Life: The Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality

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9780375706530: Life: The Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality

The story of how our bottomless appetite for novelty, gossip, and melodrama has turned everything—news, politics, religion, high culture—into one vast public entertainment.

Neal Gabler calls them "lifies," those blockbusters written in the medium of life that dominate the media and the national conversation for weeks, months, even years: the death of Princess Diana, the trial of O.J. Simpson, Kenneth Starr vs. William Jefferson Clinton.  Real Life as Entertainment is hardly a new phenomenon, but the movies, and now the new information technologies, have so accelerated it that it is now the reigning popular art form.  How this came to pass, and just what it means for our culture and our personal lives, is the subject of this witty, concerned, and sometimes eye-opening book.
 
"A thoughtful, in places chilling, account of the way entertainment values have hollowed out American life." --The New York Times Book Review

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In Life the Movie: How Entertainment Conquered Reality, Neal Gabler traces the evolution of high and low culture in American society through the 19th and 20th centuries, and describes how low-brow entertainment became so influential in the United States. This is his central argument: "It is not any ism but entertainment that is arguably the most pervasive, powerful, and ineluctable force of our time--a force so overwhelming that it has finally metastasized into life." Although Gabler uses the word "metastasized," he doesn't seem to regard infotainment as a cancer that is destroying our society, but rather as something that grows rapidly and certainly worthy of close study.

The scope of Gabler's investigation extends far beyond the movies to publishing, television news, paint brands, fashion--anything that seems to have been transformed by the national passion for low-brow entertainment. Along the way, Gabler raises a series of intriguing questions: Why do some people feel more passionately about celebrities than about their own loved ones? Why is Donald Trump a celebrity? Why was the broadcast of the 1996 Olympics packed with so many biopics that the sporting events seemed afterthoughts? Why does Ralph Lauren call the blue paint he sells "Lap Pool Blue"?

Movies promote the fantasy that there are simple narrative solutions for all of life's problems. Movies are full of sex, scandal, gossip, and action. If our lives were movies, they would be more full of what Zsa Zsa Gabor once called "enchanting make-believe." In this book, Gabler demonstrates how this fantasy has shaped our society. --Jill Marquis

From the Publisher:

"Fascinating...Gabler persuasively argues that entertainment has become 'a force so overwhelming it has finally metastasized into life.'"        
--Time Out

"A fantastically smart, astute, scary study"
--Esquire

"A thoughtful, in places chilling, account of the way entertainment values have hollowed out
American life"
--New York Times Book Review

"An astute observer of popular culture shows how everything from religion to politics has become a branch of show business"        
--Seattle Times

"Neal Gabler is one of America's most original and persuasive critics and historians, a writer who always offers fresh perceptions on every page. In this brilliant and elegantly composed book, he probes our curious contemporary society--a culture obsessed with celebrity and choking on mere entertainment. And in locating the darkness, he shines purposeful light in the direction of a healthier world. I salute the scholarship, courage and astonishing achievement of Life: The Movie."
--Donald Spoto, author of The Hidden Jesus: A New Life

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