It Says Nothing to Me About My Life: The Hollywood Hegemony and Me.

Walking into my local multiplex cinema the other day, I noticed a rather large poster advertising a forthcoming attraction. It was for a film called "Last Vegas" and it stars Robert DeNiro, Kevin Kline, Morgan Freeman and Michael Douglas, and by all accounts is a sort of version of "The Hangover" for older people. As I walked by though, all I could think of were the strains of "Panic", the song by "The Smiths" in which Morrissey implores his listeners to "Burn down the disco/ Hang the blessed DJ/ Because the music that they constantly play/ It says nothing to me about my life." OK, so this isn't music, but surely the same sentiment could be applied to film distributors and producers, because the films that they constantly make and peddle, well, they say nothing to me about my life. So, I began to wonder why it is that the great majority of films shown at cinemas like the one I was walking through are Hollywood products which appear to have little to do with our own experience. I'm not saying that all films shown in cinemas should only reflect our own, more local, affairs, but rather that there should simply be more choice on offer. More European and British films, and perhaps even films from farther around the world, mightn't go amiss.
So, after a brief scour of the internet, I discovered that this is by no means a new or only recent problem. Indeed, by as early as 1926, 95% of films shown on British screens were American, a statistic which would lead some to object to this new cultural hegemony. For instance, the great British economist John Maynard Keynes made an early plea for diversity in our culture, stating, "let every part of Merry England be merry in its own way: Death to Hollywood."
But what gave Hollywood and America its seemingly vice-like grip on the type of product which would be seen by other countries and cultures? It seems that the Hollywood film industry began earlier than most others, its nascent origins coming to the fore in the late 19th century. This would lead to Hollywood studios owning most of the means of production for making movies, which obviously gave them a head start. In more recent years this has been made even more evident by the rise of the multiplex cinema. While smaller, independent movie houses die off, the multiplex acts as a virtual distribution outlet for the major Hollywood studios, continuing its evermore consumerist rise. So not only does Hollywood have a hegemonic grip on the means of making films, but also over which films get shown, and it's inevitably their own product which is most vociferously peddled.
All this is rather worrying to me as it does seem to create an environment in which we are all, on some level, perhaps even subconsciously, taught to talk America, think America, and dream America. And I'm not the only one it concerns. French auteur Jacques Rivette once spoke of his wish to still have the right to "dream in French", and not have his very consciousness overtaken by some imperialistic monolith. And meanwhile, films like Ken Loach's "I, Daniel Blake", which won the Palme D'or at Cannes this year, have been sadly absent from any of my local cinemas. Loach's film is about a disabled carpenter struggling with the red tape surrounding the benefits system. Such content would be of great interest to me, and indeed to many of my friends, and would perhaps have merited a trip to the cinema for our Pathways Group, but unfortunately it would appear that the Hollywood hegemony has too firm a hold at present for even the great Ken Loach.
So, it's more inane, star-led comedy like "Last Vegas" for now, but one can hope that, in the future, we can begin to celebrate film as the truly diverse art form it is. Death to Hollywood indeed.

Please Note: this post was first drafted in 2013.       


Ann ODyne said…
cineplexes are only ever going to offer films appealing to Under-25's.
they're In Business.
Older people looking for a cinema night have to find 'independent' screening places which show 'small' or 'arty' films.
I live 50 kilometres from the nearest cinema which has doom, death, gloom and violence, and rarely has anything I actually want to see.

"First world problem" as they say on social networking.
cheers to you

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