The art of Hollywood, or really the business of Hollywood is to dumb and trivialize any critical currents into marketable product. Absorption and coop-tion skills that dumb everything down into cheap neutral entertainment where meaningful content is parceled into bite-sized modules like baby food, pablum, that is easily assimilable into the digestive tracts of the wider, what Guy Debord termed the “the Society of the Spectacle” ; creating a dependence as a demeaning fate for those speaking Voltaire’s truth to power: an almost pathological addiction to the propaganda arm of the military/industrial complex known as the culture industries.
Though the dynamic has been with us since the advent of film, the basic business model has arguably been a well functioning machine. If it ain’t broken don’t fix it. Its fairly clear, that despite the early regard for the potential of the medium, Hollywood’s addiction to the profit system guarantees that it acts as a reproducer of the dominant culture and its ideology which is the bourgeois market system catering to the not dumb but not quite smart enough. In other words, its a reactionary guardian of the status quo where familiarity with the aesthetic object is within very narrow realms and its fetishization makes it all powerful yet powerless.
Edward Bernays:THE great political problem in our modern democracy is how to induce our leaders to lead. The dogma that the voice of the people is the voice of God tends to make elected persons the will-less servants of their constituents. This is undoubtedly part cause of the political sterility of which certain American critics constantly complain.
No serious sociologist any longer believes that the voice of the people expresses any divine or specially wise and lofty idea. The voice of the people expresses the mind of the people, and that mind is made up for it by the group leaders in whom it believes and by those persons who understand the manipulation of public opinion. It is composed of inherited prejudices and symbols and cliches and verbal formulas supplied to them by the leaders. …
Fortunately, the sincere and gifted politician is able, by the instrument of propaganda, to mold and form the will of the people.
Disraeli cynically expressed the dilemma, when he said: “I must follow the people. Am I not their leader?” He might have added: “I must lead the people. Am I not their servant?” Read More: http://www.historyisaweapon.com/defcon1/bernprop.html
For Esther Leslie, then, the early Mickey Mouse shorts are to be considered significant cultural productions alongside the visual art of Pablo Picasso, Paul Klee or Marcel Duchamp, the music of Igor Stravinsky or Arnold Schoenberg, or the cinema of Sergei Eisenstein or Charlie Chaplin (the last-named, at least, being a case of an artist the reception of whose work has long straddled the high/popular cultural divide); while what she sees as the Disney studio’s later inexorable artistic decline would then become a classic example of how radical tendencies in popular art end up cannibalised and neutralised by the dominant economic system. ( Christopher Rollason) Read More: http://www.wbenjamin.org/hollywood.html a
…Her position, substantiated through close argument and carefully accumulated detail and quotation, constitutes in theoretical terms an interrogation of the notion of an absolute divide between high and mass culture. In certain periods of political and cultural ferment, she argues, new forms appear that question that divide to the point of dissolving it. Thus, in the 1920s and 1930s, while ‘modernist theorists and artists were fascinated by cartoons’ (v), the ‘relationship between intellectuals and popular culture was **productive** in the sense that both intellectuals and mass culture producers recognised, in some way, that all was to play for, that transformation was a virtue, a motive and a motif, that dissolution of form, including the form of the mass itself, was on the social agenda’ (vi-vii). She approvingly quotes Walter Benjamin’s positive response (from ‘Erfahrung und Armut’ ['Experience and Poverty'], an essay of 1933) to the dissolution of form in early Mickey Mouse: ‘The existence of Mickey Mouse is just such a dream of today’s people. His existence is full of miracles, which not only outdo technical wonders, but make fun of them too a redemptivehttp://www.wbenjamin.org/hollywood.html a
Its the same process when a Bernard Madoff claims “willful blindness” by others as being partly responsible for his fraud. And in his disingenious way, he was right in claiming his numbers, or rather their consistency was not plausible. But Madoff and his willful blindness is the same as Hollywood and their own bubble that is simply promoting the types of situations that lend themselves to these frauds by succumbing to the innate preference of a familiar; a comf.rtable. bias that reinforces the common and sugar coats the tragic flaws and absurd failings. In Madoff’s case it was the homogenous culture and their comfort and ease with each other that put them in denial of seemingly shady and obscure fundamentals.The racism and bias within the system demands periodic sacrifices, in this case mostly jewish investors, but a few half-assed reforms and eventually the unaccounted for 60 or so billion will find its way back into the system. Lassie always comes home.
Donald Kuspit: What Hollywood accomplished with its brilliant dialectical feat of appropriating Dix’s figures — banalizing his highly individualized, “scandalous” figures into slick, impersonal, marketable stereotypes — was to change the Weimar Republic wasteland they inhabited and symbolized into an entertaining paradise: a perverse paradise, no doubt, but still a paradise of free love — physically free if emotionally costly love — and, one might add, of “free art.” Without their critical edge and sting, they are fashionable mannequins on a commercial stage, however ostensibly — superficially — free spirits, as all figures that seem out of the bounds of social respectability, and charged with raw animal instinct — all “transgressive” figures that seem to lift the repression barrier — appear to be. Read More: http://www.artnet.com/magazineus/features/kuspit/otto-dix3-24-10.asp a
Esther Leslie: Given his own precarious freelance existence, one of Benjamin’s key concerns was with the changing status of the intellectual, writer and artist over the period of capitalist industrialization. He tracked, for example, the changing fortunes of
the avantgarde in nineteenth century France. He wanted to understand the ways in which artists are skewered by the contradictions of capital. In his studies of Charles Baudelaire, for example, he notes how the failure of social revolution in the late 19th century, and the inescapable law of the market, bred a hardened hoard of knowledge workers condemned to enter the market place. This intelligentsia thought that they came only to observe it – but, in reality, it was, says Benjamin, to find a buyer. This set off all manner of responses: competition, manifestoism, nihilistic rebellion, court jestering, hackery, ideologueism. Benjamin diagnosed the situation of cultural workers that preceded him, always keen to assess their class and political positions. Read More: http://spektakel.blogsport.de/images/EstherLeslieWalterBenjaminPoliticsAesthetics.pdf