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Trash Culture

Objects and Obsolescence in Cultural Perspective

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Edited By Gillian Pye

In the late twentieth and early twenty-first centuries, concerns about the environment and the future of global capitalism have dominated political and social agendas worldwide. The culture of excess underlying these concerns is particularly evident in the issue of trash, which for environmentalists has been a negative category, heavily implicated in the destruction of the natural world. However, in the context of the arts, trash has long been seen as a rich aesthetic resource and, more recently, particularly under the influence of anthropology and archaeology, it has been explored as a form of material culture that articulates modes of identity construction.
In the context of such shifting, often ambiguous attitudes to the obsolete and the discarded, this book offers a timely insight into their significance for representations of social and personal identity. The essays in the book build on scholarship in cultural theory, sociology and anthropology that suggests that social and personal experience is embedded in material culture, but they also focus on the significance of trash as an aesthetic resource. The volume illuminates some of the ways in which our relationship to trash has influenced and is influenced by cultural products including art, architecture, literature, film and museum culture.

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Harvey O’Brien - ‘Really? Worst film you ever saw. Well, my next one will be better’: Edward D. Wood Jr, Tim Burton and the Apotheosis of the Foresaken 221

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Harvey O’Brien ‘Really? Worst film you ever saw. Well, my next one will be better’: Edward D. Wood Jr, Tim Burton and the Apotheosis of the Forsaken The title of this chapter comes from a scene in Tim Burton’s Ed Wood (1994) where film director Edward D. Wood Jr, played by Johnny Depp, is trying to hustle work with a major studio on the basis of his first feature film, Glen or Glenda? (1954). The response of the producer to whom he has just shown the film can be inferred from the dialogue. Wood’s retort encapsulates the irrepressible optimism that the real Edward D. Wood Jr apparently genuinely demonstrated throughout his disastrous filmmaking career. ‘My next one will be better,’ he says, and we cannot but believe that he believes it. Wood’s life and work has been comparatively well documented for a filmmaker of his calibre, not just in Burton’s fanciful film, but in the book upon which Scott Alexander and Larry Karaszewski’s screenplay was based, namely Rudolph Grey’s The Nightmare of Ecstasy (1992), and in two documentary films, Ed Wood: Look Back in Angora (Newsom 1994) and The Haunted World of Edward D. Wood Jr (Thompson 1996). These sources attest to the passion, determination and self-belief demonstrated by the real Edward D. Wood Jr, attributes all the more endearing and perhaps surprising when you realise that his films were trash. In a collection of this nature, one cannot use the word ‘trash’ very lightly, and I don’t. Wood’s...

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