The Top Ten Movies for the First Week of February:|
2. The Hurricane
3. Stuart Little
4. Next Friday
5. Eye of the Beholder
6. The Green Mile
7. Galaxy Quest
8. Down to You
9. Girl, Interrupted
10. The Talented Mr. Ripley
The coarsening of values: "Value Manipulation" emerges as Hollywood Strategy
The industry has embarked on a campaign to change your values based on Beverly Hills qualifications. While its not talked about openly, a few major power brokers can't help but foam at the mouth when criticized for peddling sleaze. Critics of coarsened values perpetuated by the Disney Company were called "nuts," foolish," and "like Hitler" by none other than Disney Chairman Michael Eisner. Just ten years ago you would not have heard such comments from the head of an entertainment conglomerate - especially Disney.
Webster's New World Dictionary defines the word coarse: rough, harsh, vulgar, crude, gross, lack of culture and good taste. That definition now applies to many entertainment titles in feature films, television, videos, and video games, as well as music; with notable exceptions in all categories. It's the notable exceptions that Hollywood rarely applauds. In fact, many movie critics find coarsened values in entertainment as the sign of a "serious work of art." Is Hollywood playing to the movie critics or to the movie-going public?
The coarsening of values began quickly after the start of the ratings system instituted by Jack Valenti in 1968. And Hollywood has been raising the bar even higher for at least 30 years, but moreso in the decade of the 90's. Its appearance covers all genres from comedy, drama, and especially horror films with such recent films as the "Scream" series by Disney's own Miramax division. [In fact, "Scream 3" garnered nearly 35 million over the weekend while playing in 3,467 theatres nationwide. Consider that it is rated "R" - restricted to those under 17 - and yet the majority of those paying at the box office are teens under 17. More evidence that the current ratings system is a dismal failure and needs overhaul.]
The industry has managed to eliminate the harsh term "horror" in favor of what they call "fright films" where the main theme is fear. What Hollywood doesn't want you to know is that they are promoting fear as "fun" to increasingly younger audiences. The roots of this fear can be traced back to the original "Halloween" and "Friday the 13th." For the first time, mainstream studios were marketing an extreme form of violence as "fear and fun films." But, each passing year saw more graphic depictions of decapitations, bloody stabbings, bodily dismemberment, shattered skulls, and exploding human bodies. New Line Cinema and Miramax, long recognized as irresponsible filmmakers, have been leaders in this pack.
"The harmful effect is the cumulative impact," according to Professor Greg Smith of Dickinson College. Constant exposure to "frightening images of destruction or harm" doesn't always lead children to imitate what they see, but it does have a coarsening effect that makes children and even adults "more callous toward one another." And television has not escaped "coarsened values" with Fox being among the leaders. Writing about the Fox series "Action," columnist George Will wrote that the show "is evidence of how frantically producers now strain in search of something that can startle - never mind shock - America's desensitized audiences." He adds, "Some mediocre and even some excellent entertainment that is not offered on the four major networks seems to tempt those networks toward coarseness. Over-the-air [broadcast] television is lurching deeper into vulgarity to compete with limited access TV, such as HBO, that properly feels freer to depict sex and violence." In fact, HBO largely marketed itself as showing movies and shows "you won't see on regular TV" and has been dropped by many former subscribers because of its foray into softcore pornography and profanity after midnight with shows like "Real Sex" and "Chris Rock."
Value manipulation and its resulting coarse values is the insipid campaign now being waged by the entertainment industry. It is the secret that Hollywood doesn't want you to know!
February 11-13, 2000 |
volume 11, no. 30
MOVIES & MORALS
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