VII.  Pragmatic Reading

“I do not have to identify with everything that interests me; nor need I be fascinated by everything with which I identify” (Noel Carroll, film theorist)

Reading Alternatives

Despite the intuitive appeal of cine-psychoanalysis, there is real difficulty ascribing symbolic meanings to intercultural readings of entertainment texts.  One problem involves a tendency to assign a certain necessary reading of the text to the viewer by virtue of the theory used to explain it – rather than independently demonstrating the presence of such meaning within the structure of the text.  Cine-psychoanalysis involves exactly this type of circular logic, and it seems ironic that feminist film theory in particular should draw so heavily on psychoanalysis in attempting to explicate the patriarchal working of symbolism and identification.  These hypothetical notions also seem inherently essentialist, forcing patriarchal (and heterosexist) assumptions regarding observation, identity, belief and perceived value onto the presumed experiences of all film viewers.

The Black Panther Warriors and City Hunter
Cultural studies approaches clearly affirm the inevitability of widely contrasting – even contradictory – readings of entertainment narratives, involving negotiation of the text’s meanings by individual viewers in accordance with their unique personal and cultural experience.  This general theory of negotiated textual readings is not constrained by specific, essentialist assumptions (whether of gender or development).  From this perspective four general questions may be posed:  whether viewers truly “identify” with film characters at all, and – if they do – whether this is according to gender or character function; how viewers from one culture might enthusiastically respond to the popular entertainment texts of another culture; which textual and filmic elements primarily determine favorable viewer response; and what broad ideological significance may be associated with the resultant intercultural text negotiations.