Academic journal article Journal of Film and Video

Tiny Life: Technology and Masculinity in the Films of David Fincher

Academic journal article Journal of Film and Video

Tiny Life: Technology and Masculinity in the Films of David Fincher

Article excerpt

I don't know how much movies should entertain. To me, I am always interested in movies that scar.

-David Fincher (Salisbury 83)

in the preceding quote david fincher suggests that the best films penetrate and sometimes arrest our senses to the degree that they leave a mark on our psyche that persists long after the film has ended. As we know, films themselves can also be scarred. Whether the scars are made deliberately or through the wear and tear caused by transport, repeated viewing, or faulty machinery, a film print sustains marks that suggest the extent of the geography it has traversed. In both of these cases, we (and Fincher) assume that the scar is evidence of the pricking of a fixed entity-whether human or filmic. But how do we come to understand this process differently when the very nature of knowing and feeling bodies is changing? With the turn from analog to digital film, and as our own bodies are becoming increasingly intertwined with technology, we must ask now more than ever, how do we "feel" and "know" when scars have been inflicted?

Fincher's comments are resonant when we think about how changing conceptions of embodiment-particularly those that accompany rapid technological change-often coexist with a longing for the security of known tactile surfaces that can be marked and for bodies that can feel and register those marks. Indeed, a certain anxiety arises when the forward momentum of innovation is mixed with nostalgia for the certainty of the past. This complex dynamic is central to conversations about the digital era and the degree to which its innovations are intertwined with bodies: the bodies that labor to create this technology, those bodies being replaced by this technology, and the new (non)body of the technology that is being invented.

These concerns about the links between technology and embodiment, specifically male embodiment, figure prominently in Fincher's oeuvre. His preference for shooting on digital film and inserting CGI techniques into dramatic live-action narratives is not simply part of his aesthetic signature but is inextricably intertwined with his films' contemplation of the connections between corporeality and identity, feeling and knowing, texture and surface-connections that come to a head in and through his male characters' journeys of self-discovery. The following analysis will map out how these intersecting issues flow in and out of Fincher's work by tracing how his diegetic and extradiegetic preoccupation with corporeal and digital materiality corresponds with many of the most compelling ontological questions discussed in new media scholarship over the last fifteen years and with the politics surrounding the changing landscape of gender identity that has accompanied these technological transformations. Although these concerns are present to varying degrees in all of Fincher's films, they are most pronounced in Fight Club (1999), Zodiac (2007), and The Social Network (2011)- culminating, I will argue, in the latter.

Zodiac was the first film ever to be shot directly to a hard drive and uses CGI to explore the ultimately futile investigative efforts of its male protagonists, serving as a cogent exemplification of many of the aesthetic and thematic tropes on which The Social Network would later expand. Fight Club-the director's best-known and most culturally influential film, made eight years prior to Zodiac and eleven years prior to The Social Network-points to how the increasingly consumerist, technology-driven world of the late 1990s chipped away at a sense of "authentic" embodiment (both in and of the film), yet the distinction between the corporeal and virtual, the real and imitation, remained discernable. The Social Network complicates these distinctions. Indeed, as I will discuss in the last part of the analysis, it is the most exemplary of this subgroup of Fincher's films because its story and its own status as a film raise crucial questions about the virility and visibility of the literal and figurative male body. …

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