The Melodrama of Care in Contemporary Global Cinema
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This project focuses on films that reveal concerns about care and subjectivity in a world transformed by neoliberalism, flexible capital, and globalization. As these films show, care is still necessary, but under the logic of neoliberalism and globalization, it becomes a fungible commodity that can be outsourced and delegated--often according to the cost-benefit analyses necessary for life under the entrepreneurial subjectivity espoused by neoliberalism. These films utilize melodramatic modes of expression to articulate the ethical imperative for care; the necessity for this articulation suggests that something is wrong with contemporary institutions and stances toward care, that the means to care falls short of the ideal of caring for loved ones. The Savages focuses on middle-aged siblings forced to take care of their estranged father after he develops dementia. The film serves as a critique of the neoliberal idea that subjects are only responsible for themselves by supporting a more communal vision of subjectivity through reassembling the family. Dirty Pretty Things shows how immigrants face a hostile reception in the wealthy nations to which they migrate. The film illustrates how draconian immigration policies force many into the black market not only for services that are denied them but also to barter their own bodies in hope of becoming full members of the global citizenry. Nobody Knows extends this discussion of the abdication of the state's role in caring for its own citizens. Through the neglect of the children first by the family and then society as a whole, the film illustrates how even the most vulnerable members of society are isolated and forced to fend for themselves. Finally, Take Care of My Cat explores how the care between friends becomes increasingly instrumental as part of the construction of the self. The solidarity of their days as students erodes as each enters the work force, and class differences lead to a breakdown in friendships as self care becomes the dominant ethic. In this context, care, friendship, and family become fungible commodities that can be discarded if they no longer serve in the project of the self.