Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Updates, Individuals, Angel Wings in Oldboy

In reading Imagined Communities, I found myself particularly interested in "updating" Anderson's theories, or rather, finding the relevant new media technologies that either support the continued patronage of nationalist ideology or are beginning to undermine it. When Anderson discusses his "deep, horizontal comradeship" (7), he so in partial connection with cultural elements like the novel and the newspaper that enable a communal sentiment and understanding. Moving from these modes of cultural representation, where does the internet, social networking, blogging, and web 2.0 bring us? While some features of the internet, namely facebook, myspace, and other webware that literally defines communities and communal belonging, other sites seem to reinforce the individual: does not the specific, unique, personalized soapbox of the blog seem to package the individual? Or do mass-blogs like cough, cough, blogger, enable a sort of generic thought forum that continues to unite and communalize, what might otherwise be separate and individualized?

Essentially, how is that Anderson or any understanding of the Imagined Community assess the radical, the interloper, or the outsider? Are these figures a shade of gray that help to mark and delineate the imagined community, thus serving the interest of community preservation, or could the outsider authentically hope to create an identity outside of a community? Perhaps this is what is truly imaginary?


On another note, after watching a film as arrestingly powerful as Oldboy, I find myself quite seeing LOTS of Anderson sprinkled throughout the film text. Dae-Su's conditioning through television for one thing, especially in the expedited chronology of his imprisonment (complimented with an abbreviated video history of Korea), shows that even as Dae-Su is isolated from physical interaction with his community, he is still enveloped its culture and progress, arguably as Korean as any other Korean.

But at what point does Dae-Su's perceptible individuality take over? Does it ever? As Dae-Su moves through the streets of Seoul after his imprisonment, does the audience feel he has been distanced from the community of people around him, or has he been returned? What does Park suggest with his use of clear Korean iconography throughout the film?

Also, I couldn't help but enjoy the image of the angel's wings at the beginning and end of the film. I was very much reminded of Benjamin's eloquent personification of history: when Dae-Su first puts on his daughter's wings at the beginning of the film, he is entirely facing away from the turbulence of his future, but is blown backward towards it cognizant only of what has already transpired with him. At the end of the film, he can be said to have be turned around, painfully aware of the difficulty of the future, and the strong winds of history that propel him. At this point, Mi-Do takes up the wings, herself only aware of her past, but not sure of the dark future threatening her progress.

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