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Hollywood, Hitler and all that hoopla

Alfred Hinchliffe, Oxford

For the motion

Hollywood... is only prepared to accept Indian influences or the influences by other cultures in sanitised ways. We were told that... Slumdog Millionaire is an American film, notionally set in India. I am sorry but that’s not an example of Indian influence in American films.

If the only Indian influence the Americans are prepared to accept is when Indian films are made by Hollywood studios, where they produce a Slumdog Millionaire with a white man telling what’s it like to be brought up as a poor person in India… that’s not acceptance or a cross-fertilisation of ideas, that is a hegemonic cultural sanitisation of other influences. America will only accept Indian influences if it comes out of Hollywood, and it’s made by white people and just happens to feature Indian actors.

Andrew Connery, Yale

Against the motion

Hollywood is a collection of addresses where movie studios are headquartered but these movie studios represent far more than just that. They are an amalgamation of worldwide ideas and worldwide people. There is a reason some of the most influential filmmakers in the world are, in fact, not from Hollywood. Ingmar Bergman, a Scandinavian film producer, was one of the most influential people for not only world cinema but Hollywood cinema. The same is true for Roberto Rossellini, an Italian filmmaker whose film Rome, Open City completely revolutionised the entirety of Hollywood cinema and much of worldwide cinema.

There’s a reason films like Transformers... are never nominated for the Academy Awards except maybe in special effects. The films nominated for Academy Awards are those like Life of Pi or Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon…. oftentimes foreign films that present the best ideas, or the most revolutionary performances from foreign actors and actresses. This indicates that Hollywood is indeed capable of taking in cultures from the rest of the world.

Daniel Berman, Cambridge

For the motion

Hollywood not only dominates the production of massive blockbusters, not only does it drive imitation in other markets but when people are successful in the British film industry or the European film industry or even in the Indian film industry their ambition is to go to Hollywood and they are co-opted into the system. The opposition came here and said that they want to spread values... but values are fundamentally something of a perception and many people would find some of these values odd. This means that this is fundamentally culturally tyrannical. It might be culturally tyrannical for their own good… but it doesn’t change the fact that it is tyrannical.

Pradeep Gooptu, ex-journalist

Against the motion

Cultural tyranny is the nomenclature, the label they have used to run down the popularity and the mass acceptance of a genre of movie-making that Hollywood represents. Hollywood is essentially a business and films represent a high fixed cost asset. It is an extremely expensive proposition which you try to market to the world and like with any other high fixed cost asset there is one problem — you must put in an extra effort to market it.

If you see this marketing effort to sell a multimillion dollar movie as tyranny I have nothing but pity for you.

Kunal Sarkar, cardiac surgeon

For the motion

If you glance through the mix of the cars in the car park here, at a rough count there are 15 Volkswagens parked in there; a car that was designed by Adolf Hitler, a man long dead and gone. But just as Volkswagens’ technical gift to the world did not condone or legitimise his tyranny, Life of Pi and Gone with the Wind do not legitimise the tyranny of Hollywood.

One of the biggest objections has been to the stereotypes of Hollywood. The great Walt Disney played with the stereotypes of the bumbling black man; that was passed on to the malapropism of the Asians; that was passed down to the inevitable terrorists of the Middle East…. Stereotypes is a dangerous business and with every decade, with every passage of time Hollywood seems to have gifted one malignant stereotype after the other.

Ben Kornfeld,


Against the motion

Cultural tyranny is when Mao Tse-Tung says you may no longer be Chinese and belong to any organised religion, cultural tyranny is when the Australian government takes Aboriginal children away from their parents at birth to indoctrinate them in an English way of life.... Tyranny is not something that allows you to stand up and walk away whenever you like. Tyranny is not something you can choose not to buy a ticket to and tyranny is not something that needs your help to make a profit in a way that Hollywood needs every single one of its audience’s help to make any money whatsoever.

To claim that Hollywood is tyranny is an insult to victims of all these real instances of cultural tyranny that happened over the years.

Gregory Farquhar, Oxford,

For the motion

Hamburgers may add a couple of pounds or add an inch to the waistline, it doesn’t change you like watching a movie or experiencing a TV show or being surrounded by an advertising culture founded in the institution of Hollywood affects the very way that you see yourself and the way that you see other people around you. It is something far more insidious and far more dangerous.

Say you are watching TV and Sex and the City comes on, you change the channel and now it is a Hollywood star advertising Coco Cola... change the channel and it is a TV show you like. Maybe it is How I Met Your Mother, but it still has the same cultural oppression.... It changes the way people look at success, at wealth, at power, at good and at bad.

Benjamin Sprung-Keyser, Harvard

Against the motion

They (proposition) assume that the only form of tyranny is international, but that is absurd. In any movie industry in any country, some people decide to make movies and some watch those movies. In a world in which that is true, isn’t it better to have many countries exporting movies so that we can see other international context? They assume that reinterpretation of any other culture to make it relatable is tyranny, no it is a way of telling a story so that other people can understand and therefore take a message from it…. They need to prove that the flow of ideas is in one direction and that they don’t engage with the audience and that is a lie.

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