Life the movie- how entertainment conquered reality by Neal Gabler

 

Introduction

 

Daniel Boorstin noted the application of techniques of theater to politics, religion, education, literature, commerce, warfare, crime, everything has converted them into branches a show business, with the overriding objective is getting and satisfying an audience.

, of real-life episodes or more satisfying more exciting than fiction.

 

We escaped from life by escaping into the neat narrative formulas in which most entertainment  are packaged.  Unfortunately, at the into the film one has to leave the leader and re-enter the maelstrom of real-life.

Once we sat in movie theaters dreaming of stardom.  Now we live in a movie dreaming of celebrity.

 

                        Chapter 1-the republic of entertainment

 

One what is entertainment?

 

For the custodians of culture, art was sublime.  It redirected one's vision from the sensual to the intellectual and, from the temporal to the journal, from the bodily to the spiritual, all of which made art a matter not only a matter of aesthetics but of morality as well because its effect was to encourage one's better self.

 

Moreover, while the was a tenet of culture that are demanded effort to appreciate it, specifically intellectual effort, entertainment seemed to make no demands whatsoever.  It was passive response rewarded by fun.

 

Entertainment not religion, that was the real opiate of the masses.

 

Fun machine, thrill ride, joy ride, wildest movie ride, roller coaster are cliched superlatives for movies.

 

Art spoke to individuals, entertainment deals with its audience as IMAX, as set of statistics.  It is directed at the largest number of people possible.

 

"Fun" is a recent word.  No other language has an exact equivalent to the English meaning.  At the highest levels of culture it was taken for granted the good things were serious things.

 

Jose Ortega y Gasset wrote "the characteristic note of our time is the dire truth that the mediocre sole, the commonplace mind, knowing it self to be mediocre, has the gall to assert its right to mediocrity, and goes on to impose itself where it can."

 

Two the American question

 

Throughout Europe, organized religion raised vigorous opposition to amusements.  But religion did not act alone.  It was reinforced by secular cultural establishment.  Europe's new middle class aspired upward to distinguish themselves.

 

By one estimate, only one out of 7 Americans belonging to a church in 1850, up from one out of 15 at half century earlier.  Religion was weak.  America had no state religion.  Rather it had dozens of denominations from which one was free to choose, and even within eight denominations America's own very active sense of democracy made church authority far less dictatorial and far more tolerant than elsewhere.

 

Many religious practices may have been devoted to controlling one's passion and subordinating it to reason.  The Evangelical believed in releasing it.

Where once sermons had been marked by their stern theological rigor, one was now more likely to hear stories, humorous anecdotes and colloquial asides.

A great preacher was one who could hold an audience rapt.  Those who did became stars.

 

In Europe rebellions were trying to get the middle class to join the aristocracy, not destroy them.  In America aristocrats were thought by ordinary citizens to constitute a fifth column that undermined democracy.

 

In the 1828 presidential election campaign a slogan was "John Quincy Adams who can write/ And Andrew Jackson who can fight.

When the fight your beat the writer, the symbolism was clear that a new order was being birthed.

"The coarsest way "was right.

 

Literacy among American people was high then.  The circulation of newspapers was to increase 400 percent between 1870 and 1900.  Most ordinary citizens were familiar with opera and Shakespeare.

 

3 warfare

by the 1830s intra theater segregation was beginning to give way to inter theater segregation.  Rather than each class having its own part of the theater.  Each class had its own theater.  The astor place opera house in New York City was created for the super bridge.  Poor people from the Broadway theater started a riot.

 

The debased entertainment of the poor justified class divisions in the minds of the rich.

 

Meanwhile, the middle class created a water down overdone version of high culture.  Light opera sentimental melodrama.

 

4 the ultimate weapon

though not as snobby as the elite, middle-class reformers were just as strident as elites in condemning unsanitized working-class entertainments.  But they did not think entertainment was beyond redemption.  Perhaps entertainment in the right hands could be a vehicle to brain good values to the lower classes.

The middle class had taken over as cultural arbiters from the elites.  By between 1870 and 1900 11 million immigrants came.  Entertainment was helped by electricity.  Moreover, entertainment was helped by higher wages and shorter hours.  Non farm wages went up 50 percent between 1870 and 1900.  Between 1890 and 1910 the average workweek dropped by 3 1/2 hours.

 

After work factory workers wanted to have a good time and declaring their independence.

 

When film arrived it was free of European traditions.  Poor people went to them and the high class went to the theater.

Even today the fact that one heat popcorn at the movies and would never do so at the ballet shows a demarcation between low and high culture.

 

Transformation seemed to be what the new culture was all about including the ability to transform oneself into one's dreams.  Reality for the first time seemed to be truly malleable.

 

                         CH 2 - The two dimensional society

during the last half of the 19th century there was a" graphic" Revolution.  The quality of graphics available to people and quantity soared.  Photographs, photographs in newspapers.

 

It was significant morally because it exchanged aspiration for gratification.

 

The written word requires classifying, inference making and reasoning.  Until the end of the 19th century America was a print based society.  Logic order and context prevailed.

TV abhors dead air.  It wants to keep us stimulated.  Graphics don't require logic.

 

What made entertainment a cosmology was the expectation of fun.

 

2 the first invasion

prior to the 1830s most American newspapers weren't newspapers at all.  They were party broad sheets largely devoted to advertisements and partisan editorializing.  News requires less thought then editorials.

 

Any papers were the first to acknowledge the importance of everyday life and promote "human interest stories" from its inception the penny press weekend specializing in crime, with an emphasis on murder.

 

The elites did not succeed in suppressing them.

 

There was a conscious effort to make newspapers more like penny sheets.  Pulitzer was digging and that's.  He introduced the right hand lead in the far right column, created the multi column headlines, the color headlines, comic strips and cartoons all of which he compared to a department store window beckoning customers.

Pulitzer made the newspaper not only an entertainment medium but a visual entertainment.

 

Whereas Pulitzer used actual events, Hearst treated news as rock material for his imagination.  Hearst tried to make reporters stars. 

 

The yellow press had arrived at virtually the same time as the movies and found themselves in competition with them.  He worked hand in hand with movies in presenting the Spanish American war.

 

America was becoming a two-dimensional society in which the news, like the movies, was now measured in images.  And news stories and fiction stories started to blur.

 

Hearst started covering trials.  One was said to seem like it was staged by and for the media.  Though witnesses seemed to realize they were actors in a media show.

 

Three - The next Evolutionary phase

there was a time when the reader of an unexciting newspaper would remark "how dull the world is today".  Nowadays he says "what a dull newspaper"

 

Television had the benefit of being able to broadcast events as they happen.

Television not only made news out of anything that had the rudiments of entertainment, it also made entertainment out of anything that had the rudiments of news.

 

The gulf war was the first four introduced by any theme song.  Each night CBS had "showdown in the gulf"

 

Tabloid had been any working-class organ scorned by the middle class.  But television news arrived without the stigma of the tabloids.  As a result it was able to present the same scandal is stories as the tabloids while absolving the middle class audience of any guilt for watching them.

This made television not only the fullest realization of sensational tabloid entertainment, but its Trojan horse as well.

 

                        CHapter 3 - The secondary effect

 

1 the mobious world

"psuedo event" describes events that have been concocted by public relations practitioners to get attention from the press.  Movie premieres, publishing parties, press conferences, ballooning crossings, sponsored sporting contest, award ceremonies, demonstrations and hunger strikes.

 

Kennedy's father had once owned the rko studios.

 

Norman Mailer, with Kennedy in mind in 1960 prophesied that "America's politics would now be also America's favorite movie."

 

The average length of an uninterrupted sound bite declined from 42.3 seconds in 1968 to 9.8 seconds by 1988, with none in the latter election exceeding a minute.

Everything at a president did was seen not in terms of its effect on the public, which was boring, but in terms of its effect on his candidacy.  This gave government drama.

 

Medical advance was covered with speculation about Nobel prizes, not for themselves.

 

Voters are basically lazy, basically uninterested in making and effort to understand what were talking about "sedate Nixon speech writer "reason pushes the viewer back, it assaults him, it demands that he agree or disagree; impression can and envelop him, invite him in, without making and intellectual demand."

 

The media in 1988 weren't really covering politics at all.  They were covering themselves covering politics.

 

2 entertainer in chief

Roosevelt was a great performer.  But for Roosevelt the performance was always a function of the presidency, a means of selling his policy.

For Reagan the presidency was a function out of the performance.  He was selling good feelings.

Reagan was good at this because it involved Hollywood conventions: escapism.

Reagan was the first president to see politics not as a means of addressing problems but as a way of distracting the public from them.

 

Before Reagan when one spoke of a president's performance and office, one that meant the efficaciousness of his policies.

 

J. Leno once described politics as show business for ugly people

 

3 macguffins

Disney maybe a film about the mighty ducks.  Then they made the team.

 

If sports didn't have a difficult time transforming itself into entertainment, neither did religion.

Pat Robertson's 700 club was modeled on the tonight show.

 

Perhaps the most difficult adjustments to the imperatives of entertainment were those undergone by the arts. 

the content of a book became unimportant.  What mattered was its caliber should ambush the customer.  The book of the month club doesn't exist to promote literature, it sells books.

Like a movie books needed controversy or a frenzy around them or "excitement about the excitement"

 

As in the Olympics, the character of the author could advertise his product.

 

Huge advance sums or movie stars sell books well.

 

4 Art for entertainment's sake

For Warhol art wasn't a celebration of God's handiwork, as it was for so many 19th century painters, and it wasn't an expression of the artist's sensibility, as it was for most 20th century painters. Art came from the cultures general sensibility.

 

Warhol realized the most important art movement was celebrity.  The visual art was means to celebrity.

 

Education as entertainment brought us seasame street.  College professors would be entertainers too.

 

News as thwacking one another with insults like the McGlaughlin group and crossfire.

Intellectuals on TV with soundbites.

 

Inetellectuals already had a pecking order.  Paglia was the proto type academic self-promoter.

 

                        CHapter four  The Human ENtertainment

 

one - fifteen minutes of anonymity

 

The word "celebrity" was once rarely used in print.  Famous for successful were used.

 

Traditionally phase had been tied, however loosely, to ability or accomplishment or office.  Celebrity, on the other hand, seemed less a function of what one did than of how one was perceived.

"The celebrity is a person who is known for his well-knownness."

 

A byproduct of this process was that the movie star as personality superseded the movie star has performer.  Then they became known as entertainment in and of themselves, with out reference to their performance.

 

By the 1980's nearly every general interest magazine had a celebrity on the cover and story after story about them on the inside.  In 1974 people magazine was launched.

 

If celebrity was the highest state to which a human being could aspire, hot was the highest state of celebrity.

 

For Barbara Walters, celebrity was serious reportage.

 

News made celebrities.  Joey Buttafucco.

 

2 The zsa zsa factor

Zsa Zsa wasn't an actress, she was famous for being famous. 

Elizabeth Taylor used her never stable love life for publicity.

Stars revealing their trauma became famous.  Some horrible revelation was virtually a prerequisite to four celebrity.

Madonna Reinventing herself by endless scandal.

 

3 celebrity witha thousand faces

movies were no longer entertainment, lifies now provided community as well from shared gossip and trivia about celebrity's.  We love to judge and part in our celebrities.

 

We also learned how to phase adversities from our celebrities.  We identify with them.

 

Joseph Campbell has written about the power of heroes.  They go through trials and bringing back powers and redemption to us.

 

Our celebrities are now like deities.  Maryln Monroe embodies the beauty cap.

 

We buy things they have touched as if they were religious relics.

 

Timothy McVeigh was partially after celebrity.

Warhol wrote "nowadays if you are a crook your still considered out there.  You can write books, Bill on TV, giving interviews-you are a baby celebrity and nobody even looks down on you because your a crook... this is because more than anything people just one stars."

 

4 the other side of the glass

heroes, and nobodies could go to the other side of the screen.

 

                        CHapter five - The Mediated Self

 

1 - a Nation of Gatsbys

Marshall Mcluhan said the photograph even introduced a new sense of self.  A development of self-consciousnessthat alters facial expression and make-up.

You know how to brood because you have seen "rebel without a cause".  What better models of how to live are there than  movies provide? 

 

The old Puritan production oriented culture demanded and honored what he called character, which was a function of on'es moral fiber.  The new consumption oriented culture, on the other hand, demanded and honored what is called personality, which is a function of what one projects to others.

 

Not hard work, integrity and courage, but charm, fascination and likeability.

 

Shopping is now another form of entertainment.  Stores try to sell beautiful objects to people in beautiful  settings.  Malls are like little theme parks.

 

Celebrity's aura had rubbed off on the product.  Products are celebritized through promotion, just like people are. 

 

CLothes bear the logos of products and people wear them as if they are imitating movie stars.

 

Veblen said the middle class and the poor feel the need to consume conspicuously to assert their social worth.  "conspicuous consumption."

 

Entertainment is a form of consumption, leisure has been commodified. 

SInce the act of buying and then displaying goods was often the most efficient and effictive way to create a convincing role for oneself in the life movie, consumption really seemed to be a form of entertainment.  It was a means of preparing oneself to put on a show.

 

two - props

The chief business of the American people is business.  Said aCalvin coolidge. 

But by the late 20th century the chief business of Americans was no longer business it was entertainment.

The fashion industry became a part of our movie lives.

 

Baudrillard said "people in totalitarian countries no very well that this is true freedom and dream of nothing but fashion, the latest styles, idols, the play of images, travel for its own sake, advertising, the deluge of advertising."

 

Our homes needed objects and Martha Stewart tells us how to use them.

 

Architecture became movie set making

 

3 The self of No-self  

Buffalo Bill Cody played himself on stage.

Movie stars started making their lives more theatrical, make believe.

 

Neitzsche said "whenever a man strives long and persistently to appear someone else, he ends out by finding it difficult to be himself again.  "

 

Michael Jackson related to himself in 0 way no other celebrity had.

 

To an inner directed individual-say, a 19th century American farmer-the idea of creating an image for the benefit of others would have had absolutely no meaning.  He didn't dress to be a farmer or design is home to look like a farmhouse, and he didn't self-consciously performed in ways that would have signified to others that he was a farmer.  He dressed like a farmer he has he was a farmer.

 

The best actors are the ones who are taken in buy their own performances.

 

Gergen saw the self as a daughter of relationships to, defined entirely by them an entirely inextricable from them.  There was no essence to any person, no core identity.

 

Warhol said, "no whole day of life is like a whole day of television.  TV never goes off the air once it starts for in the day, and I don't either.  And the end of that day they'll whole day will be a movie.  A movie made for TV."

 

Trophy wives. Trophy lives.

 

America's funniest home videos meant that people could now view their entire lives as entertainment.

 

4 - Infinite jest

religion once provided "a sacred master plot that organized and explained the world."  So long as religion and ideology prevailed, there was little need for other plots.

All sorrows can be borne if you put them into a story or tell a story about them.

Society now conspires to help people carry out their delusions.  I'll talk is baby talk.

All pain is part of the plot of my movie script.