Now Age Minute: Celluloid Heroes

In the daily revelations by Hollywood’s favorite sons about what they knew, but didn’t tell, about disgraced impresario Harvey Weinstein, add to those that he’s an asshole. Thank you, Matt Damon. According to Mediate,

Matt Damon and George Clooney appeared on Good Morning America this morning to talk about their new film, but the actors also addressed Harvey Weinstein and what they knew (or rather, didn’t know) about his behavior.

Damon opened up to Michael Strahan about his history with Weinstein and said everyone knew he was a “bully.”

“I knew he was an asshole. He was proud of that. That’s how he carried himself,” Damon said. “I knew he was a womanizer…but this level of criminal sexual predation is not something that I ever thought was going on.”

He did reveal he was aware that Weinstein had harassed Gwyneth Paltrow, who came forward with her story to The New York Times just a few weeks ago.

Luckily, and coincidentally for Damon, he was unaware that Weinstein was conducting himself in potentially criminal behavior. Or was he simply reading from a script, supplied by his legal team? After all, propaganda has been as endemic to Hollywood as the proverbial casting couch.

Pimping the propaganda

When it comes to propagandizing American culture, the award for Most Effective Tool goes to the motion picture industry itself, with Best Performances going to its promotion of racism and militarism, as pointed out by historian Garikai Chengu writing in CounterPunch,

Ever since the Lumiere brothers first developed film in 1896, it has been an astoundingly effective racial propaganda tool. As the first universal mass medium it efficiently utilized high drama through the fixation of emotional sequences. Put simply, effective propaganda starts precisely where critical thinking ends.

To create drama, particularly in action and war movies, Hollywood needs bad guys, and through the consistent use of racial stereotypes these enemies have included the Vietnamese during the Vietnam war, the Russians throughout the Cold War, Muslims during the ongoing War on Terror and the Japanese after Pearl Harbor.

And Hollywood’s fear-imposing, propaganda impact pays off handsomely for the old, white guys behind the financial curtain. Chengu continues,

According to a recent YouGov survey, “make believe” childhood games like Cowboys and Indians are more popular amongst children than video games from the $60 billion gaming industry. One may ask oneself if the popular American childhood game of Cowboys and Indians is essentially the cultural equivalent of Germans playing a game with the same rules that might be called Nazis and Jews? Why then should we tolerate one and not the other, if not for a deep seeded racism towards Native Americans that we too are unwilling to acknowledge?

Most Hollywood financiers, directors and Oscar voters are rich, old white men. As in pretty much all facets of American capitalism, minorities are underrepresented in every stage of film and television production; from writing to directing to acting to producing.

Movies, and screen media as a whole, could be the most effective passive inculcating tools humanity has ever devised, which explains the power of advertising in those mediums. Adding insult to psychological injury of neutralizing the discerning mind of the viewer, screen-oriented entertainment neutralizes the consumer’s experience of experience itself.

Entertaining experience

A primary reason that I don’t own a television is the mediation of actual experience that the medium demands. Same is true for movies. Unlike radio, for example, it’s hard to actually be doing something (other than eating) while you’re subjugating yourself to an entertaining impression of experience. Sure, there’s information to be gleaned from educational programs and films, but information is not knowledge, which emerges only through direct human experience.

The author and filmmaker Helena Norberg-Hodge – founder and director of Local Futures, an initiative encouraging regrowth of local economies – warns about the pressure to modernize, at expense of any and all tradition, that Western societies impose upon traditional cultures, primarily through movies and television. Reflecting on her visits to the remote Indian village of Ladakh, isolated high in the Tibetan Plateau, before and after arrival of Western culture, Norberg-Hodge writes,

Development has brought not only tourism, but also Western and Indian films and, more recently, television. Together they provide overwhelming images of luxury and power. There are countless tools and magical gadgets. And there are machines—machines to take pictures, machines to tell the time, machines to make fire, to travel from one place to another, to talk with someone far away. Machines can do everything for you; it’s no wonder the tourists look so clean and have such soft, white hands.

Media images focus on the rich, the beautiful, and the brave, whose lives are endless action and glamour. For young Ladakhis, the picture is irresistible. It is an overwhelmingly exciting version of an urban ‘American Dream’, with an emphasis on speed, youthfulness, super-cleanliness, beauty, fashion and competitiveness. ‘Progress’ is also stressed: humans dominate nature, while technological change is embraced at all costs.

The seductive imagery of mediated screen experience easily supplants the dull and flat realities of ordinary people doing ordinary things, and missing an emotionally engaging musical soundtrack. Magically, even the most remote, traditional culture can be undone, and homogenized to look and act like cool Americans, ideal for Western capitalist exploitation.

Celluloid heroes

Hollywood is a centrifuge of make believe. And while a healthy dose of escapist entertainment is nourishing for any soul, the propagandistic power of Hollywood, combined with the classist elevation of its stars, and its inculcating effects on the viewer is as distracting to participatory democracy as shopping.

Beyond distraction, the impact of perpetual bombardment of screen media – from Silver Screen to TV screen to smartphone screen – is devastating to a viewer’s sense of discernment, simply because of the outsourcing of personal experience to hired talent. No matter how skilled an actor Matt Damon may be, he can’t live my life for me. But that’s exactly what we do when we project so much social agency onto entertainers. And it’s the same detachment from reality that belies the shock and horror that power hungry men sexually exploit women, and leaves space for enablers like Damon to close an eye to the crimes. Assholes abound, it appears. The show must go on, on both sides of the screen. Till we stop watching.

It’s this disconnected discernment that also allows individuals to fall, wallet first, into the thrall of Amazon, with no mind to the reality that, with every ‘prime’ purchase you’re driving another nail in the coffin of your local economy.

If Americans are serious about taking their country back from the corporations that have dissected the democratic process for the betterment of their bottom line, we’ll first need to sharpen our discernment. And that begins with trading in our celluloid heroes for those closer to home.

I wish my life was non-stop Hollywood movie show
A fantasy world of celluloid villains and heroes
Because celluloid heroes never feel any pain
And celluloid heroes never really die
–Ray Davies

By | 2017-10-26T19:55:37+00:00 October 26th, 2017|Categories: Columns, Now Age Minute|

About the Author:

Craig Gordon
Craig Gordon comments on the perverse state of American society, and is the publisher of this website.

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