Discuss how the film-maker, Christopher Morris, of Janis Joplin: Southern Discomfort has encouraged viewer response towards the subject of Janis Joplin through the version of reality that he has constructed. In your discussion examine how the various methods of construction have been used to present details about Janis’ life to elicit particular responses from the viewer. Christopher Morris presents in Janis Joplin: Southern Discomfort the perfect icon for stardom in the late sixties; Janis Joplin fits no standard of beauty yet conveys a raw sensuality with her incredible wall-of-sound vocals.
She was the first female superstar of rock, breaking into the boys club and out of the domineering good-girl femineity of post-war America. She set the stereotypical blues mama image, which no white woman had done before. Her tough blues-mama image only barely covered her vulnerability as she created many images for herself, as coats of armour to shield her low-self esteem. Morris characteristically highlights versions of Janis’s life and issues within it to elicit particular responses towards her, through the use of visual and audio effects.
Morris encourages viewers to see Janis’ ambitious spirit and success put under the pressures of being a woman in the high expectations of the music industry and society. Janis is made obvious that she was no glamour queen yet stole the hearts of many with her extraordinary talent to sing. Janis was an inspiration for many, with her enormous ego and passionate energy to give. Janis began to relate to people when she broke into the boys club and her lyrics were a lightness of social commentary with meaning.
Her music was a psychedelic movement of rock and blues to inspire people attitudes relating to the Vietnam War. Morris introduces Janis Joplin: Southern Discomfort in a series of shots of Janis preforming on stage this immediately visualises Janis and her power on stage. It then goes on to an interview and an interviewee asking her “Do you have an explanation as to why you are so popular? ” Well I mean she isn’t beautiful, so with no answer from Janis the viewer is aware that she some importance in society and leaves the viewer awaiting answers.
Morris also shows footage of Janis speaking to the public promoting peace and love. This footage shows the passionate energy she has for people and her strong values. From this the viewer is persuaded to believe in Janis as a strong minded woman and have an incredible talent for singing. Janis rejected many societal standards and high school was a beginning when she first broke with local social traditions during the tense days of racial integration, standing up for the rights of African Americans who were segregated in her hometown.
She also began dressing differently to others and becoming her own identity. Janis was little over weight and suffered from acne and was considered as a bit of a ‘loser’. These all seared her youthful ideals as Janis was vilified by people with her strong attitudes and bizarre appearances. Morris has included these aspects of Janis’s life to inform viewers of her unpleasant experiences as a teenager that impacted who she was as an adult.
Scared by her high school years Janis became insecure developing low self-esteem. Even though as a performing artist she conveyed herself with confidence and a tremendous ego, off stage she was a different person. Morris presents to us many faults about Janis as she was lonely, involved with drugs and alcohol, insecure, a lesbian, basically a misfit to society if these were just said about her. But within the documentary Morris just makes viewers aware of the hardship and pain Janis suffered.
In the end above all these faults Janis is shown as an achiever. Viewers can relate to her and applaud her strength. Her strength is especially emphasised when Morris shows Janis at a concert, with close up shots of Janis to accentuate her energy. In conjunction with audio effects of her singing increases our views of Janis on her strength with the sound of her voice. Viewers are left amazed with her success when the off-stage Janis is revealed.
Morris endorses the images of Joplin as a STAR! Wether she was the school loser, she was an inspiration to everyone, was not conventionally beautiful, she was talented, she was a junky, she loved to party, she was a lesbian, she found a strong friendships. Janis was an undisputed queen of rock and roll and an icon for everyone. Morris acquaints viewers with Janis and uplifts and inspires viewers to accept Janis in her real self and concentrate on her success.