Frederica Mathewes-Greene gives me hope. She points out that in movies made in the thirties, forties, and fifties, substance abuse was portrayed as "cool" or "funny." Think of poor Uncle what's-his-name in "It's A Wonderful Life." We were expected to laugh at his alcoholism, even as he wrecked his own and other people's lives. Humphrey Bogart's noble character in Casablanca drank heavily to numb his pain. In most blockbusters, you could often tell who the hero was by the fact that he smoked like the Marlboro men on the billboards. As Mathewes-Greene astutely notes, the culture has shifted dramatically in the opposite direction — it's no longer savvy to poke fun at addiction or health-damaging behaviors. Today, villains smoke.
Looking to the future, Mathewes-Greene wonders if the culture might also veer away from the sex-saturation we encounter in today's entertainment. Fifty years from now, once we as a society have experienced the truth of suffering related to sexual excesses, we might not be able to get a cheap laugh if we joke about them. Even now, when we watch "PG" movies made in the eighties, we're caught off-guard by the trashy jokes and the easy bed-hopping we took for granted back then as part of entertainment for teens. Perhaps we really are at the "turning of the tide"(as Gandalf might put it).
(From "Does Sex Sell? You Might Be Surprised" in the May 4, 2005 Breakpoint column by Chuck Colson): The Reuters news service has looked into recent box-office numbers and come up with some intriguing results: Movies rated R for explicit sexual content do poorly in theaters. Their report states, "Last year, five of the top-10-grossing movies were PG. Of the top 25, only four were rated R. 'Increasingly, if a movie is rated R,' says producer John Goldwyn, 'audiences won't go.'" (How's that for a quote within a quote within a quote?)
What do you think? Must the suffering continue for a while longer before we head in the other diection? Or do you think the culture's never going to turn around when it comes to air-brushing and glamorizing a damaged version of sexuality?