The following are some frames for assessing the entertainment industries. They are informed by a political economy perspective that holds that the “political” and “economic” can’t be understood as separate fields of power but are inextricably linked. It begins with these questions:
- Who owns, controls, and distributes the material and cultural-symbolic resources?
- For what interests?
- To what impact?
The notion of “pipeline” offers a wide lens to scrutinize all parts of the cultural-material production process: source, channel, means, and impacts including “externalities”: negative effects such as pollution-causing climate change, youth gun violence, anorexia, for which corporate producers are generally not held responsible. Here’s some angles:
- Labor. How are the workers who produce the goods treated, paid, participate in the decision-making process? What’s the pay gap between CEO and stockholder incomes and production-line workers?
- Consumer. Choice (real competition vs. oligopoly) quality, health and safety, cost/affordability, i.e. who has access or not? How might the entertainment industry-consumer relationship perpetuate class/race inequality? An example is the digital divide: lower-income youth and families with limited access to the internet and digital devices.
- Social life. Family, school, peers, community: What are impacts of social relationships, time, space, norms, and values?
- Environment. Lack of ecological sustainability, direct pollution outcomes that contribute to the climate crisis. An example is the relentless imperative of capitalism to generate ever more sales. This leads to constant “upgrades” masking the logic of planned obsolescence and the normalization of a disposable product waste stream.
- Narrative. Applied to the wide range of stories told through varied genres (TV, film, music, web media, sports, fashion, magazines, the “news,” advertising, auto industry, fast food, alcohol and tobacco): What’s the message? What ideology is constructed? What values and norms are modeled?
- Alternatives. What’s our capacity to imagine and enact democratic cultural systems?
- What might you add to this list?