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SATURDAY LETTERS : Hollywood's Social Conscience

October 31, 1987

Without trying to be moralistic, is it too much to ask of Hollywood that it have a modicum of social conscience? Are the film makers aware of the effect of the endless violence-formula movies on the Third World?

It's all fun and games and make a buck--or a megabuck--in Hollywood, but in the Philippines it's translating visual fiction into reality. Some of the movies are good how-to-do-it training films in terroristic techniques, for example. Am I blaming Hollywood for some of the killings here? In part, certainly. The Philippines in many ways is young and impressionable, and the violence Hollywood promulgates as " macho "--which hopefully most Americans laugh at--is taken seriously here and imitated.

And the violence is not only imitated in life, but by Philippine film makers, who, looking to Hollywood for what constitutes box-office success (this is still a derivative contemporary culture), make their own low-budget glorifications.

The missing word in Hollywood lexicons--maybe because it's been disappearing from American life--is: values . A value is something of intrinsic worth, like love or friendship, that all the money in the world could not buy. (If one could buy them, they would no longer be love or friendship.)

Beyond social responsibility, there seems little point in appealing to any aesthetic standards in the Hollywood conscience at this time. Paul Newman, who has never made a bad movie (as far as I know, and I have seen most of his films) said mournfully at the Cannes Film Festival that Hollywood today was "a desert."

If the steady progression of the passing of the "greats"--like Cary Grant, Jimmy Cagney, Fred Astaire, Jackie Gleason--doesn't shame the producers manipulating the Hollywood community and the public with the hype of mindless formula violence, then this lament can be more than a whisper in the wind.


Chaplain, De La Salle

& University Medical Center,

Dasmarinas, Cavite,


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