I would be tempted to quote entertainment mogul Shawn Carter (aka Jay Z) who once told the world about his ninety-nine problems, but he uses a word that degrades women and it shouldn’t be repeated here.
Carter’s “99 problems” came to my mind, I admit, because I’ve been a consumer of his products and also that of his cohorts. Music and movies, from many producers, have been a part of my life and undoubtedly had an influence too. I can still remember listening to Eminem (Marshall Matthers III) rap about using drugs, abusing homosexuals, killing his wife, etc.
It might seem strange that a straight-edge Mennonite kid from rural Pennsylvania would find anything in common with violent and hate-filled lyrics. I could lie and pretend it was all for sake of amusement and didn’t reflect anything of my own character. But, truth be told, even knowing nothing of a rough life in the ghetto, and having no animosity towards police or Sir Elton John, the words resonated with my own deep feelings of anger and frustration at the time.
Eminem actually offered some good insight in his lyrics. He was right when he concluded a musical social commentary with the following words: “I guess there’s a Slim Shady in all of us…” That is probably what made his music so popular. People could identify with him. He gave a voice to millions, especially underprivileged young men who were tired of being told how to think and worrying about the correct political language to use and just wanted to let loose.
The Two-way Street Between Artist and Audience
Hollywood producers and musical executives often hide behind this idea that their art merely reflects what is real. That is their way of washing their hands of responsibility and it seems reasonable enough considering what I’ve just confessed about my own inner struggles. However, that is only half true, the whole truth is that their creative expression also shapes our world or we would not call it creative—what resonates or reflects can also help to shape and influence.
The entertainment industry is well-aware of their social influence. True, we reject their most heavy-handed efforts. I could care less about what Matt Damon thinks about gun violence, Brokeback Mountain didn’t tempt me in the least, and, sorry Dr. Dre, I still have no hate for police. I take full responsibility for my own less than wholesome thoughts and wrong attitudes. Nevertheless, I use the word “problems” and somehow Jay-Z comes to my mind.
Movies, music and other media are intended to influence and most definitely do have influence. Sure, watching The Matrix didn’t cause anyone to go on a murderous rampage, but is it only coincidence that a mere month after this film was released two boys wearing long dark trench coats killed 13 of their classmates in Columbine High School? Could it be they were partially inspired by a scene where two characters wearing long dark trench coats enter a building lobby and gun down everyone?
Again, individuals should be held accountable for their own actions. But the same also goes for those who create content and play a significant role in defining popular culture. Quentin Tarantino’s blood lusts might be portraying Nazis, Antebellum Southerns, or any of the others we have decided it is okay to completely dehumanize, but he can’t decide how others will apply the moral framework he presents and should probably think a bit more about unintended consequences of his violent ideations.
Writers, musicians, actors, artists, directors, executives, commentators, professional athletes, television hosts, and others employed in the entertainment industry are out to recreate this country in their own image. And, many of them, in their race to profit off of the lowest common denominator, have shown themselves lacking in good moral judgment and need to take more credit for the results of their work. Many have made their billions by promoting moral turpitude, have created an audience to consume their filth, and yet then are outraged that a vulgar man is elected President?
The entertainment media was all beside themselves recently with excitement when Eminem went off on an explicit rant parroting common accusations against Trump. In breathless headlines he become a heroic figure, a part of their resistance and suddenly relevant again. I guess it doesn’t matter that he helped to condition a whole generation to think it is funny to degrade women and minorities? He made dirty locker room talk seem tame by comparison.
Hollywood Hypocrisy Has Been Exposed
“There is nothing concealed that will not be disclosed, or hidden that will not be made known. What you have said in the dark will be heard in the daylight, and what you have whispered in the ear in the inner rooms will be proclaimed from the roofs.” (Luke 12:2-3 NIV)
Those within the media echo chamber might not see the hypocrisy yet many Americans do and are tired of sanctimonious multi-millionaire celebrity elites telling them what to think, how to vote, or who should lead them. The rebellion is on, the plebs have started to tune out your lectures years ago when the double standard became too big to ignore, and it is time for some serious introspection.
When Larry Flynt, a purveyor of sleaze, gets on his high horse, and again offers millions to find dirt on the Donald, does he ever consider repenting of his own immorality first?
Then we have Harvey Weinstein, a prominent figure in Hollywood, a wealthy Hillary Clinton supporter, and known sexual predator. I say known because his behavior was apparently common knowledge amongst media elites and ignored. For whatever reason, perhaps because of shared political ideology or cash payoffs and career opportunity or fear of their own sins coming to light, for years and years nobody spoke out publically against him:
“Weinstein’s behavior was reportedly an open secret in the circles in which he ran, which includes entertainment and politics. So much so, in fact, that shows like NBC’s “30 Rock” openly referenced his predatory habits. Twice. The comedian Seth McFarlane also referred to Weinstein’s abusive nature during the 2012 Oscar nominees announcements. Despite all of this, Clinton maintains she knew nothing about the producer’s appetites.”
I guess what we deem to be deplorable depends on who does the crime. If Joe Paterno and everyone at Penn State should be held responsible for Jerry Sandusky’s abuse of young boys, does that mean everyone in Hollywood and the media (who buried Weinstein’s transgressions) be held to the same standard? Is it time to investigate the Clinton campaign to find out what they knew and when?
Those questions will be answered in time. I personally do not know the circumstances or various actors involved well enough to render any judgment. But there are many who should probably think carefully about what they say in condemnation of others.
Weinstein, perhaps in a bid to deflect attention from his own sins (or in a failed effort to garner the support of other progressive elites) said he would target his anger at the NRA. The absurdity of this, a man in an industry that hides behind the first amendment (apparently only angry for getting caught) targeting an organization that defends the second amendment…
Maybe it is because men of his ilk have been using that script for years?
They objectify women, they glorify violence, they stir up racial animosity and then pick a scapegoat to act outraged about. Instead of admit their own role in the problem they would rather blame an organization that existed long before the upward trend in mass shootings of the past few decades. They want to blame guns—nevermind the inconvenient truth that actual machine guns were completely legal until 1986 and long before this precipitous increase in violence. It is time they stop deflecting and blame shifting and take ownership of their part of the problem.
Trump Is the Symptom, Not the Disease
Sorry, Hollywood hypocrites, many of those who consumed your entertainment (and found their own inner Slim Shady) also voted for the candidate who spurned cultural conventions in his rise the top and waved his middle finger in the air like he just didn’t care. In other words, he is just a slightly different version of you.
Trump is merely the first politician to take full advantage of the shift in American values. He did not create the culture, he didn’t even create the character he is playing—we can thank Mike Judge, the movie Idiocracy and President Comacho for the inspiration. So, if you really want to defeat Trump, start by addressing those privileged elites who lowered our cultural standards, encouraged the abandonment of traditional values, and created an audience primed for a vulgarian to lead them.
It is time we stop privileging a few with ready made excuses. It is time to stop lambasting only those who help our political ends and ignoring the problems of our own side. We all share some of the blame for the society we together have created, we all need to take a long hard look at where we are headed and how our own actions contribute to the problem.