In this article, Ong continues some of the themes established in "Mickey Mouse and Americanism," "Twenty-Two Titles Tell a Tale," "Contemporary Readings in the Higher Sophistry," "Literature and Cultural Initiative," and "Mr. Barnum and the 'Reader's Digest,'" particularly the importance of the critical awareness people must exercise when encountering the media.

Ong argues that in the mid-1940s, Hollywood displayed an especially self-conscious streak by producing movies about the entertainment industry itself.  While this focus on the entertainment industry has given viewers a behind-the-scenes look that makes them feel as though they are at home when they go to the movies, Ong argues that by concentrating ofnitself rather than life outside the movie industry, Hollywood escapes the critical standards traditionally applied to other forms of artistic expression and creates the image that there is no distinction whatsoever between art and reality.

Furthermore, because movies are not judged by the same standards the visual arts are, viewers begin to expect all art to be unaware of itself, just like the movies are.  Why are movie-goers so reluctant to question what they see on the screen?  Ong draws the conclusion that viewers refuse to be critical of movies because they do not want to question their own values and risk having to alter those values.

Return to Listings