The class began with a clip from Back to the Future, in which Doc and Marty are found testing the DeLorean for it’s time traveling capabilities only to be interrupted by a group of Libyan terrorists, who shoot at Doc for selling them a fake bomb. We related this clip to the concept of hard body films that were prominent in the 1980’s. This led to Mary Kate’s summarization of Sklar’s article. She discussed Sklar’s idea of Synergy found in the 80s, and more specifically the synergy between Reagan’s hands off government and the film industry. She discussed how Reagan allowed studios to merge and become more and more powerful in an age where they were seeing increased profits from contracts with other media forms such as cable. Yet, at the same time it wasn’t just a one way street from the government influencing movies, movies also began to influence the government as well as society as a whole. Mary Kate also discussed Sklar’s idea of synergy between technology in the industry with the emergence of TV and video games and cable to diversify the ways the studios could garner profits. She then ended by discussing how many hard body movies of the 80s drew from old B-Movies of the depression/WWII era, and how this was obviously seen throughout the screening of Body Double .
Jaap went on to discuss Sklar’s ideas the emerging ideologies that were found in the hard body movies of the 1980s. There were new gender relations with the reemergence of the man’s man in the hard body films. There was new technology with the popularization of the VHS and the relationship between the studio system and cable. There was the new audience coming to watch the films as well as new productions with the establishment of the blockbuster. Finally there was a new rhetoric in films in that many of them were not trying to have deep underlying meaning, instead choosing spectacle over deep meaning narrative. Jaap then showed us a clip of Robo-Cop in which the main character is brutally murdered at gun point by a group of sadistic gangsters and then is transformed into a robot by a group of surgeons. We related this to the synergy and fusion found between human’s and technology that is especially prominent in constantly changing technological worlds. We then discussed how both Robo-cop and Rambo are really just films about revenge. How the only way that masculinity can be restored is through revenge and often only through technology which is seen in Robo-cop as well as Body Double with the wearing of the indian costume and reliance on the telescope by the main character.
We then moved on to a discussion of Robin Wood’s article by Rebecca. She began with an outline of the Carter and Reagan administration; she discussed how both administrations brought a sense of home for America as well as a renewal of the American Ideal. She then discussed how many of the films of the 80s are really repetitive in that they are similar plots, just with different characters and settings. There are 6 reasons why these movies work: Child and fantasy like elements, the spectacle of special effects, imagination and originality in reinventing the same basic plots, fear of a nuclear war pushing us back into a childlike state, threat of political disruption and fascism that can be seen with Darth Vader, and finally the restoration of the Father which can also be seen throughout Starwars. She then ended with a discussion of the ideals present in these movies, especially the “suburban reality” found in Spielberg’s films, as well as the hyper-sexualization of women in this time period.
We ended the class with a tie-in with Body Double. We began the talk with the idea of castration as liberation, and the hyper-masculinity found in these films which is especially present in the sequence after the main character breaks free from the walking tunnel. We then related the film to the concept of Post-Modernism and the idea of the end of all meaning or rather there is no fixed meaning because films are only referring to other films. The meaning just gets deferred. In this way Body Double shows us that modern movies are like porn, they have the same plots with little or no meaning; and audiences continue to watch them just for a gratifying effect. We related this to the idea of voyeurism, and how the audience’s voyeuristic tendancies are showcased in Body Double, in that the film shows how technology can satisfy our voyeuristic tendencies by basing most of the film’s drama on the fact that a man spied on a woman with a telescope.