This I Believe

Don - New York, New York
Entered on October 18, 2007
Age Group: 50 - 65
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While censorship may run contrary to our American values, exercising a modicum of taste and restraint does not.

The film magnates who invented Hollywood in the beginning of the last century had some understanding that their films would subliminally influence the mindset of their viewers, and they demonstrated a capacity for self-editing in their work. True, they were strong-armed into accepting the infamous Hollywood Production Code, which restricted what could and could not be shown, but they abided by it’s rules for over 35 years.

Since those restrictions of propriety dissolved four decades ago, our society has grown increasingly unruly, and I think there’s a cause-and-effect between the dissolution of our popular culture’s capacity for restraint and the diminishment of our society’s restraint, self-respect, dignity, and taste.

Put bluntly, Americans have become crass because of their crass entertainments.

Racism, violence and misogyny are not just tolerated by record companies; they’re promoted. Fashion designers and advertising agencies regularly present youthful models in a manner which teeters on the brink of kiddie porn. And in Hollywood, the vast majority of popular films showcase gross profanity, graphic violence, sexuality, nudity, and sometimes, all four.

I don’t suggest eliminating these elements; rather, I suggest emphasizing the things we used to go to the movies for. You know, plot, dialogue, inspiration and meaning. Remember that stuff?

Our popular culture impacts on our society, and without some minimal framework of propriety, that impact makes us less than we might be otherwise.

You are the exception to the rule, of course. The fact that you listen to NPR indicates that you are still striving to use your brain in our increasingly brainless society. You are our best hope of reversing these trends in entertainment. That’s why I mention it.

Consider the provocative way that children on the cusp of pubescence dress when they go to the mall; or the way fans of hip-hop music speak to their girlfriends; or how young singles comport themselves at the clubs. Are these representations of YOUR America?

Like all animals, we learn what we are taught, and we seem to be increasingly aping the kinds of behavior we find in the least savory representations of ourselves, on our televisions, movie screens, computers and i-pods. It happens subliminally.

I’m not a fan of censorship, but I do feel the people who manipulate our media would do well to show some modicum of restraint with regard to profanity, nudity, sexuality, racism and misogyny, despite the impact it may have on their financial bottom line. They are the shapers of the cultural horizon, and, as such, owe themselves a more dignified and intelligent audience.

These trends can be reversed, and I believe it begins with us. If you concur, write a letter, post a blog, send an e-mail. Make your voice heard. Tell the people who produce movies and television programs and compact disks of where we are headed, (and why we are in this handbasket.)