Written By: Gael
During the moral panic of the 1980s, that was manifested as a reaction to the manifold horrors of the sexual revolution which had taken place during the 1960s and 1970s, much ado was made about the influence of visual media on the actions and behaviors of the general populace; especially it’s younger members. Many a sermon was commonly bellowed from the pulpit by your run-of-the-mill bourgeois reactionary preacher, positing for instance, that violence in video games, or unattatched sex in movies could potentially influence young people to reenact images on the screen in reality. As is the case with many of the concerns expressed by Jerry Fallwell’s or Billy Grant’s crusaders at the time, the fundamental instinct was correct, but the analysis was shallow and incomplete (these are the people who believed economic liberalism was the salvation of traditions and virtues that can aptly be described as highly illiberal, after all). They rightly understood that visual media does have an influence on the culture onto which it is projected. What they didn’t understand was the way said media imprints on the soul, and the way this imprinting manifests itself. Behavior is not what visual media tends to influence. What visual media tends to foster is Weltanschaüng, worldview. In other words, one is not likely to become homosexual simply by viewing Brokeback Mountain, but one is very likely to become more sympathetic to the homosexual lifestyle after having viewed it (especially if there are fewer external social or institutional forces which might discourage such an attitude). Many of the men in our milieu came to understand and accept our Weltanschaüng through cross-referencing our observations of the world around us with things such as readings of philosophy, listening to podcasts, or some other sort of didactic, intellectual exercise. This is not the case for the vast majority of people. For most, Weltanschaüng is informed primarily by their emotional response to a piece of art to which their senses are exposed. This is not to disparage such people as inferior in their mental toughness, or anything like that; it is merely an acknowledgement of that aspect of their nature.
One can reasonably conclude that since worldview is generally informed by the aesthetic, those in power are naturally inclined to produce and distribute art that expresses their ideals. It is no secret to any of us that this is what those currently in power are doing, and what every aristocrat, shareholder, or commissar has done for all of eternity. However, a more recent and insidious feature of our occupier’s artistic caste is that of the development of artistic critique as an academic discipline, and professional industry in and of itself. Indeed, not only do they possess a nigh monopoly on the distribution of art, but also the framing, interpretation, analysis, and thus the very discourse surrounding said art. The focus of this article is that academic discipline as it applies to the medium of cinema: film studies.
Film studies is something of an umbrella term that contains many particular disciplines regarding the theoretical, historical, critical, and cultural analysis of film. As is the case with any Form or Concept, it is known chiefly by its particulars (thanks again, Plato). Thus to understand Film Studies, one should understand the particular disciplines that underpin it. Among these particulars, that are widely studied and accepted in the heterodox academic sphere, are: Auteur Theory, Marxist Theory, Critical Race Theory, Feminist Theory, Queer Theory, and Psychoanalytical Theory. There are more (A lot more). But those are the big, relevant ones
with a lot of buzz at the time of this writing. To give a brief, comprehensive overview of these disciplines, I will conduct an analytical reading on Tony Kaye’s American History X through each of them.
American History X, a Multi-Faceted Analysis
Auteur Film Theory
Simply put, Auteur Theory is the idea that a film should be interpreted primarily, or even exclusively, through the intended vision of said film’s director. Thus, in order to understand how to interpret American History X, we would need to understand it’s director, Tony Kaye, his background, and his intention in making the film. American History X is a somewhat difficult film to apply the Auteur Theory to, given Kaye’s overwhelming dissatisfaction with the final product due to extensive studio meddling. For instance, the originally intended ending showcased Derek Vinyard shaving his head in a bathroom sink in the wake of his brother’s murder at the hands of a black gang member (the younger brother of the man he earlier curbstomped), though this ending was cut, this original ending would have better exemplified the film’s stated theme according to Kaye, regarding the cyclical and nigh inescapable nature of violence and anger. Without it, the theme mostly just amounts to “racism bad” (or more precisely “hatred is
baggage”) in the way of substance. One of the reasons this ending was cut was that there were worries that it would come off as too “pro-neo-nazi”. Though when Auteur Theory is taken into account on that; Tony Kaye’s background as a Haredi Jew with more liberal sympathies would negate that interpretation in any case. Could this mean no such interpretation could be made on that basis? Does Tony Kaye’s intention negate the possibility of a pro-National Socialist reading of American History X entirely? That’s something that I’ll get into a bit later. Auteur Theory is generally one of the lesser regarded interpretive analyses (especially in mainstream academic circles) given film’s nature as an inherently collaborative effort, American History X being a poignantly messy example. However, when analysing a film, the director’s vision (and his personal background and environment that informs this vision) should not be so callously discarded either, since it is an integral component in the development of a film. I share this exact view on Schreiber Theory as well, in case anyone asks.
Critical Race Film Theory
This seems like the most logical next step for the particular film being covered. Critical Race Theory is a theoretical framework that utilizes critical theory to examine society and culture as it relates to race, though for the purposes of this article it is that same framework as used to examine film as it relates to race in the culture in which the film is made. The central argument of Critical Race Theory in this case is that film, by and large, is a tool used to uphold White supremacy by way of narrative, framing, and other such things. A CRT reading of American History X would illustrate the fact that all of its Black characters (with the exception of Danny Vinyard’s teacher Sweeney) are predatory criminals, which could be seen as framing a justification of the rise of Cameron Alexander’s neo-nazi gang (Danny Vinyard even says as much in an internal monologue at some point). Another mentionable aspect in this view would be an examination of the film’s example of a “good” Black man, Mr. Sweeney. For the purposes of the film, Sweeney’s role is that of a mentor for both Derek, and Danny Vinyard, encouraging them to renounce their racist ways. When Sweeney confronts Derek in prison, he mentions that he used to be full of hatred [of white people], and that this hatred ate him up inside. CRT would denounce this as a perpetuation of “colorblind” liberal ideology that invalidates the anger black people feel at their oppression at the hand of systemic racism, and denies them the moral permission to act against it by asserting their identity (not to mention a waste of his efforts and resources as a member of the community in good standing towards the rehabilitation of a racist White person, rather than the truly marginalized Blacks who might be in more dire need of them). From the vantage of Critical Race Theory, American History X would be generally categorized as a good-faith effort to address and critique more blatant and direct forms of White supremacy, while upholding the sort of colorblind liberalism that, in their view, upholds more subtle, institutional aspects of White supremacy.
Feminist Film Theory
Having been primarily developed within the umbrella of Second Wave Feminism, Feminist Film Theory is a theoretical framework which examines and critiques film according to feminist assumptions and principles (I’m sure you’re starting to see the emergence of a pattern at this point). American Feminist Film Theory originally began with a primary focus on female characters within narratives, while in the UK it began incorporating elements of semiotics, and psychoanalysis with the release of an essay called “Visual Pleasure and Narrative Cinema” written by Laura Mulvey, who, in this work, introduced the concept of the Male Gaze. It goes
without saying that by no means could American History X be considered a work of feminist art. For instance, it makes no effort whatsoever in passing the Bechdel Test, and every female character, without exception, is shown as being under the control of a man in one form or another. As far as the Male Gaze is concerned, there are seldom examples of women necessarily being viewed as objects of sexual desire (though that aspect is present, even going as far as showcasing Derek’s fat, moronic friend Seth leering at his sister quite literally with a video camera). The way the Male Gaze would be seen to operate on the female characters (objects) in American History X, is more as objects to be controlled that warrant the concerns of the male characters (subjects) who actually advance the story. There isn’t much to be said on Feminist Film Theory as it applies to American History X, other than that it is an example of the currently male dominated nature of cinema, and all that…
Queer Film Theory
Being a more recent development compared to the others, Queer Film Theory developed in the early 1990s as a form of literary narrative analysis that coincided with the New Queer Cinema movement, and functions in a similar way to Feminist Film Theory, but more towards the end of analyzing film on the basis of it’s portrayal of LGBT issues and the like. Its focus is the exploration of queer identity, the portrayal of queer identity, and the arguably more insidius “reframing” of a queer perspective. This particular discipline of media analysis is that from which all the myriad inferences that close bonds between male characters, are actually thinly veiled examples of homoerotic relationships, are derived. A Queer Theory reading of American History X would likely be focused on the scene wherein Derek Vinyard is raped by the neo-nazi prison gang. This would likely be decried as a betrayal of the LGBT “community” by way of utilizing gay panic as a narrative device. From another vantage, the shower scene might be read as the result of repressed homosexuality within a hypermasculine environment. Through that interpretation, some enterprising instigators of gay panic might find themselves encouraged to tar a movement or philosophical tendancy such as the one to which Derek Vinyard belongs as having latent homosexual attributes or aspects (this is where the intersection of Queer Theory and Psychoanalysis would come into play). This can of course be discarded as an aberration, an attempt to read queerness into something where there is none to be found (a process this author has decided to call “queerwashing”). The reason I have extrapolated this tangent, on this topic, to the degree that I have, is to illustrate the power of interpretation; to demonstrate how easy it is to poison the discourse with framing. In fact, it is the stated goal of Queer Theory, along with it’s sister-disciplines Critical Race Theory, and Feminist Theory in media analysis, to de-center and ultimately topple the domination of the normative (straight, white, male) perspective of culture in general. But if that’s all framing is; a tool to be used for shaping discourse towards the ends of it’s user, then could we also use this to our advantage? Yes, but more on that later.
Marxist Film Theory
Among the oldest disciplines within Film Studies, and mercifully one of the most self-explanatory, (sort of, depending on who you ask) is Marxist Film Theory. Something unique to Marxist Film Theory is it’s primary development by filmmakers themselves (such as Sergei Eisenstein or Jon Luc Godard) rather than sociologists studying film (though obviously, they were there. They always are). Sergei Eisenstein, being the structuralist that he was, often disregarded the standard “western” narrative structure by shunting protagonist driven storytelling in favor of more group driven action, exemplified primarily through a rather visionary editing style that would later be considered to have pioneered the innovation of the montage. In any case, Marxist Film Theory is a means of examining conflicts within a narrative through the lens of power relations, or conflicts with material conditions more broadly. It is due to this that although American History X is not at all a marxist film, it can still be very easily subjected to a marxist analysis. Derek Vinyard is a working class man who finds himself greatly frustrated by his circumstances, and the overall worsening of the conditions of his community (disappearing economic opportunities, increasing criminality and harassment at the hands of a growing lumpenproletariat, and so on). What Derek lacks, according to Marx, is class consciousness. Instead, he is imbued with the “false consciousness” of racism that was revealed to have been implanted in him by his father from an early age, and later exploited by the petit-bourgeois criminal organizer Cameron Alexander. Although he is cured of his bigotry by the end of the film, it is clear this does nothing to solve any of the structural issues faced by the community, nor does it improve his own condition; he is merely introduced to the alternative false consciousness of liberal individualism. This individualism appears on its face to improve his general mood (arguably lulling him into passive inaction at that), but it does not save his brother, nor does it lift his family out of their poverty, nor does it even alleviate him from his previous criminal entanglement. The marxist prescription for this conflict would be the same as it is for any, an awakening to class consciousness, and subsequent class struggle aimed toward the end of emeliarating Derek, his family, and his broader community of the conditions that lead to his bigoted anger, and its resultant consequences in the first place.
I have placed a premium on textual interpretation in this portion of the article so far, because that is the foundation of film studies, but extra-textual interpretation can be applied in the endeavor of film analysis just as well. In fact, it’s a lot easier to be done with a Marxist reading than through the other disciplines due to the emphasis on material conditions and the like. Since American History X doesn’t seem to have been created for the purpose of selling one particular product or another, the marxist film scholar would likely conclude that its place within what Theodor Adorno would call the “Culture Industry” is as a means of turning the viewer’s focus away from their material exploitation by distracting them with the “spectacle” of racial conflict. Regardless of the perspective of the viewer on the issue, that is what his mind will turn to rather than what marxism would cite as the true source of their misery: their material, economic exploitation. So does every conflict just boil down to struggles relating to material conditions, rendering all other analyses either irrelevant or ultimately finding themselves within the purview of the broader scope of marxism? No. Of course, despite its consistency, Orthodox Marxism is a generally insufficient means of analysis due to its ardently exclusive focus on class, and resultant tendency to disregard other social/cultural factors, in addition to broader metaphysical questions.
Psychoanalytic Film Theory
Psychoanalytic Film Theory came in two distinct waves. The first, beginning in the 1970s, and the second, beginning in the 1980s. This was not, however, the beginning of PFT. In fact, due to both film, and psychoanalysis sharing a time of genesis in the late 19th century, the two had profound influences on one another from the outset. Freud was even known to have used cinematic terms to describe some of his theories and ideas, such as “screen memories”. Up until the 1970s there was something of a conflict between the Surrealists, and psychoanalysts who were more keen on applying the thinking of Freud to their interpretations of the text within films, and the Jungians who prefered to analyse archetypes in cinematic text. The latter group were often criticized by the former for possessing an underlying Essentialism; an examination of what was perceived to be the subjective in unchanging, universal terms. In the 1970s (the “first wave”), there came to be a more stark understanding of film as an apparatus, and a focus on the viewer-screen relationship; The Gaze (as described from a more feminist point of view earlier). The second wave (having taken place roughly in the 1980s and 1990s) would come to critique the purely Mulveyan concept of the cinema as apparatus. As they understood it, this theory was still positioning masculinity as the norm, with no real focus on the potentiality of a female subject/spectator. The long and short of it is that the second wave (arguably more influential these days) is more fluid, and seeks more to examine and question psychological assumptions rather than search for definitive answers. A psychoanalytic interpretation of American History X at this juncture would be highly repetitive in light of what has already been covered, which is why this author elected to save the overview of this particular discipline for last.
National Socialist Film Theory
In case you haven’t noticed, the discourse of Film Studies is almost entirely dominated by a sludge of degenerate, anti-White gobbledigook designed with the explicit purpose of legitimizing propaganda that defames us and everything we stand for, or to repurpose films that were not made to that end, by way of various intersectional models of interpretation, which are given legitimacy by a dominant academic super-structure, which has reigned unchecked for decades. For too long the response to this anal-retentive hydra of a discourse, has been to disregard it or subject it to impotent ridicule. This author however, has elected instead to cast himself into the gnashing maw of this discourse, and develop a cohesive school of thought within it that has been almost entirely, criminally absent: National Socialist Film Theory. National Socialist Film Theory is a conceptual framework of film analysis that examines and interprets the text of a film through the lens of National Socialism, drawing influence from Classical Philosophy, Jungian Psychology, Romanticism, and Film History. It should be known, from the perspective of this author, that the purpose of NSFT is not to rehabilitate or justify the Hollywood system, or it’s creations, from a National Socialist perspective, but to foster and contextualize the National Socialist Weltanschtaüng within the text of cinema, and of course to inject it into the discourse of cinema and Film Studies. Like it or not, even the most stalwart among us will seek an escape from their soul-crushing occupation under neoliberalism from time to time, and a healthy critical lens of interpretation will be more than necessary for them to do so in a way that keeps them engaged, and maintains their ideological discipline throughout. Even the best navigators will rely on a map and compass. Another quick aside this author deemed fit to mention, is that the link between psychology and art, let alone film, is undeniable and inescapable. However, within the sphere of National Socialist Film Theory, a more Jungian approach to the examination of psychology in film, is something that should be fostered and encouraged, rather than the far more heavily beaten path of Freudianism.
Now, to give a functional example of the application of NSFT, this author will provide a textual analysis of American History X through the lens of NSFT (I’ll bet you didn’t see THAT coming). To reiterate and belabor a previous point: this is not an implication that American History X is somehow secretly a National Socialist Film, this is merely an analysis of the text of the film from that perspective. It is clear from the outset that Derek Vinyard is a heroic, greatly respected figure from the perspective of those around him. He observes the reality of increasing hostilities from an outgroup via gang violence and economic displacement through immigration, and takes action by organizing the young white men in his community. Much of the action is somewhat erratic and rashly directed (not to mention violent and downright criminal in many cases), but it is clear that Derek is an avatar of the growing White Consciousness in his community. This is not to say that he is without flaws as a man, as he is shown to take his anger out on those he loves at times. However, he is responding to a legitimate, systemic issue, and very clearly and concisely articulates his grievances many times throughout the film. What brings him down the path of ruin is a debatably disproportionate response to an act of aggression against him and his family, that ends in his incarceration. When incarcerated, he is betrayed by a group of ignoble men posing as pro-White organizers who never truly supported his cause to begin with. After this, he is imbued with a false consciousness of individualism, though he nonetheless remains concerned with right and wrong. This is even exemplified in Derek’s confrontation of Cameron Alexander for his somewhat shifty and manipulative nature. When it comes time to examine and critique his previously held grievances on a logical level, he doesn’t even bother to do so. Where he previously approached a discussion with a legitimate criticism of the anti-white order of things, as a pro-White advocate, he has nothing but vague and empty platitudes as a liberal individualist. Thus, the film itself fails to refute the necessity of white self-determination entirely. Derek’s brother, Danny, dies at the hand of a young Black man who does have a sense of himself as part of a larger whole; and Derek remains a broken, impotent man. This, I believe, is why
American History X is not generally the subject of much debate in the discourse of film analysis.
I should mention, however, that this is not the first time in history that anyone has attempted to develop something like NSFT in all of history. In fact, in 1938 Joseph Goebbels, the Reich Minister of Public Enlightenment and Propaganda, established the German Film Academy in Babelsberg. The German Film Academy was intended to serve as a training facility for directors, screenwriters, production managers, camera men, and set designers. The training would last four semesters and would be completed with the production of a feature film. The Academy even had a class on the subject of Weltanschtaüng. Applicants had to be German members of the NSDAP. Unfortunately, not too much is known about the German Film Academy as it operated in the Third Riech at this time, but I consider it a subject worth looking into. It would be a benefit to the further development of NSFT for certain.
This author struggled at first with what to call this development in Film Studies. Fascist Film Theory seemed too broad and ill-defined, too loosely interpretable (and contains the added annoyance of potentially being read as Feminist Film Theory when abbreviated). Additionally, Traditionalist Film Theory (or Dharmic Film Theory, if we want a more directly spiritual understanding) seemed too alienating of the facets of the order of our world as it is (being firmly within the Kali Yuga). The hardline traditionalist has a tendency to disregard progress, or revolution, as aberrations to be avoided. Ultimately, the name National Socialist Film Theory was decided on because National Socialism is fundamentally a Dharmic philosophy that understands the uncompromising vitality of capital-T Tradition, and Order, but also synthesises this with a sober understanding of the reality of our current condition, and the necessity to take the reigns of progress through a revolutionary process. Thus, a starkly Traditionalist, or Dharmic Film Theory, would have to be categorized as a separate discipline, which would almost certainly intersect with NSFT. Perhaps if filmmaking as an artform accompanies the inevitable restoration of the Sanatana Dharma (and this author does see that as a distinct possibility), Dharmic Film Theory will be more widely applicable to those conditions. But that is a discussion for another time.
This is, of course, a discipline in its infancy, one which will require much development going forward, and I encourage any and all enterprising thinkers in our milieu to join me in this endeavor.
Strength & Honor.