Thursday, June 28, 2007

Watching Movies

Spent this afternoon watching Grapes of Wrath, which I had never seen before, not the whole thing -- I'd seen bits of it.

And I've been reading my students' drafts on the movie True Grit vs. the text True Grit for the past three days.

Both of those novels are transgressive texts, the Steinbeck much more openly so than the Portis novel; but the Portis novel, also, works against narrative expectations.

In both cases, the movie does what it can to erase the transgression.

(I know, color you shocked.)

The ending of the movie True Grit is, for me, the worst offense -- John Wayne frozen on screen, in the act of leaping the fence, like the statue of a war hero, only, WOW! technicolor! As if to say, yippee-ay-yay! Shootin' bad guys is cool!

Which -- hey! -- that's what America believes, is it?

As opposed to what the text True Grit does with Rooster Cogburn's character -- and Mattie Ross's -- which is to make them both into doomed figures, as much banished Cain figures as Tom Chaney was, or Ned Pepper. Nothing goes right for Rooster; he ends up dying alone and lost. Mattie has a bank, sure, but everyone's against her, as she says, clearly, and she also is alone, and scarred by her vengeance quest, all of which the movie erases.

Grapes of Wrath, the movie, just scrubs the edges of Steinbeck's story -- makes it look like no one in particular is to blame for what is happening to the farmers; cuts a lot of the politics; cuts very nearly all the work (only one work scene is shown, I think, and none of the child labor scenes); and ends with Ma Joad claiming, optimistically, that they'll survive because they're "the people" and the people always do survive.

Um, yeah. So. No reason to fret then, I guess? We can relax? Good to know.

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