In “The Culture Industry,” Theodor Adorno and Max Horkheimer write on the repressive nature of the culture industry. Since the culture industry operates as a monopoly, it controls what it produces and propagates. The production within the culture industry reflects the power structure. The ideas that prevail in the market and become materialized are those with economic backing from the powerful. Adorno mentions culture is a commodity. Adorno and Horkheimer state that “advertising today is a negative principle, a blocking device; everything that does not bear its stamp is economically suspected…system obliges every product to use advertising” (pg. 22). Companies pay for air time to be able to participate in the culture industry, which reaches many potential consumers. For instance, the air time during the Super Bowl is so expensive because the masses tune in that day.
Advertisement indeed influences consumers and instills a need for certain products. Consumers receive the cultural ideas and advertisement through different mediums: television, radio, and movies. The cultural industry is oppressive since not all have access to advertising through these means. So some narratives fade to the background and appear as no longer being part of the every-day reality. For instance, news reports from different networks show biases; although they appear as objective, they emphasize some narratives while undermining others. While attempt has been made to show the narratives of the poor and criminals, the producers may lack the insight of insiders and may continue to spread stereotypes in popular culture. For example, crime and poverty has been glamorized in many films. The glorification of these topics continues to be recreated although it may not reflect the true reality.
For my analysis, I chose to analyze the results from a search in an online service, Jinni.com. Its purpose is to find a movie matches based on individual’s interests and criteria. The movies and TV shows are categorized by plot, theme, and other filters. I chose to find similar movies to “Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban.” Among the available choices was the “Chronicles of Narnia: the Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe.” The site does a good job at showing what makes the two films so similar. Both movies have young hero in parallel worlds fighting evil. The similar plot represents the phenomenon that Adorno and Horkheimer describe as “culture now impresses the same stamp on everything” (pg. 2). The general plot seems to be mass produced. Since these two movies were reducible to the classification system in Jinni, one can say that originality is but an illusion. If in fact originality even exists, it exists only in the details that adorn the movie templates. It is important to understand who benefits from the conformity to similar cultural themes. Also, one must understand how these forms of entertainment distract attention from the social issues and realities that are important to the human race.
Horkheimer, Max and Theodor Adorno. 1972. “The Culture Industry: Enlightenment as Mass
Deception.” Pp. 120-167 in Dialectic of Enlightenment. New York: Herder and Herder.