The society has shaped the film industrybecause most movies are produced according to people's culture. Directors of films use the film to address and highlight the vices within thesocietyand as a tool to educate the audience on how to overcome suchevilsto attain a community with high morals through adherence to the rule of law. However, in people’s quest to achieve the American dream of being established, wealthy and famous, they end updeceiving, cutting cornersand compromisingon integrity. Such a mindset that involves getting money by any means necessary is detrimental because such individuals get jailed, murdered, or lose all that they have gained over the years.
Karen Sternheimer discusses stardom and social mobility in her book Celebrity culture and The American the Dream. The author highlights the shifting perception and meaning of the American dream and the relationship with entertainment` celebrities, and social mobility (Sternheimer 1). She notes that the superstar culture has existed and flourished since the eighteenth and nineteenth centuries and that the proliferation of magazines and other celeb-centered journalism has influenced society's study of fame. The book enlightens readers on the influence of Hollywood stars onAmerican society and the relationship between the culture and class. From the famous people’s perspective, fame is important, and it is possible to attain the American dream of rising from rags to riches. The writer notes that celebrity logic is tied to the concept of consumerism. The appeals are gender centered, and a woman’s social mobility is tied to her appearance and conformity to the hegemonic values.
In his book Hard-boiled Hollywood: Crime and Punishment in Postwar Los AngelesJon Lewis looks at the infamous instances in the post-war Hollywood as well as the cultural and political climate at the time (Lewis 106). He notes that Hollywood has influenced the society and the upcoming artists, aspiring actors, and actresses into a life of unfulfilled dreams as well as substance abuse which later leads to the demise of some of them. The crime narratives led to the restructuring of Hollywood. The book has brought about political and cultural shifts within the industry as well as given rise to a new generation of directors and actors.The current film and pop culture view social mobility in a different angle, unlike the previous generations where wealth, education, and family pedigree defined one's class. Today, a class is described as a reflection of socially constructed and regulated series of gestures and performed acts rooted in a cult of celebrity.
John Huston directed the movie ‘Maltese Falcon,’ which was based on Dashiell Hammett's 1930 novel. The story highlights the questionable dealings of three adventurers and a private detective in a bid to obtain jewel-encrusted falcon statuette. In the film, criminal activities transpire as Archer, Spade’s partner in detective work, is shot dead after meeting a potential client, Ruth Woderly. Ruth wanted the police to find her sister who had fled with Floyd Thursby. They later suspected Floyd for the murderof Archer despite the fact thatmost people believed that his workmate Spade was the prime suspect. The wife to Archer also accused spade of shooting her husband. The movie explores the theme of betrayal whereby a client gives false information to the detective only to find out that the target is working with the accuser to extort information from Spade (Hammett 30). At one moment,a client called Joel Cairo bribed Spade at gunpoint to get information about the black figure of a bird. Although Spade overpowered him, Cairo hired him later. Another client Gutman offered Spade $ 25, 000 fora bird and drugged the investigator as well. At one point, Spade offers the fake bundle after reaching an agreement with Gutman that Wilmar, one of the adventurers would bescapegoatedfor the murders of bothThursby and Captain. Even after collaborating with the vigils, in the long run, spade turned arrested them for their crimes.
Spade comes out as a cynical detective who struggles to maintain his integrity in a corrupt society. He always carried a loaded gun because the community he lived in was so pervasive and his potential clients turned out to be targets as well as extortionists. The movie highlights the social status of the police department and paints the investigators as corrupt and morally unfit. Spades motives were mostly unclear in the story as he appeared hypocritical. The film brings out the lies and deceit where at least every character lies at one point or another. One of the most deceptive individuals was O’Shaughnessy who had pretended to be Thursby’s partner yet he was involved in his death. Spade was eventually forced tosuspect everyone, which shows the societal norm that the end justifies the means and every man for himself (Hammett 43). Everyone wants to attain the American dream, which has led to greed where one strives to have the best regardless of the other people’s wellbeing. In this movie, the characters, work to obtain the Maltese Falcon irrespective of what it takes. In the process, lives are lost.
In the movie ‘Double Indemnity’ by Billy Wilder, an insurance representative, Walter Neff is lured into a murder and insurance fraud scheme, which arouses the insurance investigator. Neff met Phyllis, a spouse to one of his customers and had a secret relationship. Phyllis’ plan was to murder her husband to gain the money from the insurance policy. Walter designed a strategy to obtaindouble the revenue from the insurance firm using a loophole known as the double indemnity section of the regulations. After the husband was killed and left on the train track, the police determined his cause of death as an accident, but the insurance analysts had different thoughts and suspected the wife. Later on, Neff learned that Phyllis had played him and chose to set up Phyllis and her new boyfriend for the murder of the husband. Neff ends up killing Phyllis in a shootout and confesses everything to the Insurance Analysts. The film highlights the moral decay in the society full of greed and deceit. Phyllis plots a plan to get rich by killing her husband and obtain accident insurance. An experienced insurance representative falls victim and destroys his career out of lust and greed. There is also sexuality where a Phyllis uses her appearance and seduces Neff who falls for her tricks (Cain and Jennifer 27). The case demonstrates how people are willing to compromise their stand to attain satisfaction.
The 1947 film ‘Out of The Past’depicts the struggles that individuals endure to attain the American dream. At the beginning of the movie, we see Jeff starting a new life with her new girlfriend and a gas station. He is got up with his past lie and ends up paying with his own life. Jeff had been hired by Sterlin to track down Kathie, but he betrayed Sterline and had a fling with Kathie instead. There is a display of betrayal when Jeff trusts Kathie, who later frames him for murder (Wentworth19). The disloyalty depicts American society where there are very few people who are trustworthy.
Fellini Federico directed a movie ‘La Strada’ that highlights the events around the two protagonists, Zampano and Gelsomina. Gelsomina, worked for Zampano while Matto worked as a tight rope walker. The children at a party coaxed Gelsomina to visit their brother who had been cloistered in a room. One of the relatives drove her out before they could converse with the boy. The sad situation depicts the segregation that prevails in society. The film also shows the nature of the society where people tend to mind their own business and live in solitude. When Gelsomina is shown sited by the roadside alone no one is bothered. However, she is meant to join three musicians who passed by the roadside to dance her sorrows away. Gelsomina wasted away and died along the roadside without any help as she came from a humble background. On realizing that the deceased died because of neglect, Zumpanowas so sad that he lost his mind. The story proves that movie characters leave a false impression on the viewers like the superman who does not exist in reality. The singers temporarily took away Gelsomina’s sorrow but had no lasting impression as she went back to the roadside feeling dejected. The movie also shows how brutal the society is to the less privileged as seen when Zampano mistreats Gelsomina emotionally, physically and mentally. The road in this movie signifies the journey of life in such for greener pastures (Fellini and Peter39). It reveals that the road is not that smooth that the happy times are fewer than the difficult and hard moments as depicted by Gelsomina’s life.
While the culture of the people mostly influences films, most movies are unrealistic while some are educative. The audience should be knowledgeable enough to discern and differentiate the different aspects of fact and fiction in Hollywood productions. Ignorant individuals may end up trying to emulate characters in films that are fictitious and unrealistic such that the same principles would not apply in real life. Therefore, movies are useful for entertainment, and they are an essential depiction of society, but they should not be used as a source of information for impressionable young minds.
Cain, James M., and Jennifer Christiansen. Double Indemnity. Moline Public Library, 2008.
Fellini, Federico, and Peter Bondanella. La Strada. Rutgers University Press, 1987. Print.
Hammett, Dashiell. The Maltese Falcon. The Murder Room, 2014. Print.
Lewis, Jon. Hard-Boiled Hollywood: Crime and Punishment in Postwar Los Angeles. University of California Press, 2017.
Sternheimer, Karen. Celebrity Culture and the American Dream: Stardom and Social Mobility. Routledge, 2011
Wentworth, Patricia. Out of the Past. Isis, 2007.
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