One of the few studios left in the Los Angeles area where you can still tour the soundstages, backlots, and production facilities is the Warner Brothers studio in Burbank. On our golf cart tour of the facility, like everyone I was interested in seeing this piece of history, this place where many of the movies and television series I recall watching when I was young were filmed. I've been in studios before, so I know the power of illusion, the sets empty of the fantasy that film creates. It's nothing but plaster, and plywood, and lights, rearranged in multiple ways to create an illusion of reality. I know all this. That's not new.
What I realized on the tour were a few a couple of other things that I found disconcerting though not surprising. First, there is the icon status that these sets, that, in fact, films and TV have become for many. For example, the set from Friends, an apparently very successful ten-year series that I never even watched, has been preserved. Entering the locked room where the set was, lighted for our enjoyment, was like entering a sacred place. People even whispered. There were oohs and aahs. We stood there, at least some taking in each item, each prop, as if we were looking at icons, as if something might happen to us just by being there. This is a quite sick, though I guess it's not all that new either.
The other thing was how in the process of educating me the tour guides were also selling me on WB shows -- upcoming shows, reissues of old series, and more. Have we always marketed history? I was just wondering how much of this is really important. These are just stupid TV shows, right? Just as I was being self-righteous about this I realized that I wanted to see the landmark that was erected in Hawthorne, CA to mark the former site of Brian Wilson's childhood home. Now why would I want to do that? Why would that matter to me?
These pop icons -- whether musicians, TV shows, movie stars, or whatever -- are ubiquitous. They seem to be a kind of religion for many. We all have to remember they're really just flesh like us, or plywood and plaster -- nothing built to last. And whatever importance they seem to have is illusory, yet even the makers seem to have been deluded by the illusion. Even they think it's important.
It's like that book we saw at the checkout counter in the WB store: "Hollywood Be Thy Name." That says it all, doesn't it?