• Animated images and animated objects in the Toy Story franchise: Reflexively and intertextually transgressive mimesis

      Geal, Robert; University of Wolverhampton, UK (Sage, 2018-03-12)
      This article explores how animation can manipulate a reflexive intertextual framework which relates to religious prohibitions on artistic mimesis that might replicate and threaten God’s creative act. Animated films are most intertextually reflexive, in these terms, when they narrativize the movement of diegetic objects from another medium which also transgresses God’s prohibition: sculpture. In the media of both sculpture and animation, the act of mimesis is transgressive in fundamentally ontological terms, staging the illusion of creation by either replicating the form of living creatures in three-dimensional sculpture, or by giving the impression of animating the inanimate in two-dimensional film. Both media can generate artworks that directly comment on these processes by using narratives about the creative act which not only produce the illusion of life, but which produce diegetically real life itself. Such artworks are intensely reflexive, and engage with one another in an intertextual manner. The article traces this process from the pre-historic and early historic religious, mythic and philosophical meditations which structure ideas about mimetic representations of life, via Classical and Early Modern sculpture, through a radical proto-feminist revision crystallizing around the monstrous consequences of the transgression in Mary Shelley’s Frankenstein, and finally into film and more specifically animation. The article culminates with a relatively detailed account of these processes in the Toy Story franchise, which is a heightened example of how animation can stage a narrative in which ostensibly inanimate sculpted toys move of their own volition, and of how this double form of animation does this reflexively, by ontologically performing the toys’ animating act. The animated films analysed also engage with the transgressive and monstrous consequences of this double form of animation, which derive from the intertextual life of those narratives that challenge God’s prohibition on mimesis.
    • Anomalous foreknowledge and cognitive impenetrability in Gnomeo and Juliet

      Geal, Robert (Oxford University Press, 2017-05-27)
      This essay locates film adaptations of well-known originals within the context of two interrelated perceptual processes. The first of these is Richard Gerrig’s notion of anomalous suspense, in which audiences experience suspense even if they know the outcome of a film through repeat viewings. The second of these is Jerry Fodor’s concept of cognitive impenetrability, in which the human brain can have multiple responses to the same visual information. Lower level non-conscious brain functions can respond to visual stimuli in automated ways even if higher level conscious brain functions understand that the automated responses are being deceived. The essay explores how a loose film adaptation of a canonical ‘original’, Gnomeo and Juliet, manipulates these perceptual anomalies at the aesthetic and narrative levels. The film has two interrelated reflexive bundlings of anomalous suspense and cognitive impenetrability. The first is foreknowledge about certain well-known elements of the adapted narrative which characters comment on, and which are eventually transcended. The second is the film’s link between animation’s ontological perceptual illusion which makes the inanimate become animated, and the diegetic status of the supposedly inanimate garden gnomes being able to move of their own volition. Both of these elements exploit the brain’s modular distinctions between automated and conscious perceptual responses.
    • The end of racism and the last ideology: The Cosby Show’s Fukuyaman neo-liberal children

      Geal, Robert; Schober, Adrian; Olson, Debbie (Routledge, 2018-06-26)
      Both popular and academic discourses on The Cosby Show have focused on the eponymous family’s post-racial representation. Challenging historically negative television and film depictions of the African American as an exotic and/or savage ‘Other’, the program’s upper middle-class professional family presented 1980s white America with an image of blackness that had been fully assimilated into hegemonic culture. Academic analyses of this acculturation have considered both the impact of this ostensibly positive depiction of the black family for white audiences, and the subtle traces of African American social and cultural experiences which appealed to black audiences. Discourses about the show’s children have also positioned the characters’ relationships with their white contemporaries within a post-racial context, so that they undergo the same kind of bildungsroman angst and trajectory as other, whiter, 1980s coming-of-age narratives, without any particular experience rooted in racial difference. This essay situates the show’s children within a wider post-racial context that dominated American political and social culture during the period 1984-1992 when the show ran. This was the era of triumphant Reaganomics, punctuated by the fall of the Berlin Wall, and bookended with Francis Fukuyama’s influential panegyric to neo-liberalism’s victory over every other possible form of ideology, The End of History and the Last Man. The Cosby Show’s professional American nuclear family is post-racial not only because of the gradual impact of socio-cultural and legal developments emanating from the Civil Rights movement. Even more fundamentally, the enormous popularity of the show’s Huxtable family, amongst both black and white audiences, in America and beyond, encapsulates Fukuyama’s color-blind ideological model – a celebration of hard work and cooperation leading to the enjoyable consumption of plenty, with any inconvenient impediments to this vision, such as race, class, gender or sexuality, overcome through virtuous labor and consumption. The show’s children, inheritors of the End of History, are the central drivers and beneficiaries of this process.
    • Frozen, Homosexuality and Masochism

      Geal, Robert (Intellect Connect, 2016-10-30)
      Disney’s animated phenomenon Frozen (2013) has been criticized by America’s religious right for its homosexual subtext which allegedly advocates non-Christian values to impressionable audiences. This essay does not dispute the presence of such a subtext, but argues that that the film’s gay codings, rather than celebrating and encouraging homosexuality, invoke bigoted stereotypes, negative psychoanalytic categories and masochistic cinematic conventions. The film represents homosexuality in an ostensibly non-discriminatory manner, but undermines this potential through a range of cultural prejudices and conventionalized conservative cinematic techniques. The last of these elements entails the film’s most sinister approach to homosexuality, reflexively linking a masochistic representation of its gay-coded characters with the ideological passivity of cinematic spectatorship.
    • Psychoanalytic and cognitivist dramas in contemporary Science Fiction films

      Geal, Robert (University of Lisbon, 2017-03-13)
      Contemporary Science Fiction films engage audiences in numerous dramatic ways. This diversity can problematize academic approaches to cinema which tend to encourage specific monolithic interpretations of film that stress certain dramatic contexts at the expense of others. A critic’s a priori suppositions may dictate the ways in which any given film is interpreted. In particular, the still unresolved conflict between psychoanalytic and cognitivist approaches to film (in which filmmakers and spectators are understood either as unconscious subjects of ideology, or as rational independent agents) means that there can be little agreement about film’s potential effects. This essay explores how recent Science Fiction films such as Godzilla (2014) and Terminator Genisys (2015) exploit both of these theoretical hermeneutic contexts. They manipulate, both consciously and unconsciously, dramatic pleasures that proponents of psychoanalysis and cognitivism traditionally think of as being mutually exclusive. They do this, furthermore, using the same filmmaking techniques in a symbiotic manner. As such, the Science Fiction blockbuster demonstrates the ways in which film can omnivorously utilise whichever aesthetic, ideological and dramatic tools are available to elicit diverse audience responses.
    • ‘Theory is always for someone and for some purpose’: thinking through post-structuralism and cognitivism

      Geal, Robert (Taylor & Francis, 2015-06-19)
      This essay explores the historical socio-cultural contexts that determine the contending epistemologies of post-structuralism and cognitivism. Debates between these paradigms have focused on a-priori philosophical premises. Synthesis between these premises has not materialised because each paradigm valorises a form of knowledge which its rival cannot match. This essay attempts to position these contested premises within a diachronic background in which theoretical claims can be tested, not merely against fixed deductive positions, but against specific socio-cultural contexts that manifest themselves in epistemology. Post-structuralism and cognitivism can then be thought of as aggregates of thought reflecting broad political, social, philosophical and cultural contexts.