Sunday, February 10, 2008

Foucault and "Being John Malkovich"

Discussing the Panopticon, Foucault states, "Consequently, it does not matter who exercises power. Any individual, taken almost at random, can operate the machine" (228). Comparitively, in Being John Malkovich, anyone can enter and experience the John Malkovich machine, but Craig Schwartz is the only person who can truly operate the machine that is John Malkovich for most of the movie. At the end of the film, Craig is trapped inside the daughter of Lotte and Maxine, and her subconscious prevents him from operating her. He is relegated to being merely an observer.

Craig clearly uses John Malkovich as a puppet. Malkovich is Craig's personal laboratory, which compares nicely to what Foucault says about the Panopticon: "the Panopticon was also a laboratory; it could be used as a machine to carry out experiments, to alter
behavior, to train and correct individuals" (231). Yet not only is Craig using Malkovich to alter the behavior of people on the outside, but also altering the behavior of the machine itself (Malkovich). Foucault uses the Panopticon machine to alter the behavior of those on the outside only, whereas Craig uses the Malkovich machine to alter the behavior of BOTH the people on the outside and the machine itself.

The Panopticon and Malkovich are alike in that they provide the operator with the ability to see while not being seen. The difference between the two lies in the fact that the Panopticon is essentially a static, unchanging structure which can change others on the outside, whereas the Malkovich machine, while having the ability to change others on the outside, is also a changing structure itself.

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