Come testimonia un’ormai consistente produzione di film (e di serie televisive o di puntate di queste), la bioetica è un ottimo argomento di racconto per lo schermo. È un campo generoso di spunti, perché ricco di dilemmi morali, che sono, come ribadiremo tra poco, elemento essenziale a rendere una storia coinvolgente. Offrono materiale drammatico le possibilità e le incognite della genetica. Lo offrono le scelte medico-sanitarie che hanno a che fare con opzioni di vita e di morte dei pazienti. Lo offre la libertà di questi ultimi di fronte a possibilità di intervento cresciute esponenzialmente insieme con gli interrogativi sulla loro liceità e sulle loro implicazioni. Ancora, le questioni bioetiche sono un tema attuale, oggetto di dibattito pubblico e di contrasti accesi. Un altro elemento, questo, congeniale al cinema che ha una vocazione a generare eventi culturali, ad inserirsi nelle fratture della contemporaneità per coagulare attenzione e sentimento. L’industria della serialità televisiva più raffinata lavora seguendo coordinate analoghe. Con questa consapevolezza di fondo, il volume monografico che introduciamo ha voluto affrontare il binomio “bioetica-racconto audiovisivo” attraverso una serie di analisi testuali. Contributi dedicati a titoli che rientrano nel mainstream internazionale, sia pure spaziando: da grandi produzioni che hanno conquistato ampia risonanza nell’immaginario narrativo contemporaneo (Juno, Million Dollar Baby, Gattaca, Blade Runner, Scrubs) a film indipendenti o semi-indipendenti (La famiglia Savage, La custode di mia sorella) e serie di nicchia (Boss).
The monographic issue "Narrating the Thresholds of Life. The Bioethical Themes of Beginning and End of Life in Cinema and TV series" addresses the subject of cinematic storytelling on bioethical matters through a series of textual analyses. The works taken into account in the essays can all be considered as products belonging to the international mainstream, even if the kind of production varies: from studio features that have gained a relevant place in contemporary popular culture (Juno, Million Dollar Baby, Gattaca, Blade Runner, Scrubs) to independent or partially independent movies (The Savages, My Sister’s Keeper) to TV series targeted to selected audiences (Boss).
Released in 2009 and based on the eponymous novel by Jodi Picoult (My Sister’s Keeper), the film by Nick Cassavetes, is a valid example of dramatization of bioethics issues, besides having a well written story and a good acting. The problem of artificial reproduction; the generation of a new human being in order to cure another one seriously ill (sacrificing the life of the first and of other not selected embryos); conflicts between husband and wife, and in a family in general; all this leads to the tragic extreme choice of (real or simulated, it does not matter) rebellion and recourse to legal means to oppose to life exploitation. In less than a hundred minutes, spectator watches the ethical issues underneath the painful decisions of the characters; these situations are presented avoiding both the easy temptation of moralism both indiscriminate permissiveness. The bittersweet ending leaves open plenty of space for reflection and debate, even if no one of the characters is morally valuated or condemned; indeed in the final scene comes out the desire of serenity among the sufferings they have tried in every way to undermine. Final voiceover is conciliatory and not vindictive, too. Starting from the film analysis, the present paper focus on one of the main concerns of bioethics, namely the relationship between biotechnology and the human good, considering also the value of new powers, new and old desires, and ethical issues claiming to be justified in relation to the highest human good. The postmodern definition of human categories (for example motherhood, family, disease) through technology requires rational reflexivity and certainly not just a simply emotional approach. The proposal is that an integration of reasonableness is needed, avoiding falling into the traps of impulsivity and sentimentalism of course without exceeding with the coldness or indifference even when facing old and new dramas of death.
The essay reflects on the effectiveness of film narration in convincing to share attitudes and values of characters portrayed. The analysis deals with two pro-life films, one of limited release (Bella, 2007) and the other which has been a big international success (Juno, 2007). We ask the reasons of such a different cultural impact and narrative effectiveness. In both cases, the protagonist has an unexpected pregnancy and moves from a decision to abort the baby to that of giving the baby in adoption. The crucial difference is seen in the different clarity of the characterization of the protagonist and in the creation of an “arc of transformation” that can be understood and shared by the viewer. This double analysis is preceded by some reflections on Schindler’s List, that has been acknowledged as a film which has an exceptionally well developed character, with an arc of transformation that is clear and moving for viewers that could have been also very far, at the beginning, from the themes of the film.
Scrubs is a well known Tv series produced in America and distributed world wide. Because of its success, it was premiered on October 2, 2001 on NBC and received a Peabody Award in 2006. The series features fast-paced screenplay and surreal vignettes presented mostly as the daydreams of the central character, Dr. Jhon Dorian, played by Zach Braff. Actors starring alongside Braff in the first eight seasons included Sarah Chalke, Donald Faison, Neil Flynn, Ken Jenkins, John McGinley and Judy Reyes. As the word “scrub” means also “a player not belonging to the first string”, the serie is about a group of young doctors and their medical and personal growth. It has been said that Scrubs is the most medically accurate show on television, because it portrays the life and emotions of everyone involved in health care. Moreover, most patients appears in the show for believable reasons, helping the plot in dealing with unspoken issues in medicine ‒ like uncaring patients or insecurity of doctors. This article aims at analyzing the global plot of the series, in order to understand if it suggests and develops a particular vision of medicine. Special attention is paid to the issues of life and death.
When cinema deals with bioethical issues, science fiction is inevitably involved, being a genre that intrinsically can be considered a thinking laboratory, as evidenced by an extensive number of titles – including novels and movies – which are now widely used by bioethicists, sociologists and philosophers even more than film scholars themselves (Fahrenheit 451, Planet of the Apes, 2001: A Space Odyssey, A Clockwork Orange, Solaris and Blade Runner). At the turn of the twentieth and twenty-first century, science fiction movies had been able to perfectly embody the fears and anxieties of a society that was radically changing in many respects, as evidenced by movies like The Truman Show, Dark City, eXistenZ, The Matrix, A.I. - Artificial Intelligence, Minority Report, Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, Children of Men, Wall-E and Never Let Me Go, which are all focused on the theme of identity and destiny of mankind. The advent of molecular biology and the extensive use of technology in medicine brought about the materialization of nightmares about eugenics, which had been anticipated in the theoretical discussion during the previous decades. Gattaca was rightly included in the philosophical and religious debate when it was first released, and after many years it still proves to be an inexhaustible resource of ideas. For its dramatic structure, it can act as a critical counterpart – a frontier sentinel – to the scientific progress and the social, political and anthropological changes disclosed in the movie. In the essay, after a few considerations on how Gattaca belongs to the sci-fi genre and how it still has something to say within the bioethical debate, we analyse the script from a dramatic point of view. With special attention to the theme, characters and dialogue, we will show how the movie arguments can truly contribute to the scientific debate because, as regards the nature of the debate itself, they say something about the condition and nature of the human being of all ages, which is both new and pertinent to the historical and sociological context.
The film Blade Runner raises issues of great anthropological value. This article explores the idea “cusp of life” as an ethical crossroads for the characters and the story by studying three key strands of the film’s narrative: the creation of human life as a moral dilemma for scientific progress, the search for identity among androids and the absence of parenthood (parenting) in manufactured human beings. Two strictly cinematic aspects are examined as a basis for its analysis. The first is genre-specific – studying the progressive anthropological predeliction of science fiction (their films project our contemporary fears and opinions of humanity into the future) and the development of the subgenre ‘cyberpunk’ (movies outlining two themes: the cybernetic organism and a chaotic society or one controlled by large corporations). The second centers on the story of Blade Runner – demonstrating its influence on later science fiction films, analyising its plot development (adaptation from book to film) and assessing the meaning of its six film versions.
The present work studies the film The Savages (Jenkins, 2007), the story of two siblings, Jon and Wendy, who, in the midst of their mid-life crises, find themselves needing to care for their elderly father Lenny as he begins to lose his mind. The narrative structure and the characters are first analyzed, in order to later develop the thematic dimension of the film. Other aspects regarding style and staging are considered insofar as they relate to the narrative structure, such as the brilliant dialogues or the eloquent silences that aptly convey the meditative tone of reflection that runs through the entire script. The movie indirectly criticizes the anomalous relationship that our society has with death. In this sense, it’s about the bureaucratization that has invaded the third stage of life, but also about the anonymity in which today, unfortunately very often, people die. It suggests that a society of broken families involves a disregard for children and eventually for the elderly. Jon and Wendy are “savage”, as their surname suggests; they behave like disoriented animals seeking redemption and humanity in the midst of an absurd society accustomed to such inhumane procedures that are no longer questioned. But the test they go through forces them to get out of their own worlds and reencounter and reconcile with their father and with themselves. At the end, the siblings have changed their perspective. They are more mature. What they have gained is humanity. It can be said that the idea which underlies the entire story is care humanizes, or more specifically, care of the elderly humanizes. Seen in another light, a society in which the elderly are not cared for is an inhumane, savage society.
This paper provides a comparative analysis between the American Tv series Boss (2011-2012) and its Shakespearean models. Far from being a modern reenactment of a single play, Boss is based on characters and situations dealing with the same ethical and bioethical issues of many Elizabethan tragedies. The main theme, dementia, comes from King Lear: Tom Kane, the fictional Mayor of Chicago, wants to cover up his severe degenerative disease. He is helped by his counsellor, Ezra Stone, and his personal assistant, Kitty. As the series moves on, Stone is killed by order of Kane himself and his spectre, or hallucination, starts to appear, such as Banquo does in Macbeth. The self-controlled/passionate Kitty is a sort of new Cressida. The image of political life as a mixture of “lechery” and “wars” comes from Troilus and Cressida too, but Measure for Measure is also to be considered for its representation of hypocrisy in men of power. Lastly, the most important reference is to Macbeth again: Kane doesn’t consider medicine as a science, but as a work of witchcraft. His only purpose is to preserve his power. The lack of ethical rules is the reason for the impossibility of solving the bioethical dilemmas we find in Boss. As one character says, this is a world where “it is a little late for conscience”.
The essay analyzes the film Million Dollar Baby (USA 2004), directed by Clint Eastwood and written by Paul Haggis, focusing on the screenplay and on the way it adapts a short story by F.X. Toole. The contribution concentrates on the narrative rhetoric of the film – the means that the script uses in order to engage the audience and to guide the viewers to form an opinion on the events of the story. Haggis adds two secondary storylines to the original plot, dramatizes the omniscient narrator, raises the stakes for the protagonist, whose backstory and psychological traits are also more complex than in the original text. Most of all, the film aims directly at exploring the theme of paternity. In particular, the article points out how the screenplay subtly argues in favor of euthanasia. In comparison with the literary original, the solutions aimed at stirring up pity and admiration for the main character are accentuated. Besides, it is possible to identify in the film the same omissions that in the novel make it difficult for the reader to consider different motivations than those which are at the base of the main character’s choice. In the light of these considerations, the essay summarizes the bioethical debate created by the film. It concludes by stressing the fact that the screenplay, despite its great quality, violates the pact of trustfulness between the author and the audience. In fact, the script maintains the original main storyline without considering that this latter was set in a different period, when the laws about the suspension of medical treatment were different. In this way, the film succeeds in arousing the audience’s contrariety to therapeutic paternalism in order to strengthen the value of autonomous decision, which appears to be the only important value in the eyes of the viewers.
A. Spadaro presents cybertheological studies as an attempt of thinking faith in the “net era”. Cybertheology develops the truths of faith according to the categories offered by web and digital world, in a perspective of discernment. This essay offers an analysis in a semiotic perspective; the aim is not to investigate the new matters, the new contents that web discloses to theological investigation, but to examine the possible form, the new pattern of theological texts in the world of new media. In Modern Era, theological development is indeed deeply connected to the pattern of modern treatise, according to what M. McLuhan calls “Gutenberg Galaxy”. So it may be possible to investigate web semiotics and new media innovations in contemporary theology. Can we consider web semiotics close to medieval quaestio? The semiotic side of this essay is developed following the works by U. Eco, J. Haiman, J. Derrida and S. Petrosino, while the theological one refers to the works by E. Gilson, R. Gibellini and A. Spadaro. At the core of this reflection there are not the categories or thoughts originated by the comparison faith-net, but the requests that web practises offer to theological reflection. Web galaxy may increase processes of inculturation and mediation, as well as can involve individuals that are usually excluded in the traditional theological debate.
Examining the audiovisual output of the Japanese Oscar-winning director Miyazaki Hayao, the animated series Future Boy Conan (1978) can be regarded as the first broad-based work of his career. Commissioned by TV station NHK to Nippon Animation Studios, this successful series is a free adaptation from a US novel for kids and features the conventional devices of the anime (“cartoons”) boom’s most exploited genre: the science-fiction. Nevertheless, in Conan are also recognizable many of Miyazaki’s future topoi, such as the criticism on the excessive power of technology, the hope for a harmonious relationship between men and nature, the confidence in the skills of the young protagonists. After having positionated the series within the general framework of Japanese animation, the paper analyzes Conan on the whole, reasoning on the devices employed by the author – at the dramatic level and at the visual one – in the working out of structure, themes, setting and characters. The analysis enlightens the seminal value of Conan in Miyazaki’s work, as it let the author fully express a strikingly original style, combining the will to face his personal issues with the attention towards commercial needs. From this perspective, the case of Conan also assumes a paradigmatic importance in defying the position which the director holds in the Japanese animation scene. Anticipating Studio Ghibli’s biggest hits, Miyazaki succeeds in building a multilevel work, suitable for children – the audience determined by the producers – but virtually enjoyable at any age: a mainstream product which unites quality animation with deep stories, commercial attractiveness, convincing characters and imaginative sceneries.
Social networking sites (SNS) are online platforms that enable individuals new opportunities for the management of personal relationships and the construction of their Self online. Cultural identity can exert an influence on self-presentation and communicative behaviors within SNSs. The current study investigates identity construction processes on the Chinese SNS Renren. Based on Hofstede’s cultural dimensions, the study examines whether the features of the Chinese culture affect the users’ self-presentation. The paper is based on a qualitative and ethnographical investigation of 28 Renren users, between the ages of 18 and 25, living in large cities in China. My findings indicate that the identities produced in this online environment are sensitive to the national culture. The research study reveals the paradigm of a complex, plural and changing Self, deeply influenced by the traditional values of the Chinese culture but also conditioned by Western ideologies and lifestyles, as a result of the recent modernization of the country. These elements lead to a renegotiation of the traditional values, paving the way to a new conception of the Chinese Self.
The issue 2/2014 addresses the subject of cinematic storytelling on bioethical matters through textual analyses of mainstream films, from studio features that have gained a relevant place in contemporary popular culture to independent or partially independent movies, to TV series targeted to selected audiences. The essays devote great attention to how the product of storytelling relates to reality from different disciplinary perspectives (the screenwriting theory and the theory of adaptation to screen, the study of the literary influences, law and bioethics) focusing on the choices that characters made when such issues as giving birth and dying are at stake.