Saturday, May 21, 2011

Vornheim Is Hollywood


It's a mistake to believe that the first generation of moguls, who escaped the cruelty and poverty and tyranny of life under the czar or king or emperor, left that world behind. Rather, they brought that system to the new world and cast themselves - at last, the dream realized - as the monarch, Mr Big. In the land of the free, they fashioned a city-state where medieval powers existed, and to go with it they invented a cult that was close to the idolatrous nature of religions before the age of reason and science. So their Hollywood was intensely un-American, if you're thinking Jefferson and the Bill of Rights and the code of independent intellect. Hollywood was a harkening back to despotism, slavery, and a belief in the divinity of supernatural monsters. Every fourth year a Dole and a Clinton* feel the need to woo, warm and co-opt Hollywood, while any halfway intelligent politician must realize that the movies are - in their appeal to unreason and unreality, in their excitation of desire and instability, in their worship of power and glamour - the most abiding, virulent virus in the American organism.

-from "20 Things People Like To Forget About Hollywood" by David Thomson

(I have edited it to include some material that was cut from the original book--"Beneath Mulholland", one of the best books written about the city I live in).

I should've included it in the "Appendix N" to Vornheim. Sorry, forgot. To me, these games and stories aren't about wish-fulfillment or escapism, they're an expressionism. They're a fiction that uses impossible and rare weirdness to point out nuances in the possible and common weirdness that is always here now in real life with us.


*Obviously out of date, this would now say "A Bush and a Clinton". My how things have changed.


  1. I think there's an interesting parallel there with the Founding Fathers' attitude to their New World: if the Old World would not listen to their brands of religious fundamentalism, then they'd go overseas and create their own private states where they would be allowed to set the rules. The early history of many of the states are strange little studies in local-rule development, sometimes radically different from the state next door on subjects such as women's rights or the tolerance of "other" religions.

    So, in that sense, the Hollywood model is very Old School American rather than the "2e America" that Jefferson was writing (hypocritically) about in the Declaration of Independence and the Bill of Rights. Many of the earliest Americans were specifically interested in NOT treating everyone as equals.

    Funny old world. Or new world, as the case may be.

  2. that's a great quote. Except for the stuff about some kind of America that's not like that in some way, that Hollywood is supposed to be un-. I don't know how anyone can take that shit seriously if they work in a company, or deal with a housing association, or observe any sort of local politics, or have lived through an election cycle, or any of the thousand other feudalisms of everyday life.