Who Owns Hollywood?

In 1976, George Lucas created an American, cinematic classic, a classic that portrayed human dynamics to the core and will more than likely influence generations to come. Lucas’ Star Wars speaks to our hearts in symbolic terms and illustrates the human saga of emotional struggles, our innate desire for freedom and those heroes and villains that make up the whole of who we are. What Lucas created in Star Wars was not by accident. In order for him to obtain a better understanding of human relationships, Lucas sought out and became a student of Joseph Campbell, author of The Power of Myth, The Hero with a Thousand Faces, Myths to Live By and Transformations through Myth and Time. Campbell revealed our stories and myths of human transformation, and the truths about human similarities, and differences.

When the films popularity gripped our country, it was hard to imagine a time before–there were no cell phones or personal computers, the internet was years away, and even home video had yet to catch on. The space race was over, women united in opposition to discrimination and American’s felt deeply mired in the present. The CIA fooled us and we were living in a time of economic inflation and rising oil prices. The nation had become cynical about its hero’s and leaders. Our country was torn apart by the Watergate scandal. The Vietnam war divided our nation like nothing else had since the Civil War.

Before Star Wars, the 60’s witnessed Warner Brothers and other major executives in the cinema industry wanting out. They were getting old and they wanted to retire from the movie business. Beverage companies and all kinds of other marketing firms, which didn’t know a thing about how to run a movie studio, were scooping up the rights to cinema. The new ownership infiltrated virtually every home through televised mass marketing paving the way for the consumer society we are today.

So what is the big deal, and why this article about Star Wars? According to our Green Literature instructor Star Wars illumines our senses as the perfect climax is achieved where plot, setting, characters, figurative language, structure and theme become one. As we learned in class, fictional writing will often portray some character or protagonist with “mommy or daddy” issues. Turns out, Luke had major daddy issues. As we broke down the fictional/mythic elements of this Hollywood classic, the class immediately grasped what he was trying to teach us. We learned that every good fictional work typically has a human element that we can relate to, which provides us with a guilt free trip to understanding many complex, psychological, and historical aspects we wouldn’t otherwise attempt to understand, or learn about. That is the beauty of fiction. However, there is another reason I am writing about Star Wars.

Star Wars and Marketing

Just as Star Wars had captured American’s hearts (and the worlds), the new owners of Hollywood, namely, the beverage and cola industries, set out to dominate the world market in what are now major American Icons — Coca-Cola, and Pepsi-Cola. Remember the commercial depicting a circle of singing people of all ages, holding hands and rocking back in forth as they swayed to the tune of “I’d like to teach the world to sing with perfect harmony?” The trouble was, these companies had really only one thing in mind: profits—profit margins that would eventually deplete our aquifers not only in America, but globally. Star Wars, another symbol of American iconic(ism), brought us together as we were forming new understandings and envisioning our future. Meanwhile the cola companies were laying siege through advertising wars and monopolizing the beverage industry. 40 years later, the earth is running out of fresh water and the plastics produced are a huge detriment to the environment.

Willem Buiter, chief economist for Citibank, says it rather graphically when he envisions the future:

I expect to see in the near future a massive expansion of investment in the water sector, including the production of fresh, clean water from other sources (desalination, purification), storage, shipping, and transportation of water. I expect to see pipeline networks that will exceed the capacity of those for oil and gas today.

I see fleets of water tankers (single hulled!) and storage facilities that will dwarf those we currently have for oil, natural gas and LNG.

I expect to see a globally integrated market for fresh water within 25 to 30 years. Once the spot markets for water are integrated, futures markets and other derivative water-based financial instruments—puts, calls, swaps-both exchange-traded and OTC will follow. There will be different grades and types of fresh water, just the way we have light sweet and heavy sour crude oil today. Water as an asset class will, in my view, become eventually the single most important physical-commodity based asset class, dwarfing oil, copper, agricultural commodities and precious metals” (Barlow, 2013, p. 76-77).

The reality is that business today works on a global scale. The global aspect of free trade (in opposition with Fair Trade), has affected all aspects of people’s lives more than at any other time. Products and services produced in one part of the world are consumed in another, and the decisions these global marketers make in one part of the world will affect how people live their lives on the other side of the world and as more and more fresh water resources are depleted, the more of an impact we can expect on our own continent as we watch our fresh water sources disappear.

The good news is that core concepts such as “wealth” and “prosperity” are being rethought with considerations to the environment and the global community. The aspirations toward intuitive innovation and envisioning new paradigms in our communities are invaluable to us and we see them appearing more and more. Who would have imagined that the Costco Corporation is now considered the leading marketer in organic products? This is a great example of the power of the consumer. Let us re-imagine that these businesses can help move us into a future where the basic needs of all are met and the unique human potential of each individual is realized and expressed.

However, when we learn that the “United Nations Environment Program reports that an area of forest the size of a football field is currently being destroyed every second while the temperature of the planet steadily rises…” (Better Business, 2006, p. 1), we should weigh-in on whether or not those large businesses/corporations we purchase from are paying attention and making innovative decisions with all Free (Fair?) Trade practices. What are they selling and who made the product, are important things to consider when shopping in a global market. Because of public demand, companies and individuals are working hard to develop a zero footprint and are motivated by soaking up the attention and profits. As these companies align in re-visioning sustainable practices, the benefits are reflected in the voices of silent stakeholders such as future generations and the environment. Our job is to look upstream to see where one’s products are sourced and downstream to see what kind of long-term impact they are likely to have on society.

Today, Star Wars is again on our radar promising to re-capture our ideals and our dreams, creating more chapters for a newer generation. If you do plan on a cinematic experience, practice avoiding the beverage and candy vendors who are owned by the top 1%.

As Fairhaven students, perhaps it is time we consider the role we play when we purchase our favorite beverage (bottled water or cola products), and perhaps it is time we ask Western’s Fairhaven to divest from cola companies on our campus.

The bottom-line? It takes consumers to pull the plug –we rule, either way!

“There’s enough for everyone’s need, but not for everyone’s greed”

– Mohandas Gandhi

For more info: Blue Future, Protecting Water for People and the Planet Forever, Maude Barlow.

References:

Barlow, M. (2013) Blue Future. Water-Commons or Commodity: Enclosure of the Water

Commons, 76-77. New York, New York: Canada by House of Anansi Press, Inc.

SGI Quarterly. (2006, October) (46) Better Business p. 1

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