Introduction to Popular Culture Studies

EXTRA CREDIT – Thoughts on Pop (Tuesday, Oct 18, 2016)

Posted by cliffordpaulparsoniiiesq on November 27, 2016

This semester’s “Thoughts on Pop” presenters both presented a funneled, narrowly-focused analysis of a phenomenon or development in filmmaking.

Dr. Hollyfield presented his research on the films of Burt Reynolds, focusing on his close ties with the progressive South and his distinction as an “auteur” movie star. I immediately felt guilty going in, since the extent of my Burt Reynolds palate consisted of Norm MacDonald’s brilliant impersonation on Saturday Night Live. I had no idea that Burt Reynolds was as big of a name as he apparently was! The fact that he was the highest-paid actor in the world at one point blew me away. How did I not know this about him, and why could I only name one or two of his films? Dr. Hollyfield brought up how Reynolds was never a critics’ darling, and how he didn’t get any Oscar recognition until Boogie Nights in the late ’90s. It really is amazing how so many pop culture phenomena don’t stand the test of time, or at the very least, remain a product of their time. It seems that eventually, everyone forgets or ignores the bad parts of history, giving future generations a skewed view of the media of the past. Look no further than Burt Reynolds for proof of this!

I also liked Dr. Hollyfield’s use of the term “auteur” to describe Reynolds. I usually hear that word used to describe directors whose films have a recognizable style that stands out (Quentin Tarantino, John Woo, Wes Anderson, Robert Rodriguez, etc.). It was strange to hear of an actor described that way, but in Burt Reynolds’ case it makes perfect sense. It’s insteresting how Dr. Hollyfield mentioned Deliverance, while Reynolds’ breakout role, is not considered a classic “Reynolds movie” because his mustache-less character doesn’t capture the character traits his future performances. Reynolds is known for playing the same type of character in most of his movies, and his on-screen charisma drives the feel of the movie.

The second presentation, by Brenda Sherill, was also fascinating. She discusses the “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” trope in films, and how it’s only a recent development and how it could be expounded upon in the future. It was interesting that the actual term “Manic Pixie Dream Girl” was coined by a film critic discussing characters in movies that had already came out. It’s such a good illustration of how no development in filmmaking, or art in general for that matter, is simply “invented.” Even a character cliché wasn’t just made up out of the blue, and you can’t pinpoint the first MPDG to be depicted in a film. It really shows how art is a gradual process. I’m inspired to be on the lookout for unique character archetypes in recent movies, and see if anyone else has noticed or given a name to them!

While these two presentations didn’t necessarily introduce me to any new concepts in filmmaking, they did get me thinking about how some concepts I’m already familiar with can be applied in new, unique ways. I learned a lot and might end up looking at movies in a different way, now that I have some new terminology to go by.


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