Hooray for Hollywood?
(Submitted by Eva and Seth @OffOurChests, originally last year and again this – and next if we have to)
Here's the thing. Hollywood built and paid for our house. Actually, it paid for it and pretty much everything else in our lives, including this here thing we call Off Our Chests. The point we want to make upfront is, we're lovers not haters.
But as we approach the Oscars, there's another point we want to make about Hollywood. Popular culture being both, how do we say popular and cultural, influences and shapes how feel, what we think about, talk about and wonder about. And it can wield this power for good and ill, passively or actively. Hollywood can raise and sometimes even change our consciousness – or just fuck with it.
Of course we're talking about Hollywood broadly and metaphorically here, and we really mean the purveyors of the stuff of popular culture. We're talking about the product (movies, music, tv, video games, fashion, celebrity…) they make and which we consume, and that maybe too often consume some of us. There's a lot of Hollywood in NYC, SF, Paris, London and Tokyo too, to say nothing of its presence and impact in Des Moines, Fort Collins and Port St Lucie.
And it's kind of perverse that something that really just wants to make us feel good for at least a moment, can often make us feel bad for a lifetime.
Here at Off Our Chests, we think that we – both the purveyors and the consumers of culture – all need to hold each other and ourselves – individually and collectively – more accountable than we have been. Accountable to what we put out there, to how seriously and literally we do and don't take it; to what we do and don't do with it. Accountable for the mainstreaming and popularization of images and expectations; standards and norms that are too often inaccessible if not impossible. And we'll say here (as others have said well before and better than us) that we think the abso-fucking-lutely horrfying numbers of girls dieting before they're 9; hating their bodies when they're 10; feeling they've failed if they haven't gotten pregnant and married by 30 (to say nothing of 40); etc etc etc are the dark side of not being accountable. The upside of course is so easily illustrated by looking at what Hollywood, from Ellen to Real World to Will & Grace to Glee have done to help make being gay in America easier.
Because besides our individual power to affect change, in our hyper-fragmented world there really is no more powerful force for good than that which brings many of us together and makes us laugh, cry, think, or just keeps us distracted long enough to breathe a little more slowly and deeply. Hollywood can help and it can heal, but it can also hurt – again even without meaning to. It's when Hollywood is at it's most benignly inattentive that we think the real damage gets done. Not by design but by default.
And not just to what's put out there – but what isn't. What images, view points, shapes, sizes and sounds are we NOT seeing, and why not? (More on this in a subsequent piece later this week.)
We heart you Hollywood, but we hope you'll come to better understand that whether or not we should take all the images you do – and don't – put out there seriously, a lot of the time,we do. Not from any one film or show or single but, again, the cumulative effect of all of them can leave a residue of group-think, of ideals, expectations, and norms. It's not necessarily your fault you're beautiful, but we blame you anyway.
Often times, we internalize what you're putting up on screens big and smaller and smaller, and make them a part of our identity, aspirations, references. So, have fun Sunday all ye fancy folks, but maybe think about how to bring and reflect new voices, images and ideas into what comes next. Let's open up the casting a bit; invite more into and under the tent. And maybe as you've helped do so many times before, you can help change the world, her world, and her world too. Hooray for that.
And thanks for everything. Especially our house. XO, eva, seth, and OOC.