Hollywood's Capitalism

By Forsyth, Scott | Canadian Dimension, July-August 1991 | Go to article overview

Hollywood's Capitalism


Forsyth, Scott, Canadian Dimension


What does capitalism look like? Marxists produce volumes of analysis attacking the immense complexity and constant changes in the dominant social order. But bourgeois culture needs to reproduce that order constantly, and capitalism can be condensed and aestheticized into pictures and stories.

Hollywood, recently, has gone to the 'heart' of capitalism--the stock market, insider trading, Wall Street -- and revealed a world erotic and decadent, fantastic and accessible, apocalyptic but fun. Wall Street, Working Girl, Pretty Woman all hits of the 80s, and less successfully Trading Places, Brewster's Millions, Dealers, Bonfire of the Vanities, picture this pulsating, deal-making, whirling business culture. So 'picturable' because it is also capitalism at its most imaginary and abstract, far from the real locus of production and exploitation. The films present the 'popular capitalism' that Thatcherites, business mags and MBA schools have gantasized -- we'll all be entrepreneurs, we'll all imagine ourselves the ruling class. Though these films represent bourgeois milieux, the narrative anxiety is essentially that of aspiring yuppies -- class in every film is scarily or wondrously reversible in an accelerating dichotomy of rich and poor. Class privilege, eminently desirable, is also fragile, easily revoked. But this class consciousness rarely points beyond individuals to any collective action.

Several films explicitly show that these capitalists and brokers don't do anything! It's all smoke and mirrors, though easily recuperable by a few good 'productive' capitalists of the old school, liberal ameliorations for token blacks or women or, in Pretty Woman, shopping and a good fuck (though the shopping, where image, music and commodity fetishism mesh, is much more erotic than the sex). Characteristically, sexual politics offers a way out of class contradictions and malaise. The reactionary feminist Working Girl has it all ways; the heroine reaches her utopian goal with explicit Reaganite, anti-union politics and flees slovenly working class masculinity for sexual bliss with a deal maker.

It's easy to see this materially grounded in the 'restructuring' capitalism of the 80s: the house-of-cards dominance of finance capital, the takeover games and hollowing out of the industrial economy, the sudden parasitical affluence and gluttony of new pretty-bourgeois strata, and their inclusion of the right sort of women or minorities, the engineered extremes of wealth and impoverishment. But it's also ideologically grounded in the agressive proclamation of the 'magic of the market' and the virtues of wealth which ruling class parties make increasingly explicit.

In fact, the tensions and contradictions are great, that all these stories are fables and fairy tales.

The rest of this article is only available to active members of Questia

Sign up now for a free, 1-day trial and receive full access to:

  • Questia's entire collection
  • Automatic bibliography creation
  • More helpful research tools like notes, citations, and highlights
  • Ad-free environment

Already a member? Log in now.

Notes for this article

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
One moment ...
Project items

Items saved from this article

This article has been saved
Highlights (0)
Some of your highlights are legacy items.

Highlights saved before July 30, 2012 will not be displayed on their respective source pages.

You can easily re-create the highlights by opening the book page or article, selecting the text, and clicking “Highlight.”

Citations (0)
Some of your citations are legacy items.

Any citation created before July 30, 2012 will labeled as a “Cited page.” New citations will be saved as cited passages, pages or articles.

We also added the ability to view new citations from your projects or the book or article where you created them.

Notes (0)
Bookmarks (0)

You have no saved items from this article

Project items include:
  • Saved book/article
  • Highlights
  • Quotes/citations
  • Notes
  • Bookmarks
Notes
Cite this article

Cited article

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

(Einhorn, 1992, p. 25)

(Einhorn 25)

1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited article

Hollywood's Capitalism
Settings

Settings

Typeface
Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this article

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

Full screen

matching results for page

Cited passage

Style
Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn, 1992, p. 25).

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences." (Einhorn 25)

"Portraying himself as an honest, ordinary person helped Lincoln identify with his audiences."1

1. Lois J. Einhorn, Abraham Lincoln, the Orator: Penetrating the Lincoln Legend (Westport, CT: Greenwood Press, 1992), 25, http://www.questia.com/read/27419298.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.