Simon Pegg on Marxist overview of 70’s popular cinema and hegemonic discourse

October 4th, 2008 · 4 Comments · By

{From this week’s interview with utter genious Simon Pegg over at The Onion’ AV Club}:

AVC: This is probably a question you’re sick of, but according to your Wikipedia entry your undergraduate thesis was on Marxist overview of popular ’70s cinema and hegemonic discourses?

SP: Correct.

AVC: Could you give a Cliffs Notes version of what you said in this thesis?

SP: It was mainly about Star Wars and related works. It was mainly saying if you watch a movie that has inherent political messages, even if they’re unintentional, and without critically objectifying yourself, you by consent agree with it. So if you have a film which is incredibly misogynistic, and you just watch it and enjoy it, you are a misogynist because you haven’t been able to say, “Hey, wait a minute, that’s putting forward an idea that women are to be demeaned.” So in films like Star Wars and Raiders Of The Lost Ark there are certain social metaphors at work. Bomb-fear. A lot of big-weapon fear. Saying stuff like, say, “Big weapons are fine if you’re good, and they’re not fine if you’re bad.” The line, “Don’t look at the ark” is a fantastic way of saying, “Just don’t worry about stuff and it’ll be fine. We have nuclear weapons, but it’s none of your business.” Also some of the sexual things going on, the gender relationships, the racial stuff that goes on, if you don’t pick it out and say, “Hang on a sec. Isn’t that saying that black people are stupid?” Then you’re being racist by watching that movie. You agree with it.

{smart stuff. I think about this stuff incessantly, but it’s nice to hear someone who’s a brilliant actor articulate it completely out of nowhere in a promotional interview with a third-tier alt-weekly… a nice surprise}

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4 responses so far ↓

  • 1 noize // Oct 6, 2008 at 12:13 pm

    Following that logic would dictate that we inherently agree to all subversive metaphorical content to which we expose ourselves – be it film, music, television, books, advertising and so forth – unless we are readily able to acknowledge and critically assess this underlying content both inside and outside of the provided context. Does that indicate we implicitly support and accept every idea we consume, even if we are not remotely aware that we are being indoctrinated, unless we overtly deny any agreement?

  • 2 James // Oct 7, 2008 at 10:30 am

    Yes.

  • 3 James // Oct 8, 2008 at 10:26 am

    OK, my answer’s still “yes” but I think you also have to take into account how much our subconscious opinions are affected by the implicit authority given to the speaker; we put a lot more stock in the information we get from major news media than we do from a crazy guy on the street. People may be exposed to subversive, anti-establishment content, but if they’re made uncomfortable by the context and they write off or don’t understand that content, that’s a different thing than when some sort of reactionary, traditionalist content is coming from a voice (i.e. popular hollywood films) that they already accept as a voice of authority. not trying to condescend here; we all do this. anyhow this is part of what makes situationist techniques so cool, is that they confuse the distinction between anonymity and authority and force everyone to question the source and intentions of the information they get. either way I’m glad Simon Pegg is making popular films within the mainstream establishment that are self-consciously aware of hegemony and are well intentioned and smart.

  • 4 James // Oct 8, 2008 at 10:26 am

    not trying to argue that Simon Pegg is a situationist, by the way; just saying I’m impressed that he’s aware of that stuff.