The Velvet Light Trap 51 (2003) 96-99
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Toby Miller, Nitin Govil, John McMurria, and Richard Maxwell. Global Hollywood. Berkeley: U of California P, 2002. $27.95, paperback.
Toby Miller, Nitin Govil, John McMurria, and Richard Maxwell have taken an ambitious and insightful look at the historical, political, and economic successes of Hollywood. Through a comprehensive industrial and critical analysis, Global Hollywood challenges film and cultural scholars to go beyond traditional methods of textual analysis to better understand the complicated and intricate web of Hollywood globalization and the causes for and implications of its worldwide dominance. This book examines related social issues and policies through a combined lens of political economy and critical/cultural studies. When coupled with statistical and financial analysis and a variety of case studies, the authors provide a thorough examination into the complex and varied trends that challenge notions of labor, citizenship, democracy, and neoliberal economics.
Global Hollywood seeks to determine the success of the industry by going beyond what the authors explain as the extreme of rhetoric of both the industry's perspective of superior content and universal appeal and that of neoliberal, free market economists who argue that the success is purely due to market demands. By combining critical political economy and cultural studies, the authors hope that "blending the two approaches would heal the divisions between fact and interpretation and between the social sciences and the humanities, under the sign of a principled approach to cultural democracy" (3). The four authors collaboratively address their research in six chapters, beginning with an historical overview and analysis of Hollywood's globalization. The subsequent chapters then attempt to address this "cultural imperialism" by examining how the industry sustains and expands itself with a New International Division of Cultural Labor (NICL) and through what the authors call "Hollywood's commodity chains." These include coproductions, intellectual property and copyright laws, distribution, marketing and exhibition strategies, and finally audiences.
The authors begin their long and intricate journey into Hollywood globalism in the first chapter, "Hollywood History, Cultural Imperialism and Globalisation." They assert from the start that their approach to examining globalization varies from the traditional use of the term "as a floating signifier, a kind of cultural smoke rising from the economic fires of a successful US-led crusade to convert the world to capitalism" (18). Instead, they argue for a much more complicated system that functions on many integrated levels, leading up to its control over the NICL, which sustains and increases its global dominance. In addition to examining the historical tenets of capitalism and global trade, the authors discuss key factors that have forged the path to contemporary globalization such as the "Treaty of Tordesillas in 1494 and the Washington and Berlin Conferences of 1884" (19). After establishing the historical context of global trade, they discuss the implications of the increased speed and reach of global "financial and managerial decisions" such as currency circulation, the IMF and World Bank, and the notion of an international economy that began in the 1970s (21-22).
This background to global trade sets the stage for the authors to describe the history of Hollywood. They examine early cinematic cultural and technological exchanges between the United States, Europe, Latin America, and Asia in order to reveal a different policy and trade reality than exists today. One example describes how "France sold a dozen films a week to the US early [End Page 96] in the twentieth century, and in 1914, most movies and much movie-making technology in North America were imported, while Italy and France dominated exhibition in Latin America" (22). The authors explain that this reality changed quickly as the United States developed "the legal codification of film as intellectual property" (24). In addition to instituting patents and regulations, the authors explain that the United States had an advantage over European countries suffering from the devastation of World War I in terms of both producing and exporting film. The Motion Picture Export Association also worked with the government on "aligning" U.S. policy and politics in a Production Code, "selling the American way of life...