During last week’s recitation, the majority of discourse was centered on the film industry during the Reagan Era and the transformation of images and thematic content. The main topics were the emergence of home video, the hard body, and De Palma’s social commentary in his film Body Double.
With the introduction of home video, conventional wisdom would say that the movie industry would suffer, as people would choose to stay home for video entertainment rather than pay a premium to travel to a theater outside their schedule. Ironically, the new industry produced a synergistic effect, and actually increased movie admissions rather than cannibalizing ticket sales. The byproduct of increased ticket sales was a greater emphasis on entertainment value than storytelling–this focus shaped the films produced during this era.
This new emphasis on entertainment spurred an increase in violent and sexual content within the film industry. One of the most popular ideas was the “hard body”. This new era of film saw the emergence of a new hypersexualization of war and violence through masculinity. Films like Rocky and Rambo (both starring hard body icon Sylvester Stallone) featured linear storylines, and instead derived value from close-ups of Stallone’s biceps.
Though this type of film was at the center of public attention, filmmakers such as Brian DePalma decided to use this new social context as a tool to structure their films. In DePalma’s Body Double, he plays with the realities of sexual and violence through stylized depictions of each. The concept Body Double is meant to comment on the accuracy of these depictions and satirize the direction of film industry. The audience is never sure of what they see, and this is DePalma’s way of contrasting the appearance of the film industry against the realities of the themes it glorifies.