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Jack Halberstam's Animation Talk

As the semester came to a close I found myself pressed for time when selecting a scholarly event to attend. Walking into the Nolte Center last Thursday I was in a new environment, surrounded by a different population of people participating in an event that was completely different than anything I have participated in the past. At the end of the night I feel my lack of knowledge and experience kept me from gathering all the information I possibly could

The introductions started and Jack/Judith Halberstam was introduced I became curious to see what kind of lecture I was about to hear. A personal friend of Jack’s gave a sincere introduction of their friendship and of his many scholarly and activist accomplishments. She spoke clearly and moderately paced so I was able to get a feel for who Jack was and what I maybe could expect from him. Once he took the podium I found myself interested but also struggling to keep up with the bulk of his arguments.
Others have mentioned that this talk focused on ‘animations’ meaning both what you initially think of in Finding Nemo or Over the Hedge and pictures such as March of the Penguin and the Seed of Chucky. His interest was in “pixarevolts? that were defined as clear narratives of collectivity. Examples of these were March of the Penguins, Over the Hedge and were of interest as they focused on groups and not individuals. On the other end of the spectrum animations such as The Incredibles and Happy Feet are poor examples as they primarily look at the individual and display only the stereotypical dichotomy of ideas. Characters in both of these movies are very black or white, male or female and overly express the side they portray.
The majority of his talk was spent analyzing the movie March of the Penguins. When looking at animations Jack stated that he is not looking to come up with a theory after reading or viewing a piece of work or media; instead one must look to find the theory imbedded by the original author. In the March of Penguins Jack discussed the conflict between the imbedded theory, the actual behavior displayed by the penguins and the narration provided throughout the movie. The footage pieced together for this film was shot over a long span of years and if one were to ask a penguin expert, many of them would say they were unsure of exact penguin behavior, sex of individual penguins and the reproductive patterns penguins follow. The voice over however influences they way one views this film and makes you see what you are told to see. Jack explained how the Christian right got a hold of the footage and wrote a narrative to express heterosexual Christian family values and norms, obsessed with the idea of reproduction (when in actuality the film display a non reproductive tract theory as their march is attributed to the global warming and the melting of their homes.)
Jack started his discussion with the idea of “transbiology?, a concept shared with feminist scholars Donna Harrowway and Sarah Franklin. Relating to the movie transbiology is a rouge component of science and many strive to relate the behaviors of all organisms to the concepts of intimacy and relationships; instead of the new ways of being in life and death. He explained that we live in an intense scientific society and new technology continually calls for new language and technology. Jack hoped to convince us to join the collective activism and read against the tests and through the sciences to help gear away from binomials and dichotomies and be open to new hybrid entities.
As the first two entries mentioned he did shared his analysis of the Seed of Chucky as well, but I was so overwhelmed with speed and vocabulary used to share the insights on the first movie that my notes to the second half are even more choppy than the first half of this reflection. I found all of his information extremely interesting; however learned that I don’t have the background to keep up with the pace of such a scholarly lecture. Others had great questions and the discussion seemed like it could have carried well into the night. At 8pm however I had experienced enough and was ready to go. In the future I would want to look up the speaker I will be listening to so I have a base of knowledge about their work and previous theories and ideas so I can focus on their expansion and growth and the information relevant to the topic at hand.