Clicking on banner ads enables JWR to constantly improve
Jewish World Review Sept. 14, 2000 / 13 Elul, 5760

Jonah Goldberg

Jonah Goldberg
JWR's Pundits
World Editorial
Cartoon Showcase

Mallard Fillmore

Michael Barone
Mona Charen
Linda Chavez
Ann Coulter
Greg Crosby
Larry Elder
Don Feder
Suzanne Fields
Paul Greenberg
Bob Greene
Betsy Hart
Nat Hentoff
David Horowitz
Marianne Jennings
Michael Kelly
Mort Kondracke
Ch. Krauthammer
Lawrence Kudlow
Dr. Laura
John Leo
David Limbaugh
Michelle Malkin
Chris Matthews
Michael Medved
Kathleen Parker
Wes Pruden
Debbie Schlussel
Sam Schulman
Amity Shlaes
Roger Simon
Tony Snow
Thomas Sowell
Cal Thomas
Jonathan S. Tobin
Ben Wattenberg
George Will
Bruce Williams
Walter Williams
Mort Zuckerman

Consumer Reports

Hollywood morality to blame -- THE CLINTON administration, in a bit of cynical-but-brilliant election-year meddling has just released a Federal Trade Commission report, initiated by Clinton after the Columbine massacre. The report concludes (drum roll, please) that Hollywood is targeting its big-budget movies at the audience that makes big-budget movies profitable, aka kids.

The chief beneficiary of the report is the Gore-Lieberman ticket which has (shrewdly) made "family values" a Democratic issue for the first time in more than a generation. Gore is dusting off his old anti-Hollywood positions, after a decade-long hiatus during which he collected millions of dollars from Hollywood moguls and attacked Republicans who had the same position.

Nonetheless, it's about time the Democrats recognized that criticizing Hollywood isn't fascist or a threat to free speech. Marketing "R" or "NC-17" movies to kids is bad corporate citizenship. Helping parents gain control of what cultural products their kids consume is a good idea.

So, as someone who would gladly shave with a cheese grater for the rest of his life if it meant seeing Gore lose this election, I say good for Gore and Lieberman. They are on the right side of the issue.

But they've come a little late. The truth is that wanton violence in the movies has declined in recent years. In the late 1980s and early 1990s, high-body count films were far more common than they are today.

The Schwarzenegger-Willis-Stallone killing-spree genre is a recipe for failure with today's audiences - and actors (few of Hollywood's rising stars accept action-movie roles). Last year, only one film out of the top 10 had shoot-em-up killing in it. And that was "The Matrix," a movie in which the bloodshed was minimal and wildly stylized.

Big movies these days are almost all pretty restrained in their use of violence. More importantly, they use violence to further a moral point. Often, gore (no pun intended) provides useful social commentary.

My friend Tevi Troy, writing in Reason magazine in 1992 - during another great uproar about Hollywood violence - points out that in the 1960s and 1970s, series like the "Dirty Harry" and "Death Wish" films grew out of the public's understandable outrage with a criminal-justice system that couldn't take criminals off the streets. One reason why such films don't do too well today may have to do with our stunningly low crime rates. Or we could just be bored with them.

So, if violence is nothing new to movies, what is? I think the real problem with Hollywood is not the sex, violence or the drugs (which are just the modern versions of wine, women and song). It's how they're used and why.

Hollywood has become married to the pernicious notion that authority is, by definition, corrupt. Since "A Rebel Without A Cause," Hollywood has grown ever more enamored with the idea that society can make no legitimate moral claims on an individual.

Some of the most destructive films of the 1990s have been the most critically acclaimed. Take "American Beauty." About a man (Kevin Spacey) who quits his job, his wife and his family because he has a crush on a high-school girl, "American Beauty" was hailed as one of the greatest movies of the decade.

Indeed, almost every major Oscar-winning film this year, from "American Beauty" to "Boys Don't Cry" to "Girl, Interrupted," had main characters who were glamorized or celebrated because they defined morality according to their own personal desires and ambitions.

The Columbine massacre was blamed on the availability of guns and the prevalence of violence in our culture. But guns and violence have been around for a long time. What's new is the idea that glamorous and cool people can create their own morality, no matter the consequences.

To comment on JWR contributor Jonah Goldberg's column click here.


09/11/00: Specifically, AlGore's detailed plan is meaningless
09/07/00: Time-honored tradition: Insult the press
09/05/00: Scouting out justice
08/30/00: The ADL's historical revisionism
08/28/00: Sitcoms will survive, post-"Survivor"
08/24/00: Candidates' choice of movies shows refreshing honesty
08/21/00: An AlGore victory? Only if dead birds fly
08/17/00: AlGore is doomed, but Dems ignore warning signs
08/15/00: Proud and true: He's a Jew
08/10/00: Exploiting religion would be tragic mistake
08/08/00: Cheney serves up tempting appetizer
08/03/00: Republicans now 'nice,' media still nasty
08/01/00: Presidential campaign could use some anti-metric mania
07/27/00: Government shouldn't subsidize Reform Party
07/25/00: Campaign finance 'reform' gives too much power to liberal media
07/20/00: Hillary slur speaks volumes
07/18/00: AlGore's McCarthyism
07/11/00: 'Survivor' shows hypocrisy of animal rights groups
07/05/00: McDonald's deserves a break today
07/03/00: On July Fourth, time to reflect on America's founding
06/28/00: America bashing becomes international pastime
06/23/00: If Fonda is sorry, let her say so
06/06/00: NAPSTER exposes artists' hypocrisy
04/18/00: Not much difference between TV journalists, TV actors

© 2000, TMS