Cultural Hegemony at the Oscars

I usually don't watch the Oscars.

I usually abstain from the twinkling pantheon of multicultural idol worshipping at the altar of Yiddish Tinsel Town. But I got drawn into a social situation whereby members of my family were watching and I begrudgingly sat in front of the boob tube but not without derisive comment—a curmudgeon must remain so—wherein every win I witnessed was accompanied by some appeal to some social cause. L’art pour l’art has since become l’art pour l’causes sociale.

Perhaps most flauntingly militant in this regard was Sacheen Littlefeather’s refusal to accept the Best Actor Oscar on Marlon Brando behalf for The Godfather (1973) at the 45th Annual Academy Awards. Brando had become the second person to reject an award for best actor. George C. Scott had refused the award for the lead in Patton (1970) perhaps reprising his eponymous role by calling the ceremony a “two-hour meat parade, a public display with contrived suspense for economic reasons.”

But this year, black musician John Legend accepted his golden idol for the MLK propaganda film Selma while using the stage time to critique high incarceration rates for blacks and linking it to slavery—lest we forget about that long-dead practice. While Julianne Moore dedicated her award on behalf of Alzheimer’s suffers. Eddie Redmayne, who won Best Actor by portraying Stephen Hawking’s struggle with ALS made it about the disease. The gay actor Graham Moore made his win a platform for discouraging gay youth suicides and promoting “staying weird,” perhaps taking the homonym “queer” a little too literally. The Mexican-American Alejandro Gonzalez Inarritu made at least one of his appearances on the pulpit for his Birdman victories as an opportunity to do some shout-outs to his Mexicano amigos. While Patricia Arquette after her win spoke and Tweeted that gay men and people of color need to support women, “equal means equal.” I thought it would be refreshing to see someone win and not make it a platform for their little social cause. For these celebrities to just accept the fact that they are the fortunate ones amongst a sea of struggling anonymous hardship. A recognition that they are not social justice warriors but just the shadows on the wall of Plato’s cave and not those chained watching the flickering images of their catharsis. That as Jewish writer Walter Benn Michaels points out in The Trouble with Diversity, diversified elites function better than not diversified ones—while they are the theory and practice of oligarchical collectivism on display.

L’art pour l’art. While Karl Marx wrote sparingly on art, in his Introduction to The Critique of Political Economy (1858), published about the time of impressionism’s ascent, he linked art to culture and therefore a purely aesthetic practice. It was not until the Italian Marxist Antonio Gramsci flipped Marxist theory on its head by arguing that the power operates through the culture as a means for the dominant class to maintain and establish its control—what Gramsci called the “superstructure”—which maintained the economic base through a relentless production of propaganda meant to instill the values that would define the “common sense” of the people who consumed the products—what he called “cultural hegemony.” What is important about the insights of the Left, of Gramsci in particular, is that now that the cultural Bolsheviks have established their cultural hegemony in Hollywood, we can use these tools to critique them—although Plato understood the power of culture centuries prior to the Left’s rediscovery.

In this we understand that Patricia Arquette was not issuing or championing any new cause, the Jewess feminist Gloria Steinem bridged women’s rights and civil rights with her infamous New York Magazine article “After Black Power, Women’s Liberation” in 1969. None of those people were breaking any new ground, their very presence on that stage as the crème de la crème of our culture is testament to their false narrative, and all they were doing was showing that they were maintaining the power structure, which put them in that position to begin with. Would any of them go on stage and critique Jewish power or privilege? No. Would any of them serious critique massive non-white immigration and the devastating effects on white Europeans? No, because they are the cultural hegemony and we are l’causes sociale.