Published work – September 2014

Metro iconAs it’s almost October, I thought I’d share some of the articles that I’ve written for Metro Blogs throughout September.

After going to the launch of Glue, E4’s latest drama, I’ve written a couple of pieces about the show – which has since become one of my favourite programmes on television at the moment.

I also celebrated the 20th anniversary of Friends by selecting my choices of the sitcom’s best episodes and revealed some of my favourite Derren Brown shows – an article that was then shared on the illusionist’s Facebook page.

Check out the following blogs:

Friends turns 20: 20 episodes you need to watch

7 reasons I’ll be watching Strictly for the first time this year

9 best moments from the McBusted Tourplay announcement

11 types of students you’ll meet during freshers’ week

9 reasons why E4’s Glue is an unmissable yet shocking drama

Bad Education is back: 10 reasons Jack Whitehall is top of the class

9 reasons to be excited about Disney Infinity 2.0

13 things you need to be a convincing pirate on Talk Like A Pirate Day

11 lessons learned from Educating the East End (including how to run an election)

7 best moments from Our Girl series opener

Our Girl: Can anybody compete with Downton Abbey?

8 times Derren Brown blew our minds

Glue: 8 biggest shocks from episode two

8 reasons why How I Met Your Mother should’ve used its alternative ending

Giant spiders vs crane flies: Who wins?

And there’s plenty more to come in October…

Discuss the importance of paganism and death in the Harry Potter series.

This is an assignment I did for my ‘Popular Texts and Intertexts’ module earlier this year. It contains spoilers from all seven Harry Potter books.

Rowling’s popular book series, Harry Potter, has become a global phenomenon since the initial release of the first book Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone in 1997. The series tells the tale of Harry Potter, a young orphan boy being raised, reluctantly, by his aunt and uncle. On his eleventh birthday, Harry discovers that he is a wizard and soon after, also finds he is famous in the wizarding world, having survived a killing curse placed upon him by an evil wizard, Lord Voldemort, who murdered his parents. The series follows Harry’s adventures and quest to try and defeat Lord Voldemort.

Despite the fact Harry Potter is regarded a series of children’s’ books, the theme of death is an integral part of the tale and the books get darker throughout the series. As well as the death of Harry’s parents and the deaths of other characters that grow close to Harry throughout the series, the antagonist, Voldemort, reflects the idea that the biggest fear to many is death itself, and as a character he is seen to go to any means necessary to save himself from death. Furthermore, despite the popularity of the series, there has been much criticism about the effects it has on its younger readers and the meanings of the messages portrayed throughout the series. Although Christian critics have scrutinised literature of the past for its association with magic and sorcery, J.K. Rowling is criticised for the inclusion of dark arts in her novels. Many religious groups, particularly in America, have tried to get the book banned in schools for the pagan imagery it represents, as they are seen as a possible danger to children. There have been suggestions that children consume the ideas of witchcraft and dark arts and conduct unnatural and un-Christian activity such as paganistic acts. It is evident that the core themes of the series are paganism and death. This essay looks to explore these themes and their importance within the series with reference to studies of children’s literature by Jenkins, Raglan, Bettelheim and Garry and El-Shamy.

There are seven books in the Harry Potter series

It is indisputable that the series is to be considered one of the most popular ever written, with a study conducted by The Guardian revealing that all seven books in the series are amongst the top ten most sold books between 1998 and 2010. When Rowling was asked in an interview why she thought the books were so popular she replied, “I don’t want to analyse that. I don’t want to decide that there’s a formula… It’s for other people to decide not me”. In addition to the amount of sales of the books, the series is also popular in the way that it has inspired children to read and write.  Although, this has also been criticised due to the context in which children write as children often take on the role of witches and wizards on role playing websites. Jenkins (2006) explains:

“Within Christianity, there are some groups that embrace the potentials of the new participatory culture and others terrified by them” (pg.170)

This suggests that some people are against this participatory role playing platform on which children write as they believe they could start participating in paganistic life styles.

Scholar Bruno Bettelheim (1976) claims that children need fairytales to see both positive and negative impulses mirrored in order to understand that it is acceptable to reject negativity. This idea can be applied to Harry Potter, when Harry expresses that he does not want to be in Slytherin, one of the school houses, because of its notorious association with the dark arts. Because of the negative connotations to the house, Harry tells the sorting hat “not Slytherin” and it complies to his request. Harry rejects Slytherin because of its association with a purity of blood cult and their insistence that all witches and wizards should be “pure bloods”. This shows that even within the wizarding world there is prejudice, which Harry identifies and rejects immediately. This is comparable to racism, for example, in the real world. Arguably, because the negative themes are common in fantasy quest novels, particularly those aimed at children, it is essential that they see that they can see how to cope with it and the negativity in their lives. With children learning many life lessons through literature and secondary socialisation, it is an essential learning curve and a way in which to impart morals and values upon the reader. As children quite often face the death of loved ones, it is thought that the theme of death is important in the series in order to help the readers deal with issues they may face during their own adolescence.

Whilst paganism encompasses a vast and diverse community it is most commonly associated with the wicca-occult who practice witchcraft. Some Christians see the practices of pagans unorthodox because they are not seen as “natural” and “demonlike”. Harry’s aunt and uncle, the Dursleys, are arguably reflective of the critics of the series, being vocal of their disdain for the wizarding world and living in a very stereotypical version of the real world. They try to keep Harry from joining Hogwarts, in Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone they are seen to react strongly to Hagrid inviting Harry to Hogwarts and go as far to admit:

“Your parents, well, they were weirdos, no denying it, and the world’s better without them in my opinion – asked for all they got, getting mixed up with these wizarding types” (p.46, Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone)

Garry and El-Shamy (2005) claim that it is because of his magical power that the Dursley’s view Harry with contempt throughout his childhood. Additionally, they are very disapproving of the way in which Lily was murdered and prefer not to speak about Harry’s parents, however, in flashbacks throughout the series we see that Lily and Petunia were very close as children, before Lily gained magical ability. This further suggests their dislike of Harry is due to his abnormal abilities and activities during his upbringing, such as being able to talk to snakes. Overall, this shows that the theme of paganism is important in the Harry Potter series because the idea of witchcraft is central to the plot.

There are many apparent satanic aspects in the series

Paganists also look at the divine in nature and possess the view that the earth is living and is to be considered as a conscious being that we are able to communicate with. In the world of Harry Potter people in portraits move, plants, such as the Whomping Willow, carry their own awareness and walls and doors often disappear or move. The Room of Requirement is the best example of this idea, in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix, it is used by Hogwarts students to practice their spells and it is further put to use in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows when it is used to hide students in danger of the Death Eaters. The idea that the room is living is confirmed by Seamus Finnigan in this scenario when he explains to Harry:

“It’s all down to Neville. He really gets this Room. You’ve got to ask it for exactly what you need – and it’ll do it for you” (p.465, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix)

The room is viewed by the students as a conscious being and Neville is able to communicate with it better than he can communicate with many of the other children at Hogwarts. This shows that the paganistic ideal of a community practicing something non-Christian and the idea of the divinity in nature are at the forefront of the Harry Potter series. The natural element of the divinity of nature is seen in many other children’s stories, including the His Dark Materials trilogyand C.S. Lewis’ The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. These ideas add to the escapism that the novels provide and are certainly part of the appeal for children. It is important and central to the plot and the series would not be the same without these themes and ideas, as they often allow the narrative to move forward.

The theme of death is integral to the series and the death of Harry’s parents is the driving force of the plot. Harry’s quest is initiated following their murder as Harry’s mother Lily’s protection and sacrifice for Harry leaves Voldemort fighting for his own life. Their deaths were a result of a prophecy set out stating that:

“Either must die at the hand of the other for neither can live while the other survives. … The one with the power to vanquish the Dark Lord will be born as the seventh month dies…”

This links to the idea that the Harry Potter series is, ultimately, a quest tale, with Harry’s quest being plotted out for him with the creation of the prophecy. Despite not knowing about the truth of his parents’ death, he is given the label of “the chosen one” without any knowledge of the wizarding world. Furthermore, Harry is intrigued by the death of his parents and is vocal about his desire to go to Godric Hollow, where they were killed. His parents are seen to be a huge influence of his actions, despite him having little remembrance of them. When Harry comes close to death himself he thinks of his mother’s final moments:

“But a pair of strong, clammy hands suddenly wrapped themselves around Harry’s neck. They were forcing his face upwards… he could feel its breath… it was going to get rid of him first… he could feel its putrid breath… his mother was screaming in his ears… she was going to be the last thing he ever heard” (Pg. 281, Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban)

A possible interpretation for why Harry hears her sacrificing himself is, perhaps, that he feels guilty that he comes so close to death after her sacrifice to him. This further emphasises the importance of death as a theme in the series.

As a character, Harry possesses the main qualities of the archetypal hero, having faced many trials and tribulations in his life, including death of loved ones, resulting in the flawed characteristics common to characters featuring in a quest tale. As Jenkins (2006) states “the image of a special child being raised in a mundane (in this case, muggles) family and discovering their identities as they enter school age is a classic theme of fantasy novels and fairy tales” (pg. 174). Furthermore, Raglan (1965) supports this idea, particularly the idea that the character becomes a hero when he reaches adolescence claiming “the most surprising things happen to our hero at birth; the most surprising things happen to him as soon as he reaches manhood” (p.152). This is shown in the Harry Potter series which could also be seen as a tale of growth, as the main narrative is set as Harry reaches adolescence. Furthermore, another important quality of a hero is to have similarities with his enemy, when Voldemort was unable to kill Harry he passed on some of his own powers to him including the ability to read each other’s minds and thoughts. It is quite common for heroes in quest tales and fantasy stories to have these qualities and it can be seen in other texts, such as Gandalf and Saruman in Lord of the Rings and Glinda and The Wicked Witch in The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. This is discussed by Catherine and David Deavel in Character, Choice and Harry Potter who state:

We learn there the striking similarities between Harry Potter and Voldemort. Both are half Muggles who were mistreated by Muggles. They both have similar gifts of resourcefulness, determination, the gift of parseltongue, and even a certain disregard for rules; yet Dumbledore is adamant that what makes Harry different, and what made the Sorting Hat refrain from putting him in Slytherin, is his own choice. (pg.53)

This could suggest that a stereotypical hero has to understand his enemy and not fear being defeated, again, emphasising the importance of the theme of death in quest tales, in particular, the Harry Potter series.

Harry is seen as the hero of the wizarding world

The theme of loss is prominent throughout the series, with Harry not only having to face death himself but also having to deal with the majority of his mentors meeting an untimely death at the hands of Voldemort. He also has to rescue many of his loved ones from death. Significantly, many of his close friends and mentors who die throughout the series are the closest thing he has to a father figure since the death of his parents. He is greatly affected when Dumbledore and Sirius Black are killed and often, because they are killed during battles, has no time to grieve. Rowling often chooses to reflect this through the syntax in which she writes, as identified when Harry witnesses Sirius’ murder.

“Harry heard Bellatrix Lestrange’s triumphant scream, but knew it would mean nothing – Sirius had only just fallen through the archway, he would reappear from the other side any second… But Sirius did not reappear” (Pg. 711, Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix)

The way in which Rowling writes almost reflects what Harry is thinking, in a fast paced manner. The fact that Harry has little time to grieve the death of his loved ones could also be associated with the idea that Harry plays the part of a bewildered hero who has had to grow up quickly, before his time. The actions of Harry and the expectations placed upon him are not those that would usually be associated with a school aged child. It is also noticeable that it isn’t until the fourth book that we see Harry in a truly adult light. Coincidently, this is also the novel in which Voldemort rises back to power. As well as witnessing the death of many of his close friends, he also has to rescue many of his loved ones from death as seen in Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. Harry is seen mirroring the actions of his mother by sacrificing his own life to save his friends who are in the Battle of Hogwarts. Even as Voldemort listens to Harry explaining his actions he is left bewildered and still does not understand how love and sacrifice can protect loved ones from death.

“I was ready to die to stop you hurting these people… I meant to, and that’s what did it. I’ve done what my mother did. They’re protected from you. Haven’t you noticed how none of the spells you put on them are binding? You can’t torture them. You can’t touch them. You don’t learn from your mistakes, Riddle, do you?’ (Pg. 591, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows)

Voldemort does not understand love, which ultimately leads to his defeat, emphasising how the theme of death is significant in the series.

Furthermore, there is the issue of whether death is really final in the wizarding world. Through magic, Harry is able to see, and communicate with, many wizards who have already died. The most obvious case of this is the ability for some wizards and witches to remain as ghosts. In Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix Nearly Headless Nick, the Gryffindor house ghost reveals that ghosts form when one is scared of death. He explains to Harry “I chose to remain behind. I sometimes wonder whether I oughtn’t have… well that is neither here nor there… in fact, I am neither here nor there…” (p.759). This suggests that it is those who fear death that remain as ghosts. In Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire when Harry and Voldemort’s wands connect, those who Voldemort has murdered reappear and offer Harry help and advice; this is the first time he truly talks to his parents. Additionally, when Dumbledore is murdered, he leaves Hermione a collection of children’s stories, including The Tale of Three Brothers which holds the moral that you suffer if you try to fight death. Whilst this gives the suggestion that death is final and cannot be beaten, the tale also introduces the Resurrection Stone, which allows the owner to bring back those from the dead. Although the original user of the stone in the story is full of “hopeless longing” (pg. 332), Harry successfully uses this stone when going to sacrifice himself so that he has the support of his loved ones who have already died. The fact that there is always a chance that, in the wizarding world, dead loved ones can reappear shows the importance of the theme in the Harry Potter series as dead characters can quite easily still change the plot of the novel.

As the main antagonist, Voldemort’s main fear is seen to be death itself. He decides to try and shield himself from death by creating horcruxes, which is, in essence, splitting his soul. Professor Slughorn explains to Harry how this happens in Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince:

“The supreme act of evil. By committing murder. Killing rips the soul apart. The wizard intent upon creating a Horcrux would use the damage to his advantage: he would encast the torn portion” (Pg. 465)

 This shows the only way to save yourself from death is to kill another. Voldemort’s main downfall is that he does not understand love or loss and does not understand, or learn from, his mistakes. This ultimately leads to his death, because he does not realise that love and sacrifice counter-acts death and that Harry’s sacrifice of his own life for his loved ones protects his friends from the spells cast again them. Significantly, Harry never commits murder and it is Voldemort’s own spell which kills himself.

“Tom Riddle hit the floor with a mundane finality, his body feeble and shrunken, the white hands empty, the snake-like face vacant and unknowing, Voldemort was dead, killed by his own rebounding curse, and Harry stood with two wands in his hand, staring down at his enemy’s shell” (Pg. 596, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows)

This shows Harry’s integrity and that he conforms to his heroic role. Overall, it is clear that if Voldemort wasn’t scared of death, he would not have been defeated in the manner that he was and the novels would be very different; this supports the idea that the theme of death is very important to the series.

In conclusion, paganism and death are central to the events in the Harry Potter series. As the wizarding world that is presented to the reader encompasses many paganistic ideas, it is clear that it is very important to the series that it is set in that environment. Furthermore, the idea that the world is living is a further form of escapism that uses paganistic ideals to allow readers to experience real elements of the world in a different light. However, death is perhaps the most important theme in the series as it is central to the development of Harry as a character. If he had not defeated death itself, and was not “the boy who lived”, the plot would never take place. Also, having to cope with the death of loved ones allows Harry to develop as a person and truly understand death – an accomplishment that his enemy, Voldemort, never achieves which ultimately leads to his downfall.

3218 words (without quotes)

The cast of the film adaptation of Harry Potter


Bibliography

  • Bettelheim, B (1976). The Uses of Enchantment: The Meaning and Importance of Fairy Tales. New York : Knopf.
  • Deavel, C & Deavel, D. (2001). Character, Choice and Harry Potter. A Culture of Life.
  • Frank Baum, L (1900). The Wonderful Wizard of Oz. United States: George M Hill.
  • Garry, J & El-Shamy, H, (2005). Archetypes and Motifs in Folklore and Literature: A Handbook . London: M. E. Sharpe Inc.
  • Jenkins, H. (2006). Why Heather can write: media literacy and the Harry Potter Wars. Convergence Culture: Where old and new media collide. 169-205.
  • Lewis, C. S. (1950). The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe. London: Geoffrey Bles.
  • Nel, P. (2001). J.K. Rowling’s Harry Potter novels: a reader’s guide. London: Continuum International Publishing Group.
  • Pullman, P. (1995). Northern Lights. London: Scholastic Point.
  • Rowling, J.K. (1997). Harry Potter and the Philosophers Stone. London: Bloomsbury.
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  • Rowling, J.K. (1999). Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban. London: Bloomsbury.
  • Rowling, J.K. (2000). Harry Potter and the Goblet of Fire. London: Bloomsbury.
  • Rowling, J.K. (2003). Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix. London: Bloomsbury.
  • Rowling, J.K. (2005). Harry Potter and the Half Blood Prince. London: Bloomsbury.
  • Rowling, J.K. (2007). Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows. London: Bloomsbury.
  • Tolkein, J. R. R. (1954). The Lord of the Rings. United Kingdom: Geo, Allen & Unwin.

Compare two (or more) versions of the same text with close reference to their differing cultural contexts and production circumstances

This is an assignment I completed in my first year of university for a unit based on Adaptation

Whilst some adaptations remain faithful to their source text, others can be adapted to fit a new cultural context and be made under different production circumstances. This results in a film with little fidelity to its source text, such as Felix Gary Gray’s 2003 adaptation of Peter Collinson’s The Italian Job(1969). The film has been stated as being more of a “homage” to the original film due to their independent narratives and differing settings and characters. In order to conduct a comparison of the two films, it is necessary to look at the different eras in which the films were made and how this affects the themes portrayed in the films, as well as considering whether this is a result of the different cultural contexts. It is also essential to study the different settings used with reference to the Americanisation theory, the actors chosen and similarities between their characters as well as advances in technology changing the production circumstances and how these are seen in the mise-en-scene. In terms of the films being made in different cultural contexts it is also interesting to look at the advances in special effects whilst comparing similar scenes. Theories used by Tzvetan Todorov,Hutcheon and also audience theories debating changes in uses and gratifications will also be discussed further in this essay.

The Krays - A highly glamorised pair in the 1960s

The Krays – A highly glamorised pair in the 1960s

Having been made nearly 35 years apart, the differences between Collinson’s and Gray’s The Italian Job are very prominent. Whilst Collinson’s film focused on 1960s Britain, Gray’s adaptation looked at 21st century America, in particular life in Los Angeles. The original focuses on British gangsters, a highly discussed matter which was sensationalised greatly during the 1960s. A great amount of press coverage was dedicated to The Kray twins at this time and there was much interest and intrigue in the criminal underworld during this era. Gangsters of the era were glamorised, with some practically given a celebrity status. This is shown in the original film, as the main character, Charlie Croker, is portrayed in a very positive way and is shown living a very glamorous, and almost carefree, lifestyle. This is further emphasised by the lack of violent scenes featured in the 1969 original, for example, when Charlie is getting beaten up by the crime boss, Mr Bridger’s guards, no acts of violence are actually shown, merely a silhouette. Despite the two films’ differences, the emphasis on living a glamorous lifestyle is also prominent in Gray’s remake, with much emphasis being placed on the importance of wealth and the happiness it supposedly brings. This is greatly debated when Steve, played by Edward Norton, betrays his friends by stealing their gold, and uses it to buy the luxuries they all wanted, not knowing what he wanted himself. Despite this, more violence is shown in the 2003 adaptation, suggesting audiences have been desensitised due to the increasing amount of violence that is now shown in the media.

The themes of the two films are very different; the 21st century adaptation focuses heavily on the theme of cynicism, with great emphasis placed on revenge and betrayal rather than the patriotic style of the original. This can be identified through the heavily used quote “I trust everyone. It’s the devil inside them I don’t trust”. However, both films follow Tzvetan Todorov’s (1960) disequilibrium theory to some extent. Todorov claimed that in order to keep an audience captivated, the narrative of a film must contain disequilibrium where the balance and calm of the characters is disrupted and that the ending should restore the initial equilibrium or create a new one. Whilst this happens very clearly in the later adaption, with the characters getting revenge but then falling in love, the original 1969 film ends with a cliff-hanger, which is still a disequilibrium. It is arguable that it is not suitable to end a contemporary film with a cliff-hanger due to audiences now being seen as more passive consumers, however, it could also be said that the change in the storyline used in the adaptation is due to audiences becoming more active and not just wanting to see a repeat of the original.

In contrast to the cynical theme presented, there is a very patriotic feel to Collinson’s 1969 film as public morale was very high in the era in which it was made. Scenes with the character of Mr Bridger portray this feeling through the atmosphere created in the mise-en-scene. The non-diegetic music is often the British national anthem in his scenes and he is very well spoken, appealing to the “English gentleman” stereotype which is often highly regarded globally, making the film appeal to a larger audience. Mr Bridger’s clothing is also what is seen as typically British, wearing a sophisticated suit, and he also proclaims his love for the Queen by singing the national anthem. Furthermore, there is also a very positive representation of the younger characters, through their characteristics and the mise-en-scene, despite the fact the younger generation were said to dominate society in the “swinging sixties”. This creates a very positive representation of the British and links into the great public morale that was dominant in the 1960s.

Michael Caine as Charlie Crocker in the 1969 film

Michael Caine as Charlie Crocker in the 1969 film

The patriotic theme presented in the Collinson’s original The Italian Job could not be repeated in the 2003 adaptation due to a change in setting. Whilst both films have an Italian element, with part of the action shown in Italy, the adaptation is primarily based in the USA, indisputably showing Americanisation has taken place. Some may argue this is because the 2003 version of The Italian Jobwas aimed to be a “Hollywood blockbuster” and had more privileges in terms of production circumstances. White (1986) argued that:

“American films offered heroes and heroines who were less hidebound by class than their technically inferior British counterparts” (p.166)

This again, suggests that the common “English gentleman” is more suited to romantic-comedies for a global audience because they are seen as unrealistic to be con-artists in the way that Gray wanted the main characters of his version of ‘The Italian Job’ to be, showing that an updating in terms of national stereotypes has occurred.

The differing cultural contexts can furthermore be identified by the actors chosen to portray the main characters. In Peter Collinson’s 1969 film, all of the main characters are played by British actors. Michael Caine was a very popular British actor in this era, having already achieved success in Alfie(1966). However, in the 2003 adaptation, there is only one British actor, Jason Statham, with the majority of the rest of the cast being American. However, it is also noticeable that South African Charize Theron is also in the film; however, she portrays an American. This again supports the suggestion that Americanisation has taken place in worldwide cinema. McGuigan (1992) claims that this could be due to cultural populism and the idea people like to “look into” other cultures. He claims that it has become an increasingly influential perspective on the study of popular culture due to the success and intrigue it causes among other global audiences. It is clear that these cast changes in terms of nationality have been made because of the change in setting in the adaptation. This could be due to Gray wanting the adaptation to be viewed as a separate text to the source text, as there are very few similarities between the two films.

Whilst the actors portraying the characters are very different, some links can be made between some of the characters. Freddie in the 1969 film, played by Tony Beckley, and Rob in the adaptation are both represented as the “handsome” males, however, the cultural differences of the respective eras are obvious when comparing the films. This is because in the original Freddie is seen as a “dandy” with his flamboyant attitudes and sexual exploits fitting to the “swinging sixties”, whereas Rob is seen as very masculine, with his muscled physique and love of cars, in the more recent adaptation. This proves that modern notions of gender roles and masculinity have changed in the context of the last forty years, what was once viewed as masculine is not acceptable in the twenty-first century. Despite similarities between some of the different characters, one of the characters who features in both films, Mr Bridger, is given a very different representation. Whilst Bridger is seen to be a figure of gang authority and not very trusting in the 1969 film, the 2003 adaptation presents him as a father-figure to the main character. Again, suggesting that fidelity to the original text was not seen as important during the making of the film as it was intended to be a standalone text.

Jason Statham as Handsome Rob

Jason Statham as Handsome Rob

Advances in technology between the years of production in both films are very prominent, mainly through the differences in the mise-en-scene. Whilst the 1969 film looks rather grainy, in contrast the adaptation has great use of special effects. This is mainly due to the latter having a larger budget as there is greater money in the film industry now. Technological advances can also be identified through the use of camera techniques used. The 1969 film relies heavily on fixed camera angles, as seen in the opening scenes showing the car driving on the cliff, whereas the 2003 films has a much more varied range of cinematography and more use of stunts and special effects. This is further seen in the iconic chase scenes. Collinson’s version of The Italian Job features stunts that were seen as outstanding in the era in which it was made but Gray’s adaptation featured new elements, such as stunts with boats and helicopters, which obviously would have been unachievable with the technology in the 1960s. These new action scenes reflect the new technological features available in the 21st century.

Furthermore, these new advancements in technology are reflected in the diegesis within Gray’s 2003 film, mainly through Seth Green’s character, Lyle. Gray used a key part of the original film in his adaptation, whereby the con-artists change traffic lights to “create the largest traffic jam in history”. In the original, tapes are used and the thieves have to manually change the tapes themselves, however, in the remake Lyle is a computer hacker and simply uses the internet to hack into the database controlling the traffic lights. Further advancements are seen in the tools used to commit crimes. Whilst the later adaptation has features such as lasers and timed bombs, the original has a heavy usage of explosives and blueprint plans, more manual tools.

When comparing scenes which are distinctly similar in the films it is clear that the key iconography remains in the adaptation in order to satisfy fans of the pre-existing text. An example of this is the inclusion of the infamous Mini Cooper racing during the final heist. However, this again expands on the idea of special effects with more daring and risky stunts included in the 2003 adaptation, as well as further features added in post-production. As key iconography of the original Italian Job it seems necessary for the Mini Cooper racing to be included in the adaptation and it is thought if it was to be cut from the adaptation there would be little link between the two films. However, some may argue that re-creating infamous scenes such as this scene lacks originality on the film-makers part. Linda Hutcheon (2006) argues that “adaptation is now the norm, not the exception” (p. 177) and that audiences are now used to adaptations and in a sense buy in to the commodity that is created from the re-creation of these infamous scenes. This proves that despite differing cultural contexts, audiences who are aware of the original are satisfied with the familiarity of iconic scenes.

The infamous Mini Cooper chase scene recreated for the 2003 adaptation

The infamous Mini Cooper chase scene recreated for the 2003 adaptation

The introduction of more comedic elements, such as funny characters, in film is noticeable in the 2003 adaptation of The Italian Job. It is thought this is due to changes in audience readings of films and new expectations of the media. Stephen Littlejohn (2007) argues this is because audiences have now become more passive and watch films for escapism, making it necessary for content to be enjoyable and entertaining as people prefer this to more distressing themes. Furthermore theorists of the uses and gratifications perspective would argue that some of the more minor characters of the adaptation, such as Handsome Rob, Left Ear and Lyle, have been added to create the light-hearted humour and more comedic elements of the theme as. Although these characters are involved in the main plotline, some of their scenes, like the dream sequence in which they imagine what they would do with their share of the stolen money are greatly over-exaggerated. For example, Lyle talks about speakers that could “blow a girls clothes off” and Handsome Rob pictures himself in a major police chase. This type of comedy would have been seen as unsuitable in the 1969 version of the film due to the cultural context in which it was made.

In terms of the endings of the film, the differences between the results of the final heist can furthermore be related to the development of audiences. Whilst the source text results in a cliff-hanger, the adaptation results in good triumphing over bad, suggesting audiences may now feel the need for a definitive ending in film. In ‘A Structural Study of Myth’ (1955), Levi-Strauss argues that binary opposites are now dominant in every media text as audiences like the idea of one subject dominating over another. In the case of ‘The Italian Job’ (1969), it is featured in ways such as revenge against justice and heroes against villains. The more recent adaptation (2003) also contains the idea of males against females, with Charlize Theron’s character, Stella, seeking revenge for her father’s murder. This could suggest that the messages featured in Hollywood films can at times, be quite immoral.

To conclude, it is obvious that, due to the differences in cultural contexts and production circumstances between Collinson’s original The Italian Job (1969) and the 2003 remake, both films can, in a way, be read as entirely separate texts. However, by keeping the key iconography in the adaptation, it still makes reference to the original text and would therefore be pleasing to its fans. By keeping this iconography, fans of the 1969 original film would be interested and with the new features such as special effects, popular actors and intriguing plot lines, new, younger audiences would also be intrigued. With such emphasis on overall profit in the movie industry it is essential to tap into all different types of audiences and by featuring these new aspects as well as features from the original Gray successfully does this. Furthermore, by moving the cultural setting, there will be further interest by Americans, which, as the main source of capital in the film industry, is important for marketing and achieving greater viewing figures. This also links to the changes in theme, as contexts which were popular in the 1960s would not be understood by the younger target audience of the adaptation. It is fair to say that in comparison, the different cultural contexts and production circumstances is the main reason the films can stand as individual texts because as culture is moving forward and adapting, so is cinema and the expectations of the audience. Therefore, when comparing texts for different cultural contexts and production circumstances it can be said that with adaptation, new audiences can be reached through additions to an already popular text.

2573 words

Bibliography
Films
– ‘Alfie’1966. Film. Directed by Lewis Gilbert. UK: Sheldrake Films.
– ‘The Italian Job’1969. Film. Directed by Peter Collinson. UK: Oakhurst Productions.
– ‘The Italian Job’2003. Film. Directed by F. Gary Gray. USA: Paramount Pictures.

Journals
– LEVI-STRAUSS, C., 1955.The Structural Study of Myth. Journal of American Folklore. 78. 428-444

Books
– DELDEN, R et a, 2005. A Readers Guide To Contemporary Literary. London: Pearson Education.
– HUTCHEON, L, 2006. A Theory of AdaptationLondon: Routledge.
– LITTLEJOHN, S, 2007. Theories of Human Communication9th Edition. London: Wadsworth Publishing.
– MCGUIGAN, J, 1992. Cultural PopulismUSA: Routledge.
– STRINATI, D, 2004. An Introduction To Theories of Popular Culture2nd Edition. London: Routledge.

Evaluate the usefulness of the Tuckman and Jensen (1977) model in understanding the process a new group goes through as it functions

This is an assignment I completed during for my ‘Workplace Communication’ Module at university

Groups are commonplace in modern society, whether for business purposes or for personal enjoyment. When analysing the processes encountered by new groups, many quote and refer to the works of Tuckman and Jensen (1977). They created a model which categorised and summarised the main characteristics encountered in groups. Tuckman initially created a four stage model and named the processes groups go through forming, storming, norming and performing with Jensen adding that the concluding phase should be adjourning. Whilst the last stage is fixed, the first four stages are not necessarily linear as groups undergo regular and unpredictable changes due to the nature of group tasks. In addition, the amount of time devoted to the stages will largely depend on the length of time the group exists. Forming is the initial stage in which there are no clear views in the group. The second stage, storming is when members test each other through subtle and non-subtle negotiations, often to find the standing in the group and debate for the leadership role. During norming atmospheres improve as truces are made and the group bonds. The group are focused during the fourth stage as members are committed to the task at hand and work constructively. Finally, the group disbands during the adjourning stage as the task is completed. As an overview, the Tuckman and Jensen model appears to be very useful in identifying group processes; however, there have been many expansions to this model and some critiques. In order to evaluate how useful the model is, it is essential to look at other scholars’ views and scenarios in which these stages have been identified and critiqued to see whether it is valid. Studies by theorists Thelen and Dickerman (1949), Dunphy (1968), Lacoursiere (1974), Fisher (1980) and Wheelan (1994) will be analysed and compared to that of Tuckman and Jensen to see if it is the best guideline for understanding group functions and processes.

Thelen and Dickerman (1949) categorised the group processes into four phases and, like Tuckman and Jensen, agreed that the first stage should be “forming”. In this model forming is followed by conflict, harmony and productivity. Overall, the categories of functions encountered in Thelen and Dickerman’s model appear to be very similar to that of Tuckman and Jensen suggesting that their model is rather accurate. However, this model appears to be slightly more focussed on the conflicts encountered within and against the group, rather than the forming of a structure within the group. Despite the fact both of these models have a forming stage, Shambaugh and Kanter (1969) raised a critique of forming being the initial stage. They claimed that in some cases there may be a stage before forming due to an “initial experience” which bought a group together. Using the example of a therapy group, they claimed that in some cases groups share a joint reason for being members of a particular group. This raises the issue of whether the Tuckman and Jensen model is more orientated to a business model. This can be identified in BBC1’s The Apprentice in which, during the forming stage, group members analyse the skills and abilities of their colleagues, as suggested in the Tuckman and Jensen model. This proposes that as accurate as the Tuckman and Jensen model appears, perhaps more research should be conducted into the reason why the group was formed and whether this is relevant to the group processes and functions later encountered.

Alternatively, Dunphy’s model (1968) deviated considerably from that of Tuckman and Jensen. Having completed an empirical study of the developmental process in self analytic therapy groups, Dunphy found six development phases for a group. They were: maintenance of external normative standards, individual rivalry, aggression, negativism, emotional concerns and high affection. Although Dunphy acknowledged that further testing was needed to support his model, it is clear that the second to fourth stages are similar to the processes encountered in Tuckman’s storming model and the final two place resemblance to the norming stage. There is no stage in Dunphy’s model that represents the forming and performing phases, although, as Dunphy has acknowledged further testing of his model is needed, it is thought the Tuckman and Jensen model may be more useful than his own as it is more focussed on how groups overcome conflict within the group.

The Tuckman and Jensen Model

The Tuckman and Jensen Model

Jensen co-authored Tuckman’s paper adding the final stage, adjourning, based on a literature review. This has been seen as a positive addition by theorists such as Mann (1967), Yalom (1970) and Spitz and Sadock (1973), who advocate this stage in their own models. Lacoursiere (1974) conducted an observation in which he found there to be four stages of group development: orientation, dissatisfaction, production and termination. There were three main distinctions between Lacoursiere’s model and Tuckman and Jensen’s. The first was that during the dissatisfaction stage, there was a lack of intragroup conflict, which was a key aspect of the storming stage in the Tuckman and Jensen model, but more hostility towards the creator of the overall task that the group needed to complete. Lacoursiere added a similar stage to Jensen’s adjourning in his termination stage, although, it is more focussed on self-evaluation and reflecting on the task that has been completed. It is significant that intragroup conflict was discussed in this model as it is often assumed that the conflict must be within the group. Lauderdale et al (1984) even suggested that in some cases group members are seen as scapegoats in order to increase cohesion. However, it is clear from the Lacoursiere study that conflicts may be aimed at those outside the group. This suggests that the Tuckman and Jensen model may be quite vague as to what actually happens in each group phase.

Fisher (1980) advocated a four stage model when analysing group development: orientation, conflict, emergence and re-inforcement. His model is quite similar to Tuckman and Jensen’s, with the conflict stage appearing very similar to their storming stage. However, Fisher appears to be more concerned with the feelings of group members and underlying tensions that may be seen rather than how the actions undertaken are relevant to the goal. He also focused on the personal needs of group members, rather than the overall group.  This is suggestive that the Tuckman and Jensen model may be more useful to be used simply as an overview as there is not much research in their model concerning individual group members.

Finally, Wheelan (1994) developed the Tuckman and Jensen model, integrating their work with that of Wilfred Bion and evidence from her own empirical studies. She focussed on how the group matures and how this is relevant to attaining their goals. Unlike Tuckman and Jensen, she included outside distractions which may affect group attainment, but similarities between the phases in these studies are very clear. Wheelan labelled her stages dependency and inclusion, counter dependency and fight, structure, productivity and final. In terms of categorising the stages, they appear very similar to the Tuckman and Jensen model, suggesting that it may just be a more updated model.

Overall, it is apparent that as an overview, the Tuckman and Jensen model is very useful in analysing the process of group development. With studies by Thelen and Dickerman (1949), Dunphy (1968) and Lacousiere (1974) showing some similarities with Tuckman and Jensen in the stages used in their model, there is no doubt that this model is valid. The more recent study by Wheelen (1994) is perhaps a more useful model to use, however, for an in depth analysis of group processes as it updates the Tuckman and Jensen model with more recent empirical research and a more detailed study of individual group members.

1277 words

References

  • Baron, R.S., Kerr, N.L. and Miller, N., 1992. Group Process, Group Decision, Group Action. 3rd ed, Buckingham: Open University Press.
  • Brown, R., 1998. Group Processes: Dynamics Within and Between Groups. 5th ed. Oxford: Blackwell
  • Davis, J.H., 1969, Group Performance. London: Addison-Wesley
  • Fisher, B. A. (1970). Decision emergence: Phases in group decision making. Speech Monographs, 37, 53-66..
  • Forsyth, D.R., 1999. Group Dynamics. 3rd ed. London: Wandsworth
  • Tubbs, S.L., 1978. A Systems Approach to Small Group Interaction. 6th ed. New York: McGraw-Hill Companies Inc.
  • Tuckman, B. W. & Jensen, M. A. (1977). Stages of small-group development revisited. Group Organization Management 2:419-27
  • Wheelan, S. A. (1994). Group processes: A developmental perspective. Boston: Allyn & Bacon.
  • The ApprenticeEpisode 1, 2010. TV, BBC1. 2010 Oct 6. 2100 hrs.