lengths of comfy verdure

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Tuesday, February 28, 2006

movies today PART TWO


Gloria Steinem in her autobiography wrote that when she was working for women's magazines, before she founded Ms. Magazine in 1972, she was literally told to "create an environment that was friendly to their advertisers." (that quote is really just me paraphrasing from memory, not a citation.) by "literally" i mean that they didn't beat around the bush, she quotes letters she received (in that fabled time beofre email) from cosmetic companies telling her exaclty the kind of articles they wanted to see surrounding their ads; estee lauder, i remember, was a particularly grave offender. this is why "women's magazines", for the most part, today consist of arcticles about how to put on mascara and what the new "in" color of eyeshadow is (teal, BTW), etc. thus began the ultimate tyranny of madison avenue (actually today really it's european PR companies, but that's a whole other ball of leg wax) over the american media.

we all know about this already, though. we've all witnessed advertisers threaten to "pull their ads", i.e. remove advertising money from the networks' profits, when jesus christ got dissed, or someone's nipple popped out. we've all seen our favorite actor take a swig out of a can or bottle whose label is uncannily facing perfectly forward and perfectly unobscured. we all noticed how nice the apartment was on friends. does anyone have a grubby or cramped apartment on tv any more? (i actually really don't know; i don't have a tv.) it's as if there is a certain standard of living below which it is not acceptable, or even polite, for an american to live in. the "updated" houses and apartments people live in on tv are what's normal. if you don't live like that, you'd better get on it!

more insidious than product placement, however, is the ever ubiquitous backdrop of a culture of constant striving embedded in the very structure of almost every movie we see, every book we read. now, i agree that often a lack of traditional structure can mean that a movie is depressing (e.g. cassavetes' gloria, in which characters wander about aimlessly, full of despair) or annoyingly has no discernable point (gummo, lost in translation.) despair often negates structure, as does insanity (a la aronofsky's 1998 pi), but you can do despair with a traditional hollywood structure, i.e. the main character passionately needing to accomplish something, as in leaving las vegas, in which the main character. must. kill. himself. i prefer it when purposefulness is artfully and superficially sprinkled in to help push the story along without becoming the main point of the movie, like in midnight cowboy, in which dustin hoffman dreams of making it to florida.



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