Discussion Questions over Mise en scene and Montage

1. How does a moving camera bring about ethical questions between artist, subject, and observer?

2. Why is only image and noise necessary to conceive a film and not print, speech, or music?

3. What are the different types of codes used in films, and how do they interplay in order to create a deeper understanding of a scene?

4. Why are the “limitations that the frame imposes” and the “composition of the image within the frame” so important in the perception of scenes?

5. In your opinion, determine three codes that are the most important to static film frames from (aspect ratio, open/closed forms, frame/geographic/depth planes, depth perception, proximity and proportion, intrinsic properties of color, form, line etc….)

– Sophia & Pearl

Response to Discussion Questions over Semiotics and the Language of Film

I personally believe that the language of film is both universal in some aspects but also culturally contingent in others. For example, there are established rules and norms in the language of film that everyone understands. Everyone, regardless of culture, understands that a film montage represents the quick passage of time. It’s also understood that in a reverse shot reverse sequence the two subjects that are in frame are looking at each other without having to show the both of them in the same frame. There are various film techniques that have been established that create the language of film and it allows for a universal viewing and understanding. However, when it comes to what the language of film represents and the interpretation of film it becomes more culturally contingent. Just how we discussed in class
film draws more on the signifier rather than the signified. The signifier varies greatly from culture to culture depending on the sign. For example, in America the female body is heavily sexualized and so when a nude female body is portrayed/signified in films the audience arrives at a sexual connotation. In Europe however the female body is seen more in an artistic fashion and there’s not such a heavy emphasis on sexuality, so European audiences tend to not be so fazed by the portrayal of nude females in film. This differentiation in signifier connotations across cultures is what causes many films to become censored in an attempt to better please the respective cultural norms.  Culture affects the reading of film and images because all cultures have various and differing meanings for film, icons, and images. The signifier changes from culture to culture.

I do not agree with Monaco, I believe that film in itself is a language. In its basic form film is used to communicate. Film expresses meaning, it expresses ideas and thoughts. Whether it’s a simple fictional tale or a hard pressing documentary, film has meaning and it communicates messages, just like writing.  Perhaps during the early days of film could it have been argued as not being a language, but film is much more advanced and complicated now that in its own respective way it is definitely a language. Maybe it is not a language when approached in the ways of conventional rhetorical analysis but film differs immensely from what has come before it. Images have meaning and they’re considered a language, film is simply a collection of fast moving images, therefore film should also be considered a language.

Just like the reading said, film is easy to understand, and that is precisely why it’s so difficult to explain. When we watch a film we know exactly what we’re seeing on screen. To some degree it’s very literal what we see. The reason why film is hard to explain isn’t because were explaining what we see, were attempting to explain what we feel, how we feel, and why exactly film makes us feel the emotions we feel. That’s always been the hardest part to explain about film. It invokes emotion that is extremely difficult to pinpoint and explain.

A filmmaker’s choice affects our connotative abilities because filmmakers choose what they want us to see and they guide our eyes. They present everything right in front of us and they leave it to us to interpret what they’re presenting. Filmmaker’s have more control over the signified and they leave the rest up to audience for interpretation.

Discussion Questions over Semiotics and the Language of Film

  1. Do you think that the ‘language of film’ is a universal language or one that is more culturally contingent?
  2. If you believe that as a language, film is more culturally contingent, how/why do you think that culture affects your reading of film and images?
  3. Do you agree with the Monaco reading that film is not actually a language? Why or why not? If it is not a language, how is it used to communicate?
  4. What about film do you think makes it “hard to explain”?
  5. How do filmmakers’ choices affect our connotative abilities/ views on the subject?

-Christian & David

Hillary’s Situated vs. Invented Ethos

Hillary Rodham Clinton is possibly the best study of the constructed ethos in opposition to the situated ethos that exists in the public political realm. Due to a significant political career spanning decades, the public figure of HRC can function as an artifact of visual rhetoric, and is interesting in that she is a study of the political Other that exists within the establishment. Recently, during her run for the presidency and before as the Secretary of State, Hillary Clinton has taken a more hands-on approach to her public image and has used her administrative sway, the inertia of her career, and her relationship to the media to empower her invented ethos as a powerful political figure.

The idea of the Other as a psychoanalytic and critical concept is directly applicable to Hillary’s situated ethos: up until perhaps the past decade, much of her political existence has been defined in relation to other individuals. Unless my understanding of the concept is flawed, which it may very well be, given feminist critical theory the Other’s existence is defined by the Subject. In the case of Bill Clinton as the President of the United States, he was the Subject and HRC the Other. Granted, HRC exercised her agency as the First Lady in order to attempt healthcare reform, but as the Parry-Giles essay notes, “the White House associated the First Lady more with children’s issues,” which is an example of an institution directing the figure of the non-Subject to what it feels is best: in this case, the “good mother” (377). She was looked up to in relation to “images of feminism, power, and fear” at the time, and yet she was not in complete control of her own image. This rose to a boiling point during the Lewinsky scandal, as her reaction to her husband’s infidelity was watched closely, and she became the figure of the “supportive wife” (378). Again, HRC is not the focus of the media, and her presence is defined by her husband’s actions and the actions of the institution he represents.

Ever since the conclusion of Bill’s presidency, HRC seized her agency and commanded her image far more and has moved from the figure of the Other into the Subject. As a Senator, Secretary of State, and presidential candidate, she has more often appeared visually divorced from her husband in media, usually with a stellar smile on her face (this depends on the network/site of course). While she is still a controversial person in power, as evidenced by the Whitewater, Benghazi, and her most recent email scandals, she nevertheless maintains a level of security in her image, which is proven by her popularity as a Democratic presidential candidate. Without having a popular public image, she wouldn’t have a chance.

HRC remains the example of visual rhetoric that we have studied to possess the most depth. Considering that the majority (last I checked) of the students in the class have chosen to write on her for their discussion posts, I feel that her figure is an excellent springboard into further discussion of rhetoric, primarily with regard to the study of ethos.

Visual manipulation and ethics in the media

Depiction is a canon of visual rhetoric that is widely manipulated by the media. In the Giles excerpt of Mediating Hillary Rodham Clinton, Giles explains how the media uses images and clips to persuade the audience to perceive HRC in a certain way depending on what they are trying to achieve and the argument they are trying to make. In the article, Giles gives examples of HRC being depicted in a negative light by news organizations such as MSNBC and CNN. Examples include the CNN image of HRC at the Whitewater investigation and shows HRC laughing as if she isn’t taking the investigation seriously, even though the Whitewater investigation hearing was closed to the public. Visual recontextualization of images and clips are commonly used in political ad campaigns to inaccurately depict an opposing candidate. Another example would be the use of sequencing to show angry protesters picketing against Hillary, yet those protesters could have been filmed anywhere and at another time. HRC is one among almost all of the highly covered politicians and celebrity figures being manipulated by the media. It can even be inferred that this commonality is more of an issue among women. The media uses stereotypes and micro aggression to hone in on female popular figures waiting for them to make a “wrong move” and hype an event that wouldn’t be as popular if a man was the subject involved.

This leads to the problems with modern journalism where Giles covers contextualization and agenda setting in the media. When objective journalism is bypassed by a more favorable narrowcasting type of journalism that is one sided and looking to persuade a set audience ethical problems may arise. When journalists are agenda setting and they lose transparency and therefore credibility. To fulfill a one angled story, using images that may not be in the right context to depict a subject in a certain manner whether that be positive or negative can be considered unethical due the removal of objectivity and an unbiased viewpoint. Visual rhetoric plays a large role to support the media’s predetermined outlook and agenda when an organisation is covering an event or figure. To clarify, examples of narrowcasting or one sided journalism would be shows like the O’Reilly factor or the Rachel Maddow show that caters to a specific political audience. These shows use an arrange of visual manipulations to satisfy their consumers. Manipulations include image sequencing, camera angels, misinterpretation, and taking images, films, and audio snippets out of context.

The main problem with visual manipulation is the chance at a false public representation of a figure like HRC. In reality, politicians don’t have as much control over their public identity as we credit them to. They are mostly in the hands of the major news organizations with the largest amount of viewers. It’s important to realize this and give more attention to news organizations that are being the most objective as possible by staying within an ethical bounds. Knowing the association between the canons of visual rhetoric and how the media manipulates them is key to recognizing the bias in today’s media outlets.

Hilary’s Public Image in the Media: A True Struggle

For decades now, Hilary Rodham Clinton has received extensive media attention for a number of different reasons. This media coverage has shifted from what was once rooted in admiration and support to what is now rooted in intimidation and distrust. Aside from the media coverage she attracted after Bill’s impeachment from office, I would argue that Hilary has been largely responsible for putting herself under the looking glass of the media in the political sphere. Hilary has always had her own political agenda that she has stood by and over time it has accumulated more and more attention from the general public. Though she withdrew from the race in 2008, media sources continued to keep an eye on her from a distance. Now, eight years later, coverage of Hilary Clinton is something one cannot avoid when flipping through news stations. With the 2016 Presidential elections creeping near, Hilary’s media image in the eyes of the public is in a very critical and shaky state that requires specialized attention on behalf of Team Hilary.

Media sources tend to hone in on individuals that play an integral part in society. Because Hilary is a well-known politician, she automatically attracts more media attention than other average celebrities or public figures. This includes positive and negative attention. Because of the controversiality of Hilary and her character, I believe that the media feeds the fire a lot of the time. This includes using photographs of Hilary that appear more harsh or stern and taking them out of the context in which they were taken and then placing them in the context that they need to make an argument. This isn’t to say that the media is necessarily being purposefully dishonest with the public but it is definitely misrepresentative of Hilary’s image at times.Without even intentionally meaning to, different media sources impose their own biases onto the issues or people they are covering, resulting in a somewhat skewed take on the actual truth of the matter. Now, one could claim that this is simply unfair. The media is supposed to provide us with a constant, credible source of unbiased information that we can use to create and solidify our opinions on certain things, right? Wrong. The media would cease to be the media without a steady viewer-base and consistent, positive ratings. If these two things fail or lose their strength, the media source will burn out and sink. Because of this, the media tends to perpetually stir the pot. This keeps things interesting and controversial and helps to attract and keep a solid viewer base informed and entertained.

In all, I don’t believe that Hilary has ultimate control over her public image. The media will inevitably warp her demeanor to fit the story that they need it to fit, just as they do with every well-known face in the public sphere. I think that the best way Hilary could go about managing her public image to the best of her ability is by remaining open and honest with the public. She is under great scrutiny now and it will only intensify as the election nears. What the public wants to see is someone they feel as though they can trust and depend on. Lately, Hilary’s public image that is generated by the media has been challenging that. She and her PR team need to make conscious efforts to publicly present her in the best, most genuine way they see fit in order to keep Hilary from destroying Hilary.

The Dangers of the Public Eye

Hillary Clinton does not have control over her public image, only the image she shares with those close enough to truly know her. Clinton’s public image is exactly that, public, and once in the hands of the public and those hired to engineer it positively or negatively, her image will never be entirely her own. Even something as simple as her name is manipulated. In the nineties, Hillary was known as Hillary Rodham Clinton, these days as a president candidate Clinton known as just Hillary Clinton. However, Shawn J. Parry-Giles, the author of the article, Meditating Hillary Rodham Clinton, identifies her even as HRC due to this ambiguity. He recognizes that the reason the public has such a strong opinion on her public image is because of “‘her refusal to be silenced’” (Parry-Giles 375). Hillary’s vocal attitude keeps her thoughts current in the public eye, although this can be problematic for her. Clinton, like any person, changes her beliefs and opinions as she absorbs new information and grows as a professional, however, whilst this was naturally happening Clinton has been in the public eye. The complication with this, is that by changing her ideals, the public assumes she is a different person along with these ideals or even a person who is unstable in their point of view. This can reflect poorly on her public image. However since, Hillary Clinton is now a presidential candidate once again, she has a task force team of professionals who are meant to curate her image in a positive light. Now, it may seem that this is a reflection of Hillary’s real beliefs and personality, but more likely, the image that her associates display of her is the one that will gain her the most votes. This push and pull of perspectives on who Hillary Clinton really is can be conflicting. One day the public sees her as a traditional wife who believes marriage is only sacred between a man and woman, the next she is the victim of a cheating scandal caused by her husband, and then the next day she appears to be an independent working mother who supports gay marriage and is running for president. Even further, Hillary Clinton’s image depends on who is absorbing it. For example, a feminist may view Hillary Clinton as a great role model when she runs for president, while a patriarchal person may view this as out of line or improper for a “lady.” Despite these very contrasting identities, the reality is Hillary Clinton is a human who has had many perspectives and even identities overtime. Yet, society likes to place icons, like Hillary Clinton, in boxes, or typecasts, in order to understand their unique significance. So even though Clinton is a complex human like the rest of us, due to her status, she will always struggle to have control of the image placed upon her. Her image may not be her own, but this may allow her a amount of privacy and security in herself, because she does not have her true vulnerable self in the public eye but rather an image constructed by multiple unique sources.

Does HRC Have Control Over Her Image?

Hillary Clinton’s image has been the cause of a lot of conflict for several decades now, and the her efforts and struggles with the media to influence it have gone on for just as long. However, the power dynamic between Clinton and the media has changed significantly since she was just a presidential candidate’s wife.

When Bill Clinton was first running for president in 1991, the media decided to paint Hillary Clinton as the poster child of the new wave of feminism at the time. She was a far cry from the stay-at-home wife that was the norm in the 1990s, with a lot of experience practicing law and campaigning under her belt. The media portrayed her as a very volatile person and described her as a “political animal.”

This image was not helpful to Clinton, and gave the public a very negative perception of her early in her career. Hillary took steps to take her image back from the media, which can best be shown in her white house bake-off which painted Hillary as a good housewife who cooked and performed other domestic tasks. This is the first example of Hillary taking steps to control her image.

Fast forward to 2016, and Clinton has become very experienced with the media, and manipulates them very skillfully. In a recently leaked communication between a member of Hillary’s staff and journalist Marc Ambinder, Ambinder was offered prior access to one of Hillary’s speeches, under the condition that he wrote a favorable article that praised her and used certain adjectives, such as “muscular” to describe her speech. The journalist in question complied with all of these requests.

This occurrence shows that Hillary has come a long way from the time when she held a bake-off to appease the media and the public. Hillary is now very well-versed in dealing with the media, and has figured out, at least in some cases, how to make the media work for her.

In recent years Hillary has faced a new opponent in her struggle to control her image: the internet. Ironically, just as Hillary has managed to create a dominant relationship with the media, an entirely new medium comes along which is impossible to control, therefore making Hillary’s struggle to control her image similar to Sisyphus and his boulder.

The internet, and specifically media, have allowed anyone to post their opinions, which can create new narratives completely independent of traditional news media. Things such as the Bernie v Hillary meme can influence an entire generation’s perspective of Hillary, and online her foibles, such as her infamous appearance on The Ellen Show where she hit the Nae Nae, can be amplified and criticized on a scale that would be impossible on a 24-hour news channel. The irreverence of social media can also create narratives that are a lot more angry and rude than a those that a news channel would create. It’s hard to imagine an anchor on a cable news channel would insinuate that Hillary’s “failure to please” her husband would mean that she could not please America, but that’s exactly what Donald Trump did on twitter.

HRC and the media

Hillary has little to no control over her public image. She may do things that spur various stories, but in reality, it is up to the media to interpret her actions and portray her in a certain light. Hillary is not consulted before the media is about to publish a story about her. The only influence Hillary has on her public image is what she does in public. For instance, if she participates in philanthropic events, the media could portray her as a charitable woman of good character. On the flipside, if she is involved in a scandal, the media could portray her has a woman of poor morals. However, despite what Hillary does in public, the media could still choose to portray her as something she is not. If she participates in philanthropy events, the media could portray her as two faced and only benefitting her self. So in reality, Hillary has very little control over her own public image. Thinking broader, no one in the public eye has control over his or her public images. Media outlets are concerned only for themselves. They will do anything for a “headlining story” even if that means trashing someone’s image.

Repetition of images really emphasizes and engraves the image or phrase in the audience’s brain. They are very influential for impacting an audience. The role of repetition is very important to frame an image or story. By repeating the phrases and scenes, the audience is much more likely to recall the truths later. For example, the super bowl just occurred and the focus was not on the game itself, but rather the tale of the two quarterbacks. The story framed was Peyton Manning: an old school quarterback with a good upbringing and family versus Cam Newton: a new school quarterback with a shaky upbringing and troubled past. This juxtaposition made for a story the audience and those watching coverage leading up to the Super Bowl, would never forget. The phrase “a battle between old school and new school” was repeated countless times on various media outlets. This constructed the story and focus on the Super Bowl. In the article, the author paid very close attention to the use of repetition to shape HRC’s image as well as what the audience perceived as a truth about her. By using various photo angles and compositions, HRC is remembered in the public sphere. News media outlets often repeated the constructed truths about HRC. The audience does not even question the truth they receive. Overall, repetition is a very powerful source in the media. It is responsible for emphasizing and constructing a truth by gaining credibility with the audience and making us remember it.

Overall, feminism has changed its focus, but there is still a bias against women and the movement. Historically, men in power feel threatened by the feminist movement because their power is in jeopardy. Right now, the feminist movement is at its peak participation because of the inequality. It is also peaking because of monumental women in the fight for women’s rights. For example, two females were just hired as professional football and men’s basketball coaches fighting the notion that women can’t hold these male dominated jobs. These examples are truly an outbreak for women as they are slowly but surely becoming equal to their male counterpart. However, inequalities still exist. Most women are paid less than their male counterpart holding the same position. Women are also viewed as weaker than men, but with women like Ronda Rousey, this notion is slowly being eliminated as well. The media’s approach to feminism has also changed in that there is more coverage. With the examples listed above, all of these are headliners that draw attention to the movement.

Hillary’s Image

Hillary Clinton, like other public figures, does have some control over her public image, however the media plays a very influential part in shaping the public’s opinions about her. The media is more critical and of politicians because they have a direct impact on our country and our lives. Much more so than other celebrities, such as actors and athletes. On one hand, scrutiny of politicians can be beneficial to the public. This allows the public to gain the most knowledge about a politician, both good and bad, when deciding whether or not to vote for them. However, when the media is in charge of shaping political opinions, there is often biased framing and agenda planning at play.

Media outlets use a number of techniques when creating an image. These include visual manipulation, zooming and distancing the camera, and recycling old news footage. Even though we trust news stations like CNN to be honest about people and events, we are actually receiving a biased message. With every news story, there are images and video clips that we do see, but also ones we don’t. The visuals of Hillary they choose to show (smiling, angry, rude, etc.) will strongly impact what the public thinks of her. The media can even use images that don’t accurately portray an event. For example, Hillary could have been happy during an event, however she looks angry in a photo. The media would then show that photo, making a naïve viewer think Hillary is harsh or uncompassionate. There is a range of reasons to why the media would try to create a biased image. These include trying to get better ratings and trying to please the politicians and corporations they are supported by.

The most simple and effective way Hillary Clinton can control her public image is to act and speak appropriately. Hillary doesn’t always do this. During her time in the public eye, she has made comments that have offended feminists and involved herself in various political scandals in the Middle East. The more a politician can stay out of trouble, the better reputation they will have. The media would not easily be able to promote a bad image of Hillary if she wasn’t providing them with a number of ways to exploit her. Even though media images can be exaggerated, they are still based on true facts. When Hillary finds herself in the middle of a scandal, she tries doing friendly or respectable things to increase her good PR and keep her image from spiraling out of control. While it is important for Hillary to maintain a good image on social media, she cannot rely alone on that. People will trust any news outlet more than Hillary’s own twitter. She wouldn’t say anything bad about herself on her own twitter.

In an ideal world, media outlets would show a complete, unbiased report of events. However, this is not the case. Hilary can help control her image by avoiding scandal and properly managing her PR. However, the majority of the influence on her image will come from the media.