“Arrival” and Cosmopolitan Movie Trailers

This guest post by my sister, Teryl Yogeeswaran, offers an interesting case study in cosmopolitan perspective.

I am a polyglot language teacher, and a total sci-fi nerd, so I was really looking forward to the film Arrival.  I’m also an ex-pat, and aware of the subtle differences between my view of America, and the view I might have had if I had remained with most of my friends and family within it’s borders.  I am absolutely fascinated by the different nuances between the American and the International trailers for this film. At least on Youtube one trailer is labeled “official” and one is labeled “International”. The clips they chose to include, and the order they chose to present them in, say loads about Hollywood’s sense of America as seen from within and from without.

In the American trailer:

  • The main character is introduced with happy family images followed by crowds (America = family, common to everyone within the country)
  • Military in charge: armed officer shows up at your door in the night (strength, immediate action)
  • Global experience: shows American first contact (“that’s a proper introduction”) before mentioning that more objects have landed – (“We’re one of 12”) First specific mention of other countries is negative (Russians execute one of their own to keep the secret)
  • International Collaboration? (“We’ve got to work together” – “It’s more complicated than that; When war is eminent, the aggressor is an unidentified enemy going against America. (“we’ve got 21 hours before they start global war” -nameless, aggressive ‘they’)

In International Trailer :

  • Main character is introduced talking about Romance languages, then phones ring (Western identity is common among Americans & Europeans, instantaneously connected through media)
  • Military in charge: comes to her office in the day light, first acknowledging her expertise then asking for help (transparency, thought before action, communication is the goal)
  • International images: initial report shown of Shells world-wide within the first few seconds of the trailer (global focus); “We’re a world with no single leader, it’s impossible to deal with just one of us.”
  • International Collaboration: If China attacks France and Korea will follow (Military Alliances between other countries excluding America are assumed possibilities, even alliances crossing East/West boundaries).

What course is left for human beings than to follow the example of Socrates, and when on is asked where one is from, never to reply ‘I’m an Athenian’ or ‘I’m a Corinthian’, but rather, ‘I’m a citizen of the universe?’

—Epictetus, Discourses, 1.9.1.


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