In her lecture â€śCultural Criticism and Transformationâ€? bell hooks offered a host of strategies for viewing films critically. She wants the viewer to consider: Who made the film? Who is the money behind the film? Who is the intended consumer of the film? Who is the film about and how are the characters portrayed in the film? More often than not in todayâ€™s mainstream movie machine, the answers to these questions can be found within what she refers to as the â€śwhite supremacist, capitalist, patriarchyâ€? (ws, c, p). As she pointed out, these are â€śinterlocking systems of dominationâ€? that are all working in tandem to keep themselves in place. And she cautioned that simply looking at one aspect (race, gender, etc) on its own doesnâ€™t give us any real insight because the representations offered via the mass media are always more complex. I think that falling into this trap is rather easy because often there is one issue that seems more prominent than others might seem.
Her critique of rap music illustrates this very well. At first glance the overt sexism might seem most prominent. However, she reminds us that the target consumers are usually white, suburban, teenage boys and that the men running the corporations which distribute the music are executives worshiping in the house of capitalism and that the usually black rappers are simply doing the same. Presto- together they all work to reinforce the system of â€śws, c, pâ€? and they do it quite well. She said â€śimages mean something,â€? and truly what we see is no accident. hooks wants us to always be mindful that all we see on TV and in the movies has a filter that is controlled by people (the â€śws, c, pâ€?) in power who most often stand to gain financially from what is being shown.
Itâ€™s really interesting to me how easy it is to lose sight of all this when at the cinema. After listening to the lecture I was feeling a bit bad about how I quite often passively consume while I watch films. Then I realized while watching the movie â€śCarsâ€? with my 2 Â˝ year old nephew that we are conditioned into the â€śws, c, pâ€? from very early in our lives. The main car in this movie is a boy (narrated by a white man) and the girl car does nothing to forward the plot, which is one of the topics treated in Laura Mulveyâ€™s piece. Then I thought about other animated â€śkidâ€? movies Iâ€™d seen ("Antz," "Shrek") and the same basically held true. I havenâ€™t seen "Finding Nemo," "Bee Movie" or "Wall-E," but Iâ€™m pretty sure the main characters are boys. I guess it makes sense, that in order to perpetuate itself the â€śws, c, pâ€? would start on us young in order to successfully lull us into complacency. With all this in mind, I feel like it would be impossible not to see the agenda behind film images, but I know itâ€™s not always obvious. So for future I plan to keep vigilant and mindful while viewing.
Thanks for listening.