ESCAPISM AS SOCIAL CONTROL: PART 6
If you had to walk away with one golden nugget, one technique that if you went to the movies right after this and had to do only one thing figure out what kind of propaganda the movie you’re watching is pushing - then it would have to be...
So before I go on, I just want to say… What I’m going to share with you isn’t just a B.S. simple question to be tossed around like a cheap pseudo-intellectual parlor trick. It’s a proper method used in some of the most influential and productive organizations around the world. I discovered that this method, when applied to media analysis, results in an intuitively perceptive unmasking of a movie’s social function.
Okay okay okay. Here it is:
Ask yourself “Why?” a lot.
This is a technique invented by Sakichi Toyoda, the founder of Toyota.
The primary goal of the technique is to determine the root cause of a defect or problem by repeating the question "Why?" Each answer forms the basis of the next question. The "5" in the name derives from an anecdotal observation on the number of iterations needed to resolve the problem.
So at the end of a movie (or during), you’re going to feel a certain way.
At this point, begin The 5 Whys. I’ll walk you through one:
So right now I’m watching Season 4 (2005) of that show “24.”
At the end of each episode I feel extremely tense. Let the “Whys” begin…
Why do I feel tense?
(Because of the ending scene)
Why was the ending scene tense?
(Because a bomb was about to go off.)
Why was a bomb about to go off?
(Terrorists in the show wanted to kill Americans.)
Why did the terrorists want to kill Americans?
(Because they hate Americans.)
Why do they hate Americans?
(I don’t really know. Not mentioned yet.)
Okay, so this was a pretty interesting exercise. Didn’t expect it to turn out this way.
OKAY OKAY OKAY!
Before we go on, there’s one more step!
At this point, we now have to distance ourselves from this entire analysis. Put all of these thoughts and feelings into a ball and step away from it for a moment. Visualize in your mind, if you like, actually putting your feelings and observations into a ball and stepping away from it.
This is a great time to ask if you agree or disagree with the message being delivered. Or to be reminded that you are the master of your mind.
In the case of the exercise I did with “24,” I recognize that the show is persuading me to feel very negatively toward a Muslim stereotype in the show. And this stereotype does not appear to be rooted in any rational reason (at least the show has not presented it yet, 3 episodes in). At the moment, all of the tension and negative associations I have toward the Muslim villains appears to be rooted in the style of the show: they speak in a foreign language with harsh tones, the music is low & ominous when they’re on screen, they are oppressive and ruthless, their motivations are mysterious (and what is unknown is naturally threatening), they point guns at our loveable protagonists, etc etc etc.
We can do this exact same exercise at a mid-point in the show.
Mid-episode, I feel a sense of awe toward the main character, Jack Bauer.
Now I ask myself…
Why do I feel this sense of awe for his character?
(Because he is righteously assertive.)
Why is it awe-inspiring to see somebody act righteously assertive?
(Because I’d like to be more that way.)
Why would I like to be more that way?
(Because I’m sick of people getting in my way.)
What is it about people that’s standing in your way?
(Their pointless dependence on decorum and rules.)
Why do I not like people depending on rules?
(Because sometimes you have to play dirty when it’s for the right cause.)
Woah woah woah woah woah.
Five Whys In… Stop right there.
This is about as honest of an analysis as it gets.
Those scenes when Jack Bauer does a dramatic fuck-you by breaking standard operating procedure to do whatever he thinks is right in the heat of the situation, they are designed to make you feel a sense of awe for the Kiefer Sutherland’s character.
And, duh! He’s the guy on the posters!
“24” is a show that’s about way more than just a character study of Jack Bauer.
It’s a show legitimizing rogue illegal behaviors (like torture) in situations deemed justified for the preservation of American supremacy.
It’s a show stereotyping America’s perceived enemies using weaponized prime-time emotional stimuli.
It’s a show implanting the fear of being killed at any moment by a terrorist into your reptilian brain.
All art is propaganda.
If you agree with the propaganda… wonderful.
The point isn't do you agree or disagree with the propaganda.
It's to be aware of HOW all movies propagandize.
The 5 Whys can help you determine what other functions your art might serve to audiences, and how you can re-engineer those components so as to serve a more beautiful, more sublime end.
If you’re just a spectator, and you don't notice this process of subconscious propaganda taking place, over time you'll discover yourself feeling certain things with no explanation from where it came.
You’ll end up like this lady:
And, if you’re an artist, the work here is to recognize your art will always be communicating larger, deeper messages regardless of your intent.
It’s best to be as aware & in control of these messages as much as you can.
So I challenge every artist reading this – If we're going to save the world, it's going to be with a magickal-aesthetic: one that incorporates the universal beauty of forms with a willfully chosen ethical philosophy.
An ethic we all recognize, as one species, and can move together toward.
Until that day comes, we must educate ourselves and resist every attempt to enslave us.
Because everything we see, everything we hear, everything we think, is in one way or another, propaganda for somebody's cause.
Is it a cause that elevates the human spirit in the end?