Junior Ganymede
We endeavor to give satisfaction

Hollywood Hates That Which Is Good and Decent

August 22nd, 2012 by G.

So says a recent article. Duh.

But the Man Bites Dog aspect of this story is that it is a liberal who is admitting it, and he has powerful examples. His essay is ostensibly about politics, but it is really about culture: a culture of virtue and family which entertains itself with stories that preach the breaking of homes and the glory of sin. That culture finds itself more and more in the embrace of broken homes and sin, and less what it was.

Here is one example from the essay:

Several years ago, a trio of researchers working for the Inter-American Development Bank set out to help solve a sociological mystery. Brazil had, over the course of four decades, experienced one of the largest drops in average family size in the world, from 6.3 children per woman in 1960 to 2.3 children in 2000. What made the drop so curious is that, unlike the Draconian one-child policy in China, the Brazilian government had in place no policy to limit family size. (It was actually illegal at some point to advertise contraceptives in the overwhelmingly Catholic country.) What could explain such a steep drop? The researchers zeroed in on one factor: television.

Television spread through Brazil in the mid-sixties. But it didn’t arrive everywhere at once in the sprawling country. Brazil’s main station, Globo, expanded slowly and unevenly. The researchers found that areas that gained access to Globo saw larger drops in fertility than those that didn’t (controlling, of course, for other factors that could affect fertility). It was not any kind of news or educational programming that caused this fertility drop but exposure to the massively popular soap operas, or novelas, that most Brazilians watch every night. The paper also found that areas with exposure to television were dramatically more likely to give their children names shared by novela characters.

Novelas almost always center around four or five families, each of which is usually small, so as to limit the number of characters the audience must track. Nearly three quarters of the main female characters of childbearing age in the prime-time novelas had no children, and a fifth had one child. Exposure to this glamorized and unusual (especially by Brazilian standards) family arrangement “led to significantly lower fertility”—an effect equal in impact to adding two years of schooling.

I am convinced that most LDS homes know that watching gore and sex for entertainment is a bad idea, though would God that more of them acted on what they knew. But far too many Mormon families spend more time soaking in enemy propaganda then they do with the word of the Lord. They mistakenly believe that listening to the Devil weave yarns does no real harm as long as he keeps his pants on and doesn’t actually show you what he does to kittens.

The problem is that it is very hard to screen your children’s entertainment. It takes too long and it has a dangerous tendency to call in question your own entertainment. But the only alternative is to be some kind of cranky radical who doesn’t watch television and movies, like some kind of Amish or something, and surely that’s too much to ask for the Kingdom’s sake.

One rough compromise is to mainly watch older movies. They have propaganda and questionable messages, but they are the propaganda of another age, orthogonal to that of our own, or several miles back in the road to decline, and therefore much less harmful. Another is to watch classics. Even modern portrayals of classic books or plays will have some of the depth of the original. And even if the values or message of the original isn’t wholly what a parent would wish, that the original has depth means that it isn’t propaganda; its message serves more as an occasion to ponder what is right than to hypnotize you into what is wrong.

Comments (21)
Filed under: Deseret Review | Tags: , , , , ,
August 22nd, 2012 11:35:06
21 comments

Wm
August 22, 2012

“One oddity of the Hollywood-liberalism debate is that it makes liberals posit the existence of a perfect, frictionless market, while conservatives find themselves explaining why a free market is failing to function as it ought to.”

I’ve always also thought it was funny that one the one hand Hollywood suggests that it’s “just entertainment” and has limited to no effects, and yet, on the other hand is promising advertisers that the very same techniques (soundtrack, editing, narrative, attractive people, etc.) can totally sell cars and insurance and running shoes.


Agellius
August 22, 2012

That’s a very interesting finding.

I agree most older movies are morally better than most current ones, especially those made during the “code” years. Still, the more I watch old movies (when I watch TV, TCM is pretty much all I watch), the more I notice that even back then, movies were trying in subtle ways to undermine traditional morality.

Which is what you would expect to find, really. The moral upheaval of the 60s did not grow out of a vacuum, but was decades in the making.


rameumptom
August 22, 2012

Good stuff, Adam.

I’m progressing ever more into the classics, old movies and old tv series, myself. The Waltons are on more often than any new series. I just can’t handle all the sex, violence, and yes, the propaganda that the media shoves on us. They think that introducing chaos is the same as exercising their freedom of expression. It isn’t.


Agellius
August 22, 2012

Actually I should have said “centuries in the making”.


MC
August 22, 2012

As a young father, I’m becoming more and more convinced that only the “weird” families are going to survive the cultural apocalypse. People who watch little to no television or movies, who homeschool, who train their kids to be little contrarians when they reach college, who basically give a giant middle finger to the mainstream. My impression is that this wasn’t always true, although it has become increasingly so in my short lifetime.


Bookslinger
August 22, 2012

Ram, I’d like to suggest you do a video or audio “fireside” talk and post it to Youtube, or an audio download (podcast style) site.

I believe your criminal justice experience provides very good insight into the real life results of the downhill slide of entertainment media and the cultural rot that has accompanied it.

Maybe something along the lines of Gary Varvel’s recent series about inner-city fathers.


Bookslinger
August 22, 2012

Agellius, in the big picture, yes centuries and millennia. But in the scope of American culture, decades. In the US, it mainly goes back to the 1930’s, the Great Depression, and communist influence on New Deal thinking and machinations.

“The government can/ought to fix this” thinking and social engineering of the 1960’s actually harkens back to the New Deal of the 1930’s.


Agellius
August 22, 2012

Bookslinger:

I don’t agree that it goes back millennia, not the moral slide to which I’m referring anyway. I agree that it goes back to the 30s, but the 30s didn’t arise out of a vacuum either. If you read Chesterton in the 10s and 20s you see that he was already doing battle with it.

Ultimately I would argue that it begins at the Enlightenment, which is when men decided they didn’t need God, i.e. the Church, to tell them right from wrong. And of course that’s one of the principles of the American founding: Government “of the people by the people”, the governed being the source of the authority to govern. Which is just another way of saying, “I will not serve”.

[...] Adam at Jr. Ganymede: They mistakenly believe that listening to the Devil weave yarns does no real harm as long as he [...]


Bookslinger
August 23, 2012

Agellius: That’s a good analysis.

And as an adjunct to your last idea, one of the founding fathers (I forget exactly who) said that this new American system (of the people, by the people) would only work for a righteous people.

I think one could make the connection to today’s state of affairs. Our political system is not working well these days due to our collective unrighteousness.

Another founding father, whose name I forget, opined that this new system would last for about 100 years. If you take The War Between the States as the breaking of that system, he overestimated. I don’t know that one may count the end of the Civil War as a true resolution or “fix,” because a new federalism arose out of the Civil War.


me
August 23, 2012

Indeed, it is unusual to see one from the left publicly committing this level of thoughtcrime. Is there anyone past adolescence who hasn’t noticed yet that our mass entertainment is ham-handed Stalinist agitprop, and has been since before our grandfathers were born? Nonetheless, truly telling are the levels of enraged, clenched-jaw, bulging-eyes crimestop he has provoked from certain among his readers. Loudly indeed do they protest. Perhaps oldthinkers unbellyfeel Ingsoc.


John Adams
August 23, 2012

In modesty, I must admit that the thought was mine:

“Our Constitution was made only for a moral and religious people. It is wholly inadequate to the government of any other.”


J. Max Wilson
August 23, 2012

Very good insight, Adam. Thanks!

It reminds me of an excellent analysis published in 2011 by the the venerable Claremont Institute:

The Guided and the Misguided
http://www.claremont.org/publications/crb/id.1835/article_detail.asp

“The media do not brainwash us, but neither do they simply roll off our backs like the proverbial water off a duck. What they do is condition us, gradually and over time, to accept, or at least view as normal, attitudes and behaviors we might otherwise reject. This conditioning power can be used for good or ill. A soap opera can either have a moral center, guiding the audience, or it can have none, leaving the audience misguided. I say mis-guided because there is no such thing as un-guided. Art may imitate life, but as Oscar Wilde once observed, life also imitates art.”

The whole thing is required reading.

Claremont is producing some of the best conservative thinking in the market.


Adam G.
August 23, 2012

Good stuff there, JMW. When Lewis Carroll wrote “Whatever I say three times is true,” he was sharing a real insight into human existence.

http://timesandseasons.org/index.php/2003/11/whatever-i-say-three-times-is-true/


Agellius
August 23, 2012

Bookslinger:

I agree that it might work for a righteous people. The problem (not arguing, just elaborating) is that people as a race are generally unrighteous. Without any kind of an authentic moral authority, or objective moral criteria that people are expected to live by, a moral slide is inevitable. The official absence, indeed the affirmative denial of any such authority, being the overarching context of American culture, I agree with Adam’s suggestion that the only way to avoid its influence is to be “some kind of cranky radical who doesn’t watch television and movies, like some kind of Amish or something”.

In other words, you can only be righteous *despite* the influence of American culture. Whereas, as Pope Leo XIII writes, “[T]he true liberty of human society does not consist in every man doing what he pleases, … but rather in this, that through the injunctions of the civil law all may more easily conform to the prescriptions of the eternal law.” (Libertas, 10.)

In other words, the civil law, i.e. the government, is supposed to *help* man to live righteously (in which alone consists true liberty). The motion picture code, though it was not a government initiative, was one way of doing so: It made affirmative efforts to promote good morals and discourage bad. The modern American government does no such thing, lest it infringe on people’s “rights” (but can there be a “right” to commit evil?), and the result is what we see around us.


Adam G.
August 23, 2012

An interesting argument that cinematic sex is worse than cinematic violence:

“http://pjmedia.com/lifestyle/2012/08/21/the-case-for-cinematic-violence/?singlepage=true


Agellius
August 23, 2012

The article makes sense to me:

“When sexual license is depicted without the consequences — broken homes, never-formed families, betrayed loved ones, suicides, disfiguring and deadly venereal diseases, agonizing confusion about one’s sexual role, etc. — all the audience is left with is the lure of erotic pleasure. Bad consequences are either ignored or are seen much later than the choices that led to them, thus greatly weakening any connection the audience may have between the action and any deleterious effects.”


Raymond Takashi Swenson
August 24, 2012

One of the wonders of the modern age is that there are so many choices, not only on cable and satellite, of classic TV shows, and also of shows that are positive (e.g. BYUTV), but there is the opportunity to watcvh streaming video over the internet. Judicious use of these resources can provide a full schedule of positive entertainment.


Aaron
August 26, 2012

I’m so glad we’ve identified the first moral cesspool as the thirties and the New Deal and communism. Makes me wonder, though: why did the thirties happen? What a stunningly superficial analysis!


Bookslinger
August 26, 2012

Sorry Aaron, it was the best I could do in a short comment.

Everything is prologue to that which follows. Of course the 1930’s was preceeded by the excesses of the 1920’s.

(If you want to go back further, you could say wickedness started with the war in heaven, at least in this known Universe.)

The decadence of Hollywood, ie the movie industry/mass entertainment, started practically at the inception of Hollywood, before there were any codes (I forget the names of the first codes of content for movies in the US). The codes were a backlash to the libertinism in the early movies.

Hollywood didn’t really become a big influence until the 30’s.

Don’t underestimate the big sea-change in the US caused by the New Deal, (and the more subtle influence of Communism) both in terms of culture and economy. Just about all progressive government social programs in the US since then trace their roots to the new way of thinking _institutionalized_ by the New Deal.

But of course once can trace the constituent elements back further. Bolshevists (aka Marxists/Communists; again I’m condensing and simplifying) gained power in Russia in 1917, and had already started to foment movements around the globe. Marxism gained traction as a movement even before that.

Don’t discount the connection of Marxism/Communism to moral decay in the West. It did not come about solely as an indirect result from the communist tenet of atheism, although that itself was a major vector.

A handful of American intellectuals and entertainment industry figures bought into Bolshevism/Communism in the 1920’s, and you can see some of its subtle influence in the movies of the 1930’s and 1940’s.

Have to go.


Vader
August 27, 2012

“What a stunningly superficial analysis!”

Looking over the comments as a whole, which includes a discussion of whether this goes back decades, centuries, or millenia, I can only say: Pot, met kettle.

Leave a Reply