"People are convinced that Hollywood is no longer a dream factory. It has become a poison factory for the nation."
There are "three big lies which Hollywood persistently and consistently promotes about its own work," says film critic Michael Medved. "The first 'big lie' is that the entertainment industry is only reflecting reality. The second asserts that Hollywood is only producing what the public demands, and the third big lie is that the public can turn off what they don't like."
Do Hollywood productions reflect reality? The Tinseltown treatments of violence, homosexuality, and religious faith certainly do not show "the world as it is." In a speech reprinted in a recent issue of Vision & Values, a publication of Grove City College, the longtime co-host of the popular PBS movie review program Sneak Previews contends that the levels of violence on prime-time television are "morbidly and insanely overstated." If the real-life murder rate in America corresponded to the TV-land tally, he observes, "the entire U.S. population would be dead" in just 50 nights! In the fantasy world of prime-time television, there is also an extraordinary abundance of homosexual characters and a strange dearth of church-going ones. "If Hollywood is holding a mirror up to nature," says Medved, "it is a fun-house mirror."
Is the public demanding lewd and violent films? Not according to box-office figures. Citing the top-grossing films of the past 20 years, Medved points out that "there is not a single year where R-rated movies performed better than PG or G. Not one. In fact," he says, "movies that are rated PG and G over the last 20 years averaged at the box office more than two and a half times the returns of movies rated R."
The problem, Medved believes, is that the population of Hollywood is not representative of the population at large. "What has happened in the entertainment industry," he contends, "is that too often people of conscience and people of faith, Christian as well as Jew, have abandoned the entertainment industry and will have nothing to do with it." There is a remnant, however. "Those few brave people in Hollywood who are trying to make a difference desperately need reinforcements and your support," says Medved. "Supporting movies that you endorse is far more effective than condemning movies that you hate," he counsels. "Commending is more effective than condemning."
Can the public really turn off what it doesn't like? Medved doesn't think so: The impact of the media is so pervasive that it simply cannot be ignored. "That is why it makes a great deal of sense," he says, "at a time when more and more people are demanding that our big corporations show more accountability for their pollution of our air and our water, that we also demand that our entertainment conglomerate show more responsibility for their pollution of the cultural atmosphere." Until then, we can minimize our contamination by "watching less TV," and concentrating instead on our families and communities. "Your TV," Medved stresses, "doesn't need your time."