Friday, 28 September 2012

Shorter Ann Althouse: Racists can't be racist because they love their racism. So some of Scott Brown's staffers were caught tomahawk-chopping while war-whooping, which is absolutely not a traditional means of representing Native Americans as tomahawk-chopping, war-whooping, nothing-noble-about-them savages. There's no history of American cinema in which Native Americans were a violent bulwark against the tide of civilizing white men eager to manifest their destiny. There's no history of American literature in which Native Americans played the roles of "Captor #1" and "Captor #2" and let's just call them "Tribe of Captors" in popular captivity narratives that identified war-whooping with lady-taking and child-killing. None of that is real because Ann Althouse said so: Someone doing the "tomahawk chop" is himself playing the role of Indian. This Indian character making a stereotypical gesture can't be read as expressing hostility toward Indians. The Indian is his hero. See? "The Indian is his hero." Whose hero exactly? According to Althouse anyone doing the tomahawk chop. Which means that she believes that performing a racially offensive can't be considered racist because the performance itself is necessarily an act of loving emulation. For example, if one of Scott Brown's white staffers were to create a television show called It couldn't be considered racist by definition because its use of the stereotypical Chinese immigrant is evidence of that this white staffer considers Chin-Kee to be "his hero." In all seriousness, Althouse's problem is that she's so ignorant that she doesn't realize that the stereotype of Native Americans that Brown's staffers invoke isn't historically accurate, which is why she can claim, straight-faced, that "these fake Indians, the staffers, are pretending to be real Indians," when in actuality they're pretending to be racist stereotypes of Native Americans. One day I will wake up in a world in which "Ann Althouse" is revealed to be the work of an art collective trying to win a place in the Guinness Book of World Records for the Longest Sustained Installation of a Person Who Couldn't Possibly Exist. I pray that day comes soon. In the meantime go read my other post. It'll cleanse this stupid clear off your palate.
Game of Thrones: "Winter Is Coming" for Will and Bran (This is yet another one of those visual rhetoric posts that's born of this frightenining imminent course.) You'll recall that according to the first post, Van Patten made Will a sympathetic deserter and oath breaker; according to the second, Van Patten established the family dynamic through Bran's perspective; according to the third, Bran remained the focal point because everyone believed themselves to be acting in his best interest; and according to the fourth and final post in this series, which would be this one, we'll finally witness the "punchline" of the preceding scenes. To begin: The scene shifts from inside Winterfell to somewhere outside it. It's difficult to tell exactly where because there's a notched log occupying the majority of the frame. Why the log? Because Will's world is now the size of its notch. His world closes in on him as his death nears, so it makes sense that his purview, visually speaking, follows suit. It momentarily expands into an extreme long shot when he believes he's found an excuse that might could maybe save him: But only momentarily: Note contrast between these two shots: in the first, the camera is at a distance and captures a large swath of the highlands that are bright despite the mist blanketing them; in the second, the camera tightens in and centers on Will in a medium close-up, and the compositional structure is oppressive: he is flanked on both sides by armed guard and the hill behind doesn't, as the one in previous shot did, suggest freedom so much as unscaleable-rock-that-might-as-well-be-a-wall. He's trapped within the structure of the shot, and the medium close-up reminds us of the fear and pain we saw on his face when he was captured: The irony of being imprisoned on an open field is more apparent in the above because the framing is looser, but it's essentially the same shot as the one in which he confesses his oath-breaking with one important exception: when he confesses to have broken his oath, he knows all hope is lost. In the shot above, the possibility of escape still exists, if not on that field, then possibly through pardon—hence his mentioning the white walkers two frames previous. But by the time he enters that structurally oppressive medium close-up, he knows his fate. As do the other characters in the scene, and more importantly, the extent to which they sympathize with is indicated by the distance of the camera from their faces. This may seem like a simple means of identifying a complex emotional response, but it has a long history in film theory, the short version of it goes something like this: Films used to be silent. Because actors couldn't tell us what they were thinking and many directors found intertitles aesthetically unappealing, the close-up on actors' faces became the preferred means of communicating their emotions. The heightened expressiveness evident in the close-up compelled audiences to pay more attention to the micro-expressions written upon the actors' faces, which made directors...

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