PR, Films and Fantasies

The Film Industry and The Frankfurt School

Posted on: February 26, 2010

A new media culture task asks us to relate to the “culture industry” in the way it was defined by the Frankfurt School. As one of the main media fields I am interested in is the film world, I will try to analyse it (referring mainly to the US film industry) by considering some key elements like standardization, pseudo-individualization and the oppression of the masses.

I don’t want to get into much theory about the Frankfurt School so please just check Wikipedia for some enlightening information. Also, you can understand more about standardization, pseudo-individualization by looking at my previous post about Adorno’s “On Popular Music”.

Film started as an alternative entertainment form in the times of music halls and cabarets. In its early days, seeing a movie was quite hard as a special location and equipment were necessary. However, technology evolved amazingly fast, so nowadays even the most remote places on Earth offer easy access to small or big screens. Also, big production studios appeared like mushrooms after the rain and so, around 1000 movies are being released each year by commercial companies, all aiming for fame and fortune (click for 2009 US productions). How does this affect the art products themselves?

First of all, technological discoveries led to patterns. In terms of directing, image, post-editing, everybody is trying to keep to new technologies and use the best tools and so, the filming techniques are mostly the same.

On the other hand, it seems like Hollywood has lost its imagination as the themes and cliches are quite the same over and over again. Just before Christmas I had a week when I saw only movies about the end of the world at Birmingham cinemas. The Book of Eli, The Road, Zoombieland, 2012… Also, remakes and re-adaptations of scripts have taken over the industry, as it seems easier to copy and imitate old, successful pieces and throw them out to the 2010 audiences.

The industry has become standardized and although each piece seems to portray originality and individuality, formulas are being introduced in everything. Adorno claims this is done in order to maintain an internal equilibrium of the industry, leading to “the manipulation of taste and the official culture’s pretense of individualism”.

This can also relate to actors, as it is thought that a face of success will always bring the audience to a production, so we end up in seeing the same actors over and over again.

I am not trying to say that going to the cinema would be a “cultural” mistake. Not even close. Also, I don’t agree with the idea of following critiques when choosing a movie. Experiencing all these Hollywood based products can even be a source if inspiration for the gifted mind, but we do have to admit that for the majority of the population cinema is there only to show a little bit more of the violence, romance, or sexuality in the world.

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1 Response to "The Film Industry and The Frankfurt School"

Exact, I think that apart from very few original films the rest is just recycled ideas. We are in a post modernism era that Frederic Jameson described plausibly as a World of pastiche!

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