Sunday, November 25, 2007

Pop culture: always narrowminded.

The last post leads to this thought:

All sorts of things used to be considered immoral and aren't any more. There are plenty of books and plays and especially movies that celebrate brave young people who dare to challenge the stifling, uncompassionate, narrow-minded rules of society. I think of Age of Innocence, Vera Drake, The Apartment, People Will Talk, and anything about Oscar Wilde. But those stories are all set at least fifty years in the past. They have to be; it's hard to manufacture such a storyline today. Who'd care if a rich woman fell in love with a poor man? Who'd care if lovers engaged in an affair without getting married? Who'd be shocked if a woman was pregnant out of wedlock? Now, I imagine, people think we're nearly free of the tyranny of the old rules. It's still fun to celebrate knocking them down, but it's an exercise in nostalgia.

Except that, when you look at it, the worldview presented to us by popular culture today is extremely restrictive in its own way. And it's in Hollywood, that cheerleader of destroying outmoded morality, where that worldview is in strictest force.

Seen any movies recently where the lead character falls into bed with someone and this is presented as a bad choice? (When it's not a spy with a sexy double agent?) Any movies set in the present that show an attractive and well-adjusted adult who remains a virgin though presented with opportunities not to be? Any movies with a character who is both intelligent and deeply religious, in such a way that he is actually influenced by his religion and doesn't just wear it like an aesthetically pleasing charm? Any movies that show a person who's attracted to the same sex, who manages with great effort and therapy and prayer to change his or her orientation to straight, and is very happy to have done so? Any movies that show a man trying desperately to convince his girlfriend not to have an abortion and feeling shattered when she does anyway?

All these things happen in real life, but you wouldn't know it from the movies. You may say that movies avoid these scenarios because they want to avoid controversy. But I think it's clear that there are plenty of movie makers who embrace controversy, as long as it offends the right people. Offend the wrong people, the liberal powers-that-be in Hollywood, and that movie's not likely to get made.

The older I get, the more curmudgeonly I feel about pop culture. :)

I'd love to hear about movies that break those trends, if anyone knows of some!


Erin said...

Hi! I'm one of Rachel S.'s friends, and I got bored and traveled over here via a link from her blog, and clicked a bit on some random posts and got to this one.

There's not much in the way of examples for that in movies that I can think of, but two of my favorite shows show religion and Christian moral values in a positive light, although it's subtle at times. "One Tree Hill" (please don't groan, I swear it's better than the other teen shows out there) and "Bones". Now, Brennen's partner on Bones is actually Catholic, and most of the time when he makes a moral point to her, he ends up being shown as right, the most recent episode being a fine example. OTH is far more subtle about it, and I can name only a handful of episodes where the topic is broached overtly (I don't actually know the names of the episodes, but I could describe them), but they seem to prefer the path of showing rather than telling.


Rachel Gray said...

Thanks Erin! I'm not familiar with many shows, so good to know. :)