Dogville vs Hollywood

INTRODUCTION: 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 to Hollywood.

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.