Wednesday, October 6, 2010

Critical Lens!

This is a clip from Marie Antoinette, directed by Sofia Coppola. (I was not able to rip the clip from the dvd, so I found this online. For my purposes, "the clip" is 2:55-10:50.) The clip shows the climax of the film in which the lower classes in France begin their famous revolution by storming Versailles and kidnapping the royal family.
Here is the clip!

Feminist Lens:
The fact the director of the film is a female plays an extremely significant role in the feminist approach to this film. Marie Antoinette, for those who do not know, was the Queen of France when the French Revolution began in 1789. She is infamously known in history as a selfish Queen who thought of nothing else than her parties and food. In addition, she is noted as actually being one of the many causes of the French Revolution with her famous sarcastic response to lower classes' plea for food: "Let them eat cake". Okay, enough of the history, back to the film analysis. How could Sofia Coppola create a film whose main character is so tainted by history, and have her be the protagonist who is identifiable with the audience? The answer is able to be seen using the feminist lens. Sofia Coppola, as a woman, has constructed a version of Marie Antoinette that has been greatly humanized, in this way, the audience is much more easily able to identify with her character. In this film, Marie Antoinette is depicted as a young woman attempting to deal with all of the pressures of being a young Queen and yet still enjoying her youth. Therefore, the audience is made to sympathize with her situation. A perfect example of this occurs in the clip when all of the royal employees are forced to leave Versailles due to the warning of the lower classes coming to attack. As they all say goodbye to Marie, she is seen left alone, standing in the room, framed by the doorway as the camera slowly dollies backwards away from her to dramatically highlight her loneliness at Versailles. This haunting shot forces the audience to sympathize with her situation. Later, the royal family is seen waiting in a room (for their impeding doom?) where the only sounds are that of the screaming, crying baby and that of the screaming mobs. The upset baby humanizes Marie Antoinette and her situation as the audience sees her with her child, and we think to ourselves (She is a real person with a child! I don't want anything to happen to her or the child!) Another side of the feminist lens involves the role of the woman as a Queen. As the lower classes are rioting in front of Versailles, Marie Antoinette enters onto the balcony to face the raging crowds. All she does is bow to the people. One would think that the king would address the people in this situation, however, since the director is a woman, she has chosen to have her Queen address the people in this scene. And what does she do? She bows in gratitude of her people, something a king would never do. Finally, more can be seen in her role as queen. Marie twice, during this clip, says "My place is here at the King's side". Throughout the rest of the previous scenes in the film, the only times she is seen in the same shot as the King, there is an incredible amount of awkward tension between them, highlighting their awkward relationship. So, why then, is she now feeling the need to "be at his side", and even feel comfortable enough with him to grab his hand during the final dinner scene as they share a moment in which they realize what is going to happen and actually want to spend this moment with each other. The answer lies in the music of the film, surprisingly. Throughout the film, the music is that of popular modern rock music (for example, "I Want Candy"). The reason Coppola has chosen to have modern music in a historical setting, is to emphasize Marie Antionette's youthful, playful nature. However, once the time has come for her to actually step up and be in her role as Queen when her entire monarchy is in jeopardy, then she must become serious. At this point, all of the music changes to classical music that fit the time period. Coppola, as a woman, has decided to end her film by displaying her protagonist as a positive political leader, almost as a martyr, standing her ground despite a knowingly deadly future (the opposite of her actual historical stigma).

Marxist/Classist Lens:
At it's core, the film is a discussion of the impetus of the French Revolution; the lower classes revolting against the royal monarchy and upper class in general. The question is, how does Sofia Coppola chose to represent the classes based on this violent dichotomy of lower versus upper classes. Throughout this clip, the upper classes are depicted as highly civilized and humanized, while the lower classes are depicted as uncivilized and archaic. Recall the shot that shows the Royal family sitting and waiting, while the only sound is the wildly screaming baby and mobs. Again, the screaming baby serves to emphasize the very human aspects of the upper class. In actuality, the lower classes are never fully shown in a single shot of the film. The first exposure the audience has to a depiction of the lower classes is a bit earlier in the film from this clip. There is a shot of Versailles with voice-over of a screaming mob and one man screaming "And when they went to the queen to tell her her country had no bread, you know what she said?!" At which point it cuts to a shot of Marie in a bathtub saying "Let them eat cake!", and then it cuts to Marie sitting in her bedroom with her friends as she says,"That's such nonsense! I would never say that!" This is a perfect representation of the lower vs. upper classes in the film. The lower classes are heard as a barbaric group claiming that the Queen (upper classes) has said a sarcastic malicious quotation against them, to which the Queen her self says that she would never have said such a thing. Here, the lower classes are shown as demonizers of the upper class that falsify a quotation to aggravate the lower classes and rally them aroung a cause. While, the upper class is sitting in a room having a civilized conversation and benevolent by claiming that she never said that quotation. Finally, when the lower classes are shown storming Versailles, they are depicted as extremely archaic and uncivilized. The lower classes are seen as an angry mob with pitchforks, flames, and archaic looking swords. They are not even fully seen in a shot, the camera either shows the tops of their heads from behind, emphasizing their weapons, or from the front for a short shot so that the audience is not able to make out any faces. On the other hand, Marie Antoinette bows to them, showing her civility and benevolence. There is an explicit dichotomy of the upper versus lower classes and civility versus incivility in the film.

Lesson Plan for using lenses to analyze advertising:
1. Discuss the role of ideological meaning behind advertisements- how they are subconsciously sending out a secondary message besides the intended product or service.
2. Show a commercial for Mucinex- D. Watch it here!
3. Discuss how the commercial can actually be analyzed using the Marxist Lens to communicate an anti-lower class sentimentality:
1. Discuss how the "Mucus" are depicted (Lower, working class, white collar worker, tape on tv, shoddy apartment, white beater, suspenders, tough guy voice, etc.)
2. Discuss the implications of depicting "Mucus" as lower class (mucus =bad and want to get rid of it == lower classes are bad and should be rid of?)
4. Show clip of Dove marketing beauty campaign (the one shown during class). Watch it here!
5. Discuss how this commercial can actually be analyzed using the Feminist Lens to communicate stereotypical depictions:
1. Discuss how the women are depicted (want to be a teacher, want to be a mother, putting emphasis on physical beauty)
2. Discuss how these are stereotypes of women and how that can be dangerous to the viewers.

1 comment:

  1. Great analysis of the Mucinex commercial! I'd never seen it like that! I think it's key, too, that he's overweight and just sits on his chair, watching TV. This really reinforces the middle class stereotype. This is a great example!

    Also, the French Revolution is the epitome of the class struggle. You could really expand this lesson, you could have them do a little research of the issue being watched (i.e. The French Revolution) Both of these would be perfect introductions for increasing a student's media literacy.