We like to tell ourselves, possibly foolishly, that artworks exist in their own realm, and that they can be created and consumed separately from whatever outer factors might be working on them. Politics is one sphere; the economy is another sphere; and artistic culture is a separate sphere, which can transcend the other spheres, right? Well, this video essay by Socionomics would suggest that that’s wrong, and that the kinds of films produced, and the kinds of films most widely consumed, during a particular period depend highly on the economy, and on the political landscape. During times of economic deprivation, as between 1931-1933, horror films like Dracula, King Kong, and The Mummy were highly popular; ditto for the late 1960s to the 1980s, the era of Halloween, Night of the Living Dead, and The Texas Chainsaw Massacre. During an economic boom, such the one from the mid-1930s to the mid-1960s, companies like Disney could put out Snow White, Pinocchio, and other such films, to see them become huge hits. People crave happiness in films to reflect their own social happiness, just as they crave darkness to reflect their despair. In a bull market, we want adventure films and similar entertainments; in a bear market, we want films that show our inner apprehensive feelings. It’s a not a brand new point, but this piece, actually part of a larger film called History’s Hidden Engine, states it well, and eloquently, with ample clips from old and new sources.
Watch: What’s Behind the Success of Horror Movies and Blockbusters?