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For this first assignment, I have chosen to watch and analyze the movie “Lord of the Flies” which is based on a book published in 1954 by William Golding. From the readings in our lessons thus far, I have learned that popular culture can differ depending on the area being analyzed, and the group of people being looked at, and also shows us that the psychological element in popular culture is much greater than we think. “The Lord of the Flies” is a great example of that, showing how fast culture can change when given the right (or wrong) circumstances.
There were two versions of this movie, one came out in 1963, and the other came out in 1990. Although they both play off the same premise of a group of boys being stranded on a deserted island after a plane crash, there are a few key factors in each which give each version of this movie its strong points, as well as its weak points. Such as the version from 1994, the boys are from a military academy, which gives an easier understanding as to how their ranking system works and also explains their knowledge of basic survival skills.
As previously stated, the movie “The Lord of the Flies” is about a group of boys who became stranded on a deserted island after their plane crashed. In the original “black and white” version from 1963, the group was made up of schoolboys of varying age, with the oldest of the boys being in the choir; whereas in the 1990 version it is a group of boys from a military school. I prefer the 1990 version because them being military school allows for a more believable backstory, and would describe how they came about their ranking system, their survival skills, and why some of the boys acted the way they did. The main power struggle was between Ralph and an older boy Jack. With that being said, “Lord of the Flies” was filmed as a series of sequential events. It started with the boys arriving on the beach. After that, the next big event was when the boys voted for who got to be the leader. After Ralph won the vote for leadership, he tried to run the group “like the grown-ups would have” (Piggy). Ralph and his companion, who is only known as Piggy, represent maturity and logical thinking and reasoning. Jack (Ralph’s rival) represents the more chaotic, animalistic side of human nature. Ralph and Piggy start off strong, but the boys slowly lean towards Jack after him and his team come back from a successful hunt and provide meat for everyone. The way these events line up, alongside with how well the film was produced, perfectly captures how the group mentality and rules of society change in a situation like the one provided in “Lord of the Flies”.
There are quite a few very important scenes in the movie, but I will narrow them down to the top four events. The first would have to be the introduction of the conch coupled with the choice of the leadership in the beginning. The conch is used as a symbol of order, “whoever holds the conch gets to speak” (Piggy). Next, would have to be the accidental death of a character by the name of Simon. Simon’s role in the movie is significant because he symbolizes innocence. The group gets riled up around a campfire, and they see a figure running down the beach. After countless nights of stories circling about a monster on the island, they assume the figure running towards them was the beast when in all actuality it was Simon. They start at him with their spears and by the time they realize what is actually happening, all you can see is a group of boys now in tattered clothes with face paint on, and the lifeless body of Simon. His death coupled with the new appearance of the boys symbolizes the death of their innocence and introduces them to their new primal way of life. The third most significant event, is the intentional murder of Piggy. Ralph and Piggy went to try and talk some sense into Jack and the other boys, when in the middle of Piggy’s speech, one of the boys drops a boulder onto Piggy’s head. This is significant because he plays not only the voice of reason and logical thinking, but he was the last person that stood with Ralph. Lastly, comes the significant event of the boys chasing and trying to kill, Ralph when they stumble on to the beach where Ralph trips and falls. When he goes to get back up, he is at the feet of a soldier, which signifies the boys’ rescue. All of sudden, those bloodthirsty savages, revert back to the little boys they used to be and start to weep at the sight of this soldier.
As well those major scenes in the movie, it also had a very substantive over-all point to it. That point being that civilized society is a very fragile creature, and it does not take much for the group mentality to switch from civilized to primal in which this movie shows the constant struggle of fighting off that urge. It also touches on the popular culture ideal of conformity, and in this case, conforming with Jack’s group meant safety and security.
This film did a great job getting its main point across, and after watching both versions several times, I did not really encounter any unintentional hidden or underlying meanings.
For this movie, they are far away from typical popular culture ideals, and they find themselves surrounded by an entirely different mindset from what they are used to. Instead of worrying about whose uniform is starched and pressed, they are looking to provide food, water, and shelter. This can be seen after the first “election” takes place and Ralph is named the leader. After Jack comes back with his first pig, he says “See, I brought back meat, just like I promised!”. After this, the look seen upon the rest of the kids’ faces is that of struggle. They want to stay with Ralph and follow the rules, but Jack is providing them with their essentials for living. In the 1990 version of “Lord of the Flies”, the boys were from a military academy, and their version of popular culture can be seen during the time when they first chose who would be in charge. When they began to decide, a smaller child says, “Jack should be a leader, he is the oldest”. That was followed up by another younger child who says, “Yeah, but Ralph is the Colonel!”. Since they are in military school, the military ranking system is part of their popular culture, and that carries over with them, even though they are stranded on an island. The last example of this and the one I found most interesting was after they were finished eating their first kill. The entire group of boys started an almost ritualistic version of the hunt when one of the boys portrayed the pig while the others chased him shoving their spears into the dirt as if to hit him. At that point, all of their minds were set to the hunt, and at that moment around the campfire, their idea of popular culture could be seen clearly.
One of the major core concepts that we have studied in class so far that really shines through in this film, is the belief that we are products of our environment. The ideals I saw most commonly referenced in this film, were the theories of Pierre Bourdieu and Theodor Adorno. “For Bourdieu, modern culture is a class culture, characterized by socially ranked symbolic differences among classes that make some seem superior to others” (Gartman, 2011). This class style culture can be seen in both versions of this movie, but especially in the 1990 version because, in that version, they are from a military academy where rank plays a vital role in leadership. “For Adorno, modern culture is a mass culture, characterized by a socially imposed symbolic unity that obscures class differences behind a facade of leveled democracy” (Gartman, 2011). If we were to use Adorno’s theory where modern culture is mass culture, then the example I gave earlier about the boys now focusing on survival would be a great example of that.
As previously stated, to me, the issues that emerged as the strongest were the struggle of whether or not to submit to conformity, and how easy it is to leave behind civilized society and let one’s primal instinct take over. The weakest issue, I would not say is the least important, but it took a back burner to the primary issue, was that of survival. The movie quickly shifted from a group of boys banning together to survive on the island, to who is killing who for what object.
Talking about this movie makes me think of another movie I have seen called “The Mist”. Although “The Mist” is about a group of people caught in a grocery store trying to stay away from the hidden monsters in the mist, they do share some similarities. Starts off as one group with a common goal, but slowly people start choosing sides which leads to things going terribly wrong.