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Audiovisual communication is gaining more and more importance, as the technology develops. As people face more visual experiences during their lives, the influence Hollywood’s themes and messages deliver to the society reach outside of the borders of America. Therefore, there is a need for examining the importance, experiences and effects of the movies, as well as the ideology they deliver. The below study would cover the main themes and studies in the area, to prove or disprove the statement: “Hollywood rules the world”.
Literature and Ideology
One of the most important publications regarding the globalization effects of Hollywood is Miller’s 2007 article. (2007). The author concludes that every person understands Hollywood, as it is developed to be easily understood, and its communication channels are so developed that, from children to elderly people, everyone has their own image about the movies and themes, and their memories are full of Hollywood pictures, influencing their everyday lives. Even 60 year old people would remember some of the scenes they saw long ago in the movies, and Hollywood is still the largest export industry in the United States. (Miller 2007) Still, there is a question whether Hollywood is a national or a global symbol, and this is exactly what the author would like to examine within the study. Miller (2007) asks the question: “Isn’t Hollywood in Crisis?” He answers with the statement that a sixth part of the World’s population watches the Oscar Awards ceremony. The author also says that for many people movies are like remedies for the frustrations of life, and therefore, they are developed to build up the national self-esteem. Still, there are many people watching the movies created in American studios delivering American ideology, themes and culture, and Asia, Europe and Australia are becoming more and more American, but the level of Americanism depends on the national policy of the individual country. Many people argue that Hollywood movies kill national filmmaking organizations, and therefore, national cultures as well.
Another theme of the article is Anti-Americanism. The author concludes that Hollywood is at least “partly responsible for anti-us sentiment”. (Miller 2007) However, Hollywood is criticized by not only being outside of the country, but the nation as well. Some politicians claim that the film factories and studios have a huge influence on politics through hidden ideologies delivered through movies. Foreign policies are influenced by movies, just like people’s images about different nations. A movie that features gangsters from Russia and prostitutes from Hungary might damage the country’s image without any intention. Although the author speaks about entertainment created in America as a whole, Hollywood has the most influence on people’s lives. TV shows, just like Jerry Springer are on the European screens, and the negative image about the country is built up by featuring people on the TV who live a low quality of life and lack any values. However, on the other hand, some critics say that Hollywood movies are incapable of reflecting the reality, and they mostly feature perfect families, kids and schools. The truth, however, is that America has one of the highest rate of poverty, and not all families live in a great suburb in a mansion with a swimming pool. With the unemployment rate over 10 percent in many states of America, it is certainly not the aim of Hollywood movies to show the reality and introduce people to the life of average families. However, some people and authors argue that the empty lives of people featured in the movies would hurt the image of the American society.
Themes and Influences
One of the main reasons why Hollywood grew strong is that the investments into the filmmaking are much larger than in other nations, especially in Europe. (Cowen 2009) Now, if one compares the dating of the American and Asian or European societies and traditions, it is evident that there is less cultural traditions in America than in the rest of the world. Therefore, the themes of the Hollywood movies would be different, built around a modern and improving society, its problems and values. The themes would be built around the typical American dream and the conflicts people in the USA have to face, not the ones the rest of the world does. This way, the movies can teach children and young adults irrelevant values and make them disconnect from their own reality. The Global Hollywood (2001) conference paper, however, also discusses the influence of foreign films to the American society, mentioning the success of Crouching Tiger and Hidden Dragon in America. Therefore, the globalization effect works either way, while it is important to note that the political and economic influence of the country would determine the level of outside and internal influences. In a protective country, like China, there is a less chance that people would be fascinated by Hollywood themes, as the propaganda is built against the American values and people are strongly connected with their own reality and values.
Effects on People’s Thinking
No matter if we are looking at the national or transnational effects of Hollywood movies to people’s values and thinking, the main determining factors are based on the level of democracy, globalization and trends. The more national a country’s cultural policy is – the more money is spent on domestic film projects. However, developing underdeveloped areas of the world would still believe that the American dream depicted in Hollywood movies still exists. Another important way the movies influence people is that they feature perfect people, bodies, relationships and places. Some people would have to face extra pressure to be able to live up to the images that they see on the television, in the movies and on the advertisements. When one sees a hundred movies with happy families, with large houses and great cars, they would think about those images as a standard and feel less by not having a picture of the perfect life. On the other hand, there are many ways movies can demonstrate people’s political thinking and ideologies, and even classics can be filled up with political ideologies.
The Image of the United States
The image of the United States from outside is highly influenced by the media and Hollywood. The movies created in the studios are claiming to be purely for entertainment; however, they are also often used to promote different views and ideologies. There are no direct political influences, and although the movie would not say that you need to vote for Democrats, there are different themes coming up before the election, featuring one or the other political ideology. Although, many researchers are able to see through these intentions, for the average people, it is a message of the story behind the movie. The image of America is created based on how politicians would like outsiders to see the country, and the high level of poverty is rarely featured in the movies. Although the innocent viewer might think that the movies depict the average life in America, this is far from the truth.
The Hollywood movies featuring politicians are critical and not objective at all. There are many movies that feature corruption of incompetent leaders, and this criticism of politics might hurt the democratic image of the country. The movies depicting people in charge in the times of catastrophes would also either be critical or praising, and hardly ever objective at all.
The Audience and Generalization
Some people argue that, as visual effects have developed, the meaning of the movies lost its importance over the visual and sound effects and quality. Although 3D movies are getting more and more popular among the younger generation, the cultural background of the story is stripped back. On the other hand, there is less need for people’s imagination when they watch TV, movies or play games. With making the scenes more realistic and close to real life experience, the imagination and guessing functions of the brain are regarded. Some authors argue that many of today’s children only know the Hollywood version of the Cinderella story, and this is dangerous, as they believe every detail in the movie is correct. According to Miller (2007), movies have the most symbolic power that is why it is dangerous to try and deliver ideas and political messages through movies. Cowen (2009) also believes that Hollywood rules the world, and there is an exchange of cultures going on, which is promoting the speed up process of globalization. The world of expensive movies has become something that attracts people looking for a career and a breakaway from the everyday frustrating life, and although there are some countries that say no to globalization and Americanization, like China, blocking access to some Internet sites and banning movies, there is still an influence of the American lifestyle. A recent study shows that the negative image that Chinese people have about the culture of America is built on the political propaganda; the same one that in America, depicts everything as perfect as it can be.
Challenges Ahead of Hollywood
Miller (2007) mentions three immediate threats of the American movies. First, after 9/11, but beginning in the 1980-s, people stopped to go to movies, and there is a delay in the message delivery, as many people wait until the movie is available on DVD or Blu-ray. Secondly, the author mentions cultural piracy and using novels and classic books to simplify and Americanize the message, wiping off the real meaning of the work. Many examples could be said, but one of them is Robin Hood and Gladiator, where the scenes are staged in an idealistic way, while the movie itself delivers the message that it is aiming to transfer a realistic message. The third challenge is that the distribution and creation of a high resolution screen is much easier and cheaper than before, and texts can be processed faster.
Global Culture and Hollywood
According to Scott (2002), the question is whether Hollywood is able to survive on today’s competitive global market. There are many emerging entertainment industries, and national filmmakers are gaining recognition, as local anti-globalization organizations promote the existence of domestic, national and traditional movies. As the income from the US sales and international rights commerce of Hollywood grows every year, there is an increased influence of the industry present not only in the country, but internationally. The global culture might not be the only thing that is influenced by Hollywood, but national filmmaking companies might be trying to compete with these films for audience. Obviously, there is no way the budget of a Hollywood film can be compared to the budget of a national one, still, the themes and the solutions, as well as the marketing of the movie might be similar. The political support of Washington, when discussing Hollywood and its influence on the global politics and national policies, should not be neglected, and the producers are able to make their own decisions which theme and movie they would allow to be created. In this way, Hollywood is not at all democratic, and the forces behind the scenes are hard to trace.
The Future of Hollywood
Many authors question the future of Hollywood from the financial perspective. Although the institution is based on money and investments, there are other aspects of filmmaking in America as well. The above study has revealed that Hollywood movies are now a competition for the national film-making, while they form one of the strongest tools of delivering globalization around the world. There are plenty of publications guessing how long the industry and institution would be successful, however, the real question is whether it will reach its goals and be able to build bridges between the different cultures, which can be crossed from either side. One of the main negative aspects that authors bring up against Hollywood is that it does force people to think one way; the American one, while it is limited in capabilities of accepting other cultures. Although there are national and democratic themes in Hollywood movies, they hardly ever feature other nations in a realistic way. They either categorize nations or simplify problems, and although Hollywood movies are usually not analytical, there is a huge influence of the description of different nations and cultures when it comes to blockbuster movies.
The financial survival of Hollywood is not a question any more, according to Scott (2001), and the depression even increased the demand for “comfort movies” and romantic idealistic themes. However, how long other nations and their politicians are going to be able to allow the influence of the movies and let their own filmmaking industries die out is another question. The solution for the problem would be, if Hollywood was more flexible and receptive and people would understand that Hollywood is about entertainment and making money, not attempting to depict the reality. Still, the level of influence the governments have on filmmaking makes the industry lack real democratic features, and this image should be corrected to recover from the crisis the industry is in today; receiving criticism from different organizations.