Mass Culture or Culturing of the Mass?

            The film, Giants and Toys by Masamura Yasuzo, critiques the mass culture behind the production and promotion of caramel by three different companies: Giant, World, and Apollo. The three companies compete for the highest sales in caramel by creating inventive promotion projects for their product. The promotions, however, do not focus on the caramel, but rather the prize a consumer would receive if he or she was to buy the candy and instead of publicizing the caramel itself the companies advertise people to sell the caramel. The objective of Giant, World, and Apollo is to increase sales, to profit from the item, and to beat each other by using all the commodities that they possess, including people. Kyoko, Nishi, and Goda are examples of human beings turned into objects of production by the new mass culture of Japan that the companies follow for sales. Through the use of avant-garde filming techniques and direct dialogue, Masumura Yasuzo emphasizes the idea that mass culture is not just a collection of what the people of Japan are doing and thinking, but a tool used to cultivate the general mass for benefits of the few.

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Mise-en-scene of the first screenshot displays uniformity in the mass group of Japanese, taking away from the individual.

            Culture is defined as a collectively achieved set of ideas about what a lifestyle and customs are supposed to be; as time passes, culture changes. After WWII, the culture of Japan created new communities and effectively destroyed the individuality of the common folk by putting them into a concrete city and away from their old ways. The screenshot of one of the first scenes above displays a crowd of working men and women all wearing the same type of clothing in neutral colors, walking to their office jobs. They are the entity producing and fueling modern culture. People like Nishi work for companies that promote using whatever means necessary to boost sales, which means that they exploit the media culture; as World did by making a star out of Kyoko. Nishi and Goda work until they are tired, an understatement for the condition Goda is in by the end of the film, trying to build Kyoko so that World’s caramel statistics will rise. Kyoko, just an ordinary girl picked off the streets because she looks unique, becomes a new sensation overnight with her face on the cover of a magazine. Afterwards, she begins to absorb and be absorbed by the media industry and being a star gets to her head. In other words, once seemingly the only chocolate in a pile of caramels, Kyoko turned out to be just like the other numerous caramels punched out by factory machines.

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A double exposure of the uncharacteristic caramels being punched out like a printer prints copies of a picture as Goda flicks the lighter.

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This double exposure replaces the produce of caramels with the produce of Kyoko in different mediums, but still has the flicking of the lighter.

The materialistic culture that allows for supply and demand economy to thrive has negative effects on society. It pushes a person’s idea of what is moral and what is business. For example, Kyoko is told to lie about giving money to her sick father so that her image to the public is that of a pure and innocent young lady. In comparison, Goda makes a radical decision that would put him on the fast track to the top tier of marrying his boss’ daughter. Between the three characters, Nishi, Goda, and Kyoko, Nishi seems to be the only one able to see through the fog of what is trending and see what true happiness is so supposed to be. However, they are all stuck in the never ending loop of consumer and producer set up by mass culture. All three characters are products, producers, and consumers. Companies like Giant, World, and Apollo use workers like Goda to produce people like Kyoko, promote them, and attract more consumers, people like those in the crowd marching to work in their suits as Nishi did. In the end, they are one in the same. So maybe modern mass culture is not about the people, but what can be profited off of them.

 

 

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