Goodbye To Hollywood
published in Third Degree No.1, Sydney,
Many a modern wit made cracks about how the 1984 Olympic
ceremonies were more directed by Hollywood than they were
staged in Los Angeles. Even Channel 10 (in its typically
dumb and uncaring style) advertised the opening ceremony
as "Only how Hollywood can do it". These kind of statements
get the 3 P Award (painful, pitiful and pathetic) for their
shallow concepts of what Hollywood was and/or is. The Hollywood
of 'today' lying somewhere between the emotionalism of Spielberg,
the power of Prince, and the banality of Mel Gibson would
never stage a non event like the Olympic closing ceremony
of 1984. To say that Hollywood produced such a spectacular
facade is having a frightful amount of belief in all the
equally shallow tracts and diatribes that have worked to
tarnish the glossy image that Hollywood has been polishing
for itself for over 70 years now. The place of Hollywood
today is certainly a strange one, as Entertainment This
Week presents a parade of 'real' people ("I don't like make
up"; "I'm into social issues"; "I've got to be me"; etc.)
while the movie industry (be it Spielberg or Coppola) continues
to search for that elusive photographic equivalent of early
Disney featurettes. It forms a love/hate current that carries
the paradox of audiences that detest manipulation but love
to be seduced. The closing ceremony of the Olympics was
trash: blame it on Hollywood. And if it had ended up being
a wondrous experience, I'm sure that we all would have been
amazed at how 'Los Angeles' was able to present an event
as well as Moscow.
has definitely engineered and maintained a place for itself
in history as an 'effector apparatus' cable of seducing
society at large through both its mechanics and its effects.
Far from biding its processes with products, each have garnished
the one experience. The slow back tracking shot in Anna
Karina is just as effectively seductive a figure as the
theatrical sweat on Richard Gere's body in Breathless. Hollywood
(as a concept) never 'fools' people. That is left to the
Herzogs of the world. For us to now celebrate Hollywood
as being re born or rediscovered is to misunderstand the
ways in which Hollywood has always worked. For us to see
Coppola's Rumblefish as stylized and openly artificial is
to implicate ourselves as reading Midnight Express as real,
either comparatively or essentially.
as the cute little baby turns into a smart arse brat before
long, what we once called 'texts' have now learnt to speak
by and for themselves without our analytic devices. Hollywood
mimics itself mercilessly and endlessly to such an extent
that centering on the 'real' in film (as a film maker or
a film goer) is for now a totally futile activity, whereas
once before it might have only been partially futile. This
Hollywood of Today is as much a force in rock culture as
it is in film culture (and all the space of Pop in between).
Rock and Pop music has been exorcising itself of the real
for the past five years in this way. Everyone loves to be
camp, corny, satirical, artificial, fake anything but real.
Even the real gets lost in these rapids of artificiality.
The hallowed return of Bruce (Springsteen) rides on anecdotal
information (his history as a real singer songwriter from
New Jersey) but his presence for a current market rides
the conveyor belt of effects for an image addicted audience.
When the Face ran its embarrassing image of a torn denim
arse as a cover, it wouldn't have taken much then to daydream
that Springsteen would pose himself in a similar way, cross
referring to the mid Western teenage gas attendant living
in an Edward Hopper/Norman Rockwell world. The state of
things now is such that Boy George and Bruce Springsteen
amount to no more than differing styles of illustration.
too long ago, Clint Walker 'reviewed the singles' in Ram.
No doubt Clint got a kick out of doing it (who wouldn't?)
but what eventuated was the scenario of the worn rock critic,
still in search of the real, always on the verge of settling
for second best. Today's Pop music just doesn't have it,
etc. The point is that today's Pop does have it. In heaps!
Clinton Walker stands as a symbol (there are many examples)
of someone lost in culture; betrayed by Rock. Born in a
period of activity (in this case, Punk '77) but doomed to
live in a begotten wasteland, a legacy of impotency. But
perhaps we're looking in the wrong places. What happens
if commercial AM radio stations are playing better and more
interesting and more pleasurable material than the alternative
FM stations'? (And believe me, they are.) And what if everything
and everyone that positioned themselves away from mainstream
culture has started to rot in the shade? Perhaps its time
for a suntan. Like never before, rock culture has become
one body, because its myriad of ghettos, cliques, enclaves
and scenes simply don't matter in their distance and difference
anymore. It is this 'one body' that, I believe, accounts
for the air of desperation that characterizes many alternative
practices and activities, as well as the swooping engulfing
nature that is so typical of the current spread of the more
mainstream of rock culture. A style is a style; a gesture
is a gesture; a product is a product. Anything anyone can
do, anyone can do better. In such a climatic environment,
pleasure is gained by riding the samenesses not by searching
for the differences. This is why the traditional ethics
of rock journalism are woefully out of sync with the times.
I first saw the film clip to Scritti Politti'sWood Beez
(Pray like Aretha Franklin) I took itsimagery, related to
the cover graphics, as violently esoteric, not unlike the
work of Joseph Beuys in its interrelating of fragments.
This 'return to the personal' was not much of a surprise
coming from Green who after writing songs with titles like
Messthetics and Hegemony then talked about the 'soul' in
music when The Sweetest Girl was released. Still, its violently
esoteric Imagery is surely no more or less convoluted than
the clip to Culture Club's Miss Me Blind. Through precise
direction or ad hoc distribution, meaning always runs rampant.
But Scritti Politti pulled out an ace with the film clip
to Absolute. At first glance, the clip presents its scene
as a club full of dancing bodies. A closer look reveals
that this scene is not a 'scene'. It is a mid summer's night
dream turned into a sociologist's nightmare: all the bodies
are so pregnant with personal style that their individual
status does not matter. Everyone is an individual; everyone
is a group. This is the style of style. This is the current
state of rock culture. A digitally created world represented
by a theatre of acoustics: singer/microphone/audience/event.
A Shakespearian wealth of emotions that can live as comfortably
within its imagery as it can outside of or beneath it, just
as the heterogeneous gathering in the club is able to comfortably
assimilate itself. Everything defeats itself here as the
problematic of distance is no longer an issue because no
one was ever close to anything anyway.
Hollywood was the fake masquerading as the real, then this
'return' to Hollywood, this embracinging of Style, is the
real masquerading as the fake. A T shirt might have on it
Marilyn Monroe, Michael Jackson, Boy George or Mr T. but
it doesn't matter. Nor does it matter if it's, Bruce Springsteen
or Einsturzende Neubauten. Say goodbye to Hollywood we now
have to live the real: the real of what at Hollywood was
and what we pretend reality to be.