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.