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Film, Theater, and Performing Arts > Film and Media Studies

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Authentic™ Cover

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Authentic™

The Politics of Ambivalence in a Brand Culture

Sarah Banet-Weiser

Brands are everywhere. Branding is central to political campaigns and political protest movements; the alchemy of social media and self-branding creates overnight celebrities; the self-proclaimed “greening” of institutions and merchant goods is nearly universal. But while the practice of branding is typically understood as a tool of marketing, a method of attaching social meaning to a commodity as a way to make it more personally resonant with consumers, Sarah Banet-Weiser argues that in the contemporary era, brands are about culture as much as they are about economics. That, in fact, we live in a brand culture.
 
Authentic™ maintains that branding has extended beyond a business model to become both reliant on, and reflective of, our most basic social and cultural relations. Further, these types of brand relationships have become cultural contexts for everyday living, individual identity, and personal relationships—what Banet-Weiser refers to as “brand cultures.” Distinct brand cultures, that at times overlap and compete with each other, are taken up in each chapter: the normalization of a feminized “self-brand” in social media, the brand culture of street art in urban spaces, religious brand cultures such as “New Age Spirituality” and “Prosperity Christianity,”and the culture of green branding and “shopping for change.”
 
In a culture where graffiti artists loan their visions to both subway walls and department stores, buying a cup of “fair-trade” coffee is a political statement, and religion is mass-marketed on t-shirts, Banet-Weiser questions the distinction between what we understand as the “authentic” and branding practices. But brand cultures are also contradictory and potentially rife with unexpected possibilities, leading Authentic™ to articulate a politics of ambivalence, creating a lens through which we can see potential political possibilities within the new consumerism.

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Authorship in Film Adaptation

Edited with an introduction by Jack Boozer

Authoring a film adaptation of a literary source not only requires a media conversion but also a transformation as a result of the differing dramatic demands of cinema. The most critical central step in this transformation of a literary source to the screen is the writing of the screenplay. The screenplay usually serves to recruit producers, director, and actors; to attract capital investment; and to give focus to the conception and production of the film project. Often undergoing multiple revisions prior to production, the screenplay represents the crucial decisions of writer and director that will determine how and to what end the film will imitate or depart from its original source. Authorship in Film Adaptation is an accessible, provocative text that opens up new areas of discussion on the central process of adaptation surrounding the screenplay and screenwriter-director collaboration. In contrast to narrow binary comparisons of literary source text and film, the twelve essays in this collection also give attention to the underappreciated role of the screenplay and film pre-production that can signal the primary intention for a film. Divided into four parts, this collection looks first at the role of Hollywood's activist producers and major auteurs such as Hitchcock and Kubrick as they worked with screenwriters to formulate their audio-visual goals. The second part offers case studies of Devil in a Blue Dress and The Sweet Hereafter, for which the directors wrote their own adapted screenplays. Considering the variety of writer-director working relationships that are possible, Part III focuses on adaptations that alter genre, time, and place, and Part IV investigates adaptations that alter stories of romance, sexuality, and ethnicity.

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The Autobiographical Documentary in America

Jim Lane

Since the late 1960s, American film and video makers of all genres have been fascinated with themes of self and identity. Though the documentary form is most often used to capture the lives of others, Jim Lane turns his lens on those media makers who document their own lives and identities. He looks at the ways in which autobiographical documentaries—including Roger and Me, Sherman’s March, and Silverlake Life—raise weighty questions about American cultural life. What is the role of women in society? What does it mean to die from AIDS? How do race and class play out in our personal lives? What does it mean to be a member of a family? Examining the history, diversity, and theoretical underpinnings of this increasingly popular documentary form, Lane tracks a fundamental transformation of notions of both autobiography and documentary.

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Avatars Of Story

Marie-Laure Ryan

Since its inception, narratology has developed primarily as an investigation of literary narrative fiction. Linguists, folklorists, psychologists, and sociologists have expanded the inquiry toward oral storytelling, but narratology remains primarily concerned with language-supported stories. In Avatars of Story, Marie-Laure Ryan moves beyond literary works to examine other media, especially electronic narrative forms.  By grappling with semiotic media other than language and technology other than print, she reveals how story, a form of meaning that transcends cultures and media,  achieves  diversity by presenting itself under multiple avatars.

Ryan begins by considering, among other texts, a 1989 Cubs-Giants baseball broadcast, the reality television show Survivor, and the film The Truman Show. In all these texts, she sees a narrative that organizes meaning without benefit of hindsight, anticipating the real-time dimension of computer games. She then expands her inquiry to new media. In a discussion covering text-based interactive fiction such as Spider and Web and Galatea, hypertexts such as Califia and Patchwork Girl, multimedia works such as Juvenate, Web-based short narratives, and Façade, a multimedia, AI-supported project in interactive drama, she focuses on how narrative meaning is affected by the authoring software, such as the Infocom parser, the Storyspace hypertext-producing system, and the programs Flash and Director. She also examines arguments that have been brought up against considering computer games such as The Sims and EverQuest as a form of narrative, and responds by outlining an approach to computer games that reconciles their imaginative  and strategic dimension. In doing so, Ryan distinguishes a wide spectrum of narrative modes, such as utilitarian, illustrative, indeterminate, metaphorical, participatory, emergent, and simulative.

Ultimately, Ryan stresses the difficulty of reconciling narrativity with interactivity and anticipates the time when media will provide new ways to experience stories. 

Marie-Laure Ryan is an independent scholar and the author of, most recently, Narrative as Virtual Reality: Immersion and Interactivity in Literature and Electronic Media.

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The B Word

Bisexuality in Contemporary Film and Television

Maria San Filippo

Often disguised in public discourse by terms like "gay," "homoerotic," "homosocial," or "queer," bisexuality is strangely absent from queer studies and virtually untreated in film and media criticism. Maria San Filippo aims to explore the central role bisexuality plays in contemporary screen culture, establishing its importance in representation, marketing, and spectatorship. By examining a variety of media genres including art cinema, sexploitation cinema and vampire films, "bromances," and series television, San Filippo discovers "missed moments" where bisexual readings of these texts reveal a more malleable notion of subjectivity and eroticism. San Filippo's work moves beyond the subject of heteronormativity and responds to "compulsory monosexuality," where it's not necessarily a couple's gender that is at issue, but rather that an individual chooses one or the other. The B Word transcends dominant relational formation (gay, straight, or otherwise) and brings a discursive voice to the field of queer and film studies.

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Baad Bitches and Sassy Supermamas

Black Power Action Films

Stephane Dunn

This lively study unpacks the intersecting racial, sexual, and gender politics underlying the representations of racialized bodies, masculinities, and femininities in early 1970s black action films, with particular focus on black femininity. While low-budget blaxploitation films typically portrayed black women as trifling "bitches" compared to the supermacho black male heroes, the terms "baad bitches" and "sassy supermamas" signal the emergence of films featuring self-assured, empowered, and tough (or "baad") black female protagonists: Cleopatra Jones, Coffy, and Foxy Brown. Stephane Dunn closely examines a distinct moment in the history of African American representation in popular cinema, tracing its influences from the Black Power movement and feminism.

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Backstory 5

Interviews with Screenwriters of the 1990s

Patrick McGilligan

Patrick McGilligan continues his celebrated interviews with exceptional screenwriters in Backstory 5, focusing on the 1990s. The thirteen featured writers—Albert Brooks, Jean-Claude Carrière, Nora Ephron, Ronald Harwood, John Hughes, David Koepp, Richard LaGravenese, Barry Levinson, Eric Roth, John Sayles, Tom Stoppard, Barbara Turner, and Rudy Wurlitzer—are not confined to the 1990s, but their engrossing, detailed, and richly personal stories create, in McGilligan’s words, "a snapshot of a profession in motion." Emphasizing the craft of writing and the process of collaboration, this new volume looks at how Hollywood is changing to meet new economic and creative challenges. Backstory 5 explores how these writers come up with their ideas, how they go about adapting a stage play or work of fiction, how they organize and structure their work, and much more.

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Bad Women

Regulating Sexuality in Early American Cinema

Janet Staiger

It was a new age, and on movie screens the American middle class presented its visions of sexual morality, with definitions of good women and bad. Bad Women takes us back to this time of massive social, cultural, and economic change to show us how American cinema gave women and women’s sexuality images useful to the new consumer culture of the early 1900s and its exploitation of sexual pleasure.

Although aimed at producing a certain kind of woman, these new images did manage to put discussions of women and their sexuality on America’s agenda. Charting the resulting cultural tensions as they played out in movie regulation, Janet Staiger shows us how representations and their endless permutations enacted conflicts over women’s public and private behaviors. Rich in historical detail and theoretical insight, this book offers an original  depiction of a culture in transition, a sexual sensibility in the making, and film’s participation in the change.


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Barbara Stanwyck

The Miracle Woman

Dan Callahan

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Batman

Matt Yockey

ABC’s action-comedy series Batman (1966–68) famously offered a dual address in its wildly popular portayal of a comic book hero in a live action format. Children uncritically accepted the show’s plots and characters, who were guided by lofty ideals and social values, while adults reacted to the clear parody of the values on display. In Batman, author Matt Yockey argues that the series served as a safe space for viewers to engage with changing attitudes about consumerism, politics, the Vietnam war, celebrity, race, and gender during a period when social meaning was increasingly contested in America. Yockey examines Batman’s boundary pushing in four chapters. In “Bat-Civics,” he analyzes the superhero as a conflicted symbol of American identity and considers the ways in which the Batman character parodied that status. Yockey then looks at the show’s experimentation with the superhero genre’s conservative gender and racial politics in “Bat-Difference” and investigates the significance of the show’s choices of stars and guest stars in “Bat-Casting.” Finally, he considers how the series’ dual identity as straightforward crime serial and subversive mass culture text set it up for extratextual production in “Bat-Being.” The superhero is a conflicted symbol of American identity—representing both excessive individualism and the status quo—making it an especially useful figure for the kind of cultural work that Batman undertook. Batman fans, from popular culture enthusiasts to television history scholars, will enjoy this volume.

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