These images are of the Steampunk Ghostbusters Committee, and Amy Driscoll. Amy and I manned the door and collected the tickets for the ball. More photos and a proper report on the ball to follow!
Monthly Archives: June 2015
I would like to thank all the attendees on the night for making the event a success, and congratulate my fellow committee members for all their hard work. The official photographs will follow in the next few days.
This is one of my university assignments from the first year of my Arts degree.
The Hay’s Office, which endeavoured to police the Production Code, influenced cinematographers to adopt a restrictive, respectable morality in their films during the 1930s. What were effects of The Hay’s Code on the representation of Jane in the Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O’Sullivan movies? A comparison of the differences in the portrayal of Jane, in Tarzan the Ape Man, Tarzan and His Mate, Tarzan Escapes, Tarzan Finds a Son, Tarzan’s Secret Treasure and Tarzan’s New York Adventure, illustrates how much power the Hay Code wielded, as these were the Tarzan movies in production when the Code was gaining in influence in Hollywood. Did the representation of Jane, after the enforcement of the Production Code regulations, have a very different pattern of behaviour, costuming, and setting to original depiction of Jane in this movie sequence, and were the consequences to the genre and grammar of the films?
The early 1920s was in a period of economic growth for the film industry, as it was benefiting from increased consumer spending on leisure, and the technological revolution caused by the introduction of sound. However, three major scandals plagued the film industry in America. In 1922, the Hays Office was created, by the studios and cinematographers, as an attempt to stave off interference in film production by the States or Federal US government. Then, in February 1930, the Hays Office brought out a new moral code that was full of ‘Don’ts’ and ‘Becarefuls’: the Production Code. Joe Breen was the driving force behind this set of restrictions, and though it was never made into a law, it was enforced with enthusiasm. Of course, it was often ignored, particularly when the Code might seriously damage the money-making ability of a film. Generally, most production companies ensured their movies had Hay’s Office approval to prevent criticism or further censorship.
Tarzan the Ape Man was lucky enough to have minimal interference by the Hayes Office, as the Code was still being implemented. After Tarzan and His Mate, the movie sequence suffered from a rigorous application of the Production Code, as they considered this movie had many flaws: too much nudity; a scene with Jane backlit while changing in a tent; comments about a bra; and there were concerns about the increased levels of violence against the animals. The movies that followed were more correct and decorous, and Jane’s characterisation was changed to conform to the new restrictions imposed by the Code.
The Johnny Weissmuller and Maureen O’Sullivan series of movies were successful due to charisma of the stars, even though both actors were relatively unknown when selected for their parts. The first film, Tarzan the Ape Man, set about showing Jane’s character as independent and unconventional, and these traits were indicated by several scenes: the drinking of alcohol in preference to tea, being able to ‘shoot like an angel’, insisting on accompanying her father on his expedition, among others. She wasn’t a stereotypical ‘princess’ to be rescued; she was Tarzan’s superior intellectually. She chose to reject civilisation to join Tarzan in his jungle, on her own terms .
Jane is in Tarzan’s territory, the jungle, and at first she is a civilised girl and out of her depth, but she quickly adapts to Jungle life. Tarzan is dominant in his knowledge of the jungle, but he is subordinate to Jane in knowledge of language and civilised behaviour. The Hay’s Code was to redefine what was civilised behaviour for them both. It was to change how they interacted, and was to change Jane from a sexy, adventurous, active, romantic heroine into a more stereotypical lady-like mother figure.
The Hays Office and Production Code had their way when it came time for Tarzan and Jane to enlarge their family. The couple rescue a child, in Tarzan Finds a Son, rather than creating their child by the natural process of conception. The Hay’s Office wouldn’t let Tarzan and Jane procreate as they were unmarried, and a child of their own would be proof of their sexuality activity This act was a denial of the sexual liberation that Jane had experienced by choosing to live with Tarzan, as she was not allowed to fully express her sexuality or her desires.
There were major changes in Jane’s costuming from Tarzan the Ape Man, Tarzan and his Mate to Tarzan Escapes and the later films, and these changes give insights into both the evolution of the character and the impact of the Hay’s Code. In the first film, Jane arrives in the jungle wearing inappropriate white Western-style clothing, the white was a symbol of her purity of spirit, and the city fashions signified her civilised state. As well, Jane’s whiteness is emphasised as the concept of a white woman being attracted to the primitive lifestyle is suggestive of a perverse and erotic desire. During the course of the movie, as she moves away from Western, patriarchal values and toward Tarzan’s naturalistic values, she slowly sheds her restrictive clothes – with help from Tarzan.
In Tarzan and his Mate, Jane is wearing the briefest of her outfits, a halter top and loincloth, reflecting her complete liberation from the restrictions of civilisation. At one point in the film, there is an attempt to lure Jane away from her new lifestyle by tempting her with fashionable European-style clothes and accessories, however she doesn’t fall into this trap. The Hay’s Office was unimpressed with Jane’s revealing costume and the nudity in the water ballet scene. In the third film, her outfit was a demure dress that covered her from neck to thigh. The new lady-like outfit physically restricted Jane, so that she was unable to be as adventurous or active as she had been in the previous films. This meant that the change in the depiction of Jane’s behaviour wasn’t just to conform to the Production Code, it was due to the physical limitations of her new costume.
Even though Jane’s decorous dress had different connotations to the previous one, it was still made out of animal skins. Like Tarzan and Boy, Jane was usually dressed in primitive, Stone Age-styled costume, in distinct contrast to the civilised Westerners and the tribal Africans, and as they were only characters to dress as they do, it was a visual key to their family grouping. Jane, Tarzan and Boy didn’t wear jewellery or patterned skins, so they were distanced from any item that might appear tribal or shamanistic, as miscegenation was also against the principles of the Code.
The setting for Jane’s and Tarzan’s relationship changed along with the costuming. In the first two movies, it was a literal ‘love’ nest, a tiny hut high in a tree. In keeping with the altered representation of Jane, in Tarzan Escapes, there was the introduction of the tree house, with all its modern, Western conveniences. This new domestic residence comes with an elephant-propelled elevator, a fan, running water and a Cheetah-powered rotisserie oven.
The genre of the movie sequence was affected and altered by all these changes in Jane’s representation, from Jungle Romance to Family Film, though not solely by these factors. The first two movies were definitely for an adult audience, the romance appealing to the women, and the adventure appealing to the men. The last four films were considered family films as the innocent eroticism of Tarzan’s and Jane’s relationship was removed. There were still romantic, intimate moments, even in the final movie, Tarzan’s New York Adventure, such as when Tarzan sweeps Jane up and walks with her into their tree house, but they lacked the impact of the first two films. The last four films are more family-style films with less sexual activity, while retaining and exaggerating the humour.
In the Pre-Hay’s Code movie, Tarzan the Ape Man, Jane is a stereotyped as a Daddy’s Girl and a Tomboy, looking for adventure in the African jungle, and wanting to spend time with her father, and she is also Eve, both the vamp and the destroyer of innocence, and the nurturing mother that teaches Tarzan about language and civilised manners. Afterwards, with the restrictions being enforced, she is still Eve, in the Garden of Eden with Tarzan, but in her role as the Original Mother and the foster parent to Boy.
As an Eve stereotype, Jane was the person responsible for the loss of Tarzan’s virtuous simplicity and was his provider of the fruit of the tree of knowledge, teaching Tarzan about language, and then teaching him about sex, and then about caring for babies. When in teaching mode, Jane is dominating Tarzan while still allowing him to make important decisions like naming the baby ‘Boy’, as in Tarzan Finds a Son. In the post-Code movies, when Jane is in her maternal role, she starts acting as domestic goddess, cooking and caring for the baby. As Jane was missing the visual clues and generic markers of motherhood, for she has no apron, matronly hair & clothing, she had to have behavioural markers instead, and so had to be depicted cooking and presenting food as a mother and homemaker.
In studying the grammar of film, the gaze was edited to mainly eye line match. Spectators are watching as voyeurs through a window into the action. The audience, for Tarzan the Ape Man and Tarzan and His Mate, can assumed to be patriarchal white males, with Jane’s provocative poses and costuming. In the first two movies, the soft focus filters were used for Jane’s emotive or reaction shots with Tarzan. In the last four movies, the soft focus filters also were used for maternal reflections, such as when Jane is telling baby about his poor mother in Tarzan Finds a Son.
A Summary of some of the Effects of The Hay’s Code on Representation of Jane in the Tarzan Movies with Maureen O’Sullivan and Johnny Weissmuller.
|Before the Production code||After the Production Code||No Alteration|
|Costumes||Brief, revealing halter top and loincloth with string sides||Dress that covers torso from neck to top of thighs||Made of unpatterned skin or leather|
|Setting||‘Love’ nest in tree||Tree house with Western-style appliances||Mutia Escarpment as sacred space|
|Behaviour||Active, physical, adventurous,
Of course, the Hay’s Office and the Production Code had more consequences on the six movies than listed above. The Code had an effect on all the movies made after it was created. The Code was to have serious repercussions when television began to gain popularity in Western Culture. It became the foundation of both the movie classification system and the television classification system that is still in use.
The representation of Jane, a woman rebelling against her Western, white, patriarchal society, effected representations of women in other films, even into the Twenty-First century. An example is the characterisation of the heroine in Legally Blonde, who at first is the stereotypical sorority girl, and then Elle breaks boundaries and finds freedom from her stereotype.
The representation of Jane went through a metamorphosis when The Hay’s Office was enforcing the Production Code, and that had major repercussions on the six movies under discussion. Jane was altered, away from the original depiction of a physically active woman who relished her freedom beyond the constraints of Western morals and civilisation, into a portrayal of domesticated, in somewhat unconventional, wife and mother. The representation of Jane displayed a very different pattern in her behaviour, costuming, and setting to original depiction of Jane in this movie sequence, and this change did effect the genre and grammar of the films.
I am getting quite excited as the ball is nearly upon us. A small part of me will be glad to be able to relax for a bit. Another part of me is energized by the thought of seeing everyone in costume and having a really good time, while raising funds for my favourite charity. (I’ve lost too many friends and family to cancer.) As you can see, from this above image, last year’s ball went like gangbusters. (or Ghostbusters, if you will allow me the pun).
Next week is going to be all updates about the ball. Normal service will resume shortly.
I am sorry if I’ve not been posting as frequently as usual. There is less than one week until the Steampunk Ghostbusters Charity Ball to raise funds for the Queensland Cancer Council. I am on the committee, and none of us have any training in events management. It takes a lot of organisation.
On the night, we are having performers, a photo booth, a charity auction, and teapot racing, as well as the expected dancing, refreshments and door prize. This is my outfit from last year. My Ghostbusters’ backpack will be the same, but I have a new outfit to try out.
As always, my fondest hope is that the event goes smoothly, and everyone has tremendous fun.
You’ve got to love Victorian Fancy Dress.
Before we get to the ‘rules’, a DISCLAIMER: Steampunk cosplay is not to be taken seriously, and is just a bit of fun. These guidelines are to assist newbies to Steampunk cosplay, or to give old hands a chuckle, and – as such – are not cast in steel.
Rule One: Steampunk is not the same thing as historical recreation. If you want, you can get as accurate as you like with the Victorian aspects of your outfit … but it isn’t Steampunk until you add the gadgets, ray-guns and goggles.
Rule Two: No one item is Steampunk by itself. A lovely pair of boots aren’t Steampunk until they are matched up with the rest of the outfit; the trousers, the vest with the watch-chain, the hat and the goggles, the ray-gun and the quizzing glass, none of these items can create the Steampunk Aesthetic in isolation.
Rule Three: The palette of Steampunk clothes isn’t limited to brown and black and white. The Victorian and Edwardian clothing was colourful, and it is only the sombre tones of the tintypes and black-and-white photography that gives the impression that everyone wore black and grey, or brown and sepia.
Rule Four: Be a Secondhand Rose, particularly if you are clever with a needle and can make-over clothing to adhere to the Steampunk Aesthetic. Two of my girlfriends, Nadine and Catrin, have the creativity to see the potential in an item of secondhand clothing as Steampunk couture.
Rule Five: The Victorian and Edwardian eras saw an enormous range of styles and fashions worldwide, so there is a style suited to simply everyone. You can be ultra-feminine in a bustle and corset, or dressed for adventure in jodhpurs and a pith helmet. You can Steampunk just about anything with imagination and creativity.
And that is it! That is really all the rules you need. You can put as much or as little effort as you want into creating your Steampunk cosplay. Have fun!
I’ve talked a bit about plotting, but I really haven’t explained the basic idea of plotting a scene.The structure of narrative is built up from a variety of scenes; it is very rare that a novel would just be one scene (I can’t think of one example, to be truthful). So the scene is the brick from which your castle in the air is built – or, to use a Steampunk Metaphor – a scene is one of the springs that goes into the running of the clockwork of your story, pushing it along.
So, let’s start with a simple and basic plot, one of the classics: a couple find each other and fall in love, then there is some event that separates them, and eventually they find each other again for the happily-ever-after ending … or not, as the case my be. Picking one aspect of that plot: some event separates them. Did they fight? Was one character dragged away by events beyond their control? Did they plan to meet up, and one of them failed to make the meeting? As the writer, it is up to you to make this event plausible without contradicting you characterizations or settings. Let’s pick another classic: one of the couple gives up the other ‘for their own good’. Say the girl character is at university and doing brilliantly, and her beau decides his presence is putting her career at risk, for what ever reason.
This is where you have to start plotting your scene. Will he just call off their ‘engagement’ with no explanation? Will he deliberately start a fight, so that she will break it off with him and never know the sacrifice he is making? Will he start undertaking risky behaviour, expecting to die and so set her free that way? Or will be do the completely unexpected thing, and just tell her that he believes he is a bad influence on her, and give her the opportunity to make up her own mind? (I prefer the last option, because it assumes the girl is mature and smart enough to direct her own destiny.)
Let’s say you’ve chosen the ‘sacrifice’ option, as – again – it is one of the classic options; this is the driving force of any version of ‘A Star is Born’. So, you need a scene where your protagonist will die in some manner, and it is up to you how you will plot it. In the first two movie versions of ‘A Star in Born’, the Norman character drowns himself. This can be very dramatic, as your character walks resolutely into the dark, cold water. But your character don’t live near the ocean. So how would you plot this?
Firstly, you would write down the main points of the scene:
1/ ‘Norman’ realizes he is a liability and is harming his true love.
2/ ‘Norman’ decides to commit suicide, but he doesn’t want to recreate residual guilt for his true love.
3/ ‘Norman’ decided to drive his car/horseless carriage over a cliff, making it look like an accidental death.
So, you now have the blueprint of your scene. Now you have to get all the parts and screw it together.
If you are writing a straightforward recollection of events, you might leave the scene nearly as sparse as the outline. Sometime, particularly with death scenes, less can be more. Death is dramatic without much ornamentation. However, if you are a ‘wheels withing wheels’ stylist, you might add more description of the scene. What does the car/carriage signify? Where ‘Norman’ chooses to leave the road might have significance. If you prefer to write in first person perspective, you might take your audience with ‘Norman’ and see his final moments through his eyes. How you write this scene relates to what has gone before, and what you plan to be the repercussions of this scene for the rest of your narrative.
This is what plotting is all about. Every scene should be pushing the story forwards. It might not be that the death of this character is vital to the narrative, but is essential as an insight into the character of the main protagonist: a young woman who has tragically lost the love of her life. It might be that you are writing a tragedy, and his sacrifice was in vain. So the scene has to touch the heart of your audience; or shock them; or give them a sense of relief that the character got his just desserts.
Is this scene necessary?
What do you, the writer, want this scene to achieve?
Who needs to be in this scene?
What is the setting?
As I may have mentioned, I am somewhat addicted to research and reference books. Today I found a beauty: The Victorian Bathroom Catalogue. It has opened my eyes to the true excess of the Victorian bathroom; modern plumbing has nothing on the fixtures from the 19th century.
Check out the hooded bath … something I’d never seen until I opened the covers of this book. A hooded bath has the plumbing hidden away, with only the tap fitting and shower head showing. This had hot and cold running water. The outside was decorated, and the inside could be enamelled in ‘any colour that may be desired’. Doesn’t it look luxurious?
As you can see from these images, plain white porcelain wasn’t your only option. Everything came in heavily decorated versions, because the Victorians were obsessed with ornamentation. Even the most functional item, like a toilet, could be a minor work of art.
Another fact that struck me with this text book is that they refer to hand basins as lavatories or lavatory basins … whereas my family consider a toilet the lavatory. Apart from the hooded bath, all the other fixtures are familiar to me. Even the boilers … I’m old enough to remember the scary boiler in my Nana’s bathroom, for heating the bathwater.
The modern Steampunk bathroom just doesn’t have the options of such ornate fixtures (unless you’re a millionaire). Instead, the Steampunk Aesthetic is achieved with copper fittings to echo the Industrial part of the Victorian era. Steampunk isn’t a straightforward recreation of a Victorian interior to a room. Instead, it takes some Neo-Victorian influences and mixes them with Science Fiction theme – and that is what Steampunk is, after all, a subgenre of Science Fiction.
Steampunk isn’t historical recreation. You can take a chance and get really creative.