Saturday, October 17, 2009

Why Film Studies Matters

I've been thinking about grad school. One of the "nice" things about graduating from college into a recession is that I have a lot of time to think about what I *really* want to do. There are lots of things I could do, lots of things I want to do. But after much thought, if I follow my passion I will go to grad school for film studies.

Although I was (am?) an English major, I mostly took film classes. I did the work I am most proud of in those classes. So why wasn't it readily apparent to me that I would want to continue my education in that field?

Well, it's not very practical. When I tell people I want to go to school for film, the response is usually along the lines of, "Oh, you want to make movies?" And then I explain that actually, no, I don't want to make movies. I want to watch movies, and read about movies, and write about movies. "You want to be a reviewer." No. I want to be a theorist. Theory, by definition, is not practical.

Going to grad school for film studies would prepare me for pretty much one career: academia. This was where my passion hit a snag. I didn't think I had any interest in being a professor. And what interest I did have was more about the perks (summer vacation!) than about a desire to teach. So why spend all that time and money studying film if it's not going to get me anywhere? Well, because I love it. But isn't that selfish? Is there any field more self-serving than film theory? Nobody gives a damn! It's all an academic circle-jerk. I want to do something with my life that matters.

But then, as I was trying to articulate my frustration with Zombieland to a friend, it hit me: studying film DOES matter. What I want to do isn't just analyze and write about film - I want to show people why it is important to do so. I want to teach. (It fits! Life makes sense!)

When I look at the body of work I've produced from my years in college, the issues that come to the fore are very real - how gender is codified on screen, what it means to look at a body, the visceral reactions people have to certain images. If you can't sleep at night because you're too spooked from watching El Orfanato, that's real. If you tear up just thinking about Jack Dawson sinking into the freezing Atlantic Ocean, that's real. If a director in Japan and a director in Germany both use horror-comedy to explore queer issues, teasing out why is no less important than unifying quantum mechanics and general relativity. It matters.

Now to put my theory of why I want to go to grad school into practice and go buy a study book for the GRE.

No comments: