The Moral Twist in Today’s Entertainment
“Good authors, too, who once knew better words
Now only use four-letter words
Writing prose . . .
The world has gone mad today
And good’s bad today
And black’s white today
And day’s night today . . .
Anything goes.”—Words by American lyricist Cole Porter, 1934.
“Woe to those who are saying that good is bad
And bad is good,
Those who are putting darkness for light
And light for darkness.”—Words by Israelite prophet Isaiah, 732 B.C.E.—Isaiah 5:20.
MORE than 26 centuries separate the above quotes. Each was written for a different purpose, one to entertain audiences on Broadway, the other to explore the lawlessness of the inhabitants of ancient Judah. Yet, both are pertinent to our decade. Today, as concepts of right and wrong constantly change, seemingly “anything goes.”
Perhaps nowhere is this more apparent than in the twist that entertainment has taken. Entertainment is a part of culture, and culture is the characteristic way a society has learned to act, think and feel. It is a people’s whole way of life. Therefore, a society’s moral views can be seen through its culture.
Likely no other art has multiplied as much in this century or is as popular and influential as motion pictures and television. Some say that films mirror life. Yet at the same time, because movie stars are modern folk heroes, films can amplify, give authority to and mark as approved new moral habits. The motion-picture industry realizes this enormous manipulative power. Its “Code of Production” states: “Entertainment can be of a character either HELPFUL or HARMFUL to the human race.” What does modern entertainment tell you about the world’s morals and where the human race is headed?
In 1939 the Academy Award winning movie Gone With the Wind used a four-letter word that shocked many. Today it would not even cause a ripple. Entertainment, in a few short decades, jumped from an innocent family affair to “adults only.” Some justify this drastic twist as innocent escapism. But is it? The fact is that three things have drained most of modern entertainment of any moral value it might have had—illegal drugs, excessive violence and graphic sex.
Drugs, Blood and Gore
For decades soap operas have been daily fare on radio and TV. Now we have “dope operas.” On the stage, movie screen and television the prolific spread of illegal drugs into the mainstream of society is depicted as normal, as part of everyday life. No longer are users and peddlers of illicit drugs automatically identified as losers, degenerates and villains. Rather, they often have become the heroes, the winners, the stars, to be imitated by young and old. And the shows’ producers shift the blame for this change to the public and cry: ‘We give them what they want!’
The entertainment business is also wallowing in “blood-and-gore operas.” Never before in movie history has violence been as explicit or as numbing. Literal bloodbaths flash before the eyes of movie viewers. Electric saws dismember body parts, drills bore holes into the heads of victims as blood spurts forth, the sound of cannibalistic munching on body parts is heard. Often this ugly carnage is mixed with some type of erotic situation. These scenes and even more revolting ones have become part and parcel of what many people crave in entertainment.
Today people do not have to sneak into movie houses to see this type of horror film. If they have a home video machine, they can rent or buy their own. One video film was advertised as “92 minutes of rape and massacre”! The market for such debasing violent films is rapidly expanding. For example, one British video trade journal, after reviewing one of the new video horrors or “nasties” in which victims are hacked to death, predicted: “A must for every dealer. This one won’t stay on the shelves for very long.”
What conclusion about life can regular viewers of these “blood-and-gore operas” have other than this—that normal life is filled with frequent and routine violence. Is it any wonder that real world violence has become more acceptable to more and more people? In short, this type of entertainment is violent pornography.
Video Rock Violence
Now, in the United States especially, we have “video rock operas.” In a growing number of cities it is possible for cable-television subscribers not only to hear hard rock music with its menacing beat but to see accompanying violence too. Video rock can be purchased on cassette or viewed on a large screen in a rock club.
One viewer, stunned by the video rock-music program he saw, describes it in The Wall Street Journal as “the vilest and most revolting performance of sadism I have ever seen.” The newspaper’s account continues: “Interspersed between rock numbers were short vignettes, such as one showing a woman, screaming hysterically, being forced to eat a dead rat.” Few viewers complain.
Since music can stir emotions, this new form of rock music has the potential of reinforcing distorted views of life. Why? Because two human senses are directly involved—hearing and sight. When listening to music, the hearer supplies his own image of the music’s meaning. By combining music with video, the individual has forfeited his imagination to the moral values of someone else—the creator of the video rock. Newsweek magazine comments: “One of the signal virtues of music is its power to evoke deep, wordless sensations—effects that vary from one hearing to the next. Video decides what your fantasy will be and fixes it on the screen every time the song is played.”
Another form of base titillation is the “sex operas.” Pornography is not new. Its public display is. The walls hiding pornography from the eyes of the people in general began crumbling in the 1960’s, when Denmark became the first country to legalize all kinds of pornography. Since then, like pus oozing from an infected ulcer, pornography has spread its ugly stain the world over.
In some countries pornography is still a hidden, although lucrative, business. In others, it is blatantly open to all, even the young. Explicit and depraved sex scenes are read in novels or seen in magazines, television or movies at an explosive rate of increase. People often swarm to X-rated movie houses like flies to dung heaps.
For example, Spain’s newsstands are rife with erotic publications. And some of its newspapers carry pornographic advertisements such as this: “Sex, depravation and aberrations in a film that seems to be made by the Devil.” In Britain the Daily Telegraph reports: “The fact is that sex shops are about the only growth industry in modern Britain.” And in Japan “the pornographic businesses are steadily on the rise,” reports the Mainichi Daily News. “They offer more and more lurid services.” Last year, in the United States alone, pornography grossed an estimated seven billion dollars!
Why does pornography flourish? Because of the age-old law of supply and demand. As reported in The Manchester Guardian Weekly, a French former pornographic film star pointed to one answer: “Pornography, however mediocre, has a future because the demand is there.” And now clientele who would feel embarrassed about being seen going into a pornographic movie house become avid customers via video cassettes in the privacy of their own home. Thus, it seems, demand justifies the supply.
Sexual decadence even entraps the young—from infants to teenagers. “Sex acts on infants as young as eight months are being filmed and photographed by underground dealers catering to a growing kiddie-porn subculture,” reports the New York Daily News. The same source adds that in the United States “an estimated 50,000 children a year disappear and are never accounted for.” Many are forced into sexual exploitation and pornography. Porn films are sent to Scandinavian countries for printing and worldwide distribution to satisfy the lurid taste of an increasing number of perverts.
Therefore, entertainment, whether it depicts explicit sex between adults or youths, or it depicts violence, makes the “bad,” the degraded, appear to be the “good,” the acceptable.
Can this system of things survive with such corrupting influences corroding its foundations? “Can a man rake together fire into his bosom and yet his very garments not be burned?” (Proverbs 6:27) Just where are today’s morals leading the world?