عنوان مقاله [English]
نویسندگان [English]چکیده [English]
Introduction and problematic of research: The main purpose of this study is to identify the role of mass media in determining the popularity and authenticity of art works which are open to a variety of interpretations across different countries. As a relative notion, the popularity and authenticity of art works depends on cultural, social, and political strategies and circumstances of the discourse within which it is articulated. In other words, the popularity and authenticity of art works is not an inherent quality but regulated by elite classes who have control over mass media and try to advertise their favorite discourse as the dominant one. It should be noted that media brings a work of art to the canon not necessarily based on aesthetic qualities. Those works of art which have won popularity, authenticity, and labeled as ‘canonical’ in an era may lose their credit in other historical epochs. To put it more specifically, mass media attempt to invest only on those art works which reinforce their favorite discourse. Such a pseudo-objective canonization process can be decoded by using interdisciplinary paradigms including cultural studies and sociology of literature paradigms. Here in this paper, we attempt to identify the main reasons behind the popularity and authenticity of 12 Years a Slave (2013), directed by Steve McQueen, both in America and Iran. Such an interdisciplinary study can help to discern how a work of is assigned different values once articulated within different discourses.
Theoretical framework: To explore the popularity of 12 Years a Slave (2013) both in America and Iran, despite the countries’ discordant sociocultural approaches, we utilize two interrelated and complementary theoretical disciplines: cultural studies and sociology of literature. The former paves the way for understanding critical notions like standardization, discrimination, and qualification as the latter concerns the social and cultural factors determining the popularity of works of art. Utilizing the two creates a solid framework to explore the contingency of the popularity and authenticity of art works. The paper uses Neil Campbell and Toby Miller’s ideas related to cultural studies, on the one hand, and Lucien Goldmann’s genetic structuralism, on the other hand, to analyze the notion of ‘popularity’ and ‘authenticity’ in the realm of art in general. Based on this theory, the picture which is declared by mass media as “the most important”, “the best”, or “the greatest” is not necessarily the most artful one; rather it is the picture which is most applicable for reinforcing the dominant discourse of the society. Toby Miller, one of the famous figures in cultural studies believes that this theory is a magnetic field in academia embracing various tendencies of human sciences (Miller 2001). Instead of focusing on canonical works of art, cultural studies devotes time to popular media, subcultures, and ‘ordinary’ and ‘marginal’ social groups.
Cultural studies field, according to Neil Campbell, has been promoted by groups on the margins of power, excluded from the mainstream (Campbell 2008). These groups on the margins consist of people of color, women, ethnic and minorities who interrogate and resist the old system of representation and power through their new critical approaches (ibid). They believe in cultural dialogism or “multiculturalism, that is, the belief that a healthy culture is made of many different people with diverse systems of belief and practice (ibid.). Furthermore, the paper makes use of Lucien Goldmann’s genetic structuralism which delineates the importance of sociocultural norms in informing the popularity and authenticity of art works.
Methodology: in spite of being a single aesthetic entity, 12 Years a Slave (2013) is assigned different ideological values both in America and in Iran. In the first step, the paper finds the reasons behind its popularity in Iran, and subsequently sets to find out why it is awarded several Academy Awards despite purporting to be an ‘anti-colonial’ work of art. Finally, we discuss the broadcasting and casting system informing 12 Years a Slave.
Findings and discussion: Some of the findings indicate that mass media are not neutral in authenticating and popularizing works of art. Under the influence of different elements, particularly political ones, a work of art may be labeled as “the best”, or “the great”. The mass media try to justify the “authenticity” of these works, and make them “popular” for both common people and elite groups of a society. These two factors have been analyzed in 12 Years a Slave (2013) directed. In spite of their completely different dominant discourses, both Iran and United States mass media brought the film to their canon. This paper will answer the question on the causes of film popularity and canonicity. The findings show that many factors such as film awards, release dates, and its casting have an important function in labeling the film as “popular”. By evaluating the policy of media in advertising the dominant discourse and implied ideology of the film, we may come to this conclusion that instead of showing the reality, such discourses try to construct the reality, and form the attitude of their audience towards their surrounding phenomena. This dominant political discourse imposes the imaginary borders of “popularity and authenticity” of art works; and since such a discourse is not fixed in different periods of time, it is not possible to put definable borders for artistic “popularity and authenticity”. In the case of 12 Years a Slave, the aesthetic factors of the film are undeniable. The powerful and influential acting in addition to the effective cinematography and the photogenic qualities of the movie in representing Southern farms can be mentioned as the remarkable points of the film that have played an important function in its popularity. However, our findings indicate that we need to emphasize the role of political and media-concerned elements that made the film “popular”.