Well, I sent in my Oscar ballot. I’m a singer, an actor, a “member of the academy,” an entertainer. Believe it or not, for a while in the early part of my career, I was one of the top 10 box office stars, along with my pal Elvis. I’ve loved being in this unpredictable, exciting, universally influential phenomenon called entertainment.
But this year, as in the last several years, I voted with great misgivings. When Elvis and I came into the business, we and the producers and the studio execs were all aiming at the vast “family audience,” the moms and dads who gathered their kids on a Friday or Saturday night and headed to the local movie theater.
Of course, we hoped to appeal to the teens, but we were aware that real success depended on our entertaining the whole age range — and certainly not offending parents by “going over the line,” sexually or morally in any way. No nudity, no profanity, no brutality, and absolutely no explicit, graphic sex scenes.
We had hit movies, one after another. Big bucks, huge audiences, worldwide acclaim. And the movie business itself was prospering like never before, with weekend family attendance a predictable ritual. I had “April Love” and “State Fair” and “Journey To The Center of The Earth,” while Elvis had “Love Me Tender,” “King Creole,” “Blue Hawaii,” and many more. There was no “X” rating, or even “PG”; movies were for the whole family, and families all over the world ate ’em up, and envied the glorious country they reflected.
All that has changed, drastically. Today the movie studios belch forth silly, raunchy, titillating teen schlock, “chick flicks” (soapy, sexy, women’s stories), and over-violent car chase or bloodletting fantasies. Or they give us all-out soft porn — morbid, taboo-busting and hopelessly dark productions clearly intended to appeal to every base instinct known to man. The current “horror films” manage to combine all these elements into a mindless sensory blitz of blood, sex, violence, and fear, a modern American staple.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to call many of Hollywood’s latest films — including the nominated ones this year — WMD.
Why? Well, what’s the definition of a WMD? The term still doesn’t appear in most dictionaries, but the name itself tells you: It’s a weapon, by its nature and use destructive, and it’s aimed at masses of people. Right?
So look at what most of this year’s Oscar nominees, for sad example, are accomplishing. All are beautifully produced and powerfully acted; they are fashioned and marketed by giant studio machines; and, because of their negative messages and content, they are like guided missiles. And the combination of major stars, provocative advertising, and millions spent on marketing around the world, effectively target the masses.
It’s the payload, the content, that makes them so destructive. I’m still a member of the Academy, so I get DVDs of almost all the films that are clamoring for nomination, in order to vote knowledgeably. I’m no prude, for Pete’s sake, but this year I could only find five to vote for in any category, and some I quit watching after 10 minutes!
In the five nominees for “Best Picture,” there’s “There Will Be Blood,” a magnificent trashing of America’s early oil exploration. “Michael Clayton” dramatically “exposes” decadent money-crazy big business in our country. “Juno” charmingly documents a 15-year-old girl’s unemotional sex with the neighbor boy, and her brave decision to have the baby and hand it off to a woman whose marriage breaks up during the pregnancy. The message: No harm, no foul; life goes on happily. “Atonement,” produced in England but honored here, is the beautiful saga of early very graphic sex and lies, followed by later graphic sex and disillusionment. We didn’t receive our copy of “No Country For Old Men,” but the TV previews leave no doubt that it’s the most violent, bloody, profane entry of the bunch.
That’s the top five, but in other categories like Best Actor and Actress, we can choose among a musical “snuff film” in “Sweeney Todd,” a mob violence and sadism romp in “Eastern Promises,” or a murder mystery portraying American soldiers and police as murderous and duplicitous, right here at home, in war time, in “In The Valley of Elah.”
Of course, there’s “American Gangster,” in which an Australian actor Russell Crowe is the only honest cop in New York, trying to bring down the murderous black drug and crime lord, played by our much-honored Denzel Washington; all the New York police and government officials are seen as sleazy, corrupt and bought off . . . and it purports to be a true story!
These are just some of the “cream” films, the ones the industry likes most, but there are scores of others that racked up big grosses and millions of viewers worldwide—films that absolutely undermine the honor and integrity of our leaders, our military, our business leaders, and even Christian ministers and church goers.
Why do I refer to all these classy-looking but decadent films as WMDs? Because, while they rack up tremendous profits and self-acclaim, they cause as much permanent damage to America’s reputation and standing around the world as would neutron bombs! They contribute to the immorality and degradation of Judeo-Christian principles among young people everywhere, much like poison gas released in cities, subways, high schools, and places of worship.
Instead of extolling America, our long-established way of life, our freedoms and ingenuity and commitments to valor, our neighborliness, and our pursuits of legitimate happiness — as Hollywood used to do in history’s most successful films—the industry seems intent on fulfilling the fondest hopes and expressed aims of the Communists in the 1950s. As Senator Joe McCarthy and even Ronald Reagan, then president of the Screen Actors Guild, found, foes determined to destroy the United States realized they could most effectively undermine us by infiltrating and corrupting our image in the movies! These Communist sympathizers were routed, temporarily; but today, capitalist, money-motivated producers are furthering identical goals!
As an actor, as an American, I’m dismayed. As we watch the Oscars, I'll be remembering the Psalmist's observance: “The wicked freely strut about When what is vile is honored among men.”
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