Not really an assignment, but it will be a challenge and fun nonetheless.
Jobie is teaching a class on postmodernism and wants me to come in and present this video clip to them.
It is of course utter crap, but he wants me to provide pomo commentary as if we thought it was important for the kids to know about.Â So whattaya say, guys, can we analyze this film?
I thought you said “porno commentary” for a moment there.
Of course one is immediately reminded of Antonioni’s “Red Desert” … man stranded in an unforgiving, crushing environment. And, much like Estragon and Vladimir in Waiting For Godot, the protagonist awaits a salvation that may never come. But maybe that’s not what he needs. And certainly salvation never arrives in the guise that we expect.
I am struck by the perverse nature of the salvation offered in the film, in that our Christian God figures, stripped of their outward sanctity and reduced to Santa and a heretofore unknown Ice Cream Bunnyâ€”not even an Easter Bunnyâ€”appear to await salvation from the innocent children, but instead Santa flees with the Bunny, stranding the children on the shores of Utnapishtim’s Ocean of Death.
Perhaps this is the symbolic end of childhood fantasy? Indeed, the end of childhood itself. Does the “bunny” represent the Mother, the provider of “mother’s milk” in the form of a milk-based product — ice cream? But only for a time. And we all know about absent fathers — supposedly donning their corporate costumes and providing financial support for the family, but more likely to be found passed out in a sled following a night of debauchery. The mother is forced to bring the children along with her to search for the missing father, since his lack of commitment and financial support leaves her with few, if any, options. But does she learn from his callous act of abandonment? No. When she finds her man, she leaves the children to fend for themselves! The circle of abandonment is complete.
I think the sly references to Fellini and his carnivals are worth mentioning.
I wonder what is the significance of the fact that the ICE CREAM bunny rides around on a FIRE truck.
Fire/Ice. Hot and Cold. Heaven and Hell.
And the color RED as a recurring motif … the red sun, the red santa suit, the fire truck … what does it all MEAN?
I also read your original comment as “porno commentary” at first glance.
I think my initial reaction is very close to your comments – the children singing about saving Santa’s sleigh only to watch him ride away with the Bunny(?) and then have the sleigh disappear.
Could this video be the “low brow” version of post modernism?
Only Guy Debord’s Situationist film experiments from the late Sixties approach the same level of cinematic subversion.
The piece is a picture-perfect execution of deconstructionist strategies straight out of Derrida’s playbook. And most controversially for these times, it also champions the french philosopher’s career-long activist agenda. It is not the American brand of reactionary nihilist deconstruction by any means.
The target of this deconstruction is not Santa Claus or our complicity in perpetuating childhood fantasy figures. The subtle proliferation of textures in the film indicates the object of scrutiny is much more complex. The deconstruction here is aimed at capital’s exploitation of youth’s ironic suspicion and ridicule of fantasy figures as a way to achieve cultural hegemony and subjective interpolation.
Within the banal wrappings of what seems to be another amusing clip making the rounds on YouTube is an incendiary device, but one uniquely set on self-diffusion as its ultimate destructive goal. The young will view it and will try to laugh, but the competing binaries laid bare scramble all the channels.
It is in capital’s interest to re-enforce the smirking superiority of the young. Such a move re-enforces the cultural self-identity of the young consumerist impulse. All the usual signifiers designed for youthful condescension are here, but as I hinted at earlier, their underlying binary oppositional supports are also presented. The young viewer does not know how to respond.
In brief. The primitive nature of the filmmaking hides knowing references to art cinema, particularly to modernist masters like Antonioni (not only Red Desert but the end of Blow-Up), Ozu, Bresson, and Eisenstein among others. The non-narrative, static rhythms of image and cutting are studied and jarring in their deliberateness. The film wants to challenge capital’s pushing of cinema as a kind of empowering cynical knowledge system for the young by implying another shadowy set of expressive devices at work that are less supportive of capital’s agenda. The fleeting thought in the mind of the viewer that maybe something has been missed, some references beyond his or her scope, is coupled with a texture reminiscent of low budget UHF children’s television from the end of television’s “Age of Innocence.” The notion of some international alliance of children coming to Santa’s aid is confused by the implication throughout that we are somewhere in Africa, possibly Darfur. Yes, the reliance on sunlight may be budgetary, but the other implication is there. All is hunger, drought, and desolation. A jalopy that looks at first like it is carrying starving African children barely hanging on for survival is suddenly in the midst of a typical American amusement park like Six Flags or Wild Adventures. Not the expected irony. Or is it a military vehicle transporting a blood-hungry militia that can do as it pleases since Santa is out of commission? The ambiguity is maintained till close to the end. Note, also, that the children ultimately pull Santa’s sleigh to get it going. The consumerist West is ultimately powered by the labor of exploited children. Consider the insistent siren as both the signifier of “help on the way” and the arrival of bombers. The emphasis on the dog is just out of rhythm enough to show the threat of pestilence and depravity in store.
The significance of the Ice Cream Bunny is that it is not the Easter Bunny. Here is the activist impulse of the deconstruction at its most radical. Captial would exploit by erasing the Christian liturgical echoes of Easter in this piece just as it would exploit by erasing the Nativity as an association to Santa, but it would no doubt do so by having the Easter Bunny as a character. By completely removing the “other” Christian holiday harbinger, the film invites the viewer to question the limits of his or her own knowing youthful cynicism, echoing Zizek’s surprising suggestion that we not be so hasty to toss out Christianity as a viable response to the Real. What good, after all, is this Ice Cream Bunny in an African drought? Capital, we are invited to consider, wants to offer Ice Cream instead of Easter. Are we buying?
Speaking psychoanalytically, capital employs Santa as the ultimate fetish object. The suspicious youthful viewer is seduced into the making the perverse contract: “I know it is just a facade, a costume show, but I’m going to invest in it all the same.” And the rite of jouissance in this instance is youthful cynical dismissal. It is, after all, a bad film version of some variation on the Santa mythos. And now the young viewer feels he has been known in some intimate way. Capital has made a place for him or her under the tent. The deconstructed texture of the film, however, drains Santa of his fetishistic appeal.
And so on.
I keep returning to the subversion of standard filmic narrative strategies, i.e., the endless shots of the fire engine traversing the screen. Is the filmmaker not mocking the commercial empires built on artificial techniques used since the birth of the art form?
I agree wholeheartedly.
In standard narrative cinematic technique, it is the illusion of progressive movement that controls the viewer’s experience. This, of course, has reached a fevered pitch in the cutting rhythms of music videos and commercials. The entire ideological notion of the “limited attention span” of the young or the suggestion that the young process “information” faster is there to bolster this. This film forces the viewer to dwell in stasis, not only to initiate a new physiological relationship to viewing, but to send the message that there is no true progress in the West with respect to its relations and actions around the world.
So, Dale, how did it go? Were their tiny little minds sufficiently hoodwinked?
Jobie might enjoy Fredric Jameson’s Postmodernism, or the Logic of Late Capitalism. Similar to Lyotard, but more expansive.