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Who's Ruining Whom, Anyway?

June 28, 1992

It's bad enough that Vice President Dan Quayle and Sen. Jesse Helms hurl aesthetic vomit, but when the L.A. Times joins them, it's time to write to the editor.

Since when is film, TV or any other art obligated to portray moral values? Art explores new ideas; entertainment feeds popular taste. How can you even suggest that the politics or wealth or morality of Hollywood has anything to do with either?

Since their beginnings, the performing arts have portrayed the extraordinary: "Oedipus Rex" has even less to do with anyone's traditional values than "Silence of the Lambs." Saying grace, going to church and Archie Bunker's toilet flushing are part of the ordinary, and useful only to contrast with the extraordinary, which is the chief subject of art. Murphy Brown's motherhood intrigues us precisely because it is exceptional; the "traditional" family resolving its differences in calm and lucid conversation will be regular TV fare only when it isn't the norm.

If the "cultural elite" is those of us who don't get our moral foundation from art, I hope that home, church and public education have made most Americans part of that elite. If, on the other hand, the average American can't distinguish life from art, if that person depends on "Batman Returns," "Brooklyn Bridge," "Hippolytus" or Ice-T for moral dogma, then truly heaven must help us.

LESLIE RADFORD

Los Angeles

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