Monday, October 03, 2005

Hollywood And Bad Habits:
Should We Finally Start
Pointing Fingers?

For the past few years - hell, as long as I have been alive on this planet/dimension/plane of existence - popular culture has borne the brunt of criticism regarding portrayals, glorification and sometimes encouragement of bad or harmful habits.

And we're not talking about smoking or drinking: we're talking about unsafe sex and drug abuse.

Personally, I'll be damned if some overpaid, overhyped, underworked and underutilised Tinseltown hack were to tell me how to live my life or conduct myself with others. I WANT TO BE ENTERTAINED ON MY TIME OFF, NOT EDUCATED OR PREACHED TO! That's the way we like to conduct ourselves almost everyday: work hard, chill out afterwards.

And there are so many people taking the arts a little too seriously - both on the Right and Left. The recent Jodie Foster joint, "Flightplan", has been slammed as derogatory to flight attendants and air marshals, even though it is a work of fiction (yes - I am quite sure that there are good Middle-Easterners that exist, and that being a flight attendant or an air marshal is no bag of gummie-bears). Never mind that the only saving grace in this movie is that Jodie could act her way out of any hackjob script. The Right, for whatever reason, call the movie treasonous, which may be an overreaction to what appears to be very shallow plotline. Debbie Schlussel has posted a fine example of the Right's feelings about the flick, as well as another film called "Domino", which probably has a shallower storyline than "Flightplan".

(I have to digress: as a guy, I tend to fancy "a bit of the old horrorsow ultraviolence" once in a while. And judging by the trailer shown at the film's supercharged website, I might go for a round of "Domino". And FYI - it's getting released on my birthday! w00t! Plus - Keira Knightly is hot! But enough of my morals...)

Needless to mention, there are some seriously impressionable minds out there that would be affected by such disturbing images of James Bond putting his freak on without a rubber and some slacker antihero bunning up a Marley before trying to save the planet. These people, who are thankfully so few and far in-between, have a serious issue separating fact from fiction, thus we might have a few "Napoleon Dynamites" running amok on the streets. Thus, we have the findings of a team of Auzzie researchers on bad habits in cinema in this age of HIV and new sobrieties.

The researchers studied a September 2003 list of the 200 most successful movies of all time as ranked by the Internet Movie Database on the basis of world box-office takings. They excluded animated features, films with G and PG ratings, and movies released or set before the start of the AIDS pandemic in 1983.

Of the 87 movies remaining, 28 contained sex scenes -- a total of 53 scenes in all.

Only one film -- the 1990 romance Pretty Woman, in which Julia Roberts plays a prostitute -- contained a "suggestion of condom use, which was the only reference to any form of birth control.''

"There were no depictions of important consequences of unprotected sex such as unwanted pregnancies, HIV or other STDs,'' they added.

The sexiest film -- in quantity, if not quality -- was the 2001 comedy American Pie 2, which contained seven episodes of unprotected sex in which the "only consequences were social embarrassment.''

The 1992 thriller Basic Instinct had six sex scenes, no birth control and no "public health consequences'' -- although "other consequences'' included death by ice pick.
Thus by extension, the wages of bad sex are embarrasment or death. So far, so good.

As someone who a little bit discriminatory about seeing films - extreme horror flicks are not my style, even though I did get a kick seeing my beloved Thornhill, ON getting zombified in the remake of "Dawn of the Dead" - I couldn't care less what pundits or researchers of any political stripe say. But this closing passage really got me by the kahunas...

"The most popular movies of the last two decades often show normative depictions of negative health behaviours,'' the authors concluded. "The motion picture industry should be encouraged to depict safer sex practices and the real consequences of unprotected sex and illicit drug use.''

[... snip ...]

But some experts said the issue was more complex than the study suggested.

"I don't think you can pinpoint Hollywood as responsible for sexual immorality in the post-AIDS era,'' said Paul Grainge of the Institute of Film and Television Studies at the University of Nottingham.

"Hollywood responds to social mores as well as creates them.''
Well... you also have a potential Jihad/Crusade brewing, plus social, moral and political uncertainty going around the world. Thus I believe that the movers and shakers in Tinseltown probably have an obligation to give us a better means to experience escape.

Give me a movie worthy of sacrificing 2 hours of my life, $9.00-plus of my life savings and my disbelief.

Give me a film that would depict my ideal happy place, where the underdog is king/queen.

I want an action film where the bad guys redeem themselves, rather than be simply blown to bits in the climax.

Most of all, I want nothing more than a good, well-crafted, well executed story that could be passed on to generation to generation.

In other words, where's Cecil B. DeMille when you need him the most?

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