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“The Culture Industry as Mass Deception”, Movie Analysis Example

Pages: 6

Words: 1614

Movie Analysis

We live in a very sensitive information dispensation that is highly unparalleled in the annals of humanity. As a consequence, it has become common place to equate power to the quantum of information that is accessible and useful at any given time. It is this perceived power in information that has triggered the evolution of the media industry into what Adorno and Horkheimer see as a new caste dynasty—a dynastic caste that is hinged on a cultural norm of our day and age. The thrust of their thesis is built on the premise that the media industry of today has radically evolved into an imperialist commercial entity under the auspices of a capitalist ideology.

What is also glaring in the prognosis of Adorno and Horkheimer is their contention that culture as a social phenomenon has being besieged by the media under the sponsorship of their giant corporate masters. Given the active role played by the media in the world of today, they have become implementing agents of clandestine ideological inclinations using the diverse streams of delivery channels at their disposal; this allows them to influence and set the social agenda for their patrons. It is against this background that this paper seeks to use the movie entitled “The Matrix” as a vivid case in point to highlight the fact that the media dominance in setting the agenda of the social structure of contemporary times.

To begin with, it is prudent to take a contextual view of the immediate and remote factors that must have informed the prognosis of the writers. In alluding to a state of “mass deception,” it is easy to discern that the writers are pointing to a sudden loss of independence in thinking, subservient to the proliferation of the deception. Another plausible fact that can be deduced from the consequence of the state of “mass deception” is that in the most apparent form, humans are inclined to independent rational thought often times backed by sufficient logical and provable evidence. Therefore, to achieve the state of “mass deception” is indicative of a situation where there is a subtle twist and bending of logical facts in a manner that appears superficially compatible with the existing status quo, by even making a stronger case in support of the myth of the human individuality, which in reality is either non-existent or in a comatose state. It should be noted that the sustaining key to this “mass deception” is built on an illusory assurance of appeasement and ease.

Suffice to cite a few classical practical illustrations to further illuminate the foregoing assertion. A common trend that has become pervasive in almost every contemporary society is the collusion between what Marx describes as the custodians of the capitalist institutions, who also have the authority to vigorously exert control over members of society vis-à-vis the coding of what constitutes the dynamics of the social structure results in a prescription of what can be propagated and what cannot be all in the supposed interest of the social structure. Conscious of this, the media setup have taking advantage of what is seen as a perceived need for an “art” and converted into an commercially viable ideological institution that churns out products that satisfies the gurus in the capitalist superstructure as described by Marx. It is the repetition and publicity given to these ideologies by the media that eventually culminates into what is known as the social structure. What is also striking is that, the dominant ideology that is proliferated bulldozers its ways into becoming the prevalent agenda, by which conformity becomes imperative rather than a luxury; thereby inciting a massive pool of craving as long as the identity becomes established through populism. We have become gullible to the propaganda that we live in a rapidly changing world and therefore it is incumbent on every living being to make the required cultural adjustments as and when they come. The paradigms set by the cultural industry of our day and age fits this scenario squarely.

Adorno and Horkheimer have openly expressed their disgust for the belief that every meaningful progress in human development is built on the widely held conviction of cultural uniformity. However, as the writers take their readers beyond the superficial corridors of these warped convictions, it becomes increasingly evident that what is seen as a state of cultural uniformity is a tradeoff of individuality and the freedoms that comes with it, for an arbitrary control engineered by a handful of ideologues.

By and large despite the massive claim to monopoly, the cultural industry has steadily presided over a system that has starved insightful content in the information being churned out to audiences. Convenience has taken precedence over reality therefore what the industry players are good at doing is the manipulation of information presentation and the various techniques that is needed for achieving such an end. Ingenuity is utterly bereaved in this current cultural dispensation of sensationalism. A sad consequence of this sorry state of the cultural industry is that progressively the freedom of thought of the ordinary is being constricted by the day through artificially orchestrated twits in cultural realities.

Referring to “The Matrix” again, our world of today is rife with audiences who in many ways are similar to the characters in the movie who suddenly awoke to the realities of the looming danger posed by the wholesale consumption of illusory materials at the expense of imminent threats of disaster in grand scale. A cardinal emphasis put forward by Adorno and Horkheimer is that increasingly the trend in the media landscape is pointing to the widening gap between conventional art work and commercial activities. Thanks to the media propagation of our day and age, technology has taken premium stage in the process of crafting the cultural parameters that regulates the dynamics of the industry. It is for this reason that Adornon and Horkheimer were quoted as saying “the social power which the spectators worship shows itself more effectively in the omnipresence of the stereotype imposed by technical skill than in the stale ideologies for which the ephemeral contents stand in.” (1972). In many ways the “The Matrix” can be said to be a detailed timeless description of the world of human beings who have covertly or overtly sold out their freedoms to the mechanizations of science and technology.

The movie serves as a humble admonishment to take a sober look at the world in which we live in, with all its contentions of grandiose luxury of choices at our disposal. It is especially pointing to the need to give a critical look at all the parts that define this kind of existence, with the view of making an informed distinction between what is real and what is an artificial illusion. By and large man has been reduced to a device using creature: without which he is nothing but with it he is everything. The movie is also endowed with reference to Christian and Eastern Buddhist theological doctrines, thus completing the adoption of piety and myth to support the main themes of the movie. The use of Christian theology by the directors to some extent does not make the movie an entirely novel work of art, as a result the plot sections looses some elements of its appeal to western audiences who have already developed acquaintances with the thematic line coming from such an artistic pattern (Leong, 1999).

What appears to be a conflicting message is observed in the movie, the very moment that the insidious rebellious tribe has to choose the unorthodox path of discontent for every form of Cyber-slavery or Artificial Intelligence in the real world around the real world. The reason for taking adopting such an option is informed by the need to stir up a mythic-illusion that will eventually culminate into the desired changes.

It is based on this desire that it becomes imperative for a concise knowledge of every thing that they will be confronting namely: spiritual myth and science. They are represented in the movie by Rebirth, Second Coming and the art of Kung Fu.

In another sense, Adorno and Horkheimer argue that the movie contains some reference to questions of the enlightenment moves of the nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. Within this framework it can be seen that the plot highlights both sides of the deeper analysis that exposes enlightenment dispensation on the one side and the proliferation of myths on the other side. It is this position that influenced the writers’ declaration that “myth is already enlightenment and enlightenment reverts to mythology. Enlightenment intends to secure itself against the return of the mythic.” (p. 25-27). Beyond the superficial context, it is seen that modern science is engaged in a desperate quest to bring the crude forms of nature to its logical subjugation. As seen in the movie, the earth is already entirely dominated by technology beyond imaginable proportions representing a new aura of amazing relief to the difficulties of everyday existence but the attainment of this status comes at a cost to the mythic regulatory structural designs, a position that the writers believe this in the long run will not serve the best interest of the man in any significant way. Eventually, an important fact emerges: given the chance man will prefer the falsehood of daily life as a compensation for the stark realities. Ultimately, the core message is not a castigation of science and technology but rather a clarion call to disentangle from the ravaging effects of mind bondage that comes with unbridled consumption of prescribed information.

Reference

Horkheimer, Max & Adorno, Theodor W. Dialectic of Enlightenment. Translated by John Cumming from Dialektick der Aufklarung (1944). NY: Herder and Herder (1972)

Leong, Anthony, (1999) Movie Review of Matrix,. Accessed on November 29, 2009 from http://members.aol.com/aleong1631/matrix.html

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