My phone blew up yesterday. Even people I hadn’t heard from in months were texting to share with me how gobsmacked they were reading yesterday’s post about the levels of insidious programming they are being exposed to daily. And many were shell-shocked by “the list.” (If you didn’t read it, remedy that now.) Let’s dive yet deeper into how the datasphere disseminates these harmful memes through pop culture…
In the ‘60s, ‘70s and ‘80s, books were still strong agents of cultural evolution, but television was the primary driver. By the ‘90s and aughts, books were waning, TV still was a major factor, but movies began to play a larger role. Today, TV and movies still are huge cultural influencers, but blogs, social media and other Internet-driven platforms are shaping societal programming (brainwashing) in a powerful way.
Tell me what generation you are, and I can list you the predominant cultural entertainment of your era, and demonstrate the evil, insidious, and puissant underlying programming you have been infected with. (Which is another way to say, discover what drives your self-destructive behavior.)
Are you a baby boomer? Then you grew up with television shows like The Beverly Hillbillies. The entire premise of that was how haughty, pompous, and ridiculous the rich people like Mr. and Mrs. Drysdale were – and how nice, friendly, and ultimately wiser poor Jed Clampett and his family were. (Of course, in the show, the Clampetts were the equivalent of today’s dot-com billionaires. But the memes worked perfect, because it fed the belief that only poor people were virtuous enough to handle being rich.)
Then there was Gilligan’s Island. Pretty much the running plotline was the ongoing cultural differences between the good, sensible poor folks like Gilligan, Maryann, the professor and skipper, versus the preposterous and outrageous behavior of the wealthy Thurston Howell III and his wife Lovey. (They packed hundreds of thousands of dollars in cash and multiple changes of clothes for what was supposed to be a three-hour cruise.) Another iconic show of the day was M.A.S.H. Once again, we have the good guys like Hawkeye and Trapper John, who were subjected to having a pompous, wealthy companion in the tent, like Charles Emerson Winchester III, who wouldn’t drink the hooch and preferred rich-people activities like listening to opera. (Notice how both shows used “the third” to demonstrate how stilted and pretentious wealthy people are.)
From shows like these, we moved to a time when the next big hits were Dallas and Dynasty. Think of how the astronomically affluent people in these shows were portrayed. What was the underlying programming to your subconscious mind? In fact, the mind viruses against money and wealthy people were so powerful in these series – they both became monster hits and were produced all over again after the millennium turned – Dynasty being recast, and Dallas continuing the story with another generation of rich people behaving badly.
The underlying dynamic at play here is that the more a TV show, movie, book, etc. panders to the mind viruses you’re programmed with – the more you will love it. Because it connects with you on an emotional level – allowing you to feel virtuous because you are poor and victimized.
When you see J.R. Ewing or some other uber-wealthy character lying, cheating and stealing – you tell yourself (subconsciously) that you’re happy and proud not to be one of those evil, immoral, and insufferable rich people.
Oh, and don’t forget on those songs on your iTunes or Spotify playlist...
He owns a big estate just south of Savannah
And a high rise hotel in downtown Atlanta
And half the state of Georgia to his name...
She'd be set for life in his colonial manor
He'd lay the world at her feet on a silver platter
But all I had to offer her was the moon.
“All I had to offer her was the moon.” Oh, for fuck’s sake…
If you’re not a country fan, those are the lyrics from The Moon Over Georgia, a huge hit (actually a great song) by Shenandoah. By now you should understand that it is physiologically impossible for a song with lyrics like that not to become a hit. If you want more examples, check out the Billboard top ten songs in every category in every year since the list began. Or, if you want to save time, like I said – just check the playlist on your phone. I promise you it is filled with songs containing negative memes. My favorite song growing up was Share the Land by The Guess Who. (And is still one of my favorites.) Reflecting back on the lyrics now, I wonder if they were written by Bernie Sanders or Fidel Castro.
Every category of entertainment you enjoy – whether operas, soap operas, music, video games, movies, TV, books, crossword puzzles, or plays – are infected with negative mind viruses about money and wealth. And it continues to today…
I waited with anticipation for the HBO series Succession. It boasted some marvelous acting talent and had an intriguing trailer, so I added it to my TiVo lineup. I watched two and a half episodes, switched it off and cancelled the recording. The show contains so much negative programming, I don’t want my subconscious mind to be exposed to another minute of it. But I knew then that it would become a strong hit for the network. Because the entire focus of every episode is dedicated to showcasing wealthy people as despicable assholes.
With shows like Dallas and Dynasty, there were at least some wealthy people depicted as good (calling Bobby Ewing). In the episodes of Succession I watched, there was no such nuance. Literally every single wealthy character in the show was presented as a money-grubbing, sell-their-soul, evil, mean-spirited, conniving, weasel.
Another telling demonstration of the power of mind viruses to influence culture is to look at which movies become worldwide blockbusters…
I could only chuckle when I read about a Chinese studio that yanked a movie from the theaters in week one because it was a bomb. They reportedly spent $100 million making it, and it took in 7 million. If they would have sent me the script with a check for $5,000, I could have saved them all of that dosh.
I don’t get this ability by calling Miss Cleo on the astral plane. In fact, there’s nothing psychic about it. All you need to determine if a book, TV show, or movie is going to be a breakout hit, is to know whether or not it panders to a majority of people’s limiting beliefs. If the script has an underlying plotline with rich people are acting foolishly or immorally – or a greedy conglomerate threatening the safety of the world to squeeze extra profits – you’re guaranteed a box office bonanza.
There was much worry in the Asian community when the Crazy Rich Asians film was about to come out. Because it was the first big budget, big studio American film with a completely Asian cast, people were concerned that it would flop and continue the Hollywood mindset that a minority cast can’t produce a strong box office opening. But that worry was completely unwarranted. It’s just The Beverly Hillbillies with soy sauce, certain to be a crowd pleaser.
The underlying mind viruses in pop culture entertainment are so predictable, so formulaic, that once you discover the patterns, it ruins your enjoyment forever. (If you want a deep dive, read the Save the Cat! book series by Blake Snyder. Just be warned you’ll know the spoiler of every plot you are ever exposed to in the first five minutes.) Doubt me?
Do you realize that Ridley Scott’s Sci-Fi masterpiece Alien and Spielberg’s masterworks Jaws and Jurassic Park – three record-setting worldwide blockbusters by two brilliant directors – are all actually the same goddam movie?
The plot of all three films is the same timeless trope: the monster who wants to kill everyone in an enclosed community, and lots of innocent people will die – because behind the scenes, there are evil, greedy rich people who will make money from the tragedy. Take the screenplay and swap out the characters, the three scripts are completely interchangeable.
In Alien, we had the avaricious corporation who wanted to bring the monster back to earth for profit, and in Jaws we had the authorities who didn’t want to close the beach and lose all that summer tourism revenue. In Jurassic Park, we have another immoral bioengineering company who would rather let the dinosaurs eat people than lose the theme park revenues. The underlying meme of all three flicks is that innocent poor people die because duplicitous rich people want to get richer. (Fun but related fact: Alien is set on a spaceship named, The Nostromo. Director Ridley Scott chose that name as an homage to Joseph Conrad’s 1904 novel of the same name. A novel about…greed.)
If you write a screenplay about a scary monster eating people, you’ll probably get a profitable teen horror flick. But if you can weave in a subplot that the only reason people are dying is because there is a rich person or company profiting off the carnage – now you’ve got box office gold. (If you want to become a rich screenwriter, follow that formula and every movie studio in Hollywood, Bollywood, and Hong Kong will think you have a Midas touch with screenplays. Agents will be crawling naked over broken glass, begging to let them represent you.)
This is a good time to sneak in a little nugget about how in a tangible sense all these timeless literature themes apply to you, you, you…
One of the mantras every screenwriter and great storyteller knows is:
Stasis = Death.
What makes any story a dud is when things stay the same. From the opening image to the concluding one, something big has to change. There better be a transformation. Because if Bilbo Baggins meets Gandalf and nothing changes, if Jason goes after the Golden Fleece but remains the same, if Luke joins Obi-Wan but doesn’t become a Jedi – there is no story. The “stasis = death” element is the catalyst moment in every saga where the hero realizes she will “die” if she doesn’t change.
It’s no coincidence that at this exact moment in the space/time continuum, you are reading this very sentence. This is a blog about transformation. Your transformation. To make that transformation, you’re going to have to let the old you die. But first, we must uncover the answer to a very perplexing pattern you’ve been programmed with…
Why you love to hate rich people.
And that’s what’s coming up in the next post. Until then, please give me a shout below with your thoughts.