27. On American Culture of Individualism Embodied in American Movies
Movies are the primary representation modes of contemporary culture, despite the fact that the channels of cultural transmission and modes of cultural representation become increasingly diversified, movies still bear the most significant influence on the transmission of masscult.
Movies often tell a complete story within one or two hours and enable people to appreciate the story within the shortest possible time and in the most relaxing ways, and different people can get exactly what they want from the same movie. That’s the so-called there are a thousand Hamlets in a thousand people’s eyes.
People with poor intelligence can hardly gain a thorough understanding towards the connotation deeply embedded in the movies, but they are probably to be moved by the fascinating settings and plots.
From the perspective of psychoanalysis, people’s experiences of certain things are bound to leave their traces in and have some effects on the subconsciousness and ultimately change people’s view towards certain things. People cannot remember every single experience since they have experienced too much ever since they were born. But every single experience that they remember definitely has influence on them. The overall combinations of the influence of all experiences on people are what constitute people’s subconsciousness, such as people’s true views on these matters.
Some experiences have great influence on people while others just happened and faded away.
Experiences do not have to be directly experienced. All kinds of experiences can have certain influence on people’s subconsciousness. It is just a matter of degree.
Experience gained from books and newspapers as well as movies belong to experience and doing something on your own is also a kind of experience.
So an armchair strategist is as confident as a much-experienced veteran in terms of battles since their subconsciousness tells them that they are experts on such matters. In fact, however, people’s awareness always stands in distance with the truth, and some are in complete opposition.
It is just like that Marx regarded himself as an expert in capitalism, yet his knowledge on capital was nothing as correct as an old waste collector. He should not be talking about exploitation, let alone exploitation theory.
Let’s get down to business. A good movie contains fascinating settings and profound connotation, both of which can have certain influence on the subconscious of the public.
Indeed I have been thrilled by American blockbusters for many times. But the more I see, the stronger the feeling of their absurdness and superficiality becomes. They are simply nonsense.
The eternal theme of American movies is an immortal hero who saves the whole world.
What is it that has been called individual saving the whole world? This individual could be an unknown ordinary person, a taxi driver, a baked roll maker, a retired veteran, a pilot, or an actor. An accidental experience made him the only one who could save the whole world. Then he, after suffering from numerous hardships and adversaries, shouldered his unshakable responsibility, miraculously defeated the conspirators and all evil forces, and successfully saved the entire human beings, at least saved a country, earth-shaking things like that.
What’s an immortal hero? That is, this hero can never be killed. And he could always come with superpower especially in the moment of emergencies. For example, a baked roll maker could dismantle bombs, fly an airplane, and break a code or things like that. Finally, he won the beauty and enjoyed the happy ending. That’s the end!
This is what is typically referred to as individual heroism or liberalism. American people pin all their hopes on an individual hero. When they are faced with certain crisis and their lives at stake, whoever can save them becomes their individual hero.
Therefore, it is well justified to say that Western culture is completely individual culture. Americans hate organisation and system, and they are hostile to any kind of bond and division.
The essence of system culture is the dependency on organisation, system, division, connections, and cooperation.
The petition culture in China is a typical example of system culture.
People from underclass suffer from uncomprehending wrongs and turn to the organisation, system, connections, and power to uphold the justice.
It seems that the petition culture in China is in an incomparable position in relation to the individual hero in America, and the differences strike like one in heaven and the other in hell; one being a doormat, the other, saviour; one a mouse, the other a lion.
However, from another point of view, two fists can hardly defeat four hands and even a hero has to take the underdog status when his rivals are in large numbers. A ferocious lion is not necessarily a winner facing with packs of wolves.
Organisation and system finally defeat individuals. This is common sense and is also the truth.
With system culture put into better use, China can still enjoy a prosperous future. An inappropriate treatment with this kind of culture would get Chinese people nowhere. The key is how to make use of the system appropriately.