A common theme already seems to be emerging in our readings (and I suppose this theme is one of the foundations of our class), and Kathryn Fuller sums it up perfectly near the end of her “Boundaries of Participation” article: “We may have come full circle.” We saw this concept appear in the essays from Gunning, and discussed it in class, with regards to the idea of “exhibitionism” or “shock and awe” returning in recent years to a cinema that had long been dominated by narrative. At the time that Fuller wrote this article, she saw a similar phenomenon occurring in the realm of our interaction with and participation in moviegoing at the theater.
But while both Gunning and Fuller initially point out that we may be “coming full circle” in certain aspects of our relationship with movies, what they really get around to saying is that those aspects which were suppressed as cinema swung towards narrative never really went away; they simply weren’t as prominent before. It’s a well known critical tendency to exaggerate the scope of certain changes in any given field and proclaim this or that definitively “dead”. And Fuller points out that many theorists posited that the days raucous and participatory movie audience ended completely as narrative took over and cinema was professionalized, the theaters darkened and the crowds “tamed”. But while cinema’s participatory culture was never as strong as in the early days of live sound in the theater and open invitations to send scripts to studios, nor did it completely die away. And according to her, that participatory culture is once again on the rise. I’m inclined to agree.