Archive for the ‘entertainment’ Tag

Entertainment as Advertising   Leave a comment

Film is a medium that we think of as entertainment, but often this is not entirely the case. Take military movies, for example. Films such as Top Gun included heavy involvement of the Pentegon and other military boosters to provide an awe-inspiring film. When Hollywood comes to the Pentegon with a request for production assistance, the military sees this as an important opportunity to tell the American public something about the US military that will help them recruit and retain personnel. It is a relationship of mutual exploitation. Movie makers get to use military props — where else are you going to find an aircraft carrier? — and the Pentegon gets to influence how it is portrayed on the silver screen.

That works the opposite way as well. Movies like Platoon, Dr. Strangelove and The Hurt Locker portray war in certain ways to influence the audience to reject war in any and all circumstances. These movies may not get the Department of Defense seal of approval, but they do no less an effective job at presenting anti-war propaganda for a particular political agenda — using entertainment to influence political viewpoints.

Promised Land (Matt Damon’s anti-fracking movie) is a clear example of this. Despite the Environmental Protection Agency saying there is no scientific evidence to support concerns over ground-water contamination from fracking, the movie has several scary scenes showing burning water coming out of the tap. For the record, the EPA has found no burning tap water that it is admitting to … and it’s the EPA, so chances are good, if burning tap water existed anywhere on the planet, they’d find it and put a stop to whatever was causing it. I’m expecting them to outlaw oxygen as a flammable gas sometime in the future — perhaps in my life time.

Ever wonder why there is now a gay character on almost every show on American television? Supposedly homosexuals makes up about 5% of the population, but they are represented on almost every television series. Why? It’s been on ongoing campaign in Hollywood since the mid-1980s to normalize homosexuality in the American mind, but it is hard to normalize 5% of the population. It’s too small a slice of the population to be viewed as normative. By presenting homosexual characters that are entertaining and likable on almost every show, Hollywood promotes a particular view of American society that doesn’t really exist. There is not a gay person in every office and not every family in America has at least one gay member. Having worked with a number of lesbians and gay men over the years that I worked in social work, I can tell you from personal experience that some of them are very nice people who live fairly ordinary lives, but none of the men I know are monogamous and the women are not lifelong partners with one another and, yes, some of them sexually abuse their stepchildren and sexual harass their heterosexual coworkers. Until that side of reality is shown on television, the portrayal of homosexuality on American television can be called propaganda in the same way that the unrealistic portrayal of heterosexual family life on 1950s television was also false, misleading and manipulative.

Again, while it is tempting to call for regulation to demand that entertainment and advertising/propaganda be kept separate and well identified, it never works out well to do it that way. Regulation is a slippery slope that starts out for the good of the nation and then turns into a tyrannical nightmare. A better solution would be for Americans to recognize the manipulation for themselves and use the power of the wallet to make it stop … or switch channels and read a book, which will amount to the same thing — and leave those who like to watch certain sorts of fairy tales to do what they like.

Can We Stay Out of Each Other’s Bedrooms?   4 comments

I don’t watch a lot of television, so shows come and go without my notice. I think there’s a lot of good television out there, but I have other things to do and I miss too many episodes to enjoy a series if I try to watch in a traditional way, so I time-shift my viewing. If a program was good, I catch it on Netflix. If it wasn’t, I probably didn’t miss much.

Under the circumstances, my general impression of TV was that there seemed to be an awful lot of gay characters on the shows I occasionally tune into, but I thought it was just poor luck. Then Saturday I had lunch with friends from my social work days and some woman at a table near us went off on a five-minute rant about how the networks are canceling gay-themed shows right and left and putting “diversity on television” at risk.

Wow! Really? Inquiring minds want to know.

The 2012-13 broadcast season featured more homosexual characters than ever before and the Big Four (CBS, ABC, NBC, FOX) lost 7.5% of their viewership, much of that in the very important 18-49 demographic. Is it coincidence or correlation that gays are up and ratings are down? The networks apparently saw correlation and canceled a record number of gay-themed programs, including Partners, Smash, and The New Normal. It appears the American television audience may not want so many homosexual men coming into their living rooms or, honestly, their bedrooms so often.

This seems indicative of the cultural revolution that America is struggling with right now. Sex is a very intimate act so why is television so focused on sexual orientation? I think I speak for most heterosexuals in America – Hollywood, stay out of my bedroom and I’ll stay out of yours. If it is wrong for my morals to intrude in your bedroom, it is wrong for your bedroom to intrude on my morals. Hollywood, populated by people whose mores prevent them from stepping into a house of worship, seeks to use television to shape mores, turning what is meant to be entertainment into a 3-hour nightly sermon, addressed to a nation that can’t even get out of bed for an hour sermon once a week. Wow, no wonder they’re hitting the scan button!

Many gays will insist that there is no intention to reorient opinion through gay programs, but the results, found in a poll in the Hollywood Reporter, shows that depiction of homosexuality make viewers more welcoming to it. Since the increase in gay programming on television started around 2002, views on gay marriage have exponentially swung in its favor.

This may be because the depictions of homosexuals on network television resemble advertising more closely than entertainment. What do most of us do during the commercials? Yes, change the channel … or turn off the set altogether and go do something else.

My husband, who is both pretty comfortable with his own masculinity and not hostile toward gays, says there’s only one gay character he tolerates on TV and a quick survey of his construction worker colleagues found agreement. The one character they like is Stefon, Saturday Night Live’s very inappropriate, sleep-deprived clubber. In my research I also learned that homosexual activists HATE this character. To figure out why, I watched three sketches and thoroughly enjoyed them – had some great belly laughs. I suspect this is because the writers, the actor, and the largely heterosexual audience are all in on the joke. Just as Dana Carvey’s Church Lady was not a mean-spirited attack on Pentacostal bun ladies, Stefon acknowledges that “alternative lifestyles” can go to extremes and those extremes deserve to be tweaked. Stefon is absurb and it’s funny, in part because Stefon is completely not believable, but what comes out of his mouth is … unlike the saintly depictions of homosexuals during the primetime propaganda hours.

I also watched an episode of The New Normal to balance the funny with the propaganda and found that the producers apparently expect the audience to buy the absurdity as normal. I haven’t been properly indoctrinated, so it isn’t funny. Ellen Barkin’s demonization of conservatives is a wooden caricature of what Hollywood thinks of those outside their social circle and the gay characters are mere symbols of a political and social position rather than interesting characters. They appear to exist as change-agents, not entertainment. I’m glad I only wasted one episode’s worth of time on that show. If the other shows were similar, I understand why they were canceled. Just because a show has gay characters is no excuse for being bad television.

So, here’s a thought, Hollywood. Try writing some interesting characters doing either funny or exciting things and don’t bother to tell us their sexual interests. Let us figure it out on our own. Leave something to the imagination. Recognize that television inhabits a culturally monolithic tiny bubble of America that embraces lifestyles that do not reflect much of American society. In this capacity, the ruling elites of Hollywood reject America as it is and tries to force us to become what we are not. It’s not overly surprising to me that American television viewers are refusing to cooperate and have chosen to reciprocate by rejecting Hollywood.

Where is the remote? Ah! Found it!

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