Between the First and Second World Wars, the American cinema flourished. With opulent theaters, lavish screen productions, and beautifully gowned film goddesses, the movies were more than just entertainment. For millions of Americans, Hollywood was a dream factory, turning out elaborate fantasies of glamour, success, and romance.
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- 1.Nathanael West, The Day of the Locust (New York: Bantam, 1959), 131.Google Scholar
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- 4.According to historian Daniel Boorstin, we demand the mass media’s simulated realities because they fulfill our insatiable desire for glamour and excitement. To cultural commentator Richard Schickel, they create an “illusion of intimacy,” a sense of security and connection in a society of strangers. Ian Mitroff and Warren Bennis have gone as far as to claim that Americans are living in a self-induced state of unreality. “We are now so close to creating electronic images of any existing or imaginary person, place, or thing … so that a viewer cannot tell whether … the images are real or not,” they wrote in 1989. At the root of this passion for images, they claim, is a desire for stability and control: “If men cannot control the realities with which they are faced, then they will invent unrealities over which they can maintain control.” In other words, according to these authors, we seek and create aural and visual illusions—television, movies, recorded music, computers—because they compensate for the inadequacies of contemporary society. If we scratch the surface of this “culture of unreality,” however, we will see an audience that is not desperate, passive, and gullible, but concerned, active, and skeptical. See Daniel Boorstin, The Image: A Guide to Pseudo—Events in America (New York: Atheneum, 1975), 3, 240Google Scholar
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