Why I Dislike Hollywood

Category: Weekly Columns

Photograph of Hollywood Sign

Whenever there’s a mass shooting, the mainstream media and different political factions always want to find someone to blame. The recent shootings at a naval base in D.C. promoted the usual declarations when it was pretty evident that the shooter was simply mentally unstable. So, instead of accusing our society of having a problem, why not just fix the issue of letting mentally unstable people not only have access to guns, but have unfettered freedom?

Most big cities are littered with the homeless, many of which either suffer from mental illness or some bad addiction. Again, why are we not getting these people off the streets and into treatment? We used to. But, privacy legislation and other politically correct thinking have led to this deterioration of the public space.

Movie Poster from Prisoners

For me the one of the biggest culprits to the deterioration of our culture and society is Hollywood. My son “took” me to see Prisoners because he’d read good reviews and said it was a likely Oscar contender. I didn’t ask him much about it, but his brief description made it sound like a good thriller and it had a stellar cast.

The movie was among the most unpleasant movie-going experiences I ever had. Yes, it looked good. Yes, there were good actors and performances. But, there was absolutely nothing about it that was redeeming as far as the human spirit, goodness, making the world a better place, or even the long-dead Hollywood standard of good fighting evil. It was simply ugly.

I’ve always respected Hugh Jackman and Jake Gyllenhaal and will continue to respect their work, but I can’t help but wonder why they’d want to be part of something that so debases us as human beings? Would they take their children – at any age under eighteen – to see their performances in this dismal soul-less film? Are they actually proud of their participation in this dreadful exercise in morbidity?

Heath Ledger at The Joker

I suppose the answer is, “Yes” because actors love to play villains and “challenging” roles. When Heath Ledger got all that deserved acclaim for playing The Joker in The Dark Knight, I understood why he chose the part. But, that movie and that character left me empty. I appreciated the performance and the outstanding special effects but the movie left me wanting to take a shower and cleanse myself of its ugliness and dirt.

The same happened today while enduring Prisoners. I’m irritated with myself for not leaving. I kept on thinking, “This has to get better,” when in fact it only got uglier and uglier by the minute. My son extolled the virtues of the twists and turns, which we’re indeed clever but SO WHAT if it’s not matched by humanity and grace?

It’s so common for people to reflect on the past through rose-colored glasses and I fear I’m guilty of that when it comes to Hollywood and music (sorry, I just can’t get into rap and especially its often mean-spirited lyrics). There was a time when Hollywood celebrated the human spirit, made and supported America in times of crises, and its stars served in the military with honor and pride. Those days ended in the sixties when it became fashionable to rebel, regardless of whether the rebellion really had any merit.

Grand Theft Auto V

So, Hollywood began easing its self-imposed standards on the depiction of sex and violence, beginning a descent into ugliness that has culminated with video games like Grand Theft Auto and movies like The Dark Knight and Prisoners, not to mention the plethora of torture/horror/suspense movies that are among the most profitable of the times. They make those movies on the cheap so that the profit margin justifies the content choice regardless of any concern for its affect on our collective soul (and our children).

I spent a quarter-century in showbiz and I’m proud of much of what I produced and much of what we did in television. Then so-called Reality TV entered the television space and it began a descent to much of the content of television though there are quite good quality comedy and drama series. Those series on cable do tend to be more violent and “ugly” but often they at least have a moral core. The movie-movies have no such thing much of the time.

Scarface the Movie

No one wants to be accused of being a prude or holier-than-thou preacher but I sure as heck don’t want to pay $25 – for two people – to attend a movie like Prisoners only to feel literally dirty afterward, dispirited, and actually mildly depressed until I talked myself out of it!

I guess I’ll just put in the DVD of Singin’ in the Rain later and get uplifted at the joy of that film that came out right around the time I was born. Different times, for sure.

Cartoon about Hollywood violence

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Book Cover from The Empty Nest

  • Lady Bren

    Wasn’t sure about wanting to see this ~ thanks for convincing me not to

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      I’m so glad to have saved you the waste of time that that movie was (for me) and for the human condition IMO @ladybren:disqus

  • http://upliftingfamilies.com/ Christy Garrett

    It’s amazing how much junk and violence that we are influenced by on a daily basis. 🙁 So sad.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Isn’t it @christygarrett:disqus ??? And, think of our kids who know nothing other than what they put out NOW!?

  • KelliSmithgall

    Totally agree with you @brucesallan:disqus! I very rarely go see new movies, or rent them for much of this very reason, and one of the biggest reasons I love “Old Hollywood” movies is because as you wrote, “it celebrated the human spirit, made and supported America in times of crisis…” My most favorite movie era is the 1940’s!

    In fact, late last night I watched one of my all-time favorite’s ‘The Best Years of Our Lives’ with Myrna Loy and Frederic March from 1946. You can get lost in this movie because of its timeless characters and actors’ performances – good stuff!

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      I absolutely LOVE “The Best Years of Our Lives” @KelliSmithgall:disqus – I was just thinking about that scene with all the mothballed airplanes – remember it?

      • KelliSmithgall

        Yep! Powerful, powerful scene @brucesallan:disqus 🙂

  • Lalita

    Loved your post and I agree with you @BruceSallan. Unless and until each of us decide not to see the rubbish that Hollywood or Bollywood or soap operas throw at us they will continue to keep throwing trash at us.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      TY @disqus_JsWwOepe2Q:disqus – you know the irony? Hollywood is a business so you’d think that they’d make decisions based on good business sense. BUT, they don’t. R-Rated movies – on average – perform much weaker than their PG and PG-13 counterparts. Yes, the horror movies are profitable, but that is the only exception. Read Michael Medved’s “Hollywood Vs. America” in which he lays out these facts. So, much of what Hollywood does is ideological or simply “F*** you, we want to do this (sex and violence or political propaganda!)…

  • http://daniel-alexander-book.blogspot.com/ Daniel Alexander

    I didn’t read the entire article (it’s supper time and I’m hungry – he he).

    I get the just and I’ll post what I said to Bruce on Twitter:

    You know what. I was going to write that they are debasing our souls, and make your life easy. But hang on… It’s us! We buy the movies, the magazines, we follow the celebs. So who is really debasing our souls? It’s you and me!

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      @daniel_dinnie:disqus – yes, “We” contribute to the problem by “buying” their product, but they continue to ignore the realities that when they make more wholesome entertainment, it almost ALWAYS does better. They have an agenda and more of US should not support it – FOR SURE!

      • http://daniel-alexander-book.blogspot.com/ Daniel Alexander

        Explain what you mean when you say “when they make more wholesome entertainment, it almost ALWAYS does better.”
        Or cite some examples please.
        I’m in a disagreement there, if you mean what I think you mean.
        Evil (I’m being dramatic), nasty programs do much better than wholesome entertainment.
        The Batman movies for example.
        They are extremly violent, but made over $1.5bil.
        It’s the same with the news: good news doesn’t sell; scandals, celebrities etc. sell.
        Same with accidents on the road.
        People rubber-neck because they want to catch a glimpse.
        Either way you look at it though, if you pay to subscribe to their entertainment, you cannot complain if they don’t want to change.
        All life coaches, psychologists, gurus etc, say the same basic things: you can only change yourself; you can’t expect others to change.
        If you don’t like their entertainment, turn it off.
        That’s a choice you can make.
        The only way we can get Hollywood to change is to do that (cut off their supply of money), and in doing so, take responsibility for ourselves.
        If more people did that Hollywood would change; they would be forced to, so that they could continue to make money.
        And their only agenda is to make money, which they are very clear about.
        Movies and entertainment are a business.

        • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

          Daniel, what Hollywood chooses to ignore because of their own agenda is that PG and PG-13 movies ALWAYS do better (obviously with exceptions) in the overall box office figures. ALWAYS. The Dark Knight was one of those exceptions as are the less expensive horror-porn movies.

          Read the book, “Hollywood vs. America” by Michael Medved – it’s almost frightening how self-destructive Hollywood has become and how with actors, writers, and directors gaining so much individual power, how the Studios cow-tow to them and their particular interests when they often know it won’t work well (box office) financially!

          I agree that much of the blame lies with the consumer. I don’t watch many “ugly” movies so I personally don’t support them. Sadly, too many people do – but, still the Pixar-type movies universally outperform any slasher or violent R-rated movies!

          As for their agenda, it is much more than just about making money OR they would make less R-Rated movies!

          • http://daniel-alexander-book.blogspot.com/ Daniel Alexander

            I really enjoy your motivation to want to change something that you (and I) believe isn’t ‘good’ for society. That’s refreshing to see. I also enjoy the fact that you have some intelligence and are open to others idea and willing to speaking your mind. You have strong morals. Good for you.

            I challenge your point about PG and PG-13 movies always doing better. I do a lot of work with the mind and subconscious, and using words like always and never (blanket words), is often a clue that your mind is in a reactive state, which is quite natural, as we’ve rarely been taught differently. I would hazzard a guess that those movies do well because of thier ‘infrequency’ of release. The bulk of those kinds of movies are released in the US summer time: when kids are on holiday. Thus, their opportunity to view those movies is greatly increased. I doubt whether they would receive the same support if more and more of those movies were made and released all the time.

            I do agree that some actors and writers behave self-destructively (they are not self-destructive, their behavior is – big difference), but then again, we buy into it. When they meltdown, we buy the celeb gossip mags. Example: Charlie Sheen (amoungst others). His fame and celebrity goes up when his ‘bad’ behavior does. Yes, sometimes studios bow down to pressure from those with power, but I doubt wheather it often results in financial losses, simply by the fact that the studios are still here. If they are still here, it means that they are making money. And from whom do they get their money: you and me (well maybe not you and me specifically, but the general public)?

            I’m 100% with you on your message, and I hope you continue to put these kinds of vibes out there. However, I don’t agree with your methods of change. You can do a cartwheel, you can jump on your head, and Hollywood will never change for us, as long as they are making money via us. And the fact that they are still here, means they are making money from us.

          • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

            @daniel_dinnie:disqus – I am dramatic to say the least, but the facts of box office performance are the facts. Check it out, DA!

          • http://daniel-alexander-book.blogspot.com/ Daniel Alexander

            I’ll go have a look some time.

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  • David Weber

    Can’t comment on Prisoners because I haven’t seen it. The issues addressed in this column are ANCIENT (I say that appreciatively) because producing art and craft are ancient endeavors, and what is art for someone is garbage for someone else. Cultural metrics for what is and is not art or craft, and what should and should not constitute topics or content to be treated in various forms of art or craft, are unstable and today are not sustained across too many decades.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      Don’t waste your time or money on “Prisoners” @7f990e539df4ddefe26884eb65a5f04c:disqus – it flopped anyway (as it deserved)…

  • David Weber

    Hit send too soon. What I wanted to add was that — and I guess I am somewhat sheepish about this — I don’t get too concerned about too much of what may be called ugliness in art or craft…movies in particular.
    There are only a few things that disturb me in movie content. An example is something I only read about–I don’t know if the movie was ultimately released: a rape scene in which an adult male rapes a pre-teen girl. I think Dakota or Elle Fanning was the girl.
    I would have avoided that movie solely because of the awfulness of that kind of scene … to depict it seemed unnecessary. (Plenty of movies have been made in which a character recalls an abusive episode in his or her past, but it is not shown.) The screenwriter and director may have had good reasons for filming such a scene and including it in a final cut, but it is just too ugly for me to want to see it or support the movie by paying for it.
    There is a part of me that likes to marinate in the dark side of the human experience. I am not a dark or troubled person, but there is a part of me that wishes to reflect on that aspect of being human. As I said, there may be some limits to the awfulness and ugliness I would willingly submit myself to…but those are fewer rather than more in number.
    A couple of nights ago at a small dinner party, I happened to mention that I wanted to see this movie coming out now about a free man who was kidnapped, I presume, and made a slave in the south for 12 years. In a group of half-a-dozen people, three of us wanted to see the movie and the other three groaned and said it was too dark, the reviews had said it was too grim, why would we want to subject ourselves to that?
    I have a different reaction. Each of us fears some things. One of my fears is being wrenched for no reason from my established life and put into a hellish situation from which there is no escape. That experience was, for example, gone through by 12 million Holocaust victims–Jews, Gypsies, homosexuals, mental retardates, Jehovah’s Witnesses and more. How does it happen, and how does one respond? Who survives, who may even thrive, and who falls by the wayside? Is it luck or is it pluck that gets you through it all?
    I would see the movie in the hope that some insight into that would be available to consume. I would consider the movie vacuous if all it did was update the 1970s B-movie bodice-ripper Mandingo. But I would be OK if the movie was ugly because that which I fear is ugly.
    I would PREFER that the movie be uplifting and celebrate the human spirit–and over the MILLENNIA good arguments have been made that such an element is REQUIRED for a work to be considered art. But if that were absent, I would still ask, “Is there ANY redeeming value in this movie?” If the answer was yes, and here is what that redeeming value is, I would be satisfied.

    • http://www.brucesallan.com Bruce Sallan

      @7f990e539df4ddefe26884eb65a5f04c:disqus – sadly, IMO there is LITTLE redeeming qualities in much of what Hollywood puts out. ESPECIALLY in the horror genre which has gotten more and more disgusting FOR DISGUSTING sake in recent years. “12 Years as a Slave” is not one of those shock for shock’s sake movies, from what I’ve read but I just don’t want to see that horror. Watching “Schindler’s List” was moving, but hard. At this point in my life, I see enough REAL LIFE horror – e.g. The Philippines right NOW – to want to pay and see more in a theater!

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