Film Theory: Morin, Edgar (Heroes, Celebrities, Roles and Functions)

Research in Progress, Nov 27, 2022

Edgar Morin

One of the most prevalent perspectives in studying popular culture and film is the reflection theory.

French sociologist Edgar Morin (1960), in his “embourgeoisement theory,” describes a process of change in the social functions of movie stars.

The historical development of stardom: In the early period, stars were gods and goddesses, heroes, role models, the embodiment of ideal ways of behaving.

In the later period, however, stars have become identification figures, ordinary people embodying more typical ways of behavior.

There is more consensus over the thesis of evolution than over when exactly the process happened, or when was the transition point.

For some it’s the coming of sound, which involved the loss of illusion, the loss of divinity.

The voices made star more real, more grounded. Sound created the de-divinization of the stars. because it enhanced the naturalism of the film medium.

In Morin’s view, the change occurred in the beginning of the sound era, when stars were transformed from gods and goddesses, embodying society’s ideals, to identification figures, embodying society’s typical or ordinary behavior.

In addition to sound, which brought realism, there was also growth of social themes in films (such as Fury, or Mr. Smith)

Realism, psychologism, the happy ending, the humor reveal the bourgeois transformation of this imagination.  Thus, bourgeois individualism cannot accept the death of a hero, which led to  happy endings.

Stars did not cease to be special, but they now combined the exceptional with the ordinary, the ideal with the everyday, the ideal with the typical.

Morin, following Herbert Marcuse, worked within Marxist thought.

Orin Klapp and Lowenthal worked within the context 0f liberal thought, seeing the deterioration of heroes as the corruption of bourgeois ideals.

Orin Klapp: Collective Search for Identity

Klapp suggests that movie stars and other celebs can have one of the three functions or relationships to the prevailing norms.

Reinforcement:

Seduction:

Transcendence

Reinforcement:

They encourage people to play roles that are highly valued, and to maintain the image of the group itself.

This is the function of heroes

Stars are forces of character-building; they provide role models that support the status quo.

John Wayne

Seduction:

The heroes break the norms/rules, but in a charming way, like James Bond

The seductive heroes don’t redefine or recreate the standards of  behavior.

Cary Grant

Transcendence:

The heroes produce Fresh perspective, novel point of view, like Jean-Paul Belmondo, in their radical lifestyle.

Bogart