a fascinating and i think important larger issue is raised by the interesting
exchange between mark pizzato and molly olsen on a motif common to both "DMW"
and "12 Monkeys"-- a motif they suggestively call the "cinematic pieta" . . .
here are the relevant passages from the original exchange:
-- "Both films show men trapped by perverse/ethical systems, who need
women, as romantic, maternal figures, to help them find sanity, ethical
responsibility, and spiritual hope (if not physical freedom).
"Is this a trend . . .? Does this . . . cinematic pieta show a stale
archetype, an oppressive stereotype, or a new power for women in
-- "I think there are lots of precedents -- this male/female dynamic is almost
a cliche in older films, especially Westerns, where the woman comes into the
lawless, perverse, amoral town and shows the hero how to be civilized and
responsible (but not *too* civilized). . . .
*** END OF ORIGNAL MESSAGE ***
now it seems to me noteworthy that molly in responding to mark did not
answer the question about HOW to read this "pieta" motif . . . what interests
me about this is not how to classify the motif, but how IN PRINCIPLE one
would go about determining the answer to that question . . . the same textual
material seems capable of being read in two different, even opposite, ways,
so apparently ther's nothing "in the text itself" (as it were) to help
determine the proper response . . . surely some kind of contextualizing is
needed, but all too often such contextualizing means little more than
inviting critics or viewers to impose their own agendas, pre-conceptions,
and pre-judgments (i.e. pre-judices) on the text . . .
. . . the problem is particularly acute--or perhaps just seems so to me
because of my own concerns--in defining gender issues and attitudes in texts
. . . so that, to take a striking example, the [in]famous coke ad that shows
a "hunk" taking off his t-shirt while women ogle has been seen
a. an explotation of men, in which the roles are finally reversed
and the turning of persons into commodities or objects gets imposed
on males as well . . . and also as
b. a subtle but pernicious explotiation of women in its pretending
that the power relationship really pertaining to men and women in the
world are so fluid and readily reversible
to me, the only immediately available way of resolving this problem is to
assume that meaning is ENTIRELY contextual, and a function of the viewer's
[or reader's] preconceptions . . . but that gets us in to lots of trouble and
makes it impossible to disagree with, object to, or reject the claims of a text
. . . for in saying that meaning is entirely contextual we paint ourselves
into a corner where we have to posit that texts really don't SAY anything at
all . . . and how can you disagree with silence?
to return briefly to one example--the HIGH NOON example cited in the orginal
exchange: we may want to say that the depiction of grace kelly as a
redeeming figure is objectionable (in positing that that's the only role
available to women) or noble (in showing a more humane way of living) . . .
but both of those responses--which are clearly audience responses--depend on
first agreeing that the text itself DOES in fact depict kelly as redeemer . .
. what makes the olsen-pizzato exchange so intersting to me is the way it
points out the need to base a response on some textual constaints while at
the same time not allowing room for theorizing those constraints . . .
i apolgize for going on so long . . . the issue is a complex one, and i
wanted to try to do it a modicum of justice . . . and i realize that i haven't
really succeeded in sorting matters out adequately. . . still, i hope that some
responses will move this discussion along in useful ways
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