Mass Culture and Hollywood Society

Mass culture and Cultural Industries; as we talked and know very well was analyzed by Adorno and Horkheimer in their “The Culture Industry: Enlightment as Mass Deception” article.
 We can find different kinds of examples in this topic to reflect Cultural Industries but in this post, I want to underline movies and Hollywood Industry, especially American cultural impacts.

According to one estimate,in American society three fourths of the population go to a movie theater every week. As we can see, movies have great impact power on the American society.

As a society, in Hollywood, there are well known studios named Paramount, 20th Century Fox, MGM and other. These studios own their own production facilities, run their own worldwide distribution networks. Therefore they control theater chains to commit to show their companies’ products. Meanwhile, they keep under their control actors, directors and screenwriters.

After the radio age, movies started to create a new popular culture with common speech, dress, behavior and heroes in societies. Hollywood reinforces racial stereotypes by denigrating minority groups with love stories, sexual actresses and different types of clothings.

So, today every person in American society deals with Hollywood as a cultural impact and they naturally or not imitate Hollywood in their private life.

It is so real with other societies. In different countries and societies, Hollywood impacts can be seen obviously. For example; Christmas celebrations in Turkey is a totally Hollywood impacted organizations without any religion side.

According to this topic, I highly recommend these books for checking out.

1. “Hollywood Vs America:  Popular Culture and the War on Traditional Values”

2. “Fabricating the Absolute Fake”

Commercialization of Ourselves

Is this what we want when we have? Generally speaking, we are the victims of commercialized mass culture today, being sacrificed for the good of those having this kind of  monopoly in their hands. Not a traditional food but I am sure as you are that there is a generation growing up with this kind of diet culture today and by means of certain media, these things are displayed to us in a gorgeous formation. But do you think are they as genuine as they seem to be in commercials as well? No one says yes to this; but no one stands more than 1 week without being a part of this trend. So, don’t you think while we are eating these burgers, those providing us with these goods are eating ourselves up in fact?

False Consciousness

The ruling class ideology dominate every area of culture, entertainment, TV, book, newspaper, game, fashion and also institutions  as family, religion, education and all patterns of everyday life. The ruling class dominates its ideology through mass media and propaganda in political affairs, news reporting, advertising, public relations. They disseminate ruling class ideas. They capture people’s consciousness and support the spread of false consciousness so people believe and adopt what mass media give them.

Frankfurt School & Coffee Houses

Frankfurt School :Frankfurt School has been set up by a group of Marxist intellectuals in Germany in 1923, which has been influential in the development of Marxist theory. Max Horkheimer, became Director of the Institute, and guided the Institute into its innovative exploration of cultural aspects of the development of capitalism. Theodor W. Adorno, worked on mass culture, which would become so influential from the 1960s on. Adorno & Horkheimer are against bold materialism, which absolutely separates subject and object from each other; they are also against the metaphysic, which defines subject & objects as identical. Mainly, their effort is to open a place to an individual in the social structure, where an individual exists, and to break social structure’s hegemony on individual.Individual has to exist in social structure. The vital hope of individual relies on to become an autonomous in the social structure, which consist of fallacies. An individual can succeed to protect his/her own essence with this autonomous and can force the social structure to be altered. They also critic enlightenment era which is also a critic of modernism; according to them the enlightenment separates individual and nature. Hegemony on the nature become hegemony on the individual, and it is resulted to create hegemony on the society. In that manner, modernism has also prepared the collapse of the humanity. All individuals are identical, listen to the same music, eat the same things etc. And it is possible with Culture Industry
Today’s culture is infecting everything with sameness; Film, Radio, Magazines make up a system which is uniform. All mass culture under monopoly is identical. Films & radio no longer present themselves as art; they are just business used as an ideology to legitimate the trash that is intentionally produced for masses. Today’s culture in societies establishes a set of discourse, stories, images, cultural forms that generate identities and political effects. Newspapers, television, movies, popular music, practices like shopping, watching sports event, going to club, local coffee shop are the practical artifacts of today’s culture. Jürgen Habermas who is also one of the Frankfurt School members worked contemporary society and culture. Habermas investigated the ways that a new public sphere emerged during Enlightenment and the American French revolutions how promoted political discussion & debate. Public Sphere of Habermas, described a space of institutions and practices between private & public interests. The public sphere mediated between domains of the family & the workplace (where private interests prevail) & the state which use power and domination. Habermas said that, newspapers were initially commercial sheets that deploy the news but then they are transformed in to tools of political debate under the pressure of American French Revolutions and organizations of political groups. Also newspapers fell prey to commercial imperatives and often put profit and business interest above political opinion. Society become more dominated by mass media, powerful corporations come to control major institutions, like radio, newspaper, television. The public sphere colonized by big media came to dominate public life

Coffeehouses’ in the History in terms of Cultural Stanpoint:  A coffeehouse or coffee shop is an establishment which primarily serves prepared coffee or other hot beverages. From a cultural standpoint, coffeehouses largely serve as centers of social interaction: the coffeehouse provides social members with a place to congregate, talk, write, read, entertain one another, or pass the time, whether individually or in small groups of 2 or 3 people. Coffeehouses’ in Asia, Europe, and United States was different in the past including decoration, cultural flavors and tastes. For example the 17th Century French traveler Jean Chardin gave a lively description of the Persian coffeehouse scene:
‘People engage in conversation, for it is there that news are communicated and where those interested in politics criticize the government in all freedom and without being fearful, since the government does not heed what the people say. In addition, mollas, dervishes, and poets take turns telling stories in verse or in prose. The narrations by the mollas and the dervishes are moral lessons. A molla will stand up in the middle, and begin to preach in a loud voice, or a dervish enters all of a sudden, and chastises the assembled on the vanity of the world and its material goods. It often happens that two or three people talk at the same time, one on one side, the other on the opposite, and sometimes one will be a preacher and the other a storyteller.’
In london, the coffee houses were great social levelers, open to all men and indifferent to social status, and as a result associated with equality and republicanism. More generally, coffee houses became meeting places where business could be carried on, news exchanged.
Coffee shops in the United States arose from the espresso- and pastry-centered Italian coffeehouses of the Italian American immigrant communities in the major U.S. cities, From the late 1950s onward, coffeehouses also served as a venue for entertainment, most commonly folk performers during the American folk music revival.

Today’s coffeehouses, actually there is one major, and lots of copies of the main, are so identical due to globalization effect. Starbucks which is the very well known brand name of famous coffee house chains are now everywhere. The coffe houses owned by them is very recognizable based on the decoration, people who serve coffee and products that are sold in the shop.
Considering the number of coffee houses with Starbucks reached today, you  may not compare it with past. However this does not mean that today’s coffee houses share the same meaning of past’s coffee houses that were played a major role in the public. With the increasing number of those modern gathering places, supposedly thinking that people would have found a chance to change ideas, news, create public opinion considering the divercity of the society. Even though the new ones serve newspapers, magazines to be read, free Wi-Fi to be used and enough place to come together, people prefer not to talk each other, mingling and exchange the ideas each other. Instead they prefer to sit alone, have a cup of coffee silently.And it is the almost same all over the world.

It is a really good example how culture industry makes the culture uniform and creates mass products to continue his hegemony.


Souce: Wikipedia; Mass Deception by Adorno; Culture, Hegemony, Ideology by O’Shaughnessy