Tuesday, January 7, 2014

do i hear more?

To begin today, I nitpick:

Benesh (2011) summarizes Groundhog Day in chapter one of her dissertation. And, in making a link between the film--or rather, all film--and our active imaginations, she mentions the phrase "no consequences." She calls it "a phrase that Phil Connors... uses at one point to describe his unique situation" (p. 8).

She's wrong. That's Gus' line, not Phil's.

But, I don't really intend to nitpick Benesh today (it just fits my character to do so). In fact, I rather like her first chapter. I like the approach she takes to connecting film and dreaming. I particularly appreciate a line she quotes from Beebe (2008):

...in addition to wanting to be entertained, the mass audience is in constant pursuit, as if on a religious quest, of the transformative film. (p.20)

Thus a film can be a metaphor that teaches us something about how to live, not in a prescriptive way, but in an evocative one, by allowing us to vicariously experience a process of change that changes our mod and potentially our life. Furthermore, many films, including Groundhog Day, are not only dreamlike for the audience, but for the protagonist as well. Audience identification with the protagonist, and the "dream" that he (Phil Connors, in this case) participates in, magnifies and enhances, and intensifies the hypnotic effect. (Benesh, 2011, p. 7).

Benesh gets into the territory of a couple communication theories I've dealt with--one recently, one a handful of a years ago. The recent one, obviously, would be confirmation bias; Benesh mentions how the film imprints on viewers and explains:

...for viewers, no less than for Phil, an imprint remains as during the film the audience members "introject" or take in its pyschic content including symbols, images, and narrative, as well as projecting individual personal concerns. After the film, if it is particularly "resonant," the process continues as the film "plays on" in the viewer's mind. A personal "edition" of the film is thus created and is assimilated into the psyche of the viewer.

The process of assimilation may be spontaneous or more deliberate. An understanding of this process illuminates the many adamant and various interpretations of Groundhog Day, each insisting that the film is speaking specifically to those who hold the respective particular beliefs of the interpreters. (p. 8-9)

And, there's more Benesh today than me, and that doesn't seem right. But, anyway, confirmation bias is why Jews think Groundhog Day is a Jewish film, and Buddhists think Groundhog day is a Buddhist film, and Christians think Groundhog day is a Christian film, and why I think it's, well, all of those things and an atheist film. And, it (along with disconfirmation bias, prior attitude effect, backfire effect, pygmalion effect, the pollyanna principle and probably a dozen other terms I didn't get into my paper this past fall) is why we all see what we want to see when we watch something like Groundhog Day. We process more readily input that matches up with our preconceived notions, and not so readily the input that doesn't match up.

Benesh also gets into symbolic convergence--

(Note 1: Benesh uses neither of these terms, but as I mentioned I'm familiar with both. Note 2: symbolic convergence I used in a speech about Rambo, essentially arguing that we all know who Rambo is even if we haven't seen the films. I was recently proved wrong on this count (though my point still stands) when some members of the speech team I coach didn't know who Rambo was. They are in their early 20s so they have only been alive for the most recent Rambo film which didn't get nearly the amount of attention as the Rambo films in the 80s.)

--when she points out how

a movie about a successful transformation can enable its audience to feel transformed, and this feeling of transformation can effect and engender genuine and ongoing transformation. Such a phenomenon can create a ripple effect in the culture, such that even those not directly affected can feel the influence as they relate to those who have. (Benesh, 2011, p. 7)

On the one hand, it would be nice if everyone could see the film, except the resulting world peace might end badly. Still, even those who haven't seen Groundhog Day, know the truth of its message.

What that message is, exactly--well, I've spent over five months now discussing that; if you don't get it yet, I don't think I can help you.

Today's reason to repeat a day forever: to be more me than anyone else, and write that way as well.

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