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The first half of Jacobson & González’s book focuses on the contexts from which The Manchurian Candidate emerged. How do these contexts alter your understanding of the film? Are there additional contexts that seem missing in their analysis? And given the various approaches to popular culture we’ve studied, what theoretical models or ideas do you think are underlying their contextual analysis?

2 Responses to “Discussion questions for 4/28”

  1. Melissa Marshall says:

    I found the reading for today incredibly engaging, if only from a historical standpoint. Even though “The Manchurian Candidate” can certainly stand on its own as an aesthetic text, an understanding of “The Cold War” politics as outlined by Jacobson & Gonzalez adds a whole new layer to viewing the film—especially in appreciating the tension of the period so artfully outlined in the film as well as the book (consumerism verse spirituality, and most poignantly, the threat of sexuality). Despite its obvious ties to the “Cold War” I was surprised at how well the film translate to a contemporary audience. Perhaps the theme of a superstructure power verse individual will is timeless, but it seems particularly potent in today’s political climate (as was the case when the film was re-released during Reagan’s era).

    In terms of underlying theoretical models, I most certainly saw Marxism at work in the second chapter’s dissection of the materialism of a Post-War america and the regulation of private domestic values by a superstructure (in this case the American Government). A feminist approach was also hinted at in the treatment of Angela Lansbury’s character as well as a psychoanalytic method in the overtures of incest and the focus on the interior mind and subconscious.


  2. Lilian Hughes says:

    I waited until after the screening to read the first half of Jacobson’s and González’s book so that the book would have a chance to ‘alter’ my reading of the film, unfortunately (‘unfortunate’ in this circumstance anyway) I actually have a pretty good background knowledge of Sinatra, Cold War politics, 1950’s consumerism, the Black list, “The Crucible”, “Invasion of the Body Snatchers”, McCarthy, and all the “Are you now, or have you ever been…?” business. I loved the Heinz ’57’ joke. I actually can’t believe I’ve never seen this film before!

    So, I’m not sure how the book ‘altered’ my reading of the film, though this is not to say that the reading didn’t further my understanding of the film, it definitely did! I found the discussion of the other five films particularly interesting. The book gives an excellent account of the social historical context in which the film was made, but also gives an excellent account of the institution (Hollywood) of which the film is a product. I think this is a great way of analyzing culture; looking at society as macro in determining a cultural product and then looking at the process of production as micro in determining it. The book’s focus on the film in its context certainly leans towards a post-structuralist analysis, in that the film meant what it meant in 1962 because it is shaped by 1950s society. I think were the analysis could have perhaps gone further is by studying 1962 society in more depth, and exploring the cultural differences between when the film is set and when the film was made, kind of “American Graffiti” style… I also feel audience analysis could have proved useful, and not impossible, though the book claims to be an account of Jacobson’s and González’s interpretation of the film, and audience analysis is not necessary for that.

    It’s hard to critic the book fully, having not read it completely, but I hope the book addresses the changes, or the lack of changes, in the decoding of the film between 1962 and now. It would be interesting to compare “The Manchurian Candidate” to more contemporary texts on the same period. For example, “Good Night and Good Luck” in relation to McCarthy, “Indiana Jones and the Kingdom of the Crystal Skull” in relation to cold war politics, and “The Man Who Wasn’t There” in relation to 1950’s consumerism and parody, that’s just a few, I’m sure there’s more. The book seems so focused on context, which is important, but what happens when the film is watched outside of this context? (but I guess that’s what we’ll talk about in class…?)


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