Hollywood Dream Factory -or- Reel Therapy in the Global Village

Visual Culture and Cinema -or- Dramatic Film and Catharsis

Anyone who has visited the International Institute for Dream Research website understands that I have an interest in such film genres as, film noir, black comedy, romantic drama, horror, pornography and crime which are given voice in numerous dream interpretations. Other cinematic aspects such as film editing are all part and parcel of the global visually oriented media culture we live in today. This visual culture influences the way we think and the way we dream. 

You the reader may have also recognized that I have been critical of the cultural influence of the "Hollywood dream factory" on our dreams. Many dream interpretations posted at the IIDR website speak of "cultural imperialism" via the mass media and film. Let it not be perceived however, that I believe that movies or media as a whole has only negative influences, on the contrary dramatic film can be from a cognitive-behavioural perspective educational, cathartic and therapeutic. 

In his book "Reel Therapy: How Movies Inspire You to Overcome Life's Problems" Gary Solomon discusses films that can be "emotional healing stories". Solomon sees a wide range of films that talk about "life's challenges" such as; "relationships, emotional and mental illness, sex, drugs, food, gambling, adoption, foster parenting, families, and alcohol to name a few." In therapy, I have often recommended seeing a variety of films. Films can sometimes provide a dramatic perspective that provides narcissistic identification and emotional insights into conflicts individual are often found wrestling with in their dreams. 

In his book, Solomon provides a summary of his media interviews about movies, when asked about the negative effects of movies, Solomon's response; "I'm saying that sex and violence may have an effect on our society. I am also saying that I don't know-and other scientific investigators don't know-whether sex and violence in the movies is having a positive, negative, or neutral effect on the human race. To properly make good, sound judgments in this area we must do the do the research necessary what effects, if any, movies are having on various parts of our culture." An interviewer also asks Solomon; "I have heard a lot of people compare movies to dreams." Solomon's response; "I have said it before and I will say it again: There is no science that can prove what dreams mean. You can interpret your dreams and I can interpret mine. That's as far as we can go. No one can tell you what your dreams mean." 

If Solomon's argument were true, that each person can only find the narcissistic meaning in their own dreams and others cannot see meaning in others dreams, then we would never be able to clearly communicate or understand each other, so why even bother? However, Solomon does not seem to be joining a host of others who say dreams mean nothing, or cannot be scientifically understood? That host of people must also be able to "scientifically" see the "The Emperor's New Clothes"!

Solomon does state; "Dreams are probably the human body's way of dealing with conflict and unwanted and unnecessary material." Solomon also states; "If I can get you to watch a movie that helps you deal with your healing, you may find that a dream is a continuation of that healing process or that previous dreams are similar to what you see and feel watching the movies. The movies may help you put to rest those conflicting feelings that you have been carrying around for so many years." So apparently Solomon does believe in the existence of positive media effects, just not the negative ones. 

The negative psychological effects of media are undeniable, the work of Charlotte Beradt, Marshall McLuhan, Daniel Boorstin, Laura Mulvey, Neil Postman, Guy Debord, and Jean Baudrillard "Simulacra and Simulation" are just a few names who have discussed the deleterious effects of media. In the findings of the "President's Commission on Obscenity and Pornography" which was released in 1970, pornography had a significant effect on increasing sexual dreams and dreaming. The report determined however that obscenity and pornography were not important social problems. The President's commission buried the psychological effects of pornography on dreaming in their report. The report did recommend "sex education". One of the aims of the IIDR is to provide a better understanding of erotic dreams in all their vicissitudes. A global commission needs to be implemented to scientifically and accurately measure all psychological effects of media on our dreams, of those living in the global village. Is anyone interested? Is anyone listening? 

As I have said elsewhere on numerous occasions, dream interpretation is not "rocket science", it is a time honored tool of nature, philosophy, literature, art and the medical humanities. Does anyone really wonder why many of the dreams at the IIDR website are about obscenity, the grotesque body and pornography? Does anyone really need to ask why Freud believed that censorship played a key role in our interpersonal communication and our dreams? Frankly, anyone who cannot see the negative psychological influence of media on our dreams is either naïve, blind or deluded. 

This Field Note is not about the negative psychological effects, instead Soloman is correct to point out the positive therapeutic effects. Some of the dream interpretations that include films are therapeutic (cathartic) in the dramatic sense, they screen social dramatic (and melodramatic) problems. As such, film provides a communal vehicle for social commentary

All the films discussed in the variety of dream interpretations below move us to think, to feel, to identify with the dream factory's 1001 hero's faces. 

  • "Titanic", features the door to the "royal road" of the Hollywood drama of romance.
  • "Modern Times" features the post-modern Hollywood dream factory creating the visual culture industries which influence our dreams.
  • "Stranger than Fiction" explores the drama of everyday life, the comic and the tragic sides.
  • "The American President" features the dreams of American Presidents.
  • "Network" lays bare the influence of media and the workings of the television industry.
  • "Man of La Mancha", features the knight-errant Don Quixote. 
  • "The Big Chill", college friends are reunited because of tragedy, the group talk's and reminisces. 
  • "Scenes from a Marriage" provides a window to view the marital crisis of a couple.
  • "Kramer vs Kramer" screens the problems of divorce and separation.
  • "Wizard of Oz" features the hopes of American youth in search of their dream.
  • "Romeo and Juliet at King's Island" features the archetypal tragic theme of young teenage lovers.
  • "Where the Boys Are", features the coming of age story of college students.
  • "Girl Interrupted" features a students educational conflicts and coming of age story.
  • "Valley of the Dolls", is a commentary about American women's dreams and careers.
  • "Baby Blues" is based on a true story of post-partum depression.
  • "Psycho" makes transparent the horrors and perverse impulses that lurk beneath the civilized veneer of the mask of sanity.
  • "World Trade Centre", Oliver Stone provides a message of heroism and hope, in the face of deep sadness and the traumatic nightmare that was 9/11.
  • "Gertrud" is a foreign film that provides a vision of the stereotypical sexist representation of women in the media and everyday life.
  • "Altered States" features drug use and transpersonal experiences which is loosely based on the life of John Lilly.
  • "Spellbound", features the "imperial" media effects of the Hollywood dream factory, which has created "Planet Hollywood". Hitchcock's films of death and murder are screenplays found playing on modern dream screens.
  • "Star Wars and Se7en" features the battle of the forces of good and evil.



All material Copyright 2006 International Institute for Dream Research. All rights reserved.