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.


One thought on “The Cultural Industry: Enlightenment as Mass Deception

  1. I agree with your points and examples about how the industry using sex and amusement. I loved the Nicki Minaj and Bobby Shmurda examples, nowadays a lot of artists are using shticks like that to draw people in and bring attention to their music or whatever it is they’re trying to produce.


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