How Hollywood Celebrates “different”

Hollywood is often criticized for discrimination of groups of people in the typecasting of their characters. The evidence supporting this claim is undeniable, see Jack Shaheen’s work on the presentation of Arabs in film. In some cases, however, Hollywood actively supports the acceptance of beliefs valued in our society. For example, the “gifted child” is a common subject for many movies, all with a similar message: differing from the norm is a struggle, but something to be celebrated. The eight original movie trailers analyzed all contain a form of the “gifted child.” All of the movies include a sense of positivity and celebration after initial struggle. 

In viewing the trailers, multiple shared characteristics and themes were revealed. The most obvious trait was the presence of a normally male narrator throughout the trailer. The narrator’s voice, which was male in every case except for one, was deep and slow paced and often mysterious in regard to the dialogue spoken. The narrator often established a vague setting and then emphasized a sense of discovery for the audience. For example, imagine Morgan Freeman narrating for a futuristic movie: “In a world where nothing is how it was, you will find out the true meaning of friendship,” or something along those lines. Additionally, epic and/or upbeat soundtracks accompanied the entirety of the trailers. In moments of lesser action, the music was louder and more pronounced. In scenes that included dialogue, the music faded to the background but did not stop. Additional sound effects separate from the soundtrack were not prevalent in all the trailers but, if present, matched the genre of the movie. Bizarre, mysterious movies like Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory included bizarre boings and screeches while action movies like The Hunger Games contained booms, bangs, and loud explosion noises.

In regard to the technical filming of the movie trailers, the shot length varied throughout but in a manner through which a general outline could be deduced. The trailer would begin with longer shots with fewer transitions, often including a slow panning of surroundings, in order to establish context. As the trailer progressed, more characters were introduced and the shots shortened and the cuts increased in frequency. Overall, these strategic changes transformed the pace of the trailers from slow to fast. In regard to typography and trailer length, no blatant similarities arose as there was significant variation in almost every trailer.

The recut trailers varied in genre of the original film but all were edited to fall under the general horror genre. In searching for recut trailers, I observed that conversion to horror was the most common transformation. This may be due to the technical aspects of horror movies that are recognizable and easier to execute. All of the three recut trailers used transitions that included typography in order to establish a sense of horror. Often, the typography functioned as the narrator role in the original trailers, establishing context and informing the audience of the situation. In the Back to the Future recut titled Slash to the Future, red typography functioned to enhance the sense of horror, since red is the color of blood, and was used eight times in a trailer that was under two minutes long. The recut trailers managed to transform the original story by limiting the amount of dialogue from the original movie, electing instead to alter the audio of the trailer to a screechy, slow soundtrack. Comparing the recut and original trailers, both groups included a change of pace within the trailer. The original trailers quickened which added energy and adhered to the upbeat soundtrack that was present while the horror movies drastically changed from very slow to very quick in order to build suspense and then surprise or shock the audience, often in coordination with a crescendo in the soundtrack. Regarding the actual video scenes selected for the recut trailer, most of the action was of events that took place in the original movie but were uncommon or exceptional rather than the norm. To exemplify my point, the Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Asylum recut trailer included almost the entire dramatic boat trip monologue from Gene Wilder, which is a bizarre moment in the original film. The recut trailers compiled the bizarre moments of the original film to alter the perceived genre.

Trailers: Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Factory, Harry Potter and the Sorcerer’s Stone, The Incredibles, Meet the Robinson’s, Akeelah and the Bee, Robots, Hercules, and The Hunger Games. 

Recut trailers: Slash to the Future (action/comedy converted to horror), Willy Wonka and the Chocolate Asylum (family/comedy converted to horror), The Rain Man (melodrama converted to horror).

This entry was posted in Blog #4. Deconstructing Movie Trailers. Bookmark the permalink.

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