Two subjects which are not always mutually exclusive. Now then, before I get into the meat of my argument, I would direct you to this video by Razörfist. I’m no expert on the history of Hollywood, but Razör has proved that his knowledge of history in other areas is at least equal to my own, so I consider him a reliable source. “Trust but verify” is my motto when it comes to the YouTubers whose channels I frequent, but I have no idea when I’m going to get around to the “verify” part for this one.
Finished watching the video? Good. Now for some background in how I managed to get involved in all of this. See, I was raised Christian (though my mother recently discovered that she’s Jewish), but my parents are both scientists, and religion was never the defining factor of our characters. I was always rather sceptical of certain things that “fellow” Christians would tell me, and I never once took the Bible literally. Then I had my first encounter with a young-Earth creationist at the age of 12. For the next few years, my dealings with these people got worse and worse, to the point where I began to dismiss Christians as a whole as either brainwashed sheep at best, or unhinged cult leaders at worst. At the same time, I came to the realisation that, since I was never fully convinced of the existence of any sort of deity, I have effectively always been an atheist. For a few years of my life, surrounded by these nutters with no escape in sight, I was habitually watching YouTube videos debunking creationism in a vain attempt to learn how to argue with these people. Then I got away, and I stopped watching these videos. Years later, however, the Amazing Atheist made a video about Anita Sarkeesian, and I thought “who’s this nutter?” Little did I know, she wasn’t another young-Earth creationist, but a different type of con-artist entirely. I had never heard her name until that time, and given that I don’t play the types of games that she criticised in her early career, I didn’t really care. Then I discovered that a huge percentage of the miniatures on Shapeways were for Warhammer 40K. I’ve never played any of the 40K games, but I know a thing or two about the lore. Since I love grim-dark, 40K is a perfect match for me. I wasn’t on Shapeways for very long before I, too, was taking requests for wargaming miniatures. Granted, mine are historical models, mainly sailing ships and WWII Soviet heavy tanks, not 40K miniatures, but I’m nonetheless involved with tabletop wargaming, and I believe in defending the hobby. At first, I thought that the Sarkeesians of the world were concerned with scantily clad female video game characters, and thus 40K and other tabletop games were safe from politically correct whitewashing. Then I saw this. Videos such as this were basically my initiation into the more political side of YouTube. Several other YouTubers who frequently tackle politics also started out in other subjects, such as Dave Cullen of Computing Forever, who started out making tech reviews. Razörfist himself started out (on YouTube, anyway, seeing as he actually majored in political science) making video game and music reviews before starting to talk about politics (again).
The reason I decided to bring up Razör’s video about Hollywood is simply because of my knowledge from the Soviet side of the unholy marriage that socialism and the arts have. See, without the system of patronage that existed throughout the Renaissance, artists of the modern day must rely on some other source of income. Since production companies that allow for unrestricted artistic works are exceedingly expensive to operate, some semblance of patronage must be put in place. Since people like art, the Soviet government took over said production companies and publicly funded all of the artists. Since this arrangement benefitted the artists, artists who would dare to make pieces criticising communism were extremely rare. Naturally, the few dissenting voices were quickly silenced. However, much of the art made in the Soviet Union had nothing to do with communist propaganda, with a tremendous portion of it re-telling old folk tales in the form of animated films. I have an entire stack of VHS tapes with some of these films, and only one of them has political undertones. It is called Фока – на все руки дока (Foka – na vsye ruki doka) from 1972. You can watch it here, and I suggest you do, even if you don’t speak Russian. The plot is that the Tsar has several problems he needs solved, and two nobles offer up their solutions, both hoping to be rewarded with the princess’s hand. All three are bumbling fools, and it is the blacksmith who saves the day every time. Even when I first watched it at the age of eight, I picked up on the ideological tone of the bumbling nobility and the humble worker. I’ve never seen any other Russian cartoons, aside from actual propaganda films made during the war, that have such a political message, though I’m sure plenty exist. See, people need their entertainment, and the Soviet quasi-oligarchy had different tastes from the proletariat, hence the government’s preservation of ballet and opera, two art forms which were initially threatened because of their bourgeois, non-Russian origins. Anyone who has seen the film Утомлённые Солнцем (Utomlënniye Solntsem), known in the English-speaking world as “Burnt by the Sun” (not an accurate translation) probably remembers the discussion about the stigma attached to the sports of golf and tennis, with only football being acceptable. This is a perfect analogue for the stigma surrounding opera and ballet during the same period of history.
The reason that I call artists’ unions an “unholy marriage” is simply because, be it in Hollywood or Leningrad, true artistic creativity is not allowed. Anything old that hasn’t “aged well” is either revised or tossed into the memory hole (Disney’s “interpretation” of Grimm’s Fairy Tales is probably the best-known example), and anything new that does not conform to modern doctrine is deemed unsuitable for public view, never mind whether or not it is something the public would actually like, hence Hollywood’s increasing irrelevance in a country that is utterly sick of the tripe that the city continues to produce. The problem exists today in Russia as well, though to a lesser extent. I remember an article from an issue of Opera News telling that certain Russian musicians were complaining about being blacklisted after criticising Vladimir Putin on social media. Criticising the Russian government has never been a good idea, regardless of who is in charge. Given that the Russian public and leadership leans further to the right than even most Americans, they are at odds with the artists. The same can be seen in the US, with Hollywood constantly criticising not only President Donald Trump, but also the “unwashed, blithering masses” who voted for him. In both countries, the artists continue to lean left, and are quite vocal about their discontent in the event that the country at large leans to the right, even if it is merely temporary. The masses, meanwhile, are more interested in being entertained than being condescended to by their entertainers. The attitude in the US toward Hollywood is almost identical to the attitude in Russia toward St. Petersburg – not only do we not think like you, we don’t particularly care for it; get off your soap-box and tell us a bloody story, or we’ll stop giving you money.
I have more I’d like to say on this subject, but I will either save that for a future post, or it will be in my responses to your comments – assuming that anyone actually bothers to comment in the first place.