Socially Responsible - *HOLLYWOOD*???

John A. Quayle blueoval at SGI.NET
Wed May 28 02:52:29 MDT 2003

Free Congress Foundation's Notable News Now
May 28, 2003

The Free Congress Commentary: Just How Socially Responsible Is Hollywood?
By Paul M. Weyrich

         During the 1930s, the motion picture industry's producers and
distributors adopted a set of principles called the Hays Code in
acknowledgement of their "responsibility to the public." Included in the
general principles and its applications were assertions that no film should
be produced that would lower the moral standards of its viewers. Presenting
crime or sin or wrongdoing in sympathetic terms was unacceptable. Nor were
pictures to be excessively graphic in depicting violence. It was not to be
implied by motion pictures that "low forms" of sexual relationships were

         The section providing the rationale for the code actually stated, "The
motion pictures, which are the most popular of modern arts for the masses,
have their moral quality from the intention of the minds which produce them
and from their effects on the moral lives and reactions of their audiences.
This gives them a most important morality."

         It went on say that not only do the films "reproduce the morality
of the men who use the pictures as a medium for the expression of their
ideas and ideals" but that they also influence those moral standards.

         Now, imagine what the enforcers of that code would say if they saw
the two biggest grossing movies of the week, The Matrix  Reloaded
and  Bruce Almighty, with the former's reliance on graphic violence and the
vulgarity and low standards of behavior that were displayed in the latter.

         Some critics said the happy ending of "Bruce Almighty" in which
the film's main character becomes a humbler, more generous and thankful
person was overshadowed by the earlier part. That is when, endowed by God
with His powers, the character played by Jim Carrey is thoughtless and
materialistic and unconcerned with the sanctity of
marriage.  (Incidentally, this film received a PG-13 rating.)

         "The Matrix Reloaded" is a film that raises some interesting
questions too. Recently, The Washington Post's Tom Jackman wrote about the
case in which a 19 year-old had come to confuse his life with that of the
movie, and ended up killing his parents. Jackman noted: "Some high-profile
crimes since the movie's 1999 release have allegedly been committed without
any obvious motive other than attempts to escape The Matrix.'"

         This kind of shooting usually brings calls for gun control from
the groups that are on the left who tend to rail about the irresponsibility
of the

         What these groups neglect to note is that quite frequently crimes
are committed by those who know exactly what they are doing or, if a
killing takes place in the heat of passion, it could easily be done by some
other kind of weapon. It is the irresponsibility or lack of respect for
accepted standards of conduct by the individual that leads to the
commission of a crime. No one put a sign on that gun saying: "Use me to
kill illegally." Nor do gun companies advertise their product in that way.  In
fact, the National Rifle Association promotes the importance of gun safety.
The first rule to be learned is the importance of keeping the gun pointed in
a safe direction to avoid harming people. Yet, this teaching is directly
undermined by how weapons are portrayed in Hollywood films.

         There are many reasons we are a more violent society nowadays. But
one important factor is the prevalence of movies and TV shows featuring
gun-driven violence.

         One film, Bonnie and Clyde, which was released in 1967, was
particularly influential in changing how American films depicted violence
and criminals. Not only did the film rely on extremely graphic depictions
of violence, but its presentation of the criminals was disturbing too.
Bonnie and Clyde, killers in real life, were presented in the film as
light-hearted innocents who ended up as victims cold-blooded law enforcers.
This film has been widely imitated in the years since its release,
including the 1970s and 1980s, two bloody decades in which high real-life
homicide rates were
accompanied by the release of plenty of films glorifying killing.

         Or was it visa versa?

         Retired Army officer Dave Grossman is actively warning about the
influence of violent films and videos on children. For instance, in
researching his book, Stop Teaching Our Kids to Kill, Grossman found that
many perpetrators of violence developed their marksmanship skills on video
games. One fourteen year old boy named Michael Carneal actually killed
several members of a prayer group in Paducah, Kentucky. He had never fired
a gun before, but was well-practiced in marksmanship, having trained on
video games.

         The children who commit such violence must have other things wrong
in their lives besides an addiction to video games. But even that can be no
excuse. Individuals are responsible for their actions, certainly when it
comes to murder. However, if the producers of video games adhered to the
Hays Code of the 1930s, the instruction on how to commit crimes and the
incitement to do so would not be provided to youngsters such as young Mr.

         Hollywood and its related industries bear their share of the blame
for our problems with violence in society. They glamorize lifestyles that are
immoral and violent and provide graphic instruction on how to lead such
lives and to create mayhem.

         Because Hollywood's leading stars and producers tend to pride
themselves on their deep concern for our world, it's worth asking: Where is
their concern for social responsibility when it comes to their own products?

         The film industry refuses to police its products in any kind of
meaningful way and affiliated industries, such as the music, television,
and video industries can be just as bad -- even worse in the case of the
Consumers, particularly parents with children, need to know what's the real
story behind the movies and videos and TV shows made by Hollywood.

         The Parents Television Council, the Christian Film and Television
Commission, Catholic Digest, Preview Family Movie and TV Review Online, and
the National Institute On Media and the Family represent some of the
organizations that judge the products of the entertainment industries from a
viewpoint that is friendly to family values.

         PTC is particularly impressive, given its 800,000 members,
grassroots chapters, strong advisory board composed of well-known
celebrities, and its in-depth analyses of TV programs, films and video
games. The group has been waging a campaign to protect the integrity of the
family hour, even challenging the advertising of R-rated movies on shows
aired during that hour. PTC takes a three-pronged approach, not only rating
shows, but also educating parents about their entertainment options, and
trying whenever possible to work with Hollywood and the Federal
Communications Commission to improve the quality of entertainment. But it
is willing to raise a ruckus when necessary, even taking on Howard Stern.
PTC is a proven friend to families who want to ensure their children watch
good, clean, wholesome shows.

         Now a new group wants to enter the scene.

         Common Sense Media has two ex-Federal Communications Commission
chairmen on its board. With assistance from the publishers of Zagat's
guidebooks, it plans to place on its web, a ranking of a wide variety of
entertainment products based on the criteria of language, violence, sexual
content, and adult themes. It is an organization receiving significant
support from the establishment, but it is new and therefore it remains to
be seen whether it can make good on its intentions.

         It's good to know that groups such as the Parents Television
Council are working to clean up the video-pollution that has saturated our
culture in
recent decades. They deserve our support. But what's long overdue is an
acknowledgement by Hollywood that it can become a truly socially
responsible industry again. When it comes to advocating such "socially
responsible" issues as the environment or gun control, the Hollywood
establishment takes a holier-than-thou posture. Now, even Hollywood is
starting to acknowledge that showing stars lighting up cigarettes is
recommending unhealthy behavior to impressionable young minds. Then what
kind of effect is the unceasing firing of guns in Hollywood films having on
young males?

         In the end, people are responsible for their own actions. In no
way, should sane individuals escape culpability for committing violent,
indecent, and immoral acts. But artists are often fond of emphasizing their own
responsibility to the truth, and executives stress their responsibility to
the bottom line. The truth in this case is that the products of Hollywood
and its related industries are polluting our culture, giving sanction to
violence and sex in ways that are at odds with the functioning of a stable,
orderly society. The bottom line is it is having an adverse impact on too
many impressionable individuals.

         It's time the entertainment industries start policing themselves
with the same integrity and vigor that the Hays Commission did back in the
1930s. In reality, that day may be a long way off. So, at this point, this
remains a story whose happy ending has yet to be written.

Paul M. Weyrich is Chairman and CEO of the Free Congress Foundation.


The Motion Picture Production Code Of 1930

The Washington Post Article On "Escape The `Matrix,' Go Directly To Jail"
By Tom Jackman

FBI Description Of The Activities Of Bonnie And Clyde

St. James Encyclopedia Of Pop Culture Review Of The Film "Bonnie And Clyde"

Christian Film And Television Commission

David Grossman's Website

Parents Television Council

United States Conference Of Catholic Bishops Film And Broadcasting
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