Academic journal article Journal of Film and Video

Global Subjects in Motion: Strategies for Representing Globalization in Film

Academic journal article Journal of Film and Video

Global Subjects in Motion: Strategies for Representing Globalization in Film

Article excerpt

Introduction: Film and Globalization

HOW FILMS ENGAGE GLOBALIZATION IS A question that must be approached on multiple levels. Addressing cinematography and modes of storytelling, we ask how the signs of globalization figure within film texts and what formal strategies films may deploy to represent globalizing forces. Comparing certain international cinematic representations of globalization, we discuss the ways in which film can be a vehicle for critiquing and resisting the master narrative that has controlled discussions of the economic and cultural changes that define globalization. We then locate films that present counter-narratives inside the global media environment to see how they position themselves both alongside other films and within a more general discussion of these shifts and disruptions.

The master narrative of globalization combines political, economic, and cultural terms to project a singular linear progression toward Industrialization and capitalism, modernity and urbanization, and secular democracy and a high-tech enhanced middle-class lifestyle. In this narrative, the local is given a name, contrasted with the global, and positioned as inferior (Hall 32-35, Routledge 310-15). Recently, however, this construct has been appropriated and inverted by those who would resist globalization. Local space has been granted new status as the site of their resistance (Escobar 217, Hall 35).

There is also a strong element of occlusion that permeates this narrative of globalization, in the projection of these trajectories as natural and universal, when the reality of globalization implies force and domination, rather than easy and natural evolution (Routledge 311-12). The concepts themselves are in fact formulated and reproduced with great effort by those whose interests they serve.

The master narrative of economic globalization as a linear trajectory toward prosperity through the development of free markets and democracy, is disseminated both through international financial institutions (IFIs) that have forced this system on nations across the world and through cultural institutions such as Hollywood film. Two main elements of the cinematic dissemination of this narrative concern us in this article. First, Hollywood films of the 1990s and early 2000s have projected a certain type of hero onto a global stage, a hero who traverses the globe without obstruction and without any impact on his sense of self or subjectivity. In this construction, the American or perhaps British protagonist experiences a global landscape as his domain, and although he mayfind himself at certain moments in an unknown local space, he maintains mastery over that space through uncanny knowledge of all languages, like James Bond, or through sheer will, often aided by superior firepower, like Jason Bourne and the fellows of Oceans 12 (2004). The complex histories of local spaces or global forces remain a backdrop to this assertion of unidimensional subjectivity (Halle 27), even in such historical films as Gladiator (2000) ox Alexander (2004).

Second, through heroic stories of movement through globalized landscapes, Hollywood film projects a consumerism that is linked to notions of freedom, democracy, and global community. Films of the James Bond and Oceans series present global landscapes of unobstructed movement linked to luxury and high technology that aim to create new consumerist desires among audiences. In the process, these and other blockbuster films, such as the Shrek series, construct global audiences as "communities" of consumers who are able to "participate" in a film by purchasing the many products placed throughout or by playing the computer games and visiting the Web sites developed as part of the "multimarket commercial intertext" of a given film (Semati, Mehdi, and Sotirin 13). Meshed with the dissemination of new products throughout the world and commercials targeting particular demographics, this system associates heroism and tolerance with democracy and consumption as rising middle classes are offered new consumption choices (Miller et al. …

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