the magazine of the columbia daily spectator
May 1 2013
Mmm, baby: The very best in food porn
April 27 2013
Alternatives to Butler
April 19 2013
Red Bull and relaxation
April 17 2013
Back to the kitchen: A short journey through sexist pop culture
April 12 2013
Bikinis and big booties, y’all
April 8 2013
Azealia Banks Did What?
April 5 2013
More stories from Columbia’s military veterans
April 3 2013
Sing, O Muse, of some sappy story
April 1 2013
Missed the Cliterary Open Mic? Check out the highlights here
March 29 2013
Sex & Low Beach
Anyone who knows me personally and has spoken to me in the past week now knows that I really hate Liam Neeson’s latest action film, The Grey. Despite what most would think, it wasn’t so much his performance that bothered me as the entire movie.
At first glance, The Grey has a simple enough premise: A plane crashes, and it’s up to Liam Neeson to keep the survivors alive in the Alaskan wilderness, where the wolves will get you before the cold does. You don’t have to be a genius to see where this plot goes: Basically, everybody dies a gruesome death. And this is where I take issue with this movie. The Grey and other movies with endings characterized by gratuitous death take careful time to humanize their characters, to give them back story, to make them relatable—and then they die. This would be a brilliant comment on how tragedy is inevitable when you get close to someone—if that were actually the movie’s inten- tion and not just my wishful thinking.
In The Grey, everyone dies for the sake of too-short forays into existentialism between wolf attacks. It’s a modern tragedy in the sense that everybody dies, but not in the sense that their deaths have anything useful to say—which has me questioning whether tragedy can really exist with- out the universal-human-experience part.
In many a Shakespearean tragedy, for example, everybody dies at the end. But this isn’t a big deal in Shakespeare, because the play’s focus isn’t the death of each character—unless it serves a plot point, as in Romeo and Juliet. In films such as The Grey and Paranormal Activity, the deaths of the characters are the plot. If The Grey were well done, it could feasibly echo themes similar to those found in King Lear—especially the idea of man being brought near to beast. As it stands, the only time man is brought near to beast in The Grey is when the beast is chewing up the man’s face.
Moreover, in Shakespeare, Euripides, and Sophocles, the viewer at least gets some closure. Nothing is resolved in The Grey. Nobody knows why the plane crashed, nobody knows where they are, and nobody knows whether Liam Neeson, the only remaining survivor, is going to live by the time the credits roll (although the odds in a wolf fight aren’t in his favor). Similarly, in The Devil Inside Me, just when you think you’re going to get some answers, everybody dies, and everything goes unresolved. When every character is killed off in these contemporary “tragedies,” the only tragedy, it seems, is that the films don’t have anything to say.
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