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You could say that the Harvey Weinstein case reveals the dark secret underbelly of Hollywood — but Hollywood’s low morality has never been secret or merely an underbelly.
Weinstein’s case just gives people permission to start talking about it.
When the New York Times reported on years of sexual harassment accusations against Harvey Weinstein, it was targeting one of the leaders in the film industry whose work has been nominated for the entertainment industry’s highest awards and earned hundreds of millions of dollars.
But the Times article was the tip of the iceberg. The Times just said the movie mogul paid off accusers over harassment; a New York Post piece by a waitress painted an ugly picture and a New Yorker article followed claiming much worse. Weinstein’s behavior had been the subject of jokes before. Finally, someone realized that the joke wasn’t funny.
The accusations against Weinstein are also just the tip of the iceberg of Hollywood sexual scandal. Rose McGowan, a central figure in the Weinstein story, would not stay silent when Ben Affleck expressed disapproval of Weinstein. Neither would Hillarie Burton. Then Liz Meriweather wrote a revealing piece about how ingrained this culture is in Hollywood — and James Van Der Beek pointed out that men and boys are victims, too.
But we were all in on the secret, weren’t we? Evidence that Hollywood ruins innocence was there for all to see. Perhaps the starkest examples are the Disney stars.
We all watched Hannah Montana go from trading jokes with little Rico to becoming Miley Cyrus making headlines for outlandishly bad behavior. She followed the well-worn path of the Mickey Mouse Club Mousketeers: Britney Spears spiraled into self destruction, Christina Aguilera’s antics threatened dire consequences and Justin Timberlake’s music extolledsexual harassment.
Maybe they all succumbed to the demons of fame. But for some stars, an even more sinister force was at work.
Hollywood’s cesspool does not limit itself to Hollywood stars.
In 2014 Harvey Weinstein bragged in a highbrow article about cross-promoting his first art film with a Playboy pictorial. That is the kind of art-and-pornography combination that has worked for years in Hollywood.
One Catechism definition of pornography is any depiction of “real or simulated sexual acts.” But in mainstream movies “pornographic moments” doing just that became commonplace in the 1970s and 1980s.
Back then, Michael Medved began investigating the bad morals in Hollywood movies and how the industry foists them on the public. “Hollywood has been saying for years that you have to put this material into even innocuous movies, otherwise you’re dead in the water at the box office,” he said.
This “was such strongly held conventional wisdom that it was almost in passing that I decided to do something which I don’t think anyone had ever done before, which was check it out, to see if was true.”
What he found startled him. “When the statistics came back, my jaw dropped. I couldn’t believe what I had found. According to my numbers, in 1991, when 61 percent of all movies were rated R, PG movies, which are aimed at family audiences, did three times better at the box office then R-rated films.”
A quick look at the all-time box office numbers adjusted for inflation proves him right. The Sound of Music, Star Wars, and E.T. are at the top of the list. 50 Shades of Gray isn’t. Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs makes the top 10, but 9 1/2 Weeks is ranked number 5,082.
What to do about Hollywood sleaze? For starters, don’t support it. Check out movies on Kids in Mind or IMDB’s content pages before seeing them, and skip the ones that are exploitative.
But a larger cultural response needs to happen, also. We need to pray for and promote filmmaking vocations.
Barbara Nicolosi says she feels like Jesus when young people ask her how to change Hollywood. She wants to tell them:
“Give away everything that you have and are now doing so that you can throw yourself into mastering the art form. Go to a top film school. Study philosophy and theology so that you have something real to say. Read lots of classic novels and write thousands of pages so that you achieve command of the language as a creative tool. Get your spiritual and moral act together. Then, come and follow us by moving to Los Angeles.”
Actually, I think Jesus would say exactly that.
This article also appeared at Aleteia.