Ray’s Questions

I found it very difficult to understand many of Ray’s ideas and theories, but he does pose multiple intriguing questions about cinema.  The two questions that I want to answer are:

  1. Do popular narratives differ in some fundamental way from “artistic,”“high-art” ones?
  2. Could enchantment be mass produced?

If these questions were asked in relation to the popular films of today, I would instantly think of the Twilight saga.  After all, the final installment will soon hit theatres!

To answer the first question, I would say absolutely yes.  ‘Popular’ narratives (in my own opinion) are the ones that everyone knows about – whether they love them or hate them.  In today’s times, it seems like most popular narratives involve mystical creatures and supernatural concepts.  For example, Twilight is without a doubt one of the most well-known narratives of the past several years.  It absolutely does differ from ‘artistic, high art’ narratives.  That’s right.  I am confidently stating that no one is going to consider Twilight to be artistic or high art.  Now, the actual question is how does it differ?  I do not think it comes down to what it lacks, but instead what it has – teenage main characters and supernatural characters (vampires, werewolves).  Can you think of any artistic, high-art narrative that has both teenage main characters and supernatural characters?  I didn’t think so…

To answer the second question, I would say absolutely yes again!  After Twilight was published as a novel and then produced as a film, its ‘enchantment’ was mass produced.  The world saw a surge of novels, films, and television series created from the magical world of vampires and werewolves.  I think this definitely contributed to the annoyance and hatred surrounding anything vampire-related.  Audience members (readers and movie-goers) want to believe that enchantment cannot be mass-produced, but in all actuality, it absolutely is mass-produced all the time.  Whether it is in the style of the classic love story, the rags-to-riches story, or the vampire story, narratives will always find a way to capture and re-produce the enchantment that attracts an audience.

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One Response to Ray’s Questions

  1. The differentiation of “high art” or “artistic” and popular narrative is something that is becoming more and more distinguishable. Around December, studios release films that are essential Academy Awards bait; however, juxtaposed to that is the later winter blockbuster. For example, 2011’s The Descendants and Sherlock Holmes: A Game of Shadows. Both films were released around the same time and marketed distinctly different.

    Each film was shopped to a target audience. With this target audience there is a hierarchy set up that establishes superiority with an art film, The Descendants, and the commercialization popular narrative Sherlock Holmes. This is evident in every sense from reviews to box office, both films did exactly what they were supposed to. The Descendants recieved critical acclaim, while Sherlock was a cash grab.

    More to the point, the differentiation of films comes not only from the narrative, but from the studio and filmmakers behind it. I like the comparison using Twilight and will apply it to Sherlock Holmes. Holmes casts familiar actors (Robert Downey Junior, Jude Law), whom are popular, and puts them in an accessible, popular narrative. Where Descendants takes popular acclaimed actors (George Clooney) and uses a less commercial narrative that is performance/character heavy.

    I really like the distinction pulled from this reading and I think it is most definitely an important one.

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