Semiotic Analysis of Austin Powers

Topics: Fat Bastard, Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me, Dr. Evil Pages: 9 (3548 words) Published: September 18, 2006
1. Introduction

The objective of this project is to scrutinize the film Austin Powers: The Spy Who Shagged Me through the lens of semiotics. Our group has chosen to approach our analysis through the extraction of narrative models, metonyms, metaphors, the use and also subversion of stereotypes and intertextuality. The film uses these devices to both inject humour and to subvert the notions that society has brought us up to believe in. The methodology employed is the viewing and analysis of the film while secondary data sources include academic papers and Internet articles. Selected scenes and examples are discussed due to word constraint. 2. Synopsis

The story begins with Austin Powers frolicking in bed with his wife Vanessa. He then finds out that she is actually a fembot trying to assassinate him. After her self-destruction, he is pleased that he can continue with the carefree life of a swinging bachelor.

Meanwhile, Powers' nemesis, Dr Evil, is planning to get back at him. He has built a time machine which will take him back in time to 1969, when Powers was still frozen in the Cryo Chamber. He employs Fat Bastard to infiltrate the Ministry of Defence and steal Powers' mojo. Without his mojo, Powers would be rendered impotent and no longer powerful enough to thwart Dr Evil's plan to dominate the world. Apart from Fat Bastard, Dr Evil also has a new sidekick – Mini Me, who is his exact replica but one-eighth his size. Upon realizing what Dr Evil has done, Powers is sent back in time by his superior to deal with the crisis. Other than recovering his mojo, his main task is to stop Dr Evil from destroying Earth with a laser-emitting weapon which he placed on the Moon. In the final battle in Dr Evil's headquarters, with the help of CIA agent Felicity Shagwell, Powers succeeds in foiling the evil plan and forces Dr Evil to escape with Mini Me. The film ends with Powers bringing Shagwell back to 1999, into his bed.

3. Analysis

3.1 Narrative Models

Todorov's Narrative Theory

Five generic stages are suggested in this theory: (1) equilibrium, (2) disequilibrium, (3) recognition of the disruption, (4) an attempt to repair and finally (5) a restoration of (new) equilibrium. When put in context, the start of the film presents itself as a state of equilibrium in which Powers is in pleasure with Vanessa. The start of the disequilibrium is implied by Powers' realization that Vanessa is actually a fembot. The actual disruption that leads to the development of the story is that Dr Evil is back to conquer the world and he has to first steal Austin's mojo in order to achieve this. At the same time in the "present", Powers, who is thrilled in bed, suddenly realizes that he has lost his libido. His expression of dismay and worry reflects the recognition that disequilibrium has set in. In his attempt to repair, a distressed Powers travels back in time to retrieve his mojo and deal with Dr Evil. The story ends with Powers successfully eliminating his arch enemy from the face of Earth (at least for the time being). A new equilibrium is restored and he realises that what he has been looking for all along is not his lost mojo but love. Propp's Folktale Model

There are six archetypal characters found common in Propp's study of folktales. Applying his model to the modern narrative in this film, we can identify all six elements. The subject is our hero Austin Powers who wants to seek his stolen mojo, identified as the object. Many a time, the donor of the object is also the seeker or subject. This film is of no exception. The receiver of the stolen mojo is Dr Evil, who is also the villain, and he indeed enjoyed having this "force of life". Powers is lucky enough to have a helper: the CIA agent, Felicity Shagwell. The quest for the object has brought them together but Felicity is the helper in more than one way. Her attractiveness becomes the best impetus for Powers to restore his mojo.

Barthes' Narrative Codes
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