Dolce & Gabbana Ad.

Marxist Analysis of Dolce & Gabbana Advertisement 

Dolce & Gabbana can easily be identified as a billion dollar company due to their successful marketing. Known to be “…the most powerful and influential designers of our time.” (Bio 2005) this pair of Milan based designers are world renown.  Through fashion shows, perfumes, jewelry, accessories, and clothes Dolce & Gabbana rule the fashion industry. Though despite their existing fame, like many brands a key technique that has been used continually to market their product is advertising. Through advertising they continue to widen their audience, further developing their success. However, the ads are quite puzzling because they seem to sell ideologies and people rather than products. Oftentimes the only things on the ad are the very attractive men with a minimal number of women, all alongside a Dolce & Gabbana label. Rather than an association being made between the clothes and jewelry of the brand, people know the label as a result of the relationship they make between the sexually appealing models and the label. Thus, consumers are drawn to the sexuality and appearance of the people in the ad rather than the products the company is selling. In the ad a strong sense of hegemony is presented with respect to gender biases, and the reinforcement of certain socioeconomic factors and various norms and values popularly followed in society.

Through a Marxist perspective hegemony is defined as having a dominant group’s ideology over other groups, where these dominant groups are empowered (Sellnow 72).  Through the manner in which Dolce & Gabbana advertise their company, hegemony is evident in many aspects. For instance, as a result of hegemony and the popular ideology of men being more dominant than women, gender biases arise. This ad is targeted equally to men as to women, but reflects two different messages.  Men would be drawn to the idea of having an attractive physical appearance that would interest the female population. This is supported by the attractive, well bodied, greasy looking male models standing around the woman lying down. Here the belief arises that through physical attractiveness women would be drawn to them and their dominating masculine character. Whereas although women are also drawn to the aspect of physical attractiveness, the idea of being desired by men is also evident. They are drawn towards the idea that Dolce & Gabbana would give you the sexual appeal that every women desires. This is reinforced with the male model standing over the female, looking at her with that sense of desire, while the other models also look at her with interest. The ad reinforces the idea of inequality between men and women due to the differentiation between them in this ad. Furthermore, due to the lack of clothing worn, consumers are left to wonder what the company is actually selling. The only clear understanding that can be attained from the ad is the definition of what a man and woman are supposed to be.

Generally, socioeconomic factors help to define the social status of individuals in a society.  These social statuses then go on to distinguish the various classes in society and indicate the various ‘power levels’. Therefore, hegemony is once again evident, this time with respect to social classes. Despite the unclear distinction of whom this ad is directed towards, it is implied through the presentation of the ad. Most Dolce and Gabbana advertisements are found in fashion focused magazines such as GQ, Elle, and Vogue. Oftentimes these are the most expensive magazines being sold and are bought by certain kinds of people. That is to say, that these are not the normal magazines that an average individual purchases for leisure, such as PEOPLE, US and Cosmopolitan.  Such magazines advertise ‘high-class brands’ that would not be found in your average magazine. Moreover, they are usually directed towards a higher class of people, such as the ‘fashion fanatics’ – the ones who know everything there is to know about the fashion industry, the ‘business men’ (GQ) – the men who would like to carry themselves as classy as they can, and the others who are only satisfied by wearing topnotch brands. Therefore, the ads are usually directed towards upper class individuals, and as a result differentiate between the different classes in society. Furthermore, this differentiation emphasizes the ideology that the wealthy, those who can afford these high-end brands, are more empowered than the average individuals in society. Although this is not explicitly stated in the ad, the distribution of the ad alongside its intended audience, clearly identify that  not everyone is suggested into buying such products.

The term economic metaphor is popularly used by Marxist theorists to explain how almost anything is representative of the norms, values, and practices evident in society (Sellnow 73). From the presentation of the Dolce & Gabbana ad one can determine a clear definition of men and women. From the ad one understands a preferred meaning as the differentiation between men and women.  Men are shown to be dominant and thus, very masculine individuals; while women are illustrated as objects of sexual desire. The ‘ideal images’ of men and women are portrayed by the models in this ad as they are beautiful, youthful, and extremely, physically attractive. Similarly, this is a fairly popular ideology in society as to what women and men should look like. The ad reinforces norms in society with respect to the differences existent between men and women and therefore, illustrates the lack of equality between these genders. Through the Marxist perspective it can be determined that because of this sense of inequality, the hegemony of men being more empowered than women is clearly illustrated. However, from simply looking at the ad one may not realize that. The only way one can truly understand this ideology being expressed is through questioning the behavior of the men compared to the woman that could be understood in the ad.

Essentially, Dolce & Gabbana is a very successful international brand. Their success lies in their products, but also within their marketing strategies. Through acknowledging popular societal norms and values they are able to identify successful targets to market their products to. Through looking at Marxist materialism and economic metaphors, it can clearly be identified that Dolce & Gabbana target the unrealistic and biased ideologies that members of society have. Dolce & Gabbana is the best known brand within the fashion industry, however, they approach their consumers the same way all other brands do, by understanding the desires of consumers and then further reinforcing these unrealistic ideologies. Moreover, they increase their success by reinforcing unrealistic norms and values within society, such as the existence of empowerment. Dolce & Gabbana do not represent good values and morals, but they know how to manipulate and work in favor of society.

MLA Citation:

Bio. Dolce and Gabbana Biography.  2005. 30 January 2012 <http://www.thebiographychannel.co.uk/biographies/dolce-gabbana.html&gt;

Sellnow, D. Deanna. The Rhetorical Power of Popular Culture. California: SAGE Publications INC., 2010.

Old Spice Scent Commercials

The Old Spice commercials are primarily composed of an African American male, who is highly toned clothed only below the waist, with a white towel. Through his various commercials he attempts to convey how “your man” could smell like him through the use of Old Spice body wash. The setting is initially starts in a rather dreary shower plastered with a rather dreary and unentertaining colour scheme. The colour scheme and the dreary backdrop change and progress in order to show a more visually pleasing background, with excessively greater items erupting from the actors hands. These items usually take the form of objects that would be desirable to a female, increasing in extremity and value as the commercial progresses. The target audience of this commercial at first appears to be the female audience as most spoken lines as well as visual references are directed to a female viewer. However, upon closer inspection, this commercial is most definitely directed at a male, and is attempting to convince them that using this body wash will result in attracting various females to them.

Through this commercial, there is one visual ideology that is portrayed, which is that an able-bodied, toned, athletic, and fit male, will have a greater chance at interactions with the opposite sex, than one who is the opposite of these ideals. Furthermore and more specifically, the commercial portrays the ideology that with the use of the scented body wash, one will be able to “pick up” girls at a superior rate when compared to one that doesn’t use this body wash. The commercial attempts to convey that using this body wash will make you like the character displayed, it will make you toned, fit, and athletic, and make you irresistible to women.

A smaller but still important portion of portrayed ideology is that wealthy people are more empowered than poorer people with females. This is shown not in obvious terms, but through the spontaneous appearance of various precious items in the hands of the model. It attempts to convey that through the use of the body wash, you will gain the various perceived advantages of being materialistically sound, while using only this body wash. Although not a direct comparison of wealth to comparative advantage, the implications are clearly seen when one reads into the usually stupidly high amounts of either precious metals, or jewels dripping from the actor’s hand. Furthermore although subtle, the change in setting from a dreary shower to a tropical or other overly overt setting again displays the consumerist and materialistic guidance of society. It shows that using this body wash, will grant you the ability to embark on tropical vacations and satisfy all your travelling wants.

The commercial implies that through the use of the body wash, you will become a better, more desirable man; in fact you will fit into society’s perceived definition of perfection. The commercial implies that through using this body wash, you will be the perfect man. Although seemingly harmless this show perpetuates an unrealistic body model for various males and may lead to eating disorders in an attempt to gain that “ideal body style.” Furthermore it encourages reckless and unjustified spending in order to become similar to the model in the ad. It can lead to

Both of the ideologies and the commercial itself are metaphors for materialism and economics. As was defined within Sellnow, economic metaphors are anything that signifies something about the culture’s ideas, norms, values, practices, and so forth. The whole commercial displays our cultures emphasis on materialistic goods and practices. The use of the toned male attempts to convey the ideal body image of a man, and how all should strive to be similarly fit and unafraid to display themselves. The use of gifts, excessive gifts to satisfy the desires of a woman, puts emphasis on society’s desire for materialistic goods to be a substitute for emotions. It tries to convey the thought that happiness can be bought using various gifts, an ideal created and maintained by the consumerist driven society. This commercial is a negative addition to society as it promises unrealistic results for using a body wash, and when these promised results are not delivered upon may lead to health issues and monetary issues in an attempt to emulate the commercial.

Bowling for Columbine

“You better run, better run, faster than my bullet” – Pumped up Kicks 

Bowling for Columbine is a 2002 documentary film written and produced my Michael Moore that investigates possible reasons as to why gun violence continues to perpetuate in American society, and Moore accomplishes this by concentrating on the Columbine High School Massacre that occured in Littleton, Colorado. The film’s overall focus is to bring perspective into events that ultimately led to the murder of 12 students and 1 teacher on April 20th, 1999; a crime committed by two seemingly harmless teenage male students that attended the school. The documentary starts with Moore proceeding into the North Country Bank in Michigan to create an account, after seeing an ad in the newspaper that promoted a free gun for every bank account that you open. As marvellous as it sounds for seasoned hunters in Michigan State, Moore questions the obvious,

Don’t you think it’s a little dangerous handing out guns in the bank?

The film then begins to further explore the contextualization of guns in American society, which may or may not have been the reasons that influenced the killings of Columbine to occur in the first place. The following dramatic analysis of this piece will uncover the justifications for rule-breaking behaviours observed in the Columbine Massacre, examined in the light of the five elements of pentad, the motives for the act committed, and potential implications that can be brought forth.

To begin, the film can be examined using dramatic analysis by first exploring the five elements of pentad: act, agent, agency, scene and purpose. The key agents or the main characters that participated in the act of murder in the Columbine Massacre were identified to be two 18 year old boys, Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold. As testified by classmates, Eric and Dylan mainly kept to themselves and didn’t mingle well with the other students. However according to teachers, they still remained as good students and used to involve themselves with various activities in school. The agencies used for committing the murder were shot-guns and rifles that were purchased by older friends of the boys (because they were not of legal age to purchase guns yet). Pipe and propane bombs were also constructed by Eric and were intended to initially prompt the opening scene of the massacre by detonating in the cafeteria. When that plan backfired, Eric and Dylan commenced to shooting as many students as they could. Inevitably, the scene of the shootings took place in just under an hour starting from around 11:15 AM in the Columbine High cafeteria and library, where majority of the bystanders were shot to death simply because they needed to die, according to entries written in Eric’s journals as docummented Columbine. Despite all the evidence uncovered about the planning stages of the massacre (from Eric’s journals to home-made videos of the boys practicing with their guns), no one in Littleton could figure out why the boys at Columbine resorted to gun violence as a solution to their problems in the first place. Moore looks for a variety of symbols in the average neighbourhood that exemplify, in some way, the creation and use of ammunition as an accepted norm in the American society. For example, Lockheed Martin Corp, one of the world’s largest weapon makers, had over 2,000 employees in the small town of Littleton. Moore argues in the film that it is not possible for a child to not be influenced and immunized by the fact that weapons of destruction are being made in his own hometown, so ‘it must be okay’ for people to use them for whatever purpose. But in reality, who is to blame for Eric and Dylan to resort to gun-violence? Is it gun-violence exemplified in various entertainment mediums that promote and glamorize its use? Or is it because guns are so accessible in America, where rifles can be obtained from banks like the North County Bank and bullets can be purchased in bulk from K-mart? The purpose of the act can only be inferred, but not be considered fact because there is no concrete evidence to prove it. For example, it is known that Eric and Dylan enjoyed to play shooter games like Doom, but we cannot directly blame the games for why they chose to revert to gun-violence in the end (although it is certainly plausible). Therefore, the film can be analyzed from a dramatic perspective using the elements of the pentad to support and justify the causes of rule-breaking behaviour.

Second, the film can be examined using dramatic analysis by uncovering the motives for the act committed. As seen on Columbine, Eric had written in various articles of his journal that he was fed up with the bullies in his school who picked on him, and that they all need to be terminated under his hands. He called this process “Natural Selection” and that only selected people would survive.  It was testified by one of the survivors of the massacre who was in the library during Eric and Dylan’s entry, that both boys cynically ridiculed, verbally harassed and racially discriminated the students that eventually became victims of their killing spree. From the evidence gathered, it can be suggested that a strong motive for the killings was revenge: revenge for being bullied and isolated because they did not fit in with societal norms. The lingering hate within Eric and Dylan for those who didn’t accept them gave them an avenue to use transcendence as a motive to kill. Therefore, the film can be analyzed from a dramatic perspective by examining the motives for the act committed.

Third, the film can be examined using dramatic analysis from the potential implications that can be brought forth from the text. In Bowling for Columbine, Moore interviews people who own guns and why they choose to have one, loaded up in their house in the first place even though there is no intention to use it except for protection purposes. The argument made with Moore is that America has always been “a country of violence”, perhaps more than other countries around the world. The culture of fear is perpetually created by the American media, and the politicians just instigate the fear even further. The students of Columbine who were killed as a result of gun-violence were not only the victims of Eric and Dylan, but also the victims of American laws that fail to properly protect its own citizens. Therefore, the film can be analyzed from a dramatic perspective from the potential implications in the text examined.

In conclusion, Bowling for Columbine sends a powerful and meaningful message that tackles the growing issue of gun-violence predominant in the American society. Ironically, it is considered rule-breaking behaviour to commit an act of murder in America, but you are permitted by law to carry a gun as long as you are of legal age. As long as such laws continue to govern the society as a whole with a culture of fear embedded into the minds of Americans, how can we take proper measures to prevent a massacre like this from reoccurring?

end

Sources:
Moore, Michael, narr. Bowling for Columbine. 2002. DVD.
“Columbine.”  Narr. Tom Kane. The Final Report. National Geographic. 3 April. 2007. Television.

Jeff Winger: Likable Lawyer

In the very first episode of NBC’s sitcom Community, we are introduced to cheating, lying, manipulative jerk named Jeff Winger. Jeff has ended up at Greendale Community College because he made a fake degree to become a lawyer, and after several years on the job, it was discovered. However, being brought down from his position as an awesome lawyer to that of a lowly college student (as he sees it) does not have the expected effect of adjusting Jeff’s moral compass. He spends the first portion of the episode trying to manipulate a professor (Duncan) into giving him the test answers for all his classes, and lying to a woman in his Spanish class (Britta) so she will go out with him.

After claiming he is a certified Spanish tutor, Jeff invites Britta to the Spanish study group he is leading in the library. Of course the group doesn’t actually exist, so when he walks in and only Britta is there, he claims the other people simply didn’t show up. Britta is prepared for this and has invited a student in their class named Abed to join the group. Jeff gets a little frustrated, but when he leaves to have a conversation with Duncan, he returns to a full room of people all waiting to hear from this “certified Spanish tutor”. Very annoyed, Jeff uses his manipulative techniques to get everyone really mad at each other and then leaves one more time to get the answers from Duncan in his car.

It all makes for excellent drama, and the audience spends the majority of the episode hating Jeff because of his smug arrogance and his apparent ability to lie to get whatever he wants. But the liar is told a lie, and the manipulator manipulated. Britta tells Jeff she’ll go out with him if he makes everyone in the study room calm down. He succeeds, but then Britta says she was lying, and she just wants study so she can pass the test. Jaded, Jeff tells everyone he does not even need to study because he has all the answers anyway. He leaves in a huff and opens the envelope Duncan gave him to find that all the pages are blank.

Through mortification, the study group (and the audience) is willing to give Jeff another chance. He tried to cheat and lie, but none of his plans worked out, and he decided to come clean, not only confessing that he was wrong to cheat, but also that he has never really learned to work in his life.

Applying the pentad in the theory of dramatistic analysis to the pilot episode of Community shows how the creators of the show bring an atypical lawyer character who thinks he is all that down to a guy who cannot win at his own game. What the audience witnesses throughout the episode is Jeff (the agent) rushing around Greendale campus applying his charm and manipulation to other characters so he can get what he wants. The acts of the episode are two main ones. Firstly, he reasons with Professor Duncan to give him the test answers for all his courses first semester. As a lawyer, Jeff got Duncan out of a tough DUI lawsuit so Jeff makes Duncan feel like he owes Jeff. When Duncan says that it would be wrong to cheat, Jeff uses logical arguments (agency) first pointing out that it doesn’t really matter because Greendale is a joke anyway and second, Duncan should hardly claim to be moral since he was caught drinking and driving and got out of punishment, which is hardly fair. Defeated, the professor says he will look into it and Jeff goes to lunch, bringing the audience to the second act of rule-breaking behaviour. In the cafeteria, he sees Britta studying Spanish and invites her to his study group at the end of the day. Although making up a study group to meet a girl is hardly commendable, society would likely not consider it rule-breaking because of the “higher calling” of a guy just wanting to get to know a girl. As the story continues however, Jeff keeps trying to get out of actually studying by telling lies to Britta. When an actual study group forms in his absence, he tells Britta he won’t study with them because they are “untutorable”, and then he uses further manipulation to bring the group to chaos. He pits the group against one another by innocently addressing the things the group finds uncomfortable about each other. Duncan interrupts by calling Jeff to come out to the parking lot to give him the envelope of test answers, and when Jeff returns he sees with satisfaction that the group is still arguing. Britta confronts Jeff outside the room, putting the audience’s thoughts into the incredulous words, “This is a game to you? You put human beings into a state of emotional shambles for a shot at getting in my pants?” Then Britta tells him that she go will go out with him if he fixes the mess he made. So with an inspirational—although somewhat vague—speech, Jeff takes a turn at complimenting each person in the room individually and bringing the situation to order. Britta tells him she was lying and that she just needs to learn Spanish and does not want to go out with him; she beats him at his own game. The viewer now has a clear picture of Jeff (agent) who is unlikeable because he cheats, lies, and manipulates (acts) using his “lawyer manipulation skills” (agency) in order to get what he wants, a date and test answers (purpose), but it all works against him when both Duncan and Britta lie back to him leading to the motive: “You reap what you sow” or “Cheaters never prosper”.

In the final scene (see below), when a member of the study group, Pierce, attempts to compliment Jeff by telling him that Jeff reminds him of himself when he was younger, Winger gets a kind of wake-up call. Jeff does not want to be like Pierce when he is sixty years old as an arrogant, ignorant old man, and perhaps the road he is taking now is not the best one. Sitting outside at the front entrance to a campus building, the rest of the study group comes out and Jeff tells them how everything went wrong and how he does not really know how to be hardworking because he has always learned to manipulate. Feeling kind of sorry for Jeff and kind of sorry for themselves, they decide to put aside their differences and go back inside to study together for the test. Jeff originally cheated and lied, but because he was lied to and manipulated to in return, he is redeemed through mortification. He apologizes. It is interesting to note that the best way to bring Jeff to that point was not through his defeat, but by a look into what he might be down the road were he to make the same choices (Pierce’s compliment).

The actual message received by viewers get is that people can change and the first step is forgiveness. No matter how relative your truth is—something Jeff states he firmly accepts—honesty, not manipulation, is what builds relationships between people and gives meaning to life. Community does an excellent job of dealing with Jeff’s unethical behaviour by punishing him and showing him that he can’t really get whatever he wants by cheating. In the end it brings a good message that lying does not really get you what you want, but asking for help can get you what you need.

Within the context of the whole show, this episode contributes a lot to themes. With the character of Jeff Winger, although he is likeable, he also continues to show an arrogant, controlling, but ever charismatic personality and it is frightening how he is able to lead the group dictatorially. Sometimes manipulation does give him what he wants. But there is also the theme that forgiveness brings people together. In this first episode, since everyone tells Jeff they forgive him for what he did and they are willing to move forward this very diverse group of people become bonded into a tight group, like a family, watching each other’s backs despite their differences and challenges.

The Twisted Dramatic Perspective of Homer and Marge Simpson

The cultural artifact that has been chosen is an episode from the television show: The Simpsons. The episode aired in the evening on the Fox Network in 1997. At the time, this show was competing with other hit series such as The X-files and King of the Hill.  The main premise behind this episode is that Marge is trying to best some of her ex-club members by investing in a pretzel franchise after being kicked out of the group . The main act that will be analyzed is when Homer contacts the local mafia for help after Marge’s business ends up failing. The content will be examined through the Pentad. The five aspects of the Pentad that are used in examining texts from a dramatic perspective are act, agents, agency, scene, and purpose.  The act is using criminal organizations to intimidate and ruin other food franchises. The agents are Homer Simpson and the mafia. The elements of agency are intimidation, violence and attempted murder. The scenes are the rival organizations that are in the same market as Marge. The purpose is to make Marge’s business successful by getting rid of the competition. By applying the dramatic perspective through the Pentad, this episode presents different qualities of what the writers of the series believe exist in married couples. This aspect can be shown by examining the motivation for Homer’s act as transcendence, the use of victimage to absolve Homer’s guilt that came from his behavior and the lack of mortification for Homer’s act.

Marge and Homer Simpson

Homer’s motive can be seen as an example of transcendence which is the show’s way of making a humorous situation out the underlying message that this episode is trying to give. Homer is a character in the show that will always try to support his family but usually does it in ways that break society’s rules for living due to his ignorance and below average intelligence. After Marge fails in selling pretzels, she accepts defeat. Furthermore, she advises her kids to have low expectations in life. After this scene, Homer declares that Marge needs help. He meets with the mafia and this is what he has to say:

You’re my last hope, I never reached out to you before but my wife is in your hour of need. Your help can make all the difference in the world.

It is clear that Homer was acting on the intent of making his wife feel better and thus, was following a higher calling. This act illustrates the bond that Marge and Homer have as a married couple. This brings the idea that married couples always help each other in hard times. Similar references are made later on in the episode.

This is a pretzel town pretty boy. The mob at work.

The use of victimage in this episode also amplifies the idea of how married couples should act with one another. Near the end, Marge confronts Homer about his actions and starts blaming him for hiring the mafia. Homer replies with this:

I saw you poor your heart and soul into this and getting nowhere … So I did what I could, I did what any loving husband would do. I reached out to some violent mobsters.

Marge then realizes that he was only trying to shield her from failure and forgives him. These type of resolutions are common since in the show, Marge is aware of how Homer acts and understands that these types of actions are common due to his intelligence. Homer  can now be seen as a comic-fool which is common in The Simpsons. This type of labeling results in an  example of how a married couple support one another through actions they might not agree upon. This is another example of what the writers’ perceive as a trait that exist in successful couples.

With the absence of mortification, it helps in depicting Homer and Marge as a strong couple. In the last scene, a rival food franchise hires the Japanese Mafia. The Japanese Mafia show up at the Simpsons’ household. As a result, a conflict occurs between the Japanese Mafia and the people that Homer hired. While the fight continues in the background, Homer starts blaming himself for failing every time he tried to help Marge. Marge interrupts him and replies:

I don’t hate you for failing, I love you for trying.

Marge not allowing Homer to punish himself by putting himself down is the last portrayal of the support they give each other. This implies that couples will always try to make each other feel better. Once again, the writers ‘ opinion on marriage is reinforced.

Just a mob war.

In conclusion, each analytical assessment gives an example of a different characteristic that the television show believes exist in married couples. Using Homer’s motive as transcendence implies that a one should support their spouse in any way they can. The use of victimage implies that you should be thankful for the support a loved one gives even though if it results in actions you might not agree with. The lack of mortification implies that couples should always try to cheer each other up. The different messages that are implied through each assessment gives an overall example of what elements exist in strong married couple according to the writers. The episode is an example of the different audiences that this show reaches. Being aired in the evening on the Fox Network implies that the show is being watched by all different ages. The animation and jokes offer entertainment for kids while the underlying messages and morals appeal to the adults that watch this show. The show is able to compete with other series that might only appeal to a certain type of viewer. The amount of levels that this episode reaches is an indication of how complex the show is and why the show is still going strong today.

Double Indemnity: The crime seen through the dramatist perspective

The trailer for Double Indemnity:

 

The opening shot is dark city streets illuminated only by the grey lighting of streetlamps, aligned row by row. A car races through an intersection, a stop light, hastily making its way to an office building. In contrast the man walks slowly to the elevator, and then to his office, appearing to have wounded his arm but is covered by his trench coat. He sits down, removing his coat to reveal a bullet wound to his left arm. He lights a cigarette, and pulls up a Dictaphone, with sweat gleaming off his cheeks and forehead. He speaks into the device as if it’s a church confessional and reveals his identity to be “Walter Neff, insurance salesman, 35 years old, unmarried, and no visible scars”. What follows is a series of flashbacks while he narrates his confessional. This is the initial sequence of scenes to the film Double Indemnity (1944). The confessional begins with Walter Neff visiting Mr. Dietrichson’s home to renew an automobile insurance policy. Instead Walter comes across Phyllis Dietrichson and the two begin a flirtatious relationship that soon escalates to planning the murder of her husband to gain the rewards of a life insurance policy. With the murder being accidental, the double indemnity clause of the policy would pay the widow double the normal amount (hence the name). However, the operation goes awry when the claims adjustor, Barton Keyes, becomes suspicious of the accident and starts to unravel the mystery surrounding the death of Mr. Dietrichson.

The story, seen through a dramatist perspective, clearly exemplifies the pentad of conventions of human drama and provides a protagonist that absolves guilt through mortification. Although the film reflects the attitude towards crime of that era the film can still be serve a lesson that no crime is perfect and no crime will go unpunished.

The act is made apparent right at the beginning of the confession when Walter confesses to being involved in the murder of Mr Dietrichson. But the act also entails lying to the insurance company to essentially steal money from the insurance claim. The agents involved are Walter Neff and Phyllis Dietrichson, with Walter serving as the connection to set up the insurance claim while Phyllis serves as the connection to set up as the collector of the claim of her husband’s death. Without each other, the act couldn’t have been facilitated. Walter’s knowledge as an insurance salesman of all the technical details and loopholes in claims serves as an agency to the act to optimize the crooked couple’s plans to gain the spoils. The plan to murder Mr. Dietrichson, then have Walter board a train posing as an alive Mr. Dietrichson, then dumping the corpse from the moving train also serves as an agency. The train itself was used as a tool to fake the accidental death and is an agency as well. The plan and murder was conducted in Mrs. Dietrichson’s home, which was in Los Angeles while the alibi and the scene of the accident takes place in Oregon. Finally, the purpose for Walter to commit this act was not only to get the money but to get the girl. He was enticed by infatuation with Phyllis and was seduced by love and money to commit to this deed.

As Walter narrates the story forward, viewers start to see that Walter starts to feel guilt. He bears witness to the consequence of his actions through the pain of Mr. Dietrichson’s mourning daughter, and the betrayal of his best friend, insurance claims adjustor Barton Keyes. Thus his absolution of guilt is through mortification as demonstrated by Walter’s confession at the beginning of the film. He’s revealing the sin he has committed through the recording device and prepares himself for a life of constant running, escaping the grasps of authority or prepares for death as his wounds drains away his strength. There is, however, a point in the film where Walter had the chance to place the arrest away from himself and on somebody else, more specifically Phyllis’ other secret lover. This would have led to victimage of his guilt, essentially making a scapegoat of Phyllis’ other lover. But Walter abiding by what morals he had left, couldn’t place the blame on a man innocent of the crime and places it back upon himself, restoring the mortification of guilt.

A thing to note is that the film was made in during the time of the Motion Picture Production Code (1930 to 1968) which censored films to ensure a story with high moral standard or at least an ending that entails one. This censorship prevented nudity, swearing, but also ensured that stories showed the heroes always being good and that villains always gets punished, or if the protagonist is a crook that they also get punished much like a villain would to ensure that a life of crime is not ideal for viewers. Thus the script of the film was changed to adhere to the code, and essentially adhere to the strict moral standards of that era. The lesson conveyed as said by Keyes during the film, “Murder’s never perfect. Always comes apart sooner or later“, demonstrates that any crime will always come back to haunt the guilty. Although the film was made almost 70 years ago, the lesson is still somewhat applicable to today. But will the individual viewer take the morals to heart? Not likely. What is most important though is that the film brings to attention that greed and lust can drive a person to commit crimes which he or she will eventually face consequences for.

Double Indemnity demonstrates the pentad of human drama conventions beautifully, as well as plays with the absolution of guilt with its protagonist. The film also conveys a message that portrays acts that encompass circumstances based on morals. It is considered a classic, and the first of a genre of films classified as film noir. Thus, even if it hadn’t had its message delivered to the hearts and minds of viewers, it certainly has made its impact in popular culture.

John Q: A Dramatistic Analysis

The following is a Dramatistic Analysis on the 2002 film, John Q. For the sake of those who have not seen the film, and for those who have seen it and forgotten, I have included a movie trailer from Youtube.com (below).

By: Quinn Silbermann

John Quincy Archibald is a man who will stop at nothing to look after his family in the 2002 film, John Q. Early on in the film the viewer learns that John and wife Denise struggle to make ends meet, as they have to choose between paying the monthly bill for the car or the mortgage. John is a blue-collar man who works in a factory, but his hours are cut down to part-time because the company is shifting most of its production to Mexico. As such, John looks for another job but to his dismay, shows up to an interview with four-hundred other applicants, and is ultimately deemed overqualified. Soon after, the film depicts John’s son Mike up to bat at his baseball game. While running the bases, Mike collapses and is immediately rushed to an emergency room by John and Denise. At the hospital, the Archibald’s are debriefed on Mike’s condition. Rebecca Payne, hospital director, and Dr. Turner, lead cardiology doctor, explain that Mike is in need of a heart transplant because his is three times larger than it should be and beyond repair. The hospital officials also reveal that the Archibald’s insurance is insufficient for the surgery, and instead they would have to pay for it with cash totalling at $250,000 with a $75,000 down payment. John exhausts all options for financial loans and government aid, and has to resort to selling his belongings. Still, John comes up short, and the hospital decides that they can no longer cover the escalating costs of Mike’s care, so he was to be sent home where he would slowly pass away. Up against a wall, John goes into the hospital with locks, chains, and a firearm to hold everyone inside hostage. In dealing with Lt. Grimes of the police, John reveals that all he wants is for his son to be put on the list to receive a new heart. In the end, Mike does receive a heart and is restored to health, and John is found guilty for holding the hospital hostage. John Q perfectly aligns with the dramatistic perspective. The purpose of this written piece is to conduct a dramatistic analysis of John Q, looking at how the concepts of the pentad, and the absolution of guilt serve to justify John’s criminal actions, as well as the film’s potential implications.

The pentad, containing the act, agent(s), agency, scene, and purpose, can be applied to John Q in order to understand why John’s breaking of society’s norms is justified from the majority of characters in the movie, and likely the viewer (Sellnow 52). The act is simply the behavior that breaks societal norms, and in this case the act is clearly John’s manipulation of the hospital at gunpoint (Sellnow 52). At face value, this is something that would not be accepted by society. John ignores the fact that there are other people on the recipient list that are no-less deserving than his son Mike. The agent is the person performing the unlawful behaviour, and this is without a doubt John Archibald (Sellnow 52). The agency denotes the tools and means that the agent uses (Sellnow 52). John uses chains and locks to deny his hostages from fleeing and a firearm to keep them under his control. He also uses a telephone and walkie-talkie to communicate with people outside of the hospital, most often the police. The scene is the hospital, as it is the setting that the behaviour takes place in (Sellnow 52). The purpose, arguably the most vital aspect of the pentad, pertains to the reason the agent engages in rule-breaking behaviour (Sellnow 53). John’s justification for his criminal acts is that he was wronged by the healthcare system. No one was willing to look past the dollar signs and help his son, so he put the lives of others, as well as his own, on the line for the benefit of his fading son. All five aspects of the pentad form the foundation for John’s absolution of guilt.

John storms into a hospital, threatening doctors, security guards, and patients (even a pregnant woman), with a gun. As such, John is guilty. The concept of absolution of guilt explains that in order for the agent’s behaviour to be excused, he or she must be justified via transcendence, mortification, and/or victimage (Sellnow 53). John fits the mould for transcendence and victimage (Sellnow 53). Trancendence occurs when the protagonist is “following a higher calling” (Sellnow 53). John is cornered, he desperately holds the hospital hostage because he loves his son so much and no one will listen to his pleas. His cause, his son’s very life, is without a doubt an honourable cause and a higher calling. Alternatively, John’s actions can be viewed as victimage. Victimage involves the agent blaming someone or something for his or her course of action (Sellnow 54). John blames the American healthcare system for not caring about blue-collar families. He sells his car and even his wedding ring, all in a failed attempt to meet the healthcare system’s requirements for the transplant procedure. This example of victimage appears valid to the blue-collar masses in the film that surround the hospital and cheer for him. Within the concept of victimage, John fits the role of the tragic hero. The tragic hero partakes in victimage but in the end is punished (Sellnow 56). Indeed, in one of the final scenes of the movie John is being tried for his crimes. He is found guilty of kidnapping, and thus has to suffer for his actions in jail. He goes off smiling though, as his beloved son is alive and well. John got more or less what he set out for, but what does that say?

There are plausible implications to the vigilante justice behaviours portrayed in John Q. Because John felt he had exhausted all avenues and the clock was ticking with Mike’s blood pressure dropping dangerously low, he took action. He ignored the law and jeopardized the lives of many, threatening to start killing hostages if Mike is not put on the heart recipient list. One might argue “it had to be done!” But, what this says is, “holding people at gunpoint is an appropriate means of attaining goals.” John is a character that a lot of Americans could relate to. He is simple, constantly asking for the hospital staff to repeat themselves in Lehman’s terms. He is hard-working, putting in time at a physically demanding factory job and still finding time to search for a second job. He is a family man, who attends his son’s baseball games and eases his wife’s financial worries. Thus, if a large number of American viewers watch the film, they might associate with John Archibald to such an extent that they agree with his acts of vigilante justice. A viewer might reason that if they were faced with a similar situation in the future, they might do the same as John. There is also the potential implication that the film brings the flaws of the American healthcare system front and centre, and in an accessible way for the not-so politically inclined. This extreme Hollywood depiction could get Americans to educate themselves on their healthcare system and out of their seats about the shortcomings. These implications all arise from a simple man who puts the life of his son before literally everything else.

John Q is a dangerous and heart-felt example of dramatism. It is hard, as a viewer, not to root for John as he takes matters into his own hands. In fact, even his hostages upon release tell news reporters that John is a great man, a hero of sorts. The viewer even finds out among the film’s final minutes that John’s firearm was not loaded with ammunition the whole time, and that he never intended on harming anyone. The dramatistic concept of the pentad can be easily applied to John Q, with the key point being that the purpose of the hostage situation is to get Mike’s name on the heart recipient list. In addition, John’s guilt can be absolved after considering him either motivated by either transcendence (the life of his son), or victimage (the healthcare system failed his family). Finally, it is important to note the potential implications of the film, such as an increase in vigilante justice and criticism of the American healthcare system. These may be mere speculations, but at the end of the day, it’s hard to root against John Q and what he stands for.