I thought for a while about writing about Marshall McLuhan's writing (#49) because of his views on how advertising stereotypes groups in society (and because I am a student of advertising), but after much deliberation I decided that I'd rather examine the articles written by Harold Innis (#42) and Hortense Powdermaker (#43) and how they apply to cinema and culture since I am a fan of foreign films.
I thought that juxtaposing the two writers' views would help uncover some of the reasons American films differ so greatly from those of other cultures. First, I think it's important to point out how Innis defines "culture": "Indeed this may be the meaning of culture--i.e., something which we have the others have not. It is probably for this reason that writings on culture can be divided into those attempting to weaken other cultures and those attempting to strengthen their own" (p. 276). This, I think, it interesting, given our discussion last week that media likes to present us in our most perfect form. And, as we noticed watching the Grammys last night, there is something super-human about many celebrities because they seem so perfect.
And, I would argue, American film celebrities seem "more perfect" than foreign film stars. Think, for example, about French movies stars like Jean Reno or Gerard Depardieu. Beautiful? Eh. Talented? You betcha.
Innis also posits that "constant changes in technology...increase the difficulties of recognizing balance let alone achieving it" (p. 278). A few paragraphs before, he alludes to the Greek maxim of "nothing in excess." Both of these notions make me think of all of the ways that advances in technology (both film and beauty) have changed the way Americans think of cinema. Innis argues, after all, that these advances in technology affect a culture's ethics, values, and beliefs.
Powdermaker, I think, would agree. On page 285, she writes, "In Hollywood, however, the writer does not express his own fantasies, but those of a producer or front-office executive." What that says to me is that no longer is American cinema an art, as perhaps it was treated in years past, but that is only a reflection of what popular mass American culture wants to see, or at least what the big wigs in that front office think we want to see. What does this do how Americans see our values and ethics? What about how we see ourselves? How do American values as displayed in our movies differ from those displayed in foreign films? What does that say about American cultural values?