The main argument I’ll be directly disputing in this post is in reference to Lorrie Palmer’s article “Cranked Masculinity: Hypermediation in Digital Action Cinema.” As you’ll soon figure out, I really don’t agree.
For anyone who has had the blessing of seeing Crank in all of its outrageous and overblown high-octane, action-packed glory, I assume (perhaps more so hope) that you recognize the intentional parodic elements that are PURPOSELY made excessive, including race, masculinity, and the entire genre of action films itself.
However, in Lorrie Palmer’s argument, she argues that “Hypermediated cinema, reflecting an array of hypermasculine characters in Crank, demonstrates to its large masculine spectatorship (in this largely masculine genre) that technology and spectacular masculinity are deeply intertwined.”
I’m going to throw in a few (be prepared, it’s actually 6) more quotes here, just so you really get the picture and see how determined she is in trying to drive home her point:
“Crank associates masculinity ‘with mobility, toughness and adventurousness,’ as the camera operator and director Neveldine and actor Statham stand in for the spectator’s eyes and body, and scenes of clearly grueling, physical effort by both men interpellate the (presumed masculine) viewer into the film’s world”
“A scene like this illustrates that Crank hypermediates the embedded relationship between men and technology, with the camera as a mobile mechanical eye, to provide an exaggerated sensory display of ‘mediate masculinity,’ thus making this instance of digital action cinema not a departure from earlier visual culture but rather a characteristic addition to the canon – and to the cannon.”
(characterizing Crank in terms of The Bourne Ultimatum, The Transporter, and Batman Begins) “… belongs to a trend of rough-edged stylization sometimes called ‘run-and-gun,’ itself a distinctly masculine descriptor… Is speed a masculine signifier, especially when it is welded to technology?”
“The narrative information conveyed (which is hardly gender neutral) is collage onto the screen all at once, thus heightening this distinctively hypermediated visual effect.”
“Via speed, fragmentation, men, bullets, and technology, hypermediated perspectives immerse the spectator in the motion of on- and off-screen expressions of masculinity.”
Sorry guys, one more and that’s it – I swear:
“And when they take a male spectator on that roller coaster with them, through this immersive and hypermediated cinema, they replicate that pleasure across time and space – which, in itself, defines how the mechanical eye of media works.”
So! I’m hoping, through all of those quotes, that you sort of get the gist of what Palmer is attempting to say here. While I completely agree with her in terms of cinema’s (and more specifically, mainstream audiences’) demands for a more immersive and hypermediated cinema (MORE ACTION, MORE SPEED, MORE AWESOME!), there are massive holes in her argument for this particular evolution as solely being masculine (in regards to technology, spectatorship, gendered tastes, etc).
Besides her clear contradictions within her own article’s argument (which I’ll come to a bit later on, her argument, at its base, essentializes far too many things, which I’ll make into a handy-dandy list here ~
1 – The only (or massive majority) of people enjoying Crank are male. Now, while I’m assuming the percentages will say that action films are frequented more often by male spectators, I would definitely not say that it is by as a large of margin that Palmer assumes (*AHEM* http://www.avclub.com/article/women-still-make-majority-moviegoers-prefer-female-202741). Women love crazy action movies too, and the fact that this one is intentionally outrageous only makes it more enjoyable.
2 – Crank is made solely for a male audience. Personally, I don’t think any films will intentionally eliminate one half (roughly) of their audience because that would be a terrible economic decision (maybe The Notebook, but that’s about it). While I don’t have the numbers handy about the percentages of male to female of viewers who saw Crank in theaters (nor do I think anyone does), I’m sure not only male spectators saw it, and I’m also quite sure many female spectators enjoyed it.
3 – Physical effort, mobility, run-and-gun, toughness, adventure, speed, and bullets are ALL ONLY associated with males and masculinity. I mean, let’s just take a look at a few examples of some folks who would take issue with those sentiments:
Aside from those, and films like Magic Mike XXL that use hypermasculinity to entertain largely female audiences, let’s get to Palmer’s own contradictions.
First, on Jason Statham’s character:
“Thus, repeatedly embedding multiple screens across the visual field, the filmmakers use digital technology to emphasize the larger-than-life masculinity of their central character.”
There are plenty of other quotes I could have used here, but she constantly emphasizes Chev Chelios’ (Statham’s character) over-the-top masculinity. Yes, THAT’S THE POINT. The filmmakers are fully aware of the excessive masculine character that they themselves created, and are purposely parodying this stereotypical action hero. Do any of you guys really think they included the sex scene in the middle of a Chinatown street because the audience would think that was realistic and not ridiculous, or just because they love exploiting women? C’mon now…
Second, on the racism within the film:
“The ethnic and racial diversity throughout the both films (referring to Crank and Crank 2: High Voltage) is, at best, a mixed message. The cartoonish aspect of these characteristics might be considered a parodic commentary on racial stereotypes in media (including action cinema), and certainly, Chev’s masculinity is, itself, made ridiculous in several scenes.”
Might be considered a parodic commentary? Chev literally gets rid of a taxi driver by screaming “Al Qaeda” at the driver he just pulled out of a car, which is followed by a gaggle of grandmas beating on him and breaking his leg.
So this MIGHT be a parody? Either Neveldine/Taylor are some really fucked up dudes, or yes, obviously – it’s a parodic commentary. Combine the Al-Qaeda scene with the tattooed and sadistic Latino gang members and the Fu Manchu-stached asian gangsters with their massage parlor ‘girlfriends,’ and the filmmakers’ parodic intentions are made clear. The fact that she even admits Chev’s masculinity is itself ridiculous counters her entire argument about Crank. The filmmakers are fully aware of what they are doing and the film is, naturally, self-reflexive. Commenting not only on stereotypes within action films and race representations within cinema at large, but also current national and international politics and events around the early 2000’s.
And on last thing, just to be petty:
(First a quote from Bill Gibron, then Palmer’s interpretation)
” ‘Crank is a rip-snorting roller coaster on ‘roids, a smash-bang, crash-’em up two-fisted thrill ride that rewires the circuits of your standard motion picture appreciation and kicks your expectations square in the narrative nutsack.’ Thus, he offers a tidy summary that encompasses sensory response, technology, and the male body, all relevant to a discussion of gendered technology.”