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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]>
Sun, 10 Apr 1994 23:58:00 EDT
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I had orginally wanted to post a more thought-out response to Henry
Jenkin's overview of utop/dystop as well as the ensuing discussion but
I sense that the timing is right for a cursory note.
First, some listers applied the Jenkin's observations on more overt
utopia/dystop films (societal utop/dystop -- a la 1984, Blade Runner, et
al.) to,what I see as a distinct, "personal" utop/dystop ( (re)marriage
comedies, perhaps musicals like South Pacific). Thomas Schatz in his
Classical Hollywood Cinema (I think that's what the book's called) ex-
plores this "personal" utop/dystop more in terms of some conflict be-
tween the individual (or protagonist) and society/social group. He
looks at this conflict in the musicals, westerns (especially John Ford),
and film noir. In my opinion film noir is especially marks an area
where the general utop/dystop and "individual" utop/dystop overlap
from Sam Spade, to perhaps Miami Vice, to Blade Runner.
I'd like to wallow in "noir" for a bit but I'm curious also as to how
or if this individual-social thing is used as a narrative device (and/
or how else is it used) in utop/dystop stories.
With all the more recent posts on Emerald Forest, Little Big Man, and
other "primitive" utopiae vs Western imperialism, Aldous Huxley's Brave
New World immediately comes to mind (as well as when someone mentioned
Shakespeare's Tempest earlier).
With Brave New World, I'd say that this future society is depicted at
first as a strange but utopic society but it is through a relativity
/comparison with individuals (the Savage, the two Alphas whose name I
forget) that we might see this society as empty.
In Edward Scissorhands, Edward acts as a sort of Savage in this "50s"-
ish suburban utopia. Just as the Savage, he disturbs the "balance"
of the society but in this case, Edward returns to his gothic castle
and both Savage and society coexist.
What about in Brazil and Farenheit 451? Is a similar individual-vs-
society at work? If so, how would this compare with Hitchcock films
like Notorious or North by Northwest?
There seems to be a tendency to equate a happy ending with a "utopic"
ending (or tragic w/ "dystopic") and I want to get away from this. But
I really have no arguments up my sleeve at this moment. Any thought on
--STerling Chen ([log in to unmask])