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Southern California Voices / A FORUM FOR COMMUNITY

Gripe : 'Hollywood, I'm Pointing at You'

May 24, 1993


Van Nuys

Every week, as we cope with another headline about senseless, violent crime, we find ourselves groping anew with the same question: Why?

If we could stop and view the world through the eyes and ears of young people, many of whom are committing these crimes with apparently little or no remorse, we might find many answers. But one sticks out.

The entertainment industry cries out for some measure of societal constraint, which it is incapable of providing itself. Yes, Hollywood, I'm pointing at you.

Hollywood has long pandered to the teen-age appetite for anything that breaks the mold of authority. From the thought-provoking, relatively innocent rambunctiousness of James Dean, we've accelerated to the random, runaway violence of "Terminator II." A generation has grown up awash in the idea that anything one does to defy authority or strike back at real or perceived enemies is not only OK, it's romantic and admirable. Kids are awash in action images. Pre-teens especially are vulnerable to anything that makes them feel grown up. And according to what they're seeing, getting even makes people bigger than they are. Committing adult violence makes one an adult.

Yes, there have always been death and violence in popular entertainment. In Shakespeare, everybody dies. But skilled storytellers do not have to dwell on gore.

Modern film technology has made available levels of realism never before imaginable. As a result, we have a generation of impressionable dim-wits that thinks leading cops on 100 m.p.h. chases is just another ride at Disneyland, only better if it gets them on the TV news. Carrying guns and knocking people off is what their heroes do, and even if they get incarcerated, they'll get out early.

Whenever anyone suggests that Hollywood take responsibility for cleaning up its act, we can count on the response that it's not their responsibility to provide moral leadership or censorship. They only cater to what the market wants. Parents, they say, should control what their kids are exposed to.

What parents? For a frightening percentage of kids on the street today, there are no functioning parents. And even in "good" homes, absolute control over what a child sees or hears is impossible.

Hollywood, like it or not, has become the prime harbinger of our society's value system. That mantle has passed, unfortunately, from our churches, schools and families. Hollywood's influence is everywhere. All too often its message is one of violence, gore and unloving sex.

Nobody likes the idea of censorship, but in a vacuum, how else can society find protection from such excesses?

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