This is a repost from G+.
It’s elections time in the U.S. and I read a bunch of kinda griefing reasons for the decline of America, or it’s true nature etc. Naturally.
It might be obvious, or just totally wrong, but I believe it’s the cultural export, mostly its movies, which establish America as an unique and dominant phenomenon among nations.
We tend to weight other factors higher, the military, the economy, beverages or science and forget the powerful impact on the ‘life of the mind’ that pictures have, especially moving ones. Americans are often annoyed that they are misjudged by foreigners, they argue that Hollywood is not America, but that isn’t even the point.
Most of the movies show in fact hard facts of the U.S., may it be the Streets of San Francisco, Dallas or Paris, Texas, they show the infractructure, the people, the landscape, the shops and cafes, the houses and condos. Furthermore they deal with American problems in the American English language in an American way, as at least part of the writers, and actors and everyone in between in Hollywood is American.
And it’s these pictures that are maybe more responsible for the unity of the global culture than anything else, the fabulous break-in of the American household into potentially every other household in the world.
- Bollywood: Strong phenomenon (so I hear). What does it show: the emerge of an national, cultural conscioueness that is not American? May be, but not beyond its borders: definetly won’t get much attention other than: interesting.
- China has a movie industry? They have Hong Hong that’s for sure and Hero was definetly a good movie, and what more: the mythical tale of the unitement of China. Phew, hot stuff, culturewise.
- Europe has not a movie industry to influence its own culture, not to speak of any significant international influence. Let’s check: There are some awesome ‘arty’ stunts going on, mostly one or two per country, Haneke in Austria, Almodovar in Spain, Godard and co in France, Ozon, oh wow when will he stop doing films about girls getting f*****, Lars von Trier is almost an American commodity (still very depressive), and Aki Kaurismäki, latter responsible (or expression of) for the coolness of Finnland. Fellini. Passolini, whatever: they won’t wash. England? – come on, and even Ricky is moderating the Golden Globes now.
- TV has no say in this. Telenovelas from South America or Turkey and other shows are, maybe contrary to what we think, not watched by everyone.
Only movies out of Hollywood get an almost 100% impact quota.
So these national theaters are all marvellous but not scalable for the big screen, a little like Gus van Sant. Hell, even David Lynch and the Coen Bros. are mainstream, that’s how good they are! All their talent gets sucked up by Hollywood anyway, maybe except for Till Schweiger, congrats.
There may be reasons like:
- You need a big country for this industry, not some dozens languages splitted over some mountains and inland seas. And which one to pick – well French obviously, the only one with a little scope beyond the horizon. Or stay with English. Or dubb, or subtitle, why not. I think dubbing is a serious sin.
- Consider the English language: it has been spread most successfully over the whole world even before the U.S. existed. It is truly an universal language by extend and influence. It has incorporated and reflects more influencies than any other language. This too may be a cornerstone of Hollywood. It just wouldn’t work with Esperanto.
So America is this big country which spawns a unique movie industry which is literally the same as the whole world is in a constant hangout with them.
In a kind it even goes beyond one nation: Hollywood is the Universal Dream Machine (I think Peter Sloterdijk said), and it should be considered a World Wonder.
You may say that’s not a concern of the normal American citizen, they are not Hollywood and if they are famous and great beyond measure because of it then it is a mistake.
Maybe. The discussion about the ‘relationship’ of the attack on the World Trade Center and a movie called Independence Day (why not King Kong for that matter) was an occasion to witness the intertwinement of pictures of the mind (what we experience: reality) and cinematographic ones.
But the whole greatness part is a random thing anyway. Mostly it depends on the soil, the land. America is founded by people that firstly were the most advanced product (if you so want, technique- and organisationwise) of the big old continent, who went with their knowledge to this other smaller continent which was theirs for the taking (if you so want, for sake of simplicity). (Yeah they went to Australia too, too bad it was so far away and a desert – some great new southern ‘continent’ that was!).
There may be no more or less genius in any people, but the luck or bad to harvest and exploit bigger or smaller resources.
The ressources of the mind are the ones by which we all live more and more nowadays and may they prosper everywhere. But there is only one Hollywood, and as long as this is true, nothing can spoil America’s greatness.
There is a reason why Obama was depicted in this other form of American pop-culture, the comics, as they are the almost moving pictures..