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July 1994


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Donald Larsson <[log in to unmask]>
Reply To:
Film and TV Studies Discussion List <[log in to unmask]>
Wed, 20 Jul 1994 08:49:07 -0600
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Thank you Keith Crosley for your response.  "Enjoyment" always needs to be
measured in the context of what's being enjoyed and why--and it's a very
complex thing, involving the circumstances of the film's production, form
and reception, as well as the circumstances of any given individual viewer.
Some time ago, somone cited Manuel Puig's KISS OF THE SPIDER WOMAN and I
recommend that book for its portrayal of the use of Nazi film (as well as
a touchstone for the character's romanticism.  He keeps getting called back
to earth by his radical cellmate, imprisoned for his poltical beliefs.  (I
meant to include a modifying phrase above indicating that the film buff is
gay--I have yet to learn how to edit text on this thing).  At any rate, it's
the synthesis between the need for political commitment and the need for
"escape" that is one of the fascinating things about the book--really only
broadly drawn out in the movie itself.
Everything is political (in the larger, Aristotelian sense, at least).  But
whether that political edge is the most important or interesting thing about
any given film is another matter.  Guy, for example, challenges anyone to
find anything political about THE FLINTSTONES.  OK, let me try:
1. THE FLINTSTONES marginalizes the working classes by depicting them
(Fred, Barney and the lodge brothers) as boors and fools, easily gulled by
their bosses and the manipulations of the ruling managerial class.  Fred's
descent into the corporate mentality that results in his firing Barney is
then used as a technique to reify his class position and to suggest that
wrokers are best off staying in their place.  That the Kyle MacLachlan
character winds up betraying himself only further reifies class placement and
the final triumph of the boss.
2. THE FLINTSTONES also (like THE JETSONS) reifies the values of the nuclear
family (a theme common to most of this summer's major films, including THE
LION KING, FORREST GUMP and TRUE LIES).  Betty and Wilma are happy '50's
homemakers, most content to stand by their men and go shopping ("Da-da-da
DA da-da!  CHARGE it!").  These values are further reinforced by the unspoken
bethrothal of Bambam and Pebbles.
3. THE FLINSTONES suggests that the status quo (actually the status quo of
the 1950s) is unchanging and eternal.  It ignores not only the actual
evolutionary development of human beings and human society, but also the
concrete historical conditions under which the suburban society of the 1950s
evolved.  Would the same approach work to depicting the family, even in
cartoon form, work in any other era?  It has to be the prehistoric past
or (in the case of THE JETSONS) the unimaginable future.
All of the above is only half-intended as parody.  I've not even bothered
to bring in the Lacanian placement of the subject.  Two points here:
1. Politics can indeed be found in THE FLINTSTONES (and I expect many of
you out there can do a much more subtle and sophisticated job of finding
it), as in just about anything else.  (What about the DEER X-ING sign, someone
asked.  Well, doesn't that begin to say something about the divorce of nature
and technology, the management and mismangement of the environment at the
expense of non-human species, u.s.w.?)
2. Politics is not the only thing, nor even the most important.  I knocked
off the above "analysis" of THE FLINTSTONES in a few minutes.  What is more
interesting, for me, though, is why the film is bad and boring aesthetically.
That's a subject that some were discussing earlier, but there's more to be
said.  Even better would be to discuss those films that do attempt to do
more, as one of the last correspondents suggested.  Even small Hollywood films,
not just independents, deserve more consideration.  (Of course, many of us
may be talking about the same thing and through this medium because--like me
--we're in relatively small cities with understocked video stores and 2
multiplexes, all showing the same thing.)
One more comment about "enjoyment" and then I'll shut up.  I do subscribe to
the Big Jim McBob-Billy Sol Hurok school of criticism and enjoy watching
explosions ("It blowed up good!  It blowed up REAL good!"), but if, say, a
small child is blown up in the process, I am likely to enjoy it less.  I
can stomach Arnold in TRUE LIES but draw the line at TOTAL RECALL (not only
for "divorce" from Sharon Stone but his random use of innocent bystanders
as living shields--this is the good guy?).  A couple of years ago, when
people asked how I could defend THE COOK, THE THIEF, HIS WIFE AND HER LOVER,
I pointed to TOTAL RECALL as an example of gratuitous and (to use an old-
fashioned word) immoral violence.  By comparison, Greenaway's film seems
to shine.
Anyway, for some perspective on all this, you might look at David Bordwell's
Enough for now, already.
--Don Larsson