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Ideology. What do we mean by ideology? It’s a system of ideas, which functions within a given society to make its institutions, customs, practices, and beliefs appear “normal” or “natural.”

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ideology
Ideology

What do we mean by ideology?

  • It’s a system of ideas, which functions within a given society to make its institutions, customs, practices, and beliefs appear “normal” or “natural.”
  • Because they are constantly reinforced within the society, members have a great deal of difficulty seeing and analyzing their own ideologies, much as it must be hard for a fish to see water.
ideology1
Ideology

What does ideology have to do with Hollywood movies?

    • They reinforce the dominant ideology in order to keep the viewer engaged with the illusion on screen.
    • In entertaining an audience, the movie may use “the story, the star or the music” to distract audiences from real social problems.
      • Sullivan’s Travels
      • Singin’ in the Rain
  • Why did Hollywood become so unwilling to take on political issues?
ideology2
Ideology
  • Even “social problem movies,” which often contained a conflict between the individual and the structures of society, staged them within “the context of a fundamentally just society which offered the individual, even under the most extreme circumstances, the chance to reestablish himself . . . “
  • Why did Hollywood become so unwilling to take on political issues?
why indeed
Why, indeed?
  • Federal Regulation
    • entertainment (a commodity), not speech
  • Hays Office (MPPDA--1932)
    • “entertainment unadulterated, unsullied by any infiltration of propaganda”
  • The Quigley Amendment (1932)
    • “No motion picture shall be produced which shall advocate or create sympathy for political theories alien to, and subversive of American institutions.”
and then there was
And then there was . . .
  • The House Committee on Un-American Activities (HUAC)
    • Cold War paranoia about Communist messages in mass entertainment
    • Congress formed House UnAmerican Activities Committee (HUAC)
    • 1941 and 1947 HUAC hearings were "witch hunts" to remove so-called subversives from the industry (most famously led by Sen. Joseph McCarthy)
effect of huac hearings
Effect of HUAC hearings
  • The blacklisting of talented members of the Hollywood community
  • created a climate of fear and dampened creativity within the industry, and
  • the controversies over people’s roles in the investigation continue even today (1999 Elia Kazan Oscar controversy)
what got lost in the post war years
What got lost in the post-war years?

When you exclude ideological positions as a source of conflict in movie plots, you reduce them (as we generally have) to self-interest: “the bad guys act out of greed or ambition and the good guys act to stop the bad guys.” The political/economic system is seen as essentially good, with an occasional few “bad apples” whose removal restores the system to health and smooth operation.

social problem movies
Social Problem Movies
  • Why are they so hard to get right?
  • Case Study: Mississippi Burning
    • “Both by what it includes and by its exclusions, hesitations and absences, the movie remains equivocal, not about the rights and wrongs of racism, so much as about how a movie can make its discourse about racism entertaining, and what an entertainment movie can say about racism.”
  • Case Study: Do the Right Thing
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