Films such as Casablanca were a refuge for moviegoers in a time of societal turmoil. They allowed audiences to disregard actual conflict by immersing themselves in an idyllic love story made stronger by the external adversity that threatened its very existence. Forgetting Sarah Marshall tells a story of a scorned male character who retreats to an exotic locale, attempting to erase the pain of a broken relationship that could not withstand the infiltration of British rock star Aldous Snow.
While viewers identify with the characters and situations presented, many films choose to exaggerate or manipulate reality. They do not always mirror “real culture,” or the term chosen by sociologists to describe the norms and values people actually follow (Henslin, 2010, p.56, para.3). Filmmakers make an effort to change the status quo by capitalizing on idealism. Movies are not completely removed from the turmoil of outside influences and may simultaneously reflect the changing realistic societal values.
Casablanca and Forgetting Sarah Marshall present glaringly different representations of gender, sexuality, ethnicity, social class, and race. Karl Marx explains this disparity in socially constructed values; “a struggle develops between the thesis and antithesis, leading to a synthesis (a new arrangement of power)” (Henslin, 2010, p.657, para.7). Specifically, the role of the female gender in Casablanca shows Ilsa as an ambivalent female who cannot decide which lover to take. She is swooned by Rick, the suave nightclub owner, but feels compelled to fulfill her commitment to a marriage with Victor Lazlo.
Ilsa’s departure from Casablanca illustrates that females, at the time of production, were expected to submissively deny selfish desires. When Ferrari explains to Ilsa that he would not risk his life for Victor Lazlo but would present her with one visa, she thinks only of her partnership with Lazlo and declines the offer. Masculine characters define the role of their female counterparts, dictating normal behaviors. As Lazlo and Ilsa order drinks, Lazlo always decides on her drink of choice and submits the order without conference. Ilsa displays an incapacity for independent thinking when she tells Rick that he is “to think for both of us. For all of us.” (Casablanca, 1942). Throughout the film, Ilsa appears fragile in the face of her emotions.
Yvonne, however, is the antithesis to the traditionally accepted feminine qualities in Ilsa. In the beginning of her presence, she can be seen intoxicated and defiant of Rick’s demand that her husband cease giving her libations. When Rick attempts to cover her with her coat, she resists. During the saloon performance of “the Marseillaise,” Yvonne joins in and leads the crowd in a patriotic cheer despite being in the company of a German officer (Casablanca, 1942). Ilsa, however, becomes inundated with emotions of pride for Lazlo and sings with less fervor.
These competing representations have presently shifted...