Genre Theory: Exploring Pleasantville

What type of movies do you enjoy? When someone asks this question, your response is normally a broad category of the types of movies you like such as horror or comedy. These categories are referred to as genres. Each genre has its own tropes and convictions to adhere to or as most do, expand upon. For example, fantasy films often take place in imaginary worlds and contain impossible situations. Genre theory is the theory of how films fit into one of these categories or one of their many subgenres. There are several genres and subgenres, but no one can agree on an exact number because they grow all the time, and most movies can fit into multiple genres. I am going to examine the genre of fantasy and discuss how the movie Pleasantville fits into this broad genre.

Our textbook defines fantasy as “on its face, pure escapism, where characters may live in imaginary settings or experience situations that break the limitations of the real world” (Goodykoontz, 2019). So, fantasy films are made for you to escape to another world. They do not apply to real-world rules, so anything can happen. Fantasy often depicts magic and fictional creatures. The fantasy genre film usually uses a lot of special effects and elaborate makeup.

Pleasantville is about a set of twins that get transported by way of a magical remote to the town of a 1950s television show. This points out to us immediately that the film fits into the fantasy genre because magical remote controls Star-Spangled Banner and they are not allowed to use colors in their art after color starts to exist is not possible. Also, they are transported to a made-up town that is black and white. The town is extremely repressed and has strict rules. For example, no music can be played other than The Star Spangled Banner in Pleasantville that is. The twins help the towns folk get a mind of their own and the black and white town turns to color signaling its modernization and freedom. In this way, the movie speaks of the repression of the people and having the freedom to do what they want with their art and bodies. The film takes place in a fantasy world but gives us real-world problems. When the twins have fulfilled their quest in Pleasantville and enlightened the entire town, they have the option to go home. One goes, and one stays, adding a twist.

Fiction often crosses over with other genres and this film is no different. The historical drama classification is due to the 1950s setting and black and white coloring of the larger part of the film. Also, the beliefs and practices of the people are very outdated. One scene in particular that I personally think adds to the historical aspect is when Ross imparts special attention to the moment the televisions in Pleasantville change over from black and white to color. I think that was a huge moment in television and film history and changed the industry forever, and I love that Ross thought to show this in his film. Pleasantville also has a lot of romance that is prominent in the film. Both siblings have relationships that are focused on from the beginning and their television “mother” finds love after getting her mind freed. Even their mother in their world is dealing with a relationship issue both times she is seen in the film. At the beginning of the film, she is seen excited to go on a trip with a new love and that is contrasted at the end with her crying because the new love did not work out. This and the light humor in the film could also put it in the genre of romantic comedy. Our textbook explains that romantic comedy is limited by the scope of what it is meant to do. The point of a romance is simply to bring two people together (Goodykoontz, 2019). Therefore, if a film fits into another genre such as fantasy, and if two people find love, the film can technically be categorized as a romantic comedy. I would like to note a nice flip to the film is that in the end when one twin stays, it is not the one in love, she stays to go to college. The twin that leaves is in love, but he sacrifices staying with his first love to get back to his home and former life.

As you see there are a lot of things that go into studying genre theory. Movies can fit into multiple genres such as Pleasantville which demonstrates characteristics of fantasy, historical fiction, and romantic comedy. All genres have various aspects they follow like fantasy often includes being in impossible situations, imaginary worlds, evil to be stopped, and a “chosen” type of person or persons to save the day. Now we can take this example, use genre theory, and apply it to any movie we want to identify the type of film and better understand the film itself.


References

Goodykoontz, Bill. (2019). 3.2 Understanding Popular Genres. Film: From Watching to Seeing. (3rd ed.). https://content.uagc.edu/books/Goodykoont.5132.18.2/sections/sec3.2

 Goodykoontz, Bill. (2019). 3.2 Understanding Popular Genres. Film: From Watching to Seeing. (3rd ed.). https://content.uagc.edu/books/Goodykoont.5132.18.2/sections/sec3.2


The Auteur Theory: Wes Craven

How does a director become known as an auteur? The initial requirement for being named an auteur is technical competence in filmmaking or being good at what you do. The directors must be knowledgeable about all aspects of the film industry to achieve their vision of the finished product. A second criterion for being considered an auteur is a director must have a distinguishable personality. What is the director’s style? What traits have they brought to their films? Lastly, their films must have an interior meaning. Their movies should have a deeper meaning or something to say to the world. The director must successfully relay this message to the audience. Many directors fit the criteria, but I will discuss what makes Wes Craven an auteur.

Wes’s technical competence could stem from his work before becoming a director. According to an article in The Atlantic, “Craven briefly worked as a professor before developing an interest in film, working as a sound editor, then a writer and editor for pornographic films” (Sims, 2015). This would have given him prior insight into what it takes to make a move before he started making them himself. It is also worth noting that he graduated from university with a degree in psychology, so he also had an understanding of people and how to communicate with them. This would be especially important as a director because he would have to work with everyone on the crew and actors, all with assorted styles and personalities. He has a distinguishable personality. If you are a Craven fan, you know to expect certain things from his films. You will see strong females (final girls), like Sidney from Scream and Nancy from A Nightmare on Elm Street. You will also see comedy mixed with horror and there will always be a deeper lesson to learn than what is on the surface.

 I believe one of Wes’s biggest works that encompass all of this is A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984). In this series, a murdered child molester stalks and kills the teens of Elm Street in their dreams. The more his victims fear him, the stronger he becomes. This series’ lesson is about facing your fears. In fact, if you have not seen the killer, Freddy Kruger, and do not believe in him, he cannot hurt you. Once the teens know how to face him, they can kill him. His favorite little girl was Nancy, when he attacks them as teens, she goes to find Freddy on purpose and kicks his ass. In Tina’s death scene as she dreams of Freddy killing her, her awake boyfriend sees invisible claws ripping at her, then her body being dragged onto the ceiling. A scene like this would take a lot of skill and vision to achieve. Freddy Kruger appears in a dirty red and green sweater and an equally dirty fedora, and he is horribly scarred from being burned. He is well known for making funny one-liners, making him seem a little less scary. The special effects makeup the actor (Robert Englund) sat through to turn him into a burned monster took hours, and the result was worth it. Without Wes’s direction and vision, this masterpiece could never have been achieved.

It takes more than one film to make a director an auteur. The next Craven film I am going to discuss is Scream (1996). Once again, we have a strong female lead that outsmarts the killer and lives, that is Sidney. Sidney and other teens in town are being stalked by a masked killer known as Ghostface. In the end, we learn the killers are Sidney’s boyfriend Billy and their friend Stu. She is the kill they are after because of an affair her late mother had with Billy’s father, ruining his life. You also find out Billy murdered Sidney’s mother the year before, ruining her life. This series teaches us that the past will always come back to haunt you and that the killer is most likely someone close to you. Again, Wes used a lot of comedic relief like a line stating, “This is like something right out of a Wes Carpenter film.”  Also, Tatum says “What movie is this from? I Spit on Your Garage?” referencing the 1978 film I Spit on Your Grave. In the death by doggy door scene, that reference is made among other horror references. In Scream 3, he pokes fun at horror movies in general by having Ghostface target actors on a film parody of the earlier murders. Wes also does something like this in New Nightmare (1994), having Freddy target actors.

All this together makes Wes Craven an auteur or the true author and visionary of his films. His knowledge is shown through all his films in every scene. He has mastered incorporating comedy into horror while still making them terrifying. He has celebrated women by showing strong females instead of the weaker victims normally highlighted in the horror genre. His films all have a deeper meaning or lesson to learn, they are not just torture porn. More examples of his films are The Last House on the Left (1972), The Hills Have Eyes (1977), and The People Under the Stairs (1991).

References

Sims, D. (2015). How Wes Craven Redefined Horror. The Atlantic. https://www.theatlantic.com/entertainment/archive/2015/08/rip-wes-craven/403006/

Movie Clips. (2018). Tina’s Nightmare Scene. Video. A Nightmare on Elm Street (1984) – Tina’s Nightmare Scene (1/10) | Movieclips

 Movie Clips. (2011). Death by Doggie Door Scene. Video. Scream (1996) – Death by Doggie Door Scene (7/12) | Movieclips

Last week of Introduction to Film

As the title suggests this is my last week of my Introduction to film class and I’m so sad. This has been my favorite class so far in my entire college career and I’m not looking forward to it ending. My professor, Dr Nate Pritts at UAGC is the best.

In every ending there is a beginning, which brings us to my next class, English Composition 2. This class will require lot more writing I’m sure, but it’s an English class so I’m looking forward to it helping my writing career.

That is the whole point of all the work I’m doing for my degree, my writing. In the end, that’s all I want to do and while a degree is not required, it would certainly broaden my knowledge and skill.

I can’t take the stress: venting

I’m the only one working right now and I’m falling so far behind. I just can’t take the stress of it anymore. My chest hurts all the time and all I think about is bills. I’m structuring hold my 3.95 gpa. I’m just so tired. I’m tired of just holding on and being hungry.

I’m tired of just living day to day and not being able to do anymore myself.

I’ll be glad to just start living.

Book Review: Crush by Tracy Wolfe

Crush by Tracy Wolfe

Crush is the second book in this series, the first one is called Crave. While I deeply enjoyed the first book, the second one brought something else to the table for me. Tracy Wolfe has an imagination full of wonder and her writing is superb.

 At first glance, this series may seem like another young adult vampire romance series, but I promise you it is so much more. While the main character’s love interest is a vampire, the rest of the characters have powers of their own that are so much better. Wolfe brings in witches and dragons that shift into their human forms at will. The best for me is the inclusion of gargoyles and the fantastic way Wolfe brings them to life.

All the complicated situations and vast amounts of supernatural beings in the series really keep you wanting to read more. The settings are so foreign but wonderfully explained by Wolf, my favorite being the Dragon Graveyard. She really takes you to these places in your mind with her descriptions of the imagery.

As of right now, there are four books available in the series; Crush, Crave, Covet, and Court. Charm, the fifth installment is set to come out in November and is already available for pre-order on Apple Books. They run about $10 each and are rated very highly across all platforms.

Outdated techniques for curing mental illnesses.

Mental health awareness has changed drastically over the years. It wasn’t always talked about and treated like it is now. Back in the day when people had a severe mental illness, they were taken to asylums where they were treated with various procedures. Today, we are going to look at some of these outdated and in most cases, cruel procedures.

  1. Lobotomy. The lobotomy was where the surgeon went into your brain and made cuts to sever ties that cause the illness. It won a noble prize, but ultimately the risks didn’t outweigh the rewards. It did however lead researchers to look more into the connection between neurology and mental illnesses.
  2. Purging. An ancient Greek doctor decided that mental illness has a connection with biochemicals in the body. Therefore you could expel them by expelling liquids in the body. They would bleed and vomit out people to try and get rid of the biochemicals they believed were the cause of illness.
  3. Trephination/trepanation. Doctors drilled holes in the patients’ skulls. No written text explaining this procedure was left. Scientists believe the holes were drilled to relieve headaches or to expel demons from the patients.
  4. Exorcism. This is a famous one we all know about thanks to Hollywood. Mental patients were often thought to be demon-possessed. A priest would come in and recite a prayer to expel the demon from the patient, therefore, curing the illness.
  5. Medical induced comas. Doctors would use insulin to put patients into low blood sugar comas. They claimed to have positive results from mental patients who underwent this process. They tried similar procedures with seizure medications, but the results weren’t as effective. These kinds of treatments ended in the 1960s.

There is an abundance of other treatments that were used, this is just a small list. Some of the other procedures included restraint, fever comas, ice baths, and isolation. You will also get to hear more about some of these techniques in my upcoming book, Crazy Ghost Lady.