November 19, 2008

Review of "Hollywood Vs. America" by Michael Medved

Medved makes a strong argument in several areas (not all, but several) that "popular culture" are the product of anti-religious, anti-tradition Hollywood insiders, bent on destroying our time-honored institutions of marriage, family and decent behavior. He goes on to assert that, though some artists, musicians and filmmakers are trying to stem the tide of vulgarity flowing from Hollywood, they are outnumbered and outshouted at almost every turn.

Now let's examine the arguments against his view:

1. "If you don't like it, turn it off. No one is forcing you..."

As Medved himself points out, there is literally no way to shield oneself (or one's children) from the pervasive aspect of music, movies and advertising found in his day (1992). I think we could say as much- if not more fervently so- today. I can assure you I am bombarded by insinuations toward sex, drugs, infidelity, early sexualization of children, and worse, while utilizing neither a tv nor radio, not even a cell phone. I cannot "shut off" the world around me no more than I can pledge never to speak to another person.

2. "Medved is a conservative lunatic who thinks we should censor everyone!"

Medved makes the case that it isn’t merely the media itself (movies, songs, pictures) that he is wary of; the culture that feeds on such "entertainment" has absorbed its values. THIS is what Medved decries. In fact, he goes so far as to say censorship of the movies and music he loathes is NOT a reasonable answer! The author stresses not taking away the rights of those moviemakers, etc., but encouraging them to consider the responsibility not to produce it for the masses.

3. "Medved says Hollywood should stop making this kind of "filth," but this is what is popular today. The people are asking for this kind of entertainment."

Surely this is the weakest argument against Medved's case. In its day, the Coliseum sat thousands who cheered on the public raping of women by animals and ritualistic citizen butchery. It was extremely popular; would anyone like to make an argument that that entertainment is good for the whole of society?

Secondly, there is a sense in which it seems that the types of movies and music Medved is so skeptical of are popular. After all, makes a living selling cds and movies. But Medved sights several cases in which regular people spoke out against movies and music they found threatening, vitriolic or downright disgusting only to find Hollywood bigwigs laughing back in their faces and continuing to show/produce those products in question.

I ask you, is that not the act of a group with nothing to gain and everything to lose by adhering to a strong moral ethic?

Hollywood's "golden age" saw the industry's height in popularity (in numbers and in economic pull) simultaneously alongside its lack of on-screen vulgarity, debasement of traditional values and violent themes.

Is this, too, a coincidence?

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