Author Archives: Shannon M Mcculloch

Where’s Waldo?….Tyler?

Tyler Durden becomes an interesting character to look out for in Fight Club. Even before we are introduced to him, we are actually unknowingly introduced to him. He makes numerous cameo appearances before actually being introduced to us. It is especially interesting to keep track of his ‘evolution’ as a figure in each of these appearances. What do these appearances signify? I saw them as subtle clues to the audience that Tyler Durden is, in fact, a figment of Jack’s imagination. But, we cannot be too sure. These appearances all occur before Jack even meets Tyler which leads me to believe that Fincher did do this to hint at the plot twist of the film.

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#1. Tyler at the copy machine

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#2. Tyler in the office

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#3. Tyler in the meeting

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#4. Tyler on the street

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#5. Tyler in the video

Besides his cameo appearances throughout the film, we can see a progression in Tyler’s appearance from meeting #1 to our final meeting with him. We first see him as this ‘cool’, eccentric soap making guy on a plane. After progressing through the movie and after we meet Marla, we see Tyler become this male version of Marla in a sense. The way they act, dress, and portray themselves to others is ALMOST IDENTICAL. It’s genius character development in a sense that these characters have become so similar except for Tyler’s ability to care for others never meets Marla’s.

In the end, we find that Tyler Durden is not a real person. Besides his ‘cameo’ appearances throughout the movie, we are presented with other evidence that he is not real. For example, when he calls Tyler’s number from the pay phone that says that it cannot accept incoming calls. So how did Tyler call Jack on this phone, you ask? My point exactly. There is really no explanation other than the fact that he IS Tyler Durden and that the actual Tyler we are presented with in the film is not real.

Another curious detail happens in the car crash. You are led to believe that Tyler is driving the car and he is the one who crashed it into a ditch; however, when the two exit the car, you have to pay extra close attention to these details. It is clear that the two get out of the car on the opposite sides therefore implying that Jack was, in fact, driving the car. So, Jack essentially punched himself throughout the film and gave himself the chemical burn. But, just to top it off he had to crash his own car.

Honestly, I really don’t think this movie is as fantastic as everyone makes it out to be. I do understand the impressive aspects that Fincher brought to film but I am not convinced that it is better than some of my favorite movies.


When I first heard the term spaghetti western, I automatically thought wow delicious. This is going to be some sort of term to describe some new type of Western movie in collaboration with Italy. Then I had to reevaluate my thoughts and remind myself we’re talking about Clint Eastwood and that Italy is, in fact, not located in the west.

So what is a spaghetti western? This category of western films were made in the 1960’s by ITALIAN directors (there’s your spaghetti connection). These films see violence as a necessary characteristic of the west. Westerns before always treated violence as something that comes and disturbs a peaceful community. These films are commonly referred to as revisionist westerns. They are similar to classical western films; however they also follow very different views on things such as violence much like we see in A Fistful of Dollars.

One of the most important characters in Eastwood’s Unforgiven, in my opinion, is WW Beauchamp. He is portrayed in such an innocent way I think and he really doesn’t get into anyones way or in the way of the violence. By following English Bob and Little Bill around, we can see that he is seeking a person to attach to form an image of the west. This is where it gets tricky. We are unaware if this is an ‘act’ or if his quest for the “real west” is progressing. The way in which he tells the story of English Bob, The Duke of Death, leads the viewer to believe that money is really a driving force of the world. It’s ironic that this is an underlying message in the film and that the main characters name is, in fact, William Munny (get it? Money, Munny!)

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I think its also important to recognize the role that Sally Two Trees plays in the film. Essentially, she is the only ‘good guy’ in this film. She is a Native American with nothing but good intentions. Earlier in the film, we are presented with the group of prostitutes and Sally gives us a good image of women in this society. However, it also shows that she still really doesn’t have a voice. Morgan Freeman leaves his wife with no problem. Maybe this is an indicator for the way in which movies like this portray women: either as a part of the violence or powerless and they don’t have a voice in it.

It’s funny to think about, though, since later in the musical comedy Annie Get Your Gun, we are presented with Annie Oakley, a game changer for women in western films. She presented women with a sort of empowerment and proved that women can be independent and have a voice in society! Also, Helen Ramirez in the film High Noon gives a character who is a direct representation of freedom and independence in the west.

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I love western movies and never realized that different eras of time present us with different types of western movies that show different views of the west. With the views of violence and women’s roles in society being the most noticeable, I’m realizing now that its important to pay attention to the type of western we are dealing with since each is unique.

2 Truths and a Lie?

Looking back on it, I have done more ice breakers in my college career so far than I have ever planned on doing my entire life. (*Disclaimer: I am only a sophomore so inevitably there will be many more..) That being said, I am basically a professional ice breaker. I did have one ‘minor’ slip up during 2 truths and a lie at my NSO here at Penn State. So, as the game goes everyone goes in a circle saying 2 truths and a lie about themselves and the other people try to guess which one is the lie. It is a great way to learn some fun facts about people you’re forced to socialize with. So my turn came and I proudly stated my 3 things. I soon found myself staring at a group of faces that clearly had no idea which one was the lie. Well, funny story…. I forgot to tell a lie. I told 3 truths and even fooled myself with that one..

Anyways, now that everyone is clear on how to play the game, let’s talk Lincoln. Many critics see this movie as having a lot of historical inaccuracy and not as much accuracy. I’m going to present three different BIG historical points that this film focuses on, not saying whether or not the point is historically accurate or not. At the end, I’ll leave it up to you to decide which two are the truths and what situation from the film is, in fact, a lie. Good luck!

#1 Lincoln’s face was not printed on any sort of money until after he died. Despite the fact that a character in the film argues that he couldn’t bribe undecided men to vote yes on the 13th amendment because of all of the currency already in circulation with president Lincoln’s face on them, he didn’t actually appear on money until 1869.

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#2 Lincoln’s position as president gave him the power to make legislative decisions which became the deciding factors in the abolition of slavery. These decisions were so important that nothing else effected the passing of the 13th amendment. The war was just a minor detail in this quest for freedom.

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#3 Soldiers much like those in the opening scene would frequently approach president Lincoln. Even though he was Commander-in-Chief, both soldiers that were black and white would casually talk to Lincoln about topics such as his famous Gettysburg Address. This speech was, in fact, popular before Lincoln died.

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So, what do you think? What’s true and what is not? …Maybe I tricked you once again!

TBT To The Philadelphia Story

In The Philadelphia Story, one of the main causes for conflict is when Dext allows the journalists from Spy Magazine to involve themselves in Tracy’s life, the day before she is going to get married. The humor lies in the way Tracy acts when the reporters are there, she acts in such a way that she thinks that the reporters see her since she is a member of ‘high society’ and these people are seen in a different way than others (See Rich Girl- Hall & Oates).


Spy magazine was a tool used to cover exciting news topics; mainly celebrities with egos bigger than their heads, and rich social elites from high societal rankings (See Lifestyles of the Rich & Famous- Good Charlotte). Spy magazine quit producing in 1998; however the legacy lives on. With the upcoming presidential election and many Americans feeling particularly opinionated, Spy magazine has made a little comeback.

Trump is a popular figure in culture today and the presidential campaign. Lately, there has been much controversy surrounding Donald Trump. For example, when Marco Rubio was still in the race (forever in my heart) he commented on Donald Trump’s hands. Donald Trump had responded by saying that nobody ever said he has small hands (along with defending the size of other body parts)… SPY magazine took this as an opportunity to bring their magazine back. They made a magazine cover displaying a baby with tiny hands but the large head of Donald Trump.

Watch this, it’s one of my favorite SNL skits:

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So, I guess we, as voters, just need to be careful as to what we see as the truth. Are our favorite candidates just putting on a show for us to fit the part they think we see them in? Or, is it the corrupted media that we need to be cautious of? It’s hard to say; however, it is obvious that voters should try to stick to reliable sources, not SPY magazine. We see the deception throughout The Philadelphia Story and the same thing in media sources, today.


The Graduate is drowning in water symbolism and this water is a very important aspect in understanding the film as a whole. Ben’s parents have a set viewpoint that he is their ‘trophy’ to show off to everyone. In a suburban setting much like that of this film, people like Ben, who try to get out and seek something more than this world they’re living in, often have trouble doing so since they are surrounded by people consumed by suburbia and the plastic lifestyle.

Ben is on a journey seeking freedom from this lifestyle. The water presented throughout The Graduate shows the audience a simple symbol of the inescapability of modern day suburbia and falling victim to the plastic lifestyle. It is a recurring visual presented throughout the film to emphasize Ben’s problem, oftentimes demonstrating this through the representation of ‘drowning’ and submersion. He lives day to day just going through the motions of a mundane lifestyle and the water in The Graduate really shows this in a unique way.

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In this scene, We are presented with the image of Ben as if he is in the fish tank. It is important to note that Ben’s head is positioned in a manner such that it appears as if he is, in fact, underwater. In addition, we see a scuba diver in the fish tank. This is a visual aid demonstrating the oppressiveness that he is facing from his parents. The viewer must remember this particular prop later in the film, since it will be important in the recurrence of themes.

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Water was shown in a particularly interesting manner in this scene. It appears that at this point in the plot, Ben is caught in the trap that Mrs. Robinson has presented him with and is, in a sense, being sucked into suburbia. It could be interpreted as if Ben is just drifting along through this suburbia. This is interesting as the entire movie, he is trying to choose his own destiny and escape this exact lifestyle. Is this a representation of Ben falling victim to the plastics and just going with the flow of what is surrounding him, or is this showing us that he is exactly where he wants to be, above water, above the oppression and suffocation that has been coming from his parents? I guess it’s up to whoever is interpreting it!

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The H2O in this scene is important! It starts off from his view of the outside world from within the mask gives us the image of Ben’s constant feeling of entrapment. Even when he is trying to come up from underwater, his father pushes him back under and ‘buries him’ in the suburbia. Ben is being forced to ‘drown’ in a world of his parents creation and he now serves as a token of their accomplishments. The way the image of a scuba diver is presented twice is curious. Being presented a second time, this image really made me think of a trophy. The way the camera zooms out at the end of this scene shows how small Ben is compared to the water. I love that he is standing in a stance that just makes me picture a trophy. He is under so much pressure from them, again represented by the heavy weight and vastness of the water suffocating him, that he is made unable to find a passion or something truly amazing and unique in his life even if his parents can still use him as a focal point for conversation.

In my professional opinion as a lifeguard put on this world to save lives of distressed swimmers, I can tell you that the message presented with the different ways that the audience is presented with water in this film is crucial to the overall understanding of The Graduate.

Sum 41 had views similar to Ben… “I don’t want to waste my time become another casualty of society. I’ll never fall in line become another victim of your conformity.”

The Bird is Actually the Word

In many movies and books, you are bound to find some sort of symbols. On the Waterfront is not exception. One of the main symbols that I found interesting in this film was the birds and what they represent. In On The Waterfront, along with the narrow and dark areas and the fences, birds are a symbol of entrapment. The pigeons add to the feeling that there is no way out and that Malloy is stuck in this system forever.

These pigeons can also be seen as a symbol of the church and how the congregations flock together like the birds do. The selection of the type of bird is also not a coincidence. Pigeons are birds that are lower in the food chain and they are constantly trying to avoid the predators. On The Waterfront presents a direct comparison to the people on the docks, constantly trying to avoid the ‘predators’ as well.

Personally, I find birds as being very scary animals in general. For that reason exactly, I decided to do some investigating on birds in other movies and what they might symbolize or represent.

Although the following birds are more prominent in the films than the subtle symbolism offered by the pigeons in On the Waterfront, the idea is still the same. Something about the bird superstar is a representation of something else. There’s more to movies than the naked eye led to believe. Check it out!

But actually, read this. It’s really interesting.

Bird #1: Hedwig

Hedwig is an Owl, more specifically she is Harry Potter’s Owl. Hedwig is apparently the name of a saint, St. Hedwig. The congregation of Sisters of St. Hedwig look to educate orphans and abandoned children. Coincidence? I think not. Harry is an orphan and Hedwig basically takes care of him, much like St. Hedwig cares for orphans. Nothing in movies is a coincidence, there’s more meaning behind the little things than you would think!

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Bird #2: Owl

If you were anything like me, you grew up with Winnie the Pooh. Maybe you had a Pooh bear themed birthday? Or maybe you took the more extreme route and had a Pooh bear themed bedroom… until 7th grade… Anyways, owls are often associated with knowledge and wisdom and Owl is no different. Although he is very wise and full of advice, it is believed that he is a representation of dyslexia and/or narcissism. Despite his knowledge, he oftentimes still spells things wrong.

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Bird #3: Fawkes the Phoenix

The Phoenix in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix is yet another popular bird in film. This magical bird gets old, dies, and is born again from its own ashes. How remarkable is that?! This bird serves as a symbol of rebirth, new beginnings, suffering and tolerance. I think the most prominent symbol we can associate with the phoenix is rebirth and the direct juxtaposition to Harry. After almost being killed by Voldemort, Harry has more than one near death experience. Harry goes through a sort of emotional rebirth while the phoenix goes through a physical rebirth of sorts.

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Bird #4 Kevin

Kevin is the multicolored bird from UP. Throughout the film, Kevin has lots of prominent motherly instincts and is seen as a symbol of life. Aside from the bird’s technicolor feathers, Kevin is a representation of life in general. Russell doesn’t have parents and Kevin is pretty much a figure of a ‘parent’ in his life. Also, Carl finds a spark in himself to act as a parent to Russell as well. He takes the boy under his ‘wing’ (hahahha get it? WING.) and gives him the sense of parenting he deserves in life.

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Birds in songs are also interesting to think about. “Free Bird” is by far the most ‘classic’ example I can think of. Two movies that I find as being really great utilize this famous song to convey a certain feeling. Forrest Gump and Kingsman: A Secret Service both use the world famous song by Lynyrd Skynyrd entitled “Free Bird”. Try to link these well known lyrics to the relevancy in the scenes in both movies!

“If I leave here tomorrow, would you still remember me?”

“Cause there’s too many places I’ve got to see.”

“But please don’t take it so badly, ‘cause Lord knows I’m to blame.”

“Won’t you fly high, free bird,”

Moral of the story: the bird is, in fact, the word.

Only the Good Die Young

Much to everyones dismay, I am NOT going to write about Donald Trump and politics and media today. Instead, I think it’s important to recognize the importance of ratings and how not everyone might agree with the ratings, but thats business. If a show doesn’t have good enough ratings, essentially it is destined to be cancelled. This was the motivation behind the Howard Beale Show, to expand the audience and eventually ratings would skyrocket! But can there be a way to beat the rating system and are we, in fact, headed in that very direction?

I have had some bad luck in TV shows when it comes to ratings and being cancelled. A few noteworthy favorites that got the short end of the TV show season renewal stick include: Underemployed, Pan Am, Wicked City, Smash and Glory Daze. Basically, if you really like a TV show, make sure I don’t like the same one because it is destined for cancellation.

Check out this website for more details about the ratings and cancellations:

I think this is a sad reality of television. The fact that the industry is so driven by ratings and the size of the audience is relevant in more ways than one. In the case of the Howard Beale Show, the fear of bad ratings incentivizes the show to put on an ‘act of sorts’. They get to the point where they are just giving the people what they think they want and that is not always reality. This media corruption should be a reality check for us as an audience to work harder to find the truth and not just rely on the news.

Well, do you know what else the people want? We want answers! I can’t imagine HOW any of the TV series that I mentioned above would have ended. My latest cancelled show, Wicked City, had 3 episodes that were aired before they pulled the plug. WHO KNOWS what kind of potential was in the story. The sad part is, that we may never know. Because of how seriously ratings are taken in the TV world, we may never get the truth or the answers we deserve.

This made me think of the Film Festival this past weekend as well. I saw some well written, genuinely good film. However, with the industry being the way it is, WHO KNOWS if large audiences of people will ever get to see these films. Obviously when it comes to film and TV, different people have different preferences and opinions on things and we can’t make everyone happy.

In conclusion, since TV is really taking a modern transition into streaming and less people are watching traditional cable TV, can we really use the ratings as a justifiable reason to cancel a TV show? Maybe the more important thing is for writers to tell their stories from beginning to end and for the news TV shows, much like the Howard Beale Show, to tell the truth (long shot, but I’m a dreamer), and NOT worry about ratings since they know that they wont be cancelled. It’s kind of like school, if we were graded on a pass fail basis, would we as students experience less stress, more incentive to do better and a better appreciation for schooling in general?

**Side note:
Did anyone else think about this when they were screaming “I’m mad as hell, and I’m not going to take this anymore”?

Voyeurism in Rear Window

“I’ll bet you that nine out of ten people, if they see a woman across the courtyard undressing for bed, or even a man puttering around in his room, will stay and look; no one turns away and says, “It’s none of my business.” They could pull down their blinds, but they never do; they stand there and look out.” – Alfred Hitchcock

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Rear Window is what Hitchcock likes to call a suspense thriller. He specialized in this genre as he believed that drama is life with the dull bits left out. This movie is a great example of a voyeuristic film that emphasizes the pleasure of looking. We get to see the view through the eyes of Jeffries the voyeur which is important in the plot of the movie as we saw. By definition, voyeurism is the practice of obtaining sexual gratification by looking at sexual objects or acts, especially secretively. Many other movies focus on the subject of looking and voyeurism, the motivation behind it and the consequences that come with it. Two of the more popular movies (that I have actually seen) with this focal point are American Beauty and Psycho.


The movie American Beauty uses Ricky Fitts as a voyeuristic character. The audience is often given the opportunity to look through his camera to give us the viewpoint of Ricky, the voyeur in this movie. He sees beauty in the little things in life, such as a plastic bag drifting away. The way in which Ricky sees life is as if he appreciates all of the beautiful things in life that others might not acknowledge since they are caught up with fitting in with the suburban stereotype-much like Jane, his love interest. He finds the beauty of Jane and films her through his window which shows his sense of voyeurism.

The movie "American Beauty", directed by Sam Mendes and written by Alan Ball. Seen here, Wes Bentley as Ricky Fitts. Initial theatrical wide release October 1, 1999. Screen capture. © 1999 DreamWorks. Credit: © 1999 DreamWorks / Flickr / Courtesy Pikturz. Image intended only for use to help promote the film, in an editorial, non-commercial context.

The movie “American Beauty”, directed by Sam Mendes and written by Alan Ball. Seen here, Wes Bentley as Ricky Fitts. Initial theatrical wide release October 1, 1999. Screen capture. © 1999 DreamWorks. Credit: © 1999 DreamWorks / Flickr / Courtesy Pikturz.
Image intended only for use to help promote the film, in an editorial, non-commercial context.

Psycho is another example of Hitchcock using a voyeuristic character, Norman Bates, to show the ‘pleasure of looking’. This movie is unique because it actually affirms the fact that us as viewers are merely voyeurs as well. Specifically, one example of this is shown in the photograph below when we are given the image through the eyes of Norman. By making Norman’s gaze and the gaze of the audience the same, Hitchcock gives the chilling realization that we as viewers and voyeurs could possibly be given some of the blame for Marion’s death.
** The A&E TV show, Bates Motel is based off of Psycho. (10/10 I would indeed recommend.)

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RUN DMC said it best, “Tinted windows don’t mean nothin’, they know who’s inside.” So readers beware, you never know if there is a voyeur in your life. You also never know the terror (or beauty) that could be hidden in the simplicity of the everyday.

Check out this list of 10 voyeuristic films!

10 Films About Voyeurism

Listen Up Joad Family

The setting of the film The Grapes of Wrath is in the Great Depression, an extremely difficult time in the history of the United States. People were struggling, the economy was struggling, it was just a terrible period of our history. John Steinbeck wrote a novel entitled “The Grapes of Wrath” to tell the story of what the Joad family went through and overcame.

Musicians everywhere also took the liberty of commemorating both John Steinbeck’s novel and the Great Depression by writing songs that had amazing lyrics that told the story of the Joad family, quoted Steinbeck’s novel, and even allow us to relive some of the most memorable scenes from the film.

Bruce Springsteen is one of the great musicians who told the story of Tom Joad through the song “Ghost of Tom Joad”. From what I understand from this song, I think that Springsteen wrote this in reference to Tom’s speech at the “first ending” of The Grapes of Wrath, the ending in which Tom gives us the idea that we are all a little piece of a big soul. The first ending that gives us the idea that when times get tough, he will be there fighting for the good of the community, and the good of the people. Springsteen does an incredible job of incorporating quotes almost directly from Joad’s speech into his own song.

Now Tom said “Mom, wherever there’s a cop beatin’ a guy
Wherever a hungry newborn baby cries
Where there’s a fight ‘gainst the blood and hatred in the air
Look for me Mom I’ll be there
Wherever there’s somebody fightin’ for a place to stand
Or decent job or a helpin’ hand
Wherever somebody’s strugglin’ to be free
Look in their eyes Mom you’ll see me.”

Mumford and Sons also did their own interpretation on the days of the Dust Bowl, much like the Tom Joad days. The song is titled “The Dustbowl Dance”. Some of the lyrics can be seen as direct correspondents with the film. “I’ve been kicked of my land at the age of 16” is one lyric that really stands out in this song as it is a reminder of the image of big Caterpillar tractors plowing over the farms in the film. The gist of this song is that the man, possibly Tom Joad, is questioning how someone who has taken so much from the poor, working class be so happy with their success and wealth if they know that people are suffering. This song emphasizes Tom’s point at the end of the film that he will be the one to do something for the greater good of the people. “There will come a time I will look in your eye you will pray to the God that you’ve always denied..”

“Well you are my accuser, now look in my face
Your oppression reeks of your greed and disgrace
So one man has and another has not
How can you love what it is you have got
When you took it all from the weak hands of the poor?
Liars and thieves you know not what is in store
There will come a time I will look in your eye
You will pray to the God that you’ve always denied”

So, “The Grapes of Wrath” is not only an incredible novel by Steinbeck that has been interpreted into a fantastic film. It is so much more than that. “The Grapes of Wrath” is the story of the Joad family, the story of a family in the Great Depression trying to get us, as an audience, to be able to imagine what it was like. It is something very hard for us to even imagine going through; however, through reading, watching, and just simply listening deeper into the lyrics of songs, we are able to at least try to understand.

More songs with references:

8 Great Pop-Culture References to The Grapes of Wrath

Daddy Issues

Capra’s film, Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, has many interesting components that are still relevant in film today. One of these components is the role of the absent father. That is, the idea that the symbolic father, for example a father who has passed away or a father who just plain packed his bags and left, is more powerful than the living father. In both Saunders and Smiths lives, we are given the image of the absent father. I asked myself “why?” What’s the deal with the fatherless movies and how many other films have this same component?

Well, I did some research and discovered some surprising things about Disney and Pixar films in particular. One of my favorite Disney movies, aside from The Little Mermaid, is Toy Story. I never really thought about it, but in all three Toy Story movies, Andy’s father is never mentioned. I looked into this phenomenon. The conspirators say that Andy’s dad was a ‘deadbeat’ and they pick up a few subtle hints to prove this theory. This assumption explains why Andy is so attached to Woody and Buzz Lightyear. The absent father can be replaced though cowboy toys and astronaut toys, especially for a boy Andy’s age.

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Alice does not have a father in Alice in Wonderland. She is inundated with ‘mad’ thoughts and curious ideas. We, as an audience, know that her father was supportive of her thinking creatively and being inquisitive about almost everything. He acts as her driving inspiration and ‘image of hope’ throughout her nightmare. It seemed as if he was her guiding light through the whole thing, and even though he had passed away, she knew that he would be supporting her and her inspired, curious thoughts. This heroic image that is given in Alice in Wonderland is just one way the absent father is powerful. As we find out the father in the film is deceased, a heroic symbol of hope is birthed.

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UP is another example of a fathers absence. I believe that in this movie, the absence of a father in Russell’s life is the driving force of his ambitious personality and drive to do good in the world. For those of you who are not familiar with the movie, Carl is the ‘grandpa’ whose wife Ellie passed away. When Carl and Russell meet, the audience is convinced that it is destiny. When the two go on an adventure to Paradise Falls, we can see that Carl is filling the hole in Russell’s life that his father left when he left him. An absent father can also build other relationships in a sense that the role of the father can be filled by other characters, such as Carl, to build the story.

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So, there might not be a concrete answer on “why?”. Why is the absent father such a common occurrence in film and television? Like in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Disney and Pixar utilize the absent father to add to the story. Whether it be a vision of a hero, an inspiration, a drive to do better, or just a way to make a new friend, in film, the absent father is more powerful than the present father.

To read more about the ‘disappeared dad’ and why in film, “Deceased Parents are the Best”, check out these two articles on tvtropes!