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Categorized | Culture

Contra Hollywood

In today’s world, there are two things that epitomize the image of America: Hollywood and popular music. Both are multi-billion dollar industries, with the former churning out hundreds of films per year at an expense of several billion dollars a year. Arguably, not only is Hollywood one of the biggest cultural forces in America, it is also an international phenomenon, with an ever-increasing number of films being translated into a number of languages and exported to many countries worldwide.  As such, not only is it an influential force within American borders, it has also become one of the newest weapons in America’s soft-power ideological wars, winning not only hard-earned money from the world-wide market, but in many cases, the hearts and minds of many individuals around the world.

Therefore, it is undoubtedly true that Hollywood has become one of the main players in the multi-pronged propaganda offensive. Hollywood movies glamorize ideas which producers find attractive, and demonize ideas and people who producers dislike; an especially noticeable trend is that in the last several decades, film media has become increasingly more liberal and has become used as the vehicle to push all sorts of decadent and immoral ideas on the general population by disguising subconscious indoctrination as entertainment.  Today, just five major American media conglomerates (Viacom, Time Warner, Disney, Comcast, and News Corporation) command an overwhelming share of the U.S. Hollywood market, and are thus poised in a position of great influence.  All six of these conglomerate essentially share an identical ideological motivation, both at the current time and in a broader historical context.

The ideology of Hollywood and its motivations are currently not in dispute, and will even be admitted to by the most stubborn of American academics.  On the one hand, Hollywod cinema treats domestic issues with a strong bias towards the ultra-left or bourgeois libera stance.  Douglass Kellner, an American professor who is in many ways sympathetic to Hollywood’s message, confesses that: “Many 1960s films transcoded the discourses of the anti-war, New Left student movements, as well as the feminist, black power, sexual liberationist, and countercultural movements, producing a new type of socially critical Hollywood film”.  On the other hand, when dealing with foreigners, they take an imperialistic stance.  For instance the 1997 film “Red Corner” (released during a tense period of U.S.-China relations) was considered — even by American standards — to portray the Chinese government in a “hackneyed” and “xenophobic” attitude (link).  Likewise, “Seven Years in Tibet,” which was released the same year, put onto the silver screen one of the pet-causes of Hollywood celebrities, and portrays the Chinese officials as narrow-minded villains, while giving an almost super-human quality to the Tibetans.  More recently, films like “300” and “Argo” have been criticized as attempting to drum up anti-Iranian sentiment (link).  The latter, which sports a friendly face in the form of the fashionable actor Ben Affleck (who was also its director), could not be released at a more convenient time for the Obama administration, and will undoubtedly be promoted by the same ties which connect Capitol Hill to Hollywood.

Regarding the American film industry, the noted French historical scholar Robert Faurisson recently remarked:

A well-known facet of the ideology propagated by this film industry is the basic division of the world between the Good and the Bad. The Good are the United States and the Bad are those whom the United States decrees as such. The Good are fundamentally Good and the Bad are fundamentally Bad. The United States is always in the right and always wins, whilst the “Bad Guys” are always in the wrong and always lose.

Inglourious Basterds, a movie termed “torture porn” by many, nonetheless was nominated for – and given – many awards by the Hollywood movie industry

Of course, this should not come as any surprise, since one of the objectives of any drama (of which modern film might be considered a descendant), is to instruct its viewers and instill in them some idea which the writer wants to communicate. This kind of instruction can be quite obvious in a number of politically-oriented dramas, from “Judgement at Nuremberg” (1961) or “Inglourious Basterds” (2009). Alternatively, it can be more subtle, for instance in the way that certain characters are typecast. For instance, Catholics and Arabs are regularly subjected to a propagandistic onslaught in films, as are Italians (typecast as unruly mafiosi) and Russians (as devious spies). By contrast, modern Hollywood film rarely casts African-Americans, Israelis, or homosexuals as villains, but as victims with whose endeavours we must sympathize. There are a myriad more examples of this, but these should suffice for now.

The German composer Richard Wagner said in an essay, “As Man stands to Nature, so stands Art to Man”.  In other words,  the ideal artistic endeavours are  indispensable to a fully human life.  True cinema, like any artwork — whether it be literature, music, drama, or poetry — speaks to the soul of a people and must be in accord with their tastes.  Rather than being mere pointless luxury, a true artwork must be engaging, appealing and encouraging.  Films whose purpose are to subconsciously indoctrinate a people with a corrupt ideology, in essence subvert a sense of beauty and honor, cannot truly be considered works of art.

True art must speak to the soul of a people, rather than for those trying to subvert it.

However, even in so-called “light films,” in which the ideological element is minimal, the artistic value of Hollywood films also leaves something to be desired. Though Hollywood can be traced back to the same category of entertainment as classical drama and literature, the former all too often lacks the Apollonian elements that make the latter enjoyable and reputable.  Gone are the classical notions of aesthetics (as exemplified by Aeschylus), replaced instead by special effects and expensive props. Instead of instead employing a truly engaging story involving interesting persons, modern Hollywood movies resort to sensational and flashy editing, absurd plot twists, and lifeless, one-dimensional characters.  These are merely done in the hope of evoking meaningless exclamations of wonder, but are ultimately incompatible with art created for the people.  Such movies value quantity over quality, and neglect the essential content of life, while only considering scale of a production.  At other times, scenes are often fabricated at the whim of directors or editors, and cannot depict life truthfully because they are either outright absurd distortions of reality, or merely ridiculous situations meant to garner a cheap a laugh.

Wagner was critical of the composers of his day who did not “in the least conceal the fact that they have no other ambition than to satisfy [a] shallow audience”.  The same might be said of modern producers and studios, who promotes a few ‘popular stars’ to curry favor with the audience because they value profit margins above all else.  While this system reaps great rewards for the studio bosses and even the actresses (who themselves are beholden to hypersecularist mafiosi), this quantity-over-quality mentality is in essence what robs Hollywood of its genuine creative spirit.

Man’s enduring legacy is his creativity, intelligence, and ability to transmit lasting values and ideas.  Not only does Hollywood fail to do this in a meaningful way, it often does exactly the opposite: it indoctrinates innocent minds into believing in decadence and idle foolishness. This is not a matter that can be trifled with; indeed, there is no greater power in our time than that wielded by the manipulators and re-writers of public opinion in America, of which Hollywood plays an integral part.  Perhaps not even the legions of Caesar could have imagined the power that is now held by today’s controlled media.

What is clear is that as formidable and daunting as such a task might be, the influence of Hollywood and “Hollywoodism” must be curtailed at all costs.  Just as brave people the world over are now standing up to American guns and bullets on the front lines of battlefields, so too, must people – both in America and in many other countries – stand at the front lines against Hollywood on the front line of the cultural war.

About Hong Kyung-Jin

HONG Kyung-Jin was born in Korea, and moved to the United States at the age of 7. He is a former Buddhist, and is now a Roman Catholic. Mr. Hong holds a dual degree in computer science and civil engineering from the University of Western Ontario. He is interested in comparative religion and East Asian politics.