Transcending Limitations

Film Studies 289: New Themes in Conflict.
Richard Illarde and staff.
Full Course. M/W/F 10AM.

The study of film — the only completely original art form of the 20th century — has for too long been governed by dated or archaic terminology, blinkered pedagogy, and hand-me-down methodologies borrowed from other liberal arts curricula. At first assembling, as a patchwork suit, a discourse cribbed from the classical literary themes (Man vs. Nature, Man vs. Man), it is only recently that film studies have opened up to address more contemporary themes such as racism, sexual identity and class struggle.

But is this enough? Film has its own rhythm, its own language, its own terminology and terrain. Dr. Illarde’s course is intended to give it its own thematographic agenda, as well. It is appalling that this vital and dynamic modern artform has in the past been handled so haphazardly by the universities. He has devised a varied and highly challenging system of study for education in the medium of contemporary film. He is confident that the acheivement-oriented student will respond well to the competitive character of the course.

SECTION ONE: “Identity in Crisis”. In the first and most basic section of the program, the course focuses on one of the preeminent themes of contemporary film: the diffusion and confusion of identity in post-modern culture. Aspects covered in this section include gender confusion (boy poses as girl to get close to babe; girl poses as boy to play sports; and a special blue paper on religious and gender roles, working from Dr. Illarde’s seminal The Yentl Paradigm), racial disporia (white guys who act black; black guys who act white; and Asian guys who act black or white), and the controversial “cool-acting old people” subgenre. Special focus is paid to the body-switching genre of the late 1980s and early 1990s. (Note: students of television studies are directed to Dr. Francesca Coco’s “Three’s Company and Modern Memory” course, Cultural Studies 301.)

SECTION TWO: “Property and Propriety”. The second section examines how the language of film embodies our culture’s attitudes towards private property and social norms. This section takes up the body of the course, as it is only natural that the fluid and dynamic medium of film is especially well-suited to address our ever-changing mores and manners. The main themes addressed here will be America and the automobile (driving them really fast; tricking them out with awesome gadgets; blowing them up), public space vs. private space (hanging out at; full frontal nudity in; blowing them up), and the crossing of moral lines, with a particular emphasis on the “Rebellious Outsider Seeking Acceptance Defies Honor Code of Entrenched Organization” genre. For returning students, please note that your required viewing has changed for the “ragtag band of misfits save the world by detonating a large object” paper.

SECTION THREE: “Social Ties in a Fragmented World”. The final section of this iconoclastic, groundbreaking class concentrates on the establishment of friendships, affinity groups and kinship ties in a society alternately reduced by multiculturalism and homogenized by monoculture. These seemingly contradictory trends are reconciled by two disparate but ultimately unified objectives: the “Uniting Outsider” theme, where a trickster figure from beyond the experience of his peers at first divides and outrages, then later unites and overjoys, a community, usually through the medium of dance, sports, pop music, or homosexuality; and the “Dramaturgicical Dyad” theme, where two individuals — pitted against societal strictures in their own way, but from tendentially opposing backgrounds (cop/criminal, child/adult, nun/hooker, black person/normal person, attractive person/smart person, etc.) somehow unite to oppose a common threat. For the latter theme we will focus narrowly on the bodies of work of Tom Hanks and the Farrelly Brothers.

Note to incoming students: Despite a misprint in the 2013 Spring Schedule, this course is Dr. Illarde’s only offering this semester. However, in Fall of 2013, he will once again be offering “Speak, Poseidon: The Immersion of Authority Figures in Bodies of Water” (Film Studies 351).


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