Clue and the Crisis of the American White Male

analytical Essay
2701 words
2701 words

Clue and the Crisis of the American White Male

Nothing is more American than the crossover appeal of products in the mass media; this appeal is what propelled the idea for the 1985 release of the film Clue, based on the Parker Brothers board game. Furthermore, in keeping with the game's theme, the film appeared in theaters across the country with different endings. With an ensemble cast of talented but little known actors—Tim Curry, Christopher Lloyd, Lesley Ann Warren, Martin Mull, Madeline Kahn, Eileen Brennan and Michael McKean—Clue seemed like a film destined to slip into obscurity. After all, it was a comedy, clever but crass. A deeper analysis of the film provides some insight into a running commentary that presents not just a murder mystery involving several comedic characters, but rather a complex allegorical situation that presents characters as archetypal figures for repressed forces in the dominant American ideology. In reality, Clue is a film about the crisis of the upper class white male in American culture.

In the piece “Cinema/Ideology/Criticism,” Jean Luc-Comolli and Jean Narboni define the critic's job as the discernment of “which films, books and magazines allow the ideology a free, unhampered passage, transmit it with crystal clarity, serve as its chosen language” and which films “attempt to make it turn back and reflect itself, intercept it, make it visible by revealing its mechanisms, by blocking them” (753). Through their examination, seven film categories are outlined. Clue falls into the “E” category, which is defined as “films which seem at first sight to belong firmly within the ideology and to be completely under its sway, but which turn out to be so only in an ambiguous manner” (75...

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...itty dialogue. As Wadworth said, it should be no surprise that the FBI (dominant ideology) is trying to cover up the murder of these repressed forces. “The FBI is used to cleaning up after multiple murders. Why do you think it's run by a man called Hoover?” By continually making fun of the very powers it is supposedly reinforcing, Clue becomes an important film in criticizing American bourgeois ideology.

Works Cited

Gledhill, Christine. “Recent Developments in Feminist Film Criticism.” Braudy and Cohen, 251-72.

Braudy, Leo and Marshall Cohen, eds. Film Theory and Criticism: Introductory Readings, Fifth Edition. New York: Oxford UP, 1999.

Comolli, Jean-Luc and Jean Narboni, “Cinema/Ideology/Criticism.” Braudy and

Cohen, 752-59.

Lynn, Jonathan. Clue. Paramount, 1985.

Mulvey, Laura. “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema.” Braudy and Cohen, 83

In this essay, the author

  • Analyzes how clue is a film about the crisis of the upper class white male in american culture, based on the parker brothers board game.
  • Analyzes how jean luc-comolli and jean narboni define the critic's job as the discernment of which films, books and magazines allow the ideology a free, unhampered passage, transmit it with crystal clarity, serve as its chosen language. clue falls into the "e" category.
  • Analyzes how the film operates on a simple murder mystery, which becomes even more interesting when examined under the possibility of ideological criticism.
  • Analyzes how wadsworth's portrayal of mr. body as a capitalist american male is reinforced throughout the film. the use of pseudonyms enhances the idea of each character representing an repressed force.
  • Analyzes how the male characters in the film represent internal fears that the white upper-class american male holds regarding repressed danger. colonel mustard represents a fear of the end product of capitalism.
  • Analyzes how each character is given a specific weapon in the film by mr. body, which in turn is to be used on wadsworth, an implication that america is giving power to these repressed forces, power that might eventually kill the dominant ideology.
  • Analyzes how professor plum represents a lack of sexual control and sexual boundaries, another repressed fear of the high-class white american male. all the jokes involving plum center on his obsession with sex.
  • Analyzes how mr. green, played by michael mckean, represents the most repressed inner fear of the bourgeois male in the film. he is immediately obedient to other men and apologetic for his every action.
  • Analyzes how female characters represent external threats to male sexuality and the traditional power of the american male.
  • Analyzes how mrs. peacock is portrayed as a woman who has gained political power. she accepts bribes to change her senator husband's position on foreign policies.
  • Analyzes how the second female character represents the fear of female sexual empowerment.
  • Analyzes how mrs. white represents a fear of the emasculation of man by woman, who has gained power over him.
  • Analyzes how wadsworth is added to the film as the butler. he represents a repressed fear, the fear of the working class rising to become equal or superior to bourgeois male.
  • Analyzes how comolli and narboni suggest that "category e" films "throw up obstacles in the way of ideology, causing it to swerve and get off course."
  • Analyzes how the "murderer of america" turns out to be miss scarlet, the empowerment of female sexuality. she uses her femme fatale status to cover up her selling of national security intelligence.
  • Analyzes how the film plays with this, asserting that mrs. peacock has "transcended" from the lower female position to a higher status associated with masculinity.
  • Analyzes how the deus ex machina ending is most revealing, as five of the six major suspects are murderers, with wadsworth the butler masterminding the whole event.
  • Analyzes how clue is a "category e" film because of the narrative flow that establishes false security with the dominant ideology regaining control at the film's end.
  • Cites braudy, leo, and marshall cohen, eds. film theory and criticism: introductory readings, fifth edition.
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