Myth & Ideology
Richard G. Calo (rgcalo@EDEN.RUTGERS.EDU)
Wed, 10 Apr 1996 20:54:44 EDT
On Tuesday, April 9, Marcus Aurin wrote:
> The more I think about it the less myth and ideology seem synonymous.
> Is Hollywood mythology the same as Hollywood ideology? In this sense the
> words seem to differ in terms of how we relate them to the world: we think
> of many versioned stories, larger than life personalities and their
> glamourous world in the first case, but in the second case a more down to
> earth world comes to mind. I imagine "real" people possessing "Hollywood
> ideology," talking on cellular phones while stuck in traffic, on their way
> to aerobics class. Ideology seems to imply "sensibility." Do people live
> according to ideologies (which they might be able to tell you how they do)
> while their lives are shaped (their desires formed, possibilities mapped)
> by mythology (a process they might be less clear/articulate about)?
A condition of the hypothesis somewhat set out in the original Justine post
is that a mythology is absolutely true from the perspective of those drawn
up in it. It is only once it starts to be rationalized, or lose its affective
character that its 'mythic'-- unrealness, illusoriness, miguidedness,
unbelievableness, etc.-- properties come to the fore. For example, when
I was a kid, my brothers and I shared a belief in Santa Claus that was
pretty total. Today, and for the longest time, I have not believed in Santa
Claus, having opted instead to _understand_ that Santa Claus is a
'myth' of the industrial age. Today, I am aware of both these states of
belief within myself (one of them now and forever unrecoverable to me),
and of the unbridgeable discontinuity between the two. I am however,
unable to account for the loss of belief in the Santa Claus 'myth,' and
the accession to understanding in the other instance: the discontinuity
is sharp and complete, although I'm sure that in actuality the transition
from one to the other was not so sharp (it would be interesting to run a
study on the process of 'losing' a belief-- at what time is x still totally
true, at what time is it more or less believed in, at what time is it
rationalized, and at what time can one not believe how he or she could have
believed x in the first place).
In any case, on the condition that a mythology (a religion, a system of
beliefs) is absolutely true from the perspective of those drawn up in it (and
hence is not mythological for them), it follows that if I advance a claim
about its mythological stature (illusory, unreal, unbelievable, etc.) I am
to some extent not drawn up in it. If I refer therefore, to the "many
versioned stories, larger than life personalities and their
glamourous world," then I am to some extent not drawn up in this "world,"
while something about me (and my world) ascribes a mythological
component to this "glamourous" one. So yes, Marcus, you're right, the
words (mythology & ideology) do seem to differ in terms of how we relate
them to the world, but they do so on the condition that they bypass the
term they are intended to counterpoint (i.e., religion; i.e., a belief system
characterized as true).
However, there is a difference-- at least apparently-- in how we relate
the words mythology and ideology to the world, and we still have to
account for it. Perhaps the clue is in the following sentence: "I imagine
'real' people possessing 'Hollywood ideology,' talking on cellular
phones while stuck in traffic, on their way to aerobics class"; and
particularly in the word "'real'"-- which I am very glad
appeared in quotation marks, since this brought my attention to it.
So just how 'real' is your image? I spent a month in L.A. last summer.
I went to all of the studios. The only thing I saw there was people working.
I went next to Beverley Hills. This was without doubt the worst place of
all-- I have never seen such a well-tended desolation. There wasn't a
soul in sight, and the houses-- although some were palatial-- were
uninviting, cold, withdrawn, and looked remarkably uninhabitable and
uninhabited. There were no traffic jams anywhere in sight; and there
were no people talking on cellulars in these non-existent traffic jams.
But then, maybe these 'real' people are in New York, and this is where
they get into the traffic jams while posessing Hollywood ideology; or in
Cincinnati, or Memphis.
Actually, the problem is that in this context (the context of Marcus'
tuesday post), and under hypothesis (as outlined above), 'real' and
'glamourous' are not refering to different domains, or states, or whatever,
but are both part of the same one-- namely, the denotation of Hollywood
and what Hollywood types do from the standpoint that says 'Hollywood
incorporates something mythical in itself.' And this is a classifying
Indeed, the difference between 'real' and 'glamourous' can be ranged
along the implicit scale(which I think is possible to elaborate into a strong
analytic tool) that I set out in the Justine post: from progressively exotic
(hence 'glamourous') to progressively mundane (hence 'real'). On this
scale, the mythic slides over toward the exotic, while the ideological slides
over toward the mundane-- without being qualitatively different.
But finally, this would make the whole thing an examination, not of 'truth'
and 'falsity' (unfalsifiable from a scientific standpoint), but of those
aspects of mind which classify in such ways.