Week 3 Blog Assignment

This week I would like you to restrict your blog posts to discussion of form in Modern Times.  You might consider any of the following.

  • The overall structure and patterns of the film
  • The ways the film plays into and/or reverses viewer expectations
  • The expectations or patterns associated with the comedy genre and how the film uses them
  • How the expectations set up in the opening of the film play out over the remainder of the narrative
  • How form in the film makes meaning – referrential, explicit, implicit, or symptomatic
  • Function
  • Similarity and repetition
  • Difference and variation
  • Development
  • Unity or disunity

I encourage you to look to your classmates’ tweets for ideas.  Also, please be sure to mark your post “Week 3.”


3 thoughts on “Week 3 Blog Assignment

  1. Hi, so I know I probably won’t receive credit for this, but for some reason I’ve been unable to post my assignment for tonight. I’ve been trying for a solid half hour with no luck. I’m following the blog and have my own account and looked for this class in the categories section but couldn’t find it. I’m just gonna post it here though so you know I’m not just not doing my assignments.

    Week 3 Blog Assignment
    In Charlie Chaplin’s Modern Times, there is a large emphasis on motif and playing off the audience’s expectations.

    First off, like Metropolis, this movie was released during a tumultuous time period for the lower and middle classes. There are a few implicit meanings being thrown out there, one being the unification of the lower class, as shown in the few scenes where Union mobs were present and active. Another implied meaning was that society, at that time, was not conducive to upward mobility for most of the population, and was very often not directly attributed to an individual’s work ethic or determination. Another important implicit meaning was the notion that no matter how hard life hits, you have to keep on trying without losing your enthusiasm or zest for living. This was shown in the numerous jobs the male lead burned through as well as the physical and emotional bruises he endured. This implicit meaning was made explicit when, at the end, Chaplin said “never say die.”

    There is also a bit of irony played with in this film, especially in the scene where Chaplin and his love interest attempt to make a rundown house a home. While the female lead states that “its no Buckingham palace” you can see in their faces and actions that to them, it is. This is further explored in the scene where the vagrant girl is making tea, a notoriously sophisticated beverage, but they drink it out of tin cans. They are living a parody of the life they both dreamed of, but they couldn’t be happier with it.

    The motifs in Modern Times are meant to slap the audience in the face. You expect the male lead to try, and fail, at each job he attempts. You also expect him to somehow land himself in prison shortly after losing said job. But while these themes continue to show themselves without fail, you can see that there is a definite character arc at work. In the beginning few jobs, Chaplin loses them mostly due to his own failure or quirky actions. You begin to believe that this man is merely incapable of holding a down a steady job. But then he works as a mechanic’s assistant, and everything changes. Suddenly the accidents aren’t completely his fault, and he loses his job not due to personal failure, but because of a Union Strike! This turns the idea that he is unsuccessful because he is inadequate on its head. Now its society that’s keeping him down. This is further exemplified when both Chaplin and the vagrant girl have steady jobs together and are flourishing in them. Finally it seems that they are on their way when society decided to pull out the rug from under them yet again, dragging them down. Another, more subtle, motif is seen when Chaplin’s character is roller-skating with a blindfold. Apart from the obvious toying with audience expectations, it should be noted that the moment he took off the blindfold, he lost his confidence and almost fell off the edge. This shows that the male lead has much potential, so long as he “doesn’t look down”, or focus on his own shortcomings or insecurities. This idea reaches its pinnacle when Chaplin literally performs “off the cuff” at the café, giving a better performance than he ever could have without the fear of messing someone else’s words.

    One aspect of the film I found intriguing was that neither of the characters had names. This could be taken at face value and argued that it wasn’t really necessary for them to have names past “the Tramp” and “the Vagrant.” It could also be argued that they were really just representations of the spirit of society as a whole during that era. “The Tramp” could represent the general working man, since he worked numerous jobs in different settings, making him a bit of an everyman. “The vagrant girl” represents hope in society, as she is shown repeatedly as the one who motivates Chaplin’s character into realizing his goals and finding more work.

    In the very first scene, there is a shot of one black sheep amidst a see of white sheep. It is assumed that Chaplin and the vagrant girl would be considered “black sheep.” But maybe they were black sheep only due to their circumstances. Especially if they are taken as symbols of society, it could be argued that, at some point, everyone is forced to take their chances as the black sheep.

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