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What Hollywood no longer knows

By J. Bradley Keena
web posted April 30, 2001

A report released last week says the American music industry is still peddling to children songs with violent and lewd lyrics.

The report by the Federal Trade Commission, released April 24, is a follow-up study to the FTC's scathing report on the entertainment industry seven months ago. In the original report, the government accused the entire industry of aggressively singling out children for sales of violent and sexually explicit films, video games and music.

All of this says a lot about the state of the culture today versus society 50 years ago. Over the half-century, amidst economic pressures and divorce, parents have ceded control of their children to the popular culture.

Parents fifty years ago pretty much controlled the limited spending habits of their children. Kids today have money - lots of it - and the entertainment industry knows how and where to find it.

Five decades ago, society tolerated a set of moral standards that limited artistic production - and with good reason. After all, if painters, limited by the size and dimension of the canvas, could still create masterpieces, then what limits could keep directors and vocalists from creating their own masterpieces? The movie, Casablanca, is considered by many critics to be a perfect film, even though its screenwriters and director were confined by the moral limits of the time. The artists that collaborated in its creation were able to create their motion picture masterpiece without the use of cursing, sex scenes, or graphic violence. The so-called artists of today who complain about limits on their work are really confessing that their creativity is limited by the limits themselves.

Songwriters and screenwriters who say they need cursing and obscenity are defending a crutch, because without cursing or obscenity, their music and movies are lame. They don't have the creative energy to work without the aid of such gimmicks. Consequently, it's not the work that sells; it's the lewdness that sells.


Still, how good might some of the recent movies, songs, or other creative works of the popular culture been if the old limits had been in place? I'm convinced that Gladiator would still have won the Oscar even if its graphic scenes of violence had ended up on the cutting floor. After all, Ben Hur won the same award, with far less violence. Or do we really need to see sex on the screen to get the point? Fifty years ago, Cary Grant and Grace Kelly, did more with a kiss and a pan by the camera than any graphic clench today. As director Alfred Hitchcock understood, it's not what you see, it's what you don't see.

In it's report, the FTC said the entertainment industry still runs ads for R-rated movies on television programs watched by teens, even though such films require an adult to accompany anyone under 17.

Today's popular culture no longer knows how to create without the use of lewd ingredients that should be off limits to the very customers they want to reach. The need to create is largely dead. The entertainment industry doesn't care about children; it only cares about the money in each child's pockets.

Brad Keena is editor of the Cultural Dissident.

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