In everyday life, people are bombarded with visuals in advertisements, television shows, and personal slogans. The repetition of these purposeful images are all part of a collective social definition of beauty and vulgarity. The areas of influence on what formulates this ideal are vast, but one area in particular has held a mirror to societal views since the 1890s. The film industry thrives on both beauty and vulgarity, and the depiction of both. These concepts were discussed Nov 21 in the Raritan Valley Community College Atrium, during college hour, by a group of RVCC professors. One professor, J.C. Svec, delved into the topic of film and production through his personal experiences and covered generalities in the industry, all in reference to the two main concepts at hand; beauty and vulgarity.
The event was held by the RVCC Phi Theta Kappa chapter, Alpha Epsilon Pi, for research on their Honors in Action Project. Out of the eight choices of global perspective topics, PTK decided to choose the theme of beauty and vulgarity to submit their research and conclusions on. The panel that was held, open to the public, was just one of their modes for obtaining research. An art show held in the RVCC cafeteria, as well as multiple surveys, and hosting a panel of educators, are all ways that PTK has collected research and opinion thus far. At the panel event, short questionnaires were passed around to survey the attendees’ opinions about beauty and vulgarity before and after they experienced the discussion. Along with Professor J.C. Svec, the panel consisted of four other educators, who went over the many point of views surrounding beauty and vulgarity. The presenters, in order of speaking, were Professor Jennifer Pearce-Morris from the sociology department, Professor Deborah Corbett from the psychology department, Professor Vandana Nadkarni from the art history department, Professor J.C. Svec from the film production department, and Professor Lauren Braun from the history department. All the speakers rose thought-provoking remarks on the subject matter including Professor Pearce-Morris’s questions, “why does a culture say that certain things are beautiful and desirable?” and, “to what extent does society make us feel pressured to change our bodies?”
Professor Svec’s commentary on film and production are credible because of his comprehensive experience in the field. Having worked as a producer, director, and designer, Professor Svec was able to share specific scenarios and opinions that circulate within the film world, which he accumulated over his years working in the industry. At one point in his speech he stated:
“to reiterate what you already know; In the film industry, beauty matters, especially for women, period. When you stop being beautiful, whatever that defining moment, age, or circumstance may be you stop being bankable, relevant. The result is the need to regain or retain your youthful image at any cost. Even aging male actors are referenced as looking good for their age, or wearing their age well.”
Professor Svec told of instances that in some of his own productions he received comments like, “nothing but ugly people, doing ugly things in ugly circumstances.” In sharing this, Professor Svec painted a picture for the audience of a world where the artform of film was expected to always resemble a specific kind of beauty; one that was predetermined by society. As his argument evolved, it was made clear that the cross over between beauty and vulgarity, within the film world, was a fine line. Television and movies have increasingly become more explicit, but is the film industry to blame? Professor Svec stated:
“In any particular time in the 140 years of film history, movies have always held a mirror to our society and our culture. Through the eyes of writers, directors, and producers, movies have been a reflection of ourselves individually and collectively. The industry has captured and preserved good or bad, tasteful and distorted, who we are, what we do, why we do…in all its black and white or technicolor beauty…”
Through the ideas shared at the panel event, questions and concerns were raised, which were recorded via the questionnaires. Through the responses PTK accumulates, their research paper for the Honors in Action Project will come closer and closer to completion.
All of the professors that took part in the panel are active members of RVCC faculty and hold classes that cover their subject matters more extensively. They all touch on the subjects of beauty and vulgarity inevitably throughout their semester, because each area of study covers human interaction and perspective from some angle. Professor J.C. Svec teaches both “Film 122: Survey of American Film” and “Film 101: Art of the Movies: Film Appreciation and Analysis” courses at RVCC.
Edited by: Zachary Nickl