, , ,

Hollywood’s Depraved Film Content: Feeding public appetite for over 100 years

 

“If it’s only money leaders are after, they’ll self-destruct in no time. Lust for money…brings nothing but trouble.” (I Timothy – Message Translation of the Bible)

FOUNDING FATHERS’ PERSPECTIVE

“To avoid the extremes of despotism or anarchy . . . the only ground of hope must be on the morals of the people”. (Gouverneur Morris)

“Facts are stubborn things; and whatever may be our wishes, our inclinations, or the dictates of our passions, they cannot alter the state of facts and evidence.” (John Adams)

FACTS

In 1887, developer Harvey Wilcox registered 120 acres of land near the city of Los Angeles, for the purpose of building a moral, utopian subdivision for Christians. The new community prohibited alcohol, firearms, and even bowling alleys. It offered free land to Christian churches and gave Christian artists a place to live and practice their craft, untouched by the vices of the world. Wilcox and his wife named it “Hollywood.”
Curbed Los Angeles, 2/14/14. Meares, Hadley. “How one Ohio native became the ‘Mother of Hollywood’”


By the 1920’s, the Wilcox’s had passed-on, and forty million Americans were going to movie theaters every week. Hollywood’s original moral standards for movies had been demolished. Movie studios became rich, attracting a young audience with movies that emphasized the Roaring 20’s infatuation with sex, alcohol, and violence. Life imitated art, as famous movie stars of that era became caught up in tales of sex crimes (e.g. Fatty Arbuckle), drugs (e.g. Wallace Reid), and infidelity (e.g. Mary Pickford).

As talking movies became established, movie content became more salacious and violent. Church-led criticism increased. Movie studios, forced to respond to the criticism to prevent losing business, hired public relations man Will Hays to develop a Production Code of ethics for movies. It stated, “No movie shall be produced which will lower the moral standards of those who see it.” Specifically outlawed in this code were: profanity, nudity, ridiculing religion, illegal drug use, and presenting crime or adultery in a sympathetic way. Movie producers accepted the Production Code in 1930, not because they agreed with its moral standards, but because it would deflect public criticism and increase profitability.

From 1930 to 1934, the Production Code was in effect but rarely enforced. Public criticism regarding immoral movie content, particularly from the Catholic church, increased, forcing studios to instill an even tougher standard called the Production Code Administration (PCA). Studios showing a film without the PCA seal of approval were fined $25,000. For the next 18 years, producers conformed with the moral standards of the Code.

PBS, “Hollywood censored: the Production Code”
Wikipedia, “Motion Picture Production Code” 


In 1952, a U.S. Supreme Court ruling (Burstyn v. Wilson) virtually ended motion picture censorship. The Court declared that the right to commercially show movies, regardless of content, was protected under the free speech provision of the First Amendment.
Cornell University Law School Legal Information Institute, “Joseph Burstyn, Inc. v. Wilson” 


Emboldened by the Supreme Court ruling, movie producers released a number of films over the next 15 years with sexual and violent content that denied them the PCA seal of approval. The movies still succeeded. The trend increased, and in 1968 Hollywood abandoned the PCA rules. They were replaced with a Motion Picture Association of America (MPAA) ratings system still used today. The MPAA does not attempt to censor movies, but only informs the public regarding movie content (G for general audiences, PG for Parental Guidance suggested, etc.).
Filmmaker IQ.com. “The history of Hollywood censorship and the ratings system”


MPAA ratings are not determined by an independent board of educators, psychologists, or pediatricians. Ratings are assigned by a group of 8-13 parents hired by the 6 major film studios. The single requirement for membership on the MPAA ratings board is to have at least one child between the ages of 5 and 17. Studios provide the ratings criteria, and choose the members of the MPAA ratings group. The MPAA board assigns film ratings based only on what they believe would be acceptable to other parents.
Boston Children’s Hospital Pediatric Health Blog, 4/5/12 . Lavallee, Kristelle. “Ratings reality: who rates our media and what that means for children” 


Between 1995 and 2017, “R” and “Unrated” movies made up just 28% of total box office receipts, but constituted 68% of the total number of Hollywood films. “R” and “Unrated” movies allow almost unlimited violence, gore, sex scenes/partial nudity, and depraved content.
The Numbers, 2017, “MPAA Ratings Market Share” 


The most vulgar film ever made, “The Wolf of Wall Street”(2013) , used the f-word 506 times, or almost three times per minute. The film ranked 28th in box office receipts for that year, but received five Academy Award nominations including Best Picture and Best Actor.
Guiness World Records, February 2014. Thorne, Dan. “How the wolf of Wall St. broke movie swearing record”
Wikipedia, “The wolf of wall street” 


Of the Top 20 most financially successful films of all time, adjusted for inflation, only one had an “R” rating. The other 95% were predominantly PG or G.
Filmsite, February 2017. “All-time Box Office Top 100 Films” 


PG-13 films are now produced with more gun violence than R-rated films. Violent killing scenes are filmed in a sanitized manner (thus avoiding R-ratings) that does not accurately portray victims’ suffering. The American Academy of Pediatrics has warned parents and the MPAA that exposing children to gun violence, even if   bloodless, is harmful to them.

A large amount of research links repeated viewing of violent media content with aggressive juvenile behavior.
Annenberg Public Policy Center, 1/11/17. (American Pediatrics Journal), “More gun violence in PG-13 films than in R-rated ones. 


SUMMARY

Since its morally idealistic beginnings over 125 years ago, Hollywood’s deviant influence on American culture has increased. Each year it releases 700-800 new films worldwide, grossing tens of billions of dollars; exact figures are concealed and therefore unknown. About 70% of R-rated and Unrated films graphically portray sex, violence, and substance abuse with few limitations. The mocking of religion, parenting, sexual abstinence, and moral values are cinematic staples. The sexualization of childhood is a popular theme. Between 1934 and 1952, when the first Production Code was in effect, Hollywood proved it could make successful, entertaining films without glorifying immorality. The fact that 95% of the most successful films of all time were family appropriate proves cinematic decency can be profitable. Lowering the ratings standard for PG-13 films, thus exposing children to more sex and violence, is a disturbing trend that should be a national concern.

POSSIBLE SOLUTIONS

Decreasing the growing decadence of Hollywood films could be quickly accomplished, but not by an impotent, meaningless ratings system controlled by movie studios. The responsibility for cleaning up Hollywood movie-making sits squarely on the shoulders of American consumers. By voting with their feet and refusing to patronize films that glorify immoral behavior, more family-friendly films would be made because Hollywood’s priority is profitability. Until moviegoers take their stand, Hollywood’s history proves that most movies will continue appealing to mankind’s most depraved appetites.

Brief #31A – April 18, 2017

print