What Has Happened to US Movies?
By Staff News & Analysis - September 14, 2010

The Worst Movie Year Ever? … Coming soon to a theater near you: absolutely nothing you want to see. Why Hollywood keeps trying to sell us on pointless sequels, lame remakes and the stardom of Shia LaBeouf … In the new movie "Inception," Leonardo DiCaprio burrows deep into the subconscious of a self-absorbed plutocrat to plant a powerful idea that will change the world. If the technology used in "Inception" were available in real life, Mr. DiCaprio might burrow into the subconscious of Hollywood plutocrats and plant these paradigm-altering ideas: Stop making movies like "Grown Ups," "Sex and the City 2," "Prince of Persia" and anything that positions Jennifer Aniston or John C. Reilly at the top of the marquee. Stop trying to pass off Shia LaBeouf — who looks a bit like the young George W. Bush — as the second coming of Tom Cruise. Stop casting Gerard Butler in roles where he is called upon to emote. And if "Legion" and "Edge of Darkness" and "The Back-up Plan" and "Hot Tub Time Machine" are the best you can do, stop making movies, period. Humanity will thank you for it. – Wall Street Journal

Dominant Social Theme: Enough already! Hollywood needs to rediscover its magic.

Free-Market Analysis: Satirist Joe Queenan is in great form in this article excerpted above and featured recently by the Wall Street Journal. Not only has it set the blogosphere abuzz, but we think it captures neatly an unspoken trend, which is that the movie fare that Hollywood produces is getting worse and worse. This is not really a dominant social theme from our point of view so much as an observation about the difficulty that the Anglo-American power-elite is having in cobbling together a believable societal narrative in the 21st century.

Of course, this is one of the points we make here regularly at the Bell – that the elite is struggling with issues of believability and credibility. The fear-based promotions that served it so well in the 20th century are fizzling in the 21st in our view. Of course, to believe this, one has to accept that there is an operative elite and that it uses various kinds of dramatic performances to purvey its message in an attempt to increase dominance and control. We accept that, and perhaps you do too, if you are perusing this blog.

We find Queenan's rant is echoed by another article that has received much attention of late, written by cultural commentator and neo-feminist Camille Paglia, entitled "Lady Gaga and the Death of Sex," which appeared in the Sunday Times magazine. Paglia's point is that Lady Gaga is an entirely made-up entity and that as a corporate construct, she lacks sincerity and credibility. Here's some more from the article:

What we find in Gaga is a disturbing trend towards mutilation and death … Gaga is in way over her head with her avant-garde pretensions… She wants to have it both ways – to be hip and avant-garde and yet popular and universal, a practitioner of gung-ho "show biz". Most of her worshippers seem to have had little or no contact with such powerful performers as Tina Turner or Janis Joplin, with their huge personalities and deep wells of passion. Generation Gaga doesn't identify with powerful vocal styles because their own voices have atrophied: they communicate mutely via a constant stream of atomised, telegraphic text messages. Gaga's flat affect doesn't bother them because they're not attuned to facial expressions.

We confess we don't often find Paglia that compelling and her attempts at making Madonna into a virtuous and "authentic" voice – as opposed to Gaga – come across in our view as a bit jejeune. Pop music does have a level of sincerity and rawness that is attractive to its listeners, but that sincerity tends to travel in spurts (see the '60s, rap music, etc.)

But problems aside, the elite seems intent on continuing its recent heavy-handed efforts as regards modern Western (American) entertainment, especially pop music. There is little attempt made at disguising the powerful hand pulling the strings of a Lady Gaga or the musical impresario Jay-Z who regularly uses Illuminati signs and symbolism in interviews and on stage. The videos of Lady Gaga are startling for their use of Illuminati communications.

Young Gaga offers herself as a template of creative destruction. Her videos show her as a puppet, sometimes a collapsed one with its strings cut, while trains rumble past in the background headed toward death camps. Her name, her lyrics and the symbolism of her videos are all entirely manufactured in our view – but manufactured with sophistication and power.

Bob Dylan's evolution is comprehensible because he updated folk music and infused it with the catchiness of rock and roll. But Lady Gaga is not comprehensible. She claims to have built on Madonna's "vision," but what young person in their right mind decides to make music based on Illuminati symbolism? There is no precedent for it, no "Illuminati movement" as there was a credible youth movement in the 1960s.

Gaga is meant quite obviously to be a metaphor for a larger societal shift toward a more authoritarian and global sociopolitical environment. What is interesting to us is that this manufactured vision has been more successful so far in pop music than in the movies. As Queenan observes, American movies are in a slump. We would tend to believe this is because there is no narrative currently being expressed that people can hold onto.

Some generalizations (admittedly) … In the 1940s and 1950s, Americans believed they'd saved the world by defeating Germany. In the 1960s and 1970s, American movies tended to emphasize the avant garde and youth movement. In the 1980s and 1990, extravagant science fiction and action movies provided entertainment to a confident culture that believed in its prosperity. But the 2000s have not offered similar, persuasive themes. There are authoritarian memes, as always, but they are not being offered persuasively, in our view, or well. They are not especially compelling. The mind control is not persuasive. The problems Queenan notices are not restricted to a single year.

The Hollywood of the 21st century is a mess from a messaging standpoint in our opinion. The power elite is certainly up to something with pop music, but authoritarian nihilism likely does not translate well to the big screen. In fact, we would argue that Lady Gaga especially will not be able to sustain the popularity of her vision if it continues to be offered with such uninhibited darkness. It is also interesting that her persona and interviews are entirely antithetical to her work. She speaks of being a role model and offering hope and love to her millions of fans but her music and videos and relentlessly authoritarian, militaristic, sexually exploitative and violent.

From our point of view the power elite is evidently and obviously engaged in an effort to create the rudiments of an effective world government (see other story, this issue). The emergence of Lady Gaga and other pop musicians is supposed to serve as a not-so-subliminal reinforcement of the elite's larger goals. But this vision has not translated to the Big Screen; we question how long it can sustain itself within the context of popular music.

After Thoughts

It is most difficult to frame an authoritarian message in a pop culture environment, if that's what is going on. In fact, this effort is likely to prove as problematic as the promotions of fear-based memes within larger cultural contexts (via mainstream media, think tanks, etc.). In the future, we are optimistic about an explosion of creativity on the Internet itself, via video and written fiction, as well as music. Much of it may be freedom based, or at least not include what are evidently and obviously illuminati images.