We started with a clip from Back to The Future and discussed how the film fit into the characteristics of the two readings from Sklar and Wood. We agreed that technology obviously came through as very strong and largely depicted in the film, and talked about the ways in which it could be considered a “hard body” film. There were also mentions of the Libyan terrorists in the film, which was interesting to think about in considering today’s foreign politics.
We followed up with a presentation on Robert Sklar’s reading. Sklar talks about the emergence of synergy between media and the government and film industry. This was illustrated in the removal of the Paramount decision, allowing the companies to merge with so few policies in place to regulate them. Sklar presents some differences in the ways 80’s films were made and the way films were made prior to that.
80’s films drew from old B-movies rather than novels or things of that nature. He also describes the “Hard Body” image as a method to minimize the loss of Vietnam. We discussed the possibility of opposing sentiments in films like First Blood, where Rambo is shown shooting all the computers in the police station in the last scene of the film. We then discussed the Regan Era and the Age of Hollywood. We discussed how it wasn’t just Washington and Regan influencing the movies but also vice versa; a different kind of synergy altogether that brought about, through political action, more freedoms to the film industry that promoted the industry.
We referred to the phenomenon laid out by Sklar and summarized them as:
1) New Gender relations- “Hard Body”/ “Soft Body”
2) New Technologies- VCR/ Cable
3) New Audiences- more family oriented (and more broadly reaching)
4) New Production- Blockbuster/ Multimedia appeal (i.e. spinoffs in new media form)
5) New Marketing- emergence of multiplex- films going culture, enabling audiences to watch films of any taste at any time of day.
6) New Rhetoric- The lack of critical significance in the films being made, although there was a presence of political undertones.
We then watched a clip of Robocop, which prompted the class to consider the relationship between humans and technology. We also pointed out the indulgent special effects that were characteristic of the 80’s. We discussed the way in which masculinity was reaffirmed by technology and that brought about a discussion on the role of women. The male characters, we found, are powerless without woman and depend on them heavily, depicting a sense of castration and woman as sexual objects.
We closed with a presentation on Robin Wood’s reading. There is a relation of old Hollywood values with the fact that there are so many sequels made during this time. He suggests that children and old people only need slight variations to what they’ve seen before to be entertained. He presents the six aspects that make these films work as childishness, special effects, originality, nuclear fear, fascism, and the restoration of the father. In resurrecting old Hollywood values there was also a resurrection of things such as Racism and Sexism.
We then discussed these things in the context of other 80’s films such as the Fascism in Robocop, the role of the father and castration in Body Double. Then we closed with an open-ended question on what De Palma was aiming to do with a film like Body Double. Was it satirical or was he only seeking to make a film with the culture of the time.