3. Fetishism and Commerce

Most cultural products struggle to evade the grip of commerce, which, as we shall see, has a vested interest in the fetishistic approach. If the ideology of commerce is ingrained within our culture, then we may find it hard not to think and act in terms of this ideology. Thus, cultural objects become products and, like any product, they must sell, to us, the consumers.

These products come with a price; more often than not in terms of money, and always in terms of time. Within a culture that is pushed in terms of these resources, films in particular can appear to make heavy demands: to watch a film is to devote a significant amount of time that could have been spent elsewhere, not to mention a potentially substantial amount of money. As consumers with limited resources we must, then, be assured that our investment is well spent. Hence, we talk of our objects in terms of "successes" and "failures," and develop sliding scales on which we can chart these objects, placing one above another and isolating the chosen from the rejected. Commerce demands practicalities, and, when faced with a sea of potentialities, this is an entirely practical way to separate one object from another, to pick and choose. Yet, as we've seen, to talk of successes and failures is to talk of vessels; and if the conversation stays here it risks missing what lies within.

Commerce needs its tangible objects because it is hard to sell intangibles like ideas and meanings. If they are to be sold, they must come packaged, with a structure that can be seen and touched. And the object must remain important; the egg-shell cannot be discarded, because if it is then no more money can be made from it; and besides, if enough eggshells are thrown away, people may begin to believe that they really don't have that much value in the first place. And so meaning and importance is imbued in the eggshell, the object. The importance of surface is continually asserted.

If we are able to see and to define objects, then we can begin to name these objects and to categorize them. In this way we build structures around them, and in these structures - these worlds - we can live. Thus, when a film becomes "a film" it enters, and constitutes, the "film world." Like any system, it started with a single seed - the first object, the first "film" - and grew exponentially; sprout became trunk, from which came branches and leaves; and eventually all manner of creatures, great and small, made their home within. These creatures now have a vested interest in the maintenance of this world, because it is their home: most do not want to see it disappear.

If the support structure of a world consists of its objects then this world must maintain these objects in order to carry on existing. It is, then, in the interests of those who live within the world to adopt and maintain a surface, objective, approach towards those objects of which that world consists; to, in other words, constantly reify their objectivity. This does not mean that a depth-approach is out of the question, only that the surface approach must always figure in the equation. And so the same conversations, time and again - "Is it good?", "Is it bad?" - which work to keep the emphasis on the object.

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1 comment:

  1. It is difficult to get a man to understand something, when his salary depends upon his not understanding it!

    [Upton Sinclair]