I would like to address two notable observations from “Mr. Smith Goes to Washington”. The first is the role of Clarissa Saunders. In the first film, Courtney addressed female heroism in the role of Annabelle. I wonder if you all noticed a similarity here, that were it not for Clarissa, Jeff would not become the hero as we acknowledge him to be. Jeff is ignorant in politics, or at least the procedure. He is clueless to his own naivety, the proverbial sheep among wolves. If not for Clarissa’s guidance, the hero’s journey ends quickly. This role is found in the monomyth as we read in “A Hero with a Thousand Faces” but it begs this question. Does this suggest that the only role for women in film, particularly these early films genres, is as a guide to help the hero along the way? Clarissa also plays another common female role, the love interest that goes unnoticed. Whereas Jeff can’t even hold onto his hat around Senator Paine’s daughter, he barely even notices Clarissa until she reveals it to him during the filibuster scene. In fact, it serves as a reason for him to keep going when he is thinking of giving up. I suggest that despite the decade in between “The General and “Mr. Smith”, the roles women are playing are not changing much.
The second observation is that of the representation, or lack thereof women in the plot of the film. Mr. Smith goes to Washington and promptly wants to create a bill for? Young boys. If the hero’s journey is meant for us all to learn something, how can this even be a hero’s journey? The political and social climate of the time was a topic during our last class. A decade later, the climate was noticeably unchanged. At one point during the climax of Jeff’s filibuster, surrounded by an all white male Senate, he says that the young boys’ camp will be a place for boys of all nationalities will be able to go so they can go on as men to achieve great things He says nationalities. He says nothing of race or gender, a significant distinction. So I’ll leave you once again with the question in my mind. If the hero’s journey is not for everyone, is it even a hero we are talking about?
Jason A. Whelehan
I completely agree with you, I believe that Clarissa was better at aiding the hero than the female role of “Annabelle”. Annabelle had many moments in which her helping of Johnnie wasn’t actually helping at all and instead put their lives in danger whereas Clarissa genuinely helped Jeff. You can see this in the instance during the filibuster Clarissa whispers down to Jeff directions on what to do. Without Clarissa Jeff would not be the hero in the film at all and he would have left Washington framed for a crime he did not commit. I come to disagree with you on the idea that “I suggest that despite the decade in between “The General and “Mr. Smith”, the roles women are playing are not changing much.” I believe the two female characters we have seen are drastically different from one another. Clarissa is an independent woman working in Washington D.C and based on her own intelligence of the Laws she is able to help Jeff by doing almost all of the hero work for him behind the scenes and completely differs from the “damsel in distress” seen in the General. Annabelle seems to be quite dependent on others and is unable to aid the hero as much as Clarissa. I found this film to be a step forward for the role of the female in film and seeing a strong female role was refreshing and wonderful to see.
Mr. Smith Goes to Washington has been a favorite of mine for years. However, I think that it is lacking in the area of representation of women and minorities. If the film is remade someday, the diversity will surely increase. Jason, you made a profound statement: “If the hero’s journey is not for everyone, is it even a hero we are talking about?” I believe that Jeff is a hero figure because he does all that he can do to oppose “evil” and fight for what is right. Unfortunately, his view of what is “right” seems to be exclusive for women and different races. I’m not convinced that this rejection of anyone other than the white male is intentional. Given that our only african american characters in the film are door men, I think that this exclusion was just built into the culture, not into the character of Jeff.
You must be logged in to reply to this topic.