Oscars reflect and influence changing American culture

I have watched the Oscars for many years, not just because like hundreds of millions I love the movies but also because I think they are a cultural artifact which can help us understand the direction American and our own society is heading.

Hollywood , of course, is still the capital of the American entertainment industry and is driven in large part by the money that it generates from not only American markets but global markets where its influence on popular culture has been enormous and sometimes resented. This has been particularly so when the films it produces offer a seductive alternative to domestically made films which speak directly to the local regional or national culture. But increasingly the world is a global place and Hollywood itself and its awards are increasingly open to global influences. We can see this in the results. A Brazilian story originating with the Brazilian  novelist Dr.Moacyr Scliar adapted and changed by a Montreal writer , Yann Martel which wins the Booker prize  and directed by a Taiwanese American Director who is a Hollywood star, wins several awards including the award for best director. An American story,Argo, with a central Canadian role, the brave and daring rescue of six American diplomats hidden in the Canadian embassy and spirited out of the country on Canadian passports by a CIA agent on tickets acquired by the Canadian ambassador Ken Taylor who along with his colleague John Sheardown had risked their lives to hide and shelter the diplomats in revolutionary Iran in the grip of Ayatollah Khomeini until they could be smuggled out of the country wins the award for best picture. Again a global story with a strong Canadian twist that is I  suppose understandably underplayed by the American film makers  who wrongly suggest that it was largely the Americans doing that rescued the diplomats. Among the other films nominated for best film is the French film Amour, winner of many awards in Europe and itself winner of the best foreign language film. Winner of the best actor award Daniel Day Lewis the great Croom’s hill Greenwich UK actor who himself is the son of the British writer and poet C.Day-Lewis and the British Jewish actress Jill Balcon and who amazingly brilliantly portrays the great American President Abraham Lincoln in Stephen Spielberg’s wonderful film Lincoln.

Many of the Oscar winners are from Britain, one is from Germany, one from Chile and others from Europe. The winner of the best supporting actress role Oscar is Anne Hathaway who wins for the musical version of the great French writer Victor Hugo’s magnificent story Les Misérables.

Culture clearly transcends boundaries and it is the genius of the American cinema that has remained open to the world and influences and in turn is influenced by the evolving potential humanistic global culture that we see presented in many of these films. It is still a world of tinsel and popcorn, occasional American triumphalism, violence and dreams and fantasies but it is one whose better side offers the promise of a better world that celebrates values  like freedom, compassion, healing, courage  and love, despite the dark times that surround us. 


About haroldchorneyeconomist

I am Professor of political economy at Concordia university in Montréal, Québec, Canada. I received my B.A.Hons (econ.&poli sci) from the University of Manitoba. I also completed my M.A. degree in economics there. Went on to spend two years at the London School of Economics as a Ph.D. student in economics and then completed my Ph.D. in political economy at the University of Toronto. Was named a John W.Dafoe fellow, a CMHC fellow and a Canada Council fellow. I also was named a Woodrow Wilson fellow in 1968 after completing my first class honours undergraduate degree. Worked as an economist in the area of education, labour economics and as the senior economist with the Manitoba Housing and Renewal Corporation for the Government of Manitoba from 1972 to 1978. I also have worked as an economic consultant for MDT socio-economic consultants and have been consulted on urban planning, health policy, linguistic duality and public sector finance questions by the governments of Manitoba, Saskatchewan,the cities of Regina and Saskatoon, Ontario and the Federal government of Canada. I have also been consulted by senior leaders of the British Labour party, MPs from the Progressive Conservative party, the Liberal party and the New Democrats on economic policy questions. Members of the Government of France under the Presidency of Francois Mitterand discussed my work on public sector deficits. I have also run for elected office at the municipal level. I first began to write about quantitative easing as a useful policy option during the early 1980s.
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3 Responses to Oscars reflect and influence changing American culture

  1. Stephen Booth says:

    When talking about the oscars, how much can you say that it reflects influence. We must understand that Hollywood constructs entertainment. Films are easy to promote. There is a concept that a film audience accepts the more historical films as facts and we don’t debate its accuracy. Lincoln and Argo are examples of this. I’ve seen the Oscars since 2003 when Peter Jackson won 11 awards for Lord of the Rings.I’ve even been to the theatre where they host it. It’s smaller than it appears on television.
    Could you say that entertainment is so powerful we rely on filmmakers to tell us these stories about what’s going on?

  2. Clearly films are not history . As well, as Max Horkheimer, Theodor Adorno and in a different more utopian way Walter Benjamin understood that film was both an art form and potentially a key component of the culture industry which could play a key role in moulding popular culture. See their writings , particularly Horkheimer and Adorno on The Dialectic of Enlightenment. Also Benjamin’s essay The Work of Art in the age of mechanical reproduction.

    • Stephen Booth says:

      A random question about entertainment. In terms of typecasting and stereotypes, would you say that media portrayal is at the fault of the craftsman or where the craftsman gets their source of inspiration? Because it can be said that the environment in which the artist lives in is their muse. I draw from Brecht when he said art isn’t a mirror to reflect society, but a hammer with which to shape it. The artist could have nothing to shape if society shows nothing that the artist can use for their work.

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