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Representation of Different Classes in Cinema

Social class has always been a common topic that has been represented and used by various British filmmakers in different periods. Especially, the films regarded as the New Wave films made in the 1950s and 1960s era can be considered to be the most fitting to the situation. Films and television have been regarded as the most effective mode of escape from the unfolding of the real-life struggles and events (Hill et al. 1998). It is known to play an essential role in reinforcing the beliefs related to culture and other attributes like race in the international film industry. The history of struggle related to fair representation has been quite an important struggle that has been fought for years. Most of the time the representation of different classes and gender had been inculcated with negative prejudices and stereotypes which has inflicted a series of misconceptions within the communities (Hale, 2020). For example, the depiction of Black women as angry or generalising Latina women as loud and crazy. Besides, the class representation can also be regarded as disturbing in the course of Hollywood cinema. Moreover, the representation of gay men as feminine or the entire LGBTQ community is also quite questionable (Cook, 2016). Following this significant issue, the essay aims to provide a critical discourse on the issue of “struggles of representation” by using the criticisms drawn by important film theorists and their ideologies. The essay refers to three selected Hollywood films which are-

  • Crazy Rich Asians- Directed by Jon M. Chu, Issue- Class Representation
  • Green Book- Directed by Peter Farrelly, Issue- Racism
  • Roma- Directed by Alfonso Cuarón, Issue: Women’s Equality

The representation of the different classes in the history of cinema has been regarded as a quite common topic for discussion. According to Hale (2020), it has been noticed that the filmmakers in the silent era have been focused on describing the hardships of the working class. The movies can be seen to have turned the sphere of changing the realms of the class struggles to be confined into the places like fields, mines, private factory realms and other such areas denoting public culture. The films reflect the working class which can be regarded as an intricate segment of the English social realism has an intricate ability to connect the viewers with their environment. In classical Hollywood films, the story was considered to be primary whereas the filmmakers mostly relied on styles, visual elements and narrative to express their story. As suggested by Cook (2016), however, to follow the timeline of the history of the classical and non-classical films it can be noticed that there has been a radical shift in the projection of the everyday life. Filmmakers like Lindsay Anderson, Karel Reisz and Tony Richardson can be recognised as the beginners of the significant change in the history of Hollywood. Following these footsteps, contemporary film studies express the terminology of class as a figurine of the trio of terms- Race, Gender and Class as the driving factors of social class figures used for film reception and production. To describe the technicalities of film representations and categorisation it is essential that the contributions of the different film theorists and critics are introduced to the readers. The Film Theory is defined as the study of films to analyse the various elements used by the makers to project the most relatable version of the reality (Stam, 2000). The Film Theory has been known to take an academic approach to explore and defining the elements of the cinema which makes it important to explain to the viewers across the world. Further suggested by Cook (2007), the theory has been used by the filmmakers for interpreting the different mediums and mechanisms applied in the development of films to derive a subsequent meaning out of the narration and visualisation. Within the holistic doctrine of the Film theory, the subdivisions have been prominently created to exterminate the minor details in the process of filmmaking. To discuss the Structuralist Film Theory it can be defined to be a medium to state the basic differences which underlie in the structural presentation of a film.

Shift in the Projection of Everyday Life in Cinema

The guidelines of the structuralism approach of the Structuralist Film theory denote that the patterns of the relationships depicted in the films are structured within a single entity. According to Hill et al. (1998), in this context, the development and explanation of the various elements of the film Crazy Rich Asians by Jon M. Chu can be presented as a definitive explanation of the relationships between the real cases and the conceptual prejudices have intricately shared. The use of the symbolism and the conventions have been quite evident in representing the stereotypical generalised acknowledgement of the Asians. Watching the plot development of the Crazy Rich Asians has brought back the memories of the outlines of the novel The Great Gatsby by F. Scott Fitzgerald (Zhao, 2020). The fiscal focus on the conspicuous consumption of the transformation of the working class into upper class socialism by subsequently assimilating the veneer of decadence. As suggested by Nichols (2010), the modern adaptation of the Kevin Kwan novel, the film projects the disconnect between the Asians and the Asian-American. The motifs and symbolic representation of the rich class through multimillion-dollar estates, super-yacht bachelor parties and other imagery of wealth as the gateway to acquiring social status have been found to be sharing intricate similarities with the radical representation of 1920s America by Fitzgerald. Even though the film has been a huge success at the box office in terms of finances and viewers' ratings alongside vouching for the victory and fight for the visibility of Asian Americans in Hollywood scripts, the film can be held responsible for certain disavowal of the specific form of Asian representation in the society. As suggested by Thompson (2010), for example, the significant accent used by Goh Wye Mun diminishes the authenticity of the Chinese accent. Moreover, the tryouts in the American accent adopted by the American Asians are portrayed through the scene in which Wye Mun says "I went to Cal State Fullerton" in a tone of an assured American accent. It directs to the removal of the basic values of the Asians living in the western part of the world. It can be regarded as demeaning stature since, it significantly expresses negativity by promoting the practice of people stripping out of their traditional values and cultures (Cook, 2016). However, it would be unfair to stride out Crazy Rich Asians for drawing a concerning comparison of the white standards of respectability. It also shifts to the commencement of the media in delivering the definition of the American Asians to the world which ushers the deepest worry within the community by the way they are perceived (Eckhardt and Kerrigan, 2020).

Following the context further, the implications of the perception of the world cinema would be incomplete without personalising the emotions shared by the theorists with the history of Hollywood. It has been highlighted by Tian (2022), that Pauline Kael has significantly talked about the 1930s newspaper pictures in building out of the role of Mankeiwics as some hardcore Hollywood personnel. Drawing relevance with the doctrine, it has been further highlighted by Charles Higham that the "Wholly American Work" have subsequently reflected the concerns related to the representation of the American society reflecting the Hollywood practice of narrating the real life incidents with subsequent fabrication. According to Fithratullah (2021), moreover, over the contemplating issue, it has been noticed that prominent industry figures like Andre Brazen had a massive influence in changing the generic trend of the history of film and defined its struggle for representation. The critical and theoretical fashions in the reception of Hollywood films have been recognised to have introduced significant changes in the traditional methodologies for exploring the different communities and practices. In this context, drawing relevance to the influence of Marxism is significantly necessary to commemorate the long history of the film and television dating even back to the Soviet Montage era in the 1920s. According to Dhami (2021), the Marxism films have been a subsequent representation of the Marxist ideals in bringing radical changes in the representation of the societal elements throughout the periodical journey of film making. To shed relevance to the essay context, it is essential that the Marxist film theory is explained to outline the aesthetics in the work of Sergei Eisenstein and other Soviet filmmakers celebrated in the silent era of films. As argued by Nnamele and Nnalue (2020), the Soviet filmmakers have been significantly noted to be commemorating the political approaches of the Marxist theory in expressing the class differences in the society. It has been further noticed that the film makers have significant perceived their works as an antithesis of the prevalent style of classic Hollywood scripts. It has significantly progressed through the prevalent actions taken in revising the narrative styles of the Hollywood films at present. Following the aesthetics of the Marxist film theory, relevance can be drawn in the modern reception of films which significantly provides a critical discourse to the revolution introduced in the representation of the different classes in the society. Outlining the basics requirements of projection in the film narrations the contributions of the film the Green Book can be discussed as an important example in the context (Fitria, 2020).

Exploring the Contributions of Film Theorists and Critics

The Green Book has been known to be suggesting the human beings to keep up with the difficult situations in life by being united to build strong companionship to get through the difficult phases of life. As suggested by Dhami (2021), the representation of the issue of racism by Peter Farrelly is regarded as a brilliant director in the history of Hollywood films. The contributions of the actors have also been considered to be phenomenal in bringing the issues live to explain the context with relevance to real life social injustices experienced by the audiences. The film has been known to be awarded the Golden Globe Awards for the best screenplay and best supporting actor category. Inspired by the true friendship between an Italian-American chauffeur and black pianist in the middle 1900s successively directs to the possibility of peaceful friendship between the different races whilst projecting the prevalence of several backlashing factors like racism in the entire context. As argued by Rizka, Sakinah and Lukman (2020), the film highlights the various parameters of social misconduct done within the boundary of colourism and racism through the projection of casual remarks to violent hostility as the two protagonists take a trip on the concert tour. The characters of Danish played by Viggo Mortensen and Don Shirley played by Mahershala Ali derive the audience's attention to the impending issue of racism which directs to the representation of the prevailing negative and stereotypical outlook of the white Americans for the black community. However, the film has a series of disappointing points in the entire course (Stam, 2000). It can be noticed that the camera angle is subsequently shifted from recording the true reactions of the audiences in the concert to showing whether they were impacted by the fact that the pianist was black. Moreover, the director also projected the cinematography in uplifting the status of the pianist and sticking to a clichéd concept of a black celebrity having a white driver. Considering the contemporary evolution of the societal changes, the deliberate emphasis in highlighting the upper social status of the black man showed the forced efforts of the director. The main idea of the film could have been to restore the balance between the two classes if it significantly followed the guidelines of the green book (Nichols, 2010). Furthermore, the Shirley character in the film has been noted to have considerably distanced from many elements of the black culture even though he was aware of the discrimination he could face in the various resting places.

To include further justifications related to the theoretical and ideological views of the perceived nature of the history of Hollywood films and television media, the encryptions of the portrayal of the women characters need to be highlighted in the essay. According to Rucker-Chang (2018), following the previously mentioned state of women depicted in the early representation of films, the Feminist Film Theory can be included in the discussion. The theory aims to describe the relationship shared between modern films and women characters. The Feminist theory is known to be criticising The Male Gaze due to the undeniable discriminative depiction of the women characters in the narratives. Most cases have reflected that the projection of men has convicted more of an active participation in the script and narration, whilst the women have either been objectified or sexualised. The context of the theory also questions the reception of the women's roles in both as a reflection on the screen and in the real world. Roma by Alfonso Cuarón can be used a significant example of the film projecting the issues of women's representation in the Hollywood films. As suggested by Partida (2019), the film has been known to be centred around a young indigenous pregnant woman set in the 1970s Mexico City. It is regarded as a spectacular experience in uniting with the experiences faced by women due to inequality and class differences. It directs to the pain endured by women for being used as objects of pleasure by the flag bearers of patriarchy and misogynist in the society. The story beautifully picturises the survival instincts of the two men with their children in a world driven by men. The gender wars represented in the film take a note of the metaphorical projection of the dystopian view of man’s inhumanity. The class differences between Sofia and Cleo is evident even though it is not verbally explained in the narrative. However, the feminine struggles faced by the women belonging to two different classes somewhere intricately connect to becoming one. However, considering the power of influencing the media and films possess, it can be said that the representation of women on the screen has a huge impact in actual treatment in real life. As argued by Škobla (2020), even though the motive of the directors might circle developing a story reflecting the original struggles of women, to the contrary, the projection of women as helpless groups creates more damage in the prevailing conditions. The fact that the filmmakers commercialise the social injustices for creating both financial profit and social awareness has overshadowed the impending issues related to unequal treatment of women in the society. The exulting youth power has been projected through the violent treatment of Cleo and her unborn child which has been somewhat glorified in the narrative. Considering the recognition of the film as an embodiment of feminism, it can be said that at various points the film misses the actual concept of highlighting the powerful entities of women in the society (Partida, 2019).

Structuralist Film Theory and Relationships in Films

Conclusion

From the above analysis, it can be concluded that the power of influencing and impacting the significant societal behaviours through the projection of film and media in the society has been quite prominent. Over the years, the representation of various social classes and statutes in the society has been described as the embodiment of the depiction of the mirrored reflection of the real world. The conviction of the characterisation of the various judgements and ideals over theoretical and critical annotations in the history of Hollywood has demonstrated the considerable changing nature of the society. Moreover, with the conceptualisation of the various class differences and their representation throughout periodical classical dramas and contemporary narratives, the style can be assessed to be significantly transformed. However, the projections of the struggles of representations are prevalent and evident in the course of Hollywood cinema. The journey of the films from the silent era to the modern twenty-first century remains intricately similar given to the value of societal judgements. The essay has significantly described the implications and guidelines of Hollywood narratives emphasizing over major theatrical concepts and empirical approaches. The essay also provides a realistic presentation of supporting and opposing statements in the preceding paragraphs with reference to three successful Hollywood films. The three selected films have depicted three separate societal issues which have commemorated the topic of struggles in representation for the essay.

References 

Cook, D.A., 2016. A history of narrative film. WW Norton & Company.

Cook, P., 2007. The cinema book. British Film Institute.

Dhami, A., 2021. The Capitalization of Diversity within the Film Industry. Sociology Mind, 11(3), pp.105-123.

Eckhardt, G.M. and Kerrigan, F., 2020. Crazy Rich Asians: A tale of immigration, globalization and consumption in East Asia. Markets, Globalization & Development Review, 4(3).

Fithratullah, M., 2021. Representation of Korean values sustainability in American remake movies. Teknosastik, 19(1), pp.60-73.

Fitria, T.N., 2020. Translation Technique of English to Indonesian Subtitle in ‘Crazy Rich Asian’Movie. ELS Journal on Interdisciplinary Studies on Humanities, 3(1).

Hale, B., 2020. The History of Hollywood: The Film Industry Exposed. History Cooperative, 29.

Hill, J., Gibson, P.C., Dyer, R., Kaplan, E.A. and Willemen, P. eds., 1998. The Oxford guide to film studies (p. 262). Oxford: Oxford University Press.

Nelmes, J., 2012. Introduction to film studies. Routledge.

Nichols, B., 2010. Engaging cinema: An introduction to film studies. WW Norton & Company.

Nnamele, V.U. and Nnalue, A., 2020. The place of critical theories in film analysis: Making a case for reading films as text. Creative Artist: A Journal of Theatre and Media Studies, 14(2), pp.151-173.

Partida, G.D., 2019. Are we or not? Traits of Mexican identity from Roma. Journal of Latin American Communication Research, 7(1-2), pp.79-105.

Rizka, A., Sakinah, R.M.N. and Lukman, A., 2020. The Comparison of Characters, Setting and Characterization Analysis Between Novel and Film of Paper Towns (A Study of Comparative Literature). TheGIST, 3(2).

Rucker-Chang, S., 2018. Roma filmic representation as postcolonial “Object”. Interventions, 20(6), pp.853-867.

Škobla, D., 2020. Cinematic Representation of the Roma’s Social Position and Mobility: A Comparative Analysis of Two Czech and Slovak Feature Films. Slovenský národopis, 68(4), pp.379-396.

Stam, R., 2000. Film theory: An introduction. Hoboken.

Thompson, K., 2010. Bordwell, David.". Film History: An Introduction, Third Editon". McGraw Hill, p.407.

Tian, R., 2022, January. The Reference Significance of Hollywood IP Exploration and Transformation. In 2021 International Conference on Public Art and Human Development (ICPAHD 2021) (pp. 201-205). Atlantis Press.

Tomasulo, F.P., Todd Berliner, Hollywood Aesthetic: Pleasure in American Cinema (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2017), 320 pp., $39.95 (paperback). ISBN: 9780190658755.

Zhao, Y., 2020. Crazy Rich Asians: When Representation Becomes Controversial. Markets, Globalization & Development Review, 4(3).

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