By Robert Capehert
LONG a clarion call from the political right and religious Christians in the heartland, the moralizing of Hollywood has been an agenda—in this humble author’s opinion—misguided and obtuse. But with or without the political right or Christians, Hollywood is moving in the direction of moralizing itself.
From Deadline Hollywood,
It’s rare for moguls to push moral responsibility to Hollywood, let alone action. Last night at a sold-out LA Gay & Lesbian Center gala that raised $1 million for homeless gay and lesbian youth, honoree Amy Pascal asked the industry to scrutinize its depiction of LGBT characters in film and television: “How about next time, when any of us are reading a script and it says words like fag, or faggot – homo – dyke – take a pencil and just cross it out”. Below are excerpts from the Sony Pictures boss’ prepared speech.
And it should depress all those interested in artistic endeavours. Study Mogul chief, Amy Pascal, is asking all slurs and stereotypes against gays and lesbians—or the vaunted LBGT community—to be taken out of movies.
There is a number of problems with such a demand. One is it is soft fascism imposed on what is supposed to the activity of free individuals in a supposedly free marketplace.
Stereotypes exist for a reason. In essence, stereotypes are often true. Secondly, movies are not educational in nature, but a mirror of society.
Ms Pascal continued her none-sense,
Brokeback Mountain, Milk, Boys Don’t Cry, Philadelphia, The Hours, Gods and Monsters, The Talented Mr. Ripley, A Single Man, My Own Private Idaho, Cloud Atlas – in all these movies, the main character is murdered or martyred or commits suicide or just dies unhappily. And there are far more pernicious and dangerous images that confront gay kids and their parents: the lesbian murderer, the psychotic transvestite, the queen who is humiliated and sometimes tossed off a ship or a ledge. It’s a big joke. It still happens. How many times have you heard a character imply to another that the worst thing about going to prison isn’t being locked up for the rest of your life, it’s the homosexuality? And old stereotypes still exist. The most benign stereotypes would have a gay kid believe that they will end up being the asexual, witty best friend of the pretty girl, or a drag queen, or a swishy hairdresser. The list goes on.
I can remember in 1998 I connected with Quentin Tarantino’s notion that the author is always entitled to his or her voice. Such has been articulated by the greatest dramatists the world over. This includes novelists, screenwriters, and play writers. David Mamet, the great modern playwright and screenwriter in our time wrote in his excellent book, Bambi vs. Godzilla: On the Nature, Purpose, and Practice of the Movie Business that quality writing is not what is acceptable, but what is true. Good and bad behaviour, which includes racial, sexual, and other slurs, is true.
It is part of the apparatus of human conflict—which is the very point of the dramatic medium.
Ms Pascal’s agitating agitprop is antithetical to all dramatic possibility. Her remarks should be condemned by every successful and non-successful person calling themselves writers.
But the problem: Hollywood lacks any moral viewpoint to take such a stand.
Even so, this is why the dramatic world of movies and literature is not the place to educate society on the moral life in the real world. If such opportunity exists, it is in displaying the consequences of such a behaviour and the attenuating effects on the humanity of fictional characters within the dramatic confine.
Life is not censored. As such, movies should not be. Any appropriate censorship already exits: parents and guardians and the ratings system. There are G rated movies for children involving crime and criminality. And there is also R rated material of the same for adults.
Storytelling is a dramatic representative metaphor—or should be—of life as is, not according to the political correct notion of people, whether accurate or inaccurate.
One of the consensus forming attributes of all good cinema—whether glimpsed on television or the big screen—is the ability for dramatic material to submit to the nature of peoples and their diversities, within dramatic, conflict-ridden situations.
Now Hollywood appeals to face censorship. Something those deep in the bowels of Christian movies and other factions of the political right demanded.
But they have gotten no more than political correctness—calling on a moralism wholly opposed to the worldview’s of those most offended by Hollywood’s romp. The call to Hollywood from those on the political and cultural right should have been based on storytelling considerations—a call back to good storytelling. Not arbitrary offence at bad behaviour, which though regulated by the ratings system, is nevertheless part and parcel to the dramatic medium.
How far will this go?
I can imagine a day exists in our current infatuation with fascist notions of what will be acceptable and what will not be acceptable in art, ridding our cinema of evil lord Vader characters who cut off their own son’s hands, and summarily beckon them at the precipice of a reactor abyss to “join the dark side.”
Not in this movie house—and not in American cinema. Not if pesky female tyrants like Amy Pascal have her way. Sure, right now it’s LGBT sensitive…
But tomorrow it will be something else. After all, Hollywood already expressed disdain for Zero Dark Thirty’s dramatic reproduction of those realities which led to Osama Bin Laden’s compound.
It promoted torture they say.
Did it promote it?
Or did it simply document life’s immense realities—not so much acceptable, but true? And truth in a penultimate sense should be the end of all cinematic and literary purposes.
Truth is not always nice and for many not always acceptable. And if we value what is true we must also value much that is unacceptable. Amy Pascal is asking Hollywood and her minions to value what is only acceptable. And there is scant little truth there.