Monday, October 11, 2010

Reality Check

One of the most recent films I saw in theatres was the dance movie Step Up 3-D, starring Rick Malambri, Adam Sevani, and Sharni Vinson. This movie is directed by Jon Chu and produced by well-known production companies Summit Entertainment and Touchstone Pictures. Step 3-D was released in over 35 countries, and received praise from critics in terms of its visual appeal and intense choreography. The film cost only $30 million dollars to make, but it's gross product worldwide (as of September 23rd) was over $137 million dollars!

The purpose of Step Up 3-D is entertainment - it is a light, fast-paced movie, watched generally for the 3-D effects and cool dance moves, and not necessary for the storyline or less than average acting. The target audience of the movie is definitely teenagers, both male and female, and some young adults. This product appeals to that particular age group because the characters in the movie are teenagers as well, and therefore the emotions and experiences they go through are very relatable. Also, the movie is about hip hop dancing, which is more of a trend nowadays, and the styles of music and clothing that go along with this "hip hop image" resonate better with younger generations. Teenagers see hip hop as cool and popular, so this movie uses that idea to attract them to watching the film.

Another way of obtaining viewers is the fact that this movie is in 3-D. This technology is the future of the film industry, but since it is new and not yet common, it makes this movie seem more inticing because we want to experience films with another dimension. The scene with dancing in water, as shown in the picture below, really enhanced the 3-D experience, as water drops appear to be flying at your face, and you feel as though you are present at the dance battle. The production techniques of 3-D presentation, colourful lighting and bold, busy sets are used frequently, which make the movie very aesthetically pleasing, an important part of keeping the audience focused on the film.

On the surface, Step Up 3-D is simple and predictable; a cute dance flick, with good looking actors and amazing three dimensional effects. When going to see this movie, people think they know just what they're in for, and even after they leave, some think they got exactly what they were expecting - but I challenge you to think a little deeper. After studying the media, in both English and Media Arts, I have learned to watch movies with a critical eye. Everything contains a deeper message, even the fun and exciting Step Up 3-D. The thing I noticed with Step Up 3-D is that it sent a lot of messages about racial, gender, and socioeconomic stereotypes. In the movie, each of the main characters clearly fits into a "movie stereotype", a specific generalized personality that is found in most television shows and films, and the plot follows a very familiar outline. There is Luke, the leader of the pack, who is strong, shy, and often sensitive - and of course he ends up with the girl, Natalie. She is seductive, stubborn, and, as most lead characters do, has a secret she can't tell Luke, which leads them into a fight. But, as predictable movies go, the two characters work it out and end up together. The other set of main characters are Moose and Camille, best friends who both want to be more, but don't think the other one is interested. They two have a fight because they find themselves in the awkward stage between friendship and dating, but then confess their love for each other and end up happily ever after.

This common plotline is expected in most movies, so it didn't quite surprise me, but the part about the movie that really bothered me was the racial profiling. The dancers were all "from the streets", sending out the message that hip hop is somehow related to being poor or lower class. Also, all of the dancers were tough and used incomprehensible slang, giving an incorrect interpretation that hip hop is for people who are uneducated or have bad attitudes.  Each of the dance crew members were from a different race and all had such stereotypical personalities that movies often use to generalize different cultures. Most of the dancers had form-fitting  or revealing clothes, but the black characters were always in baggy pants and hoodies, trying to give them the "gangster" look. There were Spanish and Asian dancers, both of which had thick accents and bad grammar. In our multicultural society, perfect English isn't expected, but the fact that only the visible minorites had incorrect grammar and that their accents were mocked many times was just not appropriate. It surprised me that a movie all about the language and unity of dance could show such a divide based on unrealistic stereotypes.

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