Cherneff, Jill BR. " Dreams Are Made like This: Hortense Powdermaker and the Hollywood Film Industry." Journal of Anthropological Research. Vol. 47, No. 4 (Winter 1991), pp.429-440. JSTOR. 9 Apr. 2008. <http://www.jstor.org/action/showArticle?doi=10.2307/3630352&Search=yes&term=dreams&term=hollywood&item=5&returnArticleService=showArticle&ttl=3533&searchUri=%2Faction%2FdoBasicSearch%3FQuery%3Dhollywood%2Bdreams;gw%3Djtx;prq%3Djeepers%2Bcreepers;Search%3DSearch;hp%3D25>.
This article largely chronicles and responds to Hortense Powdermaker’s study of Hollywood culture in the late 1940s. In the book, she wrote following her study, Powdermaker highlights the struggle between art and business and Hollywood and suggests the social underpinnings of Hollywood culture determine what types of films are made. Powdermaker’s original contention is that the Hollywood film has had an impact on human behavior as dramatic as that of the wheel’s invention. Powdermaker observed that the power of movies lies in it’s depiction of apparent reality—that what appears on the screen looks real and thus must accompany real values and ideas to be absorbed. The remainder of the article focuses less on Powdermaker’s conclusions and research in order to focus on analyzing the research itself. The author discusses the challenges facing Powdermaker in reporting on a population unlike those most anthropologists focus on. Further, the author notices the absence of women in important roles behind the lens in Powdermaker’s research and contextualizes this historically as well as socially.
On a superficial level, it is interesting how Powdermaker’s journey in conducting her research mirrors that of Tod in the film The Day of the Locust. Both leave a successful endeavor at Yale and go to Hollywood for a sociological investigation of sorts—Powdermaker an unbiased anthropological study and Tod an emotional snapshot of Hollywood’s locusts. Some of Powdermaker’s research sheds light on the images of the industry contained in the film, such as the hierarchy of production and the social constructs behind the films.