Jae Hyung Ryu

Date of Award


Degree Type


Degree Name

Doctor of Philosophy (PhD)



First Advisor

Ted Friedman - Chair

Second Advisor

Alisa Perren

Third Advisor

Kathy Fuller-Seeley

Fourth Advisor

Angelo Restivo

Fifth Advisor

Jung-Bong Choi


The purpose of this dissertation is to chart how the development of visual effects has changed popular cinema¡¯s vision of the real, producing the powerful reality effect. My investigation of the history of visual effects studies not only the industrial and economic context of visual effects, but also the aesthetic characteristics of the reality effect. In terms of methodology, this study employs a theoretical discourse which compares the parallels between visual effects and the discourse of modernity/postmodernity, utilizing close textual analysis to understand the symptomatic meanings of key texts. The transition in the techniques and meanings of creating visual effects reflects the cultural transformation from modernism to postmodernism. Visual effects have developed by adapting to the structural transformation of production systems and with the advance of technology. The studio system strongly controlled the classical Hollywood cinema by means of the modern economic production system of Fordism. Breakdown of Hollywood classicism as a production system gave rise to the creation of digital effects with the rise of the concept of the blockbuster and with the development of computer technologies. I argue that the characteristic feature of time-space compression, occurring in the process of the transition from Fordism to flexible accumulation, clearly reflects that of compression of multi-layered time and space, generated in the development process from analog visual effects, such as trick, rear and front projection, to the digital effects, such as rotoscoping and CGI animation. While the aesthetics of analog visual effects, without computing, can be compared to a Fordist production system, digital effects, which hugely rely on CGI manipulation, are examples of flexible accumulation. As a case study of the local resistance or alternative of Hollywood today, I examine the effects-oriented Korean nationalist blockbuster. The Korean nationalist blockbuster films have sought large-scale filmmaking and presentation of spectacular scenes, including heavy dependence on the use of special effects, which is frequently considered a Hollywood style. This paradoxical combination of peculiar Korean subjects and Hollywood style can be viewed as a form of cultural jujitsu, taking advantage of the force of the dominant culture in order to resist and subvert it.


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