A Rearview Mirror Look a Movies
Malcolm Dean has assembled a collection of quotes from various sources that apply Marshall McLuhan’s remarkable metaphor of looking in the rearview mirror, which in the accompanying article is what Hollywood filmmakers have been doing in trying to resurrect a seemingly dying art form. Hamlet held a mirror up to nature “to show virtue her feature, scorn her own image, and the very age and body of the time his form and pressure” (III, ii, 17-24). McLuhan makes it a rearview mirror, appropriate for a technological age, as such mirrors are attached to our mechanical vehicles which hurtle us ahead into unknown terrain, compelling us to look back from time-to-time, to see where we’ve come from. Everyone who loves movies knows they are in a bad way, with pay TV producing far better fare than anything on the big scream. Hollywood needs to retrieve it’s great past, which to some extent it seems to be trying to do…..AlexK
“Georges, you’ve tried to forget the past for so long, but it has caused you nothing but unhappiness. Maybe it’s time you tried to remember.” – Mama Jean (Helen McCrory), in Martin Scorsese’s Hugo.
“McLuhan felt that an understanding of history was essential for understanding the future and the impact of new technologies. He often uses the metaphor of the rearview mirror, a device by which we are able to determine what is about to overtake us from our past. Furthermore, according to McLuhan, history is not to be regarded as a series of events but rather as a dynamic process with a discernible pattern that repeats itself from culture to culture and from technology to technology.” – Understanding New Media: Extending Marshall Mcluhan, Robert K. Logan (2010:359) ]
“New media do not replace each other, they complicate each other.” A new medium often enhances the subtler proprieties of old ones which one has so far neglected because of a standardized use. McLuhan called this paradox “the rear-view mirror effect.” – Elena Lamberti in: The Gutenberg Galaxy: The Making of Typographic Man (2010:xli)
“At jet speed there is no rear-view mirror. What does one see in the rear-view mirror at motor-car speed? In the jet plane at jet speed, there is no rear-view mirror and nothing can be seen. What do you see in the rear-view mirror of a motor car? The foreseeable future. You don’t see what went past, you see what is coming. It is obvious, isn’t it? The phrase “rear-view mirror” tells you that you are looking at something that went past, but, in fact, you never do. All you can look at in the rear-view mirror is literally the foreseeable future.
Now, at the speed of light, there is no foreseeable future. You are there literally. It does not matter what situation you choose to consider. There is literally no possible future. You are already there the moment you name the situation. That is why in our age there are no goals. That is the reason for the streakers’ antics: they are protesting the disappearance of goals. Where are we going? We are all dressed up with no place to go. We think we have taken all the right school courses, studied the right subjects, but now it all seems pointless. Where do we go from here?
Literally, there are no goals at the speed of light, but there are roles. At the speed of light, instead of having a job or an objective, you have to determine for yourself a totally new pattern, a new function in the world. – Marshall McLuhan, Man and Media (1979) in Understanding Me: Lectures and Interviews (2004:293)
The Death of Film and the Hollywood Response
by Andrew Gilbert
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