haha ^ an interesting aside: in spite of violence in films and video games, the US crime rate has been falling steadily for 20 years and the homicide rate is now the the lowest it’s been since 1964. 2010 was overall the safest year in almost forty years. some charts, graphs and statistics here
Sure, that can be the case, but are you arguing that some areas of consensus are not meaningful and valid? (You sure you don’t work for the film industry? ;) What about the ones I mentioned—e.g., females feeling like they need to look like swimsuit model for self-worth? Or guys feeling like they have to find a female who looks like a swimsuit model for a good relationship? Now, if a film industry executive said, “Oh, a lot of may people may feel this is wrong and inappropriate, but you know what? The majority is sometimes wrong,” would that wash?
They certainly are meaningful and valid to me but that’s not necessarily the case for everybody else. My point is, I don’t think there’s such a thing as an objectively positive or negative value. If you agree with this then what gives anybody the right to tell an industry what kind of values they should promote?
Let’s say you put together a guideline on how to handle violence, sex, racial and gender issues, that guideline would be entirely subjective. Now let’s imagine you put it to a referendum, then the guideline would be based on what the majority of people agree are positive values that should be promoted by the film industry. Imagine what that guideline would look like in America in the 60’s and 70’s : no interracial or gay relationship on screen, no use of drugs, no criminals being able to escape in the end, etc. Those were the areas of consensus at that time but of course society evolves, the problem is that under your system we would have to wait until the majority of the public has evolved before being able to make movies they find acceptable. Ironically, many social changes were caused by pioneer films who pushed the boundaries of what is morally acceptable and were objected to by the majority at the time of their release.
Honestly, the idea of government getting involved in culture doesn’t make me so comfortable, and I’m not advocating that. On the other hand, just letting corporations have free reign seems crazy. What I’m suggesting at this point is that this become an issue for public debate.
Well government officials are liable for their actions, CEOs are not. Some of the most socially advanced countries in the world have a ministry of culture. What’s wrong with a government office promoting cultural expression without being motivated by greed?
suppose you’re someone like Steven Spielberg—who makes movies that many people will see (and he knows many people—many of them children) will see his films. Does he not have some level of responsibility since has this reach and influence? I think he absolutely does.
I don’t think he does. His only responsibility is staying true to himself and his creative vision.
Jazz, personally I would love to see more color blind casting for roles as most Hollywood characters don’t have any specific traits which should limit their casting to a specific race. I also would like to see more diveristy in the ranks of those who make films at every level, from studio heads to writers, and happily support any efforts to call out the industry for its failings along these lines. This, however, is a different thing than suggesting films should have some standards imposed on them in terms of the stories they tell. Trying to force art to fit a mold of some sense of how the world should be isn’t going to do the art or the audience any favors, particularly since an audience isn’t a monolithic entity but a group of people who will react in very different ways to what is being shown. Many Hollywood films seemingly aimed at providing more “positive” minority representation are those which become more widely mocked or scorned than films which don’t tackle the subject. I’m not even sure of your claim about the current racial climate in Hollywood being one where minorities are represented most as gang bangers, there is some of that, sure, but after all the grief the industry ahs received they’ve also tended to go the “magic negro” route a lot where someone like Morgan Freeman will be there just to do what you suggest, present a positive image, or where some “friend” of the main character will be a minority, but not get much to do beyond providing the protagonist with some cred for being so open minded. I’m not sure that positive portrayal for the sake of positive is any better than a more important “bad” character. Of course it would be ideal if there were simply more minority characters of all types, but Hollywood in general isn’t very adept at nuanced or subtle characterization since they generally aim their product at the broadest audience possible, thus they tend to dumb down the films or eliminate complexity which leaves little range for most portrayals of any sort.
This is sort of process is why I am even more against the whole “think of the children” attitude as that is exactly the sort of lowest common denominator attitude which will further rob the form of any interest whatsoever. A lot of the worst art I can think of is just that, aimed to be inoffensive and not threatening to anyone, it’s a hollow shell of what art could be and it does those precious children no favors by portraying some sugar sweet fantasyland which has little to do with the real world. I’m not sure that overly sheltered children are at all better off than those who aren’t so sheltered in terms of how they will later view the world or what
I would also suggest that you might be giving movies much to much credit in terms of influence nowadays as they are an increasingly limited form, one which, at its largest popular appeal is aimed so broadly as to be almost empty of merit, and one which at its other end is much more able to deal with diversity and nuance, but which few will seek out. Television, the internet and video games are much more influential I’d think. This brings up another point, and that is that it seems a little odd how so many people are worried more about the possible harm of representation when they often ignore the real harm done in so many other areas. Typing all of this out on a computer should give one pause when considering the conditions those that made the computer are laboring under, for example. Or if “thinking of the children” one might do better to look to sports like football and hockey where studies are consistently showing there is actual long term physical harm being done to children rather than any more abstract possibility of it. This, again, isn’t to say that I don’t agree with some of your diagnosis regarding representation but your prescription for a cure seems misguided to me.
When I think of movies made self-consciously to be forces for social good, I think of Stanley Kramer films. When I think of Stanley Kramer films, I think of very bad films. In any event, Film is better at diagnosing the world’s ills rather than solving them.
an interesting aside: in spite of violence in films and video games, the US crime rate has been falling steadily for 20 years and the homicide rate is now the the lowest it’s been since 1964. 2010 was overall the safest year in almost forty years. some charts, graphs and statistics here
Interesting but it doesn’t give much information about incarceration due to narcotics.
I don’t think even a documentary could help against that.
If you think politicians aren’t motivated by greed… :)
I’d argue politicians are more inherently greedy than CEOs. It’s possible to become a CEO without being greedy, but it’s not possible to win an election without being greedy.
And even if you’ve got completely well intentioned politics, and a system working exactly like it’s supposed to, it comes down to who would you put in charge of the ministry of truth? (Oops, I mean culture). Anybody who disagrees with that person will have a very hard time getting their art made.
I’ve heard people say that violent art gave them a healthy outlet for their aggression, and if it weren’t for violence in art they might have wound up in gangs.
“This, again, isn’t to say that I don’t agree with some of your diagnosis regarding representation but your prescription for a cure seems misguided to me.”
Yeah, I don’t think anyone is arguing that there aren’t problems with way things are, Jazz (and you’re hardly the first to think in these terms, see Tolstoy’s What is Art? and John Gardner’s On Moral Fiction, just to name a couple). It’s just that any means of fixing things starts to look pretty undemocratic pretty quickly.
Most people on the planet are motivated by greed but I’m not talking about individuals, I’m talking about the goal of a minister of culture. I don’t think you really understand how it works, this is not a Georges Orwell novel with big brother telling you what kind of art to make, the goal is to promote and support cultural activities, fund artists, maintain museums, etc. I don’t think Denmark, Sweden, New Zealand and France are totalitarian regimes where only a certain type of art is made.
How would you say it works, Balistik? It seems like it’s about the government funding art then mandating private institutions to show some quota of the art they fund. Sure, that’s not some Orwellian regime, but it does enforce one group’s idea of what culture should look like over others.
Culture is something that should emerge naturally, without mandate, and all subcultures should be given equal unbiased claim to national relevance.
I’m all in favor of the government running art programs, so long as they’re run with their own revenue and nobody is mandated display their product.
Leftist and egalitarian British artists of the past century have focused on social realism as a remedy for their perceived ills of society.
There are several reasons for this, dating back to the censorship of early films by a ruling elite that thought American imports would corrupt the working classes, and then further developments following wars and it’s subsequent effect on society and literature.
If you continue to show depictions of the working class, employees leaving the factory and social realist soap operas, it does not help to raise awareness of these problems, in fact, quite the opposite. It becomes an accepted norm and life actually starts to mimic what it sees in art. It also creates an atmosphere of realism in political opinions. Only through the creation of great myths and a new aesthetic approach will the prevailing attitudes be changed.
It is also related to TRUTH. Which is always a human invention. Which is why Zeno’s Achilles and Tortoise paradox is not the truth to the tortoise. Unfortunately, the authorities are Machiavellian beyond belief and not immune to corruption, greed and use psychological warfare to achieve their aims.
Here’s a recent example of the psychological warfare used on the public, the same thing that Noam Chomsky talks about with relation to the privatisation of our railway system.
Getting the most ridiculous MP, the education secretary, to tell us that the taxpayer was going to have to pay for the Queen’s new yacht for her diamond jubilee, only to later reveal that private investment would be a better idea. Media manipulation that would make Edward Bernays proud.
See, Jazz—anytime you start off trying to talk about “good”, pretty quickly you end up having to talk politics.
Is that US politics? Hey, we could always talk about squirrels. The gods will never wake up!
Maybe I should read Tolstoy’s What is Art? and John Gardner’s On Moral Fiction. Moron.
Is that meant to be insulting? If so, you might have bothered to read through the thread other than my one post immediately above (a response that’s not even specifically addressed to what you posted) and then you might have had even a faint grasp of what I’ve actually been arguing here.
How would you say it works, Balistik? It seems like it’s about the government funding art then mandating private institutions to show some quota of the art they fund. Sure, that’s not some Orwellian regime, but it does enforce one group’s idea of what culture should look like over others.
That one group is composed of public representatives who are worried about public interest, or at least they’re supposed to be, but their position and work are so transparent that if they fail to serve the public they will lose voters and they will suffer the consequences. They fund cultural programs to encourage creativity, diversity and accessibility. I don’t know about any quota though, this must be country specific.
The problem is if the government is not involved then the private sector is in charge of promoting the culture, there is no counterforce, just big media companies pushing their products. If you’re an average citizen who doesn’t know much about art, there’s nobody to remind you about this Tarkovsky retrospective or that new art gallery showing the work of an avant-garde photographer, etc. That’s what a ministry of culture does, it democratizes art by giving it mainstream exposure.
Yeah, I agree with that ^. It would be nice if you could structure things in such a way that no one entity had undue influence, but with our system, you run the risk of it becoming a cultural capitalocracy.
Yes, I think government support of the arts is often really misunderstood in how it works and what advantages it provides artists and therefore those who appreciate the arts.
There are a number of ways in which government assistance is used to help the arts. In liberal western states, like many of those in Europe or in Canada, there is or was a mandate to protect and develop the cultural heritage of the state as they viewed the arts as a important public good. To this end, fairly generous funding was often set aside in order to further this aim. There was usually a department of the government which had as part of its mission protecting and supporting the arts.
Under the mandates which these departments tended to operate under, it was often the case that support for the arts meant providing assistance to artists which could come through some direct funding or through other material aid. This doesn’t mean the government was either fully funding the projects nor influencing them in any direct way, as the methods of support would often be more indirect than that or come during the planning stages or be commissions for noted artists who would then have more freedom to create their works without concern for the same level of commercial concerns. The funding would often be even more indirect with money being given to ;larger arts institutions which would then develop commissions or help fund projects deemed of import by smaller panels of artists and curators who would offer grants to artists who came up with interesting proposals. This could take the form of competitions between artists where the money would then be divided by need and potential merit, or it could come in the form of an application for some assistance which the organization would look at.
Often what would happen in the latter cases is that the government, or some smaller local branch, might simply give a portion of the necessary funding in order to allow other public and private partners to be able to pick up the rest of the cost without having to worry as much about recouping their investment. State television stations would be another route which government funding would find its way to filmmakers as the movie would be commissioned for state tv. The advantage of this system would be even more obvious if one could simply find a list of the works made with some government assistance. A large number of what we now consider to be some of the greatest artists had the chance to work due to this assistance, and a large number of important artistic achievements in the arts came via this route as well.
This isn’t to say that such a system produces nothing but gold or is without flaws, there can be favoritism and other biases on grant panels just as anywhere else, but the mandate itself creates a very different art environment than one which commercial concerns trump all. In a way, one can think of it as being something like the government support for libraries. Just because the government provides funding for libraries doesn’t lead people to think that the books in the library or the librarians are all working to some nefarious end. Librarians, like teachers, often oppose the government which funds them as they see their institution as having a higher purpose than short term concerns about saving or making a buck.
In the US, of course, this mandate only barely exists and is often perverted by those who see no value in the cultural heritage or see it as belonging more rightly to private corporations or individuals. Government funding here has suffered repeated attacks over the years for these reasons. An agency like the NEA will get some meager funding, which they will them give out to notable arts organizations like museums or preservation groups, but sooner or later one of the institutions which received money will show something vaguely controversial, this work may not have been directly funded by the NEA, but the institution itself was so someone will claim they are deeply insulted by the work and thus funding for the arts is obviously morally repugnant. There will be cries of socialism; the work doesn’t appeal to anybody but elites, art should support itself like in Hollywood so funding for this pretentious crap is wrong, and, of course, think of the children, they will be harmed by this minority point of view, all right thinking people know the world isn’t like this.
I am fully behind government support of the arts, and this support is also attached to the copyright debate in that I believe we, as a public, own our cultural heritage, we, understandably, want to aid artists by protecting their interests for a time, but they are only caretakers for works which belong to us all. I have a hard time understanding people who love the arts but can’t seem to support funding them as a society. If the arts are important to us, and everything I can see suggests they are, even if we don’t agree on which works, then demanding support and preservation would seem to be a no brainer. But, then again, this is America and here the dollar is god and individuality built off the fear of others unlike you is the mindset, so art, which so often works against those concepts is going to have a hard time.
and it’s getting worse all the time as california recently eliminated all state funding of public libraries. seems only ‘cultural elites’ read books. after all only snobs go to college according to santorum and his tea party supporters. it’s a sad state of affairs indeed. excellent point about copyright, greg x. agree 100%
snobs go to college according to santorum
And it’s called The College According To Santorum.
Sanctity Preserve Sanctorum.
Coccyx. Sacrum. Sancoccyxrumtum.
“snobs go to college according to santorum”
Santorum forgot to mention though what that makes someone who goes to college, then graduate school for an MBA, then law school for a JD. I guess he’ll cover that in a later speech ;)
a true populist (he’s hoping they won’t catch on)
I wish his mother had aborted him. That goes for f***face Bob McDonnell too.
It’s a convenient notion that the government funded programs are more democratic and lead to more diversity, but that’s simply naive. I was at the Museum of Fine Arts in Boston a few hours ago, for a ‘First Friday’ event they had with live jazz music. It was really, really crowded. All of the people there either paid for a membership, or paid $20 to get in. Then they paid $7 for a small cup of wine or beer. All of these people are voluntarily funding the arts, and that’s why great places like the MFA exist. Arthouse theaters don’t exist because the government supported them, they exist because folks like us are willing to pay to see arthouse movies. That is capitalism: If somebody is willing to pay money for something, somebody somewhere will provide it.
What does government intervention in the arts accomplish? Paintings of the Virgin Mary covered in feces being censored because they might offend someone. The greatest collections of art in the world are funded privately, and most publically funded movies somehow manage to toe the line between not at all entertaining and not at all risky. They champion pale reproductions of the art that was popular hundreds of years ago and call it heritage. Government mandated heritage is static heritage. National heritage is a living, evolving thing, not a static, dead historical relic. Who is a government official to say what my heritage is?
The fact that we are here on this board talking about art movies proves that art does not need government protection to survive. True heritage stems from culture evolving on its own terms.
I don’t even know where to begin with those claims…
I don’t know what you mean by more democratic, that isn’t something I would have claimed as an issue one way or the other as I’m not sure what you are even suggesting is being measured there. One could assume more democratic would be more popular as in people are “voted” with their wallets when they went to see Avatar in record numbers as opposed to something like Summer Hours, thus making Avatar the more “democratic” choice for artistic success. This is pretty much the opposite of my point which is based more around long term artistic/cultural values rather than short term financial success. Popularity of the moment is great, for those who enjoy it and commercial cinema is fairly adept at making bucks by creating films people will go see, those films don’t need much in the way of government subsidies, although they often still receive some in the way of tax benefits, write offs, and local government assistance in some form as an exchange for filming in a given location. A movie like Summer Hours isn’t going to be popular in the same way. It received government subsidies, like most French films have for decades, so I guess France’s cinematic output, like that of a number of other European nations, must be pretty much made up of unentertaining and unrisky films, as well as funding from state television, which hacks like Bergman also received, and some local government funding and material assistance from the Musee d’Orsay, which receives funds from the government as well. This assistance didn’t fund the movie on its own, there was private investment into the production as well, but the government assistance helps the private investors make some money out of what isn’t as likely to be popular in the broad sense.
If you hadn’t noticed, much of the most highly regarded art, highly regarded by those who are most involved with art as something of longer lasting significance and deeper value than that of momentary whim, often tend not to be immediately popular and as their value isn’t even judged in those same terms. Now, one can reject that view of aesthetic value or artistic importance, a great many do which is why art funding is so difficult to put together for many artists. If that’s the case, then I can see why trying to preserve our cultural heritage would seem so ridiculous as the moment is now and the past is gone, so letting those old movies deteriorate on the shelves is fine, and supporting art that only might appeal to a small segment of the population simply isn’t worth anything as if it were there would be money to be made in doing so. I disagree with that notion and believe that art provides much more to our culture than can be measured in dollars, but I’m not even going to try to get into that argument right now.
It’s great that there is are places like the Museum of Fine Arts which need so little government assistance to survive. Yes, some artists and institutions can manage to get by on purely private funds, nothing too surprising about that. Those institutions are lucky as a great many museums and other arts organizations do require some assistance to get by. If you’re lucky enough to live in a big city with lots of deep pocketed donor types, than you have the advantage, but not everyone does and not all arts are so easily housed in an institution in any case, so some people are just going to be out of luck if they aren’t in the right place, and some arts will largely wither away, which is fine I guess since they are only marginal and not popular so they don’t deserve government aid like sports stadiums or oil companies which deserve their support since they are so needed by the masses. “Capitalism” plays favorites to you know, we just like to pretend it is neutral when it serves our purposes, like in debates about cutting off the minimal funding to the arts as a way to throw meat to the crowd to keep them from paying attention to where the money actually goes. Yeah, paying 20$ to see a show is nice for those that have the dough, of course not everyone has that kind of money to spend on such things, but those that don’t probably don’t deserve arts anyway being losers. We should probably finish killing off the libraries for that reason as well since anyone who can’t afford a book likely wouldn’t know what to do with one besides color in it anyway. Heck, screw books all together, Kindles are where it’s going to be at anyway as that’s the trendy popular thing, consequences be damned.
It seems like you sorta skimmed part of my last post, which I understand since they are fucking wordy and probably not all the fun to read, but your second paragraph seems to either miss my point, which could be my fault, or to actively accept what I was suggesting as a misguided view as true. I might be misunderstanding what you are saying by “what does government intervention in the arts accomplish” though. If you mean funding, then your allusion to the painting The Holy Virgin Mary by Chris Ofili kinda makes my point as it wsn’t covered in feces, and it didn’t receive any direct government funding. The city of New York provided general funding to the museum which exhibited the painting and then sought to have that funding pulled when Giuliani decided to score some political points by making a todo about the painting and the decline of moral values in the world. Giuliani lost that battle in court and it all came to nothing in the end other than some outrage porn.
Now if you meant that the act of having any funding for an institution like the Brooklyn Museum allows for schmucks to make those arguments and therefore it would simply be better if there was no funding in the first place so the arguments couldn’t happen, then, sure, you would be right in the sense that government officials couldn’t threaten to pull funding which wasn’t there, though that wouldn’t stop them from being outraged by the art anyway. No, on second thought maybe it would stop them as losing enough funding could get them to close their doors. Oh, sure, maybe they could come up with the extra 7 million from private donors, after all New York is a big city so they have plenty of people with cash around, the nice thing about private donors is that there disputes happen behind closed doors so the public isn’t even aware of what they will lose when the donor threatens to pull their money if things don’t go their way or sets conditions for the funds to be used. That keeps everything so much neater. Even better, the institution might be able to snag some corporate sponsors who will not only pressure the institution to avoid controversy which might effect their image, but they might be able to score some choice corporate tie ins as well, and who really minds having art choices managed by corporations with their eye primarily on their bottom line? I mean we all vote with our wallets and use their products, so it’s a perfect marriage of both capitalism and democracy, which is definitely what art should be about, the bottom line. (This is setting aside all the studies which show that government support for the arts tends to be a net positive economically as well as making locations which make the investment more desirable for living and therefore for future growth.)
Oh, and I’m not sure the forum, with it’s few hundred users worldwide, proves much about the survival chances for anything, including the forum itself.
I could craft an awfully logical argument that action films are, in fact, socially responsible:
Do action films contain commendable values? Sure. I’m not arguing that there isn’t anything redeeming in them. The heroes are mostly courageous and fighting on behalf of a cause that most people would support (e.g., stopping crimes/criminals, protecting people, etc.). But the heroes defeat their enemies through violence—frequently breaking laws in the process (which these films present as a positive thing). Violence is the primary way to solve problems, achieve justice and deal with anger. At the same time, we don’t see the costs of this approach.
Now, these films—taken individually and taken in small doses—aren’t really a problem, imo. What’s problematic is the industrial scale of these films and those that watch a lot of them. Specifically, I have a problem with the entertainment industry feeding and drawing upon the baser parts of our nature—all for profits. Can we all agree that this is not a good thing?
Aggression and the sex drive are powerful forces, and in a civilized society, individuals and the society at large have positive and healthy ways of dealing with these forces. There won’t be 100% agreement about these matters, but I’m fairly certain there will be meaningful and valid areas of agreement. Now, I think the stories and myths in a culture—as expressed in today’s world via movies, TV shows, music, video games and other art forms—are powerful ways to understanding and dealing with these forces (among other things). Let me ask a two questions:
Do we think the entertainment industry is doing a good job of helping individuals and society deal with these forces?Do we think that big business should be the primary overseers of these stories and myths?
haha ^ an interesting aside: in spite of violence in films and video games, the US crime rate has been falling steadily for 20 years and the homicide rate is now the the lowest it’s been since 1964. 2010 was overall the safest year in almost forty years.
But are you implying that way films and videos portray violence doesn’t matter? FWIW, I’m not one of those who argue that violent films, TV and video games are the primary cause of violent behavior.
right, i’m implying that it’s obviously not the primary cause and in fact may be alleviating that need. the incidence of rape has fallen along with all other violent crimes and some conjecture that’s because of the widespread availability of internet pornography. these urges need an outlet. repression is bad for everyone
Yeah, Jazz, but I notice you using words like “today” and “entertainment industry”, which suggests we’re trying to conceptualize this as a contemporary problem, but what about the violence in Greek tragedy, in Shakespeare, in the books of the Bible, in the fairy tales collected by Charles Perrault and the Brothers Grimm?
(and, yeah, I sort of agree with Ruby, the “influence” vs. “catharsis” (or id/ego or Appollonian vs. Dionysian . . . whatever terms one cares to put it in) issue in art/entertainment/culture is trickier to work out that most moralists (and no negative connotation implied there) would like to believe.