Break On Through to A Hard Day’s Night

This is the end. Such a lyric from The Doors is emblematic of the transition from the 1950s nuclear family values to the free love, free drugs values of the 1960s. It is rare to see the transition in ethos through music films, but in The Beatles’ A Hard Day’s Night and in Oliver Stone’s look-back film The Doors, one can see how bands began to rebel against pop culture consumption. In The Beatles’ film, a recurring theme that plays throughout is one of breaking free, of rebelling in an innocuous sort of way. Being shot in 1964, the idea that bands were a marketing product was highly prevalent especially for The Beatles which were an easily consumable four piece band from Liverpool who found the idea of being an image revolting. Therefore, in A Hard Day’s Night, they made a film where they recognized their commerciality and ask the viewers to forgive their label’s marketing of their image and attempt to portray themselves as individuals and not as a conglomeration’s product.

With The Beatles asking for small-scale rebellion, in the later half of the 60s, The Doors asked their fans to break on through to a higher level of consciousness and to find such a state of mind through drug use and experimentation. Unlike the clean-cut marketability of The Beatles, The Doors were shaggy haired men who promoted anti-establishment ideals. They were more of a counter-culture band who wanted revolution in a larger scale than The Beatles. Despite their differences in the amount of change wanted, both bands promoted a consistent theme which was one of anti-manipulative media; a freedom from media controllers for a greater sense of self and individualism.

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Let’s Get Fat

Ranked as the world’s fattest country for several years, it is shocking to realize that obesity continues to reside in clandestine conversations throughout the United States surfacing to a public debate at the pace of cicada emergences. With such poor discussion on a serious topic, it is a necessity to create something that will catch society’s attention not only in America, but globally as obesity is a problem faced by millions of people in every country. Let’s Get Fat is an American comedy that fights the social stigma surrounding overweight actresses in Hollywood and the general mistreatment of those struggling with weight problems. The film follows Michael, a narcissistic yet likeable beefcake vlogger, as he attempts to teach the overweight people in his online community how easy one can get into shape through example. His goal? To reach three hundred pounds then lose all non-essential weight within three months with rigorous exercise and strict dieting. During his anti-diet he meets Jen, a plus-sized model and part time actress who teaches him that it’s okay not to conform to society’s expectations of weight. It is rare that a comedy will offer a genuine message of support in this topic as most comedies use heavyset actors and actresses more as a source of humor, their weight often being the butt of many jokes. In this film, the weight of the actors would be used as an advantage and not as the source of fat jokes; it would play off the stereotypical overweight tropes being as how “weight has traditionally been comic fodder by those who wield it” much like Jim Belushi and Chris Farley (Shone). This film seeks to achieve the improbable and make a lasting impression through the use of humor. If this film is green lit, it would help bring about the normalizing of overweight body types, let others see things from a different perspective, and it could bring the obesity problem a bit closer to being resolved.

            To begin, it is important to know the more intimate details of the story in order to better understand the concept of what this film is attempting to accomplish. As stated above, Michael is obsessed with sculpting the perfect body. Ever since he visited the Louvre as a young boy, he began having erotic dreams involving Michelangelo’s David and body oil. From then on, he knew he would become a body-builder, as that would make more sense than him being homosexual, such a manly man like himself. This, compounded with the death of his father at the hands of diabetes and a gunshot to the head, led him to strive for a healthier, thinner America. In order to fulfill this pubescent dream, he developed strength in his front core, his back core and his mind core. With this core strength, he took it upon himself to start a video blog titled Let’s Get Fat where he would teach those with belly rolls to become lean and mean much like a fighting machine. While on one of his many eating escapades at the Los Angeles county fair, in order to gain his three hundred pounds, by happenstance, he meets a fellow deep-fried food enthusiast and aspiring actress named Jen. As the conversation progresses, he discovers his infatuation with her and also that she is a part-time model for Torrid, a women’s plus-size clothing franchise. He is determinedly convinced that she should change her ways as he sees the potential in her to become fit and the necessary attractive level for her to become a well-known actress in the business. Meanwhile, Jen believes Michael is a better person as a big fat dynamo than his previously yoked out self. The reason she believes this is due to the fact that she comes from a family who struggled with bulimia, anorexia, and cankles. This childhood trauma is what led to her dislike of the stick figure body image perpetrated by Hollywood and drove her to want to be known as an atypical actress in the film world. Jen and Michael’s odd couple relationship is what attracts and polarizes the two throughout the film, and in the end, halfway through Michael’s weight loss, he comes to realize that body image is unique to every individual and should not be governed by any one person. With the love and support of Jen, he chooses to remain husky and model for Big & Tall, a life he finds much more rewarding and easy going, which also gives him the time to support Jen as she pursues her slowly progressing career in the film industry. In a sense, Let’s Get Fat is like Silver Linings Playbook meets Super Size Me with a touch of a bladder problem in that it feels so good to let it out.

Having a topic such as obesity and the relationship with beefcakes, it is only fitting that the primary setting for the film takes place in Venice Beach, also known as Muscle Beach. Secondary locations include Winter Haven, Florida as the backdrop for Michael’s childhood scenes, and also Beverly Hills as the locale for Jen’s upbringing. Now for the casting choices, Michael would best be played by Jim Carrey as he is a veteran comedic actor with instant box office draw. Carrey has the necessary acting range as we’ve seen in The Incredible Burt Wonderstone that he can believably pull off having a fit body, and also, he pairs well in romantic comedies as we’ve seen in Yes Man. As for the role of Jen, Melissa McCarthy would be the go-to choice for the part. She too has demonstrated her ability to use her weight as an advantage and has an instant likeability factor, the kind necessary for this peculiar rom com.

            This film is a neo-traditional romantic comedy as it is not your typical boy meets girl routine. Instead of attempting to make one another fall in love with each other, Michael and Jen are constantly wanting to change each other’s appearance to suit their personal beliefs and imposing their worldview and norms rather than a relationship. Let’s Get Fat is a film that changes the discourse of the average romantic comedy due to its self-referential nature. Not only will it make the audience laugh, but it also carries a message that will stick with them after they’ve left the theater. This message is one of tolerance, acceptance, and the ability to see past one’s exterior and see the true self that lies beneath the façade that is one’s appearance. Specifically, this message is intended to help those struggling with body issues to feel okay with themselves and to realize that there are different body types and that no one specific shape is better than the other. This message is necessary and relevant in this modern age in order to offset the imposing nature of reality and daytime TV and its use of unrealistic images of the ideal body type especially for women, because “when idealized female images are exposed subtly…it gets under our skin without us realizing and we end up feeling bad about ourselves” (Krupnick). Going against the idealized female trope, the film will effectively cause society to reexamine the way they see themselves and how they relate to popular culture in the sense that it will help spread awareness of the stigma surrounding overweight actors in Hollywood and therefore be one step closer to rising above the powers that be much like the street toughs in West Side Story recognized the flaws in the judicial system and were therefore able to have power over it. By having stars like Melissa McCarthy challenge the stereotypes of overweight actresses, and calling attention to it in a self-referential way, the film industry “rife with painfully thin stick figures, are finally seeing women with some meat on their bones rising to the top once again” (Millea).

            To normalize a body type that is deemed to be unnatural or unhealthy is difficult to say the least, but it can be done with positive reinforcement such as in this film. If given the go ahead to begin production, then positive social change can begin with the introduction of this neo-traditional romantic comedy. It takes the perspective of the opposing side, the minority, to truly know how it feels to be frowned upon and be given scorn by the majority of the country. Unfortunately, it is not the public’s fault for deeming overweight plus-sizes as being unhealthy, it is the media’s pernicious persistence of shoving the ideal body image through LED screens and printed signs across a wide array of formats. As Barker states, “Slenderness and a concern with dieting and self-monitoring are preoccupations of western media culture, with its interest in a tighter, smother, more constrained body profile” (Barker, 320). This need and desire for that perfect, tight, zero body fat figure is causing those without said characteristics to feel as if there is something deeply wrong with them. But by having one form of media that has wide commercial appeal and broad release such as this film, the minority will soon have a platform, and consequently, the ability to change what has long been the norm and bring about true social reform.

 

 

Barker, Chris. Cultural Studies: Theory and Practice. London: SAGE, 2012. Print.

Krupnick, Ellie. “Women’s Self-Esteem Affected By Idealized Female Images… But Not In The Way You Think.” The Huffington Post. TheHuffingtonPost.com, 27 Feb. 2013. Web. 26 Oct. 2013.

Millea, Holly. “Why Fat Is Back in Hollywood.” Details. Conde Naste, 13 July 2006. Web. 26 Oct. 2013.

Shone, Tom. “Is Obesity a Laughing Matter?” The Guardian. Guardian News, 28 June 2013. Web. 26 Oct. 2013.

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Goldfinger Licking Good

James Bond is a man’s man. A real English man. But what does it mean to be a real Englishman? To define this one has to look past the Bond film franchise to see James Bond as more than just a secret agent and more of a signifier for how the British believed model men should behave. To begin, the most evident of all his traits is his hyper-masculinity, especially in the film Goldfinger. In the clips shown in class, Bond moves through his environments as if he knows exactly where to go. This is shown when he walks among the hotel suites looking for Goldfinger’s room and uses the maid’s key without her putting up a fight; he put on his charm and she was instantly seduced, a trope that follows when he seduces Goldfinger’s squeeze who helped him cheat at cards.

This type of masculinity was meant to give British men the idea that with said manly behavior it endows a certain power over others. Also, while Bond is a smooth talking gentleman, other races or men from other countries are portrayed as less refined such as the Oriental henchman, or how Americans and Russians were portrayed as hot heads inYou Only Live Twice ready to start wars while Britain was calm and levelheaded. Bond films intentionally skewed those from other nations in order to make themselves appear better than they truly were. Having lost the holds over many colonized countries, England needed to rebuild their citizen’s self esteem and James Bond was just the man to do it. Men, by trying to emulate the most sophisticated man, would then make the country great again.

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Order Disorder

Efficiency is the most important part of a job. This is the mantra of the modern capitalists and the old. Organically, to reach said goal, there developed two different techniques of worker treatment which was Fordism and Taylorism. When the mass production of cars began, Ford developed a formula that made his workers become as productive as possible by assigning a specific job to a worker and having said worker repeat that sole task over and over again. In doing so, Ford was able to minimize confusion over job functions and increase efficiency and production. As for Taylorism, he developed a similar worker treatment system wherein he diminished time lost in productivity amongst his workers by having them stand in one place for the entire time they would work at the factory.

Such formulas might have enthralled the capitalists of the times, but for the workers it was seen as one of the many plagues surrounding the industrial revolution due to its severe restrictions to employee freedoms; this is the reason why Fordism and Taylorism have been described as Old World Order. This type of order requires strict efficiency from its workers and treats them as machines, an example of which can be found in Charlie Chaplin’s lampooning of Fordism and Taylorism in the classic movie, Modern Times. In the film, we see how Charlie Chaplin has one set job which is tightening the screws on a piece of machinery and when he slacks off even for a second he is instantly chastised. Also, Chaplin illustrates the absurdity of Taylorism in the scene where he is forced to eat from a stationary feeding machine.

From this Old World Order then came New World Disorder where workers began to accept their station in the work force and believe if they kept their head down and worked hard enough, they just might acheive success and the money necessary to live out the American Dream of owning a white picket fence house and having a happy nuclear family.

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I’ll Have What She’s Having

The oldest story in the world begins with a boy meeting a girl. In a romantic comedy anything can happen after such a happenstance as long as the two end up together by the end of the film. This was the classic plot development of romantic comedies for several years as they mirrored the aspirational aspects of relationships society aimed for. It wasn’t until movies like Annie Hall and 10 that the genre shifted into a more postmodernist realm where the boy is denied the happy ending, where the boy doesn’t get the girl.

The reason the above movies were able to show the realistic approach to relationships is due to the fact that they were self-reflexive films; both sexes in the movies were equally important. This new equality of the sexes in romantic comedies ushered in a new era of reality in the rom com genre that showed women as having a sexual appetite to match that of men’s. Specifically in 10, near the end of the film, when George Webber finally meets his fantasy girl Jenny Hanley, he realizes she’s not what he envisioned at all; she wants sex when he does not. In a romantic comedy, Jenny would have been his dream girl come true, but the bubble is burst because she’s an individual woman who has her own opinion on subject matters that differ from the traditional girl in need of rescue, a trope that plagued the earlier rom coms.

The question was posed in class about 10, what category is this romantic comedy? After watching the interaction between the men and women in the film, it is undoubtedly a neo-traditional rom-com as it remains true to the classic boy meets girl aspect of the original genre but it’s self-reflexivity leaves the mark of realism throughout the film.

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Captain Pragmatic

What makes a superhero super is the ability to do improbable feats on a daily basis. In this day and age, Charles S. Fire, also known as Captain Pragmatic, would be the most appropriate hero to arise. As a twenty-five year old, straight white male, from Jersey City,  USA, Charles had a rough life growing up. When he was young he didn’t have many friends due to the fact he would always iron his clothes. Little kids love wrinkles, so it was a sore subject. His life at home was a wreck both literally and figuratively as both his parents were hoarders. They never threw anything away that reminded them of a time before they had Charles. Charles was a mistake and they never let him forget it. One day, his parents finally did let him forget he was a mistake, but that was only because they were dead. They had been crushed to death by stacks of old newspapers they kept in their bedroom. This lead to Charles becoming a social worker to help those who couldn’t help themselves.

It was during his job as a social worker that he was bitten by a radioactive guido and gained the special powers he is known for today. His special powers include flying at eighty-five miles an hour but only able to turn left, and the most powerful of all, the ability to be sensible in a tough situation. He is often limited in his ability to decide which option of action is the most pragmatic and the inability to turn right without doing a one hundred eighty degree turn to the left. His costume consists of red tennis shoes, a white jumpsuit with the initials CP in the middle, a blue belt and cape with white stars, and a red cape. Charles can fly and is well-built so he doesn’t have the need for a utility belt or other kinds of tools.

Captain Pragmatic tries to help anyone who needs saving, especially those too weak to help themselves. At the same time he tries to change the behavior of evil doers without hurting them if possible because violence is not practical. His main villains are disorganization and a misinformed public. On his spare time, Charles teaches others the value of practicality. Despite his efforts of good, Captain Pragmatic is often misunderstood and seen as a lame superhero by most kids due to his unwillingness to fight bad guys. The public and politicians however have a high opinion of Captain Pragmatic as he helps out  the police without charging taxes for his efforts. Much of the criticism surrounding Captain Pragmatic, though, is the fact that he always weighs out the pros and cons with every decision he will make, so he will not always react quick enough to save those in immediate trouble.

Captain Pragmatic is necessary to keep good values alive and well. He helps bring back those who have done wrong into the light of good. Without Captain Pragmatic the youth would not have someone to look up to who teaches others how to be orderly and approach problems with a commonsensical approach. Captain Pragmatic suggests that white men in their mid-twenties need to have a plan for everything or they feel lost, especially Americans living in metropolitan areas.

Captain Pragmatic.

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This Love Is ****ing Right, Or Is It?

What makes love possible? At first this question may seem apparently obvious, but when mulled over it becomes an ambiguous enigma. The fact that a popular film like Jerry Maguire attempts to answer such a complex question is one of the many reasons it has become a quintessential example of how popular culture can affect the perception of love in the general public.

Jerry Maguire is the kind of character who cannot be alone; he must have a romantic interest at all times, but because he is a sports agent his relationships are often artificial, hollow husks with no substance, which is an agent’s life by nature. It isn’t until he writes his mission statement centering on how he wants to be a more personal agent that he meets Dorothy Boyd, a woman who seems to understand the statement and can be the woman he needs in order to be whole and fill the void of a meaningful relationship he has evaded as an agent.

By showing the empty flings of Jerry Maguire, the filmmakers attempted to make a universal answer that could help benefit the public. An empathetic relationship with another person is what makes love possible because without empathy a person is doomed to be selfish and only think of one’s own needs. It is more of a modernist approach to love as it has a pragmatic base with a relatively set answer, whereas a postmodernist approach to love would consider it ultimately meaningless as we are destined to never fully know someone else, therefore it is a fruitless effort to love someone. For Jerry Maguire, he not only needed to show the money but he had to show love and empathy in order to receive it.

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