03 Mar 2017
Benton’s mural-sized painting “Hollywood” was intended, the artist remarked, to show that the movie industry was “predominantly an economically conditioned art”. “The movie art is not only a business but a business expression. It speaks in by and through the patterns of the American business mind. It is go-getter, optimistic, sentimental, and politically conservative. It sings and clowns in Rotary Club fashion, and romances with a high regard for the status quo in everything.
(Th. H. Benton, “Hollywood Journey”), Erika Doss, “Artists in Hollywood: T. H. Benton and Nathanael West Picture America’s Dream Dump”
Benton and West challenged the movie industry’s destructive manipulation of the American Dream, and its corrosive impact on the nation’s social and political futures.
Erika Doss, Ibid
The young lady who occupies the center of the panel is more a symbolical than an actual movie figure. I wanted to give an idea that the machinery of the industry, cameras, carpenters, big generators, high voltage wires, etc. is directed mainly toward what young ladies have under their clothes. So, I took the clothes off…
T. H. Benton, “Letter to Longwell”
A female movie star is the heart of Hollywood movie, like male star is its brains and muscles.
A female movie star in entertaining movie is the goal, while the male star is a model of competence in how to reach this goal.
A female movie star is the dream-realized, while the male star is either the possibility or the guarantee of its realization.
Colorful moths of myths manufactured with hard- and soft-wares is the “operational” definition of Hollywood productions.
Creators of commercial movies are specialists in money-making through movie-making
Metaphoric “abbreviation” of Hollywood as Hilly-weed or Hell-y-weed industry: sell, sale, sail, soul, salt, silk, sold.
Benton is right – Hollywood magic is to show a dressed woman as if she is naked, and by this to combine cabaret and optics: two arts – exposition and delivery and two substances – organic and mechanical to work with.
The quantity of people and technical gadgets in this mural is overwhelming, and so should be the result of the intense work of making a movie – the ready product: the movie itself, and so should be the result of its readiness – financial plenitude of the box office sales. According to Benton, the Hollywood empire of shadowy dreams and their imaginary satisfactions is centered, like human body around sexual organs, on the idea of the female star. The male star is very near by, with his straight gaze penetrating the very locus-focus of femininity. The task of the male star is to professionally handle the phallic (irresistible) woman, incomparable and stubborn, who is at once a beauty, bounty, bondage and freedom. In the adjacent studio the sexual and violent scene is being prepared, where the male star is training his female counterpart a simple super-historical and Hollywood truth of who is the boss of the screen-queen. Hollywood offers its viewers the most adventurous of adventures, the fullest and deepest orgasms for dominatrixes and their slaves and conquerors: the tamers of female demons transformed into angels through love in order to seduce the audience by Eros and Resistance. Many varieties and fascinating branchings of this videogame exist and develop more with time, and it’s one of the most successful strategies to pump money out of the pockets of viewers.
Not without the masterful help on part of the male-stars, those trainers of “feminine mystic”, Hollywood is able to design female cloth, which is, whatever the plot of the story can be, psychologically transparent for the audience’s perception, like it makes the movie screen a transparent – imaginary versions of human life. Movie-woman as an object of amorous and sexual appropriation and possession becomes for Hollywood movie-makers a metaphor for their efforts of moneymaking. The female-character/star is a Hollywood code-name for profit. In Benton’s mural we see, how film making industry is organized around woman whose real name is money. In Louis Malle’s “Pretty Baby” (1978) the director analyzes American postindustrial life as a combination of gambling/casino and prostitution/brothel as a way of building private prosperity of people’s American dream.
The auditorium, the screen and the projection room at the movie theater are located in the spacious basement where, as in a variant of Plato’s cave people moved by the lust of imaginary satisfaction while “chaining themselves to their seats” to enjoy in full the screen shadows. The sad usherette is preoccupied with her own thoughts and feelings, which are not addressed by the feverish foolishness of screen life (it’s like fake food we consume, which step by step makes us sick with obesity, diabetes, excess of cholesterol, elevated blood pressure, etc., while enjoying the extra-sugar, harmful fats, extra-caffeine, etc.) Our addiction to entertaining images makes us psychologically regressed and less and less able to understand (and losing taste for understanding) the reality of adult life – an inability that makes us easily manipulated by the wealthy masters of our lives, whom we worship for their financial success. Entertainment transforming life into amusingly simplified animation cartoon situations provides us with something better than mundane life – entertainment enters our souls like angel-ghosts. But our neat and stubborn usherette is an exclamatory contrast to the mentally passive pleasures of watching movies while being in a position of symbiotic (positive or negative) identification with the characters-stars.
By the posture of the usherette we see that she is trying to grasp something – (probably, some problems in her emotional life), but she is alone – nobody will address her concerns and difficulties – the task of entertaining art that Hopper depicts from the side, as anonymous waves of murky light, is to entertain (like the task of singer is to sing, actor – to act, talker to talk, snorer to snore, eater to eat, etc.). The job of entertaining through movies is to envelop the viewers with balsam of images pointing away from life – towards hope, belief, forgetting “all the bad things” and turning towards half-filled glass and not half-empty.
Tautology of entertainment means that the consumer consumes images which satisfy as images, not like reality, and then life is left ineligible and ungraspable, and human being belongs to his emotional disappointments and frustrations making him hateful and impulsive. The situation is not that there is entertainment and there is serious culture. Entertainment is a vampire, a cannibal of the soul – it kills culture, it gradually suffocates it. People lose the ability to think without having immediate satisfaction. People become psychologically and intellectually sterile. Culture is closed off to the heroine of Hopper’s painting. And still, she is a heroic figure – the lonely fighter of the resistance to surrender to entertainment completely. She doesn’t know, that a person cannot effectively think about life without humanistic education, and this education becomes less and less available.