America Vs Hollywood Essay, Research Paper
Film critic, Michael Medved is aware that by publishing his book, “Hollywood verses America,” he will not only enrage mostly everyone in the show business industry, but he will also loose some of his friends because of what he wrote. His strongly opinionated critique of popular culture examines the recent shift in the content of today’s television, films, music and art. He has gathered statistics and opinions as well as shared personal experiences, all to illustrate one major point; popular culture has taken a turn for the worst.
Medved proves he’s not the only one who is not pleased with what’s happening in today’s media. Figures prove that the American public is showing dissatisfaction with television, film and music. Major television networks’ ratings have decreased, movie theater ticket sales are down and so are the sales of tapes and CDs. The recent loss of audience is blamed on the abandonment of traditional values by the media. Medved consistently receives letters from moviegoers expressing their frustration with the industry for this reason. Hollywood no longer portrays what most American families believe in, but instead it promotes foul language, sex and violence. Not only does it promote these vulgar behaviors but also it insults traditional values such as patriotism and religion and labels their supporters as conservatives and fanatics.
In partial agreement of Medved?s claims, I too see that the overall quality of American films is continuously dropping. I have seen many recent films in which the only element that could possibly keep the viewer interested are the constant actions of violence. One particular film that falls into this category is the 1999 release, The Matrix. This science fiction/action film is about a group of technologically advanced pioneers who venture into a parallel world to stop an unnamed enemy from doing some unnamed bad thing. The film was a series of chasing and fighting scenes in which they just kept coming up with new ways for the good guys to escape or shoot the enemy and new ways for the enemies to die. The climax of the story was at the end when the main good guy, Neo, had one last fight with the main bad guy. The fight ends when Neo is finally killed but then he is suddenly resurrected and he kills the bad guy; the world is safe again. The plot was nothing more than the overdone myth of “good verses evil,” in which after a long struggle, good wins. Here, I can conclude that the creators relied on nothing but violence to give the film any substance, but where I disagree with Medved is that this type of movie does not disturb the American public. I saw the movie with several friends, all that loved it. Later I found out that the film received great reviews and even won some awards. I think Hollywood produces too much violent content, but the sad part is that American moviegoers want it. Maybe this is because my experiences with films have taken place nine years after Medveds book was written and the public which once refused this sort of content in1991 has since been conditioned to seeing it and have come to expect nothing more.
Hollywood responds to Medved’s criticisms by claiming that popular culture has no impact on society whatsoever. First of all, it cannot be proven that the content of the media has any power to influence its audience. Secondly, it is society that influences Hollywood, there is violence, rape and murder in the real world, so why shouldn’t films depict that truth? Third of all, Hollywood is an industry which produces entertainment, the public knows that what they see in films is all fabricated and they are able to dismiss the content as being fictional. Finally, if an individual disapproves of some or all of the media then they should just simply not participate in watching or listening to that which they find offensive.
Medved is able to defend his side of the argument that popular culture indeed does have a negative influence on society, not only because he believes it, but also because there is evidence to prove it.
In response to Hollywood’s first defense, in which it claims there is no proof, he points out that Hollywood must believe in the media’s ability to influence an audience or else there would be no purpose for advertising. The goal of television commercials or product appearances in films is to influence the public to buy the product. Corporations wouldn’t spend millions of dollars on advertising if it didn’t prove effective. If commercials are able to send messages that promote purchasing goods, then violent television programs are also capable of sending messages that promote violent behaviors.
A second line of defense by Medved is that Hollywood does not hold up to their claim of accurately reflecting reality. He compares this relationship to that of ones reflection in a fun-house mirror. There are similarities between what is real and what is being reflected, but the reflection is distorted. A twenty-year study conducted on violence on television concluded that, on average, “there are between six and eight acts of violence an hour with two entertaining murders a night.” “This means that violent acts occurred on television fifty-five times more frequently than they did in the real world.”
Third, the proof that people do take what they see in the media seriously lies in the younger population. Out of all the age groups teenagers spend the most hours consuming popular culture, they are also the group that demonstrates the most destructive behavior. Children don’t have the capacity to understand that fictional characters and television are not real. At a young age anyone can be easily influenced. Children have limited sources to compare the behaviors they see in the media to because they have not been exposed too much. It wouldn’t be unlikely for them to imitate what they see their favorite super hero or robot doing on television.
Finally, if one decides not to be exposed to any popular culture because they are bothered by it, it is impossible to escape. Medved shares a personal story of a time when he and his family were unable to avoid hearing offensive music. During their picnic in a public park a teenager sat at a nearby bench with a stereo playing loud music. The lyrics were full of obscene language and they also told of rape and murder. One cannot be out in public without overhearing music from someone’s car stereo or catching a glimpse of a television. America is saturated with the influence of Hollywood, from billboards to clothing; its presence is inescapable.
For every criticism Medved has about popular culture, Hollywood offers an explanation as to why he is wrong. But then he can undermines that explanation with his own defense, which he proves with evidence and personal experiences. The argument could go on forever with endless reasons for how popular culture can or cannot affect the public.