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The Rise of Stock Footage

Yesterday, I saw the excellent film, Atomic Cafe. Filmmaker Jayne Loader writes:

The Atomic Cafe did have a big impact on one area of American culture—advertising. We made stock footage trendy and cool and this spawned a whole genre of advertising and the growth of the stock footage industry. For example, Roy Rogers (the restaurant chain not the cowboy) made a commercial, using footage from The Atomic Cafe–the scramble sequence, where everyone is running to the shelters. They recut it, put some “campy” music on it, and had a narrator saying, “Run! Run! Run to Roy Rogers Roast Beef!” This is a perfect example of what Marcuse called repressive desublimation. American culture takes that which is threatening, repackages it, and spits it back out as a commodity, drained of its original meaning. This has happened to us more times than I can count.

A related book on this subject: Mental Hygiene by Ken Smith .

Michael Moore has taken the “stock footage” to new heights, and that is the source of both his comedy and controversy. This article on Michael Moore’s little white lies is one of many I have seen. I don’t condone his methods, but wish merely to point out that they are outgrowths of a society where we feel we need to have footage for every little thing. CNN and other Headline channels are the worst offenders. When the Winona Ryder trial was going on (note to my foreign readers: this is a minor news story of no consequence, one of many that America wraps its brain about every few weeks), CNN brought updates and repeats of the story, showing stock footage, giving the impression that something new had happened in the case, when in fact, nothing new happened for several months. CNN needs to be required to have a Warning: Stock Footage caption every time they broadcast these things. I’m no fan of Don Rumsfield, but when he complained about CNN showing the same vase being carried away over and over, I sympathized.

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