ORPHANS OF THE AMERICAN CINEMA

The United States is a country with an organization to be admired, however, behind this organization there is a message, a very clear intent to standardize the largest number of people possible, keep them in line, and show (even convince) both Americans and the rest of the world that the U.S. is a nation of happy people, a democracy that is just and perfectly stable.

Before continuing, I should add that the U.S.S.R., which according to the Americans is the total opposite of the U.S., is more similar than they think, since the Russians accomplish the same objective, the conditioning of the population, albeit by quite different means. We see, for example, the case of the news media. In the U.S.S.R. undesirable news is not published, while in the U.S. such an excess of news is published, that the citizen, under constant bombardment, totally loses interest in reading about it.

Having said this, I should like to address a theme in U.S. art that clearly demonstrates the intent to influence or impress the world with the image of a contented population (I refer, of course, to political contentment) — the American orphan.

It began in the films of the thirties, with Shirley Temple, not a beautiful child, but very cute. She wasn’t exceptionally gifted as a dancer, but people enjoyed watching her tap dance. Her voice wasn’t the greatest, but the songs she sang delighted Americans. In her era Shirley was a symbol of enthusiasm — a feisty, happy child, stymied by nothing. Her movies carried the voice of freedom in the midst of a society perpetually on the go. In other words, she promoted the image of American democracy.

Temple, along with other adult actresses, introduced the theme of orphan-hood demonstrating a carefree jauntiness in extricating themselves from their trials and tribulations. However, this all came to an end with the suicide of Marilyn Monroe. It was Marilyn who, ten years later, inadvertently demolished the myth created by Shirley Temple and other actresses. Marilyn — beautiful and at the peak of fame and fortune — bore the brunt of a devastating orphan-hood as a child. Marilyn didn’t experience what Shirley, in her role of little orphan, depicts in her movies. Unlike Shirley, Marilyn didn’t encounter any kindness or people willing to help her. Her only companions were drugs.

The U.S. has never recovered from this blow, this tragic exposure of a hoax. The women presented to us since then have not been very secure. Annie Hall is unstable and lives tormented by her neurosis, for which she consults a psychoanalyst; she needs marihuana to make love and is unable to extricate herself from a complicated love affair.

Annie Hall is no orphan. She has lovers, but she is an existentialist — she finds no meaning in life and dreams of a peace she will never find.

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Lida Prypchan

Lida Prypchan

Psychiatrist & Writer — Writing and meditating at the intersection of psychiatry, philosophy, Buddhism and the arts. More information at www.lidaprypchan.com