Mittwoch, November 30, 2005

A Culture of Deception...

This is a great post by someone who really knows what he is talking about. Edward Jay Epstein is incredibly knowledgeable about how Hollywood really works, down to the secrets of Cheap German Money and its demise.

He refers to the Culture of Deception of Hollywood. Let me step back a moment and lay this out a bit different than Epstein does.

First of all, all movies require suspension of disbelief. What we see up there on the silver screen is a carefully orchestrated illusion, designed ultimately to do one thing and one thing only: to separate you from your money. There's no greater reward for Hollywood people than for people to pay and pay and pay to see the product, and a really good film, let alone a film franchise like Star Wars or Batman, can finance literally hundreds of careers.

All living off the production of illusion.

Now, as Epstein points out brilliantly, Hollywood marketing doesn't simply limit itself to pushing a film. Rather, Hollywood has to create and continue memes of belief that help it sell films. Epstein reports how, for instance, Hollywood pushes the idea of Area 51 and the belief that the government has aliens it is studying in order to sell movies and TV series: Stargate, which I dearly love to watch, is one of the products of this meme. A few seasons ago they simply started talking about Area 51, and they didn't need to explain what they meant. Not one word, which means that this meme is firmly emplaced in the American, if not the World's, psyche as a fixed idea: the government is lying to us about this.

In other words, Hollywood has a vested interest in certain ideas being a fixed part of at least the American experience: a) the Government is controlled by interests that we don't know about and who do not have our interests at heart; b) you can't trust the government; c) the government is willing to do evil.

Of course, the real problem is that while you can certainly make the case that people in the US know better than to believe Hollywood, since they experience local government as not corrupt and local politicians as people who are out there trying to do a good job, as well as the massive holes in logic and reality that most Hollywood films show that requires a suspension of disbelief in order to remain believable, this isn't necessarily the case for foreigners watching the films.

A suspension of disbelief means that you as spectator know full well that Godzilla can't move the way he does because in reality, he'd need legs five times the size that he has just to stand, let alone move. It means that you accept that a general declares martial law and suspends habeaus corpus, even though you know that he'd be relieved of duty within a few minutes and that no officer would execute his orders, knowing that they are unlawful. It means that you accept soldiers behaving like automatons, carrying obviously illegal orders out, although you know that US soldiers are highly trained to act on their own and to question and refuse unlawful orders.

But someone in Germany or Austria might well not know that. No, let me put it more bluntly: someone in Tunisia won't know that. He or she isn't watching the movie with the suspension of disbelief, but rather as reality.

And this is where the problems really begin.

Hollywood, with its culture of deception, isn't merely entertaining us: it is also telling a story overseas that is decieving audiences overseas as to the nature of reality. It is the culture of deception that is helping to create problems, since you get people reacting and acting not to the reality of a situation, but rather their perception of the situation.

More on this when I come up for air from the latest forecasting round...

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