The Ghettoization of Hollywood

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Once again the movie industry is throwing itself a lavish party, one in a series of them, even though there is surprisingly little to celebrate. Movie attendance in 2011 hit a fifteen-year low, and while the industry isn’t doing as badly as its counterparts in the music industry, beneath the greasepaint and glamour, it is panicking every bit as badly.

There’s still plenty of money to be made, but the industry has the clear sense that it has lost its audience. And it has.

The movie industry began, as so much else, with the mass production of theatrical entertainment from classical drama to low vaudeville spectacle. Public entertainment no longer had to be an in-person show repeated anew each time and in each place. Now everyone across the nation and across the world could hear the same soliloquy, see the same pratfall and thrill to adventures that could not be performed on stage.

For all the technology, the movie took American culture and used film to reproduce it in palatable form to large audiences. Like mass produced suits, the cinema took a unique experience and turned it into a universal one. But selling films was much trickier than selling suits and involved far more risks, and while the analogy seems distant, fashion and entertainment have a great deal in common.

When you sell wares that depend on the public taste, you have to try and manipulate that taste while at the same trying to get out in front of it. Both fashion and entertainment frantically chase trends and leap on anything that smacks of youth, while trying to fuse it with their own dated tastes, constantly reviving and retrofitting the old to make it new again. At their worst, both end up selling a product with no content, a product that is all hype, but is not remotely wearable or viewable.

While Hollywood has often been rightly blamed for corrupting national morals, it’s more accurate to say that it was actually rushing to get out in front of whatever trend it had spotted among the youth market and to desperately claim ownership of it. Underneath the calculatedly transgressive image is a basically conservative industry, which, but for its drugs and its eagerness to gamble on trends, would be far more staid than it is.

The old moguls whose names are still attached to a number of the studios were not creative men; they were businessmen in a business they did not properly know how to control. Instead they bet on talent, often hoping that bringing together celebrated foreign directors, actors and actresses from their stable and lowly writers, would give them a hit. Sometimes it worked, sometimes it didn’t. At its best, stories ended up being told that helped define an era. American stories that spoke to people.

That era is mostly gone. While Hollywood was always fairly liberal, as the theater tends to be, liberals had not yet cut their ties with the country. They did not live so fundamentally differently that they were unable to make compelling stories that spoke to them and to their audiences. But it is hard to make movies for a people from another culture. The movies that speak to liberals translate badly to ordinary Americans.

It isn’t only a matter of politics; it comes down to culture. With the recession, the industry has tossed out a number of movies that have people dealing with economic troubles. Almost all of them have failed badly. The latest entry, Wanderlust, has already bombed on its opening. To understand why you need only consider the premise, which is that an upscale Manhattan couple lose their jobs and move to a commune. No one outside Hollywood or Manhattan really needed to be told why this premise would play badly in a country that has fallen on hard times.

The easiest way to bypass the culture clash is to turn out action movies that are all sound and fury. The blockbuster has evolved or devolved into a special effects spectacle with completely disposable characters and, increasingly, even actors. It is a form of entertainment that can be enjoyed even without the ability to understand a single word. Which makes it a portable commodity that can play anywhere from Beijing to Bahrain to Boston.

Hollywood can no longer communicate with audiences, but when it spends enough money or comes up with a clever enough gimmick, it can still briefly dazzle them. But the entertainment being created is completely disposable and forgettable. Cinematic amusement park rides can bring big paydays or big losses, but they don’t build loyalty or any meaningful associations. The experiences that earlier generations had in movie theaters cannot be reproduced, because the culture on both sides of the screen has changed.

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  • DeShawn

    If you folks got a problem with Hollywood, why don't you talk to the damn JEWS that run it:

    That's right. You people pollute the media with your talmudic crap and poison the minds of children, especially black youth, with ideas of materialism and ghetto culture. Yep, jews destroying yet another country, but hopefully you'll get kicked out for 109 countries total.

    • HermitLion

      Nothing like a good old raving anti-semitic lunatic to open the comments section.

      Forgot to take the blue pills today, have you?

    • TG

      Are you blaming them for the welfare state also, DS? The government has done more to destroy blacks than anything the entertainment industry has.

    • UCSPanther

      I hear banjos…

    • ASG

      That is right DeShawn, we Jews run everything, and we are now going to be watching you very closely. One wrong move and we will throw you in prison on false charges.

      We know where you live……. BOO!

    • Ghostwriter

      Great,DeShawn dispensing more anti-semitic garbage. Not terribly surprising.

  • Zionista

    another unemployed, pathetic and VERY jealous Jew hater foaming at the mouth from his mommy's basement

    • KarshiKhanabad

      I'm not Jewish but I wish that the Jews really did control Hollywood and absolutely inundated America with movies that were pro-Jewish, pro-Israel, pro-Torah, pro-traditional Jewish family values, pro-everything Jewish that teaches, uplifts, and inspires. Three-quarters of the Christian Bible consists of the Hebrew scriptures, for goodness sake. Jewish teachings affirm the worth of the individual and the equality of all humans in the sight of G-d. We need more Jewish influence in America, not less.

      • Ghostwriter

        The majority of Jewish Americans are loyal,patriotic citizens. People like DeShawn will never learn that. I agree with this post.

      • Jim_C

        Well, the so-called "Hollywood Jews," liberal though most are, are an important part of the pro-Israel lobby (such as it is), as well as being an important–I'd say integral–part of American culture-making. It's just how history has gone down; show business was an industry open to Jews at a time when many other industries weren't.

        Spielberg did make a pretty good recent film, Munich, that was pro-Israel.

        But…he's Steven Spielberg. If he wants to make a movie about bunnies eating grass, he'll make one! The main thing people here are missing: Hollywood makes what it believes the market wants. Seriously–look at the box office returns of any recent year.

        I'm a big fan of the history of the American Revolution. I wish there were more films about that era because it's one of the most singular eras in history. But it's a well-known truism in Hollywood that that era is essentially box-office poison. It takes Mel Gibson rewriting Braveheart (The Patriot) to get a movie that (sort-of) works–even though it's not really "historic."

        But HBO makes a series, John Adams, that's excellent in every regard, and fairly successful. If it had to be cut to two hours and shown in theaters, no one would have seen it.

      • john gerard

        Let’s see a movie about the 160 Jewish Nobel prize winners and their incredible contribution to the workd. In the interests of balance, we could follow it with a short about Sadat winning the Nobel Peace Prize for NOT killing any Jews that year.

    • Snow White

      Not so fast. It was a Jew, Michael Eisner, who transformed Walt Disney's production from child and family oriented productions to Xrated dirty movies. Almost immediately after Eisner took over, I got a call from my cable TV Co. asking if I wanted to subscribe to the new Disney Adult Movie channel. But not all of Hollywood's problems are caused by Jews. Ted Turner, you know, the Ted turner who was married briefly to Hanoi Jane Fonda,and has supported left wing causes with his millions and foundations, bought up several of the big studios. Today's entertainment, like today's education system, has been dumbed down to the lowest common denominator. Both are hung up in the oral-anal stages.

  • Isherwood

    Most interesting piece on FP for a long time. I think technology is the more likely culprit than the decline of the family in diffusing Hollywood's impact on society. Also, the competing cultural industries in other countries are bound to get stronger. The demise of the historical meta narratives of both the left and the right has led to greater segmentation of the markets that consume culture. And yet, there has never been a screen actor to match Meryl Streep, indicating that the art of film continues to improve. Hollywood still follows the market, which has become more complex.

  • sedoanman

    We are in a social climate much like we were in the '70s before "Star Wars" broke onto the scene. People were tired of movies with a social message and longed for those that celebrated beauty, truth, justice, and the American way.

    • sharpsrifle

      And what did we get after "Star Wars"? "Porky's."

      Hollywood hasn't made a decent movie since "The Cowboys."

    • Snow White

      Wrong! We are in the social climate similar to Germany during the early 1930's when Hitler took over. Read Hitler's speeches. They have been translated into English. In most of them he sounds like he is describing the USA today. Hitler blamed the Jews for the decline in morals in Germany, and the mass burning of books started out as the burning of pornographic books written by Jews which got out of hand, resulting in burning of all books written by Jews, encluding Einstein. I read Hitler's speeches because I wanted to understand why the German people loved him so much that they followed him to the gates of hell. I think I understand why, and if a demigod with Hitler's charisma should appear on the scene today I suspect the majority of the American people would follow him just as the Germans followed Hitler.

  • tagalog

    Hollywood treats Americans like foreigners because Hollywood movies are made with the foreign market primarily in mind, since the foreign market provides the lion's share of the profits of Hollywood movies. Why wouldn't Hollywood make anti-American movies, or movies that ignore American values? Americans don't provide enough to the bottom line to justify pro-American movies.

    • Jim_C

      That would make sense only if there were significant differences between what foreign and domestic audiences buy. Are "American values" as shown in movies really that significantly different from those in England, Taiwan, the Philippines? Do they somehow not like heroes defeating villains? People taking care of their families? I mean, what are we even talking about?

      And really, how pro-American do you need your films to be, and what would that entail? A few more shots of Old Glory waving in the breeze? A primer on the Constitution? Come on.

      The movies have always been escapist, first and foremost. If there were indeed an American audience for more patriotic films, Hollywood would be cranking them out. It's a market-driven business: even domestic box office receipts show year after year Hollywood makes the films it thinks audiences want.

    • Secular Jew

      You are quite right about this. Both Hollywood and the television networks are more interested in selling their wares to foreign markets than to Americans.. When it comes to television the commercials come before the other 'products'. Globalism is the name of the game.

      • boredwithhollywood

        I'd just interject, that the internationalist streak runs deep in Hollywood, so making movies with premises that mesh with the Euro markets, isnt contradictory or abrasive to their world view, either.

    • Questions

      Why don't you see more movies and you'll see how foolish this sounds?

      • Amused

        They can't see when they're blinded with their own ideology .Fools cant smell their own shiiit let alone see their folly .

        • Maxie

          A self-diagnosis?

    • boredwithhollywood

      Nothing screams American values like Metachlorians determining ones human potential?
      Kidn… that was much later.
      But yeah, theres some truth to that. Star Wars created/revived a genre in full force, much like how other products revolutionize an industry ( iPhone, Mp3 technology, HD, etc)

      • santababy

        I bored too. The problem I see with Hollywood productions now is that the technology has special effects looking like everything is a cartoon….like Avatar for instance. I saw all the cartoons I wanted to see growing up and can watch good ones with my grandchildren now. Why would I want to see movies that has nothing but violence, X-rated porn, not social redeeming values in the least, and absolutely nothing entertaining, yet all in cartoon form? If it tells a good story, the cinematography is good, and the acting is good then people will come. Happy endings don't hurt either.

  • Jim_C

    Ah, no, though I appreciate the article.

    The fact that you can stream movies to your big beautiful widescreen TV, and that some cable shows offer a product equal and sometimes superior to the cinema has much more to do with Hollywood's lack of box office success than its "values." Decent and apolitical family films like "Hugo" and "Tin Tin" were made very well; despite their universal appeal their box office was not especially great. What did well? Harry Potter (deserved) and Twilight (total dreck)–both popular books, both franchises (as were 7 of the top 10 films).

    So you see Hollywood is indeed giving the people what they want.

    Here's the REAL reason: There's a way huger pool of competition for your entertainment buck in an era of computers, cable, and Netflix and satellite, then there was even 15 years ago. The market is far more varied. Botton line: Do I spring for a babysitter so I can get out to buy a $15 popcorn and watch teenagers texting in front of me, or do I stay home, click play, and enjoy the 55 inch widescreen?

  • Sparrowhawk

    I used to love going to movie theaters, especially the “revival houses” that once dotted New York City, which showed mostly films produced before 1965. They were the classrooms of my film education. But I have gone to movie houses less and less over the years simply because over time movies have been dumbed down to appeal to people with short attention spans and arrested epistemologies. Most movie-goers now expect to be flattened by special effects and sound volume and perhaps some titillating exposed skin and foul language, and those things appear to be their sole criteria of what is “good.” Me? Give me Irene Dunne and Charles Boyer in “Love Affair,” or Ralph Richardson in “The Four Feathers,” or Charles Laughton in “The Big Clock.” Among other older films. Nothing made in the last 20 years can hold a candle to them. Today, the liberal, anti-American character of Hollywood can no longer be disguised, because the Hollywood liberals have even lost that talent. American movie-goers aren’t the only ones who have been dumbed down. Hollywood doesn’t expect much from its producers, directors, and casts, either.

    • Questions

      Actually, I've seen literall ythousands of old movies. Good as some of them were, none of them can hold a candle to the best movies of today. In terms of acting, scripts, cinematography, and most of all, range, today's films ahve it all over the older ones.

  • joy52

    I'm tired of not watching movies about subjects only the Left thinks is interesting and then not watching the Oscars be awarded to those same movies. Plus, going to a movie, if there was something good to see, is too expensive–tickets to snacks. I'm willing to wait for it to come out in a home viewable form, and even then there are only a few worth watching.

  • MethanP

    If Karzai appoligized, it would show weakness. In his culture it's a mistake you don't survive to make twice. Hence his ungrateful statement that he would support Pakistan if the USA went to war with the Pakis. He was showing percieved strength in his culture.

  • Questions

    Greenfield's review regurgitates every cliche he learned from Michael Medved 101. Hollywood remains a fount of great creativity, and not just because of special effects. That's why it takes in so much money from DVDs, TV and Web downloads as well as box office, domestic and foreign. The poeple do respond.

    Until we conservatives rid ourselves of this by-now standard-issue narrative of "Hollywood vs. America," I fear we will continue to be objects of derision by most everyone else.

    • ASG

      When the "Best Movie" is a silent film in 2012, something has gone seriously wrong. When most people have never even heard of the winning movie, time to change your business model or investigate what qualifies as "Best".

    • Lfox328

      I disagree. The movies make GROSS profits; that number represents the worldwide distribution, the extreme cost of the tickets, and the multiple streams of income.

      Because they cost too much to make, too many films finish at a NET loss. Funny thing, the G- and PG-rated films WAY outearn the others. The more traditional the message, the better they perform. So, the "edgy" films fizzle out, and the "corny" films do well.

      I can't stand watching in theaters any more – the use of cellphones, the talking, the general disrespect for others in the theaters – all contribute to my dislike of the experience. I don't mind waiting for the release of the lesser-priced DVD – I haven't paid above $5 for many years.

      It's not just the message of the films, though, it's the smarmy condescending from the actors that gets me. I truly resent those poorly educated attention tarts accusing me of being an ignorant rube, just because I disagree with them.

    • Snow White

      First..I am a mother. therefore I know what people's body parts look like. I don't need to see every body's body parts to get the message. Todays great movies start out with a scene where some nympho jumps up on a man, rips his clothes off and he bangs her against the wall, on a table, or wherever there is a flat surface. Nudity and overt explicit sex scenes have ingrained into the American public's mind that such behavior is expected of normal women. Ergo…we have grammar school gilrs who are doing oral sex. What kind of sickos is it that would spend time and money producing this trash? What kind of parents woudl let their children see it?

  • MethanP

    A great article. I disagree on your final point. When moviemakers do on occasion make movies that express mainstream values, they do well at the box office and, as I was reminded with the "Lion King" last night, can be watched again and again. Oscar asked several celebreties what makes a great movie. These full of themselves types gave a number of mindless answers. A great movie is one you watch again and again with the same enjoyment as the first time. I enjoyed "The Hurt Locker". I wouldn't want to see it again. I watch "The Wizard of Oz" every year. I'm in my 60's. Thats a "Great" movie.

    • Jim_C

      Sure, but you know, most men know Goodfellas and the Godfather Parts I & II by heart. They're not exactly "values" pictures, but they are great films that stand the test of time.

  • ASG

    I actually went to the movies last Friday for the first time in over 6 years. I saw Act of Valor because I couldn't wait for it to be available at Redbox. And I got my money's worth this time for sure. Those SEALs were fantastic. I did however hear one guy on the way out bemoan the fact hat they didn't get someone like Matt Damon to play one of the leads. Obviously the reason was that the SEALs love the USA and were willing to die for it. I don't think anyone would buy Matt Damon even liking the USA let alone die for it.

    All and all, best war movie I have ever seen.

    • Mick60

      ASG, right on spot.
      My wife and I went to see Act of Valor yesterday afternoon (Sunday) ONLY because neither Matt Damon nor Charlie Sheen were 'playing the part' of a Navy SEAL which, on the face of it is ridiculous, anyway. Damon and Sheen complain about America, its values, and bemoan the 2nd Amendment and everything having to do with guns but, then take a break to make a movie about 'good guys vs bad guys who use guns', finish the movie and return to bitching about 'too many guns' etc and ad nauseum. My wife and I went out to eat BEFORE we got to the theatre so, no, we didn't buy their outrageous snacks.

      I applaud the Bandito Brothers for successfully pulling this off and getting Hollywood to scratch their heads.

  • mrbean

    I see matronly Meryl Streep got the oscar for her blasphemous performance descrating the memory of Baroness Margaret Thatcher. If they ever make a movie of Hillary Clinton, it should show here as a bipolar b*&tch screeching obscenities surrounded by her castrati being ordered about – and f*&king up everything she touches throughout her whole miserable life. That would be accurate.

  • Amused

    LOL….more STRAWMEN , more REDMEAT for the Pavlovian Bots .And they suck it up without taking a breath . What a bunch of self righteous sanctimonious hypocrites ! LOL…I wonder how many subcribers to Net-flix , HBO ,Showtime , TMC ……man you folks take the cake .
    Well I see no other alternative for you puritan purists , you paradigms of "morality " , than to burn your blue-rays and take a hammer to your flat-screens .
    If Psychologists assigned HYPOCRISY as a disease , they could find a complete case study right here on FPM , they need not go any further .
    LOLOLOL……/with Mr.Bean as your spokesman .

  • Amused

    Lesson for you kiddies today :

    Movies are entertainment , they are a form of amusement , and that word amusement is taken from the Greek root- muse , meaning / not to think . [go have a party with that -on me ]
    But on the other side of it all , I am quite amused with the sentiments expressed here , they are the epitomy of hypocrisy , banality , pettiness , and have long ago reached the heights of the ridiculous. The alleged "authors " here have learned to push your buttons , and well they should , their delusion is your contagion. Given your toatally acid and vindictive attitudes , I should fully expect , after you have zealously destroyed all of your media equiptment , to immerse yourselves in a regimen consisting only of book reading books , that too no doubt restricted to Coulter and Horowitz .
    Get a LIFE ! Hollywood will still be around long after they put your sorry assses in a pine box , the best movies in the World are made there , they are preferred in foreign countries as well as here .And I can gurantee that each and every one of all the "moral watchdogs " will one way or the other , patronize Hollywood , tonight and the night after .

  • Amused

    …BTW , the author should cease from anymore lame attempts to presume what people feel about Hollywood , nor to ASSume that Hollywood is "panicked " ….Nielson ratings were up 4% from last years Academy Awards .And here's a newsflash ! Hollywood had nothing to do with the Wall Street crash , nor the bursting of the real estate bubble .

  • waterwillows

    Perhaps it is the 'sameness' of Hollywood that has become so boring. They even seem to manage somehow looking the same in make up, hair styles and dress codes.

    If you have outrageous, then a whole group is outrageous. If you have sleazy, then a whole group is sleazy. If one is attending AA, a whole group is attending AA. Everyone trys to do exactly what everyone else is doing.
    They look the same, talk the same, dress the same and bore everyone to death with the never ending sameness.

    They spout the same lefty ideals and vote the same lefty politicians. They spend enormous time awarding each other for something pretty much the same as the other awards given for something or other.

    I think they are just plain super boring. We need individuals, not factory manufactured puppets.

  • Amused

    It's the same as always , Rule # 1 -make a good movie, enough people pay to see it and it's a blockbuster . People can attempt attaching a philisophical spin all they want . And it matters not , whether a ridiculous position by a critic , or the drivel that follows as is found here .If you dont like a movie , you dont go / if you dont like a tv show , you dont watch it .You dont go pontificating and foisting your own idea of morals on the rest of the population ,who can choose for themselves .All you "free market [so-called ] conservative capitalists, for all your whining , why dont you try practicing what you preach , THE MARKET WILL DICTATE WHAT IS A GOOD MOVIE AND WHAT IS NOT . BTW , I can sight just as many "rightie movies " but who in the hell cares . Man WHAT ANAL RETENTIVE HYPOCRITES !

    • santababy52

      If the market dictates what a good movie is then why is the movie industry in its worst financial season in 15 years? The market dictates it alright. The proof is always "follow the money".

      • Jim_C

        The market is crowded with competitive product. In the "old days" everyone seems to lament, you had one chance to see a movie while it was in theaters. Maybe it would be re-broadcast on TV, in which case, you had to be parked there at that date and time. Now, this did have it's charm, because you'd invest that experience with a certain amount of importance: "I've seen Star Wars 4 times, but my cousin has seen it 8 times!"

        Then, along came video rentals. But these were still low-quality experiences compared to the cinema.

        Now, we have awesome widescreens in which we can watch high-definition shows and films, even with surround sound if you want. And it's all priced within everyone's reach. The quality itself is actually comparable, even though the experience is less special because gratification is instant. So "the money" stays home and chooses from 80 years worth of entertainment offerings.

  • Amused

    Yea follow the money right to video pirating , netflix , video sales , computer/internet videos etc . Just plain not so good movies . There are probably a dozen more reasons , NONE of which are the ludicrous asssertions found in the article or the narrowminded sentiments found in most of the mindless posts on this thread .

  • Ghostwriter

    Personally,I think that Hollywood is capable of making good movies. Unfortunately,they've let their ideology and the special effects take over. I think they should ATTEMPT to appeal to American audiences. That might help them out a lot more than what's going on now.

  • 1689

    It's a most depraved orgy in the city of Soddom/Gomorrah/Hollywood — of vampires, zombies, ghouls in all black (matching the souls of the actors and directors), scowls, grimmaces, posturing egos, pre-marital sex, adultry, glamorized violence, decapitations, head-shots, gays, lesbians, in-the-closet gay actors playing characters you're supposed to like so you sympathize with their political cause when the come out, foul-mouthed, cursing, pot-smoking preached to 12 year olds. But we can't have the Bible read in schools! Love Thy Neighbor? The Ten Commandments? Close your kid's ears. Love thy Enemy? Save the children! Render unto Caesar that which is Caesar's and unto God that which is God's? Spare their tender ears, close their eyes! They might learn the Biblical basis for freedom of conscience (and limited government)! Send the to a Friday 13th Movie instead.

  • Amused

    Oh BULLSHHEEET !Go buy yourself a soap box , and make sure there's enough room on it for YOU AND Greenfield .

  • Jim_C

    Well, fair enough. But those types of characters have been "bad guys" forever, and in books before movies. The rancher who's buying up the town, the mercenary, the rogue ship captain, the wealthy industrialist. I've heard Brits complain about how bad guys always have British accents. Italian-Americans gripe about those stereotypes. I kind of put it in a compartment of "Another movie about the thief who's doing 'one last job,' or the cop who' on his last week of work?"

    But I do sense what you mean, esp. when you get into current-day political stuff. I think Hollywood has sort of dropped the ball when it comes to the Middle East. A little bit of good stuff, a lot of well, predictable (which is where "preachy" comes in).

    On one hand, it's just too easy–the wealthy industrialist bad guy, the rogue agent. On the other hand, I guess it rings more true these days than, I don't know–a marxist radical or whatever a leftist villain would be. Just because it's usually where the power is.

    You make a great point: true art does challenge–and it should not preach (it should let you choose a side).