Movie-ing with the times

Like around 30 per cent of arts students, I fancy myself as something of a journalist. Like 20 per cent, I’m considering a masters just to delay employment for another year. Like 25 per cent I reckon I’d make a fairly good teacher. Like another 15 per cent, I’ll probably apply for jobs in advertising, publishing and ‘the media’. And like the remaining 20 per cent, I was never that good at Maths. But like all of them, I have absolutely no clue about what to do with my degree.

So, promulgating that old adage of ‘transferable skills’ last Friday night, I found myself drafting cover letters to companies I’d never heard of, for jobs I’ve apparently always wanted to do. The application requisites were all pretty similar: an outgoing personality, hard work ethic and a “good” degree. It was the last one that got me thinking. In 2012, almost universally blacklisted by the working world, subjects like Film Studies represent a taboo that is a byword for dumbing down.

I don’t do Film Studies, but I feel bad for people who do. Not because I’m partial to some subject snobbery (ahem PPE) but because I recognize that they’re in exactly the same sort of boat as me, except theirs is one sunk by stigmatism before its even left the port.

While Literature is granted its golden pedestal (academically at least), Film is quickly confined to the status of “low art”, below the heights of poetry and prose. Why? I think that this question is in itself misleading. In distinguishing Literature as being different from Film Studies, we have in fact provided the quarantine ourselves. Truth be told, Film is Literature, and Art, and Music.

Indeed, if film represents the audiovisual demonstration of the written world, it does not seem erroneous to suggest that it might encompass the same skills supposedly extricated by say, English or History. Nuanced cinematography, subversive or explorative plot lines and quite often emotional catharsis, are these not as analytically intriguing qualities that can rival any abilities garnered through studying other arts subjects?

Is the Literature of Casablanca not arguably some of the best writing of the twentieth century? Is the Literature of The Departed not arguably some the best of the twenty-first? Is the photography of City of God not some of the most iconic of all time? And what about the music for The Good, the Bad and the Ugly, Jaws or Mission Impossible? The self-styled chronology of Pulp Fiction? The narrative twist of The Usual Suspects? Or the historical context of Platoon? If you answer no to these questions just “because they’re in films”, then you really are missing the point.

If Film Studies students are to break the glass ceiling, employers and in turn society, must entertain a more open mind. Finally, in an increasingly digital age, I would even go as far to suggest that a deeper understanding of popular culture might prove more useful in the corporate world than a working knowledge of Plato’s forms.

6 comments

  1. I think a lot of people would disagree with a few of the points made here…

    I don’t think you can argue Film Studies being on the same level as English (although that’s a completely useless degree as well); mainly because books and writing have been around since the start of civilisation and the study of them as gleaned much interesting information about the past. Films as we know them have been around for less than a century, the study of them might be interesting but I just don’t think there’s enough to be learnt from them to justify a whole subject devoted to them. A module in History or something devoted to it would surely be much more suitable.

    Most importantly, I don’t really see what useful skills one could possibly gain from film studies… being able to critically review a film, perhaps? But this is not something you need a degree in, just talent and practice. The world has no need for experts in films, at least not enough need to justify hordes of students training to become them.

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  2. 19 Dec ’12 at 5:00 pm

    Rohan Banerjee

    obv obv obv

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  3. “I think a lot of people would disagree with a few of the points made here…”

    I disagree.

    “I don’t think you can argue Film Studies being on the same level as English (although that’s a completely useless degree as well); mainly because books and writing have been around since the start of civilisation and the study of them as gleaned much interesting information about the past.”

    Condemnation for analysis of the past, but then you go on to propound the study of history. I think more people would disagree with you suggesting English is a pointless degree.

    “Most importantly, I don’t really see what useful skills one could possibly gain from film studies… being able to critically review a film, perhaps?”

    The article explains this quite well I feel. Analytical skills that can be transferred to a number of different employment sectors.

    “The world has no need for experts in films”

    Basically, all your comment does is show that you’re a subject snob with a deep seated close mindedness.

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  4. Very good article. Mr Annoying I think has got it all wrong. I don’t do film studies but watch many films. In fact, film analysis has so many relatable aspects to subjects like history. Looking for meaning and context in a film is very similar to looking for meaning and context in contemporary sources throughout history. To argue that it’s a defunct subject because it is relatively recent is entirely missing the point. Studying the Italian neo-realists for example can demonstrate the working class situation in Italy in better ways than pretty much any other art form.

    Added to that, the way film has developed extensively in the last 100 years is really interesting and worthy of further study. Film criticism will inevitably grow in stature as the years go by.

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  5. If Film Studies isn’t a pointless degree, then what is? I think that if people want to study these things, then go ahead. But what annoys me is that they receive lots of funding! The government should provide extremely limited funding to degrees that provide students with extremely limited skills and knowledge to the UK economy.

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