Author Archives: Kaley Chicoine

A Different Rear Window

I will admit, Rear Window was not my favorite movie.  Many of the moral problems facing the characters resolved in a manner which left me wanting, and the whole film seemed to promote the attitude of “the end justifies the means.”  Throughout, Hitchcock admonishes viewers for their voyeuristic tendencies and at times, pushes the idea that watching other peoples’ private lives with binoculars may not be the most upstanding past time, but in the end, a murderer is caught because of Jeff’s voyeurism, suggesting it wasn’t so bad afterall.  Additionally, the relationship between Lisa and Jeff definitely said that women should change who they are in order to get the guy.  So, expanding on my ideas in class discussion today, here is Kaley Chicoine’s Alternate Ending to Rear Window:

The movie stays exactly the same up until the police take Lisa off to jail.  Jeff, distraught, is unable to pay her bail.  He continues to watch Thorwald, who is now aware of Jeff’s gaze.  This constant surveillance starts to make Thorwald edgy, and he keeps looking back at Jeff, shrugging his shoulders and going so far as to call Jeff and ask what he wants.  After nearly a full night of this, Thorwald shows up at Jeff’s door.  He explains that he and his wife are on bad terms, and that she went away to stay with a friend in the country after proposing a divorce.  They don’t really love each other anymore, anyway.  Jeff will hear none of it and remains silent.  Thorwald gets upset, continuing to explain his actions and repeatedly asking what Jeff wants.  Jeff eventually speaks, denouncing everything Thorwald has said and accusing him of murdering his wife.  Thorwald snaps and throws Jeff out of the window.  The movie ends with Jeff dead, Lisa with a criminal record, and Thorwald arrested for Jeff’s murder.

This version of Rear Window deals with my earlier complaints.  Lisa ends up in trouble because she tried to change who she was just to suit Jeff.  Voyeurism is definitely not rewarded.  More so, Thorwald becomes a much more interesting character.  He ends up guilty of the crime Jeff imposed upon him, but only because Jeff relentlessly pushes him toward it.  And, there is an unexpected twist at the end that keeps things interesting.  The movie would end with a very clear message: don’t try to understand people’s lives from the outside.

Are Romantic Comedies Bad for You?

Seeing and discussing romantic comedies with The Philadelphia Story reminded me of a study I read that discussed the impact of recent romantic comedies on society’s perception of romance and relationships. The study, titled Contradictory Messages: A Content Analysis of Hollywood-Produced Romantic Comedy Feature Films (Johnson & Holmes, 2009), looked at what common traits and behaviors romcoms use to portray love and how this influences adolescent ideas about relationships. Several studies have already established a connection between people who consume lots of “romance media” with unrealistically ideal expectations for relationships (Segrin & Nabi, 2002), and other studies have proven that adolescents use media depictions of unknown social situations to develop their own views of how such situations should progress (Bandura, 1986, 1994), so looking at the messages romantic media is sending reveals much about common relationship problems in today’s society.

The researchers highlighted several main traits of romantic comedies that cause problems in relationships. First, surprisingly only half of the films showed or heavily implied any kind of sexual behaviors beyond a first kiss. Non-sexual behaviors, such as hand-holding, hugging, and cuddling, were present in almost every film, but nothing more was shown. This can lead to a perceived disconnect between sexual behavior and romantic relationships. Additionally, the man initiated the overwhelming majority (75%) of any physical behavior, reinforcing the concept that initiating or progressing a relationship is solely the duty of the man (to say nothing of LGBT couples). The second group of traits, compliments, also cemented the highly gendered roles society expects men and women to play in relationships. Men gave 80% of the compliments, 95% of the gifts, and 82% of the miscellaneous “favors” in the depicted relationships. Many of these gifts and gestures were exaggeratedly romantic gestures, such as buying an entire room worth of roses or singing a self-composed song of love in Times Square. Obviously, this sets real-life expectations in all of the wrong places, implanting the idea that these kinds of actions are the true determine of the extent of love.

Romantic comedies do nothing to offset this very material view of love. Of all the observed conversations about open feelings and intentions, a measly 6% discussed trust, and of those, 75% were about how the couple did not trust each other. That means, of all conversations about feelings, approximately 1% of discussions in romantic comedies demonstrate that crucial element trust. To support this distrust, characters lying to their partner outweigh truthful conversations about actions by a factor of 15 to 1. Additionally, early relationships are portrayed as very fragile, with most relationships breaking up after the first fight. The ideas implicated here are obvious: you don’t have to trust each other and good couples never disagree.

Between the lack of honest communication, lack of trust, and emphasis on material goods and deed as representative of relationships, it’s little wonder that so many people are facing relationship crisis in modern society. With a 50% and rising divorce rate in America, few relationships are standing the test of time. The media we absorb definitely plays a part in our relationship expectations. While romantic comedies may not be entirely responsible, it is vital to be aware of the ideals they push so viewers can separate the movie from real life and avoid subconsciously subscribing to the messages they send.

*All cited studies can be found through PSU Libraries website, free to students.


Populism and the Iowa State Fair

As Dr. Jordan mentioned in class, politicians frequently leverage populist methods to try and get votes.  This can be seen most obviously at the Iowa State Fair.  Being a resident of the Hawkeye State myself, I wanted to emphasize just how much this plays into the Iowa voters’ decisions.  Now that the caucuses are over, it’s very interesting to look back on the results and compare them to some of the candidate’s performance at the most populist venue of them all: the Iowa State Fair.

Let’s take a minute to appreciate what the Iowa State Fair means to Iowans.  The Iowa State Fair is the biggest, best fair in the world.  Don’t attempt to debate it, because you’re wrong.  We have (one of) the largest livestock show in the world, famous musicians coming to perform, literally everything you can imagine fried and served on a stick, and a life-size cow made of butter.  Everyone goes to the fair.  Everyone.  The governor and his family stand in line with Joe your neighboring farmer to buy pork chops on a stick.  As a result, reporters flock to report on how well the famous people fit in with us everyday folk.  When politicians are looking to connect with the layman in Iowa, they go to the State Fair.

Trump made the biggest mistake by showing up in a helicopter.  You simply don’t do that.  I saw jokes and memes and articles and all sorts of mockery about the incident for a solid three weeks after the fair had ended.  People saw it as the big businessman from New York City flaunting his big-city money.


He called Iowans “killjoys” for not letting him land in the Fair itself.

Clinton and Trump both made a mistake at the State Fair by not attending the Soapbox.  The Soapbox is a venue where candidates stand on a raised platform and deliver a 20-minute speech about their values and campaign.  It happens outside, unmoderated, in any weather.  Marco Rubio stood and delivered his address in the rain and did better in Iowa than expected with a close 3rd place.  Bernie Sanders stayed and talked with the Soapbox attendees after his speech, answering questions in a very informal setting.  Sanders had the best performance at the State Fair, with several news stations commenting on how he played the “one of the people” act to great advantage.

The big point here is that people want to associate with their politicians.  In Iowa, this is especially true.  People remember what happens at the State Fair because it represents the biggest opportunity for politicians to connect with the common man.  Those who are able to do so, do better, and those who ignore this aspect of voter decision making in Iowa tend to suffer as a result.  The populist appeal is as important today as it was in Capra’s era nearly 100 years ago.


Fun fact: there is an informal contest every year among newspaper journalists to see who can capture the most awkward picture of a politician eating a corndog.  As a result, none of the presidential candidates bought/ate corndogs at the 2015 Iowa State Fair.


The Artist: Silent Film in the Modern Era

artistWhen talking about the transition from silent films to “talkies,” I can’t help but think of a modern callback film made in 2011 called The Artist.  Written and directed by French director Michel Hazanavicius, the story of the film tells of a silent movie star,George Valentin, who is struggling in a time when Hollywood is switching to talking pictures.  He meets a young dancer and helps her rise to stardom, but as the talking picture “fad” grows ever more popular, he is slowly met with financial ruin.

The film is especially interesting for two reasons.  First, Hazanavicius makes spectacular use of sound throughout the film.  There are only 2 times in the film where the audience hears diegetic sound.  Once is during a dream sequence when Valentin has a prophetic vision of his downfall.  He (and the audience) hears people speaking, but he himself is unable to say anything.  The second instance is at the end of the movie, when Valentin has accepted a role in a talkie.  The audience hears the movie being filmed, signifying Valentin’s acceptance of a new era of film.

The history of the The Artist is also very interesting.  Hazanavicius had been previously successful with comedy spy films, so when he approached producers with the idea of a silent, black and white romance, he was basically laughed away.  However, with his growing success, he was eventually taken seriously and went on to win a variety of awards (including 5 Academy Awards and Best Picture for 2011).  Additionally, he used the same actor from one of his successful spy movies (OSS 117), as he believed that the overly-expressive nature of the comedy would apply well to silent films.

The main reason producers were reluctant to fund The Artist was their belief that modern audiences did not want a silent, black and white film.  However, The Artist’s success goes to show that all the technology and CG in the world is no substitute for a well-made film.  Hazanavicius studied the films of the 1920’s and what made them good, and he used similar techniques in his own movie.  Movies need heart and artistry.  Talking is optional.

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