It’s been 28 years since American imaginations were swept away by Raiders of the Lost Ark and Indian Jones. 1981, 1984 and 1989 were the years that Spielberg released the Indiana Jones film trilogy. Interesting that the film franchise coincided with the excesses and then economic melt-down of the 1980s, culminating with Black Monday on Oct 17, 1987… and here we are today, amidst economic strife, and a renewed interest in exploration.
Is it a coincidence then that the Hollywood film Amelia Earhart (starring Hilary Swank, Richard Gere, Ewan McGregor) opened last week? The film is timely – right on the cultural pulse – because “exploration” is very sexy and being seen in fashion, TV, décor, toys, books, magazines, etc.
what does this say about culture?
In these times of uncertainty and change it’s natural that society embraces – emulates – the romanticized Hollywood image of the explorer:
- Explorers venture into the unknown: brave, strong, confident, risk-taking curious: the very same qualities found in innovators, inventors and entrepreneurs.
- Explorers embark on expeditions to discover things; many Americans are re-evaluating their lives, on quests to discover meaning and purpose?
- Explorers are resourceful, adaptable and make do, which is echoed in American lifestyles that are scaled back and streamlined in response to the economy.
- Explorers are voyagers on a journey, escaping mundane life; countless TV channels, shows and products are appealing with a “Calgon Take Me Away” claim of escapism.
- Explorers are seeking things, not running away from things: Americans are largely direct, seekers and confronters, not hiders and avoiders.
- Explorers have benefactors who fund their adventures, not unlike the way a Venture Capitalist funds a new business ventures.
- Explorers are often in the pursuit of treasure (King Solomon’s Mines, the Holy Grail): the new Americans dream is winning the lottery.
- Explorers are famous and regardless of their status they travel in the most exclusive social circles, and Americans are obsessed with being discovered and becoming a celebrity.
Marketers and brand-managers can play into the timeless appeal of the explorer by speaking to the explorer in all of us.
What if trend forecasting was as easy as studying the production and script development at Disney or Touchstone? Obviously, Hollywood films reflect our cultural currents (producers gauge when to release a film and when to hold back based on popular sentiment). But does Hollywood INFLUENCE culture more than holding a mirror to culture? I think Hollywood is probably more of an influencer than mirror. We therefore ought be able to predict trends in fashion, literature, entertainment, decor, etc. by simply assessing the Hollywood film pipeline 1-2 years out. By looking at the genre, story lines, periods (for period pieces)… we can anticipate what will be coming into fashion, and for brands, how to navigate the shifting cultural cartography.