To those who are looking for a review of the movie, the Hunger Games, will be disappointed because this blog is about something else entirely. In this post, I will be discussing about what so called Art in the age of mechanical reproduction.
In his essay The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction, Benjamin Walter talks about the evolution of art from hieroglyphs, paintings, lithography, photography, to film. He also discusses about the loss of aura in these work of art. To him, the loss of aura happens because the work of art has lost its authority. “Mechanical reproduction of art changes the reaction of the masses toward art” (Benjamin). The reception toward an original piece of painting is (to Benjamin) more highly valued than the one toward films. In film, “individual reactions are predetermined by the mass audience response they are about the produce” (Benjamin). Therefore, according to Benjamin, a painting is contemplated by an individual, but an individual is contemplated by the film they watch.
For that reason, the mechanical reproduction of art, thus, is meant for the capitalistic gain of a few instead of the enjoyment of the masses. In today culture, this idea is well represented by the release of numerous movies every week. Not to mention, every summer is a race for blockbuster movies by big entertainment companies. Everything is calculated for the maximum gain. Those big companies make full use of the existing media ecology to test, create awareness, get attention, and create hype to their movies. Some has done a better job than others. For example, the movie Avatar is an example of how 20th Century Fox use various media outlets to promote the film. Different photos from the movie were “leaked” before the official trailer came out. This generated discussions from online communities. The movie producers released different versions for the trailer to add in the discussion. They even allowed the press to see 16 minutes from the movie before the official release date. Today press is no long just print. News, reviews, and anticipations are over the Internet from blogs, social networking sites, to online discussion pages. Not stopping there, 20th Century Fox also partnered with Coca Cola to have marketing campaign to promote the movie. Thus, people who do not have Internet connection and/or do not read newspaper now could see the presence of the about-to-be-released movie everywhere. The extensive use of every possible media outlet together with an actually good movie brought back $2 billion to its producers. Avatar is a movie that did satisfy the hype its producers created. However, not all movies could achieve the same thing. A few examples could be: The Green Lantern or Sucker Punch. Both were hyped up very well but the undeniable disappointment from the moviegoers tells a better story than all the flattering critics.
Even though Avatar was such a big success, people have already moved on to other big blockbusters. They always anticipate for a “better” one, a “bigger” one. I think this is the point Benjamin tries to say: would people anticipate or compare The Starry Night by Picasso to another painting? The feeling one individual developed for an original art piece is more valuable because its aura cannot be reproduced.
So, what can we do? Many people suggest supporting independent moviemakers. But why is it so hard? Why is hard for many artists to stay true to the art they love? Or is it possible for them to be big? I think there are possibilities for an art piece to reserve its aura even in this mechanical reproduction age. Many artists have already used the advanced technologies to their gain: videos on Youtube, blogs on different flat forms. The question after reading Benjamin Walter is how to reflect back on art when it has become “unoriginal?” This question could be answered through these youtube videos; viral blog posts etc. where people release their full imagination and frustration from the existing system. They do unorthodox things. The fact they have gained followers and subscribers mean that maybe the system is changing. It won’t go away, but there will be more room for both the “authenticity” and “unauthencity” to co-exist. Yet, for now, the Hunger Games will soon be just another big office movie.