Hollywood product as Deception
The culture industry fuses the old and familiar into a new quality. In all its branches, products which are tailored for consumption by masses, and which to a great extent determine the nature of that consumption, are manufactured more or less according to plan (Adorno)
what is to be said about Ho-wood product as Deception? Tho' not supporting the marxism per se, perhaps there are a few blogger-pariahs who admire Adorno's peroations on the Culture Industry, regardless of its lack of confirmability. Ho-wood is as much political instrument as Washington (or Sac-town) politicos are; but measuring its effects in any sort of precise manner presents all sorts of problems. So one may be left with Adorno-like meditations, vague freudian or postmod generalizations, or perhaps eschewing the theory, sort of dittos of WS Burroughs' thoughts (tho perhaps not his character): there isn't one dream of America that Hollywood hasn't destroyed (or pimped, mocked, etc. or words to that effect). Even the dreams of outlaws are eventually cleaned up, marketed, spun: as in the recent John Cash flick. (--sort of the Van Gogh effect as well--that bizarre raven-y, outlaw minstrel was more revered in death than in life).
Few seem willing to challenge the Dream-pimps (or their heterae). Ho-wood is now the sort of corporate Bohemia; daily conversation revolving around the latest flick, the latest celeb intrigue; in deed the celeb is also sort of an intellectual by proxy--a pompous cartoon such as Warren Beatty like some westside Sartre-lite.. To challenge Ho-wood one risks the "malvolio" button; rustic, resentful, outside. And yet even Adorno is a sort of Malvolio.
Monday, March 06, 2006
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conclusions based on culture industry products are not 'confirmable' in the sense you yearn for because the products themselves are not confirmable. The form of the initial communication always in part determines its response. To deny this power of initiative too forcefully (with too much emotional investment in some presupposed value system, usually) is to risk missing the 'point.'
When it comes to Hollywood we all have to miss the point a bit if we want to resist it -- Malvolio-ize ourselves. I certainly have no problem coming off as a bit of a crank in the face of the bland party promoter's grin of the Hollywood 'dream factory,' nor do I feel in the least regret in refusing to engage its pitiful stabs at 'conversation starters.' (i.e. Crash, Brokeback)
How did I find your blog? I think I followed the dice from padraig's site (reveal yourself to him but not me? snort!)
Or not: check out this quote I dug up from Benjamin, Adorno's sometime rival and representative (generative?) of a strain of critical theory is interested in alternatives to the raging against the dying of the light type of polemic that gets around among 'blogger-pariahs' like meself:
Fools lament the decay of criticism. For its day is long past. Criticism is a matter of correct distancing. It was at home in a world where perspectives and prospects counted and where it was possible to take a standpoint. Now things press too closely on human society. The "unclouded," "innocent" eye has become a lie, perhaps the whole naïve mode of expression is sheer incompetence. Today the most real, the mercantile gaze into the heart of things is the advertisement. It abolishes the space where contemplation moved and all but hits us between the eyes with things as a car, growing in gigantic proportions, careens at us out of a film screen. And just as the film does not present furniture and facades in completed forms for critical inspection, their insistent, jerky nearness alone being sensational, the genuine advertisement hurtles things at us with the tempo of a good film... For the man in the street, however, it is money that affects him in this way, brings him into perceived contact with things. And the paid critic, manipulating paintings in the dealer's exhibition room, knows more if not better things about them than the art lover... The warmth of the subject is communicated to him, stirs sentient springs. What, in the end, makes advertisements so superior to criticism? Not what the moving red neon sign says -- but the fiery pool reflecting in the asphalt.
-- Walter Benjamin
.another aspect, intended or not, and hopefully not too obvious of Adorno's panegyric on Culture ( not far from Huxleys' idea of the "feelies" in Brave New World, or even PK Dick in Faith of Our Fathers--slightly more continental of course )--the deception of the ho-wood spectacle always distances people from history, from war, from real world problems: there have been a few movies about WWI and WWII, but few if any flicks captured the reality of trench warfare, of the camps, or a panzer division crossing into Poland or Czechoslavakia, or Hiroshima (some of the west coast beats knew what Hiroshima was about) .
And that may be where A is a bit contradictory tho as well: he sort of disparages expressionism but also wants "authenticity" of some sort. Is he saying then any art apres WWI and WWII is now verboten? Perhaos that's his claim, and I for one am content with documentaries, history writing etc.: those old World At War newsreels certainly as terrifying as the Tv shows of the 50s and 60s: tho in some sense the TV fluff a bit scarier: the absence of references to any wars, WWI to 'Nam. We were raised on I Dream of Jeanie while villgaes are being napalmed. Life in the last 50 years has resembled like bad Charles Simic writing: 10 million dead, change the channel, grab a beer.
Obviously adverstising is far more pervasive than fine art. Fine art is now mostly for snoots, westsiders, the wives of doctors and lawyers, or perhaps some college boy cowboys in the midwest fond of duck or injun' pictures.
If you skim through the pages of any art magazine, you note the art is mostly decorative, sometimes quirky or sexy but never jarring. The paintings are pretty, intended to hang in big LA villas, like above the divan where rich wifey can show her own wares. It's nauseating for the most part, and in some sense, most advertising art has more skill and authenticity, tho' of course as sinister as about any porno...
I enjoy reading some Benjamin but he's bit too close to idealism in some ways: and regardless of the few Hegelian aspects of Adorno, I think he was a bit more of the traditional historical materialist and less of the aesthete...or maybe not...I am not down with leftist Hegelians really .....I too have over the last few years grown rather suspicious of literature and Ahht, including the avant-garde sort. The history of the last 100 years is certainly as terrifying and sublime as the visions of Kafka...but you wouldn't know that from TV, movies, literature, pop muzak, or from most universities....where Pangloss still reigns for the most part ...
Adorno is an atheist as well as a secular realist, methinks (tho opposed to positivism). And however unappealing to Hegelians or Xtians, all roads lead to atheism, to biological determinism and pathology instead of "sin" really, however vulll-garr that is to belle-lettrists; the history of the 20th century leads to atheism, except for deluded conservatives or do-gooder liberals.
Adorno was too hostile to positivists. It was the Kant and Hegel-loving germans who led to the nightmares of the 20th century. Positivism provided lots of techniques (like cracks of nazi radar coded) which allowed the allies to defeat the Huns. Adorno wants to say positivism is part of the sort of Western march to totalitarianism, but I don't think that's a necessary claim, any more than saying Hegel led to Stalin....
(good) literature/art, science, and history differ from each other only in the objects they describe, and their affect or 'style.' Both ideology and calculated maximizing of gain have a tendency to ruin them if performed in a way that's unselfconscious or naive. I'm basically with you on the biological determinsm/secular atheism POV, but the idea that 'facts are enough' is the worst kind of totalitarianism in that it completely ignores the reality of communication. 'I Dream of Jeanie' is history -- people experienced it; it had real effects on their lives and psychic states, and real effects on the people with whom its viewers interacted. There is an escapist vein in the act of war as well -- a certain orgiastic timeless world of pure mechanized savagery where one can more certainly/honestly 'touch the earth,' a task that is possible only for objects (war diaries do nothing but recognize this over and over again). To determine which is more real or more historical is to miss the point -- the difference lies only in what constitutes each.
Materialism and idealism two sides of the same coin, really --
Quite right about the art scene -- the few exceptions to the decorative banality always seem to end up looking an awful lot like ads. One can't help but distrust art -- all mental programming after all, always working on you in ways you aren't aware of -- but then one can't help but distrust people as well, and you refuse to respond to both (as with facts) at your own risk.
In regards to psychological issues, I would agree that one cannot simply speak of "facts." Much of what passes for political and philosophical chat is concerned with the human schema (avoiding any "transcendental unity of apperception" or cartesian types of thoughts), but not much can be said about schemas, regardless of the claims of social psychologists who think they might chart out a person's entire personality after a few observations, or one of those cheap pscyh. profile test (do you often feel aroused in farm yards?--who's to say they could might or might not award you a bad mark for saying no?--clinicians are generally Mengele-lites)
There's something valuable to remembering Skinners' criticsm of "mentalism." Behaviorism went too far, but inferring mental states/consciousness is a tricky and difficult thing: beyond most (myself included). Therefore writers/thinkers/philosophers of a psychological bent must assess people by their actions, their deeds, performances until cognitivists trace out intention, desire, instincts, etc. if that ever happens. Perhaps that sounds reductionist, but there are many reasons to question psychological claims in general-humans might act a certain way for years and then act differently. When you start reading some of the bizarre little experiments that psych. researchers perform, you realize that the claims are all contingent: the data could be significantly different (and the results altered) a few years later, or in different locales, etc.
Unfortunately many on both left and right sort of "hypostatize" mental constructs: some Wittgenstein might serve as a correctio, but
I am not in agreement with his views, early or late, in general--he's really quite a nihilist really. That tendency towards auto-assessment may bea leftover from sunday school, or the catechism, puritanism, the sockhop. Xtians love nothing more than to attempt to assess those humans (regardless of race, str8, queer, whatever) who have not been allowed to join the "elect". Here in American a basic bare-bones realism ala Stendhal never made it past like St. Louis--.
The hypostasy thing is pretty important and interesting, IMO, just as a general problem. What is subjectivity if not hypostasy? 'I' don't exist, etc., am just an illusion spawned by various mental processes, and yet I do exist because I assert my own existence. And it's this demand for recognition that allows us to interact with each other at all. We can't value, positively or negatively, what we can't identify as a thing -- maybe it's a failure of human thought, but there you go. Figures like 'capitalism,' 'power,' etc. have to be acknowledged as such or we can't grasp the significance of their individual processes and effects. It's a perpetual problem that we get too caught up in these abstractions, but I don't see us getting rid of them anytime soon.
We are incapable of only speaking of facts (which is not to say facts don't refer to something real) -- our interpretations of them constitute things in themselves. Technology and to a lesser extent provable theories are sort of radical objectivizations of thought and experience, but the relation between them and wild hypothesizing is a matter of strength and weakness, not absolute 'truth' and 'bullshit.'
Psychology is sort of a necessary evil -- can't really afford to wait for anything better...
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