Life, the Movie

Gabler, Neal

ISBN 10: 0679417524 / ISBN 13: 9780679417521
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Synopsis: In an important book that sharply illuminates our obsessions with celebrity, gossip, scandal, and real-life melodrama, Neal Gabler shows us today's astonishing conversion of life itself into Entertainment--Life the Movie.

     Revealing what now unites phenomena as diverse as modern art, President Clinton versus Kenneth Starr, the O. J. Simpson trial, the Unabomber murders, and Elizabeth Taylor's marriages, Gabler demonstrates how our hunger for entertainment and the massive exploitation of that hunger have combined to make everything from religion to politics to painting to the news into branches of show business; how Life the Movie has generated and popularized its own stars--the rich and famous; and how all of us are not only an audience for the life spectacular, but also performance artists acting out our own dramas within it.

     Starting in nineteenth-century America with the theatrics of the popular stage and the sensations of the popular press, Gabler traces the phenomenal rise of Entertainment as it challenges high culture. He also shows how entertainment, most notably with the arrival of the movies, comes to dominate the national consciousness by introducing a new way of seeing, until it seems that every endeavor and idea must become part of the grand, ever-growing, ongoing Big Show or risk invisibility. How this came to pass and what it means for our culture and for our personal lives are explored in a book at once astute, witty, concerned, and a lively pleasure to read.

Review: 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

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Title: Life, the Movie
Binding: Hardcover
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Neal Gabler
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