Dogville, Hollywood and the Rule of the Mediocracy
'I think very often people start off with very good intentions, especially
artists, and then they themselves become more and more important, so
that the cause they have been working for slips into the background,
and sometimes they lose it completely. I think that's very often the
case.' Lars von Trier
Talking of creative integrity in Hollywood is akin to preaching chastity
in a whorehouse. At best, it is bad manners, at worst, suicide. Either
way, you are going to upset the punters. The whores, on the other hand
(for which read 'filmmakers'), might well be open to conversion; but
if so, then the whorehouse is clearly not the place to do it (there
are pimps as well as punters to worry about). Lars von Trier was never
going to go to Hollywood, either, and so Hollywood would just have to
come to him. This it finally did, in the alluring and delicate form
of Nicole Kidman.
But first, let us define what we mean by 'Hollywood.'
Any collective of individuals (business or group enterprise) must by
definition develop (and serve) an interest of it own. It must, therefore,
develop an agenda outside of (eventually overruling) that of the individuals
who have formed the group. This is the will (if not intelligence) of
the collective. To clarify this point, consider government institutions,
religions, even a simple sports club or protest group.
When enough individuals are directed towards a single goal, they cease
to function as individuals, and begin to operate as components within
the structure and agenda which they have created. Thus, it may be seen
how the medical community, for example, 'conspires' to keep people sick
and therefore dependent on it, even though the number of corrupt physicians
deliberately poisoning their patients must (we trust) be relatively
few. (Instead, they poison us with paranoia about disease and a slavish
dependence on medicine, both of which increase our susceptibility to
illness.) Ditto our various governments, which conspire collectively
(and in this case individually too) to keep the world in a state of
chaos and thus in need of governing.
There is no special need to posit malevolence in such an agenda (although
we can if we like), since it is really the most basic (and base) of
all interests that is being served: that of self-preservation. When
individuals group together to solve (or at least address) some problem,
the purpose of that group thereby becomes dependent on the existence
of the very problem it seeks to solve. And so, as it develops autonomy
and becomes a group-agenda - and hence develops the will to self-preservation
- it begins (quite naturally) to serve a function directly counter to
its original aim, namely: the maintenance (and even aggravation) of
'the problem.' The 'solution' (abstract to begin with) gets lost in
the shuffle, and is eventually forgotten altogether. Which brings us
The purpose of Hollywood is (I trust none will argue) to make movies.
This goes without saying, just as the purpose of bees is to make honey,
McDonald's to make 'Big Macs' and politicians to wage war. The other
purpose of Hollywood, or rather the purpose which is perhaps less self-evident
(though still elementary), is to entertain the public and make money
by doing so (though not necessarily in this order).
It might be said that the primary purpose of Hollywood (namely, those
individuals who run the studios and make the deals and, further down
the food chain, the ones who make the movies) is to entertain the public,
and that movies (once invented) seemed like a good way to do it. This
would be credible enough in a Utopian society populated by individuals
geared towards making people happy. Since we do not live in such a society
(at least, the author doesn't), let us assume that, in actual fact,
the primary purpose of Hollywood is, and has always been, to make money.
Entertaining the public with movies was decided upon as a viable way
to achieve this. Yet Hollywood is not a factory. Its 'products' cannot
be mass-produced by machines to be identical, and sold over and over
again for as long as people consume them, eat them, wipe their butts
with them, or go jogging in them. No. Here is the difference: the purpose
of Hollywood is three-pronged, then: to make money by making movies
that entertain people (and make them 'happy'). Since this three-pronged
purpose cannot really be broken down like this, there might eventually
occur to the self-sustaining system of Hollywood the following puzzling
dilemma: if people need (or at least will pay money for) movies that
make them happy, then happy people do not need (or at least won't pay
for) movies. In fact, the less happy people are (the more bored and
frustrated with their lives), the more they will pay to escape their
misery and flee into the temporary relief of movies.
Just as medicine that makes us sicker keeps the medical industry thriving,
movies that insult our intelligence and frustrate our hopes, that leave
us despondent and fed up, are, perhaps, better for the movie industry
as a whole than movies that make people 'happy.' After all, there is
no (acceptable) alternative to modern medicine or (Hollywood) movies.
So people will keep going back for more anyway, in the hope of finding
that elusive cure. It is not likely to ever occur to these people that
their needs are being deliberately denied in order to be better exploited.
That is a possibility too ghastly to consider. It verges on paranoia.