The Cultural Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception

Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer pointed out three characteristics of the cultural industry: Manipulation, Individuality, and Economic power.

Economic power is one of the biggest characteristics of the cultural industry that Adorno and Horkheimer talked about. In the essay, it said, “No independent thinking must be excepted from the audience: the product prescribes every reaction:not by its natural structure (which collapsed under reflection) (35).” The two explained that in the film industry,  producers make sure that their film captures the full attention of the audience, so that the audience has no time to reflect on the film, and have no room for imagination. “Even though the effort required for his response is semi-automatic, no scope is left for the imgaination (34).” This idea led the authors to explain why the film industry was doing this. Why does the film industry do this? “Business is their ideology.” In order for the industry to be successful, they must be able to have audience indulged in their films. Economic gain will always be a factor in any type of industry, especially the music industry. Especially in 2014, music celebrities throw away money to look good. For example, celebrities such as Nicki Minaj, uses her music and also does many other things such her clothing line, perfume line, etc. to gain more economic status.

In order to have economic power, the cultural industry must manipulate it’s viewers. Adorno and Horkheimer explains that the cultural industry manipulates people with sex and amusement. “By repeatedly exposing the objects of desire, breasts in a clinging sweater or the naked torso of the athletic hero…the culture industry is pornographic and prudish (37).” This quote explains that the cultural industry uses sexual arousals against the audience, to manipulate them into coming back for more. A representative for sexual manipulation in 2014 pop culture, is Nicki Minaj’s raunchy song and music video, “Anaconda”.
On the topic of amusement,  The authors stated,  “Amusement itself becomes an ideal,  taking place of the higher things of which it completely deprives the masses by repeating them in a manner even more stereotyped than the slogans paid for by advertising interests. (39).” Here, the authors state, that amusement is sponsored by companies who want advertisement. The industry only focuses on the amusement of their audiences because it continues to create business. The pop industry now is using sex and amusement so people could get into their music. For example, Bobby Shmurda’s song, Hot N****, people were really into his song because of the funny dance he did in his music video.

Like in Richard Dyer’s Stars and Heavenly Bodies, Adorno and Horkheimer focused on  individuality. They had a clear understanding of celebrities’ influence on society and the result of a star being an “individual.” Adorno and Horkheimer explained that in order for a person to be an “individual”, the industry would recreate one, forcing that person to shed their original personality. This person would have to represent something new, something different so that the audience could fall in love with them. “The individual who supported society bore its disfiguring mark; seemingly free, he was actually the product of its economic social apparatus.”
A person who represents this in 2014, is Miley Cyrus.  She represents this because people see her as being different and loving her for that reason. Some people want to imitate her and her style.

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The Nature of Charismatic Domination

In Richard Dyer’s Heavenly Bodies and Stars, and Max Weber’s The Nature of Charismatic Domination there are three similarites. These similarities are Individualism, Influence, and Politics. Individualism was expressed in all three texts, but what is individualism? Well, according to Richard Dyer, “The individual is seen as a separate and coherent entity (Heavenly Bodies).”  But how was individualism expressed in stars and charismatic leaders. Weber described a charismatic leader as a person ,”who possesse specific physical and spiritual gifts which were regarded as supernatural, in the sense of not being available to everyone.” Now people look at film stars, such as Angelina Jolie,  and charismatic leaders, such as Jesus, they see people who have talents which most people do not possess.
Influence is very big between the two. For a celebrity, when their fame increases, they influence increases as well. A star’s image must be created for the public. When the star proves that they have talent or something that audiences like, a large fan base is created and in turn they fans would want to be like those stars. It’s quite similar for charismatic leaders. Weber stated in The Nature of Charismatic Domination,  “Above alll, however, his divine mission must ‘prove’ itself in that those who entrust themselves to him must prosper.” This here means that when the charismatic leader proves himself, he would be able to get more supporters and charismatic followers who will be highly influenced by him. 
Politics is a large part of it. The charismatic leader will always have to deal with a political situation. The people depend on the charismatic leader to make good decisions to will help in their everyday lives and create a structure environment. Stars sometimes make themselves involved in politics. In Richard Dyer’s text, Stars, he made a point that stars will use their talents to be able to influence people’s political and social choices. Dyer spoke about Shirley Temple who was involved in movies during the great depression,  when people struggled with money. But in her movies, she would influence others to donate to the poor and help each other out. Politics, Influence, and Individualism are the similarities between all three texts.

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Richard Dyer’s Text.

       After reading Richard Dyer’s texts, “Stars” and “Heavenly Bodies”, three points appeared to be the most important to me. The first and most important point that Dyer made was the building of a celebrity’s image. A star works to become more of a commodity,  but gaining the attention is very difficult, celebrities need several people to help them create an image, improve their skills, and help them become known. In the text, “Heavenly Bodies”, Dyer said, “Images have to be made. Stars are produced by the media industries, film stars are produced by Hollywood… Stars are made for profit… Stars are involved in making themselves into commodities.” What stars do in order to become more profitable and valuable is that they would basically change their entire life style, bringing people into their lives (like make – up artists, dieticians, bodybuilders, etc.), and listen to the directions of “Hollywood” or other agencies. Dyer also called these people, “Manufacture stars” because what Hollywood would do is break the stars down, in a way, and build them back up, piece by piece. Justin Bieber is a great example of this point. When Bieber entered the music world he was always seen as the good boy, but after a while in the music industry, his whole style has changed. He went from a good guy who played several instruments to a bad boy who does various criminal activies.
      Another good point that Dyer made was in the text “Stars”, he said that celebrities were used to spread political or social ideologies. After a star’s commodity has risen and they have the ability to capture a whole country’s attention, their influence on society may have risen as well. Dyer largely referred to the child star, Shirley Temple, based off of Charles Eckert’s article. “Eckert links Temple to the political solutions offered by the Republicans and Democrats to the poverty born of the Depression – the former stressed the role of individual charity, …” Temple was a very influential child, and because she was a child people wouldn’t believe that she was spreading political ideologies but rather good morale. Temple was able to give many people enjoyment in a rather tough time, she showed people that they shouldn’t be selfish to one another and that every one should come together. In a way, Hollywood was able to influence people into engaging in an activity that the politician wanted them to do.
     The last important part Dyer had made was the “individualism” of stars. He says, “The ‘individual’ is a way of thinking and feeling about the discrete human person, including oneself, as a separate and coherent entity.” Dyer explains that stars try to share their “individualism” with their fans through biographies and close – ups,  allowing people to know about their private lives, skill set, and personality. He also says that in order for one to be an individual,  one must be separate and not influenced or structurally placed with their society/culture, and their choices aren’t limited and predefined.
    These points are highly important because it allows people to have a better understanding of stars who have changed to fit the “music world”, who spreads ideologies, and who are different from the norm. Richard Dyer basically says that in order to build a star, one must destroy the inner – self, reconstruct, and become a commodity. It removes the stars former selves in order to make money for themselves and Hollywood.

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Three most important theories/ideas in politics of popular

In “The Politics of the Popular”, John Storey touches on the relationship between cultural theory and popular culture.
The most important ideas/theories that came out of the article were popular culture, fandom, and cultural and asthetic differences. It’s very important for musicians and other celebrities to have large fan bases. Fandom has been shown to allow stars to have more recognition, money, and it continues the fame or the idea of the celebrity.
On page twelve, Storey quoted Henry Jenkins, ” ‘Fans are poachers who get to keep what they take and use the plundering goods as the foundations for the construction of an alternative cultural community’ (Jenkins 223)”. This quote means that fans have the capability of getting what they want, keeping it as long as they want, and pushing for the continuation of the celebrity/music’s fame.
The second most important idea is Popular Culture. Storey states that Jim McGuigan defines cultural populism as “the intellectual assumption…, that the symbolic experiences and practices of ordinary people are more important analytically and politically than Culture with a capital C (Storey 1).” This quote shows how strong the relationship between cultural populism and the fans. The influence of cultural populism to the fans can lead to the creation of fandom for that specific popular culture. It shows that without the ordinary people’s support, the current popular culture could not continue.
The third most important idea/theory is the cultural and asthetic differences. It has importance because it helps people understand the power struggle between opposing groups such as the high economic class versus the high cultural class. John Storey paraphrased Bourdieu’s quote from 1984 ,” the category of ‘taste’ functions as a marker of ‘class’ ( using the word in a double sense to mean both a socio-economics category and the suggestion of a particular level of quality). ” This gives readers a sense of how the high economic class uses money to buy their supporters (in a way), while the high cultural class relies on it’s quality to gain and keep followers. I feel that the cultural and asthetic differences should be highly focused on when discussing celebrities and popular music. Followed by the fandom that celebrities and popular music rely on.

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