Title page for ETD etd-1114102-170228

Type of Document Dissertation
Author Graham III, Paul E.
Author's Email Address pgraha1@lsu.edu
URN etd-1114102-170228
Title Violence and the Scapegoat in American Film: 1967-1999
Degree Doctor of Philosophy (Ph.D.)
Department English
Advisory Committee
Advisor Name Title
John R. May Committee Chair
Carl Freedman Committee Member
Malcolm Richardson Committee Member
William W. Demastes Committee Member
Leonard N. Moore Dean's Representative
  • violent
  • true romance
  • dirty harry
  • editing
  • clint eastwood
  • pulp fiction
  • the french connection
  • rambo iii
  • sylvester stallone
  • popular culture
  • cinema
  • ambivalence
  • movies
  • surrogate victim
  • sacrificial crisis
  • mimesis
  • american dream
  • godfather
  • reagan era
  • streets
  • brutality
  • popular
  • american history x
  • rene girard
  • scapegoat
  • american film
  • production code
  • francis ford coppola
  • martin scorsese
  • violence
  • sacrifice
  • taxi driver
  • fatal attraction
Date of Defense 2002-11-01
Availability unrestricted
This study addresses the proliferation of cinematic violence since the demise of the MPAA’s Production Code in 1966. Bonnie and Clyde and The Wild Bunch were films that projected violence to comment on the civil fervent caused by the Vietnam War. Yet the floodgates these films opened allowed for virtually unlimited and graphic displays of bloodshed to redden big screens for the next three decades. Using the theories of René Girard, namely the scapegoating motif, this study proposes readings of film that, through cinematic ambiguity, contain humanitarian statements against violence by examining the consequences of using force to cause pain. The Godfather serves as a virtual contemplation of the cruelty inherent in causing bloodshed. Coppola uses both unedited long takes and fast, contrapuntal editing to expose and underscore his protagonist’s hypocrisy. Toward the end of the seventies, Taxi Driver is the next major film to enact compassion in bloodshed, as it both joins and deconstructs the cynical line of films it belongs to. Scorsese manifests an exceptional ability to take the viewer inside the brutality so that he vicariously lives through the event. The chapters that deal with the films above demonstrate that expertly rendered camerawork creates a scapegoating process for the audience to consider. In the eighties with Fatal Attraction, however, the audience has to rely on future criticism inspired by the film to initiate vindication of the immolated scapegoat, because of the enormous resistance she offers the dominant culture. And in the nineties, the surrogate victim at the end of American History X dies, symbolically lamenting the mimetic rivalry contained in both the troubled inner city and the film industry itself. Together these films constitute positive, artistic, and edifying contributions of cinematic violence that resist the ordinary depiction of bloodshed for the sake of exploitative entertainment.
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