21 October 2008

Emerging Adulthood: with the world at their feet (yet another essay for uni)

Graduation from high school is often seen as a rite of passage into the life stage of ‘emerging adulthood’ (Schwartz, Cote and Arnett 2005), a time when young people expect to become empowered by their new status as adult. However, capitalist ideology is increasingly reducing the control young adults have over their own lives so that instead of having ‘the world at their feet’, as the cliché goes, they are actually powerless and marginalised. Urlich Beck argues that capitalism has led to individualism in a risk society where globalisation has increased the pressure for individuals to contribute to economic growth at the expense of community cohesion and at the risk of being ostracised from mainstream society. Additionally, Michel Foucault presents institutional power as a driving force in this process. Until young people reach this post-school period they are held back from maturing and taking on responsibilities by the institutions of schools and families and high school graduation acts to signify the end of these restrictions and an emergence into the adult world. One of the main ways capitalism exerts its power is through the expectation of linear career paths running from formal education to professional careers and hierarchical progression. Three texts with protagonists resisting these forces are the novels The Messenger by Markus Zusak (2002) and no worries by Bill Condon (2005) and the film Ghost World directed by Terry Zwigoff (2000).

19 October 2008

Grunge Lit to Flick – Adaptations of Praise and Candy from novel to film (another essay for uni)

The term Grunge literature refers to a group of Australian writings that were produced between the early and mid 90s (Syson 2008, p.1)

Grunge is a literature of anger and protest that comes from younger writers alienated by mainstream publishing tendencies...

If it shares any characteristics they are

- rawness

- vulgarity

- explicit

- spare realism

- in your face

(Syson 2008, pp.3-4)

Praise (McGahan 1992) is generally accepted as the start of the Australian grunge literature period while Candy (Davies 1997) was written towards the end of that time. Both these novels candidly depict addiction using a first person narrative. The transference of the confronting nature of addiction from page to screen is problematic due to firstly, the interference of filmic veneer making realism too perfect to be realistic and secondly, the overarching institutional power of social and censorship influences that dictate the limits of pushing the boundaries of cultural norms. There is also the awareness of the need to attract an audience, movie making being a much more expensive exercise than printing a book, that reduces the broader social issues raised in books to a narrower focus on relationships. All of these issues come under a capitalist ideology.

04 October 2008

WALL-E (a review)

Problem: School holidays, hot day, four kids under my care, two of which are really mine.

Solution: The cool surrounds of a cinema.


I order my tickets on line. Normally I order tickets in the middle – middle of the screen, half-way forward but I decide I need to be on the aisle with the four children trapped to my right. It’s not like I’m here for my own entertainment, right?

Wrong. I enjoyed ‘Wall-e’ more than its target audience did.

The people of Earth are in the good ship Axiom far off in space. Wall-e is the last remaining robot of the legions who were left behind to clean up a world full of garbage. He compacts and builds towers of rubbish but collecting odd bits for himself and storing them in a kick-arse shed, which he also calls home. The BnL (Buy n Large) logo features on the derelict gigantic mega-stores and various product labels lying around. The capitalist and environmental context of this kids' movie blew me away.

Suddenly Wall-e is no longer alone. Eve, the sleek white clean robot with blue eyes, descends to Earth. Wall-e looks dishevelled and clunky in comparison. Their courtship is played out in stereotypical fashion but this has justification because Wall-e bases his gender role on an old VHS movie (‘Hello Dolly’) he has been watching and shows Eve in an attempt to convince her to hold hands with him. He fails so he offers her a gift, a plant, obviously a rare commodity on this Earth. She accepts but then shuts down. Wall-e cares for her and then when the rocket that delivered Eve returns he hitches a ride and they arrive at the enormous Axiom.

It turns out instead of the original five years the Axiom was meant to be away it has been 700 years and Eve robots are the doves sent to find if there is new life on Earth. Now green life has been found there is a struggle in ideology (and requisite chase scenes) to determine whether the people will return to Earth. It is also fascinating to see how people have adapted to their supposed leisure lifestyle, reminiscent of a cruise ship.

There are several references to other films within ‘Wall-e’. I particularly enjoyed the Axiom auto-pilot nod to Hal (‘2001’) and the spoof of ‘Titanic’.

If you want to take your children to a movie examining some real world issues with some intelligence then take them to Wall-e.