Next time someone dismisses the idea that mass media can exert influence on American culture, point to a Jan. 18 New York Times article titled, "How the Movies Made a President." In that piece, Manohla Dargis and A.O. Scott argue that fictional depictions of black U.S. presidents helped pave the way for a real one.
“The presidencies of James Earl Jones in ‘The Man,’ Morgan Freeman in ‘Deep Impact,”’ Chris Rock in ‘Head of State’ and Dennis Haysbert in ‘24’ helped us imagine Mr. Obama’s transformative breakthrough before it occurred,” the authors wrote. “In a modest way, they also hastened its arrival.”
Furthermore, Dargis and Scott say that a number of black filmmakers and movie stars have “helped write the prehistory of the Obama presidency.”
If the authors are correct and Hollywood did help lessen the role of race in the electoral equation, then it has performed a service to the nation and is to be commended. The mass media clearly holds tremendous power to influence public attitudes, and did so in this case for the better.
But the entertainment industry’s power of persuasion is not just a force for good. We shouldn’t forget issues where Tinseltown’s contributions haven’t been quite so constructive. From promoting sexual libertinism to glorifying violent crime to sewing anti-Americanism, the entertainment industry has a lot to answer for.
Here is a far-from-exhaustive list of issues and the Hollywood products that promote the liberal take on them.
Teens should have sex:
Forget abstinence. The message from these frolics is “Everybody’s doing it, or trying to do it, and you should too.”
Girl Next Door
Most Judd Apatow works
Gay and other “alternative” sexual preferences are to be celebrated:
They’re either “just like you” or they’re victims of a repressed and repressive society.
Will and Grace
Boys Don’t Cry
Drugs are cool and fun:
Stoned slackers bumble their way through life and, mostly come out on top. Reality is less forgiving, and irresponsibility has consequences.
Cheech & Chong movies
Harold & Kumar Movies
Abortion is noble:
Abortionists are humanitarians doing their part to help others. The lives of the infants they kill aren’t much considered.
The Cider House Rules
Violent crime is cool and sexy:
Violence isn’t so bad, as long as you look and sound good while you’re doing it.
Bonnie & Clyde
The thug lifestyle is cool:
Even if characters do suffer consequences, bling, cash and cool dominate.
Hustle and Flow
America and its military are corrupt and evil:
U.S. soldiers are either bloodthirsty psychopaths or hapless pawns. U.S. government (if Republican) is power-mad, greedy and without honor.
In the Valley of Elah
Lions for Lambs
The Bourne Identity
Law and Order
We could go on…
Matt Philbin is managing editor of the Culture & Media Institute.