Last Saturday, professor of popular culture at Bowling Green State College and Antioch alumnus, Dan Shoemaker, presented his lecture, “Patriarchy and Post-9/11 Cinema” in McGregor 113. The presentation, slated to begin at 6 p.m., in typical Antiochian fashion, took half an hour and a series of phone calls before attendance was high enough to justify warming up the projector, but eventually the show attracted a crowd of over 30 students.
A graduate of the college with a BA Communication and Media Arts, Shoemaker started off the presentation by discussing his own opinions on modern cinema as a professor of popular culture. “Like most people,” Shoemaker said, “I go to the movies to be entertained and illuminated. Unlike most people, when I see something that bugs me, I write a paper about it.”
Questions of critical film viewing framed Shoemaker’s dissection of cinema and his final conclusions of conspiracy. “Whose fantasy is it? What version of happiness is endorsed? What logic makes it to make sense?” he pondered, while showing excerpts of movies like Million Dollar Baby, and Boondock Saints.
“In the wake of 9/11,” Shoemaker finally suggested, “American people needed assurance, and Hollywood stepped in to provide it.” To back up his claim, he cited examples of classic Hollywood responses to real-world crises; Invasion of the Body Snatchers, War of the Worlds, and Voyage to the Bottom of the Sea. These examples today seem obvious illustrations of blatant propaganda. Shoemaker argued that current cinema is no less propagandistic, if one only knew where to look.
Initially, Shoemaker’s claimed that Hollywood was deliberately putting subliminal, conservative messages into mainstream films were suspect and far-fetched. His specificity in particular was cause for skepticism; Rumsfeld’s reasoning behind the Iraq war promoted in Million Dollar Baby, specters of the Bush administration in The Boondock Saints, and so on. However, as Shoemaker screened a series of scenes from recent and not so recent films to illustrate his points, his theories became increasingly plausible. The promotion of patriarchy and family values can be easily seen in most modern films, but Shoemaker also pointed out examples of hegemony, anti-pacifism, gender role reinforcement, and religious fanaticism. Some of his points were still a stretch to see, but others came to life on the projection screen in McGregor and posed real cause for concern as to the state of cinema today, making Althusser’s quote “The media reinforces dominant ideology,” once again tangible.