It is no secret, the art of film making and cinematography as always been that of a spectacle. Since the 1890s when Marey and Muybridge used the camera “to show,” film had taken a new turn in terms of story.
And in 1902 when George Melies showcased “A Trip to the Moon” editing became another element of film that evolved the genre as a whole.
Film making had great potential to be universally educational (Lumiere Bros’ actualities), but this same potential also had a negative side which came into fruition with D. Griffith and Biograph’s “Birth of a Nation.” Birth of a Nation was atrocious because it cleverly used dramatic camera angles and interweaved edits to influence the hearts of slavery supporters. This would later lead to a rebirth of the Ku Klux Klan which until Birth of A Nation had been released, was a short-lived figment of America’s past.
Birth of the Nation was one of the earlier examples of how mise-en-scne could be used to manipulate the audience’s emotions and a sneak peek of what was to come in terms of Hollywood’s promotion of it’s own agenda over that of the psyche of the people.
Later in the late 1910s, Lev Kuleshov’s montage technique would improve upon this aspect and manipulate the audience’s emotional response by using a juxtaposition or chain of shots. Editing experiments would show that audiences formed interpretations based on the montage alone.
Through editing, and a mastery of mise-en-scene, Hollywood had the perfect tool to manipulate the American populace into becoming the ideal citizen. This was greatly made possible in the 1920s by the commercialization of television in American households.
“In the 1930s, a number of experimental broadcast stations began producing some special television programming. Radio powers NBC and CBS built New York stations. World War II impeded the development of the medium, slowing it as people and materials were directed to this major world conflict. Television replaced radio as the dominant broadcast medium by the 1950s and took over home entertainment. Approximately 8,000 U.S. households had television sets in 1946; 45.7 million had them by 1960.”
This enabled Hollywood to maintain a clutch on the perception of American’s psyche not only in the theaters but in their everyday lives. This process wouldn’t truly began however until the 1950s with the production of shows like Leave it to Beaver, The Honeymooners, Father Knows Best, and Amos n Andy, just to name a few.
Each of these shows promoted a certain aesthetic or way of thinking that Hollywood wanted the public to behave in. Leave it to Beaver displayed the blueprint for classic American family household and how it should operate; a Father who reigned as king, a Mother who supported and helped carry out the Father’s orders, a son, daughter, baby and family pet would round out the package all neatly contained within a white picket fence in a sunny, negro-free suburban community.
This type of setup became known as the nuclear family and all other family models were deemed abnormal. So imagine if your family consists of a single parent, two same sex parents, or any other variation of the norm. Already at the tender age of childhood, you would begin to look down upon your own family for not being the same as all the other families portrayed on television.
Father Knows Best, I don’t have to say too much about this one, the title alone reeks of patriarchy. While the television adaptation of the original radio show was less offensive, it still promoted the misconception that “father knows best” as Jim was toned down from that of a sarcastic, verbally abusive husband/father to that of a wise father who had an answer for every problem.
“Father Knows Best, a family comedy of the 1950s, is perhaps more important for what it has come to represent than for what it actually was. In essence, the series was one of a slew of middle-class family sitcoms in which moms were moms, kids were kids, and fathers knew best. Today, many critics view it, at best, as high camp fun, and, at worst, as part of what critic David Marc once labeled the “Aryan melodramas” of the 1950s and 1960s.”
Apparently the show was so ingrained in American pop culture that the U.S. Treasury Department in 1959 commissioned an episode that promoted the buying of savings bonds. Saving bonds were created by Franklin Roosevelt in the 1930s to help finance World War 2. So once again, a link is made between American television and now the advocacy of war with the purchase of these savings bonds now called war bonds.
Amos n Andy, like Birth of a Nation which preceded it was yet another attempt in a long tradition of cinematic stereotypes to manipulate the public into thinking that Africans living in America were buffoons and always up to no good. Shows like this would continue to promote racist views and further divide the line between African and Caucasian American citizens to the point where they focused their anger and aggression on each other instead of the unseen enemy (the United States government) that seemed to be pulling both groups by the strings. What’s worse however was the damage done to the African community in which many began to see themselves as these worthless caricatures which gave way to mental sabotage and insecurities that would have never existed otherwise.
Even today in modern times, Hollywood’s manipulation techniques can be linked to the direct cause and promotion of patriarchy, racism, and gender roles of the average American citizen. Today children are a bullseye for such marketing and manipulation. The example I use is the format of Saban’s Mighty Morphin Power Rangers.
As a child, I overlooked many of these elements. It’s not that I didn’t know of the existence of stereotypes or gender roles, I was just too young to really understand the greater picture of how all these elements would one day add up to make me a very confused human being. As I grew older and began to look back on my favorite childhood shows, I realized, with great hilarity, how awfully blunt these shows were at promoting the very same stereotypes and gender roles I now consciously fight against.
Even as a child certain elements from this show were controversial and stood out. Among them, the categorization of the rangers based on their ethnic status. Zack the African American was given the the mantle of black ranger, Trini the Asian American was the yellow ranger and Kimberly the Caucasian American woman was made to be the pink ranger. If this was the only season of the power rangers then you could easily overlook these factors but the fact remains that after each subsequent season, there are some abnormalities that don’t seem to change, specifically in regards to gender roles.
In the long line of Power Rangers that came after the original lineup, there has never been a female red ranger, and vice versa there has never been a male pink ranger. What does color have to do with anything, you may ask. Well in the Power Ranger code, colors play a huge part in rank. Red is usually reserved for the leader of the team while Pink and every other color are subordinate roles. There have been some variations however, in one series, Time Force the leader of the team was a female pink ranger (only serving as a replacement leader to the red ranger who was injured) <____< while in another series, SPD, the leader was an African American male red ranger.
Even though the Power Ranger franchise has given a very slight nod to these two exceptions, I think just to get Womens/African rights groups off their heels, for the most part the leader is often, male and red. I don’t want to give myself up as a nerd and linger too long on this subject but the fact is, the consistent designation of women to the pink mantra just further reinforces gender roles established in 1940 in regards to the proper colors/attire boys and girls should wear; a train of thought that just 20 years earlier was in non-existence.
The reason this is unacceptable is because it reinforces the notion that women, except in minor situations like in Time Force, should not be assertive, are not leadership material, and serve no other purpose but playing a support role to the male character.
From cinema to television, Hollywood has perfected the formula to drug the American populace into believing what it wants them to believe. There is a resistance to this culture, or lack of culture being given to us however. One such example is the Hollywoodism International Conference.
Conferences like these and many others around the globe illuminate the evils of Hollywood while promoting alternatives to the corporate monster and giving new filmmakers an outlet to share their vision with the world without conforming to Hollywood’s agenda.