Popular Entertainment as a Purview of False Consciousness

Popular Entertainment mainly accommodates wide acceptance among the audiences. It largely comprises of dominant ideologies of the society. Such ideologies are deeply inculcated in us; gradually, over a long period of time. We are fed with notions of good and bad, right and wrong, morality and correct conduct of living in a specific society. At different ages and at various places and occasions, we are expected to behave in a particular fashion and abide by certain norms. These things are taught to us through education (especially schools), the newspaper, the media etc. It becomes a part of life and eventually forms our ‘common sense’, thus we do not care to notice its presence in practice in everyday life. It can be identified with Pierre Bourdieu’s so-called “reproduction theory” according to which everyday actions reproduce the conditions of ideological domination.

We are conditioned in such a manner, not as a choice. The initiation of these ideologies come from the ruling class, who create such ideologies which would eventually favour their beliefs and interests and thus, help them rule for long(er) durations without much ideological oppositions. This dominance eventually becomes a kind of hegemony, because gradually the masses start accepting and practicing these ideologies.

Ideologies legitimize some form of power insofar as it encourages thought and discourse that naturalizes political regimes, rendering them proper, bona fide, and worthy of respect.. Consider our common uses: legitimate theatre is serious; a legitimate Van Gogh is authentic; an illegitimate child is a bastard. “Legitimacy” is almost always associated with a claim to a bona fide membership in a class. Legitimate theatre, legitimate painting, and legitimate children consist of performance, art works, and people who enjoy a well-founded and deeply rooted claim to their status. They seem to come by that status naturally.

During such entertainment, people can easily relate to the plot since they recognise with the characters, fancy their own self instead of the characters and feel like a part of the story.

The movies we watch are representative of the dominant ideologies in a society. Indian cinema in particular celebrates patriarchy in bold and subtle shades. The visuals leave a more lasting impact on the masses than any other form of representation.

For example

Violence and love are two themes that facilitate this dramatic representation of virtue and vice, decency and evil. ‘Slumdog Millionaire’ relied on violence, extreme violence, to ramp up their stories, to clarify the down trodden avatars of their protagonists, and enthrall their viewers.

Forms of fiction such as Jane Austen’s ‘Pride and Prejudice’ provide a crystal clear picture of the gender and class hierarchy in a 19th century society. Rebellious characters like the protagonist achieve everything only at the stake of their respect in the society.

Popular entertainment re-inscribes our ideas, and thus re-inscribes our ideologies. Unconsciously, we become so accustomed to them, that we do not realise them as ideologies anymore, but understand them as a part of our social conduct. Dominant ideologies and their preaching are a way to ward off the chill of deep critical reflection.

Chaahat Madaan