Anyone who watches a movie is actually watching a movie about themselves watching a movie. There’s whatever’s going on on the screen, and there’s all the different thoughts and experiences you’re having while you watch it. You watch them both together, and whatever dance they end up doing is the real movie.

Maybe in the movie there’s an elf woman fighting a dragon with a sword. That’s part of the movie. But also part of the movie is the thought, “That elf actress is skinny. I hate that I’m not skinny. If I was skinny I could be a famous movie actress too and be rich and go to parties with other rich people. They probably have all kinds of free appetizers at those parties. Big plates full of prawns. Sweet baby Jesus I would grab double fistfuls of those prawns and just shove them into my guts without chewing like a fat fucking penguin, om nom nom. Yeah. Yeah eat those prawns you fat bitch.”

Movies are like ninety-minute “how to be a person” lessons. They teach men to punch bad guys off cliffs into lava. They teach women to hate their bodies. They teach men and women that capitalism is totally working out fine for everyone. Once in a while they remind you that the FBI is your friend.

Famous actors and actresses mostly spend time with other famous actors and actresses, so there are no normal people around to say “Oh, no, don’t get another facelift. You definitely should not do that. Your face looks like it’s wearing a condom.” They do strange things that even richer people tell them are perfectly normal, so every few months you read about one of them snorting cocaine off a baby or something but they don’t understand why it’s a problem until they google themselves.

“Ohh,” they then say. “So that’s what regular people think about that.”

They memorize scripts which tell them how to pretend to do things so that people can pay twelve dollars to watch themselves watch other people pretending to do things. The scripts are written by near-sighted alcoholics with callouses on their hearts from having to watch their stories about real human beings turned into vehicles for weird stretch-faced Hollywood mutants. Sometimes the CIA or the Pentagon shows up and gives them money to kill another part of their soul. They take the money because movies taught them that money makes you adequate, and they want desperately to feel that way.

“This is how you be a person,” say the actors on the screen. “You chase after the car and the girl and the money and the success. You be extremely attractive but it’s no big deal because it’s normal and everyone’s supposed to look this way. You say funny things you totally made up yourself right here on the spot. You kill bad guys (join the Marines). You act cool and confident even though you’ve never felt like you understood life even one time ever since you were born. You remain tightly wound up in the trance of egoic consciousness and never once turn around and realize your true nature. You never relax and start coloring outside the narrow lines of this tightly streamlined model we are feeding you. You keep looking for superheroes everywhere except in you.”

Other actors show you how not to be a person, and the people in the chairs boo them and laugh at them because they are losers and criminals and a bit less attractive than the other cast members and they color outside the lines a little bit and are clearly just doing it wrong.

When you watch a movie you have to forget you’re watching a movie to really lose yourself in the story it’s trying to take you into. That’s why no movies ever have someone in the corner of the screen saying “Now remember, this is just a movie, it’s not real” every few minutes, even though that would make horror movies way less scary and in my opinion far less unpleasant. If anything distracting happens in the theater, like someone throwing popcorn or gulping down throatfuls of prawns, the spell is broken, and you remember that you’ve been watching a bunch of actors pretending to do things in fake costumes on a fake set according to the fake script written by the fake screenwriter.

And maybe you remember you were watching yourself watch the movie, too. And maybe you realize that you’ve kind of been acting too, in a way. Maybe you realize that all the thoughts buzzing around in your head about how you ought to be and what life is supposed to look like are no more real than the dragon the elf lady is stabbing at with her fake katana. And maybe you stand up and look around at all the other people watching a movie about themselves watching a movie. And maybe you are floored by their beauty and their majesty, just as they are, even though they’re still completely locked up in the show. And maybe someone says, “Sit down, asshole, we can’t see the movie.” And maybe you say, “You don’t have to be how they’re telling you to be! They don’t know how to be a person any more than you do! We’re all making this up as we go along, and your true nature is boundless and completely unconditioned!” And maybe they say “Well that’s great but we’d still like you to sit down though, please.”

In Hollywood they get the people who are the best at being skinny while pretending to do things, and they never stop pretending to do things. They pretend to make movies and they pretend to be artists and they pretend to be basically decent people who haven’t lost touch with their humanity at all while doing unspeakable things behind locked doors guarded by armed security guards. They watch the world age around ageless plastic faces through medicated eye holes and remember less and less often what life was like before this catastrophe started.

“This is what I wanted,” they assure themselves over and over again. “The movies told me so.”


This is just a movie.

It’s not real.

Remember, stretch-faced actor.



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Latest comments

  • Excellent post.

    I’m over 60. My parents worked in TV production and advertising. My sister and I were never allowed to watch cartoons because Mom and Dad saw them as glorifying violence and covering up the effects of violence (think Road Runner and the Coyote). They always made us think about the consequences of TV advertising while incessantly and amusingly tearing down the false images and bad copywriting (‘Winston tastes good like a cigarette should!’ No! Winston tastes good AS a cigarette should, and anyway they are bad for you!). Our time and content on TV was strictly regulated.

    I was also blessed with a high school teacher who taught an AP History and Sociology class in which we dissected the New York Times each day, searching for why some stories or story-lines were highlighted and others given little emphasis.

    Even as an adult I retained these lessons. The last time I owned a TV set was sometime in the late 1980s. I have never trusted the media. Thank you, Mom and Dad. And thank you Sister Fox.

  • I’ve always loved to escape from Reality by watching movies, yet in my late teen years realised that I was being presented with not alternate realities, but instead directed lessons, the way the director & producer (and their bosses) wanted me to view the world, whether they(or I) wanted it or not. All movies are growth, you learn HOW to do things by watching, you learn how to desensitize to horror, violence, govt meddling, censorship, all evil is taught to us through movies. As is all good..? but whats the ratio?

    Worse yet, Its through the jaded lenses that the director produces each movie/show, each more extreme than the last, to get the same ‘high’ an audience member needs more violence, more nudity/sex, more extreme scenes, so the machine chugs out its next schlock-fest, more graphic than before.

    We need a cold turkey reset of the system, yet how?

    • How?
      Watch indie films.
      You vote with your dollars. If you support mainstream Hollywood films by paying to see them, the producers assume that you like them.

      • Yes! Support Indy producers, their films tend to rely more on creativity than big budget blowouts, layden with cliche stereotype characters, predictable plots, etc…
        In fact, support ALL alternative media- supporting the mega corporations will only encourage them …

  • Hollywood doesn’t have a monopoly on movies. Try watching Kung Fu Hustle, or Everything is Illuminated, or Harold and Maude, for example. There’s lots of good movies out there that don’t follow that boringly narrow Hollywood format.

  • Perfect.

  • Hollywood films are one form of mass propaganda that are often overlooked, yet indelibly influence our society. Fads, trends, styles, looks…. mostly begin here.
    Don’t think for a minute they are not aware of this- look for the subtle advertising of products that they casually show in any current Hwood movie, which is another big payoff for the producer, and you’ll begin to understand their motives…..

  • As a filmmaker myself the aspect of the medium that motivates me the most is the ability to impact a viewers preconceived notions and open their eyes to another’s experience. I only have one feature film so far but it was amazing to see what it was able to accomplish. After watching the film a Tea Party radio host spoke on the air favorably about our societal responsibility to help those who’ve fallen through the cracks, a post-movie Q&A audience member spoke about thinking homeless people were lazy or crazy and how they better understood how anyone could end up homeless now. There were many more revelations like this that went beyond my expectations for such a small indie film.

    Of course, the “box office” for my film was what the typical Hollywood movie makes in one day at one theater so there’s a reason the studios aren’t lining up to make films like mine. There’s no money to be made in films that are honest. Audiences pay for an escape from their lives, not a mirror of them.

    • I have to take exception to the phrase “fallen through the cracks.” As one who has had plenty of experience with those cracks, I have developed my own theory about them.
      When authorities talk about “the cracks”, they unconsciously refer them to cracks in nature, such as the cracks in dried-up mud during a dry spell, or cracks in the earth after an earthquake. Nothing could be further from the truth.
      Society is a man-made construct. Therefore, any cracks in that construct are man-made.
      The “cracks” referred to in our society are created by those with the power to do so, like legislatures. And people are pushed into them, they don’t “fall”. (Even poor people are smart enough to see a crack ahead of themselves and take measures to avoid it. How dumb do you think we are?)
      The pushing is done by people with the power to do so, like social workers.
      (When I worked at the state legislature, I observed a committee session in which an administrator from the welfare department told the committee chair, “Let me tell you how I interpret that…” and the chair immediately responded, “Yes, do! Please let me know how you interpret the laws that we pass!”)
      These “interpreters” pass on the actions necessary for the victims to get pushed into the cracks.
      I’ve ended up in many a crack myself, and, looking back, I can see, by this analysis, how I got pushed into a crack created by the state. Perhaps, in the movie, you documented some of the ways that the homeless and others got pushed into the crack where they were.

  • Have not watched any movies since Star wars.Its obvious now that we are telling ourselves the same old cultural myths that maintains the delusions of significance we all have. Like you said before.. the work begins with your own narrative. The cost of that work is that i have to pretend that the world that others assert as real is also my world. If i get too lazy to make that pretense then i will likely end up in the no mans land like julian assange.

  • I saw the “documentary” (not really, it was a made-up movie) “Brig” in the late 60’s, during the Vietnam War.
    There’s an interesting backstory to that movie: it was so realistic that the government and military were doing everything they could to stop it from being seen, like breaking into the producer’s hotel room and stealing it. They had to smuggle it into the theater. The producer gave a talk before they screened it, and he said that in order to keep the actors from internalizing the parts, the “guards” and the “prisoners” had to keep changing roles.
    It was so realistic that I could hardly sit there and watch it. The only way I could stay in the theater was to look to one side when things got really bad, and repeat to myself over and over again, “It’s only a movie”; “It’s only a movie.”

  • I was with my sister and a group of her friends for Saturday night at the movies. Of the films on offer, I was hoping we’d opt for “Blade Runner – The Director’s Cut” but, to my chagrin, they all opted for Tarantino’s “Reservoir Dogs” – the last movie I wanted – going by what little hype I had unfortunately ingested. Only about 5 minutes into the film, one baddie is about to cut off the ear of a bloodied cop tied to a chair: the audience all drooled in gleeful anticipation…which is when I decided enough was enough. The film was sick enough, but my fellow Glaswegians much sicker to consider torture as entertainment. I walked out, and even managed to get in to see the latter half of “Bladerunner” – which is another story.

  • To wicked witches , Caitlin must look like Dorothy with a melt-water firehose.

  • I think you really hit the nail on the head with this one. The movies are powerful, hypnotic persuaders and we are often oblivious as to what we’re doing while watching. Thanks.

  • I don’t know which is worse, watching yourself watching, as you talk about, or being so into it that you “willingly suspend disbelief” about the world of the movie. I remember a very young me (long hair like in pictures of Jesus, slightly high) attending a showing of the first run of the very first Starwars movie (what was that, 1976 or 7? anyway). As my buddies and I spilled out onto the sidewalk after the show, they were gushing on about how amAAAAzing and coooool it was and I was on the other hand horrified. In one of those droning stoner voices, I said “Don’t you guys see, it was a fascist ALLEGORY?” (I was in grad school in the humanities at the time). It dawned on me then, that if they can make something entertaining and compelling enough that people want to enter into its world, then for at least the 90 minutes during which they enter into that world, in order to really be entertained, they have to take on the thinking and the worldview of that world — you know, just for fun let’s think for an hour and a half that there is absolute good and absolute evil and we are justified in doing anything in the service of the absolute good. Then after the 90 minutes are over, we can go back to our real-world ways of thinking. But do that sort of thing enough times, and your “real life” worldview and way of thinking gets infiltrated.

    • So true. No one movie can change the world, but enough of them perpetuating the same narrative can. Whether it’s the mythology of the lone gunman hero that seems to have made a large portion of the country believe they are closer to Jason Bourne or Rambo instead of “Frank” in the indie film “God Bless America” that uses a gun to give his empty life purpose which, in the end is exposed as a nihilistic wish-fulfillment where he is just as much the bad guy (if not more) than all those he lashed out against.

      In the new “Justice League” movie Batman says his superpower is that he’s rich. Same goes for Iron Man. Those movies and many more (many Rom-Coms and 50 Shades of Gray especially) perpetuate the Ayn Randian idea of the rich as our guardians and saviors.

      There are good movies out there with better messaging but, like with the news, you need to search for it and abstain from mainstream outlets where it’s all pro-neoliberal propaganda masquerading as entertainment. The hero’s journey retold endlessly in the service of reinforcing our ideas of a lone savior and villainizing ideas of collective action by the lower brackets of society.

      If you want a good anecdote to this, try Mr. Robot. It’s the only TV show I’ve seen to truly expose the system problems we have without sugar coating it (Hunger Games, Capt. America, House of Cards) and addresses the often utopian notions of revolution that so many think will fix a system that is far too entrenched and powerful for a “ragtag” group of rebels to even so much as scratch the surface of.

      • I think that Ronald Reagan bought into the lone gunman myth.

  • Another brilliant observation, Caitlin. You’ve just described a significant portion of American society, how they get their information, their role models, and why trying to reach them is such a mission!

  • “….never once turn around and discover your true nature.”
    Certainly a topic for discussion and reflection that has passed away.
    And that is intentional. By choice and design.
    But why, what is intended by such madness inducing inundation?

    And so quickly the cultures are transformed.


  • When I was a kid, after leaving a movie theater, I would imagine and see myself as I went about my business being followed by movie cameras. My actions, my words were elegant as was my clothes . . . and i was beautiful, sought after, larger than life. is it any wonder these people become crackpots!

  • This is like a poetic digest of a book recently out (in French alas): Pierre Conesa’s “Hollywar” on the Hollywood industry as a propaganda machine 🙂

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