Consciousness and the Culture Industries in the Global Village

With the industrial revolution beginning almost 300 years ago, everyday life and culture began changing dramatically, in turn these culture industries changed the way we dream. This synoptic interpretation is about some of the industries found in our dreams, and how they culturally shape our perception of ourselves and the world. Said differently, popular culture, the culture industries and modern mass media have industrialized consciousness, our mind's and our dreams.

That's Entertainment: Consciousness, Popular Culture and the Culture Industries

In "The Consciousness Industry", Hans Magnus Enzensberger sees human thought, language and commercial ideas as being regulated by an institutional and industrial superstructure. The civic production of everyday consciousness is behaviourally conditioned and reinforced by the culture industries demands for consumer conformity. For Enzensberger, the mind-making industry is a product of the last 100 years. The cultural unconscious became colonized and industrialized by the media. If science fiction shapes imagined possibilities of the future then, as Frederic Jameson has pointed out, cyberpunk is the supreme expression of the technological sublime in late capitalism. 

In the 19th century, literary novels, the newspaper, and the telegraph changed consciousness, George Lipsitz in "Time Passages: Collective Memory and American Popular Culture" tells us, the mass media began to cause a radical shift: "Time, history, and memory become qualitatively different concepts in a world where electronic mass communication is possible." Film, TV, and pop music have changed our awareness, thinking and remembering. The soap opera, game show, sitcom, and "reality" programs, and late-night talk shows entertain millions.

As Philip Roth sardonically says in "On the Air"; "Suppose entertainment is the Purpose of Life!"

Leo Lowenthal in "Literature Popular Culture and Society" asks, "What is ‘good' and ‘bad' in the arts and popular culture?" He tells us that "The social criticism of popular culture lacks any systematic body of theories." Dream vision provides the social theory and practice of criticizing culture and communication. We find a "Who's Who" of pop culture in our dreams. Dream vision reveals the mind being fashioned by the invisible hand of the media and the icons and idols of pop culture.

The culture industry toils to tailor products for mass consumption. Brand products, even "no-name" ones, identify and classify consumers so that no one escapes the influence of the market. The postmodern market creates a dream factory. Hollywood movies, commercial television, radio, and advertising shape leisure entertainment. In them, simulated reality becomes, not an artistic fiction, but a real event. Culture industries rely on group illusion, identification, and conformity for its solidarity, and must veil the traces and clues that reality is a rhetorical construction of the marketplace. When the enchantment of the culture industries and the suspension of disbelief fails, disillusionment and disappointment become the property of the oppressed and disenfranchised.

Popular culture in dreams opens a window into seeing the industrial apparatus operate, showing us how, by whom, and why public consciousness is created. Dreams make transparent the solidarity, divisions and conflicts of classes in their tastes, interests, and needs. Society contrasts superiors and inferiors, and narcissistic consumers are consumed by leisure images. Assuming the values of superficial appearances and attention-seeking behaviour, we prefer to consume images rather than experience sensual reality.

Dreams provide insight into the problems for the ego that entertainment shopping creates. The novel that best describes the plots of many dreams is Aldous Huxley's "Brave New World". The entertainments often found in dreams can represent the "soma" ingested in this dystopic novel. Soma is the essence of a hedonistic society, the measure of all things. In a postmodern society, all information is enslaved by the imperatives of pleasure, excitement, entertainment, and other forms of escape. Sleep learning

The Global Village becomes an "Entertainment Tonight" stage, a venue for 24/7 live action. This global stage is erected by cable channels, media networks, movie studios, newsrooms, boardrooms, advertising agencies. The culture industries create a phantasmagoria of dream visions. The anthem and film that illustrates parts of the Hollywood entertainment dream factory is "That's Entertainment"!.

Here are some of the culture industries found in dreams;

The Adult Entertainment Industry

Research in the United States has shown that exposure to pornography leads to a significant increase in sexual content in dreams. Pornography frequently features images of women created and promoted by men for consumption by men. The advent of the Internet provided the sex industry with access to a new marketing tool for creating a pornotopia.

Porn is a poetic theory (from theoria, "to look at"), and pornography can be seen as a male erotic ideology of the visible in its exhibitionistic, voyeuristic and fetishistic dimensions. The fetish relieves sexual-performance anxieties and tensions, becoming a form of male art. This phallocentric dream is men daydreaming aloud to men about women's sexuality. Dreams sent to the IIDR feature the psychopathological body images produced by women working in the adult entertainment industry and by men addicted to pornography.

Porn websites leave a sense of unrequited dreams for authentic love and caring. The X-rated film industry has produced, Debbie does Dallas, Deep Throat, and The Devil and Mrs. Jones. The film "The Notorious Bettie Page" documents the life and times of a pin up fetish queen. In Europe, as in America, porn films and videos push the social and legal boundaries in sex scenes involving child pornography and rape.

The Advertising and Marketing Industry

In "Advertising the American Dream: Making Way for Modernity, 1920-1940", Roland Marchand quotes a trade journal, "Advertising and Selling", of 1926: "The people are seeking to escape from themselves." The American Dream conditions and reinforces the daily creation of the marketplace of fashionable daydreams, fantasies, and desires paraded before the public. Advertisers of the American Dream create the images and metaphors found on communal dreamscreens. Conditioning the consumers' minds and consciousness, advertisers keep them focused on branding and lifestyles. The film "What Women Want" showcases the advertising mentality.

Entertainment shopping becomes the basis of life and dreams. Fairy tales are mainstays of the advertising industry because they create the stuff of desire, hope, fantasy, and dreams. Children become conditioned as toy consumers in search of their happy-ever-after, where wishes come true and the yearning for bliss is instantly gratified. Advertising attempt to prescribe how men, women and children look, want to look, or should look. The body images of class, gender, race, are narcissistic fantasies in the marketplace of desire.

The Beauty and Fashion Industries

Beautiful images have been used to advertise everything from cars to tampons.  Our desire to be perceived as beautiful is so intense that we view ugliness with fear and hatred. We make decisions based upon people's appearances, which has been called "lookism." A children's version of this theme is Disney's "Beauty and the Beast". The dramatic conflict of beauty versus ugliness is central to the development of children's narcissism. For many women, fashion and beauty have become the basis for their identities and lifestyles.

TV shows such as Vanity Insanity, Extreme Make-Over, and "America's Next Top Model" underscore the capitalist ideology of physical appearance and identity. Fashion classifies identity and memory, organizing the language of consumer culture. The fashion industry fabricates character, persona, and image. Success in public life depends on the management of appearances. Fashioning the body fashions one's self-image. The wearing and display of clothes, hairstyles, fingernails, and cosmetics adorn the daydreams of such magazines as Harper's Bazaar, Glamour, Vogue, Vanity Fair, and GQ.

Fashion industries write on the surface of the body. Fashion is marked by a seasonal rhythm of group imitation, innovation, and change. Fashion designers in London, Paris, Milan, and New York produce labels such as Gucci, Armani, and Dior for spring, summer, fall and winter. The dreams reported to the IIDR just as the film "The Devil Wears Prada" features the editor-in-chief of the fashion magazine Runway (reportedly based on the Vogue editor Anna Wintour.) Such a film at once parodies the fashion industry and validates it.

The Media and Journalism Industry

The IIDR has found that the commercialization of thought and dreaming is pervasive. When you listen to the radio, watch TV, read the newspaper, all have been edited to shape your thoughts and decisions about the medium, the message, and the messenger. Often a political or economic brand is discernible.

The Gutenberg printing press came into use in European culture in the early 15th century. By its agency, the journalist has sought "stories." The press documents and edits the economic, political, cultural, and social state of our planet. The film "Network" satirizes the electronic press. The TV network news anchor Howard Beale, played by Peter Finch, is about to be fired because of low ratings. Beale melodramatically responds by telling the audience he is going to commit suicide on the next live broadcast. Beale is fired immediately, but is reinstated for one final swan song, in which he is supposed to apologize for his outburst. Instead Beale tells his audience that he is no longer going to take the bullshit. Ratings skyrocket. With the advent of the Internet, the blogosphere and social-networking sites have become the outlets for rants and diatribes.

The media has numerous persuasive functions upon which we are dependant. The media delivers information about global, national, and metropolitan news and the actions of government, act as an emergency signaling system, and serves as a means of delivering fantasy-escape. The print and electronic media provide the public with symbolic means for thought, iconography, and dreams through the media industry's battle for the mind. Elections, for example, are about getting the candidate's message out and persuading the public that their idea, their message is the right. The winners of the media wars enjoy the political spoils of victory while the losers usually fade away. Once the selling of the President to be, has been completed, the selling by the President can begin. Cable channels and TV networks live or die by ratings.

If belief creates reality, then it is through the suspension of disbelief that this process operates, as in such tabloids as the National Enquirer. Individuals fill at least two roles in storytelling, those of spectator and actor. We listen to and watch ourselves in the micro and macro spheres on phone-in and talk shows, websites, and blogs. News stories brandish ritualistic outpourings of grief following tragedies such as mass murders or the deaths of social icons. Humans need to witness and participate in rituals that express communal identity.

Rituals that were once played out in the small theatres of church and family are now often large-scale media events. Have we then created news stories that require tragedy to provide a psychological tension that will fulfill the need for ritual? In the era of postmodernism, arts and fashions are really concerned with consumerism and the explosion of communications technologies, reflected in Andy Warhol's repeated images of Campbell's Soup cans, and of Marilyn Monroe, Elvis Presley, and Elizabeth Taylor. Tradition, history, and faith in deeply held values have given way to conspicuous consumption, hedonism revolving round the ostentatious display of goods, and superficial visual cultural stimuli. The Pulitzer Prize is awarded yearly to honor print journalism and literary achievements.

The Movie Industry

Communications technologies have progressively produced media that reproduce the physical characteristics of the dream, and export them around the globe. Hollywood and the Academy of Motion Pictures Arts and Science were a predominant industrial force shaping the American Dream in the 20th century. For Daniel Boorstin in "The Image: A Guide to Pseudo-events in America", the management of the consumed images of staged reality has created a misinformed public.

This message was echoed 25 years later by Neil Postman in "Amusing Ourselves to Death: Public Discourse in the Age of Show Business". The film "The Truman Show" shows us how life turns into entertainment. If movies are similar to dreams and dreaming, then the yearly global pilgrimage to Hollywood the Mecca of film and dreaming is where dreams become realized. The American Film Institute promotes the history of film and has created several top 100 lists of best films and best stars. We can all watch this growing dream like film universe on DVD.

The Music Industry

Music has always communicated dreams of desire, love, hope and despair. Since the invention of the phonograph in 1877 by Thomas Edison, the music industry has seen hundreds of thousands of artists produce records. In the latter half of the 20th century, Jimi Hendrix led in shaping the dream vision of music, this tragic rebel brought about flamboyant stagecraft, and experimentation, climaxed by his performance at the Monterrey Pop Festival in July 1967, where he set fire to his guitar. The tours, albums, and CDs of Stars in every genre of pop music from Country, Blues, Rock, Disco, and Jazz to Heavy Metal, Rap, and Hip-Hop raked in billions of dollars. 

Music points to a place where, in the words of the group Led Zeppelin IV's "Stairway to Heaven," "All is one and one is All, to be a rock and not a roll." Commercial radio and television provides the everyday stage for the messages of the artists of the music industry to their fans. The music of ABBA, Mama Mia and Queen. We Will Rock You have been adapted as stage plays, while the music of the Beatles has been adapted for film to tell a story in Across the Universe. Some believe that "The Wizard of Oz" is the greatest musical fantasy film ever made. 

Richard Wagner found the music to his opera Tristan and Isolde in a dream and Guiseppe Tartini "Devil's Trill Sonata" was inspired by a dream. Music is replete with lyrics that use the device of dreams to assist the emotional meaning and metaphoric values of a song, as in Gary Wright's "Dream Weaver" (watch music video) or Peggy Lee's dream-like lyric "Is that all there Is"?

A song that laments the loss of love using the dream as its means of expression is Cêline Dion's "My Heart Will Go On" from the film "Titanic". The song opens with "Every night in my dreams I see you, I feel you, / That is how I know you go on." The film's premise and plot device is a treasure hunt for the necklace, the "Heart of the Ocean." The survivor Rose narrates her romance with Jack, who had heroically sacrificed himself. The film ends enigmatically with the reunion of the much younger Rose and Jack. The viewer must decide whether she meets Jack in the afterlife or this is her nocturnal dream. Musicians find a yearly reward for their craft and dreams at the Grammy Awards. Today, we can listen to the music universe via the internet.

The Sports Industry

Many dreams received at the IIIDR have sports as a theme. Men tend to identify with sports more than women. The myths of masculinity are embodied in sport. The sports industry in all its diverse forms of the professional or the amateur, play on the field of dreams of the imagination. The glory of winning and agony of defeat form the plot that the stars act out in the Olympic Games, and the sports industry has diversified into mass-media venues of golf, basketball, football, baseball, hockey, and soccer, with an accompanying commodification of sporting equipment. Sports magazines, all-sports radio stations and colour commentators add to the tumult, recording the exploits of superheroes like Tiger Woods, Peyton Manning, or Sidney Crosby, and superteams like the New York Yankees and New England Patriots. "Field of Dreams" starring Kevin Costner is my favorite sports film, I'm sure that some prefer the "Rocky" franchise. The sports trophy is the coveted prize for winning. Gambling on sports, yields further agony and ecstasy.

The Television Industry

TV, first commercially introduced in America in the late 1930s, two decades later the set had become a household fixture, replacing the radio as the main source of home entertainment. As audiences grew, so did programming, everything from daytime soap operas, westerns, and sitcoms to music and investigative-journalism shows. In the 1000 channel small-screen universe of the global village, programs are being rerun from the Abbott and Costello to Zorro, or on DVDs ready for home use or the minivan screen.  

Once the immensely popular TV show Dallas revealed to the audience that the preceding season had merely been a dream of one of the characters. The deux ex machina was superfluous: every season of Dallas was a dream anyway. Dallas the next generation, is making a comeback in 2012.

In "Watching Television: A Pantheon Guide to Popular Culture", its editor, Todd Gitlin, tells us that it is possible to "peer back at the screen and through it, to use it as a window into the industries that crank out the shows and ultimately into U.S. culture as a whole." Corporate commercials have turned programming into a  shopping mall. Many dreams allude to episodes of such programs like The Brady Bunch or The Beverly Hillbillies. Adults and children are in thrall to the TV dreamscape and see the psychological effects of the culture industries. The Emmy Awards are the highest yearly prize for American television.

The Video Gaming Industry

The personal computer is the most sophisticated mode of play yet invented, where the boundaries of fantasy and reality become blurred. As a symbol the computer represents a cybernetic stage domain and reality. Dungeons and Dragons, Chivalry and Sorcery, and The Empire of the Petal Throne were all early computer-generated role-playing games. The video gaming industry has been an exponentially growing phenomenon for tens of millions of players, successfully commercializing children's pastimes. The games make us active participants that we forget we are playing roles scripted for us. The film Laura Croft: Tomb Raider is a story based on a video game series.



All material Copyright 2006 International Institute for Dream Research. All rights reserved.