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April 1994


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Sterling <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Mon, 18 Apr 1994 14:06:00 EDT
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>         Jordan Stein replies:
>         First of all, if the over saturation of violence were deadening its
> expressive power, then would we even be engaged in this debate?  Is anyone
> prepared to argue that Shindler's List is not an expressive film, because
> it uses violence as a means of emotional arousal?
>    ...  I think media images can be a problem if their power for emotional
> arousal encourages people to engage in violence.  However, like I said
> before this won't happen if people know how to interpret the images as
> language. ]
Although I can generally buy this, I do believe that it is a very thin
space between something being a language and some that has expressive
value.  Yes, this is muddled but here goes:
   Take for example a single dollar bill.  One can certainly appreciate
it as a work of art, whatever in itself.  But I would argue as more
dollar bills proliferate, the individual value I would normally attach
to a single bill diminishes.  This hypothetical relationship has already
been mentioned--oversaturation leads to loss of individual expressive-
   But with the oversaturated dollar bill, I would argue something hap-
pens with this multitude of bill; each bill becomes a sort of icon for
some Abstract/Ideal Bill and the iconic bills in multitude become
currency.  (Much of this derives from my reading of Mark Taylor's
_Disfiguring Art, Archetecture, Religion_).  In this way, oversaturation
may lead to the creation of a "currency" --or analogously "language."
     Language can be used expressively, but I think individual words
tend to lose their individual expressive value.  Similarly, although
particular examples of media violence may lose their power, it may
in fact lead to a sort of "language" of media violence.
     However, at times it seems like filmmakers may want it both ways.
Although they treat the violence they depict in the context of a
sort of "language" they still want their individual film to be powerful
--instead of being treated merely as menial "word" in an overall
"language."  This sort of goes back to the question of a film's power
I attempted to raise earlier on the list.
>         Finally, as  a filmmaker I acknowledge that film language is a very
> powerful form of expression, and therefore if violence is part of this
> language, then it shouldn't be dismissed as " merely making use of film
> language".  Because visual communication is very powerful, it very
> important that the implications of any film representation be discussed
> fully, and not dismissed because they may not be socially acceptable.
Although much of the writing surround information, media, etc. has all
been in the vein of First Amendment rights, free marketplace of ideas
etc., my gut reaction is that this issue of media control/censorship
is more complex than I might think.  Bringing up the economic analogy
again, we always hear criticism of laissez-faire economic policies.
Shouldn't there be at least partially valid alternatives to a laissez
faire information/media policy?
   Although I can't really think of any myself, I do think it's useful
to treat information or films as a commodity corresponding to cycles of
oversaturation any commodity tends to follow.  Although something may
lose its expressive value at some time, at a different "market moment"
it may in fact be powerful.
   I realize that i've left glaring holes in these thoughts and I in-
vite anyone to crush me down rather than merely not respond.
--Sterling Chen ([log in to unmask])