3. Who are “They”, anyway?

What’s your favorite TV show? Songwriter? Movie franchise? Novelist? Candy bar? Why do these things exist? Who brought them to you? Who is behind the messaging we receive in our culture?

Think of a recent Superhero film you enjoyed. Who brought you these messages of heroism, valor, sacrifice, and kill-the-bad-guy? In some cultures these values are imparted by the government or the state religion. In the U.S., it’s mostly a matter of free expression. But who is forming these messages, and why?

It is my contention (1) that in our culture, almost every message has an apparent messenger and an ultimate messenger — and the motivation for messaging you is almost always to relieve you of your money.

Why do they make movies? To entertain? You may think you are watching the latest Quentin Tarantino film; he may appear to be the messenger reaching you through the film. But who put up the $44M to make “Hateful Eight”? IMDB.com (2) lists two production companies and 58 other companies, including 38 distributors, who all played a role in bringing you that film — and they all expect a cut of the gross ticket sales. I am afraid, children, that Double Feature Films and Film Colony did not invest in Hateful Eight because they really believed in its message, or in Mr Tarantino, or in the value of violent revenge. I believe they did it for their slice of the $145M gross worldwide ticket sales.

Do you feel close to your favorite songwriter? Do you feel you really know him/her through their song lyrics? Unless you found that artist by surfing YouTube, and paid the artist directly to download their music, chances are that music was mediated by an industry — an industry bent not primarily on inspiring you through moving music, but inspiring you to spend your money on music that moves you. And just to burst your last bubble, why does YouTube exist? Primarily to give you direct access to artists, unmediated by the industry? I am afraid they make their platform attractive to you so they can sell ad space. The ads were designed, for a fee,  to entice you to click through to a vendor and maybe spend some money there too.

Behind every media message there is the apparent messenger: the news anchor, the singer, the actor or director, the author. Behind him or her, the message is ultimately brought to you by the investor, who is hoping to make money off of you: the studio, producer, promoter, publisher, broadcaster.

This is not necessarily evil, wrong or bad, except that it means our culture is founded on materialism, consumption and manipulation — but that’s a value judgement. I point this out only to raise your awareness. Who is really talking to you? Who is ultimately behind the message, and what might their motive be? Keep alert.

  1. That’s a qualifier. I make a lot of strong assertions in this article. Qualifying every single one of them makes for cumbersome prose. Stay alert to unqualified assertions. Just because I said it does not make it true. Do I cite a source, or provide data?
  2. Internet Movie Database. Hateful Eight data came from here. Why do I trust this data? Who is behind IMDB? Why do they publish this terrific site?
  3. The puppet string image, by Glen Owen, came from this web page. Apparently the lady on the left and the gent on the right were both running for office, sponsored by different parties. The image is from a poster published by yet another party, implying that one party may be the apparent messenger, but the lady’s party would be the ultimate messenger. This poster brought to you apparently by the Tory party, but ultimately by an ad agency looking to make a buck. So confusing.

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