This may get moved, possibly to After Hours, since it isn't just about films but anyway... The latest tangent over in the Star Wars OT on DVD thread about whether the layers of meaning are really there or manufactured in hindsight brought something I've been mulling over to the surface. Do works of art, be it films, paintings, music, whatever, actually have intrinsic meanings? Studying Critical Musicology for my M.A. has lead me to the belief that a work of art has no stable meaning; rather, meaning is culturally mediated. What the artist and what the consumer perceives in the work is determined by the way we have experienced culture and society. Similarly, the creation of the work is affected by cultural, social and political context. For example, a common interpretation of LOTR is that of an increasingly industrialized society destroying the beauty of nature. That interpretation wouldn't exist without the military and industrial buildup that resulted form the onset of the Second World War. How about the accusations of racial stereotypes in the Star Wars prequels? Rather than trying to prove that George Lucas is a racist, perhaps the real issue is the cultural tropes about race that have seeped into our consciousness that Lucas may have embodied, innocently or not (of course, it's always possible that the critics were completely wrong, but I'm not totally convinced of that). I think we all agree that interpretations shouldn't end with the creator's intentions, but I wonder if it should even begin there. Instead of looking for semiotic codes, placed by the creator for certain meanings, perhaps we should focus on the context the work was created in, how the artist may have felt about it and how it may have been manifested in the work (similarly we would look at the context of consumption and how meaning is contructed there). Basically, what the artist thinks the work means may not be what it means because it has no set meaning. I think that's a more satisfying interpretive approach than looking for symbols that say, unequivocally represent the pillaging of the country into a vast military machine. Yeah, yeah, I know, I'm destined to be the nerdy academic isolated in the ivory tower, reading journals and watching "Star Trek" re-runs in between spinnings of the "Ring" cycle. At least I won't be living in my parents' basement.