Yesterday's entry was, I think, incomplete. And, I think I did that on purpose. When writing about becoming something, becoming someone, it's hard to put a finishing touch on the piece. Like life itself, it's open ended. Even after you die, if there was anyone who knew you, who you were changes depending on who's looking back, and in what context.
Don Lockwood actually doesn't change a whole lot over the course of the movie. He begins as a star and ends still as a star. The guy in his Dora Bailey story--as opposed to the guy he presents himself as--that guy seems like someone who could already appreciate a girl like Kathy. What really changes about Don is his public persona. Maybe.
Similarly, though Cosmo's job changes, from humble piano player to the guy in charge of music, Cosmo himself--he doesn't really change. He's still the same guy at the end of the movie that he was at the beginning of it.
Lina gets the opportunity to be pushy, but her personality doesn't change. Her one chance to change--working with the vocal coach to be a better actress--she gets nothing from. When that coach gives her a pointer on set, Lina thinks she's being picked on. Her actions in the third act do not seem beyond the person she was in the first.
Kathy Seldon doesn't like the pantomime of silent film at the beginning of the movie and she has not been shown the error of her ways by the end. In fact, you could argue that Don has come around to her side, as has everyone else, as has Hollywood.
So, why, I've got to wonder, does this movie even link for me to the idea of becoming someone new?
Hollywood changes, I suppose. The character of it changes. But, none of the characters really do. Singin' in the Rain is plot-driven, not character-driven.
The thing is, who are we? Any of us. Are we who we present ourselves as? Are we who others see us as? Are we who we are inside when we're alone? Are we some amalgam of all of these? There's no definitive answer to any of this, of course. It's discourse that's been going on for a long time and will continue to do so. Presentation of self is a big part of my master's thesis, actually. (And, future me can quote this next line if he wants to.) The idea is, if we present ourselves as a particular person long enough, do we become that person? Look at studies about how people who smile more are happier; are they happier because they smile or do they smile because they're happier? Or, that line from High Fidelity about whether Rob listens to pop music because he's depressed or if he's depressed because he listens to pop music. Or Goebbels about repeating the lie... It's like a self-help book; choose who you want to be and present that person to the world. Keep that up and you will become that person.
Really what else is there to personality and identity? None of that deep, complicated stuff in so many books in recent decades, stuff I've read before in class or will read in the future... (Oh, future, thesis-writing me, you should not be quoting all of this because if it doesn't contradict some of your argument, it certainly muddles it up.) Anyway, who you are is who you are, and who you are doesn't matter unless other people are around to, you know, respond to it. It would be deep if it weren't so simple. Like so much of the stuff I wrote back in my year with Groundhog Day. Guy learns not to be an ass by being forced to spend time with the same people each and every day. Simple plot, simple idea, but I spent many a day coming at it from angle after angle. Waste of time, right? 365 days with the same movie, 7 days with this one. They're all just movies. If you've seen one, you've seen 'em all.
But then, why do we see so many of them? Why do I see so many of them? Why is there so much to be said about them, so many ways to look at them? For Media Theory class, we read Steven Cohan's (2000) piece about Singin' in the Rain, in which he approaches the film from different perspectives to demonstrate "how a popular film, which has endured in value over the years to achieve canonical status as a classic, changes in its meaning, depending on the theoretical methodology applied" (p. 53). And, really, I think that idea holds true for any movie... or for any person, any character. As if there's a difference between a character and a person.
(Future me, tune in again.)
The point is, I use this blog to create something stable in a life that doesn't always seem stable. I present a guy knowledgeable about movies and criticism and philosophy because I choose to be that guy. I am who I present myself as.
And, that drifted away from Singin' in the Rain a bit.