Friday, November 8, 2013

i've spent a lot of time here

In their essay, “Terminators, Monkeys and Mass Culture," Dimitrakaki and Tsiantis give us a slightly different take on Phil’s experience than Daughton’s (1996) notion that “Phil’s situation… parallels that of the economically disenfranchised, the Other”; Dimitrakaki and Tsiantis tell us “what comes under attack” in the film “is a particular manifestation of cyclical temporality that actually exists in capitalist societies.”

One essay’s take on the “cyclical temporality” implicit in Ralph’s line, “That about sums it up for me” matches up with another’s take on Phil’s trap linking to him the disenfranchised, which arguably includes Ralph. That “arguably” of mine is a key point where many might disagree, though. Usually, we would only use “economically disenfranchised” to describe people living, say, below the poverty line, people without many options in their lives, people stuck… well, see, I’m already blurring the definition just enough to be sure I can include the likes of Ralph, with whatever day-to-day job he’s got. But, that’s not quite what Dimitrikaki and Tsiantis write about, though; instead they use this specific interpretation of meaning in Groundhog Day to make a larger point about the representation of time in science fiction films.

(They also suggest that, despite being included in The Aurum Film Encyclopedia of Science Fiction, that Groundhog Day really shouldn’t be considered a science fiction film because “the different experience of time is not linked to technology and the machine… but to memory and consciousness.” I take this to mean—and I would agree…

(Because, agreeing with my own interpretation of something is a trick I learned doing impromptu speeches. Of course, to be fair, I don’t think this is a much of a stretch from what Dimitrikaki and Tsiantis are saying.)

I take this to mean that Groundhog Day is a fantasy film. And, really, I see the film as a comedy first, a fantasy second, and, reluctantly, a romantic comedy third. Underneath all these genres, the film is really a psychological journey or whatever you want to call it, and I think I’ve argued before that it relates to the male melodrama films of the 1950s. But, the reason all of this other stuff works, the reason we accept the time loop conceit, is because the film is funny. It’s Mary Poppins’ “spoonful of sugar” teaching us a few lessons about how we might approach life.)

Groundhog Day only comes in at the end of their piece, but Dimitrikaki and Tsiantis use it as a sort of anchor to what’s come before, a lot more straightforward time travel pieces--Time Cop, Terminator and 12 Monkeys for example. This position gives Groundhog Day the honor of proving “the centrality of time and the problematization of its construction in science fiction films.”

And, speaking of time, I think I’ve solved the reason there’s so much blue in Groundhog Day. But, first those two “continuity errors” I mentioned yesterday. And, I put “continuity errors” in quotation marks because the following argument will prove that these two “mistakes” may be entirely on purpose, there to clue us in to the hidden story beneath the surface of Groundhog Day. First this:

This is Day 1, and no you shouldn’t be looking at Phil or Ned or O'Reilly but the kid I call Blueboy. This next image is from the very next shot.

Blueboy has almost instantaneously jumped at least a dozen and maybe more like 20 feet. Then, there’s this one from Day 2:

Again, look past Phil, note the soldier with the mustache. And, from the very next shot:

Like Blueboy, Stache Soldier has jumped almost instantaneously from walking behind Phil to being ahead of him. The Soldier isn’t wearing blue, unlike so many people in the film. But, still, I think of blue things associated with time and one thing comes to mind immediately:

For those of you who don’t recognize that thing, it’s the TARDIS from Doctor Who. TARDIS stands for Time And Relative Dimension In Space and it’s a time (and space) machine.

And, there’s a few particular Doctor Who details that are important to know here:

  • The Doctor is an alien who, when he is close to death, can regenerate as a new version of himself with a new face and body and personality.
  • Specifically, The Doctor is a time lord from Gallifrey.
  • And, once in a two-part story (“Human Nature” and “The Family of Blood”) he stored his time lord essence and his memories in a special fob watch so he could hide incognito as a human being.

    When he did that last one, bits of his real life as The Doctor still seeped into his brain, particularly while he slept, and he took to writing down some of the elements in a book he calls “A Catalogue of Impossible Things.” But, the way I figure it, that stuff didn’t just have to come out in his brain. A little like Data did in the Star Trek The Next Generation episode “Cause and Effect” (reviewed in this blog for the first TV Time Loop Day), maybe The Doctor’s subconscious can affect his surroundings, hide clues around himself to set things right.

    But, I guess I skipped a step.

    Here’s the theory: The Doctor’s latest incarnation stored himself in the fob watch again and he’s got himself a job as a weatherman in Pittsburgh—I’m not sure why he’s in America, but I guess that might be revealed in the long-delayed (I assume) part two. But, this time he has also stored the TARDIS in the fob watch as well, though I think it has infected Rita.

    I mean, that is a lot of blue. And, just like the Dalek’s call The Doctor “The Oncoming Storm,” I’ve referred to Rita as such because of her position on the monitor there. Or maybe she’s just one of The Doctor’s companions. And, maybe so is Larry, and their mistreatment of Phil is their way of keeping him from realizing the truth about their relationship with him.

    So, Phil Connors is The Doctor, trapped in a time loop by… Well, there’s a rub; who trapped him? I’ve got a theory about that one as well—and I’m sorry to say that if you are not a fan of Doctor Who you won’t get this one either:

    That guy associated with the drum beat is The Master, another time lord. And, it can’t be a coincidence that Buster Greene raps his gavel four times. He’s signaling his identity; he can’t help it. He’s been there all along during the time loop. Watching, maybe. Observing. Or maybe he’s trapped also. Maybe he believes he’s Buster Greene because he has stored himself in a fob watch as well. He’s done it before. Still, he beats his gavel and the time loop ends. Or maybe the time loop was all about The Doctor and The Master learning to get along. And, the time loop actually ended when Phil saved Buster’s life.

    (That last one would actually work better if Phil were The Master and Buster were The Doctor, because The Doctor doesn’t really need to learn to help people; that’s kind of what he does all the time.)

    But, anyway, like The Doctor’s dreams in “Human Nature” the TARDIS, reality is seeping in and that’s why there are all those blue coats everywhere. The folk of Punxsutawney were just inspired to where blue this particular Groundhog Day not randomly but because they can feel the presence of the TARDIS because, as Phil tells Rita, “small town people are more real, more down-to-earth” to their highly attuned to the local energy. They do, after all, all gather at Gobbler’s Knob to worship an immortal rodent; there’s probably a convergence of ley lines at that location.

    Dimitrikaki and Tsiantis suggest that, in Groundhog Day, “Time has become an embodied rhythm.” That’s one way to look at it. If I’m right about who Phil Connors is, though, then they are wrong in suggesting, “He desires the re-enactment of linear time.” The Doctor can probably give or take linear time.

    This being an episode of Doctor Who even explains the giant furry people on the gazebo… they’re aliens.

    Today’s reason to repeat a day forever: to tie Groundhog Day into some other shows, maybe Mork & Mindy or Highlander.

    P.S. The Groundhog Day Project has a Twitter and a Facebook page. Follow and like them respectively and help spread the word. And, if you want to support The Groundhog Day Project financially (so, for example, I can travel to Woodstock, IL for Groundhog Day), you can do that too...

    References

    Dimitrakaki, A. & Tsiantis, M. (2002). Terminators, monkeys and mass culture: The carnival of time in science fiction films. Time & Society, 11(2), 209-231.

    Daughton, S. (1996). The spiritual power of repetitive form: Steps toward transcendence in Groundhog Day. Critical Studies in Mass Communication, 13, 138-154.

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