"s&co" - a photo by Flickr user austinevan
Thoughts on media, culture, and the world-at-large bubbling up from the dusty corners of my cluttered mind
May 15, 2011
The Crew

Bridesmaids was marketed like a raunch-com centered on female friendship and the absurdities of weddings, but there's a whole lot more going on. The film's wide-ranging (and, to some, surprisingly cross-gender) appeal appeal is based on something far more universal.

Posted By Saralyn on/at 4/01/2010 09:52:00 PM

I’ve recently run across the writings of Edward Soja, one of the foremost theorists in spacial studies. In the introduction to his book Postmodern Geographies, Soja argues for the necessity of engaging with and understanding the important confluence of time, space and social being in building what he terms “human geographies”. For Soja, it simply will not do to consider time without space or space without time - they are inextricably linked and social relations are formed in the confluences. The majority of the introduction traces the way an “unbudgeably hegemonic” historicism and preoccupation with time as the primary way to understand human existence that has negated the importance of space.* Soja identifies the way Western Marxism found space a troubling concept, as a grounding in specific localities could threaten a united global proletariat movement and revolution. He also points to the ways Foucault often denied the fact that he was working in/with space (and was in many ways a geographer), as there was no respect for spatiality and no real way to talk about it within the academy. It’s a fascinating read, especially for those who (like myself) were trained in fields that engage with space on a regular basis. I never realized the historical neglect of space as an aspect of social power and understand social relations, but can now see it in the discussions I’ve had with history students with whom I am doing coursework.

Soja was brought up with regard to understanding Scorcese’s Gangs of New York (2002), where time becomes messy and space takes precedence.  For those familiar with the film, I pose an intriguing question: what if the two eruptions of violence at the end of the film (the draft riot and the gang battle) are representative of battles concerned only with time/history (the draft riot, which is a reaction against a historical moment) and space (the gang battle, as Amsterdam Vallon actually states that the gangs at that moment had no mind for what was going on outside Five Points)?  The two cannot remain separate for long, and the temporal and spatial crash into each other as cannon fire and the militia invade Five Points.

My readings of Soja and the discussions of Gangs of New York continually brought to my mind another film, as well - Alfonso Cuarón’s Y Tu Mamá También (2001).  Space, location and the way these are inextricably tied with social conditions are at the very heart of the film.  Many reviewers have discussed the way Mexico itself becomes a character in Cuarón’s film, with the unidentified narrator providing information on other stories and larger social conditions or concerns. Even more interesting is the way Cuarón’s camera often drifts away from the main characters and the temporal narrative being told in the film to linger on a place or social interaction that has little or nothing to do with the story. For example, at a social event early in the film, the camera follows a caterer out to where the staff and chauffeurs stand waiting for their employers to finish their reveling. Both the narrator and the wandering camera (which often coincide) serve to disrupt the (necessary?) privileging of time in the film. It is an interesting way to linger on and explore the importance of space in a medium that seems so tied to the temporal.

I had intended to explore specific sequences, accompanied by video clips, but I wasn’t able to find the ones I wanted. Hopefully I will be able to track them down and come back to it later. Until then, I leave you with the trailer for Y Tu Mamá También:

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*Soja was writing in 1989 and does not engage with the postcolonial theory that had already been present and engaging with space for many years. Apparently, he and other postmodernists would often be criticized for this omission.

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