J. P. Telotte, “Spatial Presence and Disney’s Oswald
Comedies,” Journal of Popular Film and Television 39.3 (2011): 141-148.
Abstracted by Ira Clark
Walt Disney and his studio had always been pioneers of animation, even long prior to their famed success with the Mickey Mouse cartoons. Telotte claims that Disney’s most significant advancement was spatial awareness and subsequent utilization of the entire film frame to enhance storytelling ability. This is utilization is further described as “positive negative space,” unlike in contemporary cartoons where so called “negative spaces” went unused entirely (143). Oswald and successive Disney characters would make this “negative space” positive by filling it with their gags and antics. Telotte notes three cases where Disney’s spatial awareness is distinct and contributive, through staging, use of shadows, and body morphing. Beginning with Oswald, Disney cartoons contained unmistakable “staging” (143), as objects now had arranged purpose within the frame, achieved through storyboards, another pioneering Disney technique, which allowed for preplanning. Staging allowed Disney to create more immersive scenes, such as when a myriad of thrown objects from off-screen engulfs the space around Oswald. In more complex films such as the 1928 Ossie of the Mounted, staging facilitates elaborate scenes as animators plan out multilayered scenes with distinct fore, middle, and backgrounds which allowed for minimal negative space and a more enthralling visual narrative. Secondly, spatial awareness was demonstrated by characters now employing shadows in their antics. A creative example of this is seen in the 1928 silent cartoon Bright Lights where shadows become important plot devices, allowing Oswald to sneak into a theater by “lifting up” his own shadow, hiding underneath, and walking right in. Finally, in what would become trademark Oswald humor, body morphing would entail character’s limbs becoming unnaturally stretched or enlarged to encompass the entirety of the frame. In another 1928 production, Fox Chaser, Oswald’s legs are ludicrously stretched across the screen as one foot is stuck on a ladder and another on a galloping horse. These “spatial gags” (146) both address negative space and add comedic value. Telotte argues that animation scholars have overlooked the early use and impact of this “spatial presence” and its origins within the Oswald cartoons.
Jennifer L. Roberts, “Failure to Deliver: Watson and the Shark and the Boston Tea Party,” Art History 34.4 (2011): 674-95.
Abstractd by Tanner Stump
In Roberts’ article, the paintings of John Singleton Copley during pre-revolutionary war times between the 1760s and 1770s reflect the transatlantic between America and Britain. The writer claims that Copley’s tabletop paintings (1760s – early 1770s) reflect the smooth trade and pronounced connection between the two areas, while the painting Watson and the Shark (1778) represents the “catastrophe in Anglo-American material relations” through the puissant acts of the Boston Tea Party (676). Roberts’ explains that the British reacted more favorably to Copley’s paintings that had less attention grabbing aspects in the lower half of the painting, and he made a habit of conforming to this notion throughout the series of paintings proving the influence British culture had in America. The writer also notes that Copley’s tabletops have such a smooth surface that they reflect the objects resting on them. This symbolizes the fluid relationship between Britain’s colonies and Britain itself. Roberts argues that Copley broke the theme when with Watson and the Shark which contained an elaborate lower half that represented the schism between America and Britain that came with the Tea Party. Furthermore, the writer draws parallels between Copley’s literal connections in Boston through family that pulled him into the conflict and ultimately forced him to flee after the Tea Party. Roberts argues that these connections made Copley desire to create a memorial painting for this conflict that accurately depicts the events, but he concluded that the intensity and passion of the issue would cause the painting to be “inevitably ‘misconstrued’” (687). For this reason, the writer claims that Copley drew from the commission of Brook Watson, who owned the tea in the Tea Party, to construct a painting of a non-fatal shark attack Watson personally experienced in Havana in order to indirectly depict the Boston Tea Party through the two events’ parallels concerning location, characters and destructive actions. Roberts claims that the thematic path of Copley’s paintings during this time period illustrated the ephemeral transatlantic relations between America and Britain while concluding that the sea was “an unbridgeable space” that these relations could not surmount (694).
Weber, Jonetta D., and Robert M. Carini. “Where Are the Female Athletes in Sports Illustrated? A Content Analysis of Covers (2000-2011).” International Review for the Sociology of Sport 48.2 (2013): 196-203.
Abstracted by Juliet Day
Weber and Carini argue that, although women are represented in Sports Illustrated, the magazine still fosters social inequality between male and female athletes. They expose the double standard Sports Illustrated exhibits by documenting how it portrays men versus women on its cover. They reviewed every Sports Illustrated cover from 2000 to 2011 and from 1954 to 1965 and tracked how many men were on the cover versus how many women. They excluded Sports Illustrated’s annual swimsuit issue because “women were not portrayed in an athletic manner.” They then divided the women into two groups: athletes and other women (an anonymous woman, a sports fan, etc.), as well as whether the women were pictured by themselves or with men. Women appeared on 4.9% of Sports Illustrated covers between 2000 and 2011 (N=716) and only 2.5% had women as the primary image. This is over 50% lower than the percentage of women on the cover between the years of 1954-1965 (N=588), which was still only 12.6%. One explanation as to why the percentage of women represented has decreased since the 1950s is that Sports Illustrated narrowed the scope of the sports it covers from a wide range of sports to mainly featuring basketball, football, and baseball. Weber and Carini then explore how women were portrayed in Sports Illustrated when included, and what message the magazine sends about gender. For example, they note the difference between an athletic-looking woman holding sports equipment on the cover, versus a scantily dressed, seductive-looking woman. While Sports Illustrated promotes sports as a way to achieve health and fitness as well as personal empowerment, women are not necessarily depicted solely for their athletic abilities, but rather for how they look or how they are posed. They cite as an example the case of skier Lindsey Vonn, who was photographed on her skis, but posed in a provocative way, as opposed to a male skier photographed in action. Lastly, Weber and Carini assert that their data is consistent with that of other similar studies about female athletes portrayed in both Sports Illustrated and in other media.
Hyman, Linda. “The Greek Slave by Hiram Powers: High Art as Popular Culture.” Art Journal 35.3 (Spring 1976): 216-223.
Abstracted by Noah Duell
Hiram Powers’ The Greek Slave is the most preeminent example of antebellum neoclassical sculpture. Whereas other scholars have noted the aesthetic qualities of the statue, Linda Hyman researched many poems and other literary works in order to find out why the work was such a phenomenon in the antebellum United States. Hyman posits that many men of the era were drawn to its beauty, aroused by its state of submission, and subdued by the fantasies elicited by what they saw as an erotic sex symbol. Looking through a 1840s and 50s Victorian Christian lens, the erotic gaze was permitted and defended by much of the male audience. This, permission, Hyman noted, is the difference between covert and overt culture, where the viewers “overtly” look upon it as art, but in reality have ulterior “covert” motives. Women were also attracted to it, yet in an empathetic rather than sexual way. They identified with the statue, most notably in a Freudian narcissistic manner, Hyman notes. Based upon several poems, the chains that subdued the subject were as tight, emotionally, as those that held Victorian women down. In the same way the statue was being commodified as a submissive femininity, so too were the women who looked upon it. In the highly tense political environment, the statue served as a rallying icon and a call to arms for the Abolitionist movement in the northern United States. As Hyman references, the artwork itself brought upon fiery anti-slavery rhetoric, with which came vociferous opposition in the Southern United States. Those who were pro-slavery deemed the Abolitionist’s protests as pure hypocrisy, that they made complaints only in response to the statue’s Caucasian Christianity. The broad appeal of Hiram Power’s The Greek Slave is evident in the numerous ways it was interpreted. Using the literary works and the words of a congressman, a literary critic, and everyone in between, Hyman exhibits several appeals the statue possessed and the connotations of the work as it relates to factions within antebellum American society.
Chong, Sylvia Shin Huy. “Restaging the War: ‘The Deer Hunter’ and the Primal Scene of Violence.” Cinema Journal 44.2 (2005): 89-106.
Abstracted by Liam Douglass
Chong argues, contrary to critical reception of The Deer Hunter, the political meaning of the film’s violence reveals itself in the style of the scenes rather than historical accuracy. She proposes the metaphors of the hunt and the game to represent how The Deer Hunter describes the Vietnam War. Referencing the 1841 novel The Deerslayer by Fenimore Cooper, Chong describes the hunt as a “double cannibalization”(95) in which the hunter becomes one with his prey at the time of the kill. The hunt metaphor arises during the Russian roulette where Vietcong are represented as subhuman while the Americans subconsciously strive to be more like them through display of masculinity in the game of death. The game metaphor applies directly to the game of Russian roulette, which symbolizes the randomness of death and violence in the Vietnam War. To further pursue Cimino’s meaning behind the relationship between the American soldiers and their VC captors, Chong applies the concept of the primal scene from Sigmund Freud’s The Interpretation of Dreams. She cites similarities between the primal scene and the Americans’ first experience with Russian roulette, mainly the inability for either party to interject in their witnessing of a trauma which they do not fully understand. This paralysis extends to the audience who is exposed to gratuitous violence for the first time in the film. Nick’s suicide represents the fulfilment of his primal fantasy to become like the VC who forced him to play Russian roulette. This transformation is the revelation of Cimino’s message: those Americans who had entered the war to eradicate the VC became like them as evidenced in similarities between the style of the Russian roulette scenes and the positioning of victim and executioner in the Saigon Execution photograph. This American loss of innocence corporealizes itself in the nation’s effort to rid itself of the “oriental obscene” through the deportation of Nguyen Ngoc Loan, the executioner photographed in Saigon Execution. [321 words]
Green, David. “Veins of Resemblance: Photography and Eugenics.” Oxford Art Journal 7.2 (1985): 3-16.
Abstracted by Victoria Byler
Green argues against the supposed objectivity of photographs. For much of their existence, photographs have been regarded as accurate recreations of reality; however Green exposes that photographs cannot be objective because “photographic representations are not constructed first and then used, but as representations they are always constructed in use” (4). Green substantiates that “knowledge cannot be regarded as autonomous or transcendent of the context in which it is used because in itself it is the product of, and intended to serve, manipulative and predictive interests”(4). He supports this claim through the conjunction of photography and the study of the formative stages of eugenics. Eugenics is the study of the sociocultural importance of characteristics passed down through generations to isolate the best traits and use them to perpetuate the human race, closely related to the concept of Social Darwinism. Green references the eugenic studies of Havelock Ellis and expounds upon the work of Francis Galton and his methods of composite photography, the practice of retaking photographs to reduce multiple images into a one generic image, to highlight the underlying implications of photography (11). Galton’s work analyzes people’s physical traits to find common features in different races, social classes, or most frequently- criminals to support the movement “not for a new social order but for the reconstitution of the old order at a higher level of efficiency” (15). Galton developed techniques to emphasize common traits, disseminated information about eugenics to doctors to gain support, and created a data collection system by recruiting amateur photographers to take pictures of family and friends to enlarge his image database. The image Composite portrait of a criminal type exemplifies the type of image Galton produced in an attempt to explain the various economic and social shifts during the late 1800s. Photography aided the eugenics movement because in this period of time, photography was used as irrefutable documentation. Overall, photographs are always created for a specific reason; they never display ideas objectively. Therefore they subjectively recreate the situation the photographer attempts to capture based on their underlying social, political, or didactic functions. [344 words]
Cheung, Floyd. “Anxious and Ambivalent Representations: Nineteenth-Century Images of Chinese American Men,” The Journal of American Culture 30:3 (2007): 293-309.
Abstracted by Mary Horn
Cheung’s essay evaluates the ways in which Chinese American men were depicted by American sources, including 19th century political cartoons, an 1880 novel, and an 1879 farce. Through the examination of these images, and the realization that the depictions vary, Cheung claims that the 19th century idea of Euro-American masculinity was “ambivalent” (293). While working class men generally depicted Chinese men as threatening, capitalists portrayed them as docile and emasculated. These portrayals give insight into the desires and fears of both groups as they faced the issues plaguing 19th century America: class conflict, an international labor market, and an unstable masculine identity. Cheung analyzes three political cartoons from Harper’s Weekly and Wasp magazine. One shows a white “working man” punching a Chinese American man, another shows “feminine” Chinese males courting American women, and the last shows a Chinese man outworking white males in a factory. While the first two cartoons emasculate Chinese men, threatening aspects are also present, such as the furious Chinese face in the background of the first cartoon or the stealing away of American women in the second. These depictions reveal a Euro-American workingman’s threatened masculinity concerning his ability to maintain the role of breadwinner and possess American women. Cheung argues that American males often used Chinese men as scapegoats instead of confronting the real issues: low wages and a flooded labor market. Dooner’s novel, The Last Days of the Republic, illustrates the fear Euro-Americans felt concerning a fantasized Chinese invasion. This idea is shown in Dooner’s illustration “The War of the Races,” where Chinese forces defeat American soldiers, taking their women and land. Cheung argues that national anxieties about an evolving labor market led to scapegoat racism such as this. In The Chinese Must Go, Chinese men are demonized, “forcing” white men to cross-dress in their attempts to make ends meet among a flooded labor market. Cheung believes this cross-dressing reveals that a Chinese presence created an unstable Euro-American masculine identity. Cheung ends his essay by briefly addressing the dominance of China in contemporary times, and warning against the use of stereotyping to alleviate cultural anxiety. [350 words]