What is “bias” in the education system? This is an important question and pertinent to understanding the problems inside our high schools and colleges. As various websites are starting to focus on whether the higher education system is a gigantic con with students paying too much money to be indoctrinated by politically biased professors, it is important to remember that fixing this system is way more complicated than picketing outside the local state college. Institutional degradation, the cultural understanding that success can only be found with a college degree, and professors who are not objective but politically motivated and overwhelmingly part of a specific political persuasion are all major contributors to the current decline in higher education. Fixing one of these problems will not resolve any of these above problems. The only resolution is to figuratively “blow up” these institutions and allow our “society” to create the best way forward.
Keeping this warning in mind, when it came to my Graduate Degree, the film analysis articles chosen for graduate study in many of my classes were picked to fulfill a specific ideological viewpoint. Once you start reading educational articles, there are literally millions of them written about millions of different subjects. You can find almost any topic that has had a peer-reviewed article published. But the articles chosen by your professors for a seven-week class are very deterministic of the type of information they want you to learn. In an era where objectivity has been taken out into the alley, shot in the head, and dumped into a trash can, there is no reason to believe that these articles are not being used as a form of propaganda or indoctrination. Despite this, my Film Historiography Class was one of the better examples of a class being taught to learn some factual history. But as this series gets deeper into my educational path, some of the worst examples of these above problems are truly shocking and much worse than the examples shown below from this class.
One of the problems with this historiography class is that all the historical research discussed in the lectures were pulled from the same book. The problem is with a historical topic that has such a broad range of material to study like film, it feels lazy and closed-minded to be limited to the essays compiled together in this one book from Paul Grainge, Mark Jancovich, and Sharon Monteith. Film Histories: An Introduction and Reader is a historical compilation of various writings that covers film history from the first images successfully put onto film at the end of the 19th Century and carries us into the 2000s when the book was published. The book has an impressive scope. Almost every topic related to the film industry is covered in some fashion. The six main modules for this class after the introduction were: Technology, Regulation, Politics, Economics, Aesthetics, and Social Life. Every one of these topics is researched inside this novel. The lectures also discussed a broad range of films that were memorable in some sort of historical fashion related to one of these above topics.
Hollywood has always wanted to be loved. Despite the fact that actors are often some of the richest entertainers in the world, the industry exists to make movies that will appeal to the ‘average’ individual. Whether during the Depression when a popular idea was rich people helping out the struggling poor or during World War II when the film industry engaged in propaganda against the fascist Germans, Hollywood has always wanted to stay on the right side of history. The Office of War Information (OWI) was a wartime government regulatory agency that was used to quash any anti-American or fascist propaganda inside movies. It also often acted against any realistic portrayals of violence.
As the novel explains, “The Office of War Information (OWI) worked with the film industry to mobilize support for the war and maintain morale during it. In the process, a whole host of films sought to illustrate the dangers of the menace posed by the Axis powers.”
There is also a wonderful chapter on political radicalism, revolutions and counter cinema that dives into controversial filmmakers and the unique type of films that many of these directors would make that have a specific point of view that they want to reflect. But here lies the problem with this educational research. While 80% of this book was absolutely fascinating, the authors could not help but incorporate some left wing thought into their novel. Whether you believe what these authors say is besides the point. Every individual has their own sense of morality, identity, and believe in a specific form of politics. This first paragraph from this chapter (Despite all the interesting information in the political radicalism section) is one of the first attempts by these novelists to force their political opinions onto the reader about these counter-cultural filmmakers. Because art is subjective and I have seen many of these films, I actually do not agree with the second half of this analysis.
“The success of the postwar art cinema reawakened an awareness of the possibilities of cinema and created a sense of dissatisfaction with established cinematic traditions, particularly those of Hollywood. The second half of the 1960s, therefore, saw a surge in alternative filmmaking around the world. This period also witnessed the growth of left-wing radicalism as revolutionary struggles in the Third World inspired one another and motivated student radicalism in Europe and the United States.”
This article is also the first attempt at bringing up the topic of identity as feminism is discussed through the avant-garde filmmaker Chantal Ackerman. While there is nothing particular wrong with Ackerman’s films, the novelists explain the film’s underlying themes and use them as an explanation for female oppression. Per their quote,
“As the film suggests, the forces that oppress women are integral to the fabric of everyday life and, as a result, far more difficult to identify and oppose.”
After watching this movie, I did not see it in the same light. The film is a slow, boring burn that emphasizes the monotony of daily chores which at the time, were often performed by the females of the house. But millions of women (And men) engage in these necessary activities every day without slowly breaking down mentally and stabbing the person that they are working for. The movie was more about mental decline than a film about cultural oppression.
Other themes that will become consistent with the rest of my classes start to appear inside the chapter, The Politics of Polarization: Affluence, Anxiety, and the Cold War, which is an observation of the popular films of the 1950s and how they related to the culture at the time. Anti-imperialism and negativity towards American individualism makes its first appearance here as well as critiques of 1950s American culture. Even though the writers are correct in their analysis, there is an underlying negativity associated with these words.
“The rise of suburbia as a phenomenon in the 1950s also meant that middle-class wives expected to stay at home felt ‘lost’ in the suburbs while husbands commuted to the office. The consumer trap put pressure on both men and women to ensure that the home and family would remain perfect – even as children became teenagers in the 1950s.”
Not every person living in the 1950s was trying to live a consumerist lifestyle. Even if there was pressure to conform to a certain type of life, people were mostly interested in maintaining their families and living a decent life with religion often being the foundation of American society.
Finally, Marxism is widely discussed mostly in two chapters of the book (Realism, Nationalism and ‘Film Culture’ and Postwar Challenges). Here are a couple of quotes. As a person who has read many of Marx’s writings, the political ideas that these novelists are trying to promote distorts Marx’s actual ideas. Also, Marxism is seen as mostly a ‘positive’ force for society while conveniently ignoring the millions of deaths that are directly related to its political practice. Here are just a few of these quotes.
In relation to the commodification of body parts (Mostly of females),
“It has been argued that the fetishization of the female body characterized the representation of female stars in Hollywood. Fetishism can be related to the reproduction of feminine images both in the Marxist sense of commodity fetishism, in terms of the female body as object of patriarchal exchange, and in the more psychoanalytic sense, in terms of the fragmentation and sexualization of parts of the female body in relation to castration anxieties, though these are not necessarily all analogous.”
There is a lot to unpack there. The idea of commodity fetishism is tied into Marxism which is completely off base. Then, they wrap a Freudian concept of fear of castration among males as the excuse for the need to sexualize the feminine body in films. This whole sentence is just completely ridiculous and idiotic. The reason that female bodies attracted viewers is quite simple. It was a tool to attract males who wanted to be with a woman who had a body like the one on screen mixed with females who wish they could be like the woman portrayed on film. The real reason for these images is to lure people into buying a ticket to the cinema. If a little bit of ‘skin’ can bring a few hundred thousand more people to the theater, than why not take the risk? Once again, these novelists are confusing basic capitalistic instincts with psychological solutions wrapped around oppressive masculinity that has no real basis in reality.
The other chapter on Realism also has a bizarre observation about Marx. While making interesting points about the Russians and their usages of montages, the novelists bust off this bizarre quote that starts with Sergei Eisenstein and ends up discussing revolution,
“Eisenstein proposed a theory of montage as the organizing principle for representing abstract concepts and emotions as well as the visible world. Montage draws on Marx’s ideas to formulate a dialectical approach to cinema in which strongly antithetical elements would clash to produce a ‘synesthesia’ that would provoke political and social awareness in filmgoers. That is to say, film culture itself would be a revolution. Film would be located in a materialist context.”
Again, the first idea about Eisenstein is a wonderful theory. But from the second sentence on, the authors seem to be stretching by incorporating their own ideas of how montages could be used to bring about the ‘revolution.’ The whole quote is quite bizarre. Plus, it ends with a final sentence that seems to have nothing to do with the previous three sentences.
I hope you enjoyed this second section of my analysis on the educational system. Stayed tuned for more in the near future.
EXPERT OF SOME