The Best the Culture Industry Has To Offer, Circa 2015

I spend a lot of time thinking about the pop culture that’s broadcast out to the rest of us, and the end of 2015 is a weird time. This past year, it’s become clear that there’s an extraordinary gap between the messages that the culture industry puts out, and what we’re told is their value. The messaging of these texts occupies a very limited part of a spectrum, both homogenous and uninspiring; at the same time we’re being told that what we’re being sold is simultaneously daring, progressive, multifaceted, and challenging. The thing charmingly called pop culture is getting more bland, reactionary, and corporatized while we’re being told it’s the opposite. A few recent things have illustrated this divide very starkly for me, although they come at the tail end of a year’s worth of similar texts.

The first is the trailer for Eye In The Sky, an upcoming release directed by Gavin Hood. Hood, like many of his contemporaries making films about the endless conflict once called the War on Terror, describes himself as something very similar to a journalist, working to “generate…discussion” and “engage the public in the issues of the day.” Under George W. Bush, Hood made the film Rendition, a thinly veiled adaptation of the kidnapping of Khaled al-Masri. With Barack Obama in office and the War on Terror now the “Overseas Contingency Operations,” Hood’s contribution to the public discourse is something very contemporary:

Colonel Katherine Powell (Helen Mirren) leads a secret drone mission to capture a terrorist group living in a safehouse in Nairobi, Kenya. When Powell learns that the group plans to carry out a suicide attack, her objective is changed to kill the terrorists. Drone pilot Steve Watts (Aaron Paul) targets the safehouse for destruction but reports a nine-year-old girl entering the kill zone. Powell contacts politicians and lawyers to determine whether or not to take action. [Wikipedia]

In just over 2 minutes, the trailer for Eye In The Sky manages to contain almost every liberal imperialist trope. Continue reading

Advertisements

News: Brought to You by the US State Department

I found this interview in the middle section of a 3-part BBC series called Iran and the West. Though the subject is a 1998 interview between Christiane Amanpour and Iranian President Mohammad Khatami, the brief segment captures the essence of US news:

Christiane Amanpour: We got final word, CNN, that this [interview with president Khatami] was going to happen. I was on my first holiday with my very serious boyfriend, who happened to be a State Department official.

US State Department Spokesman James Rubin: Her due diligence was to find out what the US government was waiting to hear from the Iranians, and she had the US government right beside her. So she did what any journalist would do.

Christiane Amanpour: I went into “what shall I ask him” mode.

James Rubin: And I did what was supposed to do, which was identify for her the things the US government cared about.


Obviously there are countless more people exactly like Amanpour doing the same thing for any line that needs to be pushed. But it’s nice on the rare occasions when they just come out and say it.