Thursday, October 31, 2013

Entertainments Role In Spreading Ideology

One thing I despise about the corporate entertainment apparatus is this paradigm that entertainment is a distant second to profits. We see it every summer with the barrage of repackaged old films and the ever growing number of sequels. Another thing I despise is the use of entertainment to perpetuate and spread negative stereotypes. 

The music industry, like the movie industry, also suffers from a lack of new and original artists. If 2Chainz sells a gold album the competing record companies knee jerk reaction is to find a carbon copy who will (hopefully) cash in on the buzz created. The reality is that talented new artists are sacrificed for the "next" Tupac, 50 Cent, or Jay-Z. Think about the space that was created after the death of Tupac. Ja Rule, DMX, and a slew of 5 foot nothing no hundred pound tough guys were selected to fill the void- some more effectively than others.

The corporate entertainment structure doesn't have the ability to control what we think, but it does have the ability to influence what we think about. If the only movies made about Muslims depict them as bloodthirsty savages, and the only TV shows about Italians portray them as Mafia or (worse) like the cast of Jersey Shore, then sadly for some, it becomes their depiction of reality.  

Many critics have classified Hip-Hop and rap music as noise. They point to the glorification of violence and the exploitation of women as proof of its negative impact. In these cases their critique aptly fits. But, let's go to the next level: instead of asking why is this music so seemingly fascinated with death and destruction; let's ask why are these the only images we see? 

The rise of Gangsta rap in the late 80's was caused by the identification to the real life struggles of the inner city, and the fascination with that struggle by those (safe on the sidelines) in suburban and rural America. I never understood how Tipper Gore, the "Moral Majority", and a host of others were more offended by the creative narration of life in the ghetto than they were with the hell these kids were growing up in. This type of negative thinking is just as dangerous as the ideology shared by kids who feel they have nothing to live for. The idea that voices crying out for help should be silenced for the sake of a politically correct dialogue is a form of censorship and denial of the everyday realities for some. 

Forget the copycat artists who offer very little in the way of creativity, but look at the men and women who have provided an autobiographical quality to the genre. These voices have been drowned out by the fascination with street culture. Rap music is the opportunity for inner city kids to tell their story and corporate executives to exploit it. 

The use of the large and small screen, or music to advance a social message is paradoxical by it's nature. The pain that fueled N.W.A's lyrics was glorified into the message: only male machismo can overcome the system. "Get rich or die tryin" was sanitized of the living hell that spawned it and turned into a catchphrase. It's sad how easily these messages were co-opted. I'm not downplaying the role the artists have played in this process. The road out of the ghetto is paved with hard choices and the introduction of money makes many of the ethical choices even harder. 

The same window that was open for Public Enemy was open for 2 Live Crew. The Cosby Show was a platform for African American exceptionalism that Cops at its worst tore down. Instead of Heathcliff Huxtable in a sweater we were bombarded with an assortment of half literate men in wife beaters. The worst examples of African American behavior edited and displayed for entertainment. This is true for Married With Children, Jerry Springer, and the majority of reality TV shows. Imagine how many people have been negatively impacted by this type of entertainment? They can't control what we think, but they can certainly influence what we think about.