Role Theory, Star Wars The Musical and More: Bruno’s 2PM Recitation

Hello everyone. Today, perspicacious Alex Greenberger gave a good summary of our recitation and more (his analysis of/love letter to Mulholland Drive is quite phenomenal, please read it). Therefore, rather than waste your time and rehash everything, I’ll bring up specific topics and use them as framework for discussion topics that I want your input on (yes, you who aren’t even in my recitation, I’m talking to you too). I’d recommend that you read Alex’s post first.

First, Hayne’s “I’m Not There.” Hayne’s film is particularly interesting in light of postmodernism and the idea that one constructs their identity, that the same person can have multiple identities. Indeed, the now-omnipresent catchphrase “The Social Construction of Reality” was coined by the sociologist Peter Berger who also came up with the concept of Role Theory. The basic premise of Role Theory is that we adapt to multiple different roles depending on what sort of social situation we are in. A businesswoman would not talk the same way to a client as to her daughter, for instance. Do you buy this theory? Do you see yourself adapting to different roles as situations require them? Does/did Bob Dylan adapt to different roles, or is Haynes playing with our own different perceptions of a celebrity?

I think the concept of Role Theory is also particularly interesting in the context of Mulholland Drive because during the first part of the film it would appear that everyone is acting (somewhat cheesily, I may add) in their specific roles according to Diane’s fantasy. One of my favorite things about the McGowan article is how insightfully he enlightens the ways every “role” in the first part of the film is crafted to appeal to Diane’s desires and wishes. I like Alex’s claim that “[Diane] has dreamed up a movie, one in which she has even edited the whole thing by herself, and one in which creativity goes unbridled.” And, in a sense, Role Theory assumes that we write ourselves roles in our own “films” due to social expectations. This is an interesting idea, one that I will get at a bit more in a second.

First, Vivian and the Jenkins text.  Jenkins is writing all about the tensions and (occasional) harmonies between media studios and their fans. One of my personal favorite examples of this tension is Star Wars: The Musical. Seriously, skip to the 4 minutes mark in this video and watch my favorite song from the whole show. I’m really jealous that I didn’t get to do this in high school.

Anyway, this piece of brilliance was written by a couple of high school kids who ended up creating a school show so popular that they received a “cease and desist” letter from George Lucas. This is ironic, considering the fact that I bet this musical made a bunch of people actually want to watch Star Wars. That, at least, would probably be Jenkins’s argument. Do you all have any stories about how you’ve appropriated or examined a world through film, costume, or fan fiction? Do you find copyrights on fan fiction as dumb and repulsive as myself?

Next, Carly and the McGowan essay. I have never read Lacan, which made me feel like I was grasping for the source text, but I found it fascinating and Carly did a pretty good job going through it considering the density and difficulty of the essay. I like Alex’s commentary on Hollywood, and I think it’s accurate, but I also give McGowan a lot of credit for showing how Lynch keeps desire and fantasy separate. Fantasy, as Lynch shows, is used when we create narrative coherence out of our lives. Without fantasy, we are stuck in the world of a desire that can never be fulfilled. Without fantasy, the Other is truly and frighteningly evasive.

For example, have you ever had a crush on someone? Yes, you have. When you have a crush on someone you desire to be with them and this desire almost instantly leads you to fantasize about the two of you being together. You imagine that you can control the Other and hope that things will work out in your favor. Well, without fantasy, you are left with simply desiring something that is completely unobtainable (at least, as far as you can know or control). What a sad, terrible place to be. By dividing desire from fantasy, Lynch shows how the true nightmare is to desire without the aid of fantasy. You’re left crying and masturbating in vain without resolution like Diane. Yikes.

Yet the greatest point of tragedy occurs when these separate spheres converge at the Silencio. How sad is it that the woman singing is an illusion! How sad is it that the narrative we find transcendent and moving is an illusion! Like Betty and Rita, we fall into the trance while we simultaneously know that it’s a lie. I can hardly think of a scene in film with such incredible longing and a scene that works as such an effective love/hate-letter to Hollywood and film itself.

Yet Mulholland Drive, with its unbridled fantasy, is filled with scenes of comparable power. It has the scariest jump scene I’ve ever experienced in cinema (somehow the juxtaposition of the “Bear Man” as my friends lovingly call him and California afternoon is far more frightening than most horror films), the most hilarious cameo (Billy Ray? Really?), one of the greatest rigged shots (the 50s music scene Alex mentioned), and it is in general arguably the most tightly wound non-narrative film ever. Newcomers and oldcomers alike, what did you think about Mulholland Drive? How did it affect you? I have some friends who riffed on it the first time they saw it, so be honest if you didn’t like it. I would, however, really encourage you to watch it again.

That’s all from me!

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