In last week’s lecture, we discussed how the culture of the late 1990s/early 2000s was one filled with anxiety and a general mistrust of technology, and how these themes are reflected in the films from this time. We discussed the end of the Clinton presidency resulting in high levels of unemployment, the Y2K scare and fear of a global collapse, the idea that technological powers control our lives, and the resulting mistrust in technology. The feature we watched was Mary Harron’s 2002 psychological thriller, American Psycho.
In Bruno’s recitation, we watched a clip from Michael Moore’s documentary, also from 2002, Bowling for Columbine. This particular excerpt was made in the style of a children’s cartoon, in which a cheerful bullet narrator discusses a very over-simplified and biased history of the United States, and attributes our violent culture to our country’s weak gun control. We also watched a clip of the interview with Marilyn Manson, who was the only person in the film that raised the point that no one bothered to talk to the teenagers who committed the massacre, and perhaps we should have done that rather than immediately blaming external sources. We discussed how the film is, on a whole, biased, but nevertheless effective.
We touched on the Gus van Sant’s 2003 film Elephant, a drama inspired by the Columbine High School massacre. We related the paranoid films of the 2000s to our fearful and paranoid culture, and our fear of technology stemming from our reliance on machines (including computers, weapons, etc.), and how the dystopian themes in movies from this time reflected these concerns. We also discussed the mass media hyped scares, which include: Y2K, bird flu, mad cow disease, swine flu, last year’s “Rapture,” and, most recently, the “2012” scare.
The reading presented was, “Brutalized Bodies and Emasculated Politics: Fight Club, Consumerism, and Masculine Violence” by Henry Giroux.The class discussed David Fincher’s Fight Club (2003), and its ideology, which Bruno described as being “weird and scattered.” We talked about how the men in Fight Club are not a solution to consumerism; rather, they are a scary result. We briefly discussed Gary Ross’s 2012 movie, The Hunger Games, and how it may, unfortunately, be the film of our generation. We also related the similar themes and protagonists of Steve McQueen’s 2010 movie, Shame, and American Psycho.
We concluded by discussing how our society’s paranoia feeds films, and the films feed our paranoia, and how it results in a sort of never-ending cycle. The last clip we watched was the opening credits of Dexter, which combine many visceral close-ups of blood, food, and segments of Dexter’s morning routine (probably an homage to Patrick Bateman). We talked about how they blend to the point that the viewer can’t immediately decipher what exactly they are seeing, and related it to the fusion between sex and violence in American Psycho (and also discussed how they are the only things that Patrick Bateman derives pleasure from, even if it is not genuine).