A Critical Study of Socio-cultural Features of the Movie The Salesman, Based on Laclau and Mouffe’s Theory

Document Type : Original Article


University of Sistan and Baluchestan


Extended Abstract
Introduction and statement of the problem:
Language is the most fundamental and pervasive form of interaction between individuals. Just imagine how the transmission of different ideas and valuable experiences in human societies, and even from one generation to the next, would have been possible without the use of language tools. (Potter and Wetherell, 1987). Cinema has the ability to shape culture and improve social life; in this regard, by entering various social and cultural fields, it is good to represent the various concerns and issues of the societies and to provide the conditions for the productivity and development of the cultural and educational levels of the social system. It is also an indicator of cultural and social status.
     Based on what has been said, the present study seeks to show how critical discourse analysis can be used to describe and analyze the socio-cultural components of cinematic films.
Theoretical background:
The purpose of the present research is to provide a critical study of the socio-cultural discourse features of the movie “The Salesman” based on Laclau and Mouffe’s (2001) CDA theory. Among the discourse theorists, Laclau and Mouffe's theory of discourse has a special place due to the fact that these two thinkers have been able to better bring the theories to the field of culture, society and politics. Also, Laclau and Mouffe (2001) were able to properly expand the concepts of this theory in the field of politics. The concepts of their discourse theory are largely rooted in Foucault's (1960) discourse theory. In fact, Laclau and Mouffe (2001) have taken a discursive view of the totality of social affairs and have demonstrated better strategies for these concepts in politics and society.
In this study, critical discourse analysis along with Laclau & Mouffe’s (2001) theory has been used. Laclau & Mouffe’s (2001) theory of discourse can be considered one of the most practical theories in this field. Since the content analyzed in this study is the discourses in the film "The Salesman", the first copy of the film was used with a focus on conversations between its characters; because the characters in a film are, in fact, representations of the identities of a society. Film analysis was performed based on the descriptive-analytical method; in writing the conversations of the film in question, the criterion for dividing the characters was based on time (minutes of the conversation).
Results and discussion:
The results indicate that the discourse and the semantic system of the movie “The Salesman” are articulated with the central signifier “rape” and the floating signifiers such as “middle class society”, “development and progress”, “poverty”, “secrecy”, “prostitution”, “fear of rejection”, “lying”, “violence”, “betrayal”, “family collapse”, “open society”, “personal revenge” and “metamorphosis”.
In the following, through the inspection of “highlighting” and “backgrounding” features among the personalities of the characters, it is acknowledged that signifiers such as “lying”, “metamorphosis” and “poverty” have been highlighted and, on the contrary, signifiers like “humility”, “respect for privacy” and “family love” have been backgrounded.
Prominent results:
The results of analyzing the script of the film "The Salesman" show that the discourse order of the existing societies of the film "The Salesman" is represented in such a way that the film has a modern, religious and individualistic discourse. Thus, "religious discourse", which symbolizes the lower classes of society, and other identified discourses, such as "modern and individualistic" discourses in the film "The Salesman," symbolize the middle class.