Slackers, slashers and sticklers : Hollywood films and audience reception /
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This thesis examines the processes through which identity is acquired and the processes that Hollywood :films employ to facilitate audience identification in order to determine the extent to which individuality is possible within postmodem society. Opposing views of identity formation are considered: on the one hand, that of the Frankfurt School which envisions the mass audience controlled by the culture industry and on the other, that of John Fiske which places control in the hands of the individual. The thesis takes a mediating approach, conceding that while the mass media do provide and influence identity formation, individuals can and do decode a variety of meanings from the material made available to them in accordance with the text's use-value in relation to the individual's circumstances. The analysis conducted in this thesis operates on the assumption that audiences acquire identity components in exchange for paying to see a particular film. Reality Bites (Ben Stiller 1994) and Scream (Wes Craven 1996) are analyzed as examples of mainstream 1990s films whose material circumstances encourage audience identification and whose popularity suggest that audiences did indeed identify with them. The Royal Tenenbaums (Wes Anderson 2001) is considered for its art film sensibilities and is examined in order to determine to what extent this film can be considered a counter example. The analysis consists of a combination of textual analysis and reception study in an attempt to avoid the problems associated with each approach when employed alone. My interpretation of the filmmakers' and marketers' messages will be compared with online reviews posted by film viewers to determine how audiences received and made use of the material available to them. Viewer-posted reviews, both unsolicited and unrestricted, as found online, will be consulted and will represent a segment of the popular audience for the three films to be analyzed.