Use this first part of the forum to reflect on the systems of (hetero-)patriarchy (and white supremacy) that have defined the darker dynamics of the Hollywood machine. Carefully and respectfully, respond and unpack anything that you find to be particularly important for us to discuss as we wrap up our exploration of American Cinema. Do you see the future of filmmaking to be and inclusive one? A healthier and safer one? Or are you feeling less optimistic about Hollywood’s ability to separate itself from the larger systems of oppression that define our society?
Open Forum on the assigned film you chose to screen this week (The Hurt Locker, Thelma & Louise, or an Ava DuVernay selection)
**PROMPT FOR THELMA & LOUISE**
Background: As a road movie, Thelma & Louise is quite conventional – and conventionally Hollywood. (Watch a few more of the road movie trailers posted under Course Materials/Films & Clips to see what these conventions are!) However, as a road movie, written by a woman, with two female leads, on the kind of journey they’re on, propelled by the kind of event they are, on the run for the reasons they are, ending the way it does…, Thelma & Louise is quite un-conventional, especially when the film was released. In addition, Callie Khouri is one of only a handful of women in the history of the Academy Awards to win an Oscar for Best Original Screenplay – only the 3rd when she won it in 1991. (By the way, until a few years ago, only 4 women had ever been nominated for best director, and only one has ever won it – Kathryn Bigelow for Hurt Locker.) Thelma and Louise was also a pivotal film given what it told us about film criticism and the box office: Mainstream male critics slammed it; women film-goers made it a financial success.
Questions to Consider: How do the characters of Thelma and Louise differ from each other when we first meet them? How do they change by the end of the film? How are men characterized in this film? How do the male characters relate to the two female leads? What do YOU think this film accomplishes overall? What is its impact on you as the viewer? What social messages do you think it is communicating? How does it work as a road movie? Would you describe it as a feminist film? If so, what kind of feminism(s)?
**PROMPT FOR THE HURT LOCKER**
Questions to Consider: Kathryn Bigelow’s The Hurt Locker presents us with an interesting series of questions and debates: Is, as Francis Ford Coppola once stated, “every war movie an anti-war movie”? Do you think The Hurt Locker is an anti-war movie? What does it say about this war, 2004 in Iraq?; What do you think of this film as an Oscar-winner? One that “made history”?; How does this film relate to its social context, especially in representing the War in Iraq? How does it represent the Iraqi people versus the U.S. military?; What might this film say about contemporary warfare, the psycho-social character of “the soldier”, the experience of war as a drug?; What happens when a female filmmaker (or any producer of culture/the arts) uses her work to explore and comment on “masculinity”? What is the result? Do we respond the same way when male directors investigate “femininity”? (Provide examples!)
**PROMPT FOR Middle of Nowhere OR Selma**
Depending on which film you screened, this forum can go in many directions…of your choosing. You might consider discussing a bit about DuVernay’s career – as the first African American woman to win at Sundance (Middle of Nowhere) and be nominated for Best Picture (Selma) at the Golden Globes and the Academy Awards – and her own political activism in the movement for equality in the film industry. As usual, you may analyze the film you screened with respect to representations of women, women of color, and/or civil rights activism in history…in contrast, perhaps, to other Hollywood stereotypes. Take the forum where you are most interested in taking it, inspired by duVernay’s work!