Bruno began this recitation with a clip from Michael Moore’s 2002 Bowling for Columbine. This comically cynical portion depicted America’s violent history with animated cartoons, who’s intense fear of the “other” or unknown probed them to violence. Eventually, the intense fear that plagued the American people caused them to turn on each other. Moore illustrated this with a shot of “witches” being burned at the stake. As most, if not all of Moore’s films do, this clip provoked discussion and debate from the class. Many students thought that Moore’s depiction of American history was condescending and over-simplified. Others thought it was an intelligent commentary on American sociocultural dynamics.
This clip tied in perfectly with the theme of the week, “Millennial Anxiety.” Bruno commented that Michael Moore reminds him of Oliver Stone, in that both directors deliver their messages explicitly. Furthermore, Bruno paralleled Bowling for Columbine with Boys Don’t Cry. Although both films may have sensationalized the events at hand, both films expose the psychology of the protagonists and question why they did what they did. With Marilyn Manson’s interview, in which Manson says “talk to the kids” about the current state of society, Moore asks the audience to further examine what the root of the violence was rather than simply focus on the violent act itself. Could it be our violent history and culture that is the true perpetrator? With her film Boys Don’t Cry, Pierce doesn’t focus as much on the murder of Brandon Teena as she does on the reason behind Teena’s desire to be a man.
Before moving on to our discussion of American Psycho, we talked about other millennial anxieties, including we talked about other millennial anxieties. These include Y2K, The Rapture, which failed to arrive, and the “approaching” date that marks the “end of the world” (according to the Mayan calendar), December 2012. Many students argued that it’s silly to feed in to a prediction that stems from a nearly extinct culture. Although I agree with this, I brought up the fact that academics and historians, such as those seen on the History Channel, encourage our millennial fears. Bruno pointed out that this is a prime example of how the media (this includes politicians, celebrities, famed academics) permeates society and probes us to remain in fear of an ever-present approaching threat.
In the lecture, Greg pointed out that the Columbine killers learned how to make bombs over the Internet. This fact highlights the interconnectedness of our “reality” and technology. Also, violent video games and movies (The Matrix) undoubtedly provided an example of such violence to Eric Harris & Dylan Klebold (the Columbine killers) and other kids of the technological generation. In the recitation, we expounded upon Greg’s point by discussing the similarity between Columbine and American Psycho. Eric, Dylan, and Patrick ( the protagonist of American Psycho) were unable to set a boundary between physical reality and the reality that exists in their worlds. For Patrick, it was high-class, empty consumerism, for Eric and Dylan, it was the internet world and violent video games. Bruno remarked that although we created technology, it has now enslaved and become more powerful than us.
One student posed a very interesting question. She asked: Are we paranoid because of the films we see, or is our paranoia feeding the media, giving the movie industry their ideas? Bruno asserted that both factors are to blame and opened this question up to the class.
We then discussed how Fight Club and American Psycho both criticize consumer culture. While Fight Club is more self-reflexive than American Psycho is, both Patrick and narrator (Edward Norton) are essentially driven to insanity by consumerism. Bruno remarked that the lack of strong female figures and emphasis on the male body and homosocial bond in Fight Club presented a regressive ideology. The class had mixed reviews on Fight Club. Some thought Greg was too harsh on the movie by over-analyzing its ironic tendencies. Many defended David Fincher by asserting that Fincher was quite aware of the irony he was presenting. For instance, we discussed the sequence in which Tyler and Narrator poke fun at the male models, which is immediately followed by a shot of a glistening, chiseled, shirtless Brad Pitt.
Bruno noted that film viewers need to not only embrace the irony, but also understand and want to see the irony of these types of films. He joked that Fight Club should be rated R for “multiple layers of irony.” This led to my favorite part of the recitation, in which the class discussed how easy it is for an audience to miss a film’s message and the importance of an intelligent audience. The class agreed that although it would be ideal, it’s not likely for the general public to be as aware of cinematic conventions, themes, and irony the way a class of film students is. We brought up a few different examples: one student noted that Dave Chappelle quit his stand-up because his ironic routines were being misinterpreted as promoting racism as opposed to pointing out the idiocy of racism. We also talked about The Hunger Games, and how the presentation of children killing other children is ironic and disturbing, and is a dangerous message if it is misread.
John Presented on the Giroux article. He discussed how food is presented throughout American Psycho but never actually eaten except by Chloe Sevigny, who is the most “human” character in the movie. His presentation led us to briefly discuss the formative parallels between Shame and American Psycho.
Finally, we discussed how American Psycho combines murder and sex to such an extent that the two acts become practically indistinguishable by the film’s end. Bruno pointed out that Patrick received just as much, if not more, pleasure from murdering than he did from having sex. Patrick’s murders very personal and hands-on. He used various tools to murder his victims and only used a gun at the very end of the film. We closed the recitation with the opening credits of the show Dexter, which incorporated the visuals of American Psycho: food, murder, sex, etc.