Thanks to the multi-disciplined nature of American Studies, this semester we have started a Film and Visual culture module which is run by the History of Art and Film department. Although we dabbled a little in film last year, this semester we’re delving far further into the more critical study of film as an art. Beginning with the development of Hollywood not just as a place but as a social institution, the module has so far provided a refreshing and enlightening experience, giving an even broader understanding of American Studies as a subject.
During our seminars this week we were discussing the Great Depression and Hollywood’s response to it. On the one hand we discussed how it provided a sense of escapism as the audience can get lost within the glamour and spectacle, while on the other hand it provided a direct social commentary on the period, particularly with films such as ‘Gold Diggers of 1933’. It got me thinking that, although cinema and film have, in some ways, developed and modernised greatly since the 1930s, we still use cinema as a method of escapism, or at least I do anyway. In a similar way there are also films produced that provide a critical commentary on the issues in today’s society, either directly addressing these issues or running a parallel narrative with a metaphorical meaning. Last week I went to see Legend starring Tom Hardy (brilliant film) at the cinema and found it the perfect form of escapism and relaxation despite the intense and dramatic nature of the film. On the other hand we see films such as Straight Outta Compton arriving on our screens which, while intended to entertain, also hammer home an important message and highlight current social issues.
Without wanting to sound incredibly neeky and as if I am the number one fan of my course, this is one of the factors that I really appreciate about it, the content we study more often than not manages to run a parallel to current social issues or topics which makes things even more interesting and relevant.