Movie Night Fall 2010 Philosophy 100 Danielson The Joneses Here are several questions to keep in mind while watching the film. These can be used for discussion the night of the film, or to answer for those who watch on their own. If you are writing answers because you did not attend the film, or because you are writing for more extra credit, please answer one or more of the questions (but no more than 4) with a two-page response. You have until the date of the next film to submit your responses. 1. The Joneses is a film which critiques consumer culture. The “family” is seen by the outsiders as just another family. Instead they are actually advertisers engaged in “under the radar” marketing. While this may seem outlandish, it is in fact already occurring. What kinds of defenses can we develop to combat these attempts to sell us products? 2. How realistic is this sort of manipulation? Can you imagine that there is a company willing to go to these lengths to market products? Why or why not? 3. The title most likely comes from the phrase “keeping up with the Joneses.” The writers of the film seem to use the title for ironic impact. But within the world of the movie, is it even more cynical that the company in charge chooses to use the name? Does this make the writers’ job easier or harder to sell their point? (The observant viewer can see it as a hook, but it may lead to a less sympathetic assessment overall.) 4. The choice of the actors is another level of depth in the power of the film. Why is the choice of Demi Moore and David Duchovny as the lead characters an interesting choice? (Consider their ages. Consider the fact that Ms. Moore has under gone plastic surgery to maintain her youthful appearance.) 5. The boss of the Joneses is played by Lauren Hutton who is a former model. She was the “it” girl back in the day. In the film she is shown to have aged; in fact there is little attempt to portray her in a softer light. Why do you think that the film makers chose to present her this way? 6. There is an attempt to make the characters experience some kind of epiphany about what they are doing. Is this believable? Why should the people who have chosen to engage in a deep lie suddenly awaken to their behavior? 7. What is the purpose in choosing to have one of the “children”, Mick, presented as gay? Is it merely a liberal Hollywood wanting to push its agenda or is something else at work? Is “Mr. Joneses’s” response, at the end of the film, to the “Mick” who says he can finally no longer live a lie, used to merely point out the hypocrisy of the entire marketing strategy, or is it also a comment about how we are still unwilling to accept someone’s being homosexual? Or both? Why do you think this? 8. Mick is assaulted because he is gay when comes on to a straight friend. Compare this to what has been happening in our country the last few months. There have been at least 13 suicides by young homosexual teens that seem to have been instigated by various forms of bullying. (One case involved an invasion of privacy by two Rutgers students spying on a third, Tyler Clementi, while he was having sex. They uploaded streaming video taken from a hidden camera in Tyler’s room. Tyler later jumped of the George Washington Bridge to his death.) There was also the brutal assault of a man and two boys in New York by at least 9 men on October 3rd. Is there an upswing in violence against Gay, Lesbian and transgender people? 9. Is the development of the two main characters’ “relationship” believable? Is it possible that these two people who are engaged in such deceitful behavior could actually transcend their situation and create a true love relationship? Or would their willing cooperation in the “lie” preclude, or at least limit their ability to actually create an authentic attachment? 10. Does the ending signify a real possibility or is it required because the audience is primarily American? Why would the film makers need to have the two protagonists drive off into their new lives for a “happy ending?” Does it leave the viewers with a less convincing outcome? 11. The neighbors in the community the Joneses were living in respond to the suicide with anger, and shock. Are they in anyway culpable for the death? Are they complicit in pursing the ideals of the materialistic life that lead to their neighbor’s death? What about the wife? She is certainly harmed by her husband’s death and yet she was all along wanting the life of the Joneses. How should we feel about her grief? 12. In what ways is the film a morality tale? 13. How is this film an extension of the ideas from “The Truman Show”? Is this merely an updated story 10 years later? What are the significant differences between how the role of the media and the consumer culture portrayed in the two films? 14. Once again, as with “The Truman Show”, we are shown a distinction between illusion and reality. Which film is more effective in making the distinction clear? Which is more subtle and perhaps more compelling as to the difficulty in ascertaining which is which? Why? 15. If the “family” had been less stereotypically attractive would the neighbors been as easily duped? What does this mean with regard to how advertisers play on our biases when choosing models for us to emulate? 16. In what ways do we shift the way we present ourselves, depending on the context, to pursue our goals or desires? Is there an ethical way to shift our personality contextually? Is there anything “wrong” with shifting, or should we strive to maintain a consistent “self?” Why? 17. What would Descartes and Hume say about the selfhood of the Joneses? Is there a core to these people or are they merely the surface presentations they offer to others?
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