The Blockbuster and Beyond | Course Framework
A film is a complex organism that exists within a network of cultural, commercial, and technological forces. The Hollywood Blockbuster is a particular kind of film that is designed for big budgets, mass merchandising, global markets, and large-scale audience response. What designates a film a blockbuster is the size of its production budget and marketing effort rather than either critical success or popularity. 'Blockbuster', therefore, has become something of a dirty designation—equated with ostentatious budgets rather than good storytelling—because many blame it for the decline of narrative films. Some even say that the Blockbuster franchise has destroyed Hollywood storytelling. This course will explore the tension between storytelling and action films, with a particular focus on audience response, personal media, the rise of transmedia storytelling, and participatory culture.
Contemporaneous with the arrival of the Blockbuster in the 1970s, immersive media and pervasive gaming start to change how audiences engage with media of all kinds. Traditionally blockbusters, like other kinds of mass media, were expected to be passively consumed. Fan culture, personal computers, networked spectators, and mobile media have transformed fan reception into something that now talks back to the big screen. In an age of draconian copyright laws, this has become a highly political act. These audience-driven creative and political outpourings are methods of taking back consumer culture from global corporations and personalizing it. Often blocked or criminalized by Hollywood studios, we will explore how fan culture can be an important training ground for real world activism and media production.
Carolyn Guertin, PhD
Short paper – assessment of three versions of a film/multimedia text (500 words, Sept 25th) 15%
Midterm Exam on Immersive Storytelling/Pervasive Gaming (Oct 23rd) 10%
Seminars with a partner (on dates as chosen) on films we study in class 15%
Blackboard: Questions from your readings and Discussion 15%
Group work/in-class activities/quizzes 15%
Essay in MLA or APA style (1500 to 1800 words, ) 30%