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“Revenge upon a Dumb Brute”: Casting the Whale in Film Adaptations of Moby-Dick

“Revenge upon a Dumb Brute”: Casting the Whale in Film Adaptations of Moby-Dick david dowling upon the 2011 announcement of the dis covery of the sunken antebellum ship The Two Brothers, a rash of Wikipedia pages instantly broke out, opening up new dialogue about the previous voyage of its captain George Pollard Jr. on the whaleship Essex. The discussion gravi tated toward Pollard's link to the fictional char acter Ahab in Herman Melville's novel MobyDick; the Essex, like Ahab's Pequod, sunk in the aftermath of a hullshattering collision.1 But did the whale intentionally ram the ship's hull? Is it in the nature of this essentially docile creature to attack in such a manner? The history of film adaptations of Moby-Dick, the general subject of this article, evolved out of the widely held belief that whales are in fact capable of such malevolence. The representation of the whale as evil or malicious reflects a number of factors, especially developments in film technology and the popularity of monsters. The popularity of monsters in film and attitudes toward animals, I argue, coalesce in each adaptation's larger ideological function. Just as Ahab heaps his worldly woes onto the whale, filmmakers have typically made the creature a scapegoat for the culture's political and social frustrations. david http://www.deepdyve.com/assets/images/DeepDyve-Logo-lg.png Journal of Film and Video University of Illinois Press

“Revenge upon a Dumb Brute”: Casting the Whale in Film Adaptations of Moby-Dick

Journal of Film and Video , Volume 66 (4) – Nov 27, 2014

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Publisher
University of Illinois Press
Copyright
Copyright © 2008 The Board of Trustees of the University of Illinois.
ISSN
1934-6018
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Abstract

david dowling upon the 2011 announcement of the dis covery of the sunken antebellum ship The Two Brothers, a rash of Wikipedia pages instantly broke out, opening up new dialogue about the previous voyage of its captain George Pollard Jr. on the whaleship Essex. The discussion gravi tated toward Pollard's link to the fictional char acter Ahab in Herman Melville's novel MobyDick; the Essex, like Ahab's Pequod, sunk in the aftermath of a hullshattering collision.1 But did the whale intentionally ram the ship's hull? Is it in the nature of this essentially docile creature to attack in such a manner? The history of film adaptations of Moby-Dick, the general subject of this article, evolved out of the widely held belief that whales are in fact capable of such malevolence. The representation of the whale as evil or malicious reflects a number of factors, especially developments in film technology and the popularity of monsters. The popularity of monsters in film and attitudes toward animals, I argue, coalesce in each adaptation's larger ideological function. Just as Ahab heaps his worldly woes onto the whale, filmmakers have typically made the creature a scapegoat for the culture's political and social frustrations. david

Journal

Journal of Film and VideoUniversity of Illinois Press

Published: Nov 27, 2014

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