve much in the way of deep thinking or social commentary, it controlled my heart rate for two hours and gripped me and energized me in a way that few other films ever have.   The "value" in terms of expressing some idea that's important to society is minimal to negligible... but the value to me as a viewing experience was beyond describing.

And for me as a viewer, the "value" isn't a function of having a laudable message, it's in the experience. Schindler's List and Mad Max: Fury Road both delivered an incredible experience, in different ways.  Philadelphia, for me, didn't, in spite of making a thoroughly commendable effort to depict injustice.

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In terms of describing social impact, I think a real story with non super characters would have an advantage in making people see how social issues play out in the human arena.  You can see why I think that, right ?

Sure. But I feel that making an overt attempt to depict social issues is not the only way to make people understand things.

I think the scene in Frozen where Elsa sings the big song, embraces her magic power, builds the ice-castle, and accepts who she is probably has more impact, especially  for a younger viewer, than any words Murphy Brown might say.

Yes, I agree it's fantastical.  It's like if God redesigned the Eiffel Tower to be better and also decided that it should be wonderful.  It looks like a giant grey olive on a stick.  They light it up at night now, so it can be pink or something during Pride.

If the CN Tower is a giant olive on a stick, does that make Toronto a giant Martini?

 -k
« Last Edit: June 11, 2017, 02:34:40 pm by kimmy »