25 December 2012

Television and Commercial Culture

Citizens of many modern industrial societies, and in American society particularly, seldom think twice about referring to themselves as ‘consumers,’ accepting the terminology from the world of media and advertising constructed for them by large corporations. Yet in the lives of their grandparents, ‘consumption’ referred to a debilitating disease, and nineteenth century dictionaries equated it with destruction and pillage. Only during the last century did advertising succeed in normalizing what was once an aberration. This is not to say that people are unaware of this process. Many are beginning to wake up to how their lives are packaged and processed; how they are ‘branded’ as children with product loyalties; how their behavior is manipulated by slick advertising campaigns; and how their public spaces have become commodified by the messages of advertising to buy, buy more, and buy again. The problem is that few people know what to do with this realization, or how to respond. Although one would never know it from watching corporate television, there is a global anti-consumption movement afoot. In street demonstrations, classrooms and other public and private gatherings, as well as by way of alternative media and non-corporate sources of information, the movement is growing. In recent years a number of books have begun to question consumer culture, ranging from psychological analysis of advertising to evaluations of the environmental impact of the all-consuming lifestyle.

11 December 2012

'The Choice' in Egyptian Cinema

Any discussion on the adaptation of Naguib Mahfouz's body of work to cinema needs to mention the film that represents the cooperation of two giants of the international and Arabic art scenes: Mahfouz and Youssef Chahine. The film in question is 'The Choice,' respectively written and directed by the two, and is a riposte to the defeat of the Egyptian army and the Arab states in the face of the Israeli military onslaught of 1967. But 'The Choice' stands alone in Mahfouz’s cinematic contributions in that it is not an adaptation of any text or novel. Rather, it is clearly a text written with the intention of being shot as a film, a collaborative effort between Mahfouz and Chahine, which took place during the war. Like many intellectuals, at the end of the war both tried to rationalize the reasons behind the Arab defeat and were we to take the message in 'The Choice' at face value we will find that the Egyptian intellectual and his schizophrenia is the main (though perhaps hidden) cause of the defeat.