By Ernest Thompson Seton

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The potentially colonialist nature of this is suggested not only by the way whites stride down streets as if they own them (which in a certain sense they usually do) and burst all over other locales (which they don’t), but also in the way the cultures of the colonized, as perceived by whites, are incorporated into the musical and terpsichorean fabric of the numbers. This is evident in ‘Prehistoric Man’, not just in the ethnographic objects picked out and played with by the dancers 42 111 011 111 0111 111 0111 0111 4111 THE COLOUR OF ENTERTAINMENT but also in the way they adapt their movements by adopting gestures, shapes and even sounds from ‘ethnic’ dance: a bit of bottom wiggling for Ann Miller when she gets hold of some Arab instruments, some bent over high stepping and Red Indian hollering for Betty Garrett when she puts on a Native American head-dress, and stomps and ‘ugh’ sounds when all five of them get hold of some African tom-toms.

In other (Marcuse’s) words, it is a partially ‘one-dimensional’ situation. The categories of the sensibility point to gaps or inadequacies in capitalism, but only those gaps or inadequacies that capitalism proposes itself to deal with. At our worse sense of it, entertainment provides alternatives to capitalism which will be provided by capitalism. However, this one-dimensionality is seldom so hermetic, because of the deeply contradictory nature of entertainment forms. In Variety, the essential contradiction is between comedy and music turns; in musicals, it is between the narrative and the numbers.

To fit in with prevailing norms) is to work through these contradictions at all levels in such a way as to ‘manage’ them, to make them seem to disappear. They don’t always succeed. g. the well-known ‘cue for a song’); and those which try to dissolve the distinction between narrative and numbers, thus implying that the world of the narrative is also (already) utopian. The clear separation of numbers and narrative in Golddiggers of 1933 is broadly in line with a ‘realist’ aesthetic: the numbers occur in the film in the same way as they occur in life, that is, on stages and in cabarets.

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Animal heroes by Ernest Thompson Seton


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