ESCAPISM AS SOCIAL CONTROL: PART 5
SO HOW CAN I SPOT PROPAGANDA IN HIGH MORAL ESCAPISM?
If you’re not willing, or interested, in sacrificing your life (or your way of life) for the creation of underground media… but you’re in a position to influence society…
YOU’RE STILL IN LUCK!
Stay with us, here.
Because the world is at stake.
And you could make the difference.
Here's a list of questions to ask yourself if you're watching anything considered light entertainment:
1. What are we escaping from?
2. Who’s the villain? Why?
3. Who's the true hero? Why?
4. Is the story a metaphor? If not, how does it differ from real life?
5. Does something remind you of the real world? What ideas / feelings are attached to these things?
6. Does a particular scene stick out as being weird / odd / out of place?
7. Does the timing of the movie’s release seem serendipitous to external events?
8. Who made the movie? Are they associated with anyone in power?
9. What are some of the big obvious ideas the movie's trying to communicate? (Reminder: Just because a movie you like says something, doesn't make it true).
"THE TERMINAL" (2004) CASE STUDY:
Steven Spielberg's bumbling comedy "The Terminal" is a work of high moral propaganda. It is expertly crafted, was widely distributed, and authorized by multiple trusted brands. Yet the content of the movie, along with its timing, point it toward a more nefarious cause. I argue the function of "The Terminal" was to stimulate consumer spending during the Summer of 2004.
As you may remember, right after 9/11 a meeting was called between the Bush White House and Hollywood. Karl Rove "brainstormed" with Hollywood influencers various ways they could be of service to this new war time economy.
Then famously in 2006, President W. Bush encouraged everybody "to go shopping more." Indeed, this was a familiar talking point from the W. Bush administration. They repeated this argument as a last-ditch effort of avoiding the Recession all economists were predicting loomed on the horizon. Here's a link talking about that.
Of course, everybody involved in the making of "The Terminal" is beloved and / or powerful in the industry. It grossed over 200 million dollars. So it had quite the impact in its day.
Regardless if anybody involved in the production played an active role in manipulating the subconscious propaganda of "The Terminal," the actual movie suggests otherwise.
Because, functionally, the movie serves two purposes:
1) Go out and shop.
2) Airports are cuddly, like Tom Hanks.
Both of these, coincidentally, appear vitally important (in retrospect) for the getting-back-to-things of America post 9-11. In many ways, it would appear as if Steven Spielberg were doing the highest patriotic work an American filmmaker possibly could. Not only entertaining us at a mass scale, but influencing the economy & psychological well-being of the country in a positive way.
My point isn't so much figuring out if he - or anybody else - is doing this on purpose. That's not important. What's important is recognizing that this is what this movie is doing.
"The Terminal" (2004) is about consumer ecstasy and airport security.
The question now is ... How are they doing it?
Here's 3 examples of what I consider to be subversive propaganda in high moral escapism:
1. Right at the beginning of the movie, we're explicitly told the tale:
Right after Tom Hanks is told he can't leave the airport due to wacky passport / political reasons, Hanks's character asks what he's supposed to do in the meantime. (Reminder: The "meantime" represents the entirety of the movie.) The airport officer straight up tells him, "Shop."
Imagine for a moment this was an Eisenstein film. Do you really think the airport officer in his movie would say "shop"??
No way! Eisenstein's cop would have said "Think" or "Read" or "Sacrifice" !!
These clues matter because they highlight the underlying manifesto of the movie.
"The Terminal" is a movie about shopping, and the joy of consumerism in general.
2. Fast American consumption is the dopamine-inducing climatic reward:
What could be more American than Tom Hanks eating a fast food burger?
This scene, of him hastily buying a Burger King whopper with a fistful of quarters, is the end point of a comedy montage. Hanks figures out a system where he can collect luggage carts and return them to their kiosk - by which triggering the kiosk to spit out a quarter. Hanks does this a bunch of times. He's our bumbling hero. His head's held high. He's BACK TO WORK - EVERYTHING IS NORMAL. The authorities are watching him via the security cameras - they're impressed with this simple man's cunning ingenuity. His success is our success. And what does he do with the fruit of his clever labor? He runs to the nearest Burger King. The music climaxes.
3. Brand Repetition with Positive-Emotional Anchors
This movie is stuffed with 'beloved' brand identities. Ramada, Burger King, the TV show Friends, the Bowflex, Verizon, the Department of Homeland Security, Brookstone, Starbucks, Krispy Kreme. The Airport, New York City... Etc etc etc. There's too many brands appearing in the movie to even worth noting. Perhaps not every single one was on the payroll. But, again, that's not the point. The point is the overall function of Spielberg's movie.
With this particular technique, Spielberg presents us with recognizable brands over and over again, and encases these brands with warm, comforting, soothing, happy feelings. It's as if he's reminding us, "Yes, it's okay to shop. Yes, it's okay to buy a cup of coffee at Starbucks. Yes, Homeland Security is totally our buddy." It's that simple. We reenter life after the movie theater. But now we have an added layer of fuzzy-feelings for things we wouldn't have had otherwise.
The airport itself was probably the "brand" requiring the most damage control (so to speak) post-9/11. And Spielberg does an amazing job blessing the entire airport enterprise with the spirit of jolly Tom Hanks and his huggable airport-employee buddies. It's hard to not associate the airport, airlines, commercial airplanes, and flying, without Tom Hanks-y feelings after being inundated with the stimuli of "The Terminal."